Summer days

Good morning everyone :).

Man, air conditioning changes your life! Yesterday I got kicked out of Sidney-Pacific (the graduate dorm that I was subleasing this summer) because the lease was up, and moved myself over to one of the undergraduate dorms. The change in culture (and temperature) has been dramatic. Where Sid-Pac was generally air-conditioned, super-clean, and solitary, this dorm is all-natural, typical summer-dorm-clean, and extremely friendly! I’m so grateful to be staying in David’s room there, in the building he affectionately calls the “brick oven”. When I asked around a few weeks ago, hoping that I could find housing from yesterday until Friday (when I head back to Minnesota), David was one of the first to volunteer :).

I had a seamless transition from Sid-Pac to the dorms, due to the fact that I have truly fantastic friends. Amaya, a neuro/econ major in my year from Wellesley, woke up early enough to pick me up at 7:30am on a Saturday and drive all of my stuff across campus to David’s dorm. David, in turn, woke up at 7:30am on a Saturday to let me into the building, helped me carry all of my stuff up to the 3rd floor, showed me around, and offered his room up for almost a week in the first place. David’s a rising senior at MIT, who I met through 9.40 Introduction to Neural Computation last spring. We’ve kind of been attached at the hip this summer, because we have very similar food tastes, and so he’s a staple at weekend dimsum and I often come along to his Monday night escapades to the restaurant Fire and Ice in Harvard Square.

It is also, may I say, the first and likely only time I’m staying in a currently all-male suite! Muhahahaha, finally the college experience. If you’ll remember, next year in Cambridge I was randomly assigned to one of the only three female-only dorms in the country, and moreover the only dorm in the country limited to females over 21. And I come from Wellesley. And I’ve never dated anyone. This resolves in the fact that I have no co-ed living experience. (ps, in a miraculous turn of events, you can still talk to guys even though you get zero practice. I was very worried about this when I came to college. I have no idea why this is true, but it happily is.)

My conclusions are that it’s not actually different than living in a girls dorm, MIT dorms are generally awesome in that they’ve all got video game consoles in their break rooms (I have observed this in more than one dorm), MIT is filled with ridiculously kind people, this particular hallway has a bunch of very nice guys, and I want air-conditioning. When David was walking me down his hallway, he pointed out that all of the guys here right now spoke either Spanish or Chinese, and that they all played Smash, some professionally. I was like: “Smash?” Super Smash Bros, it turns out, which was an embarrassing slip on my part, since I am peripherally aware of most video games since my youngest sister Nicole is a gamer, and I’m particularly aware of Super Smash Bros because I spend a good hour or two playing it with my sisters whenever I go home. You should see their set-up, though, in the common space at the end of the hall—it’s fantastic. They’ve got a sort of double-decker sofa situation set up, where there’s one sofa on the floor, and another sofa stacked up on two side-tables. The sofa situation is facing not one, not two, but four TVs, attached to two GameCubes and what looks like a PlayStation 2 according to Nicole (these are old gaming systems). There’s a snarl of video game controllers (at least six of them) on the sofa, and layers of games splayed across shelves and the floor. And to put a finishing touch on it, there’s a piece of paper taped to the fall giving the link to an “Advanced Smash Tutorial”. Just makes me shake my head so fondly. (Last ode to the MIT mentality: most MIT students build their own air-conditioning units. I love this school.)

Very optional self-indulgent additional video games paragraph:

Erica, the sophomore in high school I mentored in lab this summer, was asking me if I had book recommendations for her. I dallied for a bit, then mentioned that my favorite book ever was “Ender’s Game,” and it turned out it was one of her favorites too! So then I became very excited and began bleating out books from my favorite trope at her, i.e. books about people stuck in video games / virtual reality, but it turns out she didn’t like video game books. I told her that Ender’s Game is one gigantic video game book! How could she! Hahaha—turns out that this appreciation of video games while not actually having any inclination to play them is not as ubiquitous as I thought. (I told her to read Slaughterhouse-Five, Catch-22, Ender’s Shadow, Starship Troopers, and a bunch of other ones though. All the weird fun ones.)

Back to regularly-scheduled reading:

After moving in, David and I headed out to dimsum, my last after four years of weekend eating :). Erin (graduated Wellesley a year before me), and Jenny (rising senior at MIT) and her friends joined us, to have a group of seven! Pic is below.

Last dimsum :)
Last dimsum 🙂

It’s kind of nostalgic, and I do hope very much to come back to Boston in the future. What’s even weirder is that I’m finishing up in Prof. Conway’s lab at the end of this week… and I’ve been working in that lab for three years, each of which were filled with so many defining experiences. Leaving Boston is one thing, leaving Wellesley another, and leaving the Conway lab is perhaps one of the strangest of all. I’m excited with what I have next though—ready for my next adventure!

