December 30, 2007

New Toolbar for Michael!

I just Mac-ified my computer a bit more with my installation of Stardock's ObjectDock. It's a lot (if not almost exactly) like the Mac's toolbar for selecting programs from the desktop. I made a quick video demonstration to show you so I can be justified when I say this:

This is REALLY awesome and you should go download it now!

MIT Admissions Banner Picture

So I mentioned that I'd post my admissions banner pictures if I couldn't decide between several but I ended up with just one that I liked so there was no real decision to be made. But . . . I'll post it anyway. Here you go (click to enlarge):

Just a couple more weeks and I'll be blogging, w00t!

December 27, 2007

My Christmas Project

It's Christmas time and I'm having a great time at home. I've played hours of Geometry Wars Galaxies (which is an AMAZING game and totally worth the $40 price tag) and even more hours of Guitar Hero III (I'm getting better! I've almost beat it on Hard, by myself!). Other than just playing video games I've also taken the opportunity to get back to what I really enjoy: building stuff.

A little over a month ago I saw this Instructable and instantly bookmarked it for future reference. For Christmas I asked for the dice and the magnets necessary to build it and on Christmas morning I opened up a small box full of blue dice and little neodymium magnets! The day after Christmas, after an hour or two of Guitar Hero III, I set to work making my Dice Rubik's Cube.

The first step was to lay out all of the dice in the right orientation and mark the sides that needed to be drilled for magnets.

After marking the polarities of each magnet and marking the sides to be drilled on the die I set to setting up the jig on my drill press.

It's so nice being back home where I have access to a workshop and decent powertools that I don't have to share with people! I can take as much time as I want and do everything right.

The next step was to start gluing in the magnets. I put a little krazy glue gel in the hole, put in the magnet, and then attached an orange hand clamp.

I'd do as many dice at a time as my clamps would allow, which turned out to be nine.

Wash, rinse, repeat, and after 27 die and 97 magnets I was left with a Rubik's Cube made of dice! Here are some pictures of it with the centers removed:

And here's a picture of the finished cube:

My favorite part? You can see the magnets through the cube, which you would think may look bad, but it actually has a really neat effect.

So that's my Christmas project. I urge anybody considering making this to do it, it was really fun and only took a day. Good luck, I hope you enjoyed.

Mii <3 Wii

December 24, 2007

Wi-Fi at the Snively House!


December 22, 2007

Last Day in Boston

I'm about 15 minutes from heading to the airport to get ready for my flight home! My flight leaves at 4:10 pm Eastern time and gets to Portland, OR at 7:30 pm Pacific time. Yay for time zones! Anywho, I wanted to take these last 15 minutes to squeeze a blog entry in. Luckily for me (and you?) they FINALLY brought DSL out to my house, after much ranting and raving. That means I'll get to blog from my laptop while I'm home and share Christmas stories with you! I'll also be taking my picture for my MIT banner (things that look like this on

If I'm stuck choosing between a few good ones I'll post them and get some feedback from you guys.

That's all for now, I'm all packed and ready to go, I think I'll just leave you with a quick story that sets the mood for flying:

I once heard that the great mathematician David Hilbert was invited to give a talk on any subject he liked during the early days of air travel. His subject:

The Proof of Fermat's Last Theorem

Needless to say, his talk was eagerly anticipated. The day arrived, the talk was given, and it was brilliant -- but it had nothing at all to do with Fermat's Last Theorem.

After the talk, someone asked Hilbert why he had picked a title that had nothing to do with the talk. His answer: "Oh, that title was just in case the plane crashed."

December 18, 2007


Avast me hardies! Arrrgh!

Ok, now that I've gotten that out of my system. . .

If you know me then you know I'm not one to talk like a pirate. Not that I have anything against talking like a pirate, I'm just more of a ninja guy myself (you'll kindly note the new poll on the right side of the page). Anywho, I just had a spontaneous urge to pirate-ify for a bit. It's over now. Please forgive me.

