Thursday/Friday – Day 140/141

December 19, 2012

Today was the first of my two exams, algorithms. Up at 7:30 to practice I felt decently good going in. The exam felt fine and though there were lots of tricky questions, it seemed alright overall. How naive I was.

The rest of the day was spent in crisis mode going mad over the physics exam which, till this point I’d barely had any time to study. I was so stressed that I decided to take a ‘short’ nap and get back to studying after. This name however, ended up running overtime to a good four hours. No good. The rest of the evening I was even worse than I was before, going completely nuts over the practice exams. At around eight PM I received my grades for the algorithms exam. Not good. I was quite upset by this and so I decided to take a run and clear my head a little. At 9PM I finally started working consistently and though I made some progress, I was sure it wasn’t enough.

Tomorrow I woke up at six thirty, before my nine AM exam feeling absolutely terrible and my nerves were completely wracked. I entered the exam in a state of near panic and with good reason, I was unable to wholly answer a single one of the exam questions! After exiting the exam room in near tears I was also forced to confront another unpleasant event from the last day, the burglary of my carry bag containing my forms to obtain a new visa. Quite distraught I left the exam building to find Kostas, my algorithms professor who always had a way of putting things in perspective however, he was busy with a skype call and couldn’t meet with me. I ran back to my room to try and prepare for my weekend in New York with Mum, Dad, and Raph. I distressed slightly during a goodbye with Steph, who gave me a little comfort from the awful day and then I raced to the 1PM bus to New York.

Long story short, it took absolutely forever. I only just made it there in time for Shabbat. 4:11 I made it to the building. 4:11 Shabbat started. Phew. From there it was breakdown then sleep.

Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday – Exams – Days 137-139

December 17, 2012

I had experienced multiple exam periods before, but none so stressful as what I experienced at Penn. Possibly one of the most stressful weeks of my life and, unfortunately I lacked the perspective to step back from it.

The week didn’t begin so badly, with a few major projects due Tuesday but no exam till Thursday. I thought all was well as I’d planned ahead and completed most of the projects. Monday held two PGC gigs, both of which were pretty awesome. The first of those being a performance at the top of the Huntsman building, on the eighth floor, never seen on regular occasions by students. One could tell the event was of higher status than some of the others by the flashy catering provided and the seemingly unlimited supply of pepper steak being carved up for the guests. Our performance however, was less than stellar and I’m not 100% sure we earned our keep that time. However, we had a chance to redeem ourselves later in the evening with the President herself, Amy Guttmann.However before that there was coding to be done in the break and candle lighting at Hillel with a brief appearance by President Guttmann.Amy Guttmann Lights Chanukkah Candles


Following her speech there was a performance, as below, by the Jewish acapella group on campus, the Shabbatones.

Following that it was again, a short period of study and work before a trip to the fantastic Presidential Holiday Party at the house of the President herself.

Line to the Party

There was a line out the front reaching a decent way back and understandably so, for on the other side the beautifully adorned building was a back garden filled with desserts and holiday treats. However, the Glee Club was sequestered to a side room to await our performance.

PGC Waiting

We waited anxiously for the entire crew to arrive and when they did, we sang our bit before spending time mingling. It was during this period that I managed to snag a photo with the President, one for the wall.

Holiday Party with Students

After all this hubbub I planed to work a little and then sleep early. Unfortunately, a few small issues with my code ballooned out and ending up taking me till the early hours of the morning, programming in Engineering, Moore 100. Around me students with bleary eyes were all focused on the same goal. Completing the assignment by 10AM Tuesday. Many fell by the wayside or more literally, fell asleep.

Tuesday morning I slept through most of and the evening was spent in a mixture of coding and revising. Today was also the day that the family visited Penn and I spent at least a little time showing them around before my recital at 1PM where I sang fly me to the moon. Email me for a link to that video.

Different project this time and lots of math catchup for the algorithms course.I seem to be doing this more frequently, but another significant event this past week was another interview, this time for an on campus position of ‘Teaching Assistant’ or TA (tutor) for the algorithms course. This applied extra pressure on me to do well on the exam to prove myself. The interview in fact went excellently, and the interviewer Val Tannen, had a few words with me after that were most encouraging. It was then on Tuesday I received notification that not only had I succeeded in being offered a TA job, I was to be given a tutorial/section/lab to teach because of my strong performance. This made me nervous a little but I was more than happy to accept. In the evening I went for a delicious dinner with my parents before arriving back on campus a little after nine PM to get back to work. However at around ten PM I received an SMS from JHo, my Glee mentor, wondering where I was at auditions, and then it hit me, I had forgotten my audition slot half an hour beforehand for the PGC Spring Show! The moment I received that message I grabbed my coat, some sheet music and, sprinted as fast as I possibly could, over to Platt Student Performing Arts Center where I was the last person to have my audition and, though I was a little stressed out I felt it went relatively well.

Wednesday was a non stop day of study, almost without pause and the study went well into the night where I helped out a few friends with their questions. Unfortunately for me, I never remember that when I manage to help others for an exam, I often doom my own performance….

