Berkeley city council unanimously votes to ban facial recognition technology

Berkeley has joined the swelling ranks of cities (pioneered by nearby Oakland) that have passed ordinances banning the government's use of facial recognition technology, after a unanimous city council vote. Read the rest

"Mysterious medallions" popping up on Bay Area sidewalks

There's a Happy Mutant reality hacker on the loose in Berkeley, California... affixing "mysterious medallions" on the city's sidewalks.

Berkeleyside reports:

There is a person out there with a sly sense of humor, a way with words, a working knowledge of Berkeley history and a desire to impart pithy observations.

He or she or they has been going around town the past few months affixing round metal medallions with clever sayings to sidewalks around Central Berkeley...

No one seems to know the creator’s identity, even though the question has been posed on Facebook and Twitter and even on Tom Dalzell’s Quirky Berkeley website.

“These days, just everybodytout le monde – is talking about the mysterious medallions that are appearing in Berkeley’s sidewalks,” Dalzell wrote. “You read about them in Berkeleyside, you see them on Twitter, your hip friends are talking about them. “Plaque” might be a better word for what these are, but medallion gives us alliteration with mysterious.”

images via a friend Read the rest

Bay Area organization offers free birthday parties to homeless kids, cake and all

Habitot Children's Museum in Berkeley, California is making an unusually generous offer to the families of homeless kids. They are providing them with the opportunity to celebrate their child's birthday at their facility for free. Their free birthday party offer includes all the standards: decor, pizza, juice, cake, and even goodie bags for the guests. Plus, they gift the birthday child something special.

Now, I'm not sure the age limit for the eligible children but, according to their site, the museum serves infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

Want to learn more? Email the museum's Family Programs Manager at familyprograms@habitot.org. Also, if you have the means, please consider donating to Habitot so they can keep the magic going.

photo by Yoshika Mcalister Read the rest

Emails show Berkeley police celebrated 'retweets' & 'engagements' from protester mugshots cops posted on social media

Internal emails show that the Berkeley, California Police Department (BPD) talked of building a “counter-narrative” on social media against anti-fascist protesters as BPD tweeted out their names and mugshots, then boasted of retweets and “engagement” metrics when mugshots went viral. This amounts to cops doxxing protesters and high-fiving each other over it. That's creepy, and seems like an obvious abuse of power, if not also an abuse of the law. Read the rest

Converted garage now home to museum of 'curious scents'

Almost directly behind the legendary Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California is a garage that has been converted into a tiny museum dedicated to fragrance. Its curator, author and perfumer Mandy Aftel, opened the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents just last year.

Bianca Taylor of KQED Arts recently visited the archive and writes:

Aftel tells me that the natural oils in her perfumes are not as pungent and long-lasting as the synthetic oils that you’d find at a makeup counter.

The Aftel Archive of Curious Scents was founded as a way to share her love of natural fragrance with the world...

Aftel says perfume is more than just Chanel. Scented materials have been used in spiritual traditions from Buddhism to Catholicism, and Native American rituals. She has created nearly all of the 300 scents in the museum.

“Perfume has a very tangled history,” she explains. “There is no civilization that didn’t revere and want scented materials.”

The New York Times Style Magazine visited in 2017 and reported:

...[It] is not just the first museum in the U.S. dedicated to perfume, but more beguilingly, the first one dedicated to the experience of fragrance. This tiny museum manages to contain the olfactory history of the world: hundreds of natural essences, raw ingredients and antique tinctures gathered from every corner of the globe, and all available for visitors to smell.

The museum is only open on Saturdays from 10 AM to 6 PM, and tickets are $20. That buys you one hour and "3 letter-press scent strips to dip in essences and take home."

image via Aftelier Perfumes Read the rest

Cal Berkeley put a crooked line on its new football field, to show it sits on the Hayward Fault

To show its new football field is sitting on one big earthquake fault line -- the Hayward Fault -- UC Berkeley made a crooked line in the north end zone's grass.

This is what it looks like up close:

Here's what SBNation: California Golden Bears thinks about the unusual addition:

On one hand, the fault line isn’t too prominently sticking out, so you really have to look for it to find it. On the other, it’s probably best not to draw that too much attention to an active earthquake fault line that forced the university to enact millions in overdue athletic renovations and have left the athletic department mired in debt. Always compromises to be made in the football life.

Thanks, Sara!

lead image via Cal FB Recruiting Read the rest

UC Berkeley chancellor installs office "escape door" as security measure against protesters

UC Berkeley, birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, installed an emergency exit door between Chancellor Nicholas Dirks’ office and his conference room so he can escape if protestors violently storm his suite. From the Daily Californian:

Construction of the door was requested about a year ago in response to a protest in April 2015 when protesters stormed the chancellor’s suite (photo above).

During the protest, students staged a sit-in outside Dirks’ office where they banged on desks and chanted loudly. They were eventually escorted out of the building, some in handcuffs, by UCPD officers.

Later that day, protesters marched from Sproul Hall to the area in front of University House, the chancellor’s residence.

ASUC Senator-elect Chris Yamas said there have been many protests on campus throughout the tenure of several different chancellors, but no instances when a chancellor was physically harmed.

“There has to be other ways to handle student concerns and protests than simply building ways to avoid them,” Yamas said. “The chancellor seems elitist and out of touch and inaccessible to the students.”

Read the rest

UC Berkeley issues first-ever university transparency report

April writes, "The University of California-Berkeley has become the first university in the United States to publish a set of transparency reports that detail government requests for student, faculty, and staff data." Read the rest

Camp H: Maker camp for girls in Berkeley

They do a variety of year-round programs for girls aged 9-12, and teach subjects from welding, masonry, carpentry, architecture, service and leadership; the winter workshop is on game-design: Read the rest

Occupy Cal: School-wide student strike at UC Berkeley

Turnstyle News photog Denise Tejada has a set of photos from today's mass protest at UC Berkeley, in California's Bay Area. At the time of this blog post, the crowd gathered is somewhere north of 1,500 people. (thanks, Alejandro de la Cruz) Read the rest

The Grass Is Closed: an Occupy Cal protester, on police and power

Snip from a terrific long-read by Aaron Bady, aka zunguzungu, on his experience at the OWS-inspired "Occupy Cal" protests at UC Berkeley, after campus police violently attacked peaceful fellow student demonstrators (see video above).

At about 11:30 a.m. yesterday, a police officer told me and about eight other students that, and I quote, “the grass is closed.” We were going to sit under a tree and discuss things, and two police officers were watching us vigilantly to make sure we didn’t suddenly do something violent like try to put up tents. As we moved towards the tree, the first police officer stepped up and informed us that we could not walk from the broad concrete steps of Sproul Hall, where about a hundred people were sitting and talking, and sit on the grassy area just to the north of it. “The grass is closed,” she said.

If you meditate on these words until they become a mantra, you will learn some profound things about how police authority works. What could it possibly mean to declare that “the grass is closed”? Who could have the authority to say so? I had always considered that stretch of grass to be public; I’ve often been among the hundreds of students who eat their lunch there, every day, and 11:30 a.m. is a time of day when it is common to eat lunch. I have had conversations with other students sitting on that very grass, many times. Why was it that I could not do so now?

Read the rest