Saturday, December 13, 2008

Fun Facts

- I did not go to McDonalds or WalMart the whole semester (in fact, I only went to any standard fast food chain twice since I got to Mass)

-The closest place to buy ANY food around my dorm (not counting the overpriced undergrad dining halls or some random vending machines here and there) requires about a 10 minute walk. BUT with only a 20 minute walk, I can get to Central Square, which is a hub for ethnic food and indie concerts.

-I walk (or bike, depending on the weather) 2-5 miles a day

-I run about 5 miles a week on the treadmill (this is a big deal for me!!!)

-I played every intramural sport offered this semester, except for Flag Football, Badminton, and Hockey (which I hope to learn next semester!)

-I've been to 3 neighboring states and 3 other campuses in my first semester

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pirates of Penzance

Saw the MIT performance of Pirates of Penzance last Friday. It's a Gilbert and Sullivan comedic mini-opera. It was quite entertaining and exceeded my expectations for a theatre production put on by what is likely a group of mostly engineering students.
Although I have to say (and I think my opinion counts, since I sat through countless hours of musical rehearsal when I played in the musical pit orchestra in undergrad) that OSU's theatre department is full of more talent, the singing and acting of the main characters in this performance was fantastic.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Rappelling in Building 66!

The MIT Caving Club has permission to rappel down the stairwell of Building 66, so long as they give sufficient advanced notice. So, last night they held a beginner's rappel session and I joined! It was another chance to interact with the undergrads (who are definitely a different breed than the grads here) and learn a little bit about rappelling, which apparently there is still quite a bit more of to learn (rigging is complicated)....

The drop was only six stories (~300 ft, so it was nothing like the entrance to Moaning Cavern in California this summer), but it was still pretty fun.

Is it just because it's the week before finals or merely a fact of being at MIT that everybody was furiously doing homework whenever they were waiting in line for a harness?

They said that last year, this session ran from 11PM -6AM! Being the old woman that I am (or maybe just a person, who finally has enough free time to maintain a normal sleep schedule), I got my one rappel in and left at 1 AM. Good enough for grad student Heather.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

And so it begins....

Today it started snowing for the first time! It's been coming down consistently all day long, but a lot of it melts upon contact with the ground.

How did I spend my first day in the snow? Why playing my last intramural soccer game of course :) Lots of fun. We finished the season undefeated! (6-0, or maybe 7-0) I feel like we should get a trophy, or some sort of recognition for that.....but apparently since it's C League, there's no official champion. Eh, oh well. I've had a ridiculously fun time playing soccer, especially considering the fact that it's so been years since I've really played and I therefore have almost no foot skills anymore. I'm quite impressed at how much we all improved through the season.

If I had to guess, I'd say that I will enjoy the beauty of the snow for a few days, but soon after, I will come to dread walking around outside in the biting cold.

Here's a picture of the first flakes falling this morning:

Saturday, December 6, 2008


As my time in Germany ended, I remember telling myself that I would absolutely have to make time for learning another language well- the benefits are so great! I narrowed my choices down to Spanish and Italian, for various reasons.

So now, as I am immersed in my new life as a graduate student (read: my time is only taken up by two classes), I decided to finally put my plan into action. I picked Spanish to be the next up on the long list of ones to learn because I have a small amount of knowledge in it from before (Mom speaks it, went to a Spanish-speaking church for a while, one semester of indpt study in high school, etc), the grammar is really quite simple (oh German, how impossible your der/die/das is to figure out for non-native speakers....), there are so many countries that use it, there's really no excuse for not at least trying to learn Spanish in the US these days, y es una lengua muy bonita!

I was also quite motivated by the fact that MIT offers an IAP Madrid Program where you learn Spanish II in Madrid with other MIT kids (IAP is the January term, where we don't have required classes, and are instead encouraged to pursue other interests we may have through a range of neat course offerings - art, music, sports, glass blowing, street fighting mathematics. Seriously.). I spent time preparing nervously for the language evaluation to get into the program, have been sitting in on a Spanish I class here to brush up as much as possible, even paid my money for the program already! All this preparation and excitement to see this beautiful city (plus free trip to Barcelona, and weekend travels to other cities), meet up with my Spanish exchange student friends from Germany, and just learn Spanish! (See the blog from last year's participants here: )

BUT THEN..........I spoke with the professors here about how much I need to have accomplished with my research by certain time points, and it was strongly recommended that I spend my IAP here, in the lab.....
After mulling it over, I have concluded that I should be a good student and give in to MIT having control over my life. I would have liked to delay this as long as possible, but I'm deciding to suck it up and focus on my studies. Looking back on this decision, I think I will be happy I made this choice.....I hope....
For future reference, if anyone out there is able to find me an opportunity to go to Spain before I become too old and tied down for world travels, I would love it :)

On the plus side, this means I can keep up with the fitness/running schedule that the frisbee team is doing over IAP and go on the GSC Ski Trip.

I just won't get to see this :(

Friday, December 5, 2008

Coldplay Plagiarism?

Coldplay is being sued by rocker Joe Satriani for supposedly copying "substantial original portions" of his 2004 song "If I Could Fly."

Check out the video.

Think what you will, but I'll stand behind Coldplay on this on. I mean come on, all their songs are made of super simple melodies and progressions. It's bound to happen that someone, somewhere has already hit on that same-ish tune for many of their songs.

(Maybe I'm biased, since I'm mostly excited that the new Coldplay album has a lot of strings in it....)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Math Class

So the math class I'm taking this semester has been quite entertaining and definitely different than any one I've had before. The professor, Gilbert Strang, is a well-known figure in the math world, and is arguably the nicest human being on the face of the earth. Who else thanks students for asking questions? Or asks permission to teach us the next step (which makes him giddy most times)? It clearly gives him great joy to teach us (and it should! Imagine the broad range of people taking this class...over the next many years, these MIT students will be at the forefront of their respective fields' innovations, using the computational techniques he teaches us to drive the progress of technology.)

Prof. Strang has long since become one with matrices and his teaching style reflects that (if you can somehow imagine that....).
Well anyways, the most entertaining part of this course has probably been reading the textbook. EXACTLY as he teaches, the book is written very colloquially, in an almost stream-of-consciousness sort of way. I didn't even realize that textbooks were allowed to be published like that.

Here are some fun examples:
"I very much hope that you will come to know and like these special matrices."

"These multiplications are a beautiful key to the whole chapter."

The K matrix is "symmetric and more beautiful"

"That matrix is A(transpose)!! A proper author would never use two exclamation marks - I apologize."

"May I list some properties?"

"I hope this section is enjoyable."

something about a mathematician dying in a gunfight in the 1800s....

"(from age 7)" : preface to the first problem which just involves simple multiplication