Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Confidential Project

This is Wednesday.

In Cambridge, Wednesday is the last day of the week.

This means, today is the end of the third week of term and tomorrow is the start of the fourth week. We’re almost halfway into the term already, since Cambridge only has eight-week terms.

And in this term in my fourth year in Cambridge, there are fewer lectures, but it does not get less busy.

One reason is because I'm taking French this year, and that requires some extra out-of-classroom hours if I want to be any good at it. It’s been a while since I last learnt a language but so far, everything’s good. In fact, I think I’m enjoying it a lot.

Another reason is that this year we have the Part IIB research project. It’s something that we will spend most of the year working on, either alone or in pairs. My research partner is a Northern Irish guy from Fitzwilliam College (I might have mention him in the blog before) and he’s pretty good at this, which means I have to work hard and can’t slack off otherwise it’ll make me look bad. But I don’t really mind because that’s a good thing.

Oh, guess what my project is?

Nope, it’s not watching paint dry, even though I’m doing something along the line of my last summer project. We are modelling chemical explosion, and it’s a purely numerical/computational project. No experimental components at all, which may be a good thing for obvious reasons.

I just got told by my supervisor that the project is confidential. I can say what it’s generally about but delving into details is a no-no. Of course, people normally don’t blab about every intricate details of things they’re working on anyway, at least until the poster presentation or paper publication stage. Still, being told you’re working on something hush-hushed is really exciting, it’s like you’re in a team of scientists working on a secret project and you can’t let the documents fall into the wrong hands...

... or something like that.

Anyway, there’s one aspect of the project that got me really really excited about, but I won’t say it just yet, in case I jinxed it (and it might not happen anyway). We’ll just see in a few months time.


Friday, October 24, 2008

All Hail Chronos

And it so happened that earlier this week I was being emailed by a cult worshipping Chronos and according to them there’ll be a Chronos worshipping ceremony this Sunday. The ceremony will last for one hour, from 1 a.m. to 1 a.m. and we will wander around Cambridge with candles and stuff in this magical hour that does not exist.

Okay, the email was actually from Cambridge’s science fiction society. I’m severely tempted so I asked some of my friends to go with me. However, even the craziest of them (which happens to be a female English student with a hyperactive imagination) would rather choose the comfort of their beds than devoting their souls to Chronos.

Oh well...


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Let’s Step On the Grass

Right, so as you probably know, the grass in the Trinity College’s Great Court is sacred and is not to be tainted by the footprints of mere mortals i.e. you’re not to step on it. That is unless you happen to be a fellow of the college, or maybe a gardener.

However, there is one occasion that sees the exception to this rule and if you bothered to check the archives (or here if you’re lazy) then you’ll know that this momentous occasion is called the Great Court Run, 2008. And what basically happens is a race against the clock, literally. The new freshers will start running when the clock chimes at twelve o’clock and they’ll try to complete the run around the Great Court before the last chime ends.

I don’t think anybody managed to break the record this year, but still, it was a lot of fun. I was watching the race from a friend’s window, hence the angle in the following pictures. Oh, and somebody ran in a chicken suit. Like, holy crap, a CHICKEN SUIT!! If he doesn’t win the best fancy dress prize I won’t know what to say.

It’s ten minutes to twelve. Almost time.

People are starting to appear.

The serious runners take their position near the Great Gate.

The race is on. For some reason in this picture the runners look like they’re skipping.

And apparently the slowest species include a red-green caterpillar and a bunch of scientists.

Finally, it’s a bit far away but you can see Mr Chicken running. He’s the yellow blur in the centre.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Let’s Kick the Door

In Q7, Blue Boar’s Court on Thursday, there was a conversation going on and a snippet of it goes like this:

So, you’re planning on kicking your room’s door later on?” asked my DoS (Director of Studies).

Oh, I’ve already done that ages ago.

