A Smart Blonde's Manifesto

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.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Think Outside the Box? We're Already There.

My goodbyes have nearly all been said. Only a few more remain (albeit the hardest ones) - my boyfriend, very closest friends, and my parents. With the formalities mostly out of the way, my attention is turning forward - to college! After years of planning and hoping and preparing, it's finally here.

I chose MIT for several reasons, and the main one is the cheesiest of them all. My parents and I did a sweep of a bunch of East Coast schools (the Ivies, Olin, MIT) and somehow I was just enchanted by MIT. Harvard had been my "dream school" for a long time (pretty much just for the sexy ring of that name), but when we visited it after seeing MIT, I just wasn't impressed. Had I known more about MIT culture originally, I don't think I'd have even thought twice about many of the other schools on my list. A few of the things I fell in love with it for:

-I'm an old cross country kid, and MIT is the academic version of running a marathon (for the record, I'm a MUCH better student than runner). We all have a masochistic streak a mile wide just for being at MIT, and why not? Nothing is sweeter than what almost kills you to achieve.

-There's no way into MIT except intelligence and diligence. Money can't buy an MIT acceptance tube, sports can't earn one, and connections won't arrange one. It's good.

-The students are decent people. Most of us don't come from fancy private schools or ridiculous wealthy backgrounds, and we all know the value of hard work. When my parents and I were wandering around, grad students would stop and walk us to our destination. I know several pre-frosh who were walked back to campus from frat parties or had cabs arranged for them by responsible upperclassmen. I was one of those pre-frosh, actually.

- The professors and the students are the best in the world. I listened to a lecture by Eric Lander... and I don't remember two words he said, because I was so awe-struck that he was talking to us. If academics are your forte, there's no better place to be. The books that other schools learn from? We learn from their authors. *Karen is still blown away by this.*

And finally, a reason I'm only now starting to appreciate...
-It's no surprise to me that these kids are the ones who "think outside the box", because I haven't met anyone yet that actually could be fit into a box or a simple definition. It's funny, because we keep surprising each other with random cool things about ourselves. I'm starting to realize that we just might be 4000 of the most interesting young adults in the world right now. I can absolutely picture the admissions officers grinning behind their hands and watching us all meet each other and slowly discover all the cool things they already know. It's like buying a bunch of fancy, high-priced pets, throwing them all in a cage together and sitting back to enjoy the show. And let me be the first to say that if MIT's a cage, it's a damn nice one, and I can't wait to get there.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Goodbye Is the Hardest Word to Say

I don't like farewells. They always seem to be the opposite of how much you actually care about the person. People who I've seen twice in the past year run up and hug me like a lifeline, saying they can't imagine life without me (hint: remember the other 363 days?), while the ones I will really miss... there simply are no words.

You know those internet chain letters that threaten about somebody dying right after you got into an argument with them? I've never really understood what's so horrible about that. It's sad that you argued... but your relationship with your parents isn't defined by fighting over cell phone minutes. Your friends aren't less important to you if one is a few minutes late picking you up for school. A tearful goodbye won't make you miss a person any more than dating someone terminally ill out of pity could make you love them. And I don't need or necessarily even want them with the people who deserve them.

I almost wish I could just leave without actually saying goodbye. It puts a funny strain on a conversation to feel like every joke needs to immortalize the years of laughter you've enjoyed, every little gesture silently voices all the intimacy of familiarity and affection. Every hug carries the weight of possibly being the last. It's just... overwhelming to try to gather everything these people mean to you into one final encounter - the goodbye. It's not a sad thing. In fact, it's a gift that I have people in my life whom it will be so hard to go months without seeing. I just want them to know that my quiet goodbyes aren't lukewarm, they're heartfelt.

At the same time, it's exciting to be making my first few friends at MIT. I feel I have to share this little conversation snippet because it was one of the first honest laughs with a new friend, and new friends mean a lot when you're in the process of leaving your old ones:

Me: We're both MIT students, I think we're beyond the point of academic pissing contests
Phil: Indeed
Me: Think about it...
Me: MIT kid #1: "I took 20 AP tests and had perfect SATs!"
Me: MIT kid #2: "I cured a form of cancer!"
Me: MIT kid #3: "I did both!"
Me: The casual observer: "You're all absolute losers and insane to boot."
Phil: HAHA, exactly
Phil: Phil Kim: "I can talk to girls!"
Phil: Hah, take that
Phil: Something kid #1,#2 and #3 will have a hard time following
Me: Karen Castelletti: I AM a girl!

