September 30, 2014
I woke up at 9AM for the judging and to put the final touches on my app ‘Plagiarite’, designed to both circumvent censorship and also to provide a proof of concept as to the issues in automated plagiarism detection tools. While I didn’t win, my app entertained a good number of people who came by and was enjoyed by nearly everyone who visited.
There was a Hillel graduate student BBQ after the judging so I raced off to that but realized I was far too asleep to really stay and so went back to my room for a nap. After some sleep and some work I attended dance rehearsal with PD, and then retired after a super busy weekend.
The next week started off in high stress mode with many assignments due and me in a state of panic due to the amount of time I had spent on PennApps that weekend, getting very little done. I only barely scraped through in submitting my homework on time. In the middle of the week, a very exhausted me had lunch with Melody Cooke, a friend who I had yet to catch up with since returning to the USA. We had a lovely time catching up but it seemed she had changed far more than I in the interregnum, and in a way that made her happy too. I had also changed and had more adventures and so it was quite a refreshing break from the never ending stream of work.
Thursday nearly killed me. I was up at 6.45AM in order to arrive at a gig for an international funeral home convention. My voice was hoarse, my eyes bloodshot, but I still managed to sing the heck out of “The Star Spangled Banner” and “O Canada” before racing back to bed. I skipped my physics lecture, as I would’ve fallen asleep in it regardless, and returned later to the PhD “dungeon” (the basement lab) to finish off a group project in machine learning that I had been struggling with.
In the early evening after successfully finishing the homework, a somewhat refreshed me raced off for yet another Glee Club gig. This one was for the World Presidents’ Organization, a high profile performance for Philadelphia local CEOs. We arrived at the venue and relaxed in the green room for a little before bursting through the doors and surprising all the executives with a flash-mob performance of ‘Footloose’. The event itself was Philadelphia themed and as a result all the CEOs were dressed down in tshirts with Philly themes. After the performance we were requested to get on the dance floor and encourage the audience to join us which, after a little prompting they did. The rest of the evening was spent chatting to high profile figures and for some, munching on Philly themed food. I met a number of interesting and friendly people, among them an Aussie CEO who told me to keep in touch.
After our best gig for the year so far, I got home and went to sleep, free of the burden of looming deadlines and ready for an easier Friday.
September 23, 2014
This post will be a little rushed as my draft was deleted and I’m already well behind.
The rest of the week was busy in much the same way with a few additions. The evening brought an interview for ISAB, the international student advisory board, a group dedicated to connecting with the administration over issues of international student welfare. My interview went fairly well, though I felt I ranted a little about the state of undergraduate education. My time at Hineni had made me quite a fiery critic of many educational practices within universities.
Following the interview, I had a little time to get back to homework before heading off at 9PM for a Google recruiting event. I was attending as a +1 of Nikki Limtiaco, Rigel’s girlfriend and a former student of mine with whom I was good friends. The event was held at Pod, the fanciest sushi bar around and Google provided generously with much food and an open bar. I eventually gave in and tried one of the nicer whiskeys while chatting to a Google engineer, Michael who had previously worked in my current lab. The event was highly enjoyable with many of the top students from Penn CIS attending. I made a bunch of new friends and additionally swapped details with Michael who had a lot to say about where I would be working for the next few years.
I returned late and got a little more work done before the usual start the next day. Class on Thursday were the same as always but I was incredibly stressed out by my homework load. I did attend the Glee/Penn Dance mixer in the evening, but stayed for a little over half an hour before returning to my room to continue working. Friday was much the same however the evening held a few fun differences. Friday at 3:30PM was my Penn Pipers audition, an acapella subset of the Glee Club, known for their quality of tone and ability to blend. I was excited to audition as not doing so was one of my few regrets from my previous time at Penn. The audition went very well, with me singing a rendition of “Fly Me To the Moon” as popularized by Sinatra.
From there I attended the PennApps opening ceremonies. For those who missed my previous accounts of PennApps, it’s a ‘hackathon’ (read: programming competition) with over six hundred attendees from around the world coming to Penn to compete for tens of thousands of dollars in prizes. Though I wouldn’t be hacking away all of Saturday, it was still an opportunity to see friends, generate new ideas and meet new people.
After the opening ceremony I raced to Hillel, where I met with a few graduate students to head to Rodin for a meal hosted by Sarah. The meal was small and lovely and went late. However my night still wasn’t over as I headed back to PennApps to play board games with the representatives who were there from Facebook.
The next day I woke up just in time for lunch, arriving at Hillel where I was to meet Elan and Naomi Hachen who were hosting me for that meal along with yet more graduate students, including Debby whom I had become friends with the previous week and who had also attended Sarah’s meal. The meal was really lovely, and again went late into the afternoon. At around 8PM I headed back to PennApps, this time with my laptop and was reading to do some coding my self.
I was up way into the late hours of the night coding, reading up on documentation and finally at 4AM, finished my project and walked home to get into bed for a few hours before judging and presentations.
