Mouse Rat Season in Review 2017

In manners of terrain, you must learn to cut yourself from it. You must cut even your footprints from it, if need be.

Meti’s Sword Manual, which was most likely not written with playing softball on swampy ground in mind.

I am saddened to report that I am no longer an undefeated softball player, but also glad that I am no longer an undefeated softball player. As a follow up to my previous article, I now provide my analyses of each of the seven games in Team Mouse Rat’s now-complete softball season.

Game 1: Mouse Rat vs Chunder Boys
The other team didn’t bring very much chunder. Or any players.

Win by forfeit.
1-0

Game 2: Mouse Rat vs Balls Deep
Our first real game of the season went about as well as could be expected. We implemented a mercy rule, otherwise all of those points might have happened in a single inning.

Loss 0-20.
1-1

Game 3: Mouse Rat vs Pitches Be Crazy
Before the game, I predicted that we would suffer a 1-21 loss. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was far off the mark. An enjoyable game for all sides, if not a close one.

Loss 5-15
1-2

Game 4: Mouse Rat vs Fresh Timber
I can only guess at the other team’s reasons for failing to appear for what could have been a career-making game.

Win by forfeit.
2-2

Game 5: Mouse Rat vs We Dem Boyz
Our team’s perfect record in games that were not actually played was shattered like a glass jaw here. The Boyz showed up in force, but before our own players could rally to meet them they were set upon by great birds. Each bird emitted a cry that sounded exactly like a complete musical scale, then carried its victim off in the direction of the music building. Crippled by this unexpected attack, we were forced to concede.

Loss by forfeit.
2-3

Game 6: Mouse Rat vs Flyin Hawaiians
By far the closest game we had all season. We even led for a moment, but the Hawaiians quickly recovered and hit a series of home runs to cement their lead.

Loss 4-9.
2-4

Game 7: Mouse Rat vs The Turtles
As the seventh and final game of the season, this had every right to be a climactic showdown. If this were a sports movie, this would be the game where we, the ragtag band of misfits, brought a seemingly undefeatable powerhouse of a team to their knees as the audience listened to the crescendos of an inspiring soundtrack.

We won, but it wasn’t really that exciting. The turtles must have been busy fighting crime or something.

Final record: 3-4
Balls hit through a window in Wyatt Hall: 0, surprisingly.

How I Became an Undefeated Softball Player

The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself. Thus the good fighter is able to secure himself against defeat, but cannot make certain of defeating the enemy.

-Sun Tzu

Consider: the undefeated swordsman must be exceptionally poor.

-Meti’s Sword Manual, Precept 12

 

I suppose the story began in an entirely different dorm then mine. For reasons that still elude me, a group of people I knew decided that they should start an intramural softball team. As the minimum team size was four, the fact that they numbered six gave them a considerable advantage. I now list the first six members of the team and their respective capabilities.
One baseball player
One actual softball player
One dude who runs fast
One lady who is good at throwing stuff but can’t run fast
One swimmer
One team captain (who is confident in the abilities of everyone except herself).
It was on these terms that Team Mouse Rat was founded.

So last Saturday night I was hanging out with these people, and they decided to try to recruit me. There were several arguments they made to convince me to join, but only one of them really stuck: “we’re so low-commitment you don’t have to show up to any of the games.” I also had a reason of my own: “this might be funny.” At that point, they informed me that I needed to sign up on the official website: a task made harder by the fact that the website in question experienced severe technical issues when viewed from a mobile device. So it was that, three hours before the deadline, I signed up for Team Mouse Rat.

Monday morning I got a text from the team captain telling me to prepare for a game Tuesday. I was surprised. She was as surprised as I was. Apparently we were to be facing a team called the “Chunder Boys.” This seemed odd, because the “Chunder Boys” happened to be a softball team of three people. None of us quite understood how a three-person softball team would function, as we figured that they might eventually end up with a boy on each base and no one at bat. Anyway, a game was a game.

On Tuesday afternoon, I walked down toward the field. As I went, I glanced at the forecast: 50% chance of rain. I felt a raindrop, followed by another and another. I decided that the forecast might be a little out of date. The fields on campus are well known to turn into mudpits under such conditions, but I pressed onward. Most of the team, including a few new recruits, was gathered on the field ahead of me. The other team was notably absent. An official looking man walked up to us and helpfully informed us that if the other team did not show up in ten minutes, it would be counted as a forfeit.

