All you need to know about Vail

The streets of Vail Village are actively heated by a set of boilers that burn $250,000 of natural gas each year to melt each snowflake as it lands. I was reminded of this tonight as a parked car’s headlights revealed both falling snow and rising steam.

“The system pumps a heated water-glycol mix through almost 150,000 square feet of pedestrian streets in Vail Village.”

Source: The Vail Daily.

Last Day

I spent my last morning in San Francisco at the UCSF radiology department, learning about the state of their facility and especially its equipment for MRI-guided Focused Ultrasound Surgery. In short, they’re very well equipped, and indeed clinical trials are already underway.

My feet seemed to have healed up enough for a good walk, so I spent the rest of the day wandering the city, passing through the districts (e.g. Chinatown) and landmarks (e.g. Lombard St.) I’d missed on Saturday. After one last burrito in the Mission, I caught the BART to the airport and steeled myself for the redeye.

Next stop: Boston.

The Labs

At dinner Friday night I met a new friend who offered me a place to stay on Saturday. He said there were some people I ought to meet. He said the place was called Langton Labs.

Getting there was a struggle; the building is unmarked and I had lost my record of the address. By the time I arrived I was entirely exhausted, and after being led to the guest room immediately collapsed on the top bunk.

In the morning I began to assess my surroundings. The guest room appeared to have been constructed as a sort of extra-large storage closet in a cavernous industrial garage constructed from corrugated metal. Some areas were carpeted in secondhand persian rugs; others held power tools on the gray concrete slab. There was a terraced plywood construction along one wall, and someone still snoozing on one of the flat parts.

When he woke up he showed me around. It’s an amazing space, never entirely finished but full of dynamic art (and gigantic speakers, all silent). It was also almost totally empty, at least initially.

As people began to wake up the place became progressively more exciting, babble flowing faster and deeper until the stretch where I spent what must have been 4+ hours talking to experts in biomedical imaging optics about their field and mine. They showed me, in their corner of this offbeat living space, a high-speed 3D microscope based on an internally illuminated ultra-sharp diamond knife, along with astonishing visualizations of Purkinje cells, microvasculature, and just about everything else there is to see in a brain.

After a hard day wandering the city, I encountered the coolest thing while resting my feet.

San Fran

I stayed on a generous friend’s futon Friday night, in a spaceship-styled apartment on a hill south of the Mission. In the morning I set out to see the sights, by walking down to Mission St., and then up to the Dolores St. rIdgeline. I followed that street past Dolores Park and Mission Dolores, learning quickly that the SF grid in no way reflects the topography.

From there I followed The Wiggle from Dubocey Park to Golden Gate Park, where I wandered around the museums before heading North into the Presidio. I walked along the side of the road, since no sidewalks were in evidence, until I arrived at the base of the (magnificent!) Golden Gate Bridge, then followed the beachfront paths East back into the city.

All told, it came to about 11 miles of walking, on steep terrain, while carrying all of my luggage for the week on my shoulders. This may not have been my greatest decision; by the end I was hobbling from blisters and resting my feet at every available bench and ledge.

There’s no better way to learn a city than by wandering it under the power of your own two feet … but maybe I should have taken up my host on his generous offer to lend me a bicycle.

Stanford visit

This isn’t the first time I’ve been to Stanford, but it feels like it. Last time, by my recollection, nobody particularly wanted to talk to me about their work, I spent my first evening on campus utterly lost, searching for my host’s room to crash on a couch, and it rained the whole time.

This visit could not have been more different. Above all I should thank Andrew Holbrook for making sure that I got a personal seminar from every scientist at the university whose work is of any relevance to mine, and for making sure that everything else went smoothly. The only thing I really can’t credit him with is the weather.

Now I’m standing at the Palo Alto Caltrain station, cringing as the occasional express whizzes by at full speed and getting ready to start the next leg of this adventure, North to San Francisco.


From the things you don’t see in Massachusetts department: 30-second ads on local TV for Cannabis, with a long list of conditions for which it is purportedly a miracle cure. I particularly got a laugh out of the dispensary’s appropriation of the term “alternative medicine”.

Airport Trace

  • T=0 Leave house. Forget carefully assembled bag of snacks on the counter. Oops.
  • T=6 Catch the Red Line at Central
  • T=15 Arrive at South Station
  • T=16 Depart South Station on Silver Line
  • T=30 Arrive at Airport Terminal A
  • T=32 Terminal B
  • T=36 Terminal C
  • T=39 Arrive at check-in Kiosk
  • T=40 Complete check-in
  • T=41 Arrive at Security line
  • T=63 Complete security screening, including waiting in line with 150 other people, taking off shoes, opting out of X-ray screening, etc.

33 minutes remain until boarding begins … maybe enough time to re-buy all the food I left on the counter at home.


I’m heading to San Francisco, Stanford, and the Bay Area on Wednesday. I’ll be at Stanford for at least Thursday and Friday this week on business, but I arranged to be around for the next few days afterward because I’ve never been there before, and it would seem a shame to burn all that Avgas and not see the Golden Gate.

So if you have suggestions of places to visit, or if you’ll be in the area and want to meet up, let me know. My schedule is absolutely open. Oh, and I haven’t booked a hotel yet…