rashbre central: March 2023

Thursday 30 March 2023

Artificial: C7: Juliette fantasy

I'm getting ready to leave the Lab for the evening, when I see a striking female looking at me. She is wearing a white fitted stretch shirt and blue trousers. Her chestnut hair is softened into curls. She smiles at me, and I wonder what I've done. 


"Hello," she says, with a slight French accent,  "You are Oliver Wells, aren't you?" 


I nod.


"You joined our lab today, but I've missed you because of my work. Can you come along with me for a short time? So that we can get introduced? My name is Juliette Häberli."


How could I refuse?


"We'll go to a bar on the lake. Afterwards I can drive you back to your apartment. I assume you are staying where they put the new people, in Rue de la Confédération?"


"That's right." I'm a little shell-shocked after the full day in the lab and now what seems to be extending into the evening.


We drive to the bar in her fast car and she ensures we have a good table, with a view that looks across the lake and back to the Jet d'Eau fountain. 


I tell her some things about myself, who I have already met and what I think I'll be doing. Juliette responds by telling me about her role and how it changed when she moved to Brant. She's been in Geneva for more than a year and seems to know everyone. We order drinks and share an octopus salad.


"You know the best places," I say, "It almost feels like a date!"


"Non, this is a fact finding mission," she explains, "But I thought we could still go somewhere pretty."


"I wasn't..I didn't mean anything.." I splutter.


"Désolée, I didn't mean anything either. My self-protection sometimes kicks in. It's because of my psychiatry work, dealing with lots of vulnerable people who mis-read my friendliness. It's only happened a couple of times since I've been over here when I've really fallen for someone."


This is the bit where she tells me something and then hopes I'll disclose something back.


She continues, "I'd been with a boy - Jacques - for two years, but it wasn't going anywhere and we both knew it. There needed to be a catalyst to change everything, and the new job at Brant was it. I wound myself out of my relationship with Jacques, got a new apartment through Brant, and changed everything. I haven't looked back."


I'm still trying to work out what she wants to find out about me.


She nibbles at the salad, "Now this could seem unprofessional, but it was a Brant person that suggested the job to me. He was a was a senior guy at Brant, a native of Tel-Aviv named Levi Spillmann who changed to working at Brant and ended in Geneva. He was off-the-scale bright and he brought half the Intellectual Property for the RightMind combat helmet when he transferred to Brant. It was called Createl."


"Intriguing," I said, "Is Levi still at Brant?"


"That's an astute question! But the answer is no. Prepare to hear something gory. He was a boating nutcase and kept a yacht on the lake here. One day they spotted his boat becalmed in the middle of Lac Léman, by Thonon-les-Bains, which is right in the middle and at the widest point. They sent a rescue boat out to him, but he wasn't on board. His body washed up in Evian, France, around two weeks later. They recorded it as misadventure."


"How awful," I shuddered. 


"It was. He was one of my 'couple of times'.


"What you and Levi?"


"Yes. We lived together and I carry scars from that misadventure."


She move her arm toward me and showed me the underside of her wrist. There was a small tattoo. Some kind of insect.


"It's a scarab. They are Mediterranean, like Levi. It represents protection and is also a powerful symbol.


"What's that circle above it?" I ask.


"That's the midday sun. A similarly powerful symbol."  


"You had those done afterwards?" I ask.


"Yes. Levi was one of a kind."


I decide to tell her my story about being discovered by a friend of a friend and added to the Bob Ranzino itinerary. It seems far less dramatic than her time with Levi The Brilliant Scientist Who Died In A Lake.


She smiles pleasantly throughout, but I can almost sense that she has heard it all before.


"So, no love interest?" she questions.


"Not in this story. It is what made it so easy for me to leave Ireland."


I pause and then ask, "What can you tell me about the rest of our team?" 


"The rest you will need to find out for yourself," answers Juliette, "Let's just say we are a close-knit team and watch out for one another. They usually give Amy the tough demands by Kjeld Nikolajsen, and she acts as a deflector for the rest of us. You know. Keeps us protected. 


