Sunday, August 27, 2006

Update with LOTS of pictures

I haven't updated this in a while though a lot has happened since last time.

On the work front, IBM has started "infiltrating" us - they're everywhere. I went down to the cantine on Tuesday and it was packed! It took a gazillion years to get some food due to the queues.
On Tuesday the benefit meetings started taking place - pretty much two hours of listening to one guy talk his way through a presentation that gave me headaches. Not being familiar with any of the benfits we get now, I couldn't understand a word of what he was saying nor was I able to compare the two. The ONLY plus, as far as I understood was that they give us $150 just like that if we are non-smokers!!!! WOHOOO!!!! It finally pays off to be a non-smoker! Hard to believe I'd ever see that day coming. So hats off to IBM for that policy. Again, other than that a lot of the stuff that was talked about in the meetings was stuff I didn't quite understand so it bored me to tears. Walking out of the meeting and discussing it with colleagues they say that some stuff is better than what we currently have, some stuff is worse.

On Thursday I was part of a visa/immigration meeting with them where they talked about my and other visa people's situations. So far, so good - they are taking on all the work with the visa and nothing will change for us. Now, I'm taking that with a grain of salt. Let's face it, it's all nice and easy for them to say they're taking care of all the visa requirements when in truth I and some of the others might be out of a job in a few months. So, you know... so far it's all bla bla to me.

On Friday morning we had a meeting with the entire IT team. That's when we pretty much got the news (bad or good, depends on how you wanna see it). Without using so many words, the head of IT pretty much told us that we will not have a job in the not too distant future. It was obvious, of course, but I'll daresay still a shock for some. And yet, even at this particular point, I'm still not worried at all. Maybe it's a mistake and I'm just being naive but I've got a good gut feeling about this. There aren't that many options and my boss' boss talked to me after the meeting and suggested I look into going back to support. I was very clear to say that I would if need be but that I had a serious problem with the head of that department and I'd pretty much rather shoot myself than having to work for that guy again. On the other hand there are other options for me - I could go into QA, which I've been eyeing for a while. I mean I really wanted to go to Localization QA but beggars can't be choosers.
So anyway, not sure what I will do. I might talk to the boss of QA and see what she would think of me joining her team. I should think it would be more money, which would be quite nice. On the other hand, whilst I've absolutely nothing in common with the three guys I work with (in fact, there's only one guy I can really talk to, the others are just... how can I put this... typical young, childish boys) I quite like the job and I like the networks team a lot and everyone in IT pretty much. It's a good bunch of guys and they've been great to me. I don't wanna leave. There's always that tiny chance that maybe something else will come up with IBM but until then I've got some serious thinking to do. I will keep you updated.

On a non-working front things are going well - I've finally got my bank account as well as a credit card - HALLELUJA! I got tickets to see Victoria Shaw when she plays in New York at the end of September so my first trip to the Big Apple is coming up soon, and I've managed to pretty much clean the kitchen enough to be able to cook in it! On the negative side, I've got brand new pots from IKEA which are ALREADY rusty! Good grief, how does THAT happen after one single use??? Oh well, they were cheap so I can't complain.

What else - oh yeah - that goddamn car has started stalling on me. Once a few days ago while I was waiting for a light to turn green and the other time today, after waiting for a light to turn green, starting to drive into a very busy intersection and suddenly noticing that the wheel wouldn't turn and my car was dead. In the midst of driving!!! I kid you not. So I shall pay a visit to the car dealer and make sure they either fix the problem or they get me another car!!! Good grief. I knew it was gonna be more trouble then it's worth.

Ok, enough written for now (there's tons more but I've already bored you enough for today). I've talked myself out of being lazy today and walked around the apartment complex taking pictures so you could get a better idea of where I live. So here goes - tons of pictures enjoy!

Bedroom - IKEA Heimdal bed in pieces

Bedroom - IKEA Heimdal bed put together

Bedroom - IKEA Heimdal bed with Storfors mattress

Living room showing hole through to the kitchen as well as the chair I absolutely ADORE!

Living room showing the airbed I've been sleeping on since I moved in!

Rockport Beach - pics from two weeks ago when I went to the beach.

My apartment block - I'm the one right in the middle!

The laundromat washers in my building

The laundromat dryers

The tennis courts I look out on from my windows

The swimming pool near the clubhouse

Road leading to the mini waterfall

Small pond which creates the waterfall

Small pond again

Small pond is to the left, waterfall to the right

The waterfall

Road leading to big pond and gym

Big pond with fountain and ducks!

