April 28, 2007

Strangely vindicated.

Here is a timeline of last night. All times Pacific Daylight Totally Approximate.

10:30 pm. First band is deemed not that exciting.
11:00 pm. Dianna decides to go read at Cafe Milano and come back later to see the other bands.
11:15 pm. Cafe Milano is closed; Dianna returns home.
11:30 pm. Some dude tries to get into the party for free by entering Dianna's screen door. Dude tries desperately to deny being sketchy, and eventually leaves in embarrassment.
11:45 pm. Bass drum, being played by one of the bands, catches fire in the dining room as a result of flaking paint and high-intensity lamps. Bass drum extinguished, party continues.
11:46 pm. Fire alarm goes off.
11:46 pm and 10 seconds. Veteran co-opers distinguish themselves from the general crowd by transitioning instantly from "party party party" to "everybody out! now! no arguing, OUT!" Dianna grabs book and heads for exit.
11:50 pm. Everybody else catches up and realizes what the veteran co-opers already figured out: that we've vastly exceeded our rated capacity and half the fire escapes are blocked, thereby getting us in enormous shit if the fire department shows up.
11:52 pm. House members attempt to call fire department to explain that there is no longer a fire. Fire department demands to speak to a house manager. Sober manager appears difficult to locate.
11:55 pm. Maintenance manager, in response to social manager's hysterical insistence, shuts off fire alarm.
11:55 pm and 10 seconds. Some dipshit yells, "Hey, the party's back on, everybody come back in!" Dianna goes back downstairs to hide.
12:00 am. Dipshit is silenced; people are ungently herded out of the house once more.
12:04 am. Frantic work of veteran co-opers succeeds in removing stacks of couches from fire escape routes (and 300 people, including Dianna, from house once again).
12:05 am. Fire department arrives. Fire department is not happy.
12:06 am to 12:29 am. Fire department continues to be unhappy.
12:30 am. Fire department revokes house's permit to continue partying, promises to fine us between $2000 and $5000 for turning off fire alarm (see: 11:55 pm), and leaves. Nobody, including fire department, is now happy.
12:30 am and 10 seconds. Partygoers begin demanding refunds of their cover charge.
12:30 am and 11 seconds. Partygoers do not receive refunds because we overspent our social budget, didn't make up the deficit in cover charges before getting shut down, and have massive fire department fines to pay.
12:45 am. Veteran co-opers announce they are relocating party, with house members, few remaining friends of house members, and headlining band, down the block to Cloyne. Exeunt most.
12:50 am. House president of Cloyne turns up in Kingman kitchen, looking glum.
12:55 am. House president of Cloyne adds belatedly that there are plain-clothes police outside of his house, busting people carrying open containers of alcohol.
1:00 am. Dianna, seeing no further obstacles between herself and peaceful sleep for the night, decides she is temporarily amused rather than annoyed and goes to bed.

What's funny, besides, really, the entire mess, is that the house is actually slightly less trashed after this incendiary fiasco than it usually is after a normal party. Then again, I don't know how funny it'll be when I get a housebill for 1/50 of the fire department fine.

Posted by dianna at 01:41 PM

April 14, 2007


My house is in unimaginable chaos right now. Our semesterly Special Dinner is tonight, and everyone who can cook or wave a knife at a stack of carrots has been drafted into doing so. I don't know what the percentage of cooks in any given "normal" population might be, but in this den of hedonism, creativity and general sensory addiction it's pretty fucking high. There have been at least twenty people in and out of the kitchen since 11:00 this morning, each one intent on one outrageous dish or another. We have fancy dips and tiny sandwiches and coconut cream fruit tarts. We have truffles. We have delicately herbed new potatoes and pumpkin-seed lasagna. We have fucking roast leg of lamb. We have individual chocolate ganache cakes with shattered caramel accents. It's ridiculous and sumptuous and every bit of it is homemade by some college kid you'd never suspect of knowing how to do more than boil macaroni.

