So very hard to go…

Due to the COVID-19 situation, Caltech decided to move all classes online 3rd term, and all undergraduates (except those who petition to stay for need-based reasons) must leave campus. And even though we know that’s the best choice right now, we’re all so sad to leave…

So much for 3rd term activities like building Interhovse (our big party… the theme was going to be Mad Max), and taking House portraits of each class, and of course Ditch Day, since it didn’t end up happening first or second term. But the saddest part is that we don’t get to say a proper goodbye to our seniors. Because of the House system, there are many friendships between classes. Seniors – we’re going to miss you guys!

As I was moving out of my room, I took a few last photos:



(It was such a great room! It was a single (Blacker has singles, doubles, and the triple). I could stare out the window and spy on the courtyard and everything…)


^ Why must packing be so tiring??

^ Goodbye whiteboard

(OK, I ran out of photos)

Goodbye friends…

But we’re making efforts to keep our community alive remotely. No, it’s not the same, but it’s something. We’re setting up a discord. Keeping up with emails. (The automatic “Rain tomorrow! Get your stuff out of the courtyard before it gets wet” emails are still being auto-sent.) This blog, I suppose. And of course, communicating via the the five zillion billion Messenger (and Telegram) chats we have: the spam chat with alums, the cute animal photos chat, the “Blacker Hackers” maker culture chat, the COVID memes for Quaranteens chat, the Nice chat, the fire alarm blame chat (OK, maybe not that one), the food spam chat (created when the food chat, for posting free food, was getting spammed with too much non-free-food-content), the orb chat (ORBS! yes, it’s just a chat about orbs. orbs are good.),  our class chats (e.g. I’m in the juniors chat), etc., etc…

DEAR PREFROSH: In light of the cancellation of PFE…

Dear prefrosh,

In light of the cancellation of PFE (and on-campus 3rd term) due to coronavirus precautions, we want to explore online modes of communicating what makes Caltech the place that it is. Because Tech is a unique experience with a unique culture, not just a prestigious name. Choosing the right college is also about finding the right cultural fit.

Although this blog is neglected sometimes (as you will notice if you scroll back in time) as we are too busy doing things to blog about them, in the coming weeks/months, we will not neglect it. Please read on, ask about what you see to current students, and check back in often!

We are Blacker Hovse, one of the eight undergraduate Houses at Caltech. And we’d like to share our culture with you.

Thanksgiving 2019

Soon after joining a House, the community begins to feel like a second family. And what do families do together? Celebrate Thanksgiving!

Because the holiday falls shortly before finals, and the break is very short (only Thursday and Friday), most students decide to stay on campus for Thanksgiving and eat dinner with their Houses. In the days leading up to the Thursday, Houses can request staple Thanksgiving ingredients (turkeys, potatoes, etc.) from Tom Mannion, the student activities director. But it’s up to us to cook them!

We also organize Pavs and Costco runs for our own ingredients, and fill out a big organizational spreadsheet of dishes moles plan to prepare and bring. It’s potluck style, and people can cook whatever they like, traditional or not-so-traditional (I’m looking at you last year with the very realistic “ham” that was actually smoked watermelon, Aaron). We also make sure to include a tab on the spreadsheet for helping recent alums find places to crash while they visit to celebrate with us. (It’s within the housing contract guest policy – 3 nights of guests per month!)

On the big day, it’s so much fun to walk around the House and see what everyone is cooking. Blacker has five full service kitchens (Purg, Tunnel kitchen, Cannes kitchen, Siberia, and Pub) and they all buzz with excitement and delicious smells…

Stutt and Lewis are apparently pouring ginger ale in their turkey
I’m dreaming of a white Thanksgiving… snow on Mt. Wilson!

We managed to brave the numerous South Hovse fire alarms and survive the rain! And the battles over whether or not it was appropriate to play Christmas music. Our alums managed to arrive despite the disaster of snow on the Grapevine (the mountain pass between the Central Valley and LA). We could also see snow on Mt. Wilson, a friendly familiar landmark visible north of Tech!

Everything turned out deliciously (well, except that one turkey that caught on fire… not the ginger ale one if you were wondering…), from turkeys to mashed potatoes to cranberry sauce to stuffing to casseroles to mac & cheese to mulled cider to cookies to pie to [insert n other foods here]! And we all enjoyed each other’s good company in a conversation-filled dining hall… with Alice’s restaurant playing in the background, of course.

Rotation 2019

Blacker Hovse always has a variety of experiences in store for prefrosh, from extra cold drinks to spooling to promotional material from Blacker Industries. If none of those words made sense to you, fear not! Read on. Then things might make more sense. At least as much sense as they can make to anyone.

I have 5 things. ONE!

Secondly, extra cold drinks are available at every Rotation dinner. If you make a drink order from a student waiter and ask for it “extra cold”, they’ll add LN2 (liquid nitrogen) to it! Other ways we use LN2 are to make ice cream (and dippin’ dots). You can tell a drink is extra cold because it looks something like this:

Thirdly, the below picture may help you understand what spooling is:

Yes, it is walking on a giant spool. Oliver demonstrates this excellent mode of transportation. OK, well actually they’re just standing on the spool. But you get the idea.

Fourthly, Blacker Industries once again decides to advertise during our dinner announcements. Beloved mole and Blacker Industries exec Chainsaw (left, cowboy hat) and his lovely assistant demonstrate the latest and greatest way to eat cereal! Hint: it involves power tools.

And here, Gracie holds up the Super-Spreader! Spreads butter faster than ever before!

Fifthly, even though I’m not a math major, this is too many numbers so I’m going to stop counting. Here are some more lovely images and explanations of our shenanigans:

FAIR WARNING! 3… 2… 1.. BOOM! Our potato cannon fires potatoes… or pretty much any potato-shaped object you put in it.

gdbg – we can explain what that means later – appears on Ali’s oscilloscope!

Ice blocking! This excited prefrosh slides down the ramp AT HALF THE SPEED OF SOUND on a giant block of ice.

(Don’t worry – pictured below, the couch at the end makes for a soft landing)

Many of these activities (and MORE) will happen again next Rotation – and we’re excited to share them with you if you decide to come to Tech!