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MIT student blogger Vincent A. '17

It’s been 3 weeks by Vincent A. '17

the firehose is still alive and kicking

It’s some ungodly hour of the day and I feel pretty tired. I’m probably one of the last few people awake, and will soon be crawling to my bed to hug my pillow. There’s something absolutely beautiful about pillows, isn’t there? They’re huge and squishy, and don’t squirm away if you hug them. Not sure if that last sentence was full of wisdom or just plain sad.

Anyway, three full weeks of the Spring Semester have sped away, three expectedly busy weeks. I’ve gotten sick for a brief period, seen hundreds of vines, turned in seven p-sets and two essays, played Cards Against Humanity, traveled, written stories and had my first midterm (the meaning of midterm is fatally lost on MIT). There’s a lot that happens, and I think I sunk a bit too deeply into the Institute these past few weeks—that is to say, I’ve been floating around in the bubble built around classes, my dorm and my frat, and it seems like I haven’t really seen much of anything else. I’m not jaded though—far from it. Classes this semester have been challenging as always, and my social circle has actually expanded, allowing me to meet some absolutely awesome people—Aritro I see you. My most fun p-set thus far has been with my programming class (6.00). We had to make a game of Hangman using Python. Thankfully, my roommate is also taking the class and we were able to test-run each other’s codes and see how well they work. This actually helped reveal a few glitches on both ends.

And speaking of debugging
Another kind of debugging had to take place, one that resulted in a poem that waxed philosophical about bodily fluids. Half of Alpha Delta Phi was down with the stomach bug in a matter of days. E-mail threads about “booked toilets” and an ultimate poetry contest on who could most eloquently describe the writhing, plopping sounds tearing through intestines reigned. But as bad as it was, it was also a chance to see brothers of the house at their best. Lots of volunteers brought in tons of food and water, helped the sick run errands (turning in p-sets and the like), prepared soup for everyone. It shouldn’t be too easy to forget that behind dark clouds lies the moon.

Writing
I know I haven’t blogged in a while (yes, yes, I feel the mass of your judgmental stares poking my back) but I’ve actually been writing a lot. In fact, in between classes and p-sets, it seems to be all I want to do, and at a higher frequency than I did last semester. The stories haven’t really changed their somewhat dark, gritty feel, but I think I’m also learning more about the kind of storyteller I want to be, the kind of storyteller I possibly could be.

High school was a period of full bloom for me. I had torrents of ideas, ranging from the asinine to the serviceable. They swirled around my head, people and events and timelines, snippets of universes waiting to be painted, and I just wanted to flood them out of my head and onto paper. So I did. I wrote often, filling roughly two thousand pages with fiction over a five-year timespan. This deluge of need and motivation was somewhat missing last semester. I still wrote—I had the blogs (for which I’m always grateful) and I had a bunch of stories, but the feeling wasn’t as overpowering as it used to be. But this makes sense right? It was my first semester here. I was trying to find my ground, trying to adjust to classes and a terrible, terrible, just plain cold and terrible new and refreshing climate. This semester, there’s been a lot more of that inspirational outpour, and I hope I do write more.These are excerpts from a bunch of old stories:

He jolted, sitting up straight at once, looking around. He saw the shape almost immediately, took three crawling steps backward and rose. Fifteen feet away stood Randolph Lander, Jason’s dad, slowly covering the distance between them. He held a flashlight in his right hand, its light pointed at Andy’s chest.

“What do you want?” snarled Andrew. “Stay away from me!”

 

“No,” she repeated weakly.

He reached for her one last time. She thought to slap him as his hands moved; so fast they moved she barely realized it.

A loud crack. His hands snapped her neck in one clean go. She was dead before she could move to slap, falling to the ground in a clumsy heap.