September 16, 2014
Today’s schedule was fairly intense, with my first scheduled break appearing at 11PM.
The morning was a fierce bout of work, aiming to complete some of my homework for physics and machine learning (which was taking far more than the expected number of hours). I was realizing that my skills in probability and statistics left much to be desired for graduate coursework. The lineup following that was my usual physics class, which I had now resolved to understand but not to complete all the homework for.
After a quick lunch, it was time for a fuller piano lesson. For forty-five minutes I had a great time learning new chord progressions and a new song, felt like with a bit of practice and some guidance I’d be able to make progress much more quickly than I had previously been doing. Unfortunately I had to truncate the lesson for a meeting with the dietitian, which, while helpful, provided me with advice that I found very hard to follow. My schedule was really too hectic and I needed to do something about that before anything else.
From the appointment I set about arranging an event for the CIS PhDs in mid October. I had to fill out a whole bunch of forms for room bookings and to get permission to serve alcohol at the event as Philadelphia and the University regulations were quite tight.
After finishing a few more hours in the lab, I went to the Graduate Student Center for an event with Graduate Hillel, and met a few nice new students, who though small in number were high in quality. There was a fairly even gender balance however it was highly slanted towards Masters and Professional degrees with me being the only PhD student in the room.
Dinner was a little more relaxed this evening, but following it was a full three hour PGC rehearsal that lasted until 11! I worked until a little after midnight before sinking in to bed from a busy day.
September 12, 2014
Today’s discovery was really that I had been taking too much on. In between Glee Club, visiting all the career fairs, research, Hillel, involvement with computer science and a whole lot of other commitments that had not yet started, I had well and truly put myself in an unfeasible position. This was most evident from my lag in the physics course and the feeling that everything was a bit out of control.
I had a full load of classes from 10:30 to 3PM and subsequently attended the security reading group. It was good fun, but I could feel myself slipping behind on homework. No sooner had I sat down to complete some of it than it was time for rehearsal, Glee Club as per usual. When I was all danced out, a quick dinner at Hillel and then I was off again to Fisher-Bennet for more rehearsals! This time for the University Choir singing Dixit Dominus and a few Bruckner motets. Rehearsal started late and ran late. By the time I got back to my room I was wholly exhausted and hadn’t even started on my assigned work. After a long night up at the computer and solving equations, I realized something had to change.
September 11, 2014
Saturday was relatively uninteresting. More Hillel food, more sleep, a modicum of work.
Sunday however was packed with ‘glee’ once more. The best element of the day was a performance for an eightieth birthday of a Penn alum. As we sung , he mouthed the lyrics to all our songs and seemed to particularly enjoy our rendition of ‘Blue Skies’.
Additionally, I spent a few hours in the day mentoring younger computer science students, preparing them for PennApps X, the biannual college hackathon.
In the evening I rehearsed again with PGC but as this was our Sunday rehearsal, we joined with Penn Dance for collaborative work for the fall show.
Ice-cream followed with my floor and soon after, sleep.
September 10, 2014
Today was my first 7AM wakeup for my 9AM class. After a good while of waking up later, it was unsurprising that I was drowsy and distracted for the duration of the class.
This possibly led to my further distraction during the day. My productivity was saved by a meeting with Nadia to discuss progress on the paper I was reading and additionally to make plans to help some of her other students. At some point she asked me if I had time to continue the meeting at which point, forgetting that I actually had class, replied that I had until the end of the day. The meeting was interesting and enjoyable, but when I later realized that I had missed algorithms, I felt more than a little guilty.
After the meeting I worked for a while in my office before TGIF in which the PhD students met up for some elements of food and drink. I had a good time chatting to Nadia and a few other students about fun things to do while at Penn and life in Philly in general, but soon enough I ran out of time and headed back to my room to get ready for the proceedings at Hillel that evening.
After shul at Shira, Rina Krevat (visiting from NYC), Elan Kiderman, Debby Greenstein and I went upstairs to the Hillel graduate students reception. I felt a little awkward striking up conversations left and right and repeating the same smalltalk over and over, falling back on my nationality as a talking point. Soon enough the four of us decided to go downstairs for dinner. However Hillel was pretty packed so we ended up taking our food over to the lounge. It ended up being a great chance for me to talk more to Elan and Debbie, who I knew but not nearly as well as I could have. I ended up chatting till well past midnight and only when I realized how late it was did I call it a night and head to bed happy.
September 9, 2014
The next few days were high on work and thankfully a little lower in outside commitments. I solved a few more problems for cryptography, got to work on some physics and managed a few last logistical things.
Wednesday night held the ‘whine and cheese’ reception for PGC, an event that since the introduction of strict liquor laws for those under 21 has been sorely lacking in wine, replaced with ‘whine’. With guest appearances from alumni and our honorary members, this event and subsequent rehearsal was most enjoyable, despite my harried appearance, racing back from the engineering buildings after some failed experimentation.
