Monday, December 31, 2007

New Look for the New Year

So, as you hopefully noticed, Emergent has a new look. Hopefully you like it. I did enjoy the last one, but I you get a little tired of seeing the same thing for six months straight. So - inspired in part by Melissa's latest post - I started surfing the available templates when I saw...this one. It was like love at first sight. There was music in the air, the flowers burst into bloom. This wasn't just love, it was lust. The template I desired was perfect, it was classy, it was well-organized, and - the coup de grace, the piece de resistance - it was MIT's colors. But, unlike this deliberately over-dramatic retelling, the template reflected MIT's colors in a sophisiticated, even subtle, way.

Probably because so few people actually know what MIT's colors are. ;)

But I digress.

On a separate but related note, crazy to think that I've been at this blogging gig for six months already. Yes, I know some of you have been blogging for years, and I can't even remember when I began my first online journal - but Emergent is the first blog I've really cared about, that I've really been willing to show people. Where I feel like I have things to say that people will actually find interesting.

I'm under no illusion that you all find every post I make interesting, of course. No one blog can please everybody. But I'm happy with what I've done with Emergent. Even though it is sort of silly that we focus on just one day as the "new year," when really each day is just as important as the last or the next, I have to admit I'm looking forward to 2008.

Let's make it a good one. :)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Haiku, Tanka, and a Promised Response

I promised to blog about why P's are so awesome the first semester, so here it goes. During our first semester at MIT, all freshmen are on a special grading system known as "Pass/No Record." Basically, if you would have earned an A, B, or C for any of your classes, the actual grade is permanently hidden and converted to a "P" (for Pass). Only the P shows up on your official transcript, although you are told your hidden grades eventually.

On the other hand, if you get a D or F in any class, that class permanently disappears from your transcript, leaving "No Record" it was there.

As a word of caution, some med schools (most notably Johns Hopkins, though I've been told there are two others) have been known to ask for your hidden grades. MIT can furnish an official record of some or all of your hidden grades, but they are very reluctant to do so. Moreover, I'm not sure if Johns Hopkins and other schools ask for grades only in relevant classes (like biology) or in all your first-semester if med school is in your future, I would encourage you to look into the matter more fully. I'll hunt around as well and keep you updated if I find any reliable info.

Anyway, the upshot of Pass/No Record is that you, for all intents and purposes, have no GPA whatsoever during your first term. This is a little awkward on resumes or when your friends ask you how you're doing...but, trust me, in the long run it's worth it. ;)

Come spring term, however, you're on an A/B/C/No Record system. This is basically just like normal grades, and you do start to accumulate a GPA, except that D's and F's still disappear.

There are a few reasons for why Pass/No Record - sometimes mistakenly called Pass/Fail, as in the popular sentiment "All Hail Pass/Fail!" - exists. In my opinion, the most important one is that it eases the transition from high school to MIT. I actually have a lot to say about the "transition," but I'll hold off on that for now, since it's actually a major theme in my next entry for the official MIT blogs. (The enry's about halfway done at this point. Yeah, yeah, I know...)

Other benefits of Pass/No Record? It drastically reduces the stress you might otherwise feel during your first semester, when (for many students) this is the first time they've truly been challenged by academics. Additionally, it gives you more freedom to explore MIT - academically, socially, and extra-curricularly. (If that's even a word.) It gives you a chance to figure out what kind of studying and p-seting, and how much, works best for you. It is not, however, an opportunity to slack off completely. So don't get any ideas. =P

For my own part, I tried not to abuse P/NR too much this past semester, but it still ended up coming in handy. ;)

Anyway, that's the "promised response" part of this post. The haiku and tanka part refers to an interesting conversation I've been having (via Facebook) with my friend Heidi - a freshman at that little school up the road from MIT - about our break. Thus far, it goes something like this:


a haiku:

Talk is cheap, but pokes
are cheaper. Merry Christmas -
how's all with you, Paul?



Seventeen is just
Enough syllables to say
That I am well. You?



well myself, as well.
but you're not s'posed to cheat through
a haiku - details?



I begin to like
This strange method of talking,
Though your words confuse.
I think we may need tanka
To fully communicate.



I mean that I want
to hear how your break's going.
In tanka, of course.
And I've a suggestion, too:
what are your IAP plans?



Of course, I see now.
Though break has treated me kindly,
Here in the Midwest,
Oft my heart longs for Boston
Like a lover his belov'd.

Beginning again,
I anticipate IAP
With spring eagerness:
Lab and the Hunt of Myst'ry,
Charm School and fraternity.


Ah, the things we Boston kids get into. ;)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Semester of Straight P's

A beautiful post-Christmas gift.

Coming soon to a blog near you: an explanation of why P's are awesome, plus the obligatory "what I got for Christmas" post.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

It's good to be home. Being away for the past semester, I'd forgotten just how many traditions my family has during Christmas-time. From things that I feel most families do, like baking cookies (for "Santa") or reading The Night Before Christmas, to the traditions that are uniquely our's the little things that make the holidays special. It's a cliche, yes. But it's true.

Anyway, since the hour is late - I should have been in bed about twenty minutes ago ;) - I'll leave my musings at that.

Merry Christmas, everybody. Whether you're Christian or not, I hope the spirit of the season fills you as we head into 2008. In the end, it's more about goodwill towards all than shiny presents. ^_^

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Judgment Day

I passed 8.012.



So I know I said wasn't going to check 8.012 (Physics), but I couldn't help but wonder if my 18.02 (Multi-Variable Calculus) grade was available yet. And so against all my better judgment, I peeked. This is what I found:

Grades of Paul Baranay
Course 18.02 (Fall 2007)
Exam and Homework Grades
Final Exam (Final)248/250
Letter Grade (Letter)A-

Holy. Crap.

I aced a class at MIT.

I aced a class. At MIT.


...Even though I still have one final left to take, even though I still have no clue how I did on the 8.012 Final of Doom or the 7.012 Final of Moderate Suckiness, I am so unbelievably happy right now.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lead us not into Caltech, and deliver us from finals

I have survived three of my four finals.

Of course, I don't know how I actually did in any of them. But I feel confident. Even in 8.012. The irony of currently not knowing how I did in 8.012 is that, as a matter of fact, my test was graded last night and the score is sitting online, waiting for me. Just two or three clicks, that's all I'd need, but I've decided to resist the temptation until after I finish my last final (5.112, aka chemistry, tomorrow morning). Sounds sort of like college decisions, doesn't it?

Anyway. Soon to come, perhaps as early as this weekend: thoughts on first semester, including what classes I actually took; reflections on what it takes to succeed in one's classes (especially something like 8.012); hopes and dreams for IAP and spring semester; and probably even more occluded references to my UROP , which I will be continuing during IAP. (Okay, just kidding on that last one.) There may even be a long, somewhat angst-ridden reflection on what it might have been like to go to Notre Dame instead of MIT - or you can read about that on Shannon '12's blog instead, where one of my comments was longer than her entire entry. (And yes, Shannon, you are now officially a '12. You better come. =D)

On one final note, I'm really proud for coming up with that subject title. At some point, maybe I'll even try to adapt the entire Our Father into an MIT theme. Oh, the possibilities...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Comments, Collected

I'm taking a quick break from my studying for finals (in particular, 8.012, commonly called Physics for Masochists, and now I know why) to pull together some of the comments I made on the MITblogs today.

To those not admitted:

This is hard to hear or accept right now, but a rejection from MIT is not a judgment on your value as a person or as a scholar. It simply means that, in the admissions officers' eyes, you would be happier attending college somewhere besides MIT.

