Wednesday, October 27, 2004

A short update

This is going to be a short post just to catch up on what has happened since the last time and to give you some photos of where I know live.

  • Moved down to Laguna Beach.
  • Had a visit from one of my inline buddies Erik Rise.
  • Had a visit from Sweden from Henrik and Maria which include trip to Las Vegas and Grand Canyon.
  • Was in a car accident in Las Vegas. Thankfully we were all ok and also completely sober at the time of the accident. My car got stuck in Vegas though, hoping to get in at the end of next week.
  • Working a lot lately for catching a deadline which was last Thursday (And I made beautifully).
  • Bought a jacuzzi for my patio, but I haven't had it delivered jet. It's a 7 person monster which I can't wait to get here to relax in after running.
  • Had a housewarming party last weekend and managed to get close to 15 people here (I'm not entirely sure how many as I was a bit over refreshed).

Well, that's it. Hope you are having a great time. My IP phone is back online again after a few weeks downtime.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Back to reality

I'm sitting on the flight home from my vacation back in Sweden and as usual there isn't really anything to do so I thought I'd write an email summing up what has happened lately.

First of all let's start with what happened before I left. Around 12 hours before my flight left for Sweden I signed a lease for a new apartment. I'll be moving in sometime between the 15:th of September and the 1:st of October. As I've described it to most of my friends back home I'm "moving down to the beach". That's not exactly accurate, but I will have about 5 minutes walking distance to the beach. And also more important for me I will have even shorter to most of the nice pubs, restaurants and clubs in downtown Laguna Beach.

So basically when I get off the flight now I will start packing my pack boxes again so this will be done by the time I get access to the new apartment. I'll hopefully get help by a few of my friends (Who most of them live around 2-3 blocks from where I'm going to move). This will otherwise be the first time I actually need to make most of the move myself and wont have the help of my parents or a moving firm. Also, around 1-2 weeks after I move Henrik Johansson and Maria Häggman will come over to visit for two weeks. I've already told Maria that I would be very grateful if she would help me decorating my new place, and she seemed very excited about that prospect

That is pretty much the big news that happened before I went on vacation. After signing the lease I was in a really good mood and went out partying with my friends for a few hours until around 11 when I thought it was about time to go home and start packing (The cab would pick me up in the morning at 4:30 to go to LAX). After packing though I thought, what's the point of going to sleep now when I have to get up again in just a few hours so I took a cab down to the club again and continued until they closed and when I got home I just took a shower, changed clothes, brushed my teeth in perfect timing to catch the cab. The beauty of down this is that you can then sleep the entire flight and land in Stockholm at 7am in the morning the next day rested and fairly in sync with the new timezone... At least that's the theory, and it works pretty well. I've done this before with at least some success. I managed to upgrade my flight to business class so I got the comfy chair and also a new feature which was a real power outlet in the seat to run my laptop. This means that you can just pop on my jukebox, change it to slow soothing music only. Close your eyes and drift away, much better than that crap they play in the airplane headphones.

At first I started my trip in Sweden by visiting my parents in Karlskoga for 2 days and also managed to cram in a crayfish party on the first day with all the people I know that still lives in Karlskoga. I was still a bit jet lagged though so it was a pretty still some affair (Most of my Karlskoga friends have small children too so we couldn't get too wild and crazy even if we wanted too). I went back to Stockholm on Monday though and then the party started. True to my habit I didn't even get a chance to go home and leave my bags, but went straight for the pub on Monday evening. That night we kept partying until 8:30am I think and that was the first evening of 7 days of straight partying (We are talking Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday). On the next Monday I rested, but then went back at it on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday the second week too (Thursday I spent i Karlskoga). It's going to be good to come home and be able to recuperate from my vacation.

On Saturday was Henrik Johansson:s 30:th birthday party. He also held at Berns and everyone seemed to agree that it was a great success. I also managed to get into a VIP section for the first time in my life. Upstairs there is a patio that we wanted go out on and get some fresh air, but in the door a guard stood and said VIP clients only. It so happens that I payd for the party on my AmEx card (Just to get the bonus points for flight upgrades in the future, I'm not actually paying for it) and could whip out a $6000 receipt for that same night, the guard just looked at it and asked how many people I wanted to bring. Well, that was probably the first and last time I could do something like that.

I have also managed to buy most of the stuff I was planning to bring back home which include the following (Just a hint of what you might miss if you leave):

  • 3kg mixed candy.
  • Roasted shredded onions (The kind you have on hotdogs).
  • American Hamburger Dressing (I'm not kidding, you can't get this in the US as far as I know).
  • A large Höegarden glass (It's a long story for another letter).
  • Bearneiss sauce powder.
  • Some more Swedish branded clothes (I definitely have become more patriotic since I left Sweden than before).

I also bought some new clothes, because believe it or not finding good clothes stores is very hard in the states. I'm going to get some help from a colleague for this sometime when we both have the time though, it's not just to go to the biggest mall and try to get lucky though.

Furthermore I got a box to connect a regular phone for my VoIP service so now I will be able to answer the phone when you call on my Stockholm phone number even if my computer isn't booted.

It was definitely with mixed feelings that I boarded the plane to go home. I have always had a pretty strong feeling of home sickness as long as I am away for more than a few days. But on the other hand Stockholm is still where all of my best and oldest friends live and also where I know where everything is, so even if I don't have any of my stuff there anymore it is still the place I know best as soon as I actually leave where ever I am staying. Also these two weeks have been really great in that all you people have really put in the time to make my stay as fun as possible and I thank you all for making the effort. Even the weather wasn't half bad. It is a bit dangerous though since you go home for vacations like this and it is always going to be way better than it ever was when I actually lived there, and now I'm going home to where I live now and will remember how great Sweden is after all.

That said, the last couple of weeks before I left I have for the first time started to fell like I am actually starting to fit in over here. Not quite like Stockholm yet off course, but I know a lot of places to go and I have a couple of people that I know and like that I can call when the weekend comes to see what's up. So to sum it all up, I definitely don't regret moving and as I am finally starting to get settled I am sure it's just going to get easier the longer I have lived here. I am also really looking forward to moving down to Laguna in two weeks (Even though I wont have any pool anymore, but the beach is right there though so I am sure whoever is visiting will not be disappointed).

Well, that's about all I can think of now the food is on the way in and I'm going to relax to a couple of episodes of 24 season 3. Don't know if I'd mentioned I made a second visit to San Francisco before I went home to Sweden to visit Linux World for my work, I really like that city and especially there is a lot of good food there if you know where to go (This time I had a local guide to show me). Anyway, take care and you all need to get better at replying to me, I hardly get any replies to these emails even though when I talk to you most people seem to read and appreciate them (Although there has been some grumbling about the lengths of some of them).

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Catching up

I don't have as much time anymore to write these since I'm slowly starting to get a life and even worse really getting into my work, so this email will be a short summary of what I've done since the last one. But first some important stuff for you people in Sweden.

I have a new Swedish phone number. It's a Stockholm number and it will only cost as a regular Stockholm number. It's an IP thingy and if I don't have my computer on there will be a busy signal (Just so you know I'm not constantly on the phone). The best way to get hold of me using this phone will be until 10am in the morning Swedish time or after 5pm in the afternoon for you who can't be bothered to calculate the time difference yourself.