Thursday was kind of nightmarish with my discovery that the physics assignment with the printed due day of the next Thursday was in fact due that morning at 10:30AM. After a quick discussion with the professor it became clear that in the first class, which I had missed due to enrollment issues, he had informed the class of the error. I was granted an extension, however, I now had two sets of physics assignments due for a weeks time. Both of which would require many hours of work. At this point I considered dropping the course but decided after some thought that given my passion for it, it was not worth dropping it at the first sign of trouble.
The other significant event on Thursday was the Engineering Careers fair which I visited primarily for the purpose of visiting Connie Ho and Amalia Hawkins, two Penn Alums that were there recruiting and friends of mine from before.
Thursday night I stayed in to cram as much physics work down my throat as possible, meeting some success but not sufficient. It was going to be a long week.
September 8, 2014
Today was boiling hot and stiflingly humid. I dressed for the weather in the morning and attended physics, trying my best to make friends with a few of my classmates.
After class I walked back to Hillel for lunch and during my meal received an urgent text message. I was required at Platt Performing Arts Center for Glee callbacks, so that I could help demonstrate quartet singing. This required me to dress up in full suit and bow tie, which given the sun beating down, was not the most ideal of outfits.
Following my dress change, I speed walked over to Hill House to meet a potential piano instructor for lessons this semester. The first meeting went pretty well and I was looking forward to actually learning to play properly for the first time. However, the entire time, I was sweating in my outfit and must have looked quite amusing to the instructor who was in jeans and a tshirt.
Much of my afternoon was spent singing the same song over and over, trying to maintain nuance for the different auditionees. After that was over, I had a brief break for dinner at Hillel, followed by Newman night. A ritual of induction that I won’t go into on this forum.
The night ended surprisingly early with our intro social event starting ahead of time. This left me a few moments to gather myself before another nights rest.
September 6, 2014
The next day was empty. Almost entirely. I slept recovered and ate lunch with some new people. A welcome break from the hectic schedule I had previously been running under.
In the night I was a little more productive, refreshing my resume, website and doing a little coursework for cryptography. When 9.45PM hit, I set off to Rodin to join a number of friends from the community for nerf-gun capture the flag in the engineering buildings. Unlike the time in February, this time was packed out with over thirty five people playing. It was great fun and great exercise as per the previous time and I was looking forward to the subsequent times we would get to play.
Sunday was a little busier again, with Glee taking up the bulk of the day. The early afternoon was taken up by ‘Grilling with Glee’, an event held to recruit new members that largely involved us standing around free food and chatting with any prospectives as they came by. The day was a hot 33 degrees and very humid and so it wasn’t an altogether pleasant task, but I met a few new and lovely people including Jasmine, one of the tech staff for Glee that had joined the previous year. It was also a good chance to spend some more time with the other new members of PGC that had joined.
The evening consisted of sitting outside auditions to speak to auditionees and make them feel comfortable and enthusiastic about joining club. However, Sunday night was a little low on volume and so I would be returning the next night again to meet more of them.
September 4, 2014
Today was my first physics class. I was excited to begin quantum mechanics, yet, when I arrived it turned out I had already missed a full hour of class the previous day. Unbeknownst to me, while I was sorting out my enrollment, the first tutorial slot had already been filled by a lecture! However, given the fact that I had just recently completed my degree in physics, it was not to difficult to catch up on the few bits of linear algebra revision I had missed.
Following the lecture, I returned to Hillel for lunch and browsed the student activities fair. The student activities fair was a giant array of tables and stalls set out along locust walk, with every student group represented. I signed up to pretty much everything, wanting to gather information on all the opportunities available on campus. In retrospect I probably signed up to a few too many and would later start un-signing myself from a number of clubs that I prematurely joined.
At 7PM I raced back to my room for the ‘hall meeting’ in which I met the ‘graduate associate’ for my floor, an adviser from the graduate body who provides pastoral care and support to all the residents. The meeting was uneventful but not un-enjoyable and Karen, the GA was very relaxed. Soon after I sprinted over to the Annenberg Performing Arts center for a sound check to arrange an upcoming concert, and following that to Ware College house for another hour long gig. This gig was particularly high on energy and the numbers that I wasn’t in all sounded excellent and were highly entertaining.
The following day was mostly empty and I spent much of it in my lab, reading papers and getting some homework done. Other than that, the usual running around to arrange my new life. I took a nap in the early afternoon to rid myself of the last vestiges of jetlag and subsequently it was time for Shira Chadasha at Hillel. The service that evening was particularly beautiful but also packed full with people. I’d estimate over one hundred and twenty people had crammed into one small hot room, all singing, all dancing. Dinner was at Hillel again, nothing special to report, but I hung around for a long time to chat with a number of old friends.
Before going to sleep I made a quick pitstop at the ‘glouse’ (glee club house/residence), said a quick hello and then was fast asleep, not to wake till late the next morning.