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Righting California

In 1978, Proposition 13 passed with 65 percent of the vote, and, to the cheers of millions both inside and outside the state, California’s tax revolt was born. 32 years later, the proposition is being blamed for everything from the gridlock in the Legislature to soaring student fees right here at the University of California. And yet, amid growing outcry for reform, Prop 13 remains popular with the electorate: According to a June 2008 poll, 57 percent of Californians would vote for it again. What gives?

Pure Enough for Berkeley?

In our latest issue, writer Brendan Buhler takes a sidelong look at what might be called Berkeley’s own brand of puritanism, a kind of “moral snobbishness” in which everything from the car you drive (you drive?!?) to the coffee you drink is taken as a sign of your morality (or lack thereof).

Talking About Their Generation

In the “Free Speech” section of the new issue of California, Chris Smith, M.J. ’01, looks at the political potential of the so-called Millennials, the generation born between, roughly speaking, 1980 and the late 90s. As Smith points out, the Tea Party may currently get all the press, but it’s this demographic contingent that will have the greater political impact in the long run — by far. “The numbers tell the story,” he writes.

Ron’s Version

We were saddened to hear the news of Ron Fimrite’s passing last Friday at age 79. Fimrite ’52 was a long-time writer for Sports Illustrated who had recently seen his final work through to publication. Entitled Golden Bears, the book is a comprehensive history of Cal football — the triumphs, the heartbreaks, the last-second miracles, … all of it.

Bill Gates at Cal

He arrived by helicopter at 10 in the morning and was on stage at Zellerbach by 11:15. The theme of his lecture, part of a five-campus tour, was “Giving Back: Finding the Best Way to Make a Difference.” For an hour the Microsoft founder talked about the work of the Gates Foundation and the role of universities like Berkeley in innovating to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. The event, which will be webcast beginning at 5 p.m.


Another photo from the archives. No dates or info, just a great action shot. Check out the face masks!

By the way, Bear fans, the football team will hold an open practice this Saturday, April 17, which is Cal Day, of course. For more on the big event, go here.


From the Archives

Here in the offices of California magazine, we have file cabinets filled with all manner of old photos from campus, even pre-dating the move to Berkeley. Many of the images are somewhat random and lacking anything much in the way of identifying information. Still, it’s fascinating stuff to look through (a bit like rummaging around in your grandparents’ attic), and we thought it only right to share some of it with readers.

So here’s the first installment: The baseball team in 1879.

Meet the Blogademics

In the latest issue of California magazine, contributor Cathleen McCarthy writes about Berkeley scholars who blog. For now, the activity doesn’t do much for their standing within the academy, where publication in peer-review journals and academic presses is still the coin of the realm. But blogging has given some academics, like economist Brad DeLong, a higher profile than he might otherwise enjoy, and along with it, greater influence on the body politic.

The Mother of Invention

In the Spring 2010 Issue of California, the theme of which is Truth and Lies, we go searching for Rube Goldberg’s Barodik. What’s a barodik? Well, according to the renowned cartoonist and Cal alum (1904), it was a scientific instrument so involved and complex that it filled an entire laboratory. Moreover, Goldberg said, it was the inspriation for all his famous ‘inventions’ — the cockamamie machines he dreamed up to accomplish mundane tasks. Naturally, we wanted a picture of the barodik for our pages, so we sent our intern Adam Mann to dig one up.

Sex Talk

It has been widely reported in various news outlets that women are more verbose than men. One commonly cited popular statistic held that women spoke an average of 20,000 words a day versus a mere 7,000 for men. While those figures have since been discredited, a number of rigorous studies purport to show the differences between how, and how much, men and women talk.

307 Gilman

“It’s a sort of will-o-the-wisp thing,” Glenn Seaborg once said of the discovery of plutonium. “We saw it and then it disappeared. Then we saw it again and then it disappeared and then finally we saw it and we could confirm it.” That confirmation happened in Room 307 Gilman Hall, on February 23, 1941. It was a stormy night, Seaborg recalled. The 5 microgram sample of “element 94” had been bombarded in Ernest O. Lawrence’s 60-inch cyclotron.

Starting Lineup

Jahvid Best Junior/Football

Cal football’s explosive running back Jahvid Best will return to the gridiron his junior year as one of the top contenders for the 2009 Heisman Trophy. Last year, the All-American was the conference’s leading rusher, boasting a Cal-record-breaking 8.1 yards per carry.

Pia Halbig Junior/Golf


1. A philosophical study of moral choices as demonstrated by the “trolley problem”: An out-of-control trolley hurtling down its track will kill the five people in its path. A switch, however, will redirect the trolley to another track where only one person would be hit. Is it permissible to hit the switch? Now imagine five people are in the path of the trolley and there is no switch. A heavy man is walking along a bridge above the track. Pushing the heavy man onto the track would stop the trolley, saving the five lives but killing the man. Is it permissible to push him?


Gerard Debreu, who won a Nobel Prize in economics in 1983, was the first professor at Cal to be awarded the prestigious “Nobel Laureate” parking space. The idea for the perq can be traced to Berkeley’s only Laureate in Literature, Czeslaw Milosz, who jokingly requested it after Chancellor Ira Heyman asked Milosz if the university could do something special to show its appreciation.


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