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MIT staff blogger Ben Jones

App Reading In The Western ‘Burbs by Ben Jones

The little towns west of Cambridge are filled with history and charm, and are surprisingly accessible from MIT.

I have been reading applications for 5 days in a row. Well, I took Thursday off (it was a holiday for MIT people). But Weds, Fri, Sat, and now Sunday. One would think I’d be efficient at it by now, but I’m still painfully SLOW. I was reading Matt’s latest entry where he talks about the 30-minute read. Actually, pretty much every reader in the office can pull off the 30-minute read, except for the new guy (that’s me). My average is still about an hour per app, sometimes more.

They tell me not to worry – that I’ll get faster with experience. I wish Matt would offer a seminar though. He’s been doing it forever and he’s amazing. He’ll look at files that it’s taken me an hour to summarize and pull out all of the meaningful stuff in 10 minutes. Plus he can do it in the middle of the Diesel Cafe. I want to be that cool. Perhaps someday I will be.

In the meantime, I read applications at my house, in the middle of the woods. I used to live within walking distance of MIT, but then I got old and traded the excitement of the city for peace, quiet, and space. Often I miss living in the city, but the woods are really perfect for the two main components of my job: reading and writing.

Matt, Mitra and Allison have all commented in their blogs about the recent snowfall. Here’s what I saw through my window on Friday as I read your applications:

#1 | #2

Cool, huh? I love it out here. And it’s not just about having nice things to look at – the little towns west of Cambridge are filled with history and charm, and are surprisingly accessible from MIT. Just hop on the commuter rail on a Saturday or a Sunday and do some exploring (you can easily get to the commuter rail from campus via the red line – just go a few stops from Kendall/MIT to Porter). Getting off campus and out of the city for an afternoon really does get rid of stress!

One of my favorite towns is Concord. Walden Pond (where Thoreau lived and wrote much of his famous work) just might be my favorite place on earth – in the warmer seasons you can hike & swim there; in the fall, the foliage is breathtaking. It’s also a great place for a date. :-) Sleepy Hollow is a cemetery in Concord where many famous authors are buried: Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne, Alcott. You can rent a canoe from the South Bridge Boat House and cruise along the Concord River past the Old North Bridge (where the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired), Minute Man National Historic Park, and the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. Or just get some homemade ice cream and check out some 300-year-old architecture near the center of town.

Okay, enough procrastination. I must return to reading apps. Hope you all are having a great weekend.


17 responses to “App Reading In The Western ‘Burbs”

  1. Sean says:

    Great snow pictures, and information on the not-so-urban areas of the state smile

    Glad to hear “the new guy” is pulling his weight, I hope our applications read well.

  2. Ben says:

    Thanks Sean, glad you liked the pics! I can honestly say that the applications I’ve read thus far read incredibly well – too well, in fact, as I get totally absorbed in them and thus my reading rate isn’t so cool at the moment. But I’m sure enjoying the reads!

  3. Phinty says:

    I read about Walden Pond a few days ago when we were learning about Transcendentalism in my history class! I’m still a junior but… OK. Nice blog!

  4. Chris says:

    Wow! Your snow pictures are beautiful, especially while I am still battling the subtropical heat in summer attire in out here in Taiwan.

    Thanks for talking about the cool places near Cambridge. Good luck with the reading.

  5. kiersten says:

    All of this snow talk got me thinking about snowboarding, you talked about being able to get out of the city into the country, does this country include places to snowboard? ADIOS!

  6. Ben says:

    Hey folks,

    Thanks for the feedback – glad everyone likes the pics.

    Phinty – the birthplace of transcendentalism is only about 20 miles from MIT – awesome that you’re learning about it in HS – I didn’t discover it until college. Those guys were pretty cool. grin

    Chris – I am jealous. grin I love the snow, but winter came a bit early this year – I could use a few more days of summer.

    Kiersten – not many places that I know of this close to MIT for snowboarding. The drummer in my band is obsessed though, and goes up north every single weekend from pretty much now through April. Apparently it’s not too expensive if you buy a season pass, and there are a bunch of great mountains within a couple of hours. I don’t think you could rely on public transportation to get there though, unfortunately.

  7. Sean says:

    Hey Ben,

    Do you think you can rig up a system to let us get to the comments easier? Or make the window bigger, it seems to feel weird. Although, it is different and that is a plus. Go Ben!

  8. I did Women’s Technology Program at MIT this summer and we were going to go to Walden Pond, but that never worked out so we went to the beach instead (I’m not complaining). I never really thought that MIT or MA would be anywhere near a good beach at all, but I was pleasantly suprised! Have fun reading all of our applications and if you end up reading mine, I really hope it was worth your hour!!!

  9. Lynn Kuhns says:

    Nice site; great to be able to use MyMIT… you had snow?! Wisconsin is jealous….also neat to hear of Waldon’s 150th anniversary. (I can’t say sesquicentennial, much less spell it)… enjoy your fine part of the country and important job!

  10. Heh, it is also the reason I love MIT so much, but that’s a spiel for another time. Look for a post regarding my hatred of the American public education system (or the majority of it) soon at a blog near you. A lot of it has to do with memorization and how the SAT’s don’t actually measure intelligence or aptitude, etc etc.


  11. Jordan says:

    Hey, stumbled across and got around to reading your blog finally – nothing like picking the brain of another academic site architect/developer/designer ( it’s fun doing CMS-based stuff, you can name yourself head of Everything). But on topic, what are you guys using as a backend to MyMIT in terms of the nitty-gritty? I’d love to hear what MIT (or Ben Jones acting as agent of MIT in this case) chose to represent itself to the applying world!

    I use Plone ( personally, and I have yet to stumble across anyone that does – there’s a lot of .NET used around the various servers…has admissions gone to the dark side?

  12. Ben says:

    Sean – per your request, here’s a bigger window for the comments – hope this is better!

    Jordan – I’m the content/front-end guy around here. Quinton ( is the CMS/software architect – he’d be a much better resource for technical questions. wink Our system is fairly customized in-house – and no worries, it doesn’t utilize any M$ products.

  13. Sean says:

    Ben…You Rock!

    I’m glad to see that my little pre-frosh comments were taken to heart smile

  14. Jordan:

    Judging from some of Q’s previous posts I’d assume they’re using Tomcat and JSP, along with the Struts 1.1 Framework, all running on UNIX-based servers. I could very well be wrong, but that would be my guess. I would also think that it is all custom-built from scratch.


  15. Ben, I noticed that you said you in a band. I was wondering what type of music you play… I’m pretty into music myself except I lack the musical talent, so I DJ… Anyway, thanks!

  16. We miss you Ben – looking forward to your next blog update … wink

  17. Ben says:

    Note: on 1/26/05 I migrated this site to a new publishing system, using Movable Type as the backend CMS. Though the comments were preserved, I had to manually move them over, and there was no way to preserve the dates on which the comments were originally posted. That’s why they’re all logged on 1/26 or 1/27, even though many of them were posted earlier. Sorry for the inconvenience! Comment dates will be correct moving forward.