I believe it's in order to share some exciting news. Starting in January for IAP I get to start blogging for the MIT Admissions website! Now you can hear all of my rantings and ravings and general MIT adventures on a website that's ranked 99,223rd in the entire internet (right behind, come on guys, visit more so we can beat!)

I'll still be keeping this blog up because as I've mentioned in the past, this blog isn't dedicated to MIT, it's dedicated to weird adventures I have. There will probably be less MIT on here now because I'll blog MIT stuff on the MIT site and I'll keep dumb stupid Michael stuff here. For example, this is something that could show up here:

Ragdoll Avalanche

While this is something that could show up on MIT:

Awesome Math!

Have a great day guys, I'm going to study chemistry more now.

Pretty Picture

I took a pretty picture of the snow today, want to see? This is Kresge Auditorium at sunset (click for full-size):

December 16, 2007

Where does this ship go?!

As I mentioned earlier, I built a pirate ship out of bottles for a class project. Well, I turned it in and it was very well received. In fact, it was actually an entry in a contest. . . and it won! We'll just ignore the minor detail that it was the only entry . . .

Here's the neat thing about winning contests at MIT: The prizes are good. How good? Here's what I won:

It's a 2 gig flash drive/mp3 player/voice recorder. Not bad for building a ship out of bottles, eh?

After the contest I was left with a predicament. What do I do with the giant, bottle pirate ship? I could sail it in the Charles but it's cold, I'm busy, and it would require too much work. I can't take it back to the dorm because there's nothing to do with it there. I can't really just leave it in the main lobby of the Media Lab, so what now? Well, MIT has this place called the "Hart Nautical Gallery" in building 5 that displays amazing model ships.

What better place than this for a giant Poland Spring and duct tape pirate ship? I sailed (slid) my ship down the infinite corridor and turned left in lobby 7. After accepting many compliments and posing for some reporter (not kidding) I arrived at port. I took advantage of an empty display pedestal and lifted my ship up onto it.

There, perfect! The only thing missing was a descriptive placard to place next to it. A quick visit to a nearby Athena cluster was all it took and soon enough I was the proud parent of an (un)official entry to the Hart Nautical Museum.

I have no idea if it's still there, I try to avoid leaving the dorm now because of the terrible weather (foot and a half of snow on the ground, 6 inches of wet slush in the streets, and sleet in the air). So, if you happen to walk by building 5 and see it, say hi to it for me!

When Cameras Attack

Months before I got to college I was watching late night garbage television (better known as "Most Outrageous Commercials/Bloopers/Gameshows n" where n is usually some number greater than 4) when I saw something funny enough to go and wake my parents up and tell them about it.

As does sometimes happen, I was surfing around on the internet today and accidently found that clip! It's in a compilation so there's a bunch of other stuff you can watch if you want, but the part that made me LOL is at the end with the two male sportscasters.

December 15, 2007


For the '12s

At approximately 11:50 EST MIT admitted its first batch of freshmen for next year.

A year ago I was the kid who checked online, couldn't get past the first line of my acceptance for 2 hours, and who proudly paraded MIT gear for the next several weeks. I also became absolutely obsessed with EVERYTHING MIT because it was then official, MIT would be my school and I had to learn everything I could about it!

So, today, roughly 300 new freshmen are faced with the same situation. MIT is your school now! Years of tradition, quarks, and awesomeness are now yours so soak up as much as you can! Read the admissions blogs, read the student blogs, read the websites for the various dorms, read about traditions, just read a ton! I've included a bunch of links to check out, they're all really useful.

Baker House
Bexley Hall
Burton-Conner House
East Campus
MacGregor House
McCormick Hall
New House
Next House
Random Hall
Senior House
Simmons Hall

Eric Schmiedl's Website
MIT Hack Gallery

My site
Your Official CPW Website

The Tech
Admissions Blogs
Main MIT site

Buildings to be Familiar With
Look them up!
Kresge (pronounced krez-gee)
Green Building
Building Ten (Great Dome)
Building Seven (Small Dome)
Killian Court
(La) Verdes (rhymes with birdies)
Media Lab
Building 66 (30 60 90 triangle building)
Stata (rhymes with data)

Misc Trivia!
Brass Rat
Course Numbers

That's all for now, I'll update with more if anything else comes up. Congratulations again everybody! Have a great week!