Is that cruel? Maybe. But in the long run, I think you'll find that they are right. Don't give up your dreams simply because of this. Getting into college is important - but why should you let it define your entire life, all your dreams, from this point forward? Take the time to mourn, to scream, to come to grips with the decision. And then, get back on your feet and do what you all do best -

Fight for your dreams. :)

To those deferred:

[answering an earlier question:] No tubes for regular folks, unfortunately - at least, that's what happened to me last year. It'd be awesome if they changed that, though. (How about it, Matt? :D)

By the way, I know a ton of people who were deferred and then accepted, so don't give up! I even know several who were waitlisted and admitted, and they are among the strongest students I know. (Like Ken, who actually lives on the floor above me in Simmons. ^_^) If they hadn't told me they were waitlisted, I never would have guessed. I think that just proves that a deferral from MIT truly is not a statement on your academic abilities.

Finally, for those of you reading this who are waiting to apply regular, that's what I did and I'm doing just fine. Although I'm still stressing over finals. :D

For those admitted:

You know what you guys get to do now?

CELEBRATE! Last March, the night I was accepted, my family and a few close friends went out for dinner. Nothing too expensive or fancy, but it remains one of my most cherished memories.

After tonight, though, it's back to studying hard for finals and second semester. No senioritis for MIT students! :P

Melissa, Daniel, Snively, Milena, and JKim also had some very helpful and insightful comments, which I definitely encourage you to seek out. :) If any of my other blogger friends posted and I forgot to mention you, my apologies. As you can guess, my brain isn't functioning at its full capacity right now.

One of the most surreal aspects about knowing roughly one-third of the MIT Class of 2012 has been admitted is realizing that I'm so close to not being a freshman anymore. Soon, there'll be a thousand other people who know less than I do running around campus!

And, weirdly enough, some of them will even be blogging about it. o_0

But now, since it's well past two o'clock and practically everyone else in the Athena cluster and reading room has disappeared, and also because I can almost literally feel my brain shutting down...I am going to bed.

30.5 hours until my 8.012 final. Oh boy.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Finals, Decisions

In about 60 hours, give or take, I will be done with my first final at MIT.

In less 12 hours, some of you will know your EA decision.

Guess it's a stressful time for all of us, huh?

The posting of decisions will probably have passed by the time most of you read this - but, nonetheless, my thoughts and hopes and dreams are with all of you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hackers Wish Students "Merry" Finals

For the past two months or so, I've been meeting regularly with a group of friends to work on our 8.012 p-set. (8.012 is the advanced mechanics class for freshmen. It's...not impossible. But when you're a freshman and not used to such an intense workload, it can be pretty brutal.) We generally met on Thursday nights - and since the p-sets were always due Friday, this tended to produce a lot of late late late nights.

The last official p-set (on gyroscopes, which frankly boggle my mind) was due this last Friday. Happily, we were also assigned one "optional" p-set, which could net us up to 2 extra percent on our grade.

2 extra percent?! Despite the fact that "optional" usually means mandatory here, I was definitely up for some extra credit - so last night my fellow 8.012ers and I got together for a special 8.012 p-set party. It kind of is a party, actually - a bunch of us bring (junk) food, generally things like Oreos or chips - and we all sort of keep each other sane as we try our best to work through the problems.

Due to a combination of issues, I ended up staying later than was probably necessary to actually finish the p-set. But I did finish it, so I was in a pretty good mood as I walked back from the Infinite Corridor towards Simmons. (We meet in a classroom off of the Infinite because we come from all different dorms, so it makes sense to meet somewhere central rather than someone's dorm.) At the time, I happened to be walking with a friend (she lives in MacGregor, so it made sense for us to walk back towards home together), when suddenly we saw a bright flash of white light coming from the Christmas tree in front of the Student Center. At first, we both wondered why there was a "strobe light" on campus - and then we soon realized that the light was, in actuality, the flash of a camera.

Eric Schmiedl's camera, in fact.

Seriously, this guy gets everywhere. Those of you who know Eric can guess why he was there - a hack! I don't have any pictures (yet - I'll try and get some as I head over to class), but basically hackers put up a large sign saying "MERRY FINALS! (and a happy end of term)" - in gentle mockery of the traditional "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year." They also hung a bunch of textbook covers as "ornaments" on the Christmas tree.

My 8.012 textbook was among those included, which amused me. ;)

By the way, today is the last day of first-semester classes.


Friday, November 30, 2007

Goggle Lines

Since the first time since AP Chemistry my junior year, I once again have goggle lines from working at my UROP. I feel like such a nerd, and I'm not at all ashamed. ;)

So, first semester is almost over...mixed feelings there. It's getting more difficult for me to post long blog entries - partly because I have less time than I'm used to, but mainly because the entries I want to write tend to be on pretty complex subjects - so I hope you don't mind the short ones. ;)

Finals are coming up in just a few weeks, but I'm confident that I'll do all right if I take the time to study. All my classes have only or two p-sets left to turn in, and I have just one test left (18.02 on Tuesday!), so that's sort of strange to realize. It's been...a pretty crazy semester. Ups and downs all along the way, that's for sure. I'd have preferred a more level curve, but sometimes there's only so much you can do.

That's all I have time for now. Keep it real, guys. :)

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Did you know that Indiana is the only Midwestern state that prefers the SAT over the ACT? 'Tis true.

In other news, I now feel like Sam.

In other other news, I'm home for Thanksgiving. Woo. Studying now (aren't I such a good MIT nerd?), Notre Dame game with the family later. Yes, in spite of this being the worst season in Fighting Irish history, everyone in South Bend still watches the games. It's not like we have anything better to do. ;)

More to say on this later, perhaps.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Rhodes Scholarship

Because this is a lot cooler than anything else that has happened today. And also because MIT is one of the very few places something like this could ever happen. Just one more reason why I love this place.

Click me!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Death by Physics - Avoided?

My second 8.012 exam is over.

I didn't die.


Now, off to turn in 18.02...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

We interrupt this irregularly scheduled blog posting

...with a hilarious comic from Dilbert.;_ylt=AvsVf4vIN6ZJKH599UikSUDccLQF

The irony of this made my day. Beautiful.

So much to blog, so little time

There's a reason I haven't blogged lately. It has three letters, begins with M, and ends with T. The middle letter is imaginary.

It's not that I don't want to blog, or even that I don't have things to blog about. Cases in point: my classes, p-sets, tests, why I love Pass/No Record (but am trying not to overuse it), UA Senate, my UROP (!), reflections on being in a fraternity, thoughts on East Campus/West Campus, general advice on college applications...and so on.

So much to blog, so little time, right? Actually, as it happens, I probably won't be able to blog this week at all, because I have an ungodly amount of work to do over the next three days (3 p-sets, one assignment for F/ASIP, and the mother of all 8.012 tests). I've already started on most of that stuff, but even so, I have a sinking feeling that the next few days are not going to be pretty.

But enough of pessimistic proclamations. My point is, I have lots of things I could blog about. At the moment, I'm planning on having my next entry be about general advice for applying to colleges (MIT and elsewhere). But I also wanted to open this up to the people who still bother to read this, especially since a fair number of you are prospectives. What are you most interested in hearing about? Whether it's one of the topics I've already mentioned or something totally different, let me know!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Good News / Bad News

Bad news: 18.02 test this Thursday.

Good news: As long as I don't mix up flux and divergence, or something similarly idiotic, I feel reasonably confident I'll do well.

Bad news: 5.112 and 8.012 p-sets due this Friday.

Good news: I've already finished my 18.02 p-set - which is due Thursday, the same day as our test. Cruel, huh?

Bad news: 8.012 test next Thursday.

Good news: It's next Thursday.

Bad news: Most of the V masks are gone from the Infinite.

Good news: Hacks still make me happy.

Super-amazing-awesome news: I STARTED MY UROP TODAY!

More to come later, when it's not three in the morning and I have time to write more than a five-minute entry. ;)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Red Sox Fever

So this morning, tipped off to the presence of a hack by not one but two anonymous sources, I left Simmons armed with my trusty digital camera, fully prepared to record the hack for all posterity. No sooner had I stepped out the door when I was able to snap off this landscape shot:

After giving the matter some thought, I decided not to cross across Briggs Field and take pictures of the hack from the "right" angle, for two reasons. First, it was cloudy, so the pictures would not have been that stunning anyhow; and second, I didn't want to be late to 8.012 lecture. After all, the Sputnik hack was up for over two days - surely they'd leave this hack up until at least after tonight's game?

