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?