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Berkeley Fire Causes University Apartment Building Evacuation

By Hannah Albarazi (BCN)
Thursday March 20, 2014 - 02:15:00 PM

The residents of a five-story apartment building in Berkeley were evacuated early this morning when an exterior debris fire was reported, a deputy fire chief said. 

Just after 2 a.m., the Berkeley Fire Department received a report of a blaze burning between two buildings on University Avenue just east of San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley fire Deputy Chief Avery Webb said. 

The five-story apartment building was evacuated when a fire alarm sounded and an exterior sprinkler was activated, according to Webb. 

Firefighters extinguished the blaze and allowed residents to return to their apartments at about 3:30 a.m., Webb said. 

One person received medical attention at the scene for smoke inhalation and was promptly released, according to the deputy fire chief. 

Webb said only minimal property damage was reported and the cause of the debris fire remains under investigation.

Updated: Berkeley Police and Fire Respond to Hazardous Materials Incident and Death at Berkeley City Club

By Bay City News and Planet
Tuesday March 18, 2014 - 08:38:00 PM

UPDATE: An article in the Daily Californian has identified the person who committed suicide in the Berkeley City Club as a retired U.C. Berkeley professor. 

The Berkeley City Club and the 2300 block of Durant have been re-opened after being closed because of a reported death.

Berkeley police and fire officials responded this afternoon to a reported hazardous materials incident involving a death at the Berkeley City Club at 2315 Durant.

The possible hazardous materials incident was first reported shortly before 4 p.m., according to Berkeley Deputy Fire Chief Avery Webb.

The building was evacuated and the 2300 block of Durant was closed by 5:30 p.m., according to police Officer Ethell Wilson.

At 9 p.m. Berkeley Police Department Sgt.Joe Okies told the Planet that both the building and the street had been re-opened after BPD and BFD officers removed the suspected hazardous material.

Since it has not been determined whether the death was a suicide or a homicide, Okies said, further information is not being released at this time, including the name of the deceased person and the nature of the suspect material.

A report in the Oakland Tribune identified the decedent as an 80-year-old woman, and the hazardous chemical as sodium azide, which forms a highly toxic gas when mixed with water.

Pedestrian Killed by Train in Berkeley Identified

By Bay City News
Tuesday March 18, 2014 - 10:35:00 AM

A pedestrian struck and killed by a Union Pacific freight train in Berkeley on Monday has been identified as Matthew Finch, a 28-year-old El Cerrito resident, according to the Alameda County coroner's bureau. 

Finch was struck near the Berkeley and Albany border around 9:06 p.m., and was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Berkeley fire Acting Deputy Chief Avery Webb. 

Finch had been walking south on the tracks when he was hit by a southbound Union Pacific train heading from Roseville to Oakland, Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt said. 

The train crew blew the train's horn and tried to stop, but freight trains typically take ov er a mile to stop and the train was not able to stop in time, Hunt said. No determination is available on whether the death was a suicide or accident, a coroner's office official said this morning.

Press Release: New Campus Gateway Emerging at Memorial Stadium

By Gretchen Kell, UC Berkeley Media Relations
Monday March 17, 2014 - 03:15:00 PM

By next fall, California Memorial Stadium not only will be bustling on football game days, but busy all week as a vibrant new campus gateway and a multi-use building filled with both academic and athletic activities. Classrooms, an auditorium, food vendors, a student store, a fitness center and more will inhabit the stadium, which reopened in August 2012 after a $321 million renovation.

In addition, campus tours will originate from a scenic new home for the UC Berkeley Visitor Center, which serves more than 150,000 people a year. The spectacular views of UC Berkeley and the Bay Area from the stadium’s club levels will continue to be enjoyed by private, corporate and campus groups that since fall 2012 have rented them for more than 180 special events.

The refurbishment and retrofitting of the 90-year-old stadium, and the creation of the adjacent 1.5-acre Lisa and Douglas Goldman Plaza, was done to create a safer and more modern sports venue, and also to open the eastern part of UC Berkeley to the entire community, said Bob Lalanne, who became UC Berkeley’s first vice chancellor for real estate last December.

“Our whole objective was to take this beautiful, historic building and make it more of a campus community asset 365 days of the year, rather than just for seven game days. The way Lower Sproul Plaza is being turned into a new living room for the campus, this space will essentially become ‘Sproul Plaza East,’” he said. The project, which will roll out over two years’ time, is a joint effort between Lalanne and Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance John Wilton. 

Last year, a campus committee – the California Memorial Stadium Visioning Committee – was appointed by Wilton to explore innovative ways to turn the stadium into a multi-use facility, and its work is beginning to pay off – as is the rent from tenants and others that will help to defray the stadium’s costs. 

“Our new financial approach to paying for the new facilities incorporates a strategic focus on the diversification of revenue sources to reduce dependency on core sports,” said Wilton, “and thereby increase financial stability over the long term.” 

Innovative campus tenants 

Last September, the first academic tenant of the stadium moved into a space on the ground floor and just off the plaza. The Berkeley-Haas Innovation Lab, or I-Lab, opened across the street from the Haas School of Business in a 2,700-square-foot open classroom with furniture and partition walls that can be easily reconfigured to help students best engage in experiential and collaborative activities. 

Soon afterward, the 5,000-square-foot Recreational Sports Fitness Center at Memorial Stadium opened a few doors down from the I-Lab as a satellite to the Rec Sports facility on Bancroft Way. Just as the I-Lab is innovative space, the fitness center features fitness equipment accessible to all, including those with limited mobility, and private, gender-neutral changing rooms and showers. 

“The stadium is all about innovation and excellence,” said Lalanne, also touting the two-year-old Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance, a state-of-the-art training center at the stadium for all UC Berkeley student-athletes and home to 13 intercollegiate teams. “Each new tenant moving in will reinforce these themes.” 

Another new tenant will be the Richard and Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy, scheduled to open a space on the stadium’s fourth floor for its development and public affairs staff, its executive education program and for some of its centers and Ph.D. students. 

“It’s exciting that we’ll be near the Visitor Center, a place that will be an active hub for the campus. It is also great to be near the law and business schools, and in a place where there will be a shared auditorium,” said public policy dean Henry Brady. “We look forward to interacting with others in that eastern part of campus and to finding ways to make it a vibrant and educationally stimulating place for Berkeley.” 

Lalanne said his office is in discussion with several other academic units about renting spaces in the stadium, and that a building manager for the stadium would soon be hired. 

