Friday, December 29, 2023

Does Berkeley Exist: Mammary Planet: 5 of 8

           Mammary Planet


          The nurse said, “You need to schedule another blood test next week.”

          I shrugged. “OK.”

          “And to test hormone levels,” she continued, “you’ll have to abstain from all sexual activity.”

          “All sexual activity? For a week?”


          “Including masturbation?”


          I shrugged. A week without masturbation sounded easy enough. We scheduled the blood test, I went home and put away my one-hand magazines. (This was before the Internet.)

          A day came and went without inconvenience, then another. But on the third day something odd happened. I was walking down Telegraph Avenue, and I noticed that every woman on the street had unusually large breasts. Not just some of the women; all of them. This strange change in half the human population of Berkeley persisted all day, and I realized that it wasn’t them, it was me.

          My perceptions were distorted, due to hormonal imbalance. Every woman’s breasts weren’t really bigger than before; they just seemed that way to me. I was hormone-addled, and seeing things oddly. I knew this, but knowledge did not decrease the perceptual distortion. 

          This effect increased on the fourth day. Every woman, everywhere, had an amazingly ample bosom. I knew that was an illusion, but it was a very convincing illusion. I tried not to look, or seem to notice; but my judgment was probably as impaired as my perception. I hope that the women of Berkeley ignored my astonishment, or forgave me.

          By the fifth and sixth days, I was adrift in an impossible parallel world of fantastic mammary antigravitation. As before, knowledge of illusion did not dispel illusion. I knew that I was hallucinating, but still I saw the mirage as plain as day. I was amazed by how florid the hallucination was, yet also how clear and specific. Nothing else looked any different.

          On the seventh day I went to the clinic and gave a blood sample. Then I went home and got out the one-hand magazines.

          The very next day, every woman’s breasts had returned to their normal size.






Thursday, December 28, 2023

Does Berkeley Exist: Ten Second Vacation: 4 of 8

Ten Second Vacation


I was standing on a street corner in Berkeley. There was noise, crowds, and traffic. I had places to go and things to do, but the WALK light had not yet turned, so I had nothing to do. It was a moment that did not count, and I had no expectations of it.

I looked up, I looked down the street, and there beyond the end of the street, beyond the edge of town, across the bay...

... a mountain.

It was small and blue with distance. It was streaked with brown and green. Its profile was rough and fractal.

I tuned out everything but the mountain and the WALK sign. Anchored to the sign, I mentally leapt to the mountain. I took a vacation there. I bathed in its blue, brown, and green. I hiked up and down the mountain, I inspected its plants and rocks, I climbed to the top...

- then BLINK -

... and I was back on the street corner, looking at the WALK sign, which had just turned. I looked both ways, stepped off the curb, and crossed the street.


Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Does Berkeley Exist: Thurber’s World: 3 of 8

           Thurber’s World


          I was visiting Marion Zimmer Bradley’s house. After trucing a few rounds of dilemma chess with the fantasy writer’s son, I stepped out to their back yard for a stroll and a breath of fresh air.

          It was twilight; the zenith had darkened to deep blue, the horizon all the way around glowed orange and red; the “girdle of Venus”. A crescent moon shone, and a few stars, and the planet Venus too.

          I stopped, amazed; for there in front of me stood a goat. An Angora goat, waist-tall, with silky white hair… and a single horn.

He was Lancelot, a successful animal-husbandry experiment by Morning Glory and Otter G’Zell. At the goat’s birth, they had surgically fused Lancelot’s two hornbuds together; the fused hornbud grew into an imposing monohorn.

          Lancelot was a unicorn. That surgically-modified Angora goat looked like he had stepped out of a medieval tapestry. Morning Glory and Otter G’Zell claimed that such surgery was possible in medieval Europe; so maybe unicorns were real enough.

          Just then, in the evening twilight, with Moon and Venus overhead, that unicorn looked more than real; for Lancelot was eating Marion Zimmer Bradley’s rosebushes. One of James Thurber’s stories was about a unicorn eating the rosebushes in a backyard garden. In that surreal moment, I learned that a visit to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s place can send you into a Thurber story.

          I also learned, by observation, that unicorn droppings are about one centimeter long and about half a centimeter wide

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Does Berkeley Exist: Time Control: 2 of 8

Time Control


I know what you’re thinking. Berkeley, weird experiences; I must have been tripping, right? But I swear that drugs had little to do with most of these stories.

But not, I admit, this one.

I was flying sky-high when I noticed something odd about the wall clock; its second hand was leaving a trail behind it. Somehow it occurred to me that I could slow down the clock if I paid it close attention. So I concentrated on the clock, and by golly, it worked! For a moment it visibly slowed down!

I sat back, panting. Slowing down the clock is hard work. I sat up; I looked hard at the clock; I gave it a burst of fierce attention. The second hand briefly slowed down again.

So far, so good. Then I asked myself; can I make it stop?

Gimlet-eyed, I glared at the clock. It slowed. I stared harder, it slowed some more. I pushed even harder…

… and failed. I sat back, gasping, and the second hand swept on.

The clock was stronger than me.


Monday, December 25, 2023

Does Berkeley Exist: Incredulous Introduction: 1 of 8

                   Does Berkeley Exist?

