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MIT student blogger Yan Z. '12

Odds and ends and Canada by Yan Z. '12

A study break, plus some other highlights of the week

My mother called me this weekend to ask if I was washing my sheets. QED: My own mother thinks that I have a stupendously boring life.

On the contrary, I’ve had a stupendously excellent weekend while my sheets have remained stupendously unlaundered. A few minutes ago, I began to chronicle this week’s adventures and realized that I was about to write a blog entry that would exceed the length of The Old Man and the Sea, and so I decided to split it into two posts. I mean, split my blog into two posts, not Hemingway’s novella. I tried to split The Old Man and the Sea into two blog posts in high school literature class and it didn’t work.

Remember this post in which I facetiously asked for a space heater? Turns out that someone unfacetiously sent me a space heater, with flannel sheets tossed in at no extra charge. Unfortunately, I will combust if I ever turn it on, considering that my room heater is consuming as much energy right now as a small nuclear reactor. Still, it was heartwarming gesture, if not a roomwarming one.
4-day weekend 006

On the trek back to my room from the front desk, I spied a whiteboard in the hallway with a suspicious bag of candy taped to the side. Thanks to the educational value of countless Halloweens, my childhood had taught me that the correct response to free candy is to grab it as fast as possible and run off to another stranger’s house. Nonetheless, I had the feeling that this particular brand of sweets was better left under the auspices of lab scientists at MIT’s world-renowned Whitehead Institute.
4-day weekend 004

Speaking of unfortunate product advertising, my roommate picked up the following gem on sale for 50 cents at the grocery market last Thursday. It passes for a can of Crayons until you pick it up and realize that the moment of inertia doesn’t seem quite right.
4-day weekend 016

Last Thursday also happened to be the night of a Random Hall study break, hosted by none other than my floor (Loop). At Random, each floor consists of around 14 people. As it happened, almost all 14 of these people minus the freshmen were too hosed last week to devote much energy to study break, so I ended up doing most of the planning and shopping. Thus, I authoritatively present a rough guide to study breaking at MIT:

1.Come up with a theme. This was the easy part, considering that America had just had an election two days earlier. Clearly, the natural theme was Canada.

2.Buy food for the entire dorm. This, arguably, was the most difficult step. I nearly drowned on my way back from main campus earlier that night, and the storm showed no hints of subsiding. Here, I present photographic evidence of myself in a gloomy state of rain-soaked misery, burdened with the thought of venturing deeper into the raging monsoon in search of Star Market. My facial expression drips with blatant angst.
4-day weekend 007

In all seriousness, the streets were slick as film noir, even without the classy cars. This was the view from my window.
4-day weekend 011

Ok, I’m done complaining. Onward.

3.Bring back food. Start cooking.
4-day weekend 012

4-day weekend 015

(I ended up cooking about 294823934 slices of bacon, which was equivalent to a 6-unit course in Not Getting Scalded by Hot, Deadly Oil. Lesson: bacon hates people who cook it.)

4. Send email out to dorm:

My dear countrymen, in light of the recent election, it has been decided that the natural and logical theme of tonight’s study break should be Canada. Come to Foo at 22:47 and donate your leftover patriotism to our Northern neighbors. Maple syrup and pancakes, maple bacon, hockey puck brownies, Canadian bacon, Canada Dry, and ice cream will be served, courtesy of Loop floor.


5.Serve food, make sure that people aren’t studying.

At Random, study breaks occur weekly on Thursday nights sometime between 9:17 and 10:47 PM. Traditionally, it’s a time for residents to get together, enjoy free food, live up to our reputation as a close-knit community, and definitely not study. Past themes this year have included Dystopia (with Soylent Green [vegetables], Soylent Brown [coffee], and Soylent Red [pasta] . . . actually, I have no idea what they served and am probably making this up), Math Constants (with pi pie, Coulombic kool-aid, i-scream, and guacamole), Childhood Nostalgia (grilled cheese and tomato soup, even though the dietary staple of my haphazardly cross-cultural childhood was microwaved supermarket quiche), and Washing Machine #2*.

*It’s a big deal when the washing machines at Random get fixed.

Stay tuned for the story of my four-day weekend, which will most likely be posted as soon as I reach the flip side of a physics exam. There’ll be enough food to feed the Internet for a week.

24 responses to “Odds and ends and Canada”

  1. hamsi says:

    oh whoa – i didn’t know about MIT study breaks. they sound rly fun! i like the mandatory “no studying” policy. plus, the theme-making sounds wonderfully logical.

