Archive for the 'Life in Palo Alto' Category
Just this morning I was contemplating how horrible it must be for the people who suddenly lost their homes in the fire around Lake Tahoe. By the afternoon I was watching firefighters from my office window battle flames on Stanford’s hills.
I was sitting at my desk already unable to work having just received word about the death of Peter Marris, Professor Emeritus of Urban Planning at UCLA, dear husband of Dolores Hayden who was a fellow Fellow at CASBS this year. The two of them had to end their year at the Center early, because Peter was sick, but I don’t think any of us expected things to escalate so quickly.
Unable to concentrate on work, I turned around to look at the beautiful view from my office. I spotted some big red flames. Soon I realized that a large area around it was completely black with smoke and flames on the periphery. Eventually sirens and helicopter appeared, as did firefighters. Some of the smoke was now white not just black, apparently a good sign. But not all the black smoke disappeared and an hour later there was still much activity. I went to an event and by the time I got back to my office, another hillside was completely black (see the difference in the left area of the two photos above).
How quickly things can change.
In honor of Halloween, the staff at the Center gave each fellow a list of previous office occupants. (As a reminder, I’m spending the year at CASBS thanks to a grant from the Annenberg Foundation to bring communication scholars here.) Below is my list of ghosts from the past.
Opler, Morris E.
Hymes, Dell H.
Beattie, John H. M.
Heady, Earl O.
Cohen, Albert K.
Shaffer, Jerome A.
Jenkins, James J.
Lydall, Harold F.
Barber, Cesar L. Joe
Goody, Esther Newcomb
Dawes, Robyn M.
Watson, Richard Allan
Kaestle, Carl F.
Scott, Rebecca J.
Weber, David J.
Lougee, Carolyn Chappell
Hermalin, Albert I.
Weber, Elke U.
Camarillo, Albert M.
Green, Martin B.
Cook, Karen S.
Twining, William Lawrence
Biernacki, Richard G.
Gruenfeld, Deborah H.
Katzenstein, Mary F.
Katz, Jonathan N.
It may seem silly to focus on individual offices, but given the special architecture of this place, each office is a distinct part of the Center. Its architect William Wurster did a wonderful job of constructing a place that offers considerable privacy to each office occupant while also fostering interaction among community members. Perhaps some of the pictures I have taken convey that. There are no hallways here, just rows of offices and gardens in between.
Being given an opportunity to be at the Center is already humbling enough, but to think that all of the above people had been in the exact same spot working away is quite amazing. It’s neat to find some connections. For example, I only brought a few dozen books with me to the Center, but one of them is Carl Kaestle’s Literacy in the United States so it was really fun to see his name on my list.
I could spend days browsing the lists of the various offices, there is so much exciting history here.
Yahoo! hosted a party the other day celebrating the third birthday of del.icio.us and the registration of its millionth user. I found out about it thanks to a listing on Upcoming. It was a fun reason to return to Yahoo! headquarters just a few days after Yahoo! Hack Day.
There was some overlap in attendance, but I thought the demographics of this crowd was noticeably different from that of the one at Hack Day. There were more women and I no longer contributed to skewing the average age – toward ancient – considerably.
In the background was a screen showing additions to the site real-time. It’s fun to imagine the dozens of users, at any one minute, clicking on their del.icio.us bookmarklet (or whatnot) entering information and contributing to the overall value of the site.
The first person I met reminded me of the shallow shmoozing that went on at Silicon Alley parties in the late 90s. (I’m sure they went on at Silicon Valley parties as well, but since I was living in NYC at the time, I have experience with that bit.) He wasn’t even a del.icio.us user. Worse yet, he spent most of our brief encounter questioning the service. Why bother showing up? I won’t embarrass/dignify him with a link to his company’s Web site.
I did better with the next round of folks I met. I stumbled into a group of people who already knew each other through a Flickr meetup group. We spent a good chunk of time sharing our adminiration for that service and community.
Next, I went over to say hi to Andy Baio whose links page has often inspired posts around here. We’ve exchanged emails about numerous things in the past so it was nice to meet in person finally. I also got to meet some folks from the Flickr team including its co-founder Stewart Butterfield, and Matthew Rothenberg whom I look forward to seeing next week when I go back to Yahoo!, this time for research purposes.
Finally, I ran into our CASBS Librarian Trisha who, conveniently for me, took a picture of the swag, which consisted of a cute T-shirt (the back shows the party information as a del.icio.us entry) and stickers.
Overall, it was a fun event. It’s neat to be in the area and have the ability to just hop on over to these things.
Hundreds of people showed up for the opportunity to spend a day adding functionality to various Yahoo! products such as Flickr, Upcoming.org and now even Yahoo! Mail. The demos of these creations will be this afternoon (Saturday) where we’ll get to hear 90-second descriptions of the hacks. It sounds fun and exciting especially to someone like me who’s such a fan of some of Yahoo!’s products.
The event organization so far has been impressive with clear directions, plenty of parking, fast registration and some fun swag. Yesterday was filled with various presentations culminating in a pizza dinner and then a live concert. I finally met Lifehacker Gina Trapani in person and hung out for a while. This was fun since despite having written for Lifehacker in the past, we’ve never met in person.
The surprise of the evening was the Beck concert (see a recent interview in Wired as to why he was an especially appropriate selection for this event). The performance included puppet versions of all the artists projected onto the screen behind the stage. It was great. You can find photos of the concert on Flickr (mine, others’) and there’s also a Yahoo! video not of the concert, but of the Beck puppet’s visit to Sunnyvale. Google gets most of the attention for being a fun place to work, but Yahoo!’s campus seems quite fun as well, something I already noted when giving a talk there two years ago.
A deer visits me almost every day here at the Center. There seem to be plenty of leaves falling from the tree to keep it well fed. On occasion I’ll look out my window and there it is. I have decided to name the deer and have given it the name Casbie as a mix of the Center’s abbreviation (CASBS) and perhaps you can guess what else. I’ve started a separate set for it on Flickr. (Sorry about all the “its”, but I can’t tell for sure if it’s male or female. At times like this Hungarian is so much more convenient without gendered pronouns.)
I have moved to California, temporarily. I will be at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford for the next nine months. I have started posting some pictures (slideshow) for those who are curious about my new environment. The place is amazing. I had heard a lot of positive comments about the year at the Center from former fellows, but wow, it’s even more amazing than what one could imagine. And the interactions have barely started, my comments for now are based on the physical environment, not the intellectual one. I can see now that this will be an incredible year. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity.