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. ;)