Catch-up

Churchill's sporting grounds on a sunny-ish spring day.
Churchill’s sporting grounds on a sunny-ish spring day.

This is catch-up in the sense that I haven’t been fulfilling my self-imposed blogging obligations very well recently. I have too much other writing to do. That’s right, I’ve started writing my thesis! I actually finished a draft of one chapter and have made decent progress on two more. Unfortunately, I’m having a lot of trouble focusing at the moment, so I’m trying to tick off some quasi-productive things on my to-do list…which is how I got around to this overdue update.

OM NOM NOM.
Couldn’t resist putting this picture in again. OM NOM NOM.

Life has basically been the same the last two weeks as it was in the weeks before…no rowing because the undergrads were away, so I was basically just running in the mornings, writing during the day, and reading (Shakespeare Saved My Life at the moment; it’s a pretty light read so far, but that’s nice for bedtime)/watching the PBC NewsHour (and/or MasterChef – one of the episodes of the last season was actually filmed at Churchill!)/listening to NPR in the evenings. I made a giant batch of chocolate chip cookies for a “cake sale” at the Cavendish last Thursday; it raised nearly 300 pounds to buy Legos for kids at Addenbrooke’s (the hospital in Cambridge). As a bonus, I had some left over to share with my housemates and bring to the Porters as a start-of-term/thank-you gift.

Be-gowned grads and family in the Buttery.
Be-gowned grads and family in the Buttery.

There was a graduation ceremony on Saturday (Cambridge does this weird thing where they award degrees on many different days throughout the year), so there were a lot of dressed-up families and people wandering around in gowns and hoods around town and college.

Prof. Ian Stewart of the University of Warwick, talking about optical illusions.
Prof. Ian Stewart of the University of Warwick, talking about optical illusions.

The real main event on Saturday (at least for the Churchill grad students, or MCR) was the Conference on Everything. This is a yearly event, organized by the academic officers (shout out to my lovely housemate Amanda and the also-lovely Courtney!), in which students present their research, or other ideas they’re interested in (one guy talked about “why humans need space exploration”), in 6-minute talks or as a poster.

Assembled students, staff, and fellows (that's the Master in the red dress) at the Conference on Everything awards ceremony.
Assembled students, staff, and fellows (that’s the Master in the red dress) at the Conference on Everything awards ceremony.

I only made it one session apart from the plenary lecture, which was given by Prof. Ian Stewart of the University of Warwick on the mathematics of optical illusions, but I was really impressed by how well the student speakers did at communicating some pretty complex ideas in only 6 minutes. The questions after most of the talks also generated some excellent discussion.

Prof. Steward awarding the prize for best talk.
Prof. Steward awarding the prize for best talk.

After the conference, we had a drinks reception, and then the Advanced Students Dinner! This was a more-formal-than-usual formal dinner, sort of the spring equivalent of our Matriculation Dinner. I had the good luck to be seated at the High Table this time around, which was pretty cool. The only negative of the night was that I think my request for wheat-free food wasn’t entirely paid attention to…the Churchill chefs are normally great about this, but I don’t know if the staff knew that “fregula” is a type of pasta (made with wheat), and I didn’t know either, so I ate it. I left dinner pretty promptly after the port and claret because I was feeling a bit ill. Still, I met some new people and had a nice time overall.

Another sunny view of Churchill.
Another sunny view of Churchill.

I should really be getting back to work on my thesis writing now. I have a lot to get done this week, and less time than usual in which to do it! (First-year lab “demonstrating” starts back up again for me tomorrow, so that’s another thing on my plate…) The next life update will feature a more exotic locale, so stay tuned!

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