Friday, November 30
Thursday 00:10am: Go to bed early in order to get up at 7am for a rowing race.
3:30am: Wake up. Wonder exactly what the loud blaring noise is. Realise that the fire alarm is going off. Mutter unrepeatable curses about the horrible things that will befall the porters if this indeed turns out to be a fire drill.
3:30:30am: Get dressed, grab keys, walk out of room. See Hungarian next-next door neighbour burst out of his room in dressing gown and dash into the kitchen, which is full of smoke. He shouts something about the grill being on. I shake my head sadly.
3:40am: Having gone to the Porter's Lodge to report the fire alarm, and finding no-one, I troop back to the building with a few other people to find a weary porter already investigating the problem. I get undressed, climb back into bed and the fire alarm goes off again.
3:50am: Realise that smoke from the kitchen has gotten into my room and begin to get worried about carbon monoxide poisoning.
~4:00am: Finally get to sleep
7:00am: Woken up by alarm. Mentally compute the least amount of time required for me to have a shower, get changed and meet the rowing crew. Decide that I can have at least another twenty minutes in bed, and fall asleep.
7:35am: Wake up in panic. Decide that a shower is not possible and cycle off to the meeting point.
7:45am: Loiter at meeting point. Notice that there are very few people from my crew who are there. The coach tells me, "Oh, didn't you get the notice about your race being rescheduled? You only have to meet at the boathouse at 10am." I tell the coach that, no, I did not get such a notice.
8:00am: Go to Sainsbury's, walk around a bit with fellow malcontent who also didn't get the notice.
8:20am: Go to breakfast at hall.
9:00am: Walk over to Starbucks in Borders and fall asleep on comfy couches.
10:00am: Get to boathouse, do some warming up, participate in the well-honoured and traditional procedure of roundly cursing early mornings and incompetent coaches.
11:30am: Get into boat. It is raining. It has been raining all morning. Feel a little depressed.
12:00pm: Still in boat. Have moved possibly a hundred metres or so, since we're racing at the end of our division. The good news is that we swapped divisions with the women's boat so right now we're the only men's boat among 40 women's boats (it's a timed race though, so it doesn't matter what division we're in). This proves to be of some amusement.
12:10pm: Start singing along with rest of the boat. It has stopped raining.
12:20pm: Stop singing, and start race.
12:30pm: Finish race. Look down at left hand, which doesn't seem to be moving any more, and see lots of nasty blood. Not nice - appears that the blisters have once again given up.
12:35pm: Start rowing back to the boathouse, with the crew lustily belting out renditions of 'YMCA', 'Bohemian Rhapsody', 'Yellow Submarine', 'We are the Champions' and other such great hits. Catch quite a few strange looks. More than a few mothers point us out to their kids, presumably as a warning.
1:30pm: Finally get back to my room, having bought a 'comfort curry' from Sainsbury's. Eat curry, read the news on the Internet, realise that my arms are no longer able to move and then collapse onto bed.
4:00pm: Wake up. Arms still not moving. Fall asleep.
4:50pm: Wake up. Arms have regained movement. Have shower, then read up notes on consciousness and executive control for a supervision.
6:00pm: Supervision begins with Simon Baron-Cohen (aka Ali G's uncle). Extremely good and thought-provoking. Massive respect to the Psychology posse.
7:20pm: Cycle off to a Chinese Society buffet dinner. Find out that I need cash. Discover that half of Cambridge's cash machines are not working. Become extremely irritated.
Friday 00:03am: Realise that I am getting tired and bored, and stop writing this weblog entry.
Wednesday, November 28
Two noteworthy moments that occurred in the past 24 hours:
Just as the gong was sounded at the start of Christmas formal hall dinner last night and the Master of the College started saying some nonsense in Latin, I see at least half a dozen people simultaneously reach for their mobile phones to check that they were silent.
Speeding down a sideroad which is strictly one-way (but no-one ever pays any attention to that), I spot a policeman and immediately hop off my bicycle. Ditto for every other cyclist who sees him and then flings themself bodily off their bicycle with no regard to their own personal safety.
Monday, November 26
I've just finished reading a rather lengthy 'Introduction to Cryptography' PDF that was supplied with the PGP software I downloaded the other day. It went into considerably more depth than the scant knowledge I've picked up from various email and conversation exchanges, and reading Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (which is nonetheless a very good book). As a result, I'm feeling quite impressed with the whole PGP public/private key infrastructure and have learnt a few things about exactly how it goes about encrypting things with passphrases, private keys, hashes, session keys, secret keys - and then there's all the guff about certificates, signatures, webs of trust and all the rest. Unfortunately, I still don't really know how to use the program and have yet to figure out how to decrypt a message - but that's probably not my fault but my importing the wrong public key or something.
Cycling back from a neurobiology lecture about spatial and episodic memory in the hippocampus tonight, I screeched to a halt at the top of a bridge overlooking a part of the backs (the mini-river that people punt on in Cambridge) and saw streamers of mist floating over the surface of the water, lit up by Trinity Hall. With a perfectly clear sky, a large moon and the stars above, the effect was wonderful.
Parts of an email I sent in response to a call for comments and criticism from our student representatives about our Neurobiology lectures:
Only a few minor gripes - it would be nice if lecturers finished on time, even if that means getting lecturers before them to finish on time as well. Importantly, the number of times that a lecturer is allowed to say 'finally' should be strictly limited to once per lecture, and it has to be within one minute of them *actually finishing* the lecture. I find it simply unacceptable that certain lecturers believe that they can cruelly string students along in a vain attempt to wake them up by saying 'finally' multiple times, raising and then dashing their hopes.
Sunday, November 25
It always pleases me that we get a regular flow of pretty decent talks and lectures in Cambridge. After being disappointed by the poor array of talks by the Cambridge Union and their silly, Eton-boy*, obnoxious behaviour, it's good to see that the scientists and philosophers can give a good showing.
Most recently, I've been to a couple of talks about whether we have free will, debunking the paranormal and neural structures in the brain, all given by experts in the field and costing no more than £1 each. Tonight I'll be going to a panel with Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen (my psychology supervisor and world expert on autism), Prof. Roger Penrose (renowned physics guy with peculiar ideas about quantum consciousness) and Dr. Brian Lancaster (some consciousness guy), who'll be talking on 'Does science leave room for the soul?' - and it's free!
*This is pretty funny, actually. They recently held elections for the post of President of the Cambridge Union. Both candidates were from Eton. I feel this reflects somewhat on the attitudes and makeup of the Cambridge Union, no matter what they say about non-elitism and so on. There was an uncharacteristically amusing article about the elections in the Varsity student newspaper (I can't find it online).
"...They viciously stared at each other across the hall. The heady scent of betrayal was in the air. Through every man's minds were running the same thoughts: "How can you back him? After all we did at school together?"; "How can you be backing him? His house in school was an absolute dump.";"What are you doing here? You didn't even go to Eton!""