October 27, 2008


ElectroPlushies take one more step towards production!

We spoke with a venture capitalist, producer, and marketer and are continuing forward with ElectroPlushies. God willing and the rivers don't rise, within a year or two you should be seeing them on shelves.

Check out our temporary website here:


October 22, 2008

Just Too Good

Sometimes we're just too good at what we do.

If you go here:


you'll see that MIT is in the race to be the next brand of Victoria Secret PinkWear. Seeing this, MIT decided last night that it wanted to win. One quick script and a campus-wide e-mail later and we were raking in 20,000+ votes per minute. Well, until we overwhelmed the Victoria Secret server and crashed their website.

They proceeded to freeze any votes for the top three schools (Drexel obviously ran a script as well, look at those numbers!)

Now, unable to vote for our own school, MIT students have taken to voting all of the other schools up to ridiculously high numbers as well. My favorite is John Public who is averaging about 2,000 votes a minute right now. Also note Wellesley and Michigan, both our fault.

Keep checking in throughout the day to see what we manage to accomplish!

October 21, 2008


My newest Digital Poetry poem, a video poem called "Passing."

It features some nice shots of the inside of Burton-Conner, specifically Conner 2. Hopefully you catch the two connections between the title and the video.

October 14, 2008

For Sale

Alright, cool news. The other day some of us came upon a huge box full of new 2008-2009 copies of How To GAMIT (or, How to Get Around MIT). They're only sold at MIT in the Coop so they're relatively hard to get, but basically here's the deal. There is more information in this book about MIT than you will find anywhere else. Anywhere. I promise. And it's written completely by MIT students without help from MIT so everything written is uncensored and untouched by MIT.

They retail for $12.00, I'm selling them for $5.00 with $4.00 shipping. I've put one on ebay here:


And will keep adding them as I sell them. IF you want one, e-mail me at snively [at] MIT [dot] edu and then use the Paypal button on the right to donate $9.00. I'll go ahead and ship the book to you either next day or the day after.

Seriously, this is the best source of MIT information out there and the fact that we stumbled upon so many is pretty awesome. I'm keeping two for myself but I want to share with you guys too. Here's the ebay description I used.

The 2008-2009 edition of "How To Get Around MIT," otherwise known as How To GAMIT.


Written by MIT students for MIT students, this 383 page book is the most concise, useful, and affordable wealth of MIT information in existence. Updated every year, nothing is out of date. If you're even considering MIT as a college choice or if you have a son or daughter attending, this is probably the best source of legitimate information in existence.

I write for the MIT Admissions website, http://mitatmissions.org/Snively/shtml, and frequently use this book to help answer questions people ask me about MIT. A lot of people try to figure out what MIT is like by reading Newsweek or buying books "written with help from real students" by outside publishers, but this book is so much more than that. Honestly, don't buy anything more expensive than this, you're ripping yourself off. This book retails for $12.00.

The chapters it lists are as follows:

1) Useful Telephone Numbers
2) Emergency Information
3) Help
4) Academics
5) Medical
6) Housing
7) Law
8) Finances
9) Athletics
10) MIT Geography
11) MIT Facilities
12) Athena
13) Hacking
14) MIT Publications
15) Transportation
16) Sightseeing
17) Shopping
18) Entertainment
19) Restaurants
20) Media
21) Miscellaneous
22) Student Activities
23) Colleges Around Boston
24) Moah about Boston
25) MIT History
26) MIT Songs
27) Glossary
28) Index
29) Advertising and Photo Index
30) Staff

I'll leave you with the introduction to the book:

Welcome to MIT

You hold in your hands the very newest revision of How to Get Around MIT. I certainly hope you're happy you've got it -- I know I am. If you are reading this, chances are your life at MIT is just beginning. No matter what happens in your next n-many years here always remember Rule 0. Everything is gonna be OK.

When I was but a starry eyed frosh, I was handed my very own version of How To Get Around MIT. The cover had a very inelegant black on white title which proudly proclaimed that the book was thirty percent thinner than the previous version. I didn't really know how fewer pages was relevant to my ability to get around MIT and I was just annoyed to receive another bloody thing meant to indoctrinate me into the Institute. I dismissed the book as propaganda meant to be half useful and half a 300 page sycophant that in its indecision became entirely useless. Fortunately for all of us working on it and you kind folk, I was wrong.