"Like the scarab?" I ask. I see her react by pulling an annoyed face. 


"Oh, sorry, I didn't mean anything by it. My sense of humour is so out-of-tune."


She brushes it aside and answers, "The thing to remember is that we all try not to over-promise and under-deliver. It's a Germanic work culture. Detailed, accurate and well-planned, but we say when we think things are going to be late. Amy and Kjeld handle the upstream manipulation of 'facts' to the American bosses."


"What to people like Bob Ranzino?" I ask.


"Yes, there's also a few 'fly-bys' from Corporate head office. You must know how to treat them. They are all quite smart, but relatively unsophisticated in the ways of Europeans. You'll have a natural advantage with English and your command of 'awesomeness' and understatement, which can completely bypass American brains."


"But wait, aren't you being over stereotypical?" I ask.


"Maybe!" replied Juliette enigmatically.


"So, what are you researching, then?" I ask the question to bring the conversation away from washed up bodies, boyfriends and my bad sense of comedy timing.


Juliette smiles, "Theory of Mind and its applicability to Human Computer Interfaces." 


"Interesting," I say, "Kjeld Nikolajsen spoke about that. You know, a question about whether a cyber-operated robo-cockroach will run from flames when commanded to walk into them."


She smiles, "He asks everyone that question, I doubt there can be an original answer remaining."


I realise I'd accidentally turned the conversation from washed-up bodies to burning cockroaches. Hardly appropriate when eating an octopus salad.


 "I remember Theory of Mind as being about the assessment of an individual human's degree of capacity for empathy and understanding of others. One of the patterns of behaviour exhibited by the minds of both neurotypical and atypical people, is the ability to attribute mental states such as beliefs, intents, desires, emotions and knowledge."


Juliette smiles; she could tell I only had rudimentary knowledge.


"Yes, you are right. And I'm looking at whether machines can possess similar attributes, or whether those attributes in an animal can override a machine - Just like the burning building scenario you referred to. Theory of mind as a personal capability is the understanding that others have beliefs, desires, intentions, and perspectives that are different from one's own." 


"For a being or a machine, possessing a functional theory of mind is crucial for success in everyday human social interactions and used when analysing, judging, and inferring others' behaviours." 


"I guess it is more behavioural," I hazard in a vague hope that I could keep up.


Juliette continued; she was still looking at me intently. "You could say that. Theory of mind is distinct from the philosophy of mind. Deficits can occur in people with autism spectrum disorders, genetic-based eating disorders, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, cocaine addiction, and brain damage suffered from alcohol's neurotoxicity; although deficits associated with opiate addiction reverse after prolonged abstinence."


"Cocaine, alcohol, opiates; that's a toxic list, where chemistry has been introduced which upsets the balance?"


Juliette continues, "Consider what the mind does as an output from a process. The output such as thoughts and feelings of the mind are the only things being directly observed so the existence of a mind is inferred. It's like those old fairground attractions where you ask the puppet fortune teller in a glass case a question and he spins around with an answer. The oldest fairground machines in the late-1800s used a selection of cogs and a man would sit behind the machine in a tent, listen to the questions and make up an answer. It served well as an illusion of a mind in the machine."


"I see it is like the question of what is the mind?"


Juliette continues, "Exactly. The presumption that others have a mind is termed a 'theory of mind' because each human can only intuit the existence of their own mind through introspection, and no one has direct access to the mind of another so its existence and how it works can only be inferred from observations of others."


"Mind theory based upon inference and introspection?" I ask, aware that this is getting deep, "But does that mean that a machine could also have a theory of mind?"


Juliette answers, "We're straying into Artificial Intelligence now. Theory of mind appears to be an innate potential ability in humans that requires social and other experience over many years for its full development. Different people may develop a more, or less, effective theory of mind. Theories of cognitive development maintain that theory of mind is a by-product of a broader hyper-cognitive ability of the human mind to register, monitor, and represent its own functioning."


