New Year’s Blues

3829779352_57bb5698da_b2009 was, on reflection, an imperfect year.  I can’t say I’m sad to see it go.  

But to the extent that New Year’s signals an impending return to Princeton after a too-short break — oh, what I wouldn’t give to make this cruel decade last just a few days longer!

And of course it REALLY doesn’t help that all my high school classmates have, like, weeks before they go back to school.  “Why is your break so short?” they’ll ask me come New Year’s Eve.   I’ll give the usual (wholly unsatisfying) response: longstanding tradition, a late start to the school year in September, a faculty that would prefer not to grade final exams over their holiday break.

But maybe a better question — at the very least, a question posed today at Slate — is this one: Why is everyone else’s break so long?  Do all those other schools really love their students so much more?  Nope!

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So you’re driving home in the snow



Maybe you’ve heard about the snow storm moving up the northeast corrider–the one that made Obama race home dramatically from Copenhagen! From the Times:

Winter storm warnings were in effect from Tennessee and North Carolina to the southern New England states, and the storm was expected to affect Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and other cities. A blizzard warning was in effect for Long Island.

The National Weather Service said travel conditions in those areas would be “extremely treacherous” by Saturday morning.

We’re pretty sure it’s not going to be like last year’s Blizzard That Never Was. We know a lot of Princetonians live on the Atlantic coast and are driving home tomorrow, so we’ve compiled some tips on how to stay safe on the trip home.

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Robbie George Hits The Big Time

2709610670_4b600260f6_oWhen we last checked in with Robbie George, our McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence was busy leading the fight to keep Obama’s openly-gay “Safe Schools Czar” Kevin Jennings from advancing “pro-homosexualist propaganda” in our nation’s classrooms.

As of this posting, Jennings has kept his job in the Education Department, and Professor George has moved on to even bigger things.  Things like a HUGE profile in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. In “Robert P. George, The Conservative-Christian Big Thinker,” Princeton alumnus David Kirkpatrick ’92 charts the academic and political evolution of  the nation’s “pre-eminent Catholic intellectual.”

The article goes light on personal insights about Professor George (though Kirkpatrick finds it relevant to report that George’s wife, Cindy, is Jewish) but does provide a pretty thorough accounting of George’s emergence as a major figure in socially conservative political circles.

The article also provides a preview of an upcoming paper by George on the connection between marriage and sex (“bodily sharing”).   SPOILER ALERT!

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All Your Princeton Gift-Buying Dilemmas, Solved

George Kennan... after the jump

George Kennan... after the jump

Year in and year out, my strategy for gift-giving (holiday, birthday, or otherwise) can be boiled down to one word: scarves.  Whenever I’m traveling, I make sure to visit a local market and buy up a dozen or so pieces of the inexpensive local neckwear.  Come December, I pass them out like candy.

You just can’t go wrong:  foreign scarves are cheap, guaranteed to fit, appropriate for both guys and girls, and tinged with a perfect hint of exoticism / name-drop-y pretentiousness that’s sure to thrill any Princetonian worth his salt (“Oh, do you like it?  A friend actually bought it for me on the streets of Zanzibar…).

But this year I was forced to resort to other measures after discovering that my scarf stash had become misplaced somewhere between Phnom Penh and Wilmington, Delaware.  This year I was forced to buy my Hannukah presents in Princeton, New Jersey.

Ugh, Princeton.  Adorably perfect town, to be sure — but a little too perfect, don’t you think?  A little too “tasteful”.  In shopping terms, as you know, “tasteful” basically translates to “expensive”, “handsome”, and “old people-y.”  As I made my way from cute little store to cute little store, I saw plenty of great gifts for my  grandma’s upcoming birthday blowout (Happy 75th, MomMom!) and my great-aunt’s Boca Raton housewarming soirée — but very little in the way of options for my twentysomething friends.

If I knew anything about music, of course, I would have just beelined for the Record Exchange.  Sadly, though, I possess, like, negative musical taste (#1 most played on iTunes?  This song.)  So instead I trundled sadly down Nassau Street, frustration mounting… until I discovered GlenEcho Books.

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World leaders can B.S. too


Princeton students know how to procrastinate. We’re also very familiar with the art of b.s. — especially when it’s almost break, and we just want to be done and go home.

Apparently, world leaders know how to do this too.

Today marked the end of the Copenhagen climate talks. Though some had speculated that the talks would run into Saturday morning or even Sunday, The New York Times reported at 5:00 p.m. EST that a tentative “agreement” had been reached. A laudable achievement after two weeks of bickering… until you read the fine print. The agreement is non-binding and there is no longer a deadline for setting a binding accord. According to the Times,

“The accord drops the expected goal of concluding a binding international treaty by the end of 2010, which leaves the implementation of its provisions uncertain. It is likely to undergo many months, perhaps years, of additional negotiation before it emerges in any internationally enforceable form.”

Hmmm … perhaps I cheered too early?

But it gets worse.

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Chi Phi Pledges Show Some Skin in ECO 101

econ-streaker21Well hello, Chi Phi Class of 2013. We see you. All of you.

Or at least ECO 101 does, along with the countless non-Econ students who decided to join lecture today to watch Chi Phi’s pledges run through the aisles wearing nothing but Santa hats (it is, after all, the holiday season).

And hey, it’s no wonder that professors practically encourage this yearly freshman streak. How often do so many students actually roll out of bed in time for their 11 a.m. lecture, especially the last one before break? And how often is a professor presented with a gift borne by a herd of naked young men in Santa hats? In fact, it’s a wonder every professor on campus hasn’t petitioned President Tilghman to initiate a task force that would make in-class streaking an everyday affair.

