Cycling · Research · Sport

Week 11: Christmas is Coming

It was a very packed week. At the end of the previous week, I received the referee’s recommendations from the article I had submitted near the beginning of the term to JCAP, the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics. They left seven recommendations, ranging from some relatively minor formatting issues to asking for some clarification on a number of points. Some were relatively straight-forward fixes, others needed the input of my collaborators. However, whilst reviewing a relatively minor detail, I noticed an error in my code: there was a negative sign missing in quite a non-trivial way. Unfortunately, this means that the simulations need to be re-run. Not all of them, but one particular model does, and that could take up to a fortnight, if not longer. More details to come.

Another thing that caught my attention for this week was the World Chess Championship. Chess isn’t something that I’d followed at all before, but the coverage on highlighted the suspense. I decided to support the defending champion, Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, against the Russian challenger Sergey Karjakin. On Monday evening, I live-streamed the last of the main round games. The scores were level, winner-takes-all. Unfortunately, the first round of competitive chess I watched was a fast draw. Come Wednesday evening, there were four rapid games. Every moment was intense. But one could see the pressure that was being put on Karjakin as his clock ran down, and Carlsen pulled through a tight but solid win. The live drama was very entertaining, to say the least.

On Thursday, December came knocking and all of a sudden I was very aware that Christmas was approaching. Being in England at Christmas meant that I was determined to cook myself some Christmas Pudding. It was something I’d done before, but it requires a lot of ingredients (dried fruits and the like), and then to be steamed for around 6 hours and left to soak in brandy for about a month. It was high time to get it all prepared, so I knocked off early and rode out to Tesco, knowing that it was likely that they would have the many more obscure ingredients. In the end, I returned with 15 kg of purchases, including a three-tier steamer attached precariously to the rear pannier of my bike, and a pair of large mixing bowls that I carried across the two mile ride home. This would be a project for all of the upcoming week.

I only had time to unpack my bags before I was out again. This time, on foot. I headed to King’s College, where the King’s College music society was putting on a performance of JS Bach’s Christmas Oratorios. Attending classical music concerts is something I did rather frequently back home, and I was eager to get back into it. Plus, tickets were cheap for students.

It is quite amazing to walk into the dimly lit, world-famous King’s College chapel and listen to the choir sing. To look up to the high, vaulted ceiling and hear the sound of the voices reverberate is a rather unique experience, especially in a building older than the music itself. Perhaps the strangest part of the performance, however, was the fact that the alto part was sung by a male singer; a part usually reserved for female singers. The higher pitch was eerily strange to listen to, though it didn’t detract from the performance.


On Friday, I had a rather long meeting with my supervisor about the details of the early calculations of my PhD project. I’ll probably come back and discuss this more when I start the calculations proper. I also went to a Gates seminar that evening about disaster management in developing countries. There was a particular focus on Pakistan, which is prone to flood and earthquakes. Having seen disaster response first hand (bushfires), it was interesting to consider what would happen should the systems that I normally expect to be in place, break down.

On Saturday, I left the county of Cambridgeshire for the first time. I went on a 50 km bike ride out into Essex, and return to Shelford. Much of the way out was slowly uphill, which gave views out across the farmlands of East Anglia. The road wasn’t completely lined with hedge rows, something which can be a little disorientating when riding in England, and can prevent views of the scenery. My ride took me through many little towns, each with an old, grey, stone church in the middle. In between, the countryside reminded me of northern Tasmania. There was one point where I almost fell off: turning sharp turn in the town of Hadstock meant I rode through a patch of ice, and started to fall. I was already bracing to hit the ground when my instinctive reaction pulled me back on my bike, without much active thought. The run back in towards Cambridge was downhill, so the ride came to an end rather quickly. My ride finished in the town of Shelford, where I got a vanilla and raisin tea-cake from a bakery, and rode the train the short distance back to Cambridge

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That afternoon, we had a football game against St Johns, at St Johns. Even though term had ended, we struggled to get 11 onto the pitch, and so I ended up both playing football with and against girls for the first time since I was a junior (both teams had some female fill-ins). I made some blunders when coming out, so we were unfortunate to finish the match at 3-3. Finally, I went home and mixed together my pudding, putting it on to steam until late that evening.

I’ll discuss the Gates Term Trip (Sunday’s activity) in another post.

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