December 1, 2014
With my backpack on my shoulder and Ariella beside me, we walked over to 39th and Walnut where her sister, Dani was waiting with her car. The drive was quite enjoyable, Dani had good taste in music and her friend from med-school that she was driving home was really nice. We arrived in the early evening at the Biser-Kravitz-Levine residence in New Jersey. We hung around for a while not doing anything in particular, and then when Sarah came home (Ariella’s mom) we had some dinner and then went shopping for ingredients for Thanksgiving ‘Sheini’. Some of Sarah’s friends unavailable on Thursday night, asked for a second night of Thanksgiving so a second night (‘sheini’ in hebrew) was being hosted at the residence. That night I was up late working on all my assignments, realizing that the due dates were closer than I had previously expected.
The next morning I was up at around 10AM. Got ready, had a nice breakfast and was soon prepared to embark on the four hour drive to Bethesda, Maryland, with Ariella’s family. The drive down felt like it took a while. I listened to Billy Joel, got a tiny bit of work done on my laptop, and napped. It was a welcome respite, having the opportunity to do nothing for a few hours, and though it may have not been the most riveting of car rides, the opportunity to stress less was most welcome.
At around 5.30PM we arrived at Sarah’s family’s home, where celebrations were already underway. Fancy hors d’oeuvres were being served by a Peruvian waiter, kids were running amuck and Turkey symbolism was everywhere. Ariella had made some delicious food for her and I given that the food at the meal itself was not kosher. The meal was a good opportunity to meet some more of her family and hear a little of their history. Sarah was pleased to explain to me all the connections and a bit of back-story behind everyone that helped me to place people. Particularly interesting was the oldest lady at the table, who had made aliyah from Europe (moved to Israel) before the war and had served in the IDF as a driver during the 1948 war. She also wanted to know about my family and how we had come to emigrate.
Following dinner, we drove right back to where we came from. Another good four hours. However with my workload, I couldn’t afford to go straight to sleep, so got to it for another few hours before collapsing.
November 30, 2014
The next day I woke up around midday, exhausted from the last finish of the previous night’s movie. There was another rehearsal today, in prep for our upcoming high profile gig. Worked for a while in bed, had a delicious vegan lunch, and just took it fairly easy.
Monday the stress returned. Machine Learning was really interesting, focusing on real world machine learning, much of it ‘big data’. Algorithms was particularly intense and with the exam right around the corner, I was getting really nervous. In the evening was regular glee rehearsal (mainly Christmas music), dinner at Hillel and then choral society. choral society was starting to get far more enjoyable as we started singing the music at speed.
Tuesday was noticeably quieter as people started to leave for the thanksgiving break. I had one last class in the morning, physics, which was starting to wind down a little. I worked on my research project for a little. Didn’t make enough progress.
In the late afternoon I headed over to Luke’s for a pre-thanksgiving potluck dinner with the other first year PhDs. However, I had to leave early due to the 8PM Glee Rehearsal.
Glee rehearsal was sadly quiet, with many people having left for the break. Nord our conductor didn’t take it too poorly however, and we were soon singing many of our favourite holiday songs and perhaps dancing around a little too.
Finally Wednesday arrived. No classes, just work, lunch plans and a winter storm. Unfortunately due to the winter storm, my lunch plans that were already rescheduled to then took another hit and were moved further to the last week of semester. This provided me with the opportunity to lounge lazily in bed and work more from there. Even Nadia admitted that it was a pretty lousy day to be getting up.
I had a guiet bite my myself, packed my bags, and headed to Rodin to meet Ariella in order to head to her place for Thanksgiving break.
