Blog » Caltech News 3: Of movies and many exams

24 Sep 2003

Caltech News 3: Of movies and many exams

Filed under: Caltech News (emails) — paulcook @ 7:56 pm

Hello all,

First, a commercial aside: As you’ll have noticed, I’m sending out BIG emails every now and then with news. This doesn’t mean that you should feel that you need to reply with an equal-length reply! I’d love to hear any short one-liners of news, and I’ll then send a shorter, more personal reply. Sending regular news as a bulk, big message makes sense at the moment for me.

So quite a lot of stuff has happened since last I wrote. The weekend before last we went to Universal Studios, a large theme park designed around the Universal Studios movies. They have a tour of the studio itself, including all the sets that have been used over the years – so we were subjected to simulated earthquakes, flash floods, shark attacks, and so on. It was all quite interesting, particularly how close the different sets are to each other – wild western in one street, modern New York right next door. There were also all sorts of other rides and shows, such as Terminator 2 in 3D, a special effects demonstration, and so on. Definitely worth a visit in you’re in the area sometime :)

Last weekend I went to a 2nd year physics student’s house, where they have a regular weekly barbecue. Met a number of interesting people. While there we decided to go clubbing in Hollywood. There’s a club on Sunset Boulevard (famous for movie stars, the walk of fame, etc.) that offers free admission to girls, and to guys who bring 2 or more girls with them. So one of the girls phoned up some of her roommates, and off we went! Quite an experience — had the guest list, VIP’s, etc. that you would expect of a Hollywood club, and drinks were about $8 each. Music was hip-hop/rhythm, so that wasn’t really to my taste, but it was fun. On Saturday went with some other people to IKEA, a Swedish shopping chain, that offers everything you need to outfit an apartment, from furniture to kitchen utensils, to artwork, all in a long warehouse – some really nice stuff! That evening we went to the midnight screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, a cult sci-fi musical. It’s apparently quite a California tradition. In addition to the movie, there was a live group of actors who mimiced the show on a stage in front of the screen, as well as adding funny comments during show. Didn’t really catch the story line much, but it was quite an experience! As a side note, compared to SA, the movie theatres here are mostly really bad! Not that well maintained, bad decor (and I don’t mean bad like The Zone, just bad as in non-existent), and about $8 for a movie! So I may not be seeing many…

Last week was the international students’ orientation. It would have been quite useful had I not been to another orientation just a few weeks ago! As it is, I’ve been skipping most of the sessions, studying instead, and just going for the free meals. Also met a couple of nice people from various parts of the world, and we’ve been having parties most nights into the wee hours of the morning. Not great for the studying, but at least I’m meeting people, right?

Talking about people, my roommates have now all arrived. There’s a guy called Jason, who’s doing electrical engineering. He’s from southern California. He’s quite quiet, and not that easy to talk to – he’ll answer your question, but not ask any back, or offer any other interesting information, so it’s a little weird. But other that that, he seems like a nice guy! Next is Carl, from Alaska, though he’s been at Oxford the last two years. He’s currently gone camping with his girlfriend, before she heads back to England or New York or where-ever (she travels a lot – just finished a report for an aid organisation in Kenya). Seems like quite a nice guy. Last to arrive was Greg, from Iowa. He drove across with his parents, and TONS of stuff. Our apartment now has a very nice lounge suite, well-equipped kitchen, and lots of stuff. Also, some of his stuff couldn’t fit in his room, so I now have a bedside lamp, whiteboard, and a pair of wireless speakers! Quite a useful guy to have around. He’s also studying physics, and seems to share similar tastes in a number of things to me, so looks like we’ll get along well. Unfortunately he doesn’t cook much himself, so that will be up to Carl and myself mainly, it seems.

So all the activity has kept me rather busy, and not too homesick. Sometimes when the day’s stuff is finished, and I’m trying to do a little studying, it is quite lonely – and of course everyone back home is fast asleep! Still, I suppose I’m better off than some – never mind that many (most?) people have girlfriends or boyfriends scattered around the world, some people have lef their spouses and young children at home for the duration of the 5 year programme. I imagine that must be quite difficult. The price people will pay for a decent education! Still, I’ll be back in December – anyone thought of plans for the holiday yet?

(Break of a few days) I’ve now written the placement exams, for which I had been studying. The results of these exams are not recorded, but they determine which courses the department of physics recommends you take. I hadn’t been expecting to do too well in them, as I’ve heard that they’re hard, and are designed to find holes, rather than strong spots in your education. As it happens they went ok, probably passed the second, maybe not the first. Still, some people reckon they got virtually nothing, so it’s not too bad. We’ll see on Friday what that says about the courses I should be doing. The studying has kept me a little busy over the last few days, which is why this email has been delayed. Now I’m busy recovering, and sorting out the apartment – we went shopping for some art for the walls yesterday, and were resorting stuff in the kitchen. This week is orientation for all the students, local and international. I’ll no doubt have some interesting stories in a few days time!

Hope everyone is staying well!

PS. I have a phone in my apartment now! The number, should you for some reason want it, is (626) 795 2331, or from South Africa, 091 626 795 2331

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