Yeah, you'd think.

After classes, I ran into a fellow Institute Historian-in-training, who informed me the hack was already gone. Naturally, I met this news with incredulity, disappointment, a bit of anger, and finally a quiet acceptance. That's simply the way hacks are. They take hours upon hours to craft and execute, yet most are destined to exist for only a few fleeting moments of glory before disappearing from view, though not from memory.

I had hoped this hack would be one of those rare exceptions that lasted a day or more...but even at MIT, I guess you can't have everything.

But enough with that attitude. Fortunately, I am not the only MIT student with a camera, so you can find some awesome pictures of the hack here. I'd also like to take the opportunity to share a few of my favorite photos from the "riots" that didn't really break out after the Red Sox avoided elimination in the ALCS by smashing the Indians in Game 7 at Fenway last Sunday. Let's start with the craziest:

Yes, that's exactly what you think it is. It's an old lady banging a pot to get the crowd excited. Don't ask me how, but it worked. In fact, her winning feeling was so contagious...

...people were even dancing in the streets!

Even the police were in a good mood, it seemed. This one nearly smiled.

But predictably enough, things started getting out of hand - and, equally predictably, the cops got mad.

And so our "unlawful assembly" dispersed, lest we be arrested under Massachusetts state law.

Well, that's all I have for now, folks. Can't wait for tonight's game - Go Sox! All of Boston's rooting for you...even the Green Building. ;)

Hacks and Sox and P-sets, Oh My!

As I've said before, hacks make me happy. Well, MIT has been hacked twice in the past twelve or so hours. Plus, the Red Sox won, which was (on one level) the entire point of the hacks. So all of these things combined make me very, very happy.

Unfortunately, I also have two p-sets due tomorrow. This makes me very sad. It's not that I dislike p-sets in general, or even that I'm afraid I won't get them done. But blogging was so much easier when I didn't have p-sets to do as well. :P

Speaking of p-sets, though, I nearly forgot, I got a perfect score on the last 8.012 p-set! Part of me is dancing inside, the other half is going, "How did I pull that off?" Maybe it's because I understand momentum and energy much better than polar coordinates, maybe it's because I have amazing luck with finding study groups, maybe I'm just working harder than before, maybe it's a combination of all three? Ah well - I blog, you decide. ;)

Back to the topic of hacks, since I don't have bio recitation today, I'll probably be using part of that extra hour to update this blog - so keep an eye out for a few pictures of the hacks this afternoon. As for the actual MITblogs, my second entry there is in the works as well. In the meantime, please accept my humble apologies for being such a bad blogger. ^_^

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Harder, Better, Stronger, Faster

I've been hiding something from you guys.

My first weeks here were a little rough. Although I didn't blog about it, my first round of tests did not go nearly as well as I would have hoped. It wasn't that I didn't know the material, I simply wasn't prepared for the scope and rigor of the tests. MIT is hard, and although I never really imagined I would simply breeze through this school, I can say with certainty that I did not study nearly as well as I should have for most of my tests.

For 7.012 and 18.02, I basically let myself get flustered and made some really dumb mistakes - whereas, let's not talk about physics now. (I just got the last 8.012 pset back though, and even though it was definitely the hardest one so far, I still ended up with a 97! o_0 I'm pretty sure there was a lot of partial credit involved. :D)

I did manage to ace 5.112 - the concepts were pretty simple and I studied all night for it. But, even so, the vast majority of the class also did amazingly well - the professor himself said that he didn't like how high the average was ;) - so that test cheered me up a little, but not too much.

Fast forward to this week. Yesterday, I finalized that I will have a UROP for this semester. It's in the Langer Lab, I'll be mainly working with tissues and gels, and I'm excited beyond words. This afternoon, I took my second 18.02 test...and, thanks to the wonder that is MIT's online grade system, I already know that I got a 96.

A 96 on an 18.02 exam. I could sing, but instead I'll just listen to Daft Punk and go work on my next 5.112 pset. :)

More than ever, hour after hour, our work is never over....

Monday, October 8, 2007

Sunday, October 7, 2007


Notre Dame, 20.
UCLA, 6.

About time.

This story makes me pretty happy too.

Any day Notre Dame wins is a good day in my book.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Hackito Ergo Sum

So as I imagine many of you know, yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik. This was naturally a big deal for all the rocket buffs here, and apparently some of them decided that MIT needed some sort of monument to commemorate Sputnik's success.

First, I heard beeping.

Then I walked into Lobby 10 and I saw it.

It's a hack!

You can't really tell from this picture, but the sign says "Спутник."

My favorite photo of the bunch.

Right now I'm in the student lounge - the one with all the comfy green couches - and Sputnik is still up there. I know because I can still hear it beeping. :)

Hacks make me happy.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Happy days

Three pretty awesome things happened today.

First, a few hours ago I had my third test at MIT, in chemistry...and I didn't die! No, seriously, I finished this test feeling very confident about how I had done, and I consider that a victory. Supposedly I'll find out exactly how I did tomorrow.

Second, I got my third physics p-set back today. I'm currently taking 8.012, also affectionately dubbed "Physics for Masochists," and for good reason. Without a doubt, 8.012 is my hardest class - but I got a 99 on the p-set.

Even though it's just one p-set, I'm elated, naturally, because those problems took me practically forever to finish - and yet clearly, the effort paid off. Just the same, I know I couldn't have done it without help - so if any of the friends I worked with happen to be reading this...thanks. :)

Finally, I don't want to give too much away just yet - so at the risk of sounding overly mysterious, you may want to try doing a little creative poking around the MIT Admissions site. You may be amazed at what you find. ;)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Fifteen seconds of fame

So this morning on my way to class, I opened the new issue of The Tech, MIT's twice-weekly newspaper, and I make a most interesting discovery.

On Pages 1 and 13, in the article about the ongoing elections for 2011 Class Council and Senate, my name and my campaign are mentioned. You have to read very closely to notice it...but I'm definitely there.

And you know what this means?

I'm famous.

I know it's not much, but it still made my day. :D

Monday, October 1, 2007

Mail call!

Okay, so I'm going to take a break from the depressing hacker policy stuff for a moment, because guess what came in the mail for me today?

Hooray for care packages!

In case you can't tell, that's 48 Nutri-Grain bars, 48 Chewy granola bars, 40 bags of microwave popcorn, 8 boxes of EasyMac, and one deliciously chocolatey box of M&M's. The desk worker said it was the biggest care package she had ever seen.

I have the most awesome parents in the world.

A Letter from Chancellor Clay

In my mailbox this morning I found this letter from Chancellor Clay to the MIT student body. Any emphasis is mine.

Dear Students:

I am writing to you about an important matter -- protecting our
celebrated traditions while taking full responsibility for our actions. As members of the MIT community, we must be committed to both. Events over the last year and trends over the last few years have raised legitimate concerns, and it has become clear that we need to reaffirm core principles and sharpen our commitment to our obligations.

In this letter, I want to address two areas of concern. The first is
hacking and the second is integrity. Hacking is the design and execution of harmless pranks, tricks, explorations, and creative inventions that demonstrate ingenuity and cleverness. Hacking is an MIT tradition that has figured in the presentation of MIT to the outside world and within our community, it has been an opportunity for friendly competition and community building.

Historically, hacks have been creatively and thoughtfully executed
without injury, destruction of property, or public notoriety for the hackers or MIT. The true hacking tradition embraces a "code" that requires hackers to identify themselves and to leave instructions explaining what was done and how restoration can be completed. True hackers quickly identify themselves when they encounter the police, and they do not confront or evade the police. Hackers do not create public hazards. Ultimately, individuals are responsible for their actions and any intentional or unintentional consequences.

