It’s the grad school life for us

I found that some of the measurements on the electromagnet I was working on this week took just enough time for me to read a webcomic; specifically, PHD Comics. I’d seen a few strips posted around various labs at the University of Utah, but I’ve never related to them as much as I have in the past week. This is not surprising, I suppose, given that I’m actually a graduate student now, but it’s still been a fun experience seeing that somebody else cares about, say, spelling errors in turned-in assignments (I don’t take off points, but I do usually correct, even when it makes me feel ridiculously pedantic).

The uncreatively-named Round Church and a decorated tree at the northern end of central Cambridge.
The uncreatively-named Round Church and a decorated tree at the northern end of central Cambridge.

Anyway, I feel like I’ve mostly been sucked into the dark cycle of introversion+heavy workload this week. I start with the best intentions of socializing and going out to do things, but then I have a lot of work to do, so I have less time to socialize, and I’m mentally tired when I get home, so I don’t feel like socializing. While this works in the short term and in periods with lots of semi-forced socialization, it gets a bit grim when you realize that maybe the reason you were coughing at Thanksgiving dinner is because your relatively sparse contributions to the conversation are way more than you’ve talked all day.

St. John's College (left) and craft market on a quiet Saturday morning.
St. John’s College (left) and craft market on a quiet Saturday morning.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I went to a special Thanksgiving formal Hall at Churchill for the occasion, preceded by a reception for the fellows and American (and Canadian) students. Like every other formal I’ve attended at Churchill, it was quite nice. The menu could mostly pass for traditional Thanksgiving fare: butternut squash soup, then turkey, stuffing, pigs in blankets, Brussel sprouts,  roast potatoes, carrots, and parsnips, and then…lemon meringue pie? It was a bit funny, but neither pumpkin nor pecans are widely available in Cambridge, so I guess they gave up on the traditional pies. I had their standard allergen-free dessert: berries and berry sorbet (which is fine, though I wish they’d skip the sorbet). Also, since I couldn’t have the pig in a blanket (sausages have wheat in them here) or stuffing, they brought me a plate with five large slices of turkey breast on it instead! Fortunately, I was able to convince some of my neighbors to take three and a half of them. The company at the dinner was nice as well; in addition to some more familiar friends sitting nearby, I was across from Jacqui, the (Canadian) MCR president, and next to her was the Master’s husband; both quite interesting people.

I already posted this, but I'll post it again here since it's relevant.  I guess Christmas decorating season starts after Bonfire Night or at the beginning of December, depending on who you ask.
I already posted this, but I’ll post it again here since it’s relevant. I guess Christmas decorating season here starts after Bonfire Night or at the beginning of December, depending on who you ask.

Saturday was frustrating in that I didn’t get a whole lot done on the MCR seminar presentation I’ll be giving next Wednesday, but at least it was a beautiful day. Since I’ve given up any hope of cross-country skiing in the UK, I don’t mind so much when I can go running in shorts at the end of November.

Sunday morning’s pancakes (I had to use up that lone banana leftover from last week’s shopping somehow) started off as a massive failure; I read somewhere that cooking pancakes over low heat makes them better, but I tried letting my first batch sit for a good 30 minutes on the hob (as they call hot plates here) and they still weren’t cooked enough to flip properly. Fortunately, the next batch came out alright once I turned the heat up. I actually did get some progress made on my presentation, had a nice lunch (with discussion of the merits and problems of the EU with Philip), wrote some postcards, and went rowing, then came back home and made a decent Asian-inspired stir-fry (even though I have yet to purchase a bottle of wheat-free soy sauce/tamari) before working some more.

Rowing is going pretty well, I think! We’re actually managing to put some power down and move the boat quite quickly when we try, though the timing and balance are definitely not perfect. I think we need to work on “relaxing the slide” (that is, slowing down during the recovery stage of the stroke), particularly since our next race, the Fairbairn Cup (or just “Fairbairns”), is on the longer side and we’ll need the muscle recovery in order to keep going hard the whole time.

That’s pretty much all for now! I’m looking at very busy week ahead (last week of demonstrating this term, last week I get to use the electromagnet, MCR seminar, and fellowship application), but I’ll have a break pretty soon.

More external manifestations of holiday cheer at Churchill.
More external manifestations of holiday cheer at Churchill.
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