Tuesday, January 10, 2017

It's dark out there

We are recovering from the trauma of a 28 hour power outage. One disadvantage of living out in the boonies between the trees is occasionally in high wind and rain situations (we currently are undergoing an "atmospheric river" - they just love naming weather out here) these trees dive onto power lines causing all kinds of havoc. The lights went out around 8 pm the night before last. I was expecting a few minutes of darkness, but seeing as it was close to bed time anyway (we're getting old), we just played with our various phones and tablets and went to sleep as usual thinking that all would be well in the morning. I woke as usual around 5am and the house was still in the dark. My normally dark early walk with Roxy was even eerier than usual with the pitch black broken only by my flashlight reflecting off the eyes of the local deer. I fed the dog, packed my bag and went out to the car, only to realize that the garage door was not going to open without electricity. Sigh. So it meant climbing on a ladder while holding the flashlight in my teeth to remove the pin holding the opener motor to the door (mine does not have the useful pull string that disengages the motor). Off to work I went.

Now all the while bwo was nursing a terrible cold. She was miserable and cold with no heating, so she decided to light a fire. Only the flue was closed, so she decided to put it out, only it was one of those compressed sawdust logs that don't go out easily, so the house filled with noxious smoke and she was even more miserable.
She handled the issue like a pro, eventually smothering the log with wet cloths, and all is well with only a slight smell of burning throughout the house. The lights finally came on at 10:30 last night after we were asleep for a few hours. It turns out a tree fell on the power lines a few houses down the block. It took PG&E many hours to deal with the many calls from all over the area.

So we were happy this morning when all was back to normal, and then due to the continuing rain and wind a tree in our yard fell over.
Luckily it missed the septic tank. On the positive side, I now get to buy a chainsaw.

Monday, December 26, 2016

A California Weekend

We picked up Roxy on Friday at San Francisco airport. She had been in her cage for 18 hours by the time we got her and all she wanted was to be out. We took her for a walk along the Bay and then took her on a three hour drive home to El Dorado Hills. It is wonderful to have her with us. She quickly adapted to her new life and has found a whole lot of new smells to enjoy.

A few weeks back we bought a pass to the local California State Parks which gives us access to some of the parks in the area. About five minutes drive from the house is Brown's Ravine, which is a sort of marina and recreational area, on the edge of Folsom Lake. There are many trails along the lake and into the hills around and Roxy and I went walking early yesterday (Christmas Day) and again this morning. She was overjoyed to be off the lead and ran around sniffing out appropriate sticks to carry. Yesterday, we went for a long walk along the lake edge. It was freezing out and there are a lot of frost and ice on the ground, undeterred Roxy jumped into the lake for a quick swim. It was very quiet and in all the time we were out walking we never saw another soul. The car stood alone in the huge parking lot. When we eventually got back to the car, I felt in my pockets for my car keys, but to my horror they were gone. I frantically emptied my pockets and dumped everything on the ground but nothing. So I tried to call bwo. Of course, her phone was not with her (or something to that effect), and after a dozen or so attempts I figured it was pointless and Roxy and I would just wait in the cold until we turned to ice. I decided that no matter how meaningless I would try retrace my steps and see if I could find my keys, reasoning that they must have fallen out when I took my gloves out my pockets. And there they were, glinting in the sun, not too far from where we started our walk. Our own little Hanukkah miracle.

We had 20 or so people over for a late lunch yesterday. A lot of the folks that relocated from the UK along with us did not really have anywhere to go so we volunteered our house for a Christmas pot luck. It was very nice. Huge amounts of food and everyone seemed to have a good time. Bwo outdid herself as usual and the place looks really nice considering we moved in two weeks back. The consignment store in Folsom can probably close down now that she bought out all their stock. I hate to think what will happen when our stuff eventually arrives from Israel. 

This afternoon bwo, Roxy and I went for a walk in the neighborhood. I have done some exploring and met some of the friendly people around. Initially I was quite disappointed as the only access to the lake from where we live seemed not only quite far but leads straight into a swamp. One big difference from the UK is that almost all land around is private property with no public access. I met a local, Roy, while walking Roxy and he pointed out that you can get to the lake through one of the houses. These lovely people have a sign encouraging people to use their path alongside their house to the lake. So bwo and I took Roxy down to the lake. All I can say is wow! It is really spectacular. The water and and hills, very pretty. While strolling around the water's edge we met another Border Collie owner who filled us in on all the lake accesses in the area. The land around the lake is all state owned with public access and it appears not too many people use it - especially not in winter. So we explored a bit more and found where the trails meet the road not too far from the house. Unfortunately there are steep hills in each direction, so if nothing else, I will get stronger just walking the dog.


