Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A new room

I am now living in a different room, right down the hall from where I was living before. Since I was not moving far, it didn't take long to transfer everything over. The furniture is exactly the same, so I just put everything in the same drawers and in the same places in the new room as in the old one.

There was nothing wrong with my previous room. I rather liked it. I don't need a very big room, because I don't have very much stuff. I would challenge anyone else to go to school with everything for the whole semester in a compact car with four people and someone else's entire CD collection and gigantic bag of laundry. Sure, some people fly in with just two suitcases, but those are the people who have a lot of stuff in storage. Anyway, I realized that while a tiny "rat cage" room is perfectly sufficient for my needs, I might as well have a nice big room. A big room is not necessary, but it is nice to have, and I have one now.

So, my new room. It's rather cold. It was 56 when I came in. I turned the heat on. When the wind blows outside, I can feel it, which I think means there is a storm window that isn't properly installed. I'll fix it tomorrow; it's too cold to open the window now.

I have two windows, one looking out on the odd quad and the other on the road that leads to the road Professor Morgan lives on. In fact, if there were one or two fewer trees, I could see his house from my window very easily. I don't have a view of Mount Greylock anymore, but I do have a view of Pine Cobble, which looks just about the same since it's shorter (Greylock is the tallest mountain in Massachusetts; Pine Cobble isn't) and closer. You can walk to the top of Pine Cobble and back from campus in a few hours, as Rebecca and I did once. If you go to the top of Mount Greylock from campus, it's about 25 miles round trip. Jono does it once each semester.

Anyway, I wonder how long I can keep the key to my old room without anyone bothering me about it. It would be sort of nice to have a spare room, you know? For all those spare things that don't fit in my palacious new room. And if Rebecca -- er, if someone -- visited me, I would have a guest room, and that would be wicked sweet.

I don't know what my phone number is. I am thinking of calling Security and asking them what the number is that shows on their little screen when I call them, but that would be kind of weird. I am going to call the actual phone people tomorrow and figure it out, that and voice mail.

It's funny to have exactly the same furniture in a room twice as big. The room is rather empty. I think I should get a big comfortable chair or something, though I don't know what I'd do with it (sit in it?). There's a lot more wall space, so I'll have to figure out what to do about that. Ronit has a mirror image of the same room, and I was annoyed with the vast expanses of boring white wall, so in the fall when I came to visit I made a mural for him out of construction paper. It's colorful. Personally, I think it's remarkably clever. I wanted to cover the greatest surface area for the least cost, and I ended up with a good product:

Anyway, I'll put my own pictures up from my photo class soon to decorate my walls. I didn't put them up in my old room because I was leaving so soon anyway; it seemed unnecessary.

Request: PLEASE, if you are not on the Williams network, go to the following link and look at the pictures. Peruse them all you like, but as you click on each person's name please try to notice if the pictures load slowly. My professor said the files are too large and we should save them smaller. Then he said it wasn't so bad. But bein myself on the Williams network and already having these pictures in my browswer cache about 100 times over, I can't test it myself.

Here is the page I made for my photography clas.

Let me know if it loads okay or if it loads slow. If you try it once and don't notice and then try it again, that won't work since the pictures will already be stored on your computer and won't have to download again.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The worst tech help request ever

Several days ago I received the following request for help:
For some time we have not had a subject line on our Outlook Express. This drives me crazy since in order to change the address I have to keep going Back to where I googled it in or whatever.
I am withholding the identity of the person who wrote this to protect the guilty. That's right: I'm not protecting the innocent here, I'm protecting the absolutely guilty, guilty of requesting help in the most obtuse, inspecific way possible. It has been said that I have no compassion, but you can take this as a clear counterexample to that assertion, because I am actually protecting the guilty.

1. Outlook Express is an e-mail client. The "subject line" in an e-mail client is the text box preceded by the word "Subject." It has disappeared, right? That's the problem here?

2. Wrong! It turns out that this is a problem about changing the address. So the problem is that the address line, the text box preceded by the word "To," has disappeared, right? That's the problem here?

3. Wrong! It turns out that this problem can be circumvented by clicking Back and using Google. Since Back would be of no use if one were writing an e-mail, we must not be talking about Outlook Express. Interesting, seeing as how this problem was ostensibly about Outlook Express.

