UC Berkeley News


The joy of receiving
Campus staff and faculty reveal what they're dreaming about for the holidays

08 December 2005

According to an old saw, it is better to give than to receive. To explore the presumably less rewarding part of this equation, the Berkeleyan asked a number of people on campus what they wished to open come Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Chanukah. The sole dictate of the assignment was for the recipients to turn their attention to the world of goods and services, reserving wishes for world peace for another time. Their responses appear below.


I am a notoriously boring, practical gift giver and receiver. As a mother of a one- year-old, I thought about asking for something self-indulgent and decadent - a long novel and the quiet time to read it uninterrupted. After some deliberation I decided on Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel García Márquez, an author whose work I have always loved. Coincidentally, the day I made that selection Michiko Kakutani ripped it in the New York Times. It turns out to be a rather short novel as well.

Instead, I will settle for those comfy-looking, kind of ugly, primary-colored gardening clogs that I can leave on the front porch without fear of theft.

- Jill Malko, head coach, lacrosse

The two things I want most for Christmas are not at all expensive and guaranteed to make me smile. First is a copy of an ad for the organization HIV Stops With Me, for which my friend David is a spokesmodel. The photos they took of him are beautiful. David is a great friend, and I have learned a lot from him about being open and taking life as it comes with a sense of humor.

The second item, also for my wall, is a copy of a flyer that hangs in the hallway of the RSF extolling the virtues of lawn bowling as a new sport for Cal students. The list of reasons to take up lawn bowling - "Outdoors! Competitive!" - ends with my favorite persuasion of all time: "Less Time Consuming Than Golf!"

Isn't everything?!?

- Christine Shaff, communications manager, Facilities Services

I collect, sort, and recombine images from film, news archives, and the "Conversations with History" collection. In playing these clips back, I bring a kind of order to the world of disorder. I cherish watching these moments in time captured on film and video. Examples of these "moving" pictures include Eric Liddell, the Scottish runner, crossing the finish line at the Olympics in Chariots of Fire; Robert Kennedy quoting Aeschylus as he quiets a crowd that has just learned of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr; Norman Cousins, former editor of the Saturday Review, explaining to me in a "Conversations With History" interview the connection between the health of the polity and the health of the individual.

I want to be able to watch my collection of images when I walk, travel, and have free time on the run. For the holidays, my dream gift is a super-fancy video iPod which Santa and Steve Jobs have yet to produce: a hand-held device that would have the capacity to collect, edit, recombine, store, and play these images I have gathered over a lifetime.

- Harry Kreisler, executive director,
Institute of International Studies, and executive producer
and host of "Conversations with History"

My family celebrates Kwanzaa, which focuses on handmade gifts (zawadi) and gifts to children for promises made and promises kept. During the year, we write down the goals (promises) that we want to achieve. On the seventh and final day of Kwanzaa we share our promises and talk about those things we were able to accomplish, then share zawadi with one another.

I have asked for the building of a mini craft and workstation in our garage. We've carved out an area in the garage where we are going to spend a few hours per day designing and building this workstation. My daughter and I use crafting as way to spend quality time, relax, ease stress, and make something for someone we care for. Usually, we make a mess of the house with glue, paint, and scraps of paper everywhere, and we are looking forward to having an area we can call our own.

- Nzingha Dugas, academic coordinator,
African American Student Development

I would like to see a number of favorite television series from my youth be made available on DVD. Why, if they can profitably market all 22 seasons of Friends in Tagalog, can the network archivists not see their way clear to putting out a few seasons' worth of Dobie Gillis? One guy on eBay was recently selling all 146 episodes for $100, but I suspect his copies were, um, unauthorized. Particularly in view of the recent passing of Bob Denver, whose seminal role as Maynard G. Krebs was largely overlooked in the unseemly rush to praise his less-nuanced later work as Gilligan, I think an official release would be timely and well-appreciated. Without Maynard's guidance, who among us Boomers would have ever heard the name Thelonious Monk on network TV in 1960?

And while they're at it: Run Buddy Run, Hank, and Hennessey ought to be liberated from the vaults too.

- Jonathan King, editor, Berkeleyan

If no monetary limits have been set, I would like something impossibly expensive like a weekend at Auberge du Soleil in Napa Valley or dinner at The French Laundry. A Rolls- Royce convertible would also be rather nice. But if there are limits, then I would like to have a star named after me, the dent in my left fender repaired, or even a huge chocolate-orange cake from Masse's Pastries on Shattuck. I also wish that telemarketers would stop telephoning me at dinnertime.

