Work, work, play (and work)

Churchill College on a beautiful, brisk Sunday morning.
Churchill College on a beautiful, brisk Saturday morning.

Most of my thoughts last week were dominated by my NSF GRFP (that’s National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program, for the non-scientists) application. Still are, actually, since it’s due this Thursday. I still managed to do other things besides that and research (and demonstrating, which continues to be a learning experience…it sometimes feels like looking in a mirror of myself 4-5 years ago when I interact with the freshers in my lab sections), but failed spectacularly to take pictures of most of them. So you get pictures of what a lovely day it was on Saturday (mostly) interspersed with totally unrelated descriptions of the events of the week. Sorry.

This is what Britain's signature red telephone boxes have become: wifi hotspots! (I've never actually gotten one to work, though...)
This is what Britain’s signature red telephone boxes have become: wifi hotspots! (I’ve never actually gotten one to work, though…)

Wednesday morning was my first rowing outing! We went on the Cam with six other novice women, the women’s lower boats captain (since one of the girls dropped out at the last minute, and you have to have 8 to row), and a fortunately experienced cox. We were, predictably, a bit uncoordinated most of the time, but I quite enjoyed it. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough novice women to fill three boats, so it sounds like there will be one regular novice crew and one crew with people rotating in and out. I really hope I’m on the fixed crew; it will be difficult enough to get the hang of rowing without also swapping people around every practice.

The big mid-week event that I’m really kicking myself for not bringing a camera to was Matriculation Dinner, a very nice five-course meal for the graduate students and fellows at Churchill. It was interesting to talk to some graduate students whom I’d never seen before. We seemed to be seated with people in the same field sitting as far apart as possible, so I had a diverse group of conversation partners. The Master, Professor Dame Athene Donald (cool title, right?) said a few words toward the end, and we all toasted the Queen and Sir Winston, as is traditional, and it was generally a nice evening.

Outside the Grafton Centre (a shopping mall east of the city center, where I was looking for spelt flour), there was a man selling wood carvings of animals. My grandma used to collect elephants, so I thought of her and took this photo.
Outside the Grafton Centre (a shopping mall east of the city center, where I was looking for spelt flour), there was a man selling wood carvings of animals. My grandma used to collect elephants, so I thought of her and took this photo.

After working hard all week, I was ready for a relaxed weekend, but it turned out to be busier than I expected. Saturday I mostly spent grocery shopping and trying (and failing) to do even more revisions of my NSF application, but Amanda (my housemate) and I made it to a “fitness training” session in the late afternoon/evening. It was basically a very short warm-up, a few sets of short sprints across the tennis courts, a couple of body-weight strength circuits, and a cool-down and stretch. I haven’t been doing much in the way of intensity, apart from the odd set of morning sprints up Castle Mound (think “running up the bleacher steps,” but shorter and less steep), so it was nice to do some sprinting with a group. Oh, and I made some kind of mediocre carrot cake muffins. I need to remember that cooking tends to be much more forgiving of improvisation than baking.

Sunday pre-run breakfast: tea, muffin and honey-cottage cheese spread.
Sunday pre-run breakfast: tea, muffin and honey-cottage cheese spread.

The highlight of Saturday was a concert by the Cambridge University Chamber Orchestra, which is full of student musicians who are all very impressively talented (as far as I could tell, anyway). The program was three Ravel pieces, all of which I really liked, an oboe concerto by Jean Francaix (never heard of him before, to be honest) with a distinctly jazzy feel, and a kind of weird Ibert piece. It was a fun event, and I’m very tempted to go to next weekend’s concert (Sibelius, Dvorak, and Rachmaninoff).

The orchestra warming up (no pictures during the performance, obviously).
The orchestra warming up (no pictures during the performance, obviously).

Sunday was relatively productive, probably helped by the fact that daylight savings time ended, so we got an extra hour of sleep (or partying, I guess, but sleep for me). I actually got some work done after my morning run, and went to the market square for lunch. This isn’t something I would normally do, but I was on my way somewhere else, and besides, there was something I just couldn’t wait any longer to try: an ostrich burger! Of course, I had to get one without a bun, which made it rather more difficult to eat, but I can now say that ostrich meat is quite delicious when grilled, warm, and accompanied by mustard, caramelized onions, and onion chutney.

Cute little English street (on my way back from my grocery run on Saturday).
Cute little English street (on my way back from my grocery run on Saturday).

The excuse I had for stopping by the market square was that I was on my way to the Cambridge Junction, a concert/general entertainment venue, to volunteer at the Women of the World Festival. More specifically, I got to do an afternoon shift of science demonstrations with Cambridge Hands-On Science (CHaOS–now there’s a good acronym!). After reading and signing the obligatory risk assessment and borrowing a bright blue T-shirt, I spent a few hours explaining the concept of polarization to people between (I would estimate) ages 2 and 40. It’s rather abstract, but some of the kids were impressively quick to get the idea, and even the less engaged people perked up a bit when they saw the kaleidoscopic rainbow that happens when you put a plastic ruler between two polarizing filters.

Back from the grocery store. I'm so glad my backpack has a built-in cucumber pocket!
Back from the grocery store. I’m so glad my backpack has a built-in cucumber pocket!

After all that excitement, I went home and made an enormous batch of delicious paella, re-read some physics papers for my NSF application, tried to make some progress on sorting out what I’m doing around Christmas (besides baking some mince pies, I hope!) and fell into bed, resolving to take some more/better pictures next week.

Some of the Storey's Way graduate hostels with their apples trees (now sadly bereft of decent apples).
Some of the Storey’s Way graduate hostels with their apples trees (now sadly bereft of decent apples…trust me, I checked.).

Not that I’ve made much of a start on that, but I guess there’s always tomorrow…

The view out my window on Saturday afternoon. Not too shabby.
The view out my window on Saturday afternoon. Not too shabby.
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