Skip to content ↓
MIT student blogger Yan Z. '12

Day in the Life by Yan Z. '12

A photographic biography of a Friday

While cruising down Facebook Blvd. the other night, The Virtual Representation of Yan ran into The Virtual Representation of Katelyn ’12, who, incidentally, also happens to exist outside of cyberspace sometimes. Anyway, Katelyn slept for 2 hours and still had a headache at 10:54 pm, according to the unquestionable truths of Facebook status update. This was unacceptably tragic, especially at an institution where “sleep is like currency” (in the eternal words of Donald Guy ’12, who, unlike basically everyone else on MITblogs, appears to have been born with a last name). Sympathy flooded into my soul: ernestly did I remind Katelyn of our valuable Facebook friendship by reducing her life to a sinusoidal function.

Proof of Why Katelyn Has a Headache:
1. By Christian teaching, sloth is one of the seven cardinal sins.
2. Sleep is a member of the set . Therefore, sleep is a sin.
3. sleep(t) = sin(wt), where sleep is a function of time.
5. sin is a periodic function, so sleep is a periodic function also (as evidenced by the term, “sleep cycle”). Let the period T = 2 hours.
6. Sleep is directly related to health, so health(t) = ksin(wt)
7. Thus, after one period of 2h, health(t) returns to its initial value and Katelyn still has a headache.

Other news: I have at this point exhausted the bloggability of not being awake. The rest of this post will be about things I did yesterday in between (approximately) 284 naps.

10-11 AM was occupied by Eric Lander‘s last biology lecture of the semester. Only at MIT does one of the world’s most renowned researchers teach an introductory biology class while perched on a desk. (This is a brilliant lecture tactic, because sitting on a desk will make you appear far more approachable to students than the chair-sitters who teach at Harvard.) Professor Lander, I will fondly remember the desk in room 26-100 as well as the enormous intellect that sat on it.
mit 18 007

Next was 3.091: Introduction to Solid State Chemistry, whose lecturer is universally recognized for never sitting down, among other equally impressive achievements.
mit 18 009

Quoth Bill Gates: “Everybody should watch chemistry lectures — they’re far better than you think. Don Sadoway, MIT — best chemistry lessons everywhere. Unbelievable.” I’m using Windows right now, so the spirit of Bill Gates compels me to link you to the 2004 Open CourseWare version of the same lecture that I witnessed on Friday:

In the profoundly eloquent phraseology of a YouTube commenter: “the proffesor is just excellent never understood phase diagrams so well.” I couldn’t agree more, my silver-tongued comrade.

Friday’s lecture featured nonzero quantities of alcohol for the sake of scientific education.
mit 18 013

Because only at MIT is absinthe used to demonstrate the real-life relevance of binary phase diagrams. Look! It’s a clear liquid!
mit 18 011

Look again! It’s milky! To quench your curiosity:
mit 18 012

(Trivial trivia: Various informants have told me that the back of my head appears in all of the videotaped 2008 3.091 lectures since, like, the beginning of October. Some people just get all the fame.)

Later that afternoon, I continued to establish myself as a black hole of fame, from which limelight cannot escape. My name! On a chalkboard! In front of an almost-full Linguistics recitation class! At last, I have conquered my life’s goal: to be used as an example for proper research paper citation format.
mit 18 014

Also, our recitation leader baked us coconut and chocolate chip cookies. In a gloriously confusing moment, he passed around a Tupperware full of cookies and said “Today, I want to show you guys what I’ve been working on lately,” to which I thought, “Cookies??!!” It turns out that he was referring to his project in pronoun reference semantics, not pastry-making.
mit 18 015

On my way back to Random after class, I took a picture for the Internet. What else is new? Feast your eyes on one of the bazillion attention-frazzling bulletin boards wrapping the inside of the Infinite corridor like cheap Christmas gift wrap. I mean, economical gift wrap.
mit 18 016
(Bonus challenge: In the photo above, find Beethoven, a Course 6 class, free waffles, an MIT choir group, and one movie whose existence cannot be justified.)

A shade further along the corridor, velvety echoes of thick polyphony greeted the ear like a friendly Walmart employee. Except, MIT’s choirs are far more resonant and in-tune than any Walmart greeter that I have ever encountered, even in Texas.
mit 18 017
(Note the shadow of a wreath on the wall, a cherry plopped on Lobby 7’s holiday-themed sundae.)

