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Sunday, January 29, 2012

"The most comely of miniature mammals"

Mice, per contra, except to a few hysterical women,
rank among the most comely of all the miniature mammals
who impinge on our lives
Once, when I was living in a very old dorm in college with two oblivious, unhygienic roommates and one ultra-hygienic one, a family of mice installed themselves in our room. Their arrival was the unhygienic roommates' fault, but the hygienic roommate's burden, and she was intent on destroying them. But I put in a plea on their behalf--they are fragile and needy mammals like us (true, in a way...), they are unobtrusive and primarily go about their business quietly at night (not strictly true; my roommate woke up one night from their scuttlings and threw stuffed animals at me until I was awake enough to be informed that WE HAVE MICE), and, as long as they keep to their side of the contract I had outlined (cute, nocturnal, nondestructive) for them, we could harmoniously cohabit with them. My hygienic roommate reluctantly agreed, and we struck up a temporary truce with the mice, agreeing to provide them with a warm domicile in our walls for the winter if they agreed to stay out of our hair.
You never have managed, as all successful parasites must, to
break the code of your host, wise up on what habits can travel.
Ah!, if only You had, with what patience we would have trained You
how to obtemper your greeds, recalling the way that our Nannies
molded our nursery moeurs...

Good Little Mice never gnaw through
woodwork or nibble at packages. Good Little Mice never scatter
droppings that have to be swept up. Good Little Mice get a tidbit,
Bad Little Mice die young. Then, adapting an adage of lovers,
Two Little Mice are a company, Three Little Mice are a rabble.
One day soon after, I discovered strange holes in my laundry hamper, and more holes in the laundry within. The mice, it seemed, had dined on my t-shirts and underwear. Well, let's just say the mice lost their lawyer by this act of war, and, with the cohabitation treaty voided, they soon saw their doom.
What occurred now confirmed that ancient political axiom:
When Words fail to persuade, then Physical Force gives the orders.
Knowing You trusted in us and would never believe an unusual
object belonging to Men could be there for a sinister purpose,
traps were baited and one by one you were fatally humbugged:
all fourteen of You perished...

We had felt no talent to murder:
it was against our pluck. Why, why then? For raisons d’├ętat. As
householders we had behaved exactly as every State does,
when there is something It wants, and a minor one gets in the way.
I was, needless to say, very pleased to come across this poem today, which though clearly not intended to recall my nearly identical encounter with representatives of the mouse race, did. Raison d'etat, cute rodents, raison d'etat. The sovereign resignedly does what it must to protect its underwear.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Occupy Harvard is liberated

The "weather-proof geodesic dome" blew away in the wind and, while the occupiers recessed to conduct an emergency meeting about whether they should try to affix the dome more firmly to the ground (no affixing without consensus!), the administration "seized" it. Weather-proofing fail, democracy fail. Satire win.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New semester, old foraging strategy

This year (which is to say, this academic year, since my life revolves around the academic rather than Gregorian calendar), I have a cubicle in the grad student office in the department building. My cube, it is a great cube. True, other cubes have many books in them to demonstrate their inhabitants' substantial erudition or concern for the appearance thereof (Exhibit A), while my cube (Exhibit B) lacks most decorative embellishments, but at least allows one to LEARN TO READ LATIN, or so the title claims. But it's a comfortable cube, furnished with all the infrastructural necessities of grad school: reading lights, an outlet, and a chair.

Comparative cubicle study
Exhibit A: This are a serious cube.

Exhibit B: This are my cube.

During the semester, I live in this cube. (Not pictured: the office futon, for the sleeping part of living.) But where one lives, one must also eat, and it's best when lodging includes meals. Fortunately, in the subfields of political science that aren't my own, people evidently have very large budgets and are always putting on extremely fascinating scholarly events that I alas cannot attend (schedule constraints!) but whose catering I always seem to have time for.

So last semester, I developed a foraging strategy whereby every weekday I could obtain free lunch. This involved a spreadsheet with the days, times, and locations of all weekly poli sci events, culled from various advertisements and forwarded emails from fascinating groups like the Center for the Quantitative Analysis of Minor Latin American Electoral Trends, along with a two-hour delay figured in for the time that must elapse between primary eater (event attendees) food access and secondary eater (me) access. However, a logistical dilemma often arises as a result of primary eater enthusiasm--namely, all the plates and forks are gone by the time that secondary eaters arrive. So, I also stockpiled disposable flatwear and dishes in my cube for enhanced foraging productivity. (Those who overlooked this step are reduced to putting their pad thai in paper cups.) A friend also introduced me to the American Politics coffee room, where fresh coffee with fresh milk live for even non-Americanists to take, at least while their purveyors' office doors are closed.

So I thought I was pretty well-covered last semester for food. Dinner was of course a problem, but one that could often be solved by eating twice as much pad thai for lunch. Then, today, two days shy of the new semester, I discovered a place called the second floor refrigerator. Apparently, this is where catering leftovers are stored! (Typically, I compete with other department scavengers to ensure that there is nothing to store.) Maybe these foods are from secret events not yet registered in my spreadsheet? Or non-recurring events? In any case, they seem not to be left out for secondary eaters. But they cannot be kept from enterprising and committed scavengers! So, this morning, I had a delicious piece of fruit tart for breakfast, compliments of my new friend, second floor refrigerator.

I mentioned this strategy to one of my professors last semester, and he looked at me as if to suggest, "If you were more prudent, you would keep your gauche habits to yourself." One day, I hope, I too will look back on these times and think them unclassy. On the other hand, I can't imagine ever wanting to actually pay for lunch, so maybe I will just be the person slinking by the pad thai troughs more guiltily in the future.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sign-waving, demonstrated

From an overcrowded Romney rally in Manchester during which we got shunted into the "overflow room." And despite our suitably evident team spirit! Well, fortunately, the above is not the official endorsement of this blog (maybe).

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Remember when this was a blog?

Well, those were good times. Maybe they'll return someday? Who knows? In other news, the magazine I started in college has a really nice new website. One of my college teachers has a nice article. And I'll be in NH tomorrow waving signs in order to "learn about primaries" so I can TA with marginally greater competence for an American politics class next term.