As it turns out, the problem was that the address bar, the place where you type the URL that you want to go to, was gone, in Internet Explorer. Who would have guessed!?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Wicked awesome pictures

I have taken some wicked awesome pictures at the past two track meets. I just realized that I can actually link right to them. I wouldn't have expected any less from a fellow Exonian. So, without further ado, here they are.

27 Jan: D1 meet at Reggie Lewis (women, men)
21 Jan: Quad meet at Williams (women, men)

Here are some examples of runners.

Coach White gave me a special task to take pictures of field event people yesterday. I am still learning how much flash to use and when to trip the shutter, but my efforts were not so bad, considering I'd never done it before.

Cotton ball fungus

"Diana, get me your Tylenol. I really need it."
"Uh, no, you have your own Tylenol."
"No, I can't use mine, there's cotton balls growing in it."
"They're not growing in it."
"Yes, they are."
"No, they put them there on purpose so the pills don't break."
"No, there's never been cotton in any pills I've ever bought."
"There's been cotton in every bottle of pills I've ever bought."
"Well I've never seen it before. I'm not using them."
"No. It's normal. They're fine."
"At least give me your Tylenol so I can go outside and ask the pharmacy."

(I didn't. I asked the pharmacy instead. They laughed.)

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Whenever someone asks for my name, I have a standard way of telling them. It goes like this:
"Diana D-I-A-N-A, [pause], Davis."
I always spell my name, because if I don't, too often they will say "what?" or spell it with two n's or write Diane instead. I never spell Davis. Come on.

So anyway, today I went to the pool. When you go to the pool, you have to write your name down in the book. It doesn't matter if it's legible; it doesn't matter if it's wet; you just do it. There's a student sitting at the table reading, and all they do is call you over if you don't write your name down.

Today, it was different. There was an old woman sitting at the table. As I approached, she announced cheerily, "Name please." What? She's going to write down my name for me? Uh... okay. So I did my normal thing.
"Diana D-I-A-N-A, [pause], Davis."
"Oh, I know how to spell 'Diana'," she said.
"Well, sometimes people put two n's in it or they put an "e" at the end."
"No, it only has one 'n.' Once I see something once, I know how to spell it. Now, some people's names are Diane, but that's different."
And then she kept talking about it.

This is the oddest experience I have had yet at the pool.

Back when I was applying to colleges, I had a standard way of giving all of my information. It went like this:
"Lastname Davis, [pause]... Diana, D-I-A-N-A."

"High school?"
"Phillips Exeter Academy, three zero zero one eight five."

"Zero-seven two-seven eight-five."
Yup, it was pretty intense.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The End of WSP

Winter Study ends tomorrow. That's too bad. I like Winter Study. It seems like it flew by, too. I didn't even get to read very much. That's really the saddest thing.

Megan voted for the Andy on the left. Yay, Megan! I will now proceed to print the one on the left out in 6x9. That's right, Megan has just that much power and influence. I printed a different one out in 3.5x5, but the next one will be 6x9.

We had a very interesting long-term project, which was to photograph one thing in different light. I chose part of the view out my window, specifically Mount Greylock, because I figured that would ensure that I would be able to take pictures in many different lights. I ended up with 32 pictures, and about 10 different kinds of light (since I often took several at a time). Here are some examples.

Same view, very different pictures.

I've learned a lot of things about taking pictures over the past few weeks. If I took the care to read the camera manual carefully, I would have learned many of them without having to take a class, but alas, I didn't read the manual, so it was good I took the class. Most of the image size stuff we learned I already knew from being the xc photo person and just generally taking and editing lots of photos in my life, but it's always good to have a review. Now I know what "resample bicubic" means.

Here are some things I didn't know:
1. You can change the shutter speed and aperture (opening size) on a digital camera. Also, there are modes called shutter priority and aperture priority that work really well.

2. There is this thing called ISO that determines the sensitivity of the camera. On film this is apparently called "speed" (i.e., 800 speed film) although I'm not sure why. It makes a huge difference in the way the picture turns out.

3. You can change the intensity of the flash. Like if it's making everyone's faces shiny, you can turn it down. A picture taken with the flash turned down actually looks fine, unlike pictures taken with regular flash, which look awful.