Ducks crossing sign at the side of the road

Big pond with fountain

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

This just makes me cry...

Read the comments especially. My most important possession in the whole wide world is my Garth guitar. If I have to take a goddamn ship to transport it over here, so I will!!! But I can thank my lucky stars that I am NOT a touring musician at this particular time on this planet. It is pathetic that airlines/the governments freak out this badly - security threats or not, we cannot stop these murderers from doing what they eventually will succeed at doing. Carry-on luggage was just another way to get the job done. Now that this road isn't open to them anymore they will find another, no doubt. In the meantime the rest of the world has to suffer cause airlines and governments are too goddamn stupid to get it!!!!!
Ha... I think I'm actually breathing fire!


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Picture update

I've been asked by many to send pictures of the place I live... here's a few shots (not so good ones). I will be out tomorrow taking (and uploading) more so stay tuned!

Bedroom empty

Dining room empty

Dining room with table and chairs

Friday, August 18, 2006

Another two milestones...

Hard to believe but I finally got my Social Security Number!!! Miracles do happen I guess! Needless to say it didn't happen as easily as it should. Having applied for it mid-June, I was told to expect it at the end of July, beginning of August. When I still hadn't gotten my Social Security Card by Monday I called them up. They sent it, they said, and maybe something was wrong with my mail delivery. Either way I had to go to the Social Security office again and apply for a replacement card. That I did yesterday and guess what... I already had a number assigned but apparently they made some sort of mistake with my Visa so that they had to do the whole damn thing again. Go figure, these things only ever happen to me, I swear! The card will take another month to be done, of course!
One way or another, I at least got my SSN so I can be on my company's payroll now (meaning I can finally GET PAID!) and... *drumroll please*... I can open a bank account!!!

Needless to say, that isn't as easy as it sounds either. Not only did they want to see my passport and my SSN, they also wanted to see a utility bill, rental agreement, basically something that showed that I lived where I lived. Bloody stupid idiots didn't mention that the first time around so I got there without proof of address yesterday and wasted my time. I went back today with my rental agreement and thankfully came across a MUCH nicer lady who was much more sympathetic to my situation. When I enquired about getting a credit card too, she said I needed proof of employment for the past three months. Thankfully it didn't make any difference that I had been employed by my company only for a month here, so they did count the past almost 5 years in the UK.
That was lucky. The asshole I talked to yesterday, Rob something or other, said it wouldn't be possible. He is the kinda guy who has gel in his hair, looks like a geek with his stupid glasses and puts on the kinda fake smile that makes you wanna smash his face right in. So anyway, I felt like showing him my middle finger when I walked past his office today but I didn't... no point in annoying him now - I can always smile sweetly at him later, letting him know exactly what kind of asshole I think he is. Being condescending is one of my best skills. After working with asshole team leader for the past year, I've got that down to a T :-)

So it looks like I'm really getting sorted now - tomorrow I'm getting my IKEA furniture delivered (I'm very much expecting something to be wrong with it cause let's face it, so far nothing's been straight forward) so that should be cool. And if the weather still holds I'll be off to the beach some more on Sunday. Not sure where but I shall write about it when I get back.

Oh yeah, and on the 23rd we're having a meeting with IBM to discuss their benefits and stuff like that, and me and other Visa people are meeting with them on the 24th to discuss our "special" circumstances. So next week will be an interesting one. Which is just as well cause work is simply boring at the moment. With the whole IBM thing going on, a lot of the projects we were working on have been put on hold for now until we know further so that leaves us with a lot less to do than we'd like. I'm hoping it'll all pick up soon or I'll die of boredom.

Stay tuned for more IKEA news tomorrow ;-)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

100 Posts!!!

I was going to start writing about something else but logging into Blogger I've realized that this is my 100th post! YEY Maky!
Granted, I could've updated this more often than I do but let's face it... it's probably the one thing I've stuck to for a long period of time. So, happy 100th post to me and on with my initial post :-)

