by Rebecca Fairley Raney
Here are some stories from the last few months:
The New York Times, Oct. 4, 2017.
I worked as a contributor to The Times' coverage of the nation's highest-casualty mass shooting to date.
American Association for the Advancement of Science, July 25, 2018.
This is a profile of a scientist who is developing ways to predict when groundwater will poison people.
Here are some more of my favorite clips:
1. The American Association for the Advancement of Science
Since 2012, I have been writing profiles of AAAS fellows, who are some of the game-changing scientists of our time.
David Gardiner fills the room as he talks about a career in the rough-and-tumble outskirts of developmental biology. He twists in an office chair and flings his arms for emphasis. It's a good thing the desk is clear, or he would sweep it clean in no time.
He recalls a comment that came back from peer review on one of many papers he co-authored with his wife, AAAS Fellow Sue Bryant.
"It said, 'I'm tired of this iconoclastic view from Gardiner and Bryant,' " said Gardiner. "And it took me a while to realize that this wasn’t a compliment."
In the early 1980s, as he cultivated and studied vast numbers of radishes from an experimental field, Norman Ellstrand was faced with a significant problem: He was breeding babies with impossible fathers.
It was nearly 40 years ago when the mess with the oil embargo started the whole thing -- the fear of killer smog that led to the hiring of Robert Phalen to help California create policies to regulate the stuff in the air.
Now that the policies are in place, Phalen, a founder and co-director of a major smog research lab, has one more thing to say about it: The air is just too clean.
2. Discovery Communications
In 2010 and 2011, I got to write on a range of fun topics for Web sites of the Discovery Channel.
Few things in life truly become universal human experiences, but smoking earned that title without much trouble at all.
The story comes up again and again: A trader, usually an English trader, sets foot in a new land. He lights up with the locals, and he just can't stop. He gets a bag of the stuff and he takes it with him. In the spirit of friendship, he shares it with everyone he meets. Economies are created, and societies are changed. And it's all for the sake of a little smoke.
Appliances make our lives more convenient, and it's no surprise that people want to buy machines that take some of the work out of our daily routine. However, you may be surprised to learn that the politics of the early 20th century created big markets for new gas and electric appliances.
3. The New York Times
The New York Times, Nov. 22, 2012
Not far from the frantic crush of local malls, the merchants of downtown Upland, Calif., quietly rolled a few racks of merchandise out to the sidewalks under the bright sun of an 80-degree day. They stood back and waited.
At 10 a.m., a few shoppers started to stroll through town. But it was hardly a hotbed of consumer activity.
The New York Times, June 10, 2007
RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- On a foggy Sunday morning last month, the parking lots around the convention center here were filling fast.
The volume of the traffic downtown was not unusual. What was unusual was that the men directing the traffic were wearing tuxedoes.
The crowd — about 1,200 people looking for deep discounts in real estate — was decidedly less formal, in jeans and Dockers, shorts and sandals. The casual dress code concealed the fact that many were serious buyers carrying millions of dollars collectively into the hall in cash and cashier's checks.
They converged on an event the likes of which Californians have not seen in a decade: a large-scale auction of foreclosed homes.
The New York Times, June 18, 2006
SANTA CLARITA, Calif. -- FORTY miles north of Los Angeles, in an area where hundreds of homes are cropping up among the brushy, treeless hills, several dozen buyers recently found an odd spectacle in a new housing development.
To visitors, at first glance, it was like walking into a domestic scene starring Colin Farrell and Cameron Diaz.
As shoppers stepped through the front door of the largest model home, a barefoot affable man in his 30's shouted hello from the kitchen and offered juice to the buyers' children. His "wife" — slim, blonde and agreeable — pressed them to try some fresh-baked cookies. Their "children," 12 and 14, offered to show the visitors their rooms. A birthday card was propped on the mantel, and a chocolate layer cake with blown-out candles sat on the speckled granite countertop.
In truth, this cheerful family of four was a group of professional actors — paid to show buyers how life could be in the house, which is one of 166 units planned by Centex Homes of Dallas.
The New York Times, Nov. 19, 2006
RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- ON A SCORCHING fall day, as Santa Ana winds thrashed the palm trees around the parking lot, Nick Victorio inspected his group of teenage recruits. His mission was to set down the rules for wrangling a real estate sign.
The arrow-shaped signs, at 2 by 6 feet, were wider than most of the new employees were tall, and Mr. Victorio told recruits not just to hold the signs, but to also spin them, flip them, even dance with them — whatever it would take to lure a home buyer.
“It's going to get windier than this out there,” Mr. Victorio said as a gust pushed the trees sideways. “If you don't drop it,” he said, “you're not working hard enough.”
As the housing market cools here in the exurbs of Los Angeles and elsewhere, builders are relying on the frantic motion of these young workers to catch the attention of a dwindling number of buyers. In some cities, it is common on weekends to see six or seven sign twirlers — “human directionals” in industry parlance — on a single street corner, pointing the way to sprawling fields of newly framed houses.
The New York Times, Dec. 13, 2001
IN THEORY, e-mail should be a useful tool for democracy, an easy and prompt way for citizens to reach their representatives. And with the fear and disruption resulting from the discovery of anthrax in Congressional mail, e-mail might seem an ideal alternative.
But although many members of Congress asked constituents to switch to e-mail after mail delivery to their offices was halted in October, the trend on Capitol Hill seems to be a backlash against the medium.
4. The Daily Report/Progress Bulletin
The Daily Report/Progress Bulletin (Ontario, Calif.), Feb. 4, 1990
IT'S 8 O'CLOCK on a Saturday night, and the drug trade is hopping in Pomona. The dealers know it. The buyers know it. The cops know it.
Twenty officers are out tonight in plain white cars. They aren't waiting for calls to come in; they're looking for trouble in the worst parts of the city.
Mailing address: 112 Harvard Ave., #134, Claremont, CA 91711