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Confessions of an Online Journalist: How I Killed My Profession

In the fall of 1994, when I was a young reporter struggling to pay the rent, I wrote a cover story for the San Francisco Bay Guardian: “Plugging In: An Idiot’s Guide to the Internet.” I explained why a 14.4 baud modem was a great deal, and reported that the Internet was a fantastic resource because “all kinds of information are available.”

I am so, so, sorry.

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Confessions of a Sex Columnist: Is Covering This Just a Freaky, Masochistic Act in Itself?

When I first started writing my sex column, I was what one might consider “sex positive.” As a kid growing up in rural Maryland, I had been influenced by the sexually liberated Bay Area—the place that elected the first openly gay mayor, inspired famous sex writers Susie Bright and Carol Queen, and, of course, was home to the Sexual Freedom League of 1966, a UC Berkeley student organization that campaigned for legalized abortion and held massive orgies in protest of sexual stigma.

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Academics of Arrangement: Berkeley Prof Deciphers How and Why We Organize Things

Robert Glushko’s job is to think about the organization of, well, everything: Ikea, zoos, spice racks, even crime families. He tries to get at the concepts behind how and why we arrange things, and what makes certain arrangements better than others. Take a bus, for example, says the UC Berkeley School of Information professor—it’s really just a vehicle traveling on a series of points on a graph. “If you replaced it with a spaceship, it wouldn’t matter,” he says. The ideas behind plotting a route would be the same.

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Are Journalism Schools Just Whistling Past the Graveyard—or Resuscitating the News Biz?

The keynote speaker at the 2014 commencement of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism—an elite institution that prepares students for a profession in which the prospects are, let’s face it, a little touch-and-go at the moment— was a former small-time drug dealer and heavy-duty coke addict who had been in and out of rehab five times, a “fat thug” (in his own words) who’d been known to beat women and wave a gun around on occasion.

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Say What? Scientists Devise an Algorithm That Detects Sarcasm Better Than Humans Can

Think people know when you’re being sarcastic? Yeah, right.

Studies show that most of us believe we are much better at communicating than we actually are, especially when interacting online. For instance, a 2005 study found that recipients correctly identified the sarcasm behind email statements only 56 percent of the time. Furthermore, the participants remained confident they were being understood even when their actual ability to convey sarcasm varied significantly between email and verbal communication.

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Strip It and Stash It: Climate Scientists Focus on Extracting the Carbon Already in Our Air

For decades, most of the strategizing about how to slow down climate change has focused on cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, mainly by shifting away from fossil fuels. Other proposals range from reducing meat consumption (cattle belch massive quantities of methane, a potent greenhouse gas) to curtailment of chlorofluorocarbons (compounds that both retain heat and destroy atmospheric ozone) in refrigerants and aerosols. 

Cal Vet’s Reflection: How Father and Son Marched to the Beats of Their Own Times

Fathers and sons—not surprisingly—have things in common. Frequently, the most important are not so obvious. Similar experiences converge as life unfolds. Some, however, are fate driven. I was able to influence my son’s journey in two significant ways.

First of all, we both went to Cal. Second, we both served in the military. Brad currently is a U.S. Army Officer. I served some 45 years ago under much different circumstances.

Pet Therapy: Students Increasingly Bringing “Emotional Support” Animals to College

Americans have not only embraced the Shultz dictum that happiness is a warm puppy: They’re applying it to warm rabbits, kangaroo rats, pot-bellied pigs, cockatiels and ferrets. And for that matter, to decidedly tepid ball pythons, Cuban rock iguanas and Chilean rose hair tarantulas. The issue here isn’t the type of beastie; it’s that animals equate to happiness, whether you’re at home, in the workplace, or in the stressful milieu that is the modern academy. An increasing number of students believe they benefit from having pets for emotional support or comfort.

The Selfless Quarterback: Cancer Intercepted Joe Roth’s Career, Not His Enduring Legacy

In 1975, two years before Tom Brady was born, another Golden Boy burst upon the football scene. He was a Cal quarterback named Joe Roth, and he had it all: looks (6-foot-4, with wavy blond hair and, in the words of his girlfriend, Tracy Lagos McAllister, “a super-cute smile”), brains, and an abiding Catholic faith that led him to take the Golden Rule seriously.

Bowles of Yore’s Coming Back—With Wi-Fi, a Co-Ed Drinking Song and a Funky Monkey Tiki

The re-birth of Bowles Hall is so far proceeding on schedule and on budget. And might include a monkey tiki.

The $40 million renovation of the iconic, 1929 dormitory has been moving forward at a rapid clip since UC Berkeley OK’d the project in July, transferring its ownership to a non-profit run by Bowles alumni. Scaffolding now covers the castle-like exterior, and work crews are busy restoring the ornate dining commons, grand staircase and more than 110 student rooms.

The Case for Blind Analysis: In Research, What You Know Can Hurt You

Determining reality can be a confounding business. It’s hard to separate subjective sensory impressions, cultural imperatives, religious epiphanies, social mores, and gut feelings from what objectively is. No surprise, then, that many of us rely on scientists to tell us what’s what. And scientists, in turn, rely on the vetted and published results of significant research to both aid them in their own inquiries and derive an accurate sense of the cosmos and everything in it and beyond it.

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