Tom Mannion is someone who needs no introduction. But since you, dear readers, probably haven’t met the man behind the magic, I’ll give you a brief one. Tom Mannion works for Caltech and lives a short block away from the undergraduate houses - practically across the street from the Admissions building. Tom loves to throw free (or veeeery highly subsidized) events for students. Some call him a professional entertainer, the coolest of cool, a space cowboy, the gangster of love, “Maurice”, but everyone can agree that Tom is THE MAN. (Check out “The Joker” by the Steve Miller Band if you missed those last few references.)
Over winter break, Tom is hosting several events to entertain students that are staying on campus and to make sure that we are in fact still eating. (Practically every Mannion event begins or ends with stuffing your face). Tonight was a trip into different parts of nearby Los Angeles to view some particularly spectacular Christmas decorations.
Before we get to that story, let’s take a step back and talk about the Holidays at Caltech. Caltech definitely dresses up a bit for the holidays. Every office in the Center for Student Services puts up tinsel and garlands and the alleys of many houses drape the walls and ceilings with colored lights.
Just before Thanksgiving, the yearly Lloyd Christmas Tree was put up. Organized by three freshmen (including my roommate!), six strings of 60ft rope lights were hoisted from the bottom of Millikan Library to the rooftop and fastened to look like a giant Christmas Tree! To top it all off (literally) was a massive golden double L fastened to the very edge of the roof. This is Lloyd House’s yearly prank and quite a large undertaking! All of the frosh and many upperclassmen came out throughout the night to help us put it all together!
The final product. Thanks to Tyler Okamoto for this photo!
And here we see a mugshot of the pranksters themselves. Thanks for this picture goes to Dennis Liao, the Lloyd Historian!
Now back to Tom Mannion! We arrived at his house at 6pm and were first loaded up with sandwiches, chips, pretzels, soda, cookies, brownies, M&Ms, oranges, mozzarella and cherry tomato kebabs, and chocolate covered raisins. Then we boarded the small charter bus that Tom had rented and drove off into the night. There were four stops. At all but the last one, the bus unloaded and we admired the displays from up close.
First were the Huntington Gardens.
Second was the Balian house in Altadena. The Balian family made their fortune in the ice cream business and now has a mansion close by. Tom informed us that they are well known for going over the top around the holidays, and certainly did not disappoint!
Third was Christmas Tree Lane. Yes, this is the real street name. Yes, it lived up to its name. The street was lined with enormous fir trees, each one either draped with long strands of colored lights or turned into the classic triangular tree with some minimalist light strands.
Fourth was an especially festive neighborhood. Unfortunately, taking pictures of this area was too difficult since we didn’t get off the bus. Imagine though, each block had a different holiday theme and big wooden cut outs (at least 5 feet tall) for each house that sat in front of each mailbox. Themes included doves with olive branches, Christmas trees with cut outs for real ornaments, globes with the word “Peace” painted on in different languages, and some massive candy canes. On top of this, every – and I mean EVERY – house had some sort of extra decorations. These ranged from the basic lights on rooftops to a lawn completely covered in lights and a house that had three different Christmas figures riding in blow up airplanes with real spinning propellers. Can you say winter wonderland?
Here’s to more colorful days like these.
One of the most exciting aspects of college life is the freedom that students enjoy when living on their own. When most students think about college life, one of the first things that comes to mind is Greek life, with the many sororities and fraternities on campuses across the country. While Caltech does not have Greek life, per se, we do have a unique housing system, similar to that of Hogwarts. There are eight houses and one residence on campus: Avery, Blacker, Dabney, Fleming, Lloyd, Page, Ricketts, Ruddock, and the Bechtel Residence. Each of the houses has its own unique culture, character, and traditions. I am a member of Ruddock House!
This past year was so different than most of us could have ever imagined. Living in “the virtual school year” posed a plethora of challenges, but at the same time, it opened the door to new possibilities. As a society, we learned how to better operate in a virtual world, and as individuals, we had time for new endeavors. For myself, this meant taking the leap of faith to move away from home and live with some fellow Techers. While I had already had the experience of moving away from home and coming to live in the Caltech houses, this was quite different. Instead of living in organized student residences with hundreds of other students, a meal plan, and tons of support resources, I was about to go live with just 5 other people (some of which I did not know super well) and we had to find and manage our own housing, food, and necessities.
My favorite part about Caltech is the Houses! The easiest way to describe them is as Hogwarts houses: each has their own personality and group of people and the first thing you do at Caltech is go through a “sorting” process. The people are what makes the Houses at Caltech so great. As a frosh, it’s amazing to be able to come in and immediately have a group of 100+ people to support you. Because the Houses have students from every grade, you make friends with upperclassmen and can ask for help on tons of things like: