Category: Portfolio

Articles about space

I’m slowly working on a book about the privatization of space travel and the future of the billionaire quest to colonize the red planet. Here are some related articles I’ve written:

Against Mars-a-Lago: Why SpaceX’s Mars colonization plan should terrify you” (Salon)

Elon Musk wants to colonize the red planet, rich people first. Don’t confuse SpaceX with NASA — this will end badly. Read more…

Fear of a Capitalist Planet” (Jacobin)

A group of scientific and business elite warn of the threat of broadcasting “hello” signals into the void. Are their fears valid, or rooted in their own social conditioning? Read more…

Keep the Red Planet Red” (Jacobin)

Sure, let’s colonize Mars — but without Elon Musk’s help. Read more…

Aliens at the dinner table” (Salon)

I grew up in a family that thought space colonization was inevitable. Is there a basis for this belief? And if humans do travel to the stars, under what conditions should we go? Read more…

The new hobby of the super-rich: Hunting aliens” (Salon)

The quest to find alien radio signals is largely funded by billionaires. Is that really a good idea? Read more…

How taxpayer money could end up paying for rich people to go to space” (Salon)

Do you feel good about your tax money going to a luxury space vacation? Get used to it, because taxpayer money helped develop SpaceX components that will be used to send private citizens to space. Read more…

Trump pick for NASA chief doesn’t understand science” (Salon)

Rep. Jim Bridenstine doesn’t “believe” in climate science. Unfortunately for him, science is not a belief system.  Read more…

Is NASA a science agency or a giant subsidy for aerospace corporations?” (Salon)

Obama led the way in privatizing large swaths of the space agency. Now Trump’s putting NASA privatization into overdrive. Read more…

Academic publications

On Cixin Liu’s “Three Body Problem” trilogy

Essay in Aliens in Popular Culture, edited by Michael M. Levy and Farah Mendelsohn. Published by Greenwood/ABC-CLIO (2019).

Societies of Occupy: Scenes from occupied Pittsburgh,” Journal of Urban Cultural Studies vol. 1, no. 1 (March 2014): 155–165.

Interviews and analysis of the evolution of the local (Occupy Pittsburgh) Occupy movement, using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods.

Class, Race and the ‘Working Man:’ Interviews with Occupy Pittsburgh.” (lecture) presented at the Modern Language Association Convention, Boston, January 3, 2013.

Ethnography of the local Occupy Pittsburgh movement, coupled with a rhetorical analysis of the nationwide movement and its evolution. Uses both quantitative and qualitative means to analyze the global movement. Presented in a panel at MLA entitled “Languages of Occupy.”

Humor and fiction

“Scientifically Accurate Horoscopes” (McSweeney’s)

I Don’t Actually Know Anything About ‘Stranger Things’ Season 3, But Here’s My Cynical Attempt to Leech Clicks from People Who are Googling It Right Now” (Slackjaw)

The Three Bay Areas.” (The Bold Italic). A fictionalized retelling of stories from people from different class backgrounds who live in the Bay Area—my attempt to make sociology compelling to people who might not otherwise be interested, and raise issues of class and gentrification through fiction. Over 100,000 reads as of 2020!

“Are you Ready for Fuller House?” (The Bold Italic)

“The Night Before Hipstmas” (The Bold Italic)

“The Weirdest Niche Dating Apps” (The Bold Italic)

“The Burning Man Bingo Card” (The Bold Italic)

Written and art-directed by me; illustration and design by Julia Barzizza. See the full version here.

“The Folsom Street Fair Bingo Card” (The Bold Italic)

Written and art-directed by me; illustration and design by Julia Barzizza. See the full version here.

“The Going-Home-For-Thanksgiving Bingo Card” (The Bold Italic)

Written and art-directed by me; illustration by Kelly O’Grady; design by Julia Barzizza. See the full version here.

“The Most Existentially Spooky Places in the Bay Area” (The Bold Italic)

Essay & Journalism

Criticism and op-ed

The new hobby of the super-rich: hunting aliens” (Salon)

Twitter is not that important” (Salon)

Against Mars-a-Lago: Why SpaceX’s Mars colonization plan should terrify you” (Salon)

Why did the internet’s dog obsession take off in tandem with Trump’s rise?” (Salon) — this one got a shout-out in the New York Times from Amanda Hess.

Why Facebook’s racism problem might never be solved” (Salon)

Why Bernie Sanders should start a labor party” (Salon)

The neoliberal politics of emoji” (Salon)

There is no reason Uber should be a for-profit corporation” (Salon)

Superhero films are bad for democracy” (Salon)

What Soylent tells us about Silicon Valley” (Salon)

Twitter isn’t trying to stop its troll problem — it’s trying to profit off it.”  (Salon)

“Why the Rich Love Burning Man.” (Jacobin, republished in Salon). A mix of research and political criticism based on my own experiences at Burning Man, this was the first Jacobin article to surpass 500,000 unique views, and later surpassed 1,000,000.

Reporting and Interviews

A psychology researcher explains how social media is changing us” (Salon)

How taxpayer money could end up paying for rich people to go to space” (co-written with Nicole Karlis for Salon)

How O-Six became the most famous wolf in the world” (Salon)

How to bring extinct species back to life” (Salon)

The most interesting community on Reddit is also its most boring” (Salon)

The emotional toll of working in social media” (Salon)

Liberal journalists reportedly sent tips to Breitbart — now they’re scrambling” (Salon)

Franklin Foer’s ‘World Without Mind’ describes how algorithms erode free will” (Salon)

Wrestling villain by day, Berniecrat politician by night: Meet ‘Volatile’ Curtis Wylde” (Salon)

The strangest star in the galaxy is acting up again” (Salon)


Is the truth really out there?” (Salon)

The gig economy goes to class” (Salon, Alternet)

“I Went Undercover to a Trump Campaign Debate Party at Round Table Pizza, and I Foresaw the End Times” (The Bold Italic) A gonzo journalism account of a GOP-sponsored debate party in south San José, this feature-length article fuses political commentary with a New Journalism-style essay about the experience.

Against the Crowdfunding Economy.” (Jacobin) A mix of interview and political commentary into the social implications of crowdfunding for artists and those in need.

“Not-so-High Times: What It’s Like Being a Weed Trimmer in the Underground Cannabis Economy.”  (The Bold Italic) I interviewed four women who had worked as cannabis trimmers, and whittled down their stories into a compelling exposé of a sometimes-abusive black market industry.

Keep the Red Planet Red.” (Jacobin) An analysis of the media hype around Elon Musk’s vision for a private Mars mission, and what this says about our collective faith in  democratic, big-science initiatives.

The Starbucks Recovery Act.” (Dissent) A critique of efforts by corporate megaliths to end the recession through philanthropy; a critique of the idea that we should tithe to small business owners so that they may profit.