Because this is a co-op and we take our excess seriously, it's also a game and a costume ball. It's a semi-murder-mystery centered around the funeral of Marilyn Monroe, and we all (50 of us) have roles. There's the family, the fans, the press, the fairytale characters and circus performers and detectives and random political figures and even more random bystanders. The guest list includes Joe McCarthy, the blind psychic, Marilyn's alcoholic mother, the drug lord, Dr. Watson, the person who doesn't get that it's a funeral, Little Red Riding Hood, and the kid trying to make it big on YouTube by making videos of the event. And me -- I'm the obnoxious fan with encyclopedic knowledge of Marilyn's life which is entirely, 100%, despite my insistence, dead wrong.

More on that later. For now, the key things are that a) I have to figure out how to make a mourning hat, b) I still need to heap several pounds of sliced tropical fruit on top of my sickeningly gooey masterpiece, and c) I'm forbidden to consume anything except ginger tea between now and dinner because I already ate enough coconut custard to make me sick. And it's only two hours until dinner and my hair is a mess! Whatever will I do??

Today is awesome.

Posted by dianna at 06:10 PM

April 06, 2007

Dance magic dance.

I just spent half an hour dancing wildly and gleefully in the middle of Sproul Plaza to music that nobody but me could hear. Everyone walking by was either looking around trying to figure out what the hell was going on, or trying to see around me to watch the poetry slam going on on the Sproul Hall steps, and I am here to tell you that neither effort was successful. The whole experience was fucking beautiful.

I expect you will not be surprised when I tell you that it was a co-op publicity stunt. This is balls-to-the-wall recruiting season both for the university and for the co-ops -- high schoolers in flocks touring the campus, open dinners at all the houses for curious freshmen to emerge from their dorms and gawk, that kind of thing. My housemate Jordan, who works for the co-op central office in some kind of publicity-related capacity, perceived quite accurately that the best way to give people an appropriate picture of the co-ops would be to do something utterly ridiculous. So he drummed up a respectable handful of Kingmanites and others to show up on Sproul Plaza at noon today, put on our headphones, and dance incomprehensibly while handing out fliers for house tours and open dinners.

We danced. My god, did we ever dance. I'm not sure I've ever had so much fun in my life, and yes, I had my clothes on. It's strange, because I'm not known for being willing to dance in public. Put me in a club full of people dancing, or even my house during a party, and I'll shuffle awkwardly for a few minutes and then leave at the earliest opportunity. But if I'm the only one hearing the music, then I'm the only one who knows how to dance to it. It's not like everyone else is going to be doing the same dance in the same rhythm except me -- everyone dancing to that song, being 100% composed of me, is going to be flailing and wiggling and leaping around and singing out of key in the same semi-retarded way.

Which is precisely what I just did, minus the singing out of key (I didn't want to actually disrupt the poetry slam people). I put on my enormous dorky headphones and listened to the Clash and Duran Duran and Franz Ferdinand and Elvis Costello and shook my booty and flailed my arms and jumped around and tripped over my own feet and got sweaty and exhausted and deliriously happy. And my ratio of time spent being that happy person uninhibitedly enjoying herself to time spent wishing I were that person has just gotten a little bit better. Thank you, Jordan.

Posted by dianna at 02:06 PM

March 06, 2007

Oh my god! She's got a spnife!

You think you know who your friends are... and then one day they stab you in the back with a spoon labeled "knife". And they're not even sorry about it.

Kingman is playing Assassins right now, or as I prefer to call it, Asesinos! We're all roaming Berkeley with hunted expressions and concealed weapons waiting for the appropriate moment to do some dirty work. My assassin should have had an easy job -- I'm a sitting duck at my desk at work all day -- but he bungled it on Friday and tried to attack me in a safe zone, so not only am I alive, I know who to watch out for. For now.