How to GAMIT (as those in the know like to call it) is entirely student produced as well as financially independent. Because How To GAMIT does not take any handouts from the institute, these students are free to tell you the truth as they see it. Its staff has long since been embittered by countless caffeine fueled all-nighters, brutal exams, and hung over mornings, much like you will soon endure. Facts are a dime a dozen in this modern internet age, so we are offering you something better -- real advice, service with a laugh, a smirk, and a story. How to GAMIT is a snapshot of MIT life and culture taken by all of us who are trapped on the inside.

If you find the book to be a great resource and would like to help out next year, we'd love your assistance. If you find errors in this book send me an e-mail at _______@mit.edu. They will get fixed for the next version.

Good Luck.

October 12, 2008

Microwaves [Update]

Just sittin' here, doin' my 2.003, when two guys walk into the room with a microwave, a multi-meter, a breadboard, and a bunch of metal. Now I smell something electronic cooking and they keep running the microwave.

Am I going to die?

Ok, yeah, something is definitely sparking, cracking, and glowing blue in the microwave. They're holding the breadboard up to the front of the microwave and are trying to take some kind of reading from the cracking and the . . . OMG! There's fire in the microwave!

Webcomics. . . Alive!

Alright, assuming most of my readers are prospective MIT students or current MIT students, you've probably heard of XKCD.

If not, XKCD is a webcomic with themes geared towards "geeks" including mathematicians, physicists, and people who just enjoy technology. It's written by a guy named Randall Monroe and has a relatively large cult following. I've written about various XKCD encounters I've had, here and here.

Several weeks ago Randall published this comic:

Last week, lo and behold, a new button appeared near the comment box on YouTube:

That's right, a joke in a comic was implemented a week later on YouTube, making Randall Monroe inadvertently semi-more famous than he already is. I guess you can take two things away from this.

1) If you write a really funny comic about something you may incite change on one of the internet's most famous and popular websites.
2) Always audio preview your comments so you don't sound stupid.



Just doin' my 2.003


Rollin' a spool


Slidin' a bar


Watching a motor compress some weird arrangement of two-force members, pushing a piston-type thing against a spring


October 04, 2008

A hack and a message

Hacking at MIT is one of MIT's strongest selling points. MIT proudly talks about all the creative hacks and pranks that students pull off, but what a lot of people don't realize is that MIT, while loving hacks, hates hackers. It doesn't quite seem fair that MIT is willing to hand hackers that its caught over to the Cambridge Police and file charges against them, especially when they love the hacks so much.

Chancellor Clay sent out an e-mail the other day to the entire student body, discussing hacking and proclaiming that the current state of hacking doesn't conform to current societal standards.

Several days later was a response. The first half was an opinion article in The Tech (MIT's newspaper) written by one of MIT's dorms' presidents, Vinayak Ranade.

With President Hockfield’s ‘State of the Institute’ just passed, I felt that it would be appropriate to address the state of the Institute hacker, who is after all, a member of MIT belonging to myriad macro and micro communities.

As the president of East Campus, I often have to deal with the popular misconception at MIT equating hacking with the dorm. While hackers are not exclusive to EC, some hackers do reside within the dorm, and it is my duty to represent them as best I can.

The Institute hacker, like you and me, is just another hosed MIT student. He wants to graduate on time, needs to pull an all-nighter for that extra-long p-set, and is worried that airfares are going up and that he might not be able to make it home for Christmas. Sometimes he thinks about just partying the entire weekend. Tonight, however, he wants to do something more exciting, something that makes him feel alive — something he can only do at a place like MIT.

He starts off his night by grabbing a couple of like-minded people; he knows that one should never hack alone. The group sets off for a grand night, thrilled with the prospect of being the next generation of “those brilliant MIT hackers” that mystify everyone.

Soon enough, the Institute hacker finds himself at a door which he is not supposed to get through. He’s really curious to know what’s on the other side. For the Institute hacker this is not something new, and a few minutes later he is on the other side of the door.

It turns out to be just a janitor’s closet, and the Institute hacker knocks over a pail of dirty water walking in. Remembering the code of ethics he was taught his freshman year, he quickly cleans up the mess, and leaves the place just as he found it, perhaps even better.

