Author Archives: Guest contributor

Finding a better way to go solar in the East Bay

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I’ve been thinking about “going solar” for a few years. I even got quotes from two different companies to put panels on my roof, but never felt ready to pull the trigger. I hadn’t been able to decide if I should buy the system outright, finance it, or sign a PPA agreement. It all felt a bit complicated — even overwhelming, especially as the two companies I had bids from suggested significantly different sized systems. No wonder going solar tends … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Save our green downtown: Vote ‘no’ on Measure R

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Jacquelyn McCormick’s Sept. 9th Opinionator piece published on Berkeleyside is filled with misinformation about Measure R. Measure R is a 28-page downtown initiative on this November’s ballot that would impose strict new requirements on housing and office projects in Berkeley’s downtown.

McCormick claims that Measure R would assure that new buildings in Berkeley’s downtown provide new community benefits. What she didn’t admit is that measure R is full of poison pills that would stop construction of the new buildings that … Continue reading »

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Remembering photographer Wolf von dem Bussche

Wolf von dem Bussche. Photo: Nicolas von dem Bussche
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By Lewis Dolinsky

Wolf von dem Bussche, a longtime Berkeley resident whose photographs are in many public and private collections, died in Mission Viejo CA on Aug. 12 at age 80.

His son, Dr. Nicolas von dem Bussche, said the cause of death was Alzheimer’s.

Writing in ARTweek magazine in 1982, San Francisco Chronicle art critic Thomas Albright said, “Von dem Bussche is not a radical innovator; his work falls solidly within, or straddles, the classical traditions of 20th century … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Robert Reich: “If a soda tax can’t pass in the most progressive city in America, it can’t pass anywhere”

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I was phoned the other night in middle of dinner by an earnest young man named Spencer, who said he was doing a survey.

Rather than hang up I agreed to answer his questions. He asked me if I knew a soda tax would be on the ballot in Berkeley in November. When I said yes, he then asked whether I trusted the Berkeley city government to spend the revenues wisely.

At that moment I recognized a classic “push poll,” … Continue reading »

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True green not green-washed: we must support Measure R

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I am supporting Measure R 2014 Green Downtown Initiative for the following reasons:

In 2010, Berkeley voters overwhelmingly approved Measure R, but our City Council has not delivered on its promises.  Here is how the measure read:  

“Shall the City of Berkeley adopt policies to revitalize the downtown and help make Berkeley one of the greenest cities in the United States by meeting our climate action goals; concentrating housing, jobs and cultural destinations near transit, shops and amenities; preserving … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Soda kills — we need to vote ‘yes’ on Measure D

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In two months, Berkeley voters will decide whether ours will be the first U.S. city to enact a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (or tie with San Francisco which has a similar measure on the ballot). When I heard about the soda tax, “Measure D,” I immediately cast aside most of my to-do list (cleaning the oven survived the purge but colonoscopy did not) and volunteered to help the Healthy Child Coalition trounce Big Soda.

I was an easy recruit … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley schools are victims of their own success

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I am a proud graduate from, and enthusiastic supporter of, the Berkeley public schools. I am a lifelong resident of Berkeley, and have chosen to raise my family here. I love the school that my children attend, and have had nothing but tremendously positive experiences with all of the teachers and staff that have been involved in their education and care.

But Berkeley elementary schools are experiencing unprecedented problems with student population growth. In recent years, the number of students … Continue reading »

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Remembering UC Berkeley economist Gregory Grossman

Gregory Grossman
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Gregory Grossman, 1921-2014

UC Berkeley, economist Gregory Grossman, considered a towering figure in the study of the Soviet economy, who shaped the thinking of generations of scholars, died on Aug. 14 at the age of 93, at a Berkeley care facility due to complications from a fall.

Grossman received his undergraduate degree in economics from UC Berkeley in 1942 and his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University in 1952, before returning to UC Berkeley, where he spent his entire career. He retired in 1993.

Grossman was born July 5, 1921 in Kiev, Ukraine. In early 1923 the family fled the post-Russian Revolution chaos and famine and took a month-long journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway to Harbin, Manchuria. After completing high school in 1937 in Tientsin, China, he headed to San Francisco aboard a Japanese ocean liner en route to attend UC Berkeley.

