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MIT blogger CJ Q. '23

day one, six out of eight by CJ Q. '23

am i doing too much?

09:35. i hobble out of bed and pour myself some milk. there’s a ridiculous amount of snow outside. i pull out some leftover pizza and walk to the kitchen to reheat it. i see some friends from hall.

“good morning, bestie!” said mike.

“good morning, bestie” i replied.

“you look tired.”

“got a long day ahead. mondays are stacked for me.”

after 99 seconds, i pull the pizza out of the microwave, and i walk back into my room to eat.

09:55. one of the nice things about living in east campus is that all the cs classes are so close. not by any stretch the best thing, but it’s nice to only start walking to class ten minutes before the start of the class. there’s still a ridiculous amount of snow.

view outside my window. lots of snow on the ground.

10:05. my first class is the lecture for 6.UAT oral communication. this is an unusual class because this is one out of only two in-person lectures, the other one being the last lecture.

well, that’s only one of the reasons it’s unusual. the bigger reason is that the class, despite being under our cs department, isn’t about cs at all. it’s about presentation skills. the first activity we did for the class was “introducing ourself” to our smartphone: we all recorded a thirty-second video with a self-introduction. professor eng, who led the lecture, put emphasis on having a hook, a reason for someone to ask you questions after your introduction.

that class, i learned that i was bad at taking videos of myself with my phone.

10:55. 6.UAT ended. the classroom was in 34-101, and my next thing was in 34-501, so i had a lot of time to get there. i head up to the third floor of building 34, which has some nice tables and couches, and recline on a seat while checking my messages. (for geographic reference, refer to how to find your way around mit.)

11:00. i head upstairs to 34-501 for 6.036 introduction to machine learning. after being a lab assistant, or la, for four semesters, i’m now an undergraduate teaching assistant, or uta. and being a uta is harder than being an la. not that it takes more hours a week, but the nature of the work is more… technical.

on top of that, 6.036 is also adopting a new format this semester. instead of having two lectures plus a lab section each week, these have been rolled into a single section that has a monday “lecrec” which is some hybrid between lecture and recitation, plus a wednesday lab. my section was from 11:00 to 12:30, and that first day, our instructor, professor kim, gave a short lecture.

12:30. lecrec ends. i see alan. we walk through stata to drop a covid test, then we walk to chipotle so alan could get lunch. chipotle was full, so we went to clover. alan got chickpea fritters. alan and i walk to his next lecture while he scarfs down his lunch.

13:00. i head back to my room, eat some lunch, and sneak in some stardew valley before my next class. have i told you how much stardew valley i’ve been playing recently? a lot. i’ve been playing a lot of stardew valley. it’s been two weeks and i’ve clocked 43 hours in the game. that’s a lot of stardew valley. it paid off because during my 6.UAT recitation the next day, in an activity where we had to find something in common with someone else, the person i talked to also played stardew valley!

13:55. i head to my next class, 6.905.

14:05. i have neglected the fact that the classroom was 35-225, and that i did not immediately know how to get to 35-225. in retrospect, i do know the shortest path to get there, but that day i forgot about it and decided to take a long route outside. this involved trudging through around ten cm of snow for around ten meters.

at least it’s pretty outside.

an outside walkway. lots of snow to the sides.

14:08. i arrive in the classroom. there are handouts in the front of the room that i neglect to pick up. the ta takes one, walks up to where i was seated, and hands one to me.

the class is 6.905 large-scale symbolic systems, but the professor likes to call it adventures in advanced symbolic programming. the instructor is professor sussman, perhaps best known for co-authoring the legendary structure and interpretation of computer programs, or sicp. and suitably so, the class is taught in scheme, which is a lisp dialect. there are in fact several lisp dialects, and the problem is, unlike (natural) language dialects, they are not mutually intelligible.

that class, i learned that professor sussman likes pictures of frogs.

14:30. forgive me, dear readers, for i have committed the grave sin of double-booking. whilst 6.905 is 14:00 to 15:00, i signed up for another class that was 14:30 to 16:00. my excuse is that this week is shopping week, so i’m probably going to keep at most one of these classes.

in any case, i felt deep shame as i scurried out the back door of 35-225, and made my way through the chain of third floors to make it to my next class, in 26-142. i was glad i did not have to go outside for this, as many of mit’s buildings are connected on the third floor.

14:35. i arrive for my next class, 24.910 advanced topics in linguistic analysis. i enter the room and recognize nearly everyone. many expected to see me, but i remember seeing the sheer surprise on shuli’s face as i walked in. was it that hard to believe that i was taking a linguistics class?

it’s a topics class, so the content changes every time it’s offered. this time, it’s a class explicitly about morphology, the subfield of linguistics that studies how words are formed. i learned how difficult it is to define what a “root word” is without being circular. you can’t just say “thing that prefixes or suffixes can attach to”, because then, how do you define prefixes or suffixes? parts that come before the root word… oh wait.

16:00. class ends. i head back to the third floor of building 34, and spend thirty minutes reading some class materials.

16:30. i head upstairs to 34-501, once again, for another 6.036 thing. this was for the weekly staff meeting that 6.036 has, where instructors, tas, and las all meet to discuss that week’s content. i got to meet the las who were in my section, and we went over the first lab.

a large room with several square tables.

18:00. i head back to my room and have a discord meeting with matthew, whom i work with in the educational studies program. we’re the publicity directors for esp this semester. so we spend our meeting sending some emails and talking about what we’re doing this semester.

19:30. i go to the weekly sipb meeting. typically the meeting happens in the sipb office, but it’s switched to a hybrid-leaning-virtual format, so i joined a zoom call.

19:40. the sipb meeting is adjourned. you can probably guess that not much was discussed. this gave me enough time to make dinner and eat it before my next thing.

20:00. another meeting, discord this time. this one was with teammate, the team that won the recent mystery hunt. the meeting was between some of their logistics people and the exec members of the mit puzzle club. we discuss some logistics of running the mystery hunt.

21:00. another meeting, this time, just between puzzle club exec. we discuss plans for the next few weeks, which includes electing new officers for the club. we draft an email. and then we spend the rest of the time talking about what we’re doing semester.

22:00. finally, all my commitments that day were over. i pour myself some more milk and join a voice call on a social discord server i’m in. someone was streaming a city-building simulation game. i play some stardew valley. i look at my tuesday schedule. then i go to sleep.

my sixth semester is off to a great start, huh?