A hub for visitors far and wide 

Another new stadium tenant will be UC Berkeley Visitor and Parent Services, part of the Office of Communications and Public Affairs. 

For La Dawn Duvall, executive director of Visitor and Parent Services, a state-of-the-art welcome center for campus guests, including prospective students and their families, is “necessary, overdue and completes what a visit to a university should be. Along with visitors to the Campanile, we serve 150,000 to 160,000 people a year, and that’s a huge number of people getting a first impression of Berkeley. And first impressions count for so much.” 

The Visitor Center has hung its hat in several humble spaces over the years, including a tiny spot in the student union, a slice of University Hall’s ground floor, and then an office on the first floor of Sproul Hall, its current home. 

At the center’s next location, “the guests’ experience will be on par with the academic excellence of the campus,” Duvall said, adding that the large number of tourists will help bring in revenue for the stadium through purchases of food and souvenirs. 

Guests who visit the club levels in the stadium will learn more about the extraordinary campus through proposed installations, including an enhanced Cal Athletic Hall of Fame and exhibits that highlight campus Nobel Prize winners and others from UC Berkeley who have made major contributions to society, said Lalanne. 

A two-level parking garage being built below Maxwell Field, which is adjacent to the stadium, will make visiting the venue easier. It will replace hundreds of spaces lost during the renovation and other construction projects in the area. The playing field will be rebuilt on top of the new parking structure. 

Athletic Director Sandy Barbour said that a collective vision at UC Berkeley of turning the stadium into a year-round, multi-use facility “is becoming a reality, thanks to strategic partnerships across campus. Whenever you have an opportunity to bring academic, athletic, larger campus and greater Bay Area communities together, that has positive impacts.” 

“In the short time since the renovation,” she said, “this incredible space continues to serve as a hub for activity connecting those communities, and we believe it will do so for years to come.” 


New: Pedestrian Killed by Train on Berkeley Tracks

By Scott Morris (BCN)
Monday March 17, 2014 - 03:10:00 PM

A pedestrian was struck and killed by a Union Pacific freight train in Berkeley this morning, fire and railroad officials said. 

The fire department received reports of a train hitting a pedestrian near the Berkeley and Albany border at 9:06 a.m., Berkeley fire Acting Deputy Chief Avery Webb said. 

The pedestrian was pronounced dead at the scene, Webb said. 

The victim, a man, had been walking south on the tracks and a southbound Union Pacific train heading from Roseville to Oakland struck him, Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt said. 

The train crew blew the train's horn and tried to stop, but freight trains typically take over a mile to stop and the train was not able to stop in time, Hunt said. 

By the time the train came to a stop, it was blocking four streets -- Virginia, Cedar, Camelia and Gilman streets, Webb said. The streets were still blocked late this morning. 

Trains in the area have been stopped in both directions, Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham said. 

Although the train involved in the collision is from Union Pacific, the tracks are shared with Amtrak passenger trains, Graham said. 

Amtrak set up a bus bridge to take passengers between the Richmond and Berkeley stations, Graham said.

Coroner Says Pneumonia Caused Death of Homeless Man in Downtown Berkeley

By Mary Ann Uribe
Friday March 14, 2014 - 01:15:00 PM

Yesterday I spoke to Mr. Mendiola at the Alameda County Coroner’s Office about the cause of death of the homeless man who was found dead in downtown Berkeley near the corner of Shattuck and Kittredge at about 7:30 a.m. on February 6, 2014. Mr. Mendiola stated that he died of “acute bilateral lobar pneumonia” and “coronary atherosclerosis”. In other words he died of pneumonia because he had been in the rain all night long and he had a bad heart due to lack of adequate medical care.  

His name was David Simmons. His friends described him as a senior, in his 60’s in age, Caucasian, very quiet, kept to himself most of the time, did not speak very often, unassuming….a man who had been homeless for about a year. He was particularly vulnerable because of his age and, after being homeless for a year, his health had deteriorated. He should have been rescued, not persecuted. He should have been saved, not forgotten. He should have been driven to a shelter, not allowed to sleep in the rain, but he died of exposure to the rain and cold during the night.  

His heart in combination with being in the rain killed David. Another cause is that we did nothing to help him. For that we should be ashamed.  

The City of Berkeley has a program that allegedly is supposed to do “community outreach” to help people like David. But either that program has not been funded, OR all of its employees were at home on the evening of February 6, 2014, out of the rain. 

The other employees Berkeley has around the clock are its police officers. Our police officers have taken an oath to “protect and serve” the people of Berkeley regardless of their station. In this instance a police officer had a legal obligation to pick David up, put him in their police squad car and drive him to a shelter where he would be able to sleep in a warm bed out of the rain. That would have saved David’s life. Instead David was left to die of exposure and nobody in Berkeley cared. Is that how we are supposed to treat the most vulnerable members of our community? Not on your life. We should all be ashamed.  

Let there be a hue and cry to celebrate David’s life by changing the conditions in Berkeley that brought about his death. We ask you to join with us to demand the City Council implement its “community outreach program” and/or direct its police officers to actually do their job by protecting and serving people like David by taking them to shelters if it ever rains. In this way, David’s death will not have been in vain. 

Where Are the Tourists from the Future?
(A Pi-Day Special Feature)

by Jonathan David Farley, D.Phil. (Oxon.)
Friday March 14, 2014 - 09:10:00 AM

On Valentine’s Day, University of California at Berkeley math professor Edward Frenkel wrote an essay in The New York Times entitled, “Is the Universe a Simulation?” It became the most forwarded essay on Facebook for the Times.

The classic science series Cosmos recently relaunched, so it seems appropriate to describe how math can help explain another aspect of our universe. Since this is “Pi Day,” such an essay couldn’t be more timely: 

In the summer of 2005, students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology hosted a conference for time travelers. Their idea was that, if time travel ever became possible, these travelers would know about the MIT meeting and attend. There were many strange and funny-looking people at the conference, but no one from the past or future came─at least, as far as we know. 

The immediate question is, “Why not?” The first and most obvious answer is because time travel is impossible, as the philosopher Norman Swartz has argued. Wheelchair-bound physics phenom Stephen Hawking has said, “The best evidence that time travel never will be possible is that we have not been invaded by hordes of tourists from the future.” 

But that is not the only possible answer. For instance the great logician Kurt Goedel showed that time travel into the past is consistent with accepted physics, and director Spike Lee is making a movie about a real physicist who intends to show just that, at least at the subatomic level. 

