Oracle, Redwood Shores
That’s not just an Oracle campus. That’s THE Oracle campus. I’m not a fan-girl of the database company, but I still squeaked with excitement every morning when we stopped at the lights on our way from our hotel in Redwood to the office.
These are the birth-paces of our modern age, as important as Athens, Rome or Sumeria and, to my geeky mind, as breath-takingly exciting. Yes, if you visit California, then it makes much more sense to hang out in San Francisco than to do a tour of the business parks. But… but… these are the earthly homes of cyberspace. Giants walk here.
Apple moved out of the garage and into Cupertino. Electronic Arts and Oracle are at Redwood Shores. Santa Clara has Intel inside, not to mention the Googleplex and Stanford University.
Stanford would matter if it’s only contribution had been Google and Yahoo. But it helped to give us the very Internet itself: one of the four original internet nodes was at Stanford, back in the day when the internet was ARPANET and years before the Stanford University Network was incorporated as SUN Microsystems.
And then there’s Palo Alto.
It’s hard to over-estimate just how many innovations that shape our daily lives started in Palo Alto as scribbles on an engineer’s blackboard. It’s no surprise that Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center – Xerox PARC – brought us laser printing. It’s more of a surprise to discover that WISIWYG text editors and windows-based interfaces were first thought of here. When Xerox made the decision to focus on hardware, Apple and Microsoft took their ideas about software and ran away with them. And the tech-savvy might be interested to know that object-orientated programming and ethernet also came out of PARC.
So there I was, San Francisco smiling at my inner tourist and Silicon Valley whispering to my inner geek. I’m civilised. I didn’t even try to persuade my colleague that we should do a tour of the local business parks. We went into San Francisco to watch the Giants play baseball, and we ate seafood and drank Californian wine on Fishermans’ Wharf.
Sucks to be me.
The chap in the badge on the right is my husband. Don’t worry, he’s fine. He’s researching strokes and dementia; if you stand still long enough near a research MRI scanner you’ll be cajoled into lying still in it while the radiographers calibrate some particular sequence of scanning.
So of course I got hold of the scan and of course I got those nice folks at Zazzle to make it into a badge.
What’s been fascinating is the range of reactions I get when I tell people what it is.
- Colleague – female – late 20s – “Euch – no, sorry, that’s gross”
- Artist – male – mid 20s – “Do you have a larger copy of the image?”
- Career counsellor – female – early 50s – “… how… interesting … “
- Accountant – female – early 30s – “But why can’t you see his teeth?”
- Neuroscientist – male – late 20s – “Where did you get the badge made?”
- Cousin – female – early 70s – “Hmmm. Why did you do that?”
Me, I think it’s cool. And at least I didn’t get it made up into a t-shirt.
The other day someone worked out where I live from a previous post on this blog.
Now I’m reasonably careful online: I’ve written about password security, I know emails are less private than postcards, and I don’t geotag pictures out of an instinctive preference for privacy, and I certainly don’t tweet or blog about going away before I actually go. So you may think it’s odd that I blog in my own name, but I’ve a professional interest in Web 2.0 and I need to type the type as well as talk the talk.
When we went away a couple of weeks ago, I dropped a very late email in to the folks who deliver our veg to cancel the box for the week. Unfortunately the email addy I used was a benwarsop one, and I am a customer of theirs in my married name.
Or so you’d like to think.
You see, my email sig includes a link to this blog and the top post that week showed some flowers on my kitchen windowsill. I thought no harm of it: central Scotland is full of kitchens with views like mine.
I see sunflowers, you see the house opposite
But Ms Holmes was smarter than that. She knew which day I have my veg delivered from the email and it was easy enough to check the route for someone whose first name was “Ben”. It was probably a list of 1, but even if it had been more, it was only a matter of comparing the relevant Google Street View(s) with the pic on my blog, and bingo! No veg left to rot for a week, and a happy but rather unnerved Ben.
So if you want excellent organic veg delivered by tech savvy folks, go to GrowWild and say I sent you. They know both my names now.
And if you don’t want to be tracked down, find somewhere to live that Google Street View hasn’t got to yet. It’s good advice. Property values in places like that will soar.