It's been a really good weekend and we had a good day today cleaning up the house after the pot luck and exploring the area. Back to work tomorrow but it's a short week and it should be quiet with many a squint out on holiday.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Flip and flop

So we moved into our new house over the weekend. It's nice and all that, but more important news is the shocker that Tarek and Christina are calling it quits on their marriage.

Since we arrived in the US I have been having a hard time filling the evenings and weekends. See, we were staying in temporary housing and then the hotel. Being on the west coast means days start early, but they also finish early with no evening calls at all. So I would get home around 5pm (after starting around 5) have dinner with bwo and then look for something to do. I finished five books so was tired of reading, and found walking without Roxy very difficult. As soon as we put in the first offer on a house, I suddenly needed to do research and so HGTV became my occasional library along with google, YouTube and Home Depot. One particularly slow weekend I happened on "Flip or Flop" on HGTV and slowly started to become a fan. I liked how expensive the shitty houses they bought to flip were compared to what I thought was expensive here in Northern California. Christina's voice bothered me in the beginning but I really liked her taste and style. So I have spent many hours watching them turn really horrible houses into places I would be happy to live in.

I have to admit that I was never too sure of their coupledom. Tarek seemed a little too conservative and Christina well, she sure is cute, and all that money they were earning, definitely going to cause issues. But, I was still very surprised and saddened to read they are splitting up. Turns put they are not the only HGTV scandal, I just found out Jo and Chip Gaines belong to a church that is a against same sex marriage. Is nothing sacred in this country?

I have got to get a life! 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Hopefully it's happening.

It's hard to believe it's been nearly 45 days since I last posted. Looks like we will finally get the house we put in an offer for in El Dorado Hills. Our loan was finally approved on Friday and we are due to close on Wednesday. It has been a very nerve wracking time and I have been very stressed waiting for word from the bank. They really gave me a hard time, which I am led to believe is fairly typical for home loans these days. We are both excited to be finally on our way out of the Residence Inn and into our own place. This will only be the second time in our lives that we own property. I was always happy renting, but here in California it makes sense to buy what with interest rates where they are. 

We have visited our potential property each weekend and have explored the area a little. There seems to be a nice walk down to the lake, although the area is much hillier than Richmond. I think Roxy will be happy. We will send for her as soon as we are settled. Both Roxy and Jenny will be very sad to part as they are very good friends, but we need our girly. I certainly have been putting on weight like crazy without the walks. 

The house has a septic tank. This will be the first time that anyone in our families have not been connected to the sewers probably since my grandparents lived in Lithuania. So it's all rather exciting. More on the house in the coming days. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Offers

We put in an offer on a house. The sellers agreed with our price and then the joy began. What a process. I have spent hours filling out forms and reading various contracts, and we still are far from done. Next is an appraisal and then inspections and so on. The best one can hope, if all goes well (which is doubtful), is to close in 45 days. I suppose it makes sense, as this is the most money I have ever spent in one place (although probably less than the accumulated cost of bwo's potions and lotions over the years).

It's a nice place and hopefully all goes well as I discovered that there is nothing I hate more than looking at houses. I could live pretty much anywhere there is enough room for a workshop and place to walk the Rox. But it is so much more complex than that. I suppose it's not bad that we found a place within two weeks of arriving in the area.

At least all the document preparation is keeping me from being bored on those long California nights with no work phone calls. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

A Sukkah in Folsom

It's been a few weeks since the last post and as expected much has changed. We are now based in Folsom, CA. In a temporary place for the meanwhile, but we have phones, cars and medical coverage. We don't have a house yet, and that's the next big thing. Work has been busy what with the new job in a new office, but the squints here are nice and have made me feel at home. Roxy is still in the UK with Jenny and Karol, she will come over once we have a permanent place.

