Ever since I was little, I’ve dreamed of becoming Superman, minus his wardrobe and enemies, of course. As I grew older, I felt most content when I could help others. In a sense, volunteering is one of the most selfish things a person can do. Volunteering gives me a purpose for my own life and makes everything worth while. Though it is satisfying to serve in my own community, I had always dreamed of helping those suffering in developing countries around the world. I always thought that this would make the biggest difference.
Warning! Excessive cell phone use will give you brain cancer! That’s what some scientists are saying these days, right? Nerds in lab coats getting all Chicken Little on our weekend minutes. But imagine if they were right and 10 years from now, we were all walking around with big tumors sticking out of our heads. This would be a serious calamity and its consequences must be addressed.
The other day, I encountered a tour passing the Student Center. The tour group, as near as I could tell, consisted largely of wide-eyed parents and nonplussed teenagers apparently unimpressed with the Infinite Corridor (I guess they’d never seen anything infinite before and were still recovering from the shock). At any rate, the parents seemed enthused about exploring campus, and, after passing a group of sorority members, the more hormonal of the male high school prospects seemed to perk up as well.
Somewhere out there, the culinary gods are weeping. As someone who would probably make a better meal by being cooked than by cooking, I dare say I have been less than vigilant regarding my nutritional needs. Freezer-burned waffles, Gatorade, and a granola bar? Most important meal of the day. Cheese crackers and ginger ale? Dinner, third course. (For anyone who’s curious, courses one and two were a red gummy bear and orange gummy bear, respectively.) Since I don’t have the necessary patience for in-dorm agriculture, and the only game to be hunted around campus are squirrels and mysteriously human-like six-foot beavers, it appears I will have to start preparing my own food before my cash flow gets dammed.
The air was thick with humidity when I stepped off the airplane into a bare airport that was very unlike any other airport I’d ever known and still under construction. However, I had arrived successfully in India and went through the visa checkpoint swiftly and without any trouble.
MIT has one of the most notoriously rich campus cultures in the ’verse. I still have a photo from Campus Preview Weekend of a Ghostbuster standing at the Massachusetts Ave. crosswalk as proof of the fact. The unfortunate side effect? An onslaught of incoming freshmen who are under the impression that the MIT of lore and the MIT of daily life are one and the same.
I am normally dizzy with elation following free giveaways. The feeling of possessing something I did not have to pay for is so overwhelming that I usually end up with an afternoon headache. Unfortunately, the souvenirs from the recent MIT Community Picnic left me with no warm, fuzzy feelings. I was appalled by the environmentally destructive yellow tuckus cushions.
Machetes, stalkers, white sand beaches … airplanes, rickshaws, matatus … pickpockets, knifemen, lions, zebra carcasses … ugali, dosa, choma, peppercorn … kindness, laughter, sparkling eyes … hospitality, disease, sewage, monkeys … what a summer. Starting in the outskirts of Delhi, India, I traveled to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Thailand (for a 24-hour layover), and China this summer. It was my first time in all these countries, and, in fact, my first time in any developing country. Spending one to two weeks in each country, I documented MIT students working in those areas through photography and videography, interviewing them and the locals around them while searching for new projects.
I can’t stand being punched in the kidneys. It’s the absolute worstest feeling there is. I mean, it’s not pain, it’s not like someone hit your hand with a hammer. That’s pain. Blunt trauma, stabby stabby stuff, I can usually roll with that. But getting punched in the kidneys, man, that’s just wrong. Your body starts to feel all queasy inside, and you get that funny taste in your mouth, like someone just popped open a bag of skunked mellow yellow inside your body and it’s spilling all over the place. Actually, that’s pretty much what a kidney is in the first place. A bag of mellow yellow.
With the possible exceptions of RSI and Camp Bohrmore, no experience comes closer to approximating the combination of nerdiness and summer camp than the first few weeks of term at MIT. It could be just me (it usually is), but I can’t help feeling like it’ll be a while more of eat-sleep-pset-rinse-repeat before it occurs to me that I’m here for the long haul — that I’m not in the newest of the litany of summer academic adventures that sucked the life out of my vacations, but instead that I am in the next iteration of my educational career.
The thin silver moon disappeared below the horizon, pulling with it the last hints of light from the barren Mongolian grasslands. Behind us, an unseen electric lamp cast a weak glow out of one of the ten or so rounded tents clustered together on the banks of the Zavkhan River. A jeep roared to life, blinding us in the flood of its headlights before they cut off abruptly, leaving us in darkness again. Over the din of the engine we heard our driver swearing in Mongolian, followed by the somewhat less harsh sound of a hammer panging on metal. The lights came back on.
In today’s issue of Ask SIPB, we’ll discuss that bane of the digital world: printing out documents on those old-fashioned sheets of paper. Networked printing presents its own set of challenges, and the way to effectively use Athena’s printing infrastructure may not be immediately obvious. We’ll also discuss getting Matlab to run on Mac OS X and forwarding your MIT e-mail.
After having given up on our horses mid-journey, my adventurous acquaintance Will and I found ourselves standing alone on a remote dirt road in the Mongolian countryside. As we weren’t sure how long we’d have to wait, be it minutes or days, we were quite relieved when an old Russian minivan shortly came chugging around from behind a hillside and into view.
There’s something overwhelming about arriving on the MIT campus that makes me sound both apathetic and verbally primitive. “Why did you show up a week early without an FPOP or a sport to go to?” “Just ’cuz,” I said. “Why did you choose that major?” “No reason,” I responded. “What’d you have to suck the helium out of all those picnic balloons for, and why is your face turning blue??” “… I dunno,” came the reply, with me sounding and looking not unlike a Smurf shortly before losing consciousness.