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MIT student blogger Yan Z. '12

Comments-ment Webcast by Yan Z. '12

A few comments on the past week.

Blogging, for me, has never been about immediacy. Life as it happens is usually incoherent, a bowl of liquid gelatin wriggling with light. Life after it happens is at least semi-solid enough to serve on a plate for dessert after you’ve poured it into a mold and refrigerated it for 4 hours. As an exercise in uncreative writing, I will demonstrate this by blogging in real-time for ten minutes:

10:23 pm: I cough for approximately five precious seconds of my life.
10:25 pm: Someone has sent me an email about recycling, etc. I consider reading it and decide to keep blogging instead, because Matt McGann does not pay me for recycling.
10:26 pm: Should I have a granola bar for lunch tomorrow? The grotesqueness of bananas browning in the pantry is practically palpable, even upstairs. As pika‘s summer kitchen manager, I have developed strange paranoias. Are there banana-flavored granola bars? There must be. Granola bars can taste like anything. It’s practically a theorem.
10:28 pm: This is a waste of blog. I can feel my youth dripping away, slowly, like melting bananas.
10:30 pm: Eight times forty-two is a big number. Big enough that I won’t feel like typing it out in words if I calculated it in my head right now. Guess I won’t.
10:32 pm: I once tread water for ten minutes as part of the MIT swim test. Should have blogged it live. I wish it had a soundtrack though.
10:33 pm: I really, really need to cough again.

Anyway, because it’s summer, I won’t even try to justify why I did that.

Monday was my prolonged experiment in discretized sleep; I slept for probably 12 hours in segments of varying duration, each at a randomized location (Athena cluster, green sofas in the Infinite Corridor, green sofa in Random Hall, chair in my room, bed, etc.). The hours of intermission sort of blurred into a watery blob of fervent exhaustion. Like, I couldn’t stumble three feet without accidentally falling under some legal definition of “asleep.” Despiteless*, I managed to run four miles, throw together a tofu-tomato-mushroom salad, get a second UROP in MIT’s Plasma and Fusion Center, read a paper on global warming, catch tuberculosis** and work in lab for 5 hours.

*Don’t try googling it. I made up this word, but you know exactly what it means.

**After I recovered 43 hours later, I decided that it was probably just a cold. I have this secret dream that I will someday be the first person to say the line, “I don’t have tuberculosis, but I think I’m catching YouTuberculosis.” Now I just need to find a context.

Did I mention salad? pika’s resplendent pantry gives substance to my dream of becoming the world’s first self-proclaimed computational salad engineer. After a few nights of condiment debugging*, I released the first stable version of Balsamic Bal-salmon 5.28, featuring pink salmon, leftover lettuce, scallions, and bean sprouts, topped with lemon-yogurt dressing and black sesame. User interface consisted of a fork and a quadrilateral plate. The final product was savory and well-balanced in a mild, unassuming manner but could have used more zing.

*Ex: figuring out that the combination of honey mustard, mirin, and lemon juice doesn’t exactly compile as expected. Luckily, literal bugs were not found in any of the ingredients.

The next distribution was unveiled 24 hours later. Tangy Tomato 5.29 introduced the successful integration of balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and Vietnamese fish sauce. I reused the same lettuce/bean-sprout salad and implemented tomatoes, crumbled tofu, and sliced peppers. The tofu turned out to be explosively flavorful after a brief marinade, and the tomato/balsamic pairing made my mouth weep with joy. Next stage: beta testing.

(I’ve decided to make all of my salads open-source. Comment if you’d like the documentation, aka recipes.)

I confess that I’ve probably drank about half a bottle of balsamic in the past four days. I’ve thought about submitting this to PostSecret, actually.

Let’s go back to the night before Sleep-a-thon 2009, when I was frozen in awe, frozen in time, and near-frozen in temperature for a lovely, numbing eternity. I can’t remember the last time I was so far away from the city. I looked up, stretching out after a fuzzy grey nap in a borrowed jeep, saw the stars like pinpricks on velvet, suctioned cold mountain wind into my lungs, and felt the lightbulbs explode behind my eyes. MIT was 4.08×10^-12 light years away in the unlit distance. The stars were closer by a hair’s width; space disfigured such that the soft fringes of the Milky Way were closer than the strict edges of my 18.03 textbook, the Ring Nebula veiled under telescope lens clearer than the Kresge Oval curved through window glass, Jupiter silently staring across the deep horizon at 2 AM brighter than hospital-white computer screens blinking at 200hz in the unseen hours of the morning. University faded into universe, vastness expanding past the yardsticks of comprehension.