During World War II, Grossman served as artillery observer with the 731st Field Artillery Battalion during the Battle of the Bulge and completed his war duty in Czechoslovakia. … Continue reading »

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Anne Rumrill Culver, 96, Navy Wave, tennis lover

Anne Rumrill Culver and her husband Robert L. Culver. Photo: Culver family
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Got old Tennis Balls?

Anne Rumrill Culver entered eternal life on Saturday, July 26, 2014. Her spirit is carried on by her three children, three grandchildren and an extended family of relations and friends from every walk of life.

We were blessed to learn many valuable lessons from Anne during her 96 years, among them: Never throw away old tennis balls. Use the old ones as door jams, hanging garage guides, hand-exercisers, gutters-plugs in the event of a fire, swimming tools to be tucked under the chin to better learn the breaststroke and butterfly techniques or bumpers for your younger brother’s sailboat.

In her lifetime, Anne had more adventures than Huck Finn. She fell in love with her husband, Bob, in fifth grade at Long Beach school. They would meet again later in life at their Alma Mater, Cal Berkeley and eventually marry.

Anne received her orders to serve in World War II literally on her wedding day, and joined the first group of Navy Waves as a Lieutenant in electronics, chaperoning 400 men and women on a troop ship bound for Pearl Harbor. … Continue reading »

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Eva Bluestein, Holocaust survivor, teacher, social activist

Eva Bluestein
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Eva Bluestein, 90, Holocaust survivor, teacher, social activist, loving mother and grandmother, died peacefully in her home on June 12, 2014.

Born on April 21, 1924, in Berlin, Germany, Eva relocated to France shortly after the Nazis gained power in 1933 and lived in Paris until the Germans conquered the north of France. The family obtained false identification papers and fled south to Lyon in Vichy France where they lived as fugitives until the end of the war.

Eva immigrated … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley restaurant has been approved: Let it open

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I am a homeowner on Russell Street just below College, and thus an Elmwood resident. A year ago, I heard that the owners of Comal on Shattuck Avenue were proposing a restaurant for the old Wright’s Garage space on Ashby and I was thrilled. It sounded like just the ticket to round out the dining options in our little neighborhood. Finally, we would have an upscale spot with a nice atmosphere and a small bar space — just what … Continue reading »

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Sharing the music in a Berkeley backyard, Cajun-style

Cajun music. Photo: Dorothy Brown
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By Dorothy Brown

It is Monday evening and five folks with fiddles are seated in a circle in the backyard. Four of them are learning a traditional Cajun tune, The Milk Cow is Dead.* There is no sheet music in sight, and nobody expects any. You learn this music by ear.

Joel Savoy is sharing his intimate knowledge of the song, and his expert techniques with the instrument and the style. He plays the tune through, and then breaks it down into phrases that he invites the group to repeat. The notes themselves are the easy part. What makes a good Cajun fiddler is nuance and flair, and Joel breaks that down too.

“You want to get those pulses in there.” “…a little bit bouncier there. Slide into that last note.” This tune has a lot of that, and Joel enjoys that part. “Just slide up to C# and stop when you get there!”

This is how Cajun music has been shared and taught for generations. After a long day’s work, people gather together to play. It is easy to imagine this scene is taking place in Southwest Louisiana, but this is a backyard in Berkeley, California.  … Continue reading »

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Snapshot: Evening in a southwest Berkeley neighborhood

The African Rain tree in Jeanne Pimental's South-West Berkeley neighborhood which appears pleasingly diverse on the eve of July 4th. Photo: Jeanne Pimental
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By Jeanne Pimentel

Wednesday, 8 p.m. Time to catch up on today’s World Cup results, but first some exercise before the sun sets.  

I walk up the block to Strawberry Creek Park, but instead of turning left to the creekside lawns where birds, children, and dogs prevail, I turn right to the series of sports courts that line the rear of the block of apartment houses uncharacteristic of our neat, single-family-home neighborhood, and sometimes called the projects or the “barri-ghetto.”

On the first open basketball court, just vacated by Berkeley Youth Alternative’s “Twilight Team” of local, mostly African-American schoolgirls, is a middle-aged white woman practicing Tai-Chi. On the second, a local father and son are shooting hoops. In the first of the enclosed courts it’s soccer, played on asphalt partly covered with the shredded remains of green surface material. … Continue reading »

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