A second possible answer, inspired by the Doomsday Argument that Oxford University’s Nick Bostrom has popularized, is that time travel is theoretically possible, but some cataclysmic event will overwhelm the earth─or humanity─in the near future, before anyone has a chance to invent a time travel device. Note: this is not a paid advertisement for Travelers’ Insurance. 

A third possible answer to the Time Travelers’ Conference Conundrum is as follows: 

Let us assume that time travel involves passage between many possible worlds, differing from one another in ways large or small: for instance, an electron near the center of Alpha Centauri in one universe is spin up instead of spin down; in another universe Napoleon wins the battle of Waterloo; etc. This is consistent with the “Many Worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics. 

One can argue that the number of possible universes is finite: There may be a googolplex particles, for instance, and so a finite number of configurations of those. We can suppose there is some “distribution” of universes where time travel is developed, and some distribution of universes where the MIT conference takes place. There is no reason to suppose that these sets of universes overlap; but, even assuming that time travel is possible, that it occurs in a universe like ours, and that every time traveler arrives at a universe where the MIT conference takes place, there is still a significant probability that, in our universe, no time traveler arrives. 

The probability that time travel is possible, but no traveler arrives in our universe, is the probability that a random function from the set of universes with time travel “misses” our universe. The theory of “derangements” from algebraic combinatorics tells us that this probability tends to 1/e, approximately 0.37. So, because we really do live in a mad, mad, mad, mad world, the probability is greater than 1/3 that time travel is possible in a universe like ours, yet no traveler ever comes to our universe─at least, not to MIT. 

In conclusion, the absence of time travelers at the MIT conference is not prima facie evidence that time travel is impossible. 

It’s just evidence that time travelers have better things to do with their time. 

Professor Jonathan David Farley is the co-founder of Hollywood Math and Science Film Consulting. 


Behold the Ides of March
(First Person)

By Toni Mester
Friday March 14, 2014 - 09:23:00 AM
Monk’s House and Garden
National Trust
Monk’s House and Garden

On March 15 my temporary disabled parking placard expires, a handy red tag that hangs on the rear view mirror and allows convenient privileges like use of blue zones and free unlimited parking elsewhere. These are among the small compensations for enduring pain.

It began two years ago with an ache in my right knee. After months of physical therapy, I had an X-ray last summer that revealed pelvic bone-on-bone and foretold total hip replacement.

I should have cancelled a London trip that was planned as a celebration of my retirement, but the doctors said go and take pain meds. And so I went, stupidly. Having conducted theater tours to England for over 20 years, I knew the territory. My old friend Fiona, a bursar at the University of London, booked me into my usual room at the top of Canterbury Hall, overlooking roof gardens and chimneys to the clock tower of Kings Cross station. To the south, I could see the Shard, the capital’s newest skyscraper. I was home away from home. 

Making the most of misery, I studied acceptance and limited my activities to theater and three excursions: Oxford, the Dulwich Gallery, and Rodmell in East Sussex, where Virginia and Leonard Woolf had lived. Their Monk’s House is a National Trust property, and one of the literary pilgrimages that I had been anticipating for many years. 

I delayed the big outing until the last Sunday and filled difficult days with matinees, made tolerable by the ready accommodations offered by box office personnel. All I had to do was mention my hip, and they gave me convenient disability seats at half price. In that way I was able to enjoy The Amen Corner by James Baldwin, Pinter’s Hot House with Simon Russell Beale, the song and dance show Top Hat and other memorable performances. 

The only disappointment was Shakespeare’s Globe, where the audience is expected to suffer for art. Severe discomfort and heat forced me out of the theater and onto the Thames pedestrian bridge, limping along, taking in the river views and refreshing air. 

I had to rest a lot, and during my down time, I kept company with Max Glickman, the entertaining narrator of Kalooki Nights by Howard Jacobson. In the mornings I ate breakfast in the canteen with an Australian scholar who was doing research at the nearby British library. 

The day of my Virginia Woolf pilgrimage arrived with perfect weather. From Victoria Station I took an express train to Brighton and from there a local service, two little green cars that followed the River Ouse, where on March 28, 1941 the author walked into the water, stones in her pockets. 

At a rural stop near the village of Southease, a group of English ramblers got off the train, and together we walked across a bridge spanning the river, where they stopped to examine maps. 

I asked a couple of locals for the shortest route to Rodmell, so while the ramblers set off along the river, I took the high road through village and golden hay fields and got to Monk’s House before them, amazed at how well my leg was holding up. 

Monk’s House is a rustic cottage set at the front of a narrow property that slopes up to a garden. The feel of the place is old-fashioned, an ironic setting for a couple of modernist writers. The main sitting and dining rooms are furnished in the arts and crafts style with hand made fabrics and accessories. Books and paintings by friends and family decorate the low walls. The kitchen and Virginia’s bedroom are also open to the public. At the back of the garden her small writing hut hides in the bushes. In the English tradition, the garden is divided by stone walls and hedges, each open air chamber accented by planting beds, brick walks, sculpture, and outdoor furniture. 

After looking around and talking with the docents, I found an empty bench under a magnolia tree near a rectangular pool, a quiet corner to eat my packed lunch. On the stone wall nearby sat a bust of Virginia Woolf and a plaque announcing that her ashes were buried under the tree. 

This was unexpected and gave my little repast a certain gravitas. Soon I arranged my backpack as a pillow and lay down for a nap, sinking into a reverie. 

In forty years teaching literature at CCSF, I assigned many of Woolf’s more accessible works: The Voyage Out, Three Guineas, Flush, Jacob’s Room, Between the Acts, Orlando, To the Lighthouse, Mrs. Dalloway, and a Room of One’s Own. My students, mostly retired women who had worked as teachers, secretaries, social workers, nurses, homemakers, and other professions, wanted to read good books and understand them. But even some of my brightest students found Woolf’s style difficult. 

Interest in her work blossomed with the popularity of The Hours by Michael Cunningham and the film adaptation starring Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf, in which her suicide serves as a thematic reference. The story interweaves one day in the life of Woolf while she is writing Mrs. Dalloway with two modern parallel characters played by Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore. 

The Hours makes good use of Woolf’s life and work as well as her pioneering style of multiple points of view and temporal shifts, but the film treatment of her death is removed from its historical context and therefore distorted. No understanding of a famously desperate act should be so detached from the empirical circumstances. 

