The past two weeks passed by in a blur. I spent much of the entire time punting this blog post, telling myself that I would write it tomorrow or the next day or even the day after that, when I would have more time to put down my thoughts and feelings while not tethered to the looming specter of finals and having to pack up my room for the year.

Now that I actually have that freedom though, it seems like I don’t actually have much to say. As it turns out, two years (omg! two years!) in this place have trained me to be wary of the calm — it’s the temporary lull before the storm, and I can already see all the things I’ll be busy with over the next few months.

So in lieu of a recap on all the finals I took and the cleaning I did this past week (trust me, it wasn’t that interesting anyways), let’s briefly summarize all the stuff I plan to do this summer so we can move on to discussing Random Hall-related stuff and convincing prefrosh (such as yourself! maybe.) to join us in the fall. :)

Continue reading ‘Let Me Count the Ways’

The past weekend has been a special kind of code monkey hell for me. I’ve woken up, gotten on my laptop, debugged a few things, grabbed some kind of sustenance, gone back to my laptop, debugged a few more things, Google’d a bunch of incomprehensible error codes, and reinstalled three different operating systems no less than three times each. And in between the finagling I was LaTeXing an essay, writing up my implementation of the EM algorithm, choosing my Junction mentees, and working on fixing some dependency annotations for my UROP.

Several of those things in that list were very preventable. In fact, if I really went down to the root of it, it could be very easily said that all of my problems this past weekend stemmed from last Thursday afternoon, when I looked at my 6.036 project, my two 24.900 essays, and my Japanese interview test on Monday, and I said, “Man. I should really install Arch Linux.”

Kids, don’t install Arch Linux.

Continue reading ‘Self-induced Workloads’

In Progress

30 Apr 15

Fangfei S. ’13 came by a few days ago while I was at desk and handed me a little Ziploc bag of kumquats. They were so cute, I wanted to give them all names and little smiley faces and adopt them as my babies. There were around twenty of them, all small and oblong and yellow-orange in color, just begging to be salted, squished into a glass jar, and left near a bright window for about a month before being smooshed into salted kumquat lemonade.

(What, just me? In my household, we’ve only ever had kumquats in the form of tắc muối, the Vietnamese lemonade remix feat. kumquats.)

So after my desk shift, I threw the kumquats in a jar with some coarse sea salt and put them by the window in Anthony L. 15’s room, which has better access to sunlight and is therefore marginally better for salting kumquats than my window. Ideally, the jar would be outside, soaking up the heat and the warm California sun, but Boston as of late has been lacking in both heat and the warm California sun, so Anthony’s window it is.

The kumquats finally began to visibly diffuse into the salt last night. It’s been pretty exciting.

Continue reading ‘In Progress’

There’s a light in the front half of my dormitory room that went out several months ago. Rather than call facilities to ask for it repaired, I let it stay out; I decided that I didn’t really need that light, that I was slightly reducing my energy consumption, and that I aesthetically liked the darkness in that half of my room, which pretty much became the “dark half”, especially after I painted a lot of its walls black.

Strangely, though, even though it would usually not turn on when I flipped the light switch for my room, every once in a while I am surprised by being greeted with light as I enter my room, after which I look up to realize that my front light was, in fact, actually on. Sometimes when this happened, the light would go out after a brief amount of time, but enough of the time, it resiliently shined on until I was done using my room and turned the light off again.

I’d expect that when a light has gone out for a prolonged period of time, any moments when it lights up again are its last gasps of warmth, but somehow, after dozens and dozens of days, it still sometimes turns back on, and occasionally stays on for quite a while. It was on when I started this post, and is still on.

I feel almost as if it is reflecting the experience of an MIT student, shining enthusiastically through the start of its time there, but eventually becoming jaded of the dominance of the more ugly workings of this place, yet every once in a while resolving to make something happen, to change something, sure that hope could be made if not found, often just briefly before returning to a resignation that TFP will continue to be TFP.

The light is still on right now. It has quite the hopes today.

One Ring(s)

22 Apr 15

(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.

Random Hall Class of 2017

Continue reading ‘One Ring(s)’

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:

2015-04-15 01.11.10

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, 煎堆.

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.

Continue reading ‘Regular Programming’

A CPW Preview

09 Apr 15

(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.

Bots and Analytics

02 Apr 15

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.

You can opt out by disabling JavaScript from running on the relevant pages, either by changing your browser settings directly or downloading a plugin like NoScript for Firefox and putting both “” and “” on your blacklist.

(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.)

Continue reading ‘Bots and Analytics’

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.

Continue reading ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’

Learning to Cook

25 Mar 15

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.

Continue reading ‘Learning to Cook’