Secondly I will be coming home on the morning of the 14:th of August and will be staying till the 29:th of August for a vacation. I'll be spending most of the time in Stockholm, but the first weekend I'll be in Karlskoga. If anybody want to join me for a crayfish party at my parents summerhouse on the evening of the 14:th you are welcome (Especially you local people Andres, Helene, Linda and Jonas).

Well, that's it. So what I've done since the last time is:

  • Went to San Francisco for a weekend and met up with Johansson. Johansson came down for a week in Newport and we made the area unsafe for a while.
  • Starting to work on C# in .Net at work. Kind of cool stuff.
  • Has been sick on and off for a number of weeks.
  • Celebrated Midsummer up in Venice Beach with Magnus.
  • Celebrated 4:th of July with Magnus and Eriko in Santa Monico.
  • Went to North Carolina for a week with work.

There is a bunch of more stuff that has happened, but I don't have the time to write it all down. Right now I can't wait to come home and meet all you guys again. Take care!

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Home sweet home

It's been a while since my last post. This is not because nothing has happened, quite the opposite so this promises to be a really long one. There are some links to pictures in the end if you don't have the energy to the read it all.

The weekend after I sent the last mail my parents arrived as the first guests from home since I got here. I picked them up at LAX on Thursday afternoon and also changed rental-car one last time. They were in surprisingly good spirits after the long flight. It took them a few days to get entirely settled into the California timezones though. The first weekend we went up and did the whole Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice and Malibu sightseeing. We even managed to squeeze in the Getty museum at the end of the day.

The next week I managed to get everything settled with buying my new car. I finally settled on a dark red Mustang Convertible. I didn't get the 8 cylinder variety though since they were sold out in the color I wanted and if I wanted to wait for a new one from the factory it would be around 3 months and I really wasn't up to do that. There were an amazing amount of options and paperwork to get fixed. I don't really know what was harder, to get loan for and purchase an apartment in Stockholm or buying a new car in cash here. From what I've heard though, buying a home here is much worse than in Sweden. And in all that paperwork, one thing that I figured out was missing was registration. I don't really know what it is yet since I haven't gotten it, but I know that if I ever get pulled over they will ask for license and registration. Apparently I got some kind of temporary registration papers taped to the inside of my windshield, although it is really securely taped there so I can't remove it and look at it. The real registration will come in the mail from the DMV sometime soon. I have also read up on the how to get a customized license plate and it is really cheap here ($40 initially and then $20 each year). So I'm planning on trying to get "MAURITZ" as a license plate, lets see if it works.

My parents did some sightseeing by themselves during the week like for instance Disney Land since I was working. But as the weather got better they didn't seem to mind just hanging around the pool. The next weekend we all took my shining new car and drove down to a friend of Magnus who had a house on the beach in San Diego. We didn't really realize what he meant by that, but soon found out when we got there. It was a four story house right on the beach. Definitely one of the most amazing houses I have ever seen from the inside. It even had it's own elevator (To Magnus wife Erico's big enthusiasm).

I got my cash card from the bank now so I could finally start shopping stuff from US sites (Most of them don't allow you to ship to a different country than the billing address is on your card, admittedly a problem not many people run in to). I also finally succeeded in transferring my American Express card from Sweden to the US albeit about a week later. Everything went incredibly smooth except that they needed verification of my address by me faxing in a utility bill. After 4 attempts they still hadn't been able to get the fax to the person that actually wanted it. I made a last attempt and faxed it all again to all 4 different fax numbers they had given me during different stages of this whole affair and apparently one of them got through because about a week later it turned up in the mail.

A few days after my parents arrived I also got all the stuff from Sweden. I couldn't have planned it better myself if I'd tried since now my parents were here to help me unpack my boxes (Even better I was actually off working as the movers moved all my stuff into the apartment), the only downside was that I had to sleep on an air-mattress for a few days from when my parents arrived and to when the stuff arrived. Felt really good to finally get the stuff and not only have a big empty apartment, a little bit closer to start referring to it as home. Most of you have probably heard me bragging about how it took 45 minutes after we started moving my stuff in until we were finished when I moved the last time (Including unpacking all but one of the boxes). Let's just say that this time it did not go that smooth, I still have two boxes left mostly filled with cables and electronic gadgets even now (Almost a month later).

After I got the stuff it was time to start filling in the blanks of the furniture I was missing and I started out with making a trip to IKEA to get easiest stuff like some lamps and a bench for the stereo (Which I had already looked out before hand). Also me and my parents went around looking for something I could use on the patio and keep my two server computers in. We finally found some which I am really happy with, the only problem is that sometimes it gets a little bit too hot for the computers in them when the weather is too good. There are a picture of them available in the photo album. One thing I did not find was a coffee table though, which I have really spent a long time trying to find, I think I found something that was OK now actually. I was a bit cautious about if it would really fit, not that it has arrived though this weekend I am really happy with it. It fits perfectly to within an inch or two. I also included an end table to Sofa, which fits it. It has also received good reviews from Magnus and Erico who came down and visited me over the weekend.

Speaking of coffee tables the whole naming of furniture here is really weird. First lets start with sofa table which is what I would guess was the name for a table you usually have in front of the couch if I didn't know better, but that is not the case. A sofa table is a table that is really narrow and usually meant to be standing against a wall. Then there is also the coffee and cocktail tables which I'm not sure if there is a difference between them. The table I bought was in any regards a cocktail table. And despite my best efforts I could not find one that wasn't made of glass, so that's what I'm going with for now, let's hope I can stand cleaning it once in a while.

As the movers arrived I also finally got back on line (In the sense of the servers), the only problem I discovered was that my ISP blocks the ports 21 (ftp) and 80 (http) so now you need to use the following address The photo album is thus located at I have removed the download user from my jukebox though because I want to have a little better check on who is getting the stuff (I have been giving out the download account to way to many people anyway). If you don't have an account and want one to my jukebox let me know and I'll set one up. Since I had been missing most of the TV stuff that had happened since the computers had been turned off and put in the container I also spent the first week or two pretty much working on the backlog of television episodes that had built up. My broadband connection was maxed out for about two weeks trying to catch up. To keep going a little bit more with the techno babble one problem with moving the stereo web server to https instead of regular http is that almost no phones support WAP over https so I had to spend almost a day working on a way to get my WAP (Cell phone) stereo remote working again, but in the end I overcame and can now change songs through my phone again. That problem was also typical since now for the first time I actually have free GPRS that is working (I had it for a few months at Spinbox, but then Telia shut it off again).

Another nice surprise when my stuff arrived and with it my scales I realized I had lost 5 pounds (2.5kg) since I moved from Sweden. Not typical for people move here and eating more crappy food. So now I have only 3 pounds (1.5kg) left until I have won my bet with my father regarding being the first one below 78kg. I credit it to not really changing my diet (Since I already always ate in restaurants my diet hasn't really changed compared to most other people who move here and can't find the ingredients you need to cook the dishes you are used to) and also the fact that I have no social life which makes it so much easier to find the time to exercise. I have pretty much gotten back to the level of exercise I did as best about 2 years ago of going running or skating 5 days a week. So as long as I am lucky and don't make to many friends it shouldn't be a problem of loosing the last few pounds to win the bet.

