It was Super Bowl Sunday, 2005, and we were on base—this was in Hit City, Iraq—waiting for the very last convoy to come in, so we could watch the game together. It was gonna be a special night. We were going to have wings. It was about three in the morning, and that’s when we heard the booms. I lost count of how many. We all loaded up, headed out to go see what’s happening, and confirmed it was an incident involving our personnel—the last convoy in.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about an incident that happened in 1965, seven years before I was born. It centered on an antiwar protest in Berkeley, one of the first of countless such protests to come. Though just a blip in the grand scheme of Vietnam era turmoil, it seems to point to something important about America and the nature of patriotism.
It starts with a guy named “Tiny.” Tiny was 6’7” and 300 pounds. And he really liked to fight.
I registered for the draft when I was 18 and was called up in March 1944, just five years after my parents and I had arrived in the United States as Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. I still hadn’t finished high school and was technically an “enemy alien.”
My eyesight was so bad that I had to memorize and fake reading the first two lines of the eye chart to pass my physical. Certainly I wanted to fight the Nazis, but I also wanted to get away from home and be part of history in the making.
We all have a certain subset of memories burned deep in our forebrains: images so vivid, so invested with emotion that the decades serve to sharpen rather than diminish their resolution. It could be a few mental frames from childhood: a tableau of mother and puppy on a vast expanse of lawn. Or a traumatic event: the onrush of ruby brake lights just before a collision. Such memories seem fixed in amber, impervious to time; richly detailed images that can be examined again and again from all aspects.
I’d been sitting there for 30 minutes staring at my Arabic homework when Elijah texted me.
What do you think about getting together around 5?
OK where you wanna meet at?
I’m studying at Peet’s on Telegraph if that’s cool with you
Clifford Stoll is currently the sole proprietor and sole employee of Acme Klein Bottles, a business he runs out of his home on Colby Street in North Oakland. One of the quirky company’s many mottoes is, “Where yesterday’s future is here today.”
SkyDeck, UC Berkeley’s start-up accelerator program, is housed on the top floor of the tallest building in downtown Berkeley. All four walls of the 10,000 square-foot penthouse have floor-to-ceiling windows, offering up a 360-degree view. This is where Cal’s fledgling entrepreneurs come for free office space and guidance while preparing to launch their product or service. They have six months to a year up here with SkyDeck, and then it’s time to jump out of the nest.
Posted on March 24, 2016 - 4:25pm
The Rim Fire, sweeping through the Sierra Nevada in 2013, rendered 257,000 acres of vegetation into ash, razed whole stands of trees, and ranked as the third biggest wildfire in California history. But the conflagration also sparked a discovery, if you happened to be a mycologist running a field experiment in the area. UC Berkeley Ph.D.
In the short but statistic-fueled period after every recent U.S. mass shooting, the gun control debate is roused from its intermittent slumber. Whether the victims are in grade-school classrooms in Sandy Hook, on a college campus in Oregon, at a predominantly African-American church in South Carolina, or attending a holiday party in San Bernadino, the results have become predictable. Gun control advocates plead for tighter restrictions that might curb violence.
Posted on January 6, 2016 - 1:36pm
May 19, 1972—the day I graduated from Boalt Hall.
I wasn’t going to attend the ceremony, but I found out the day before that the featured speaker was going to be my favorite professor, Jan Vetter. He’d not only defended me successfully two years earlier when the university tried to throw me out for violation of the dreaded “time, place, and manner” regulations during an antiwar demonstration (translation: I was spotted leading a sing-along of “Yellow Submarine” during a sit-in at Sproul Hall), but had also given me the lowest grade I ever got on a final exam.
Turning an undesirable substance into something valuable seems like the plot of an old fable, but UC Berkeley researchers Chris Chang and Omar Yaghi may have done just that. Their invention, covalent organic frameworks, or COFs, can transform atmospheric carbon dioxide into a useful building block for biodegradable plastics, fuel, and more.
Chang likens COFs to TinkerToys, though at a nano scale. They consist of strings of carbon crystals that are special in their unique porosity, as they can be custom tailored to capture the chemical of choice.
Have you ever been engrossed in your favorite episode of Star Trek on your smartphone and thought “Hey! The color of Kirk’s uniform doesn’t look pure!” Yeah, most of us probably wouldn’t think that. But with quantum dots seeping into modern displays, our viewing expectations could drastically change.
For a brief moment, back when the tech revolution was young, I was an early adopter.
I was sucked in by that 1984 Apple ad that ran during the Super Bowl. I can’t recall a thing about the game, but I remember every detail of that ad: the woman running in her tank top one step ahead of the goons; the rows of corporate weirdos staring in open-mouthed horror; the hammer sailing toward the giant screen, smashing the Big Brother cult.
Here’s how bad it got. The first morning of my first stay in New York, I was hustled down to a press showing of men’s fur coats. It was 1971, and outrageous flamboyance in dress was the coming thing. I was the principal writer for (and later coeditor of) a counterculture fashion magazine called Rags.
I knew nothing about fashion.
I had pizza delivered to a crime scene once. A computer engineer had bludgeoned and stabbed his wife and 12-year-old son to death and then slashed his own throat.
A group of us reporters stood at the edge of the cordoned-off street for hours, waiting for the police to come out and tell us what was going on. We’d already run the plates of the cars in the driveway and figured out who the occupants of the house were, and knew that the man who lived there had co-invented a famous video game. But we needed confirmation that he was the killer before we filed our stories.