Author Archives: Guest contributor


Op-ed: The implosion of health insurance at UC

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If you have worked for UC Berkeley at any time over the past 30 years, you might warmly remember that the university was well known for offering largely functional health insurance plans that made healthcare affordable for employees at every income level. The changes in these plans over recent years have recently accelerated, to the point where the newest PPO plan is disintegrating in our hands. Message boards have been lighting up in heated discussion.  hose UC employees who elected to … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Forty Acres cannabis club is a nightmare

Forty Acres cannabis collective is on the second floor of 1820-1828 San Pablo Ave. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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I support medical marijuana, decriminalization of marijuana, even recreational marijuana for those who enjoy it. But I opposed Forty Acres’ cannabis club and was dismayed that some of the city council made supportive noises about finding a way to permit the business as currently owned and run.

It isn’t just the traffic congestion, the double parking, the blocked driveways full of party cars with thumping music at all hours. It isn’t even the constant secondhand smoke for blocks, both marijuana … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley’s Campanile celebrates its 100th birthday

Campanile by D.H. Parks
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By Gretchen Kell

It may look like the strong, silent type, but the Jane K. Sather Campanile will be the lively center of attention in 2015 at UC Berkeley. The more than 300-foot-tall bell tower, a famous landmark with a colorful history, is 100 years old.

A Campanile 100th website, carillon concerts, an essay contest, classroom projects, a University Archives/Bancroft Library exhibit, special banners flying throughout campus and Campanile-shaped lapel pins for 2015 graduates all are part of the yearlong celebration. … Continue reading »

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Christine Carter to talk about managing life’s complexities

Christine Carter. Photo: Blake Farrington
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By Jill Suttie

In 2009, Christine Carter felt like she had it all. Working her dream job at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, she was helping further the study and dissemination of the science of happiness. She had two wonderful kids, a best-selling book called Raising Happiness, a popular blog, and frequent requests for speaking engagements.

Then she got sick. At first, it seemed like no big deal—just a little strep throat. But she took a round of antibiotics and didn’t recover; then she took more. Nine courses of antibiotics later, she still hadn’t healed. Instead, she ended up in a hospital with a severe kidney infection. The diagnosis?

“Exhaustion,” says Carter. “My body had basically lost the ability to heal itself.“

That’s when she realized something was really wrong. Her life had become completely out of whack, and it was taking its toll.

“Here I was, an expert on how to sustain high performance and be happy, and I could not get myself healthy, because I was overwhelmed and exhausted,” she says. “The irony was not lost on me.”

That’s when Carter began to chart a new course. Using her background in studying elite performance and productivity, as well as happiness, positive emotions, and well-being, she put together a plan to reinvent her life. That experience, as well as correspondence from her readers complaining that they felt overwhelmed, inspired her to write a book about her path to healing: the newly published The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: The Berkeley Public Library is central to our community

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The library is a critical component of our Berkeley community. As an organization, we must learn to listen and understand the trends that impact our patrons. The first step is an understanding of what those needs are. As part of our strategic planning process, I am following up with stakeholders and those who attended our Town Hall meetings. I am sending them the letter below that I am now turning into an open letter. I would invite all Berkeley residents … Continue reading »


In remembrance: Marietta Ruth Allison Harvey, 1934–2015

Ruth Harvey
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Cellist, public health nurse, mother, wife, and neighborhood activist Marietta Ruth Allison Harvey passed away at peace and surrounded by her family Sunday, January 4, 2015.

Marietta was born in the Philippines to missionary parents and traveled to California aboard ship in a basket at the age of one. She attended school in Corning and McCloud in the shadow of Mount Shasta and then spent her teen years in Ontario, California at Chaffey High School and College where she developed … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Be careful of the free-speech balloon drop

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The massacre at Charlie Hebdo united a stricken world behind the principles of free speech. But how are we doing really? Nationally the US Supreme Court has equated speech with money and hampers earnest bipartisan efforts to get money out of politics. Here in Berkeley it is just as bad.

The balloon drop manufactured by the Free Speech Movement commemorators and the University of California bounces through town yearly, giving people the false impression that UC loves free speech and … Continue reading »

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The man behind the Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival: Mark Baldridge, 1948-2014

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By Sharon Coleman

For decades, Berkeley has been enriched by a vibrant literary community with poetry at its heart, as we see in downtown Berkeley’s Addison Street Poetry Walk. At the heart of the poetry community since 1972 has been Poetry Flash, a hub for reviews, articles, event listings, and presenter of many singular literary events. And at the heart of Poetry Flash since 1995 has been Mark Baldridge, in so many capacities from board member to web master, but most notably as Director of the annual Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival.

