Thousands of Miles from Home


Boating on the Charles 

A blustery day in Boston 

Andrew and Karlen survey the scene Posted by Picasa

Crew teams line up for their chance down the Charles 

Three boats in a head to head battle 

What's wrong with this picture? 

Buckle up! 

The road to Vermont 

Theta Chi was here 

In front of Norwich Junior High 

Alcaraz plays with a red ball 

The Polka Dot 

Home cookin' with Bill and Ben 

I have never seen Schrock so happy 

Look at all that pie! 

Francis and Schrock, following their feast 

Bill, visually excited by the "Hip Hop Here" sign 

At the Harpoon Brewery in Vermont 

David, Erik, and Alex, with enough peace signs to remind me of Japan 

Matt with crazy glasses! 

Volkan's "birthday" 

Road Trip!

This weekend I climbed aboard a rental van to participate in Theta Chi’s retreat to Norwich, Vermont where the first Theta Chi chapter was founded in 1856. The University of Norwich has since closed its doors to Greek organizations, making MIT’s Beta chapter the oldest operational branch of the fraternity. A monument now stands where the old Theta Chi house was located, after a fire consumed the structure and the rest of the Norwich University buildings.

Roads trips are always fun, especially with a great group of guys. In two massive 12-seater rental vans the new Theta Chi pledges traveled with Brothers on the 3 hour trek from Boston to Norwich. Along the way I was almost left at a gas station with a dozen donuts as my only food source. After arriving in Norwich, Ante, who organized the retreat, said a few words where the Theta Chi house used to stand, and then we played a heated game of kickball on the nearby soccer field. Other people found bikes, scooters, and balls of various sized which made for a great afternoon in Norwich.

Vermont in fall is beautiful, and the whole day lent itself to a truly “New England” experience. On the way home Schrock got our van hopelessly lost only to find The Polka Dot Diner, with the best pies this side of the Mississippi. Schrock and Francis split five pieces between the two of them while I polished of an open face turkey sandwich, sweet potato fries, and a generous slice of lemon meringue pie.

That night was the Brothers dinner, a time when all the pledge classes go out to dinner with their pledge brothers. The freshmen ate at Vinny T’s, across from the Prudential Center (which we ran to from Theta Chi in the pouring rain). Diner was exciting, to say the least, and I’m glad to be getting to know the rest of the pledge class.

Sunday was spent watching The Head of the Charles Regatta with Andrew and Karlen. The Regatta is a rowing race held on the Charles River which draws teams from all over the world and is one of the largest regattas in the world. Andrew used to row so he explained the rules and tactics while we all cheered on MIT’s crew team. At the finish line near Harvard were many booths peddling various goods (and free ice cream). That night I tried to get some work done before sleep took its toll.

No tests this week, which is a relief, but plenty of homework in the meantime. It’s quite cold and rainy which means time to break out the raincoats and sweaters.


The closest I will ever get to a multi-billionaire 

On the left, an MIT professor who sued Ballmer over an issue free speech and won. Now apparently "friendly adversaries," Ballmer admits he was "out-lawyered."

Not only a marketing genius, Ballmer is also one scary fellow 

What a crazy afternoon! 

Getting Lucky in the Tang Center

This week in the MIT Stata Center, Bill Magnuson and I spotted a flyer for a speech to be given by Steve Ballmer, CEO and poster boy for the Microsoft Corporation. Thoroughly intrigued, I slipped out of chemistry class a little early today to meet Bill outside the Tang Center. As I should have expected, all the seats in the auditorium were filled by Sloan management students, and a police guard at the door suggested we sit in another lecture hall that would be receiving a live video broadcast. No way had I come all this way to see Ballmer on a video screen, I can turn on CNN any day of the week for that type of thing.

Bill and I consulted a map of the Tang Center on the wall and casually walked to the basement. There we found a back hallway that led to an exit door at the front of the main lecture hall. Amazingly, standing in the hallway was none other than the $11 billion man himself, Steve Ballmer. Bill and I nonchalantly walked by Microsoft employees dressed in business suits to the entrance of the lecture hall where one of the Microsoft PR representatives was waiting for the speech to begin. The Microsoft employee made a comment about Bill’s Pink Floyd t-shirt and my Akira Kurosawa pin, and it turned out that the man loved Floyd and had visited Japan on a number of times. He asked us what we were doing in the hallway, and we retold our story about being rejected by the security guard at the door. The man said that he’d see what he could do.

