Do you see the lone person, sitting on the hillside, on the right side of this image? People provide scale, but also something more in this context. In addition to watching the literal gradient of the sky at sunset, this picture is part of a set of images of the “civilization gradient” from wilderness to dense city center. I quite like the added layer of a gradient from the individual in nature to the greater mass of humanity in cities. Traveling between rural New York and the crowded Bay Area has made me more aware than ever of the contrast.
I spent this week BARTing back and forth from downtown San Francisco to “downtown” Berkeley for the American Chemical Society’s National Meeting. Bouncing between the familiar and the strange, all tinged with a general sense of familiarity, gave me a sense of dislocation, like an atom in slightly the wrong place in a crystal structure. Beyond meeting scientists and seeing old friends, I can think of one exciting new discovery this week: the new seat fabric on the BART is an enormous improvement over the horrifying cloth of yesteryear.
The orange hue and misty hills remind me of the poster for Apocalypse Now, but this is just the northern end of San Francisco Bay. In this age of upward-climbing property values and Silicon Valley rags-to-riches stories, I’m continually amazed that there’s room for industry. If these facilities had to be started today, I can’t imagine that they’d wind up in the same position.
The work day is ending and the eight-to-six employees are returning home. They meet in bars or at rec leagues or around the table or in front of the TV, but the hour is still too early to head out for a night’s adventure. In between work and nightlife is dinner time. We’re not tired enough to go to bed yet; the night is young and full of paths over which to integrate (to borrow Feynman’s view).