In Which I Return with A Nap

I’ve recently found myself getting tired a lot again of late. I’m not entirely sure what the reason is for it. Perhaps overwork, perhaps too much stressing, not eating properly, or being a little sick. However, on the bus ride home, it exhaustion quickly came over me and I didn’t wake until someone nudged me letting me know we were back at Penn.

Sunday evening was my usual time to spend a few hours working with Luke, and I was glad to be so effective with him. However, I couldn’t keep it up past 11PM and was soon fast asleep.

Monday wasn’t anything special, more lectures, the release of the machine learning homework and more rehearsals. The machine learning project was quite a lot of fun to get started on, and was competitive with a leaderboard keeping track of teams’ progress. Luke, Dagean and I joined forces and weren’t doing too badly as of the start of the competition.

Tuesday was no less hectic, with reading group, piano, and plenty of work. Rehearsal came too soon and as per usual by the time it was over I was completely zonked.

In Which I Encounter the Spizzwinks(?)

Saturday I woke up, just as Sai was leaving the house to go to the accelerator, but I was far to tired to make a move. However, after a minutes thought and just as the door closed, I sprung up. I realized that this would be my only opportunity to explore Yale! I quickly got dressed and started sprinting in the direction of the science park hoping to make the 10:30 free tour. I arrived a few minutes late due to the lack of a map or a sense of where I was going. When I got there I saw a long long line, stretching all the way around the car back and looping back. As I had nothing better to be doing, I joined and waited, trying to spot Sai in the crowd. A member of the crowd then informed me that this was the line for the 11:30 tour, the 10:30 tour never existed! I now felt lucky that Sai had gotten the time wrong! About fifteen minutes later, I saw her join the line at the end and invited her over so that I had someone to talk to and could get to know her better. We chatted until just after 11:30 when we were finally let in. The accelerator was great, though not the most impressive I had ever seen. Things like that remind me why I choose to study physics.

After the tour, we both walked back to the apartment for lunch, and then I sat down to read again for most of the afternoon. As the sun was setting, it was time to head to the hall where we would be performing. When the Glee Club entered, we realized that the stage was far too small for most of our production numbers, and only barely fit the band and all of us. We quickly rejiggered our show to make the most of it, and soon the lights were down and the stage was set.

The New Blue of Yale were up first, and Liz completely blew the crowd away with a giant voice, that surprised many as coming from someone of below average stature.

Liz blows the crowd away

Liz blows the crowd away

They were really in tune, and quite fun to watch perform!

Next up was a standard Glee Club set, some choral numbers, vocal jazz, a little barbershop. However following that the Penn Pipers (including me) had a chance to show off some of what we had most recently been working on. Including some fun staging to ‘Goodbye My Coney Island’.

Bhavish Ressurected

Bhavish Resurrected

When we left the stage there was a large whoop as the Spizzwinks(?) (sic) ran on. Dressed up in black and white, they both looked and sounded mighty fine. While stylistically they were very different from us, I truly enjoyed their performance. Their sound was more modern, and they chose more recent pieces. However, one way in which they outshone us was in energy and variety of facial and bodily expression. Hopefully I wasn’t the only one to take note.

The Spizzwinks(?)

The Spizzwinks(?)

After the show, everyone went their own way. The residents of my suite went back and had a few drinks together and I stayed chatting with them for a few hours, before making sure I was well enough rested for a full day of work on Sunday.

In Which I Drop the Red from The Red and the Blue

Friday was most notable for my trip to Yale. Taking out the ‘red’ from Penn’s Red and Blue to Yale’s dark azure, I rode a charter bus with the Glee Club for a good four hours before arriving in New Haven, Connecticut. When we arrived, two of our hosts from “The New Blue of Yale”, led us to a dorm where we would wait for a while for the rest of them to arrive. My first impression as we walked around the buildings and into the dorms was awe at the ornate architecture and wood paneling on the interiors. Antlers hung from the walls, alongside large paintings of former Yalies. Every building we walked into seemed to have its own Steinway piano and for a number of Glee clubbers this was too much to resist.