 

At that time of my life, my dad worked in a meatpacking plant (he always came home smelling of cattle blood and I didn’t like it). My mom and her friend worked as tailors near the clutter of strip malls. Aunt Martha often walked me to school—a twenty-minute walk that involved lots of long, grim alleyways and roads flanked by teetering ramshackle buildings. In particular, there was this path that branched off in two directions, one meeting a graffiti-heavy stone wall, the other cutting across a fenced field from which the walls of my school were visible. It was at the edge of this field Aunt Martha often left, hurrying back to look after Grandpa, and I began thinking of the branching alleyway that led to the field as the Valley of Death.
I got hit in the head; TWICE!
…at Bad Taste 2014. “Bad Taste” is the somewhat infamous no-holds-barred event put on by the Chorallaries every spring. It took place this past weekend in 26-100, one of MIT’s biggest lecture halls, and opened with a…flying piece of paper.

Actually, rolls. Flying rolls of toilet paper, numbering hundreds. I was trying to find a seat amid a crossfire of paper when I was struck on the head. The world spun for a second and I nearly lost my footing. Minutes later, I was howling in laughter at some of the absolutely ridiculous statements drawn up on the chalkboards. The front of the room slowly got clogged with a mass of toilet paper as people tried to hit every performer for every second of the show. Before it began—at slightly past midnight—a mini-war raged. The Soldiers of The Back Seats kept hurling rolls of toilet paper at the front seat Ninjas. Somehow, I didn’t get hit too much. I had to duck a lot, and even tried my luck at grabbing two rolls of paper and shooting them backwards over my head. Anyway, I have the enviable throwing skills of a brain-dead chimpanzee so they probably didn’t hit anyone.

The Chorallaries performed shortly afterwards, going through skits, songs and readings that rang of what the event was all about. I don’t want to say much else about it. I know opinions overall were mixed, but I had a lot of fun. And if you ever want to a chuckle, find a way to get the list of 101 Things MIT Students Are Bad At. Can you guess any items on the list?

Te Amo
Love is one of those huge, defining tenets of life that no one ever really explains well. That’s why I decided to take Philosophy of Love (CC.112) this semester. It’s definitely one of my favorite classes, comprising just about nine or ten students.  We basically sit around a sleek table and discuss…well, love. We began by discussing songs we felt described the feeling of love, or at least really tried to. Everyone had to turn in a song, and naturally, I turned in “All Too Well” by Taylor Swift. There were lots of discussions about the similarities and differences between the songs, and what that said about our perceptions of love. Then we read a pretty tragic love story and watched the old classic movie Casablanca. We also read about love from a fairly clinical, psychological standpoint: The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck. It was really insightful, if not highly cynical of the typical view of love. Peck basically reduced most common notions of love—love at first sight, the implicit sweetness of self-sacrifice, the arising feeling of dependency—to illusions, but always with measured thinking.

Right now, we have two reading assignments that I’m yet to make great progress on (thanks to another upcoming midterm and two p-sets). The reading assignments are both novels, which means I’ll have to pick up the pace. It’s a reading- and writing-intensive class, but it’s also very discussion-based. It’s always interesting to hear what other MIT students have to say about love. A severely logical environment almost always seems to breed cynics on issues like this, but there are a lot of hopeful, sentimental takes on what love is, what it could mean, why we could want it, but always with the usual dash of logic. The class really lets you take charge of how you process the material, and despite being a lot of work, it’s also a tremendous lot of fun.

The other classes I’m taking this semester are 6.00, 18.02, 8.02 and CC.111. The last one is a concourse Friday Seminar, in which we get to have great discussions (last week, it was one on the significance of the statue of Augustus Caesar). I’ll try to blog more about the classes as the semester goes by, but 8.02—Electricity and Magnetism—is definitely my hardest class thus far. I spent about sixteen hours on last week’s p-set, which I think was just unusually difficult. The p-set from this week proved less tasking, but who can really predict these things?

Overall, there’s still a lot going on, and I’m still trying to get a deep sense of what this semester will be like. But what with stomach bugs and hackathons and Winter Olympics hacks and events like Bad Taste, I’m pretty sure that something exciting is just around a really close corner.