Virginia Woolf drowned herself, not only because she was mentally ill, but because the war on the home front drove her to despair. She suffered from bi-polar disorder, mostly kept in check by her writing routine and the care of husband, family, and friends; but once the air battle began, her stability was shattered by the threat of invasion. 

The London Blitz of 1940 destroyed her Tavistock Square home, and the next year brought new horrors. On March 8, Buckingham Palace was hit; and two days later Portsmouth, just forty miles down the coast from Brighton, was the target of thousands of incendiary and high explosive bombs. In the week before Woolf’s death, the Luftwaffe reduced the historic center of Plymouth to utter rubble in two terrible days. 

In his memoirs, Leonard wrote that the couple intended to kill themselves should the Germans land, because they certainly would have been taken by the Gestapo. As a Jew and a former diplomat, he had no delusions about Hitler’s intent. These were some facts of their life in March 1941. 

The empirical circumstances of my own life at that dozy moment eddied around fatigue. After forty-two years of classroom teaching without a sabbatical and conducting sixty-five theater tours, I was worn out. In my professional life working with hundreds of seniors, I knew that the golden years were often tarnished by poor health, their long awaited freedom become a duel with the grim reaper. 

Nap over; I decided to follow Virginia’s fatal footsteps down to the River Ouse. The guides assured me that the walk to the station would take forty-five minutes, and with more than an hour before the last train to Lewes, I set off on the soon unpaved road. At first, it was exhilarating to be out in the open country, surrounded by fields, the chalky hills of the South Downs in the distance. 

I reconstructed how Virginia must have felt on her walks, when Nazi war planes emerged from the southern horizon on their way to London, how wrapped in black depression, she made her final determined way towards death. 

I kept expecting to see the river, but I had underestimated the distance, and my leg began to seriously hurt. By the time I reached road’s end, my physical communion with Woolf had reached its full intensity. 

The banks of the Ouse in no way resembled the drowning scene in the film The Hours. Here was no green riparian foliage draped over a stream, only a channel of high sloping concrete walls constructed for irrigation and flood control, not an inviting place for the refreshing wade I had imagined. 

But I was happy enough to turn down the well trod path. Normally I would have enjoyed the river walk, but the uneven surface jarred my nerves, so to keep up a steady pace and my spirits, I maintained a deliberate cadence to the mantra of “not dead yet.” 

Should my leg collapse, I was alone in the middle of the country with no phone and nobody in sight except for some munching cattle. I was checking my watch when a short green train slid along the tracks on the other side of the river. I had a moment of panic, thinking I had missed my connection, before realizing it was going in the other direction. By brutal willpower, I pushed forward until the sight of the bridge hastened my steps. I got to the station just minutes before the train. 

Woolf died two years before I was born during World War II, the historical nexus that links those of us who lived mostly in the twentieth century. I knew her intellect through her writing, but now totally exhausted, I felt bound to her in body by this strangely sublime pilgrimage. 

Back in my room, I reflected on the milestone of retirement. My teaching and touring career was over. Canterbury Hall was going to be demolished and replaced with new student residences, Fiona’s legacy to London, a city always rebuilding and reinventing itself. 

I was hoping to emerge from the condition of pain, our shared human heritage that too often makes us feel ashamed. Somewhere along the way, we absorb the notion that pain is punishment for being alive rather than the proof. My ordeal and surgery are now past, and I have been released once again, ready for renewal. So when my disabled placard expires on the Ides of March, I will not be wary but aware. 

Toni Mester is a resident of West Berkeley

"Mow no Mo'!", or "How to remove your lawn, reduce your water bill, and get paid for it, too"

By Kathy Kramer
Friday March 14, 2014 - 12:53:00 PM

Dixie Finley had had enough of watering her lawn, and, as a long-time observer of the natural world (she is an expert animal tracker) she knew her turf didn't provide habitat for wildlife. So it was with pleasure on a fall morning in 2012 that she welcomed the group of thirty shovel-bearing Mow no Mo'! participants who arrived at her home in Livermore.

This mixed group, comprised of everything from first-time homeowners to senior citizens, and everything in between, worked in Dixie's front garden, trenching along her driveway and sidewalk, laying out cardboard, spreading compost, and shoveling a large pile of woodchips. A few hours after the group arrived, her lawn was gone.  

With design help from Kat Weiss of Kat Weiss Landscape Design, and a nearly $500 rebate from her water district, Dixie purchased a variety of native plants, including California lilac, manzanita, and sages, coral bells, and seaside daisies.  

"I'm just thrilled," she said, looking fondly at the native plants in her garden. "I love to sit out in the front garden, watching the birds. It's to peaceful." Dixie's water bill now hovers around $30 a month. She is "captivated" by the beauty of her native plant garden, and delighted with the native bees, butterflies, and birds it attracts.  

Michael Johnson, a fly fisherman, felt he was using too much water on his lawn. "I want to leave the water for the fish, and plant natives that will provide food, shelter, and nesting areas for wildlife. I attended a "Mow no Mo'!" workshop last year, and I'm confident that sheet mulching is the way to go," he said. 

Michael's front garden in Lafayette is the venue for the upcoming "Mow no Mo'!" workshop, which will take place on Saturday, March 29, from 10-3. "Not only will we be using a lot less water once the lawn is gone, but we'll be receiving a significant rebate from EBMUD for removing the grass," said Michael. 

“Mow no Mo’!” or “How to remove your lawn” 

$30. Limit 30 participants.
Saturday, March 29, 10:00 – 3:00 Lafayette 

More on Workshop #3 

Are you tired of mowing and edging your lawn, or for paying to have that done for you? Wouldn’t it be great to save money on your water bill? Wish you could quit with the herbicides? Would you like to have a beautiful, water-conserving garden that attracts wildlife? If so, “Mow no Mo!” is the workshop for you. 

In this hands-on workshop you’ll get information on how to remove your lawn, select native plants, and design a water-conserving, pesticide-free garden that attracts wildlife. Most importantly, you’ll have the hands-on experience of sheet-mulching a lawn, and you’ll depart confident that you can do this at home. 

We’ll meet at a Lafayette garden that currently has a lawn, but won’t when we are through with it! If you have them, bring a labeled long-handled shovel and rake, and gardening gloves, as we will be sheet mulching—cutting back turf, shoveling compost, laying cardboard, and spreading woodchips. We’ll work here until everyone has had a chance to try everything. 

Bring a lunch to enjoy while you get your sheet-mulching questions answered. We’ll talk about how to select native plants and where to purchase them, provide you with a list of sheet-mulching resources, and let you know how you can get rebates from your local water district for removing your lawn. You’ll leave this workshop ready to sheet-mulch your own lawn away! 