"Hyper-cognitive?" I ask. We'd finished the salad and the server was clearing the table.


Juliette looked at the waiter and then at me, "Consider the concept of empathy, meaning the recognition and understanding of the states of mind of others, including their beliefs, desires and particularly emotions. This is often characterised as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes". Can a machine do this? Can a machine understand the ideas behind this?"


I look at the server who is still quietly clearing things away.  I feel as if I'm in his shoes puzzled by this conversation.


Juliette continues, "We attribute human characteristics to pets (like Fido the dog), inanimate objects like Henry vacuum cleaners, and even natural phenomena like Old Faithful water geysers. Most car Sat Navs get given a name. 


"It's like taking an 'intentional stance' toward things: we assume they have intentions, to help us predict their future behaviour. However, there is an important distinction between taking an 'intentional stance' toward something and entering a 'shared world' with it. 


That's the area that the HCI must cross. Will the machine believe it is sharing the mind of the human, or will it simply piggyback to accept human commands? An intentional stance is detached, and we resort to it during interpersonal interactions. A shared world is directly perceived and its existence structures reality itself for the perceiver. A shared world is the melding of the information space between the machine and the human."


"And such a shared world could be one inhabited by lovers?" I ask.


"Yes," answered Juliette, "Our server just now was intentionally detached. He just needed to clear the food away. But two lovers...such situations produce many of the hallmarks of theory of mind, such as eye-contact, gaze-following, inhibitory control and intentional attributions. It's the same for mother and child."


"That would have some deep implications for an AI device hooked up to a human," I said, "The machine would have to love the human or treat the human as its child."


"Yes, we must find another model," said Juliette, "or else we need to make Richard Brautigan's poem come true: 'I like to think of a cybernetic ecology where we are free of our labours and joined back to nature, returned to our mammal brothers and sisters, and all watched over by machines of loving grace.' "




Tuesday 28 March 2023

Artificial C5 : Colleagues

Mid-afternoon and I was about to meet my colleagues for the first time. I was amazed at how quickly the first day had passed. By the time I'd been shown back to the Lab, allocated my workstation position, and met the IT Guy and some of the rest of Amy's team, it was time to go home again.


Late afternoon, one of the team approaches me. "Doktor Wells?" he asks, "My name is Doctor Hermann Schmidt - call me Schmiddi and this here is my colleague Dr Rolf von Westendorf." We both work in Amy's team and Dr von Westendorf here is researching the same area where we are told you are something of a specialist."


Schmidt gestured to von Westendorf, who walked over. Schmidt was a shorter and more rotund man, wearing a suit and looking quite happy. By comparison, von Westendorf was a taller man, with dark curly hair, glasses and a small moustache. His resting face was more sombre. 

Schmiddi starts, "Yes, we are both from Germany - me from Baden-Württemberg and Dr von Westendorf from Bayern - that's Bavaria - as you English call it. And you are from where?"

"Originally London, although I've just arrived here from Ireland."


"Excellent, we have another man from Ireland joining us soon. His name is Matt Nicholson. Perhaps you know him?"


I realise that somehow I'd overtaken Nicholson in the recruitment process. Considering I was a late afterthought of Bob Ranzino, or probably of Jasmine Summers, it was now ironic that I'd arrived in Geneva ahead of Nicholson.


"No, I don't know him, although a 'friend of a friend' does" I explain.


"Friend of a friend... It is good that we can we practice our English with you and maybe some of these idiomatische Sachen too.

"I know in England you are less formal with names, so if it is alright, I will call you Oliver. You may call me Hermann and Dr von Westendorf ist Rolf."

Rolf asks, "And what is your area of expertise?"


I explained it was robotics and the Human to Computer interface. They were both very interested because it was something they had worked with for several years, particularly Rolf.

"The brain is so well protected and dangerous to interfere with, " says Hermann. "We have, naturlich, a few experiments with animals and it is now possible to place electrodes very precisely, but there is still inevitable outrage at anyone considering doing this to a normally healthy person."

"But what is the specific pressure from Brant?" I ask.