Monday, August 14, 2006

I'm Addicted to Everything

My boyfriend postulated the other day that I just bop around from addiction to addiction and that I wouldn't actually get out of bed if it weren't for them. I'm going to use that premise to lead me to my first and possibly foremost one...

SLEEP. Only the generally-overworked can truly appreciate the divine pleasure of not being conscious. I'm pretty sure it's a bad thing that by the end of the school year I actually start to fantasize about sleeping. I've even forced people around me to take naps with me. On the other hand, I'm NOT asleep right now because of another of my addictions...

COFFEE. It began with my dad giving me his sugar-laced mochas, and my sweet tooth decided that weird-smelling brown liquid was pretty good. Then I stopped caring so much about the sugar and realized, Hey, this stuff wakes me up! Years later, I've actually come frighteningly close to eating coffee grounds to get through procrastinated projects. I'm serious about that. My friends don't like to let me forget it.

MY LAPTOP. I touched on this in an earlier thread, so I'll skim over it here. I feel that we as a generation have an almost unprecedented privilege in the ability to look up anything and everything in seconds. I would live in a library, wasting a lot of time searching through physical books for the things I wanted to know, if I had been born half a century earlier (okay, realistically I'd be working on building the first computer or something). The point is that I know people from all over the world, and I met many of them without ever leaving Ohio. It's priceless.

COLLEGE CONFIDENTIAL. I waste a lot of my online time on these boards. I know it's a bit strange because I've already gotten into college, but the gauntlet of college admissions is amazingly complex today. Far from being groomed by my parents, school, or really anyone, I figured out most of it myself. My guidance counselor was the nicest lady around, but she actually asked me after the fact why I had taken "this... SAT 2 test?" She thought it was a typo. Several of the people on CC were almost ridiculously helpful to me when I was looking to pick a school, and now I feel a distinct loyalty to the community and to helping the kids currently applying the way they helped me. I guess I'm waiting around to be sure I'm there for that next kid like me who comes along... smart but unpolished. Plus, it's kind of fun to argue that MIT women aren't ugly just because we're smart. :p

MUSIC. I don't do much in a given day without humming, singing, whistling or listening to music. I am capable of falling in love with any song with poetic, meaningful lyrics, and sometimes I prefer music in other languages or acoustic because the meaning is implicit and clumsy concessions to rhyme can't detract from it. A few of my current and most sentimental favorites are "Dance With Me" and "I Alone" by Live, "Soul Meets Body" by Death Cab for Cutie, and "Not Ready to Make Nice" by the Dixie Chicks. I realize the last one is country, but the story behind the song really adds to it.

So there you have it - my biggest addictions, neatly outlined and somewhat justified or at least explained. Hopefully you followed at least one link and thought "Hey, this seems kind of cool!" :)

Friday, August 11, 2006

I Got 99 Problems... but Snow Ain't One

I keep talking to people online who are afraid of freezing in Boston this winter. I'm the polar opposite of that... when we visited in February, it was like a (sort of anticlimactic) trip to a warmer climate. The ONLY THING Chardon has ever made international headlines for was when we broke some amazing, unbelievable record of how much snow our dear Lake Erie could dump upon us. I mean... we got 6 feet of snow in 1996, and I'm dead serious. That is half a foot taller than I will ever be. I couldn't see over it, so I dug a whole network of tunnels around our driveway. It was awesome. Except that my parents had it plowed before I had a chance to charge the neighborhood kids toll to crawl around them. Try to top that, Boston. I dare you!

Everyone's talking about the recent foiled terrorist attacks. In keeping with my liberal politics, I don't think we should ever have gone to war with Iraq, but that's mainly because Iraq itself - governmentally sanctioned agents of Saddam Hussein - did not attack us. A group (possibly) within the country that frighteningly has a global reach did. It's like if the KKK suddenly started dropping bombs on elementary schools in Africa or something. Yes, it is absolutely the USA's job to control them and I'm sure it would, but it's a horrible non sequitur to hold the USA morally responsible as though it had intentionally allowed or advocated the attacks. Iraq was unable to contain Al Qaeda, admittedly, but it scares me that we're slowly making enemies with an entire region of the world while simultaneously alienating much of the rest of it. If anybody thinks I'm completely off base and wants to question or debate what I said, by all means, please comment. I'm interested to hear your opinion(s).