December 14, 2007

New World

I played this song in 7th grade, I know Dylan and Trevor will remember!

Scary Number of Visitors

I glanced at my hits per month graph today and it was scary. In about 17 days I'll show you guys, it's really quite amazing.

December 13, 2007

It's Hammer Time

Bottle Pirate Ship

A while ago I think I mentioned toying with the idea of building a pirate ship out of bottles. An idea became a reality over the last two months and now I'm the proud parent of a plastic bottle pirate ship.

I used 5 rolls of duct tape, 1 roll of twine, and 420 Poland Spring water bottles to create the ship. It took about 40 man-hours and I'm turning it in for my HASS class tomorrow morning. The question now is how to get it through the 6 inches of snow to the Media Lab . . .

I'm going to try to sail it in the Charles River soon, I'll let you know how that goes. . .

*Twang Twang Twang*

I went with a friend to the Media Lab the other day to steal some of their Wi-Fi. As we were leaving we heard guitar playing but couldn't figure out where it was coming from. I looked around and couldn't find any speakers or people playing guitar so I narrowed my possibilities down to two:

a) I was a fendertongue, similar to a parseltongue except that I could hear guitars that other people couldn't.
b) I hadn't looked hard enough for the guitar.

Hearing guitars that nobody else can is never a good thing, even at MIT, so I decided to look around a bit more and lo and behold, I found the source of the mysterious twanging noise! (How many HP references so far?!)

Above the revolving door sat a lone guitar with what appeared to be a bomb -- I mean, circuit board -- attached to it. I looked closely and saw that it was playing itself! *Twang Twang Twang*

I've grown accustomed to stumbling upon weird things here at MIT, but this was still a little strange. I mean, come on, who expects to find a guitar playing itself while it's sitting on a revolving door? Anywho, I took a small video of it so you can see what I am talking about. Here it is

See? That's all, just thought I'd share.

Oh, and a quick update, all those recent hacks are now gone :(
Scrabble was taken down yesterday around 1:30ish and Settlers was gone by this morning.

December 11, 2007

One of these things is just like the others

Due to the scary-fast decline in comment integrity I've pulled this post.

Paul and I will sort out our differences, as we've already begun to do.

Anybody so-inclined to leave 20 scathing comments on a single entry should probably avoid doing that in the future.

What I Just Heard

I just heard this screamed from across the hall:



December 10, 2007

No doctors for me!

Why? Because a hack a day keeps the doctors away, and today there were hacks everywhere! No need for mysterious text messages today, I found these ones by myself! Most of the pictures were taken by Eric Schmiedl but I promise that I actually saw these hacks, Eric just takes much better pictures than I do. Click each picture to see the full sized version.

While wandering to the Media Lab for my UROP I walked by the Green Building and noticed something surprising in the middle of the grassy area adjacent to it.

There was a giant game of Settlers of Catan set up. . . but something was strange about it. Is that, could it be, is that a campus police officer instead of a robber?

Seeing this put me in a fairly good mood, I love hacks. I kept on toward the Media Lab when I noticed a large group of people outside it looking up. Wha- could it be another hack? Honestly, normally if there's a hack there's just one thing. If this was another one then there could be countless more and then I'd have to actually go look for them.

I got to the Media Lab and looked up. OMG, it was amazing! What was it? A HUGE SCRABBLE BOARD! Not only was it a huge Scrabble board but it was full of MIT slang and vocabulary.

Here's a list of the words appearing:


A couple of people gawking asked me to take their picture in front of it and I gladly obliged, who wouldn't want a picture in front of that?!

I quickly noticed another group of people in another area, all examining something. ANOTHER HACK?! WHAT'S GOING ON?! I head on over to find a large game of chess set up.

