Posted on Wednesday, July 25th, 2007
Okay, so that title’s a little cruel and, yes, this is mainly filler to cover up the fact that I haven’t finished any of the pieces I mentioned previously. Soon, I promise… (again)
For quite a while, I was a big fan of Mark Morford’s SF Chronicle column. The writing was alternately breezy and frenetic, and each piece generally contained a kernel of truth or outrage which was… resonant.
Over the past year or so, though, the quality dropped. His politically-leaning pieces became directionless rants, and more and more columns were taken up with meandering rambles about consumer technology or science news.
At points, the only fun left was to play “spot the ‘Bush-ravaged’”, scanning each column to see how he’d managed to work that horribly over-used phrase of his into a subject completely divorced from Republican politics.
Today’s piece, however, is something of a return to Morford of old. It’s a little bit honest, a little bit brutal and a little bit sweet. It also contains the killer line
…whose biological clock is ticking like Dick Cheney’s pacemaker in a gay fetish dungeon…
…which made me accidentally snort tea this morning.
Since the column in question was apparently prompted by his newly single status, the headline here speaks for itself.
Posted on Friday, November 24th, 2006
I posted this first on flickr, but it’s been far far too long so I thought I’d reproduce it here. There are a few other things I have half-formed posts on. Maybe this week. Maybe…
My earliest memories of America look like this. I must have been 4, and it would be another year before I’d actually visit the US on a holiday in Florida, but I had an overwhelmingly strong image of America that I’d picked up from the television.
Even though it was deeply American to its core, we got a lot of repeated 70′s episodes of Sesame Street on TV in the UK, and one of the features I remember most clearly were the filmed segments about aspects of the “real world” beyond a neighbourhood where the most esteemed resident was a freakishly gigantic talking canary.
I imagine that most of these segments must have been filmed in LA. The difference of it all from the semi-rural English “housing experiment” I grew up in was startling. I dreamed of big, chunky vans and beige garages. And the light (the thing that really made today a “Sesame Street day) – it was startlingly clear, almost painful, but somehow optimistic and beautiful.
My dad was always a big fan of America and all things American, and I think that some of his enthusiasm rubbed off on me. I never imagined though, right up until the moment the offer was presented, that I’d end up living here.
Like any society which is attempting to balance the prejudices, fears, hopes and dreams of millions of people, the US is far from perfect. Too much of the “culture” is based on conspicuous consumption (although the UK suffers from that malaise too); too many people talk of “making their peace with God” whilst failing to make their peace with themselves.
But somehow there’s space here. Space to be what you want to be; just a little more space than I ever found in London. It’s those “Sesame Street” days which really bring that home to me and marry my childhood dreams with my life as it is now. And they make me glad, at least for the time being, to call America (and San Francisco in particular) “home”.
Posted on Friday, October 6th, 2006
Late, disconnected, reawoken, a little confused.
But here’s something that’s been rattling around my head for a while, and it needs to get out.
Contemporary songs which capture the essence of a particular city. I have a burning need to compile lists of such things.
So let’s start with the easy ones…
Posted on Wednesday, August 30th, 2006
So I hit a bit of a slump over the past month or so. It was partly due to a slow transition of my duties at work, partly due to tiredness, and partly due to the fact that I’m basically a lazy slob.
I always feel terrible where I hit a point where I can’t seem to get things done, although a host of evidence indicates that I’m not alone in this, from sites like lifehacker and diyplanner to the instant cult status of the “Getting Things Done” method.
I think a whole book on getting your act together is a little much – the key for me at least is simplicity in a method. And I’ve finally started to work myself out of the unproductivity hole with a very simple method indeed, so I thought I’d share it.
Posted on Tuesday, August 29th, 2006
I wrote this a while ago, and then forgot to post it. Although I’ve since switched to commuting by train, I do occasionally carpool when I have errands I need to run. And meanwhile, the situation on the Bay’s busiest freeway remains the same…
I never get tired of watching the rush-hour drivers toiling in 3 lanes of traffic on 101.
