As Housing Day approaches, FlyBy will serve as your personal rating agency with a complete rundown by a resident of each House. Not that you have any say (River Gods notwithstanding), but at least you’ll know whether your portfolio is getting a downgrade.

As one of the smallest houses on campus, Kirkland may be a welcome sight on the morning of Housing Day. Maybe you’ve heard whispered rumors of Secret Santa Week or about the house life—incredibly close-knit, bordering on downright incestuous. But there’s more to Kirkland than raunchy dining hall skits and regrettable hook-ups. Find out after the jump…

Location: Snuggled at the end of Dunster St. right beside its larger neighbor, Eliot, Kirkland is only a quick walk from the Yard and about as close as you can be to 'Nochs, Felipe's, or any other place your drunken feet might carry you to on a Saturday night. The downside is that you can’t get directly to JFK street from the house for some ridiculous reason, and Advocate parties will keep you up all night if you get Annexed.  Also, you might be able to see William James from far away...but yeah, you'll definitely notice that it's really far away.

Rooming: Sophomore rooming is a double-edged sword. You’re damned if you do Dewolfe, but damned if you don’t. The Dewolfe suites are slightly larger and offer the lush amenities of a full bath, cable (if you pay), and a kitchen. But what you gain in creature comforts you lose in house spirit. Rooming in the house is cramped, with not even seniors guaranteed n+1 housing. But the community, Kirklanders will tell you, all but makes up for it. And you’ll find yourself playing social catch-up if you’re too lazy to make the long hike from Dewolfe to the house for daily meals.

Dining Hall: Sparse, but bright. This dining hall lacks the showy flourishes that you’ll find in Lowell and the austere woodworking of its sister house, but the cheery atmosphere and lack of unsightly napkin containers on the tables make it welcoming nonetheless. The kitchen is shared with Eliot, and Kirklanders get the short end of the stick, with their salad bar occupying about twice as much space as the servery. Brain Break is pretty standard, closing down between 1 and 2 a.m. and offering the same selection of bread and spreads every night.

House List: Kirkland-list is a battleground for House titans. A select few of the House’s larger personalities dominate the discussion, generally promoting their own legendary status. The graduation of list dictator Omar Musa ’08 has left a power struggle in its wake that stretches at the fabric of blockmate friendships and everyone else’s patience. More intimate than most other house lists, expect to have your inbox filled with lengthy, heated chains discussing the merits of everything from Housing Day t-shirts to vaguely discriminatory beauty pageants.

House Masters: Tom and Verena Conley are, for lack of a better term, baller. Though no longer for credit, Tom still offers his immensely popular Wine Seminar every spring. He’s also a regular staple of Stein Clubs, where his conversation vacillates between sophisticated chatter about fine wine and French films to impassioned rants on his fierce, if somewhat contradictory allegiances to the Boston Red Sox and New York Giants. Verena plays his quieter counterpart, welcoming freshmen like sheep into the fold and secretly accumulating information about everyone in the house so she can strike up conversation at the drop of a hat.

House Culture: House culture in Kirkland is a red pill/blue pill situation. Take the blue pill and live in blissful harmony with all your house bros. You’ll spend all of Secret Santa week watching underclad men gyrating in the dining hall and figuring out who you’ll hook up with at Incest Fest. You’ll lose at Case Day to Crimson Sports Chair Loren Amor, and you’ll be indoctrinated into the cult of John Thornton Kirkland, the house’s namesake. Take the red pill and you’ll see that house dinners are really just the same food with little fake candles and bad music, Secret Santa week is really uncomfortable, and incest is just gross. Ultimately, you’re participation in house culture will dictate whether you become part of the family or spend your time eating in Quincy dining hall, hiding away in your Dewolfe suite, and regretting you didn’t get into that final club. Buy the ticket and take the ride, or you might want to consider making friends with someone in another river house who needs to add a member to his/her blocking group.

The Rating: A*. Kirkland has a lot to offer, from lectures by prominent public figures to a super close-knit house community. Brain Breaks are weak, the Grille is even weaker, and that close-knit house community can be a bit smarmy sometimes. But the culture is what really drives Kirkland's appeal. It is still prime real estate, like that cramped Manhattan apartment building you’ll probably move in to in a few years. If you score this river gem, just nod blithely when everyone tells you that “you won!”

*Ratings run as such: [AAA > AA > A > BBB > junk > subprime]