Author Archives: Hannah Long

Botanical garden inspires art/science collaboration

Nami Yamamoto's Fog Catcher in the UC Botanical Garden. Photo: Hannah Long
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Many people would call UC Berkeley’s Botanical Garden a work of art, with its stunning landscape of colorful flowers, vibrant greenery and majestic trees. The garden’s recently installed Natural Discourse exhibition, which features a diverse array of visual art, poetry and architecture, has only enhanced the beauty of this setting.

The botanical garden is “both a very serious research collection and a beautiful public garden,” explained Paul Licht, the garden’s director. It is one of the most prestigious research gardens in the world, with over 10,000 plant species, and its 34 acres include a rose garden and redwood grove for tourists, nature lovers, and picnickers.

The Natural Discourse exhibit, a collaboration between artists, poets and scientists, was inspired by specific plants in the garden. “Natural Discourse fits into the theme of the garden,” said Licht. “The installations are site-specific, and each is educational, thought-provoking, and beautiful.”  … Continue reading »

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Businesses feel impact of parking meters on San Pablo

Sign at Paper Plus Outlet
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Berkeley’s San Pablo Avenue is a thoroughfare for cross-city traffic and a hub for all sorts of businesses. Recently, however, some of the street’s business owners say the street has been suspiciously empty, with few parked cars or people frequenting stores.

Terry Griffin, who runs Griffin Motorwerke, blames this absence on 420 parking meters that were installed two years ago.

“The day the city put in these meters, people stopped parking on San Pablo Avenue,” he said. “Now, they just don’t shop there anymore.”

The coin-only meters were installed along certain stretches of San Pablo Avenue in 2010 after a unanimous vote by the Berkeley City Council. This measure, which also raised the rates of meters across the city by 25 cents an hour, was passed in an effort to increase city revenue to fight the economic recession. … Continue reading »

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Perk up at the Berkeley Coffee and Tea Festival

Latte Art by Wikimedia Commons
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Sina Carroll is a committed tea enthusiast. She travels to China twice a year to source high-end tea from local farmers and sells a wide selection through her online store Red Circle Tea. Carroll has no employees and acts as the company’s owner, accountant, and buyer; her favorite part of the job, however, is teaching others about the craft of tea making.

“I love the process of steeping tea for others,” said Carroll. “I like to show people how easy, elegant, and fun it can be to make tea in this beautiful and traditional way. The look of wonder on their faces when they see this ritual is amazing.”

Carroll’s favorite place to share her enthusiasm and meet other tea connoisseurs is the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce’s Coffee and Tea Festival. The second annual festival, which will be held on Saturday, August 18th at Hotel Shattuck Plaza, will feature dozens of local coffee, tea, and dessert vendors. Along with Carroll’s Red Circle Tea, other offerings will include traditional lattes from Berkeley favorite Caffe Mediterraneum, and unique Vietnamese coffee from V Café. (See below on how to win free tickets to the Festival!) … Continue reading »

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Fighting crime in Berkeley one potluck at a time

Residents in the 1000 block of Shattuck Avenue gather for National Night Out. Photo: Hannah Long
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On Tuesday night, the Downtown Berkeley Association, BART Police Department, and more than  50 community and neighborhood groups hosted potlucks and parties on Berkeley’s streets as part of National Night Out.

This annual event, which began in 1984, is sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch to promote neighborhood camaraderie and community involvement. This year, more than 37 million people participated in these block parties nationwide, according to the group’s website.

Beany Wezelman, who has lived on the 1000 block of Shattuck Avenue for more 30 years, has organized a National Night Out party for her neighborhood for the past two years. On Tuesday evening, the street was barricaded and tables and chairs were set up right in the middle of the street. As dusk fell, friends and neighbors of all ages chatted, caught up, and enjoyed the potluck-style feast.

Wezelman says that she loves the opportunity to spend time outside and bond with neighbors.

“I think that this would be a great way for neighbors who don’t know each other to come together and really connect,” she said. … Continue reading »

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BART tests allowing bikes on trains at all times

Bike on BART
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BART wants to make its system more bike-friendly. With that in mind, the transit company today launched a new Commute Period Bike Pilot Program that allows passengers to brings their bikes on trains all day every Friday in August. Bikes are usually banned from BART trains during commute hours.