At the end of the week when my parents were here I had to leave to go to a computer related conference in Oracle. The conference was about MySQL which either you've heard about it in which case I don't need to explain it or otherwise you probably don't want to hear about it. Extremely geeky stuff. It was fun though being at a conference as an exhibitor for the first time, I've never done that before. Also it helped that what we had in our both was something that a lot of people seemed interested in and we were easily the busiest booth at the conference. When the dust had settled before we left I think we had around 10 free CD:s left so it was good we weren't more popular (And I think about half the participants of the show had gotten a copy of the program that I had been working on since I moved here). I also got to meet a lot of the Qt and MySQL people (Which are funnily enough Swedish, Finnish or Norwegian most of them since MySQL AB is a Swedish company and Trolltech which also had a big presence is a Norwegian company).

The whole Orlando trip was mostly work, I took one evening off from the nerding and hooked up with some friends of Madde which happened to live there and they gave me a short tour of Orlando before we went and ate. They also showed me a really good ice cream place. For those who know me you know I take my ice cream very serious and have so far only found two really good ice cream places in Sweden (Ölandsglass in Gothenburg and Kungsholmens Glassfabrik in Stockholm, and also off course an honorable mention of Fyrudden... But that is more quantity than quality). And I'm not talking about that crap other people take for good ice cream like Häägendas or Lejonet och Björnen, they are not even close.

Once I got back from Orlando I also started really getting into my new hobby project which I'm hoping I will be able to start selling on the side in about a year or two. I don't remember if I've mentioned it before, in that case I apologize. It is meant to be another niche program that probably very few of you would ever be interested in which is a program to make backup of computers over a network. I've really gotten into it now (Actually the last week it's been stalling a bit since I needed quite a few new software features for my stereo software) and I've got almost 10K lines of pretty much working code and am getting nearer having a "tar" like utility ready for testing by those of you who know what I'm talking about any day now.

As I finally got my American credit or cash cards I went off on a veritable shopping spree. Most of the stuff I had already looked up before hand and it was stuff that I really needed like power converters so I could run most of my old kitchen and stereo equipment. A new TV, a bunch of cables to hook it all up and finally another computer for my stereo. The new computer is one of the coolest I've ever seen. It's completely black with one blue light showing if it is on and a thin slot for a DVD burner. It features a dual head video card and two sound cards, one pretty high end and one pretty basic. Sum it all and this computer can feed two different video channels to the rest of my stereo setup (One for the bedroom and one for my living room). Not very useful since I'm the only one who lives there, but still very cool stuff. Oh, and the last killer feature of the computer is that it is completely fan less so you can't here a whisper from it unless when the DVD is running in it.

As all the stuff started arriving I started planning for hooking up my stereo again. It took around 1 hour of planning and another 6 hours of crawling around with cables to finally get it hooked up. I was still missing the TV though since that hadn't arrived yet, but I had the cables all draw out where I was hooking it in. Another new cool thingy I've gotten for my stereo is a combined Tivo and DVD burner. Tivo is a thing they've had here for a while now which I have been really jealous of until about a year ago when I found a way to get pretty much the same stuff working through the net (Not entirely legal, but still what can you do... Tivo isn't available in Sweden). It is basically like a VCR with a built in program guide. You can tell it you like Seinfeld and it will record any Seinfeld episode that is sent, regardless of channel. Instead of tape though it uses an 80GB hard drive (Good for up to 50h of TV depending on the quality you choose to store it). Based on what you have selected to watch through it it will also start recording stuff it thinks you might like if there is enough room left and there is nothing else for it to do. Basically I see now that it is pretty much recording stuff the whole time. It is really clever though regarding erasing old stuff if you are not interested in it. If you want to store something for a longer time you just pop an empty DVD in it and you can burn it down with a few clicks of the remote, having worked a bit with authoring DVD:s in the past (Which is ridiculously complicated) it is refreshing how easy it all is and how good the result generally gets. All in all a really clever little gadget. The only downside is that in the earlier versions the Tivo also automatically stripped commercials, but they were forced to remove that feature after lawsuits from the networks who for some reason really want people to watch the commercials (Can't imagine why).

A bit after this I finally received my TV. The people who delivered unfortunately refused to take it up to my apartment if I didn't have an elevator (Which I don't). I thought that was really silly until I actually saw the package that the TV came in. As one of the deliver guys described it over the phone "It's bigger than I am", and it weighed over 200 pounds (>100kg). So in the end they had to deliver it to my garage. It took me 3 days after I got it until I managed to get one of the people I work with to come with me home and help me move it up to my apartment (Can you imagine the agony of having such an amazingly cool toy just standing around in your garage for 3 days). Once you got it out of the box it isn't that big and heavy though. I think the TV part was only around 80 pounds ( ~40kg). As you can see on some of the pictures at the end, it is pretty impressive though. And it's HD (High definition) TV ready so it got a resolution of 1280x768. Looking at regular TV though is kind of a disappointment since the TV got so good resolution you really see how crappy quality a regular digital TV transmission is. Where it really shines though is when connected to my computers which is where I am usually going to be using it. One big disappointment with it though is that it doesn't support PAL (European TV standard), in Sweden you can hardly buy a TV for over $100 that doesn't support both NTSC and PAL. Let's just say that this TV cost way more than that and the thought that it didn't support PAL didn't even cross my mind. It isn't really that much of a problem though except that I can't see color on my VCR (Which I never ever use anyway), worse though is that I can't watch region 2 DVD:s on it. I have worked around that problem by using the computer to play these though so I at least doesn't have to get even more stuff (I now have three places in the stereo where I can insert and play a DVD, that really should be enough). The only thing I'm still missing is a sub woofer. I had actually already ordered a Sunfire sub woofer, but everyone I talked to gave me really bad feedback on it so I canceled it before they shipped it. My main concern regarding the sub woofer though is that it can't be too big to fit where I want it. I'll have to see what I figure out there. Anyone got a good tip on a sub woofer which outer measurements are smaller than 12"x12"x12" let me know.

Another thing that happened as I went on my on line shopping spree as I got my credit card was that apparently I tripped some kind of fraud alarm at Bank of America. They tried calling me once and left me a message to call them back around 12pm on a Friday afternoon (This was while I was still in Orlando). Since they couldn't get a hold of me what did they do? They blocked my account! I'm half a continent away traveling and because there had been some purchasing out of state they made it impossible for me to access my account (This didn't mean just canceling my credit card, they also blocked access to my internet banking which would otherwise be a great way to inform me of what had happened). It gets even better since I didn't manage to get back to them until they closed at 5 (2pm in Orlando) so I had to spend the entire weekend without any cash before I could get down to the bank in the morning on Monday and ask what the hell was up. To my astonishment they told me that it is always a good idea to let your bank know when you are traveling out of state here... I thought hell no! So now they have a note on my account that they can't cancel it before they at least get a hold of me to ask permission first. But here is the kicker, the purchase that triggered this whole thing (The computer I talked about above) was still let through the system. So if it had actually been a fraudulent purchase it would still have gotten through. To me it would make more sense to actually block the suspect purchases, not the whole account after a suspect transaction has occurred and been approved. This is not the only problem I've had with the bank though during this time. They have also managed to get the name on my credit card. I know I listen to a lot of names (Mauritz, Henrik, Persson, Johnson etc), but Jan H Jonsson is not me. That sounds more like my father. Fortunately it seems like they like the amount if money I've been handling on my account because they seem really eager to please when I actually get down there with a problem and I got a new card with the correct spelling right away no hassle what so ever (Another place where good service has prevailed, not that uncommon here). I've now got credit cards coming out the wazoo. 1 from FSB, 1 from Skandia Bank, 2 from AmEx Sweden, 2 from AmEx USA, 4 from Bank of America (Two of each name)... All still valid. I'm going to start cutting them up though, no need to leave stuff like that around for burglars to find.

