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MIT school is hard: September 23, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — morgangoestoboston @ 2:09 am

So, business is ramping up here.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised–and I’m not–and I went into this with the mindset that it was probably going to be a lot harder than I thought it would be.

And it is.

But having that different mindset, I guess, is really helpful: instead of getting indignant that I can’t watch four hours of Netflix while stuffing my face with stove-top popped corn with cheese sprinkles on it (thanks for the heads up, David L.), I just actually do work.

It typically is the kind of work that makes me sweat beneath my armpits: cold-calling people for interviews, and interviewing them face-to-face.  Scary!  Really!  Sweat-inducing!  Here’s a brief run-down of what the program has had us write so far:

1. Instant interview, wherein we have two days to find someone interesting and uh interview them;

2. The assignment called something cutesy now; used to be called Flailing Around, which I like much better and thus have forgotten the actual name; it entails writing a reaction to a reading.  I cheated and wrote a nonfiction piece about why I like rocks, since it didn’t have to be about anything science-y and would likely be the only “easy” thing I write this year;

3. An assignment called “Front of the Book”–which is in progress–wherein we read the original science article (about astrophysics, mine is!  Ha!  Fish outta water, here.) and a few press releases about the discovery revealed in the original science article.  Then we have to write a 250 word piece about the phenomenon, including a quote from an expert.  An example of some of the language from the astronomy article?  “New structures discovered in our survey include a radial overdensity along the northwest minor axis extending nearly 100 kpc from M31, a diffuse structure to the southwest coherent over an arc spanning…” and you understand the dilemma.  But!  This is why scientists exist: to explain hard science to youse and meese.  Wight?

4.  Three pitches for news stories, which, until the final hour, we were all under the assumption that they had to be researched fully–ie, an interview with an expert for each pitch.  So I cold-called 3 people and awkwardly interviewed them while hunched over a borrowed digital recorder alternating between whaaat I’m really DOING this and sweating profusely.  As you can see, neither of those alternatives was exactly helpful.  But–I did complete the assignment, and we talk about the pitches tomorrow in class.

Through all this, I have:

1.  Interviewed a grad student who invented a prosthetic arm solely for fly fishing;

2.  Talked with a man who heavily involved with one of the first offshore wind farms in the US;

3.  Spoke with a researcher who deals with natural light in buildings–for this article, how natural light helps hospital patients recover quicker and require less medication;

4.  Interviewed a grad student about her thesis and eventual dissertation in HARNESSING ENERGY FROM ROGUE WAVES!  SERIOUSLY!

5.  And will speak with an astrophysicist!  Whaat.

Each interview I conduct gets easier, though each interview I conduct also shows me how much more legwork I should be doing every time I’m on the phone or sitting with someone.  It’s really tough and actually pretty tiring, but interesting…and fun?  Perhaps.  Ask me again in November.

Right.  BORING.  On to more fun things.  SPOILER ALERT!  Faeries ahead!  Business cards!  COFFEE MAKERS!

So in keeping with the complaining/airing nature of the post already, I just thought I’d post a few pictures demonstrating academic life [my academic life, anyways] at MIT.  You’ll have to forgive the random nature of the pictures–until I get better at regularly taking pictures (for example, I STILL haven’t gotten pictures of our conference room [really pretty] or our student lounge [really…pretty.]), you’ll have to learn to live what I give you.  I’m sure you’ll understand.  Ahem.



This is the stack of reading I had from the first week and a half of school.  Yes, that’s about a ream and a half of paper.  Yes, most of that is energy policy.  Yes, most of those print-outs are from a CLASS ON SUSTAINABLE ENERGY.  Yes, in the future, I probably will be slogging through the articles on my computer screen (though I’ve worked out a system of knitting and reading that works pretty well.  I’ve only had to rip out my sweater about 4 times, so yeah.  Easy peasy) so as not to feel like such a dickhead.  Excuse me, Mom.


