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MIT student blogger Cam T. '13

Recycle, Reuse, (Map) Reduce? by Cam T. '13

Jackpot, baby!

Some people[1] say that you need to seriously rethink your life when your days don’t end with grass stains on your knees. I’d like to suggest that grease, dust, and oil be added to that list, at least for those of us at MIT.

[1] Who’d have thought MIT doesn’t own the rights to Calvin and Hobbes? Hmph. Guess I’ll just have to reference the comic strip awkwardly inline.

As fun as it is to play outside, the time-honored sport of crufting (see: crvfting) is an important part of daily life at MIT.

Although you can easily furnish your dorm room with exquisite, handcrafted Scandinavian furniture from your favorite importer…

(I got a new bookshelf! I have a massive summer reading list that I cooked up… although it is strangely almost all nonfiction. *shrug*, guess I’m old…

Or very original, high-quality lighting from your local upscale retailer…

Target, okay?
You can also easily furnish your room with much more unique furniture, with significantly more dings and dents, from another great source.


Quoth my friend Kevin upon learning of this: “That’s not fair.”

Many schools and companies (arguably, that’s redundant) don’t like to give up their stuff. I’ve asked for old computers and furniture from a number of such entities (cough, cough, Microsoft, VMware, other such companies…), and they all have stringent policies about when they can give away things they’re getting rid of. Most companies end up sending piles and piles of perfectly functional furniture, cat food, used clothing and computers straight to the trash heap. Guess who doesn’t?


Well, mostly. MIT still throws out a great number of things. However, there’s one place of refuge for discarded stuff (cruft) at MIT; that wonderful place is known on these hallowed grounds as “reuse”.

Looking around my room and my hall, here are a few examples of things we’ve picked up off of reuse in the last two years:

  • Several refrigerators
  • Several air conditioners
  • One 138 gallon bow-front glass aquarium
  • Many smaller aquariums…
  • One cat
  • Toner for my 15? year old printer, which is still going strong!
  • Bar-height stools (for my standing desk. and for other things)
  • Four comfy couches
  • Three weird freshmen
  • Two queen size beds
  • And a partridge in a pear tree!

Maybe I got a bit carried away at the end, there. We didn’t actually pick up three freshmen, or a partridge in a pear tree. However, we did collect a nine foot tall cactus named Bubba. Yes, I’m serious.

And to think that companies would throw out things like this! The waste is appalling. (Yes, I did just imply that large corporations may throw out cats. Accidental implication? …Perhaps.)

Obtaining such things is often made easier by my dear friend Lucy; however, even with a huge honkin’ SUV to cart things around, obtaining goods from reuse often means climbing through dirty, dusty, greasy piles of cruft to find the gems that make their way back to our dorm. And that’s why a good day is often a day when, at the end, you’re covered in grease, scrapes, and sweat.

(The aforementioned Kevin, a high school friend who goes to a perhaps more wasteful university, and I obtained these twenty two computers the other day; if I actually get my butt out of this chair and do some cool projects this summer, then stay tuned for a blog post about DIY supercomputing[2]! If I don’t get my butt out of this chair, then I guess it’s business as usual…)

[2] Probably not involving anything like Map Reduce; I just wanted a nice title.

Happy summer!


[3] … yes, those are my legs in bed, pointing towards the computer pile. Is that appropriate for the MIT Admissions blogs? … *shrug*. I’m wearing covers, at least.

[4] By the way, for those of you who’d been asking about the name of the cat in the pictures I’d posted a few months ago… I got an e-mail the other day:


From: Vincent
To: Cam
Subject: blog

i just happened to look at your mitadmissions blog

for the record, i also call my cat cat. her given name is geneva. and the only “name” she might respond to would be kissing noises.


3 responses to “Recycle, Reuse, (Map) Reduce?”

  1. DanielG says:

    I tried this at my local university (I was scrounging for ferrite beads for a radio coil), and they didn’t have anything like this…. Go MIT!

    On the upside, my local Walgreens was more than happy to give me a bag of used disposable cameras (hurrah big capacitors!) and my local Ace hardware let me rip mercury switches out of old thermostats for free.

    Never found a free 9-foot cactus, with a name no less.

  2. Parth says:

    <3 that bookshelf.

  3. Cam says:

    $25 at IKEA = awesome smile