It has been quite an upheaval this move. I am still questioning myself, but I know from experience that this is just what happens when you relocate your life. I miss the UK, I miss the sounds and smell of Richmond after the rain, the walks through the copse, down the Avenues to the river. I miss Radio 4 and the serious yet tongue-in-cheek, subtle discourse you can find in UK media. It's election time and it is just so loud and barbaric. And yet it's impossible to look away, a train-wreck.

Work in a 7000 person plant also takes some getting used to. So many people with busy bathrooms and busy cafeterias. Here in Folsom the roads are wide and the skyline very broad. There are very cool places around with lakes, rivers and forests. I know we will grow to love it here, it will just take time.

The thing is that it still feels so foreign and far away from all that we know. The kids and family in Israel, Roxy and the friends in England, are on the other side of the world. It's like we are in a strange, strange land, which makes no sense as we are Americans, with California drivers licenses and credit and social security numbers and bank accounts. We have no routine and it's familiar but slightly uncomfortable and different. 

Yesterday I was walking along the second floor passageway between Bld.4, where I sit, and the Bld.5 cafeteria around noon. I was gazing out the windows down at the parking lot, checking out my nice new black Rav4 parked nearby, when I had stop in amazement as a UHual adorned with a portable Sukkah pulled up outside the building entrance.
Out jumped what I assume were some Habadnikim and started to lay some branches over the top. Two maintenance guys came over to see what so I was so absorbing and I ended up explaining about the 40 years in the desert and the mitzvah of eating in a Sukkah under the sky. It was all so incongruous. So out of place in the noon day sun of clean, sterile Folsom. It made me smile. It will all be OK.   

Monday, September 26, 2016

An Empty House

They packed us up today. All bwo' hard work took 5 hours for two packers to wrap, box and stack in the truck.
The truck then drove off to pack all this in a container which was waiting somewhere on the 316, because it was too big for Petersham Drive and caused a major road block. Our container (20ft) will be leaving on 29 September on NYK Daedelus (at least it's not the Icarus) arriving Oakland 1 November.

I did find out one useful factoid. I always wondered why there are always many trucks and 18 wheelers stopped at every lay by approaching a motorway. It seems that the law requires every truck to stop for 40 minutes every 4 hours to let their brakes cool. At least that's what James the packer told me. And he should know.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Working From Home

I know it's not much of a picture but it's a view I already miss. It's the view from our ex-office breakroom. The road to the right leads to the station and sitting at the tables eating salad you get to watch the Strode College students coming and going along with the rest of life in Egham. Our last day at Centrum House was Friday. For those of us moving to the US, we have a few weeks of home working until Visas are stamped and shipping gets done. But today was my first day of working at home with no office. Now I have spent days working from home many a time. My home office is comfortable, I can concentrate and get things done. Somehow today was different though. Knowing the team is done and that there are a few of us spread all over the South West working from home feels very weird. No walk to Waitrose to pick up something for lunch (or Big Fry on Fridays for the sluppest veggie burger and large chips - the chips were killer though).

Well there are only three weeks to go before I start work in Folsom. Lots to do, many miles to cross, we have done a lot and deadlines are approaching. Fun, fun, fun.

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Great Grape Harvest of 2016


Bwo thought the grape yield would be low this year. Well, she was quite wrong. Jenny and Karol helped pick the bunches and prune the grape vine right back as it was starting to take over the house. Two full buckets and numerous bowls later, we had many more grapes than we knew what to do with. The Jennys took the buckets and bwo went around and dropped bowls off at the neighbours. Quite a harvest, and you thought you could not grow grapes in the UK. They are actually quite sweet this year.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Musings on the pitter patter of rain on leaves

I think I will miss the rain the most. It's been dry here for a few weeks, but today the rain started while Rox and I were out walking through the little forest near the house. The sound of the rain on the leaves and that fresh smell makes me feel at peace. It's been a busy few weeks, what with packing up and starting the new job. I recon it's been close to 20 years since I started a completely different job. In the past I stayed in the same area, engineering and engineering management. Now it's operations, finance and planning. So far it's been interesting, but challenging as there is a lot to learn. Still experience teaches one that the feelings of inadequacy, and self doubt are natural at the beginning and things will improve. Still we have a long way to travel, a lot to learn and much to do.