Team Mouse Rat’s first game was a resounding success. Our team captain distinguished herself with an insane chain of base-stealing, our batters hit several stunning home runs, and our fielders did a lot of running around. The other team was so utterly overwhelmed that they did not score a single run against us. In fact, they could not even hit a single ball. In fact, they did not catch anything either. They were so overwhelmed that none of them actually showed up to the game.
The now-undefeated Team Mouse Rat stands in the strong position of being the second-largest team in the league. I am left with no option but to conclude that this is the beginning of an exciting season.

Perspectives

Yesterday there was a man in the dining hall who is not normally there. In fact, it was probably the first and last time he would be there. Picture a stereotypical Buddhist monk. That’s close to what he looked like. I don’t think he was actually a Buddhist monk though. He had a bunch of food in plastic packaging arrayed in front of him, and a white pentagonal wagon covered in red letters. I don’t remember the exact words, but the message was something about peace and love. Also, a brief mission statement. That was a subject that he was happy to talk about when asked.

He told me that he had decided to walk across the entire world, living only off the generosity of others. He would accept gifts of food, water and clothing, but never money. Not a single penny. “But,” said I, “how do you intend to walk the whole world? You would need to cross an ocean eventually to do that.” To that, he said this: “in ten years, I will be in Argentina. There, I will get on a sailboat. No motor, no pollution. I will sail across the ocean once.” I asked him how he could justify his stock of plastic-wrapped food if he were concerned about pollution. He said that it was a necessary evil: he couldn’t get food otherwise. He said that humans were a necessary evil. He told me that, confronted with the evil of his existence, he once tried to kill himself. Now, he seeks to correct a decadent society. He told me that humans were too concerned with their own pleasure – that they had lost sight of their purpose, and that they had lost sight of a simple truth of the universe. He told me this: everything is alive. Every rock, every tree, every molecule, even the empty space between atoms or between worlds. I was a little skeptical of that part, but “life” isn’t as well-defined as I’d like to think. Gesturing wildly, he told me these things.

The last time I saw the man, he was still in the dining hall, talking to a pair of security guards. He was gone this morning.

Earlier this evening, I was running along the shore when a different man cried out to me from the beach. Maybe beach is the wrong word. Beach implies sand, while this was more of a rocky slope down to the ocean. English ought to have a word for that. Anyway, this robust-looking bearded man was showing a thick, wet rope to me. He said this: “this is a basket.” I probably looked a little confused, so he explained further. He was collecting rope that had washed up on the shore. Then, he was going to make it into baskets. I agreed that it was a good idea. He told me this: “any gesture is important, even if it’s just symbolic.” Then he thanked me for attending the Standing Rock protests. That struck me as a little odd, mostly because I never actually did that. So I told him that I’d donated (which was true) but hadn’t been there in person (also true.) He said it didn’t matter that I hadn’t been there in person, and thanked me.

After that, I ran through Point Ruston. It looks like a fairly high end neighborhood, but the construction work makes it difficult to navigate. Then, I went up a hill and turned back toward campus.

Little Birds

This morning, I was walking home from the sub. I’d just gotten breakfast. Most people on this campus do that. On a weekday morning, most of those people would have then headed off to class. It is, however, Saturday. Some people immediately run off on trips with friends after breakfast. I am not one of those people. Some people walk directly back to their houses or dorms after breakfast. That’s a bit closer to what I did this morning, but I did not take the shortest path. There is an argument to be made that the shortest path is the most efficient, but that is nonsense. It’s the most time-efficient, but one sacrifices exercise.

Also, if I’d taken the shortest path I wouldn’t have seen the birds this morning. I was swinging around the northwest side of campus to enjoy the nice, rainy weather when I saw them. If I were a birdwatcher I could have identified them, and if I were diligent about photography I might have photographed them, but I did neither. They appeared to be less than half a foot in length and darted about with the speed and agility of insects. As they hopped about beneath the shelter of the trees, the birds didn’t seem to care that it was raining. They didn’t care about anthropology or mathematics or philosophy. They certainly didn’t care about politics.

If this were another era, I might say that we can always have faith in little birds. That though kings and empires might rise and fall, the little birds would always be there. But I can’t say that honestly. Not now. In a time and place where Wrath has come into vogue, it’s hard to be optimistic about the future. Still, I liked the little birds. If I were a more brazen writer, I would dedicate myself to saving them on the spot. As I am, I merely pledge to remember them.