Originally the plan was for the players to have standard squirt guns, but bulk squirt guns are hard to find in toy stores in March and co-opers aren't too patient. So it's up to each individual assassin to find a weapon and label it appropriately. As it turns out, I did have a squirt gun, and I dutifully wrote "Gun" all over it so there could be no ambiguity. I was fairly proud of my Gun gun until the 5th time it inspired Elliot to do his Jar-Jar Binks impression, and then I not-too-accidentally left it at work so I'd have an excuse to find another weapon.

I scoured my room -- X-Acto knives? No, wait, those actually hurt. Knitting needles? Too long to fit in a pocket. Pliers? Hard to justify as a deadly weapon. Slingshot? Good, but carrying enough projectiles to make up for my bad aim is a nuisance. I finally settled on something with less devastating range than the Gun gun but far more postmodern irony, namely, the spoon that says Knife. Who am I to deny its identity?

One of the rules of the game is that if you know who's trying to kill you, you can pre-emptively kill them for 24 hours at a time. I found myself walking to work this morning behind my would-be assassin, so I jogged up behind him and dealt him a vicious stab in the shoulder blade. He totally failed to crumple to the ground in agony, but I tasted the sweet thrill of temporary victory nonetheless. Stand back! I've got a knifespoon! And, well, it's not that I'm afraid to use it, it's just that there's no way of using it which could actually result in injury to you or anyone else!

Posted by dianna at 11:27 AM

December 24, 2006

I must not smirk.

My roommate, in conversation with another housemate whom I will identify as the Wine Scion:

Roommate: If I lived by myself my kitchen would be so much cleaner than this.
Wine Scion: For sure.
Roommate: It's so easy. You just clean up as you go and then you don't have all this shit lying around.
Wine Scion: We should have a class, bro. Kitchen Awareness.

Me, walking through the room in the course of making myself breakfast: Not Kitchen Awareness. If you say awareness people will ignore you. You have to kick them in the ass.

Roommate: No, but, see, we're going to have a class and teach them.
Me: That's what I'm saying. You have to teach them forcefully. None of this mindfulness shit. Tell them to fucking clean up after their damn selves.
Roommate, looking nonplussed: I mean, I guess, if you want to put up a sign or something.
Me: No, look, I'm talking about your class. Have your class but you have to be meaner about it.
Roommate, still nonplussed: Uh...
Me: Oh, forget it. We're talking different languages.

(Exeunt Dianna to the next room)

Roommate, to Wine Scion: You know, we shouldn't call it awareness. If we say awareness they'll just ignore us.

Posted by dianna at 01:26 PM

December 02, 2006

Negotiating for loose artillery.

Another house post.

I suspect that the only people reading this who know about the closure of Casa Zimbabwe are the two who live in my house (and stop lurking or I'll poke you in the ribs while you sleep, because after all I do know where you live). For the rest of you, Casa Zimbabwe, the second-largest and second-most debaucherous house in the USCA system, will be closed next semester for structural repair. It will reopen next fall, but in the meantime 124 co-opers are being turned out to find housing either in one of the other 15 co-ops or elsewhere. As it turns out, there doesn't seem to be much problem with finding space for them -- in my house of 50 people 15 are leaving at the end of this semester -- but the question of what to do with them once they've been farmed out to other houses is becoming somewhat contentious.

The reason it's a problem is that co-opers accumulate seniority points for semesters spent living in one of the USCA houses. These points give you priority in bidding on bedrooms in whichever house you live in, with one important caveat: as a rule, if you switch houses, the first semester in your new house your points aren't active. You bid along with anyone else who has inactive points, after the continuing house members with active points have bid. Once you've spent a semester in your new house, you're considered a continuing member and all of your points come back. It's a reasonable rule in my estimation; for one, co-ops are theoretically about building a community, and so it makes sense to reward people for staying more than a semester in a house. For two, to move into a house and immediately bid your way into the biggest, airiest single is a good way to get off on the wrong foot with your housemates. You have to start at the bottom, and you should stick around if you want it to pay off.

