Posted on Friday, September 23rd, 2005
So, life’s been trundling along for the last few months, and whilst there have been a few things noteworthy enough to write about, there just hasn’t been the time to knock together some paragraphs on any of them. Hopefully soon.
It’s been a strange summer, anyhow – not much conducive to the peace of mind which tends to render me most eloquent. Let’s face it – with London bombs, the continuing ridiculous farce of the UK Government’s ID card fixation, various American political events, and the devastation of hurricanes, it’s all been a bit “End Timesey” for the world at large.
And the saddest, most numbing thing about the whole parade of rather depressing news stories is that, on this side of the pond, almost any issue quickly polarises into a debilitating “conservative vs. liberal” ping-pong match where no-one actually discusses anything, hair is pulled, names are called and there are no watchful teachers to storm onto the playground, separate the brawling infants and give everyone a good telling-off.
Living in California distances you from the worst excesses of these battles, but frankly that’s only because it’s one of America’s few “liberal” bastions, and folk generally leave one another be.
But here’s the thing that still trips me up – for at least 50% of America’s population, “liberal” is a swearword. Quite literally, you’ll see it used to immediately dismiss or win an argument, or lay blame for a problem. “It’s because of liberals”. “Well, of course you’d say that, you’re a liberal.”
Posted on Wednesday, June 1st, 2005
Horrible puns shall abound as I attempt to summarise some of the more exciting moments from the last 2 months, getting to know San Francisco and its slightly off-the-wall night life. I’m starting to find my way around the city now (not a difficult feat given it’s 7 miles by 7 miles – a village compared to London), and I have to say I’m falling in love with the place, even if I’ve woken up one too many times on a sofa somewhere mumbling “where am I?”
In a stark, minimalist style, I shall describe the highlights of my travels using bullet-points. You can all read between the lines – I’m sure it’ll seem more exciting that way.
Posted on Friday, March 25th, 2005
I picked a particularly wet winter to move here to the Bay Area, and I have to admit that I’ve been vaguely disheartened a couple of times during unbroken week-long onslaughts of rain. I thought I’d left this kind of thing in London!
The main reason that wet weather is disheartening here, though, is that California is truly breathtaking when the skies clear and the sun shines down.
London is kind of grimy like a well-worn, well-loved overcoat. I don’t think I could truly state my affection for the city without becoming near-pornographic, but after 8 years it was definitely time for a change. I’ve only come to believe that more strongly since I moved.
Posted on Wednesday, March 9th, 2005
If a truly horrendous entity ever wished to escape back into our reality from another chaotic dimension, it would almost certainly manifest itself at an international airport.
This is not because airports are particularly monstrous places, but because they’re places where reality is already slightly warped. They’re the locations where we ourselves pass into a subtly different reality, absorbing the myriad minor differences between one culture and another.
It was brought home to me the other week, when I travelled back up to SFO to meet Emma from her plane. You can feel the otherworldliness of airports even before you reach them, but something was different as I drove up 101 this time. San Francisco airport wasn’t what it had been when I stayed here for two weeks last July, or when I arrived in January.
Posted on Monday, March 7th, 2005
So, I finally got an apartment, as noted previously, and since then I’ve been getting the facilities side of things together – telephone, broadband and a TV to watch DVDs on…
…with broadband finally in place, I had time to get some photos of the new place together, for those in London who are interested in what it looks like (or, er, not).
So, without further ado, I present my apartment
Posted on Tuesday, March 1st, 2005
What with Emma coming to visit from the UK, the end of February was more of a chance to see bits of California than I’ve had so far, if only because there was someone else to share it with.
The weekend that she landed we took it fairly easy, wandering out to the coast for a couple of days (including a visit to the lovely town of Monterey). Mid-week, I had to work (one of the downsides of life stateside: holiday entitlements are somewhat limited), and then I had Thursday and Friday off, giving us 4 days before she flew out again.
We decided to visit Yosemite National Park pretty much on a whim, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made since I got here.
Whatever limited things I can say here, I doubt I can do the place justice – the photos are always going to do a better job.
So instead, here are a few random disconnected notes on the place.
Posted on Tuesday, February 1st, 2005
…except, of course, it’s not a “flat”. A “flat” is what you get if you drive over some big pointy nails. “Flat” is what you become if you walk under a Chevy Suburban. “Flat” is how Ikea furniture comes packed. “Flat” is how a weak joke sounds if you wear it too thin.
It is, at any rate, not a place where Americans live.
No, when I set out looking for a home, I was definitely “apartment hunting”, whatever my British vocabulary might think.
Finding a rented apartment in the Bay Area is actually ludicrously easy, and needn’t involve a single wide-grinned, grandmother-selling Real Estate Agent. The key here is the “apartment communities” which seem to be a mandatory feature of every other intersection across the whole of Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Mountain view, Palo Alto and (I’m sure) every other town roundabout.
Posted on Friday, January 28th, 2005
A small part of me fears American roads more, now that I’ve officially taken and passed the California driving test. Not that I’m casting aspertions on my own driving skills (whatever some of my snider friends might insinuate), but because the test in general is ludicrously easy.
As seems common in many countries these days, there’s two parts to driving tests here – a multiple-choice written examination, and a “behind-the-wheel” test.
In addition, applicants for the written test must undergo the trial of finding their way correctly around the labyrinthine structure of a typical DMV office in order to get all the right paperwork signed and sealed. Given that I did all my organisation at Santa Clara DMV (rather than the apparently larger, busier and more confused San Jose branch), I feel lucky that all went as smoothly as it did.
Posted on Wednesday, January 12th, 2005
Bad Beatles references aside, rejoicing is in order. I picked up my new Jeep Wrangler last night, and boy is she purty:
Click here for a more comprehensive set of photos.
For some bizarre reason, she’s called Betsie. I’m not exactly sure why, but 5 minutes in the driving seat confirmed that this is definitely a Betsie of a car.
Posted on Tuesday, January 11th, 2005
In America, the Social Security Number is the Golden Ticket to pretty much everything. You can actually open a bank account, and even arrange finance with some organisations without it (hence the fact that I’ve already bought a car). But you can only do these things on the understanding that you’ll let the organisation know as soon as you have one arranged.
Getting a SSN is a bit of a pain. The rules for foreign nationals have changed in the last few months, and you now have to wait up to 10 working days from your entry into the country before you can even apply. This is the deadline Homeland Security have for passing on details of your immigration entry to the Social Security Administration. Fair enough. My details actually arrived in 7 working days. So far, so good.