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Hawthorne House was already a fixture by the time I got there in 1986. It was rented initially by some folks from the Midwest, like Wisconsin and Michigan, around there. When October came around they wanted to have their Oktoberfest. That’s how the Bratfest started. Originally it was brats and corn and beer and cheesecakes, and it was to relieve the homesickness of the Midwesterners.
I visited there frequently. Of course, I knew lots of people who lived there, and it was a place where you could always drop in. We were there for every party and every social occasion. There was one notorious Bratfest where they had a booth where you could dunk your favorite professor. You would toss bean bags and if you got it just right, there was a dunking chair, so your favorite professor would get dunked. That was a breakdown of protocol and status. Certain professors, Jay Melosh in particular, made a lot of money that way.
We had that beautiful mural of Saturn, a Voyager picture, that was blown up to the size of an entire wall. I’m sure it was the only picture that wasn’t destroyed—I mean, it was a museum-quality picture.
There were probably a lot of romances that took place. We had all these graduate students who did nothing but study, so they don’t have the opportunity to meet anybody else but another graduate student. If you ask me, it’s the very worst form of inbreeding, but it happens.
There was a party called Bacchanal, and one of themes there was bizarre-flavored daiquiris. Usually it was Bill Merline in charge of the blender. One of them was fish-and-chips daiquiri; snow-pea-and-onion daiquiri. For years people would try to top it.
The other tradition that was very strong and really helped build up a sense of camaraderie were the graduate student skits. Mark Sykes was a key player in those in our years. We would do things not only to amuse but also to inform. Sometimes we had to let certain faculty members know that their behavior didn’t meet the standards for one reason or other, personal or professional, so we would put that right into the skit. Sometimes we were reprimanded for doing it, but it didn’t necessarily change what we did.
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