(The obligatorily badly-punned title because I am too tired to be clever.)
MIT’s Class of 2017 finally got its Brass Rat today. For the uninitiated, the Brass Rat is effectively MIT’s class ring, designed by the appropriate class-elected ring committee and unveiled to MIT undergraduates during our sophomore year. Back in February, we had all been given a preview of this year’s ring at Ring Premiere and given a week or so to purchase one in Lobby 13 — today, we went to the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston to pick our rings up and socialize with our peers.
As a segue into this week’s post and a return to our more regular blogging, here’s another image of some food I made:
These little balls of mung bean fried in a rice flour dough and rolled in sesame seeds are bánh cam, a Southern Vietnamese sweet food. There also exist a Northern Vietnamese variant, bánh rán, and a similar Cantonese sweet food, jin deui.
The past few weeks have been busy, as usual. But with CPW less than 24 hours away and my prefrosh coming tomorrow afternoon — hi prefrosh! — things are looking to wind down a bit for the weekend — at least, for those of us who’ve planned our weeks out nicely enough in advance that we no longer have to worry about work for the rest of this week.
Hint: I am not one of those people.
(aka a Campus Preview Weekend preview choose-your-own-adventure post, because it’s been an unexciting week and I am wholly unimaginative.)
In less than a week, y’all are going to descend on MIT like a storm of overly-excited birds, ready to take on the bubble that is the MIT campus and experience all the cool stuff we pretend we do all the time, and not just when intrepid prefrosh come knocking. And with some of you bringing your slightly less-excited parents who really just want to know whether or not MIT freshmen drink and where their sweet, darling children could buy Asian food if they live in a non-dining hall dorm*, the next week or so will be, for us MIT students, a flurry of such exciting pre-CPW activities as supply-ordering, tour training, and going to great lengths to ensure we all look the right amount of scruffy to appear both laid-back and yet still socially acceptable at the same time.
*No really, I had a concerned parent come up to me last year during Random Hall tours to ask me what I ate. I told her I bought food at Shaw’s, but she then clarified that she meant Asian food, so I told her about the new H-mart that was going to open up near Central Square and she seemed appeased.
We’re keeping all our CPW prep super secret for now though (read: we haven’t started preparing things yet but are open to the possibility of running around this weekend looking like we’ve had our heads cut off), so until you arrive around a week from now, here’s a super vague overview of Random Hall to keep the anticipation high.
(This post is a work in progress. A more informational and reasonably-outlined schedule can be found here.
So I’ve spent the past few days adding some Google Analytics tracking to the site. It’s just some pageview tracking and a small timeout snippet that sends a ‘ping’ type thing to Analytics when someone’s been on a page for longer than fifteen seconds, but in the interest of transparency and full disclosure I’ll be explaining exactly what the code snippets do and why we have them, as well as what kind of data is being collected from visitors.
(This post obviously has nothing to do with the fact that it has now been a week or so since my last update and I have nothing new and/or exciting to write about.)
Around two days ago, Victor L. ’17 and I were standing around in Bonfire kitchen as I pan-fried even more tofu with chili peppers and gochujang for dinner. It was one of those lazy Random Hall evenings, when people find that they suddenly have nothing pressing due the next day, and we were, like many Randomites, feeling inclined to make some food together to pass the time instead of working on all those projects and psets due in like, an entire week from now.
As I poked at the tofu sizzling in the vegetable oil and Victor flipped through one of Bonfire’s many cookbooks looking for something fruity to make, we discussed the latest 6.036 project and how wholly unprepared we were for term to resume again. Then, quite inevitably, the topic turned to exams.
“Oh yeah. How d’you do on the last 6.036 midterm?”
“34 out of 60, I think. One standard deviation away.”
“Nice. High five.”
It was then that we both paused to consider the conversation.
Not everyone in Random Hall knows how to cook. I came to MIT with only the most rudimentary cooking skills. I could make pasta and rice and throw other things together if I followed directions slowly and carefully. As my parents were not keen on making food or ordering out, my older brother and sister both learned how to cook well, but I was far younger than them and missed this opportunity to learn. Even so, I wanted to learn how to cook better.