If this is our history, you might be asking: what is new and why I am
concerned now? There are three shifts that I will highlight. First, this letter is prompted by numerous events over the past couple years that have revealed a need to re-emphasize safety, responsibility, and integrity. The incidents that give us pause come with a concerning frequency. Hackers or want-to-be-hackers have suffered serious injury and narrowly escaped much worse in recent years. Other incidents have put students (and MIT) in awkward positions in relation to law enforcement agencies or brought notoriety to the Institute. This is unacceptable.

Second, times have changed. Let me give a few examples. Parents have
complained about the tradition of "showering,"which has been viewed as harmless in the past but now looks like a form of hazing, which is against the law in Massachusetts. Post 9/11, new security and safety regulations and standards assign new responsibilities to the institute for access to certain locations on campus and how particular materials and equipment are secured. We cannot deny the fact that what was tolerated in the past, and may even have been celebrated, is now viewed differently. We have little control over these shifts. Dangerous or illegal behavior labeled as hacks is a risk for us all and threatens our ability to be as open as we have been in the past. As part of a larger community, we must respect laws and expectations and we must exercise self-discipline in order to protect the freedom and openness we cherish.

In response to these challenges, I have two requests. First, we have to
re-embrace the true hacking tradition. In our community, we must hold ourselves to it. Those who violate the tradition, by endangering themselves or others, by breaking the law or other departures from the "hacking code of conduct" cannot seek protection from responsibility, and they will be held accountable for their actions. We will soon add to the student handbook language that frames student responsibility in this area. This language has been developed over the last several months with input from students, faculty, and administration. The survival of a great MIT tradition depends on the willingness of the
members of the community to protect it. I am asking your individual and group support and cooperation.

The second matter I want to address is integrity. There are two
worrying trends. First, the faculty has growing concerns about academic dishonesty -- plagiarism, inadequate documentation, etc. Second, despite efforts over the last three years to remind students that downloading copyrighted material violates MIT policy and is illegal, this activity persists. MIT and offending individuals have been under growing legal pressure. While new technologies enable new behaviors, the development of new ways to gather music or videos does not change the standard embodied in the law or our obligations. Integrity and respect for laws are fundamental elements to our credibility.I appreciate that this is new territory. I hope that you will seek advice and assistance rather than ignore the law.

I ask you to consider seriously our traditions and our
responsibilities. Hacks that violate traditions make us appear thoughtless and reckless. Behavior that suggests we do not apply the standard of integrity to new technologies undermines our credibility. I hope you will appreciate that an erosion of confidence in MIT's self-discipline undermines our ability to serve the world.

While our disciplinary system can and will hold students accountable,
our pride and discipline are a far more reliable means to preserve and advance our community. I ask for your cooperation and support in celebrating and protecting our traditions, taking responsibility, and upholding integrity. I welcome suggestions for how we can make the response to these challenges a community project with students taking a leadership role. Doing that will model the leadership we all want our students to claim and will be the source of great pride.


There are a lot of good things in this email, and yet there are also many parts of it that bother me. The letter is streaked through with the traces of Star Simpson, the bungled Sodium Drop, and the E52 hackers from last year - and yet the Chancellor isn't straightforward enough to actually mention the events themselves. All he says is that these incidents are "unacceptable." What exactly is that supposed to mean?

As for the "language" due to be added to the Student Handbook, I am not terribly concerned about that at the moment, since I've known it was coming. I would hope to see it before it's actually implemented, of course, but for the most part I trust that the students involved have been doing the best they can to ensure that the "language" is fair to all sides.

I have to run to calc recitation now, but I'm probably going to update this later. In the meantime, anyone else want to venture a few thoughts?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Birthdays, birthdays, birthdays

So today two of my very good friends turned 19, these two friends being Snively, whom you probably know, and Tim, whom you probably don't. Tim doesn't have a blog though, so I can't introduce you to him, even though he's a pretty cool guy. Sad face.

Anyway, I ended up helping celebrate Snively's birthday first - at midnight, to be precise. Sam and Jordan, two of my best friends here, happen to live on Conner 2, the same floor of Burton-Conner as Snively and Laura (and, in days of blog-stalking yore, Sam and Mitra). For reasons which I will explain later, I was hanging out on Conner 2 last night, and therefore was in prime position to witness firsthand one of Conner 2's traditional birthday celebrations. Like all Conner 2 birthday parties, Snively's birthday began promptly at midnight with a few people running through the entire floor yelling "Birthday! Birthday! Birthday!" In this manner, the faithful residents of English House were all brought together into the floor lounge, where a lovingly-baked chocolate cake awaited, five colorful candles burning brightly with the promise of another fun-filled year in Snively's life at MIT.

I just made that last part up on-the-spot, by the way. In case you couldn't tell.

Anyway, after singing a very off-key, off-pitch, and off-beat version of "Happy Birthday," we caked Snively, which basically means that Laura stuffed a huge piece of cake down Snively's throat and nearly choked him to death, which would have been sad indeed, but fortunately Snively managed to swallow and thereby ensured Laura would not be sued for murder of the caketh degree.

After a brief and, er, wet interlude, Snively got his presents, which fit him perfectly. But I'll let him blog about these because they're his presents, after all.

So that's Snively's birthday. As I said before, you don't know Tim (sadly, he's no relation to Tim Beaver) but his birthday was today too. As Tim lives in Simmons with me, we had a traditional Simmons birthday, which means we did whatever we felt like at the time, which happened to be play Monopoly and order pizza. It was actually pretty enjoyable.

We also celebrated my birthday last week, and it was amazing. Family, friends, great gifts - what more could a guy want? Never fear that I'm being too vague, I'll be blogging about my own fantastic 19th birthday later, when I have more pictures and I don't have a biology test to study for.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Walk the Line

It's been a busy week.

In the past seven days, I've finished three p-sets, taken my first test at MIT, gone through F/ASIP Orientation, met with Ben, Karen, and Chris, visited the Career Fair, chilled with Hawkins, made a little mischief, slept over at my fraternity, danced the night away at Phi Kappa Sigma's fall formal, participated in the xkcd flash mob, scrimmaged against Harvard in Quiz Bowl, been accepted as MedLink, and basically had the time of my life. I'm sure there's a few other things I'm blanking on right now, but those were the highlights.

From one angle, my past few weeks here could be summed up as a search for balance. Classes, friends, homework, extracurriculars, sleep - they're all vitally important in their own way, and it's hard to choose one over the other. But you can't do everything, and sometimes you have to focus on what matters most to you...even if it means giving up a few things.

As for me, well, I'm still in the process I'm figuring out what my priorities are. The last few weeks have truly been eye-openers in that regard, actually. Before I got here, I thought I pretty much knew what I wanted to be involved in here at MIT. Turns out I was wrong - or, at least, I wasn't completely right. As you can probably tell, I've been pretty busy since I got here...and, frankly, that's the way I like it. But I also know there's a huge difference between being comfortably busy and completely overworked, and I'm doing my best to walk that line.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

So let's call this the comeback

As I've mentioned a few times, I am (and probably always will be) an unabashed Notre Dame fan. Although it's much harder to actually watch the games here at MIT - there's a lot more going on here than just football games - I still enjoy doing so when I have the free time.

Which I happened to have this afternoon. So for the last half hour I've been sitting in the main Simmons lounge, watching the Notre Dame-Michigan State game on our big-screen TV, and what happens?

We get our first offensive touchdown.

It's not much to get excited about, considering that we're, oh yeah, already three games into the season and Michigan State just tied the score anyway.

But it's a start.

By the way, sorry for being so silent over the past week...but I think you'll forgive me when I tell you about everything I was up to. ;)

Also, just for the record, I'm not actually blogging from the lounge, I'm in my room - I had to run and get my cell phone, and when I got here I realized I might be able to make the touchdown into a halfway-decent entry. Hopefully you agree. :)

Now, back to the game!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Double double toil and trouble

Yesterday, I participated in my first official LARP for the MIT Assassins' Guild. If you don't already know what LARPing is, the acronym stands for Live-Action Roleplaying. It's a little like Dungeons & Dragons, except acted in real life instead of on paper, and much more fun. :)

The game last night was called Salem, and it was basically a recreation of the town of Salem during the witch scare of 1692...except that this time, the witches were most definitely real. I think most people went into the game expecting the plot to revolve around the witches, but as it turned out the GMs (Game Masters, the ones who wrote the story) had included a number of surprises besides the witches. For one thing, some of the townspeople were secretly French spies, British loyalists, or colonial rebels. One girl was talking to a ghost almost the entire game, my own wife had cheated on me years before...basically, every character had some sort of secret.

