One week

The title of this post is misleading: The family has been in San Francisco for more than a week, and I’ve been at work at the new job for two weeks, but somehow it feels like this is the first week that I’ve actually been here.

I obviously can’t write much about what I’m up to at work, but I can write that I’m having a fun time on some relatively straight-forward ramp-up and training work messing with some prototypes, and that I now have an official team to belong to. I’ve started having conversations with people on the team, including the lead, about how things could be developed, and what needs to be done, and I’m really encouraged as we all seem to be thinking along the same lines. If this was EA, we’d be in alignment. Or on the same page.

Outside of work, this week has been a big step forward too: One lease signed (yay!) and deposits paid (boo!). This weekend was also a far cry from last weekend which was a blowout thanks to a nasty virus. After finishing up with the realtors we made our way to City Hall for a walk around, hoping to find a farmer’s market, which we didn’t, then walked up Market to the Embarcadero and had a passable lunch at Market Bar. After that, a bit of a walk down the bayfront to grab the light rail home. Last night, we met up with some friends who moved here from Singapore just before we did in Magnolia bar at Haight and Masonic.

We took a cab there, and had a fun time with an old hippy who called himself “Taxi Dude” and was convinced that the Russians were trying to start a new war, and that the Russians and Arabs are fighting a turf war over the coffee shops of Amsterdam. We learned all about his Swedish friend Rolf and his “time of inequity” in the early 70s in Europe.

The food was great, the beer flowed smoothly, and the bill was more than reasonable. Oh yeah, the company was pretty good too!

Today was, of course, a lazy day. We’d already decided that we’d either do brunch or the cinema for Bolt in 3D. This morning came, brunch didn’t happen, so I dove into a couple of hours of WoW. Both myself and the wife then felt we needed a walk to clear out the cobwebs, so we wandered over to South Park to see if we could find a cafe to sit outside with the pooch and have a coffee. No such luck, sadly, but we did end up wandering up to el cheapo mexicano restaurant for a light beer and a bite. The walk home was a little chilly, but in that invigorating way that you just don’t get in Singapore. I was warm enough walking in a sweater, scarf and hat, and couldn’t be happier.

The more time I spend in this city, and walking around in this city, the more I love it. I know I’ve not even thought about beginning to maybe scratch the surface, but even without diving to the great depths that are available, I feel at home.

I can’t wait to get to work this week to see what new challenges are waiting for me, and I can’t wait until next weekend to see what new places are waiting to be explored.

I never did get to the cinema, but that can always wait until tomorrow.

Finest worksong

Today was the first day of my new job. I’ve posted before about how I felt different about this change of job, as I already knew the people and what was going on at the company, however that really didn’t prepare me for actually being there.

I spent 45 minutes on a bus getting to work. Most people I’ve told this to think that this is an outrageous time to spend on a bus, but compared to the length of commute I regularly made in London, it’s actually quite reasonable. I’m also in the enviable position of having the beginning and the end of my commute be the terminals of the bus route. In other words, I’m pretty much guaranteed a seat.

I settled in, fired up the BBC Radio 4 News Quiz podcast, and enjoyed the ride. I spent much of the time watching San Francisco roll by, and tried my hardest to remember each intersection and my impressions of them to report back once I got home. It’s important to get a good sense of a place when you’re looking for an apartment to live in, and you want to pick the right area.

Once I was at work, I picked up my new pass and waited for orientation to begin. Orientation was much as I expected: Lots of paperwork, a couple of videos that appear to be selling the company to you, when you’ve already signed up for the job, and an attempt to remember every little thing I’ve worked on in my own time to declare as a past invention. The last bit always takes the most time. It was fun to see the videos that I last saw a year and a bit ago when I started in Singapore. Having actually been there and seen it for myself, and worked with the people in the video, I can say that they really need to update the video as the studio has grown dramatically.

A very quick introduction from the IT Service Desk, and it was time for lunch with my new peers. This is always a fun time for a new hire; the people you’re having lunch with are on a free lunch, as are you. And contrary to the popularly held belief, the lunch really is free. For that hour, a new hire will find themselves the most popular member of the team. Hopefully that popularity will continue for some, but it’s certain for the initial lunch.

The food at the Presidio Dining Commons is fairly legendary, as far as work canteens go. It’s an old mess hall, and is furnished in dark wood with beautiful views of the Presidio park and the Palace of Fine Arts. The food itself is fresh, with a selection of salads and sushi to simpler fare such as pizza and burgers. I opted for a rustic-looking veggie burger with a fruit salad on the side. I expected it to be a light lunch, but it knocked me out for the afternoon.

Fortunately, the afternoon consisted of me clearing out three weeks of email from Singapore (my account had been moved over and I’m still on all of the old mailing lists) and ensuring that I had all of the software that I need. A very slow introduction to the job.

Tomorrow, I have a morning of benefits orientation and timecard training, which is sure to be as exciting as it sounds, and then I have to round out the paperwork with an application for a social security number. I should actually start doing some work on Wednesday, and I cannot wait. I’ve been off work for three weeks, which has been great to clear my head of all of the old stuff, but now I have a void which needs filling. I’m dying to get my coding teeth into some new tasks and a new project, and start to find my place in the team.