BART Board Vice President Tom Radulovich says the pilot program is part of an ongoing effort to increase the number of bicyclists using BART.

“The pilot program is an experiment to expand bike access. BART has always had a willingness to try new things. We’ve experimented with cyclist permits and lockout periods. BART is once again experimenting,” he said Thursday at an event at the Berkeley Bike Station to launch the program.

The program will run through August, at which point the BART Board will determine whether to make any permanent changes to the rules regulating bike usage. … Continue reading »

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A Berkeley magazine celebrating native culture turns 25

Native California
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Ohlone artist Linda Yamane has spent the last three years weaving 20,000 stitches and thousands of feathers and beads into a traditional tribal basket. Yamane is the first artist to follow the Ohlone basketweaving tradition in over 150 years, and her work displays just the enthusiasm and dedication to Indian culture that the magazine News From Native California celebrates.

This magazine, which was started in 1987 by Malcolm Margolin, author and founder of Berkeley’s Heyday Books, features articles, artwork, and a calendar of events dedicated to the native culture of California. The magazine’s 25th anniversary, along with the unveiling of Yamane’s basket, will be celebrated this Saturday at the Oakland Museum of California.

The anniversary party will include a welcoming speech by Yamane, conversation with Margolin, and traditional Indian singing, dancing, and music. Many artists and basketweavers will also display their work and have a chance to teach the public about their art. … Continue reading »

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Rogue Café: Weekend pop-up serves a mellow brunch

Waffles, eggs, and much more are on Rogue Cafe's brunch menu. Photo: Rogue Cafe's Facebook page.
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[See update to this article at the foot of the story.]

Eric Thoreson, a perfectionist in the kitchen, has spent many months trying to make the ideal waffle. This breakfast treat is one of his favorite foods, but he thinks most restaurants don’t get it quite right.

After researching recipes in countless cookbooks, Thoreson decided that natural leavening just might be the key. He made hundreds of waffles before settling on one that is just to his liking: half way between bread and a traditional waffle, he calls it a “Southern Belgian Waffle.” Thoreson rolls the treat in sugar before cooking it for sugary caramelization, and this waffle, the perfect mix of sweet and sour, is a favorite among customers at his outdoor, weekend pop-up brunch restaurant Rogue Café.

Located in a residential backyard in south Berkeley, Rogue serves gourmet, homemade treats and freshly brewed coffee. … Continue reading »

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Willy Wonka at Berkeley Playhouse: An enchanting ride

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Berkeley Playhouse’s new production “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” directed by Elizabeth McKoy, is an entertaining and touching show that will appeal to kids and adults alike.

Based on Roald Dahl’s classic book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” it follows young Charlie as he finds a rare golden ticket hidden in a bar of chocolate. With this ticket, he gets the opportunity to meet the famous candy connoisseur Willy Wonka and tour his remarkable factory. With a standout performance by Vernon Bush as Willy Wonka, creatively bold sets and costumes, and an enthusiastic cast of professional actors and children, this production measures up to the many past screen and stage adaptations.

The show begins with Bush, dressed as Wonka in a vibrant, sparkly outfit and elevated in the air, alone on stage singing the beloved classic “Pure Imagination.” His smooth and soulful voice resonates throughout the playhouse and invites the audience into the wondrous world of Willy Wonka.

As the play goes on, Bush’s spirited and confident performance steals the show. Reminiscent of Johnny Depp’s creepily friendly rendition of Wonka in Tim Burton’s 2005 adaptation, Bush is intriguingly nonchalant. This comes across for instance in his blasé attitude towards slightly gruesome events, for instance when a young boy is sucked away into a pipe of chocolate. The mature complexity that Bush displays will interest an adult audience members, yet his carefree attitude will draw in children more than Depp’s unsettling rendition. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s downtown BART is all roses as part of clean-up

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A new art piece featuring garden-inspired photography has been installed in the windows of the Downtown Berkeley BART station entrance. The project, called the Rose Pavilion, was unveiled on Monday afternoon and is part of the continuing efforts to revitalize Berkeley’s downtown area.

