Today was awesome.

Today really sucked.

The awesomeness: I finished typing my MIT application essay around 2am and showed it to some friends (no thanks to the jackass DoSing LJ). I thought it might need some editing in the morning, so I read over it when I woke up. I was too nervous to eat breakfast and just sipped water. But reading my own words was bringing tears to my eyes. I began to realize that this essay was far too powerful for any little imperfection to make a damn bit of difference. There were already a couple of comments to that effect at the bottom. I knew I wasn't going to be doing any editing and started to write thank-yous back to my "reviewers".

The suckage: Alex poked his head in and reminded me of a really important meeting this morning, which I decided I was going to have to miss. LJ wasn't taking comments this morning so the thank-yous didn't go thru. I knew I had one other thing to do before turning in my MIT application today, choose a new advisor, and I was going to have to find time for that.

The awesomeness: Somewhere in there, I completely forgot to stress out over anything. Not quite in an "Office Space" trance, but somewhere beyond laid-back. I wrote "will specify ASAP" in the blank for new advisor name, grabbed my stuff, and headed to the meeting at work 20 minutes late. On the way I was rerunning parts of the essay in my head and had tears running down my face and a silly grin. I may have freaked out a couple of pedestrians or other drivers. I didn't even worry about walking into the meeting late.

The suckage: The meeting sucked. The numbers sucked. The potential consequences of the numbers sucked. I can't give any details, but I am specifically authorized to say that work sucked today.

The awesomeness: After that, I schlepped my essay into Word to print it as a letter-like thing. Not that using Word is awesome, but it at least didn't do anything to ruin my day. At first it tried to put the page-numbered footer so low on the page that it the bottoms of the numbers were cut off, but I gave it a stern talking-to and got the page layout fixed. I was just not in a huge hurry, made myself a copy of the application form, and wandered out towards the T station.

The suckage: T under construction. Trains were being lame today. Way too much waiting. Hot, humid, and crowded. Okay, so not really very sucky. This alternation thing is about to quit working for me.

The awesomeness: I went to see Anne Hunter, the EECS administrator who's been sponsoring my Athena account and generally rooting for me all these years. I have never felt more at home in her office. I mentioned the advisor-choosing thing to her, since she's the meta-advisor who would know which profs I should be considering. I recognized a couple of names on her list, and will probably pick one of them, but meanwhile she's cool with the will-specify-later thing.

She asked to see my application before I turned it in, and started reading the essay. I was not the least bit nervous and picked up a toy from her desk to play with while she read. She asked a couple of questions, but was probably as close to speechless and stunned as I've ever seen her. She pulled up my records, pointed to the F in the last term, and said, "your first assignment is to petition to get this removed." So I did. She's helped so many students petition the institute for so many things that she drafts petitions by habit, basically telling you what you need to say. Halfway through this exercise, she added, "but a writer like you probably doesn't need my help." I smiled and copied her draft onto the form.

So, petition done. Application turned in. Other application-related stuff has to be in by August 1, so I'll take care of it in due time. I am so relieved now. Tomorrow is New Apartment Day.
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escalator math

I'm developing a habit of walking up the up escalators at the Porter Square T stop. Not because I'm ever really in a hurry there, I guess, but because it pleases me to be able to do so without slowing down or getting seriously out of breath.

Today it occurred to me that there's an exercise tradeoff to be had. Do I want to go more slowly, in which case it's less strenuous exercise, or more quickly, in which case it's not a very long workout? I probably need the longer aerobic workout. But I at least feel like trying to quantify the tradeoff.

So, suppose the escalators rise at v_e feet per second, and are h_e feet high, with steps of height h_s (ignoring the shallow steps at top and bottom, and the flat mezzanine areas). If I take s steps per second, then I'll be moving at s * h_s feet per second relative to the escalator. That means I'll reach the top in h_e / (v_e + s * h_s) seconds.

I think h_e is about 100 feet, starting from the outbound platform and including all three escalators to the surface. I think v_e is about 0.5 feet per second, at least, it seems that slow, like it would be three minutes worth of standing around on escalators. I would guess h_s to be about 0.85 feet. So the tradeoff is something like

t = 100 / (0.5 + s * 0.85)

If I take one step every two seconds (s = 0.5), then my escalator climb takes t = 108 seconds, and I take a total of (t * s) = 54 steps. If I take one step per second (s = 1), then my escalator climb takes 74 seconds (and I end up taking 74 steps on the Porter Stairmaster). If I take two steps per second (s = 2), then my escalator climb takes 45 seconds, and I end up taking 90 steps.

Ok, that was silly. Going to sleep now.
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kareila's doing a good job of apartment hunting to find us something more convenient to MIT. Went to look at one this morning, very convenient to Porter Sq.

Talked to Dean Henderson, who was friendly enough and reassured me that I'd started the reapplication process "in a timely fashion". He said I'd definitely need to get a medical clearance from the head of mental health, and I'd be able to make appointments with MIT medical even though I'm not a current student or anything. He also said the deadlines are flexible, but in terms of being able to kick my own butt I kinda wish he hadn't. And of course, after I mentioned that I'd been in a graduate program, he sent me to Anne Hunter to make sure it was ok with her to take me back as an undergrad.

Made appointments with medical types. Next week, Wednesday 10am, Thursday 9am. The receptionist was a little confused by my records having been archived or something after 5 years of idleness.

Ate lunch outside by the food trucks, yumm, Goosebeary's.

Wandered around in the still-being-built Stata Center a little. I really like what I've seen of it so far, but haven't actually tried to sit down and work there...

Saw Anne Hunter, who is looking good, much less stressed this year for some reason. She looked over my records and said basically I'd need to take three classes and P.E. for the bachelor's. Wow. I had thought there were other annoying requirements that would require more classes, but she says some of the grad work I did could be recognized as meeting those requirements. She thinks I need a new advisor (not the thesis advisor who died, but regular academic advisor), but we didn't get so far as to actually pick one.

She did mention that they'd dedicated a new conference room to Prof. Haus a couple weeks ago, down the hall in RLE, so I went by there on my way out. That is one heck of a nice conference room. His picture and a plaque on the wall, a view of the trees through a window wall in the front, and a kitchen / bar at the back. Very spiffy-looking RLE brochures in a fancy rack, nice A/V equipment, etc. Particularly peaceful with nobody there.

back into the machine

Well, it's official, I've been away from MIT too long. My former thesis advisor died a year ago yesterday. Some girl whose name I sort of recognize wrote "my" thesis the year after I left. Good thing I want to work on something completely different now.

Anyway. I've got a meeting with a counseling dean tomorrow to start the reapplication process. I am so not looking forward to this.
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word to the wise

what wizards were we,
who, when worlds went down,
would lift them high and laugh,
slowly sapped to see
such mortal mishaps drown
our super feats by half.
try again, reboot, reload,
sorry for the errors in our code.
yet on we wandered,
into darkness, version two,
now with new nothingness.
had we never pondered
light nor had a clue?
true, that something less
than perfect could endure,
but better were it pure.

Chaotic outage plan

Last night I went to the trouble to figure out approximately what else needs to be done to finish upgrading (aka mux), and how long it should probably take. Here's what I came up with:

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