Writings

Of the hundreds of stories I’ve written for newspapers, websites and magazines, here are some of my favorites.
Don’t stop here, though; some of the freshest stuff is at the ‘Innovate’ column in Sierra magazine and my blog on Forbes.
October 23, 2012

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/24/business/energy-environment/gleaning-clues-on-sunny-days-from-the-clouds.html

Gleaning Clues on Sunny Days From the Clouds (New York Times)

Carlos F. Coimbra knew from the outset that he would have to crack the code of clouds. As an engineering professor new to the University of California’s campus in Merced, he led a successful drive to get 15 percent of the school’s power from an array of solar panels.

But clouds, wandering and capricious, had foiled his efforts on two occasions by casting sudden shadows, forcing the school to rely on conventional power instead. To neutralize the clouds, he would have to track them. Read more…

November/December, 2012

http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/201211/urban-farms-new-york-272-2.aspx

Up on the Farm (Sierra)

This story examines an offshoot of the grow-local movement in New York City: farming on  rooftops. It goes past the gee-whiz novelty of rooftop farming and compares two models that are competing to feed the Big Apple. One is Brooklyn Grange, a quirky community farm that is seven stories up with soil six feet deep; the second is Gotham Greens, a hydroponic hothouse company that hopes to achieve economies of scale by keeping production high and the visitors out. Which will win? Read more…

 

May 2012

http://www.americanwaymag.com/north-america-sportiest-target-center-river-rouge-complex

Rooftop Wonders (American Way)

It used to be that whenever you flew into a city and looked down, what you saw was a slate of hard, dark roofs soaking up heat and contributing to making the metropolis up to 22 degrees warmer than the countryside. But these days, here and there you can spy a patch of green amid the gray. Here are a few of the most extraordinary roofs blooming across North America. Read more…

 

Feb. 15, 2012

http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/energy/hydropower-geothermal/the-robot-fish-that-led-to-better-dam-designs

The Robot Fish That Led to Better Dam Designs (Popular Mechanics)

Something is killing young salmon in the dams of the Pacific Northwest. Every spring, tens of millions of them swim through the hydroelectric dams of the Columbia River on their way to the ocean, and every year as many as 10 percent emerge bloodied or suffocated. For years, the exact cause remained elusive. Read more…

 

Nov. 3, 2011

http://www.ecomagination.com/the-power-of-the-dammed-how-small-hydro-could-rescue-america-dumb-dams

The Power of the Dammed: How Small Hydro Could Rescue America’s Dumb Dams (Ecomagination)

When early 20th century engineers designed America’s dams, they only imagined a few key uses like boat navigation, capturing water for crops, or creating a great place to catch bass. Nary a thought was given to how desperately future generations might need all the clean hydropower that dams are capable of producing. In fact, of the 80,000 dams in the country, only three percent currently create electricity. Read more…

Image Credit: nightearth.com

Aug. 5, 2011http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-ferris/biofuel-plant-wants-to-ea_b_919575.html

Biofuel Plant Wants to Eat D.C.’s Grease (HuffPo)

A startup is proposing to take millions of gallons of grease from Washington D.C.’s restaurants and turn it into biofuel that would help run the region’s trucks and buses. Read more…

 

March 15, 2011

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-ferris/making-money-and-changing_b_835938.html

Making Money, and Changing Lives, by Lighting Rural India (HuffPo)

I recently returned from India, where hundreds of millions of people — 45 percent of the rural population — live in villages with no electricity. Many of them are poor and live with the stubborn problems of illiteracy, malnutrition and hardship. Now, however, some development experts and entrepreneurs are beginning to consider these people “energy-poor,” and a world of difference resides in the distinction. Read more…

image source: mass.gov

Nov. 29, 2010 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-ferris/chu-will-america-miss-its_b_789470.html

Chu: Will America Miss Its “Sputnik Moment” on Energy? (HuffPo)

America is at a “Sputnik moment,” Energy Secretary Stephen Chu said today, and the government’s next moves will determine whether the country leads the global clean-tech race or loses it to China. Read more…

 

Dec. 2009 / Jan. 2010

http://www.mensjournal.com/fighting-to-keep-fit

Fighting to Keep Fit (Men’s Journal)

For this assignment, I took on five aggressive martial arts in order to answer one question: If you want to get fit, which martial art is best?