Hunger

I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow. They will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen.
ā€”Exodus 10:3ā€“6

So apparently the Cellar is closed for the winter now. Considering the recent state of the C-store shelves, one begins to understand why.img_1426

img_1422
See, here’s what appears to have happened. We have all these students who are on meal plans. Surprisingly, not everyone’s estimates of how much they were going to eat this semester turned out to be accurate. Sure enough, we ended up with plenty of students who needed a way to burn some excess dining dollars. Combine this with the C-store’s food supply, which was meant to satisfy the student body for the duration of a semester and no more, and the results are evident.

I suppose this is symbolic of how the campus is starting to empty out now. People are leaving for vacation, roommates are saying goodbyes, and the Wi-Fi has mysteriously become slightly more reliable. Even the air has lost its warmth – it now bites and tears at those parts of us that we foolishly leave outside of our coats. Soon the Diner will stop accepting our meal plans at all, but I will be gone before then. Vanished to a mysterious realm cloaked in fog and battered by wind, not too far from the forges of steel wings. That is to say, I will be remaining in Washington.

The class lists for next semester certainly aren’t empty, though. A month from now, the campus will be reborn. Not everyone who left will return – just as not everyone who showed up in August is still here. We may be seeing some new faces around campus, though. If the wrinkled trio of Fate so decrees, I may even end up with a roommate who isn’t imaginary.

Who Dares Somethings

I had my first final this morning. It wasn’t quite as big a deal as I’d been made to expect. We were allotted two hours for the test, and I was only there for 70 minutes. I feel fairly confident about my result, but that is little cause for rejoicing. I expect that my other two will be more challenging yet. At least I’m not taking Chemistry. Anyway, I can’t justify complaining too much, because I barely studied at all last weekend.

There are a lot of ways to not study for finals. Netflix comes to mind immediately. So do partying, socializing, reading unrelated books, and digging into the dregs of your Steam library. Hibernation is also a feasible option, and one that can also reduce the strain on the coffee maker at Diversions. There are also a lot of dangerous ways to not study for finals, but I will leave them as an exercise for the reader.

So what did I do? Notice that the Ludum Dare Game Jam happened to be the weekend before finals. Apparently I decided that spending 48 hours developing a video game is preferable to safeguarding my grades. This was a little isolating at times, as I wasn’t fighting quite the same fight as everyone else. On the other hand, I also had a very easy time finding playtesters. This decision might bite me later, but I still think it was worth it.

Now I have a new problem. It’s currently the Ludum Dare judging period, so I’m supposed to play other people’s entries to get feedback on my own. In other words, I now have a semi-legitimate excuse to play video games when I’m supposed to be studying. I’m not sure what the solution is here.

Snow Day

Tuesday morning, it snowed. It snowed early in the morning, and did not last past noon. If we were in a snowier state, this might have been a relief, but here we were mostly just disappointed. I figured that was going to be our snow season for the year, ignoring the weather forecasters’ better judgement.

Yesterday’s snow did stick. It was the liveliest night the campus had had in months, as people rushed out of their dorms and houses to enjoy the rare weather and procrastinate on studying for finals. I remember walking past the tables of the Oppenheimer cafe, each one converted into a construction site for a gingerbread house. Shortly afterwards, I was walking along a campus path sipping my hot chocolate. It was then that I witnessed the events which I will now relate to you:

The men stood erect in the snowfall, spaced out at positions in a semicircle around the library entrance. They were dressed in heavy pants, coats, and gloves. Each one had his own pile of ammunition. The rounds were carefully compacted into approximations of spheres and each and every one of them was as cold as death. Each man shuffled nervously, waiting for something. A group of four women stood off to the side, chattering as they awaited the moment when each man would spring into action. I was there too, but this was not my story. I waited. I observed. They spoke:

“Where is he?”

“I don’t know.”

“He should have come out by now.”

“When he does, block the door so he can’t take cover inside.”

“I told him not to come out.”

“Oh come on!”

“I was joking.”

The door opened.

“Fire at will!”

A man dressed in heavy pants, a coat, and gloves was shocked as the first volley of snowballs arced toward him. He recovered quickly. No one blocked the door, but he did not run back inside. He turned to his right and rushed away from the killzone, shielding his face with his arm. Snowballs shattered on the ground, on the walls of the library, and on the man’s coat. They did not stop him. He rushed past one of the ambushers, and made a break for the grove of trees nearby. Two of the ambushers tried to follow, but the snowy ground proved treacherous. One caught himself right before he fell onto a bicycle rack. The other was forced to pivot his feet in the style of a braking ice skater in an effort to stay upright.

