Cambridge Diary II

2:11 PM Tuesday 16 August

  • I am sitting in the Catherine Stratton Lounge inside the Stratton Student Centre at MIT. At one end, a soap opera plays in a room where about 20 armchairs and couches are arranged on one end, theatre-style, around a 50-inch flat-screen TV. Only two students are lying there viewing the latest episode of “The Bold and the Beautiful”. To the side is an empty black glass case reaching to the ceiling. Two large, wobbly single-pedestal circular wooden tables surrounded by chairs behind the armchairs and couches.
  • At the end opposite the TV a young man lies across a couch, his empty sneakers placed in front of it, and his tattooed arms folded across his chest and the visor of his baseball cap is shading his eyes.
  • I lost the paper stating where in the Stratton Student Centre my meeting with Alex is supposed to take place. I decide to take out my laptop and hunt around for the Student Information Processing Board (SIPB) office.
  • I have the choice of four different wireless networks to log on to in the Stratton Centre, and I choose the Wireless N-Unsecured (since I’m not a student), and soon I’m on the air. To no surprise, the UNIX logins are lightning-fast, and MIT’s copy of XEmacs takes a fraction of a second to load up. But that’s a distraction right now. On my web browser, I find that SIPB is on the 5th floor. I write down the room number on a sheet of paper. I couldn’t see from the outside that this building actually had 5 floors.
  • I meet Alex, and we enter the SIPB office. It’s a bit of a messy office; but it is the kind of mess that you sense that at least everyone knows where everything is. Senator-bedfellow is still posting to the USENET’s *.answers groups; bloom-picayune has been decommissioned and is now the name of a new machine that has new functions; and our good buddy rtfm, also known as penguin-lust, is now home to the canonical FAQ archive.
  • That, and a host of other niggly technical stuff, is what came out of our 90-minute conversation today.


  • I gave a cashier 28.00 for a $27.92 purchase, and she rung up $280.00 for which she would have needed to provide $252.02 in change. But she worked it out in her head anyway. Bully for her.
  • We were among the nerdy T-shirts at the MIT Co-op bookstore, and someone saw PV/nR printed on a T-shirt. This was part of the code for: E/c2 -1 PV/nR, which ends up being “MIT”. The person looking at the phrase guessed it, but called PV/nR a Tensor expression. But it is part of the Universal Gas Law: PV = nRT, solving for T. T is thus temperature. The “m” is mass from the Einstein equation E = mc2, solving for mass, while i is the imaginary number: √ -1 .

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