All in all, today was a little underwhelming. I’m not sure what I expected, certainly not to be dropped in at the deep end, but right now I just feel exhausted. I’m putting this down to being out of shape. Much like an athlete who takes a break and then finds they can’t work out as hard as they could previously, and not that I know that much about that, I feel like my work muscles have wasted away a little. I’m just not used to being in an office environment, and the number of small conversations and interactions that I had today seem to have taken their toll.

At least I should sleep well tonight.

I’m a legal alien

Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco, California...Image by Jose P Isern Comas via Flickr

That was a significantly simpler process than I expected.

The plan was to get up at 0600, deal with Oliver, make sure everything was in order so the packers could work without supervision for the day and get to the US embassy by 0745. A mixture of tiredness, mild hangover (for me, not for the sensible one in the family) and bureaucracy ended with us diving into the cab at 0730. I explained we were in a rush to the driver and he assured he would try his best, although it is a 20 minute ride when traffic is good, and we are deep into rush hour.

At this point in the movie, please insert a montage of shots including us undertaking people on the freeway at 120kph, rocketing down the shoulder of the freeway to get a lead on the exit we needed, and overtaking on a no-overtaking section of road with a car coming towards us interspersed with close-up shots of the terror on our faces.

We arrived at the embassy with a great squealing of tyres at 0745.

Twenty minutes of queueing later, we’re allowed through the security checks and metal detectors to the Antechamber of Waiting. There are many people there, all of whom are clutching their numbered chits and an assortment of paperwork and documentation. Noone has a 150 page document like I do, however. I clearly win that battle. Our number came up after only fifteen minutes and we headed over to the counter.

It’s at times like these when my social ineptness really comes to the fore. As the lady behind the counter efficiently asked for each document in turn, I felt a building pressure to deliver those documents confidently and promptly. Sadly, this led to a bumbling ineptitude the likes of which Mr Bean would be proud. This, in turn, led to more anxiety, which increased the bumbling, which increased the anxiety, which.. well, you get the picture.

Fortunately, this was not the interview portion of the process. Back we sat and waited to be called again. I spent my time breathing deeply and trying to put away the excitement and nerves I was feeling.

The second time we were called was maybe thirty minutes later, and we were only asked to provide our fingerprints. I assume that these are now going to be used, along with my picture, in upcoming CSI episodes when they run prints through AFIS or CODIS or whatever the acronym is. I shall be watching for myself.

The third, and final, time we were called was the all important interview. We’d practiced for this. We know each others’ favourite ice cream flavours (coffee and mint-choc chip for me, berry and vanilla for Mirto) and felt ready.

“You work for Lucas?”

“Yes, that’s correct.”

“And how long will you be staying in the US?”

“As long as you’ll have me! *nervous laugh*”

“Ok, I’ve approved your visas. You can pick them up on Tuesday.”

Is that it? That’s all it took? Wait, Tuesday? Uh oh. This is what I’ve been dreading. You see, we fly on Tuesday. We need to have the visas in hand before Tuesday, right? Right?

“Um.. We fly on Tuesday so can we pick them up sooner?”

“No, I’m afraid it takes two days. They’ll be ready at 2.30.”

So the visas will be ready just in time to pick them up on the way to the airport. That’s cutting it close, but not too close. In fact, there’s an elegance about that and I’m willing to let the Universe take its course. You see it took just two hours in total, the interview was more of a quick chat than the grilling I’d expected, and we are now legally allowed to enter and work in the US.

Now if I can just get San Francisco to scan the same as New York, we’ll be sorted.

Update: Mirto’s side of the story can be found here.

It’s really gone and begun now

Eight days to go until we fly out of here and into SFO. Today is the day things really kicked into gear. We get three opportunities to get our stuff from here to there: The luggage we carry, an air shipment with volume and weight limits, and a sea shipment with volume limits. They arrive, respectively, with us, one week after we arrive and five weeks after we arrive. Having done this more than once now, myself and the wife have a really good idea of what we need at each stage.

The sea shipment is being packed up in three days, so it was vital to make sure we separate out the things for air shipment and luggage before then. Given the shit-storm that is going to happen over the next few days with immigration and vet visits and turning security passes into work, etc, etc, etc, today was the day to get it done. And get it done, we did.

The apartment is now officially a tip, but things are sorted out, which is fantastic. We’re basically living between kitchen, laptops and the bedroom, with brief sojourns to the bathroom. Everything in-between is either in disarray, or in a box.

Usually, this would be enough to send my anxiety through the roof, but seeing the boxes made and tetrised (yes, it’s a verb) into the right volume requirements for the air shipment, and seeing the luggages spread out with coats and jumpers (oh, coats and jumpers. Finally!) ready for the cold air of San Francisco, is a great feeling.

Eight more days. Then we get home.

Just in time for my move to San Francisco: A detailed look at just how bad things can get if a big earthquake hits.

Click through for a super detailed high-resolution version.