Monday, July 17, 2006

By the Bay

This week finds the Sawyer family in San Francisco, CA. We got here on Friday, did some touristy things on Saturday, then visited friends in the area on Sunday. That included going up to Petaluma to see Ransom Stephens, former high energy physicsists turned project scientist for Agilent turned author and lecturer on jitter. (His book writing ventures are aimied at a memoir and a novel - the jitter just pays the bill for now. He has his own website at Ransom was a faculty member at University of Texas - Arlington, where I was a post doc, back in the days of the SSC.

We packed up some food and wine and headed out to Point Reyes to watch the Pacific Ocean beat the shore. It was great. Ransom's daughter Heather, a political science major at UC-Santa Cruz, came along and we talked politics in the car. Ransom, Carol, and I drank a couple bottles of wine, Ransom and I smoked a couple of cigars (which my son disapproved of greatly), and way too soon it was time to hit the road.

We left Petaluma and went to Menlo Park to visit another physicst who left the purity of science to make a living in the real world. Andy Belk was a fellow graduate student on the ALEPH experiment at CERN back in the late 1980s, but he got of the field right after finishing his PhD. He worked for SwissBank a while, living near Chicago where I got to see him and his wife Emmanuelle a couple times when I was at Fermilab. After a couple of years he took a job with Apple. He quit a while to work for a high-tech startup, but now he is back at Apple.

Andy and Emmanulle have three daughters: Bettina, Elena, and Fiona. Emmanualle is a photographer and artist by training, and she has some of the finiest photos of jazz musicians I have ever seen. She took them in Paris when she was the staff photographer for a jazz club. Being Silicon Valley, of course they have a website (have had, in fact, for a long time) at

We had some take-away Vietnamese food, and a little more wine, then sat around and talked a while.

It is an effort to maintain a friendship when you only see each other once every few years. And I am a terrible one about not writing or phoning. I place no blame on anyone I have lost touch with, it is invariably my fault. But these folks - Ransom, Heather, Andy and Emmanuelle - are important to me, even if we are out of touch for long periods of time.

Today we have stayed out of the City, walking around the Stanford campus and eating lunch in Palo Alto. We also did a little laundry. Tomorrow, we are going to the Exploratorium in the morning, and in the evening we fly to Vancouver, where I will get back into physics myself by attending the Vancouver Linear Collider Workshop.

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