(Disclaimer: The game of Salem is likely to run again this spring - so if you are planning on playing in Salem later, you may want to skip the rest of this entry. Likewise, if you know you've already been cast in Salem and for some reason are looking to get some dirt on the rest of the players, that's just lame. You're ruining the fun not only for yourself, but also for your fellow players.)

So my character for the night was Goodman Thurgood Jones, the constable of Salem...and also the leading warlock of the Salem coven. Talk about a double life, eh? Not only did I get to cast spells that would set people on fire, wither their limbs, blind them, etc., I had to take part in an evil ritual that would basically desecrate the town congregation hall. Besides that, I was cheating on my wife with another witch in the coven, which was in and of itself a severe violation of the coven rules. As one of the GMs said, "It takes a special man to sell his soul to the devil and still think he can keep secrets from his master."

As it happened, Lucifer himself was present in Salem town - apparently a deacon in some neighboring town had made a pact with the devil, and Lucifer had taken possession of his body. In game terms, that meant the deacon knew practically everything about everybody, including all the witches, and was working very hard to pressure, threaten, or otherwise coerce everyone in town to voting for him. One of my very first conversations in-game was with the deacon, who basically conveyed that he knew exactly who I was, and that if I voted for him he'd cast a blind eye. So that was pretty convincing, even though I had no idea how he knew I was a warlock, since I had done absolutely nothing witchy (yet).

But ultimately what the deacon knew didn't matter...because he was killed minutes before the actual election. That's right, someone actually killed off an incarnation of Lucifer. I instantly guessed the murderer (and I turned out to be right!) and I probably should have thrown him in the stocks...but I had no real evidence, and when I questioned him he did a very good job of acting innocent. Either I'm a bad constable, or a very just one. ;)

Incidentally, the same guy also killed my son about two-thirds through the game, for reasons I still don't really understand. Once again, I was pretty sure it was him, since he was one of the last people with my son and his story of the murder didn't match up with what actually happened. But by that point everybody was too busy running around and pursuing their own agendas for me to really do anything, and since he later turned out to be a French loyalist (and therefore sort of on "my side") I guess it was a good thing I didn't do anything to him - although I did end up chasing him around later, just for the hell of it. He managed to escape, yellow-bellied Frenchman.

Anyway, when we finally tried to elect a minister, there were only two candidates - myself and another fairly ordinary man. I nearly got myself elected, but I realized I couldn't do much witchcraft if I became minister, since everyone would always want to know where I was, so I withdrew my nomination and let the other guy have it. So instead of becoming minister, I instead became the minister's right-hand man in town, which was just as good, if not better.

Ultimately, though, I did much more politicizing than witching. As I mentioned before, the British and the French were very active in the city, though the French in particular were pretty stealthy about it. Another issue was the Indians, who were very concerned about the presence of the British in Salem. I ended up forging a three-way alliance between the town of Salem, the French agents, and the Indian tribe. I also helped the Indian envoy kill off the local British captain, took part in the ghost's wedding, set the minister on fire, and completed two-thirds of our satanic ritual...all without a single person ever accusing me of being a witch.

Basically, it was a great experience. I didn't do much sneaking around or much serious combat, but I had a great time simply interacting with people, not to mention manipulating them and/or flat-out lying to them. Even though it was my first game, I caught on pretty quickly, and the other players were simply amazing as well. I'm already looking forward to the next game. :)

That's about all I have for this entry, and in any event I have to run. Keep checking back for more about my weekend, some of the clubs I've started to get involved in, and - last, but not least - those dreaded p-sets.

Short short short short SHORT

For the first time in quite a while, I am very nearly embarrassed to be a Notre Dame fan. 38-0 to Michigan? Oh boy.

Anyway, that's all I have the energy to say for now...but don't worry. As always, there will be more to follow - including the lowdown on p-sets and some Assassins' Guild antics!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Rain King

By three o'clock, what started as a foggy, cold, but generally acceptable day in Boston had turned into a full-fledged downpour. I know this because I spent about ten minutes walking through said downpour with no jacket, no rain boots, and certainly no umbrella, wending my wet way from Building 34, down Vassar and Main, and into the Kendall Coop.

Which is an amazing store, by the way. Two floors full of more textbooks, academic tomes, magazines, fiction, nonfiction, and MIT apparel than you could ever fully appreciate. It also happens to be attached to a fairly decent food court - whoever planned the building obviously knew what they were doing.

Getting back to my point, I was at the Coop for two reasons - one, to pick up a book for practice problems for 5.112, which had been out-of-stock when I visited the first time last Friday. And second, to buy my books for 7.012.

It's official: I'm dropping my HASS and taking Biology instead. As I've said before, I really don't want to drop my HASS, because it's an amazing class (and also much less demanding than 7.012), but that's the only way I can keep my advising seminar. C'est la vie, I suppose. Hopefully I'll be able to take it next year.

By the way, when I say "it's official," I suppose I mean it's only "blog official" - you know, sort of how a boyfriend/girlfriend suddenly become "Facebook official." I still have to finish my Add/Drop Form, but I've already gotten it signed, so really there shouldn't be any problems.

Just to wrap up my Coop story, while I was on the lower level getting my books - still dripping from head to toe, mind you - I had the incredibly good fortune of running into Taylor '11. I'd met Taylor quite randomly during REX at the "Next House of Waffles" and, in the manner of random friends, we've been seeing each other at odd places ever since. This was fortunate for me because Taylor, being cleverer than most freshmen (read: me), had realized he could use MIT's infamous tunnels to walk all the way from Lobby 7 to the Coop and only have to go outside once, to cross Main Street.

The trick, by the way, is to use MIT Medical as your other entrance/exit to the tunnels. Ingenious indeed.

While still at the Coop, Taylor and I also ran into Rachel '11, a fellow Simmons resident and DME alum - who was kind enough to lend me her umbrella while we were walking back to our home sweet sponge, since she had a raincoat anyway. Thanks Rachel. :)

So there's my rain-related drama for today.

Other drama: I have four p-sets due this week. One Thursday, and three Friday.

I've already started all of them (except for 7.012, since I just got it). So I'm reasonably confident I'll get them done. And I know this is nothing compared to later. But it's still pretty ridiculous.

By the way, before I forget, to answer a question Star had: due to MIT regulations, freshmen are not allowed to move into any FSILG (fraternity, sorority, or independent living group). Although the rule's fairly new, I'm quite happy here in Simmons, so I don't really mind. The only real problem with Simmons is that it's so far away; but then again, Phi Kappa Sigma is all the way across the it's not exactly close either. ;)

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Most days are pretty average. You wake up, you shower, you brush your teeth, get dressed, have breakfast, go to class, have lunch, talk with friends, go to class, go home, have dinner, do homework, get to bed - etc., etc., etc.

Some days, though, you do all the same things...and then something else happens that just blows you away.

Last Friday was one of those days. In the space of about ten minutes, I was offered two incredible, life-changing opportunities. The first was being chosen as an admissions blogger, which would have been more than enough for me. As for the second opportunity, I've been deliberately ambiguous until this point...although someone made a very accurate guess. ;) Basically, the story goes something like this.

Like many other freshmen, over the past week I've been busily participating in Fraternity Rush. At first, I thought I had learned all I need to know about fraternities during CPW - and I was wrong. In fact, fraternity life here at MIT runs so much deeper than I had ever imagined. No matter what fraternity I was visiting, the brothers were more than happy to introduce me to their culture, their house, their traditions, their vision, and - most importantly - themselves.

