Saturday, November 27, 2004

Autumn in Berkeley

The city of Berkeley sits on a slope, bounded by water to the west and the hill top on the east. It's very difficult to get lost, here: up is east, and there are enough landmarks on the steep part of the slope that it's easy to figure how far north or south you are, except perhaps when it's dark and the fog has rolled in.

I think the slope of the hill enhances a lot of things I like about the Berkeley campus. The slope is pretty gentle until around Oxford, which runs along the east edge of campus; then it gets a little steeper. The campus is covered with trees, most of them pines; many of them are several stories high, enough so that many of the buildings about campus sit next to trees that reach to their rooflines. It helps that earthquake concerns and the mutterings of the Berkeley city council conspire to make very tall buildings rare. Between the trees and the topography, fir green is everywhere. You look at the buildings as you walk up the hill, and they're limned in green. The view changes a little if you turn around; but if you're high enough on the hill that you overlook the green, then you can probably see glimpses of the Bay.

I spent some time outside today, both sitting at an outdoors table at Cafe Strada on the south side of campus and simply strolling about. It rained this morning, but then the sky cleared, and so the campus had that faint aroma that grass and trees get when they're watered by rain and then dried by the sun. There was a breeze, and the air was just a little crisp. Campus was very quiet -- perhaps not surprisingly for the post-Thanksgiving weekend -- but Strada was doing a lively business even today, and between sections in my book, I watched the people come and go. The cafes of Berkeley are good places for people-watching: all manner of folks passed through, and I overheard snippets of conversation about experimental physics and wool-lined coats, and more than a few bits of French and Mandarin and other languages that I was unable to identify. I usually would just go to Brewed Awakening, which is just around the corner from Soda Hall and which is typically crowded with a mix of computer scientists, mathematicians, and engineers that from the north end of campus and theologians from the nearby seminary; but the sun was bright, and I was in no hurry, and today seemed like a good day to venture elsewhere.

I bought two things for my corner of the office this week: some milk crates and shelve boards to let me pack books more efficiently (it looks much more handsome than you'd expect from that description); and a clear glass mug from the bric-a-brac section of Goodwill, a souvenir from the 2001 System-on-Chip conference with the Cadence logo on it. It's great: it's clear glass, but it has a handle and thick sides and bottom, so it's possible for me to keep tea in it without accidentally burning my hands. I had a cup of Russian Caravan tea, earlier, while I listened to A Prairie Home Companion on the radio and replied to a few e-mails. And now, here I sit: books before me, tea beside me, and quiet around me. Life is good.

Time to get more tea.