Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Greetings from La Jolla

I just got into my hotel, the lovely Hyatt La Jolla Aventine. I’ll be posting some pictures later this evening. It’s a pretty cool place.

I’ve unpacked my bag, which consisted of a change of clothes, toiletries, and three power chargers. The number of little bricks I have to carry around when I travel is ridiculous. I do a lot of work on the road, and am now one of those people who feels as naked going out without his cell phone as he would going out without pants; who revels in being able to work pretty much anywhere; and who takes for granted that he’ll be able to find an Internet connection pretty much wherever. Yet there are points when my mobile life crash back down to earth, and I’m reminded that most of this high-flying takes place within a very large cage, defined by how far away I am (in temporal more than geographical terms) from my rechargers. I’m sitting in the airport shuttle and typing away, and can do so for a couple hours; but at a certain point, I’ll need to either plug in or turn off.

I finally retired an ancient leather bag that my dad bought about 30 years ago, and passed on to me sometime when I was in graduate school. The bag should have had its own frequent flyer number. It has been to Latin America a dozen times, and to south Asia three or four times, and I and took it twice to Korea, twice to England, to Hawaii, and all over the U.S. However, after assorted wear and tear, the loss of various pieces of the zipper and so forth, and several mediocre patching jobs (luggage repair apparently being a dying art in this age of disposable), it finally passed the point of looking well-traveledscuffed and aged in the way that good, solid leather becomes in timeand entered the land of Starting to Look Really Ratty. It fit in less with my laptop and black wool-cashmere jacket (which I’ve taken on every business trip in the last 5 years), than with a paper bag full of anarchist pamphlets and a yellowed tarp. So into the Goodwill it went.

I’ll now spend the next several years forgetting to look for a replacement for it, and use any of several old backpacks, gym bags, and the like for short trips like this.

I haven’t been to San Diego since, let’s see, 1996 or thereaboutsthe last time the History of Science Society conference was held there. I know virtually nothing about the place, except how to get from the airport to UCSD; that the Salk Institute is a jewel, and UCSD is an unexpectedly pleasant place, like an updated version of the 1893 White City. There also seems to be some kind of naval presence here, as I gather by the existence of what looks likelet’s see, I think it’s an aircraft carrierin the bay. It also looks like there’s a replica of one of Philadelphia’s Liberty Place skyscrapers going up in downtown, though perhaps it’s just Helmut Jahn quoting himself.

Am going out in search of a Diet Coke that doesn’t cost $4.99 and come with one of those little disgusting cherries on a stick. I suspect that without a car, I’m stuck in Disgusting Cherry Drinks Mode, but feel the need to give it a try.

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