What past participants said: 

“This was a fabulous workshop and it was so useful to actually take part in the sheetmulching process. There is nothing better than the hands-on experience. Thank you so much, a really enjoyable day.” 

“This was great. I have read many articles on sheet mulching, but until you experience the entire process up front and personal, you just don’t get it. Thank you.” 

“The process of learning how to sheet mulch was great. We are confident that we can complete our project and do it well.” 

“Hands-on is a great way to learn!” 


Register at http://www.bringingbackthenatives.net/select-tours 



Mow no Mo’!” or “How to remove your lawn, save water, and get paid for it, too” 

What: In this hands-on workshop you'll learn how to remove your lawn and select drought-tolerant plants, and find out how to receive a lawn-removal rebate from your water district 

When: 10:00-3:00, Saturday, March 29, 2014 

Where: Lafayette 

Cost: $30. Preregistration is required, at http://www.bringingbackthenatives.net/select-tours.  

More: This workshop is coordinated by the Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour.  



Drifting and Dreaming at the Midnight Hour—Berkeley Council's Refusal to Compromise on the Student District Threatens Revenue Measures

By Becky O'Malley
Friday March 14, 2014 - 12:24:00 PM

Another week, another experiment. As I was dutifully watching the streaming video of the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday (it could also be called the screaming video, which is what I often do as I watch) I was moved to try something akin to liveblogging to inform any readers still around about how annoying it was. I’m not eager to swell the coffers of those who market specialty apps for this purpose however, so I just posted in the “Editor’s Back Fence” section a few observations on particularly irrational moments in a generally surreal evening.

Here, now, I’m reprising and amplifying my observations for the many readers who were not following this site late on Tuesday night. The headline was “Dreamers on the Midnight Special”, since the worst is always saved for last on Berkeley’s somnolent city council. 

First up, in the discussion of whether the southeast corner of Ashby (state Highway 13) and Telegraph was a good place to have a big new Starbucks: testimony from a guy who identified himself to the Berkeley City Council as some kind of managerish person at the Oxford/Center Starbucks. 

(Side note: when chain stores call employees Assistant Managers they’re exempt from paying overtime. Almost all of the Pro testifiers seemed to be managers at one or another Starbucks location.) 

This dreamer said he thought putting a very popular Starbucks on the corner of Ashby and Telegraph would turn that intersection into a pedestrian mecca. Uh-huh. 

Councilmember Linda Maio intelligently figured out (no thanks to the “traffic studies” proferred by Starbucks) that an expected path would be the caffeine-seeking commuters headed for UC in the morning, who would likely look first for a parking place in front of the cafe, and if they didn’t find one would go around the block in a series of right turns which would take them right through the ambulance entrance to Alta Bates hospital. Bad. 

Then there's Dreamer #2, Mayor Tom Bates, who expressed surprise that neighbors reported that the Alta Bates (no relation) Hospital parking garage is full at eight a.m. “When I go there at ten I can find a space!" he said enthusiastically. 

But wait—doesn't he say he's given up his car, that he's a non-driver? Does he really drive to the hospital at 10 a.m. when his Berkeley home is just a few blocks away? 

Luckily in this case, cooler heads prevailed, and the many variances Starbuck’s was demanding were not allowed. They’ll have to improve their proposal or drop it altogether. 

And at the tail end of the meeting, literally at the eleventh hour, was the whole surreal discussion of redistricting. The dreamers on this item were the Mayor's Majority, his tame councilmembers. He’s suckered them into believing that if the city of Berkeley files an action to get a judge to choose which set of council district lines will used in the November local election, the district map which the council selected last fall will be chosen. As Councilmember Jesse Arreguin pointed out (to no avail) the judge will be able to examine ALL of the many plans submitted for consideration, not just the one the council passed, and will be obliged to pick the one which best follows the city charter and state and federal law. Despite Councilmember Capitelli’s plaintive pleas to the contrary, the Mayor’s Majority map looks an awful lot like a gerrymander to me—and a judge might well agree. 

How much will hiring an outside lawyer to sue the city (yes, that's how they're planning to do it!) cost the taxpayers? Plenty. The hired gun will be paid to represent the city as plaintiff, and the city attorney’s paid staff time will be used to defend. If you find this hard to follow, you’re not alone, but it’s expensive. 

What’s stupid about this scenario is that it could all have been avoided by negotiating a compromise. Those who thought the council-passed plan was unfair collected enough signatures to put the decision on the November ballot. At that point the council majority had the choice of adopting a different, fairer plan or leaving the decision for the voters, and they refused to negotiate. 

Councilmember Maio on Tuesday urged them to allow a couple of weeks for more discussion. George Beier (who ran three times against Kriss Worthington in the existing student-majority district) offered his own compromise plan, which was rejected out of hand. But the Mayor’s Majority (Capitelli, Wozniak, Moore, Wengraf and himself) had the votes to bull on through, and they’re doing it. Maio voted with them in the end. 

Those with long memories might remember that this whole silly story started with the desire of some students to use the re-districting mandate as an opportunity to create a campus-area district with an even greater student majority than the one now represented by Kriss Worthington, where students already outnumber non-students. All councilmembers, conscious of the number of students already voting throughout the city, acquiesced to this concept, but then the Mayor’s Majority got greedy. The plan they passed excluded the more progressive Northside co-op students in an obvious attempt to add one more conservative councilmember to the five or six reliable votes Bates already controls with the current districts. 

The petition drive to put the district decision before the voters in a referendum was the result. The council could have compromised at this point, but by deciding instead to go to the ballot they may have put the student district at risk. Annoyed voters might well say a plague on both their houses and just vote the whole thing down. 

Even worse, a lot of citizens will remember how costly this little escapade has been when they're deciding how to vote on the revenue measures the council wants to put on the very same ballot. They might decide that if the councilmembers can’t get along with one another and do what’s best for the city, they don’t need any more money to throw at needless lawsuits. Yes, yes, I know that the taxes and bonds are supposed to be earmarked for popular programs like parks and swimming pools, but all that means is that more money from the general fund will be freed up for foolishness. 

