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Dave Henry
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About These Notes
These notes provide a way for the author to get out some of the things that are stuck in his head. By doing so, you, the reader, are not only provided a glimpse into what it's like inside Dave's head, but also given an opportunity to contribute to it.

October 2009
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Dave Henry [userpic]
A Secret Revealed + Bonus Points!

This post serves three purposes:

  1. It breaks my posting dry-spell.
  2. The Secret Plan has advanced far enough, that there's no reason to keep it secret any longer.
  3. It's time to award more Bonus Points.

Setting the Stage

Life is about change.

Things are constantly changing around us, and one of the challenges we're faced with is adapting to those changes. Of course, the bigger challenge is changing ourselves.

Self-change is interesting. Sometimes, when it moves us forward, it's growth. Other times, when it sets us back, it's self-sabotage. Still other times, it's simply change.

Some self-change is so gradual that we don't notice it -- even as we're changing -- the rate of change is so small we only notice upon reflection back to a point far enough in the past. Some self-change is so sudden that it's almost as if we woke up one morning a different person -- this is the kind of change that scares our friends and families -- even if it's growth.

Sometimes self-change is deliberate, something we set out to achieve. Other times it just seems to come about almost on its own -- most often as a side-effect of something else. Some self-change seems more like a natural progression, some self-change catches even the person who's changing by surprise.

Most change has a catalyst, some trigger-event that helps to bring it about. Some triggers are obvious, others less so.

The most interesting self-changes, though, are the ones we thought we'd never make.

The Expected Changes

Fatherhood changes men. It's certainly changed me.

The biggest change? My life has become more deliberate.

I think things through more. I think about the effect my words and my actions might have. I schedule days off months in advance.

I think about how I want life to be. I think about how I want my sons' lives to be. I think about the lessons I've learned -- especially the ones I learned the hard way. I think about what I want to teach them. For example, I recall conversations I've had with the Clones about it being important to finish what you start.

None of these changes are surprising, really. They're changes you'd not only expect, but even hope for, in a man who's become a father.

The Catalysts of a Surprising Change

Looking back, I see it's been building up for a while, but when the change occurred it seemed to come about all at once.

The catalysts? A few things, really:
  1. My job. I've found something I'm not only really, really good at -- but also something I'm actually having fun doing. It feels like I've "arrived" career-wise.
  2. Martial arts. Yes, it's cliche that practicing the disciplines of the martial arts contributes to clarity, focus, and self-esteem -- but sometimes things are cliche because they're true.
  3. Leadership. My involvement in Bushido has had a definite impact on me. (Note to self: write more about that later.) I'm spending a lot of time and effort to push men to realize their full potential, to be their best -- some of that seems to be rubbing off on me.
  4. Fatherhood. Perhaps another cliche, but there's nothing in my life that's truer. In particular, it was the conversations about finishing what you've started that had me first think of my own unfinished business.

The Surprising Change

Well, it surprised me, anyway.

What was this big change I've made you wade through all that stuff above to finally read? Simply this:
I am no longer satisfied with identifying myself as a college drop-out.

The Secret Plan

Well, of course, now that I'm telling you all about it, this is really the last time I can accurately refer to it as "The Secret Plan", but that's what it's been called while I did the groundwork to find out if it even be possible to do what I want to do.

Turns out, it looks like it might just be.

The idea of finishing what I've started has made it important to me that I not only get my degree, but that I get it where I started it.

It is with that in mind that, after a 21-year hiatus, I have embarked upon a quest to regain undergraduate student status at MIT.

Final Surprises (or not)

It turns out that not only is MIT very open to the idea, they're also willing to be very helpful in making it happen. I hadn't expected that. I don't know why -- they are, after all, an institution of higher learning dedicated to just that sort of thing.

It also turns out that a 21-year hiatus is not even in the running for "Longest Break from Working on an MIT Degree". Again, shouldn't be a surprise.

The final unsurprising surprise? When I last left MIT, I was working on a Course II/Course XXI double-major (that's Mechanical Engineering and what they used to call "Humanities" (in this case, Creative Writing) for the non-MIT folks in the crowd). Well, given where my career is now, and all the changes in both fields, it turns out that it would not only take less time but makes a lot more sense for me to go Course VI (6-3 even) rather than Course II (Course VI is EECS (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science). 6-3 is the Computer Science end of that spectrum.).

Oh, and the unsurprising surprising thing about being on campus for the interviews? (Yes, interviews.) I expected to find myself uncomfortable being there again. Instead, it felt like coming home.

Where Things Stand Now

I've had an initial interview with Student Support Services. I've interviewed with Course VI. And, I've spoken with my original freshman advisor (and I mean original advisor, you know, from my first freshman year (there are several long stories in there, but they can wait)).

Getting a 6-3 degree part-time (which is the only way I could do it right now) will take 4 or so years. The EECS department has said that they'd be willing to accept me into their degree program it MIT accepts me as a student (having a department ready to take me was one of the requirements I needed to meet).

The Dean I've been talking to in Student Support Services gets back into the office Wednesday. I'll be calling him tomorrow to update him on my conversations with EECS, work, and my former advisor. I'll find out the next steps then.

Nothing's definite yet, but it's entirely possible that this Fall I could be taking my first-ever Course VI class (6.01) and be looking at receiving my Bachelor's as early as 2012.

