Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Kyte TV, Sausalito, APA, and Pleasanton

Entry for August 21, 2007 (traveling back to Ohio):

After the end of the Humanist Therapy conference on Thursday, David Rennie and I take BART back up to San Francisco, getting off at the Powell Street Station and walking up to Union Square together. I have arranged to meet my brother Joseph at this office there and go back with him to his place Sausalito.

Kyte TV. Along with his business partner Daniel, Joseph (Joe to his co-workers, but Joseph to his family) presides as chief technical officer over an office full of about 15 computer programmers (software engineers they’re called nowadays). The elevator opens directly and startlingly into their office, receptionist right in front of you. In the open room to the right, commanding a roof view of this part of San Francisco, Joseph sits at his desk; like most of his staff, he is working with two large computer monitors, side-by-side. The place feels intense: their flagship product, Kyte TV, launched just a couple months ago and they are Hot right now, expanding rapidly and bringing in capital and generally trying to hold it all together. It’s one of those internet start-up things that you read about, only this one’s happening to my brother.

When Joseph introduces me as his older brother, some of the programmers pretend not to believe him; one of them asks me if I’m really from another, even hotter start-up in the South Bay (Santa Clara county, San Jose) who has come to try to lure him away with lots of stock options, great working conditions etc). I deny it, saying I’m from Scotland; when he still doesn’t believe me, I say, “And ah’ve got this relly fake Sco’ish auccent tae pruive et!” This finally convinces him, and he desists.

CarShare. We’ve missed the 6:47 commuter bus, and anyway, my suitcase is too big, so Joseph gets on the internet and reserves a CarShare in a public parking garage a block and a half away. This is another one of those things that I’ve read about but never seen for myself: For four dollars an hour (2 dollars after hours), you can use a shared car for a fixed period of time. Joe has to get the parking garage guy to unlock that part of the garage; we go down, and sure enough, there’s his car-for-the-night waiting. He unlocks it using an electronic fob-shaped key, we get in, and away we go to Sausalito, through North San Francisco, the Presidio, over the Golden Gate Bridge, down into Sausalito, and finally up the steep hill to his place, a duplex perched overlooking Sausalito and its little bay. Sausalito is in shadow by now, but the sun is still golden-red on the hills to the east.

Turkish feast. Joseph’s wife Ebru and her mom, Guler, are there to greet us. Guler is visiting from Turkey for the month, and has apparently been spending most of her time cooking, so we are treated to a sumptuous Turkish feast, as she brings out one dish after another until we cry out for mercy, defeated by her culinary inexhaustibility. My cousin Elliott, one of the top OB docs in San Francisco, arrives about 8, directly from work delivering babies in high risk pregnancies. He keeps us spellbound with a long, tragic, and ultimately uplifting story about the baby he has just delivered. He reminds me that we have known each other for some 40 years, since he visited my family on his way to the Philippines and I introduced him the I Ching. As night falls and deepens, we discuss work, family, community, and music, working our way through Guler’s many dishes. Guler, who is a physician also, doesn’t speak English, but understands bits and pieces, and every so often interjects something into the conversation via Ebru.

I didn’t manage to get my Friday morning talk for APA finished before the first conference, and now I am running out of time to finish it. After Elliott leaves and Joseph, Ebru and Guler go to bed, I sit up for a while in their living room looking out over the Bay, working on my talk, a meta-analysis of humanistic therapy outcome with depression. When I can’t keep my eyes open and more, I go to bed.

APA talk. The next morning, after a lovely Turkish breakfast, Joseph drives the CarShare car back into San Francisco, where we drop it off at the same garage before continuing on to Joseph’s office. I continue working on my presentation, then when I’ve run out of time, head down to the Moscone Center for our session. Jeanne and Les are already there. We set up for the session, and I continue working on my talk while Les, and then Jeanne present. Finally, about 10 minutes before it’s time for me to present, I call a halt.

We are amazed when our session peaks out at about 200 people, halfway through Les’ talk. However, after Les’ talk, people begin leaving, and by the time I’m presenting there are only about 30 people left! So much for our 15 minutes of fame! It appears that we have seriously miscalculated our audience, because we have come prepared to impress the positivists and Powers That Be with all our statistics, only to run into a large audience of practitioners, Our audience is bored out of their minds by all our Science and as a result leave in droves once it becomes clear that we are Not On Their Wavelength. We have been away from APA for a long time, never really got into its culture, and have forgotten that in spite of the pretensions to science in its upper echelons, it is primarily made up of practitioners. Maybe next year we will do better!

Old friends. After this session, I look up my former colleague Wes at his poster session and have a very nice visit with him before he packs up and ends for Yosemite for a California Experience. I try to find the Humanistic Psychology hospitality suite but end up crashing the Gay & Lesbian Psychologists instead, so I give up and go look at the book room. However, my heart is not in it, I am delighted to run into Bill Stiles and persuade him to go off for a beer and some lunch. After this, I head back to Joseph’s office and after some retail therapy before taking BART back to Pleasanton to join my family.

Pleasanton. We spend the rest of our California visit hanging out in Pleasanton, going on long runs with Kenneth, going out to dinner or making dinner, celebrating anniversary and birthdays, catching up with my other brother Willy and his partner Katie and pretty much vegging out. I find myself in need of a BBC Radio 3 fix, catching up on Composer of the Week and Late Junction. Kenneth is absorbed by Go studies, having been to meet a Go master in Palo Alto and keeps reporting back excitedly about his latest discoveries. In and around this, I manage to make significant headway with my email, so that I won’t be hopelessly behind when I return (I hope!). Finally, tonight, after an obligatory visit to Diane’s beloved pizza restaurant, we say goodbye to her mom and head back to the airport and Ohio.

Northern California is our Third Home, along with Ohio and now Glasgow, and closer to my heart than either, but we only get brief visits, and now it is time to go. When we see it next, it will be December and unless there is a really bad drought, the hills will be green and alive. The air will be crisp or even cold, and our extended families will be waiting there for us to brighten the Dark Time of the Year.

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