Twofish's Blog

August 5, 2006


Filed under: massachusetts institute of technology, personal, wikipedia — twofish @ 8:52 am

Let me tell a story….. I don’t know why I want to tell this story. Maybe its being in MIT again. Maybe its lessoning to Lessig’s talk on read-write culture. Maybe it has something to do with data schema. I don’t know….. I just want to tell this story. I’ll leave it up for a few hours, and maybe I’ll just delete it later.

I’ve been writing a lot about the “fairy princess” in this blog. Let me tell you a story about her.

It was the spring of 1990, and she was my entry tutor at MIT, and the frustrating thing was that she was never around the entry. Just like now, she was doing fifteen things at the same time.
You could usually find her when you had a problem or issue, but I really wanted to do was to just hear her talk. It was one of those situations where I just wanted to see her and hear her talk, and I could care less what she was talking about.

Our rooms both were connected to the entry lounge where there was a common area.¬† I figured out that at 7:30 she would leave the entry and go to her classes. So that at 7:15 AM, I’d get up, take my books to the entry lounge, and start doing my problem sets. Kerson Huang’s yellow book on thermodynamics was what I was working on at the time. It was a nice lounge in a high rise dorm, with a beautiful view of the Charles. The funny thing was that I was dead tired. I’m not a morning person, but I managed to get myself up at 7:15 AM. At exactly 7:30 AM, she would come out of her room and walk to the elevator, and pass through the entry lounge where I was. The doors in that dorm make a distinctive click when they open, and I can still remember the exact sound that door made. We always talked for a few minutes. I cannot remember a single conversation because I just wanted to hear her voice.

While we were talking, I always made a detailed mental note of everything I could remember. How did she do her hair? Was she wearing glasses? What was she wearing? What type of earrings did she have on? What was the expression on her face? On a few occasions, I was wondering how she would look in a white wedding dress. And then after a few moments, she’d head down to the elevator, and I’d have a mental picture of her which I kept for the rest of the day.

That worked for about three or four weeks. Then one day the door opened, and I didn’t see her, but I saw her boyfriend who was visiting from London for Spring Break. I don’t think he saw me, the door opened and he was turned away talking to her, so I think I was able to leave without his seeing me. I went back to my dorm room, cried for about an hour, and then wrote yet another of the dozens if not hundreds of letters that she has never gotten, and does not know the existence of. The problem was that I had my mental camera working, and I remember the click of the door, and seeing a male with black shoes, blue shirt, and khaki pants.

The irony in all of this is that despite being a physics major. I added incorrectly. She was inapproachable, because she was my entry tutor and I thought she was five or six older than me. It was only three or four weeks ago that I found out that she entered college early, and that she was only three years than me. I found this out when she was listed in a list of under 40 achievers. This is more than slightly annoying because in one of the letters I wrote to her, I explicitly wrote, it is unfortunate that she was so old because if she were just a little younger, things would be very different.

I don’t know why I’m thinking about this story. It make have something to do with storage of schema information, since I mentally developed a database schema to store my mental snapshots. It may be the fact that people are talking about storing 40 terabytes of information, and missing the one key bit of information.

One of the things I’d like to do someday is just to let her know what was going through my mind, and to find out what was going through her mind. Unless she was totally oblivious, the fact that someone is studying the in entry lounge each morning should have been odd.

One day, I’d like to find out what was and is going through the mind of the Chinese government when it blocked wikipedia, and to let the Chinese government know why is going through my mind when it know about the block.

I suspect it is going to be far less difficult to talk to the Chinese government and get that information than it will be to talk to the fairy princess.

I’m sure why I’m telling this story. It’s personal. It’s embarassing. It’s none of anyone’s business, and I don’t think anyone really cares.

But one memory that is deeply ingrained in me is my looking at her closed door. Most of the time I passed by her room, her door was closed, and I spent about fifteen minutes each morning looking at the locked door.

The “fairy princess” right now is now tenured faculty at a major university, and she just landed a major grant. She’s on the admissions committee for her university, and she’s also on the selection board for a famous scholarship program. (It was while she was on scholarship in London that she met her boyfriend, so you should be able to figure out which one it is.) In addition to all of that, she’s also playing supermom.