4. A camera in auto mode figures out its settings based on the assumption that the average tone in the picture that you're taking is "medium." Amazingly enough, the average tone in most pictures actually is medium.
Well, I guess that's enough of the enlightenment for now.

Except wait, one more thing. There are some good photography websites out there that actually teach a lot about pictures. Here are some links. Check them out.

Luminous Landscape (especially the tutorials)
Radiant Vista (especially the daily critique)
Explorers of Light (pretty awesome photographs)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Sledding: It's all about the gradient

Every time I go sledding, I think about the gradient vector. You see, when you get your sled and go to the top of a hill, you usually pick a way that you want to go down -- avoiding the trees, for instance, and ending up at the bottom of the field rather than veering off to the left and going into the road. But you know what? You can't always do it that way, because it's all about the gradient.

Let me explain. If you have a surface -- a 2D object in 3D space, like a warped piece of paper -- the gradient vector tells you, at any point, what is the steepest way down. You can also use it to determine the perpendicular vector to any point on the surface, but that does not interest us here. So at the very top of a mountain, the gradient vector is 0, because it's flat and there is no steepness so there is no steepest direction. On a ski slope, the gradient vector points in the same direction as your skis.

And that, as you may have gathered already, is what interests us here. Because once you choose the point on the hill where you will start your sled run, the rest of the course is determined for you. Of course you can stick your heels into the snow to try to have some effect, but really, you cannot significantly alter the course of your destiny by such meek methods.

The sled will choose the steepest way down the hill because that is the most efficient. The higher you are on the hill, the more gravitational potential energy you have, and the more energy you have, the less happy the world is. The world likes everything to be in the lowest energy state possible; i.e., it wants the sled to be at the bottom of the hill, and the best way to get it to the bottom of the hill is to take the most direct, also known as the steepest, route.

So all you have to do is give me an equation of the form z=f(x)+f(y) for your hill (assume there are no overhangs, so that it can be expressed in this form), and a starting point (x,y) (or (x,y,z) if you're being nice), and I'll tell you the precise trajectory of your sledding expedition. Oh, and I'll need a starting velocity (probably not 0 in most cases, if you give yourself a push) and a coefficient of kinetic friction between the sled and the snow. But once I have that, I can tell you! Sounds easy, doesn't it? No? Well, gravity is just that smart.

Oh, and I went sledding today. It was really warm out, so I went out in just a T-shirt and running shorts, with snowpants, boots, and gloves. I offered a ride on the tube to everyone that went by, but alas, no one took me up on my offer. Pity. It was a beautiful day for sledding, and the snow will all be gone tomorrow. Here's hoping we get a really big blizzard for dead week.

It's fun to be a sniper (a photo sniper, that is)

My window is very high up. My camera zooms in very far. Thus, from my window, I can snipe pictures of people without their knowing.

Consider, for instance, this one:

This guy tripped as he was walking up the stairs to the bank. Ha ha! I bet he didn't know that unlucky move was captured on camera. And those branches just adds to the stealthy feel of the photo.

Then there's this squirrel.

This is what it looks like if I zoom all the way in and point at the ground. My window is about four stories from the ground (two flights of stairs, but the ground slopes and the stairs are on the high side whereas I'm on the low side). I have 12x optical zoom, which lets us get close enough to feel like we're one with the squirrel, doesn't it?

Some portraits

Today I took some portraits. Basically I just asked a bunch of people if I could take portraits of them. People are nice, so they said yes. (No one has said no yet at Williams.) Here are some reasonably good portraits:

Please tell me which one is the best (no really, I need an opinion):

I have printed out a bunch of my pictures. It's sort of nice to have them printed out. Maybe I will buy some photo paper and print out a lot of them. That would be a nice thing to have on my wall, I think.

I have a quiz tomorrow. You can see the images I have to learn here, if you are for some very strange reason interested. I put the document online to help my classmates, since I made it for myself anyway. I am just that awesome.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

My debut

It has come to my attention that I have not posted anything in a while. True! So here I go again.

Today was my debut in track in college. I have not run a track race since May somethingth, 2003. That race, incidentally, was also a rather slow 3000. I was last in that race, too, last by about half a lap, so when I crossed the finish line, I threw out my arms and thrust my chest forward like sprinters do to break the tape. That is just the kind of person I am.