Pretty soon we sounded off in a chorus of “Bogoroditse Devo”, a choral favorite of hours, and moved on to other pieces, not stopping until a sizeable gaggle of girls from “The New Blue” (Yale’s top female acapella group). Zach, Tom Peterson, Rigel and myself were led to the suite belonging to one Elizabeth, who we were informed in advance was both very short, and would not be arriving home for a while. Thus we were let in by two of her suitemates Aga and Sai. We put down our belongings and chatted for a little, soon meeting Liz, but shortly after the other guys became tired of hanging around and decided to head out to a bar.

As it was a Friday night, I sat in the room reading (QED by Feynman) and had a chance to talk more with the others as they came to and fro from their studying. Liz herself made quite the impression, with a strong personality that gave her a much taller stature than she would have displayed otherwise. I learnt that she was an investigative journalist and photographer, currently researching a novel sport and throwing herself into learning about it, for a Yale paper. Additionally, she was a classical violinist who had only recently taken up singing. There was another surprise about her to come, but it wasn’t revealed until later.

Aga was a prize winning horse rider, and animal enthusiast. We bonded over the fact that she wished strongly to visit Australia. She was also very friendly and though she was studying, kept leaving her room to come out and talk. Sai was probably the least visible of those I met, with her head down in the books deep in study. However she was also probably the one with whom I was most excited to talk. Being a physicist/mechanical engineer was had plenty in common, and I managed to go on and on and on about Feynman as it was her book that I was reading. Right before she went back to her room to study she mentioned that the Yale accelerator would be open for one last day of tours the next morning, before it was to be decommissioned. Tours started at 10.30 and it would be my only chance. I thought I would be too tired the next day, so kind of discounted the opportunity and went to sleep.

In Which I Say Adieu

Wednesday was the usual day of heavy classes, and at this point in semester they were all starting to blur together. I practiced piano for a little in the afternoon and attempted to make some slow progress on machine learning. Unfortunately that night I missed having dinner with Dad but I did however get a lot of work done and also manage to keep up my rehearsal attendance. The day was otherwise not notable.

Thursday was a little different. A good physics lecture in the morning followed by an hour of work and then lunch at Hillel. Today I decided to try something a little different and went for the ‘pasta action station’ whereby Kenny from the Hillel dining staff made up a pasta  as per my request. It was pretty tasty and made me resolve to try and get to Hillel more often for lunch. I then had a meeting with the Pipers and the House Dean of Harrison to arrange space usage for an upcoming concert with a group from Brown. I struggled to then drag myself back to Engineering so ended up taking a nap first. I made it back to my lab just in time for ‘lattice club’ and, after an hour of that and some work in Moore 100, was ready to have dinner with Dad again.

That night we went to Hamifgash, and both ordered a mixed grill (with felafel for entree). We had another chance to chat for a while and eat some more nutritious food. However at the end of the meal it was time to say goodbye to Dad for five weeks, until I would be returning home for a visit. It was hard to say goodbye, especially given how helpful it had been to have his support over the past week. I returned to my room, a little dulled in mood and tried to get some more work done. After it became clear that wasn’t going to happen I walked in the freezing cold and icy rain to get to the glouse for board game night. And while games started late, and I hadn’t the patience for anything too serious, I had a good time and it helped me to forget about saying goodbye. I went to bed a little later than usual, and set my alarm for the next day, which was to include the big trip up to Connecticut.

In Which I Consume Mama’s

Sunday was another chance to spend more time with dad. After a bit of a sleep in we set out together and headed in to center city. First stop was Macy’s, to find a suit and a few other assorted odds and ends needed for Glee. After that I walked him back up to 17th street for lunch at Mama’s Felafel, which was delicious, filling and as a bonus fairly cheap. Following that, a little more shopping at Marshall’s, another stop back at Macy’s to pick up what we had left behind and then a taxi back to campus. After a very short nap, I convened with the Penn Pipers at the glouse for rehearsal. Once that was through, dinner was with Dad and Luke which was nice, but soon the two of us had to return to our lab to  and get some work done. Luke and I were fairly productive together and worked until around 10PM at which point I walked home and went to sleep, trying to regain my health.

Monday was fairly standard, the usual run of classes, nothing spectacular. Rehearsals  of preparing for our upcoming Glee tour to Yale continued, as did the choral society’s work on the Handel, Dixit Dominus. I had dinner with Dad and he managed to find a place with good gluten free options (he has coeliac disease) so I was pleased that he wasn’t the only one getting fed!

