UC Berkeley News


The joy of receiving
Staff and faculty unwrap their holiday wishes

| 07 December 2006

The advent of the holidays brings with it the need to ponder what gifts our friends and loved ones might desire. Yet who among us hasn't happened on a tantalizing bauble or gotta-have gadget while shopping for others? The Berkeleyan asked a number of people on campus to forget momentarily about family and friends and instead reflect on what they themselves would like to receive. Our only request was that our respondents focus on goods and services, reserving their wishes for world peace for another forum.

I have had the very fortunate opportunity to have visited Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) on two separate vacations. However, both times were during the "light" months. In fact, one was during the midsummer festivals when it barely turns night, a few hours at most. What I would like for Christmas is to go to Scandinavia during the winter holidays. Having grown up with snow at Christmastime, I do miss that, and the idea of the Scandinavian festivities - snow, candles, cookies, and mistletoe - would be a great treat for me. Maybe not this Christmas, but it is a wish that I hope to fulfill sometime in the next few years.

- Linda Jarvis, assistant to the chair, Mathematics

Last year for the holidays I got a surprise - I had to treat myself to a new car radiator. So this year I would like a new car, preferably a hybrid vehicle with 4-wheel drive that also has an automatic transmission (I can't drive a stick). I am also wishing for a Burton or Salomon snowboard and bindings to take to Tahoe in my new environmentally conscious car. With the money I just saved on gas for my new car I would also take a vacation to a French chateau and rent a bicycle to take in the scenery on the way to the nearest Loire Valley vineyard.

- Lori Fulling, web marketing assistant/coordinator, UC Berkeley Extension

Okay, if world peace is reserved for another time, then how about peace at home? I've asked for one day of peace and quiet at home as a birthday wish and for Father's Day - but with three boys, their social activities, and a house full of projects, so far no luck. So maybe something more realistic, like a super-large HDTV or a Jag (I'll even settle for a pre-owned one) or maybe a vacation on an exotic island. Oh, so many things to choose from, but what dream gift to pick from? I know, a small gift under the tree, wrapped in plain paper with a simple bow. In this small package would be a SuperLotto ticket with the winning numbers to millions of dollars. I could then indulge myself, but more importantly I could fulfill the holiday wishes of my family and friends. That would be my holiday wish. Happy and safe holidays to all.

- Mitch Celaya, assistant chief of police, UC Police Department

I'm very excited about the prospect of taking a course on campus next semester. I wish Santa would pay my concurrent enrollment fee! In fact, while he's at it, I wish he'd waive the fees for all UC staff, so that more of us could take advantage of the intellectual riches that surround us here at Berkeley.

- Michele Rabkin, associate director, Consortium for the Arts & Arts Research Center

I am probably not the best person to ask, due to my huge antipathy to the holiday season - its commercialization largely - that causes me to want most a round-trip ticket to some exotic locale untouched by Christianity and Christmas (Papua New Guinea springs to mind, although they say Saudi Arabia is lovely this time of year) where I could get through December without being harassed by incessant and excessive marketing, depressed by rampant consumerism, and aggravated by "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" blasting out of every sound system. (Oh, and world peace would be nice.)

- Sarah Nathe, project manager, Disaster-Resistant University Initiative

The one thing that I could really use is an extra day every week. I would have this day entirely to myself. I wouldn't have to plan any meals or run errands or pick up or drop off kids on their whims. I think that I'd be able to use this day to do things that I never have time for. I could organize our millions of photos into albums, catch up on correspondence, clean out my purse, my car, my closet! Of course, along with this extra day, I'd need an extra dollop of self-discipline. Because I know that I'd end up spending the whole day playing "free cell" on the computer!

- Marcia Hickman, student affairs officer, Engineering Interdisciplinary Studies

In a parallel universe, I'd get a week off to go on an all-expense-paid vacation to some decadent spa with my sister Elizabeth. She's my best friend, she lives 2,000 miles away, and I only get to see her twice a year. When I do see her, we're surrounded by our children and other family members so we never get that quality sister time we need. We'd spend the whole week getting massages, hanging out by the pool, getting waited on hand and foot, and talking about sister things. We'd watch whatever we wanted to watch on the TV and not plan one meal, activity, outfit, etc., for another living being. Paradise.

- Esther Gulli, executive administrative officer, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

Christmas wishes, of sharing the holidays with my son and grandchildren - gingerbread cookies and making gifts, hot chocolate and Christmas carols, snowflakes dancing from the sky and making snow angels, watching them giggle while opening the presents Santa brought, hearing their laughter and seeing the joy of the holidays through the eyes of the very young and all the time remembering family and Christmas past.

