Algorithm Nation

It turns out that the Computer History Museum in Mountain View was once The Computer Museum in Boston, next to the Children’s Museum on Fort Point Channel (an area I know pretty well from my days at Thomson just down Congress Street). Now it’s just a server’s throw away from Google headquarters, which might explain the almost complete absence of admittedly minor players in the development of computing and digital like, say, Microsoft and America Online.

While light on the ‘whys’ of the development of the industry in general and Silicon Valley in particular (such as the intersection of the defense/aerospace engineering industries with the 1960s counterculture so wonderfully chronicled in “What the Dormouse Said“), there’s lots of great gadgets and a reasonably thorough coverage of the development of machine computing. And of course, towards, the end, some misty-eyed moments of 1980s Christmas morning nostalgia (is that you, VIC-20, old friend?).

San Francisco’s Old Chinese Cemetery

Just south of the city, but, oddly, not in the necropolis of Colma itself, sits a hidden bit of San Francisco history: the Chinese Cemetery in Daly City.

During the Gold Rush and after, family associations (the legendary “Six Companies”) would arrange for remains to be transported back to China–those too poor to afford this would end up in one of the city cemeteries dotted around San Francisco. When the City made the decision to no longer allow burials in the municipal boundaries and moved the cemeteries to Colma, so too did a unique Chinese cemetery begin to develop on a dry hill above the Serramonte neighborhood. And, fittingly enough, you may look up directly overheard, and see the Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong just after takeoff from SFO, testifying to the centuries of links between the two regions.

Today, twice a year, hundreds of Chinese families come to burn incense, light fireworks, and honor their predecessors. But how many come by the two small potters’ fields at the opposite corners of the cemetery?

Shhhh! It’s OK to be German (Again).

History is rarely this tidy. Exactly one hundred years after Kaiser Wilhelm gave Austria his famous ‘blank check’ in 1914, Mario Götze kicks the decisive goal to win the 2014 World Cup for Germany. The media on both sides of the Atlantic respond: a century of tarnished national identity, absolved in an instant! Or is it even more surprising that we still think in terms of nineteenth-century ‘national identities’?

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An Ireland Odyssey

Here is the secret to visiting Ireland: go West, young traveler. While Dublin is the almost unavoidable gateway to the country (a role it’s been playing since the Vikings first set up camp on the River Liffey), it’s only when you’re safely past Heuston Station that you begin to feel you might indeed be in a very different land.

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Changing Gears: The People’s Bridge

While not a branding story (at least not yet!), the new East Span of the Bay Bridge, which opened two weeks ago, is a signature accomplishment. Herewith a tour of the new bike and walking path, which will (one day) connect San Francisco and the East Bay. Gorgeous and highly recommended, with two caveats: first, you’re not on the north, Marin-facing side (as I and many thought) but rather the south side of the span, and second, that means you’re mostly looking at the not-yet-demolished older structure. However, once the old section comes down, the path will be even more spectacular.

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Washington DC, It’s Paradise to Me

Of course the Magnetic Fields song makes clear that it’s not the museums, memorials, and monuments that makes you want to come back, but they are pretty spectacular, nonetheless. Herewith random scenes from a long Fourth of July weekend in the US capital (ostensible purpose was book research, but there was plenty of time for cultural exploration).

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