The production of the photograph above made me miss the Walk signal on the crosswalk outside, so I ended up looking at the sunset for about 15 seconds more than I would otherwise. Life was short. Sunlight looks nice. Photographs last. The light changed to green and I sprinted across Massachusetts Avenue to Kresge.
mit 18 018

mit 18 020

After 10 minutes in meat-locker climes, my hands could have been a lecture demonstration in Solid State Chemistry. I returned to Random Hall in a numb state of iciness, or maybe an icy state of numbness, or maybe a stately numb of iciness, or maybe I should start a new sentence now. Manishika ’12 proceeded to come into my room and actively complain about the fact that my window was open while I assumed a fetal position on the carpet and withdrew into my overcoat. By “actively complain,” I mean “walk onto my desk in order to close the offending source of ventilation.”
mit 18 023

Eventually, Manishika detached herself from my desk and I took a nap while the temperature in my room escalated back to numbers that looked like my test scores in high school. Luckily, it became so unbearably warm that I awoke, just in time to steam inside a thermally-overachieving kitchen while cooking pasta for Random Hall’s dinner with Stu Schmill, MIT’s Dean of Admissions.
mit 18 024

Stu Schmill arrived promptly at 7 PM on Pecker floor, where he was greeted by a freshly-set table in an abandoned dining room.
mit 18 025

Actually, everyone just ducked under their chairs as soon as I pulled out a camera. Later, I caught them unawares.
mit 18 028

(Obligatory food picture)
mit 18 027

Speaking of food (sometimes, it feels like I do nothing but speak of food and write in parentheses), December is nightly desserts month at Random Hall! Here’s the deal: I’m making dessert for Random on Dec. 18th. Comment with your most brilliant dessertlike concoction (no recipe needed; we’ll figure it out), and perhaps you too will become famous. If I decide to make your dessert, I’ll post a picture of the results before it becomes entirely digested. You will also have my eternal gratitude, but the photo will last longer anyway.

Ok, one more of Kresge before I disappear for another week:
mit 18 022

58 responses to “Day in the Life”

  1. '12 says:

    Do you mean Lobby 7 in the caption of your picture of the wreath shadow (you wrote Lobby 10)?

  2. Dhvanit says:

    Superb pics, Yan ! Nice to see Mr. Stu Schmill after a long time..

  3. Andras Kiss says:

    If you want any of my recipes, just email me at andras20 *at*!

    Cheers and props!

  4. Yan says:

    @ June:
    Regarding the formal dress, it’s mostly just Sadoway who wears a suit to class.

    @ ’12:
    Thanks, it’s been fixed.

    Also, thanks to everyone who posted desserts. Pumpkin seems to be winning the ingredient popularity contest.

    (It’s snowing right now!)

  5. Lauren says:

    Yan, your blog is freaking amazing.

    Just sayin’.

    Yan, your blog is freaking amazing.

    Just sayin’.


  6. MIT is really awesome and even more awesome are its students.

  7. anonymous says:

    your pictures are beautiful..the photography club at my school would be jealous smile

  8. Love the photography blogs, especially the food. You post more zoom shots of food than anything, which leads me to believe that you are either obsessed with superb cuisine, or…well, actually I can’t think of any other reason. The first reason will do just fine.

  9. Cam says:

    Yan: MIT’s lecture halls are nicely photogenic, sometimes. Thanks for the photoblog, I enjoyed the pics. Esp. the sunset pics, it was gorgeous on Friday… I was unfortunately lacking in film, though, so didn’t end up getting to shoot it.

  10. Julia says:

    Boomba Yan! smile
    I like making Rice Krispies, but I melt caramels along with the marshmallows for a fun flavor. I also experiment with different flavor extracts, vanilla and maple are yum. It’s fun to melt chocolate (any variety of course), and drizzle on top of the result.

  11. Kristina says:

    I agree with the aforementioned suggestion of banana pudding. If not banana pudding, banana bread!

  12. Yan says:

    @ A student of physics who . . . etc.

    Thanks, I’d like to think that I have a healthy obsession with food, but the library of unpublished cuisine photos on my laptop reminds me otherwise.

    @ Cam:

    Duly noted. It’s cool that you use film.

  13. Cam says:

    @Yan: Oh, on another note, I just realized your face is on the front page 3 times. Snively’s twice. Other peoples’ once. So I guess you win the most-active-blogger award? Congrats!

