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(Not too) Personal Information

Although I currently live and work in the US, I was born and grew up in Scotland -- in particular, in Glasgow, in the west of Scotland. I left in 1984, moving to Scotland's capital city, Edinburgh, in order to study computer science at the University of Edinburgh. Since there is considerable rivalry between Glasgow and Edinburgh (Glasgow regards Edinburgh as snobbish and overbearing, Edinburgh regards Glasgow as boorish and uncultured), this was a culturally significant transition. These days, I feel more at home in Edinburgh than Glasgow; cultural heresy for which I doubt I will ever be forgiven. I definitely still think that Edinburgh has better beer, though.

Although the distinction seems to elude people, Scotland and England are not the same place. ("England" and "Britain" aren't the same, either.) On May 6, 1999, after 292 years, it finally elected its own Parliament again.

As if moving from Glasgow to Edinburgh weren't bad enough, five years later I moved to England. I spent seven years in Cambridge, working at Rank Xerox EuroPARC (now the Xerox Research Centre Europe). For the latter few years of this time, I also spent a lot of time in London, in Computer Science, getting a PhD in Computer Science from UCL, still home after all these years (almost 200) to utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham (scroll down to the section on the "Auto-Icon"). During this period I also spent a lot of time in Palo Alto, California, as a visitor at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (aka the Shy Research Center). All this travel means that I spent a lot of time listening to flight safety announcements.

After completing my PhD in 1996, I made a more permanent move to the US. I moved to Apple Computer in Cupertino, California. Apple had a research lab in those days, but not for long; the lab was closed 10 months later. So I jumped ship and moved up the road to PARC once more. I worked in the Computer Science Lab alongside some excellent people, including Keith Edwards, Anthony LaMarca, and Mike Salisbury (who's too hard-working to waste time writing a web page). During all this time, I lived in photogenic San Francisco, at the top of the seismically-challenged peninsula that's home to Silicon Valley. Specifically, I lived in Noe Valley, which one resident described as "primarily an urban mall for caffeine addicts and people who have jobs that don't require them to go to an office." San Francisco's a wonderful place to live; you should try it.

After three years, it was time for another of those major cultural upheavals -- this time from San Francisco to its sworn enemy city, Los Angeles. If truth be told, the difference isn't nearly as much as Bay Area people would have you believe -- especially those who live in Silicon Valley, which is almost indistinguishable from large areas of the Southland. It's certainly a strange place, though; Glasgow and Edinburgh are only 40 miles apart, but LA is 60 miles across. With this move, I jumped from industrial research to academia, and joined the faculty in Information and Computer Science at the University of California, Irvine. Irvine, the largest planned community in the US (and hence the world), is a place with special qualities all its own; hypersuburban is one way to think of it. It always reminds me of Baudrillard's comment that "Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real." So, for a little more reality, I live in Long Beach. To the surprise of my Bay Area friends, my commute is actually shorter these days. (If I really want to shock them, I tell them what my house cost.)

Being a professor is a lot of work. In those few moments when I'm not working, I'm probably buying books, reading them, going out for dinner, walking by the ocean, drinking good wine, listening to the excellent (and local) KKJZ, or most likely just collapsing in a heap complaining about how much more work I still have to do.

Despite all these moves, I have never lived in Slough. (But these days, so many more places could inspire Betjeman's ire.)