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.
November 5, 2014
(Some) details to follow. Group A Streptococcus bacteria.
November 4, 2014
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.
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.
November 2, 2014
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.
October 31, 2014
Thursday was notable in that I had a large amount of work that wasn’t even started and that day I had a chance to make a little progress on a large number of things. New crypto homework (exploiting Bleichenbacher’s RSA signature forgery exploit), new machine learning homework (implementing state vector machines and perceptrons), a research proposal and, study for the every terrifying algorithms midterm on Monday (courtesy of Sudipto Guha).
I left a little time to practice piano and an hour for ‘lattice club’, the latter being a difficult seminar with Nadia and a few of her minions that involved relatively difficult number theory and abstract algebra. Too much of it went over my head.
I went briefly to a graduate engineering happy hour, before heading back to Hillel for dinner. Following dinner I attempted to work a little more, getting distracted, and so I filled some needed tasks. After picking up my mail and a package for Pearl’s birthday, I was off to the Glouse for a game of Settlers. Mostly tech members were present and it was a great chance to get to know them better (Ariana does physics!). A little later in the evening Lainie from Penn Dance popped by, but we were unable to draw any more from the pool of dancers due to many varied commitments on their part.
Home at about midnight, I was just about to go to sleep when a message from Pearl arrived informing me that she was back from her date night and that I could see her briefly to drop off her present and talk for a few minutes. Stayed up later than expected and sleep was welcome when it finally came.
October 30, 2014
Sadly enough, there is little to report on today. Classes were fine, but not inspiring. Everything was moving in the right direction, no drama there.
Late in the afternoon, I spent around an hour and a half with Nadia and Luke starting to plan the next year ahead in terms of coursework, chatting about conferences, and getting a broad view of the path to PhD.
Glee Club rehearsal was fairly empty. Too many people had fallen ill in the post show period. The baritones were still there in full force but the tenor section was a bit meager. Following rehearsal, I took Mack Finkel and Josh Gutzmann to Hillel for dinner, picking up Kendra from Penn Dance along the way. We had a pleasant ‘newman’ interview and dinner though I had to end it a little early when I realized the package room back at my building was closing and I needed to run to pick up a birthday present for a friend.
That evening I went to bed early, in order to get a head start the next day.
October 29, 2014
Today I woke up late again, 9AM, after stupidly staying up too late the night before. I hurried to my lab and got a minor amount done before rushing off to my quantum mechanics lecture. The lecture today was really interesting with a introductory discussion leading into Richard Feynman’s path integral formulation of quantum mechanics.The basic idea behind it is that the location of a particle at an arbitrary time is determined by a summation over all the possibilities of the places it could have been in each small slice of time prior. It’s very fundamental to the structure of the universe and was a very exciting insight as it ties together Newton’s (more technically Lagrange’s) understand of the universe, with modern conceptions of it.
My afternoon was filled with meetings. First the security reading group, followed by a piano lesson, and then finally the dietitian. After that I was a little drained so I took an hours nap.
Following the nap I raced off to a lecture with the esteemed Dr. Emil Pitkin of the Wharton Department of Statistics. He was giving a talk on ‘garbage statistics’; common ways that statistics are misused. It was as expected, a most wonderful lecture and I found myself being held to attention for the entire time.
The rest of the evening was occupied by Glee post mortem and various other discussions related to club business. After that it was back to my room and then a little sleep.
October 27, 2014
Sunday was a little more relaxed. Especially not having stayed late the previous night at the party. I finally had the energy to start writing again. Lunch was with Bhavish and Pearl, which was nice, and a good chance to catch up with them post show. Pearl was also enthused by her ability to consume multiple persons worth of food after not having eaten solids in a week (I blame the green smoothies). In the afternoon I read some of my birthday present from Abigail, “The Rosie Effect”. The book was delightful but I was a little disappointed that the setting had moved from Melbourne to New York and I missed home.
In the evening I noted that UberX was free, so Susan and I decided to take a jaunt into centre city for dinner (which was delicious). It was also a great chance to relax a little, get things of my chest and reflect on the start of semester with a good friend.
The next day was classes as per usual. Not much to report other than the fact that I was completely taken by surprise when Sudipto in algorithms announced that the midtern was scheduled for Monday a week later. Later that evening was rehearsal for choral society and then finally bed.
October 26, 2014
Today is Sunday, October 26, 2014 and the Glee Club show is over. Along with it, a somewhat difficult week, full of rehearsals and close contact with a lot of people both new and old.
The show turned out to be excellent. There were so many enjoyable numbers to sing, dance and perform and it is hard to pick out favourites. One number that stands out in a way is Bogoroditse Devo, a movement from Rachmaninoff’s all-night vigil that I had purchased for the club from a Russian music shop. Other than that, a performance of the broadway version of The Circle of Life was certainly notable.
I thankfully came off the show process with a few new friends and became closer to all the newmen as well. Special call-outs to a few people including the Penn Pipers (especially the newmen, Isaac, Danny and Bhavish) , and a few people from Penn Dance I had the privilege to work with and get to know better (Jane, Lihi, Smush, Kendra, Avalon and many more new friends!).
Penn Dance, our collaborators in the show were fantastic and performed some excellent dances to some excellent tunes. The Penn Glee Club Band upped their game yet again and I hold them in very high regard, both musically and as friends.
I ended the show feeling exhilarated, and even enjoyed the ‘strike’ process (clean up). The after party wasn’t quite my scene, so I left after a little time and enjoyed a good nights rest. Admittedly I was slightly wobblier than usual as I was climbing into bed, due to not having had sufficient dinner and then one celebratory drink with Pearl and Sam, the two good friends of mine from retreat.
Towards my research, I’m making slow progress in what I’m working on. I feel I’m working a little too slowly, however even a little progress while I’m doing my coursework is worthwhile. I’ll probably post explaining the whole process at some point in the near future.