Thursday, June 25, 2009

Crazy Plant

I love the climate of the Bay Area and San Francisco in particular. It's easy and moderate but there's rich greenery all year round, often with blooms twelve months of the year.

Many of the plants here are familiar from the UK where I grew up. Like Nasturtia, for instance, which love it here. Roses, poppies, geraniums, they're all here too... and seemingly all year round.

Some plants which are common here are to me other-wordly, though, particularly succulents. Look at this crazy thing:

Crazy Plant

Monday, June 22, 2009

Castro Street

I took these two photos from the same spot. This one of Castro Street:

Castro Street
and this one of Wendy:
Wendy

Monday, June 15, 2009

House For Sale

Wendy and I have been looking at houses to buy out of the corners of our eyes for a year or so. Over the last few months we've started to gently increase the pace of our search, using Redfin. In the last few weeks we've been to a few open houses and started to pay significant attention to "the market" in our target area.

Yesterday we saw this place on the south side of Bernal Hill. We liked it a whole lot and it's the first place we've seen which suddenly put us into "this would be worth trying to find a loan for"-mode. So we're working through a bunch of financial things at the moment.

Putting it on Flickr made me realize how difficult it is to convey the layout of a place using still images, but it gave me a chance to try out Flickr annotations. Check it:

Pretty stove

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Daffodils

These things were glowing for about a week on our dining room table. What a wonderful sight.

Daffodils

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Moment of Escape

All of a sudden during Carnaval 2009, this tiny dog managed to break away from its leash. I captured the moment of escape right here:
The Moment of Escape
and then documented the dog's adventure until the moment of recapture:
DogDogDogEnd of the Line

Monday, June 08, 2009

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Switchy Makes It

It's over six years since March 2003 when I moved to the States. I still remember that when I first got here there were a number of tangled hurdles to get through, for instance:

  1. You can't get an apartment without a US bank account to write rent and deposit checks against
  2. You can't get a US bank account without a Social Security number
  3. You can't get a Social Security number without an address (see step 1)
Now of course it turns out that there are cracks through which you can slip and break the cyclic dependency. If you talk to the right people at the bank it turns out that under some conditions, with the right letter from your employer, and your passport, and so on, they'll open a bank account for you. So you do that, get the apartment, get the SSN (beware the crazies in the place where they issue them), and suddenly you exist.

Credit is pretty much a whole other thing, though. Here there are no cracks through which to slip, and they tend to make damn sure of that (recent economic events and revelations notwithstanding). I remember asking US Bank for a credit card after I'd banked with them for three months; they offered me one with a $1,000 credit limit, but only if I give them a $1,000 deposit. I think they had a different understanding of the word "credit" from my own.

That same summer I bought my car for cash. I had to! Who's going to lend money to someone with no credit history? It turns out that no credit history is literally worse than a bad credit history. You're basically an apparition. At the age of thirty you've materialized from nowhere amongst people who've been in the system, leaving traces, for a decade or more. Credit is pretty impossible as an immigrant... and don't even get me started on auto insurance.

So against this backdrop you can imagine my pleasure finding that a friend of mine, Switchy McSwitchenstein, who blogs over at http://switchy.net, had no such trouble whatsoever. You might think that Switchy, having no US bank account, no credit history (and not even, between you and me, actually being a real person) might suffer some of the same problems getting credit in the States. You'd be wrong. He's been receiving, completely unsolicited, pre-approved credit card applications in the mail for quite a while now.

Pre-Approved Credit for Switchy

When I got here, it took about a year before I got my first pre-approved credit card application from a financial institution I'd actually heard of. I remember feeling at the time that the credit-score apparition which was me must have finally solidified: I'd "made it" as far as the system was concerned.

Switchy was offered pre-approved credit, from Amex no less, within three months of launching his blog. I bow to him!

In other news, Switchy has started blogging again. Check out http://switchy.net.

Monday, June 01, 2009

24 Minutes

If ever you wondered about spending half an hour parked here, be advised...

24 Minutes