I slept for three hours until dawn, caught tuberculosis*, and temporarily forgot all of Maxwell’s equations.

*See footnote above, mom.

Because you are now expecting me to close this blog entry with a tasteful adage topped with cream-of-metaphor and delicately salted with wit, I walked to the park earlier that day and photographed baby geese so I could end my story with something irrelevant to everything I have written so far. Consider this my letter of resignation from AP English.

This is Matt Ritter ’10. The delightful, crisp-at-the-edges consonance of Matt Ritter’s full name demands that he be referred to as Matt Ritter and only Matt Ritter. Last weekend, Matt Ritter stood in the pika kitchen and ate an ice cream sandwich topped with Spaghetti-O’s and Fruit Loops and bottled lemon juice, all between two slices of whole-wheat bread. Matt Ritter.

Matt Ritter and Alorah ’10, caught in a lyrical flash of spontaneous synchronization.

More goslings.

Anyway, because it’s summer, I won’t even try to justify why I did that. [Refrain]

19 responses to “Comments-ment Webcast”

  1. Yuki '12 says:

    wow, your cooking looks good. smile

  2. Liz ('14?) says:

    Your pictures of goslings are wayyy too adorable. Have a fun and relaxing summer!

  3. kai says:

    I love your pictures. I love your writing. Amazing blog.

    p.s. ~I would also LOVE to try those salads cuz they look delish in the pics. The recipes for both would be greatly appreciated (please). =D

  4. Yan says:

    @ Kai:

    Thanks, I’ll try to get them in the pika recipe wiki or something.

    Speaking of which, there’s mango-cayenne-paprika-chocolate-coconut-cinnamon-bacon cookies downstairs right now. Long story. Life-changing cookies. I’m still trying to recover.

  5. NathanArce says:

    Yeah, saw you mention them and came here hoping for pictures? T.T

  6. Chris says:

    Salad designing (that’s what I like to call it) is one of my favorite hobbies as well.

  7. Deeni says:

    Your metaphors and similes are awesome.

  8. Ralenkash says:

    Awesome post! Very cute goslings.
    I haven’t been on here in ages..hope everyone’s summer is going well.
    If you want to kill some time and feel smart about it, check out this website: MindCipher

    My summer has been pretty boring so this site has kept me alive, start by arranging by “Hardest”. Good luck.

  9. Armin says:

    Nice photos…

    I watched 8.02 today. I couldn’t stick my party balloons anywhere. They don’t get any charge.
    I tried with 2 different types of balloons.

    Is it because of summer?

  10. Gregory says:

    The goslings are so cute.
    Yor making hungry girl, why you got to do that lol.
    http://web.mit.edu/urop/ will you be attending?
    Do you have any classes that you will be doing this summer?
    Ok got to get back to my studies.
    Have a great summer, Love your BLOG

  11. Aww….so sweet and innocent, like how we were back back when we were bright-eyed prefrosh.

  12. ^Cancel one “back”.

  13. niki says:

    There ARE banana granola bars (far superior to the mere banana-flavoured variety); they got me through my first airplane trip to Boston, approximately 4 hours pre-acceptance.
    Unfortunately I don’t remember the brand name, but I believe they were from Trader Joe’s.
    The wrapper is yellow.

  14. Anon says:

    @Yan-
    I noticed that some of your pictures (not in this entry or anything) have the vintage-ish look I can only get from Photoshopping– do you just use white balance or filters or… do you just usually have really good natural lighting? raspberry

  15. Yan says:

    @ Armin:

    No, no, you have to cover your balloons in velcro beforehand. That’s the most important step.

    @ Gregory:

    I’m working at the Plasma and Fusion Center (specifically, the VTF). Studying magnetic reconnection and why it occurs a bajillion times faster than you’d predict (well, approximately a bajillion).

    @ Niki:

    Granola bar theorem just got theorem-fied. Did you stay at Random over CPW? Thought I recognized your name.

    @ Anon:

    Or I just have photoshop. Well, the open source version anyway (GIMP).

  16. Anon says:

    @Yan:
    Yay GIMP! Most people just think I’m weird if I say GIMP-ing though, so saying Photoshopping is more convenient. Not that either of those are actual words.

  17. Anonymous says:

    i thought pikas were environmentally conscious. how come you refuse to recycle?

  18. Armin says:

    Thanks Ms. Yan.
    I suspect velcro is a chemical substance.
    I asked about it from a chemistry professor, also I looked for it in a pharmacy.

    Where can I get velcro?