looking for a few good ideas

  amongst the irregular verbiage

It's only April

It's more like two months since the move from New Zealand to California, actually, but when I look back at everything that we have accomplished and has happened to us, it seems more like six months.

A couple of weeks ago my Resident Alien Card, or "green card" as it is more widely known arrived in the mail. We had been warned that this could take up to 9 months to process, but it only took a month or so. For those of you who are interested, the Green card is actually pink. So: Now I am officially a US resident. I can work and everything!

Cat Update

Last time, you read how Karma the Cat was introduced to his new home at Carroll Court, San Rafael, CA 94903. Since that last burst of energy from Karms, he seems to have fully occupied his time with playing on the office floor, sleeping on one of the beds, or avoiding having to go outside.

Before we let him go outside for the first time, we did have one scary moment when I realised I'd left the window open in one of the bathrooms and as we couldn't find Karma anywhere, we thought he'd got out the window and was heading for "home".

Later when we got back from one of our numerous little jaunts in the car, he turned up. It turned out that he had been inside all the time, curled up inside Lisa's suitcase under the bed! He spent a few more days there, before coming out and generally being sociable. He has now been outside quite bit, both out the back and around the front, and we no longer worry except if he is out late at night and it's cold and then we'd prefer him to be inside because he has no way of getting in by himself yet. We're not sure what we are going to do about that.

He still insists on crapping exclusively in his litter box, which must be located in its usual place. We think he may have met other cats outside that told him that the back yard was not his territory after all.

Generally, though, he seems very happy, and is eating heaps and playing with his toys, and having a wonderful time. He's way too busy to deign writing letters to his many fans.

I'm sure that eventually he will become more comfortable with the world outside, maybe when it stops raining. Which brings me to my next topic...

The Weather

This is California, where it never rains, and it's always sunny and warm, right? Well, even forgiving any stereo types one may have picked up from television, California is a long vertical state and therefore experiences seasons differently in different parts. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area we come to expect weird microclimates anyway. April is Spring. So it shouldn't be snowing. Yes somehow it is, at least on the higher hills around here. We saw it as we drove north to drop Derek back with his father in Santa Rosa. And the local newspapers are commenting on how unseasonally cold it is. It is raining a lot. Is it La Nina? I haven't been following the weather news that closely, so I wouldn't know to what the boffins are attributing this glitch in the weather to.

Anyway, people are complaining that it should be warmer. I don't feel cheated in any way; this climate is not nearly as humid as Auckland and we're feeling a lot more comfortable as a consequence. Despite the occasional rain.<s>.

The District

This area is so much like a pine tree or fractal, with little valleys branching off the main valley. Further north it spreads out and gets flatter, but where we are we are fairly sheltered.

We live in a suburb of San Rafael called Terra Linda. I don't know why it is called this, but it is. We are but one of the little valleys that network this part of Marin County. If you drive as far as you can up the main road, you find that you're facing a park and are invited to walk about the hills. Everything is green and wonderful at the moment - see "The Weather" above. We've been out for occasional walks and taken some photos, including one of our house from the top of the local hill. I'll let you know when these photos are available on the web site.

Shopping

I am embarrassed to report that in there are three shopping centers in Terra Linda, all within close proximity to each other. I have no idea why this is - Terra Linda is not that big!

Within walking distance from home is "Northgate 1". The center of gravity of this is the Safeway supermarket and its associated parking lot. Currenty under renovation (what is it about supermarkets and airport terminals?), we usually go here to renew our supplies of coffee for the espresso machine and bagels. There is a distributor called "Marin Bagel Co" that produce the bagels of choice. They are quite as good as Buddy's Bagels, which makes them on the premises and are located just along from the Starbucks coffee shop. We've checked out the local "RoundTable Pizza" place, and were more than satisfied by the results.

There is also a musical instrument shop in this block. We wandered in and had a look around. Best collection of electric violins I've ever seen. A good collection of scores, too, including ELP's greatest hits (The black one with Endless Enigma), and a collection of transcribed Yes music.

Bang in the middle of Terra Linda is "Northgate 2", which is the outside-in kind of place commonly referred to as a mall. It's Y-shaped, with SEARS at one end, MACY's at another, and Mervyn's and the third. These are all mega-stores like... um... Farmers I guess. The Y is formed by corridors of smaller specialty shops like Radio Shack.

Somewhere in the middle of all this is a Pacific Theatre complex, with 12 screens. I have no idea where they put it all. Recently we enjoyed seeing _The Matrix_ there. Hopefully we'll catch _Life Is Beautiful_ this weekend before it leaves.

