Saturday, August 13, 2005


I would imagine that we all have a list of our great regrets. One of my top three was brought home to me this week when I went up to Cambridge for a couple of days to give a talk for a seminar that one of my favorite people in the profession, Tony Badger, was holding at Clare College. When I was first on the job market some three years ago, I was one of two finalists for a one-year position at Cambridge. Just the day before I had accepted a tenure track job elsewhere, and upon consulting with my advisor and some Italian-American clown named Bruscino, I decided that it was best to turn down the Cambridge opportunity and do the smart thing. The smart thing turned out to be a disaster of epic proportions, and my chance to have had a job, however fleeting, at a place like Cambridge, was gone.

Cambridge is stunning. It will seem like apostasy given my current affiliation, but on first glance, Cambridge is more impressive than Oxford. The colleges are more open and visible, unlike at Oxford, where most of them are hidden behind walls. The Cambridge colleges are also grouped more closely together. The classic cliche about Oxford is that people show up and ask "where is the campus," only to get derisive looks from the locals. At Cambridge there is something approximating the more traditional university campus, and it is stunning.

My talk went very well, and Tony gave the sort of introduction that made me blush. In fact, if Cambridge has a history opening this year, I'd like for the search chair to go and get a copy of that introduction, because it made a case for me that I never could have made.

I'm in London now visiting my cousin. The next week is full of meandering, but I'll post as I can and will trust that you are in good hands with the other guys.

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