This is apparently how MIT does literature.  Specifically, The Faerie Queene, by Edmund Spenser, right, Wader?  I like how it all looks like some weird heat transfer equation.  (Note: Rob, I do not know whether this actually DOES look like a heat transfer equation…”heat transfer equation” is the best math-y math term I know.  It totally sounded good.)


I have arrived.  Mom and Dad, you’ll be getting one of these in the mail.  Between now and then, I just imagine you smiling at me like the smiley face is smiling at the card.  I can almost feel the familial warmth.

And finally, so MIT has a bunch of money?  Because they charge 40,000 a year for tuition [do not worry: I am not paying for this.  For much of it, anyways.  Because they realize science writers will not go on to careers in nuclear engineering.]?  And so instead of paying for coffee, we have this:


Eat your heart out, Cory Oldsmallout.


getting settled/attempt + fail: September 10, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — morgangoestoboston @ 2:07 am

Thank you thank you for the interest so far!  I appreciate people taking the time to look this business over :).  Warning about this post, however: it is full of attempts + failures.  So–onward!

Attempt + Failure #1:  Ok, so I haven’t taken pictures of my new living quarters yet, as it’s Someone Else’s House and I don’t want to be a big Creeper, but let me tell you this: It is the nicest place I will ever live in.  The kitchen!  Marble countertops!  A dishwasher that can be programmed!  That speaks Swedish and Russian!  A gas range not connected to an oven!  This last part seems most fancypants to me, for no real reason.

The house is filled with really nice art…pretty furniture…lovely music…and I have a really beautiful big old brass bed that I might steal request when I leave.  Fred, my landlord/housemate is very kind and helpful and knowledgeable of the city, the subway and bus system, and jazz.  Other Housemate Scott is nice and runs and likes Netflix; Other Housemate Elspeth likes kitties, knitting, and has a great name.  If I get adventurous/brave/inspired, I will take a few pictures and post them.

So.  Attempt + Failure #2:  I wanted to have a picture of Boston from MIT, and then MIT from Boston–but as I tried to take the Boston picture, my camera went on the fritz.  Awesome, I thought.  Just when I started this blog thingy that is ONLY fun if there are pictures, then the Sherburne luck comes through.  Nothing catastrophic: just minor irritations.  BUT, my camera works fine now–it seems to have pulled through.  It just wouldn’t cooperate basically the one time I expressly desired a specific shot.  But it DID cooperate for this shot [SUCCESS #1!]:


for which I’m obviously eternally grateful.  This picture is for my brother, who loves people on Segways.  I love people on Segways, too–particularly lots of them, in downtown Boston, wearing helmets.  Safety first.  I pretended I was taking pictures of the lovely buildings, but I think the guy in yellow caught me.  Sorry, Guy in Yellow, but that’s what you get for not using your legs.  I couldn’t time the picture perfectly (quick-moving little dudes!) [also, Attempt + Failure #3]; there were a few more who hadn’t yet gotten to the crosswalk.

So that day–Sunday–I headed to downtown Boston.  I’ve been exploring a little bit each day, and I wanted to make it to the water.  Downtown Boston is very pretty:


Also, I found what I really wanted to do with my life:


which should come as no surprise to my parents.  Apparently, this is one of the oldest antiquarian and used book stores in the US.  Which it says on the sign.  I just noticed this.   Still, if I could figure out how to link to websites in this, I would [Attempt + Fail #4.  Wow.  So many more failures than I even expected in this post!].

After so many failures, here’s a success: thanks to my map-reading skillz, and Robby’s mom’s kind gift of a Boston guidebook, I made it to the water:


First sight of the Atlantic for me!  Boston Harbor.  It smelled salty.  It was very windy.  There were expensive-looking apartments on the waterfront.  I tried to find the site of the Boston Tea Party, but didn’t walk far enough [Attempt + Failure #5], apparently.

