articles, science

Oh My Lucky Star

This was fun to report. A short article, called “Lucky Star,” is out in the new California magazine about astronomer Maryam Modjaz and her work documenting a supernova. The twist was that, through a bit of good luck, she and her colleagues had telescopes pointed at it the whole time–before it even exploded.

In the image below, we see three shots of the galaxy NGC 2770. The typical spiral galaxy might have one supernova in a century; this one has had three in the last ten years.

image of galaxy as supernovas pop up as pinpoints of light

Illustration by Grady McFerrin of farm animals and model home.
articles, Asia, China, development

Western Promises

Cover of October issue of Dwell magazineDwell Magazine’s October issue is out, and it includes an essay, entitled “Western Promises,” that I wrote about my reporting on the Huangbaiyu Cradle to Cradle Village project.  Huangbaiyu, a small village in northeast China, set to become a leading example of the power of green design in a country that desperately needs it. The architect William McDonough had top billing as a major driver in the project, which was planned according to his “cradle-to-cradle” principles. But the project failed. In retrospect, it seems as if it was destined to fail, given the fundamental flaws that I describe in the piece.

This story started out as an assignment for PBS Frontline/World, and covers the same ground. I’m grateful to Frontline/World and the team of producers and editors there, and to the editors at Dwell for giving me an opportunity to reflect on the story.

The essay hasn’t been posted online, but as soon as it’s available, I will link to it. (In the meantime, check out the magazine in print.) It’s accompanied by some excellent illustrations by Grady McFerrin (see above, for example). And the editors deserve extra credit for coming up with the title.

[Update: It’s online here!]

articles, beach, dissipation, energy, environment, journalism, language, really?

Newspapers Say the Darndest Things

Chronicle front page 8 november“Crunch!”? Really? 

A huge cargo ship bumps into the Bay Bridge and spills 58,000 gallons of bunker fuel–not just oil, but bunker fuel–and this is the Chronicle’s headline? Is it supposed to be a joke? 

When I looked at my copy this morning, I originally thought this was a feature recapping some little disaster that I hadn’t heard about. But, no. This is breaking news.

articles, development, environment, influence, international, money, politics

What’s Doing in the Mato Grosso

Google Map of South America

My friend and former colleague Pat Joseph has an article in the latest Virginia Quarterly Review. It’s about the boom (and recent bust) in soy farming in the interior of Brazil.

Well written, all round, but one section I especially liked was about the Brazilian sense that the Americans need not tell them how to live, they can take care of themselves just fine, thank you. Classic case of the You did it, so can we philosophy of resource development running up against the Don’t make the mistakes I did when I was your age philosophy. Classic.

articles, journalism

Article Round-Up Fall 2006: KiteShips, Foot Patrols, Old Mint

Photomontage from the New York Times Magazine by Horacio Salinas

This has been a busy fall. Fortunately, I have a few things to show for it.

One published clip, for example.* It’s in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine (December 10, 2006), the “Ideas Issue.” It’s a short little idea entitled “Sailing an Oil Tanker,” and it describes a California-based company named KiteShip, which designs kite sails that they hope will one day pull big ships.

I’ve also written a few other articles, all on deadline, a mix of short feature and breaking stories:

  • A trio of articles on the now-failed Proposition 87, which would have taxed oil production in California to fund alternative energy research: the advance, the election night update, and the wrap-up.
  • I followed Phil Angelides as he took a turn through Chinatown during the last days of his campaign for governor against Arnold Schwarzenegger. It can be a challenge to portray political circus in a straight breaking news article.
  • I profiled a homicide victim named Sonia Ilustre, who was killed in San Leandro last September. I give great credit to my colleague Sonya Hubbard, who was able to score a key interview because the subject refused to speak to me.
  • I went out to “the corner” in West Oakland to see how residents were dealing with Oakland’s incredible murder rate. West Oakland, I should add, has been relatively quiet on the homicide front in comparison to East Oakland/Fruitvale and Deep East Oakland/Elmhurst.
  • Also in West Oakland, I reported on the unveiling of an anti-violence plan hatched by State Senate Presdient pro Tem Don Perata.
  • One of the most contentious issues in San Francisco city politics this fall has been the foot patrols proposed by District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi. This article was written after Supervisor Daly’s initial amendment to expand the patrols, but before the final expansion to cover the entire city, passage by the board, the mayor’s veto, and the board’s override.
  • Across 5th Street from the San Francisco Shopping Center and across Mission from the Chronicle Building is a stately, boarded up granite building. It’s the Old Mint, and it’s on its way to a new life as a museum.
  • In one of the first articles I wrote this fall, I roamed around the Tenderloin looking for a story. while everyone outside the Tenderloin proclaimed that it wouldn’t be hard to find a story, referring to its reputation for crime, the people who lived and worked there resented that perception.
  • And in September, I wrote a news article on the passage of a Board of Supervisors resolution opposing the Department of Homeland Security’s No-match letter policy. For some reason, this was not posted on North Gate, so I posted it here.

*Only one? Hmm. Good hustle—ed.