I took classes and one-on-one instruction in Mixed Martial Arts, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai Kickboxing, Karate and Krav Maga, with a little Tae Kwon Do for good measure. My personal all-around favorite was Muay Thai, though each art had its own allure. Read more…

26008-1 July 15, 2009

http://www.americanwaymag.com/north-riverfront-trail-florida-keys-st-louis-new-york-city

Last Train to Paradise (American Way)

YEARS AGO, ONLY trespassers knew the secret of the High Line in New York City. They would steal onto the abandoned viaduct and find something New Yorkers on the street below couldn’t imagine: a wilderness of horsemint and cherry trees hanging among the skyscrapers. Read more…

May/June 2009

http://sierraclub.org/sierra/200905/message.aspx

Message in a Bottle (Sierra)

Captain Charles Moore drives along a concrete channel in Long Beach, California, keeping an eye out for floating trash and chatting up a reporter–yet another one–who wants to know how the Great Pacific Garbage Patch came to be. Moore scans the green water. “Here,” he says, pulling his Toyota Prius onto the shoulder and silencing the reggae on the stereo. Moore, 62, squirms like a teenager through a gap in the chain-link fence and leads the way down the channel bank to where a five-foot-thick crescent of trash has come to rest. Read more…

richard_thompson
nd08_cover November/December 2008

http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/200811/coldsweat/ice.asp

Ice Manliness Cometh (Sierra)

IF I WERE EVER to freak out, this would be the time. But I’m too impressed with my newly acquired weaponry–crampons as sharp as killing knives, two serrated axes–to panic as I cling for the first time to a wall of frozen water. As a kid growing up in California, I’d always been fascinated by the translucent complexity of the ice cubes floating in my lemonade. But I’d never engaged them in hand-to-hand combat.

September/October 2008
http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/200809/mixed-media.asp

The Evolution Will Be Televised (Sierra)

A convict digs his way out of a prison yard using a “locally sourced” lunch tray; another has “recycled” a toothbrush into a shiv. The ad for Discovery Channel’s new 24-7 eco-living television network offers the tagline “Do time with Planet Green.” Those of you who killed your television years ago may not have noticed, but a green TV wave is crashing over U.S. viewers.

mm_01
meatpaper0 March/April 2008

http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/200803/mixed-media.asp#deeper

A Deeper Cut of Meat (Sierra)

In Meatpaper you learn exactly how Oaxacans consume a goat. They buy it at the market (“a calm animal tastes better”), simmer its jugular blood, and wrap the flesh in maguey leaves before roasting it in the ground. You may find this fascinating or horrifying. The editors of this new quarterly are fine with either reaction.

December 15, 2007
http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2007/12/science_cafe

Science Cafés Tap Nation’s Fascination With Research and Discoveries (Wired News)

On a recent Wednesday night the crowd spilled out the door at San Francisco’s Axis Café, where the draw wasn’t a hot band or a talented bartender, but a lecture. On physics.

330_ritch_630x
gg_01 November/December 2007

http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/200711/goodgoing.asp

Good Going (Sierra)

IN THE MIDST OF A SWIRLING SNOWSTORM at 14,000 feet on Mt. Aconcagua, Argentina, my climbing party encounters the first outpost of penitentes. Jagged and fluted, with sharp and narrow peaks, these formations emerge like a little Manhattan of ice, with skyscrapers as tall as our heads.

December 21, 2006

http://www.smithmag.net/memoirville/2006/12/21/getting-lucky-by-david-ferris/

Getting Lucky (SMITH Magazine)

I climbed my first Mexican volcano behind Rich, a man with legs so pale I needed sunglasses. Everyone in our party wore long johns, but Rich wore shorts, cotton shorts, and every mountaineer knows that cotton can kill you if the weather gets wet and cold. But Rich didn’t know, or didn’t care. When I look back at the misfortunes that befell that man, I have to wonder why, when we stumble into the unknown, things go right for some and so wrong for others.

mexico-020
mountain_bike_story July/August 2004

Mountain Bikes for Beginners (Camping Life)

If you’re interested in getting in on the fun and excitement of two-wheeled backcountry travel but don’t know where to start, here’s a primer on pedal-powered dirt bikes for the entire family.

Download the PDF

January/February 2003

Helping Others Find Their Inner Adventurer (Adventure Sports Journal)

When night fell, Roan Bear and her teammates paddled so far behind the pack it seemed they’d been forgotten. They could hear the crowds cheering and the announcer praising the leaders. The lights of the transition area blazed across the water. But out here, struggling alone on Castaic Lake, there were no cheers, no fans, not even a support boat.

But they weren’t forgotten, not entirely.

