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MIT student blogger Yan Z. '12

A Day in the Life: Weekend Edition by Yan Z. '12

80% more fun and 800% more apples in one serving!

Some days begin with ballistic alarms and spilled coffee and calculus homework. Some days begin with silence.

I woke up on Sunday morning, a translucent silence filling the room. Dawn-ish grey light hung on the ceiling tiles, and I laid in bed and watched for a while.

Some mornings also begin with ringing alarm clocks, I thought, which seemed hilarious because this was not one of those mornings. This was a curious morning indeed. I thought about the word indeed for a while too, and then I leisurely reached for my cell phone and it was 8:11 AM and I had set my alarm for 7:15 because the MIT concert band was leaving for a gig in Harvard, MA in EXACTLY FOUR MINUTES FROM NOW.

Some days begin with scrambled eggs. Some days begin with scramble.

Flustered details aside, I skidded onto main campus just as the last car was pulling away, crammed my instruments (flute + piccolo) below the seat in front of me just the way I was taught by countless airline stewardesses, and went back to sleep. In my dreams, I congratulated myself on my good fortune and promised to blog about this.

[A bit of background info: The MIT Concert Band is a student organization, as opposed to a performance group that students can join for credit (such as the MIT Symphony Orchestra). We rehearse twice a week and accept people at any time, which is nice because a huge percentage of MIT students were active musicians in high school. No auditions are required. Much fun and friendliness are enjoyed in liberal amounts.]

It just so happened that we were playing in the verdant lap of mother nature today, surrounded by fresh green grass and sprightly trees and vendors selling highly processed foods at the Harvard Fall Festival (not in any way related to Hahvahd University). Thanks to a raging downpour, the audience bordered on nonexistent. Nonetheless, the guy cooking hot dogs 10 meters away will tell you that the MIT concert band sounded great and undeniably better than Harvard University’s band, which was so intimidated that it didn’t show up at all. Class of ’13, remember this when you’re deciding between colleges next March.

It was hard to leave the festival. I mean this literally, as this is what happened to the car wheels:
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Fortunately, a cheery man pulled up in a red tractor, hooked a cable onto the back of our car, and calmly unstuck our vehicle from the Harvard fair grounds.
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I just realized that this picture looks exactly like a problem in every introductory mechanics textbook known to studentkind. Rachel ’10 (pictured above), who was no doubt trying to calculate the tension in the cable, deserves a special mention here: she plays flute/piccolo in practically every student musical organization on campus, in addition to carrying out the standard functions programmed into MIT students. Like math and stuff.

Of course, we got stuck again as soon as we were detractored. However, I think it’s time to move on to the next segment of this story . . .

As many of you no doubt have heard, one of MIT’s favorite phrases is “Work hard, play hard.” A little-known variation is, “Get your car stuck in mud, go apple picking!” Let’s ignore the fact that this makes no sense and instead consider that:

1)Harvard, MA is locally famous for its apple orchards.
2)Fruit tastes good.

So I’m sure you’ve all seen the following depiction of Isaac Newton reposing beneath an apple tree, which flaunts one of the most egregious lies in all of scientific history.

You guessed it, I’m referring to the fact that this picture would lead you to think that apple picking involves scaling tree trunks as great in heighth and breadth as, well, Isaac Newton. In reality, apple trees look a lot more like Napoleon, but skinnier and with a lot of branches and leaves.
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Phil, the eponymous owner of Phil’s Orchards, was well-acquainted with the MIT Concert Band, which clearly affirms that MIT’s concert band is famous. After all, Phil is practically the best cider maker in all of New England, according to the sign outside his gate.
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And so I proceeded to stuff half a peck of apples into a plastic bag and another four dozen pecks or so down my esophagus. Rainwater, while not comparable to McCormickwater, tastes pretty good on apples.
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Although Random Hall is a stone’s throw away from two (2) well-stocked grocery stores, the sight of living, photosynthesizing peach trees still fills me with bubbles of frucose-anticipating joy. So unless you’re on the cross-country team, Phil’s peaches are well worth the potential ankle injuries involved in descending this mud-slicked slope.
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On our way out, we were distracted for a full 20 minutes by Phil’s cider-making process, in which mushed apples were juiced under a huge amount of pressure. This, dear reader, is why I love the freshman first semester pass/no record system at MIT: the freedom to pursue happiness in the form of watching cider drip down a cider-making thing.
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Also, a lady stopped by while walking her llama.
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Here, the llama anoints the head of an apple-picking bystander.
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It was a fruitful day.
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I got back to Random Hall at around 15:00, consumed cereal (MIT’s favorite all-purpose food), and napped for two hours. Ordinarily, my Sunday routine involves foraging for free food events during the early evening, but I decided to exercise my culinary prowess tonight by boiling eight frozen dumplings and adding the leftover water to a miso soup paste with dehydrated vegetables. Dinner turned out scrumptiously, and I was rather delighted with my self-sufficiency until I realized that every single ingredient was either taken from Random’s community food supply (water, soy sauce) or claimed from anonymous previous residents who bought food that they never ate (seaweed, tamarind chutney, dumplings, miso paste and toppings).

