Sep 15, 2011
MIT, Part VII
Posted in: Academics & Research
A couple of weeks ago, it was too warm and humid to sleep, so I wandered down to one of MIT's many perpetually air-conditioned Athena clusters for my daily dose of midnight Haskell practice.
Instead, I bumped into Jeffrey'13 leading a cluster of frosh from his FPOP. As is wont to happen with frosh, questions were asked, and as is wont to happen with bloggers, blogs were...blogged to.
Frosh: Are you excited to be a senior? Will you miss MIT after graduating?
Me: Well, I'll miss MIT. I don't want to do a thesis...also, I'm not ready to be a real person right now.
I'll probably be ready to be a real person in a year. Many other nerds seem to have bridged the transition with a reasonably low rate of psychotic breakdown. But temporarily being a real person this summer -- living in an apartment instead of East Campus (I've spent all my previous summers interning around Cambridge), working over 40 hours a week, commuting and having to constantly travel around and make plans with people instead of retreating into the comfort of a thriving campus community, where everyone I know lives no more than half a densely populated mile away -- made me miss the ease of college life. It's a wonderful luxury to drop the pretenses once in a while, and revel in the fact that yes, you only have one class on Fridays, and you're going to spend the rest of the day doing anything you want, and your friends will probably accidentally bake you cupcakes and bump into you on your way to your favorite hipster coffee shop.
For the idly curious, a tentative overview (half of these classes will probably change by tomorrow) of my hard-hitting semester, which, seven days after the beginning of the semester, is beginning to bear down on me with all the grace of a steamroller (Mom, I'm joking, really):
6.170 - "Software Studio"
This incarnation of the infamous software lab, recently resurrected from the dead, is, I think, MIT's (or maybe just Daniel Jackson's) attempt to teach us actual industry skills. Modern software engineering is a messy world, with way too many languages, frameworks, and paradigms for any sane person to keep track of. In Jackson's own words: "There's always the temptation, when teaching a computer science class, to use a really nice language that isn't full of warts...but on the upside, me not doing that will make it easier for you to get jobs."
6.854 - Advanced Algorithms
Me: Haitao, didn't you already cover like half of this material in 851?
Haitao'12: Well, I've taken all the other algorithms classes, so, you know...might as well.
Prof. Karger: Hi everyone! The first pset is due on Wednesday. I've heard that my problem sets are hard, but...they're just so fun.
Jeff'12, who has been in practically all of my classes since freshman year: Why do we keep doing this thing where we get really excited about disgustingly hard classes for no reason?
Me: But it'll be so fun
Jeff: ...yeah, true
Moral: MIT students are all masochists.
Prof. Karger, on planar point location: "It helps if you think of two dimensions as one dimension plus another dimension. Deep, huh? [pause for audience laughter] But how can it be deep, we're only in two dimensions. [pause again for laughter] Anyways..."
Moral: MIT professors are bizarrely lovable.
21M.226 - Jazz
Another semester of Prof. Harvey's vast repository of jazz knowledge and uncannily deadpan jokes. "That's why jazz is considered an art form, because it sells so little, just kidding."
6.837 - Computer Graphics
Apparently this involves writing rendering algorithms in C++? I'm scared.
Then again, there's no way this can be as hard as junior fall.