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by SS at 6:39 pm on Tuesday 17th December

I'm taking the week off. Or at least, taking it a little easier than the last few weeks. Semester is pretty much over. I have an extra credit assignment that I'm supposed to be working on for robotics (it's the difference between an A- and an A grade: my American friends tell me an A is desirable) but it's proving difficult to get started on. I have today to do as much as I can on it - tomorrow I fly out to Seattle for a couple of nights to interview with Amazon.

Soon after I last wrote, 3 weeks ago, I flew to Miami for Thanksgiving (and was trapped there for an extra day when US Airways couldn't handle a blown tyre with any sort of speed). That was wonderful, considerably less productive than I had hoped but it was great to see my family and to experience the Floridian climate.

On Thursday, after napping a little and eating a lot, we went out to experience the Black Friday sales. I picked up a rather nice red sweater and was amused at the frenzy of commercial activity. The next day, my two cousins and I drove down to Key West for a night. I was both bemused and horrified by the attempts of local shopowners to capitalise on being located at the southernmost part of the continental United States.

Key West itself was a nice enough place, being both expensive and somewhat superficial. However, after you acclimatise to that, it has a decent assortment of bars with live music, good food (sadly mostly seafood) and giant cookies being sold every other block.

After returning from Key West, we went for a brief expedition down to Miami Beach. We didn't manage to go to any of the clubs or bars but it was an interesting walk down Ocean Drive. There's something about live music on/near the beach which gets me every time - my favourite 'night out' was New Year's Eve in Mombasa, where a giant rave is hosted by DJ group 6AM on the beach. Miami Beach was similar, the calm of the sea is adjacent to several huge clubs and separated only by the road. Plus, everyone in Miami Beach is beautiful (perhaps correlated with their income levels - there were a LOT of nice cars around).

On Sunday I slept, worked a little and ate some more. My aunt had generously bought a bottle of Amarula and none of my family there wanted it. I had to oblige and finish as much of the bottle as possible.

The journey back was somewhat tedious - after boarding the plane on Monday, we were taxi-ing out to the runway when one of the tyres blew. I had booked a connecting flight from Charlotte to San Francisco which left an hour after we arrived. They estimated that it would take 90 minutes to change the tyre. Being Thanksgiving, there were no flights available that day to San Francisco and eventually they were able to rebook me on a flight with Delta the following day. After waiting for my luggage to be offloaded for 3 hours, I took a taxi back to my aunt's house and slept a little more.

On the eventual flight back to San Francisco, I loaded up on caffeine and coded a state machine for our automated quadcopter landing class project. This was interesting because I've never written any C++ before and without access to internet on the plane, I was reliant on a couple of PDF textbooks I'd 'acquired' beforehand. By the time I landed, I had some semblence of a working controller - albeit with just shy of a hundred compile errors.

The next couple of weeks were spend trying to get this controller integrated with my colleagues' computer vision pose estimation code. Just as we did get it all working together, the day before our final project presentation, the weather gods decided to throw a fork in the works and the wind was gusting 35 miles per hour. Our unoptimised controller had no chance.

Still, we had a mildly entertaining presentation and had plenty to write about in our report. On Friday, my flatmates and I hosted a Christmas 'house warming' party which was excellent fun. My fondest memory of the evening is when a guest of ours decided to bring his beer bottle up to the roof and then promptly dropped it. It slid down our roof and came to a resounding crash on the ground below. The next day it took about 25 minutes to pick all the microscopic shards of glass off of the pathway in between our house and the next.

On Saturday I went to see Handel's Messiah for free with a friend of mine (having entered and won a raffle hosted by Cal Startups). This was a little out of my usual comfort zone - I primarily enjoy modern instrumental classical music and this was baroque choral music. It was entertaining for the first hour or so but quickly grew tiring (perhaps compounding the 5 hours sleep post Christmas party).

This Sunday I spent preparing for my accounting final. The material wasn't difficult but was some of the most boring material I've ever revised: I had three times as many naps as a typical Sunday. After this finished on Monday, I came home and slept for 3 hours. This week is definitely going to be all about taking it easy.

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