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April 12, 2007

This charming little town in Silicon Valley that we call home is pretty idyllic with the great scenery, restaurants, shops, parks, and ambiance.

But what is it like to live here, in concrete terms (besides the high mortgage payment)? Aside from all the normal stuff found in Anytown USA, there’s the Silicon Valley Stuff. Here, for one thing, there’s a good chance that in a lot of households, there are more computers than there are people. And that’s the case in our home, too.

At Casa de Handy, we hBrian Handy, Los Gatos, age 17 putting together own computerave about three times as many computers as people. This is not meant to be “true confessions” and it’s not to say they are all GOOD computers, but I think it’s a fairly common way of life here to sort of accumulate them and not do a proper purging of the old ones when there’s an upgrade. Just now, I had to ask my husband how many we had – truthfully, I’d lost count. I have two at home (plus one at my office at Intero in downtown LG), the kids each have one, plus three old ones in our guest room, my husband has two, there are a bunch of abandoned ones in our garage.

But that’s not all. Our 17 year old son, Brian, is building a new computer, from parts ordered, as I type. The components began arriving by UPS today.

Yes, this is fairly normal in our quaint town or anywhere in Silicon Valley where there’s an engineer under the roof. We don’t have expensive art or expensive furniture. We don’t take lavish vacations and we tend to avoid expensive restaurants. But we are connected. We have lots of computers and we cannot seem to throw the old ones away.

Computers and “being connected” on the web are simply important here. A lot of my clients met each other (or me) online. Some of them tell me that when they planned their honeymoons, they didn’t want to go anywhere they could not get an internet connection.


Brian, Jim, and Clair Handy at layover in 2004And when the Handy or Pope-Handy family travels, I will admit it is not a whole lot different. We tend to travel with laptops – the kids for fun, the adults for work. It is almost a lifeline and we’re not even talking PC Anywhere.

So it probably comes as no surprise if I tell you that we’re college-shopping with our teens and the oldest one (Mister I Am Building My Own Computer) wants to go into video game design. In our town there is a wonderful video game company, Cryptic Studios. And I’m told that in the corridor between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz, there are a bunch of tiny video gaming companies too. Santa Cruz seems to have some of it also. Finding where this major is offered is a little tricky, though. The University of Southern California makes it easy by advertising it as a Video Game Design Major. The other 99 places in the US all appear to have a different name for the same major, like “Interactive Media Design”. So we’re doing “hunt and peck” for it.

We’re finding that there are places near and far, huge and small, that offer this high tech major. A couple of places are 200 students or less (DigiPen in Redmond, WA and Cogswell in nearby Sunnyvale, CA). A place in Burlington, Vermont, offers the major and a few scattered places in the midwest do too. Some of the big tech institutes either offer classes or full blown PhDs in the subject as well, including my husband’s Alma Mater, Georgia Tech. Interestingly, the University of California at Santa Cruz (just over “The Hill”) will begin to offer this major beginning next year.

UCSC offers a video game design majorWe used to joke about UCSC. Not so many years ago, they didn’t offer grades, only “commentaries”. And yet the place had a great reputation for science and math. Eventually, when UCSC grads couldn’t get into MA or PhD programs due to lack of a GPA, the institution bent and got conventional. What a shock! But the mascot, a Banana Slug, remains. To this day, one of our favorite gifts to family and friends who visit from out of the area remains a Slug shirt. How can you not love a t-shirt or sweatshirt designed with a large Banana Slug who’s sporting glasses and reading Plato?

Just the same, I never envisioned my son going there, being a Slug. Until now.

It’s a short, 30 minute jaunt from high-tech Silicon Valley to laid-back Santa Cruz, and yet a world apart.

The funny thing about Silicon Valley, including Los Gatos, is that people keep expecting it to be conventional, but it just isn’t. Engineers are mis-pegged as being a whole bunch of conformists. Not so. To live here is to understand that with all that knowledge, and all that great Geekiness, there is a massive, funloving and creative streak.

So maybe the slug is a good fit after all. I will keep you posted.