But for the Czars* being turned out for next semester, it isn't exactly a normal situation. They don't have the option of sticking around in their house (and their house community is being split up). This is why, two years ago when the remodel was planned, the USCA's board of directors voted to allow them to have active points immediately if they moved into another house next semester. All well and good. But there's a glitch where Kingman's room bids are concerned. Two glitches, actually

The first glitch is that Kingman holds two sets of room bids for each semester. There's one bid at the end of the preceding semester, to allow continuing members to bid. Then there's another at the start of the semester itself, for new members and those from other houses. As I've heard it explained, this is because if someone lives in Kingman, then moves out, then comes back, their points are active when they come back because they've been a Kingmanite before. But they haven't been in the house the previous semester, so they're not included in the first round of bids. It becomes a terrace system of points: continuing active points in the first bid, then returning active points, inactive points, and no points in the second bid.

It's only been in the last week or so that the entirety of the board's decision has been communicated to the Kingman population: Czars will have active points and bid in the first round of room bids. In other words, entering Czars will have absolutely all privileges given to continuing Kingmanites. I'd like to gripe for a moment about the fact that our board representative has hardly been at any house council meetings this semester and really should have made sure we knew about this before the week of room bids. Okay, that's enough of a moment. Let's continue.

Glitch number two has been made apparent over the past few days. It concerns the fact that Czars didn't have to wait until now to move out; in fact, a number of them moved into Kingman at the start of this semester. They were planning ahead in order to be continuing members, with active points and first bid privileges, so as to get nice rooms for next semester. Since they had inactive points when they moved in, they tended to end up in fairly crappy rooms for the current semester. Their plans mostly concerned bidding into better ones, not located in the dank and chilly basement**, for spring. This would have worked if, as some of them were expecting, the entering Czars would be bidding in the second round. The new Czars would have bid priority over people entirely new to the co-ops and anyone from a non-CZ house, but the former-Czars-now-Kingmanites who planned ahead would still get to move up in the room hierarchy. As it is, their forward thinking gained them nothing except an extra, unnecessary, semester in the basement where they will find themselves staying if their former housemates have enough points to outbid them.

I just realized that one of my readers in the house is a forward-thinking refugee Czar. Fascinating. I suppose that makes this as good a forum as any to ask (both house readers and non-house readers) what you all think of this situation. If it had been put to you to figure out the fair solution before the board's full decision was made clear, what would you have done? If it were put to you now to figure out a fair way to run our next room bids, what would you do? If you were the house manager and were facing mutiny from a coalition of angry house members who want the Czars kept out of the first round (and who are, interestingly, mostly members who are settled in nice rooms and won't be bidding), how would you quell it?

Feel free to answer using the back of this page if space requires.

*Fun USCA fact: houses tend to acquire, intentionally or otherwise, nicknames for their inhabitants based in some way on the house's name. Casa Zimbabwe is generally shortened to CZ, and hence it is full of Czars. At Cloyne you become a Clone, and at Wilde a Wilde Childe. Castro residents are, unfortunately, known as Castrati. Inhabitants of Lothlorien are of course Elves. Kingman comes in as pretty appallingly boring with Kingmanites. Even Hillegass-Parker house (the remodeled, reopened and heavily sanitized Le Chateau), which is only a couple of semesters old, has been shortened to HiP and calls its residents Hipsters. Basically, we should be ashamed.

**For the record, I'm planning on bidding into the dank and chilly basement next semester. It's not because it's dank and chilly, but because it's the accepted place to have allergy-inducing animals and I miss my fuzz.

Posted by dianna at 12:00 AM

November 04, 2006

Co-opers do it in costume.

I woke up this morning covered in spots and with my ass hurting.