As it happens, I was called by the Nevada-based telephone survey the council has ordered to guide them in what to put on the ballot. It was a string of long, complicated questions, so hard to parse that even a political junkie like me couldn’t figure out what to answer. Zoning Commissioner Sophie Hahn, a lawyer and one smart cookie, told me she was called and had the same reaction. Any decision made on the basis of this survey, which didn’t even mention the student district fiasco, has got to be—I believe the technical term is—bupkis



Odd Bodkins: Werner von Braun (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday March 14, 2014 - 01:25:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Odd Bodkins: Time (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday March 14, 2014 - 01:04:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

California Democrats Call for Huge Reductions in Military Spending

By Nicholas A. Carlin
Saturday March 15, 2014 - 08:45:00 AM

Media coverage of the California Democratic Party’s 2014 Platform, adopted Sunday by acclamation at the 2014 California Democratic Party Convention in Los Angeles last weekend, focused on calls to eliminate fracking and legalize marijuana. But perhaps the most significant provision of the Platform has so far been ignored by the press: the call (in the National Security plank) to reduce military spending by 25-30%. Here is the specific text: "To protect and defend California and our Constitution, Democrats will . . reduce the DOD budget by 25% - 30% – in line with historic drawdowns after major conflicts – primarily by cutting back on that portion of the DOD budget dedicated to bases in foreign countries, projection of military power overseas and development of weapons of mass destruction, and reallocate the savings to other priorities including assistance to state and local governments to maintain and rehire laid off employees, building out the renewable power grid and rebuilding the nation's infrastructure, investing in technology and manufacturing jobs in the U.S., and deficit reduction.” 

At a time when many in Washington scream that even a 5% cut is somehow disastrous, the California Democratic Party's bold recognition of the reality that military spending is grossly out of proportion with the rest of the world and any actual threats is refreshing, and has the potential to reframe the debate over the size of the military. 

Current annual US Military and National Security expenditures are somewhere between $700 billion and $1 trillion depending on what is counted - the majority of the $1.2 trillion discretionary budget. These astonishing numbers, apart from being a major cause of our massive budget deficits (projected to be $514 billion in 2014), are totally out of proportion with any realistic threat, and with the rest of the world’s level of military spending. The number 2 spending country in the world, China, with over four times our population, only spends around $139 billion. All other countries are far far less: Russia spends around $69 billion, the UK, $59 billion, and so on. This massive overspending on the military puts us at a competitive disadvantage with other countries who spend far less. An actual “Defense” - as opposed to world domination - budget would be more like $66 billion. 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s recent call for a $75 billion reduction in military spending (albeit over two years – so really only $37 billion annually) is a small step in the right direction, but only represents at most a 5% annual cut. And even that is drawing howls of outrage from the Republicans who receive huge campaign contributions from the military industrial complex. So the California Democratic Party’s call to reduce the military budget by 25 – 30%, which the Platform notes is simply in line with historic drawdowns by the US after major conflicts are over, is a potential game - and frame - changer. 

To those who worry that such large cuts to the military budget would reduce employment, the response is that the military is an extremely inefficient and expensive job creator. Each job in the military costs us around $500,000/year. That is almost 20 times the median income of US workers (around $27,000). As the Platform points out “we recognize that every $100 billion/year reallocated from the military to civilian employment would support some 4 million jobs at the median wage.” 

While the California Democratic Platform is very strong and progressive, it will be meaningless without the active participation of citizens holding their elected representatives to account. I urge everyone to call or write or personally visit your representative and demand that they work to implement the desperately needed military budget cuts called for in the Platform. 

Nicholas A. Carlin is an attorney with Phillips, Erlewine & Given LLP in San Francisco, and is a member of the California Democratic Party Platform Committee. He is the chair of the Platform Committee’s National Security plank. The entire 2014 Platform can be read here.  



New: Caring for All

By Romila Khanna
Monday March 17, 2014 - 10:16:00 PM

We think about the issues which are pressing for our families now? Every day in our communities people are facing health crises and financial crises and they have nowhere to go for help. They can’t be satisfied with verbal messages that all is well. 

We are trying to protect far away countries from all kinds of trouble. It is indeed important to establish friendly relations with the world around us but it may be more important to provide a safety net for our financially and physically faltering citizens in the United States. 

There is one other safeguard for our citizens that I want to mention. Can we not make the streets in our poorer neighborhoods safe for those who must dwell there? Is there nothing we can do to reduce the daily shooting and killing in our streets?  

Advancement of science and technology has helped us to make material gains, but we have drifted from the human qualities of caring and helping. What shall it profit a country to make friends with the world but lose compassion for its own poorest and neediest?

What Has Become of the Berkeley Public Library?

By Sheila Goldmacher
Friday March 14, 2014 - 12:01:00 PM

Have any of you noticed recently that when you enter the lobby of the Main Library in downtown Berkeley , it feels more like a ghost town? No more feeling of commons, hardly anybody talking to one another, when you approach the circulation area, the workers are now in front of their desks instead of behind them as if to keep us from expecting any service? That is not your imagination. One day a week ago I approached the desk and one of the workers came forward, spoke politely of course and asked how he could help me. I asked for a reserved book which had been ordered for me from another library system. He got it for me and checked it out behind his desk and when I tried to give him my other materials from our library to check out he told me they were no longer permitted to check out materials owned by Berkeley, behind the desk. I was flabbergasted. So he walked me to the self check out computers several feet away and I told him I already knew how to do this but how ridiculous it seemed to me to not do all of the checkouts where he started the first transaction. Again he told me they were no longer permitted to do that. As a retired librarian this trend of increasing self service is abhorrent to me. Library service work was meant to be just that - a place of service to the community. 

Now do you smell a rat????? To me this seems to come from the idea that the library is no longer to be a place of community good or community service but rather a tomb-like building the costs of which we in Berkeley have continuously come across with millions of dollars to improve but - not for improvement of human contact. I see this as a way to diminish what little staff is still available. 

I have always looked forward to my trips to the library to exchange greetings with staff, to feel good in the commons that I willingly support with my taxes. It appears that the commons has become an endangered concept - what is next? In this age of technology we cannot afford to lose another source of human contact. Or is this just another step in the progression of turning away from one another to bury ourselves in more and more technology. Let's put a stop to this ongoing destruction of our society while we still can.

California Drought

By Jagjit Singh
Friday March 14, 2014 - 01:01:00 PM

The California drought has largely been exacerbated by misguided government policies that encouraged large scale agricultural farming. Agriculture consumes 80% of available water while contributing a minuscule 2% of the state economy. Farmers continue to grow alfalfa, rice and other thirsty crops. Their resource usage has been heavily subsidized by the government and according to The Economist they have paid a paltry 15% of the capital costs of the federal system that delivers much of the water to their fields. Thus, farmers have no incentive to efficiently irrigate their farmlands. The rainy season has less than five weeks to go before the onset of spring and summer which will bake much of California and exacerbate the likelihood of wild fires. The water table has decreased in many areas prompting farmers to drill deeper to reach groundwater further depleting aquifers.  

