A Smart Blonde's Manifesto

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Moments to Spare

I've set a new motto for myself in college, and it seems like the opposite of the adjusment one should make when transitioning to a frenetic place like MIT. I've realized, however, that it's probably the one thing I regret not doing the most in high school. I take moments when they come.

When I'm running late to class and pass somebody I know, lately I will slow down anyway and ask how his or her life is going. I won't have a half hour conversation, but it's more important to me now to enjoy the people around me than whether I'm an extra minute late to class. I stop to share a laugh with the people down the hall even though I know every minute there is one minute later I will have to stay up that night. Maybe I've matured that much or maybe I'm becoming less mature, but this place is too vibrant to just run through the halls without ever looking around.

The people I've met since coming here are amazingly interesting. You cannot fully meet any given one of us in an hour or a day or even a week. The sweet and diminutively feminine girl across the hall is a bona-fide computer genius. My friend from Egypt has the most nuanced and first-hand political views I've ever encountered. My roommate's grandmother writes pornographic novels and her parents are hippies. A boy from Kuwait thinks I have an accent! Need I say more?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

On My Mind Part 2

(warning: this post is significantly more shallow than the previous "On My Mind"... but probably more fun.)

Even frat parties reflect the building-coolness of MIT culture, as evidenced by... *drumroll please* the Anything But CLOTHES Parties! Again, in case my mom reads this... that does not mean you go naked! It means you make clothes from things like duct tape, caution tape, a cardboard box, whatever. I can't wait. I'm thinking coffee stirs strung together into a skirt and twisted into jewelry... maybe some double-sided duct tape undergarments to make sure an errant little gap between coffee stirs doesn't result in a wardrobe malfunction. I'll keep you posted on my roommates' attire as it is constructed as well. What a wonderful idea for a party. If I wasn't running late for my HASS class right now, I'd ramble further about its quirky coolness. As it is... Karen, out.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Timeless Debate

Soda versus Pop. I actually never realized before coming here that anyone else called it anything BUT pop. I didn't realize I was stepping up to an ancient battleline when I said it the first time oh-so-innocently. I don't even drink that Carbonated Beverage That Must Not Be Named if given a choice. However, I do want to declare my stance (which I am fully prepared to good-naturedly defend) on this debate... in Ahia, we drink pop, bitch!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

On My Mind

My 3.091 recitation leader asked something the other day that struck me as the perfect question to ask a group of intellectual people - what are you pondering? What is currently distracting your thoughts from what you should be working on? My answer is several-fold:

On an academic note (since this is the common ground we can ALL talk about!), my classes have covered what I learned in a year of high school in a week. I'm finally being pushed in the area of my strength, and it's strange and new and terribly exciting all at once. Also, anything ending in "12" (ex. 8.012) is unnecessarily hard... by the standards of some of the smartest kids in the world. Don't take that as lightly as I did. I'm now happily enrolled in the lower version of physics, 8.01.

Also, I've been aggravated frequently at the building numbers cover the same range as the majors... but they don't correlate!! http://whereis.mit.edu has become my dearest friend.

I had my first "MIT moment" when I read an article on MSNBC for fun, only to realize the man given credit for essentially birthing the field of robotics is actually my freshman advisor. I am humbled.

Finally, I've taken up crew outside of school, and it's literally the craziest idea I've had yet. It's the most ass-kicking series of workouts I've ever been through, but somehow it appeals to my most masochistic side. Let's be honest - at MIT, we're all masochists. We want the world to take its best shot at us, because we suspect we can handle it and we relish the challenge.

A Side Note That Led To Rambling

To quickly clarify about my last post, a Senior House kid told me that she interpreted my post to mean "Baker kids all drink EXCEPT FOR ME!"... please keep in mind that I want my mother to be able to read this blog. Take that as you will. I'm actually sitting here distracted by the deep pulsating beat from across the hall where my floormate is having a birthday party, and I fully intend to go over as soon as I get this all out.

Speaking of Senior House, my dorm is pretty much its cultural antithesis. Yet to all those on College Confidential who worry that one can't appreciate both cultures or have both Baker and Senior House as their two top choices for housing, it's absolutely possible. With quick nods to the Burton Third Bombers and a few off-campus living groups, these two dorms are my favorite places on campus.