I've also had a lot of problems with my phone since I got here. For one thing here you can get wrong numbers when you are dialing numbers from your phone book. I never think that has happened to me in Sweden using a cell-phone. I also get at least 1 wrong number every day, I'm guessing from the same reasons. Also I've repeatedly had problems with T-Mobile deactivation my GPRS service so I have to call them up say there is something wrong and the do something in the switches and it's up and running again... It's just annoying. The conspiracy theorist inside me off course thinks that they are trying to get my cell phone usage down, since I am definitely a high end user of data traffic (The biggest rate plan from AT&T includes 8MB per month, I use around 40MB per day... It's unlimited so why not use it). Once I also experienced an outage where I live. I usually have great cell coverage where I live, but for two days there was no coverage at all. I had to drive to another part of town to make a call that I needed to make. And it was definitely bigger than one "cell", so I'm guessing some kind of higher lever network element had gone POOF. After two days it was back to normal though, so no biggie. All in all I have to say cell phones here in the southern California work much better than what people are saying. Because people here are always complaining about how bad cellphones work. I was out hiking in one of the mountains out here this weekend though and the coverage there was really poor, but if you stay in developed areas it usually works. I have heard though that if you go to more rural parts of the US the GSM network is not nearly as well developed and you really need to use Verizon (Non GSM, I think it's TDMA or something) there to get even poor coverage.

I also took my driving test. Kind of funny, because I was so relaxed and sure about myself. Especially after wards because I thought it had gone great. I passed, no problem there. But when I read my "report card" I realized I had 15 remarks out of 15 possible. Not bad for a 10 minute drive. I think most of them stemmed from two things though. I was wearing shades and the instructor couldn't see when I checked my mirrors (Kind of stupid of me not to realize this since they really hammered that into you when you were to take a driving license in Sweden: "Exaggerated head movements"), so I got a lot of remarks of not keeping track on the traffic. The second one was that I thought you were not required to stop on "right on red", which you apparently have to. So for every right turn I got one remark. I also a managed to get two remarks for speeding which I am quite proud of. The drivers license showed up in the mail only about a week later which I was really impressed with compared to the social security card (Which I still haven't gotten yet).

The weekend two weeks ago was a really busy one. I started on Saturday morning at 8:30 when we set of for Magic Mountain which is a huge amusement park (They probably have around 20 big roller coasters) with some people I know from work. I had actually been there once before when I was in LA a few years ago. It was great, although there sure were a lot of people and a lot of standing in line (I think I was there during a weekday last time I was there). One kind of unorthodox happening was when they had to stop one of the roller coasters I was on because there was someone up walking on the tracks. Also, as I remarked to one of the people there that a trip to an amusement park isn't complete if you don't leave there feeling a bit nautious and ripped off and I wasn't disappointed (A bottle of water was $4.5).

Sunday I had to get up even earlier at 5:30am to go to a Nascar race up in Fontana with another work college. This was really a different slice of Americana than I have experienced so far. So far most of the Americans that I have run in have been pretty sophisticated and in general much more in touch with reality in general than I would have given them credit to before moving here. A Nascar race on the other hand is redneck heaven. This is probably one of the first times in my life that I was on my second beer at 8 in the morning on a Sunday (Unless those times when I hadn't gotten to sleep yet, but those doesn't count).

We were joining in the great American tradition of tailgating which basically means that you get to an event way before it starts, sets up a tent, chairs and a barbecue in the parking lot and start getting drunk as soon as possible. One problem I ran into during this trip though is that the people I was there with in difference to me were really in to cars. In some ways I envy them, because they really got a kick just traveling on the freeway and seeing the apparently cool cars that went by. Trucks was the vehicle of choice for these guys off course, although one of them had just gotten a BMW and got endless shit for not buying American by the others. The problem was that I often didn't have a clue as to what they were saying. And it isn't because I didn't understand their English (I understood that fine), I just didn't have a clue as to what they said meant. I'm thinking it might be like being a fourth person present when me, Stefan and Johansson start talking about computers and networks.

After a while the race started and that was sort of an anti-climax. The cars go 250 laps on a 2 mile long round track and they basically drive so fast you can't even see the markings on the cars so you have no idea of what is going on. I actually slept through the better part of the race. When the race had finished we went back to our party in the parking lot since trying to get out of there would just mean standstill queues for the first hours anyway. There I met an interesting young man from as he called it "The 909" which means south-eastern LA I guess. When he heard I was from Sweden he immediately started to refer to me as Amsterdam. I told him that calling me Amsterdam was like calling him "Dallas" since he lives in LA, but that didn't deter him. He was also very disappointed when I told him that all drugs were not legal in Europe as he had apparently heard. I don't really get why he was so hooked up on Amsterdam if he though drugs were legal in all of Europe, but then again I don't think that kind of cerebral activity was his forte. He worked as a bricklayer and specialized in marble. After about an hour he staggered off, sat in his car and drove away (He could barely focus before he got into a car and drove away) and I said wistfully to the rest of the group: "One day that will be me!". Other activities that took place were off course mooning, people pissing on other peoples cars and a few women flashing their tits (Not really anyone worth looking at unfortunately).

Last Thursday I also spent the entire evening following the national tragedy of the Friends series ending. It has been advertised on pretty much every commercial break the last couple of months now I think and tonight is the night. How did it go, will Rachel and Ross get each other in the? The other way of saying it is that the plan was to organize the amazing amount of paperwork I have accumulated since I moved here (I don't know, but I think they have way more paperwork for everything here than in Sweden) and put it in binders while Friends is on in the Background. Good thing I managed to scramble to get my stereo and TV ready for this momentous event in TV history.

I also went and got my second haircut. The hairdresser I got to know here just as I got here has now started working in a salon (I think I mentioned that she is just starting out as a hairdresser) as an intern. The guy she is working for seems really good at hair cutting I have to say and it is really interesting listening to him describing how she should cut my my hair. I had no idea that cutting hair could be so complicated. I can also say that I would not be able to work in those kind of conditions. An intern is pretty much as close to a slave you get here in the US. It probably is a good introduction to whatever trade you are interested in, but you usually work for minimum wage (Or in some really coveted positions for free) and at least in this case there was always very pronounced master and servant relationship. I don't think I could ever work in an environment of equals which is pretty much as it always have been all the places where I have worked so far for me.

This weekend I managed to book another activity which required me to get up before 6am Saturday morning. As I mentioned before I went hiking in one of the Santa Ana mountains. I don't really remember which one though. It was kind of interesting to get away a bit (Only a few miles though) from civilization and also as we got up on the mountain (We climbed almost 3000ft, 1000m) and see that in difference to the impression you get when you drive around here actually very small part of this area where I live is developed. I also saw a rattlesnake for the first time on this hike, which are apparently very common here (Which has also led me to reconsider running around in the canyons with headphones on during the day). The kind of rattlesnake they have here though is not very poisonous in comparison to the ones they have in the deserts of Nevada and Arizona which will kill you. The ones they have here you can get sick from if you get bitten, but you probably wont die. Another interesting business opportunity turned up during this hike as the colleague I went hiking with has this idea about some kind of visualization of web services (To be honest I didn't get all of it being described during a climbing a mountain) with which he needed development help, so I'm gonna take a look at what he got. You got to keep yourself occupied you know.