Last January Governor Brown issued a drought declaration and urged Californians to cut water usage by 20%. $187m of federal aid coupled with $687m of California aid should bring some relief. However what are sorely missing is details of how the funds will be spent. Much greater pressure needs to be directed at farmers where the payback would be far greater. If homeowners are encouraged to let their lawns die, perhaps golf enthusiasts could find some other leisure pursuits and let golf courses suffer the same fate.


THE PUBLIC EYE: Fukushima: What Have We Learned?

By Bob Burnett
Friday March 14, 2014 - 09:18:00 AM

It’s been three years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the bad news continues. In December, it was widely reported that 51 US sailors assigned to the nuclear carrier, Ronald Reagan, have incurred cancer, as a result of that vessel’s 2011 deployment to the area of the Fukushima reactor failure. The actual cleanup is painfully slow. What have we learned from the Fukushima disaster? 

On March 11, 2011, Japan experienced a 9.0 earthquake. The six nuclear plants at Fukushima Daiichi – about 136 miles north of Tokyo – survived the quake but were swamped by a 45-foot wave that overwhelmed the 19-foot seawalls. Fukushima units 5 and 6 were in cold shutdown for maintenance and Unit 4 had been deactivated. Units 1,2, and 3 lost power and were unable to cool down properly; they experienced full meltdown. In the ensuing three years, we learned four grim truths. 

Disaster communication was terrible. At the time of the earthquake and tsunami, the USS Ronald Reagan was in the Gulf of Japan and was deployed to aid the relief effort. Now, 51 sailors, who were part of the 2011 rescue mission, are suing the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) “alleging that the utility mishandled the crisis and did not adequately warn the crew of the risk of participating in the earthquake relief efforts.” 

Journalist William Boardman reported: 

Although the potential seriousness of the Fukushima accident was widely apparent, Japanese officials publicly and privately minimized the danger for as long as they could, lying to their own people and rescue personnel from other countries alike. At the time, the first meltdown was thought to have happened on March 12. [Two years later] on December 12, 2013, Naoto Kan, the former prime minister who was in office at the time, told a meeting of the Japan Press Club that his government had known that “the first meltdown occurred five hours after the earthquake” which hit at 14:46 on March 11. The U.S.S. Reagan and accompanying ships were coming into an environment where radiation levels in the air and water were far higher than the Navy was being told officially. That lying is at the heart of the lawsuit against TEPCO, which… argues that TEPCO’s lies led the U.S. Navy to sail unknowingly into intensely and dangerously radioactive waters.

The Reactors weren’t designed to be safe. In February the Union of Concerned Scientists published Fuskushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster written by scientists David Lochbaum and Edwin Lyman together with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Susan Q. Stranahan. They observed: 

Fukushima Daiichi unmasked the weaknesses of nuclear power plant design and the long-standing flaws in operations and regulatory oversight. Although Japan must share this blame, this was not a Japanese nuclear accident [alone]… The problems that led to the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi exist wherever reactors operate. Although the accident involved a failure of technology, even more worrisome was the role of the worldwide nuclear establishment: the close-knit culture that has championed nuclear energy – politically, economically, socially – while refusing to acknowledge and reduce the risks that accompany its operation… In many respects, the emergency communication system at Fukushima Daiichi reflected the underlying premise of the plant’s comprehensive accident management plan, which read: ‘the possibility of a severe accident occurring is so small that from an engineering standpoint, it is practically unthinkable.’ The follies resulting from this complacent attitude began to build catastrophically.

We still don’t understand what happened, As horrific as the Fukushima nuclear disaster was, one would hope that we’ve learned important lessons from it. Sadly, that’s not the case. Lochbaum, Lyman, and Stranahan reported that, so far, accident modelers have not been effective: 

The computer simulations could not reproduce numerous important aspects of the accidents. And in many cases, different computer codes gave different results… When computer models cannot fully explain yesterday’s accident, they cannot accurately simulate tomorrow’s accident. Yet the nuclear establishment continues to place ever-greater reliance on these codes to develop safety strategies and cost-benefit analyses.

Meanwhile, TEPCO struggles to clean up Fukushima Daiichi. Recently, the TEPCO president Naomi Hirose said: 

we have set an ambitious goal to remove the fuel debris from at least one of the reactors by the first half of fiscal year 2020. It will not be easy. The technology for safely doing so is not yet in place, and there can be no shortcuts."
On March 10th a senior advisor to TEPCO warned, “[the company] may have no choice but to eventually dump hundreds of thousands of [tons] of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean.” 


What does this mean to the United States? We shouldn’t build any more nuclear plants and we should shut down the 65 currently operating. Lockbaum, Lyman, and Stranahan observed that our nuclear facilities are also vulnerable to natural disasters (and terrorist attacks) and “U.S emergency plans are not designed to protect the public in the aftermath of Fukushima-scale accidents or fully address the problem of long-term land contamination.” 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at bburnett@sonic.net

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Mental Illness Not Contrary to Being Intelligent

By Jack Bragen
Friday March 14, 2014 - 12:51:00 PM

When I was twenty, I discussed with my psychiatrist (the one I had at the time) the subject of whether mentally ill people could be intelligent. Prior to becoming ill, I had always thought of myself and had been thought by others to be an intelligent person. 

He said that the illness doesn't eliminate intelligence, but that it affects "harnessing of intelligence."  

It's like the old computer term from the 1970's, "GIGO," which stood for "Garbage In, Garbage Out." A perfectly good computer will not work unless the information put into it is usable. A brain that's mostly good will not work right if there is an area in the brain that is sabotaging the works.  

The diagnosis of mental illness had been quite a blow to my self-esteem. About two years after my diagnosis, when I did very well in electronics training, I realized that I still had brainpower. Rather then brilliance and mental illness being mutually exclusive, often they coincide.  

However, when (due to symptoms of mental illness) the mind is living in a pseudo and inaccurate version of reality, a person might be intelligent within those bounds, but is intelligently processing erroneous information.  

Schizophrenia is believed to be a condition in which the mind splits off from reality. It is not to be confused with multiple personality disorder. A person with schizophrenia, even while psychotic, could be magnificently intelligent, but is functioning in the context a false, internally generated, pseudo-reality.  

