Cal

Burning Questions: A Quick Guide to Key Wildfire Terms

A week after the eruption of the Camp Fire near the town of Paradise, California, 142,000 acres have burned, setting state records for wildfire destruction.

Despite the hundreds still missing and worsening air quality in much of the state, there has been significant progress in battling the flames. As of this writing, according to Cal Fire officials, the Butte County blaze is now 45 percent contained, with full containment expected by November 30.

How Did the Axe Cross the Bay? A Ferry Tale

For those who know, the Stanford Axe is more than just a trophy. Awarded to the annual winner of the Stanford­–Cal “Big Game” (full disclosure: I’m a Stanford grad), the Axe represents one of the oldest college rivalries in the country, dating back to 1892. The origins of the Stanford Axe have been told again and again, including the infamous heist of the Axe by Cal students in 1899, and subsequent repossession by Stanford 30 years later.

Yet, some mysteries remain.

Five Questions for Cal Band’s New Director, Matthew Sadowski

1. You spent much of your professional life in Oregon and Washington, what inspired you to move to California and UC Berkeley?

I was certainly drawn by the name and the reputation, but also the health of the program, and the fact that the last four directors were here for many years, really their entire careers. Within this kind of profession, that speaks loudly. There’s a lot of support and a lot of opportunity here, and at a certain point it became clear to me that this was the way to go.

As California Burns, Experts Anticipate a “New Normal”

Tens of thousands of Californians have evacuated as massive fires, driven by intense winds, rage in both Northern and Southern California. The Camp Fire in Butte County, which destroyed the town of Paradise, grew to 70,000 acres overnight. It sent up a pall of smoke that has triggered air quality advisories across a large swath of the northern part of the state, including the Bay Area. In the South, two fires—the Hill and Woolsey fires—are being fanned by Santa Ana Winds and have forced some 75,000 homes to be evacuated in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties.

What’s The Deal with Daylight Saving Time?

Older than Red State versus Blue State, older than the Montagues versus the Capulets, humankind’s primal combat is the age-old conflict between the Night Owls and the Early Birds.

Night Owls, of whom (full disclosure here) this writer is one, are sophisticated folks who believe the pleasure of staying up late is exceeded only by the pleasure of sleeping in the next morning—or the next afternoon, if it comes to that. Their hero is Elvis Presley, who famously said, “The sun’s down and the moon’s pretty; it’s time to ramble.”

Polling in PJs: A Day in the Life of an Election Worker

Tonight, I’m cleaning out my garage. Not because it’s dirty or cluttered, but because I’m expecting a lot of guests tomorrow. I need to move some boxes, sweep the floor, finally put those pots and pans on the shelf. I also need to set up the tables, lay out the reading material, and hang some signs. Cleaning is deceptively relaxing; tomorrow has the potential to be hectic, and there’s a lot at stake. I don’t know exactly who’s going to show up—certainly some people I’ve never met before—but I’m hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

Slender Man: A Perfect Monster for Our Time

In 2014, Slender Man, the shadowy Internet meme in formalwear who inspired two 12-year-old girls in Waukesha, Wisconsin to lead their friend into the woods and stab her 19 times, caused a widespread panic. Adults everywhere saw Slender Man’s influence—albeit fictional and web-based—as a potential threat to the wellbeing of their children and themselves.

The Cost of Cobalt

Cobalt has been valued for centuries for the deep blue color it imparts to ceramic glazes and glass. Its current value has little to do with such stuff, however. Cobalt is sought today because it’s a critical element in lithium ion batteries, the devices that power our cell phones, computers, and electric vehicles.

Why Are Animals Becoming More Nocturnal?

Research out of UC Berkeley shows that animals around the world are becoming more nocturnal in response to human populations.

The study, published in the journal Science in June, found that mammals have, on average, become 1.36 times more active at night. In other words, a creature that normally would have split its activities equally between day and night, now carries out 68 percent of its activities at night, presumably in avoidance of humans.

From the Fall 2018 Culture Shift issue of California.

After the Playa: Decompressing with Burning Man’s Lawyer

Every morning on the playa, Ally Deraps wakes up in her trailer and stumbles outside into the dust to make breakfast, joining friends climbing out of tents and teepees for a bowl of oatmeal in the shade. She chooses an outfit for the day, usually something bright or themed. Then, around 10:30, she grabs a can of coffee and her Motorola radio and hops on her playa bike (furry purple seat, powder blue frame, strung with colored lights and sparkly pipe cleaners) for the 20-minute commute across Burning Man to work.

Beauty Is in The Eye of the Beholder (of Kidney Stones)

Amethyst, rose quartz, garnets, pearls…kidney stones? That’s right—it might just be time to add a lesser known formation to the list of gemstones you might want for your engagement ring. Turns out, those uncharming urinary deposits that affect more than ten percent of people across the globe are surprisingly interesting, beneath their rough exterior.

Q&A: The Most Toxic Town in America

Located in the high desert of eastern Washington along the Columbia River, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation has played a crucial role in global war and peace for more than half a century. It’s also the most heavily contaminated nuclear site in the country—one that few people know about.

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