Berkeley Group Digs In to Challenge of Making Sense of All That Data

April 7, 2012                                             New York Times/The Bay Citizen

It comes in “torrents” and “floods” and threatens to “engulf” everything that stands in its path.

 No, it is not a tsunami, it is Big Data, the incomprehensibly large amount of raw, often real-time data that keeps piling up faster and faster from scientific research, social media, smartphones — virtually any activity that leaves a digital trace. 

The sheer size of the pile (measured in petabytes, one million gigabytes, or even exabytes, one billion gigabytes) combined with its complexity has threatened to overwhelm just about everybody, including the scientists who specialize in wrangling it. 

“It’s easier to collect data,” said Michael Franklin, a professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, “and harder to make sense of it.” (more)

Law, Order and a Life in Robes

 March 23, 2012                                                             New York Times/The Bay Citizen

As he had many times before, Judge Vaughn R. Walker — impeccably dressed in a gray suit and muted red tie — took command of the room.

It was not a courtroom, but the Verdi Club, the site of a law-and-order-themed evening of storytelling hosted by San Francisco’s Porchlight storytelling series on Monday night. 

Judge V. Walker takes the stage.  Photo by Adithya Sambamurthy
 Judge Walker, recently retired from Federal District Court, became something of a local celebrity after his 2010 ruling that Proposition 8, the voter-approved California measure that banned same-sex marriage, was unconstitutional. He became even more of a lightning rod after it was revealed that he is gay. So expectations ran high when he took the stage under yellow and purple lights and the flash of a disco ball, telling the crowd that he had been told not to expect a typical legal audience. “That, I assume, was a compliment to you,” he said. 

He quipped about how, in the courtroom, he was not used to being accompanied by a piano player, particularly “one that I know when I go on too long is going to start playing.” (more)