He takes extra care to make sure that the door is locked on his way out, because he doesn’t want some bum who’s wandering MIT’s open campus to come and spend the night in or steal anything from the unlocked janitor’s closet that he found. The last thing he wants is for hackers to be blamed for someone else’s mistakes.

The night eventually leads the Institute hacker to a roof. He really enjoys the cool breeze and the Boston skyline as it stares back at him. He feels fortunate and proud to be one of the few people who can get to this particular roof. Suddenly, he hears the roof door click.

His first instinct is to remain as calm as possible. Safety safety safety, he remembers an upperclassman drilling into him during his freshman year. Within moments, there is a gruff looking Campus Police officer shining his light on the Institute hacker, rumbling “Hey you. Come over here.”

The Institute hacker knows that he’s been caught. Not so long ago, he would have immediately obeyed and walked over to the officer on duty, and cooperated fully. But tonight, he isn’t so sure. He’s read the letter from the Chancellor earlier in the night. He’s heard of his friends being treated like common criminals.

He’s read about the police brutality accusations in The Tech. He doesn’t trust the officer to know what the hacking code of ethics is, and he is terrified at the prospect of being thrown to the Cambridge Police by some MIT authority who doesn’t really understand hacking. He remembers hearing about a friend’s belongings getting confiscated for weeks by the Campus Police. He remembers a friend who had to face lengthy criminal court proceedings and defaming articles in newspapers.

The Institute hacker’s mind is filled with doubts. Maybe he should have just agreed to go and get drunk with his other buddies instead of trying to carry on some MIT “tradition.” Was it even a tradition anymore, or just a game of cat and mouse? He wonders.

There is a lack of appreciation for the amount of effort that hackers put into pulling off ridiculous feats. Tours led by hackers convince many prefrosh to choose MIT, because they know that this experience wouldn’t be possible at Harvard or Yale. I didn’t hear a single administrator complain when hackers committed grand theft for the Caltech cannon hack, but they all changed their tune the moment students got caught on MIT’s own campus.

I walk into the Stata Center for classes and see the exhibits commemorating old hacks, but the hackers that I know don’t feel commemorated. They feel like MIT is on track to becoming like any other university. They are tired of the administrators changing their stance on hacking all the time, depending on external pressures and internal politics.

They never know what to expect if a Campus Police officer stops them, even if they’re just walking down the Infinite. They don’t feel like staying calm and stepping up to the officer on duty. They want to deal with neither the policies nor the changing whims of police officers and administrators. They just want to explore interesting places, understand exactly how that machine room works, and pull off some spectacular engineering.

If they want to make a statement, they usually do it in style. But these days, the state of the Institute hacker is such that he is afraid of making a statement; he doesn’t know whether getting caught means community service, going to the Committee on Discipline, going to trial in a Cambridge court, or having to explain his actions to prospective grad schools.

Every student has a message in their inbox today telling them that, “Those who violate the tradition, by endangering themselves or others, by breaking the law, or departing from the ‘hacking code of conduct’ cannot seek protection from responsibility.” This sounds like the administration wants hackers to keep doing all the things which help MIT’s image, but if hackers get caught doing these things, they’ll be mercilessly prosecuted.

Why does MIT put on display all the hacking memorabilia when they would prosecute anyone in the act of putting together those very hacks? Since when do administrators know more about the hacking code of ethics than the hackers who wrote it? Since when does hacking get thrown into the same category as academic integrity and hazing? How can a hacker follow the hacking code of conduct without hacking?

The Institute hacker on the roof is still debating whether to step up to the officer on duty. The state of the Institute hacker is confused, nervous, and insulted.

That same day a hack was pulled, paralleling the sentiment expressed in the article. The Hack Gallery in Stata was altered to reflect what MIT hackers thought about Chancellor Clay's e-mail and the Institute's current stance on hacking.

Hacks on display were covered in black cloth, caution taped, and had violation notices posted on them.

How will the Institute respond? Chancellor Clay, after having the Tech article to him, replied by saying that he was "open to suggestions." Maybe things will get better again.

Photographs used with permission, courtesy of Eric Schmiedl since my camera was in my dorm