    Also, I’m not exclusive with film; my digicam right now is an A720IS which I’m borrowing from the Edgerton Center… it’s okay, but film, esp. color slide film, blows it away (have you done any darkroom work? I think there was a post here about MIT’s darkrooms a long time ago, which was quite nice if you’re into film photography at all). Will maybe be getting to work with an EOS 40D later this month, hopefully, though :-D

    Since I’m in an extra-rambling mood, I leave you with this:

    That is all.

  14. Benjamin says:

    @Yan: Since it seems that you are the blogger food critic (or at least photographer), what do you have to say about the MIT food system in general. Maybe some pictures of the dining halls/dining hall foods are in order?

    I have heard some confusing information on the MIT food system/quality. What do you think about the food provided by MIT?

  15. Andras Kiss says:

    Desert ideas! W00t!

    Pumpkin Creme Brulee (I made this up and my friends request it every time)

    Grilled Pineapple with chocolate sauce and crushed walnuts

    Carrot Cake drizzled with a dark chocolate, orange, espresso (lots of flavors but it works, trust me) ganache

    What my friends and I call “God In a Bowl” aka a medley of double-stuff oreos, chocolate pudding, and cool whip.

    Just some ideas!

    P.S. As a photographer, I love reading your photo blogs, plus you just rock at that whole “humour” thing :D

  16. Yan says:

    @ Benjamin:

    At the last Random Hall dinner with Chris Colombo, the general consensus was that the campus dining system sucks. The food is fine, but it’s almost impossible to break even if you buy into the campus dining plan. The dorms that do have dining halls (McCormick, Next, Simmons, Baker) require that all residents subscribe to campus dining ($600 per semester to get 50% off purchases at any of the campus dining halls).

    Having said that, it’s easy to simply not live in a dorm with a campus dining plan. There’s plenty of other food options on campus (Subway, an Indian place, a few cafes, food trucks, etc.) as well as a dense stretch of restaurants just outside of campus on Massachusetts Avenue. Random Hall, for instance, is literally a block away from a grocery market, right next to two pizzerias, and within five minutes of basically every type of cuisine you could ever want (Irish, Indian, Chinese, pan-Asian, Vegan/vegetarian, etc.) and some that you don’t (McDonalds).

    Honestly, I have never once ventured into any of the campus dining halls. Admittedly, I survive mostly on free food from campus events and special dinners (there’s at least three a week). If you’re able to cook, Random Hall, Burton Conner, and French House are fantastically supportive. You will never starve.

    Bottom line: Quality of dining on campus depends largely on where you decide to live and whether you enjoy taking the effort to cook for yourself.

    @ Andras:

    Suggestions #2 and #3 sound mind-blowingly amazing.

  17. i love the pictures of kresge. so beautiful.

  18. Liz says:

    Oreo orbs!
    They’re a wonderful thing.

  19. SMB says:

    Pumpkin cheesecake or black bottom cupcakes, absolutely positively. If you use less than the recommended amount of cream cheese for the cheesecake, it gets deliciously light and fluffy. My sister made some Norwegian wedding cookies for a holiday party last night that were incredible as well. I have tons of recipes; let me know if you need some!

  20. SMB says:

    P.S. Kresge is beautiful. I played in MITSPO (Summer Philharmonic Orchestra) this summer and absolutely loved it.

  21. Narce says:

    Yaay, thanks for being the first after the gap of posts to update!

    And don’t stop writing about food =) That’s probably my favorite part of anyone’s blogs on here!

    Anyway, my favorite desserts are chocolate + banana pudding (mixed together or separated within the same tray; they just go great together) and oreo pizza (crushed oreos like what would go into a shake (so extremely crushed), on top of a layer of whatever type of cream you like, my personal choice being whipped cream (though that can get messy), on top of a sweetened pizza crust).

  22. Anonymous says:

    ahahahaha i love the sinusoidal function of sleep! your writing is so light, entertaining, and fun to read. i think i’m a little jealous =P hehe

    by the way, i need to buy a camera soon. what kind do you have? your pictures are gorgeous

  23. Hiral says:

    All the pics are cool and the last one is awesome.

  24. Oasis '11 says:

    Thanks for breaking the streak of FOUR DAYS WITHOUT BLOG on mitadmissions (which I think is a record – probably all the bloggers are ridiculously hosed and burrowed in a hole somewhere studying for finals).

    It’s funny how I think now I scan the blogs for new entries more religiously than I ever did in high school.

