Ah, yes. My alma mater. Stanford is a great place to spend four years of your life.

Stanford was founded in 1891 by robber baron Leland Stanford and his wife Jane in memory of their sickly son Leland Jr., who died of typhoid fever at the age of 16. Leland Sr. kicked the bucket just two years later so it was up to Jane to shape the university in the image of her Victorian values. She would probably be sputtering in some form of righteous indignation if she knew that today Stanford is the epitome of laid-backness and California cool. Jane was later murdered mysteriously, perhaps even at the behest of the university's first president, David Starr Jordan, but that's another story.

Stanford has since evolved from a sleepy small-town university for stuck-up rich white kids into one of the top research universities in the world. Some pretty cool things have happened at Stanford over the years. Stanford physicists won the Nobel Prize three years running from 1996-1998. Lewis Terman invented the IQ test. Psych professor Philip Zimbardo conducted the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment. Vladimir Nabokov and Wallace Stegner taught literature. Raymond Carver wrote fiction at Stanford.

Ever heard of Silicon Valley? There's a reason why it's located right next to Stanford. A Stanford server received the first packet ever sent over the internet in 1969. Hewlett and Packard were both Stanford alums. A guy named Jerry Yang started some company called Yahoo! while a student at Stanford. Google was born inside a brightly colored lego house in the basement of Stanford's Computer Science building. Sun Microsystems? The "Sun" originally stood for "Stanford University Networks." I could go on.

Some other famous people were students at Stanford. Supreme Court justices William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O'Connor. First female astronaut Sally Ride. John Elway honed both his football spiral and his fastball at Stanford, and Tiger Woods perfected his swing on the beautiful Stanford Golf Course. I'm not sure what to say about Ted Koppel though. And perhaps Herbert Hoover shouldn't be mentioned. That Great Depression thing kind of sucked.

Stanford has some wacky traditions. There is "Full Moon on the Quad" where seniors and "seniors" kiss freshmen and give them mono. There is the Mausoleum Party at Halloween when everybody dances on the Stanfords' graves. Exotic Erotic is the skankiest party imaginable (think tubs of pudding, blow-up dolls, and giant penises). There is the no-longer-well-named "Gaieties" musical, which mostly involves trashing UC Berkeley and lots of nudity.

And then there is the Stanford Band. Crazy costumes. whore-riffic pseudo-cheerleaders called "Dollies." Lots of booze. Rock and Roll music. That crazy tree. Banned from two states and Notre Dame (could it possibly have been the pregnant nuns?). Tried to tip an airplane mid-flight. Honestly, what more could you ask?

Oddly enough, for an elite academic institution, Stanford has been ridiculously good at sports over the years. Walter Camp, the inventor of modern American football, coached at Stanford. So did Pop Warner, the creator of the I-formation. Stanford has produced more Olympians than any other university and has won the Sears Director's Cup for winningest collegiate athletic program nine years running. Stanford's fine baseball team has been to the College World Series 14 times. The annual Big Game between Stanford and California has produced one of the longest-running and the most storied rivalries in college football, creating such legends as the Stanford Axe, the Immortal Twenty-one, the most famous play in college football history, and the Axe Yell:

Give 'em, the axe, the axe, the axe,
give 'em, the axe, the axe, where?
Right, in the neck, in the neck, in the neck
right, in the neck, in the neck, there!

And of course Stanford has a gorgeous sprawling campus, with some great places to make out: a raft on Lake Lagunita; the meandering paths of the poppy-laden Stanford Foothills; the tiki garden at night. Bored? You can always go steam-tunneling or fountain hopping or climb Hoover Tower or explore the utter strangeness that is grad student life in Escondido Village.

All in all a strange, surreal, beautiful place.