Thursday, January 29, 2009

I hope video doesn't kill me

I was on BBC Radio today. The program was called "Europe Today," and it was on BBC's worldwide station:

I went down to the local BBC station for good sound quality, which was interesting since most of the equipment in the little recording room I was in looked straight out of the 1950's:

The evening's topic was privacy for social networks, a topic I've been researching a lot recently, since today was Data Protection Day and an EU minister commented that young people don't know the risks of social networks. I felt comfortable enough going into it, it's an issue I know something about and thought I had some points to make, plus I had 3 pages of talking points.

Then I was told a few minutes before I went on the air that about 100 million people listen to the program. Gulp. Honestly I ended up being quite nervous and I didn't think it was my best showing. It's kind of a tough setup, in a little room talking to nobody, but I'll get better if I do this more often. Anyway, I posted the audio:

I definitely wasn't ready for the extremely small amount of time I would get, I had more points I would have made earlier if I knew I would get about 60 seconds to speak. Hopefully somebody heard me and was sufficiently scared to change their privacy settings.

And if nothing else, the host really pronounced my name correctly.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I was elected MCR Computing Officer in an uncontested election. This basically means I'm now in charge of running the mailing lists and website for the grad students of Churchill College. Glad to be getting involved a bit in the college, although I was a bit concerned when every other new officer's plans included "have a really nice web interface for X"...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Haggis and Lasses

Tonight we had a special feast for Robert Burns night. He's a Scottish poet and national hero, and the annual feast in his honour is a big deal, I've heard it described as a cross between Thanksgiving and Fourth of July for Scottish people. Traditions include bagpipe and fiddle music, eating haggis, drinking scotch, and lots of toasts about the memory of Burns and other things Scottish. I had the vegetarian haggis, no idea what was in it, but like the haggis in Edinburgh I thought it was fantastic. After dinner was ceilidh dancing, a distant cousin of American square dancing, which was quite good as well.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Here's to you, Mom

One of the more interesting potluck dinners tonight, theme was "Tribute to Mom." Above you can see Andrew carrying his "beer butt chicken" outside in the cold, after an oven malfunction mandated moving the chicken mid-roast. That's dedication to the cause.

As for me, I had to make manti, originally a Turkish dish but for me something that I will always associate with my mom's edition, which includes pasta, plain yogurt, ground beef (or Quorn mince in my case), and crushed red pepper. Wikipedia may disagree, but I think that's the correct way to make it. Most of the attendees agreed after they got over their initial resistance to hot yogurt. Thanks Mom!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Obama

Thought I should remark on the historic inauguration today. I had a really full day-it's been busy this term-and introduced a speaker at the same time as Obama's speech, 4 PM local. My joke about how the security seminar on hardware security trends, would have the same "Yes We Can!" spirit as Obama's talk was not a big hit.

I did catch the speech online before bed, and it was very good. I'm actually think being American means a lot more to me now living abroad than it used too. I'm not too political but I'm proud for the country.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Happy 800th Birthday!

Officially, Cambridge was founded in 1209, although this is under some dispute. Anyway, that makes 2009 the 800th anniversary of the university, and the event was marked by a fairly bizarre show at the Senate House downtown. A slide show depicting scenes of the university's history was projected onto the wall of the building itself, giving a cool effect. Also, every bell in town was rung at 7:15 PM on Saturday, giving an incredible celebratory aura. I am told they do that only very rarely. There were some strange choices though, such as displaying raw HTML code in between scenes. After working most of the day on screen-scraping for a research project, that was the last thing I wanted to see. The crowding was also out of control which took away from the enjoyment. When huge crowds of people pack old, narrow city streets the traffic implications are bad news.

Still, made me appreciate being a part of a university with such a long and amazing history: Stanford's 800th anniversary is scheduled for the year 2691!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The World is Flat

So our Sunday night dinners are becoming a pseudo-fixture, I was organizing this and I picked the theme of "2-dimensional food," because I'm just that clever. As you can see from my plate above, it was a success, I managed to put zucchini slices, crepes, pizza, omelet, cong you bing, quesadilla, and rice patty on that plate, and you could still slide it under a door... there was even some sliced roast duck. Everything was delicious, as has seemed to happen despite our really small kitchen and general lack of expertise. Of course having every person try to make something flat in one evening made for a pretty crowded burner and shortage of frying pans, but it was still a very fun evening. Thanks to everybody who made it happen.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Baby it's cold outside

It's been cold since October, but snow is rare in this part of England, despite being at the approximately the same latitude as Edmonton. It's finally gotten cold enough though for a bit of snow, and I woke up yesterday to the winter wonderland above. Of course, most of the snow melts from being stepped on and then freezes at night, so after a day most of the ground is slick ice.

The worst thing so far though is my bike lock, which freezes in the cold and then is really hard to open. I'm used to applying a lot of force to get it to turn, I guess today it was too frozen and I got carried away, now I have a very bent and unusable key:

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Visiting the big city

So my friends and I tried a new thing this Saturday... visiting London, the worldwide center of culture and art that is an hour away that we hadn't yet really seen. We visited the Tate Modern gallery, Borough market, and Somsert Gallery. The Tate modern gallery included pieces like this, a giant spider, which we read is interpreted as a "rejection of the politico-dialect dogma that pervades our society."


Friday, January 2, 2009

Tradition continues

I've watched the Rose Bowl every year as long as I can remember. Who knows why. Anyway, it was extra difficult this year as it's not on TV anywhere, but we managed to get a bootleg webcast of the game and, through some pretty precarious engineering, hook it up to a big TV. We had a 30 foot ethernet cable and it left a few inches only of slack is it snaked through a door and around furniture. USC crushed Penn St, as expected, but it was a fun experience watching anyways.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Spent two weeks home in the Bay Area. It was a ridiculously busy two weeks:

*Raiders-Patriots game
*Ice skating outdoors at Union Square
*Pub Trivia with my former roommates in SF
*Habitat for Humanity with my friend Dave
*Two movies
*Annuaul Christmas day Football with friends and family
*Three mountain biking rides
*Several tennis games
*Two movies (Slumdog Millionaire and Valkyrie)
*Three Christmas parties
*Mom and Dad's birthdays
*A few hours consulting work for my old company
*Some reading and research for Cambridge

Mostly though, got to spend some time with my family which I'm realizing will be increasingly hard to come by. Pretty tired by the time I flew back to the UK, spent a quiet but fun new years. Ready for a happy and productive Lent term.