First off, thanks to everyone that I was able to see and spend time with in South Africa, it was a fantastic trip, and I’m really pleased once again to have such great friends! The trip was filled with some work and a few lectures I gave at Wits, as well as trips with friends, and a hike along the Wild Coast with the family, that was amazing. Altogether, a fantastic time!
I arrived back safely into Pasadena and Caltech, and straight into the dual trials of setting up a new apartment, and sorting out the start of the academic year. It’s been a rather crazy week!
Our new apartment is really nice, much larger and more comfortable than the old place we were in. It’s somewhat further from campus, but it’s only 10 minutes by bicycle, so not really a problem. I’m staying now with Greg (from Iowa), and Mike (from Idaho). They are both great guys, so things are working out well. In particular, since our new apartment is not furnished, I returned to an empty room. But Greg and his girlfriend Heidi had organised to lend me a mattress and some sheets, so at least I wasn’t sleeping on the floor!
I have spent my spare time in the last week buying furniture, and then assembling it (the best place, Ikea, sells imported unassembled furniture, though it’s good stuff once assembled). I now have a bed, chest of drawers and table. All that remains is to collect the remainder of my possessions from someone else’s basement, now that I have somewhere to put them.
The other side of things has been the start lectures. I met my (potential) supervisor on Monday. We didn’t manage to get much work done during the holiday, which was unfortunate, but he seemed not too annoyed, and in fact decided that what we had been looking at was not a good idea for new graduate students, as a number of big names have moved into the area recently, and us poor second year students are unlikely to be able to keep up. Instead, he has given us tons of reading on diverse other areas of string theory to look at, which will be interesting, but take quite a lot of time nonetheless. I’m also taking two classes (advanced mathemtical methods of physics, and high energy particle physics), and sitting in on a course on neural computation. Plus there is the second of the huge qualifying exams, on the 19th of October, which requires lots of studying.
We had a party at our place last Thursday, to watch the Bush-Kerry US election debate. It is always nice being in a group of people here that share the same political opinions as me, so we were all able to laugh at Bush making a less-than-perfect impression. But the elections really are on a knife-edge now, so it is something that we are all following closely. It remains a privilege to come from a country that is using its peacekeepers abroad to actually keep peace, where peace may not otherwise have existed.
Other than that, there is little news! I hope everyone else is doing well. Good luck to those who are starting exams, I hope the studying goes well!