Sunday, February 27, 2005

A few quick hits

I don't have much time to write anything, so I've only got a couple of dealies to hold over the few that have been checking the site lately until I can hopefully put some better updates later. My flight leaves early tomorrow morning for England, and I'm dreading the early wake up.

  • First, it's cold in England, even colder than here (it's been unusually cold here lately). It snowed all week and from what I see of the weather report it's probably going to snow some more this week. It really hasn't accumulated much, but now I can say that this won't be the first winter in my life to never see snow.
  • Today was the start of the Fallas in Valencia. This really deserves its own post, but I'll have to write about it later. I went with my girlfriend today to see the first mascletá in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento and it was really cool. I'll explain it sometime in the near future, but basically a mascletá is a fireworks show at 2pm that they do daily until the end of the festival, March 19. Of course, it being in broad daylight, the point isn't about the visual spectacle like typical fireworks shows. The point is the noise. Imagine about 500 of those fireworks that just make a bright flash and a huge boom in about a 5-10 minute period, and that's a mascletá, more or less. It's really cool.
  • It's nice working in England, since at least I don't have to struggle with a foreign language. I'd make a joke about struggling with the English language, but the truth is that I haven't found it to be that difficult to talk with those who speak the Queen's English. I've definitely noticed a lot of little differences, but they're not anything that makes it too hard to communicate. One thing I've noticed is that there is a multi-purpose word there that isn't used too much in the US. The word is "cheers," and it's used as a hello, goodbye and you're welcome. I've seen it as a salutation in emails, but not too much else before now. It's one of those words that I would feel completely awkward saying myself because it just doesn't seem natural.
Well, that's it. I'll update more later. Sorry for the long gaps in writing.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Reading Railroad: $200

I just got back from a week in Reading, England, where I'll be working every week until the end of May. This explains the silence this week and the time leading up to it as I've been extremely busy. I'll try to put some quality content on here this weekend, but from this point on my posting will likely be even more sporadic than it has lately. I've really got my hands full with this new project, and obviously it takes priority.

That said, I do plan to keep the site going. So please don't despair. Or do. Whichever you prefer.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Selling ice to Eskimos

I've been pretty busy this evening evaluating Curricula Vitae1 2 for a position my company's trying to fill. It's actually pretty tough to go through a lot of Curricula at one time. Sometimes people write way too much in their CV's, sometimes not nearly enough.

The empathetic part of me wants to give everyone who applied a job (well, almost everyone), but at the same time I haven't seen one that really looked perfect for what we're looking for. It's like everyone has that one little fatal flaw.

Speaking of fatal flaws, that just reminded me of a story in early American literature. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a story called "The Birth-Mark" about a woman who was perfect in every way except for a birthmark on her face. Her scientist husband became so fixated on her one blemish that he attempted to perform an operation to remove it. Then with perfection achieved, she dies.
"Ah, wait for this one success,'' rejoined he, "then worship me if you will. I shall deem myself hardly unworthy of it. But come, I have sought you for the luxury of your voice. Sing to me, dearest."
Ah, Hawthorne, you sly dog.

But I digress. In the process of weeding through all of these Curricula I have seen some things that have caught my attention. One in particular was the person whose most recent experience was working in sales of "free software." For some reason that just makes me giggle. Or as a great sage of our time said (quote courtesy of Michael Beaver):
A fool and his money are soon parted.......I'd pay someone a lot of money to explain that one to me!
- Homer Simpson
Selling ice to Eskimos.

1 Curriculum Vitae is what a resumé is called here, and generally everywhere but the United States. One must wonder why we use the French word "resumé" if even the French call it "Curriculum Vitae."
2 Not sure, but I believe that the plural is Curriculums Vitae. [edit: I've been informed by the more Latin-inclined Dan Turkenkopf that the plural of Curriculum is actually Curricula, I've edited the post thusly]

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

I solemnly swear not to be a cow

Jeff Jarvis offers some words of wisdom to those hypercompuglobalmegamarts that think it would be a smashing advertising ploy to put together a fake blog, purportedly written by an imaginery character (not even necessarily a Homo sapien):
This is a human medium, I said. It's about people talking to people. We don't want to talk to a cow; that's as off-key as coming to a wedding dressed up like a pig. We don't want you to lie to us and think we're stupid and that we want to talk to a character a marketer made up.
I agree. Really, blogs are kind of cool, but what makes them cool is the fact that they are a sort of grassroots medium for real people to conduct real conversations, often about real events or whatever else comes to mind.

For that reason, in the interest of fairness and full disclosure I shall take this opportunity to pledge to all of my readers that I am not presently a cow, nor have I been or ever shall be a member of any other species but that of Homo sapien.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Maybe I should rename my blog to

I'm probably boring people to tears with talk about this subject, but since I've started I might as well keep going. I found out today that the Spanish Consulate in Washington says that I can apply for my visa without having to leave my passport with them, therefore enabling me to return to the UK for the project I'll be working on while they process the application.