The piece features vertical panels of faux stained glass with images of roses and excerpts of poetry. Artist Deborah O’Grady explains that she was inspired by the architecture of the BART station. “I was asked if I could find a way to bring the garden into the center of the city. At first, I wasn’t sure, but as I walked around the downtown I was struck by the BART entrance pavilion. I decided to turn it into a rose arbor.”

The project is a collaboration between BART, UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, and the Downtown Berkeley Association. It is part of a larger exhibition at the Botanical Garden called “Natural Discourse,” which features work by 17 artists, poets, and scientists. “We came together to convey poetry and the beauty of the garden in a variety of mediums,” O’Grady says. For her, inspiration came in the form of roses: “Roses are a source of beauty and spirituality, a food, and a transmitter of light.” … Continue reading »

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Off The Grid’s Telegraph Ave. debut attracts young crowds

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Haste Street was crowded with Berkeley residents and students for the inaugural Telegraph Off The Grid street food market last night. Long lines of customers formed for each of the eight trucks, which served everything from Filipino fusion to southern-style sandwiches to crème brûlée.

Telegraph Off the Grid (OTG) joins similar events in San Francisco, Marin County, Alameda and North Berkeley. In fact, some customers were drawn to the Telegraph premiere because of enjoyable past food truck experiences.

“It always seems like the food the trucks serve is really interesting, and the people making it seem to really care,” said UC Berkeley student Tim Woods. “I think that food from food trucks is better than food from restaurants.”  … Continue reading »

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The food lines of Berkeley: Nosh worth waiting for

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Berkeley is famous for its gourmet food, and sometimes the easiest way to track it down is to follow the crowds.

You only have to see the lines that form almost as soon as food truck fest Off the Grid opens at 5:00 pm on Wednesdays in north Berkeley to understand that some of us are prepared to be patient to secure a favorite snack. (And Telegraph Avenue’s new Off the Grid market will likely prove as popular.)

But there are three brick-and-mortar eateries in Berkeley – Ici Ice Cream, Wat Mongkolratanaram (also known as the Thai Temple), and The Cheese Board Collective – that have attracted long lines of customers, sometimes snaking down half a block or more, for as long as we can remember. Berkeleyside decided to ask some of the people who take their places in those lines just why they are prepared to wait so long. … Continue reading »

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Startups value Skydeck for views, closeness to Cal

Employees of Go Overseas in the Skydeck startup incubator in Downtown Berkeley. Photo: Hannah Long
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Berkeley’s Skydeck, a 10,000-square foot office space in the penthouse of the city’s tallest building, offers stunning views to inspire the 14 startup teams that it houses. Each startup team includes current or recently graduated Cal students, and their projects span from iPhone apps to medical devices to innovative new computer software. Location, it seems, is important for the success of these new businesses, which appreciate the Skydeck facilities and their prime spot in Downtown Berkeley for more than just the great views.

Skydeck, supported by UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering, Haas School of Business, and the Vice Chancellor of Research Office, is part of The Berkeley Startup Cluster. The Cluster’s goal, according to its website, is “to make Downtown Berkeley — a commercial area that is walking distance to the Cal campus — a thriving center for technology-oriented startups and established firms, investors, entrepreneurs and supporting businesses.” … Continue reading »

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Tech nerd, nature lover, quits job, reinvents the headlamp

Dan Freschl
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On a recent weekend, Berkeley inventor Dan Freschl could be found climbing the boulders of Yosemite while testing the rechargeable, environmentally friendly headlamp he has designed. The headlamp is the signature product of Bosavi LLC, the outdoor equipment company that Freschl founded in 2010.

Freschl’s love for the outdoors began when, as a teenager, he participated in a 22-day mountaineering and rafting trip with the Outward Bound program. After college, he worked as an engineer creating batteries for products such as pacemakers and implantable defibrillators. That work conflicted with his love for nature, however.

“When I worked for a huge corporation with about 20,000 employees, I saw how much we wasted, how much equipment we bought and then threw out, and how unhappy the people working there were.” … Continue reading »

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