Racing and reflections

This will be a short post because I almost completely failed at taking pictures of anything interesting that happened last week, and I’m finding myself busier and busier as the end of the term draws near. Not that the academic term means that much to me, since I’m not taking classes, but as a demonstrator it does mean that grading lab books is a bit more urgent for the next two weeks. Besides that, I agreed to give an MCR academic seminar on the 3rd of December, so I need to prepare a presentation…and I’ve got another fellowship application (fortunately easier than the NSF) deadline coming up, and I’m trying to be extra productive so I don’t feel bad about going home for Christmas.

A nice quiet Saturday on the Cam: boathouses, houseboats, and boaties.
A nice quiet Saturday on the Cam: boathouses, houseboats, and boaties.

On the upside, I have data! Real, actual scientific data showing ferromagnetic resonance in the samples I’m measuring! I feel like a real grad student now. Hopefully, having some concrete numbers that I collected myself (with a bit of help from other grad students and a postdoc, of course) will help me really internalize the concepts I’ve been learning by discussion with my supervisor and reading papers.

What else did I do last week… uhh….not much outside of my routine of work, rowing, other training (running, weights and so on), and chatting with my housemates. I divided my evenings between working on my MCR seminar, working on my NDSEG fellowship application, and reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss on my Kindle. (It’s pretty good so far, by the way.)

A cool little owl at the Grafton Centre.
A cool little owl at the Grafton Centre.

The weekend: not much on Saturday either, apart from my weekly grocery trips and a nice long-ish run out to Madingley. I was out by the Grafton Centre (one of the two shopping mall-type places in Cambridge, the other being the Grand Arcade) and saw a tent run by a local raptor protection group, sheltering four owls and a large falcon.

This is some kind of falcon...I immediately forgot the species name, but remembered it's the second-largest variety. Help me out, birders!
This is some kind of falcon…I immediately forgot the species name, but remembered it’s the second-largest variety. Help me out, birders!

I also found the Chinese supermarket there, which seems to have quite reasonable prices, so I’m excited about doing a bit more (completely non-authentic) East Asian-inspired cooking in the future. On the subject of cooking, I spent the evening baking sour cream muffins (to use up the mostly-full tub of sour cream that I had purchased to garnish last week’s chili) and cooking up some delicious cock-a-leekie-ish soup!

I finally made it to the Chinese supermarket. Didn't end up buying anything, but they have lots of things I'd love to try (as well as my favorite black bean sauce)!
Didn’t end up buying anything, but they have lots of things I’d love to try (as well as my favorite black bean sauce, in the tall jars with red labels)!

Sunday was a bit more exciting, as it contained Emma Sprints, my (and my boat’s) first race in a boat. The race format was as follows: everybody in the division marshaled near the start line (a bridge). Each boat faced off against one other in 500 m sprint  one direction along the river. Then we all marshaled again at that end and the winners raced the winners and losers raced losers according to the predetermined draw. If you won both races, you got to go on to more heats; otherwise, you rowed home.

Oh yeah, and it was fancy dress! We went as the Fellowship of the Ring (I really pushed for that idea 🙂 ), so I got to re-use my Gandalf costume, and we spent the previous Sunday evening making armor, swords, leaf pins, and other important accoutrements out of cardboard.

My only picture of some members of the Fellowship: you can see our grey cloaks, Aragorn's awesome crown, and Legolas with her bow and leaf cloak-clasp.
My only picture of some members of the Fellowship: you can see our grey cloaks, Aragorn’s awesome crown, and Legolas with her bow and leaf cloak-clasp.

Sadly, we lost both of our races after some difficulty being exactly in time, and our spirits were not exactly improved by the fact that it was pouring rain all day. Still, I think the fact that we were racing at all competently is pretty impressive, given that most of us had never set foot in a boat before Try Rowing Day, and we only really started practicing a few weeks ago. Here’s to getting a bad race out of our systems so we can have a good one next time!

I’d better get back to work on my seminar so I can go to bed at a reasonable time before my outing tomorrow…Enjoy the video of an ejector crab from one of Sunday’s races:

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