Homecoming Weekend

Today I told my first joke in ASL. It was around the dinner table, and the students were discussing Homecoming Weekend’s closing party, called the “Bash.” I didn’t go to the Bash, because I figured my students might not want Mike the Professor around while they got drunk and fooled around in the mosh pit. (I hope they fooled around in the mosh pit.) But I did go watch for a few minutes while the DJ was warming up. The party was in a concrete garage next to my dorm, and I immediately saw why: they wanted to make the most of the reverb. For deaf students, Strauss waltzes don’t do it. What does it is shockwaves coming from sound bouncing off walls and colliding with itself.

Slips of the hand

Josh Swiller arrived this afternoon, and a bunch of other people did too, so now the dorm feels like an actual place instead of a deserted jail. I was here all by myself for ten days.

Slips of the hand: when I told someone that “my roommate” Josh was arriving, I used the sign for together: my together Josh. I walked away vaguely feeling that I had implied my companion Josh. I may be from San Francisco, but I’m not that kind of San Francisco.

Learning ASL

I’ve finished my first week of intensive American Sign Language (ASL) classes: six hours a day in class, an hour or two doing homework, and of course seeing people signing all over campus. So where have I got? I can say things like My name is (and fingerspell my name), Where do you come from, and How did you get here?

How did I get here?


Sometimes when a blogger goes offline for three months – my last post was April 18th – it’s because not much is going on. And sometimes it’s because a whole lot is going on.

Two weeks ago, my agent finalized a contract for me to write my second book, whose working title is World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humans and Machines. The publisher is The Free Press, which is an imprint of Simon & Schuster. It took me three years to reach this point. I’m incredibly grateful to my agent, who shepherded me through half a dozen drafts of the book proposal, and to my family, who supported me in all sorts of ways. The book’ll come out in 2010 or 2011.

Living in Stereo

My latest article, Living in Stereo, has just been published by The Journal of Life Sciences. This story is about my getting a second cochlear implant, or “going bilateral,” as we say. Careful readers of this blog will notice I’ve used (and heavily revised) some material from postings I wrote back back in January and February — but there’s plenty of new material, too. This piece basically sums up my experiences getting the implant and hearing with it during the first few weeks after activation.

Confessions of a Bionic Man

Confessions of a Bionic Man is the title of a Washington Post opinion piece I’ve just published in the Sunday edition of April 13th.

It starts this way: “If I were catapulted back in time to 1978, in many ways I’d find it easy to adjust. Cars would still be cars. Books would still be books. Stores would still be stores. But I’d look at people on the street and wonder, ‘How can they stand to be so disconnected? How do they make it through the day?'” Read the rest…

Fascinating article on tinnitus

From today’s New York Times: “New Therapies Fight Phantom Noises of Tinnitus.” I’d no idea that so much progress had been made. It also talks about fMRI imaging, a technology I’ve been reading about a lot lately.

We all sleep in silence

I rode shotgun as Josh Swiller spoke at the California A.G. Bell‘s annual conference in Milpitas last Saturday. Josh had texted me the day before that there’d be protestors there. I’d texted back, “Nobody ever pickets my speeches. Some guys have all the luck.”

A. G. Bell’s a strongly oralist organization, as you can tell from its motto, “Advocating Independence through Listening and Talking.” That doesn’t sit so well with some members of the signing deaf community. Milpitas is close to Fremont, which is home to the California School for the Deaf, which is a strongly signing school. Because of that, the area has many deaf people passionately committed to sign language. The California chapter of the Deaf Bilingual Coalition was there having a peaceful rally in front of the hotel, on the lawn, with picket signs and shirts saying things like,

The networked pill

My latest story for Technology Review, The Networked Pill, came out this morning. It’s about a company named Proteus Biomedical that’s developing a pill that tells sensors mounted on the body that it’s been swallowed. The sensors record the time and monitor the body’s responses to the medication, such as heartrate and respiration. The idea is to let physicians directly measure a medicine’s effect on the body so they can tweak the dose. Amazing stuff.

In other news, Josh Swiller is staying with me for a couple of days because he’s giving a keynote talk at the California A.G. Bell Association’s annual conference in Milpitas on Saturday morning. I’ll be there too, naturally.

The Economist has an excellent story on upgrading cochlear implants

…in which I’m quoted. It’s a fascinating story about the emerging prospect of replacing old cochlear implants with new models. Till now this subject has been more or less taboo, with the assumption that implantation is a one-shot deal: the implant you get is the one you will have for life. But improvements in devices and surgical techniques are making it feasible to consider removing a device and replacing it with a new one. Read the story here.