Finals Week with Wagner

Who wouldn’t want to be abruptly awaken by loud music at 7 am during finals week?

Caltech has an honor code–“No member of the Caltech community shall take unfair advantage of any other member of the Caltech community”–and we take it very seriously. This allows us to collaborate with one another effectively and have take-home exams, understanding that we won’t look at barred resources or take extra time. These take-home exams are often roughly four-hour long exams that are due at noon (though it varies depending on the class).

To ensure that our fellow moles are awake to take their finals and turn them in on time, we blast the Ride of the Valkyries by Wagner on our courtyard speakers at 7 am–five hours before noon–allowing someone to wake up, take their exam, and turn it in before it’s due. People also congregate in the courtyard together to hear the music together during the stress of finals week.

Now, because the Ride plays during finals week, we associate it with the terror and stress of exam season, and really wouldn’t like to hear it any other time (while we’re varying degrees of relaxed). Though, us moles like to prank one another and this can easily be achieved by playing the Ride next to an unsuspecting mole–inducing an adrenaline peak. The penalty for playing the Ride outside of finals week is getting “showered,” meaning, people run at you to turn off the Ride, and gently carry you to the nearest shower (with your consent). There, you place your head under the water and get yourself wet.

If you hear some trills and all of the moles near you disappear, you can safely assume that someone played the Ride of the Valkyries¬†when they shouldn’t have.

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.