Last night in Cambridge

On our last night in Cambridge, my son and I took a long walk through Jesus Green and the colleges.

Last walk through Cambridge
the cam beside jesus green, via flickr

On his last trip to Cambridge my son had bought a wool hat with a cat’s face on it, and wore it pretty much nonstop since February. So naturally he wore it tonight.

Last walk through Cambridge
my son outside st. john’s, via flickr

It was a perfect evening, clear and cool. Early evenings like this, when the sky turns deep blue and the lamps come on, are probably my favorite part of the day in Cambridge: visually the town is at its most vivid and mysterious.

Last walk through Cambridge
all saints’ pass, via flickr

We went down Trinity Lane to Garrett Hostel Lane, which is the path I took every day to the lab.

Last walk through Cambridge
trinity lane, via flickr

Last walk through Cambridge
trinity lane, via flickr

The view of the Cam from the bridge is one of my favorite: no matter how many times I crossed it, it always impressed me. I’ve been very lucky with commutes. When I lived in Chicago, my drive to work took me down Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue; in California, it’s been to Stanford, Sand Hill Road, and downtown Palo Alto. None too shabby. But this is the best of all.

Last walk through Cambridge
clare bridge from garret hostel lane bridge, via flickr

Last walk through Cambridge
trinity college backs, via flickr

The challenge now is to get to the airport in the wee morning hours tomorrow. And then, after that, to make something out of the three months– to make this sabbatical the start of something important, rather than an interesting lark. I know there are a couple great articles here, and maybe a book, if I’m really diligent; certainly I believe strongly in the idea of contemplative computing, and think it’s one that deserves a wider audience– and to be improved by being discussed and tried out and stress-tested by people other than myself.

I’ve learned an immense amount here. Not only do I have much better grasp on the HCI literature than I did when I came here (though there’s still a lot I don’t know, despite the best attempts of my colleagues to tutor me), but I’ve discovered works– in particular Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow, but also Seneca’s Letters, Virginia Woolf’s Room of One’s Own, and others– that I think will influence me pretty deeply in my normal life, not just my thinking and writing (though the boundaries between those three are pretty thin when all goes well). And there’s probably no better place to practice contemplation of all sorts than here.

Last walk through Cambridge
the cam near our house, via flickr

I have a sinking suspicion that the project is a bit of a disappointment to Microsoft, though; it’s at once not quite philosophical or theoretical enough, nor has it expressed itself in a prototype. So this only more motivation to produce something great: I feel the need to prove that the odd choice of a futurist as a visiting fellow was a good one after all.

Unfortunately I can’t finish the work here: to remain would be too disruptive of our normal lives. After three months here, I feel very much at home– I can conduct a normal life here, rather than just be a tourist– but I know my regular life is waiting for me in California.

a t-shirt shop on bridge street, via flickr

But I’ll be back.

The end
via flickr

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