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Wonder What Your Professors Are Doing For Christmas? Click Here To Find Out!


What are you doing and where will you be for the holidays this year?


I will be staying in San Diego, and spending Christmas with my partner, her mother, and my two dogs.  Professor Lori Watson, Department of Philosophy


I will be here in San Diego; while it doesn’t make too much sense to venture into the frozen Midwest, I will be teaching intersession, which cuts into possible travel time.  I look forward to having maybe a day or two off in between finishing grading the fall semester and then starting to teach again on the third (January).  Maybe I’ll go outside on that day off - it depends on whether I will feel like wearing shoes.  Professor Susie Babka, Department of Theology and Religious Studies

My wife and I are both from the East and so we do a whole swing through the Northeast.  We'll be flying into Pennsylvania for Christmas to be with her family and then driving about 500 miles to my family in Massachusetts where we'll spend New Years...and this year we get to do it all with a four-month-old!  Professor Eric Page, Department of Physics

We'll be visiting my in-laws in San Francisco for Christmas, then back with my folks in San Diego for the New Year. Professor Esteban del Rio, Department of Communication Studies


I will be going to my hometown, San Luis Obispo, California.  Although it is on California’s central coast, I can fly to New York and half way back in the amount of time it will take me to just get there.  And that’s not even counting the drive back to San Diego. Professor Noelle Norton, Department of Political Science and International Relations


 What is the best (or worst) gift that you have ever received? 


The worst gift I received was a sweater with a machine-embroidered Santa (and 3-D beard) and reindeer scene, complete with tiny jingle bells and the command “To all a good night”.  I just don’t do Christmas sweaters.  But the worst Christmas thing I ever saw to give was a Nativity scene done entirely in teddy bears: a teddy bear Mary with a blue mantle, a teddy bear Joseph, teddy bear Jesus in a manger with a tiny gold halo - you get the idea.  The only figures that weren’t teddy bears were the farm animals that occupied the stable (I suppose it is relatively impossible to construct a teddy bear goat).  From a theological perspective, there is so much that is wrong with this, I don’t know where to begin.  Professor Susie Babka, Department of Theology and Religious Studies


The best gift I got was a $50 bill when I was 8 from my godfather. I was stunned.  Professor Esteban del Rio, Department of Communication Studies 


Worst gift I ever got was a sweatshirt decorated with holiday glitter that said "Ho, Ho, Ho."  It was two sizes too small.  Professor Lori Watson, Department of Philosophy

Does the Commodore 64 when I was six-years-old count?  Seriously though, my brother has two partial-season tickets for the Red Sox at Fenway Park.  One year for Christmas he gave one to me and one to our dad, and worked it out with the people next in the boxes next to him so that the three of us could go together.  Baseball was always huge in my family.  Of course we actually went 7 months later, but we're pretty spread out these days, so to have the three of us together like that was amazing! Professor Eric Page, Department of Physics

I can’t decide whether my favorite gift is a set of pearls my husband gave me for our second Christmas together, or the set of All-Clad pans he gave me last year!  I’m not joking; I LOVE those two gifts equally!  Professor Noelle Norton, Department of Political Science and International Relations


When I was in graduate school, a boyfriend gave me a sewing machine which I considered a terribly unromantic gift.  Well, perhaps I misjudged the gift, since much later I used it to sew my wedding dress when I married a different guy and have sewed innumerable costumes for our children with it! Professor Sue Lowery, Department of Biology


 Do you and/or your family have an annual holiday tradition? If not, what do you eat a lot of during the season?


We eat a lot of ravioli and play a lot of poker. Professor Esteban del Rio, Department of Communication Studies


We go out to dinner on Christmas Eve, and then open all the presents when we get home, sleep in Christmas morning, and have pancake breakfast.  Professor Lori Watson, Department of Philosophy


We will eat a lot of cheese - melted, cubed, maybe fried - so it is a good thing we won’t be traveling this year.  Professor Susie Babka, Department of Theology and Religious Studies


Cookies and treats!  When I was a kid, my family and the Smith family next door worked two solid days on our candy and cookie extravaganza.  Tins of treats were piled three deep on our dining room table and most of our friends knew to recycle their special gift platter for the next year.  I wish I was that ambitious now.  Professor Sue Lowery, Department of Biology


