Monday, September 26, 2005

The First 2 Weeks

So much has happened in the past few weeks, I don’t know where to begin. I’m going to put everything into chunks: pre-orientation, orientation, rush, and the past two weeks.


I went on a red-eye flight from San Jose to Boston with my friend Amanda. At the airport, my parents were very well behaved. They did not kidnap me so that I could not get on the plane, nor did they sabotage any of the plane’s equipment. JetBlue is quite awesome I must say. Individual TV screens and the crew was very friendly. Everything was clean. And best of all—no layovers!

We arrived in Boston at 4:30 in the morning with maybe 2 hours of sleep. After hauling our duffle bags to another terminal, we waited for the MIT shuttle for almost two hours. It turns out that they thought it would be easier to pick us up at the JetBlue terminal (which makes sense), but we had followed instructions and walked all the way to the official meeting place. It took them a while to figure out that we had gone there. Somehow we were able to fit all of our luggage into the shuttle, and we finally arrived at MIT, exhausted.

Me dead tired at the airport. Not a pretty picture.

Before orientation starts, freshmen are able to choose a pre-orientation program. These programs range from camping, to sailing or arts. Mine was “Discover History in Boston” (DHB). During the program I met a lot of cool people. The first day we went the Musem of Fine Arts and the Boston Public Library, which was actually more exciting than it sounds. In the museum we saw many old Greek pots which all told a story, mostly about Troy. I met the professor who will teach my Greek history class, he is very enthusiastic. At the library we got to see the first book printed in America, as well as John Adam’s personal library (he annotated many of the books). It was REALLY cool to be in the same room with such old artifacts. That night we went to a “Hatch Shell” concert. The stage looks like a quarter of a sphere. The New Philharmonia Orchestra played some really fun songs, including the Sound of Music and Stars and Stripes Forever.

The next day we visited Salem, where the Salem witch trials were held. Everything has to do with witches in the town (there were sooooo many tourist shops that sold Halloween type stuff). The trials were very sad because so many were killed who were innocent. Much of it had to do with politics and not religion. The court system back then was very different from nowadays; there were a group of girls who claimed to be bewitched by certain men and woman in the town. They even started twitching and making strange sounds; this was taken as “proof” that the girls had been bewitched. Nowadays no one would be trusted for something like that.

Salem graveyard. Spooooky. Lowell linen machines.

We also went to a museum in Salem. My Pakistani friend, Saad, explained much of his history as we went through some of the artifacts. It is amazing how many different cultures were represented in the museum. There was also an old Chinese house that was moved from China and rebuilt there. I cannot believe that the Chinese used to bind their women’s feet!!! They would bind them in cloth and force them into small shoes so that they grew deformed; small feet were considered beautiful. If your daughter did not have small feet she would have a very hard time getting married.

Our last stop was in Lowell, a major milling town. We saw a lot of cotton weaving machines. Unfortunately, most of the information they had at the museum there was social, there was nothing how the machines functioned. We’re engineers! We want to know how it works. Oh well, it was still interesting. That night we saw a professional baseball game (low in the professional levels) with the Lowell Spinners. Lowell won. I really need to get into baseball—go Red Sox!!!

One of these nights some of the girls from DHB came over to Simmons (my dorm) and we played a very strange (but very awesome) card game called Mau. I’m not even going to try to explain it. It’s so crazy I will though. Basically, for each card you lay down, there are certain things you have to say for it. You play by suit and there are many rules (which you can add onto). For example, let’s say you put down a king of hearts. You would have to say “I love (insert something). He’s a nice old man….oink. A red rose.” (the “love” part is because it is a heart, and we also had to say an object that was red for any red card.) The funniest thing someone said was: “I love Orlando Bloom. He’s a nice old man….oink.” That was pretty hilarious….maybe you had to be there.

For our last day my friends from DHB and I traveled around to Quincy Market (good shopping), Boston Commons (very green and pretty), and Newbury Street (good shopping). Now I have gone to some of the most touristy places in Boston! Yay!


Orientation was pretty fun, too. Unfortunately, I was the only one in my group who showed up to everything, but that was ok. Some upperclassmen did a skit about drugs, sex, and alcohol, and it was very entertaining. There were also discussions about diversity (racism, sexism, etc.) and sexual assault, which was serious.

As for fun stuff: I can sum it up in one word, “orange.” MIT has special “secret” tours called “Orange Tours” that East Campus puts on. I don’t want to give much away, except I will say that the view on top of the dome is breathtaking. (“We are going to Baker House…..ermmmm we took a slight detour”). Let’s just say that East Campus has sort of a secret society that knows the underground (and rooftops) of MIT very well. If you ever get a chance to go on an Orange Tour, YOU MUST GO ON ONE!

