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One of the things that I thought was absolutely delightful was the irreverent group of students that I encountered when I first got to LPL, and their Christmas skits. I quickly became involved in those, and I had a great time. When I left as a post-doc, at the University of Maryland, I tried to instigate a similar type of activity among the graduate students there, and they were terrified. They wouldn’t dare do that.
So that was definitely very pleasant. Oh, I have so many stories. One of them that comes to mind is a time when a colleague, Nick Gautier—somebody was stealing cookies from his cookie can in his office, down on the first floor of LPL. He decided that he needed to catch whoever this person was, so he set up a video camera that was rigged to the light, and whenever somebody turned on the light in his office, this video camera would start.
He eventually did catch the culprit, but in addition to the culprit, all of these interesting characters started to show up in his office. The first one was the Cookie Monster. Somebody dressed as the Cookie Monster came and went through his desk, found the cookies, tasted them and said, “Oh, these are no good,” and he had a bag of cookies, and he added cookies to Nick’s can.
This went on. So it was the Cookie Monster, the Munchkin, the Thug, the Unknown Scholar, the Flasher. All of these characters would come in the middle of the night. Then Nick put a clock right next to the wall so the camera would pick up when this was happening. However, these characters picked up on that, and they would move the clock, or come in and not turn on the light and then change the time, so things did not happen in sequence. Even though this was sequential on the videotape, the hours were all wrong.
We would gather in his office every morning to find out who the characters were. I remember that we were joking about who each character was and nobody knew. They figured out eventually that the Cookie Monster was George Rieke. I was the Flasher. George said something about how I didn’t fool anybody; the moment I walked in they knew who I was, and I didn’t have them fooled for a moment, but he had them fooled for about two days or something.
I said, “Yeah, George, but if we could only figure out who the Unknown Scholar is.” The Unknown Scholar came in dressed in a cap and gown, and he was reading Icarus. He would read Icarus and eat the cookies and all of these things.
It must have been two or three weeks that I let it go, and then I said, “George, how long was it that you had them fooled?”
He said, “Oh, like three days.”
Then I said, “Okay, I want to tell you, it’s been about three weeks. I was the Unknown Scholar.”
Anyway, Frank Low, who was Nick’s boss, would come and shoo us away from the monitor every day, because we would all gather there to see what happened the night before. Frank Low would say, “Oh, you guys are wasting time, you’ve got to work! Work!” He would come by and we would all scatter. Then as soon as Frank was gone we would all come back to watch what was going on. That went on for about two weeks, and it was a very memorable time. It had nothing to do with science, but it had to do with the camaraderie that we all had during that time.
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