- Mary Hills, administrative specialist, University Health Services

Samuel Beckett once wrote, "We spend our life trying to bring together in the same instant a ray of sunshine and a free bench." My holiday wish this year would combine this ray of sunshine, a free bench, and one of the many books I am eager to read.

I really enjoy the challenges and opportunities of my new position at Cal, and I greatly appreciate the warm welcome extended me from the entire Cal community. The job, however, combined with the activities of our six children, leaves me little time for the pleasure of reading, especially in the warm rays of sunlight. Some of the books piling up on my nightstand include The Cold War by John Lewis Gaddis; The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan; and The Blind Side, a new book by Michael Lewis.

- Nathan Brostrom, vice chancellor, Administration

What I would really like this year is one of those cheap-but-effective-when-used home gyms that can be purchased at Costco. I work out on my treadmill every night, and whenever we travel, my husband and I always stay at hotels that have gyms. He teases me that I am a gym rat at heart. He's right. We have the space, I have the desire, and he has the credit card. Who could ask for anything more?

- Elizabeth Sundstrom, appointments secretary, Chancellor's Immediate Office

Here's my list:

1. Trips to Italy every year.

2. I'm always going up and down to our cabin at Clear Lake and would love to have a new, red, shiny truck to travel in.

3. Endless cleaning services for our home so I can travel even more.

4. A guitar and lessons to go with it, because I have always wanted to sing around the campfire.

- Suz-Anna Morandin, office manager, Development Communications

I'm wishing for the following this holiday season:

1) A printing press from the U.S. Federal Reserve in San Francisco. Since I know how to run a printing press (absolutely true!) I'd happily print a few million dollars to fill the gaps left in our budget by the State of California. I would even be willing to put a portrait of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on a new $72 bill, in honor of the 72 percent of the campus budget that the State of California does not fund. Arnie would be holding a copy of the UC Berkeley budget and exclaiming, "I'm going to pump you up!"

2) A new garbage can that follows the litterbugs on campus around and jumps in front of their hands to receive the garbage that they carelessly drop. When they drop the second piece of litter, it escorts the litterbug off-campus.

3) A new, all-purpose exam that can be administered to any student in any topic and effectively gauge the quality of learning that the student has achieved. It would have a WiFi interface and automatically load test results straight to BEAR Facts.

4) A piece of software called "EveryForm" that automatically fills out any and every bureaucratic piece of paper necessary on the campus. Yes, it would need a supercomputer to run, but the College of Engineering will happily lend us time on theirs, I'm sure, for a fee that's reasonable compared to the time saved.

5) A new classroom microphone system called "Clarify" that translates, on the fly, my misspoken questions and explanations in my lectures and says what I should have said in the first place. The corresponding product, "NeverWrong," would correct answers that students give to my questions, but that particular device would be banned from the classroom at Berkeley. (Though it would be considered both mandatory and a fundamental entitlement at Stanford.)

- Al Pisano, professor, Mechanical Engineering

Mark Twain wrote the following to the New York World on Dec. 23, 1890, which should take some readers by surprise. As Mark Twain almost said,

It is my heart-warm and world-embracing Christmas hope and aspiration that all of us - the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the admired, the despised, the loved, the hated, the civilized, the savage - may eventually be gathered together in a heaven of everlasting rest and peace and bliss - except the inventor of the cell phone.

Of course he originally said "inventor of the telephone," not "cell phone," but I give you leave to supply whatever invention you want to in its stead.

- Robert Hirst, editor, Mark Twain Papers

Oh, how I wish that some elf or wise man or Santa's helper would magically appear in my office and take all of the hundreds of slides I have shot of different indigenous societies in the Amazon Basin, organize them all, and scan them onto CDs. This would take a miracle, of course, but isn't this the season for miracles?

- Katharine Milton, professor and chair, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

My first wish would be for Berkeley collectively to learn how to laugh at itself and the world once in a while, i.e., get a sense of humor.

But since that will never happen, here's a slightly less unrealistic gift I'd like to see bestowed on all of us: a saner way to share the streets. Having been hit by car at a four-way stop sign a month or so ago, I am especially sensitive to the leadfoots, cell-phone-gabbers, and oblivious walkers/cyclers/scooter-riders who seem to think that, once they're in motion, they're invincible. How about everyone pledge to make eye contact with fellow road-users?

- Phyllis Orrick, public affairs, Institute of Transportation Studies