That said, I will miss this country. I like the quirkiness and uniqueness of things here. The UK has been around long enough that it does not have to pretend it has it's shit together completely. I like how the country seems to revel in the unusual and different, and yet has a deep appreciation for history. I like the green and the river. And that dogs can walk without leads. In all the time we have been here, only once did a dog pick on Roxy and the owner was so embarrassed that even now a year later she blushes when she sees me. I like the beer, and the New Inn and the number 65 bus. I like the supermarkets that do not have the ridiculous range of choices you find in the US but have what I need set out in a logical and predictable fashion. English understatement is nice too. I will miss this place, the lane at the back of the house and the creaky floors. I hope we will be back someday.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Off to FM, CA


I realized while cleaning and organizing here in Richmond Upon that I have been ignoring the blog. It has been a while, actually since the start of Megiddo, since I have written anything. Much has changed and more will change. In a nutshell, our last day in the UK will be September 30th. The current plan says we will stop off in Israel to pack up some more before taking the blackostrino international life tour off to Folsom California. That's Folsom to the right and up a bit from Sacramento.

Folsom is the world center of my part of the squint empire. The job I am going out to do is different from anything I have ever done before ans so is quite exciting. Of course, bwo and I checked the place out when we visit a few weeks back, and she does not hate it. It's exciting and time for a change.

I will miss this country, this house and this area very much. We would stay if we could. But, the job calls and a change is as good as a holiday. no?

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Chaos Starts

The chaos starts for real today. The last three days have been completely crazy two days on the Tel setting out a grid in Area K and then hours upon hours of work putting up shades in other areas. It been hot and windy. I struggled through both days and helped where I could. Then yesterday I spent the whole day battling to update and install the necessary apps on the four area laptops. Of course, each one had a different problem and I still needed to pack up the cables and other goods for the office. Lots of stress but it's now Saturday morning and all that is left it to pack my and bwo's personal stuff and then get it all into the car somehow. The team arrives this evening so we will go off to the Kibbutz (Mishmar HaEmek) as soon as we are ready. Let the games begin.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Advance Guard Day One

Today was my first day up on the Tel. The real season starts on Saturday so it started out with Mario (Area Supervisor) and I doing some preseason surveying. That took a few hours but we got there early enough that it was not too hot and we made good progress. Around 10am we were done with our tasks and went to help the other areas with their shades. It was hot, windy and hard work. I drank 4.5 liters of water and still ended up with a blinding headache. We worked till 5pm although I did take quite a few breaks as the heat really got to me. We left the Tel and arrived home after 6 where we did some computer prep and more importantly ate some dinner. It was hard and I am already broken and aching all over, it's off to bed now and then up at 5am for another day of prep.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Room With A View

One unexpected joy in the apartment we now live in here in Israel is the window in the shower that looks down on HaHayil Street. I just love the fact that I can be showering, enjoying the solar heated water and still spectate on the happenings as life goes on down below. It's one of those unexpected joys of life. Here is a picture.


Monday, June 13, 2016

It's Nearly Time

The timing could be better, but this has been in the works for two years. In a few hours bwo and I will be on our way to Israel for 5 weeks. 5 weeks of archaeology, heat and aching muscles, and I can't wait. Much planning has gone into this trip. Three full suitcases (mostly bwo's stuff, of course) each at capacity, stuffed to the brim. There are some regrets, we will be leaving Roxy girl with Jenny and then Kathleen and, of course, it's not the best time in squint land. I have saved my vacation for more than a year to make this happen and so it shall.

So future updates will be from kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Light in the World

So now we know that we will need to leave the UK sometime around September. So every time I walk out of the door into the fields and paths around the house and along the Thames, I feel I need to appreciate every moment left here. This place has been wonderful for bwo, Roxy and I. We will miss our little house and the lovely area. I have been taking hundreds of pictures with my phone, still most are rubbish, but below are a few that I really like. 












Friday, May 13, 2016

Tough Week

It's been a very tough week. I notified my UK squints that we were closing the UK offices and that our work together as a team would soon be over. It's particularly hard as they are excellent engineers and while I understand the corporate strategy, I still struggle with the human (and material) cost. I have no idea what this means for bwo and I. I suppose it will be back to Israel sometime in the nearish future, but when is not clear at this point. I would like to spend more time in the UK as I really like it here. The weather agrees with me and it's heaven for the dog (walking the dog is where I seem to spend a lot of my free time). But I will first get my team organized before I can think about my future.

