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What’s the perfect Cal Day schedule?
We think we’ve found it .... unless, of course, we haven’t.

| 09 April 2003


cal day

Having fun with physics — in fact, just plain having fun — is a lot of what Cal Day’s about for the youngsters who poke around Berkeley’s nooks and crannies during each year’s open house.
Ben Ailes photo

Some visitors to Cal Day, the annual campus open house (April 12 this year) leave their itinerary to whim, or to its close relation, chance. They enter the campus at one end and loop back around some hours later, or else wander out another side altogether.

That doesn’t make them bad people.

Others sit down as soon as they’ve picked up their printed program, whip out a pencil, and survey the multitude of lectures, ceremonies, tours, open houses, and other diversions offered between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Soon they’ve scribbled a draft schedule on the program’s “Plan Your Day” page — a scheme they’ll either follow to the letter, or amend the moment a competing attraction beckons.

Each of these approaches has merit: the goal, after all, is to sample as diverse a selection of campus riches as time, inclination, and mood permit. And for first-time visitors in particular — incoming students and their families, newcomers to the campus staff or faculty — almost any system works.

But when you’ve got a few Cal Days under your belt, you start to wonder if there’s another way to organize the experience. Turns out, there is. A close study of the program of events — easily accomplished from the comfort of your cubicle by a visit to www.berkeley.edu/calday/2003/genprog.html — reveals patterns and themes that can help you experience this all-Berkeley buffet in an entirely new way.

Are there any questions?
That’s not a question — it’s our recommended Cal Day 2003 Organizing Principle.

We note that a number of this year’s events are posed as ponders, both literal and rhetorical. You could easily spend the day ferreting out the answers to these queries, starting at the opening bell with a 9 a.m. visit to McCone Hall. There, student guides with expertise in Earth and Planetary Science will both ask and answer the question “What Do Scientists Find in the Earth?” by showing visitors key gem, mineral, and rock samples, satellite images of la terra firma, and instruments used by seismologists and crystallographers.

An hour later, the provocative query “What’s the Good of the Liberal Arts?” will be raised before a respectful (and doubtless respectable) crowd by the articulate Steven Botterill, associate dean of the College of Letters and Science. We’re not privvy to his lecture notes, but we’re guessing that the liberal arts hold their own in this 10 a.m. Dwinelle Hall discussion.

Out of the lecture hall and into the fresh (albeit camphor-scented) air you head next, to the campus Eucalyptus Grove, where forest ecologist John Battles asks “Why Are the Bluegum Trees on Campus So Big?” He’ll have both raised and answered that question a couple of times before your 11 a.m. arrival — he’s on from 9.a.m. to 3 p.m. — so you can count on a practiced presentation.

Though a number of Cal Day events start at the stroke of noon, none of them have titles ending in question marks. So take a one-hour break to stroll the campus grounds, admiring the varied architecture, the justly celebrated landscaping, the awestruck would-be freshmen. Some time in a campus library would not be misspent — those are places where more questions are raised and answered than just about anywhere else. Doe and Moffitt, for example, both host open houses all Cal Day long.

Or use the noon hour to answer your own most pressing questions, one of which is likely to be “Where can I get something to eat around here?” Dining options both on and off campus range from the Free Speech Movement Café in Moffitt to the new Crossroads dining emporium at Bowditch St. and Channing Way, where brunch is served until 2 p.m.
But don’t linger over dessert, because the quizzical theme resumes at 1 p.m. sharp. And here we offer you a choice — between “Refractive Surgery: Is It for You?” (a School of Optometry session in Wheeler Hall) and “Why Should Students Have All the Fun?” (a Physics presentation in LeConte Hall). Depending on your decision, you may have a rare optometry trifecta within your grasp: simply stay put in Wheeler for 2 p.m.’s “Can Eye Exercises Help the Lazy Eye?” and the following hour’s “What Can Be Done With Contact Lenses These Days?”

But if you hanker for a dose of Realpolitik, don’t miss political science professor Steven Weber’s Dwinelle Hall talk (“Should the U.S. Adopt a Pre-emptive Military Strategy?”) at 2 p.m. Weber is bound to acknowledge the extent to which his question, submitted for scheduling purposes a number of weeks ago, has been rendered partially moot by events in the Middle East — though not so conclusively that there isn’t a great deal more to be said. This is clear from his remarks at last week’s faculty forum on the Iraq war (which you can review in transcript form at www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2003/04/02_forum_weber.shtml, or as part of the event webcast at webcast.berkeley.edu/events/details.html?event_id=69).

What more could a body do?
We must admit: we pondered a number of alternative itineraries before settling on the one sketched out here. One we considered briefly (very briefly) was a “Face Your Fears Tour,” which would certainly have included Steven Weber’s chirpy presentation, along with the “Hayward Fault Walking Tour” offered by Earth and Planetary Science several times during the day, Molecular and Cell Biology’s talk on “Infectious Disease: From Food Poisoning to Bioterrorism” (1-2 p.m. in VLSB), and others in this timely but gloomy vein. But we judged the bummer quotient unduly high, and moved on.

A more cheerful option was a modified version of the “Music! Music! Music!” itinerary outlined in last week’s Berkeleyan (www.berkeley.edu/news/berkeleyan/2003/04/02_calday.shtml), adherence to which would immerse visitors in a sonic sea of gamelans, string quartets, African drumming, a jazz trio, and a symphony orchestra (ours, since you ask).

That has undeniable appeal, but it entails a lot of walking around. The sedentary might embrace the “Stay in One Spot Plan,” which would keep a body planted all day long at International House (for the Edith Coliver International Spring Festival of Cultures between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.); the Lawrence Hall of Science (for a panoply of exhibits and activities between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.); 370 Dwinelle Hall between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. for the 11th Annual Celebration of Children’s Literature; Memorial Glade’s “CALnival!” activity area for kids, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m; or the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (two locations, technically, but why start quibbling now?) for workshops, storytelling, music, film, and art exhibitions between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Eliminated from our competition at the very last moment was the unacceptably self-referential “Tour Tour” — an itinerary of more than a dozen on- and off-campus tours of sites as diverse as the recently refurbished Wurster Hall, the Music Library, the UC Botanical Garden, and various fraternity and sorority houses. Cal Day’s organizers have already put that information in one easy-to-access spot on the web (www.berkeley.edu/calday/2003/tours.html), an online lily we just couldn’t bring ourselves to gild.

So we came back to Square One (a little-known redoubt in the shadow of the Tang Center). We’ll be pleased if you settle on “Are There Any Questions?”, the itinerary we’ve outlined. But we recognize that individual mileages vary: the menu of events is rich, the ultimate decision very much your own.

And please don’t worry: despite all the questions, there won’t be a quiz.

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