How to describe the brothers of MIT? They are dedicated, intelligent, funny, athletic, social, passionate, innovative, and so many other things besides. Basically, they are some of the best people I have met in my time here.

And now I'm one of them.

This morning, I pledged as a new member of MIT's Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity. The brothers of Phi Kappa Sigma - the Skulls, as they're popularly known - are, collectively and individually, among the favorite people I've met at MIT. I've gotten to know them (and my fellow pledges) fairly well over the past week or so, and I'm incredibly honored to call them my brothers.

As I was thinking about how to wrap up this entry, it occurred to me that I've now come to a kind of crossroads, a point of transition between the life I know and the life I am entering into. Even though I've taken the first step by pledging at PKS, I don't really know what lies ahead of me. In the same way, I still have absolutely no idea what it's going to be like to be a genuine admissions blogger.

But somehow that doesn't bother me as much as it would have before I came to MIT. Now, though, I know that standing before the unknown isn't supposed to be terrifying.

It's actually part of the excitement.

Saturday, September 8, 2007


"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.
Live the life you have imagined."
- Henry David Thoreau

I am so incredibly happy right now. Not just one but two huge events happened today, and I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around them - much less blogging about them. But for now, one thing is certain...

I'm an admissions blogger!

I still can't quite comprehend how that happened. I am simultaneously thrilled and humbled - and, of course, incredibly excited about what lies ahead.

To those of you who've been following this blog, I just wanted to extend a huge thank you to each and every one of you. Writing these entries wasn't always easy, but you made the process fun - and, more importantly than that, you made it meaningful. You are and always will be the reason this blog exists, especially all of the hopefuls for next year.

I wish all of you the best in pursuing your dreams. Sometimes, the impossible really does happen.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Welcome to the Institvte

So, I'm back. I'm sure you were all anxiously waiting for me. ;)

Picking up right where I left off, classes here are simply amazing. Currently, I'm going to 5.112, 7.012, 8.012, 18.02, and 21H.001; and I love all of them. All of the lecturers are amazing, and I actually understand almost everything that's going on! Amusingly enough, the hardest part has been simply finding the right classrooms. Getting to 10-250 - a gigantic lecture hall where most of the freshman classes are held - is no problem, but my physics classroom...well, let's just say it's hard to find 4-120 when you're really supposed to be in 6-120.

As an aside, those of you keeping track at home may have noticed that I listed five classes up there. Yes, I know that's not really allowed for freshmen. Yes, I'm doing it anyway and I love it.

Okay, I lied - taking five classes is fine, but it means that I'm very busy running around to different places, so I don't really love it. I do love all five classes though, and it's really sort of sad that I have to drop one, which I will definitely do by this Tuesday. The reason I'm (temporarily) taking five classes is because of that scheduling conflict I mentioned earlier. Since one of the ways for me to resolve that conflict is to drop 21H.001 and take 7.012 instead (read: ditch my wonderful humanities class for an equally-wonderful introductory biology class), I've been going to biology lectures and recitations just in case I do just that.

Plus I get to see Eric Lander lecture, which is pretty freaking amazing, considering he, you know, helped sequence the human genome. And his co-lecturer, Robert Weinberg, isn't exactly a slouch either - it's not everybody who discovers the first human oncogene. Incidentally, I know practically everyone knows and loves Lander, but I've always been deeply interested in cancer research, so I really hope everyone taking 7.012 learns to appreciate Weinberg as well. I guess time will tell.

But enough about biology. Physics is also going great - I love Professor Burgasser, mainly because he makes his hour-and-a-half lecture just flash by. I've already starting writing down some of his quotes, such as, "The position vector is a bad vector...well, it's not bad. It's misunderstood." Also, his idea of "visualizing vectors" involves taking big rolls of measuring tape and sticking bright yellow felt arrows on one end. It's actually pretty hilarious, especially when you have three of them extended around the classroom at once.

Or maybe you had to be there.

So I could say more, but I'm sort of boring myself now. I'm sure I'll talk about my other classes later on.

So apart from lectures and recitations, the other big thing going on right now is Rush. Basically, Rush is MIT on steroids. In the past week or so, I have been go-carting at 40 mph, kayaking in Vermont, paintballing in the woods, and eating very well. And as awesome as all that is, it's the fraternity brothers themselves who really make Rush so enjoyable. The key difference is that all the brothers are still MIT students first and foremost. And that means a lot of things, but for me, one of the most important implications is they really understand that MIT is a lot of work, because they've been there.

Anyway, tomorrow tonight is "bid day" for the fraternities, and...well, I don't want to say too much, but I'm optimistic. :D

A few other things have been going on, but basically there's my first two days of MIT in a nutshell - hope you enjoy. Now I'm off to catch a few hours of well-earned sleep. ;)

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The shortest post about classes ever

As you may or may not have noticed, I sort of dropped out of the blogosphere for the past few days. This was due to a combination of factors, not the least of which was the start of classes.

Which are actually pretty exciting. And I did plan on telling you about them, but as I said before things around here move very fast, including me, and I've gotta run.

Saturday, September 1, 2007


MIT being MIT, stuff happens pretty quickly; and when it does, it's only a matter of time before it ends up online. So it is with my class schedule - I picked my classes on Thursday, and now my tentative schedule is available.

Ironically enough, my biggest problem now has nothing do with picking between 18.01A or 18.02, or 8.012 or 8.01, or 5.112 or 3.091, or....okay, I'll stop now. The point is, my GIRs are completely fine - hunky-dory, even! No conflicts to think of.

My conflict is now between my cherished HASS-D and my equally cherished FAS. Translated from MITspeak to English, that means my humanities class, How to Stage a Revolution, is conflicting with my advising seminar, The Engineer of 2020. And I don't want to drop either one, since I feel so lucky to have gotten into them in the first place - not to mention that it'd be very hard to get a good HASS-D at this point, and I don't know if it's even possible to switch advising seminars.

Maybe I'll just take biology. o_0

In other news, today is class photo, Greek Griller (AKA the start of Fraternity Rush/Sorority Recruitment), and the very first Notre Dame football game.

I know you're all very excited about that last one. ;)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Top Ten Reasons I Love MIT #7

"Signed, Rebel Scum"

IHTFP - Interesting Hacks to Fascinate People
(one definition among many)

Before I begin, you should know that I feel sort of overwhelmed simply by trying to write this entry. Hacking is a long and storied tradition at MIT, and yet I'm only a freshman - who am I to write about this sort of thing?

And the reality is, I really can't. Yes, I've been to some interesting places around campus; yes, I've started to meet people who can legitimately be called hackers. But I, myself, am not a hacker by any means. Not yet, anyway.

Funny story: I first ran across the word hacker when I was about six, and I had no idea what the word actually meant, so I did what any good six-year-old would do and asked my mom about it. She replied, understandably hesitantly, "Why do you want to know, Paul?" To which I said, "Because I think I want to be one."

Ah, the innocence of youth.

But back to business. What I want to talk about right now, you see, is not the great hacks that have been pulled in the good old days of hardcore yore - because although I've heard of them, and read books about them, I don't really know about them.

What I do know, what I feel qualified enough to talk about, is the hackers themselves.

No names will be named.

The first thing you need to realize is that hackers break stereotypes. Like MIT students in general, they have traits in common, but they aren't clones. Some are social and some are shy, some are serious and some are hilarious. Some have green or purple or rainbow hair, some have brown or black or blonde or red hair. Some wear riot gear, some wear trenchcoats, some just wear dark T-shirts. Some tell stories, some make their own stories. Some are in the UA, some are bloggers, some do UROP or IM sports or hundreds of other activities. Some are from the East, some are from the West, some are in fraternities and sororities and independent living groups.

I'll say that again, because it's important - hackers are from the East, and the West, and the FSILGs. Don't forget that.

But hackers do share many things in common. Creativity, innovation, unconventional attitudes, a unique sense of humor, a code of ethics, a love of rooftops and tunnels and enclosed spaces, a certain disregard for the rules...just to name a few.

