Gripe all you want, but deep down, you love tekkies…

The data says you do, anyway. Of note: how we feel about the tech industry is nearly the inverse of how we feel about government.

Check it out on

The Enduring Popularity of the Technology Industry.

Throwback Thursday: Chat rooms

O, the chat room! You may no longer be popular, but I remember you fondly. Conversing with strangers, on any topic, at any time of day or night! The thrill of a pop-up message from MrRight22, inviting you to a Private Chat!

Confession: my friends and I didn’t use chat rooms to chat. We used them as social science experiments. Many an hour of summer break we spent dipping in and out of chat rooms, observing people’s reactions to our comments.

One of our favorite avatars was “Pog”, whose modus operendi was interjecting absolute nonsense into a normal chat and then ditching. For example:

Brian: So my dad says I have to go to piano camp, but I really don’t feel like it.

Mary: That sucks, Brian. Do you hate the piano or something?

Brian: Naw, it’s just that I already know how to play, you know?

<Pog has entered the chat room.>

Mary: Hi, Pog. a/s/l?

Brian: So, like I was saying, I’m pretty much a prodigy or whatever…

John: I play the piano, too. But I like the guitar better.

Mary: Wow, there are a lot of musicians in this chat room! He, he!

Pog: I ate a piano.

John: Yeah, I can play like Jimmy Hendrix, with like, a Pink Floyd twist…

Mary: Wait, did someone just say they ATE a piano?

Pog: Erm.

Brian: Yeah, what the ****, Pog?!

Pog: It was delicious.

<Pog has left the chat room.>

We never got personal or bully-y, but we were teenagers and said stupid teenager things. One time, we pissed off a hacker who threatened to send us a computer virus. I don’t know if that was really possible, but we shut the computer right down, just in case. We were more careful after that.

The chat room to the budding social scientist was a laboratory, providing hours of research on social codes, courting behavior, herd mentality – with live, unsuspecting subjects! You didn’t even have to chat to be a part of it. You could just “listen in”, like sitting in a thousand subway cars, catching patches of countless juicy conversations.

I’m sure you’re all too young to remember the chat room. You’ll never know those heady summer days of silly banter before it was “trolling”, innocent eavesdropping before it was, well, creepy and weird.


Self reflection

Yesterday I had one of those rare moments of self-awareness, when you can see yourself as others see you, and it makes you laugh. Or cry. Whatever.

A little backstory:

While we look for an affordable apartment in Silicon Valley, my husband and I are staying at my mother’s house in Palo Alto. Apartment searching has been tougher than I thought, but we are resilient and stubborn people.

One night, after a couple drinks at our favorite pub (the Rose and Crown), my husband pulls into the driveway and returns with a surprise – a kick scooter!

“I found it for 7 bucks at the thrift store!”

I laugh with delight and ride it around the quiet suburban street, at 10:00 at night. Despite the couple glasses of wine, I do a fair job of keeping it upright. It sits against the garage for several days, until I am running late for a writers’ meeting, and my husband has the car. I decide to give it a go.

It’s hard work, scooter-ing! It’s exercise, actually. Entering the Stanford Mall, I pass shoppers filtering in and out of restaurants, including a child and his father.

“Daddy, look at her! She’s riding a scooter!”

“Yes, son, it’s like yours.”

“But mine is cooler.”

“Ha ha, yes. Yours is cooler.”

I start to feel a bit self-conscious passing Neiman Marcus, when yet another child comments on the scooter. Instead of bringing it into the cafe, I prop the scooter discreetly against the door.

After the meeting, I am whizzing past Palo Alto High School and it hits me: this isn’t London, where you see trendy, green professionals zipping along the Thames path and popping out of the tubes on their scooters.

This is Palo Alto, California, and I’m wearing a backpack, riding a scooter back to my mother’s house.  In my thirties. What must these people think of me? Google professionals, no doubt, passing me by in their Prii and Teslas.

In the near-darkness, at 5’2″, I reckon I’m short enough to pass for a high schooler.

I take small comfort in this.

Don't listen to them, Rocinante. You are my noble steed. Together, we shall slay the windmills of preconceptions of appropriate adult commuting methods!

I call her Rocinante.



A book on economics that mentions Quentin Tarantino…

…I am so geeking out right now.

Thomas Piketty: the French economist bringing capitalism to book | Business | The Guardian.

Multiverse Meeting

I think about her, sometimes – Alternative Universe Me. What she’s doing, what she’s thinking. Whether she wonders about me and what I am doing. Is she having a coffee, too, but with sugar instead of cream, and at Alternative Universe Phil’s instead of Philz Coffee? Does she even like coffee?

Also I think about Real Me – because, as you may have heard, our universe may be a hologram of a flatter place, and that would make the me that is typing right now, Hologram Me. I wonder if Real Me is enjoying the show she is putting on – flickering images of Hologram Me bumping my head on something – and snickering.

I’d like to call a meeting of Mes. We could compare notes on the various universes we live in, what’s cool, what could stand improvement. This would be perhaps the very first Multiverse Meeting, so we would take good minutes.

I’d make tea.

Morning writing routine

I was supposed to be writing for the past 29 minutes, but this is what I have been doing:

  1. Thinking about going back to bed, “just for a little while.”
  2. Sipping coffee.
  3. Staring.
  4. Re-reading my blog.
  5. Staring.
  6. Sipping.
  7. Thinking, “there is nothing really to say that hasn’t been said already.”
  8. Yawn.
  9. I could just curl up next to Sal and close my eyes…
  10. My coffee is gone. Time for a refill!

Being a writer is hard work.

Transitional Tourist

It’s funny, the way you know that you really belong somewhere is that you never go and see the things that make that place famous.

If you live in New York City, you just don’t go to the Empire State Building, for example. My best friend lived in NYC for years, and I think the only time she went to the Statue of Liberty or any of that stuff was when a starry-eyed friend like me came to visit.

I never understood that about her, until I moved to London. That first year, man, I went EVERYWHERE! Any chance to pass by Big Ben, hop on a train and go to Oxford, wander around the Tower of London, I took it. Fast-forward a couple years, and I barely ventured out of Camberwell, the neighborhood where I lived. I spent 98% of my going-out time in local pubs just sitting around with friends. When people came to visit, I sent them on their own to the Tower.

We’re in the transitional phase now, in Silicon Valley. Before I get all comfy and this tech / beach / California thing gets normal, I’m going to get out there and have some adventures.

Top five so far:

1. Google campus

2. Santa Cruz boardwalk

3. Big Sur

4. L.A.

5. Wine country

Someday, when I’m blogging about life on a sustainable urban windfarm in San Francisco, I’ll look back on these first several months with a chuckle.

Well, if you’re reading this, Future Me, don’t get too smug. You were a tourist once, too.