I figured embedding myself was the only way to go. I'm writing about Silicon Valley again — about what makes this place tick, about...

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MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — I figured embedding myself was the only way to go.

I’m writing about Silicon Valley again — about what makes this place tick, about the heroes and heels, the winners and wannabes, the people who do the work and the people who make the money. (Not always the same folks.)

It’s been nearly three years since I focused on the valley as a beat. A lot has changed and I knew I needed to reconnect.

So here I am writing this first of many Silicon Valley columns from the Red Rock cafe on Castro Street in Mountain View. Arabica coffee and Wi-Fi are in the air.

The place is a blur of laptops, iPhones, business plans and dreams. An ad hoc incubator.

This coffee shop and dozens like it are the new garages, the spots where businesses are born. These caffeinated clusters are reminders that the scheming never stops, that Siliconians work on their own terms and that the next big idea can come from anywhere or anyone.

See those two guys drinking tea at the back table? The tall guy, with the distinctive Indian accent, and the wonkish guy in the V-neck sweater? You might want to keep an eye on them.

They’re talking about a startup. (If they told you, they’d have to kill you.)

“You have to know what you’re building,” the tall man counsels. “There is always going to be the last-minute change. That’s the only guarantee in fact, that everything is going to change.”

And, man, does it.

For years, ending in 2005, I wrote a column that endeavored to tell the story of Silicon Valley. Now I’m back, looking for the quirky and the quixotic.

I plan to explore what it’s like to live in this place in this time. I hope to examine the fine lines between ambition and greed, dedication and obsession, competition and corruption.

So, how much has the valley changed in three years?

In June 2005 there was no YouTube. There was no glimmer of Twitter. Hardly anyone could put a name with Facebook.

There was no iPhone in 2005. No Valleywag. No Wii, for goodness sake.

Back then Google was still riding its “do-no-evil” hype rather than battling being hyped as the next evil empire. Bill Gates was still the richest man in the world. Now he’s in the business of giving money — and the richest title — away.

And nobody — except Mark Zuckerberg and maybe his mom — could imagine that the Facebook co-founder would land on Forbes’ billionaire list (even if the magazine referred to him as “that Facebook kid”).

Time does not just fly in Silicon Valley. It moves at a speed requiring quantum physics to calculate. And so it never gets dull, even for those who’ve studied the valley’s incredible journey for decades.

I’m reminded of that at the Red Rock when my phone chirps. It’s Paul Saffo, noted valley futurist, calling from his car.

I wanted his take on how the valley has changed since 2005.

“Is that a Tesla going by?” Saffo says, interrupting himself at the thought he’d just spotted the supercool, all-electric, Silicon Valley sports car. “Ah no. It’s just a Pontiac.”

Imagine: A man who’s made a career following the valley’s innovation still finding that little-kid excitement in what’s created here — and what will be.

His pick for the biggest change? Advances in the multicore processor, a development that he says could lead to each of us carrying the power of a supercomputer in our pockets.

Saffo says he isn’t precisely sure where all that will lead. He just knows it’s going to be fun.

Funny. I could say the same about this column.

Read Mike Cassidy’s Loose Ends blog at www.mercextra.com/blogs/cassidy. Contact him at mcassidy@mercurynews.com or (408) 920-5536.