Will likes to see stuff at MIT whenever he is in town. This time I took him to see robots in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, wearable computing in the Media Lab, and miscellaneous cool stuff in the Precision Engineering Research Group. It wasn't hard to find people to help out.

We walked around for three hours. Then, he was off to do soundchecks. A few hours after he learned about energy-storing inverse lakes, he and his Black Eyed Peas played to a sold-out crowd at the TD Banknorth Garden.

I always like amazing people, like Will, who is highly creative, does interesting things, and is interested in the future. MIT attracts amazing, highly creative, interesting, interested people like honey attracts bears.

And on top of all that, Will is a fan of my field, Artificial Intelligence. Check out the Peas Imma Be Rocking That Body video.

Anyway, when Will and his entourage were about to leave, and all the obligatory pictures were taken, he asked, as he generally does, if I could use a few tickets for the show. “Hey, that would be great,” I said. I like the Peas, and besides, I hadn't been to a good concert since the Rolling Stones were in town in '06.

Alas, my daughter seized the tickets. “You're nowhere near cool enough to go,” she said, “and I have some friends.” Maybe I should find a new place to buy clothes.

28 February 2010

More pictures of Will.i.am visit.

When Bose walked out

A few days ago, I was almost trampled by a herd of freshmen stampeding out of 26-100, so I went in to see what had been happening. It turned out to be a 7.01 lecture, freshman biology.

Being in 26-100, somehow the Big Event came to mind. It happened a long time ago when I took 6.01, Introduction to Circuit Theory. Professor Amar Bose, who later founded Bose Corporation, lectured. Electrical engineering sophomores sat at two-person tables, equipped with—hard to believe today—colorful stamped-aluminum ash trays.

In those days, students often made a hissing noise, like a snake, whenever an instructor announced a quiz or told a particularly corny joke. Bose didn't like it; he considered it insulting. On the first day of class, he announced there would be no hissing.

A few weeks later, somebody hissed. Bose said that whoever hissed would have to leave, and someone left.

Then, a lecture or two later, early in the lecture, someone hissed again. But this time the culprit refused to identify himself. So Bose left, and that lecture was gone forever. Those who knew the hisser or sat close to him gave him a pretty hard time. Nobody in the class ever hissed at Bose again. Alumni still talk about it at reunions: “Do you remember when Bose walked out?”

We knew Bose respected us because he put 100 hours a week into 6.01. We respected him because he didn't put up with what he considered insults. Mutual respect is the stuff from which great education emerges.

When Bose walked out, it licensed me to say, when I became a professor myself, that there would be no newspaper reading in my classes. Later, I took pride in being among the first to forbid open laptop computers in my classrooms, believing that reading papers, surfing the web, and doing email is as insulting as hissing. I respect my students, and I want them respect me.

24 October 2010

Amar Bose passed away, but his legacy survives in the many students he taught and mentored.

14 July 2013

When I walked in

It is not just MIT's 150th anniversary, it's my 50th.

Back in 1961, in the winter of my senior year in high school, my father said, “Well, you better go see what the place is like. Change trains in Chicago and get off at the last stop.”

This was long before parents routinely showed up on campus with embarrassed offspring in tow. My father simply put me on a train at Peoria, instructing me to visit MIT. I arrived at South Station early the next day, never having gone anywhere by myself before. I was tired after my first MIT-related all nighter, this one sitting up all night on the train.

After I arrived in Kendall Square, I started wandering around the edge of the campus, scared stiff, fearful that I would end up in some forbidden laboratory where I would be yelled at or even arrested. I made my way to the river, which was frozen and cold. I walked by the Great Dome, which I remember as big. And, of course, there were all those imposing names up on the buildings—Copernicus, Darwin, Newton, and lots more.

Then, I walked up Massachusetts Avenue, and there it was: the main entrance, distinguished by a door that you opened when you passed by an electric eye, a novelty in those days.

When I saw it, I knew I had found Paradise. “Ok, this is the place,” I said to myself, screwed up my courage, found B. Alden Thresher's office, got interviewed, and showed up the next fall, never to leave.

The electric eye is still there. Sadly, it doesn't work. It's function is now handled by a mat you step on. But, in a place where progress is permanent, it is nice that a few anchor points are still around, and who knows, maybe some enterprising undergraduate will update it someday with a laser in its guts.

16 January 2011

The General Patton diet
Fall 2012, first day of class, 255 lbs
Fall 2013, first day of class, 195 lbs

My doctor said I had three choices: take blood pressure medication, lose weight, or drop dead. My wife said I had turned into a fat blob. After thinking about all that for a couple of years, I decided to lose weight.

When I had tried to lose weight before, nothing worked. But I had never tried everything all at once. Many years ago, I watched “Patton,” and I think there was a scene in which he said with pride that he was attacking in all directions at once. So I decided to try what I call the General Patton diet, attacking in all directions at once.

First, I quit drinking cream in my coffee. I drink a lot of coffee, and I used to drink it with a lot of cream, so with that, I cut back 400-500 calories per day. Black coffee tasted terrible for a week, but I got used to it, and now the idea of cream in my coffee seems disgusting.

Then, I started exercising, almost daily—just fast walking and a little jogging at first, but then, around day 80, just jogging. Another 400-600 calories accounted for in my endorphin-generating exercise.

So, exercise and a change in the way I drink coffee constituted a 1000 calorie swing every day.

Then, I learned to eat and drink veeeeeery slowly at the table meant for eating, not in front of my computer screen. I used to cram in a day's worth of calories in a few minutes, before my body had any idea I was eating anything, which experts say takes 20 minutes.

Then, I substitute fruit for hypoglycemic foods that take blood sugar on a roller coaster ride. I used to get so hungry by 5 pm I could eat my own hand. Now I eat apples instead of junk and the 5 pm problem has gone away.

Then, the screwier things. Being interested in why we excell as a species, I note that fire is part of the explanation. Cooked food is partially digested before it goes in our mouth, so we can march more calories into our bodies in less time. That used to be a good thing, but isn't now, so I substitute raw fruits and vegetables for some of the cooked stuff I used to eat.

Then, I lift dumbbells while my coffee is brewing, which means I exercise at least five times a day, albeit briefly. It doesn't consume a lot of calories, but it seems to keep my appetite down and maybe keeps my metabolism up.

Then, I keep repeating to myself two quotes: from my friend Jay Keyser: “food is an addiction;” from Thomas Jefferson: “no man ever regretted eating too little.” Playing these quotes in my mind, I push away quite a lot of after-I-am-actually-satisfied food.

So I attack in all directions at once.

Of course what worked for one person doesn't work for another, and you really must talk to your doctor about whether what you are thinking of doing to lose weight is right for you.

Anyway, all this happened over the summer, so many of my friends had not seen me for a while, but strangely few asked me if I had lost weight. I finally figured out why when I broached the subject with a friend, Scott Vanderhoof, from whom I buy my hardware, who himself had once lost a lot of weight.

“Scott,” I said, “haven't you noticed that I have lost weight?”

“On purpose?”

“Yes, of course,” I said.

Then, with a great sigh of relief, he explained that he hadn't said anything because he thought I must have contracted something terrible to lose 60 pounds in 100 days.

25 September 2013


Now, Registration Day, 2014, has rolled and my weight is the same as a year ago.

I can use all the help I can get

4 December 2014

4 November 2015

Nuts may reduce risk

Photograph courtesy of Nuts for Life

According to the Boston Globe, a Harvard study shows that nuts may reduce risk of death.

Good news for me. I often feel like I am surrounded by them.

21 November 2013