I did, however, see an enormous American flag, which was pretty neat–it was about 50 feet wide, hanging with the stripes headed toward the ground, from the underside of a beautiful dome in the center of some apartment (?  I think?) buildings.  The wind was huffing off the water pretty seriously–kind of wanted to hang onto the end of the flag and go for a ride.  Pretty sure that’s against Flag Protocol.  Also, pretty sure I would have died.  I would have taken a picture of this, but my camera battery died.  Attempt + Failure #6.

Attempt + Failure #7: I wandered around the waterfront for a long time.  The people-watching was fun: it was a holiday weekend, so lots of families and kids playing in fountains, etc.  I’ve wanted, since I’ve gotten here, something pretty specific: eat delicious fried seafood from a cute little street stand.  Specifically, chunks of fried lobster served in a cone.  Why, Morgan, would you imagine specifically this?  I have no idea.  The image of fried, chunked lobster in a cone popped into my head one day, and refused to leave.  Of course, I haven’t been able to find anyone–because who a) serves lobster in chunks?; b) serves deepfried lobster in chunks?; or c) serves deepfried lobster in chunks in a cone?  I mean, I was just setting myself up for #7.

I ended up getting this (fairly shitty) shrimp roll–which was basically mayonnaise, shrimp, and a leaf of lettuce on a glorified hot dog bun.  Add the “meal”–a bag of chips and a shot-glass of root beer, and 11 bucks later, I had a fairly shitty meal that I couldn’t even take a shitty picture of.  My, such swearing.  Attempt + Fail #8.

I will soon rectify this lobster situation.

***Edit: a very frustrating Attempt + Fail #9: I don’t know why my paragraphs and the spaces between the paragraphs and pictures are so weirdly spaced.  I suspect it is that Sherburne Luck.  (Or, this Sherburne’s Inability to Deal with Finer Points of Website Thingies.)  I’ll figure it out at some point?


‘ello, MIT: September 6, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — morgangoestoboston @ 1:32 am

So, I’m not typically a blogger.  I read a few blogs, but, you know.  Don’t necessarily blog myself.  Or blog, myself.  Either blog about myself or do the blogging, myself.  You know what I mean.  But, I thought this might be kinda nice to easily update several of you about my doings (with peektures!) in Bahstahn.  Partly because some may get a kick out of it; partly because I seem to take pictures without doing anything with them.  Or I seem to not take pictures when I should perhaps be taking pictures.  Such as those times that I’m attending MIT for a one-year program in science writing that I’ve been drooling over for four years.  Hopefully, this blog (blahg?) will nudge me to photograph when I should be photographing, and will make me commemorate what I should be commemorating.  At least, until the program gets too intense.  Shannon Larkin, our program coordinator, kept gesturing to the couch in the student lounge during orientation, saying things like “WHEN you spend the night here….”

I’ve been thinking about this potential blog all summer.  Whether it would seem vain to start one.  Whether I’d keep it up.  Whether people would read it (doubtful–but I can pretend I’m writing in a diary if I see that the only person visiting the blog is myself, trying to see if anyone is visiting the blog).  But I keep thinking about it–and so, a few days into business here in Massachusetts (ha, I’ve lived in Michigan, Minnesota, and Massachusetts.  Come on, Morgan.  Get over your mself.), I decided to start one.

Thus, a pictoral summary of my days so far:almost there

My dearest parents drove me to Boston.  I attempted a snazzy/arty picture of the miles to Town.


The main building (The Dome, though it’s under construction) of MIT.  My mom will yell at me that I didn’t ask some poor stranger to take a picture of me in front of the pillars.  Hi mom!


This is a building designed by architect Frank Gehry.  Apparently, it leaks, and the Powers that Be put Noam Chomsky’s office in a rounded room, which makes bookshelves very difficult.


This tree needs a few double tops taken out.  COME ON, Frank Gehry!

Now, we head into our Science Writing Building.  In the interest of journalistic integrity, the pictures of the Gehry building were taken a few days after orientation.  I was too nervous to sight-see the morning of our first official day.  So:


Me too, Door.  Me too.

And that is all I have, officially, from the first day.  Coming soon: pictures of my living quarters!  Bestill yer ‘earties.