  2. Anonymous says:


    Always wanted to do that… lol nice post

  3. JY says:

    The Old Man and the Sea was a classic. None other than Hemingway…

  4. Banerjee says:

    COOL post!! Your blogs are really interesting.

    @ teeth whitening: Interesting disguise.

  5. Ehsan says:

    Wow… Crayons energy drink? Too bad what happens at MIT stays at MIT!

  6. Liz says:

    “It passes for a can of Crayons until you pick it up and realize that the moment of inertia doesn’t seem quite right.”

  7. Raj says:

    Well written good job.
    By the way could you convince the guys there to have someone “international” blog too.
    Note: By “international” I mean a non resident alien to the US….someone with no past connections to the United States.
    From Bhutan

  8. charlie g says:

    cooking about 294823934 slices of bacon
    I’m going to write that on my application once I do it!

  9. Great blog, instead of your blogs being the highlight of my weekends as you suggested in “Adventures in Chinatown”, they’re the highlight of my day. After reading your blogs, my abilities in English felt so inadequate, and its my first language. Since people love posting completely unrelated comments in your blogs, I figured I would conform and do the same. Under the work/play balance it says that MIT students spend ~48h on average doing school related work. Any idea how much time physics/comp sci majors spend? One last question: does MIT look at your grades in high school? I know they look at your SAT marks, but say I didn’t do too well in gr 11 and then pulled it up in gr 12 but managed to do AMAZINGLY on the SATs will they be reluctant to accept me because of inconsistency etc? In Canada, universities just look at your grades in HS, not sure about ivy-league American universities.

  10. Yan says:

    @ Ryan:

    48 hours . . . interesting. I’ve never really counted, but it seems like it should be more. It doesn’t seem to vary much between majors, although the difficulty of work will be different. There’s only so many hours that you can work per week without trespassing onto the lawns of insanity.

    Double majoring in physics and comp. sci. seems doable, but you’ll have to ask an upperclassman.

    Practically all American universities will require an official HS transcript, which will include all your high school grades.

  11. SheePy says:

    Hemingway sucks! Shoulda used Ayn Rand’s Anthem for a better metaphor.

  12. Roommate says:

    Notice how we are all working and Yan is taking pictures.

  13. Yan says:

    Notice how Yan came up with the theme, wrote down the shopping list, bought the groceries, carried the groceries back, sent out the email, cooked 29482913 slices of bacon, AND took pictures.

  14. Cam says:

    @SheePy: Why would Anthem have been a better metaphor? & I liked The Old Man & The Sea. It was better than Anthem. Plus, Hemingway’s cool. (Not that Ayn Rand isn’t, but Anthem was not all that great.)

    @the rest of the blagosphere:
    Whitehead, for the record, has good food for lunch, which does not resemble that most delectable and unusual candy bar.

  15. sheePy says:

    @cam: It was just a matter of opinion, certainly not a justification of Hemingway of Rand. Personal opinion.

  16. I would just like to point out that I was at the study break AND studying at the same time. You failed at the making-people-not-study bit raspberry

  17. anonymous says:

    What did they serve at the Washing Machine #2 study break..?

  18. Yan says:

    @ Anonymous:

    If you go to, you’ll notice that the name of Washer #2 is Meatwad . . .

  19. Yan says:

    @ Teddy:

    MIT blogs just got . . . topological.

  20. TeD 'YY says:

    The bacon got eaten so fast, the air around it didn’t even taste like bacon.
    In case of large non-personal tasks, I recommend not restricting yourself to a Loop and asking some un-hosed non-Loop closed compact Hausdorff colleagues for assistance the next time you decide to be independent.

  21. qinglylee says:

    lam a student form luo yang , china ,l have many classmates,but l still know that life is the great teacher ,who can tell us a lot of things,campus life is only an experience

  22. Anonymous says:

    Yan, this is a weird question, but do you not like your roommate?

  23. Yan says:

    @ Anonymous:

    Nope, my roommate is pretty chill and even vacuumed the room this one time. It was awesome. The carpet was so clean.

    Generally, people here like their roommates, although it’s unlikely that you and your roommate will have a best-friends-forever-let’s-exchange-bracelets relationship. At Random, it feels more as if I’m roommates with around 10 people, since we’re an extremely tight-knit community and share food all the time.