They are, in short, a great group. I'm still so incredibly grateful for all the experiences I've had with them. After all, it's not every club that trusts freshmen (and even some pre-frosh), yet the hackers do. They're just cool like that, and I hope to get the chance to do the same, a year or two down the road.

I said before that being at MIT feels like coming home.

Going hacking feels like coming into an inheritance.

Some informative links: IHTFP Gallery, MIT Admissions, Wikipedia, The Jargon File, Where the Sun Shines, There Hack They

Monday, August 27, 2007

Every day's a new day

Orientation. REX. Dorm Rush.

Whatever you want to call it, it rocks hard.

Seriously, I cannot even begin to contain how awesome today has been. I've met up with so many amazing people, students and faculty, friends new and old. I've talked to President Susan Hockfield twice (!), and I also introduced myself to Daniel Hastings - the Dean of Undergraduate Education and, incidentally, my advisor for this semester. I've met more frosh than I can count, and I finally found Shawn and Melissa! They're both awesome people and really fun to be around. Although really, guys - I told you that going into Bexley was a bad idea, and I was right, wasn't I?

Anyway, I've been going to most of the events with a combination of Simmons residents and friends I made during CPW, and I feel like I'm really settling into a social group that works for me. I'm sure things are going to change as we go along, but for now, I'm perfectly content.

Also, all the upperclassmen are still in the phase where they're all "oh look, frosh! Here, have some free food! Any questions on dorms/classes/fraternities/whatever? No? Okay, well, call us if anything comes up!" So basically, right now the upperclassmen rock. Hopefully they'll still rock in a few weeks, after Orientation and Rush have ended; and hopefully I will look less like a frosh and more like an actual student.

...I can dream, can't I?

Now that DME is over (we got third place! More on that later though) I finally have time to actually do my own thing, and that is amazing indeed. Also, I have more pictures than I have time to post now, but they'll show up soon. Probably.

Anyway, fun official REX events that I went to today - Mass at Kresge, Orientation Leader Meetings, Convocation, Simmons Brunch, Simmons Dinner, Kresge Kickoff, East Campus's "Body Electric" Party. Other fun things that I did, in roughly chronological order, because bullet points are freaking awesome:
  • hanging out with Sam, Jordan, Allen, Tim, Michael, Rachel, and countless others
  • meeting Shawn and Melissa
  • seeing random DME'ers everywhere I went
  • running into Facebook friends and CPW friends ("Sorry, are we Facebook friends?")
  • talking to Susan Hockfield simply because she decided to come to Simmons (I am still shocked that she actually visits the dorms, but at the same time I think it's amazing)
  • completing my tour of all the dorms by visiting Bexley and MacGregor
  • being mesmerized by Suggy's magic tricks before Kickoff
  • wandering with friends through Conner 2, guided by super-cool O-Leader and former C2 resident Jeremy
  • playing with my East Campus lighter
  • talking to and meeting the IFC president (Danny), UA president (Marty), an Orientation Coordinator (Eddie), a fraternity president, and a Cambridge exchange student at the same time simply because they were all hanging out on the Student Center steps when I was walking back to Simmons (obligatory *boggle*)
And as cool as all that stuff is, let's not forget the most important thing:
  • feeling home at MIT

Friday, August 24, 2007

Shear Madness and People in Trees

Awesome DME day today. I'm one of the slower more careful people in DME, but even I am nearly finished by now. I even got this really awesome picture of me studiously at work, except when I say really awesome I mean totally staged.

Also, my team has been dubbed the Fantastic Four. There's four of us, we're team number was destined to happen. We're even the right genders too, three guys and one girl. In retrospect, Teenage Mutant Ninja Engineers would have been a great name too, but I guess you can't have everything.

Anyway, in addition to our usual time in the lab, today we also explored some of the actual research laboratories here at MIT! We ended up going to three different labs - the Sloan Automotive Lab, the BioInstrumentation Lab, and the famous Media Lab! They were all amazing, but especially the BioI Lab and the Media Lab. I can't really pick between the two of them, because they are simply so different...anything and everything can happen in the Media Lab though. It's sort of like MIT's playground, and that's why I love it.

For tonight's entertainment, we ventured into Boston's Theater District to see Shear Madness, which is half-comedy, half-mystery, half-improv. (Yes, I know that makes three halves; no, I don't care.) Regardless of what genre you put it in, the show is simply hilarious - mostly through innuendo and double entendre, though they also made plenty of jokes about Boston, Britney Spears, and even MIT! At a specific point in the play the audience gets to interact with the actors, and Snively actually ended up getting into an argument with one of the characters. Needless to say, the other guy had no chance at all.

The great thing about Shear Madness is that the script changes frequently, and because it's part-improv it's never quite the same twice. I won't give away the ending, but the audience really does control some of the action, which is truly enjoyable. I saw the play once before when I was in Washington, D.C., and in my humble opinion Boston's version was much better. :)

After the show we all got some amazing ice cream from J.P. Licks, conveniently located right by the Hynes T station. I got a cone of Oreo, and it was hands-down one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten. Back on campus, I first ended up hanging out with some DME kids in their Baker quad. Then a couple other DME'ers wanted to see Simmons, so I took them up to my room and we ended up talking for over an hour.

Oh yeah, before I forget, remember that I mentioned people in trees? Basically, there was this amazing tree in the courtyard on Georges Island that four different people spontaneously decided to climb. And it wasn't an easy tree to get into, either. Although I would have loved to join my friends in celebrating our simian ancestry, I decided my interests would be best put to use if I stayed safe on the ground took some pictures.

Here's Jake, one of the most skilled tree-climbers in this part of Boston:

Diandra '11 smiles for the camera:

Counselor Dan '09 jumps up onto a low-lying limb:

There's been so much crazy stuff going these past few days, I can't believe tomorrow is actually Friday!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Welcome to MIT

It is currently just past two in the morning, and I could not be happier.

In the past twenty-four hours alone, I have soldered a robot's motors, visited Georges Island, played Ultimate and wiffleball, wandered through the Prudential Center Mall, eaten at the Cheesecake Factory, walked along the Charles, roamed through Boston Commons, and taken the T twice. I've also slept a little.

Typical life at MIT? Not sure yet, but so far it feels amazing.

I have plenty more to say, but being in DME is practically a full-time occupation, so it may be another day or two before you see me. However, be on the lookout for pictures of robots, Simmons, and people in trees. Yes, I really said people in trees. It'll make sense later, I promise.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

OMG BOSTON! First post!!1!1!

Hey again all, wanted to let you know I'm safe and sound Boston. I'm sure you were all very worried my plane was going to crash and burn, but fortunately that did not happen and I'm just fine. :D

On a more serious note, right now I'm in my hotel and the view simply is amazing. I can see the Great Dome, the Green Building, the Stata Center, the Charles, and (of course) the infamous Citgo sign. Not to mention quite a bit of, you know, the actual city of Boston. :)

I didn't get much accomplished today because I got in so late, but my dad and I still did quite a bit of walking around campus. Not only did we have dinner in the Student Center (mm, Anna's burritos...they remind me of CPW), we also went over to Simmons where I got my room key! I am that much closer to being an actual MIT student! Also, for the record, my room is gigantic, or at least it feels that way, which is definitely a plus. :)

More fun posts to come soon!

He said, I think I’ll go to Boston...

Hey guys, just a quick blog to say I am officially on my way to Boston.

It’s both amazingly crazy and wickedly exciting at the same time, but it’s the excitement I’d like to focus on for the time being. No more ridiculously emotional/melodramatic posts like last night’s breakdown, I promise. :)

For the record, though, I did indeed cry a little saying goodbye to my mom and my sisters earlier this afternoon. It was bound to happen.

Random interjection: sticklers for Augustana will notice that I'm misquoting their song slightly, because technically the lyrics go she said and not he said...but cut me some slack, okay? ;)

Back to the point, I’m currently at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, and my dad and I should be boarding in half an hour or so. My dad’s kind of confused that I’m blogging this, but he says hi anyway. Sadly, the weather is terrible - torrential downpour, basically - so our flight’s been delayed. Hopefully the airline gods will smile on us and we’ll get in at a relatively decent hour. Either way, looks like moving-in is probably going to have to wait until tomorrow. Another day, another adventure, right?

