I’m not exactly sure how much I should document life within the lab, so I’m going to err on the side of opacity rather than transparency. Still, I have to say something.

The lab
the lab at night, via flickr

So, without getting into too many details, it’s a brilliant place: after more than a year of working on really interesting stuff, but functionally working on my own, it’s great to be in such a fantastic concentration of phenomenally smart people. I’ve found several different groups working on things that I find very interesting or cool, for entirely different reasons.

afternoon panorama, via flickr

The physical environment is very nice: corporate, but nonetheless very comfortable. I’ve got an office that overlooks the inner courtyard, and while it’s a bit bare at the moment, I’m rapidly cluttering it up with reprints and books, and as a visitor it definitely helps to be in a place where you’re so visible: people don’t necessarily know your name, but when you’re visible from the stairs and elevator, you develop a quick “oh i’ve seen him around” level of recognition with your peers.

I also quite like the contrast between the ride through town, which takes me past buildings designed by Christopher Wren or erected on foundations laid in the 16th century, and the modernity of the science park.

evening path home, via flickr

I think, given what I’m working on, it’s just the right combination of old and new– proof that ancient ideas and very new technologies can speak to each other, and work well together despite their differences.

The Cam
the cam, via flickr

One interesting and reassuring thing is that I’ve had no trouble talking about the project. Before I got here, I kind of stumbled in describing “contemplative computing,” mainly because I wasn’t certain what kind of reaction I would get. But here, in a community of people who spend a lot of time thinking about communication as both a technical and human activity, the assumption seems to be that it’s an interesting project, so long as you don’t screw it up. Supportive but demanding. So I have to have a good game.

Concentration, distraction, stimulant
concentration, distraction, stimulation, via flickr

And I have to admit, after years of being my own tech support, it’s an eye-opening experience having IT people who are able to instantly do whatever you need. (Suffice it to say, if you’re not really good, you’re not going to last long doing tech support in a computer R&D lab– it’s as tough as being Jamie Oliver’s personal chef.) It seems to me when an organization is good, it’s good everywhere– you don’t have some outstanding parts and others that are filled with slackers. Excellence is either ubiquitous or absent.

[To the tune of Tori Amos, “Abnormally Attracted To Sin,” from the album Abnormally Attracted To Sin (a 3-star song, imo).]