And I’m just this academic nobody waiting outside her door.

Here is a wikipedia question. She is definitely famous enough at this point to have an article written about her. I hope to be famous enough in a year or so to have an article written about me. How should, or shouldn’t those articles be cross linked with this blog.


1 Comment »

  1. I deleted this comment from moderation, but then on second thought I really need to respond, since this is precisely the know-it-all, arrogant, condescending, non-sense advice that messed me up for the last fifteen years…..

    > I am sorry to post this comment anonymously, but I don’t
    > want to give you my name, because what you post here is
    > disturbing to me.

    > Showing up at someone’s door every morning is really close > to stalking (you yourself call it ‘odd’). Calling a woman
    > — a person — a fairy princess is pretty dehumanizing.
    > Fairy princesses aren’t real.

    Her dorm room was right next to mine and they both opened up into a common study area, and I was taking the nasty and unforgivable step of *gasp* studying in the common study area each morning.

    I call her the “fairy princess” because it is a convenient alias. Do you really think things would be better off if I used her real name so that google and find it?

    > I would strongly recommend you NOT ever talk to her. It
    > will creep her out.

    OK this is where the advice gets really bad. Of course, I’m not going to talk to her now, because there is no point. I’m happily married, so likely is she. The problem is that she is in high-octane academia. I plan to be in high-octane academia. We will meet whether either or us wants it or not, and I better have my feelings for her resolved before we bump into each other at a charity dinner or a science convention.


    I recently found out that there was a very long period of time in her life in which a relationship was not out of the question, and I recently found out one fact that suggested that she was not nearly as unapproachable as I had assumed.

    Right after I graduated MIT, I was too ashamed of my feelings for her to contact her, because I’d been brainwashed by people like you. I now know that what *could* and maybe *should* have happened is that I should have made an effort to contact her and to talk to her about my feelings, and we could have figured out what to do like intelligent adults. I don’t know what could/would have happened, but at least things would have gone to some kind of closure.

    > I would recommend some therapy or self-searching to find
    > out why you are drawn to unapproachable people.


    She isn’t that unapproachable. Yes, she is a high adminstrative position at a major university. Yes, I am mad, angry, and jealous of her, but I take my feelings and turn them into something positive. Yes, she has a university. Well, I’ll start my own university if that is what it takes to make me feel better about myself (and before you say that I can’t do it, read my other posts).

    Your advice is not well taken, because it assumes that I’m “sick” and “ill” for having the feelings that I have. Well, I’m not. It took me a decade to realize that everything that I feel about this woman is perfectly fine, because I have the ethics and the drive to do something positive with them.

    I *KNOW* why I feel so strongly about this woman. It’s because she had the family that I wish I had, and the luck that I wish I had. It’s because she is as smart as I am, worked just as hard, and has gotten ten times as much. It’s because had I known at MIT what I know now (which is that it isn’t a bad thing to be honest with what you feel), then our relationship would have been different. Maybe we would have broken up. Maybe we would have found that we were totally incompatible. Maybe any one of a dozen outcomes would have happened, but I would not be hating her quite as much as I do. Even if we ended up in a screaming nasty breakup, it would not be as bad as what the situation is now.

    But I didn’t do that because of people like you that made me feel bad about what I was feeling. I did the “wise and mature” thing of not acting on my feelings which is just about the worse possible thing I could have done.

    The bad thing about the advice that people like you give is that the “solution” is to have a lobotomy. Stop feeling what you are feeling because it is wrong. See a therapist that will “treat” your “disease.”

    This just leads to problems. I’m still trying to figure out what to do with my feelings, but it will be positive and constructive. I’ve been through enough so that I know I’m responsible and I can deal with my feelings.

    To be honest, I want her to see my name in the newspaper or my face on Nightline, and just for a second think to herself that maybe her life would have been better with me in it. I don’t know if this will happen. I don’t know if this can happen. I do know that in trying to make this happen, I’ll get some useful stuff done.

    Comment by twofish — August 8, 2006 @ 5:02 am

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