That is entirely enough seriousness for this entry. On a quirkier note, my friend Susan and I decided that saying "God bless you" is religiously presumptuous, and we shall henceforward use the quainter and curiouser "to your health". That is all.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

College, Insects, and Ricky Bobby... Oh My?

The college countdown is now below two weeks! I still haven't decided if that little fluttery feeling in my stomach is nausea or excitement, but I like it. I always heard that cliche about never knowing what you have until you lose it and assumed myself exempt. I was wrong. I mean, I'm sitting here in the middle of the day in my pajamas, flanked by our somewhat deranged parakeet thinking... she hates everyone but me. I know she's not a menace, she's just misunderstood... but who else will put up with her antics under that (possibly misguided) belief when I'm gone? I'm ready to leave and I can't wait to go, but it's hard not to see the million ways I've molded this place and I know it's molded me too. I mean.. that crazy bird wouldn't even be here if not for an insistent 10-year-old me.

Musings from work... flies are basically the ninjas of the insect world. Cochroaches are the masses because they're effectively indestructible, but flies are definitely the ninjas. I work at Subway, which is a pretty good gig since the food is awesome and the first thing my boss asked when he heard I was going to MIT was if I would design him the world's most technologically-advanced beer bong. I kid you not. But we're fighting a losing battle with the flies. They buzz around taunting us with their little beady multi-faceted eyes and their disappearing acts that defy the laws of physics. It's maddening... and impressive.

In other news, my friends and I went to the drive-in last night. We piled into a single car, wandered up an old dirt road to our bona fide drive-in theater, cranked up the radio volume and lay out on the grass in a mess of junk food, root beer, blankets and ineffective bugspray to see... Talladega Nights! The showdown of an all-American chump against a homosexual Frenchman! The tagline - if you aren't first, you're last! The letdown of it all! I want to believe it was spoofing an entire genre of better movies a la James Bond (which is an awesome franchise in its own right, by the way)... but it was absolute fluff. The big moments in the movie - the traumatic life-threatening accident, the wife leaving for his best friend, the long-estranged father's return, finding love with the "girl next door" - were devoid of any emotional impact whatsoever. I don't enjoy shallow, slapstick humor that much, so its appeal was rather lost on me. It had its moments though, my favorite amongst them:

Ricky Bobby: I have a new nickname... El Diablo! It's Spanish for like... a fighting chicken or something.

(Somewhere in Mexico, I'm sure there's a fighting chicken who finally got his 15 seconds of international fame, and that's why the movie was worth seeing.)

Who Is This Chick Anyway?

Staring at the blank blog that will become mine makes me wonder... who am I? What makes my perspective on life unique? The first answer that popped into my head is that I'm a contradiction in terms - a smart blonde. Hence the title of this blog. But that's not who I am.

If you met me in school, you probably think I'm a quiet smart girl who reads too much, plays in the band, and will talk about and debate anything. If you met me outside of school, you probably think I'm a perpetually-distracted but approachable girl with a sarcastic sense of humor and a flair for the dramatic. If you were my mother, you'd know a whole host of embarassing stories about me that will hopefully never find their way onto the Internet. :P

I have a very limited perspective on the world, but I'm working on it. That's not to say I'm not open-minded, because I am, possibly to a fault. It's just that I've lived my whole life in a little corner of the world that never provided all that much variety with which to fill my afore-mentioned open mind. Many people who know me think my obsession with my laptop is strange, but I consider it something of a window out of 99% white, conservative, Christian Suburbia, OH to the rest of the world. I can't wait to meet people who've lived completely different lives, and I'm starting to realize that I have interesting stories to offer to them, too.

I've always felt like I didn't really belong here. I don't shop at Abercrombie (in fact, I hate shopping entirely), I don't assume anything based on race and I have both friends and a boyfriend who aren't white (I think they comprise that entire non-white 1%). I prefer musicals to rap/pop/country, I'm working on reading everything ever written, I think it's more audacious to deny rights to gay people than it is to skip church on Sundays, and I don't like people who can't locate Iraq but feel entitled to unyielding opinions on it.

And yes, I know MIT is more expensive than Ohio State, but I'm going there anyway and I can't wait!

I think I've exhausted my introspection for the day. I promise the next post will actually be more than an extended introduction!