"Nyah, it is an arms race, really," says Hermann.

"Exactly," continues Rolf, "They want to develop augmented humans for battlefield purposes."

"What? Like supermen?" I ask, incredulous. 

"No, nothing like the movies. Far more mundane. They want to provide logistical support from humans. The amount they would need to carry would be dramatically reduced and the on-battlefield telemetry they could handle could be ten or one hundred-fold what we see today.

"But wouldn't it apply all across NATO?" I ask.

Rolf explains, "Yes, but that's not the point. It is not about military advantage. It is about financial reward. The first mover in this marketplace can make a lot of money. That is why Brant, with its military contractor background, will want to be seen to have developed the early models."

Hermann adds, "It's also why Amy is under intense pressure from Kjeld Nikolajsen to get something prototyped."


Sunday 26 March 2023

Artificial : C4: Meet Türkirchen

Amy looks at me, "We've a guest in the house this week, He's Professor Doctor Andreas Türkirchen from the University of Zurich where he works in their Brain Research Institute. I should introduce you. You may not already know him, but he's a big deal around the AI circuit."


She took me to a large office or small conference room, knocked gingerly on the door and then let us both in.


"Herr Doktor Türkirchen, let me introduce you to Oliver Wells, who will be working on the Cyclone project."


He looked only a few years older than me, yet had attained the  title of Full Professor, which in Switzerland was a big deal. No. In the world, it was a big deal. 


We shook hands, slightly awkwardly and then he introduced himself more fully.


"Welcome to Brant and the world of research. This topic in which we share an interest still amazes me and shows such unbounded possibilities. Using the RightMind, we have all manner of Healthcare and other monetisable possibilities. Let me be frank - it is the monetisation that allows our research.  Our sponsors, Brant, have an interest in outcomes more than in our research for academic gains."


He gestures to a wall in the room. I recognise the schematic of the fibres linking inside of the brain. It is a wispy yellow creation and reminds me of the kind yellow-dyed wig that Donald Trump might wear.


"We are stepping outside of  'neural lace' now.  Elon Musk is investigating it with his company Neuralink and the idea of placing a 'terminal block' inside the head connected to relevant brain areas."


I recognise his description of Neuralink and the way a brain-implanted chip could communicate with the world outside of the skull, using a filigree lace of threads to different areas of the brain. Another example of everything works in PowerPoint.


He continues, " It is far more complex because the brain isn't really the left and right 2-blob structure usually shown. The many folds make even the simplest topography many times more complex to understand. These gyri fold and the related sulci grooves make the part of our brain responsible for higher cognitive processes like memories, language and consciousness."


Now, I knew of this stuff but had not examined it in the level of detail that Türkirchen was explaining.


He continues, "The era of merging our minds with technology has falteringly begun. Already, we can hack the brain to treat diseases such as Parkinson’s or help paralysed people move again. But what if you could install a chip in your head that would not only fix any health issues, but could amp up your brainpower — would you remember every word said during a meeting, finish crossword puzzles faster or drive better thanks to enhanced senses, or pick up a new language before your next trip?"


I think of Science Fiction as he describes these things.


Türkirchen continues. He is admitting it now, "And we know that Super-smart AI isn’t right around the corner, and the goal of creating brain implants for healthy people in just eight to 10 years might not be realistic. But here in Brant, there are scientists hard at work on technology that could boost our mental skills. Some of these gadgets could be worn right on the skin, but the most powerful ones will be nestled in the brain."


He adds, "Researchers can also use the technology to deliver messages to the brain. By sending an electric current into the correct neurons, scientists have been able to restore a person’s sense of touch or hearing, treat tremors caused by Parkinson’s, or send very simple signals from one brain to another."


That's more like it. HCCH interaction. Human-Computer-Computer-Human interaction. With the middle computers providing some form of interpretive moderation.


"Researchers are now exploring whether these technologies could also sharpen certain cognitive skills. One non-invasive technique called transcranial direct current stimulation works by sending electricity through the scalp. Some scientists (and DIY brain hackers) hope it can help improve skills like learning and memory. But it’s not clear yet if this brain-zapping technology is effective."


