Cal Culture

Urban Ore: Berkeley’s Eternal Garage Sale

Enter any grocery store franchise and prepare to be worked. It’s almost Halloween so you’ll see pumpkins, candy, straw, and speckled corn garnishing produce bins overflowing with honeycombed stacks of shiny, plump fruit. You’ll smell flowers, fresh bread, and deli meats. If you came at the right time you might hear a faint thunderstorm in the produce section and see soft mist falling on dewy greens.

“Have you tried Advanced Listerine?” A voice might chirp from the ceiling.

Union Yet? Worker Protections Elude Graduate Student Researchers

Nearly 15,000 graduate teaching assistants, student instructors, and readers in the UC system are full-fledged members of the labor movement. But UC graduate student researchers (GSRs) are the only student employees who are not protected by the UC Student Workers Union contract, and are not eligible to negotiate for better working conditions.

A Little Dotty: Berkeley Startup Has a New Way to Make Your House Smart

When giant tech companies like Intel or Samsung need to make a circuit board, they simply pop one out of their multi-billion dollar fabs or pony up a few million for a new machine. But when you’re just a tiny, underfunded startup putting together a prototype that you need to bake, you’ve got to look for something simpler and cheaper—a lot cheaper.

Making Believe: Actor Robert Sicular’s Devotion to Berkeley, the Bard, and The Bay

Born and raised in Berkeley, Robert Sicular feels sorry for people who didn’t grow up here. He even loved his time in high school, which he remembers as full of opportunities–not just in academics, but in sports and music and the arts. When he went there, Berkeley High School’s commitment to drama was clear—there was a theater technician and costumer along with the two drama teachers—all full-time.  

Shifting Gears: Law Prof Breaks Cycling Records

Berkeley law professor Molly Shaffer Van Houweling started competitive cycling in her 30s, and has since become a bit of a cycle-path. Last September, at 43, she broke the women’s Union Cycliste Internationale World Hour record, having already established herself as five-time amateur world champion in the UCI time trial and road race events.

In Memoriam: UC Berkeley Loses Two Students Studying Abroad

Two UC Berkeley students were killed in terrorist attacks within a span of two weeks this past July. Sophomore Tarishi Jain and 20 others were killed by armed men storming a café in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Nicolas Leslie, a junior, went missing and was eventually found dead after a truck driver murdered at least 84 people on the streets of Nice, France. Three other Berkeley students were injured in the attack.

Although Nicolas and Tarishi had different lives and career paths ahead of them, they had one thing in common: untapped potential.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Message in a Bottle: Nearly Four Decades After Launch the Voyager Record Still Inspires

This Friday night the Greek Theatre will host a one-night-only performance of music and storytelling exploring the “sounds, ideas, and culture of California and the West today.” Called “The Golden State Record,” the evening’s program—a joint presentation by the folks at Pop-Up Magazine, California Sunday Magazine (not to be confused with this magazine), and festival producer NoisePop—is a nod to the NASA Voyager Golden Records, which are carried by the twin space probes, Voyagers 1 and 2.

Out of the Gate: Serendipity or Something Else?

 I met Patricia Kearney ‘77 on the first day of Architecture school at UC Berkeley. We sat next to each other in our introductory design studio. One day, after a couple of months, I was waiting for the elevator in Wurster Hall when the doors opened and Patti emerged. I had never seen her so dressed up, and there she was in a white sundress with heels and makeup and flowing blonde hair and red lips and a lovely smile. My eyes captured this angelic vision and sent it straight to my heart. That was the moment I knew she was the one for me.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Well in Control: Berkeley Startup Helps People Find Out What They’re Drinking

Two factors that contributed to the poisoning of tens of thousands of Washington, D.C., residents through their drinking water in the early 2000s—lead pipes and a disinfectant called chloramine—continue to coexist in countless water systems nationwide, including in the Bay Area. But not to worry, says UC Berkeley water expert and engineering professor David Sedlak; they’re safe when properly managed, which happens in the vast majority of public water systems.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Step Right Up: Why Exactly Did I Vote for Bernie?

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the seductive nature of the 2016 American presidential campaign season. I like the drama, the mudslinging, the tabloid-style coverage, the gaffes, the slip-ups, and the never-ending political commentary from pundits. It’s oddly entertaining, no?

Although, let’s be honest: None of the empty party rhetoric and nastiness can prepare us or the candidates for the realities of elected office. We learned this lesson during Obama’s eight-year struggle to address serious issues while faced with a do-nothing Congress.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Breathing Easier: A New Device Could Help Detect Asthma Attacks Before They Start

To a very real degree, Charvi Shetty’s future was molded by her college roommate. Or rather, her roommate’s health.

“She had asthma,” says Shetty, who graduated from UC Berkeley with a bioengineering degree in 2012 and took a master’s in biomedical imaging from UCSF in 2013. “She had to use an inhaler six times a day. She told me that her childhood memories were of going to the ER, not Disneyland or the beach, and she was never allowed to play outside because of her allergies. Asthma controlled her life.”

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Step Right Up: Shaking Up Facebook

Like every other voter preparing for the upcoming election, I often cruise Facebook to gauge the mood of my fellow citizens. Not that I’m a fan of the site. To me, Facebook has always seemed like an inversion of the old “banality of evil” trope: It is the evil of banality, a fount of never-ending Likes and emoticons and pictures of highly caloric restaurant meals and garish sunsets and Frisbee-catching dogs. It is an online Leave It to Beaver updated to the digital age, a place where we can all cozily catch up and be comfortable and make soft, murmuring sounds to each other.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Eyes on the Octopus: In Trio of Studies, Berkeley Scientists Strive to Make Sense of the Cephalopods

It is a curious thing to consider that UC Berkeley, a school notably lacking a marine biology program, has produced not one, not two, but three published studies on the venerable octopus within the last year. But then octopuses, too, are curious to consider. They have three hearts; blue, copper-based blood; regenerating tentacles; and a level of sentience unique among invertebrates.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Fire Fight: FEMA Yanks Fuel Reduction Funds After Conservation Group Wages Legal Battle

Next month will mark the 25th anniversary of the Oakland Hills Fire, the epochal conflagration that started on October 19 and, driven by strong northeasterly winds, burned more than 1,500 acres over three days, killing 25 people and destroying some 2,500 homes and 400 apartments.

Anyone who lived in the Bay Area at that time will recall the massive column of smoke that rose from the East Bay during the day and the walls of flame that limned the topography of the hills at night. Those three days felt nothing short of apocalyptic.

Dreamboat: Nonprofit Builds Tall Ship For Kid-Sailors

Back in the day—way back in the day—young people went to sea to seek fame and fortune, or at least escape the boredom and poverty of the crofter’s hut or the squalor of early factories. But while the commercial sailing fleet is long gone, it remains more than a vivid memory in the Bay Area, where a dedicated crew of mariners isn’t just taking young people down to the sea in ships—they’re building a ship that will take them down to the sea in style, a tall ship based on the designs of a legendary 19 th   century naval architect.

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