I am also thinking about going start playing some golf. Interestingly here in the US they have no rules about needing green cards or golf club memberships to play. Here anyone can shell out around $25 and play a round (An extra $10 to rent the clubs). So now it looks much more appealing to me to at least try it a few times. The problem with starting to play golf in Sweden s that you need to become a member of a golf club and I really didn't want to get stuck with another training related expense of a few $100. I pay enough already on gym membership and skates. One of the people I know down here has also just started working at the closest golf course to where I live. I'll let you know how it all turns out if I ever get my thumb out and actually do it.

With that I think I'm going to end this letter and try to send shorter letters than this one a little more often instead. I'm going to end with some links to some images in my photo album you might like to look at.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The week it all hapened

Brace yourself because this is going to be a long one. In difference to the last post where nothing had really happened, a lot of stuff has changed since last week. First of all I managed to keep the deadline last Wednesday. I was even a day early. I don't think that has ever happened... ever in the IT industry. I'm pretty sure I have never been so fortunate though. I also got a standing ovation from marketing when I gave a walk through of the product for them (Quote: I'd give you a hug if I knew it wouldn't make you uncomfortable). So basically everything is going really well at work so far. Was out having a beer after work with some of the people I work with too on Thursday to celebrate meeting the deadline.

The as it seemed never ending story of the SSN took some more twists during the previous week. First of all I called them on Tuesday and they finally said that it was sent through the mail on Monday. Yes, success! Didn't get it on Tuesday though. Then when Wednesday pass, still without any card I called again and lo and behold. They now told me that my application had been processed on Tuesday so I should have it within 2 weeks... What? A week earlier it was within 10 days, and now it's up to two weeks? Being thoroughly confused I decided that this warrant another visit down to the actual social security office. Trying to miss as little work as possible I went down there half an hour before they opened and I started third in line, not too bad. By the time they actually opened there were at least 50 persons behind me. Once I got to the teller they told me that yes it would be around up to around 2 weeks before I would get the card. But, apparently they had already assigned me the number so the person behind the counter asked me if I wanted the number. So finally after only 5 weeks and 6 days I finally got my SSN. Pretty close guess by the original teller saying that it would be around 6 weeks, however if I hadn't been calling them every other second and going down there no less than 3 times I would still not have gotten it (Still waiting for the mail with the actual card).

Once I returned to work I immediately called the DMV and tried to book an appointment so I could get started with the whole buying a car thing. First of all they told me I first had to get one appointment to do a theoretical test and then schedule another appointment to do a drivers test. The first available appointment within a 20 mile radius was on April 23:rd. Yeay, we're really cooking now! But fortunately, except for the driving test you can just go down there and stand in line. So since work has slowed a bit since Wednesday I decided to take Friday morning off from work and get it over with as soon as posible. Having been warning that the DMV is the pinnacle of American bureaucracy I got there 40 minutes before they actually opened (I was there at 7:20 in the morning). By that time there were around 100 people before me in line!

As if that wasn't enough they sorted us into different lines depending on the errand we had. I off course got into the line where they pretty much didn't let anyone in. It wasn't that bad though, they let me into the building at around 9 o'clock after only one and a half hour wait. When they let you into the building you also got a queue number and it only took around 30 minutes more before I went to the first teller which checked my vision, got my thumbprint and charged me for taking the test. Then I got to stand in the next line to get the test administered. I took the test which had 40 questions. You are allowed to have 6 wrong answers. I was not sure about 12 questions after finishing the test. Then I talked to some of the people as we waited (Again) for them to check the responses and realized that a question I was pretty certain I had the correct answer for (Not one of the 12 I was uncertain about) was wrong (I thought the alcohol limit for driving was 0.05%, when in fact it is 0.08%). Well, then I really started doubting myself and thought about having to miss one more day of work just to stand in all those stupid lines gain. However, when I got the test back I had only 1 wrong answer, and yes off course it was the drinking question that I had discussed earlier. A nice surprise though was that after I passed the test they gave me a temporary license valid for 2 months under which time I need to schedule a driving test to get my real license. So at around 10:30 after only 3 hours I was finished with my first visit to the DMV, and I even left with a temporary driving license.

Since I had thought to be there pretty much the entire day I decided I might as well keep going so I went to the closest Bank of America branch to where I live and set up a bank account. Everything went incredibly smooth with that part. Having heard from some of my friends who moved to England I was expecting some major troubles here, but they were very polite and explained everything really well. I'm guessing that most people who open bank accounts don't need such a long explanation how to use a checkbook as I did. To be honest, I'm not really comfortable with how it works yet anyway. Given my initial ineptitude to everything in banking they proceeded with describing how the internet bank worked which was pretty primitive to what we have in Sweden. And the security is leaving something to wish for I think. You get to choose the log in and password yourself to access it, and there are no certificates or code boxes or anything. They had one really smart way to handle payments here though that I was quite impressed with. You can pay any bill payable with check through the internet. If the company who should receive the check is registered to receive payments electronically there is no problem. However, if the company can only handle mailed in checks you can still pay them through the internet and the bank will print a check and mail it to the company. Really clever solution to a backward system I had to say.

Next on my list is applying for a credit card. This has so far not gone as smooth as I had hoped. I applied for an American Express card through the internet, finishing the first application screen and expected a second screen which I could fill out some more info. More specifically a comment field where I could enter that I have had an American Express card in Sweden for years and am a good customer to them. They have really weird phone in times since they are on the east coast so I haven't been able to call them yet while there is someone actually answering the phone. I'm going to call them tomorrow morning though, so hopefully it will all be worked out. I can see right now that they have already made a decision on my application... I am pretty sure that it's denied for now since I have absolutely no credit history whatsoever in this country.

The whole concept of credit history is a really ass backward way to decide if someone can pay for stuff or now as far as I can tell. Credit history is only based on actually using credit. So if you have money and don't like loaning you will never get a credit history and will look like a vagrant when they check you. Even if you have tens of thousands of dollars in your account you still can't do anything since you don't have a credit history. I talked to the bank on how I was supposed to get one of them credit histories. What they said was that I should put some money in escrow as security for a credit card in the bank. I should also make sure NOT to pay the bill in full every month, but keep some balance on the card so I show that I can actually pay a bill on time. It's not at all as in Sweden where they measure your ability to pay for stuff on what you actually make. Here they base it on how much you have borrowed in the past. So pretty much, the worse you are at handling your money here (IE the more you need to borrow), the more they are willing to lend you. Please someone explain to me that I have understood this wrong, because it seems almost surreal.

After this I finally got back to work, and among other things I managed to get parts of my first paycheck. So after work I went back to the bank and deposited my checks. Again I needed a short course in how to deposit the checks (Given the amounts on the checks I am amazed the even let me cash them as clueless as I was). They were really nice at the bank this time too and even cleared the checks straight away so I could start using the money on Saturday even if I wanted to. I only have 3 checks to access the account with so far though, it will take around a week to get a debit card and my real checks. Still haven't used the money though except to pay some of my bills. I have to say though, that for the first time in my entire life I actually feel almost wealthy. It's not going to last though as I am buying a car in a few days and by then the cash will be gone.

