Hungry minds

Party planning in a foreign country for an event with uncertain numbers is always a nerve-wracking business. A couple of hours before the San Francisco Salon, my co-host…

Liberal optimism

After interviewing a largely optimistic Russell I took a walk around the Berkeley campus, feeling a little adrift (and retrospectively sorry not to have called Laura). Russell recognises…

Supervised learning

I continued on to the Science Centre and had my normal ambivalent reaction. It’s a striking building with, as promised, spectacular views over the city. The building itself…

Buzzing over Berkeley

My interview with Stuart Russell had been arranged in the radio studio on the Berkeley campus with the Guardian listening in from London. Apparently the best views are…

Nursemaid to a Mustang

More often than not when I’m in San Francisco I make the mistake of having a car with me. Someone once estimated that at any given moment of…

Nepenthe is non-negotiable

I had to get to San Francisco that evening and it was after 2 by the time I left Hearst Castle. I couldn’t resist taking a final recommendation…

Motel 6, pick up sticks

Heading north from Santa Barbara I substituted ‘go somewhere really cheap’ for ‘don’t decide where you’re staying’. I have no idea who wins when you find a place…

Mission impossible

Before heading up into the mountains I spent the morning walking around Santa Barbara’s Spanish era buildings on the Red Tile walking tour. As I went I played…

Cold Spring hillbillies

Another advantage of a very lightly timetabled journey is that you can respond immediately to random suggestions. One of the LA Salon participants, on hearing that I was…

Live in Santa Barbara

Heading out from LA I decided to do the drive ‘without having a place to stay thing’. I had an indifferent Thai green curry in Ventura and then…

Getty reaches out

Finally in LA I went up for lunch at the Getty Museum. Having worked at Wellcome Trust for many years it was really interesting to compare notes with…

Winston stayed with Marion

As part of my Churchillania quest I cycled up from Venice to the Annenburg Community Beach House a jolly space beyond the Santa Monica Pier. It includes the…

Into the Mouse’s lair

Found my way onto the Disney Studios lot to visit Alice Taylor who runs StudioLAB there. Obviously I can’t say much about what I saw but as their…

To a Hammer everything looks like a nAIl

So my first Salon of the trip was generously hosted by the Hammer Museum, a sparkling space off Wilshire Boulevard. It’s connected to UCLA and has a strong…

Pulling off the freeway

My first Churchill salon was in LA on the Wednesday evening so I set off up the freeway to get there in good time. I lasted a little…

Uncanny ravine

I also caught up with Ayse Saygin who works on social robotics and told me all about the weird flowers currently blooming in the ravine where she lives….

Artificial improvisation

My aunt told me about an evening of avant garde improvisation featuring jazz and classical musicians engaging with a series of AIs. Given the purpose of my journey…

Rhodopsin, briefly

Although I was just passing through San Diego I pulled up an old introduction from my goto maven Sarah Caddick and called up neuroscientist John Reynolds. As my…

Circles in the air

Waiting for dawn in San Diego. Landed last night and now feeling that funny slight dizziness when the input from your eyes to your body clock is a…

Coming to America

Winston Churchill only visited the west Coast of America once but he captured the essence of Hollywood with characteristic flair in this piece from 1929. I just got…