I usually steer clear of bloggy memes because they are a lazy way to pick a subject, but I am distracted at the moment (houses to sell, motorways to drive on, MSc assignments to think through, you know how it is) so I’m grateful for May’s nomination for the Happy 101 Sweet Friends meme.
Besides which, as anyone who reads me regularly knows, I believe those of us who live in the West should be be grateful for the unfair hand of fate that’s given us food and security and shut the bleep up about ‘artistic differences’ or whatever it might be.
The instructions are: List 10 things that make your day & then give this award to 10 bloggers.
- The chance to bang on about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is always guaranteed to cheer me up, and it’s great to have an excuse to listen to Nina Simone who puts it so much better:
There – you feel better for that, don’t you?
- Having no plans turns a day into a gift. That old proddy work-ethic means I rarely plan frivolity, so it’s only when a plan falls through that I kick back and have some fun.
- A cup of tea in the morning. There is nothing, but nothing, like the first cup of tea of the day. It’s not so much that it makes my day, as the lack of a cup of tea undermines it.
- Sunshine. I open the curtains hopefully every morning and look for blue. And yet I move further north to greyer skies year after year.
- Evesdroppings. My current favourite was an elderly lady telling her middle aged children that she had been in Blackpool when their father bought her engagement ring: ‘ a cheap one’ she reassured them kindly. A Yorkshire-women wouldn’t want a fecklessly expensive one, now would she.
- My cat. What can I say? I’m a woman of a certain age. My husband says the cat’s needy, but I choose to think of him as affectionate. Besides which, he spends hours jumping on his own shadow which always cheers me up. Hard to tell which of us is the simpler-minded, really.
- The chance to do good Visio. Or any other kind of systems diagram. I like analysis diagramming and haven’t done enough of it lately.
- A clean kitchen. I even like cleaning the kitchen so long as there’s a good comedy podcast in the background.
- Not over-eating. Stopping smoking was a cinch in comparison. I’m chewing over Kate Moss’s mantra that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. (Chewing over, geddit?)
- Being married to my honey. Soon to be a daily delight.
And now… 10 bloggers whose blogs give me pleasure
- Paddy K – acerbic, atheist and Irish, living in Sweden. I wish I could nail a subject with Paddy’s pointed venom.
- Colm – also atheist and also Irish. Colm’s post frequently make me wish I’d written them myself.
- Jon Pashley – far too sporadic a blogger, Jon posts with energy and excitement in ways that leave me thoughtful or spark my interest
- SoRB – doesn’t blog, but his comments are trenchant, provocative, thought-provoking and thought through. I should start a FaceBook Group for people who want him to blog.
- Dr Z – gives us windows into two worlds impossible for outsiders to imagine let alone experience: he’s a doctor and he’s a female to male transsexual. He’s also an engaging writer.
- Eyoki – a blogger who reflects on the artistic and cultural experiences that come his way, occasionally through the lens of his transsexuality.
- Charlotte Otter – I have a huge bloggy-pash on Charlotte whether she’s writing about her family, her native South Africa or her progress as an author. She just writes so damn well. Not fair.
- Hairy Farmer Family – the Hairy Wifey bakes cakes to diet for, swears up a storm and makes me laugh. She also champions her son’s battles with the the NHS, and I find her blog a fascinating counterpoint to Dr Z’s.
- Sol – who’s already been nominated – is intelligent, clever and lovely, and her son is a genuinely adorable boysy boy. And she doesn’t blog about him enough.
- May – who nominated me – May more regularly than any other writer tosses out a turn of phrase which leaves me frothing with envy. I can be clever and funny, but never quite that clever or quite that funny dammit. Life is being shitty to May and I know of no-one more deserving of an even break than May and her lovely husband H.
I have just spent far, Far, FAR too much time footling around designing dresses at http://www.styleshake.com. It’s a site where you can design a dress, choose the fabric, and have it made up to your exact measurements give or take a centimeter. And all for ludicrously reasonable prices and delivery in 10 days1.
Let’s get the business-related observations done with before we lose the people who don’t like the eau de œstrogen wafting around this post.
First of all, what a bloody genius use of the internet; the perfect example of something that simply could not be done without the web. Even better: the site works well, which is more than can be said for most design-your-own-whatsit sites. I do hope business model pays: I’m a bit of a seamstress myself and it’s hard to see how they could get the things cut and sewn for UK wages. I really want to see their production line. (I am such a process geek). I’m also intrigued by their design software which presumably drives their pattern-cutting software in a reverse of the wire-frame-to-rendering process used by the computer graphics and special effects industry.
