From Cosmic Variance:
He arrives with an entourage of five care givers to tend to his physical needs, one or two family members, several graduate students, and a â€œgraduate assistantâ€ who handles logistics and serves as general fixit-person for his computer system and mechanized wheel chair. His current chair is new and sophisticated. At the flick of a switch, its hydraulics can lift him up to a standing personâ€™s eye level or slide him down near ground level for high-speed chases â€” he has been known to take pleasure from running over the toes of university presidents.
Hawkingâ€™s Pasadena sojourns are rather like Einsteinâ€™s in the 1930s. Caltech is an intellectual magnet – a crossroad for ideas about the cosmos and the fundamental laws of nature, which are Hawkingâ€™s passion. He contributes mightily to the ferment, and partakes. Our California night life (LA, not Caltech!) is also pretty good; and Hawking, like Einstein, is a party animal, only more so. During his annual month here, my own social life intensifies five-fold just from being his closest California friend. He loves opera, theater, jazz clubs, barbecues that he hosts in the patio of his Pasadena home, and dinners with fine wine – especially an Indian Feast prepared for him by Caltech undergraduates. Yes, we geeks can cook up a storm – well, not me, but the younger generation.
Conversation with Stephen is slow, about 3 words a minute, produced by Stephen moving a muscle in his face (imaged by a lens and photodetector) to control a cursor on his computer screen. Itâ€™s slow, but rewarding. You never know, until his sentence is complete, whether it will be a pearl of wisdom or an off-the-wall joke. Faster speeds are on the horizon: computer control via brane waves, without drilling a hole in his head (heâ€™s opposed to that). But he resists changing technology, even without drilling, until forced to. â€œI canâ€™t believe itâ€™s as good as what I have.â€ (It actually is; my wife has a friend with ALS who proves it so.)
And if you don’t know who Kip Thorne is, you need to read Black Holes and Time Warps which is an incredible read.