    And Lauren’s comment x2. smile

  25. Anonymous says:

    Of course the choir is none other than the MIT gospel choir! It’s an absolute joy to be apart of it.

  26. Banerjee says:

    There you go again with your awesome close-ups. Oh, and I found Mr. Bean on that photo!!!

    Nice post!!!

  27. Steph says:

    Nice pictures. They capture student life really well.

    As for desserts…banana pudding! I guess you can find it on the box of the Nabisco Nilla Wafers. My recipe consists of layered bananas and wafers topped with cook and serve chocolate pudding. Fast, simple, and awesome.

  28. Allie 2013? says:

    Go for pecan lace cookies, beautiful and delish, and perfect with a slice of brie and some grapes on top! Or make them really fancy and curl them over like a canoli shell and dip the ends in chocolate.

    My favorite recipe is the most simple ones. I’ve never tried making them with the oatmeal that alot of recipes called for.

    Make sure you post pictures of the dessert results.

  29. june says:

    I don’t necessarily know if this dessert is seasonal (seeing that a Californian winter is essentially no different than fall), my fav is pumpkin ice cream with chocolate and almonds. smile I don’t really know how ice cream compliments the freezing icy-hand-numbing weather, but it’s one of my favorite smile

    Hm, MIT professors all tend to dress very formally…and oh, the coconut chocolate-chip cookie/pastry joke left me in hysterics. :D

    Thanks again for an amazing post.

  30. Fiona says:

    Dessert? Chocolate cake of course! I looove The Pioneer Woman’s chocolate sheet cake with pecan frosting.

  31. sepideh says:

    I’m too obsessed with cooking and especially with pastry making and desserts, here you go alternatives:
    1.milk cakes (which are made from crusty cookies at the bottom and a fluffy top) with grilled pineapple
    2.almond icicles (is something really unique )
    3.of course carrot cake is wonderful with some sweet sauce with a little scent of banana and honey
    4.if you have milfoy dough or fillo dough available you can make some thing extraordinary delicious with a little baked apples wrapped in one of the dough above.

    btw your pics are very very fascinating

  32. Anonymous says:

    Yan, can I be your friend? smile

    Haha, but in all seriousness, I wish I could get into MIT. It seems duly amazing. I suppose once I go wherever college admissions leads me I’ll experience MIT vicariously through my smarter-than-thou colleagues and OpenCourseWare.

  33. Ruth '13? says:

    I find that the simplest desserts are often the best. Straight frosting is always a solid choice, or if you want something slightly less sweet, straight Nutella.

  34. Ryan says:

    I have a question; “If you’re able to cook, Random Hall, Burton Conner, and French House are fantastically supportive. You will never starve.”
    Do you know how well East Campus people eat? It seems you never go hungry at Random with all of the events you have and with all of the staff coming over to cook. However, it doesn’t look like there are a lot of free group meals at East Campus, just a bunch people crammed into small dorms building things.
    I do only read your blog though, so if EC people have talked about this topic I wouldn’t know.

  35. Yan says:

    @ Ruth:

    Hear, hear.

    @ Ryan:

    EC has kitchens and fridges. Beyond that, I’m not sure about the state of the cooking community. Having said that, there’s been free food at EC almost every time I’ve visited, so I wouldn’t say that Random Hall is abnormal in its frequency of free meals.

  36. Miriam says:

    did you go to MSA?

  37. Coleen says:

    @ Julia:
    I agree with the rice krispies, but you know what makes them even more delicious? Instead of using regular marshmallows to bond them, you use strawberry (shocking…I know), they happen to be quite tasty.

    I also like oreo truffles, peppermint and chocolate pinwheel cookies, and peanut butter snowballs for the holiday season. *I highly recommend the cookies*

  38. Cam says:

    Annie’s mac cheese with peas and ketchup. Delicious (seriously). Been eating this since I was a child.

    Sounds gross. If you don’t like the idea, try it without the ketchup first (just Annie’s + peas).

  39. Pranav Dave says:

    Excellent way of proving why Katelyn has a headache. I just hope the derivation has been stored in my memory as a sinusoidal function which keeps popping up; cause my head’s got a liking towards the function Memory(t)=9 – t^2, where ‘t’ is in days and Memory(t) has the unit days squared.

  40. manis404 says:

    I’ve always been curious what camera do you use. My guess is…several?