Tuesday was less productive than I needed it to be. Physics was still interesting (learning about the effects of geometry of the universe of the way rotations work). Security reading group was on a paper that I really enjoyed with a great title: “The geometry of flesh on the bone” by Hovav Shacham, an academic who I admired a lot. Following that I had a meeting, and then an appointment with the dietitian (thankfully gaining a little weight since my last visit). Tuesday night I was again with Dad which was still as wonderful as the first night and we had a delicious dinner together before I raced back to Penn just in time for a late night Glee rehearsal that ran till just after 11. Following rehearsal, I worked alongside Pearl for a time, collapsing when the hour got to lap and dragging myself back to my room.




In Which I Find A Renewed Appreciation for Parenthood

A huge highlight of Wednesday and Thursday was a chance to see someone from home. Dad. He had arrived a few days early before his conference in center city, in order to spend a little time with me and therefore I freed up my schedule as much as possible. Pretty much every meal we managed to spend together (with one or two exceptions).

Thursday afternoon was pretty busy, I first had a meeting with the director of Penn Global as part of ISAB. The meeting left me with more questions than answers but things were going in the right direction. Following the meeting I rushed off to the Annenberg Performing Arts Center to see a performance of Sweeney Todd presented by Penn Singers, the university’s light opera company.The performance was really fantastic and quite minimalist too. Two of the leads were the sole accompanists for the show, taking turns on a piano played centrally on the set. The stand out performance was that of Genna Garofolo, playing Mrs. Lovett. Nearly pitch perfect and full of character, she helped to carry the show. Another special mention to Eric Lifland who played a chilling impression of Mr Todd.

Friday was again packed full. Class, followed by a meeting with Nadia, lunch with dad, a rehearsal and then finally a sort nap and off to Hillel to meet Dad. Hillel was fairly deserted for dinner that night but Dad and I found company with a few others who had remained behind.  I tried to get to sleep early that day but I was restless and couldn’t sleep for a few hours.

The next day I woke up late, still a little sick but a little bit better. I met Dad at Hillel and we talked to Rabbi Levi from Chabad for a bit. Lunch was with Ariella and Moe, and we mostly talked about differences between Australia and the US. My afternoon was quite delightful as I had the chance to read a book for pleasure, “The Rosie Effect”, gifted to be my Abi for my birthday. I really enjoyed the book and even finished it in time for a nap after.

After Shabbat Dad and I had dinner together and then went to see “Gone Girl” at the local movie theatre. While I quite enjoyed the movie, it was a little too gratuitously violent for dad. More than anything I enjoyed the sound design and scoring which mixed calming classical notes with staccato electric tones to provide a constant high tension, on-edge  feel to the movie.

Afterwards, I worked for a little and went to bed well satisfied with my weekend thus far.


(Some) details to follow. Group A Streptococcus bacteria.

In Which I Am Stricken

Today I woke up and immediately knew something was wrong. Some organism had crawled inside my through and dragged a spiny wire mesh along my throat causing inflammation and a little pain. Nevertheless I endeavored to do my best to keep my day as regular as possible.

First up, I read an interesting paper and wrote a quick report on it, before racing over to the music building for a few minutes practice before my lesson later that day.

Next was another great physics lecture on the Feynmann Path Integral, in which we derived classical mechanics from a particular beautiful formulation of quantum mechanics. It also presented us with a new form of integral (over a function space), and a beautiful time and space symmetric formulation of the principle of least action.

Following the lecture was a quick visit to the doctor’s office, followed by a meeting of IPOG (International Partners Outreach Group) – a Penn committee of all stakeholders in Penn’s global presence. While the presentations went slowly, it was worthwhile to meet with many important university administrators and learn about the varied roles they play at Penn.

My piano lesson was enjoyable as always but I felt I had so far to go, despite having worked hard the past week.

I took a nap in the late afternoon, in an attempt to kickstart my recovery process and woke up two hours later to do some research. Dinner was a meeting at Hillel with Joseph Ooi, to talk about security related projects and catch up a little before rehearsal.