It's because my house played broomball last night. Really, I can explain. See, co-op broomball is one of those snowballing traditions that become ever more complicated and ever more entrenched with the passing of time. I'm not sure when, or how, it got started, but now it's a semesterly tournament of rowdy ridiculosity. Teams made up of either one large house or several smaller ones play elimination rounds until one emerges the winner and, I think, doesn't get anything for it except the pride of a job well done. Then we do it all over again.

My house's first game was last night. We're a small house at 50 people, so we were grouped with two other small houses to play against three other small houses. Reasonable, right? Except that Afro House, with a population of 25, brought almost 20 people, and HiP brought at least 10. We had 6 Kingmanites out of 50 (and one didn't even play) and 4 people from Ridge, and whoever the other two houses were they didn't show up at all. We had to borrow people from HiP even to have a team of 12 on the ice. It should have been bloody murder.

But broomball is kind of bloody murder anyway, right? You run around on slippery ice in your shoes chasing after a rubber ball with a wedge on a stick. It's like amateur hockey with equipment that's designed not to work, and the only things left to do about it are to a) cheat and b) go for the metaphorical neck. So you kick the ball, you stick-check people, and you just run into anyone who looks like they might be getting near your goal. And if you're brilliant like my teammates, you make kneepads out of cardboard and duct tape because you know you're going to fall all over the damn place and you need all the padding you can get.

Well, when you're running around on the ice falling down and you've got cardboard taped to your pants, you don't have a lot of dignity left. So you may as well go for being recognizable to your teammates. Preferred methods include silly hats and anything colorful grabbed from your house's free pile. Really preferred methods include both of the above. My housemate Jonathan was wearing fuzzy pink Hello Kitty pajama pants, a tight fuschia shirt with a heart on it, and a neon green fuzzy hat with multiple pompoms. I decided to wear the furry hood from my giraffe costume, then threw sanity to the wind and just put the entire costume on. Under other circumstances I could have simply been the team mascot, but in a hopelessly outmatched broomball game with too few players to switch off, there's nothing a giraffe can do but play. For an hour and a half. Exhausted and sweaty have taken on new meanings for me now.

This picture is not from last night -- I don't think there were any pictures taken last night, sadly -- but it is one of very few pictures extant of me as a large African herbivore. I quizzed a few of my housemates on what noise a giraffe could be reasonably expected to make, and the only answer with which we could come up was, essentially, "gnomp". Gnomp. Gnompgnompgnomp.

Posted by dianna at 10:19 PM

October 31, 2006

At the quarter-century mark we feel the need to turn back the clock.

Most of you have probably heard my favorite Halloween story. I'm going to tell it to you again. See, when I was four, I decided that it was time to start creating my own Halloween costumes. The year before, I'd worn a witch costume that my mom made me (for most of the year, but that's another story). I have no recollection of any years before that, but I knew the basic formula: you got an idea, you got some clothes, you got some face paint. So I put on my stripey pink sweatsuit and my fuzzy slippers. I took my sister's face paints and painted myself white with bold black accents. I confidently presented my ensemble to my parents, who, to their infinite credit, proudly took me out trick-or-treating. It went like this: I'd knock at a door, a parent would open it, and they'd carefully praise my originality while tactfully asking what the hell I was supposed to be.

I would answer happily, "I'm a different kind of watering can!"

I've heard it said that children are basically naturally high until about age ten, and I tend to feel that my behavior during the 1980s supports that hypothesis quite well. I still have no fucking clue what kind of watering can I was, or how such a can could be represented by a girl in a sweatsuit and face paint. I do, however, remember being utterly sincere and unquestioningly confident in my costume. This story is now old enough to vote and drink, and it still never fails to delight me.