Another night we went to East Campus to see the water slide that they build. Yes, they built a water slide. They also had lots of other strange contraptions, like a machine that spun you around and then there was a rope that they could attach you to and you could swing across some of the trees. Of course, it had to start raining, and we went inside. But then it stopped! And we watched some people spaghetti wrestle, evidently it is a tradition or something. Quite hilarious.

Spagetti wresting: a new trend?

At the end of orientation, there was a 2009 boat cruise. I was extremely tired, so I mostly sat on a chair looking really out of it and listening to my friends talk. I suddenly got a huge rush of energy off the boat though. My friend Ilang from Wellesley met up with me at the carnival afterwards. It was so good to see her. I also ran into my friend Mike from ISEF (International Science Fair).


We got our class picture taken in front of the Great Dome. It was very warm sitting in the sun, and I got sunburned. Afterwards, rush started.

The Great Dome. (From the left) Annelise, Kaitlyn, and me.

I felt very ignored as all of the fraternities were trying to recruit guys for their house (sororities recruit in January). All of my guy upperclassmen friends could only talk to me for a minute or so and then their duty was to talk to boys. I hung out with Phi Sigma Kappa guys a bunch (I have upperclassmen friends there). One day we went to the beach (yes, there are beaches here! And they are actually similar to the one near me in CA) and tried to throw people into the freezing cold water. Phi Sig also had a “Cage Rave” party one night. We danced a ton. Phi Sig is really an awesome place, if I were a guy I would definitely pledge there. They have a gorgeous view of Boston on the top of the frat, and they can display movies on the side of the building. We watched “Hitch” one night. At CPW (Campus Preview Weekend at MIT) Amanda and I hung out at Phi Sig almost every night. One day for dinner they served steak and lobster (the lobster was VERY messy). Seriously, frats go all out in order to recruit people, it’s insane.

We got some shopping in at Target (I got a bike….which I really need to practice riding. I’ve never been very solid on a bike, and I haven’t ridden one a long time). There is also a large market near us called Star Market (cheaper than the campus one, of course). It is a short walk from my dorm.

MIT has many quirky traditions, including hacks (pranks, the Orange Tour, and the Sodium Drop. The Sodium Drop was really really really cool. I don’t know if anyone has ever put some sodium or potassium in water in their chem class—if you haven’t you need to. Sodium reacts violently with water. We hurried off to East Campus (that’s where all the quirky stuff is :-). Some guy in a robe was talking about a deity called Krotus and dropping potatoes into the river for good luck (don’t ask me…..I live on West Campus, thank you very much….I’m just kidding, although EC is very different than West Campus, it is still very cool). A group of a few hundred walked to one of the bridges and lined all the way across it. After throwing in the potatoes and some spam (again, don’t ask me), they finally threw in the sodium. It was the loudest explosion I have ever heard. Water shot up from the river. And even better, they threw in MULTIPLE hunks! Water reacts violently with sodium. Why?

Here’s the chemical equation:

2 Na + 2 H2O ----> 2 NaOH + H2

The reaction produces hydrogen gas. The reaction is also exothermic, so it releases heat, and the hydrogen self-ignites. For more info, click here:

I have to wonder what the people passing by in the T (the subway) thought. Loud explosion = omg terrorists! My friend Darren was almost deaf afterwards. The Boston Police took quite a while to react. We saw some police as we were walking back to campus. I think they were about to roll down their window and ask us what was going on but decided against it (honestly, is there anything strange about seeing a few hundred people walking back from a bridge that there was just a large explosion? Didn’t think so :-).

One night, Annelise (my roommate), Kaitlyn (my neighbor), and I went to Random hall to play the game Settlers of Catan. It’s a cool strategy board game. It was amusing because it everything was in German. Random is a very interesting hall. Basically, anything you can say about Random, you can describe by the world “random.” Their house mascot is a disintegrated carton of spoiled milk that is over ten years old. Very cool place, just really random. While walking back to Simmons, we got caught in the rain. It has been proven that if you run in the rain, you will not get as wet. But, since Simmons is so far away, it would not matter much if we ran or walked, and so we proceeded to have some fun and get soaked.

All wet.

I think that’s about it for the first two weeks. I have been having a blast! I know there are some things I forgot; if they come to me I will put them in a later entry. I’ll update later with info about my my classes, dorm, parties, and whatever other crazy things I run into.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

First Post

My name is Amber Hess and I am a freshman at MIT. I will try to update this blog at least once a week but we'll see how that goes :-). My goal is to show people what MIT is like socially and academically. So, if you are a prospective student or you are just curious about MIT, you've come to the right place. If you have any questions please post them on the blog.

As for the name of the blog, "Smoots" are an actual measurement of distance. During rush a while back one pledge was used as a measuring stick on the Harvard Bridge. His last name was Smoots. The bridge measured 364.4 smoots and 1 ear. I thought that it would be a cool name for a blog, and it is one of many eccentric things at MIT.