To all my fellow ‘11s, see you soon in Boston and MIT!

Closing Time

Remember how I said saying goodbye to friends really sucks? Saying goodbye to family is much, much worse. Lots of tears in my house today. And I haven't even left yet.

This is probably my last entry from South Bend, by the way. Tomorrow, I get on a plane to Boston, and...and that's it.

This is the moment, then. Tomorrow - things are going to change, and keep on changing. And I'll change with them. For the better, I hope.

Tomorrow. Once, I thought it couldn't come fast enough. Now I'm afraid it's coming too soon. And the only thing I can do is meet it head-on, and maybe try to crack a smile through the tears. Yes, I said tears. I wish I could say I'm not going to cry tomorrow. But I know I will. Angst-ridden as that may sound.

I thought I would have more to say. But somehow, I think I've already said everything that really matters.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Rankings, matches, and what really matters

US News & World Report - America's Best Colleges 2008

Hey guys, looks like I made the wrong choice with MIT. Guess I should have gone to Stanford instead. Is it too late for me to switch?


No offense to any of my Stanford friends or Stanford hopefuls, by the way - I still love that school, and I feel incredibly lucky to have been offered admission there. But when it comes to colleges, I firmly believe that rankings like these really can't tell the whole picture. Sure, the rankings are fairly accurate, and they're a good tool for figuring out where to apply. But what matters in the end is how the school fits you - and for me, I simply knew that I fit more at MIT than Stanford. Other people may be the opposite, and that's perfectly fine by me.

What it boils down to is this: If you're lucky enough to get into several great schools, pick the school that matches you, not what some magazine says is "better." For all you guys who still haven't figured out where you want to go, especially the '12s, trust me on this one: when you've found your match, you'll know.

That said, I am mildly annoyed that MIT somehow dropped from tied for 4th to 7th - call it beaver pride, I guess. But I doubt it'll seriously affect the number of applicants for next year, especially because everyone knows MIT is awesome, regardless of what US News says. ;)

You say you want a revolution

Thanks to the unexpected addition of the HASS-D lottery results to my Freshman Advising Folder, I'm taking yet another break from my regularly scheduled packing to talk about my planned schedule for my fall semester. Which, incidentally, begins in less than two weeks. *boggle*

Disclaimer: Lots of numbers up ahead, which will probably make very little sense to you if you're not an MIT student. Also, I haven't really picked my classes yet, so nothing is set in stone - except for the last two courses because I've already lotteried into them.

Anyway, with no further ado, here's my projected schedule - with bullet points! Because I'm cool like that, yo.
  • 18.02 - Calc II (Multi-variable)
    • AP credit for the win. I doubt I'll take 18.022, especially if I take 8.012, but that's still a possibility. I ever so briefly considered doing 18.01A/18.02A to get Mattuck, but that's sort of a lousy reason to take a less-advanced class and I'm anxious for something new.
  • 8.01(2) - Physics I
    • I really want to take 8.012, not 8.01, because I've had a pretty solid background in physics from high school and I think I'd be able to handle a more advanced course. I'm not so sure about the whole "TEAL" thing 8.01 features, but hey, it could be fun.
  • 3.091/5.111/5.112 - Something Chem-y
    • Really, no clue what I'll be taking here. I'm drawn to 3.091 because I've been wanting to explore Course 3 anyway...but Chemistry was the first class I truly loved in high school, so I think 5.111/5.112 might be a better match for me in that regard.
  • 21H.001 - How to Stage a Revolution
    • Super excited about this course! This is my HASS-D/CI-H for the first semester, and I am stoked. Really, the course's name says it all - and what a fantastic name it is. I've always enjoyed history, but I'm more the kind of person who enjoys figuring out the "stories" or themes that tie different periods together (as opposed to blindly memorizing facts and dates), so I think this course is going to be right up my alley.
  • 16.A47 - The Engineer of 2020
    • My advising seminar, which I just learned I got into last Friday. I am pumped that I got this class. I could probably keep gushing, but this post is already obnoxiously long, so if you're interested you can just go here.
And all that adds up to 54 credits of Pass/No Record goodness.

Now, back to packing. Whee...

Mostly pointless

So for some reason Firefox is having a mental breakdown, and completely refuses to run Facebook properly. How could you do this to me, Firefox? Haven't I always been there for you? Wasn't installing you practically the first thing I did on my new computer? Wasn't it? WASN'T IT?

Meanwhile, in a spectacular piece of irony, IE7 displays Facebook perfectly.

Occasionally I hate my life. Or my computer. Or Firefox. Or all three.

Because the theme of this entry is pointless comments, here's a total OMG moment: High School Musical 2 premieres tonight! Will YOU be watching?

In other news, I've been saying goodbye to old friends and I won't even try to talk about that. Some can't really talk about, not honestly anyway; not on this sort of blog. So instead you just laugh at them, or bury them in a private part of your mind, but they're still there. And it's going to take time for me to move on. But I realized last night that saying goodbye isn't the end.

It's really just another beginning.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Letting Go

Four days.

Four days left in South Bend. Four days before I head out to Boston.

For days before I leave everything behind and start it all over.

I've been waiting for this for so long, but it's always been one degree removed, a far-away dream of a distant world. It was always just "next year" to me - that was how my friends and I talked about it, what my relatives and my parents' friends said when they wished me luck. But suddenly "next year" has become "next week," and it still doesn't seem real to me. But the suitcases on my floor are proof.

I'm leaving.

Really, finally leaving.

It's not that I don't want to. It's just that I didn't realize until today how much I love South Bend. For the past eighteen years, I've always treated the city with a kind of casual disregard, an arrogant flippancy. Yes, it's small; yes, maybe we're kind of in the middle of nowhere out here. But it's still my city. The places I've claimed as my own, the memories I've made with my friends - the concerts at the Morris, Thursdays at BW3's. The Barnes and Noble on Grape I have always loved. The volleyball courts at Notre Dame. That one building Alan showed me downtown. The motorcycle shop on Lincoln Way. My friends' houses.

It's hard to let all that go.

There'll be other stores in Boston and Cambridge, I know. Other places to find, to claim, just like all the others have before me. Other friends - many, many friends. And I'm pretty sure that it won't be long before I stop really missing South Bend.

But I'll still remember. I'll never forget where I came from - and it's good to know that it'll always be here. Things are going to change. It wouldn't be right if they didn't. But I know that, no matter what happens here, whether I come back for a year or just a few days, South Bend will always be my home.

A lot can happen in four days.

I'm going to make the best of them.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Austin and Boston and MIT, oh my!

So something funny happened today - not a ha-ha funny, more of a "that's interesting" funny. I won't get into the details, but basically, a few hours ago I found out that I won this writing contest, a contest I had no idea I could possibly win. Obviously, I'm thrilled.

Well, sort of.

The reason I'm not completely thrilled is that the grand prize includes a trip to Austin, Texas, for a celebration party.

Normally, this would not be an issue. Except the party is being thrown on Wednesday, September 5 - the first day of classes at MIT. A day I would never miss.

So I did what any good MIT engineer-in-training would do, and I turned the trip down. I understand they'll give it to the second place winner instead, who hopefully will be able to appreciate it more than I can. I'm not that upset, I guess. I mean, I still won, which feels fantastic, even if I won't get the prize and no one besides my family will know. And giving up the trip doesn't seem like such a sacrifice either, because how can you sacrifice something you never really had to begin with? I'm not sure if that makes sense, but hopefully you know what I mean.

All the same, it is a little depressing. Emotion defies logic, sometimes. That's sort of the definition of emotion, isn't it? a few days I don't think I'm really going to care about that trip to Austin anyway. The reason I know this is that in precisely six days I'm going to be at MIT...and hopefully I won't want to leave anyway.

Assuming I survive, that is. :)