On my way to and from work I've got the car radio on most of the time. The channels vary between Boston's country station and Boston's classical music station. Whilst I like the country one most of the time, after a while it gets boring since they play the same new stuff that's on the charts over and over again. And the few older songs in between don't make it worth listening to. So I switch over to the classical one.
Now, classical music really isn't meant to be listened to on the road when you speed down the highway and the wind drowns out the beauty of most pieces. Yet I find it much more relaxing and enchanting sometimes so I listen anyway. But what bugs me the most (and ultimately makes me turn back to the country station) is the same thing that did my head in when I was listening to Classic FM in the UK - the DJs!!!
I mean, dear GOD, I understand that the audience for classical music is a much older one than that for country, rock or pop, but do the presenters for classical music radio have to be so unbelievably dull??? Why, if I were to stick to that station when they start talking, their monotone voices would put me to sleep instantly and I'd die in a violent car accident! No kidding, all presenters sound like they're on some heavy duty drugs or sleeping pills. They talk so slowly that I sometimes wish I was in the studio kicking them in the butt, telling them to bloody get a move on and play more music instead of boring me to death!

Oh well - I guess not everyone that's on the radio can be scintillating and refreshing. I have to admit, even the country station morning show is boring. But then again I compare it with the best morning show on radio I've ever heard - and that's WSIX's Jerry House. That man is a comic genius and if only my car radio could pick up the FM waves all the way from Nashville I'd be a happy commuter.
I guess I can't have it all - YET. Once I get to Nashville, I swear I'll live far outta town so I can listen to Jerry and the House Foundation on my way to work.

WOHOOO!!!! 100 posts!!!! :-)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Squeak, squeak, squeak...

After almost four years of living on the second floor and having noone above me, I had gotten used to not hearing any noises from above. Moving here changed my luck.
My upstairs neighbor moves like an elephant. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM with every step he takes on these wooden floorboards. Well, watcha gonna do, eh?

If it was only that, I wouldn't mind. But last night I found out what else I can hear from upstairs. I was almost asleep when the BOOM, BOOM, BOOM noises woke me up. I quickly realized that it wasn't just one person and soon enough I heard giggling. Female giggling. And another two minutes into that realization the rhythmic sounds of a bed creaking made it very clear that I was about to witness my neighbor's sexual prowess that night.

Not much to talk about, I'm afraid - "squeak, squeak, squeak" the bed springs were saying... a few times in slow succession, then nothing for a while. Then more squeaks, female moans, then nothing. I closed my eyes tighter, hoping that had been it and I could go back to sleep. No such luck. A short minute later more squeaks, moans. They were coming in quicker succession and then stopped again. I felt like timing them, just to have something else to do than wait for the end. Thankfully, the end was near. A few squeaks and a high pitched "YES!" later it was over. All in all it was something like 5 minutes I'm guessing. Really not very impressive. I turned around on my airbed and shut my eyes again. No more squeaks interrupted my sleep after that. I really hope he won't score too often. I haven't even moved into the bedroom yet but I'm dreading it now. Better get some earplugs tomorrow... ;-)

A day at the beach...

After a harrowing Saturday spent at IKEA (I was there for a total of 7 hours, and don't you think that it was all just browsing. Half of it was spent waiting in never-ending queues) I decided that I deserved to have a relaxing and quiet day at the beach on Sunday.
After doing some research on the internet and getting colleagues' advice about beaches around here, I decided to go to Cape Hedge Beach, MA. I was told that NH beaches aren't that nice so off I went, down Route 3 and then I95 towards Gloucester. It took me an hour to get to almost where I wanted to go - of course I got lost towards the end.
Thankfully I came across a little information booth by the side of the road near Rockport and went to ask for directions. The lovely woman there told me that I was a bit off the route I needed to be on in order to get to Cape Hedge Beach but encouraged me to go into Rockport, MA where there were two smaller and quieter beaches.
Needless to say, the quieter the better for me so I drove off, parked my car on the free parking lot a bit outside of town and waited for the little trolley that would take me into Rockport and to the beach for just one dollar!!! Bargain!
It was very cute when it arrived, I paid my dollar and then the driver set off through some very quaint and cute lanes with houses that looked like out of some fairytale books, and shops that were selling art, fudge (LOTS of fudge!!!) and other knick knack. I could've gotten off in the town centre and do some "sighseeing" but I wanted to just sit down, read my book and hear the ocean splash on the beach. A minute later - there I was.
To call it a beach would probably be an overstatement. The half mile by the water had very little sand and most of it was rocky but I didn't care much. I wanted peace and quiet and was surprised to find that at noon on a Sunday there were hardly any people there! I settled on my newly purchased rug (aka towel replacement) from IKEA and enjoyed the beauty, sound and smell of the ocean, the boats floating in the distance and the fact that it was as quiet as it could get on a beach by the main road.
To make a long story short(er), I spent a good 4 hours there, got a good sunburn (I didn't think of getting sunblock - DUH!) and splashed my feet in the water. I overcame my fears of seagulls (well, they never got close enough for me to really freak but I didn't like them being around either way) and read a good portion of the book I'd taken with me. I ate some stuff I'd brought along and laughed at the sight of a boat skipping with high speed over the water. I wanted to get out into the water at that point but I didn't have my bathing suit with me :-( Maybe next time!