Last year, I was a freshman, I and didn’t bother trying. I mostly made pasta, rice, frozen potatoes, and ramen.
Last year, I was a freshman, and I tried to make baked potatoes for Easter. This turned out a disaster. The online recipe told me to wash the potatoes, then pour some oil and salt on them. I did exactly as they told me to do. Then I put the potatoes directly on the oven rack and started baking them.
Five minutes later, Foo lounge was filling with smoke.
Since around two weeks ago, when I started experimenting with tofu and going purposefully part-time vegan, I’ve been making spicy tofu. I’ve been simmering it in chili sauce, throwing it in some spicy miso soup, and stir-frying it with a pan full of small red peppers, Capsicum annuum, either chopped or whole and occasionally exploding from the heat built up beneath the skins.
I’ve been mixing in gochujang, a kind of Korean spicy fermented soybean paste found in giant tubs at the local H-mart. I’ve been abusing the Sriracha, applying it liberally as one applies ketchup to french fries before scarfing them down three at a time. I’ve been dumping in the chili powder, teaspoonfuls at a time, fruitlessly attempting to reenact that numbing, Sichuan peppercorn feel that leaves mouths tingling and eyes watering and bellies fuzzy and warm.
And lest you start thinking that MIT is all food and fun and students learning to become gluttons, I’ve been learning about artificial neural networks, op-amps, and case markings in binary syntactic trees. I’ve been wiring robot heads and building a circuit for scale readings. I’ve been writing up psets, interviewing a native Arabic speaker, and creating and discarding lesson plans for both HSSP and Junction, two programs being run by the student-run Educational Studies Program (ESP).
With spring break looming in the next week or so, we’ve all been pretty busy.
Two years ago, on this very day, around fifteen thousand high school students waited by their computers with bated breath, watching the minutes tick down before decisions.mit.edu would finally open and reveal to them their MIT admission status. There was much praying, and cursing, and the frantic clobbering of F5 keys — and when the jar finally opened, its contents revealing both good and bad and withholding hope for only a few, around fifteen thousand high school students let out the breath they had no idea they were holding, and they let the news sink in.
Few were elated and/or relieved, either because it had turned out well or because they now finally knew. Far too many more felt lost, with nothing left but the crushing feeling that they had somehow been deemed not good enough. And a fraction were left hanging in limbo, their decisions pushed back even further until MIT had properly done a headcount and decided whether or not a few more kids would fit.
Two years ago, I sat in front of that monitor, myself having been already admitted several months prior, closely following the MIT Admitted, Waitlisted, and Not Admitted threads as comments poured in — a mix of both excited and overwhelmingly bitter thoughts all clashing to be heard.
And this year, as I continued to watch, over fifteen thousand high school students fell upon the decisions page, fingers flying to type in passwords, and found themselves being told that, with regards to their admissions status, they were [DATABASE CONNECTION ERROR].
Things I did in the past 7 days:
– play Dust: An Elysian Tail
– play League of Legends
– go to this really creative play called “Tristan and Yseult” at the ArtsEmerson Majestic Theatre
– practice DJing vinyls at WMBR (the MIT community’s radio station! it’s super fun)
– eat Venezuelan food at Orinoco
– eat salmon with kimchi (!!) at EVOO
– eat salmon again at Elephant Walk
– I really like food
Things I didn’t do in the past 7 days:
– Solve P=NP
– Hack the Pentagon
– My psets
Oh well, worth. Maybe I’ll get around to some of these other things next week.
I opened my cabinet this morning to find a single pack of instant ramen, forlornly gathering dust in the corner of the bottom-most shelf. As someone who makes food when stressed or bored, this was unprecedented — I often find myself with too much food, not too little, and it’s far more common for my cabinet to be overflowing with random stuff than empty.
But for the past week or so, I’ve been busy. And though Shaw’s is but a stone’s throw away and H-mart only a few blocks further, both inclement weather and a general lack of time had convinced me that I did not need to buy any food for the week — the result being, of course, me standing in front of a mostly empty cabinet this morning, trying to decide if I was hungry enough for MSG and fake noodles.
I ate the ramen, but only because desperate times call for desperate measures, and I was pretty desperate.