McSweeney’s has a whole series of brilliant open letters. I especially liked Liz Skoski’s “An open letter to my abandoned MA English Degree.”

Like the genie (who, as you’ve taught me, is actually a metaphor for the oppression of the mystical practices of various indigenous tribes in the Middle East) you could have granted me riches beyond my wildest imagination. But I’ll never know for sure.

There’s an index to the many other wonderful open letters at the bottom of Skoski’s Letter.

“Twice a year tens of thousands of librarians make a trek across the United States to a meeting of the ALA. How they know to congregate in the same spot, no one knows. They come to learn, to network, to collect free stuff…and possibly to mate.”

I’ve turned in the grades for all of my classes. I’m pleased with myself at a level that is all out of proportion with the accomplishment, but right now I couldn’t care less.

Dr. Noodles leaves tomorrow for 10 days. I’ve been telling some people he’s going on his yearly LSD binge and others that he’s going to take refresher courses at clown college. I’m waiting to see how long it takes the stories to merge and mutate.

We spent our lunch hour today discussing the history of the pogo stick and pondering the case of the man who recently got a 30 year sentence for killing someone with a pogo stick. Then we made duck noises for a while. It’s really hard to tell which of us is the most burned out right about now. We’ve also been playing with the glowing blue ball that Batty sent us.

And we wonder why they’ve moved our office so far away from the rest of the world?

This morning I was getting out of my car when Dr. X, a mathematician, pulled into the lot. I left my car door open while we exchanged pleasantries.

I could have sworn I saw something out of the corner of my eye. That’s when Dr. Y came running over insisting he’d just seen a squirrel run into my car.

Sure enough, there was a squirrel careening around the interior of my car with a mouth full of acorns. Didn’t anyone tell this little monster that Squirrel Awareness Week doesn’t start for 3 more days?

We opened the passengerside door thinking he’d run out. Nope. He liked it in there. Unfortunately, to open the back doors you have to reach in and manually unlock the door. Everytime we’d try that, Rocky would make like he was going to claw us.

We decided we needed a plan to get him out. Animal Control was our last resort because Dr. Y insisted that they’re pretty sloppy around here and don’t care whether they get the animal out dead or alive. As irritating as this little gray ball of chattering psychosis was, I didn’t want him to get hurt. I just wanted him out of my car.

Then the mathematicians began making this project a lot harder than it needed to be, jabbering about vectors and shit. That’s when I remembered: these two are theoreticians. We were probably going to have to design a computer model first or something.

I had a sudden flashback to the incident involving the nuclear physicists, the espresso machine, and the powerstrip and decided to take matters into my own hands.

Don’t get me wrong, they were proposing a solid course of action, but I needed to get to work and we’d already spent an awful lot of time taking into account the basic concepts of rodent behavior. How long was it going to take us to factor in basic human nature? I didn’t have that kind of time. I wanted the little monster out of my car so I could get some coffee, er, I mean, get to work.

We were going to have to enact The Plan and hope for the best.

I can’t even begin to imagine how silly we looked.

We all gathered on the passengerside of the car. Dr. X inflated the plastic newspaper bag he found in his car. (Thank god they weren’t microbiologists or we’d still be there sterilizing the bag before one of them would get it near their mouth). As the designated physicist in the bunch, they left it to me to decide how much he should inflate the bag. I made up a nonsense theory about the relationship between sound pressure levels and the tensile strength of the plastic (eventually conceding that everything I knew about the subject I learned at summer camp) and then we were ready.

We counted to 3. And nothing happened. Dr. X didn’t hit the bag hard enough and it just sort of made a dull squeaking fart-esque noise, causing us to start laughing. We tried again.

1. 2. 3. Bang!

The squirrel made tracks, I got my briefcase, and, most importantly, I was reunited with my beloved coffee.

I made Dr. X promise to check in with the campus police to explain the loud gunfire-like sound so we didn’t have every cop in the area descending on this place looking for snipers.

That was what had originally hung up the plan…would people hear the popping sound and mistake it for gunfire? People are rather on edge here as there’s a sniper loose in the DC area and every belief that s/he will strike again.