Emeril I am not, but I did manage to complete an entire Mastering Physics set while simultaneously boiling water (like, four whole cups of it).

And then I remembered that today was the Chinese Moon Festival. I like the moon as much as anyone else, so Katelyn ’12 and I hurried ourselves over to a snacks-and-Shaolin-Soccer-filled celebration hosted by the Association of Taiwanese Students at MIT.

ATS seemed to be more active on campus than any of the other Asian cultural student organizations, so I shelled out a whopping 5 bucks for a membership. Taiwanese nationality is by no means required to join ATS, by the way. All you need is an appetite for blindingly colorful and/or geometrically-regular food.
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Speaking of which, ATS deserves a gold star for its dedication to dispensing free food. Their last meeting had a rapturous array of homemade dim sum dishes, which more than compensated for the karaoke in the background. I say this not lightly.

Events are open to everyone at MIT, so there’s a lot of potential for mingling. Most student organizations at MIT enthusiastically welcome newcomers of all backgrounds and expend a lot of energy to attract the volatile attentions of freshmen. Essentially, this translates into more free giveaways than can fit in a single dorm-provided desk, a deluge of snacks at the Activities Fair and similar events, and an overwhelming display of posters in the Infinite Corridor.
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So by this point, all the potential freshmen reading this are probably worried that nobody at MIT ever studies. Fear not! Katelyn and I left the party early and trudged over to Hayden Library, where we studied and did problem sets until 11:30 PM. My eyes felt partially liquefied after 3.5 hours of reading, so I stood around and stared into the empty depths of the Infinite Corridor while some unseen force rotated the walls. It didn’t show up on film though, so you’ll have to take my word.
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I got home and blogged and slept. 3 AM and I are becoming close friends.

Moral of the story: Get your recommended daily servings of fruit and student organizations.

33 responses to “A Day in the Life: Weekend Edition”

  1. Alex says:

    Sounds like you had a lot of fun. I’ve never been apple picking (no apple’s here in Puerto Rico :() but I’ve picked starfruit, guava, passion fruit, oranges, etc. Those apples look yummy by the way.


  2. Pin-Wen says:

    awesome!!!…i want to join ATS…our at-home chinese moon festival wasnt have “festive” :(

  3. Nifer says:

    Think the soup would have tasted better if you added the apples?

  4. Ehsan says:

    Amazing Photography!

  5. Yan Z. says:

    @Banerjee: Llamas are a popular form of alternative transportation in areas near Boston, where driving is considered a crude and primitive means of locomotion. You’ll get from MIT to Chinatown in Boston much faster by llama than by car.

    In all seriousness, this woman was walking her llama down the road and stopped by Phil’s Apples on her way to Petsmart or whatever (I’m just hypothesizing here). Judging from Phil’s lack of reaction, this seems to be a regular occurrence.

    @ Ahana: Yes! I was going to use that line as my subtitle, but alas, I thought of it an hour too late.

    I’ll just save the references to Good Will Hunting for a post about MIT’s custodial staff, which may or may not ever be written.

  6. Stacy says:

    I am going to enjoy your blogs because of your beautiful writings and pictures!

    Those apples look delicious but that story on how early you woke up was crazy.

  7. yum says:

    Hooray for pummelo! You’re making me hungry.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Haha that was a fun entry. =)

  9. wolfcon says:

    yan i love your camera. 4 minute dress good job!

  10. Anon says:

    Your blog posts are made of awesome. (:
    And apples.
    The ATS sounds like the Indian student organization at my school, whose board is only about half-Indian, minus the heaps of free food. Plus, Indian food is generally not geometrically regular.