And so, at 11:27 this morning, a Chi Phi pledge walked into McCosh 50, stereo in hand, climbed onto the stage, greeted Professor Bogan, and began blaring “Last Christmas,” while asking an audience that surely hasn’t been as interested in months, “Do you know what time it is?”

They clearly all did, for iPhones and cameras were immediately whipped out of bags and pockets as the object of the students’ attention began a strip-tease. Then, six or seven of his fellow pledges ran into the lecture hall, stark naked save for their hats. They made their circuits around the room and left behind a class—and a professor—that were markedly less focused on the Japanese economy. (A note for the future, Professor Bogan: “It’s on the exam” is unlikely to re-engage a room full of dong-struck undergraduates.)

And then about a third of the students sitting in the lecture hall got up and left. Well done, Chi Phi! You almost doubled attendance at ECO 101 lecture today. At least for the first 27 minutes of class.

So add this event to the long list of things Princeton pledges are traditionally required to do, which includes carrying cigarette- and condom-filled fanny packs, taking ballet lessons, and, apparently, coming up with an alternative to the now-banned Nude Olympics.

And for all of you who say Princeton students aren’t ballsy enough to carry on traditions involving nudity, I can say, from very personal experience, that this is just not the case. Trust me, these guys were plenty ballsy.

All I Want For Christmas is You, Tiger…

Kelvin Kay, en:user:kkmd

Kelvin Kay, en:user:kkmd

Ah, the wonders of the holiday season: a tree in Palmer Square that’s approximately ten trillion feet tall, a barrage of simply lovely end-of-term assignments, and, of course, the eternal quest for some cute Inkblot to kiss under the mistletoe.  Never fear, Tigers!  Former USG President Josh Weinstein ’09 has the site for you., which Weinstein started earlier this year (with some start-up help from Joseph Perla ’09), provides Princeton’s resident lonely-hearts with a prime chance to rhapsodize about all their geeky missed connections, and, with luck, connect with that soul mate who looked oh-so-suave sitting in Lewis Library at 2AM.

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LIVE BLOGGING: Duking it out with Dean Malkiel, Whig-Clio style


[Update 2/7/10: Here’s a write-up of the event in the PAW –BKN]

For the first time since 2006, Dean of the College Nancy Malkiel– architect of the ever-popular grade deflation policy– will be gracing the Whig-Clio Senate Debate to defend her brainchild. Hordes of deflatees await their chance to duke it out in a public forum.

Whig Hall Senate Chamber is about to get heated.

And I, your humble Giri Nathan, will be your eyes and ears. Behold.

8:35 PM

100+ students have packed into the chamber like so many dour, grade-deflated sardines. Some of said sardines are attired in snazzy suits. These are the debaters. The battle has yet to begin.

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IN PRINT: Ambassador Cretz Discusses Libyan Politics in the Wilson school’s first live video stream.

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United States ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz said that “continued engagement with Libya is in our long-term national interest,” during an afternoon speech at the Woodrow Wilson School Dec. 4.

A unique aspect of the event was that it was streamed live to Tripoli, where students from six Libyan universities gathered at the U.S. embassy to watch the speech and participate in a question and answer session with the ambassador and with Princeton and Woodrow Wilson School students present in the audience. Showing their support for Princeton, the Libyan students wore orange and black lanyards around their necks.

“I thought it would be useful to take stock of our relationship and make the case, once again, about why continued engagement with Libya is in our long-term national interest,” Cretz said.

Read the entire story here.

Funny/Awkward Things Shirley Tilghman Says

At yesterday afternoon’s CPUC meeting, USG Treasurer Trevor Martin ’11 presented to the Council the COMBO II survey results. Remember those depressing survey results? Midway through the presentation, President Shirley Tilghman suddenly exclaimed in horror. What had upset her?

Martin had been explaining a bar graph that showed social sciences, the most popular category of majors, with the lowest percentage of students who said they chose their major based on “academic passion.” Fortunately for Tilghman, the bar graph had been scaled so that the lowest category of majors (social sciences) appeared to be at about 50 percent, instead of the 70+ percent that it actually was. After someone pointed this out to her, Tilghman was able to calm down, but not before exclaiming, “I was ready to shoot myself!”

The CPUC had just gotten a little bit awkward. But the nervous laughter soon subsided, and the presentation moved forward.

We also learned a couple disconcerting factoids about our psychological well-being when the director of Counseling and Psychological Services at McCosh, Anita McLean, gave a presentation about the office’s services.

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Of Bruce and Men



By now it’s obvious that Princeton professors have a big old crush on Bruce Springsteen.  First there was this fall’s course on the sociological implications of the Boss.  Next up: AMS401: At Home in New Jersey, a spring seminar that promises to investigate Bruce’s first studio album Greetings From Asbury Park “at a more sophisticated and advanced level.”

But elsewhere, (less sophisticated?) Bruce-watchers seem to have grown weary of the Jersey Shore troubadour.  Hipster collective Pitchfork Media gave Springsteen’s latest  effort, Working on a Dream, a lackluster 5.8 out of 10 and called the track Queen of the Supermarket Maybe the worst thing he’s ever written.” (Ouch.)  They also named the album’s cover art the absolute Worst of 2009.  (Ouch again.  Also: true.)

So who wins–Indies or Eggheads?

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