Today, I will dispel two common misconceptions about MIT:
1. MIT students would rather do calculus than succumb to the byproducts of rampant commercialism; namely, Valentine’s Day celebrations.
2. Nobody at MIT hates me.
3. People who go to MIT lose their ability to count. Also, they forget to talk about things that they write at the bottom of lists.
In cardinal numerical order, I will start with #2. Around this time of year, an influx of heart-shaped candies and frilly pink cards and teddy bears holding heart shaped candies and frilly pink cards jams itself into the familiar universe previously explainable by reason, science, and Stephen Hawking. I’m a huge fan of conservation laws (you know, like mass and energy and whatever), so in the spirit of conserving the quantity of cynicism and curmudgeonry in our observable universe, I’ve decided to list off the people/entities/organizations at MIT who probably will not be sending me a Valentine.
In no particular order:
I’m starting off with a huge, monolithic apology to John Curtice, mostly because he will probably read this. One of the hardships of being a celebrity like myself and the Pope is that people will inevitably recognize you in everyday places, especially when you wear the Pope hat. I wasn’t wearing a Pope hat when I went grocery shopping one evening last September, alas, but John Curtice recognized me nonetheless and kindly complimented my blog. I believe my graceful response was, “Thanks, that means a – hey, is the cereal in your basket on sale?”
Later that week, I had a wildly ambitious scheme to stage a blog entry that would not only win a Pulitzer but even force the Pulitzer committee to start a new Pulitzer category for Outstanding Bloggership (not in that order): I would randomly call a random selection of friends at some random time in the middle of the night and ask what they were doing. Upon ascertaining their locations, I would yell “DON’T MOVE!” in an urgent tone of voice and abruptly hang up. Then I would sprint to wherever they were and snap a candid picture of whatever they were doing. The result would be a mosaic of diverse happenings at MIT during a single hour of the night, a slice of the pulsing, vibrant life that inhabits the Institute after dark. Anyway, I promised John that I would include him in my project, which would immediately be recognized as one of the greatest journalistic endeavors of the past century.
On the original night that I had set aside for my blogging rampage, it rained. The next weekend, it was freezing outside. The weekend after, I was swamped with tests and problem sets. On all subsequent weekends, either it was freezing outside or I decided that I actually didn’t have any friends.
John emailed me about this a few times, and I promised him that I would get to it eventually a few times, and then I forgot a few times. “Few” refers to the same number in each case.
Cafe Four is like the modern-day watering hole of MIT. Centrally located at a crowded hub of classrooms and various offices in the Infinite Corridor, Cafe Four sells coffee, sodas, convenience-store snacks, and notoriously delicious soup to passerby during the morning and noontime rush hours. Cafe Four also leaves out a rack of condiment packets outside the entrance, from which I tend to casually fulfill my need for condiments even when I don’t buy anything from Cafe Four. Specifically, I’ve never actually bought anything from Cafe Four, but I’ve probably taken about 3 dollars worth of condiment packets on my way to classes this year. To redeem myself, I plan to buy a cup of coffee from Cafe Four someday before I graduate. If I’m feeling generous, it might even be a large.
3.The MIT dining halls
As you might have surmised already from past entries about the MIT dining system, I’m a prototypical deviant from the Institute’s student dining program. Thanks to the proximity of Random Hall to a grocery store, the thick cluster of restaurants down the street, and my inherent cheapness, I’ve haven’t fed myself off a cafeteria tray since 10th grade. Luckily, MIT currently grants its students near-total freedom in their dining choices, so secret agents from the Dining Police haven’t yet knocked on my door in the middle of the night.
4.The FASAP Event coordinators, specifically Becca.
Last semester, I was merrily enrolled in a Freshman Advising Seminar known as FASAP, short for Food ASAP. I’ve also heard that it stands for Freshman Arts Seminar Advising Program, but the other title seems more descriptive. I received weekly emails about MIT-funded trips to concerts, shows, and other arts events around Cambridge and Boston, nearly all of which I attended because they came with free dinners. Once, I emailed Becca to cancel at the last minute, and Becca wrote back informing me that I was going senile and never actually signed up for the event in the first place, and I thanked her for her kind understanding. Five minutes later, I inexplicably changed my mind and wrote back begging for tickets and forgiveness.
5.Whoever designed the MIT piano practice rooms
According to my Harmony and Counterpoint II syllabus, I’m automatically given access to MIT’s piano practice rooms on the 2nd floor of Building 4. Yesterday, after a piano lab class in which I realized for the first time that it’s physically possible for the human thumb to move independently of the other fingers (!), I decided to go practice during my single golden hour of free time. Despondently I searched the 2nd floor of Building 4 for an entire 150 seconds before someone directed me to the correct door. It turned out that the correct door had both an ID card swipe and a flashing ID card reader, neither of which recognized my ID card as belonging to someone who didn’t intend to use the practice rooms for non-musical purposes, like stashing explosives or listening to Andrew Lloyd Weber. I briefly considered asking the student office to make me a second ID so I could try swiping and flashing my two cards at once while intoning ancient Latin text, in case this is actually the correct method of opening the door. Consequently, I never did figure out whether the index finger could also move independently of the middle one.
Otherwise known as the MIT bookstore, except to people who recognize the existence of an actual MIT Press Bookstore across the street, the Coop sells all sorts of MIT-related items, as long as they have the property of being useless. This includes keychains, pens, bumper stickers, notepads, and clothing that consistently doesn’t fit me. I have a chronic habit of not purchasing any of these things.
