Monday, March 30, 2009


After some crazy times working to finish up papers and all, it was nice to have a weekend of vacation exploring Nuremberg (well mostly, I did work quite a bit in the evenings to finish up a report). Nuremberg is a very old town, and much of the castle and walls are still preserved. Above is a section of wall, you can see the huge moat, which is now empty and has a nice walking path around the city with sculptures though.
There's something quite dark about the city though. Scary statues like the one above are all over the place. Most of the architecture is old and Gothic, with statues of knights on the corner of many buildings, and many old medieval coats of arms.
Then there's Nuremberg's Nazi past. It was the headquarters of the party, and the site of the annual huge rallies and the film Triumph of the Will. The Nazis were building some fantastical party monuments at the time the war started. I think the city has handled it correctly, by leaving the Nazi ruins but not maintaining them. They are slowly eroding away, but stand as a reminder that not too long ago the world was a very different place. They also have a phenomenally good museum about the era, which I quite enjoyed.
Of course, the Nuremberg Zoo was a must for me. It's a world-class zoo, although it's under heavy renovation and some animals are being loaned out elsewhere. Above is Flocke, the zoo's famous polar bear cub who's growing up quite fast.
I also made the short trip to Bamberg, a much smaller town but with an incredible well-preserved medieval center and some amazing cathedrals and a palace from it's days as the capital of the Holy Roman Empire.

And I didn't leave Nuremberg without some Lebkuchen, the city's trademark gingerbread.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Botanical Gardening

Made it out to the Cambridge Botanical Gardens with Jess, and was really enjoyed the variety and vibrancy of the plants. The plant above is Jade Vine, a rare plant which only grows in the Philippines, which they have a nice bunch growing in the greenhouse. Quite striking.

Here's a picture of me, outside. Hard to tell but I'm sitting on a branch that was about 6 feet off the ground. It was quite a trick to get up there, then I had a nice moment to reflect, although my hand was bleeding. Like this picture though, kind of symbolizes my life right now in that there is a crazy amount going on, but then when I sit and reflect it's beautiful.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Rugby season wrapped up

We finished the season with the traditional "old boys match" against Churchill rugby alumni. Earlier in the week we were eliminated in Cuppers, the playoffs involving all colleges. We were two matchs away from the finals. We would have had a good chance to make the semis but a large number of players (myself included) got violently ill in our quarterfinals game against Caius. Oh well.

Definitely glad I played this year, I met a lot of actual Brits this way and it was a good outlet for me. Hopefully be out again next fall.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Preaching what I Practice

Gates Internal Symposium, meaning a chance to talk about one's research to the other Gates Scholars at a more general level. I really enjoyed it, I gave a talk entitled "Privacy Implications of Social Networks." This covered both my research of the past few months and my general thoughts on the area. People responded pretty well, the enjoyed the topic of course since they were almost all Facebook users and of course people like the idea of online privacy. 

The best part was that I got to present after a biologist, a historian, and a physicist, which put my work here into perspective. I left being really glad to be a grad student in Cambridge at this point in my life. I realized that despite the workload I'm really happy to be here and getting the opportunity to focus on topics which interest me. Hopefully they interested everybody else just a bit.