A few minutes later, our inside man returned with the organizer of the speech who told Bill and I, “Welcome to the Microsoft Internship Program, we have two seats reserved for you in the front row of the auditorium.” After promising that we weren’t going to pull any stunts during the lecture, Bill and I followed Steve Ballmer into the hall and took our seats to a roar of applause from the gathered crowd.

Ballmer gave a riveting lecture about the history of Microsoft, full of energy and passion in his usual style. He took some questions from the audience concerning Google and the open source movement, and then left the auditorium before anyone could scramble for a handshake. I didn’t mind, feeling rather content after spending a good 10 minutes behind the scenes with one of the richest men in America.

Exciting people seem to be lecturing at MIT everyday, and perhaps there’s something to be said for not always arriving hours before the speech commences.


Resonance performs at Kresge Auditorium 

A slightly blurry shot of The Muses 

CLEAR SKIES! Can you belive it? 

David and Bill before the Big Brother ceremony 

Theta Chi Pledge Class of 2009 

A little 70's action 

Alcaraz, or "Timmy Two Ties," at The Pour House 

Apparently difficult to eat while wearing goggles 

Theta Chi football All-stars 

Schrock, with a diving tackle 

Clouds reflected off the Hancock Building 

And The Sun Came Out

That’s right folks, for a fleeting moment the rain has hidden its ugly face and the sun has come out to play.  Good thing too, because I was beginning to wonder if Boston would ever stop reminding me of Frank McCourt’s Ireland.  The river Shannon does bear a striking resemblance to the Charles…

It seems that all over the globe, Universities and Colleges alike are throwing A Capella concerts.  Last night I popped into the Kresge Auditorium to get my fix of non-instrumental entertainment.  Pam, Shanying, and Jenna were all singing for The Muses, an all female group.  Also gracing the stage were Resonance, The Cross Products (a Christian group), The Chorallaries, The MIT/Wellesley Toons, and The Logarythms.  There was a huge crowd, but I got a good seat and enjoyed all the performances.

Yesterday, I was officially inducted as a new member into Theta Chi fraternity.  Being parent’s weekend, some older folks were there to witness the ceremony.  After brunch at The Pour House, I watched Theta Chi dominate in intramural football and then delved into some homework assignments.

I’m still trying to settle into the campus life.  It’s hard to take a step back and relax when the workload is so intense, but I certainly don’t feel like I’m wasting my time.


Getting My Work Cut Out

It turns out I don't even have to upload past shows, WMBR does it for me. You can listen to a whole range of college radio archives right here


An art exhibit outside lobby 10 

Not quite sure what was trying to be accomplsihed, but a nice effort 

The "secret garden" atop the parking garage in Cambridge 

Shameless Plugs

If you didn't know, I have a radio show that broadcasts every Tuesday morning from 3-4 AM on WMBR, college radio 88.1 in Boston. I know that's sort of an unreasonable time for most people, so I'll try to post some feeds from the program on the blog in an effort to expand your music horizons.

Here's a little sample

It's strange to hear yourself over a recorded medium.

In other news, after finishing my 8.01 Phyiscs test last night (7:30-9:30 PM, arguably a strange time), I cruised on over to The Roxy to hear Atmosphere in concert. An excellent show, which was bolstered by the fact that the tickets were free thanks to the radio station.

Also, my story about Murakami visiting MIT was published in The Tech. It's no front-pager, but still nice to see something printed en masse.

The last two weeks have been absolute educational nightmares. I don't care to reflect on how many hours were spent studying, problem set-ing, or staring at a physics book scratching my head. However, I now have an entire (parents) weekend to blow on less academic pursuits.

If only the rain would stop...