Monday – Day 46

September 7, 2012

Today was pouring with rain and as per usual, I had a bit of a frolic in it getting various things done in the morning and though the student clubs fair was cancelled due to the inclement weather, I made the most of my early hours. I made a mad dash for breakfast was Thea Walton, a fellow aussie, and we munched ferociously outside on the benches during a break in the storm before we were soon overwhelming by battering winds and refreshed rains.

After returning to my room to dry off, I headed out on a trolley tour of the city. The photos that follow are still from my phone but, I am pleased to report that after the end of this day, I soon had my camera charger back!

First up on the tour was a visit to the White House that was established in Philadelphia before the relocation to Washington D.C. It was interesting as at least for our tour guide it represented the forming of ‘a more perfect union’ of the states however, black slaves still toiled under its roof, representing an imperfect freedom.

George Washington’s White House

Just across the road was the line to enter to see the Liberty Bell. Suddenly it began to pour and we made a beeline for the limited shelter provided by the pavilion housing the bell.

Rainy Day

After a short wait in the queue and a brief discussion over its significance as a symbol of liberation and freedom, I stood before the bell with its hallmark crack (actually formed during attempted repairs of a hairline split) and had the requisite photo in front of it.

The Liberty Bell

Just opposite the pavilion was the first full court-house of the United States and also stood a building that I recognized; Independence Hall, featured in National Treasure and quite a well known monument, though no longer in use.

Independence Hall

After that the rest of the group needed lunch and so they headed to yet another location for a cheesesteak. By this point in my trip I was quite tiring of the whole cheesesteak thing yet, dutifully followed them to wait in the queue at a supposedly famous location ‘Joe’s’ or something of that ilk.

Cheesesteak Shop – Another One

After a good twenty minute wait, it was back on the trolley to see Reading Terminal Market and the railroad station above it. Unfortunately due to labor day, on our arrival we found it closed and so were forced to see the remnants of the train terminal from behind bars up at the Philadelphia Convention Center, a half of the repurposed terminal.

Next was a trip inside a neighboring hotel where atop it we could see a grand view of the city’s skyline.

Philly Skyline

From there we could also see the large statue of William Penn standing on top of city hall.

Our guide then told to us the story of “The Curse of William Penn”, a tale by now familiar to me. The statues of Penn atop the City Hall stood above every building in the city, watching over the welfare of Philadelphia and the success of its sporting teams. After hundreds of years, in the mid eighties, skyscrapers were built that surpassed Penn’s height. From that moment onwards, no local sports team was able to secure a major title. Loss after loss, year after year, the cities teams were destitute of victory.

Finally, in 2008, a new tallest building in the city was under construction: the Comcast Tower. A disgruntled engineer, upset by the curse hatched a plan. While working on the top of the tower he relieved himself of duty to go down to City Hall to purchase a mini souvenir William Penn statue. Having done that he returned to the top of the tower and welded it on to the top so that once more William Penn and his hat were again above all in the city. That very year ‘The Phillies’, the local baseball team, took out the national title.

William Penn

A fascinating note about Philly is that all major building projects must contribute 1%  of their budget to public art. Comcast being a media firm running cable TV channels spent over three hundred million dollars building its skyscraper and so we headed over to the building to see how they reinvested into the city.

In typical American fashion, they had spent three million dollars on the installation of the world’s largest LED television with a resolution far surpassing that of any other television in existence. When we walked into the building to see it on display this is what we saw.

A wall?

A regular wall with not much of interest on it. However, moments later the scene changed abruptly.

Image Quality!

The wall darkened to reveal itself as the multi-million dollar screen in question. We stayed to watch for a few minutes, oohing and ahhing at the amazing pictures. However, I still felt that all that money could’ve been better invested.

Comcast Screen

After returning home to Rodin House, it was a quick change to get ready for the last social event of NSO: A Night At the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Transported on school buses, the entire crowd of exchange, transfer and freshman students, all dressed up in their best and finest headed to the gallery for dinner, a dance and, a chance to view the exhibition privately. Rumours flowed freely as to the cost of the event and none of them were below six figures.

The atmosphere in the gallery was rather odd, as in the main atrium loud dance music was playing between the people dancing next to marble pillars and a sumptuous buffet. I personally took this as a great opportunity to learn from the curators and guides within the museum and was soon exploring all it had to offer.

The Museum of Art

Inside I met a few Art History majors and also gleaned a little more knowledge from them, albeit laughing at their description of a fauvist painting as ‘pokemon-esque’. Later I met up with a lovely japanese girl Saya and her friend Royston to explore the Asian and Indian sections of the gallery before heading back home.

Kaya and I

However, that wasn’t it for the night! The office of alumni programs was hosted a ‘host your own murder mystery’ game and I headed out to that, narrowly missing the first session to start. And so, in typical Shaanan fashion, I had a little play around on the grand piano in the waiting area. Soon a number of people were gathered round and I was fielding song requests. Just before leaving into the next session I was recommended by the head of the office to apply to play in a band and music competition for homecoming, the largest gathering of the year wherein alumni return to join with students in watching the Penn football team play a home game.

After that it was a round of the murder mystery and then quickly to sleep, before dropping from what was a seriously busy day.

Murder Mystery


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