"Meanwhile, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is investigating a less direct approach: sending electrical pulses into the body. Research indicates that zapping certain peripheral nerves — which connect the brain and spinal cord to the body — may help people learn skills faster. The most promising target for this approach is the vagus nerve, which passes through the neck. It is like tapping into the information superhighway carrying information from the body to the brain,”


Maybe he was proposing a part chemical and part digital approach. The only thing is, it needs a slash to the neck like something out of a bad Mafia movie.


Türkirchen continues, "Sending electricity through the vagus and other nerves may prompt the brain to release chemicals that alter connections between different neurons. This is already a key part of our learning, but by using a machine to rev up this natural process, people might be able to “tune” their brains to recognise important details with less practice."


I knew it. Using chemicals to accelerate or stimulate learning. It's a more random approach than desirable. 


Türkirchen continues, "Implanting electrodes inside a human brain is still risky, so it's only done to treat neurological diseases. However, non-invasive technology can’t zero in on the exact neurons it would need to stimulate to boost someone's mental skills. For that, scientists will need to come up with technologies that can be embedded inside our skulls."


Türkirchen show me a couple of diagrams: “At that embedded level you gain access to the actual source code of the brain — our neurons that are firing. That’s the entry point where you gain the highest potential of what you can do.” 


The diagram showed neutrons terminated with sensors which, in turn were interfaced to a chip. Good in theory, but very difficult to achieve in practice. I guess that's why he was hinting at the neural lace idea. Fifty sensors into the brain and surely some of them would prove usable. It's still an incredibly reckless hit-and-miss form of experimentation.


Then he brings in the idea of nano-sensors: "Or we might take another approach, like injecting nano-sensors that would be deployed throughout the brain and controlled by magnets or radio signals. Some scientists are looking into out-of-the-box interfaces made from electrode arrays printed in a tattoo."


"That's where the use of micro-robotics can be linked into the solution. Work in Zurich is already showing promise. We have metallic micro-particles which can be heated to around 35C and can then pass through the skin into a body, where they can be guided and reassembled into specific shapes. Remember the old movie 'Incredible Journey' - about a submarine shrunk to go inside a body? This is a real-world example of something similar, except the metal substances have to be guided from outside of the body."


This lab in Brant was either brilliant or insane.


Wednesday 22 March 2023

Artificial - The Novel - C3 To the Lab

Simon Gray met me to show me the way to the bus on Day One. It was about five-minute walk from the apartment and the bus ran into Brant's campus. It was a vast, newly built campus and reminded me of an airport complex. There were even runways and planes parked alongside. I was vetted by the security people - although why they waited until I was in Switzerland - they said it was to do with Swiss regulations. 


Then I got my magic passes - one for the lab and another as a kind of spending card around the campus or even in Geneva. I had to install the App, which I assumed also provided tracking of me.


 Then a slim smart-looking woman arrived wearing a lab coat. She introduced herself as Amy van der Leiden and after greeting me with a kiss to the cheeks (three actually), she escorted me to another area.  


 "I'll be introducing you to the head man in a few minutes; you know you are joining the Cyclone headgear development team? It's part of the RightMind Programme."


I'd just met my new team leader and now I was to meet the boss. The route to the Research Department was along a vast internal glass-domed room. There were tall trees growing and what appeared to be a woodland stream. Off to either side were glass partitioned offices and halfway up the wall was another floor which seemed to mirror the layout of the ground. 


They had given me a small handbook when I arrived in the reception, as well the App for my phone. As far as I could make out, the building was cut into three sections, each with an overarching glass canopy and a pleasantly themed walkway. Between each of the three sections was a cafe area and inside the taller end of the glass dome was a building that stretched up to four stories. 


This was also just one of five large buildings on the campus and all along one side of it was access to the airstrip. I could see mainly helicopters coming and going, and hear the occasional drawn-out rumble of a turboprop taking off. 


