Human Behavior

Out of the Gate: Serendipity or Something Else?

 I met Patricia Kearney ‘77 on the first day of Architecture school at UC Berkeley. We sat next to each other in our introductory design studio. One day, after a couple of months, I was waiting for the elevator in Wurster Hall when the doors opened and Patti emerged. I had never seen her so dressed up, and there she was in a white sundress with heels and makeup and flowing blonde hair and red lips and a lovely smile. My eyes captured this angelic vision and sent it straight to my heart. That was the moment I knew she was the one for me.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Well in Control: Berkeley Startup Helps People Find Out What They’re Drinking

Two factors that contributed to the poisoning of tens of thousands of Washington, D.C., residents through their drinking water in the early 2000s—lead pipes and a disinfectant called chloramine—continue to coexist in countless water systems nationwide, including in the Bay Area. But not to worry, says UC Berkeley water expert and engineering professor David Sedlak; they’re safe when properly managed, which happens in the vast majority of public water systems.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Step Right Up: Why Exactly Did I Vote for Bernie?

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the seductive nature of the 2016 American presidential campaign season. I like the drama, the mudslinging, the tabloid-style coverage, the gaffes, the slip-ups, and the never-ending political commentary from pundits. It’s oddly entertaining, no?

Although, let’s be honest: None of the empty party rhetoric and nastiness can prepare us or the candidates for the realities of elected office. We learned this lesson during Obama’s eight-year struggle to address serious issues while faced with a do-nothing Congress.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Step Right Up: I’m a Voter and a Lab-Rat

If you shared Facebook’s “I’m A Voter” app in a recent election, you might have become a nice data point for the social media giant and a couple of resourceful political scientists. In the 2010 midterms, the graphic was pinned to 61 million newsfeeds and it turned out that users who saw that their friends were voting were .4 percent more likely to vote than those in the control group (the people without the app). Apparently, this social pressure added 340,000 new voters to the 2010 election cycle.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Step Right Up: Optimistic for America

On the 7th of June, 2016, in Oakland, California, I was among 1,057 “aliens” who became American citizens. We took the oath. We were welcomed and congratulated. We were told not only that we could vote, but that we should vote and that we could run for office.

In 2016, the United States is going to “naturalize” 700,000 new citizens. At nearly 70 years old, I’ve achieved this belatedly in life and more than a century after the big immigration wave that brought millions of my compatriots to these shores.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Breathing Easier: A New Device Could Help Detect Asthma Attacks Before They Start

To a very real degree, Charvi Shetty’s future was molded by her college roommate. Or rather, her roommate’s health.

“She had asthma,” says Shetty, who graduated from UC Berkeley with a bioengineering degree in 2012 and took a master’s in biomedical imaging from UCSF in 2013. “She had to use an inhaler six times a day. She told me that her childhood memories were of going to the ER, not Disneyland or the beach, and she was never allowed to play outside because of her allergies. Asthma controlled her life.”

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Step Right Up: Shaking Up Facebook

Like every other voter preparing for the upcoming election, I often cruise Facebook to gauge the mood of my fellow citizens. Not that I’m a fan of the site. To me, Facebook has always seemed like an inversion of the old “banality of evil” trope: It is the evil of banality, a fount of never-ending Likes and emoticons and pictures of highly caloric restaurant meals and garish sunsets and Frisbee-catching dogs. It is an online Leave It to Beaver updated to the digital age, a place where we can all cozily catch up and be comfortable and make soft, murmuring sounds to each other.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

The Great White Mope: How White America’s Declining Status Gave Rise to the Latest Surge in Populism

White America seems to be in a funk these days. The economy may be growing, the unemployment rate may be down, the Bureau of Labor Statistics may assure us—no, really, disbelieve your lyin’ eyes—that the recession is long over, but according to the 2015 American Values Survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, less than half of white Americans believe that the country’s best days lie ahead. Most blacks and Hispanics, noting a marked improvement in the nation’s culture since the 1950s, do not share this pessimism. The despondency is race specific.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

The Prancing Professor: Glynda Hull and Her Dressage Horse, Celeste

Glynda Hull grew up in rural Mississippi and started riding with her father when she was 7. It was then that she began her Annie Oakley phase—which she never quite grew out of. She put riding on hold during graduate school, but started up again in the early 1990s, and soon began riding competitively.

Dreamboat: Nonprofit Builds Tall Ship For Kid-Sailors

Back in the day—way back in the day—young people went to sea to seek fame and fortune, or at least escape the boredom and poverty of the crofter’s hut or the squalor of early factories. But while the commercial sailing fleet is long gone, it remains more than a vivid memory in the Bay Area, where a dedicated crew of mariners isn’t just taking young people down to the sea in ships—they’re building a ship that will take them down to the sea in style, a tall ship based on the designs of a legendary 19 th   century naval architect.

Step Right Up: How to Feign Political Competence in Your 20s

In the Internet age, saying “I don’t know” about a political issue is considered socially unacceptable. After all, if we have all this information at our fingertips, the least we can do is a quick Google search. Like, really. It’s the least we can do. And the least is what most people do.

It’s hard to take a long look in the mirror and see blatant indecision staring back at you. So to avoid this self-reflection, there are ways to fake political knowledge. You know you don’t know anything about politics, but nobody else has to know that.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

A Day at the Races: Law Prof Jesse Choper Finds Thrills, Cheap Entertainment Playing the Ponies

Berkeley Law professor Jesse Choper first got into horse racing in 1969, when he and his friend’s father, a district attorney outside of New York, took a trip to the track. At first, Choper didn’t really get the appeal: “I never did understand how a person who worked really hard, I mean long hours, would take off a whole afternoon in the middle of a week to go to the races…. But then I did.”

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