Apparently, what I’ve found out after my first DoS meeting of the year is that the difference in marks between me and the person who got the lowest first class is 6 (out of 600), which means there’s only 1% difference between me and a first class. Also, I’m not the highest among the 2.1’s, so there are people with less than 1% difference from a first.

This can be a happy or sad news, depending on how you view it. I suppose it can be very frustrating knowing you’re this close to having an unblemished academic record. On the other hand, it puts into perspective that getting a 2.1 doesn’t mean I’m inferior compared to some people. The students’ marks are close together, and you have to put a grade boundary somewhere.

So all in all, I’m actually feeling pretty relieved. Consider the door safe from any physical assaults for now.


Monday, October 13, 2008

It Died!

Remember the clock that I talked about in a previous post? The one that costs about one million pounds and had some of its parts built in a secret underwater military facility? Well, I was walking back from the department at around 2:30 p.m. today and as I walked pass it, I saw this:

The pendulum has stopped, there’s no light whirling around in circles, the chronophage is still.

The clock’s dead.

I saw one student put a dandelion there, much like you’d put flowers on a grave.

It’s not likely that a clock like that will be down for maintenance purposes, especially not a mere few weeks after its unveiling. Still, they’re probably working on it right now, so I guess I’ll check back in a few hours and see how it goes.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

I’m a BA student

... apparently.

I just found out about this when they charged me more to eat in the hall. It was too much to be attributed to inflation so I rechecked things and found that I was charged the BA price. It seems that the same thing is happening to all the fourth year students even though a lot of us haven’t graduated yet.

If you don’t know what I'm talking about, here’s how it works in the UK. Well, Cambridge at least. A number of the undergraduate courses (law, English etc,) last for three years and you’ll get a B.A degree at the end. Most of the engineering courses are four years leading to an M.Eng. degree, but you can stop after three years and graduate with a B.A. since you’ve fulfilled the requirements for a B.A degree already. Some people do this if they want to go into something else like banking but most people stay for a fourth year. Of course, you can graduate after the third year to receive a B.A degree AND continue for a fourth year to get an M.Eng.

So anyway, it seems like we’re all treated as BA’s for billing purposes. Even though it’s like I said before, we haven’t graduated and had the B.A title bestowed upon us, so I don’t think I can write my name as ‘Yazid Jay, B.A’. It’s like the Junior Steward said, “We’re all fake BA’s.

There are certain perks of being a BA student in Trinity, like the BA dinner and the BA common room. I’ll see if a fake BA like myself can gain access to these things.


Monday, October 06, 2008

Open House and Fresher’s Squash

It happened that on Sunday there was this open house organised by the Malaysian Student Department (MSD). So the Sunday morning saw me boarding the train to London to get some helping of Malaysian food.

As it turned out, my first hour there was a bit... awkward. I don’t really know anybody and so I just ate on my own. Well, I did talk to a few random people but nothing compared to all the others there who were sitting on the floor in groups, chatting amiably. After some time, I realised there’s no point in getting all uncomfortable about it so I went into ‘not giving a toss’ mode. I did, after all, go there just for the food.

An hour later my friends arrived and we all sit and chatted amiably. And everyone was happy.

I went back to Cambridge sometime late afternoon because the fresher’s squash was happening that night, and Lennart asked me to help out. For those who don’t know, the squash is where all the freshers go to sign up for all the interesting, diverse and fun clubs and activities that Trinity has to offer. Yeah, right. Anyway, I was in charge of the volleyball signup list, Lennart manned the tennis one (although since he is the volleyball captain I redirected all questions to him), and on the same table is also the signup sheet for the Varsity Ski Trip, which I have to admit sounds a lot cooler than ours. Anyway, at 9:30 p.m., the freshers were let out of the hall into the (very) dimly lit Neville Court’s cloisters and we were all shouting and waving and standing on the tables (not me, other people, but I did shout) to attract them. I don’t think I shouted that much since my cheerleading days in MCKK.

It was good fun, though.


Sunday, October 05, 2008

Turn the Heating On

It’s October, and it’s cold. The central heating system has been turned on but only intermittently, which annoys me to no end because my room last night was really chilly. People are back so turn the darn thing on already!