Upon closer examination I noticed that it was administration versus student living groups:

After taking the Jack Florey piece and pitting it against Susan Hockfield (MIT's President) I took care of my business in the Media Lab and then took off to find more hacks laying around. Unfortunately my search led to no new hacks. When I got back home and checked online to see what had happened I was surprised by pictures of some hacks that had been taken down before I'd seen them. They were:

Cranium in the Brain and Cog building

Mouse Trap in Stata

Risk on the Campus Maps

As of 11:30PM tonight Settlers, Scrabble, and Chess were still in place, which is strange for any hack. Especially for Scrabble, the only one on a building, to last for more than a day is spectacular. I'll keep checking on the three to see how they're doing over the next couple of days, but to the hackers I'd like to extend a "job well done" for bringing the fun and exciting spirit of board games to MIT in a grandiose fashion. Kudos!

Photos copyrighted by and courtesy of Eric Schmiedl, eric [at] ericschmiedl [dot] com

December 05, 2007


Several questions arose in the comments from my last post about 18.02 -- Multi-Variable Calculus. Here's a quick rundown on what it is.

If you've had calculus before then you know what an integral is. Basically, if you have a pretty graph like this:

An integral is defined as the sum of the area between the curve and the x-axis. Oftentimes curves go on forever to the left and right, so it's helpful to put some limits on it. So, for example, using the curve above, you could integrate it from a to b (shown below).

All of the yellow shaded area is the portion of the are under the curve that is positive (above the x-axis). The green portion is negative (below the x-axis). Add it all together and you get the integral.

Now that you know what an integral is I can give you a basic definition of Multi-Variable calculus. What would happen if, instead of just being on a flat plane and being just a curve, your graph was a 3D surface somewhere in space?

Instead of just one variable in terms of another (y=f(x), y in terms of x) you now have 1 variable in terms of two others (z=f(x,y), z in terms of x and y). A double integral does something a lot like a single integral except it finds surface area instead of just the area under a curve.

Got it? Ok, I'll leave the explanation of MultiVar at that, but know that there's a lot more to it (like triple integrals (volume), vector fields, partial derivatives, flux, and matrices).

I had an 18.02 test yesterday. I came out of the test not feeling great, but not feeling horrible. It was a decent test, I answered a decent number of questions and I felt like I did decently well. All that was left was to wait and see if I got fail-mail. What's fail-mail? Basically, if you fail a test you get an e-mail that says "Hey, you failed (and suck) and you need to take a make up test. . . or else."

Just kidding, they aren't that mean. The cool thing is that I've gotten two of them so I can kind of pinpoint when fail-mail gets sent. If I don't get any during that window I'm safe. Here are the last two fail-mails I've gotten (click to enlarge):

Using these e-mails I was able to predict fail-mail sometime between 5:30 and 7:30. 9 o'clock came and went and I hadn't gotten an e-mail! This is a very good sign. I decide to check online and see if grades are posted. I go to our math website and see this:

Due to the difficulty of the exam, 5 points have been added to all scores. The scores in the on-line system include the 5 extra points.

Woo-hoo! 5 free points!

I check my grade and see:



That's the story, I passed my second math test of the year and it was the only test that was hard enough to warrant adding points to everybody's score. The best part is that I still would have passed, even without those 5 points! Math is done until finals folks, 2 weeks away.

Physics Question

There are these things in physics called "PRS Questions." Basically, you by a clicker thing from the bookstore for $40 and it lets you answer multiple choice questions in class. Imagine "Ask the Audience" from Millionaire only we get to take our clickers home. A couple of times every class our teacher will put up PRS questions and ask us to discuss what we think the answer is and then ring in. He displays a graph of how everybody answered and then we discuss the right answer. Yesterday this question appeared:

Ok, the first two answers are just asking for a fight. The teacher seemed to think the 3rd option was correct but most of the class seemed to think that number 7 was correct. What do you think?