12 CHAPTER 1. THE MEANING OF LIFE have a proactive and trusting relationship with the people in your workplace. This certainly will involve activities other than actually working (much of the work that a mathematician does is, after all, solitary). But you will actually have to work at being collegial. Also the discipline has become more competitive. In the old days nobody was paid very well, and almost everyone with a body temperature above 93◦ had an NSF research grant. Today salaries are all over the map—and everyone knows it—and NSF grants are about as hard to get as vintage Elvis Presley records. Often the department colloquium has disintegrated into a number of competing seminars. I don’t mean to paint a bleak picture. Math departments can still be friendly places—fun to work in and intellectually stimulating. But they are different from what they were in years past. In the late 1970s at UCLA there was a very special logic seminar called the Cabal Seminar. One might wonder about the provenance of this un- usual name. Certainly it suggests something dark and mysterious for the cognoscenti. It turns out that the seminar was named in honor of the orga- nizers’ favorite real estate agent. Whenever they used her services to help a new mathematician relocate, she would give them a kickback from her commission. And they used the money to run the seminar. The pleasures derived from this largesse were quite evident. On Fridays, when the rest of us were at tea eating Ritz crackers and drinking tepid tea, the logicians would be sitting off in the corner quaffing chilled wine and eating Camembert and at´ e de foie gras. And they were able to bring in a number of classy speakers for their mathematical activities. This is just the reality of life. There was nothing unfriendly about what the logicians were doing. But those who have enjoy and those who don’t have don’t. It is important to do what you can to contribute to the collegiality of your Department. Go to lunch with colleagues. Participate in Ping-Pong games or intramural sports. Go out with friends for a beer after work. Get together on weekends for barbecues or picnics. Give as many parties as you (and your partner) feel comfortable giving. Working with people whom you like and trust, and with whom you feel comfortable, is a commodity that you just cannot buy. It can really smooth things out in your professional life.
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