When at my family’s house, my mother asks us to gather around the table and tell a story, show a picture, sing a song, read a poem, or recount a memory of the movement between dark and light. My nephew is an artist and usually draws something that he has spent all day designing; my husband recounts horror stories of walking out of dark buildings filled with smoke when he was a young fire fighter, some others roll their eyes to say “not this again;” I always sing a song – which is quite entertaining because I’m not a vocalist of any kind; and my mother reads a poem.  Professor Noelle Norton, Department of Political Science and International Relations

Nothing too special.  We all get together at my brothers and have a Yankee Swap - which can get downright brutal.  If you don't know, in a Yankee swap, everyone brings one present.   You get a number and choose presents based on the number, but when it’s your turn, you can either steal a gift already opened, or take a new one.  There's always that one great gift...the stealing begins and, well, you know family...words are said...egg nog gets thrown...yadda yadda yadda.  It's actually a lot of fun.  Professor Eric Page, Department of Physics


Is there a funny or interesting holiday story that you would like to share? 


My parents went to a Christmas party with friends and our elderly neighbor stayed with my brother and me.  Early in the evening a drunk wandered by our house looking for a handout, a shocking event in 1960s Mississippi where Prohibition had not yet been repealed!  Our neighbor was so upset, that when Santa arrived later (sent from the party by my parents), Miss Annie refused to let him in!  My brother and I could only look on in horror as the jolly old elf was turned away! Professor Sue Lowery, Department of Biology


How about the time I got a Christmas present I opened a past boyfriend, another past boyfriend, and then one from my current boyfriend who was sitting in the room. They were all GREAT presents.  That was my best Christmas haul ever!  Professor Noelle Norton, Department of Political Science and International Relations


Last year I went home for Christmas to Virginia.  There was a blizzard which dumped three feet of snow in the D.C. area. My brother and I shoveled out the driveway, while my dad stood safe and warm behind the glass doors of the house, occasionally poking his head out to tell us how we were doing it wrong.  That’s when I decided to stay in San Diego for this year!   Professor Lori Watson, Department of Philosophy


My parents were relentless in trying to maintain my nine-year old skepticism over whether there was a Santa Claus (possibly because I am the oldest and they were terrified the word would get out).  They went to great lengths to confound me, colluding with neighbors about setting out presents while we were away at Christmas Eve mass, that sort of thing.  My father tried to show through complex physics equations that it was at least possible for a sleigh to hold presents for millions of children; but to me it was simply the question of time.  How could a three hundred pound man hit every dwelling on earth in twenty-four hours?  But they persisted.  Then I asked, ‘what kind of Christmas figure doesn’t give anything to poor children?’  That did it, they admitted defeat, and I later became a theologian.  Professor Susie Babka, Department of Theology and Religious Studies

Well, this isn't really funny, but pretty interesting.  One year, while I was a graduate student in Rochester, NY, I decided to take the train home to Massachusetts for Christmas instead of driving.  All started well.  The train was on time but almost three hours later into a nine hour trip, the train jarred a few times, slowed to a stop, and then the power went out.  Now, we were somewhere between Syracuse and Utica, NY, which is to say in the middle of nowhere.  The conductor came through, told us there was an electrical problem ( don't say) and that it would just be a bit longer before we get going.  About four hours later with passenger tempers flaring, they found another train engine to 'push' us back to Syracuse and then bused us on to Massachusetts where my mom picked me up at 4:00 a.m.  The interesting part came six months later, when I rode the train again.  I got on a very busy car, and took the only empty seat - which just happened to be next to the conductor from the failed holiday train!  He was off-duty and on his way home.  That turned out to be a very interesting few hours - he told me all the ins and outs of what really happened - an overheated engine they thought might actually explode!  He told me about the death threats he received from some passengers near the end (holiday spirit, anyone?) and how they used the last bit of engine power to move us to a place where other trains could get around ours. As it turned out, he had a master’s degree in chemistry and we talked about going from science to realizing his love of trains, and how he found peace traveling the country and meeting people for a living.  A really cool experience in the end!  Professor Eric Page, Department of Physics


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