So, today I ran a 3000. I think my time was 12:48, or at least when I saw the clock, it said 12:47. By my calculations, this turns out to be 6:51 per mile: Not Fast. Needless to say, the leaders lapped me twice. However, this is merely where I start. I have a lot of work to do.

I did take some excellent pictures at the meet, though. The guys' races were from 1-3:30 and the girls' from 4-6:30, so I had a few hours where I could just take pictures. It's really dark in the track, obviously, but PhotoShop helped a little bit. The best way to see them is to go to the facebook and look at my albums. If I have an exceptional one, I'll put it on flickr.

Boston & Exeter

This past weekend I went to Exeter. On the way I had a rather long layover in Boston, so I took a bunch of pictures of the city. Some of them turned out well. Some of the ones I took in Exeter turned out well, too. So I was pretty happy about that. This week we get to print some images! I will have to decide which ones are the best.

Here is my statement about Ms. Carlisle.
My word is dedication.

Ms. Carlisle was dedicated to her students, and dedicated to Phillips Exeter Academy.

I was her advisee. There were five of us, and she made sure that, as day students, someone was watching out for us, making sure we had a group to go with for Academy Life Day, for Environmental Day. There were no perfunctory advisor meetings with Ms. Carlisle; instead, she had all of us over for Chinese food at least once every term, and once brought a jewelry woman to her apartment so that we could make earrings. One time, one of us did band, and the Music Department forgot to award credit. For two years, Ms. Carlisle fought to get that one credit for her advisee.

Ms. Carlisle was dedicated to us, and dedicated to all of her students. She was always in her classroom or the Periodicals Room, always willing to read a draft of a history paper or talk about a class that was especially challenging. At the beginning of our senior year, Ms. Carlisle gave us each a journal to record what we were like over the course of that year, and what we were thinking about. When we went to college, she sent us posters that said “don’t get lost in the crowd.”

In the winter, when there was a lot of snow or ice, Ms. Carlisle would hold classes in her apartment. How many teachers even have students over to their house for dinner? – and how many fewer would have them over for every single class. Ms. Carlisle was dedicated to teaching, and she did whatever it took.

On Environmental Day in 2002, all the day students were raking leaves over by the gym. It was a beautiful spring day, so Ms. Carlisle was there too, giving out leaf bags and donuts.

As it happened, she had recently discovered that her motorized cart was so quiet that people couldn’t hear her coming on the path. So when we found an old bicycle abandoned behind the gym, she asked me to take off its rusty bell and attach it to her cart.

Ms. Carlisle was the only person at Exeter with a bicycle bell, so when I heard one, I knew I would turn around [turns] and there she would be, going to the Academy Building, going to teach.

To this day, when I hear a bicycle bell [turns], I think of Ms. Carlisle, and maybe you do, too.

(Diana Davis ’03)
Where it says "[turns]", I actually turned and looked over my shoulder. I thought it was sort of overkill, but I did it anyway, and afterwards Ms. Moore said she thought it was a good idea. So anyway, that's Ms. Carlisle for you.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Compound modifiers

Today we are going to learn about compound modifiers. A compound modifier is what happens when you try to make two words into one adjective. "Marathon-running psycho," "letter-writing frenzy," and "recently-brushed teeth" all require compound modifiers.

Example 1. Today I received a letter in the mail. Thank you. The return address said, and I quote: "Warm Weather Lovers." In this case, "warm weather" comes dangerously close to being a compound modifier, which would be an undesired outcome. Was this letter from lovers in warm weather, or lovers of warm weather? Hard to know.

Example 2. There are lots of compound modifiers in our SMALL paper, because we were trying to find "perimeter-minimizing curves." Note that we were finding perimeter-minimizing curves, rather than perimeter minimizing curves. What would a "perimeter minimizing curve" be? It sounds like part of a phrase such as "this perimeter is minimizing that curve," because without the hyphen, "minimizing" is not an adjective; it's a verb.

Thank you for listening.

Now I am putting in some pictures. First, I will show you that my room is small.

This is the view into my room from the hallway. I have included the doorframe and the doorknob for style. "Gosh, there's the wall, right there!" you exclaim.

Here is the wall 90° to the right, so that now you know both dimensions. The door is open. Now you know what room I live in. Josie is wearing her new outfit.

