I met up with some old friends from Boulder in a pizza joint in Menlo Park on our way home from San Francisco. Our kids played, as we lingered over the meal and at Kepler's books afterwards. I have issues with the way the University of Colorado treats its graduate teaching assistants (not well), but my life is much richer for the people I met there.
As Richard Florida points out in Who's your city?, Boulder really is a special place. It is not just the jaw-droppingly beautiful mountain setting; it's a mecca for Earth Science and Atomic, Molecular and Optical (AMO) Physics.
Last week, I helped preside over an AGU session entitled High-Resolution Active Optical Remote Sensing of Atmospheric Processes in which every paper had a connection to Boulder. (Some of the papers don't list a current Boulder connection, but many authors have studied or worked there at some point in their careers or their Lidar system was built by a laser jock trained in Boulder.) Come to think of it, every other person at AGU seemed to have a connection to CU.
The last two weeks have been a blur, what with discussing science at AGU, volunteering to help run the meeting, visiting family and friends, and catching a cold. There is not much progress on the knitting or reading front. But I did read a fantastic column by James B. Stewart, Good Times Can Be Had in a Bad Economy.
Now we're in the midst of what many are calling the worst recession since World War II, something that might even qualify as a depression. I don't know what the future holds. But looking back over the years has brought me to a somewhat startling conclusion: Recessions have coincided with some of the best times of my life. Is this coincidence or causation? I'm not sure.Just as my own past health crises helped me get my priorities in order, a recently laid-off friend is exploring new avenues.
I don't mean to minimize the suffering and hardship that recessions bring and that are all too evident now as evictions and unemployment soar and as charitable endowments and donations plunge. But to the extent recessions shake up the status quo and force us to examine our goals and priorities, they also offer enormous opportunities.
- Read what Carl Wieman has to say about CU Boulder, including the famous “academic appendage to the football program” quote.
- Boulder and Berkeley do not make the list of The Best Colleges for Making Money, but they are two of the top five colleges for producing Peace Corp volunteers. But I am not sure about causality; perhaps the kids who attend CUB and UCB are already the kind inclined to volunteer for the Peace Corp anyway. And there are people at Berkeley who make a (convincing) argument that the Peace Corp is a tool for American imperialism.