Download the PDF

adventurerace_2
wash December 17, 2001

http://www.streamingmedia.com/article.asp?id=8120

Security Needs (Streaming Media)

Remember when the webcam was all about fun and novelty? College dorm rooms, the panda at the zoo, a nightclub in Majorca … forget about it. Today in America, a webcam needs to pay its way. Today in America, homeland security has become top priority. Combine the profit motive with a national case of the jitters, and one finds a compelling new market for streaming: the surveillance webcam. Soon it will be pointing at you in the convenience store, the school hallway, the counter at the taqueria, the office front door, and, of course, the airport.

November 26, 2001

http://www.streamingmedia.com/article.asp?id=8074

The Doctor Will See You Now (Streaming Media)

It’s time for Steve Craig’s 3:30 appointment with his new doctor. An assistant ushers Craig into a treatment room and gestures to one corner. “And this is Dr. Prescott,” the assistant says. Dr. Pamela Prescott smiles warmly. She is seated in a room at the UC Davis Health System in Sacramento, Calif. Craig, however, is 31 miles away in the town of Auburn, and he sees Prescott’s glasses and white coat on a 17-inch computer monitor that’s propped against the wall. From Craig’s point of view, his new doctor is about the size of a coffee mug. Technology is changing medicine in a thousand ways, but few are poised to transform healthcare delivery like the phenomenon of patients and caregivers talking face-to-face, though geographically distant.

medical
baby4 June 25, 2001

http://www.streamingmedia.com/article.asp?id=7590&page=1&c=20

FWD: Viral Marketing (Streaming Media)

When Sanger Robinson and two friends arrived at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival with a camera and microphone, their chances of making a splash in online entertainment seemed remote indeed. They had to beg for interviews with stars like Matthew Broderick, which they hoped to stream at their just-launched Web site, Netbroadcaster.com. At the time, most of the online buzz at Sundance was about entertainment sites with deep pockets and big plans. “We felt like schmucks,” Robinson recalls. “We were sleeping on a friend’s floor.” Now in 2001, most of those big-name sites — you know who they are — have either died very public deaths or burned through their coffers and gone quietly into the night. But Netbroadcaster, a compendium of streaming entertainment video, is thriving.

June 1, 2001

http://www.macworld.com/article/2241/2001/06/buzzamend.html

Q & A with Bill Amend (Macworld)

In the comic strip FoxTrot, tech-savvy Jason Fox has nothing but scorn for the iFruit, a colorful (and fictional) computer that bears a striking resemblance to some high-profile Apple hardware you might recognize. Fortunately, Jason’s creator, Bill Amend, doesn’t share that disdain — the cartoonist loves his Mac so much, he uses it to produce the strip, which appears in roughly 1,000 newspapers.

images
800px-thomas_dolby_2006 September 1, 2000

http://www.macworld.com/article/14606/2000/09/trendssix.html

Q & A with Thomas Dolby (Macworld)

We talked to Thomas Dolby — music pioneer, Beatnik.com founder, and Mac enthusiast — to see what the future holds.

August 2, 2000

http://archives.cnn.com/2000/TECH/computing/08/02/ebert.interview.idg/index.html

Q & A with Roger Ebert (Macworld)

We asked Roger Ebert–a staunch Mac user and the influential reviewer of Chicago Sun-Times and Roger Ebert & the Movies fame–about the future of digital and desktop movies and the role they’ll play in your life.

rogerebert
images-1 May 1, 2000

http://www.macworld.com/article/14271/2000/05/12metallica.html

Q & A with Lars Ulrich of Metallica (Macworld)

“This Napster thing came completely out of nowhere. We were recording a song for the “Mission: Impossible 2″ soundtrack, and we got word that there were five or six versions — works-in-progress — playing on radio stations, and we weren’t even finished with it. The upside [of the Internet] is that everybody can get ahold of somebody in a f—ing nanosecond. The downside is there are people who are in charge of things from a creative point of view who aren’t done with it yet.”

May 1, 2000

http://www.macworld.com/article/14269/2000/05/12chuckd.html

Q & A with Chuck D of Public Enemy (Macworld)

“Napster’s the new radio — radio of the 21st Century. I just think it develops a whole new paradigm, and there’s no legitimate proof it cuts into the traditional market for music.”

images-2
pedaltometal_2 January 23, 2000

Man Puts Feet, Arms, Pedals to the Metal (Contra Costa Times)

It is deep inside mile 20 of the bike leg, just as the pain is hitting me hard, that Orchid Girl makes her move.