"This is one of the more impressive buildings, explained Amy, "They bring visitors here and upstairs are a few of the executive offices like the one we are meeting Kjeld in. They get a good view of the flight movements from upstairs. There's also some attractive dining rooms on a whole floor and the facility here is based upon hot-desking, even of the most senior people."


We stopped at the next gap between the glass-domed buildings, and Amy looked towards an elevator.


"We could use the stairs, but I think we'll get lost if we don't follow the correct visitor route," she explained.


"Hello," said Amy, in English, "We are here to see Kjeld Nikolajsen." She pronounced Kjeld's name emphasising the 'J's in a strong Dutch manner.


"Certainly, said the receptionist. "My scanners tell me you are Amy van der Leiden and Oliver Wells, You are both expected."


She walked out from behind her desk and led the two of us to an office. EL6, it said on the door. Amy walked in first and I followed," Hello Kjeld," she said, beaming towards him, "I've brought Oliver Wells, to see you."


"Well, Hello Mr Wells, and Welcome to Brant! - I try to meet all of the new people joining our Research department."


Like Amy, I could see he was not one for idle chatter. 


"You'll have Amy as your team leader as we try to develop improvements to HCCI headgear. Cyclone was not an accidental choice of name. We are creating a hive mind system, using cloned AI augmentation. We want to step beyond a single organism making decisions by itself. Will a cyber-operated robo-cockroach run from flames when commanded to walk into them? Does it make the decision alone, or could it be augmented by the hive mind? 


Our project name is RightMind and we are 'pushing the envelope' on what is possible with cloned memory and AI boosting."


"The RightMind creates a new way of thinking about battlefield dynamics. It can be a complete game changer. Think of the 400 years of the Trebuchet catapult, used to smash down city walls - famously Thessalonica. It was improved upon as a design, making a lower range but fast firing alternative to the original traction Trebuchet."


I nodded, it was clearly a test. I remembered my childhood comic books. 


"Those ancient warriors, in their pursuit of siege warfare, used battering rams, wooden towers, scaling ladders and all kinds of other things which our generation can hardly imagine. But didn't they find the most effective way was to undermine a fortress's foundations, by tunnelling or by fire?"


"Very good," answered Kjeld, "I hope you will enjoy working for us."


Amy signalled it was time to leave. As we walked back, she said, "Good, he likes you. He was testing you with that last thing about the city walls." 

Monday 20 March 2023

Artificial C2: Backstory for Oliver Wells

My story is simple. I've been studying the brain and cognitive psychology for what seems an age. My Doctorate was about the electrophysiology of the mind. It encompassed event-related brain potentials and cognition. It drew upon factors affecting the loading of a brain when involved in cognitive processing and increasingly the factors that would create out-of-condition responses affecting attention, mental chronometry, memory, and language. 

There are the inevitable warnings that the brain may break if it becomes overloaded. Most people check out when I tell them this. They hear words like science, brain, physiology and cognition and complete their own description of what I represent. Usually, it isn't flattering. 

 It's why Ranzino and Summers wanted to hire me. I've been involved with post-structuralism in my studies. The study of hyper-reality. Not some modern art school project with ultimate detailing oh no. Hyperreality is a condition in which, because of the compression of perceptions of reality in culture and media, what is generally regarded as real and what is understood as fiction are seamlessly blended together. The experiences are such that there is no longer any clear distinction between where one ends and the other begins. 

There are no joins between what is imagined and what is real and I'll attempt to show this in my story. I've  followed the work of French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, who contributed to communication studies that speak directly to larger social concerns. 

I had to explain this to Ranzino, and I could see Summers taking notes. My explanation was that much of the thinking was established through the social turmoil of the 1960s, spurred by social movements that questioned preexisting conventions and social institutions. 

 Through a postmodern lens, reality is viewed as a fragmented, complimentary and multiple-meaning system with components that are produced by social and cultural activity. It's a perfect playground for Augmented Reality. 