Rehearsal itself that evening was very taxing on me due to my weakened state and so I left a little early to recuperate and so as not to do myself any more damage. After a few quick tasks, it was bed again, hopefully for a long sleep.

In Which I Experience Male Gazing

Today was a little bit of struggle. An early wake up followed by a few hours of study for algorithms didn’t help me stay awake during the days classes. Cryptography was still in a very maths heavy phase (as it would be for most of the remainder of semester) and that didn’t help my focus either.

I and a few other students left crypto early in order to walk the twenty minutes to the other side of campus where the algorithms midterm would be held. The problems on the midterm turned out to be interesting and fun, however I didn’t manage to solve them to my satisfaction and knew that it would be a close thing with getting a passing grade yet again. My latest machine learning homework came in with a more than satisfactory score so that made me feel a little better.

After all that, I would’ve liked to take a nap, however there’s no rest for the wicked and I raced off to an appointment at Penn Presbyterian Hospital.  Wait times there were not great and a fifteen minute visit with the actual doctor took over two hours in total.

I had enough time for a proper dinner due to the cancellation of rehearsal (too many sick clubbers), grabbed my bag and walked over to the Zellerbach Auditorium for the Mr and Ms Penn competition. For those uninitiated, this was Penn’s annual bodybuilding competition. Luke was participating, so as a dutiful friend I attended with a few of the other PhD students. Never having been to such an event before, it was eye opening. I was a little frustrated with some of the misogynistic comments from the row behind, but otherwise it was very interesting. Luke himself put on a good show, decked out in little more than speedos and a small number tag indicating him as the third contestant. My favorite moment was when one of the girls did her routine to the tune of “I’ll make a man out of you” from Disney’s Mulan. I also had the chance to meet Luke’s girlfriend Emily, which was lovely.

Leaving a little early for choral society, I quickly called home. My next two hours were spent enjoying Haydn and Bruckner and when my day was finally over, spent an hour with a friend and then returned home to sleep.

In Which I Prepare For The Best and The Worst

Friday was mostly dedicated to preparing for the midterm. However, preparation went sub optimally and eventually resulted in me taking a significantly long nap. Pipers rehearsal in the afternoon was cancelled, and this didn’t help my productivity as I just went back to sleep.

Friday night I made it to shul on time, for a beautiful kabbalat shabbat. Unfortunately I couldn’t hang around for dinner as I was due to be singing for Amy Gutmann and some prestigious alumni for homecoming weekend with the Glee Club. The gig was a lot of fun and afterwards I had the chance to talk with some of the higher ups at Penn and a number of visiting dignitaries. After the gig I was well tired enough to head home and go straight to sleep.

The next day was all gigs again! We started off with a brief rendition of some Penn songs for the ‘old guard’, more elderly Penn Alumni. We then sung ‘Shenandoah’ for a memorial service and waited around outside for the service to conclude so that we could sing a closing piece. The memorial service ran late, and so I was picked as part of a quartet to sing ‘Amazing Grace’ while the rest of club went off to our subsequent gig. The quartet sung decently, however we lacked a little confidence given the surprise.

The following gig was less thrilling, just standard repertoire but finished in enough time to leave me to go home, each lunch and take a nap before the final performance of the day.

Our last performance was outdoors and the cold and rain, but the space we were in was almost like a natural auditorium and I really enjoyed singing a few choice songs with the alumni present.

In the evening, I relaxed at home, until at about 11PM I went out to the glouse to see if anyone was around and playing the game of thrones board game as promised. When no one was there, I detoured to Platt to pick up Pearl and walk her across campus to a party she was going to. I returned to my room and promptly went to sleep, only to be woken up at 1AM by a friend in need. I raced over to help them out, but ended up sleeping a little less than I had intended.

Sunday I slept in a little, before realizing I was running late and raced over to rehearsal for Penn Pipers. Rehearsal was ok, though we had a lot of work to do. After rehearsal I raced off to the PhD basement to study for the algorithms midterm. I realized that I was less prepared that i would’ve ideally liked to be. We studied for a few hours, and then exhausted I walked back home. After yet another nap, I arranged to eat with Rigel and Nikki, before celebrating our birthdays with our traditional whiskey.

Then again, it was back to my room to chill for a little, some more study, and then an early night before the midterm the next day.