Riverside, CA: July 1994--June 1995

University of California, Riverside

One of the smaller of the UC system in student and faculty size, one of the largest in physical area (you have to measure it in terms of square miles!), so there's lots of room to grow. And grow it will -- student body is planned (not expected, but planned -- one of the benefits/drawbacks of being a state school) to almost double in 10 years.

It has plans to move up, particularly in selected areas, such as robotics and environmental engineering. UCR does seem to have a bit of an inferiority complex, especially when compared with UCLA or Irvine. Not quite as bad a case as WPI has vis a vis MIT, but present nonetheless.

The faculty

Pretty good in CS, with some good young people. The EE department is too small and isn't uniformly good. Part of that is that only CS has a Ph.D. program within the College of Engineering. But they have not hired enough real builders in the EE department who will form the long-term core faculty. CS is in much better shape. Overall, they treat the faculty quite well here, at least in terms of remuneration and respect.

Student and staff diversity

I felt like I had walked out of an Aryan Nation meeting and into the Rainbow Coalition!

Campus politics

Being a state school has pluses and minuses. It is good to be able to bill the taxpayers for a new Engineering Library. On the other hand, the voters overturned a measure that would have funded it, delaying the project (but not canceling it). California politics gets involved in the schools, since the Board of Regents consists of political appointees. A former State Senator and a former Riverside County Sheriff are setting up a Center for Law Enforcement, using funds earmarked by the state. Someone deserves a lot of credit for knowing how to play the game and playing it very well!

Off-campus politics

Politics off-campus is very conservative -- remember this is Sonny Bono's district -- Nixon and Reagan are gods. Local government is highly pro-business, except when it conflicts with their sense of downtown pride (no MacDonalds near the Mission Inn, for example).


Another state minus. Examples: paying for local calls (Heaven forbid the state should get stuck with a $0.63 tab on my phone!), not to mention long distance; having to get approval from the Academic Senate for my appointment as Visiting Associate Professor (and they aren't even paying me to come here!); tight control over office supplies; etc.


The chances of a major one during a sabbatical year are fairly small, but during a lifetime, well... The San Andreas is 13 miles from campus and that portion of the fault has been locked for centuries. It is estimated to have a 50% chance of major shaking within the next 30 years, however. The Fort Tejon earthquake of 1856 about 100 miles from here ruptured the ground for 200 miles with a horizontal displacement up to 30 feet. Magnitude was 8.3, compared with 6.8-6.9 in Northridge. The San Jacinto Fault is actually more of concern, as it passes only 4 miles from UCR and it has slipped in recorded times.

No matter where in California you live and work, you should ask yourself: What will I do when all my computers, peripherals, phones, books, etc. fall to the floor? Or on my head? Because eventually, they will.


They tell me it was unusually rainy this winter, but it was nice by Massachusetts standards. Summer was bone dry, with 0.10" of rain from July through Christmas, no exaggerating! And hot, with 11 straight days over 100. I had never experienced 111 degree heat before. It was absolutely brutal. Interesting thing about the desert (technically speaking, Riverside's 12" of yearly rainfall qualifies it) is that the temperature can easily drop 40 degrees at night with no buffering clouds or moisture. If you dislike long pants, well, this is the place for you! I wore shorts right through October. The daytime high failed to reach 60 maybe twice this winter -- the official low downtown never hit freezing, but we did get frost at our house at the base of the mountains.


Summer's prevailing westerlies blow LA's pollution at Riverside and San Bernardino. The TV meteorologists give nightly air quality reports and predictions here. For our first 3 months the air quality in Riverside did not get better than "unhealthful," with several stage one alerts. Our eyes were stinging all summer. On some cloudless days we could not see the mountains 1.5 miles away. They say the air quality has improved greatly the past several years. Maybe so, but I view it as unlikely to improve further in the current anti-regulatory climate.

Beware the fauna

One night after dinner, Eric and David were playing cards in the family room when they both stood up.

Daddy, there's a spider here. Kill it!
You're this big and the spider's only this big, so what's the big deal?
Just kill it, please!
OK. Where is it?
On our cards.
So I killed it. "It" had the unmistakable red hourglass marking of a female Black Widow. Gulp!

Public schools

Riverside public schools stink. My son is at the top of his 2nd grade class here, but when we hear what his peers in Massachusetts are doing in school, he seems ill-prepared for 3rd grade. So much effort goes to bi-lingual here that Anglo kids (only 26% of his school) seem to get lost. If we were to stay here, private school would be mandatory.

A little boy wandered over to our house to play after school one day. It seems that his mother is in jail and his aunt had forgotten to pick him up at school, so he just got on a bus. A call to the school principal got matters straightened out, but this is what the schools here have to deal with.


Riverside has it. Gangs, drugs, rape, murder. The campus is a bit of a haven, however; I feel much safer at UCR at night than I did at MIT. There were some rapes in a neighborhood not far from here, but the police have him now. There is a general lack of respect for the law -- the college students who rented the house across from us refused to tone down a party one night, so they were all jailed; a police helicopter made an emergency landing in an intersection one night after being hit by gunfire; Riverside County is alleged to make most of the methamphetamine in the country; etc. Riverside has some very nice areas and we don't worry about crime much, but we are careful about locking our car when we're in it and to avoid certain areas at night.


Rush hour in LA is Hell paved over. Most of the traffic from this area heads east to LA and Orange County, so the commute into Riverside isn't too bad, I suppose. But I ride my bike and it only takes 6 minutes, so what do I care?!

There are towns that avoid many of Riverside's urban ills and they are probably reasonable commutes -- Temecula and Murrietta are 40 minutes to the south. Nearby Moreno Valley is as bad or worse than Riverside, only newer -- although it has a good WalMart and a great mall!

LA's new slogan

While we're on the topic of LA, they have a new slogan. "LA: Together, we're the best!" I don't think they could have possibly come up with anything less meaningful.


Life here can be very good. There is lots to do and see, and it is easy to get away from it all when you need to. It has been a great experience for us. I am glad we came. I will be glad to get home, too.