Monday, February 2, 2009

Putting the E back in Beantown

Alright, so we'll let the cat out of the bag. I've hinted but not publicly announced that I've applied to grad school. I'm not about to just go "back to school" for the sake of going back to school, but there's a particular program that fits the bill and would be pretty dang cool: the LFM program at MIT. It's a full two-year program that awards two degrees to each graduate - an engineering masters in one's chosen field and an MBA from Sloan. There are plenty more reasons that it's an awesome program, but no need to go into depth right now.

I spent the last part of last week in Boston (and Cambridge), the primary purpose of which was an interview with a member of the admissions committee. Secondary missions for this trip were a daylong open house for the LFM program, catching up with a few old friends, and a refamiliarization with Boston (albeit Winter-Boston). As an aside, airfares worldwide are in the tank right now...

My glorious winter-travel journey began with a 10-hour layover at LAX, thanks to the storm that battered Boston.

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Really bored at LAX; light grate

About all I have to show for it is a thorough understanding of Terminal 4 at LAX, but there was a special visitor at the airport that day:

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A Qantas A380

Finally into Boston at 6:30am instead of 11pm the night before, Josh picked me up at the airport and whisked me away to Somerville where I promptly slept 'til 11:30am, as the 4:20 nonstop from LAX to BOS doesn't allow for too much shuteye.

I groggily left Josh and Amanda's flat and walked to the Porter Square T station, plunging myself back into the culture of Boston for a big lap through the city.

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Porter T station

My first stop was a transfer from the Red Line to the Green Line to Government Center.

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Boston City Hall

A few minutes of walking later put me on the doorstep of the Only one kind of pizza, too - cheese. Simple, pure, and brilliant.

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Mmm, Umberto

Back towards Government Center is a nice view of the centerpiece bridge of the Big Dig, finally complete.

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Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge

A few more steps away is a very well-known tourist trap, but it illustrates an essential observation about Boston; the coexistence between and overlap of old and new architecture.

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Union Oyster House

A quick blast over Beacon Hill and down towards the Common is the Massachusetts State House.

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Brilliant dome in the cold winter sun

I cruised through the middle of Boston Common, the usual expansive grass under a blanket of snow from two days before. Working my way to the west end of the Common, I walked up Newbury Street and past all the high-end shops, frequently swarmed with socialites during the summer.

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Along Newbury Street

Turning right on Mass. Ave., I headed towards the Charles River, but made a quick detour.

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Corner of Mass. Ave. and Beacon St.

Just meters away from the Harvard Bridge on Mass. Ave. is the place I called home for my undergraduate years at MIT.

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518 Beacon St.

I crossed the bridge for the first time in many moons and traversed the 364.4 (+1 ear) Smoots.

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Boston skyline and a frozen Charles River from Harvard Bridge

Of particular interest to a certain friend with initials JHZD, there were numerous foot-tracks across the ice...

Moving onto the MIT campus, I paused for a quick shot of the front entrance and moved on to the new (since I left in '02) Zesiger Center for a swim in the rad pool, much better than the pit of the old Alumni Pool.

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77 Mass. Ave., the front door of MIT

After a great swim, Josh and Amanda treated me to a fantastic dinner at the Highland Kitchen in Somerville. Mmm, spicy goat stew, gnocchi, and Cambridge Brewing Company Porter, mmm. With Thursday in the books, the real meat of the trip was just a sleep away.

Most of Friday was spent on campus for an orientation to the LFM program. And an interview. And then more orientation. Actually, it was cool to meet a bunch of current LFM students and to get their impression on all sorts of stuff. We did have some downtime during the day, and I used that to check out some stuff on campus that wasn't there when I left.

First stop was the Stata Center, the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence building designed by Gehry. It was under construction when I was an undergrad, and I remember it being a nightmare since there are so few right angles or straight surfaces.

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Front door, but the shady side

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Approaching Stata from the back

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Shiny scales

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Titanium panels, shiny things, and yellow things

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Reflections and shadows

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Inside the expansive Stata Center

I made it back to the Z Center for another great swim, then wandered west on campus to the oft-maligned Simmons Hall, the freshman dorm. I think it's kinda cool.

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Simmons Hall at dusk

I met back up with the LFM crew for dinner in Cambridge. Tibetan food tonight, a first for me and very tasty! Then onto the T and back to Boston for a couple pints of Guinness at the Beantown Pub with Velsko, Wallace, Flamin' Fraiman, Christina, Maling, and Erin, most of whom I hadn't seen since graduation.

Called it an early night, rode the T back to Somerville, but only got 3 hours of sleep before the early flight back to Reno. A nap upon arrival put the finishing touches on the trip. Even though the snow and rain made the streets a mess, it was great to get back into the swing of things in Boston and on campus, if only for a few days.

I've got my fingers crossed in a big way, but LFM doesn't announce decisions until mid-March, 5 weeks from now. The application's been done for nearly two months, and the interview was a huge step, but it's all said and done and a waiting game from here on out.

Stay tuned...

Past Detritus