After the bank I went to the car dealership to test drive the different cars I have been looking at. I have pretty much narrowed it down to a Mustang Convertible. The only question was if I was to go with a 6 cylinder or a V8 engine. To be honest, the test drive didn't give me that much more information except perhaps that the V8 made a little more notice. Can't really say I noticed much difference between the power of the engines. After having talked to Stefan, Johansson and my father I decided to go with the V8 version though. Mainly because if I bring it back to Sweden the difference in the second hand value between the V6 and V8 is way bigger than the difference in the purchase price of the new cars. On Saturday morning I called the dealership and said which car I decided on. I'm hoping to pick it up on Friday after work as my parents are here to drop me off to pick it up. I still need to get the last part of my back pay to be able to afford the car though. I'm less than $1000 short, kind of irritating to that close and still no cigar, and since I have no credit rating I can't borrow it either for about a week. Hopefully I will get the last chunk of money any day now so it's not that bad.

The next challenge is getting car insurance which I have also been able to fix. I have finally managed to find one which is around $180/month. Quite a difference to the bizarre amount of $3000/month I got when I first tried getting a quote (I didn't manage to fill out that I had actually had a drivers license for 12 years). The good news for all you people who are coming over visiting is that the insurance is also valid if people borrow the car from me from time to time. So when you come over you don't need to get a rental as long as you don't mind dropping me off work in the morning and picking me up when I finish. Other things I managed to get done during Friday afternoon was to find a doctor and dentist (Although that one was simple since Eriko, Magnus wife is a dentist assistant) and applying for medical insurance. Don't know exactly when it starts to be valid, but at least I've applied for it now. One more thing to check off the list.

Another thing that happened during the week was that I talked to the moving company and apparently the ship with all my stuff on it passed customs Wednesday morning so now they just have to get it from Torrence (Around where LAX is) down to Newport. Hopefully I should get it tomorrow or Wednesday. Can't wait to finally get all my stuff. Not a moment too soon either since my parents are coming on Thursday. Friday evening I had a dinner with "Fröken Fredag", a Swedish group that meets once every month. It's actually just for women, but they didn't mind if I joined them when I showed up. Really nice group of around 7 Swedish girls and me.

Saturday evening I spent going out partying with some coworkers in Laguna Beach. I have never been to Laguna even though it is one of the closest communities to where I live and I have to say that I really liked it. It is more of a city, you can actually walk to the restaurants and bars if you live down there. Also the rent that at least my coworkers pay was about the same as mine, so I am definitely going to think about moving there when my 6 month lease is up. We are also moving our office a little bit to the south (Not until in about a year) so it will actually be closer to where I will work too. In the end I had a really fun night and got home at around 5 in the morning. I also finally figured out a good point of living on the top of the hill. You can drive your car to the party and then have downhill most of the way in the morning on skates when you go back to pick up the car. On my way to Laguna Beach I also recognized some of the footage from the beginning of the show "The O.C." which is supposed to take place down here in Newport.

I have also managed to break the record on needing to change wheels on my skates after having them for only 3 weeks. While I changed the wheels I also found out that I have been doing something wrong while changing wheels on my skates for all these years. To be honest I was kind of amazed. Normally I always change both wheels and ball bearings at the same time and so just throw the wheels away, well apparently you have spacers (I have seen them in stores, but never figured out where or why to use them) between each ball bearing in the wheels. This has been the reason why I always have a problem with not being able to tighten the screws without the wheels getting stuck (And thus leading me to not being able to tighten the screws and getting noisy skates). I know I'm an idiot for taking 10 years to figure this out.

Any one of these letters wouldn't be complete without a little complaint about something that doesn't work here. So here is the weird US thing of the week. They are really bad at lighting the streets here. That is why I run around once every other night instead of skating. Up where I live they have no streetlights at all on the main streets. They have some on the smaller streets though, but as soon as you move out on the major roads it's pitch dark. And since it is also very steep down or uphill not really that nice to skate on during the night.

Another thing that was revealed to me this week was the mystery of "The Toadman". This was a guy who was bought out by Quest pretty much the same way as I was, only around 1998 or something. Anyway, since then they have bought one more product and I have been able to talk to that guy (John Dorlon of EzSQL fame), but they have always been really evasive with the first "Toadman" guy giving something like "He is no longer with Quest, having put himself in a position where he could not work for anyone". So I had pretty much gathered that he had had a mental breakdown or being burnt out or something. I'm not really supposed to talk about what happened, but knowing what it was I understand why they try to avoid the issue as good as they can (I'll give you one hint, he is in prison... for a looong time).

One last thing I managed to also set up last week is to start donating blood again over here. I stopped for a while after they closed down the clinic right next to Spinbox in Sweden, but now I managed to find out how you donate over here so I'm all set up to go on Wednesday evening after work for the first time. Going to be interesting to see how it differs from how they do it in Sweden.

I'm sorry I don't have that many more pictures. The weather has been great this week and I have been aiming at taking some pictures of how it looks here outside my apartment, but I have always forgotten my to bring my camera so far. I'll do better for my next letter and hopefully I'll have some pictures of a furnished apartment to top it off with.

Anyway, take care everyone and have a great week.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Stupid f**king country...

I have just (or actually a few hours ago) had another run in with the wonderful American bureaucracy which has left me rather pissed so I'm going to start off by listing all the things I have found so far that works less well here than in more civilized countries :). Lets start with the event that left me rather breathless from the incompetence. As I keep complaining in all my emails I have not yet received my social security number. I was told that it was supposed to take up to 6 weeks, but I have been calling every week just to make sure. Especially now after I moved since I am not betting on the forwarding of my mail to work so I didn't actually think I would receive the card in the mail, but would at least have the number to go forward. Since I was really getting close to the 6 week deadline I was stepping up my call ins to bi-weekly, because it is really starting to be a hassle without one (More about that later). This time though the reply I got was different than before, since before they have simply said that wait the 6 weeks, nothing is wrong. This time they said something unspecified had gone wrong with my application and I had to contact my local Social Security office and was given a phone number.

I kept calling the phone number I got every 5 minutes for 2 hours without ever getting through so I decided, screw this I'm taking the afternoon off work and going down there. So I did, waited for a while, although the queue wasn't nearly as bad as the first time I was there. When I got to the counter I first got the standard reply I've gotten over the phone so many times before with a slight difference. No nothing is wrong, it has just not been processed by INS yet... IT CAN TAKE UP TO 3 MONTHS. A slight difference from the 6 weeks I had heard about before which I was as flabbergasted by when I heard it because I had heard it should be no more than 10 days.

I asked them how they thought I was supposed to live here for 3 months without being able to get a salary and they actually started to try to be helpful and figure out what was wrong. And after some digging they figured out the reason why my application wasn't proceeding through the system as it should because according to their checks I was already approved by INS. The reason was that my application had been lost. So as I stood there they had to resubmit my application into the system, so basically I am now back to square one where I was 6 weeks ago. There is some reason to hope for the better though. This time I was approved by INS which was the problem last time, so the time they said it should take now is the 10 days that I had initially heard about before I ever went there. Also I was able to refile it under my new address so that I will probably actually get my card. Still though, if I had heeded the advice of the first 5 people I talked to at the SSA regarding just waiting for the card to come I would probably never have gotten it. I thought we had bad bureaucracy in Sweden, but it has nothing on this crap. And this is not even something complicated, all I want is to be able to pay taxes. I can't wait to see what will happen if I actually need to get some kind of social benefit or such. Hopefully I will not need to find out how badly that works.