Social realities that constitute consensus reality are constantly produced and reproduced, changing through the extended use of signs and symbols which hence contribute to the creation of a greater hyperreality.

There's a unit in Brant, here in Geneva, that is researching Human Brain to Computer Interfaces. It's called HCCI in the jargon. 'Human to Computer to Computer Interfaces. 

'Why the two Computers?' I hear you ask. It's simple really. The first is a small unit to decode the human thoughts and then the second is the main unit to receive them and to send back 'reprocessed' thoughts. 

 I know what you are thinking. It works well in PowerPoint, doesn't it? But in Real Life? I don't think so.

Well, that is exactly how they hooked me. Combining the sensuous properties of fragrant Jasmine Summers and the gung-ho bravura of film-star-tanned Bob Ranzino. They challenged me to 'make it work' and offered me around four times my current income to do so - and even threw in the free accommodation. 

Call me weak, but I fell for it.

Saturday 18 March 2023

Artificial Opening Scene (c1 - coincidences))


I am sitting in Le Club chatting with Bérénice Charbonnier. Her gentle aroma of Chanel is just about legal.


"So, Oliver Wells, how did you come to be out here, working for Brant? Are you another one of the brainy scientists, or maybe you have some other skill?"


Bérénice lives next door in my apartment block and seemed to know everyone. She was some kind of news reporter. She suggested that we go to this disturbingly American-style sports bar in the heart of Geneva, although, I suppose it was only a ten-minute slow walk from my new home. Everyone around us was speaking shades of English.


I answer, "I think I was an afterthought, actually. One of Brant's head honchos - Bob Ranzino - came to Cork,  Ireland, where I lived, and he was busily recruiting a friend of a friend, Matt Nicholson. Matt must've told them about me and the next thing I know I'm being given a drive-by recruitment handshake for Brant."


Bérénice smiles, "No, it can't have been that simple. I know Brant and even Bob Ranzino and Jasmine Summers, his close associate. We've interviewed them a few times about new developments in and around Geneva. Brant is a big player in this city."


"Well, the friend-of-a-friend link was because Heather, Matt's ex at the time was also friends with my buddy Michael. Cork is a small place and word gets around. I guess Ranzino must have thought he could make more of the opportunity and hire both of us. I think he even took us to the same restaurant both nights!"


"That sounds like a Jasmine move. Find the most expensive place in town and make it the office. I expect it had to be a steak or seafood place as well."


"You hit the nail. We went to Quinlans and I had lobster. Good recruitment food."


"So do you know many people yet? There are several Brant employees who live in our apartment block, you know. I can introduce you if you like."


"I met Simon Gray yesterday, another Brit, but I've only just moved in. Aude Darmshausen  showed me the Apartment and had furnished it impeccably to look modern and cool."


"She is good at that, but I guess she has seen maybe twenty people pass through that block on Rue de la Confédération, whilst working for Brant."


"What do they do? Do they stay on, or go home?"


"They stay, usually a year or so in your block and then on to their own rental properties with more space and privacy. You'll soon find out that Rue de la Confédération's inhabitants are an inquisitive bunch."


"And you, Bérénice? I know you work in the Press, but how is that?" I ask.


"I work for Le genevois - The Genevan - It's a mainstream media publication. I work on the social media side of things." 


"So no surprise that you know everyone and everything!"


"Not everyone. And not everything," she answers with a twinkle in her eye.

Wednesday 15 March 2023

Lambo madness?

Lamborghini build a new car made of carbon fibre for lightness and then adds three electric motors. 

Sounds good so far? 

Then they add a huge V12 engine as well and all the ancillary pipes for cooling, exhausts and so on. And a dual clutch 8-gang gearbox to handle the 6.5-litre L545 V12's 814 horsepower. Yawn. I suppose it is something for petrol heads to talk about at the pub.



Monday 13 March 2023

everything everywhere all at once

After svp, I see another American bank heading south. And the Donald clown facing more criminal charges. Allegedly paying hush money. Lest we forget his self declared immunity from taxes. Or the smacking down with innuendo of his own party members.