On another note, some of the Malaysians in Cambridge organised an Eid open house in Churchill College yesterday. It was good fun, I got to eat food that reminds me of home (haven’t eaten a bergedel for such a long time) and I got to meet some new people. It made me realise that in Cambridge my social circle doesn’t coincide much with other Malaysians so I probably should get to know people a bit more.

After some eating and picture-taking, I was about to leave Churchill when I bumped into Phil, my friend and fellow coursemate. We spent some time chilling out (was it in the Churchill bar?) talking about our summer and sipping tea and coffee that may or may not be meant for the new freshers. Oh well, I’m sure they don’t mind us having a few cups.

I passed the river Cam on the way back and I saw this:

A string quartet! They were playing Pachelbel’s Canon, and I stopped to listen. The whole thing may or may not be arranged so that the guy in the punt can woo his date. In any case, it was nice.

Oh, and I'll be off to London in a few minutes for the Malaysian Student Department's open house. More eating then. Yay!


Saturday, October 04, 2008

Back In Cambridge


First off, I meant to post this earlier, but I got caught up reading The Cambridge Student and Varsity, which are the two Cambridge student newspapers. They both have articles about how the Cambridge Vice Chancellor commented on government meddling in the university application process. She said something along the lines about universities ‘are not engines for promoting social justice’. And she is quite right, except a lot of people have taken this way out of context and perceived it as if she said ‘It is not our place to help the poor’.

Varsity mentioned an article in the Guardian by this woman called Barbara Ellen and she basically said that Oxbridge should be ashamed for being such elitist institutions with no intentions of being accessible for people with less privileged backgrounds. Then she touted the significant difference in ratios of state and private school students in the UK and in Cambridge. And for this article I would say (like what my former AC chemistry teacher used to say): What a load of rubbish! I got angry just by reading it. What Allison Richards, the Vice Chancellor means to say is that students are accepted because of merit, regardless of social backgrounds. The purpose of Oxbridge is to teach the brightest students, it is one of the best universities in the world and it should not be dumbed down just so that the student population become proportionally representative of the outside world. There's no need for positive discrimination.

What grates me even more is that this idiotic piece of article seems to convey the message that Oxbridge is only for the socially privileged. Far from it. My coursemate was the Access Officer in Trinity and you wouldn’t believe the amounts of events they organised to let state school students know how Cambridge is like and how it is not really that daunting. I’ve also read enough stories about teachers, not knowing anything about Cambridge, discouraged their students from applying. To quote something I read from one of the student papers last academic year, ‘We can’t accept you if you don’t apply.’

So there you go. I don’t know why I get all pumped up, I’m not even British! And I’m usually pretty apathetic with these kinds of things (yes Casper, I still don’t know what the symbols of UK political parties are, maybe they should advertise it more?). I guess I’m in a socio-political awareness mode tonight.


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Right, so I’m now back in Cambridge (and so is everybody else apparently, including the freshers) after two days in Norwich in which I visited Casper, my former roommate in AC. It was a good trip, I got to see the (small-ish) city of Norwich and the University of East Anglia, which is probably the second UK university that I visited after Imperial, not counting open days and interviews of course. Gosh, I really should get out more.

Unfortunately I didn’t take that many pictures, so here’s some of the Cow Tower and the Norwich Castle.

I bought the Cambridge Reporter Class List today. It’s basically a booklet with names of students and what grades they got for the previous examination. It has the names and grades of all the students in all the subjects, except those who fail. I bought this every year because it’s nice to see my name in print with my exam grade. However, as you may know, last year was a big disappointment, so it hurt a bit to buy the booklet today. Oh well, I’ll be fine, plus it’s ridiculous not to buy it since I’ve already bought the booklet for the past two years already.

And, I think I haven’t mentioned it already so... Eid Mubarak!


P.S. Yeah, I know, I just finished learning LaTeX.