This brings me to some more problems of I have found out when you don't have a social security number. I have recently moved into my new apartment and have gotten a gas, electricity bill and off course cable TV and with them came some bills. Now in Sweden we pay bills through the internet or using "auto-giro". All in all it has never taken me more than a few minutes every month. Here you pay bills by sending in checks. Sometime you can pay by credit cards, but apparently not for my gas and electricity bill. Now the problem is, how am I supposed to pay something with a check if I don't have a bank accounts. And again to reiterate, I can't get that without a social security number. Usually it wouldn't be a problem since the bills doesn't become overdue until a month after they are sent out. But because I don't have a social security number I need to pay a deposit and that off course have to be paid straight away. I love the way they thought that little scheme up, I mean anyone who can actually pay the deposit shouldn't need to get it would they. Fortunately I have called them and managed to get a suspension on the payment so I don't have to pay until April 2nd.

Now I'm done with the SSN so now I am just going to do some random complaining, or pointing out stuff which doesn't work as well here as home. First of all, the way all roads here are littered with stop signs. I mean in Sweden when there is a stop sign you can be pretty sure that there is actually something to stop for, or at least a pretty tricky traffic intersection. Here they seem to put up a stop sign pretty much whenever they can't be bothered to put up traffic lights. Which is a problem, because you get the problem of the boy who cried wolf. Nobody actually stops at the stop signs here. They slow down a bit, but that is about it. Another traffic problem here is the logic behind the traffic signals. In Sweden they seem to have put quite a lot of thought behind how the traffic lights turn so that you usually get quite a good flow through them. And you very rarely have to stop at two signs in a row if you continue straight because traffic lights are controlled centrally and are synced together. Here they don't seem to have thought of that innovation and you can often need to stop at every single traffic light if you follow a straight road. It is definitely a noticeable difference, and both me and Stefan made note of it while he was here.

Next I'm going to go over to shopping. Here when you buy stuff you are not allowed to put stuff in your own shopping bags, there is instead a person who is supposed to handle this. Which I don't have anything in mind of except that they put no thought what so ever of how they pack your bags (Hard heavy stuff on the bottom etc). Also, the bags themselves are a joke, they break if you sneeze at them. Which leads to them packing about one item in each bag, which in turn sort of almost defeat the whole purpose of the bag. Going over to shopping a cell phone, which is something incredibly easy in Sweden. Here it is quite a problem though. I managed to break my phone during the weekend and needed a new one fast, since I am sort of isolated without one. I could off course not get the cellphone I already have since that is not available here yet (They seem to be around 6 months to a year behind Sweden in cellphone models), so I wanted the model I had before my current one. Then came the next problem of getting a phone that is not tied to a service provider so I can still use my Swedish SIM-card if I would travel outside the US. Walking into a phone store here and asking for a non locked phone and they don't even understand the question, the concept is simply not even known here. In the end I just gave up and got a phone locked to my current subscription and I'll have it unlocked the next time I go to Sweden instead.

Now I'm done complaining. I have had a pretty busy week. I think I had just gotten my new apartment last week and done some work on assembling the bed. During Tuesday I made the first attempt at cutting my hair here. A friend of a friend here had turned out to be a hairdresser so I gave her a shot at cutting my hair. She wasn't as good as my old one in Sweden, which those of you who have heard me talk about know I really like, but it didn't turn out too bad. She was actually between jobs right now so I had to cut my home over at her place (Since I didn't even have chairs at my place yet) which was down in San Clemente, so that pretty much took that entire evening with all the getting lost and all.

Wednesday I spent actually moving. All in all it took two trips in the car to move my stuff. The heaviest bag was the one with the stuff I had in my fridge. For some reason I had managed to get around 30 bottles of bear, a few bottles of liquor and some bottles of whine not to mention half a gallon (2l) of juice, a quarter of a gallon of milk and generally a whole lot of stuff to drink. I think the bag probably weight close to 30kg. I also had to try to find comforter and other linen to put on my bed to be able to sleep in it. After all of that I finished assembling the tables for the bed. In the end I didn't get finished until almost 12am in the morning. I also had a whole room filled with trash from all the cartoons from IKEA and such. I also got all the stuff I had ordered via mail this day, both TV, grill and skates. Although I didn't get a chance to try the skates until Friday.

Thursday I had to go up to LAX and change rental car since the time when Quest didn't want to pay for it anymore. Since I went up there anyway I stopped by at Magnus's place and had dinner and said hello to Erico (His wife) who had just had surgery the Monday before. Friday I finally got a chance to try my new skates and as always they take a few days to get used to (The phrase from Wayne's World by Garth regarding new underwear comes to mind: "At first they are strange and constricting, but after a while they become a part of you"), and I also realized that I am going to get in really good shape from living here since one of the other new toys I got was a training GPS I know that I started the trip with a 4 mile long downhill slope to the ocean followed by 3 mile long hill without downhill interruptions. I don't think I have ever been so exhausted from such a short trip in my life as the 8 mile trip.

Saturday started up really nice. I had made plans to go out and celebrate St Patric's day (I know a few days early, but who cares) in Santa Monica with Magnus and spent the day with getting showed some of the finer points of Santa Monica and Malibu. Once we started partying things didn't turn out too good, not having eaten enough during the day and starting straight away drinking shots the whole thing soon went overboard. To make a long story short this is where I broke my phone, it is also where I managed to loose one of my credit cards (Thank god for having a spare, otherwise I would really be in trouble). I see it as a short refresher course in why I should not drink shots... EVER! Which I usually don't either, and I'll stick to it even better after this I'm sure. This followed off course by not exactly much getting done the entire Sunday and it wasn't until well in the evening that I even dared to drive home.

At work we are really getting close to as the really like saying here "crunch time". Next Friday I have a deadline. And unlike most other deadlines (Douglas Adams said about deadlines: "I love deadlines, I like to sit and hear the swishing sound they make as they go by") this one is real in that if I miss it they wont have time to print up the CD:s which Quest is supposed to hand out at the conference in mid April. So the next two weeks it is going to be a lot of work. I have already started going on close to 10 hour days, and it is probably going to get worse for a few days. After next Friday I don't think there is going to be that much to do for me until the fair. I'm sure I find something to do though.

Otherwise this week is surprisingly uneventful except for work. I have nothing really planned so far, though next Friday I have a party with some kind of Swedish "Fröken Fredag" society, don't really know what it is, but I am hoping to be celebrating being able to keep the deadline then. Next Thursday my parents are coming for two weeks, and before they even leave I will leave for this conference in Orlando that I keep talking about. And what do you... It's summer. Although the concept seems kind of irrelevant here since it is pretty much always good weather here (One of the things I keep getting back to that is actually great with this place), although it isn't as bizarrely nice as last week. So all in all, I have to end with that I don't really have as much of a problem with this place as you might think when you read the beginning of this mail. I actually really like it here, although the SSN thing is really frustrating. Hopefully it will be resolved soon. Take care everyone.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Bad afternoon...

Sitting at home, being bored so I thought I'd write together a summary of whats happened since the last post and some stuff that actually happened before I wrote the last one but I forgot about.

I've generally had a pretty crappy day today. First of all this morning it was still raining. Then later during the day I had problems finding a place to get gas. It's actually amazing that sometimes when you are short of gas in probably the car densest place on earth it can be so hard to find a place to get some gas. While I was looking around for a place to get gas I was also backing into a parking garage I managed to break a rear view mirror of my car. To explain what I was doing parking in a parking garage whilst waiting for gas I was actually looking for a BestBuy to buy a new MP3 player since my current one has broken too (Didn't find one either). So I generally had a bad afternoon. The car breaking part was solved easily by just dropping it off at Budget and get a new one (In the end it's probably gonna cost me around $200). I've also just been down to Houston and at a rack of ribs that was really amazingly good and am just relaxing before going out inline skating because now the weather is great again (Even though it is dark now). So in the end the day doesn't look so bad, but if you'd called me at around 7pm this weekend I would probably have been pretty low before I could figure out how to handle the broken rear view mirror.

