I like to say this magazine is about two things: It’s about the world of UC Berkeley, and it’s about Berkeley in the world. Which is to say, it’s about Cal and its outsize influence on our culture, human knowledge, and global affairs. Our mission, as I see it, is to create a publication anyone would want to read, no matter where they went to school. If you graduated from Cal, we want you to be proud that this is your magazine. If you didn’t and you stumble upon a copy, we want you to wish you had.
I’ve always loved everything about baseball. Everything except playing it.
It was just never my game. My left eye wandered and I couldn’t hit to save my life. I could throw but tended to overthrow. Worse, I lacked baseball smarts. I remember stealing second once. As I dusted myself off, the shortstop casually informed me I was out. Shrugging, I headed for the dugout.
He tagged me. And then I really was Out!
One day, California will fall into the sea. That’s what we used to say, anyway.
It’s an idea that goes back to huckster-clairvoyant Edgar Cayce. It had nothing to it, of course, but has kept circulating. I suppose that’s partly because so many people are jealous of California—from the beginning an imagined paradise, the domain of Queen Calafia—but also because the state really is a dangerous place, given to flooding and drought, eruptions and landslides, earthquakes and fire.
Kids don’t play like they used to. For one thing, they are too often locked to their screens. For another, we’ve got ’em on tight schedules, shuttling from play dates to practices, music lessons to ball games.
CALIFORNIA Magazine: In the prologue of your new book, The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right, you say you are now “perceiving ugly truths about America and about conservatism that other people had long seen but I turned a blind eye to.” What are some of those ugly truths?
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.
Break out the vuvuzelas
The World Cup is underway in Russia, and the Americans aren’t there. Team USA failed to qualify after losing to Trinidad and Tobago. As some wag observed, it clearly wasn’t fair: We shouldn’t have to play two countries at once.
Posted on June 15, 2018 - 5:23pm
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.
Posted on June 7, 2018 - 3:40pm
Like most businesses this time of year, the Kingfish Pub in North Oakland is decked out for the Holidays, strung with lights and garlanded with pine boughs. There’s a neon sign in the window advertising Anchor Steam Christmas Ale and a wreath hangs in the middle of the marquee that juts out from the low-slung, conifer-green facade and sags like the bow of a foundering ship. It almost looks as if the whole place might sink beneath the pavement. But while many another watering hole has sunk and vanished over the years, the Kingfish abides.
Posted on December 22, 2016 - 12:42pm
A new study led by UC Berkeley Lab researcher Trevor Keenan suggests that increased plant growth is slowing the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a finding that could help explain the mystery of why the uptick in CO2 concentrations has leveled off since 2002, even as emissions have increased. “We believed one of the planet’s main carbon sinks had unexpectedly strengthened,” Keenan explained in a Lab press release. “The question was: which one?”
Janet Napolitano and I met in her office in downtown Oakland on the afternoon of November 4, 2016, just four days before Hillary Rodham Clinton was thwarted in her attempt to make history by becoming the first woman president of the United States of America.
Some people thought that Napolitano, a former governor of Arizona and Secretary of Homeland Security in the first Obama administration, might herself have been a candidate for the White House. Instead, she became the first woman president of the University of California in 2013.
Lately, I’ve been spending time at Founders’ Rock trying and mostly failing to get a grasp on reality.
Founders’ Rock is an outcropping at the northeast corner of the UC Berkeley campus, where Gayley Road and Hearst Avenue meet, a lonely spot shaded by toyon, oak, and eucalyptus. The rock itself—lichen-encrusted and moss-fringed—is an unassuming jumble.
I enlisted in 1966, in the Navy, so that I wouldn’t be sent to Vietnam. But it didn’t work out that way. I was sent to work as an advisor to the Vietnamese Navy’s swift boat operations in Qui Nhon, north of Nha Trang; beautiful country, beautiful people.
We had about ten boats operating there, and about 20 U.S. personnel. The mission was to patrol the coast to make sure the North Vietnamese weren’t coming in with contraband. We also worked with Seal Team One insertions and did MEDCAPs, where we’d take corpsmen or doctors in to treat villagers without medical care.
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.