California

Alumni Study: Africans Abroad Still Committed to the Homeland

Even those of us who don’t reflexively shriek “Go Bears” every four or five minutes know that UC Berkeley is one of the finest universities on the planet. The proof is in the sheepskin; if a Cal degree isn’t always a fast track to an executive suite or academic renown, it at least constitutes a reliable on-ramp.

But is that the case just for American students? What about the developing world? Berkeley bona fides can be of inestimable value in Silicon Valley, but is the same true for Mombasa?

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.

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.  

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.

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.

Nobelist Randy Schekman Is Not Resting on His Laurels

When Randy Schekman looks up from his computer screen, which he now spends more time staring at than petri dishes, his eyes sometimes fall on a faded copy of Cell displayed nearby. The issue is dated June 17, 1994, and the cover depicts a swarm of magnified vesicles—tiny sacs that transport molecules inside cells—resembling a crowd of miniature suns.

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

The Great White Mope: How White America’s Declining Status Gave Rise to the Latest Surge in Populism

White America seems to be in a funk these days. The economy may be growing, the unemployment rate may be down, the Bureau of Labor Statistics may assure us—no, really, disbelieve your lyin’ eyes—that the recession is long over, but according to the 2015 American Values Survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, less than half of white Americans believe that the country’s best days lie ahead. Most blacks and Hispanics, noting a marked improvement in the nation’s culture since the 1950s, do not share this pessimism. The despondency is race specific.

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

Crazy Love: Cal Performances Brings Arabia’s Iconic Love Story to the West

The epic poem Layla and Majnun is arguably the most famous love story in the Middle East, and yet many Westerners have never heard of it. It is the tale of two teenagers who fall deeply in love but are tragically kept apart, even until death. After Layla’s father rejects Qays’s request for her hand in marriage, Qays wanders the desert expressing his undying love through poetry.

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

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 19th century naval architect.

A Day at the Races: Law Prof Jesse Choper Finds Thrills, Cheap Entertainment Playing the Ponies

Berkeley Law professor Jesse Choper first got into horse racing in 1969, when he and his friend’s father, a district attorney outside of New York, took a trip to the track. At first, Choper didn’t really get the appeal: “I never did understand how a person who worked really hard, I mean long hours, would take off a whole afternoon in the middle of a week to go to the races…. But then I did.”

The Real Email Scandal: Clunky Federal IT Systems

The public, the press and many politicians (at least on the right) can’t stop fulminating over Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server to conduct government business when she was Secretary of State. Little attention has been paid, however, to the IT systems that are supposed to guide, support and monitor functionaries with security clearances.

The Bot Versus the Bard: Researchers Teach a Computer to Write Poetry

What’s in the brain that ink may character
Which hath not figured to thee my true spirit

King of hell no quarrel have I left thee
No lovely maid who gleaned in fields or skies

One pair of lines above is the work of Shakespeare. The other was written by a computer. Can you tell which is which?

Notes from Understory: A Berkeley Biologist Gauges the Health of the Redwoods from the Ferns on the Forest Floor.

Emily Burns was driving north from the Bay Area one day, idly woolgathering, when it hit her.

“Western sword ferns,” she recalls thinking. “They’re twice as big in the northern end of their range as in the southern end. And it struck me that it had to be due to water availability. The fact that it’s wetter in Redwood National Park in Humboldt County than, say, Lime Kiln Creek on the Big Sur coast translates as larger ferns in the north. It all seems obvious now, but there was nothing in the literature on it.”

What’s Killing the Great Olive Groves of Apulia?

In Apulia, Italy’s boot heel, the olive tree is sovereign.

“Olive trees pretty much cover the entire province,” says Rodrigo Almeida, an associate professor in Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. “The olive tree defines Apulia’s identify. The people have a deep emotional connection to their trees. Families plant them to mark the births of their children. They cherish them.”

Pages

Subscribe to California