Posts Tagged ditch day

Ditch Day 2002

It’s about four in the morning, and I am listening to some Dave Matthews song with a beat on repeat.  Wedge is there, trying to help me finish clues, but I am so spaced out I am unable to give her sufficient direction.  The hours seem to be accelerating by.  How ironic, considering the time-manipulation and futurism themes of Hyperion, the novel series on which we are basing our puzzles.

It’s about six, and Todd is rushing me out of the room with the clues.  I think I have all of them – check my clipboard again, yeah, think this is all of them – and we take the truck around campus.  Since Ditch Day is literally in two hours, it’s not like anyone minds us just riding roughshod in the truck around campus.

It’s about seven, and I’m checking on the breakfast for our two groups.  Sure, doing two full sets of stuff for a past- and future- themed group was rough, but I’m hoping it’ll all turn out okay.  In about thirty minutes, I will change my tune on that.

It’s a few minutes to eight, and all Seniors need to be off-campus or the duct-taping-to-trees tradition (every underclassman’s favorite) will commence.  I can’t find my clipboard, which means I can’t be sure everything is where it is supposed to be.

Wedge, great friend she is, begins to laugh at me as the clock strikes 8 and some relatively quick underclassmen see me standing there.  They rush me, she shouts she’ll meet up with me later, and I take off.  I was in shape.  They were not sprinters.  I wasn’t even loaded down with my clipboard.  I escape.

I haven’t slept in roughly 40 hours.  I finally make it back to our house’s off-campus place and collapse on the couch.  Plenty of phone calls asking where the heck some of the clues are reach me over the course of the day.

Despite all the craziness, people love it and I think it turned out great.  The lesson, of course, is sometimes you just have to stop worrying and let go – generally speaking, life moves on with or without you.  When you are in the moment, without the perspective of looking back, it can be hard to accept that despite setbacks, things are going to turn out alright.

(EDIT: Here’s the picture from Nate:


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Ditch Day 2001

(You may want to read yesterday’s Ditch Day 1999 first, if you haven’t already.)

I had a great time with my Sophomore year stack (themed “Sneakers” and put on my some of my favorite college friends), but I feel like most of that experience was just good times with friends, and good tips on how to build my own stack when it came to that.  Today I wanted to talk about my Junior year’s Ditch Day, though, because of how upset I was.

You see, at that point I had already teamed up with Todd, Tom and Garrett to start designing this awesome, totally fun and highly themed Ender’s Game stack.  Unfortunately for us, when we woke up for 2001’s Ditch Day and started perusing the available stacks, one of the Seniors had “scooped” us with an Ender’s Game stack of her own.  I was so upset, thinking about how much work we had wasted, and what sort of plan we would have to come up with to “fix” this problem.  The four of us even all went on the same stack, which was an excellent mystery-style concoction that had the same fun feel as the Redhead Conspiracy, but I was grumpy and complained much of the time about the Ender’s Game stack.

Three interesting mistakes I made that day: I didn’t go on the Ender’s Game stack, which would have been a good mood check and also a good source of interesting ideas (I was later made aware of how unthemed it really was, when you got right down to it); I dwelled on why somebody else doing our theme was bad for us, instead of focusing on constructive stuff (like working on a new theme, or why it could be good for us); and I missed out on some of the fun of the stack I actually did go on.

I know one of my weaknesses is that I dwell too much on the negative potential of situations, but that day put it in sharp relief for me when later I looked back and realized what I was doing.

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Ditch Day 1999

I knew the night before that it was upon us.  I was up late playing Starcraft (1) with Jeremy, and people sure were up late moving heavy objects around outside.  But it was still exciting to be roused by the raucous call of “Wake up, frosh [freshmen]!  It’s Ditch Day!”  And so my first Caltech Ditch Day experience began, as I moved groggily out into the Blacker courtyard.

Ditch Day at Caltech is like a combination puzzle/scavenger hunt, where all of the non-Seniors — including much of the teaching and school staff! — take part in elaborate themed missions traditionally called “stacks” (the term is rooted in a bit too much lore for this blog).  Said stacks usually conclude with “breaking in” to the absent Senior’s room and collecting a group reward for a day well done.  One of my Senior mentors, Dave Tytell, had teamed up with fellow redhead Walt, and they created a thrilling adventure in their Redheaded Conspiracy stack.

There were a few of awesome parts to this stack – (a) it was all freshmen, so we had a great time figuring stuff out as we went, (b) it was a bunch of really fun pieces with a minimum of overarching theme, which was a lesson I wish I had applied better to my own Senior stack, and (c) it took us to the tops of buildings and the depths of sub-sub-sub-basements, which definitely was a comfort zone shift.

My favorite moment from the Redhead Conspiracy stack:  we dropped a bucket of multiple colors of bouncy balls from the top of the tallest building on campus (Millikin Library) with a news crew watching.   We were telling each other as we did it “you know, they are going to ask us to count these next…” and sure enough, there was a note at the bottom of the bucket.  But we were wrong – it was far worse than we expected!  They asked us to figure out the relative fractions of colors in the bucket!  Oof.  It was a fun hour or so of combing the courtyard below for bouncy balls, though – we even recruited passersby.

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