When Robert Hass was named first U. S. Poet Laureate from the West in 1995, he joined in meetings at International Rivers Network with poets and ecologists to discuss “Nature and the American Imagination,” the theme of his laureateship, and to think of ways to engage the public using poetry. Having left a corporate career and started his own small advertising agency, hungry to do something real, Mark attended these meetings. From the discussions came the idea for the first Watershed Festival that took place in April 1996 at the Bandshell of Golden Gate Park. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley art ambassador’s love of poems spawns a book

Susan Felix, a ceramic artist and Berkeley's art ambassador, holds one of her pieces. Photo: Richard Stangl
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By J. Ruth Gendler

A few years ago, Berkeley ceramic artist Susan Felix invited her wide circle of friends to write poems for her —  both well-known writers and people who never had written poems before. Some of the poets, like former California Poet Laureate Al Young, appreciated the assignment, while others, such as poets David Shaddock and Susan Griffin, initially expressed doubt that one could write a poem on request. Yet her friends, inspired by Felix’s generous nature, creative life and service, honored her invitation, making poems celebrating Felix’s resilience, artistry and spirit.

Felix, a ceramic artist and the City of Berkeley’s art ambassador, was so touched by the 30 or so poems that she received that she created a book, Stay Amazed, published by Poetry Flash Flyers. (That’s also the phrase Felix uses to sign off her emails. )

Published in the summer of 2014, the project has taken on a life of its own to include poetry readings in Berkeley and Portland. The next reading — a benefit for Poetry Flash, the literary magazine and website founded in Berkeley in 1972 — will be at Café Leila at 1724 San Pablo Ave. on Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. Readers include Cheselyn Amato, Toby Furash, Rafael Jesus Gonzalez, Elizheva Hurvich, Joyce Jenkins, Jahan Khalighi, Kirk Lumpkin, Claire Ortalda, Jeanne Powell, Floyd Salas, David Shaddock, Leah Shelleda, and John Oliver Simon. … Continue reading »

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Pioneering needle exchange program reduces health risks

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By Noelia González

Every week, at three different sites in Berkeley, volunteers set up a table with a few boxes of intravenous needles, some cotton and some disposal containers, and wait for people to drop by. They are part of a pioneering needle-exchange program the type of which, until 2000, was illegal in California.

In fact, Needle Exchange Emergency Distribution (NEED), a nonprofit that seeks to reduce infectious disease risks for East Bay intravenous drug users, was born a decade before such programs were legalized, as an underground program run by HIV positive people, people in recovery, and health activists.

NEED is one of 37 programs in California that provide syringe exchanges to reduce harm among drug users in the state. All of them are based on the premise that using clean needles and syringes reduces the risk of HIV, AIDS, and hepatitis C infection. … Continue reading »

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Berkeleyans ask a lot, but they nearly always say ‘please’

Poop Photo Sylvia rubin
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By Sylvia Rubin

The handwritten note isn’t dead in Berkeley. We’re not talking about thank-you notes. We’re talking about “Please Don’t’’ signs.

Here in Berkeley, when we scold our neighbors, we add a little extra flourish. The signs shown here were spotted over a period of time, mostly in North Berkeley.

There’s more than one way to ask people to behave themselves. You can simply be polite and ask them not to pick your lemons — or you can whine about how hard you worked to grow them. … Continue reading »

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Market report: Mandarins and their descendants

Guru Ram nectarines. Photo- William Newton
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Fall and winter fruit is officially here! Cold-weather varieties include pears, pomegranates, persimmons, dates, and the most diverse of them all: citrus.

Currently available are lemons, pomellos, grapefruit, and of course, the mandarin orange. This small fruit packs a large flavor, and, despite its popularity, is often mistaken for its descendants: the clementine and tangerine. The latter fruits are actually “cultivars” of the mandarin, meaning they are mandarin oranges that have been bred for a desired trait.. … Continue reading »

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Mark Bittman: Why I’m coming to UC Berkeley

bittmancolorphoto. photo- sally stein
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By Ann Brody Guy

Headed to the UC Berkeley campus for a semester-long residency at the Berkeley Food Institute, best-selling cooking writer and New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman recently took a moment on a short visit to campus to talk about what lies ahead —  from the holidays to his upcoming college experience — with Ann Brody Guy, communications director at the College of Natural Resources.

You started out as a cooking writer. What catalyzed the shift from recipe guy to food systems commentator?

It wasn’t exactly a shift, it was an addition, because I do still do recipes; in fact, my new book, How to Cook Everything Fast, is a monster, and just came out a couple of months ago.

Why did I start writing about food as opposed to eating? There was an opportunity. I cared, and I saw an opportunity, and I took it. But it’s hard to give things up that you care about, and I do care about writing recipes. So, I work harder than I used to.

I talked my way onto the New York Times opinion page. I’d been writing about food policy and food systems for a couple of years, and I thought, “There’s every reason to do this as often as I can.” So, I proposed a weekly column, and I believe I was the first person to write a weekly food opinion-page column for a major paper. … Continue reading »

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