Download the PDF

October 14, 1999

Feds Hunt Richmond Graft (West County Times)

Scores of FBI agents swept through the city’s highest political circles early Wednesday, interviewing power brokers, politicians and campaign contributors in a far-reaching probe of possible corruption dating back at least eight years.

Download the PDF

image source: mass.gov

image source: mass.gov

mercyatmeter September 25, 1999

Berkeley Eyes Mercy at the Meter (Contra Costa Times)

It’s a common tale of urban horror: the blue-shirted parking officer, bent over your fender and scribbling a ticket. When you protest, he slaps it on your windshield, mounts a buggy and putts off.

But soon in Berkeley, he might just smile and rip it up.

Download the PDF

August 2, 1999

Richmond Just Fine to New Chief (West County Times)

Joseph Samuels has a new perspective on his job. The title’s the same, but the scenery has changed for a man who for six years ran a police force from a cavernous office eight floors above the East Bay’s biggest city.

Download the PDF

policechief
rosie_the_riveter June 27, 1999

Park Names Fuel Battle (Contra Costa Times)

In the beginning, the city of Richmond created a park. The neighborhood was without residents, and void; and the park was without a name. Then the Redevelopment Agency said, “Let it be called Marina Park.” And the residents who moved there thought it was good.

Then another committee said, “Let it be called Rosie the Riveter Memorial Park.” And they thought it was good.

Not good.

Download the PDF

February 21, 1999

Growth Perplexes Residents, Officials (West County Times)

In Spanish, this valley’s name means “the leftover.”

To the 19th Century Mexicans who christened El Sobrante, it meant a place no one claimed. A century and a half later, many residents of “the leftover” feel the term still applies.

Download the PDF

elsobrante
tampico April 27, 1998

Out of Reach (The Oakland Tribune)

Former laser scientist Jonathan Tampico is among California’s most-wanted criminals. At large for more than two years, pursued for thousands of miles and following numerous brushes with the law, the convicted child molester remains out of reach.

Download the PDF

December 20, 1997

Shooter Receives 32-Year Sentence (The Argus)

On Friday, almost exactly two years after Fremont resident Kathy Manucal’s life was disfigured by a robber’s bullet, the gunman was sentenced to 32 years in prison.

Eric Dwayne Dotson, 28, mumbled “Oh, my God” as he heard the penalty while Christopher Earl Murray, 27, the mastermind of the robbery, sought forgiveness before being sentenced to 14 years at Friday’s hearing at Alameda County Superior Court in Hayward.

Download the PDF

behindbars
image source: mass.gov[/caption]
August 28, 1997

Mental Patient’s Confession in Slaying Ignored (The Argus)

David Maxwell Panick called 911 to report he had killed his roommate, but no one came.

Download the PDF

July 18, 1997

Wilting Industry (The Argus)

Back when Warren G. Harding was president and liquor was illegal, Alameda and San Mateo counties were the West Coast capital of flowers, trees and shrubs.

But today this slender tie to the counties’ farming past is wilting fast — dogged by ferocious competition, crowded out by complaining neighbors and shrinking as owners sell their lands for huge profits.

Download the PDF

nursery
buendia June 15, 1997

Child Sees Violent Death of His Parents (The Argus)

The only one who might have seen Shannon Connors and Eddie Munoz Buendia die is their infant son.

Were he able to talk, Eddie Jr. might relate what the last, fierce argument between his estranged parents was about. Perhaps he could have shed some light on what turned the 21-year-old Buendia from a lonely, obsessed father into a killer.

Download the PDF

May 18, 1997

Fremont Man Jailed for Slavery (The Argus)

A Fremont man was sentenced Friday to a charge never before made in Alameda County, and only rarely in the state of California: slavery.

Download the PDF

slavery
autothievery March 9, 1997

Police Put Dent in Auto Thievery (The Argus)

Steal a Californian’s car, and you’ve wheeled away his identity.

“You never quite get used to the feeling when you walk outside,” said Ken Quijano, a Union City man whose Honda Accord vanished from the curb the night of Feb. 24. “Something as big as a car, stolen from right in front of your house.”

Download the PDF

December 31, 1996

Siren Yelp Saves Lives (The Argus)

Three Union City residents owe their lives to quick thinking by Officer Ken Holbrook, who used his siren to rouse and his car to rescue them from their burning fourplex early Monday morning.

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sirenyelp
sweetskulls November 1, 1994

Sweet Skulls of Death (Streetwise)

Joaquin Gomez stands patiently by his sugar pots, waiting until the brew is hot enough to make his skulls.

Download the PDF

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