  11. An says:

    I’m in ur blog drooling on ur applez

  12. Yan Z. says:

    @ Nifer: I think I had apple soup once, but only because I failed at making applesauce.

    @ Ehsan: My camera gives you thanks.

    @ Yum: Hunger is a major part of the MIT freshman experience, so I guess I’ve done my job. Orientation conditions you to be hungry at all hours of the day in order to maximize the amount of fun you can have in a single week. I and most of my friends are still experiencing the side effects –


    Case in point. End of comment.

  13. Yan Z. says:

    (I’m back)

    @ Chris: Yeah . . . apples.

    @ Anon: Indian food is just geometrically delicious, as opposed to arithmetically delicious. Which means absolutely nothing except that I could use some curry right now.

  14. sidd says:

    a fun filled sustantial you had… and it was an awesome blog with beautiful photography….

  15. Deane Thomas says:

    YAN… we miss you. I am going to try to share this with Metro at large. However, you know that I am feeble with computers. Sooooo Who knows.
    MIT is visiting again. Hooray. Who from your class should apply.
    I am sending your envelope Fast.

  16. Oasis '11 says:

    You have the honor of getting the most profound comment I’ve left on MIT blogs in my 3 years here. wink

  17. Banerjee says:

    You had an unusually eventful (“fruitful” as you called it) weekend!!

    But did you really see a llama in MA? It just doesn’t make sense.

    I think you should really carry a camera around everywhere. If all of your weekends were this interesting, we should be very entertained.

  18. Helen says:

    Wow, you take great pictures. smile
    Love the one with the pinkish apple.

    Llamas are awesome.

  19. Ahana says:

    ‘You like apples?’
    ‘How do you like them apples!!!’

  20. penguineyed says:

    Cool you play the flute/piccolo! :D

    This is kind of random (pun not intended) but you look awfully like a senior of mine who used to play the same instruments haha.

    MIT Concert Band sounds cool!

    P.S. I play the alto/bass clarinet. raspberry

  21. Ivan says:

    The cider making process is called scratting(this is a word) and pressing.

    You write very well, I like how the biology terms seem to, by osmosis, appear in your blog.

    How many times have you performed with MIT’s concert band?

  22. That’s a lot to read, too much for my near illiteracy. But it sure seems fun from the images of pomegranates!

  23. deng says:

    I am seriously thirsting for apples right now.
    and star fruit
    and chinese grapefruit

    btw, your post sounds somewhat like the great gatsby… the sense of vagueness and lack of transitioning, haha.

  24. Web Design says:

    I just came across your blog about and wanted to drop you a note telling you how impressed I was with the information you have posted here. I have a site and it’s about web design so I know what I’m talking about when I say your site is top-notch! Keep up the great work, you are providing a great resource on the Internet here!

  25. Christine says:

    I am from Harvard and have lived here for almost 24 years. You have portreyed the town very well and I especially enjoyed the section about my uncle’s apple orchard.

  26. Anonymous says:

    ha ha ha
    Yan, you constantly crack me up. Seriously, I know that a day darkened by studies and tests can be brightened by the reading of a “Yan post.” It’s like a magical cure. Keep workin’ that magic! And apple soup is suprisingly good…actually.

  27. han says:

    Wow… the food… that looks like Moon cake

  28. Yan Z. says:

    @ Ivan:
    This was actually my first concert with the MIT Concert Band. I’m a freshmen right now, and I wasn’t quite famous enough as a high school musician for the band to fly me out to Cambridge for last year’s concerts. However, if you’re interested in learning more about the band, I can talk to some senior members for you.

    @ obsesechicken13:
    If those were pomegranates*, then I’m never getting out of Hell**.

    *Mythological allusion
    **Hell = a loving nickname for MIT.

    @ Web Design:
    Thanks! Although I really had nothing to do with the formatting of this page. Some people in the MIT admissions office did all the magic computer work.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I am also a Chinese. I’ve already sent you an email.Maybe you can do me a favour. Thanks a lot…MSN:[email protected]

  30. Anonymous says:

    You are pretty much the best blogger ever.

  31. faizaafatima says:

    stuffs like these make MIT sound a lot cooler than it actually is :p
    i’ve been learning piano for the last 3 yrs, is it okay for me to put this on my app.?

  32. Anonymous says:

    Stop! Stop with the delicious close-ups on food!