The 2006 Independent Activities Period (IAP), which will run from Jan. 9 through Feb. 3, offers everyone at MIT -- students, faculty, staff, even alumni -- a chance to break away from the routine and try something new. Courses range from Hebrew to knitting and from running to philosophy, so there is something for almost everyone. Many of the classes are for beginners, making this the perfect time to learn a new skill or hone an old one. For a full listing, go to web.mit.edu/iap/. Here are just some of the highlights:
Food and cooking
Old Food: Ancient and Medieval Cooking
Anne McCants, Howard Eissenstat, Margo Collett
Wednesday, Jan. 11, from noon to 5 p.m. Next House. Sign up by Jan. 5. Limit: 25 participants.
Afternoon of good old- (really old) fashioned ancient and medieval cookery. Class will prepare, cook and eat medieval foods from both sides of the Mediterranean Sea. Preparations will involve the use of authentic period recipe books. Contact: x8-6669.
Athletics and exercise
Middle Eastern Dance
Mondays and Wednesdays through January, from 1 to 3 p.m. T-Club Lounge.
Classes consist of warm-ups, exercises focusing on isolation and coordination, plus dance combinations/choreography. Wear a leotard and tights or loose-fitting clothes to class.
Boston and Cambridge
Chocolate Tour of Boston
Rachel Chaney, Chaitra Manjunatha
Saturday, Jan. 21, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Meet in Lobby 7.
Want to know where to get good chocolate in Boston? Or just want to take a tour around Boston and eat chocolate? Go on a tour of Boston that stops at chocolate hot spots. You can buy or eat the best chocolate Boston has to offer. Sponsored by the Laboratory for Chocolate Science.
Arts and crafts
Ikebana: The Art of Japanese Flower Arranging
Tuesday, Jan. 24, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Room E38-714. Advance sign-up required. Limit: 15 participants. $10 material fee.
Hiroko Matsuyama, an Ohara School of Ikebana instructor, will demonstrate the basics of this ancient art. Participants will create their own flower arrangements. Contact: x8-8208.
Finance and economics
Searching for a Mate: Evidence From Speed Dating Experiments?
Ray Fisman of Columbia University
Tuesday, Jan. 10, from 2 to 3 p.m. Room E51-372.
Economists don't believe in survey results. They call it "cheap talk." This applies to an even greater extent in realms where individuals have trouble admitting their true preferences to themselves, let alone reporting these preferences to others. This class studies dating preferences through the revealed choices of real-life daters in a research speed-dating service that was set up for this purpose. This talk will analyze what men and women really want, as revealed by their actions in a real dating situation. Contact: x3-3971.
Hebrew Literacy Marathon
Wednesday, Jan. 25, and Thursday, Jan. 26, from 4 to 8 p.m. Building W11 - Small Dining. Sign up by Jan. 9. Limit: 25 participants. $30 material fee.
If you know anything at all about Jewish living or Jewish culture, but you don't know even one letter of the Hebrew alphabet, this class is for you. Be part of an eight-hour Hebrew reading marathon. You will learn the aleph-bet of Hebrew, become familiar with 300 words for Jewish living, and develop a love and appreciation for Hebrew. No prior knowledge of Hebrew required. Contact: x3-2982.
Sipping From the Fire Hose: Balancing Academics, Friendship, Family and a Social Life
Tom Robinson, Linda Noel
Wednesday, Jan. 11, from noon to 1 p.m. Room 1-135. Limit: 25 participants.
Have you ever dashed across the Massachusetts Avenue crosswalk with two seconds left on the clock because you're late for an appointment? Ever skipped lunch or operated on too little sleep? Do you feel like you have to rush from commitment to commitment in order to meet your obligations? This workshop will look at several ways to develop strategies that will help you during those all-too-familiar crunch times here at MIT! What better time to think more globally about balance in your life than during IAP. Please bring your lunch. Drinks and dessert will be provided. Contact: x3-7605.
The 16th Annual Salute to Dr. Seuss
Monday, Jan. 23, from 5 to 6 p.m.
Gather around, boys and girls of all ages, for a celebration of the sublime and wacky world of Dr. Seuss. You will hear Professor Henry Jenkins read works and talk about Seuss's relationship to modern art and popular culture. Also on tap: A screening of the good doctor's remarkable live action feature film, "5000 Fingers of Dr. T." An MIT tradition marches forward. Contact: x3-5038.
History and Mystery of the Tarot
Tuesdays, Jan. 10 through Jan. 31, from noon to 1:30 p.m. No limit, but participants must sign up by Dec. 24.
Classes will explore the history, origin, use and art of the Tarot. Students should purchase the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck or similar learning deck for use in class. Students are welcome at any session but are encouraged to attend all. Contact: x8-5612.
MIT Campus Sustainability -- Challenges and Responses
Tuesday, Jan. 10, from noon to 1 p.m. Room 56-114. Sign up by Jan. 6. Limit: 60 participants.
Presentation and discussion on MIT's campus environmental challenges and on programs and activities to minimize their impact. Includes special presentation on the recent solar panel initiative. Moderated by Steven Lanou, program manager for sustainability initiatives (Environmental Programs Office). Contact: email@example.com.
Philosophy Trivia Quiz
Helena de Bres
Friday, Feb. 3, from 2 to 4 p.m. Room 32-D808.
Pit your capacity for abstract thought against that of the professionals, at what promises to be the most "profoundly trivial" event this IAP. Which famous philosopher rescued Naomi Campbell from the clutches of Mike Tyson with the words "I suggest we talk about this like rational men"? What does Karl Marx have in common with Jude Law? Does "Metaphysics" come before or after "Physics"? What is the meaning of life, anyway? All this and more! MIT Philosophy: If it's deep, we've thought it. Come get yourself some of the action. Contact: x8-8084.
Politics and social science
U.S. Special Operations Forces Roles and Missions
Lt. Col. Chris Conner
Tuesday, Jan. 31, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Room E38-714. Limit: 20 participants.
The use of U.S. Special Operations Forces has figured prominently in the response to the 9/11 attacks and in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Consequently, much has been written regarding their roles, training and recent operations. This class is designed to familiarize you with the actual charter of these unconventional warriors as well as to dispel some myths, rumors and innuendos. Contact: x8-9440.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 21, 2005 (download PDF).