Over the road from the Mall is "Northgate 3". I kid you not. Why are these places all called "Northgate X"? Well, it may have something to do with the fact that one of the main roads that winds its way around these places is called "Northgate Drive". (Of course, it may have been named after the shopping centers.)

In this third block of shops, we have "Mailboxes, etc" which is neat place a bit like a NZ Post shop in that you can photocopy, buy envelopes and packaging, and drop off FedEx parcels, and also check your mail box if you have one.

We have eaten at "Chillies" which is a groovy place a bit like Cobb & Co only the food is better. "Peking Wok" is a great chinese restaurant, and they do takeout. There is also a pretty good deli next door. We usually shop for groceries at "Lucky's" which is another supermarket.

So, no shortage of places to go <s>.

Music

We've nominated the spare bedroom as the Music Studio, and I've started unpacking things and connecting things up, using tiny thin double-sided velcro strips to group cables into three main groups: Power (red), MIDI (grey), and Audio (green). It's a lot of fun, except that once again all my cables seem to be too long or too short <s>. I also seem to be missing a box full of short red-jack cables. I can't find them anywhere. I must have given them to Walter or something.

Apart from upacking all the guitars and checking that they'd survived the shipping experience, I haven't done any music recording. I've been too busy! The studio is a mess, although I now have 1000W of 240V supply in that room.

I have plans to go through the library of cassette tapes that Walter and I filled up with musical ideas and doodles and stuff and "re-master" a compilation of them to CD, but that project is waiting on arrival of a decent tape deck. We have a Denon DRM-555 on order with a local hi-fi shop, but it hasn't arrived yet.

I'm currently listening to a group called "The Porcupine Tree". This is good stuff... I got another of their records the other day, the new album _Stupid Dream_, it is their best, I think, and I highly recommend it.

Work

As some of you may know, we started putting our plans to move in action when we received a job offer from a company in San Francisco. As some of you may also know, due to circumstances beyond anyone's control, this job was postponed for several months (and in fact, at time of writing it looks like it will not happen).

We knew there was a possibility of this, but continued with our moving plans regardless. (It's kind of like hiring and riding on a large elephant - very hard to stop, and although it is uncomfortable and expensive, it is also a lot of fun and the view is great, particularly if you don't know exactly where you are going.)

We were lucky enough to be offered some short term contract work by some associates at a company called "Acme", based in Arkansas. This fitted in nicely with our situation: at the time, we had found a car and a house to live in, although we hadn't moved in yet. We worked, and then moved in and continued working on the project. The deadline for this was the end of March. In the meantime, the people at this company kept throwing work at us, saying things like, "It's so good that you are in the Bay area, we need technical representatives to go along and help out our marketing channel people". We had one meeting organised at Silicon Graphics in Palo Alto, and another meeting down at Acme's regional office South San Francisco. We drove to prospective clients to talk to them about how to integrate their products with the products and services that Acme provides. I remember that the meeting that morning went really well: we came away feeling positive and pumped knowing that we could do this job, and do it well.

We stayed in the Acme office that afternoon and did a bit more work, and then had dinner with a couple of other members of the Acme team who were out visiting other companies, and caught up with them.

Meanwhile, our deadline was getting closer and closer... and then, suddenly, tickets arrived and we were being instructed to fly out to Arkansas for a three day developer retreat at the end of March.

We boarded the cat back at Cat's Cradle, and drove out to Oakland airport, parked the car in long-term parking, and flew to Little Rock, Arkansas.

We had an intensive three days, including: working into the early hours of each morning trying to finish up the project that was technically due the day we got back (so it made sense to leave it with them if possible); meeting all the other developers and contractors at a whole-day retreat at the hotel; visiting the Acme head office, 30 miles out of Little Rock; more meetings, and other stuff I probably shouldn't talk about. Put it this way: they were security conscious enough to give us name badges that turned black on exposure to sunlight so that they could tell that we had been outside (and therefore suspect <s>).

It was made clear to us in the days leading up to this retreat and while we were there that we had a permanent job with Acme, if we wanted it, and instead of happening in June as we were previously told, we could be on board by the middle of April.

After some thought (like, about a couple of seconds) we accepted the offer, and as of the time of writing it is under action. Yesterday we had to go to a clinic to have a drug screening test, we've filled out forms and things, and our new company laptops are being ordered.

The day after we arrived home in San Rafael, an SGI workstation turned up, as part of one of the integration projects we're doing.

...and we have a new set of deadlines.

So work is a bit of a rollercoaster at the moment. Lots of pressure, not much free time, and how did we get this lucky?

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