"But why, oh why would you be content to keep this room that is so small, this so-called 'rat cage'?" you say. Consider the (not-Photoshopped) view of Mount Greylock out my window this morning:
Mt. Greylock

Kinda nice, isn't it?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

My camera has ADD...

...it has trouble focusing.

Then I learned how to use the macro button. It's the one with the flower on it.

I took some great pictures today. You can see them on the left.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


Now there is a convenient sidebar thingy with my pictures. You can click on them and see them bigger. I'll only put up the good pictures, because I have a monthly limit.

Val's mom makes a good point, which is that (a) some people really do want to read policy because policy is important, and (b) I should put abstracts with the papers (she didn't say this, but I hereby infer it). Here are some abstracts:
Oceanography: Analysis and models of a micromarsh at Mystic Seaport
History: A study of whether the fact that sea mail was unreliable and slow in the eighteenth century led letter-writers to write differently
English: A defense of Captain MacWhirr, the main character in Typhoon by Joseph Conrad
Policy: An analysis of aquaculture on Deer Isle, Maine
Yesterday I learned what slacklining is. Anna talks about slacklining relatively often on her blog, or used to. This guy was trying to stand on this rope thingy, and I was taking pictures of him because really, it's not every day that a guy tries to stand on a rope thingy, and he told me it was called slacklining.

It's cold on the outside and warm on the inside, so my window has condensation on it. Does anyone have ideas on how to make it not get condensation, other than repeatedly wiping it off? Like if I sprayed perfume on the window, would that help? Or soap?

I realized that, to the best of my knowledge, I share a bathroom with all men. I was talking to one of them yesterday and he said, "oh, you're living in the rat cage?" I will eventually put up a picture of my room. But anyway, it's small. I'm thinking of trying to move out of it into Christine's room. The thing is, though, I don't actually need a bigger room, and this one has a way better view. I can see Mt. Greylock, a ski slope, Route 7, a church steeple, and trees. Christine has a view of a roof, and a flat roof at that.

I have a lot of work to do. None of it is schoolwork, so I'd better do it.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Williams-Mystic papers

WSO is back up, and most importantly, WSO fixed Ursala, so now we can upload. Yay! So I have finally uploaded my Williams-Mystic papers, which I converted to Web pages (not that it's hard) long ago. You can read them here:


I have put them in order of how interesting they would be to the average person (you). Oceanography is first because it has pictures and diagrams, which are entertaining. History is second because it has lots of quotations from primary sources, which are fascinating to read. English is third because it's much shorter than policy. Policy is last, because really, who wants to read a policy paper?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Today's picture

It snowed this morning! So I took some pictures. Here is the best one. Tell me if you like it. (Blogger uploading is being ornery, so only a little one at this point.)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Good news, Val's mom: I figured out how to use my heater, i.e., I decided that the gurgling noise is fine, because the heater is making the room warmer, and that's really all I care about. That and not starting a fire, of course.

I had a good time taking pictures today. Professor Silva showed me (via reading from the manual for my camera) how to change both the f-stop AND the exposure time, so that I have complete control over how the camera takes pictures. That's pretty neat. We're not allowed to use zoom or flash, so that we just learn how to use the camera very well in its most basic function. I also learned (on my own) how to use something called Gaussian Blur in Photoshop, which in some cases can make pictures look awesome, and which I had wanted to figure out for quite a while now. I'll put up an example when I get a good one.

I think I really like my bed being up high. That way, it's an entirely distinct part of the room. You can't just casually sit down on it to take off your shoes; it's a big decision, whether you want to sit on it or not. You have to be committed. Now let's just hope Josie doesn't fall out of bed, because it's awfully far.

Here is the quilt I made.

The squares are from T-shirts that I would not wear again, either because I wore them so much that they got too thin, or because I got them when I was five or six and have finally outgrown them, or because I bought a size M when they ran out of smalls and have only now come to accept that M is really not a workable situation.

You will notice that running T-shirts and travel T-shirts alternate in a checkerboard pattern, and that the colored blocks are nicely distributed. I am just that obsessive-compulsive.

I am going to figure out a good place to put the pictures I am taking for photography, if anyone is interested in seeing them. So if you are interested in seeing them, please leave a comment; otherwise, I just might not bother.