Cal Culture

Once Upon a Time in The West: Tree Tussles in Old Berkeley

The towering old oak tree that stood east of Shattuck Avenue along Allston Way in Berkeley’s early days was known by many names, two of them rather ominous: The Vigilante Oak, some called it. Others referred to it as the Hanging Oak.

The macabre monikers allude to a violent moment in the community’s colorful past—sometime in the 1850s, before Berkeley got its name—when a hard-luck livestock thief was strung up from the tree in an act of frontier justice.

Reading Roundup: Facebook, Fires, Fashion, and More

Freaky Fires

While it’s not news that the golden state has taken on a crackling red hue from recent wildfires, reports of the fires’ behaviors are blazingly bizarre.

It’s been commonly observed by firefighters that fires slow down at night, according to Scott L. Stephens, UC Berkeley professor of fire science. But a number of recent fires have said “to hell with the slow burn!” and begun spreading quickly even when the sun goes down.

Five Questions for David Patterson

1. The Turing Award is often called the Nobel Prize of Computing. Counting faculty and alumni, Berkeley claims more Turing laureates than almost any other university in the world. That surprises a lot of people. Should it?

Let’s just say our competitors aren’t burdened with an overdeveloped case of humility.

From the Summer 2018 Our Town issue of California.

Reading Roundup: Bridges, College Admissions, Border Identity

UC Berkeley is consistently ranked one of the best research universities in the world, but what happens to researchers after they leave?

Earlier this month, four Cal grads—four! Can we get a Go Bears?!— were featured in the Lehigh Research Review for their remarkable work in sustainable infrastructure, college admission economics, and discourses on border identity.

Check out their research below to find out what these Berkeley grads-cum-Lehigh professors have been up to since they left the den.

A Diamond In The Rough: Ray Weschler’s Weekly Ballgame

On a cloudy Sunday in mid-May, Raymond Weschler chose Jim McGuire (Cal professor of biology) as his opposing captain, and teams were drawn up. Ray’s booming voice announced the lineup as chatting players finished stretching and headed out to the field. On the diamond at Berkeley’s magnificent Codornices Park, players are surrounded by towering oak trees, redwoods, walnuts and, lining the left-field foul line, Ponderosa pines, which are home to rowdy crows and, when struck by a foul ball, release a cloud of pollen.

Five Questions for Richard Schwartz

1. You’re a building contractor who has written several historical works, including Berkeley 1900; Eccentrics, Heroes, and Cutthroats of Old Berkeley; Earthquake Exodus, 1906; and most recently The Man Who Lit Lady Liberty: The Extraordinary Rise and Fall of Actor M. B. Curtis. Do you think of yourself as a builder who writes, or as a writer with a day job?

From the Summer 2018 Our Town issue of California.

WATCH: What’s In A Fossil?

Want more? For a behind-the-scenes tour of the ancient bones of the Campanile, check out Part 1 here.

Chancellor’s Letter: Developing People’s Park

Even though college students and faculty rarely wear the long, black medieval gowns symbolic of their status, the term “town and gown” still denotes the relationship between a college or university and its local community. The quality of that relationship can vary over time, as it has here, when interests converge and diverge. Yet, our campus and neighboring communities all benefit when we are able to collaborate for the greater good. And that is exactly what we are now doing to address the paired, pressing challenges of housing and homelessness, on our campus and in our city.

From the Summer 2018 Our Town issue of California.

10 Questions for Cal Football’s Favorite Bookworm

Cal running back and rising senior Patrick Laird is known for more than just his walk-on career and impressive collection of awards. An avid reader since childhood, Laird isn’t afraid to flaunt his bibliophilia—on the football field and now, in the classroom. With the support of Cal Athletics, he’s using his platform as a standout football player to encourage younger students to pick up a book (or four, or six) this summer.

Talk of the Town

You might not expect the mayor of Berkeley to show up for a meeting in dad jeans and running shoes. Or to be just 33 years old and living in a rented apartment with two roommates. Or to engage a reporter in a freewheeling discussion on some of the most controversial topics of the day without an aide or PR flack in attendance. But then again, Berkeley wasn’t expecting Jesse Arreguín ’07, who swept into office in 2016 in an upset victory over Councilman Laurie Capitelli, who had been endorsed by former Mayor Tom Bates.

From the Summer 2018 Our Town issue of California.

Editor’s Note: Goodbye

For most of the last ten years, this spot has been home to my 500-plus-word personal essays—somewhat eccentric attempts to lure readers into the magazine by riffing on the current theme. Themes that have included, among the 43 issues, global warming, electioneering, music, war, food, and power.

From the Summer 2018 Our Town issue of California.

WATCH: The Bones of the Campanile

There’s more to dusty old bones than meets the eye. For more on what fossils can teach us about climate change and evolution, watch Part 2 here.

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