Cambridge Days

Cold in Cambridge.

The days are short of late, and the skies unduly enamored with cold, metallic colors. Brushed aluminum, powdered magnesium, gunmetal steel – ‘tis a chic palette, very Euro-styled and all, but I prefer a bit more yellow and blue, up above.

Alas, the only alternative on offer is White: Cambridge’s first winter snow started coming down in clumps three nights ago. Az and I live adjacent to the train tracks, near a railroad yard which houses a grove of halogen floodlights, and the sight of the snow floating past those towering lamps was remarkable. The flakes were larger than silver dollars, and all sopping wet when they hit the ground – I think that by some fluke it had part-ways melted, then weirdly re-amalgamated in the atmosphere.

(For all I know, maybe that’s just what snow looks like, here in England; the only true winters I’ve ever known were high up in California’s Eastern Sierra, where the snow gets delivered in an exceptionally dry, light and micro-sized format. It certainly doesn’t thud onto the ground like this local stuff.)

snowing on the train tracks

Anyhow, because of the season (and new latitude), I’m finding afternoon classes difficult; it’s heartbreaking to stare out the oversized-porthole windows of the Judge and see evening fall near 4pm. And since we’re now in the midst of our ECP project (the ECP is a part-time consulting gig with a local tech company, clients vary according to your study group; my own group is working in the industrial inkjet market) there’s often group work or travel after the last class. So like I said, the days are terribly short, but then, they can run awfully long and dark, too. Wicked chronological cocktail.

(Incidentally: Does complaining about the snow show that I’m a spoiled, stubborn Californian? Or, rather, does my introductory grumble about the weather imply that I’ve actually embraced a bad British habit? Tough call…)

And speaking of the cold, a more serious cold: I cycle past the Scott Polar Research Institute every day, since it’s around the corner from the Judge. The museum there is small but good; I visited with my parents, and the laughably crude equipment on display makes you realize just how outrageously tough and hardened explorers like Shackleton, Amundsen, and Scott must have been. It’s worth a quick visit if you’re in town.

Most chilling of all are the final handwritten letters from Scott and his company, penned after they’d realized their doom on the ice. I spent some time staring at them, under the glass. There’s a stoicism there I find so impressive, moving, and at the same time, totally unfathomable and almost alien. After all, I’ve just spent a semester hearing the word ‘risk’ being applied in the context of Excel spreadsheets, and then to come across a quote like “…we have missed getting through by a narrow margin which was justifiably within the risk of a such a journey”; words written by a man who knows he will freeze to death… well, it provides perspective.

ceiling of the judge business school, cambridge

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