The way in which my costume for this year recalls those fond days of watering canhood is not in the confidence or the incomprehensibility. It's in the assembly of a costume from one's own wardrobe and random articles nabbed from one's cohabitants. I'll borrow my housemate's camera later today and post pictures, but for now you'll have to take my word for it that I am rockin' it today as the All Free-Pile Giraffe. I've sponge-painted squarish brown spots on my khaki pants and beige shirt. I found a furry beige hood in the Kingman freepile and more beige faux fur at Stebbins, and made a giraffe head with ears and horns. The sash for the tail came from Northside, and the shirt whose sleeves became hooves for my hands came from Casa Zimbabwe. The style, baby, is all me.

I'm a bit overenergetic today from the combination of Halloween candy and taekwondo class this morning, so I've been quickstepping around the stacks practicing my kicks. The way I figure it, you could probably think of something funnier than a giraffe doing martial arts in a library, but I just don't see the need. I'm also planning to go to my Prehistoric Art class this afternoon and plaster myself against the wall as a South African rock painting. Look, Ma, I'm a therianthrope!

Posted by dianna at 02:11 PM

October 27, 2006

The proverbial clam.

My housemate Aaron is a classics major. This semester he's studying ancient Mesopotamia, the history of architecture, and the Greek language. I am, as you all know, essentially an archaeology major. I've studied the history of architecture. I've studied ancient Mesopotamia. I've attempted to teach myself an ancient language, albeit with limited success. It's already been established that when Aaron and I start talking about anything older than a thousand years it's a geekfest of truly epic proportions.

I'm not even sure what started us off last night, but by the time the rest of the house finished dinner and started to drift out of the dining room we were talking animatedly about empire consolidation in the Ur III period and the Qin dynasty. We hit cylinder seals, divinized rulers, propaganda, and systems of military control, and when we got to the material resources of the cradle of civilization my roommate tried to join the conversation but could only give up in the face of its intense arcanity.

By 8:00 the dining room had pretty well emptied out. There were two people studying on the dining room couch, one person cleaning up the remains of dinner, and Aaron and me now clustered around the public computer arguing about whether Stonehenge is sexy. We were trying to cast a joint vote in the New 7 Wonders election, but got tied up in debating whether the candidates should be iconic, mysterious, historically significant, politically significant, fairly representative, notably old, in good repair, aesthetically appealing and/or simply personally exciting. We threw out the Statue of Liberty and the Sydney Opera House without discussion. I argued passionately for Angkor Wat and against the Great Wall of China. He would stand for no doubt about the Colosseum but balked at Chichen Itza. Our collective soul-searching about the Alhambra required the consultation not only of the website's fact sheet but also of Google and Aaron's architectural history textbook.

We finally cast our vote and called it a day around 9:00 with his Greek unstudied, my archaeology unread, and our housemates' tempers fraying from listening to us. I returned to my long-abandoned reader and announced in somewhat strong language that spending evenings this way makes me extraordinarily happy. My housemate Christina, who had been patiently studying at the dining room table throughout this, gave me a look usually reserved for small fuzzy baby animals and started writing something in the margins of her anthropology book. I looked over her shoulder.

As happy as the proverbial clam -- she had written -- Dianna, on geeking it up about the wonders of the world.

Yours truly,
the exuberant shellfish.

Posted by dianna at 03:56 PM

October 19, 2006

The dark underbelly of the co-op system

I may have neglected to mention one major downside of living in a co-op, one sordid secret that turns the house from a charming and happy community to a den of iniquity and rampant malice.

When one is sitting in one's bedroom a few hours before a midterm, studying prehistoric art and nursing a tepid and frankly boring cup of tea, and one's housemates start making French toast in the kitchen and filling the stairwells with delicious nutmeggy smells, and one ate breakfast at 8:30 and is hungry but trying to get some work done before lunch, it is fucking impossible to maintain any sort of concentration.

I'll just, uh... be downstairs. Um. I need to, uh, take a survey of the pantry for, uh, an anthropology project. Maybe the fridges too. And I should check to see if the ovens are working properly. Won't take a moment.

Posted by dianna at 11:46 AM