After dimsum, I did my usual trip through Haymarket and to the supermarket (with a subway ride and a fair amount of walking in between) and then headed back to the dorms. After which came cooking, working out, and trying to psych myself up to do work. (Which was unsuccessful. It was a bit easier with my old roommate Alyssa, because she was always on her computer doing either work or play on weekends in a way that made it was very difficult to tell which. Joined with my well-founded suspicion that Alyssa generally works more hours than I do, I found above-minimum-expectations achiever mode slightly easier to achieve.) I then had a great two-hour chat with my parents and siblings, in which we talked about school and also about nothing. I don’t think I’ll ever be better at talking about nothing than with my sisters.

Today, Sunday, I had a pretty much perfect day: walking around and eating food with friends :). It really doesn’t get better than that in my mind. Christine and Christine’s dad (I have permission to call him that) took me out and about Boston—we started at Thelonious Monkfish for sushi, did some thrift-store shopping, and did a tour of MIT (including CSAIL and the Media Lab, because they have coolest-looking offices you will ever see in your life, possibly with the exception of the high-tech companies in CA). We then headed over and got briefly lost on the way to the Science Museum, visited the Boston Public Market, and went to a fishing festival in the North End. Christine and her dad are some of the absolute sweetest people I know, and it was so lovely to spend time with them. It is stunning how many wonderful people I have in my life—people who live and breathe kindness, inclusion, good humor, perseverance, cheerfulness, thankfulness, interest, curiosity. I have such, such good friends and family.

(Speaking of friends, one of my favorite people in high school, Sarah, is starting at Harvard Medical School as a first-year medical student! I am so, so pleased for her :). She was on the MIT swim team for all four years, so I saw her at two meets a year and then visited her when I started cross-registering. Everyone is so accomplished (huge grin. The emoticon’s not doing it for me.))

This is going to be a shorter post, so I’m about done, but I did want to mention that work is going well :). Erica, the rising 10th grader I’ve been mentoring, finished this week and did a great job with the labeling project (labeling regions of the brain for use in a later analysis). It was great having her and the other young lab members, and I’ve learned so much about the mentoring process and teaching through her. It was also fun to have fresh energy on the labeling, since it’s a long-term project of mine that I started working on two springs ago, and I think this is the one project I’ll continue working on after leaving the lab. On Thursday night, because I hadn’t been working much (I’d been doing fMRI and MEG studies instead) I pulled an 11-hour labeling shift and finished up around midnight. I then headed out into one of MIT’s fields with David, Casper, and Hiran to stare at the sky, watching the Perseid meteor shower. I forget sometimes how nice it is to be awake and outside at night, standing with the sprinklers and the stars.

Finally, I am so grateful and so in love with lab meetings this summer. Prof. Rebecca Saxe and Prof. Laura Schulz very generously allowed me to sit in on their lab meetings for the past two months, and I prize those four hours per week as some of my most wonderful intellectual experiences. I listen to these incredible debates and questions between incredible people, and it leaves me so invigorated about science and thought and human capacity. Having a student silently sitting at lab meetings messes with the dynamic, and is plenty reason to not allow visitors. But I have had such a fantastic time being that silent student, and am so thankful to Profs. Saxe and Schulz for allowing it (and to Tyler and Prof. Conway for encouraging me to ask in the first place. I’m surrounded by amazing, amazing people.)

All right, dudes, I’m checking out—time to go home, rest my feet, and read and work out :). It’s been a wonderful weekend, a wonderful summer, and the next time I talk to you I’ll be back in Minnesota. End of this adventure, here I come :).

Monica

Edit: Christine just sent me pictures from Sunday! It was so lovely to spend time with them :). Thelonious Monkfish.
Edit: Christine just sent me pictures from Sunday! It was so lovely to spend time with them :). Thelonious Monkfish.
Food porn! Num nums
Food porn! Num nums
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Christine and I 🙂

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Touring MIT :). One of the absolute coolest places at MIT is the Media Lab-- here are two pics from inside that building.
Touring MIT :). One of the absolute coolest places at MIT is the Media Lab– here are two pics from inside that building.

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I'm taking pictures for the blog. Christine is much much better at them.
I’m taking pictures for the blog. Christine is much much better at them.
Stata's also pretty awesome. Me and Christine's dad!
Stata’s also pretty awesome. Me and Christine’s dad!
Wandering over to the North End for the Fisherman's Festival!
Wandering over to the North End for the Fisherman’s Festival!
Getting rice balls with spinach for dinner :). (This was after the stop at the Boston Public Market for apple cider doughnuts. You all need to eat them. Now.) ... love these two so much :).
Getting rice balls with spinach for dinner :). (This was after the stop at the Boston Public Market for apple cider doughnuts. You all need to eat them. Now.) … love these two so much :).
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