Dr. X got to make the call because he has tenure, you see, and is not only expected but required by his rank to periodically make loony phonecalls like this to University officials. It’s part of the deal. If word got out that academics were even partially sane or, even worse, useful, they might expect us to behave like so-called normal people. Can’t have that now, can we? Ruins all the fun.

Originally posted October 4, 2002 10:06 AM at

Imported Comments

Oh man. Talk about timely, huh? I have a story like that about skunks, sent to me by my mother this morning.

I’d post it, but I have to translate it into English first.
Posted by: Tara at October 4, 2002 12:50 PM

Funny you mention skunks Tara because I was thinking about the way these stories grow and mutate on campus, in a week or so it will have been a skunk. Or maybe a deer. By next semester there will be a rumor about a family of bears living in an SUV in the student parking garage.
Posted by: skarlet at October 4, 2002 05:43 PM

Hey, did you hear about the bears that escaped from Rock Creek Park and took up residence in a dorm? It’s hard to differentiate between bears and ordinary students, although the bears show up for class more often.
Posted by: Linkmeister at October 4, 2002 06:10 PM

I just very nearly did a classic spit-take onto my monitor, Link. *giggle*
Posted by: skarlet at October 4, 2002 08:56 PM

Very cute!
Posted by: Zelda at October 5, 2002 10:01 AM

The other day I was walking to BART in the wee morning light and was stopped by a squirrel blockade. There was this enormous fluffy beastie, scampering down the tree as fast as his little muscled legs could propel him, with a mouth full of almonds.

I have been known to leave out almonds, or brazil nuts, or even pecans, for the little guys when they get bullied by the my-fig-eating alpha squirrels.

So here’s this big fat squirrel, at eye level with me on this tree, teeth cradling 2 almonds, giving me The Look. The “I can fit two more, lady,” look.

Here are some adorable baby bears, apropos of nothing.
Posted by: Jessica at October 5, 2002 02:16 PM

You think the squirrels are organizing? They can take us, I think.

I found acorns in my car and I’m convinced it now has the faint aroma of squirrel pee, but maybe I’m imagining that…
Posted by: skarlet at October 5, 2002 02:39 PM

i’m laughing so hard i’m crying, and my son thinks i’m insane. i blame all of you. and the damn squirrels too.

i have no squirrels. i feel so deprived.
Posted by: kd at October 5, 2002 07:03 PM

This is one of the funniest damn stories EVER! EVER! EVER to exist! BWAAAAAAHHHH HAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by: JeanNINE at October 7, 2002 04:21 PM

i have no squirrels. i feel so deprived.

Hey KD: expect a package. ;)

I’m only kidding of course.

No animals were injured in the making of this website.
Posted by: skarlet at October 8, 2002 11:37 AM

I’ve been talking with faculty in Anthropology and CompSci about developing a course in Digital Culture that I could possibly teach after I finish my Master’s Degree next year. I have to finish Comprehensive exams and complete two major projects between now and then, so I don’t want to get too excited yet….

If you were teaching (or taking) a class in cyberculture, what would you want to cover? Cyberpunk? the Digital Divide? Urban legends? Online fandoms? Gender? Privacy? What else?

I have to use AOL to access Open Diary from home and my connection is very painfully slow and I can’t seem to stay logged in long enough to update anymore. I’m not about to return to handcoding so I’m going to have to try to remember to update between classes while I’m at school.

I’m sharing an office with a nuclear physics PhD candidate and she’s really nice but she comes in and while she’s thinking, she stares intensely in my direction when I’m writing and mumbles under her breath in Chinese, which I find slightly stifling, creatively speaking.

If things go dark here for a while, don’t write me off. I’ll be back.

I know you’re all sick and tired of hearing about grad school, but I had an epiphany I just had to share.

To briefly recap: My advisor convinced me that taking the fiction screenwriting class would be useful to me in my non-fiction writing.

My epiphany isn’t that he’s right, although he probably is.

My epiphany is that it draws much less attention when you make phonecalls for research purposes if you identify yourself as a fiction writer than if you call and say you’re just doing research.

I hope so, anyway, because I imagine that otherwise calls about whether, hypothetically speaking, a pet mummifyer could also mummify a person and then disguise the remains to look like a large dog would attract much less attention from, oh say, law enforcement, if the person was just doing research for a movie.

That’s what I’m hoping, anyway.