Monthly Archives: June 2008

Half A Ton Of My Life On The Ocean Wave

As part of the move to the US, I had a load of stuff shipped to my new flat in San Diego. The shipping company have said it won’t arrive for another couple of weeks, which is fair enough I suppose. In the crazy modern world it’s funny to have to wait 5 weeks to receive something. It’s like the old mail-order caveat, “Please allow 28 days for delivery”. Can’t they just email me it or something?

I was curious as to the route the 3.5 cubic metres of my stuff would take. The guys who packed it all up and took it away didn’t know. According to the shipping company’s online tracking page, my stuff is on the container ship APL Egypt.

According to this unsecured Excel spreadsheet of ship information, the APL Egypt was built in 2000, and registered in Monrovia in Liberia. The ship is classified as ‘Panamax‘, which means it has the maximum dimensions that will fit through the Panama Canal. Therefore it’s reasonable to assume that after leaving Felixstowe, the ship heads through the Canal, and then travels up the coast to Los Angeles. And according to this ship tracking map page, it looks like that’s what will happen. I’ll be watching.

A New Section On Forms

No longer in the “26-35” bracket, I now dwell in the worrying “36-THE GRAVE” demographic part of forms. And I’ve been filling plenty of those in recently.
Yes, it was my birthday the other day, and it was swamped by all the other stuff like preparing to start a new job, moving to a new flat in a new country, figuring out a new banking system and so on.

I went for a nice dinner with Cassie to celebrate, but between it being a weeknight, and all the serious shit we had to discuss, it wasn’t much of a par-tay, despite the waiters putting a candle in my ice cream and singing a Spanish birthday song. I’ll be celebrating properly on Friday, and I intend to let LA know I’m here.

A New Timezone

On Saturday I flew to Los Angeles International Airport, with two heavy cases and a carry on (and what a carry-on it was! oh ho!). I arrived after an uneventful flight in a comfy (and doubly expensive premium economy) seat. The thing is, I didn’t have a return ticket. That’s right, folks, I’ve finally made it over here. It’s been a hectic few weeks, and sadly it doesn’t look like I’ll be getting a rest any time soon.

I certainly didn’t on Saturday. I went through immigration, nervously clutching my folder of visa application papers, but that was quite a simple process. The guy asked me where I would be working, checked the papers and that was all. I was expecting to be taken aside at the very least. It would have at least reduced the amount of time spent waiting at the baggage carousel. Those things are depressing. They should at least play the Waltz from Carousel as in this video clip. It should be on a loop, and have the whistling in the background. Guaranteed to keep the waiting crowds happy.

Once my stuff came trundling round, I was able to escape into the fresh clean air of LAX Arrivals, and the parking structure beyond. I didn’t see Cassie waiting, so I walked out into the SoCal sun, where I was politely asked to move aside into the designated waiting area. Cassie emerged after me, asking why I hadn’t seen her, and clutching her dog Gordon, who was gratifyingly glad to see me.

So here I was again. I’ve been through this airport six times now. I don’t know when the next time I arrive at LAX will be. More about the first few days soon.

What’s This I Hear About America?

stellar feets So yeah I was thinking I should post an update on the thing about moving to the US.

First, some background. While visiting Cassie in LA in March 2007, and then in May, I realised I would like to spend more time over there. The idea struck me that my company has offices pretty much everywhere, including Los Angeles. In fact the office in LA is about 15 minutes drive from Cassie’s apartment. I thought, would it be possible to get my company to find me some work in that office. I asked my line manager, his line manager, my supervisor at work, the project manager, the development engineer, and someone at the bus stop, and they all thought it was a good idea, that I should try it, go for it, grab life by the horns etc. They also said I had done the right thing by going through the correct channels in the correct order.

The next thing to do was to find some contacts in the LA office. So by looking around at the company intranet, which has a page for each major office, I picked out a few likely names for the disciplines I am involved with. I called them all, got a few leads, and put forward my proposal to them.

Given that Cassie and I hadn’t been together long, it would be a big step into the unknown to quit my job in the UK and go and live in the US. Apart from anything else, the visa situation would be very unfavourable. So the best way to do it was to find a position in my current company, and transfer internally.

The next time I visited LA in May 2007, I met my leads in the offices in downtown LA. I had to get a lift there, and realised that LA is a pig to get around in, even with a car. It was a useful meeting, but with no specific leads on positions, just discussions on what kind of work was coming up. I tried to get back using the bus, and that drove home the lack of public transport. I also went to meet people in Orange, which is a bit further away, in Orange County. The situation was the same there. I met one of the managers, and had a very nice Thai lunch, but it was a pretty fruitless trip as well.

The next trip I took, I spent the whole of October in Los Angeles. It was wonderful, spending some serious time with Cassie, and I took the opportunity to go to the La offices again. However, by this time I had made contact with some people in San Francisco. So Cassie and I drove up the scenic and twisty Route 1, stopping off in Monterey, to visit San Francisco and see what I thought. It was a great place, made as lot better by the fact that the reaction and sense of possibility I got from the San Francisco PB crowd was a lot more positive. We stayed with Cassie’s brother Don and family in Orinda, and had a nice touristy day in San Francisco, before heading home to LA, this time on the quicker, straighter, and much more boring Route 5.

While in San Francisco, I spoke to some people about a possible position in San Carlos, just south of San Francisco, and when I returned to LA to spend Xmas and New Year with Cassie, went and talked to this contact. Cassie and I were up in San Francisco anyway, having a big Italian-American family Xmas, combined with a birthday for Cassie’s nephew George (no Xmas Eve here, just George’s birthday). The meeting in San Carlos was really good, but in the end, no position was available until the next client budget year, in November 2008.

Back to square one. A pretty depressing first couple of months for 2008. But another possibility was then mentioned in San Francisco itself! I went back in March 2008, the same day I went in 2007 (an omen?), and took the opportunity to fly up to San Francisco on the new Virgin America service in the morning, have a meeting and an interview of sorts, and then fly back in the evening. It was a really useful trip, but in the end, the skills and experience they needed there, I just didn’t have.

Just as things were at their lowest ebb, I was suddenly sent an email describing a position in San Diego. I hadn’t considered San Diego at all. But a bit of research and asking around told me that it is a very nice place. Cassie’s brother Don had studied there, loved it, and his wife Darien was a big fan too.

Various wrangling later, I find myself going through my belongings, deciding:

  • what to set aside to be shipped to San Diego;
  • what to set aside to be packed to carry to San Diego;
  • what to give away to friends or charity;
  • what to leave in the flat for use by my new tenants; and
  • what to lock in the loft, never to see or use again.

That’s the situation as I see it at the moment. The Twitter feed at the right tells a more detailed story. There’s obviously lots to do, and lots to tell. Watch this space (by which I mean, “subscribe to the newsfeed”).