Ditch Day

The seniors were right, ditch day was tomorrow!
Many shenanigans were had on the best day of the year, and here’s some of the highlights.
Hot-wiring a car on the James Bond stack.


Defusing a nuclear bomb on the James Bond stack.
Attached to a rope running all around a room, the Doctor Who stack tries to find the end.


A paint war in the Doctor Who stack.


The Half Life 3 stack constructs a vehicle.


JR Mole’s Day Off stack finds Batman!


Solving a puzzle with jolly ranchers on the Perplex stack.


Mud wrestling on the Teddy Roosevelt stack.


Pranking a Physics Lecture

On the last day of the Ph1a lecture, a group of mole frosh decided to liven the class up with a prank. Having got permission from the Prof to interrupt class, they worked to install a Vanishing Cabinet (from Harry Potter) in the lecture hall.

When the lecture rolled around, there was indeed a Vanishing Cabinet there. But that was merely the beginning…

Near the start of the lecture, a student walked out and proceeded to sit down and take notes.

But then some Death Eaters showed up, escorting the student out.


A little bit later, some more students entered the room, looking for the Death Eaters.



And near the end of lecture, a Hogwarts professor showed up to give the Prof a letter.

It was good fun all around, and definitely livened up the last lecture.

Adventures in Santa Monica

Hi, my name is Liz, and Marissa is forcing me to add this line at gunpoint. I’m a senior, a ChE, and hoping to graduate without horrible gunshot-related trauma.

Contrary to popular belief, techers do get (far) off campus on occasion. On this rare and happy event, we tend to roam, and on this particular day decided to head to the world-famous Umami Burger. This decision was partially prompted by a desire to visit some of our friends working at Google: Santa Monica, who we’d heard were at Umami Burger around then and could hopefully be visited with. Packing six into a cherry-red ’05 Toyota Matrix we set off hungry and confused.

Our first mistake was thinking there was only one Umami Burger. Protip – there are two, and they’re in entirely opposite directions. After calling our friends at the Googleplex, and driving for almost twenty minutes, we realized we were heading towards the wrong Umami Burger.

Forty minutes later…

Our friends from the Googleplex were long gone – likely reclining on their $10,000 couch (protip: when the president of the college is throwing out furniture, even if it’s ugly, take it – it may be secretly worth 10+K). The evening was beginning to grow cool, and the sky that shade of purple-pink rarely found outside of highly processed food. After missing the parking lot the first time, we parked and talked to the maitre ‘d… and found out we had to wait another 40 minutes for a table. But we were at Umami Burger, so we swallowed the bitter taste of denied hunger and did what any reasonable person would do, and went to the beach.

There were parrots:

The little girl holding the parrots looked somewhat scared.

The sunset was rather pretty, though:

Unfortunately, we’d been given a ‘low’ estimate of wait time of about 25 minutes, and it took us 12 minutes to get to the beach. After taking a few photos, and staring longingly at the amusement park rides, we headed back to Umami Burger.

Between the walking and the near two-hour wait for food (from when we left Blacker Hovse), we were all thoroughly hungry… and despite the average $12 pricetag of a small burger, we threw caution to the wind and all ordered two burgers and a side.

The burgers were branded:

And the sides were fairly sized. The cups, despite looking hard-sided and glass-like, were actually plastic and relatively easy to distort and push all the water out of. I learned this the hard way.

The seating at Umami Burger is sort of bench/cafeteria style, at least in the outdoors section, and we were seated nearby another group of students from UCLA. We chatted for a little while about work (and what the hell we were doing at Caltech over the summer), about SCIENCE (to normal people we apparently all sound like physics geniuses), and about… work. Finally, the check came.

Yup. That’s close to 30 dollars a head (tip was already included). But the food was delicious (and very full of umami), so we dug deep into our pockets and then headed out for our next adventure – dessert! We’d passed by a Bloomingdales earlier, and decided that the frozen yogurt shop named 40 Carrots was too strangely named to resist. So, with 20 minutes until the department store closed, we all headed inside, looking entirely out-of-place amongst the stylish women’s clothing and overpriced handbags.

