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Among The Biogeeks Of San Diego

I'm in San Diego, sitting in the lobby of the Westin Hotel with a bunch of other computer addicts. Everybody is here for the bioinformatics conference, and the O'Reilly people have set us up a wireless network. We come like moths to the flame. If you are wondering what I know about biology, the answer is "More than ever!".

Nobody here is having a good hair day.

I had a devil of a time finding my room in this palace, and shuffled around for a good five minutes on the fifth floor looking for the correct door before I realized that I had been shuffling along carpet. Back home that would have meant I was guaranteed to get the mother of all electric shocks from the next metal object I touched. Back home I would already have arced to the wall. Chances are good I would have vaporized one of the cats. At home I get shocks when I walk from the library to the kitchen, a distance of twelve feet. When I pet the cats, they have little seizures, and they give off blue flashes. They have started avoiding me. "Bad lightning man, he hurts us. He HATES us..."

So I gritted my teeth and touched a doorknob, and nothing happened. Of course nothing happened - I'm in San Diego.

I got here at dinner time and went out hunting for a fish taco. I walked and walked what turned out to be the heart of the city, a swank restaurant row. It's a weird neighborhood here, a mix of very upscale restaurants and barred-up check cashing places.

There were no taquerias, but I did see a Hooters, and for the upteenth time did a little double take. I still can't believe that Hooters is an actual viable chain restaurant. I keep thinking it's a put-on of some kind, sponsored by the Onion (for the benefit of non-US readers, Hooters is a pub-like restaurant chain where all the waitresses are permablonde girls in tight T-shirts and high-cut shorts. 'Hooters' means 'tits'). It bills itself as a family restaurant. It even manages to offend me, which is kind of like a football hooligan being put off by gratuitous violence. What gives?

But there was a table in the window with three women, wearing the Muslim hejab, and their conservatively dressed male companions. They were tucking in to some Hooters skillet supper, having a grand old time. I moved on and found a fast-food Mongolian barbeque joint, complete with bins of frozen pork shavings.

People are starting to reminisce about backup systems they have known. It is like a standup act for the server-room set. Picture the evil mastermind from "A Princess Bride", except with long black hair and a paunch, talking about head seek access times. Nature or nurture?

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