  41. @Ryan
    There actually isn’t all that much free food at Random compared to other dorms, it’s just that a lot of Randomites enjoy cooking and even more enjoy eating, so a lot of times cooking groups pop up or people organize events to make food together (this is where the dinner’s with faculty members came from, partly). I may be mistaken, though, but I am under the impression that many dorms have similar activities (although all the dorms tend to do their own things). So you probably don’t really have much to worry about, if you’re concerned about the food situation at places other than Random.

  42. Yan says:

    @ Miriam:

    Boomba! Yep, me and Julia (commenter above) both were MSA’ers.

    @ manis:

    I used a Canon Powershot G9 for all the photos except those in my first post (from a Canon Digital Ixus SD200 with a whopping 3.1 megapixels. That camera was stolen on my second day at MIT). The G9 is a point-and-shoot with an identity confusion disorder, because the quality is definitely in the DSLR range. It’s overloaded with features but just as easy to use as any regular point-and-shoot.

    Highly recommended, if you’re looking for a borderline DSLR camera.

  43. ak says:


    I am from India and I graduated from my 12th in June 2008 and have already joined a college,but I wish to restart at MIT as a freshman by giving TOEFL and 2 SAT2s in Jan2009.Is it alright.
    Reply soon!

  44. Geoffrey says:

    i believe the title from your post was taken from somewhere smile

    i read the news today (oh boy)
    about a lucky man who made the grade… etc. etc.

    i thoroughly enjoyed your proof of the headache. it made my day

  45. AK says:

    I have emailed my EC 3 times till now but he hasn’t replied yet.What should I do?Deadline’s on 10th Dec.
    Also,I completed my 12th grade in 2008(June) and have joined a college but I really wish to restart at MIT as a freshman in 2009(fall).Is it alright if I apply as a freshman?A

  46. CAPTCHA says:

    MSA? What’s that? The Mycological Society of America? Middle Stone Age? Damned disambiguation page!

  47. I would like to apply for MIT, I am a Chinese student ,If the applicants are living in China ,How he should interview 。How interview 。

    thank you .

  48. Lindsay says:

    Dude, that’s my leg and foot in the cookies picture. Who are you??

  49. sepideh says:

    if you’re going to try pumpkin, add a little cinnamon to it, it really creates a warm taste, good for winter:)

  50. Eric Joyner says:

    A lot goes on here everyday :o

    Is every day this packed and interesting?

    I guess for dessert, you could make alfajores. I tried making those for my AP Econ class with interesting results.

    If you look at pics they’re all a bit different, but it would be a fun adventure to make them look like the Havanna brand ones.

    Plus you get to boil a can of sweetened condensed milk for a few hours, constantly making sure the water level doesn’t go below the top of the can or it’ll explode. :p

  51. Eric Rhodes says:

    wow life at M.I.T seems great. I’m gonna try and get into this school, but that still counts on my grades hahaha, and you may be wondering why I’m talking about this is because well….I’m a freshman in High School still so I have a long ways to go so can anyone tell me about the school? Can someone somehow contact the author of this article for me? Any1 that wants to tell me about the school email me at [email protected], I’m hoping for some good answers thanks.(Long as hell response…longest one I’ve ever written in my life. XD)

  52. Eric Rhodes says:

    Oh and by the way the reason why I’m up so early is because I live in Japan.XD My dad is in the military so I live here with him smile.

  53. Ala says:

    I am an international applicant . My SAT1 was scheduled for 6th December but I received a letter from the college board saying it had been shifted to the next date which is in January. Unfortunately this was the date for my SAT 2, so that has been shifted as well. I am not sure if this will affect my application, as I applied for fall 2009. If it will affect my application, I would like to know if it is possible to defer my application to January 2010, or if it will be necessary for me to reapply? If there is someone else other than yourself I should direct this complaint to, could you please let me know or forward my concerns to the relevant authorities?

  54. Yan says:

    @ Kunaal:

    One of the best uses of trig. identities that I have ever mathematical, or otherwise.

    Ironically, Katelyn is moving in with me next semester.

  55. Kunaal says:

    I laughed at the Katelyn-headache-part- stopped laughing- scrolled back up and laughed again! (I still look like a doofus staring at the computer screen smiling like an idiot in the middle of a public library!
    Hope she doesn’t sleep on a bunk-bed- cuz then she’s gonna get baked (tanned)!
    (tan√ü)^2= (sin√ü)^2/(1-(sin√ü)^2) (I know it’s lame- but whatever!)

    Great post!

  56. MB says:

    Cute proof. Pretty Kresge photos. I’m sad I passed out of 7.012.