          A Waking Dream Journal



Incredulous Introduction

Time Control

Thurber’s World

Ten Second Vacation

Mammary Planet

Dream Room

Ghost of a Ghost

Skeptical Summary




Incredulous Introduction


          Does Berkeley exist? The question seems absurd at first, but it improves upon acquaintance.

For even though Berkeley is on the map; even though it’s a city in California, on the east shore of San Francisco Bay; even though it’s home to a great university; and even though I myself lived in Berkeley for many years; despite all this, things happened to me there that I now have trouble believing. They were strange enough to make me question perception, spacetime, realism, life, and Berkeley.

          Here I describe six of those dubious events. They all really happened to me, more or less, and they happened in Berkeley. At the time they made perfect sense, but in retrospect they lack credibility.

          Dear reader, I tell you these tales, so that you may decide for yourself if Berkeley could be.



Thursday, December 21, 2023

Long-Range Forecast Revised

Long-Range Forecast Revised


         There is a global baby bust in progress. Birth rates are falling all over the world. The reproduction rate is less than replacement all over the developed world. It is still above replacement in Africa but will fall below replacement soon. Therefore global population will peak before the end of this century, probably around 8 billion, and then fall.

         Why is this happening? I speculate that the baby bust is caused by ecological distress transmitted to humans via price signals. Economic pressures drive urbanization; and in an urbanizing world, children are expensive, but not useful, and therefore demand for them falls. That is “Gaia’s Revenge”. The biosphere is shutting down human reproduction; this control is done via market mechanisms.

The Gaia-triggered, market-mediated disinclination to breed manifests in many ways, depending on the culture.

In East Asia, young adults take a Daoist path, and allow themselves to be losers at reproduction. In Japan such young men are called “Grass-eaters”. They stay at home, work little or not at all, and forsake cars, houses, love, marriage, and family. In China, young people “lie flat”, or “let it rot”.

In America, young adults prefer individualism. They fail at reproduction (as the biosphere signals to them via the market) by succeeding at some other game. Therefore the popularity of gender minorities, all non-breeder. Gays and lesbians are almost conventional; now we see deconstruction of gender itself, including, tellingly, asexuality.

That’s on the cultural left; the cultural right also hates kids, because America hates kids. America aborts them pre-birth, and shoots them post-birth. So there are no “pro-lifers” in America. Everyone agrees on the need to get rid of unwanted humans; so the debate is about when and how; pre-birth, by abortion, or post-birth, by guns. I call it the ‘guns-vs-abortion-debate’. It’s about a detail of timing. The aim in either case is population reduction.

Note that over 60% of all gun deaths in America are suicides. This reveals the true heart of American gun culture; it’s not about self-defense, it’s about self-slaughter. Sometimes it involves others, such as massacres, or suicide by cop. All of it very much in obedience to Gaia.

Some resist Gaia’s call, but do so in impractical ways. In particular, forced-breeders want a free lunch: an expanding population without a sustainable economic basis. They seek this aim by state power, the ‘Ceausescu strategy’; but the biosphere controls human behavior via market mechanisms, and the invisible hand of the Market is quicker than the all-seeing eye of the State. Are you for 86? War on abortion pills will do no better than the previous wars on drugs. 

An honest pro-natalism would subsidize families with less environmental impact. The New Deal was pro-natalist, until we reached our ecological limits. To expand those limits, pro-natalism needs family-friendly investment in clean sustainable technology; a Green New Deal.

This could ensure that the baby-bust population decline of the latter half of the 21st century will converge, from above, to a sustainable 500,000,000 global population, as suggested by the Georgia Guidestones. They also recommend rule by reason. However, the Georgia Guidestones were blown up by persons unknown. I would like so rational a resolution of our Malthusian limits; but I expect more ‘natural’ behavior from humankind.

So I have revised my long-range forecast. I blow off a stable demographic transition, from below or above. Instead of an ecologically unsustainable population explosion, or a terminal population collapse, or convergence to peaceful stability, we will instead experience all-too-natural population chaos. There will be overshoots, like half of last century and the first half of this, alternating with undershoots, like the second half of this century and half of the next. These vacillations will be unpredictable; they will have sensitive dependence on initial conditions; small causes will have large effects. I speculate that we are witnessing only the beginning of the population chaos, lasting perhaps for thousands of years.

Population chaos will put humankind and nature under stress; this will force both to evolve quickly. Humankind’s overshoots will increase variation for humanity and selective pressure for nature; humankind’s undershoots will increase variation for nature and selective pressure for humanity; put variation and selection together and you get evolution.

Therefore the extinction event that we’re causing has only begun, but the rebound will be swift and innovative, as it was after the last five mass extinctions. The next ecology will be based, in part, on our pests and weeds: the species that live with us and survive all of our attempts to exterminate them. I foresee an ecology evolved from mice, rats, feral dogs and cats, raccoons, coyotes, crows, pigeons, flies, ants, roaches, crabgrass, dandelions, poison ivy, and kudzu.

For ourselves in the long run, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that far-future humankind will have superhuman powers. Our distant descendants will be superior to us in their intelligence, creativity, resilience, wisdom, health, empathy and cunning. Their immune systems will shrug off cancer, airborne Ebola, and radioactive fallout. They will be poets, artists, musicians, athletes, acrobats, and lightning calculators from childhood. They will have profound spirituality, superb sales resistance, and a magnificent sense of humor. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they will need all of those superhuman talents, and more, to survive long enough to reproduce.