Writing Clips

I’ve been applying for a variety of internships, some of which asked for writing samples. I picked these posts on Calstuff and One.berkeley.edu as my favorites.

Laptop Theft results in Webcast of a Pissed off Professor
Wednesday, April 20, 2005 -If you were in Biology 1A on Friday, April 15th, you saw Professor Jasper Rine make a scary speech about the theft of his laptop by a student, marking another episode of computer theft at Berkeley. The class is webcast so you can watch the speech (scroll to about 48:50) even if you’re not in the class (or at Berkeley for that mattter).

The video is making it’s rounds in parts of the blogosphere starting with UCB Livejournal and working it’s way to Boing Boing, to which the editor says “Hell, I’m 500 miles away from Berkeley and I’m scared after watching this.” Digital Detritus poses some interesting questions about the aftermath:

* Since it is now public knowledge that the laptop was stolen what will this do to the professors reputation?
* Now that some information about the professors research is public what will that do to the research and those involved?
* Why was this only copy of the data? And what will that being public do to the pre-IPO company that he mentions?

Meanwhile, we’re also left wondering about the outcome of the student involved. Did he return the laptop? What will be the consequences of this for him? Finally, did he honestly think he could steal a test from a laptop and not get in serious trouble?

Update: Boing Boing has it now on Quicktime (via Bittorent) and an MP3 (with only the speech).

Another Update: Fark.com posted a link to the video as well. In their forums, one of the GSIs replies with some details on the incident.

Just a couple quick points:
-he [the professor] didn’t really leave his computer out- he turned around to erase the chalkboard, and that’s when it was taken.

-there’s a few eye witnessed from the class that came in afterwards

-they have some video footage (albeit poor) that was cut-out of the webcast the day it was taken (since it wasn’t part of the lecture).

-the test wasn’t even on the computer (they would have re-written it if it was).

And just a few thoughts from me.
-He’s not lying about the possibilites, but how much he’s exagerating is definately in question.

-if a student has to steal a computer to try to get a test for an introductory biology test, he’s probably not going very far in life anyway.
This post, by the way, nearly doubled the traffic going to Calstuff and is the most read post on One by a large margin.

City of Berkeley freezing shopping carts for the homeless

November 16, 2004-The SF Chronicle has a piece on the city of Berkeley’s use of a large freezer unit to store items lost or abandoned by the homeless. The state requires cities to store lost items for the homeless, but a freezer? The article describes the chilling, metal storage unit:

About a year ago, Berkeley bought a 40-foot-long, 8-foot-wide refrigerated container for $8,200 after public works officials complained about vermin infesting carts stored at the city’s outdoor corporation yard.

The city signed a five-year, $61,500 lease with Caltrans for land under the University Avenue overpass at Interstate 80 to put the container on, and ran power to the unit.

I wonder if it would have been cheaper to just spray the carts with pesticides once in a while (though I’m sure eco-conscious Berkeley and homeless advocacy groups wouldn’t have been too keen on that idea).

The article goes on to point out numerous criticisms of this idea:

-Cost of about $3,000 a year annually in refrigeration and $50,000 dollars for the entire program.
-Hardly anything is picked up, due to bureaucracy and sheer distance away from Berkeley.
-Dumping of unclaimed shopping carts, which costs about $100 each (that’s a cost the stores pass on to you)
-And the big one, most people (especially the homeless) don’t know anything about this program.

No wonder Berkeley voters aren’t approving taxes as readily as they used to (see Daily Cal opinion).

Update: 1. slight correction on the cost, it was stated earlier stated it cost $3,000 a year without saying that was only the cost of keeping the container cold
2. Angry Clam points out the Chronicle’s article made the Drudge Report (see the archived page). Hopefully, Calstuff had something to do with it.

Taking a few pages from the Howard Dean Playbook

10/14/2004-Some citizens of Berkeley seem to be taking a few ideas from the Howard Dean presidential campaign and using them for their own political aspirations. Dean, who spoke last Friday for the 40th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, was launched onto the national scene by using a variety of Internet strategies during his presidential campaign and is now inspiring others to do the same.

One example is the new No Bullshit Party. The Daily Cal reports in this article on how a group of students are using TheFacebook.com to advertise and mobilize for the ASUC elections next semester. They formed a group on the site in hopes of mobilizing and advertising their campaign. It is very much like how Dean used Meetup.com to gather together his supporters and to bring out more.

Another is California Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, who represents the East Bay area, including Berkeley. She has just become the first state legislator in California to launch a blog, http://www.lonihancock.blogspot.com/. It is an effort to, as this SF Chronicle article says, “to provide Internet links to detailed information such as scientific studies and newspaper articles.” Dean’s own blog was responsible for bringing in supporters and helped immensely in fundraising his campaign.

Numerous other politicians around the country are trying these same Dean tatics as well. Wired had an article on these politicians and how they are campaigning like Dean.