Saturday, November 24
I've just installed PGP 7.0.3 on my computer and I can now see its little icon sitting unobtrusively in my system tray. It literally radiates an aura of power and security - if you click on it, a whole number of interesting and incomprehensible options appear in a list. Even better, when I write new emails in Outlook Express, I have at least four new buttons that I can use to digitally sign and encrypt messages in different ways. Unfortunately, I don't really know how all of this works and I have a suspicion that some of the new options were only opened up because I made a new digital signature - but I'm not sure.
Anyway, it's all pretty impressive and apparently I can now use 'military strength' encryption. Just what I need for all those highly confidential emails I send out every day.
All I need now is some freeware firewall software and I'll have the perfect amount of false confidence.
Thursday, November 22
Had a rowing race today. The afternoon started off well, then got progressively worse. After hopping into the boat and rowing down towards the starting point, we were informed that we were too late to take part in our race and so were disqualified. That's the end of the story.
Nah, not really. Once that happened, we simply took the place of the 4th boat in Trinity, who didn't have a full crew anyway, and waited there. And then waited a bit more, and then even more for good measure, moored against the bank in a tilted boat feeling pretty dejected and quite cold for the best part of an hour. Eventually we made it down to the starting point, where we waited some more, and then perhaps an hour or more after we first got out, we were up for our race - only 800m long, about 3 minutes. A sprint, really.
We started off pretty well and just before halfway we were a whole boatlength ahead. Right at that point, the fates decided that we were doing far too well and simultaneously three things went wrong. One, the person behind me fell off his seat and his oar swung over his head, taking him out of action for maybe eight strokes (20 seconds or so). Two, someone's seat fell off the rails (I couldn't help laughing when I heard that). Three, someone's feet came out of the too-big shoes on the boat footplate. So for roughly 20 seconds, only five people out of the eight were rowing. After that, we perhaps got up to six people, with the other two attempting to row despite not actually being able to use their legs.
As it was, even without a full crew we were only behind the other boat by two seconds, or half a boat length. We didn't win, but these things happen and we were absurdly unlucky with the whole defective boat situation.
Part of the problem, I think, was that we didn't even have our normal boat, which some of the women rowers had managed to crash earlier that day; had we had our normal boat, the seats would have stayed on and the feet would have been kept in their shoes. Moreover, two of our better rowers were out of action and had to be subbed.
Anyway, what the hell, we'll do much better in the longer race on Thursday.
Wednesday, November 21
Some snippets of what I've been doing in the past week.
Lots of rowing: Lots of land training, lots of practice, far too many races. In preparation for one race, we were told by the coaches that they'd be cycling alongside our boat to shout instructions. "Has anyone here read Northern Lights?" demanded one coach. I replied in the affirmative. "Good - we'll be your daemons during the race, sitting on your shoulder and whispering you instructions. Great book that, I'm reading it right now."
Psychology supervision: We were talking about the effects of stimulants and depressants on the body, and the unusual case in which doctors gave stimulants to hyperactive children. Instead of making them even more hyperactive, they instead were calmed down since their neurotransmitter levels were 'reset' to some nominal value. "So," I ventured, "if you gave someone who was tired some depressants, then..."
Books: Finally finished Consciousness Explained, which I am very proud of but it did take me perhaps a month, with maybe 10 or 20 pages read per day. I attribute this slowness to the alien material; most 'academic' texts that I read are about subjects I'm already familiar with, so I can just zoom through them, already knowing the general principles and concepts. Reading this book, which was essentially a mixture of philosophy and psychology, meant that everything I read was completely new to me. Combined with the typically dense style of writing, I found it really hard going and I still don't understand half the stuff in it. Mind you, talking to a friend doing philosophy here reassured me somewhat as she had exactly the same problems even in the second year.
Started on The English by Jeremy Paxman, which is a lot easier to read and in fact feels like a particularly light book. Probably will finish it in a couple of days. Amusing quotation about what the Bishop of Norwich was told by his predecessor, "Welcome to Norfolk. If you want to lead someone in this part of the world, find out where they're going. And walk in front of them."