“I don’t think you guys won this one,” I said.

“We didn’t. He got away,” one of the ambushers responded.

“Why did you let him get away?” asked a second to a third.

The snow continued to fall. The campus was alive.

The Final Stretch

I hurt my arm the other day.

Nothing serious or CHWS-worthy, but it was rather embarrassing. Ungraceful as my reaction was, I hold no ill will toward whoever lubricated the stairs. Instead, I have decided to respond in the most reasonable way possible: immortalizing the incident on the internet.

Anyway, it got me thinking about how tattered people around here are starting to look. It’s like when a long-distance racer is dashing the last hundred meters to the finish line. As impressive as the feat of getting there was, they certainly don’t look dignified doing it. In this case, people are doing less sweating and flailing and more shoving their faces into books and chugging coffee, but the principle is the same. Finals week looms closer and closer each day, and many grades will be made or broken before the semester is over.

“I wish I were a freshman again,” a friend of mine said to me in the Cellar, my arrival signaling a short break in his studying. I helpfully reminded him that that would just mean he’d have to do everything over again, but that somehow didn’t improve his morale.

My best wishes go out to the tutors at the Center For Writing, Learning, and Teaching, who are stepping up to work overtime in a number of studying and writing events within the next week even as they have their own final tests and assignments. However much help we need, give or receive, we shall all soon stumble out of this semester, panting, but smarter than we were before.

Even now, we can see that the holidays are coming. At work today we took some time out of our day to decorate the office; tiered lights and suspended snowflakes signaling the festive month that is nearly upon us.

Giving Thanks

In what remain trying times for many people in our nation, it is important that we take a moment to step back and remember all the things we still have. In light of this, I hereby present some selections from the list of things I am thankful for:

1: Clean Drinking Water

I know it’s easy to take this for granted, but it pays to remember how long it took us to get to this point. How many people still don’t have access to water that won’t kill them. I was at a seminar earlier this year that talked about water collection in rural Kenya, and the statistics presented were sobering. There are women out there spending half their waking lives collecting water while we can just flip on a tap.

2: The C-Store

It’s so much more convenient to just wander into the C-Store at night to grab something than it is to walk half a mile or however far it is to Safeway.

3: Math

Can you imagine living without math? It would be so hard to keep track of anything at all. Also, engineering modern technology would be substantially more difficult. I know not all of you like studying math, but it really deserves some credit here.

4: Thanksgiving Break

Anyone who tells me they aren’t thankful for it is either lying or cursed with a terrible family.

5: Language

Point. Grunt. Point. Wave. Gesture at mouth. Gesture at ear. Shrug. Snort. Grunt. Point at nose. Grunt. Snort. Point at eyes. Touch mouth. Touch ear. Touch head. Grunt. Snort. Flail arms. Stomp. Grunt.

 

I hope this list made you reflect on something you’re thankful for and experience a positive emotion. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get ready to watch an appropriate seasonal movie.

 

About That Politics Stuff

Well, I think we can all agree that that was a rollercoaster of an election cycle. Hopefully we can also agree that it will have very interesting implications for national and international politics. On this campus at least, all eyes were and are on the election. I cannot name a single person I know here who has told me that they chose not to vote.

Long before the election, booths to notify people about voter registration were replaced by carpools to make sure everyone could make it to the office. Soon after that, we started screening the debates at a number of locations on campus. Dozens of students showed up (though maybe some of them just wanted the free pizza) and uncounted others were watching from dorm rooms, study areas, and even club meetings. This election had its share of circuses, but we made sure there was bread as well.

On Election Day yesterday, the whole campus was abuzz. The students at the front desk in Wheelock Student Center were constantly checking the election results. I could hear cries and cheers rising from the Rotunda as the votes rolled in. When I peeked through open dorm room doors, I saw groups of students huddled around screens waiting for their fate. A man I knew clutched an American flag tight around his shoulders like a cape as he flitted about the dining hall. The grand screen showing CNN’s forecasts shone its light upon a tangle of people – some studying, some eating, some just waiting.

Now, this purgatorial state has been broken. For better or for worse, the United States of America has a new president. The campus is deathly quiet this morning, but I wouldn’t read too much into that. I wrote this at 8 AM and the campus is always quiet then. As always, life goes on.