Every day there is a sea of perplexedness, frustration and boredom stretching 40 miles, endless hands dangling out of their car windows or fingers drumming on the steering wheel.
I’ll admit, I’m a little smug, but then I’m habitually sitting on a bus or driving with a passenger and I’m in the relatively supersonic carpool lane. At least until I hit Redwood City.
Posted on Saturday, August 26th, 2006
There are lots of little signs that will tell you you’ve really started to settle into a life on the West Coast – regular social outings, the first time you can navigate from Santa Clara to Redwood City without a map, and my favourite – the first “you’re pre-approved for a credit card!” junkmail, which tells you that you’ve finally racked up some form of Credit Rating.
But even after the initial hard work is done and you really feel like you’ve arrived, there are still areas where you’ll find that you need to ever-refine your behaviours and expectations in order to increase your “comfort zone”. Are there five areas worth exploring with this in mind? Youbetcha!
Posted on Saturday, August 26th, 2006
Checking into the airport for your “relocation flight” is a profound moment. When you finally walk through security and wait to board the flight, you’re crossing the threshold. Things are in motion at last – all the planning, the paperwork, the goodbyes and the waiting have paid off. This is where a new life starts.
But that’s just the problem, too – what awaits you at the other end of the journey? There are some definite hurdles to jump. Here are 5 of the biggest ones you’ll face.
Posted on Thursday, July 20th, 2006
I do know a few people who’ve worked diligently and carefully to maneuvre themselves into overseas job positions, but for the majority a relocation offer from your company (or a company which wishes to recruit you) can come as something of a surprise.
There is a lot to think about if you have the opportunity to relocate, and unraveling all the knots can be difficult, particularly if there’s some pressure to provide an answer to the offer.
I’ll admit that it didn’t take me long to accept my own offer verbally, in principle. It was made on a stifling Friday afternoon in a Sunnyvale conference room; I accepted the offer on the following Monday. My reasoning was simple – this was potentially a unique offer. If I moved to California and hated it, I could always move back. If I declined, I was left with a potential lifetime of “what if?”s.
Nevertheless, the process of moving is a complicated one, and it’s worth being prepared for all the steps.
Posted on Thursday, July 20th, 2006
Out of the blue just recently, I got a comment on a rather old article, from someone called Ian
Hey – i found this blog while searching for information on moving to Northern California from the Ukâ€¦
Similar to you, I have been offered the chance to move with work out there, and would love to hear any tips/reccomendations you can give!
There are various nuggets of information buried in articles on this site, but I thought that for Ian’s sake (and given the seeming rise in Valley-bound immigrants blown here by bubble2.0) I’d re-capture some of the advice as concisely as possible.
There are 3 posts I’m going to write on this subject, each covering 5 useful areas that I think every immigrant should know about. This is all (as always) from the point-of-view of an Englishman relocating to Northern California, but I hope that it’s useful for any English-speaker who might be pondering a relocation to the US.
The first two parts are now available. Part III is coming Real Soon Now(TM).
In addition to the points I cover here, I’ll provide one book reference:
“Living and Working in America” by David Hampshire (Survival Books, ISBN 1 901130 61 4)
[On Amazon UK | On Amazon.com ]
I can’t recommend this book highly enough – it answers almost every question you could have, and is a big comfort to have around as a reassuring advisor whilst you’re leaping into the unknown.
Posted on Tuesday, June 27th, 2006
Props to eyeteeth for reminding me of something appalling which I first saw about a month ago, and completely failed to muster the time/energy to write about.
The item in question is a Lexus advertising campaign, whose tagline is…
A Strong Want is a Justifiable Need
Part of the problem with writing about this is that it’s so utterly horrible that it defies rational thought. Paul at eyeteeth probably chooses the best path in offering a picture of the offending ad with only a title offering commentary.
But after a few minutes, I realised that I could probably have some fun with the idea, so I dashed off a letter to Lexus’s “General Requests” email line, as follows…