This is kind of bittersweet news. It's mainly good news, because it means that I can finally get this over with (and stop posting about it). The bad news part of it is that it means that my trip back to the US won't be more than a couple of days at a time, once to drop off the application and once to pick up the visa. This means that I won't be able to go to Florida to visit my parents, and that any attempt to finally tie up the loose ends I left in my moving process will be much more difficult. I doubt that I'll be able to take care of everything that needs to be done.

Oh well, the truth is that I'm so tired of dealing with this visa process that I'll just be happy to get it out of the way. There will be other opportunities to go to the US, I'm sure. They'll just be further in the future.

It's raining men!

Well, not actually. It's actually raining water. Lots of it. And there's a bunch of thunder and lightning to go with it. It's pretty cool because it makes it feel like summer's coming. Ask me how I feel about summer in a few months though and I'll probably tell you that I can't wait for winter to come again.

On a side note I've heard the song "It's Raining Men" a number of times since moving here. It cracks me up every time I hear it. I guess the mental image is too much for me.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Obligatory Spanish visa process update

Found out yesterday that the employment agency, INEM, now says they found four more people they want my company to interview before they will concede that they can't find anyone to fill the position that I'm supposed to fill. My company thinks they should be able to finish the interviews this week and get the rest straightened out next week. More and more, time is running out before I need to go to England.

I'm kind of numb to the delays now. I'm sure it will all be resolved eventually and the best potential time to return to the US to finish the process has already passed anyway, so no reason to get worked up about little delays.

That history exam I missed because I slept too late lacked legitimacy too

So an Iraqi Sunni clerics' group, the Muslim Clerics' Association, says that the Iraqi elections "lack legitimacy because a large segment of different sects, parties and currents ... boycotted."

I'm not sure how I feel about boycotting elections and what rights the groups who boycott have to pass judgment on the elections afterwards. On the one hand, I can kind of understand the reformers boycotting the last elections in Iran, because they knew that regardless of what they did the elections were rigged from the beginning. A great number of their candidates had been disqualified by the conservative mullahs.

On the other hand, it seems like a different scenario in Iraq. This seems like a group who enjoyed extraordinary power before, despite being the minority in the country, trying to do everything they can to prevent others from getting a bigger voice. Of course, I'm not there, never have been. So this is just my perspective from far away.

In my view it seems to me more like these groups had their chance to join in the democratic process but failed to do so. They chose not only to skip the elections themselves, but to inhibit the ability of others to participate. Fortunately there is still a good chance for them as it sounds like they will be brought in the process of drafting the constitution despite having fought against the transition to democracy thus far.

Gmail invite offer

I have a few Gmail invites that I haven't used if anybody is interested. Just let me know.

I'll start the bidding at.... one millllllllllllion dollars! Or just let me know and I'll give it to you for free. While supplies last.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Almost there

The latest word is that all that is left in my visa process are two formalities. Out of the 700 candidates who came up in the search at the Spanish employment agency, INEM, 0nly 3 applied for the position and out of those only 2 showed up for interviews. Neither of the two were qualified for the position, so now my company just needs to return to INEM to get a paper from them certifying that they were unable to find a suitable candidate for the company. After that they will take the paper to the Delegación del Gobierno to complete the process already started there. At that point all that is left is for me to return to the US to apply for the visa at the Spanish Consulate in Washington.

That last step has become more complicated now because on the 14th I'll start a new project in England (I believe it will be in Reading, although I'm not sure). Technically, the process is that I'm supposed to leave my passport with my application at the consulate, and then it can take between 2-4 weeks (or more) for the consulate to have the visa ready. Obviously, I don't have time for that, so I must convince the consulate to let me keep my passport while they work on the visa. I believe that they'll do this, because at one point I was going to apply for a different type of visa at the same consulate (they later convinced me it was a waste of time) and they were willing to let me hold onto my passport for an even less convincing need. My only worry is that if I get stuck in the US for an extended period of time it could lose this project for my company. Let's hope all goes well.

The other drawback to this having taken so long is that now the prospects are not good for me being able to spend some time in the US to see my family and friends. I had planned to go to Florida to see my parents while I was there, but it's quite possible that I'll only be there for two very quick weekend trips, which obviously would not leave time to make a side trip to Florida. I also have some things in the US that I need to bring back with me, but if I'm going there on the ends of business trips, it will be much more difficult. Regardless, I'll just be happy when this process is over. I'm sick of the hassles, and I've been holding off some things that I've planned to do until I can get certainty that I'll have my visa, long term contract, etc.

I'll keep you updated on when I go back to the US, because I know a lot of my friends and family read this blog. Sometimes communicating with people back in the US is a little easier this way, with the difference in time zone and such.

Currently listening to...

Camera Obscura - Underachievers Please Try Harder. This is the first time I've listened to this album and I'm quite impressed. A very pleasing, calming album. Check out the review at Pitchfork.