What world Man Day be without the pinnacle of testosterone: Weightlifting magazines 

Jenn and Alex, slightly appalled 

Dajie and Tim, who is far more devious than he looks 

Dajie and I on the train to Worcester 

Arrrggg, it's Man Day 

Jennifer takes aim 

I look pretty puny next to that rifle 

This could go on the cover of Guns & Ammo 

My short stint in law enforcement 

Alex, doing his best "Dirty Harry" 

Now that, dear friends, in a ridiculously large gun 

Sitting down to dinner at Morton's Steakhouse 

Tim with a huge cut of meat 

Morton's: the obvious choice for decadent Man Day dining 

Man Day and Other Assorted Activities

This weekend I was offered the chance to participate in the first annual Harvard/MIT Man Day (I was representing the MIT contingent). This happened to coincide with a four day weekend break for MIT which made the prospect all the more enticing.

The plan was simple: devote a whole day to the purest essence of being a Man. Insults, jokes, belching, dueling, doing thing in the hardest possible way, not asking directions, and general manliness are highly encouraged. In a way Man Day is a conglomerate of the imagination. You can even try it at home.

I unofficially began Man Day by meeting Jennifer Zhang, back from the high school days, at Harvard Square. After meeting her roommate, we talked for a while to catch up on the last few years. She’s changed quite a bit, but in good ways. That night we went to “Stand Up,” a party sponsored by Harvard and thrown in a large hall which vaguely reminded me of Harry Potter. I enjoyed myself, proving that Harvard parties are not as bad as people make them out to be. After the dance, I returned home to get some sleep for the big day ahead.

The next morning I met Jennifer and her friends Alex, Tim, and Mike (co-coordinators of Man Day), and Dajie for a train ride to Worcester, where we would be frequenting a gun range. The train ride took a little over an hour so we filled the downtime with stories of manliness, perusal of magazines about weightlifting, and the eating Philly cheese steaks.

From the station we took a short cab ride to the gun range. Luckily, Mondays are half price for college kids so we shot a .44 Magnum, Storm rifle, Glock, and a .22 rifle for a little under $30 a person. Overtly manly, if I do say so myself, and bolstered by the fact that no one participating in the Man Day festivities was very macho (two were actually women). Put a gun in the hands of Harvard’s finest and they’ll still get a big kick out of it.

That evening, our crew met up with some other Harvard kids at Morton’s steakhouse for delicious slices of beef. The meal was slightly expensive, but worth every penny. The waiters not only pull out the table for you to sit down, but refold your napkins if you place them on your chair while you go to the bathroom. Now that’s style. Man Day was topped off with the watching of Die Hard in the Eliot house TV room on the Harvard campus.

In total, I had an exciting weekend in masculinity. Seeing Jennifer again, and with a boyfriend this time, was quite a thrill. I was repeatedly amazed by how eloquent and visibly educated the Harvard students were. They actually use those SAT words on a regular basis, but to say otherwise would be belittling the Harvard the admissions process. On the whole, we had a very successful 1st annual Man Day. Look for Woman Day sometime later this year.


A large crowd in 10-250, even after police removed those standing in the aisles 

The master himself 

Confronting a Favorite

Last night I received the distinct pleasure of witnessing Haruki Murakami, THE Haruki Murakami, give a short talk about his life and read an excerpt from his book, After the Quake. While ultimately thrilling, and arguably a once in a lifetime experience, I experienced a few scares during the course of the evening.

First of all, I had severely underestimated Murakami’s following. 10-250, one of MIT’s largest lecture halls, could have been filled twice over with people vying for a seat. The hall was so packed that the campus police had to be called in to forcibly remove people standing in the aisles. I arrived about 15 minutes early, but was still met with a massive line stretching down the infinite corridor. I struck up a conversation with a violinist who had visited Japan on a number of occasions and before I knew it a woman was informing the crowd that the auditorium was full.

At this point I was distressed for two reasons. Firstly, I love Murakami’s work and had been looking forward to this talk ever since seeing the flyer last month. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I was writing an article for The Tech about the event and with no seat at the lecture I wouldn’t have any sort of story by the deadline. If I had been smart about this, I probably could have invoked my reporter privileges earlier in the evening by skipping the line and finding a seat in the reserved section. Now, with police turning everyone away the door, I was more than a little worried.