I've also included a picture describing how completely I've managed to destroy my favorite pair of skates which I'm now scrambling to find a good skating shop to get a replacement pair, so far without any luck. The two metal bars are supposed to be straight and the bar going from one of the sides should actually go all the way over to fix the wheel, lets just agree that wont happen anytime soon. Erik, do you think the new CrossMax 3 will be available in Sweden anytime soon?

Called the social security office today since it's been 2 weeks and I hoped the would have my SSN ready. No such luck, they said it usually takes 4 weeks. I'll still call in a week, but I wouldn't have minded having been able to get a paycheck before I move into my real apartment at the end of next week since I then have to pay 2 months worth of rent for security and 1 month actual rent in advance... And they don't accept any credit cards, I haven't really figured out how I can get that much cash over here in a week but I'll think of something.

Well, it's time to go inlining (On one of my other pairs). Everyone, have a good one.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Through the looking glass

Hello everyone, sorry for not giving you all an update until now. First I have had problems getting back online using my regular emails (I have had access to my work email since sometime early last week) and after that problem was fixed I had problem syncing my address book so I couldn't send out any group emails. It's all fixed now anyway and I'm back to being online pretty much 24/7 (Ok, I'm not reading it all the time) though at a connection speed roughly 250 times slower than before the move since I'm using my cellphone to access the net. As soon as I move to a more permanent apartment I'll get real broadband though. Ok, enough ranting about being online, what else have I been doing?

It has been a hectic weeks, but I have been able to get a lot of things done. When first I arrived arrived here I had no problem going through customs like I had the time a few weeks ago. This time I got the white paper in my passport instead of the green one... In your face all you non work visa people! Not really that much to cheer about really is it. To be honest I think Stefan got through the customs faster than I did, and I still had to have my fingerprints taken.

I also managed to bungle up getting a rental car in a rather impressive war. First of all I realized when we were changing planes that I had forgot it all together, but no fear. I just called the trusty people of my regular travel service and they helped me set it up while I waited... Only to realize when I read my latest email that Quest would be paying for the rental car and had already fixed one for me. I thought, no problem I just go up to the Avis counter and cancel my reservation. Well thats not how it works at LAX, there you take a shuttle bus to all the different rental places so just going over to the counter doesn't work. In the end I just ignored my own reservation. I'm hoping there doesn't show up a debit on my credit card for a months worth of rental car in a few days... If it does I'll just claim I have no idea what they are talking I think.

Around 14 hours after I landed I started my first day at work. First thing I got 2 inch thick folders of paperwork to go through. Lot of employee handbooks and different policies. And off course a bunch of medical insurance stuff etc. I think the whole Visa thing was only the tip of the byrocratic iceberg of moving to the states. A bunch of people came over and said hello, most of them some sort of manager who were involved with what I was working on, to be honest I couldn't keep track of all of them. I think I have managed to narrow it down to 4 managers that actually have anything to do at all with what I do. Two project managers, one for R & D and one for marketing and two vice presidents above them, again for R & D and marketing (Somebody thinking of Office Space... Did you get that memo Bob?). Everyone was also very nice and saying that I should ease into working and realizing that I had a lot of other stuff to get sorted. To be honest since I haven't worked for almost three and a half months I couldn't wait to get cracking so first thing Friday I let the paperwork go and started working. Most of the paperwork can't be finished without a social security number though which I applied for friday afternoon only to know that it can take up to 6 weeks to get it.

In the States you can't do anything without a social security number. Or if you can you need to pay a huge deposit. You can't get insurance (Including medical and dental), you can't get a bank account, you can't get payd from your job and you can't get a drivers license. Without a bank account you can't get a credit card. Without a Californian drivers license you can't even test drive a car, I'm guess I could buy it though but I can't try it before. It took me a lot of work to be able to get a cellphone and getting an apartment (Which I have).

During the first weekend we went up and visited Magnus in Santa Monica and was going to go out partying, but didn't really make it because we were having too much of a good time at his place. Before that we took a look at Santa Monica and Venice Beach. The day after me, Stefan and Magnus went doing the touristy things. Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Bell Air and in the end Malibu... Very impressive stuff! During the week Stefan was here he was also my driving tutor. Thanx for the help. I don't really have any problems with driving, I just need practice and a few pointers. People can't understand how I could possibly have survived until now without ever owned a car.

The next week was pretty much work and not much happened except that Magnus set me and Stefan up with a friend of us who lives down here in Newport Beach which we went out and ate with during one night of the week. She also brought a friend of here which is a hairdresser, which might solve that problem here. Something I've been worrying about here. I know that probably I'll have a hard time finding someone as good as Jeanette, my hairdresser in Sweden. I also finally managed to get the cellphone working this week, but I haven't been able to get them to enable international calls without a social security number. Someone pointed out to me that I could buy really cheap calling cards which would still work although the place where you buy them online needed a credit card with a US zip code as the billing address... Or if you didn't have that again your social security number. Anyone starting to see a pattern? So now I have around 6 people in my phone book that I can call.

I've also had a real problem with jet lag this time I came over, something I usually never have when traveling in this direction (I almost always have problem when I go home). I have woken up before the alarm rang (Or before 8am when it wasn't set) until this latest weekend when I managed to sleep until 10am finally. I think I know what the problem is too, alcohol. Some of you have heard my ideas on alcohol and jetlag and the problem off course I've had this time is that I haven't drunk enough like I usually do when I'm travelling because I'm driving most of the time :).Well now I'm pretty much back to regular being tired as hell in the morning and not really feeling like sleeping yet even though it's more than 12pm.

I have almost managed to bungle up my Visa here too after a little more than a week. I had to buy a return ticked when I got here because it was cheaper than a single one (Could anyone who understands that please explain it to me?). So I had this idea that I go along with Stefan and check in without any bags just to get the miles one my bonus card. The idea would have worked everywhere else but here. First of all they put Stefan's bags on my tickets instead of his, but we managed to sort that out but then came the real problem. Off course the tried to rip the Visa paper from my passport without which I can't leave the US and come back again. Fortunately I managed to stop the check in girl in time and explain that I really didn't want to go on the flight and she was really cool about it. Here comes the really brilliant part of the plan: I forgot to hand over my bonus card when I tried to check in so even if it would have worked I still wouldn't have gotten any miles!

During the weekend I was up in Santa Monica again and had dinner with a neighbor to Magnus at a really good restaurant. Might possibly have been the best food I've had in the States so far. A bit weird combination though, for starter there was Carpaccio with Wasabi and the main course was Salmon with Bearneisse. I had a really good time though despite the weather. Which brings me to the last part of this email which is the weather. This week has actually seen quite a few days of really crappy weather even by Scandinavian standards and there are flood warnings in some parts of LA and it's going to keep up for the rest of the week. Still between the rain showers there is still sunshine and it isn't that cold so I'm not complaining.

All in all, I think this whole US thing might actually turn out ok. Well, this turned out to be a pretty long letter since I've been up to a lot the last weeks. From now on I'll try to keep the updates more regularly. Take care everybody and don't forget to come visit me as soon as you can!