However, if someone with schizophrenia has too many repeat episodes of their illness, or of they go an excessively long time without treatment, they can lose a significant amount of brainpower, and this can show up visibly on an MRI.  

Antipsychotic medications work partly by forcing a person to be receptive to their external environment. At the same time, medication slows down the brain--and this is helpful when the brain has become a "runaway train" in which the thinking can't slow down. A person taking medication can still be smart, even while some amount of slowness may be introduced.  

As far as I can tell, medication hasn't ruined my thinking ability--on the contrary. As one might not expect, physical limitations and physical side effects introduced by these medications are usually worse than some possible damping effects on cognitive ability. Medication introduces physical sluggishness, fatigue, clumsiness, and poor reflexes. It doesn't limit thinking nearly as much as it limits physical ability.  

When someone in treatment for mental illness displays intelligence or insight, it sometimes fools people, some of them mental health practitioners, into believing that the person isn't really ill, or doesn't need medication. However, this can be a grave error. The fact of being medicated could be the reason why the person is "doing well" and discontinuation of it is often the wrong thing.  

The belief of mental health practitioners that when someone is in their care, it indicates that they are less advanced than they, or that we are in a space of "having problems," aren’t valid assumptions. Oftentimes the illness is due to a chemical imbalance in part of the brain, and not due to a defect or lack of development in personality.  

Many people with mental illness are very aware and intelligent people, and we may find it insulting when mental health treatment professionals are condescending as though we lack their level of intelligence. They might believe that the insult escapes us--it doesn’t. 


* * * 

I would like to retract the following statement that appeared in my column of two weeks ago:  

"My perspective is fairly unique, since most people with mental illness seem to be too impaired by their condition or by sociological factors to write about their experiences and to do this at a level that is commercially viable." 

I was wrong for making the above statement. Persons with mental illness are often every bit as gifted as I am, sometimes more so. If I have had more success at writing than some others with or without mental illness, it is only because I have put more time into it.

Arts & Events

New Theater Company Plays "Other People's Money" at Kehila in Oakland

By Our Correspondent
Friday March 14, 2014 - 12:15:00 PM

Piedmont and Oakland has a new theatre company—the Piedmont Oakland Repertory Theatre 

John McMullen has been writing theatre reviews for The Berkeley Daily Planet for three years. 

And now he has gone and started his own. 

You can find them on the web at www.PiedmontOaklandRep.ORG 

They are now playing “Other People’s Money: The Ultimate Seduction” by Jerry Sterner’s which is described as a “sexy, funny, dark comedy about Corporate Raiders on the loose!” at Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont. 

“Three years of watching plays taught me a lot about what’s effective, what’s not, and why,” McMullen said. “I got an MFA from Carnegie-Mellon, but my most informative post-grad education has been being a theatre critic for the Berkeley Daily Planet.” 

“Theatre abhors a vacuum,” McMullen continued. “This metropolis and its neighboring community had no live semi-pro theatre. I live near Piedmont Ave & Grand Ave., and it seemed like the demography would support a theatre. Lots of coffee houses, bookstore, middle-aged bohemian boomers who fit the profile of the folks I’ve seen at the theatre over the past few years. ” 

Finding a place to play was challenging for the company. They had originally set their sights on a venue on Piedmont Ave—a storefront that would advertise itself by its presence on the popular and well-traveled street. However, there was no one who would or could rent to a non-profit group and the rents were astronomical for a new theatre group. 

Luckily, the Kehilla Community Synagogue opened their doors to them. Situated almost on the Piedmont-Oakland line, across from the Grand Ave Ace Hardware (a landmark everyone seems to know), they offered space for rehearsals, performances, and theatre classes for a reasonable rent. 

And so a name change from Piedmont Avenue Rep to Piedmont Oakland Repertory Theatre was made. 

“It’s the most ecumenical place I’ve ever seen. The Coptic Church has their services there on Sunday. The rabbi has a theatre background. It is a bustling community center…I was told Kehilla means ‘community’ in Hebrew.” McMullen added. 

“Other People’s Money” plays through April 12 with early show times: Thu 7 pm, Fri & Sat 7:30, Sun 5 pm. (but no performances on Friday March 21 & April 4) at Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont (cross street Oakland Ave.). 

The play won the Best Off-Broadway Play Award in 1989, and was reviewed by New York Magazine’s uber-critic John Simon as, “Funny, serious, suspenseful, involving, disturbing, and above all, expertly crafted...Epic grandeur and intimate titillation combined. It is the most stimulating kind of entertainment." 

Carl Icahn, the iconic corporate raider whose photo was on TIME magazine last December, and who is mentioned in the play, was quoted, “Some of the funniest lines I’ve ever heard…some of which I now use myself.” 

The cast is John Hale who plays Garfield, the obese, lecherous, gluttonous, avaricious, charming, and funny New Yorker who comes to buy, chop and sell the wire and cable mill that supports a small community which is owned by Jorgenson, played by Keith Jefferds. Karly Shea plays Kate, a sexy lawyer who battles Garfield at the behest of her mother, Jorgenson’s lover, played by Susannah Wood. Brett Mermer plays the company manager Cole, who is caught between the adversaries, and is concerned for his own future. Understudy for Bea is Elizabeth Jane Dunne. All actors, except the new addition of Jefferds, were featured in the group’s inaugural production of The Dining Room at the Piedmont Center for the Arts in November and earl December. 

“We are very lucky to have a great board of directors,” McMullen concluded. “Our President is Don Cate, who ran the CCSF Theatre Tech Department and was chair until his retirement; Regina Cate, who was th costume professor at CSU/EB is our secretary; Judith L. Bloom, CPA and past treasurer of Berkeley Symphony; Ann Higgins who is a fabulous designer (higganzo@hotdamn.org) who did the graphic above; Attorney Henry Epstein who is an administrative judge; and Delia Violante who works at Boalt Law School, box officer and who does a marvelous job with social media.” 

The play derives its title from Louis Brandeis’ famous series of articles in Harper’s Weekly in 1914—two years before he became a Supreme Court Justice—on how the large banking houses were colluding with businessmen to create trusts in America's major industries. “The articles were collected in book form and published under the title ‘Other People's Money—and How the Bankers Use It’” (quoted from Louis Brandeis School of Law). 

Tickets are $25 at www.PiedmontOaklandRep.ORG or 1-800-838-3006