All in all it was a lovely day out and on my way back I decided to do this again. In fact I'd quite like to go and explore all the beaches around here, within one and one and a half hour's drive. And then after seeing them all I could make up my mind which I liked best and go there from then on.

So without further ado - here's my rating criteria.

Rockport, Front Beach & Back Beach

1. Driving + directions - easy to find, about an hour's drive without too much traffic on the road.

2. Parking - free if on the park and ride parking lot outside of town, trolley to take you to and from beaches for $1 per ride.

3. Beach - Front Beach is too small and crowded, Back Beach is bigger and less crowded. Quiet though adjacent to main road. Not much sandy space to truly enjoy the beach experience. Plenty of big rocks to sit on and dangle your legs in the water.

4. Water - Seemed fairly clean and clear. Not many used it to properly swim.

5. Other - Rockport is a cute little town, very charming and adorable with sweet little shops and restaurants.

On a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being best I'd say this is a 7. Let's see if I can top that anytime soon ;-)

Friday, August 11, 2006

One month already?

I realized with a slight shock today that I've been in the US for 4 weeks now! Geez, where did time go? I still don't feel like I'm settled in, far from it! Maybe the trip to get a bed and some furniture at IKEA tomorrow will help make this place seem a bit more like home (STILL no Social Security number though, I might add!!!!).
It's also been a week since the big IBM takeover announcement and things have cooled off visibly. People spent the first few days trading horror and good stories about other IBM acquisitions they'd either been in or heard about, poking fun at IBM's "THINK" and "INNOVATE" campaigns and generally talking the subject to death. Now everyone's pretty much resigned themselves to the inevitable and most are starting to see the positive side of this. Me included.
I haven't worried much about this at all - surpsingly enough since there is so much at stake for me. But for some unknown reason, I really, truly think that it'll work itself out somehow. And whilst it's really not "business as usual" at work, like we were told when the news broke, life still goes on in my job and I am starting to find my feet slowly but surely. I guess I could even say that I'm a bit underwhelmed at the moment as most of the stuff I need to do depends on my coworkers helping me or showing me how to. And of course, I don't want to constantly bug them and be on their backs about it all the time so I do get bored every now and then. But I am noticing a difference in the way I feel when waking up in the morning and thinking about going to work. I don't dread it. It's such a nice feeling, I can't even describe it.
I remember particularly the last year in Woking when I woke up thinking "Is it the weekend yet?" and having that feeling in the pit of your stomach that usually tells you it's time to chuck it all in and find something else. I remember how much I hated the sight and sounds of one particular idiot team leader that made all our lives hell (and continues to do so for the poor souls I left behind). And I compare it to now, when I'm not exactly excited about going to work but not dreading it either and looking forward to the 30-40 minute drive where I can listen to the radio and try to gather my thoughts for the day, where I can still drive down Route 3 and smile at some of the beautiful sights alongside of it.
All in all, the quality of my life has improved enormously and whilst that intense, ecstatic happiness I've felt at Expo is still eluding me, at least I am content and am not hating it. In my book, that's a huge achievement. So I continue to enjoy what I have now and leave it up to fate or destiny or whatever you wanna call it to point me to the next steps with or without IBM! LOL

And since the weekend's here, I intend to use it to go to IKEA to buy furniture (heaven help me because tomorrow is tax free weekend here in Mass so everyone's bound to go out to buy as much as possible without having to pay tax). On Sunday, if all goes well and I survive the IKEA trip, I intended to drive to Gloucester, MA and spend a day at the beach, just lie there and read a book, listen to some music and relax by the seaside. It's supposed to only be an hour away so we shall see!

