My profile of Tess Elliott, for the magazine’s Spring 2017 issue, devoted to local news:
Wednesday is production day at the Point Reyes Light, a weekly newspaper based in the town of Inverness, just over an hour north of San Francisco along the bucolic, switchbacked coastal roads of West Marin County. In the middle of the Light’s skylit newsroom, lined with heavy wooden desks and filing cabinets containing years of old issues, five staffers are in various stages of completing the week’s stories and layout.Near the front of the office, the paper’s editor in chief, Tess Elliott, a slight, fine-boned woman with a tangle of auburn hair, frowns as she proofreads the Sheriff’s Calls page.
The police blotter is a fixture in many local newspapers, but it’s safe to say that most haven’t gotten quite as much attention as the Sheriff’s Calls. Compiled and written by Elliott, who has been running the paper for a decade, the column has inspired two short-story collections by a local writer and, more recently, national coverage by Slate (“The Best Police Blotter in America”). A New York literary agent has called Elliott about doing a book; the Oakland Museum of California has asked her to give a talk; one Bay Area writer wanted to collaborate with Elliott on a coffee table book. She hasn’t pursued any of these—largely because she doesn’t have the time, but also because she doesn’t want readers thinking that she is taking advantage of their misfortunes.
Keep reading here.
My first piece for The New Yorker, on Hong Kong’s new tribe of urban farmers:
It was a breezy afternoon in Hong Kong’s central business district, and the view from the roof of the Bank of America Tower, thirty-nine floors up, was especially fine—a panorama of Victoria Harbour, still misty from the previous day’s rain, bookended on either side by dizzying skyline. Andrew Tsui nodded at the billion-dollar vista—“no railings,” he said—but he was thinking of the harvest. Specifically, he was examining a bumper crop of bok choy, butter lettuce, and mustard leaf, all grown here, at one of the most prestigious business addresses in the city. Spade in hand, Tsui scraped at the electric-green moss that had begun to sprout on the sides of the black plastic grow boxes—a result, he said, of the damp sea air off the harbor. “I really like this work,” he told me, still scraping. “It’s soothing, like popping bubble wrap.” A faint breeze ruffled the lettuces.
Keep reading here.
Being nice is an act of defiance nowadays. Niceness is the harder thing — the tougher thing. Read my essay for The Los Angeles Times here.
I was pretty excited to appear in the December 8th episode of 99% Invisible, a tiny radio show about design with the great Roman Mars. Listen here!
The eradication would begin on Floreana Island in October. If all went well, the rodents would be dead by Thanksgiving, the feral cats, by Easter.
Read more about Karl Campbell, the animal removal specialist working on the front lines of extinction, here.
Would you read the Everyone Poops of death? A new essay I wrote for Ozy, on how we might normalize conversations about death from the beginning.
Martin Yan can break down a chicken in 18 seconds. I cannot. Still he let me hang out with him for the March issue of Sunset.
I write about Gertrude Ederle’s coach and mentor, Charlotte “Eppie” Epstein, for The Who, the What, and the When: 65 Artists Illustrate the Secret Sidekicks of History, new from Chronicle Books — it’s the rad follow-up to the bestselling The Where, the Why, and the How, a great project by the supremely talented design team of Jenny Volvovski, Julia Rothman, and Matt Lamothe.
From the May 2014 “Symmetry” issue of Nautilus
James Doty is not a subject under study at the altruism research center that he founded at Stanford in 2008, but he could be. In 2000, after building a fortune as a neurosurgeon and biotech entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, he lost it all in the dotcom crash: $75 million gone in six weeks. Goodbye villa in Tuscany, private island in New Zealand, penthouse in San Francisco. His final asset was stock in a medical-device company he’d once run called Accuray. But it was stock he’d committed to a trust that would benefit the universities he’d attended and programs for AIDS, family, and global health. Doty was $3 million in the hole. Everyone told him to keep the stock for himself. He gave it away — all $30 million of it. “Giving it away has had to be the most personally fulfilling experience I’ve had in my life,” Doty, 58, said on a recent sunny afternoon at Stanford. In 2007, Accuray went public at a valuation of $1.3 billion. That generated hundreds of millions for Doty’s donees and zero for him. “I have no regrets,” he said.
Read more here.
From the April 25, 2014 issue of Newsweek
Lift, squeeze, sniff. It’s a ritual millions of us perform every day in the produce aisle of the grocery store, rejecting the blemished and irregular in search of an ideal seldom found on any farm.
Forty percent of all food is never eaten, and this rejection of “ugly food” — the misshapen or imperfect produce that gets thrown out before it ever hits the supermarket display — is a major contributor to food waste.
Read more here.