It feels right. It's time to do this. Time to finish what I started.

I'll keep y'all posted on progress.

Bonus Points!

In the meantime, here's what you've been waiting for: MIT-themed Bonus Points!

Thinking about getting to graduate from MIT reminds me of other MIT graduations past. I've attended more than one of them since I arrived at MIT back in the Fall of 1984. Who's graduations did I go to? I'll award one Bonus Point for each graduate named. (And, yes, I know that there were a lot of people at each graduation I attended -- I mean that, in order to get the points, you need to name the individual who was the reason I was at that particular graduation...) Again, there's more than one Bonus Point available here, but I won't get more specific yet in case that gives away any hints.

My guesses:

Me, 1989.
Phil Hammar, 1988.
Kat Daley, 1987.

We Have A Winner!

3 guesses, 3 Bonus Points awarded!

At the moment you have all of the points awarded for this question, but not all of the points available....

And you've made the game-changing move from "not even on the board" to now holding a solid second place.

The interesting side-note about the graduations you mentioned is that at each of them my role during the Commencement itself was "hanging out in Killian Court with the graduate's siblings".

That's really cool! You are going to show the kids in the most convincing way possible that when something is important, you make it a priority and do it.


The Clones and I have already had the conversation about how, if everything goes according to plan, in the Fall all the men in our house will be in school...

Ooh! Your Athena account has one of those encrypted SSNs for an MIT ID number. Not to mention, you have two MIT IDs anyway, because you worked for MIT back before HR and the Registrar played nice together.

Er, you know, I bet nobody but me finds this sort of thing fun.

It's Not Just You

You've got to keep in mind that I did sysadmin-y type stuff for 19 years straight... :-)

My hope in all of this is that:

  1. I get to keep the old account for historical reasons (when I left Athena in 1988, the promise was that, as a gesture of appreciation for the work I did, I'd have the account "in perpetuity").
  2. I'll be able to get another account to use in my role as a student, one with a username more fitting to who I am now... :-) Hopefully "davehenry" or "dmhenry" is available.

Obviously, my worrying about this at all right now would be a classic "cart before horse" example...

Re: It's Not Just You

I get to keep the old account for historical reasons (when I left Athena in 1988, the promise was that, as a gesture of appreciation for the work I did, I'd have the account "in perpetuity").

Well, right now, you have the old account 'cause I sponsor you. If you have an email or something that has the promise in it, I could use that to leverage you into the actual forever-account people, but there aren't very many of those.

I'll be able to get another account to use in my role as a student, one with a username more fitting to who I am now... :-) Hopefully "davehenry" or "dmhenry" is available.

The policy is pretty much one person, one account. But I could give you davehenry@mit.edu or dmhenry@mit as mailing lists if you wanted. (davehenry is actually too long for a username, we haven't gotten above 8 characters yet. Though it's on the general to-do list...)

Re: It's Not Just You

I don't know if I can find anything in writing. It's been a long time, and account policy back then was, well, let's just say it was more informal in those days. :-)

If the mailing list option would let me set it so that mail I sent appeared to be from the "davehenry" or "dmhenry" address, that would likely be fine.

In an attempt to keep focus, though, this is the last thought I'll devote to the subject before I am officially given student status. It's nice knowing I have an "inside track" to at least ask questions of.


This is really quite... something. "Cool" has too much of a casual connotation, hrm. "Inspiring" is sorta close; "impressive" is sorta close.

It's OK -- I'm still working on figuring out my own reaction to it. :-)

Fortunately, I've got a whole bunch of time to figure it out between now and when I'll be receiving any degree(s).

(Yes, I implied a possible plural. Shhh!)

In the immortal words of Keanu Reeves, "Whoa."

"Yay Dave. Go Dave." -- my mother

"Huh. How about that." -- me

See you Friday.

Re: In the immortal words of Keanu Reeves, "Whoa."

Hmm. Yeah, I've got about equal parts of Keanu and your reactions going on.

And, I'm willing to admit, at least a little bit of your Mom's reaction mixed in.

See you Friday!

Now, you too can join the Seekrit Lunch Cabal!

We'll see how that works out with the scheduling and all.

Work's willing to give me a lot of flexibility, but not all of the flexibility... :-)

If it can work, yes, absolutely. It was great getting to have lunch with you and firstfrost on the day of the most-recent interview.

That's great! Good luck.

Good for you! Best of luck to you!!


That's great! I think I had no idea that you didn't graduate long before I met you, but I'm sure the actual education will be more worthwhile than the illusion.


(I wish you'd signed in, so I knew who I was thanking... :-)
(If you wish to remain anonymous, feel free to shoot me an email message (or not, if it's me you wish to remain anonymous to...))

Wow, congrats!

(And to the bonus points, I ushered the 1991 graduation, attended the 1992 one as a participant, and the 1994 one as a spectator. Mine was the only was that was junky and indoors.)


And, alas, you were not one of the people whose graduation I attended. Sorry you missed out on having it in Killian Court. :-(

That ROCKS. Congratulations!

(And let me know if I should show up at your graduation at 2012 and take myself hostage with a plastic dart gun.)

Thanks, man.

And I'll keep the graduation thing in mind... It's a little early to know for sure that the graduation will be 2012.


Yeah, it is kinda.