Human Behavior

Stranded? Meet the Band of Bay Area Volunteers Here to Save You

How’s this for a job description? No pay (in fact, you’ll have to buy your own equipment, and it doesn’t come cheap), ability to push through mental and physical exhaustion, crazy hours, and willingness to complete two years of rigorous training before actually getting started. Oh, and assignments sometimes end in heartbreak.

Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? Yet the people who do it say they wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Read more about Stranded? Meet the Band of Bay Area Volunteers Here to Save You »

Ann Coulter at Berkeley: Untangling the Truth

It’s been about a week since Ann Coulter tried but failed to speak on the Berkeley campus, and the outrage continues unabated. Outrage that once again a conservative was silenced on a liberal campus. Outrage that the university cancelled her appearance and refused to provide appropriate protection for her. Once again, the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement is depicted as a place where free speech—at least for conservatives—went home to die. But what actually happened between the university, Coulter and the three student groups that wanted to host her? Read more about Ann Coulter at Berkeley: Untangling the Truth »

Finding His Tribe: The Art of Charles Gatewood

I couldn’t decide what made me feel dirtier—looking at hundreds of pictures of naked girls, or rifling through the personal belongings of a man I’d never met. But I was doing both one evening in the Bancroft Library reading room, traversing the late photographer Charles Gatewood’s massive archive chronicling the kink, tattoo, and body modification subcultures of America and especially the West Coast. Read more about Finding His Tribe: The Art of Charles Gatewood »

From the Spring 2017 Virtue and Vice issue of California.

Your Brain on Drugs: Five Questions for David Presti

More than 550 Berkeley students take your course Drugs and the Brain every year. What do you hope your students take away from the class?

Respect for the power of drugs, and specifically that all drugs are poisons as well as medicines. This is embedded in the ancient Greek word pharmakon. The origin of our words pharmacy, pharmaceutical, and pharmacology, it means both medicine and poison. While the ancients appreciated this dual property of drugs, it is often overlooked, even forgotten, in contemporary society. Read more about Your Brain on Drugs: Five Questions for David Presti »

From the Spring 2017 Virtue and Vice issue of California.

Horns, Haloes, and Heroism: The Science of Doing the Right Thing

Yesenia Guitron knew something was wrong at the bank branch where she worked. She was getting complaints from customers—many from Mexico and undocumented—that they were being charged for accounts they had never opened and were receiving debit cards they had never requested. Guitron, a personal banker at a local Wells Fargo in the Napa Valley town of St. Helena, began to realize that some of her colleagues, under intense pressure to open accounts, were doing so without customers’ knowledge. Read more about Horns, Haloes, and Heroism: The Science of Doing the Right Thing »

From the Spring 2017 Virtue and Vice issue of California.

Sinful or Saintly? Christians Navigate Sex Online

One might not think the subject of kink figures much into Christian intercourse (verbal or otherwise). But apparently, evangelical marriage is actually “spicy,” and that’s “the way God intended it to be.” Or at least, that’s what some are preaching as gospel on Christian sex websites, information hubs and support groups for “Jesus-is-love”-makers who want keep their freaky sex nice ‘n holy. Read more about Sinful or Saintly? Christians Navigate Sex Online »

Marriage Is Driving Some to Drugs And It May Not Be a Bad Thing

Writer Ayelet Waldman was teaching a class on drug policy reform at UC Berkeley when she and her husband, the popular novelist Michael Chabon, decided that MDMA, the illegal party drug fueling those all-night raves, might also be a medicine that could save their marriage. They got the idea after Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, the psychedelic chemist and so-called “godfather of ecstasy,” spoke to her class.  Read more about Marriage Is Driving Some to Drugs And It May Not Be a Bad Thing »

Unruly Tenants: Moving Day at 1600 Pennsylvania Can Be Rough

The on-again-off-again détente between the outgoing and incoming administrations was off before apparently being on again—at least, as of this writing—with The Donald tweeting last week, “Doing my best to disregard the many inflammatory President O statements and roadblocks. Thought it was going to be a smooth transition - NOT!” only to reverse himself a few hours later when he told reporters that the transition was going “very, very smoothly.”

So has it always been this awkward? Read more about Unruly Tenants: Moving Day at 1600 Pennsylvania Can Be Rough »

People Are Strange When You’re Sleep Deprived

Got a lousy night’s sleep? Feeling kinda grouchy? Turns out waking up on the wrong side of the bed won’t just make you cranky. It will make others seem that way, too. A 2015 study from the UC Berkeley Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory found that a single sleepless night can fundamentally alter the way we perceive others—making even the mellowest of fellows seem like the strangest of dangers. Read more about People Are Strange When You're Sleep Deprived »

From the Winter 2016 Reality Bites issue of California.

Vietnam Stories: Writing the “Disremembered” Histories of War

When telling a story, and it doesn’t matter if that story is long or short, fiction or nonfiction, the marginalized writer must be defiant.

So says writer Viet Thanh Nguyen.

Defiant is not the first descriptor that comes to mind for this particular writer, a Vietnamese refugee and UC Berkeley alumnus, who in fall 2016 wore a royal blue suit, purple tie, and orange socks at the Pulitzer awards banquet in Manhattan to accept the Fiction award for his debut novel, The Sympathizer (Grove Press, 2015). Flamboyant, maybe. Defiant, no. Read more about Vietnam Stories: Writing the "Disremembered" Histories of War »

From the Winter 2016 Reality Bites issue of California.

Black Hole: The Injustice of Wrongful Incarceration Doesn’t End When the Prison Doors Open

Danny Brown was in prison for almost two decades for a rape and murder he didn’t commit, and he has evidence to prove it: a host of eyewitness accounts validating his alibi, a polygraph test he took, and passed, at the prosecution’s request, and DNA from the crime scene matching that of another man who is currently serving time for a factually similar rape and murder.

He was released from prison in 2001 at the age of 45. Read more about Black Hole: The Injustice of Wrongful Incarceration Doesn't End When the Prison Doors Open »

From the Winter 2016 Reality Bites issue of California.

Mind Tricks: Bishop Berkeley and the Idea of Everything

Lately, I’ve been spending time at Founders’ Rock trying and mostly failing to get a grasp on reality.

Founders’ Rock is an outcropping at the northeast corner of the UC Berkeley campus, where Gayley Road and Hearst Avenue meet, a lonely spot shaded by toyon, oak, and eucalyptus. The rock itself—lichen-encrusted and moss-fringed—is an unassuming jumble. Read more about Mind Tricks: Bishop Berkeley and the Idea of Everything »

From the Winter 2016 Reality Bites issue of California.

Paint by Numbers: Algorithms for the Artistically Challenged

As a 10-year-old growing up in Shanghai, Jun-Yan Zhu often avoided homework with furtive doodling. He’d sketch comics or movie characters in pencil, then erase the evidence before his mother saw it. Much as he loved drawing, however, he wasn’t very good at it. He dreamed of a world where everyone, even those who lacked the talent, could easily communicate in pictures. Read more about Paint by Numbers: Algorithms for the Artistically Challenged »

From the Winter 2016 Reality Bites issue of California.

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