Human Behavior

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 19th 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.”

The Real Email Scandal: Clunky Federal IT Systems

The public, the press and many politicians (at least on the right) can’t stop fulminating over Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server to conduct government business when she was Secretary of State. Little attention has been paid, however, to the IT systems that are supposed to guide, support and monitor functionaries with security clearances.

Mind Boggled: Berkeley Prof Is a Board Game Addict

Daniel Acland’s addiction to tabletop games began when he was a child, starting with the gateway game: Monopoly— “arguably the worst-designed board game ever to achieve commercial success,” he said. As a professor of public policy at Berkeley, his gaming experience often intersects with his expertise. For instance, in a brief analysis of Monopoly, Acland says the game sells because it allows people to “bicker, and trash-talk one another, and to watch as, once again, one totally undeserving player, for absolutely no justifiable reason, utterly destroys all the others.”

End Your Summer On a High Note: Bear Music Fest

The weekend of September 9, the Cal Alumni Association’s family camp, The Lair of the Golden Bear, hosts its inaugural musical festival, Bear Music Fest. Part of a typical all-inclusive Lair weekend, the festival performances will take place across two of the three primary campsites, and feature artists representative of the Bay Area music scene.

The Bot Versus the Bard: Researchers Teach a Computer to Write Poetry

What’s in the brain that ink may character
Which hath not figured to thee my true spirit

King of hell no quarrel have I left thee
No lovely maid who gleaned in fields or skies

One pair of lines above is the work of Shakespeare. The other was written by a computer. Can you tell which is which?

Don’t Freeze: Targeted Violence Training Teaches Students to Act

Since 2000, at least 160 “active-shooter” incidents have occurred in the United States, according to an FBI study from 2000-2013. And shootings have become more frequent—from 6.4 incidents annually in the first seven years of the study, to 16.4 in the last seven. Like many institutions, the University of California has responded by making training available.

Picture of Suffering: Charles Briggs Documents Rabies and Disease in Venezuela

Venezuela, whose citizenry and economy have both been unhealthy, is enduring yet another economic collapse, which has triggered yet another outbreak of disease. This time, it’s malaria. During the first six months of this year, 125,000 cases have been reported—a health crisis the government has tried to minimize, if not repudiate, and not for the first time.

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