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Ten absolutely, strictly free things to do

| 10 September 2009

Agave in UC Botanical Garden

Call them freebies, perks, or psychic benefits - a slew of splendid gratis goodies are available to Berkeley staff and faculty. Some of the pleasures below are free to anyone with a Cal ID, while others, though available to all, are temptingly close at hand. So go ahead and post this page on the wall as a reminder that, indeed, some of the best things at Berkeley are free.

Green getaways

Want to see plants from around the world without leaving the cozy confines of Strawberry Canyon? A Cal ID admits you to the UC Botanical Garden, home to one of the most diverse plant collections in the U.S. Located on the hillside above campus, the garden covers 34 acres, boasts more than 12,000 plants, and makes an ideal picnic spot. Next up: The garden's fall plant sale, Sunday, Sept. 27, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Treasure troves

The campus's libraries provide a passport to countless worlds. Check out (for two weeks) the latest fiction, nonfiction, and mysteries from Morrison Library. Explore Doe Library's enticing stacks. Access hundreds of online information sources through the Library, ranging from reference books and magazine and newspaper databases to the full contents of more than 18,000 scholarly journals (many of these resources are restricted by licensing arrangements to campus access only). Dive in to online offerings at

Discovery zone

Take a free UC shuttle bus to the Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS), where a Cal ID gains you free admission and a 10 percent discount at its café. In addition to its ongoing and changing exhibitions, LHS offers Saturday-night stargazing, live demonstrations, a planetarium, fun kids' activities, and unbeatable panoramic views of the bay. Note: LHS is refurbishing its interior space and will reopen Sept. 30.

Audacious odes

On the first Thursday of each month during the fall and spring semesters, poetry fans snuggle into sofas in the Morrison Library to hear midday verse. For 13 years, Professor of English and former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass has brought poetic luminaries to Berkeley to read their work at Lunch Poems. Next up: Dublin-born Eavan Boland, director of the creative-writing program at Stanford University, on Oct. 1.

Eye Candy

Bronze by Carpeaux/BAM collection

The Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, the campus's visual-arts center, presents cutting-edge exhibitions and adventurous films year 'round. Berkeley faculty and staff receive free admission to the art museum and a discounted rate on film screenings at the PFA. This month, BAM/PFA opens new exhibits by photographer Ari Marcopoulos and artist Fernando Botero, and hosts a film series on American expatriate filmmaker and social satirist William Klein.

Beautiful hang-ups

Need to jazz up your wall space? Morrison Library's Graphic Arts Loan Collection lends framed original prints to Berkeley students, faculty, and staff. The 700-plus-piece collection includes works by such artists as Leonard Baskin, Marc Chagall, Ando Hiroshige, and Kurt Schwitters. Prospective borrowers can browse the collection online, reserve a print for a one-semester loan, then check out the art with a Cal ID.

Dave Eggers

Entrancing narratives

A prose companion to the long-running Lunch Poems series, Story Hour in the Library features readings by fiction (and sometimes nonfiction) writers the second Thursday of each month during the school year, at 5 p.m. in the Morrison Library. English- department faculty members Vikram Chandra and Melanie Abrams have lined up a stellar roster for Story Hour's sophomore year, including Daniel Handler, Mary Roach, and Dave Eggers.

Musical refuge

For 57 years, the Department of Music has presented its Noon Concert series, a weekly lunch-hour program in Hertz Concert Hall. The lineup this semester includes the University Symphony Orchestra performing Siblelius' Symphony No. 5 (Sept. 16), a Messiaen tribute (Sept. 30), and the University Chorus' popular holiday choral performance (Dec. 9). Concerts run from 12:15 to 1 p.m.; no tickets are required.

On key, or off

Need a quiet place to practice piano or play your instrument? Then avail yourself of a practice room all your own in Morrison Hall's basement. The Department of Music provides Berkeley faculty and staff with space to do their instrumental thing on evenings and weekends; music majors and grad students (and members of department-sponsored ensembles) get the daytime slots. For details, visit

Beautiful minds

Once you're accepted to an undergraduate or graduate program at Berkeley, take advantage of tuition at two-thirds off the regular rate. Also, UC Extension offers staff a 10 percent discount on its courses. And the best and brightest minds come to Berkeley to give lectures and symposia - and most of them (the talks, not the minds) are free. Check out the campus's online calendar for a complete list of events.