November 28, 2014
Friday was scheduled to be busy. Shabbat was due to come in at around 4.20PM and I had a full day planned before. From class in the morning, to a planned lunch with a friend and then Pipers in the early afternoon, I didn’t know when I’d have time to prep. However, after machine learning I received a text that my friend was in fact ill and couldn’t make it, thus we rescheduled for the next week. So too did I receive a message from the Pipers informing me of a rescheduling of our rehearsal to the next day (which I was not pleased about). I ended up using the free time to work a little more and then take a nap, which extended itself well past the hours it was supposed to. I woke up after services and headed to dinner at Hillel. Post people this week were at external meals and so I sat with a few new people which was lovely.
The next day I woke up late but immediately had to go to rehearsal, missing lunch at Hillel. Luckily I had been prepared for this and had bought challot and some grape juice for myself, which I promptly consumed. Rehearsal was fun, and much needed given our concert later that evening with the Brown Derbies, one of their more entertaining all-male acapella groups.
In the afternoon I attended a theatre show put on by Pearl and a company she was managing. It was really well put together and was enjoyable. I then managed a brief nap and a quick dinner before helping to prepare for our evening’s concert.
Soon the Derbies arrived and we started our show. First the Pipers performed a set of some mixed light barbershop and a few 70s pop tunes. Then the Derbies performed a very high energy set of more typical modern acapella. Finally, the Pipers closed off with another set of barbershop and close harmony singing.
From Penn Dance, Schmush, Avalon, Lainie and Kendra all came along to support us. Talking to them after the show Avalon mentioned that she was going to see the latest Hunger Games movie, and invited Bhavish and I along. I thought it was a nice opportunity to get to know both of them a little better and was eager to do so.
I rushed home to get changed, stopped off quickly at the Glouse, and then met Avalon at the theater. Unfortunately all the tickets to the 10:30PM screening were sold, and so after ‘umming and ahhing’ for a little, we decide to wait an hour and see the 11:30 screening instead. We purchased our tickets, and had a good hour to kill, so we walked to the Glouse to give Bhavish his ticket. Bhavish unbeknownst to us, had decided to stay in and work, and so when we arrived he wasn’t there. We ended up chilling for an hour, and almost went to a bar, but then realized we were low on time for it and so walked back to the theatre.
This was a great chance to get to know Avalon a bit better as Bhavish didn’t show up until just before the movie started. And so, I got to tell her my favorite story about how I came to be at Penn. Bhavish eventually arrived, and showed us a few of his magic tricks, which were superb as always and impressed both Avalon and I (though I had seen them before). The movie itself was fine, not spectacular but fun and probably worth seeing. We all walked back to Harrison together, and then I had the luxury of a deep sleep.
November 27, 2014
Wednesday was a mad rush to get enough homework done. Normal onslaught of classes. Crypto has been good recently in that I’m starting to understand some of the abstract algebra underlying the harder bits. Wednesday night was the usual rehearsal and work combo.
Thursday was back to Physics and an attempt to be productive. My interest in the physics died down a little this week as we were focused mainly on computing some coefficients I didn’t have too much interest in (Clebsch-Gordan). However, Thursday night was a little different. I ended up chatting to Nadia in the lab till quite late, and then pretty much ran back to my room to get dressed. I donned my 70s style shirt, binary tie, pants and jacket and walked to the Radian to accompany Natalie Eisner to drinks before Glee Club and Penn Dance’s annual semi formal.
Drinks were at Jane Dobkin’s place with the Junior class (and the lone grad student!) It was a nice chance to actually get to talk a little more with a number of them with whom until that point I’d had limited interaction.
Following that, I and a few of the PD girls and their dates caught the SEPTA (south eastern pennsylvanian public transit authority) train to Pulse Bar, Center City where our function was being held. For once I actually spent the largest chunk on the dance floor, and though it was not my regular choice of environs I managed to have quite a good time. One further point of note was that there were three Australians present! The other two being the dates of Katrina and Arjun respectively.
At just past midnight Natalie and I cabbed home and then I promptly went to sleep before my 9AM machine learning class.
November 25, 2014
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.
November 24, 2014
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.
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’.
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.
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.
November 20, 2014
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.
November 16, 2014
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.
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.
November 10, 2014
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.