All in all I cannot complain. It has been a marvelous three years here and I have learned and grown. I don't know of many other companies that would have supported me as well during this relocation. I can really only blame myself at this point for lack of future clarity. Over the years I have moved away from the hands on technical work that is indispensable and become just another management drone. While I have been writing a lot of code for the archaeological season and have worked out how to get some of the data accessible from the cloud, programming has become a hobby. Still, it has been fun and challenging. So finding the kind of job I dream about could be hard.

One of my first thoughts when all this became clear was that everything would fall slap bang in the middle of the Megiddo dig, as it indeed seems it will. The UK has some strict laws governing site closures and we will undergo an extended period of consultation only after which the team will be let go. Seeing as I belong to a different geo, my story is way more complex, and is completely unclear at the moment.

All in all, it sucks and I have had trouble staying focused this week. I'm not the only one. At least the typical post apocalyptic black humor is always better in an English accent. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

May Bank Holiday

It's a "Bank Holiday" weekend, an English public holiday, so we have Monday off. Bwo is still in San Diego bonding with her family, so I have been out walking. Yesterday (Sat) I did the "Epsom Downs and Walton on the Hill" walk on ifootpath. It was wonderful. We watched race horses galloping by in training and came across foxes, rabbits, squirrels, deer and all sorts of birds on the footpaths. It was pretty cold early in the morning with some frost, but Roxy and all the wildlife seem to love it. The only downside was that dogs must be kept on a lead before 12 noon due to the horses. The walk took us past Walton on the Hill and this is where I want to live, I think. It's lovely little town surrounded by open fields and rolling hills.

This morning Roxy and I walked down to Richmond Park and Isabella Plantation. The flowers are not in full bloom yet, perhaps another week, but it is still very colorful. We were the only two there at 7am this morning, so it was absolutely quiet with only the sound of the birds. We sat for about a half hour by the little lake just breathing. Spring is really something in this country.



Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wonders

It's been a tough few weeks here in squintland. Layoffs are happening all over the world and good people are now out looking for jobs. Of course, those of us on this side of the ocean are still waiting to hear our fate, although I am not optimistic. So it's been a stressful time for all. Bwo is off with her San Diego family in sunny California, and it snowed here yesterday. I know I should be down and depressed, but honestly, I am fine. Change is good and maybe it's about that time for us.

On top of it all I started watching Brian Cox's Wonders of the Universe on Netflix while lazing around last weekend. I was a little disappointed with all the CG and "pyrotechnics" at first but by the second episode I was hooked. There is nothing like huge existential questions like "Why are we here and where do we come from" to put this short stay on earth into proportion. The immense size, diversity and age of our universe is just so mind boggling that the every day issues like employment seem to pale in comparison. I have since watched his Wonders of Life and started on the Wonders of the Solar System last night. These have really helped keep me grounded. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

10 Israeli Whys


i. Why is it that drivers here feel they need to "take an option" on the next lane while driving. What is wrong with the lane you are in that you need to have 10% of your car in the adjacent lane? Pick a lane and go with it.
ii. Why do drivers here feel that they need to swing half their car into the adjacent lane when making a U-turn at a traffic light? There is enough room usually to make the turn without encroaching into my lane and nearly wiping me out.
iii. Why is it that our Israeli ISP is not able to get the whole static IP address thing together? They are as useless as BT in the UK.
iv. Why is it that lawyers never call you back unless it's about your payment?
v. Why is it that the squints here in Haifa seem unable to handle the simple task of flushing the toilet, not to mention using the brush to clean up after?
vi. Why is it that the bathroom next to our bedroom, downstairs in our apartment, has only a cold water faucet? Would it have cost that much extra to put in hot water?
vii. Why does the Coke machine at squint central Yakum only have Coke and Coke Zero? Diet Coke is the second best selling soft drink in the world but it's missing in Yakum.
viii. Why has BA changed from an A320 to a 777 on my usual routes to and from Heathrow? I'm not complaining, but it's a whole lot more annoying people in one place.
ix. Why does it seem that each time I come back to Israel I seem more disconnected and it's harder to find sense in what I do?
x. Why are borekas just so delicious?

Why?