While coming in at nearly 5 dollars a cup (we’d given up on ‘reasonable pricing’ after making our orders at Umami Burger), the frozen yogurt was delicious. They had chocolate, banana, coffee, and some other flavors that were less important – the yogurt was sufficiently tart without being too sour, and tasted like the flavor, rather than over-sweetened crap. We also got some strange looks… from the manequins. Don’t ask.

With our stomachs filled with yogurt and meat, we piled back into our car for the long haul back to Pasadena.

A Backcountry Adventure

Lots of Moles enjoy doing outdoorsy things — we have a yearly Hovse camping trip in the desert, a yearly ski trip in the Sierra Nevadas, and plenty of outings that people organize throughout the year.

Caltech is in a great place if you like this sort of thing — Pasadena is nestled right against the foothills of the San Gabriels, and there are even trailheads within walking distance of campus (and certainly within biking distance)! There’s a nice variety too. One weekend this February I was walking on the beach in Malibu (about an hour’s drive from campus), and the next weekend I was skiing at China Peak with the Hovse! If you want to go a bit further away, Joshua Tree, Sequoia, Yosemite and Big Sur are all beautiful and definitely reachable from here if you have a car and a few days off.

Anyway, this weekend I went backpacking with four other Moles: Brad (the Hovse President and a rising senior like me), Rae (a rising junior) and Ben and Kurt (who both graduated this June).

From left to right: Kurt, Rae, Ben and Brad

We started at Heaton Flat, in the mountains a bit northeast of Pasadena, and followed a trail that went along the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. We knew there were a number of trail camps along the path, so we figured we’d hike until we got tired and set up camp. However, as always seems to be the case, there were a few difficulties that made sure we got our fair share of adventure.

First of all, it was hot. Ridiculously, absurdly, ungodly hot. It was so hot that Ben drank something like 11 liters of water on the first day (although he also biked to the trailhead while the rest of us drove) and that a block of cheese we brought changed its phase of matter by the end of the day. We had forgot Gatorade powder, so instead we ate straight salt (and it tasted delicious! one way to tell when you are running low on electrolytes). Luckily we were never far from the river, so we did quite a lot of swimming and splashing to keep cool.

In addition, the trail was incredibly poorly marked and our map was not very detailed, so it was quite a challenge to figure out where we were and where we needed to go on the way in. As we lost and regained the trail, we ended up fording the stream something like 10 times and scrambling up a lot of hills and through thick brush. As it got later in the day, no one we passed seemed to know where the trail camps were, despite them being labeled on our map.

So we trucked on, through beautiful canyons and countryside…

…and over a strange bridge called “The Bridge to Nowhere” (although not the one in Alaska) that looked like it belonged on a highway somewhere, not on a poorly marked, eroded trail!

There is a bungee jumping outfit that operates on the bridge on Saturdays and Sundays (and is apparently the only legal place to bungee jump in California), but we passed by too late on Sunday to get to try.

By the time we got to the bridge, it was getting close to 6, and we were hot and tired and had no idea where the first campsite was. But we kept along the river, along a section called “the Narrows,” aptly named as the canyon closes in here and the water moves quite a bit faster. Soon after the bridge our trail disappeared and we ended up just wading straight upstream. Luckily, we spotted a clearing on a hill above the river, which happened to be the first campsite we were looking for. It was a beautiful spot, with a view of the canyon cliffs and the river. We set up camp, ate a well deserved dinner and went to bed as soon as it got dark.

We got an early start the next morning, and headed out at much quicker pace — it helped that the sun was still rising and that we knew where we were going (we only had to cross the stream 3 times this time)! We stopped for a long break to swim, and then headed home.

I had an awesome trip, and I hope to have many more expeditions this summer. If you’re looking for adventure, you’ll find it here!