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
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
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!
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?
my head? Because eventually, they will.
They tell me it was unusually rainy this winter, but it was nice by
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.
So I killed it. "It" had the unmistakable red hourglass marking of a
female Black Widow. Gulp!
- Daddy, there's a spider here. Kill it!
- You're this big and the spider's only this big, so what's the big
- Just kill it, please!
- OK. Where is it?
- On our cards.
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
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.