After Thanksgiving, I had a few final problem sets and lectures to finish up before finals. Still had time for a little bit of enjoyment of the flurry of lights, decorations, and holiday events in and around Cambridge.
The main things on my mind for the last few weeks have been my take-home exams. I’d never done one before, so I was pretty anxious about how to prepare. Fortunately, they weren’t as stressful overall as I thought they would be. The statistical mechanics one was really hard, not least because I took a break to sing in the Dudley Chorus concert in the middle of it (more on that later), but it was also quite rewarding; I feel like I learned a lot while I was doing it. The quantum mechanics final was a little more reasonable, but that doesn’t mean I did any better on it… (I have no idea how I did yet. Grades aren’t posted yet, and ignorance is bliss!).
So, the chorus concert…was really fun! I skipped the rehearsal beforehand and reception afterward because of my final, but taking a break for half an hour to sing mostly Christmas carols was pretty fun. Our program was, yes, mostly Christmas-related, of the traditionalist hymn-ish variety. O Come Emmanuel (not a choir version, but one of my favorites) and Ding Dong Merrily on High are the two pieces you’re most likely to have heard of. We also sang one of my favorite choral pieces, Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium (this is King’s College Choir singing it), and some weirder Christmas hymns, Here is the Little Door and Adam Lay y-Bounden. We finished up with Ernst Toch’s Geographical Fugue and variety of songs from The Lion King (this version, but we sang the actual words in the background of Circle of Life instead of “Nananananananananana”). It all went reasonably well and, again, was a nice break. Speaking of concerts, I really enjoyed going to the Dudley Jazz Band’s concert last Saturday after finishing the quantum mechanics final. It was mostly the music of Carla Bley, which from the label “free jazz” I was afraid would be a bit too experimental for my taste, but I liked it after all. (Here’s Awful Coffee, one of the pieces the big band played.) The fact that I knew two people in the band helped, of course! David and Stephen from physics were both great in their solos.
Some more nice community/holiday spirit was showed by the people in the residence halls. We had a cute Christmas tree in my floor’s lounge starting right after Thanksgiving, and the TV was set up to show a video of a crackling fire during the weekly floor teas. Our floor Secret Santa was one of the best ones I’ve ever participated in, with almost all of the gifts being thoughtful and nice. I really appreciate Kiran R.’s gift to me of a teapot and strainer! Now I have one for work in addition to the tetsubin in my room.
Post-finals, I had a few days of relaxing in sunny, 60-degree-F Cambridge post-finals (and a tiny bit of working, kind of…we were successful in our bid to host the 2017 Northeast Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics! So there was a quick, informal planning meeting at which we brainstormed ideas for a couple of events and people to speak). I even got a surprise visit from my Uncle Bill, who happened to be in town for a business meeting, so we grabbed dinner and talked about my cousins’ plans in/for college (congratulations to Nolan for getting into Reed College early decision!), aerial photography, and epic skiing adventures. The next day, I headed back to a very snowy Salt Lake City. The trip was unusually smooth, and I finished three books that I’d been working through (post about my favorite books this year coming soon!), so that was nice, but nowhere near as nice as having snow and seeing my Mom.
So yeah, now I’m back in SLC and very happily getting out to ski a little bit again. It was so snowy that I just walked down to the path around the reservoir a block away from my house and made my own tracks around there. That loop will get old pretty quickly, but for now it’s just wonderful to be on snow. Hope everybody has a great (I’d say Hannukah, but I missed it,) Solstice, Christmas, Milad ul-Nabi, and New Year!