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Extreme Makeover: The Roller Coaster Edition

By | September 4, 2015

Colossus once was the “King of Coasters.” Introduced at Six Flags Magic Mountain in 1978, the classic wooden behemoth—which reached reported speeds of 62 miles per hour and was the first roller coaster to feature more than one 100-foot drop—was the fastest and tallest on the planet. It appeared in television shows and movies, including National Lampoon’s Vacation, and became an icon of amusement park …

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What Monkeys Can Teach Us About Politics

By | September 2, 2015

Whenever I find myself in a contentious academic meeting or I see clips of Congress trying to pass (or kill) a bill, I am reminded of capuchin monkeys.
Don’t get me wrong—I respect my colleagues, and don’t consider politicians to be sub-human. It’s just that the monkeys I have devoted so much of my life to studying exhibit extraordinarily sophisticated political strategies that mirror the …

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How a Long Beach Doctor Created Social Security

By | August 31, 2015

Long Beach, California, is known today for its terrific aquarium, for the Queen Mary, and for being the hometown of Snoop Dogg. But its greatest contribution to the United States may be something else entirely: Social Security.
This month, we marked the 80th anniversary of the establishment of the most enduring policy success of the Great Depression, the program that reduced poverty for millions of older …

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Are the Olympics Anti-Democracy?

By | August 24, 2015

Can the Olympics and democracy co-exist?
It’s a question being asked again this summer after Beijing won the bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Beyond the fact that the International Olympic Committee put the biggest event in winter sports in a smog-ridden megalopolis without any real snow, people are concerned about China’s demonstrated record of human rights violations during the last games it hosted, the …

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Southern California’s Reservoirs Are Fuller Than You Think

By | August 17, 2015

On a recent trip to Wyoming, I was talking to one of the locals about the drought back home in Southern California. She had heard that it was so bad that people were going to communal showers to bathe.
No, no, no, I replied. In fact, it was business as usual back home except for some lawn-watering restrictions. I also told her that it’s easy to …

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Six Ways We Can Keep the World From Drying Up

By | August 14, 2015

Early last year, Californians, already deep in their state’s drought panic, confronted a depressing statistic. Governor Jerry Brown had called for cities and towns to voluntarily cut down on water use by 20 percent, but a survey of water departments showed they hadn’t managed to improve the situation by even 4 percent in March, compared to the same month of the previous year.
The poor …

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Bogotá, My Home Away From Home

By | August 12, 2015

After finishing seventh grade, I found myself at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX, where my mother put me on a plane headed to Bogotá, Colombia.
It wasn’t as crazy as it might sound. I was a blonde, fair-skinned California girl, daughter of a Colombian mother and an American father, with a very superficial understanding of my mother’s culture and language. The plan was for …

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The Daunting Task of Reimagining ‘Anne of Green Gables’

By | August 10, 2015

“Because when you are imagining, you might as well imagine something worth while.” Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
There were many moments throughout the writing of my first novel, Ana of California, when I stared at a blank screen and said to myself, out loud, “Are you sure you want to do this?”
I was typing in the shadow of a literary …

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The End of House of Blues Is Not the Death of Rock in L.A.

By | August 6, 2015

“Coop’s full, guys! Time to hit the stage!” our tour manager says.
The four of us file out of the dressing room, head down the dimly lit concrete staircase, and get in our positions behind a tall red-velvet curtain. Jakob and Yogi pick up their guitars. I strap on my bass, and Mario gives a few taps to his drums. Amid the jumbled hum of pre-show …

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I Found Home in a Pumpkin Pie Milkshake

By | August 5, 2015

When I left Watsonville (pop. 52,000) in the fall of 2012 to attend Occidental College in Los Angeles, I expected to cry at the absence of family and friends. But I didn’t anticipate how much I would miss small restaurants that I had taken for granted back home, like the tiny Japanese spot on East Lake or the cowboy-themed diner near our local Target.
I …