7.The tourist whom I accidentally informed that the Coop was somewhere in Senior House:
MIT is sort of famous, much like myself and the Pope, and tourists are usually milling around campus as they engage in popular tourist activities such as getting in the way of students dashing to math lecture. Three or four times, I’ve been stopped by tourists on their roundabout journey to the MIT Coop, where they will presumably buy MIT pens that they could have snagged for free in the Admissions Office (sorry, Matt. You should stock up on some more pens now). The first time I encountered one of these queries, I accidentally pointed in the wrong direction and directed some guy in the general direction of Senior House, one of the dorms that is definitely not a bookstore in the traditional sense.
8.Professor John McGreevy
Professor McGreevy teaches 8.022, one of MIT’s electricity and magnetism courses that uses a lecture format with plenty of demonstrations that could hypothetically kill you if executed improperly (in other words, awesome). To be fair, I have no evidence that Prof. McGreevy has a grudge against me, but I was nearly bludgeoned with the discharge sphere of a 15-feet tall Van de Graaff generator as I stepped into lecture last week. In other words, awesome.
Also, a friend of mine was vigorously rubbed with a dead cat* in front of the class on the first day of lecture. It was “shocking.” I apologize for the pun.
*The cat was not actually dead, nor was it actually a cat. By the way, this footnote is my transition to the topic of Valentine’s Day. I hope you liked it.
A few months ago, Donald Guy and I had the most profoundly poetic conversation ever to occur via the medium of instant messenger. Transcript follows:
12:08:52 AM Donald Guy: but I believe in love above all things … love is like oxygen
12:09:22 AM Yan: Love and oxygen are mutually miscible
12:09:42 AM Yan: due to like bonding
12:10:30 AM Donald Guy: love is polar? it undergoes H-bonding?
12:11:52 AM Yan: It’s polar. It has a positive side and a negative side
Hardly did I expect that Valentine’s Day would have a tangible presence at MIT, but after witnessing several tongue-in-cheek deliveries of love on Friday, I’ve realized that the amount of calculus you do on a regular basis is proportional to how much you need to be reminded that people love you.
As proof, I present a short video of a rather unexpected occurrence during Differential Equations lecture yesterday:
Notice the blackboard in the background. I suppose the subliminal message is that love is complex and sometimes imaginary.
Cutely enough, I ran into at least three other similar serenades throughout the day, including one Rickroll. It’s practically an established MIT tradition for musical groups such as the Logarhythms, the Muses, and, most amusingly, the marching band to sell their services as professional serenaders around Valentine’s Day; fortunately, professors usually tolerate interruptions for the sake of love.
Speaking of traditions, MIT has hosted productions of the Vagina Monologues on Valentine’s Day weekend for the past few years, hence the advertisement on the board during Diff. Eq. that certain people pointedly ignored.
Once again milking the fruits of my enrollment in FASAP, I got free tickets to the monologues last night, not to mention a free three-course dinner beforehand at Royal East in Cambridge. Appetizer No. 1 was chicken rice with pine nuts in a translucent lettuce shell.
Afterwards, I slipped into a paroxysm of mind-melting rapture as soon as the show began. Kudos to the cast of the Monologues; the acting literally pulled my jaw to the floor and stapled it there for two hours.
On Valentine’s Day, I woke up and chillaxedly contemplated the dead body that had appeared on my floor sometime during the night. “Oh no, I guess the Dining Police actually does exist,” I thought, and briefly considered pulling an xkcd before my roommate awakened.
Just kidding, guys. It turns out that a friend of mine who visited last night was too tired to walk back to her dorm after staying up until 8 AM and thusly decided to retire on my floor.
I forgot to mention that I dyed my hair a week ago such that it matched everyone else’s shirts/jewelry/heart-decorated socks/teddy bears/V-Day cards today. This is my intense stare, by the way.
Current state: As I write this, at least four couples on my floor are preparing Valentine’s Day dinners or otherwise relaxing after a nice, peaceful meal uninterrupted by the Dining Police. The front desk at McCormick Hall, so I’ve heard, has been flooded with flower deliveries all day. MIT’s Laboratory for Chocolate Science, based in the one and only Random Hall, is currently catering a dinner in which every single course features chocolate (Menu: Orange cranberry salad with chocolate sauce, white chocolate potato curry or chicken mole, chocolate mousse for dessert). The Women’s Independent Living Group across the street, with whom I enjoyed dinner tonight, is watching Pride and Prejudice. There’s a plate of homemade heart-shaped cookies upstairs. According to Facebook status update, Sam Balinghasay is getting a necklace of flowers. As for myself, I’m stuck here until I finish this blog entry.
Oh, right. Happy Valentine’s Day!
(Nothing says classy like grape juice.)
Bonus Blog Picture Puzzle #2: After the momentous failure of Blog Picture Puzzle #1, I will (1) never speak of cake, ever again and (2) re-offer the chance to win some undecided-but-undoubtedly-fabulous prize during CPW by solving the following picture puzzle. The following photo shows a mathematically hideous proof that assigned for my theoretical mechanics class during IAP. Name the specific physical phenomenon that the resulting equation describes.
Hint: The answer and the equation are given in one of the most important physics textbooks published in the past century. Interesting, there appears to be a sign error in the version given in this text.