I am fascinated by just how varied the end results can be given a limited range of design elements (fabric colour, shape of the neckline, length of the skirt, etc).
I guess it’s like lego, the real limit is your skill and imagination. And boy have people done some interesting things with their limited pallet, as you can see from scrolling through their photographs and favourite designs. Be careful though, there’s some eye-watering fugliness in there too.
I guess it only goes to prove that StyleShake’s rather awesome software doesn’t make you Christian Dior any more than MS Project makes you a Project Manager or PowerPoint makes you good at communicating.
Have a go – you know you want to.
1 – Mind you, I’ve not had the chance to use the site yet – my first instinct was to blog, but come next payday … Back to post
I am SERIOUSLY unimpressed by Twitter.
I guess a lot of us have been sending out Direct Messages about having more satisfying sex for longer, and those of us with half a brain have been changing our passwords.
But this email from Twitter is unforgivable:
Moronic email from Twitter
The text reads:
Due to concern that your account may have been compromised in a phishing attack that took place off-Twitter, your password was reset. Please create a new password by opening this link in your browser:
This will reset your password.
This is stupid because it encourages people to trust unsolicited emails which ask them to click on a link. Phishing emails in fact. Yes, let’s train people to trust links in unsolicited emails which aren’t addressed to them personally. That would be cool.
This is in fact so blindingly moronic that I cannot bring myself to explain how blindingly moronic it is. I don’t want to ruin my entire weekend with the rage I’d generate in myself.
Of course if I really want to get my point out there, I should tweet it.
Watching Aleks Krotoski ‘s excellent programme about the Internet last night, I was struck by the one thing she didn’t say:
We make our technology, as we make our gods, in our own image.
She considered the use of social networking for good and for ill and the nuances there are summed up most neatly in the irregular verb:
- I am an activist
- You are a freedom fighter
- He is a terrorist
Every technology extends the reach of the individual and the most chilling part of last night’s episode was her interview with an arrogant little shit who claimed to have generated the denial of service attacks which effectively closed Estonia in 2007. So the real question about the internet is not ‘is it a force for good or ill?’ The question we should be asking is ‘are we grown up enough as a supposedly intelligent species to be trusted with it?’ When we look at the devastation we’ve caused with every other technology we’ve devised, the answer quite clearly is ‘no’. (Says me. In my blog. Which I will announce via Twitter. And repost on Facebook. Before turning up the central heating because it’s cold here today).
I was however intrigued by the implications of how the internet is changing the dynamics of political power. 20thC democracy is clearly a busted flush. In the UK no-one can be bothered to vote because individuals feel disenfranchised and powerless. (Was Thatcher’s emasculation of the unions in the 1980s co-incidence, or did it cause this de-politicisation of the workers, I wonder). And we’ve all come to realise the truth of the old anarchist saying ‘no matter who you vote for, the government will get in’. Now it’s been clearly shown that that means a bunch of trough-snorting, house-flipping, expenses-fiddling, family-funding, John-Lewis-shopping scheisters who seek to use parliamentary privilege to evade the short arm of the law. No wonder no-one votes. (Me, I’m composing the limerick with which I’ll spoil my paper in June). In the US, the stakes and therefore the turnout were higher and Obama clearly gets the internet and used it successfully to reach the voters other media don’t reach. Even so, the corruption and ritualised posturing of the American political process make the only possible reaction one of disgust.
… and breathe…
I ought to delete that little rant because Krotoski did not mention party politics or the entrenched political processes at all, and it’s irrelevant to this post. Instead Krotoski looked at the shapes that are coalescing to form the new political power-bases. I am genuinely interested in concepts like ‘the virtual homeland’ and ‘self-radicalisation’ and I find it intriguing that this language is only used in negative contexts.
The way that the Internet enables individuals to engage with the world around them and the power-structures above them is certainly subversive, but when we consider the scum that has risen to the top of the 20thC political processes (see above) is it actually bad that individuals are becoming more engaged and more informed?
Interesting times, eh.
Right. Time for packing more books into boxes. When I sell the house I am going to buy a Kindle. Or an iPad. Or both.