- Anne Repp, coordinator,
Undergraduate Scholarships, Prizes, and Honors

I have a huge stack of recommendation letters to write and then exams to prepare, from which I won't emerge until Valentine's Day. So what I'm wishing for is a nice robot who can answer my e-mail and give me a back rub at the same time.

- Ken Goldberg, professor, industrial engineering
and operations research

I would happily accept a pair of fuzzy pink slippers, a Roomba robotic vacuum (a practical gift, considering that I live with one husband, two Schipperkes, two Maine Coons, one domestic longhaired cat and one domestic shorthaired cat), and a fruitcake (seriously).

- Nancy Horton, director, Annual Giving and Corporate
and Foundation Relations, College of Chemistry

I would like 1,000 square feet of display area on campus so that students and the university community would be able to see and study the 28 plaster casts of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture (out of more than 200) that have been conserved and prepared for exhibition (see casts.berkeley.edu). Most of these have been in the university's possession for more than a century, but neglected and exiled. Now a few of the whole collection have been repaired and are available for viewing, but in the basement of a warehouse in Emeryville, far from normal campus life. A few hardy souls make it there, but how wonderful if those casts were near at hand; a gift that would keep giving.

- Stephen Miller, professor emeritus, classics

My first wish would be a New Year calendar with a 13th month to allow time for holiday fun in Napa, Sonoma, and Carmel - plus a trip to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Go Bears in 2006!

- Mary Catherine Birgeneau

The gift that just keeps on confusing: I've always wanted my name to be on an inconspicuous brass plaque attached to a wooden bench in a secluded part of the Botanical Garden, so that every now and then some couple who'd come a-courtin' might interrupt their smooching to ask, "Who the hell is Steve Seid?"

- Steve Seid, assistant video curator, Pacific Film Archive

First, a hand-painted ceramic mug from my five-year-old daughter. (This gift sounds deceptively simple, but it will, in fact, require her father to take her on a several-hour outing to the ceramic-painting studio, followed by a return trip one week later to pick it up after it's been fired. It may also be accompanied by a short temper tantrum when one of the colors doesn't turn out to look the way it did prior to the firing process.)

Second, a new winter raincoat. (Oh, wait - does it matter if I already bought it myself?) The lovely shade of burnt orange that I purchased quickly prompted a colleague to comment, "Well, at least you won't accidentally get shot by hunters."

Third, an elf to lovingly load about 100 CDs onto my iPod. I am terribly lazy about downloading or copying music onto my iPod (last year's Christmas gift), and as a result half of the songs I have been listening to are my husband's taste in music rather than my own. (I just moved them from his iTunes program onto my iPod, rather than be bothered with creating my own list. It's a terribly disturbing habit, I know.)

- Jane Goodman, editorial director, University Relations

I told my wife that I'd love to find a 2006 bicycle-racing license in my stocking. On my last birthday I came up with a list of things I wanted to do in my 30th year, and the most inexplicably intimidating item on the agenda was to enter my first bicycle race. Now half a year has gone by, and I think I might need a little encouragement from Santa to actually follow through....

- Cyril Manning, associate director,
College of Natural Resources Public Affairs

If world peace is off the table, I'd settle for true Windows-Mac compatibility (Mr. Chairman, tear down that wall!). Failing that, I'd wish for non-cynical, non-cash-cow local parking bureaucracies, with most meters working and unambiguous free parking by the ones that don't. (Guilty until proven innocent is the wrong philosophy for any governmental apparatus.)

If I were mean, I'd give a less-than-favorite somebody the Flybar pogo stick ("jumps over five feet high") as an apartment toy, then notify their next of kin to go scrape them off the ceiling.

As for my personal needs, I can barely live without the Remote-Controlled Humvee Zero-Gravity Wall Climber (only $99.95!). Some sort of pneumatic technology lets it climb any smooth surface, including wallpaper, without leaving tracks. (Maybe the doors open, so I can put my Arnold action figure in the driver's seat.)

Or the 30-inch, whip-tailed, triple-personalitied biomechanical Roboraptor, which uses infrared vision to detect prey. Eats six AA and three AAA batteries (not included).

For sheer decadence, I'd want to plug my iPod into the iJoy ZipConnect Massage Chair with Built-in Speakers and Subwoofer, in, say, neo-retro blue Faux Suede, for only $899.95, with one-touch power recline, laptop or lamp outlet, and the obligatory built-in cup holder. (Matching massaging ottoman for only about 380 bucks on top.)

But I'll probably get a tie.

- Dick Corten, senior writer, Graduate Division