Dashing to the front of the line, I spotted a girl with a camera around her neck and informed her that she would be my cameraperson for the evening. With reporter’s notebook and cameras in hand, we strode past the police barricade and made our way up the stairs to the back of the auditorium and hid behind a large pillar. It didn’t help that the air conditioning in 10-250 was broken, bathing the hall in a muggy heat. The police cleared the aisles and locked the doors, but we weren’t discovered.

While hiding, the girl told me she was a sophomore studying painting at the Rhode Island School of Design, where my friend Darien is currently enrolled. She had never met him before, but wrote his name on her arm for future reference. Just as we finished our introductions, Murakami appeared.

The reading itself was amazing. Murakami, clad in a "Pickle" t-shirt, khaki pants, Newbalance shoes, and a light sports coat, was amicable and funny; everything that I expected him to be while reading his books. “If you don’t like my books, you don’t have to feel guilty,” He said with a smile through a heavy Japanese accent. “You just have a brain disease.”

After a few opening remarks and some anecdotes about his life and career, Murakami read a portion of “Superfrog Saves Tokyo” from the book After the Quake (a series of short stories inspired by The Great Hanshin earthquake of 1995 in Kobe). He began in Japanese (with which I struggled, and somewhat succeeded, to understand), before starting over in English. After a few pages Murakami stopped reading and another man took over to finish the piece. The entire audience was captivated throughout the tale involving a 6 foot, Joseph Conrad-quoting, highly articulate frog who visits a security trust officer of the Shinjuku branch bank to inform him the he will be the one to fight Worm and save Tokyo from a major earthquake. If that sounds appealing to you, or even if it doesn’t, you can expand your horizons by reading this book. Or, for the lazy, you can read the story online.

You will note that the story has been translated by Jay Rubin, who has transcribed much of Murakami’s work from Japanese into English. While I was scanning the lecture hall, I recognized Jay Rubin sitting in the second row. In my opinion, Jay is just as gifted as Murakami when it comes to writing, and his presence made the reading all the more enjoyable. After the reading, Murakami answered a few questions and was escorted out of the auditorium by more police officers.

Sometimes I feel that it’s tough to enjoy an author that that is not only widely read, but also living, on a personal level. Books give us a special connection with an author, but that link that can be easily broken when either meeting the author in person or realizing that you are not alone in your enjoyment of their work. Even still, last night was an amazing opportunity that I am so fortunate to have witnessed.

In order to take advantage of all this webspace graciously granted to me by MIT, I’ve posted two videos of the reading; one of Murakami talking about his life in Japan, and another of him reading the first part of “Superfrog Saves Tokyo” in Japanese. They are large so be patient.


Counting Sheep?

If you’re a college student, have chronic insomnia, or nothing better to do, I’m hosting a radio show Monday night (Tuesday morning) from 3-4 A.M. (Eastern time). In Boston, tune into 88.1 WMBR. On the internet, Listen Here. You can even call in for requests at 617-253-8810. See you there.


18.02, freshman multivariable calculus 

Intramural bowling for Theta Chi 

Sunset on the Harvard Bridge 

Midnight game of football 

Witzy, our all-star kicker 

Jordan jumping for joy 

Get It Together

From the banks of the Charles River, the work comes in waves here at MIT.  While that’s to be expected, it’s too early to make many definite statements about the difficulty of this college, other than it being very “hard.”  Kids scramble to finish problem sets and threaten to lock themselves in rooms to study, but the median score on my first math test was still a 67.  Not too hot coming from the best and brightest in the nation.  Even so, I’m reassured by the prospect of pass/no record, if only to keep the educational flood waters from rising too quickly.

This weekend I played intramural bowling as well as basketball, doing considerably better in one of those (I’ll let you decide).  It was alumni weekend at Theta Chi, some old faces showed up to introduce themselves to the new, and a good time was had by all.  Rosh Hashana services tomorrow, followed by a required TIPS alcohol training seminar.  For now: homework and a Sunday afternoon nap.