Necropost: Truly Marvelous Posts

I originally put the last post into a private category, which led me to look at the other private posts about gender and religion I had that were referred to in this post. As stated nearly 3 years ago,

Maybe someday, if I become more comfortable with these topics, they will become password protected posts, but that day is not today.

Well, surprisingly, that day is today. I’ve changed a lot in the last 3 years, and while these views aren’t really accurate to my current state of mind, the stories definitely are and I’d like them to be shared. As stated in my religion post:

Perhaps I send things to litchin@ in the vain hope that if more people know my stories, they won’t all die with me. Or at least Google will hold them in their musty-server-rack-in-the-cloud/butt

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Necropost: “Rape Fantasies” – Margaret Atwood

This post is mainly a response to the really oddly high amount of traffic that one of my early posts “‘Rape Fantasies’ — Margaret Atwood” gets. It’s been almost 4 years since I wrote the original post — it’s so rambly now and badly written that I feel a little embarrassed that it gets such high traffic. I figure now is a good time to write about it again with a newer perspective.

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Commencemnt Data Exercises

Like all ceremonies, I was really bored during my commencement so I really heavily marked up my booklet. This ranges from observation notes to recognizing who I did and did not know out of my entire graduating class. Below is a summarized version of these notes with some added analysis.

Slightly cleaned up “published” spreadsheet can be found here. Raw spreadsheet of data analysis can be found here. Graphs can be found within the spreadsheet, but I want to call out the most interesting graph which is here.

People are recorded based on their primary major (double majors are ignored), i.e. how they are listed in the graduation exercises booklet, so these statistics don’t capture how I actually know all of the 21L major graduates.  Totals are also slightly off because I’m filling it out in March 2018 so I’ve met some more people than I originally marked down.

I also include graduate student tallies but they are significantly briefer because I don’t know very many graduate students and I am not interested in combing through everyone, so I do not promise a complete overview. The bar for recognition is also considerably lower.

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isthisabook.club

tl;dr – I scanned a weird QR code of a football / eye hovering over a book, had a pretty good discussion of Bartleby the Scrivener, and found an even bigger mystery than the one I thought I solved.

So, there I was, walking home from Stata when I see this cool sticker with a QR code. I scan it and I find that it links to isthisabook.club . It was pretty nifty but was advertising an event in SF, so I email out to all of my friends to ask if someone can make it. I also do some further digging into the world, find out one of the organizer’s emails, and break the 4th wall by asking “yo what’s up”. My friend, Danny Ben-David, makes it out to the SF bunker, and indeed, they have a book club discussion. “Ok”, I say to myself, “I think I’ve generally figured it out. Some Media Lab kids who enjoy multimedia weird internet art and they are legit having a book club. That’s cool”.

Today, I went to the advertised event in Cambridge. Sure enough, most of the stuff was a book club and I was thinking “Ok cool. I like books and this discussion is pretty good”. Then, at the end of the meeting, the “organizers” start talking about how they are not actually in control of this and they are getting notes from random higher ups and also RISD kids and I’m just “YO WHAT?”. I thought I had solved one mystery, but it actually seems like it’s much deeper than that (or they’re just pulling my leg really hard)

I’m honestly fascinated by the whole thing, but part of me is really nervous about digging in too deep. I forget which book I read this from, but a character in there says that “you should cherish mysteries, because there’s honestly not that many left in the world”. Part of me feels like that – that if I figure out all of the answers, I”ll be left despondent and disappointed, but most of me just really feels intrigued and fascinated by solving the mystery of this book club. (Perhaps the incessant dynamicism of being a capitalist engineer at MIT? heh).

Regardless, I haven’t had a weird multimedia mystery so enthralling since I successfully internet-stalked someone (with their consent) to find as much personal information about them as I could before I had even met them in person. The sense of discovery and “what happens if I flip over this rock” is very enrapturing.

Below are some (very) raw notes of what I remember from the book club + original email that I sent out + Danny Ben-David’s writeup

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Hertz Fellowship Advice

I benefited a lot from online academic blogs for fellowship advice, and wanted to return the favor, especially since I have a bit of a different perspective to how to do well in the Hertz fellowship. I wrote up this post right after my second round interview and I have queued it up to be published after I find out the results of the fellowship.

UPDATE: I got the fellowship! Guess it all worked out in the end as they felt I was “conversant in many different fields of engineering and design”. Don’t really have much to add to this post so it’s all a time capsule from my feelings immediately after the second interview.

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Maturing Research Interests

Lately, in both my research and personal endeavors, I’ve definitely felt like I’ve grown up and gained a lot more maturity / discernment in what I do. Ever since I’ve started graduate school in September 2017, I don’t feel like I’m flailing around trying to cram things into my head as fast as possible, but I now have time to think and plan and really dig deep in what I actually want to devote my life to – for the short term of 5+ years, for the long term of my entire research career. I feel a lot more secure in my own identity / self-expression and a lot more ready to explore.

For litchin@, what this means now is that a lot of queued up posts that I had been planning on writing now no longer seem super interesting or relevant. I really like Mehitabel’s phrasing when we were streaming The Stanley Parable together: “Now that I’m no longer in middle school, I no longer feel the need to label everything as meta. I can dig in a little deeper and say ‘yup, this is meta. What effect is it creating?’ rather than being ‘it’s cool because it’s meta’ “.

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“This is Water” – David Foster Wallace

Last year, the religious life people at MIT started The Heretic’s Club – a nifty set of discussions to talk about religious issues on topics like “Somewhere Between Faith and Atheism” and “Science and Spirituality”.

I started attending last year, and although I was initially frustrated at first about the organizer’s refusal to give concrete ideas, I eventually understood that the whole point was to have it discussion-based, just like the quest for religious certainty. I’m a bit more secure in my beliefs than I was before (especially in the write-ups referenced in this post), although they’re certainly not mainstream.

This year, I went again and they sent out some reading materials after the seminar.  One of them was “This is Water“, the commencement speech given by David Foster Wallace at Kenyon College. I had read “Consider the Lobster” and “Good Old Neon” before, and both of those had hit me, but this one hit me a lot more.

Overall, I’m happy in my life. I like research; I like having flexibility; I like where I live; I like having financial security that allows me to maintain all of these things. Given this, it’s still good to have something that shakes me up a bit when I read it, to be reminded that I still need to learn what water is.

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Grand Unified Theory

The answer to the communication puzzle is a two-way dialogue.
The answer to the constant need for aggregation and collation is to just write words down, but the act of fixing them with a formulated phrase causes them to change, to morph.
That is not what I meant; that is not what I meant at all.


“If I look back, I am lost” said the Queen of Editors, as she stepped forward into the narrative.


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