I've also wondered at the fact that so many people from a "nerd school" end up pledging to frats and sororities. My conclusion (and you're welcome to disagree) is that MIT is already set up in the spirit of Greek houses - that is, you find the culturally cohesive living group that best suits you and choose to live there. The dorms aren't as much places to live so much as they are ways

to live - very similar to Greek houses.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Real Baker House

This is going to be one of those entries I maybe shouldn't write because of a few possibly incriminating references, but I feel I should write it anyway. Baker House is an interesting place. It's the heart of West Campus culture as much as EC is the heart of the building/hacking/nerd power culture that makes MIT famous.

I'm not going to sugarcoat it - a lot of West Campus kids drink. But never in my life have I been around such a responsible group of (young) drinkers, and that's what this entry is about.

We readily reimburse one another for alcohol, so that nobody is "screwed over" for being nice.

We take careful care of one another - a roommate of mine who was being very affectionate with a boy she had just met ended up with a small posse of sober Bakerites trailing her to make sure he didn't take advantage of her. They physically restrained him from "walking her home." I happen to know him and he's a very nice guy, but it's very impressive that so many people wanted to protect my roommate. In high school, I was always the one taking care of others because they were irresponsible - now I'm in the majority (rather than being a flustered minority of one).

We dance to loud music here, with varying degrees of success. You couldn't tell the average IQ here is in the genius range - we aren't socially crippled.

We don't push anybody to do anything. We have people who don't drink for personal, health and religious reasons, and they aren't wheedled or pressured into it. Everybody says "there's no pressure", but it's actually true here - and we have people with the unmovable resolve of mountains. We didn't get here by jumping every time someone said "You should ___".

The culture is centered around loud, friendly parties and outings, and I love it. The Bakerites are kind without exception. You can talk to anyone here about nearly anything. If you're lost, someone will probably walk you to where you were going. This is true of the entire campus, but in this dorm, we don't just repond nicely when approached, we are outgoing and actually approach people we don't even know.

Generally speaking, we are a healthy group. We eat shockingly well for a group of teenagers on our own, and we work out regularly. (Mom and Dad, sorry I didn't do this back home - you yelled at me to eat well, but you couldn't peer pressure me into it!)

None of these things are unique to MIT, but within MIT, they're unique to West Campus culture. It's been said that everyone agrees West Campus is "normal" - but East Campus says it derisively, and we say it defensively. That statement is absolutely true, discounting the fact that every kid here is amazing. We don't have one damn kid on campus who fits the "external" definition of normal - so even though West Campus is known for its partying ways, we're still MIT students at the end of the day. I suppose that's us in a nutshell.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Long-Awaited Update

Wow, this week has been insane. Insanely fun? Absolutely - but also just plain insane. I did the Discover Ocean Engineering pre-orientation program, where we built an underwater rover, went to the Mystic Seaport in Mystic, CT, tested our vehicles at Cape Cod, went sailing and on a dinner cruise, and most importantly, learned how to change a drill bit and solder. The latter actually made me really appreciate how nearly 50-50 the gender ratio at MIT is, because none of the other girls had used tools before either, so it wasn't awkward or embarassing to have to ask for help.

I've been to several excellent parties and a lot of interesting events - including but not limited to movies, dance parties, jello wrestling, street parties and convocation speeches. I'm actually currently skipping a talk on how not to sexually harass people, because frankly I think I'll fall asleep if it's much like the diversity one was. I haven't encountered or even witnessed any prejudice of any kind since I got here, and I'm being absolutely serious. Everybody seems incredibly respectful and blindingly intelligent. I love it.

I've been getting to bed at roughly 4:00 AM every night and waking up by 8:00 AM (between late-night conversations, official parties and my own pre-existing habits), and yet somehow the pace is so fast and exciting that I'm not even tired. I've even found a few chances to work out in the amazingly gorgeous Z Center. I'm going to take a quick nap now before the party later, but sorry I didn't update sooner - ILTFP!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I'm Here!

I'm at MIT!! I somehow ended up in a single in Baker, which is really nice, though I know I won't be allowed to keep it. That's okay. There aren't that many people here yet, and most of them had to get up early today for their programs. Mine doesn't start until 5PM (yes, be jealous), so I've got a while.

I like the city out my window. It's the kind of skyline I only ever saw while in transit or in pictures before, so it's a little bit like having a moving picture outside. It's beautiful.