Man, what a great place.
I'm visiting for a few days unofficially, just to have a look around and meet people.
On Sunday I arrived, dropped my stuff off at Jacob's dorm room, ended up wandering around Harvard Square with Primrose and Jacob, ate Mexican food, shopped for overpriced cute things at the overpriced cute things store, comic books at the comic book store.
Went to an Amon Tobin concert at the Paradise Lounge in the evening. I don't go to concerts very often. It was amazingly, stunningly, mind-bogglingly loud. So loud my clothes were vibrating on my skin, and my skin vibrating on my muscles, and my organs vibrating within me. On the one hand, it's kind of a cool sensation to get a full-body massage with sound, and on the other, I felt kind of bad thinking about all the poor little nerves in my ears dying a horrible death.
The Stata Center (that crazy building housing the CS department) is certainly very striking. I appreciate that the building certainly imparts a sense of whimsy and playfulness, huge jagged irregularly-shaped spaces, preschool-themed decor. Certain people seem to appreciate a little less that the whimsy verges on thoughtlessness in offices with enormous slanted columns blocking off large areas, and tilted walls that one can't lean a bookshelf against, and actual high-school lockers for students in unlockable cubicles.
Actually, most of the architecture on campus is striking, even in more conventional buildings. I'm sort of struck by the inventive use of space, everywhere. The buildings are all interconnected, and the game is to figure out how to get from any part of campus to any other without going outside. This led me through long corridors lined with amusing displays, murals, classrooms with music coming out of them, gas canisters chained to the walls. The infinite corridor, which I learned extends up multiple floors, the big dome that I had only seen in pictures of the R2D2 hack, the august halls and impressive columns dedicated to Big Science a century ago.
I was lost for half an hour trying to find my way from the math building back to CS without going to the ground floor, and when I finally made it to Stata I kept finding myself in apparent dead-end nooks and crannies until I ran smack into Christine and Jacob at the same time, and it turned out I was right on time for the colloquium that I hadn't even realized was next door.
This morning in the dorm room a loud *poing* woke me up. Another *poing*. And the silhouette of a window-cleaner swung into view against the screen, the squeegee outlined a continuous space-filling curve over the window, and the silhouette swung out of view.
I feel like I understand the people here better. Less preppy, more funky. Big posters for the MIT Pagans' Beltane festival, random students with blue hair, that kind of thing. Then again, I'm told that the dorms have lists of stalkers who are under no circumstances to be let in, and the suicide rate is astonishingly high.
I'm hearing about lots of interesting problems and talking to lots of interesting people, and most surprisingly making progress not quite on actually solving my current problem, but on learning how every version of the statement I want appears to be obviously false for any examples not precisely the ones I need to prove it for. I think my generals talk is going to end up being about all the interesting ways of proving related statements that are false in my case, a tour through classical arguments in calculus, induction, and graph theory.
Lately I've spent a lot of time in the grad student mire of feeling lost and academically lonely, having difficulty connecting to research problems and having difficulty making progress on the ones I connect to, but I am reminded that this is exactly what I want to be doing with my life.