All in all, life's good and I shall try to get back to writing more often and posting to my Photo Blog as soon as I've got a proper desk to sit at here! :-)

Friday, August 04, 2006

An intersting twist

When I got up this morning and realized I might be late for the 8am conference call I had scheduled with a customer, I thought this day couldn't get worse.
Rushing on my way in I almost ran my company's CEO over, who smiled at me and wished me a good morning. Little did I know it would be quite the opposite.
To make a long story short - my company's being bought out by IBM. The email was waiting in everyone's inboxes at 7am and needless to say, for the rest of the day the only thing on people's minds was the takeover.
I remember two, maybe three years ago when a layoff wave hit the Woking office. People were being asked to the HR office one by one and we just knew they would come out without a job. At the time I felt pretty secure in my role as I was one of two people supporting the product in German and I knew before I'd go, my brand new colleague would get axed. Still, it was a horrid experience. The atmosphere was almost unbearable, with people speaking in hushed tones, a lot of gossiping and guessing going on and of course the news that spread like wildfire "So and so's just been called in!!!".
This time, we may or may not be so lucky. At 10am a joint presentation was held where our CEO and IBM's something or other explained what was going to happen, what the idea behind the acquisition is and so on and so forth. Everything they said sounded positive. Of course, they'd hardly start telling everyone "Yeah, your jobs are going to go in a few months".
Overall, it sounds like this could open up an incredible window of opportunity. Provided they don't fuck us about and just outright lied to us today, chances are this could be a good thing to happen. But let's face it. How many takeovers have you seen where people have not lost their jobs? I don't know of any.
To be honest, it's not so much the fear of losing a job that preoccupies me, but the fact that my visa depends on it. No job, no visa.
Stupid things like "Do I now invest in buying furniture until I know for sure? Do I keep the lamp I just bought, do I bother signing up for any courses?" suddenly appear bigger than life.
If I were to put all my faith in this and keep very positive and believe in good things, I'd take the chance. I'd go and buy furniture, I'd sign up for classes and I'd keep the lamp. I'd also go and buy tickets for concerts I know I will want to see later in the year and I'd make plans on how to spend the money I've got coming my way once I expense some of the moving costs.
However, if I were to be more cautious and negative (and frankly, simply reasonable), I'd hold out. I'd wait to see what the deal is and then move forward.
The only problem is - this whole acquisition is only going to be finalized towards the end of this year. Until then, everyone's lives have been pretty much suspended.
99% of the people at that meeting today looked worried and some very good questions came up which weren't answered to everyone's satisfaction. The idea of "joining" a company that employs almost 400.000 people in the world can be scary and exciting at the same time.
For me, well... I found myself being really surprised at the intensity of the loyalty I felt for my company. We're barely 900 people in the whole company - I guess I could say that I know at least 80% of people by name, probably 60% of people in person. I like our product, it's a good piece of software which hasn't got any real competitors in the market because noone can really do what our software does. I got sentimental at the thought of having an email address that ends with or whatever it'll be and losing our company's domain. Only two days ago did I receive my very first business cards - these will now be obsolete.
And all in all, I hurt for the simple fact that I'm now part of the "good" side of this company (having moved from the European offices, which I won't comment on) but I won't ever get to see what it was really like here because everything is about to change.
And then, of course, there is the visa and the question - will I have to move back to Europe? Will I know anytime soon and will I EVER find peace??? After fighting for this move to happen for the past 14 years, will I have to keep fighting? And if I do lose this job, do I have chances to find something else and do I even WANT those chances?
I suppose what makes this whole situation so unfortunate is the fact that there is more waiting involved. Have patience, the CEO and the other speakers kept telling us but I don't think they realized (or maybe cared) how much something like this can change people's lives. Today I have seen my colleague's faces creased with worry because they have been through this before with other companies and were eventually laid off, living with uncertainty for many, many months and worrying whether they can provide for their families or not in the near future. In that respect I am very lucky because the only person depending on me is me. I owe nobody anything and I can come and go as I please. And still, this seems to cause such a big problem for me, I can't even imagine what it would be like to have a family to worry about.
All in all not much work was done today. People huddled in small groups all over the place, chatting and exchanging opinions, some open minded, others not so much. And everyone knowing fully well that this is the end of our jobs as we know them, no matter what will come our way, whether we keep them or lose them, nothing will ever be the same. And I'm incredibly sad that I won't get to see what this life with this company could've been like.
I'm sure there will be new developments over the next few weeks and if I've got the heart and the nerve to update this blog with it, I shall do so.
In the meantime, keep me and my colleagues in your thoughts. Because whilst I don't doubt for a minute that I will easily find a new job wherever I decide to go or stay, I know there are plenty of others who won't be so lucky.
Stay positive. And to quote two of IBM's favorite words to use: "THINK" and "INNOVATE" ;-)