My name

Three out of four of my grandparents were from Japan (the fourth was born in California, but she's also of Japanese heritage).  When I was born, my parents, apparently in a fit of cruelty, named me Tracey, a name of Celtic origin, which means "warrior like."  Why was that cruel?  One could say my mom rued the day she named me, because I've always been an argumentative pain in the ass, but no, it's weirder than that.

In Japanese, there is neither a "TR" sound nor a "SEE" sound.  Only one out of three of my grandparents could pronounce my name (my maternal grandfather had passed years before I was born)!  The closest approximation of my name my maternal grandmother (and several other immigrant relatives) could do was based on the Japanese syllables for:  tsu - re - i - shi, which came out sounding something like "Tsreish" or "Tsreishee" (hence, Rei, one of many nicknames I've used through the years).

Not that I don't like my name, but you'd think my parents would have named me something my relatives could pronounce, like Tara or Sara.


Relaxing in Bath

Last week, my boss yelled at me for not going out more and having fun while I'm in the UK.  Then he assigned a bunch of menial, time-consuming tasks that guaranteed I'd be working long hours and would therefore be too tired to go out and have fun for at least a couple weeks.

When the weekend rolled around, I worked half a day Saturday to catch up on routine menial tasks, then headed to the mall for a coffee grinder, french press and a couple usb broadband modems.  I spent the night trying to get one of the modems to work with my Mac -- the sales guy said the new dongles don't require Mac users to download drivers... then sold me one of the old modems that require it.  AND the files on Three's UK website were either not working or obsolete.  The tech support person told me to download the files on the Ireland website, then call back to obtain a code I'd need for installation.  Programmers like making life difficult for Mac users.

I made it a point to try and relax on Sunday.  I slept in until 8:00, ground the coffee beans I'd brought from home, made coffee, and actually sat down to drink it and eat a bowl of cereal.  I headed to Bath, wandered the streets a bit (I did the tour of the Roman baths the last time I was there), then signed on for the 2 hour spa package at Thermae Spa.

I changed, slipped into the pool, let the current carry me around, and thought about the tasks I need to do this week and the order in which I'd do them.  I realized I was thinking about work and tried to clear my mind and let it wander.  It meandered to my bank account and credit card transactions and how I need to check those to make sure everything is okay, because I have the wrong version of Quicken installed on my notebook and can't download that information.  Damn, that's not a good line of thought, either!

Okay, maybe it's because I have to work too hard to stay afloat in the water.  I headed upstairs and walked into the Lavender steam room.  Lavender's supposed to be calming.  I thought about how my job evolved into mostly unchallenging menial tasks and started to reevaluate my future.  While I do need to think about my path, it's also not something I should think of when I'm trying to relax.  Damn again.  I tried sitting, lying, deep breathing, but my brain wouldn't stop, and then I noticed others were looking at me strangely and scooting away from me.  I headed to the changing rooms, showered, dressed and was out of there with a half hour yet to go on my package.

On the streets again, this time in search of food, which allowed me to divert my attention for a time.  I had dinner at a little vegetarian restaurant, then headed back to the train station, stopping in a bookstore on the way to buy a book on English architectural styles to read while waiting for my train.  Even though I couldn't relax much, at least I was tense in a beautiful town.

Oh, I did treat the interns to dinner at the Bradley Stoke pub last Thursday.  They had bungee jumping for 50 pounds a pop.  I wasn't about to spend that much money to jump, but it was fun to watch.


No longer homeless

We did the quickest move into a house ever, in spite of a lot of weird barriers to entry. Our UK subsidiary has only existed since last November and has no credit history, so we spent Wednesday complaining over having to pay the whole six month's rent up-front, which we ended up agreeing to anyway. The landlord's agent says we move in when the payment clears his account and he has at least an electronic version of a signed contract in hand. So we wire payment Thursday and email the signed contract. On Friday he says he can't get the person who does the walkthrough until the following Monday. I'm lousy at negotiating, so I hand the phone to our COO who tells him to call the walkthrough person and ask if she'll meet us on Saturday. They go back and forth, the agent offers to return our money, the COO tells him he should, and then... the agent calls the woman and she agrees to meet us.

Saturday afternoon rolls around, and the COO and his lady friend spent the day loading our luggage into the car, taking me shopping for supplies... and she loaned us sheets and towels (I'm trying to think of a nice gift for her). We meet the woman at the house, and she's in a foul mood. She rushes us, she's rude. Obviously, we ruined her Saturday.

And... the house hadn't been cleaned! The refrigerator had brown sticky stuff on top of it, and mildew inside, and there was mildew in the clothes washer, the grass needed cutting, a moulding strip was loose, mildew and soap scum in the bathrooms... that's me in the photo writing down everything that hadn't been fixed or cleaned. I already look exhausted!

The interns were in London yesterday, which is good, because they would have been in the way once the COO & his friend left. I scrubbed the kitchen ceiling to floor, cleaned out the clothes washer (the COO cleaned the refrigerator for me), washed every dish, utensil, and cooking tool, scrubbed the bathrooms, and finally made dinner sometime between midnight and 1am. It's still a nice place, though. I've never lived anywhere with a conservatory.

I still need internet access. The COO suggested a USB mobile broadband device made by Three. I'll check for them at retail stores nearby. Apparently, it works anywhere in Europe. Not that it matters. It's Sunday and I'm in the office working on payables and payroll. I'm the only one in the building. Big difference from back home. It's not unusual for someone to be in the office at night or on weekends there, but here it's like a vacuum on weekends and after 4:30 or 5:00 during the week. Maybe being here for two months will be a good influence on me, because I work way too many hours.

Okay, I've rambled... sorry!


Still in a hotel

... but at least it's closer to the office, and the rooms are in slightly better condition! It still takes two buses to get to and from work, though. We should be in more stable accommodations by next week.

The downside? The wireless network here sucks! When I walked into the lobby, a bunch of people were huddled over their laptops. The signal out there is the strongest. It took over an hour to send a file to my boss from my room last night, because my connection kept dropping. My room is just off the lobby, though, so I now have the garbage bin propping the door open, and I've scooted myself as close as I can to the door (I'd already changed into my pj's when I thought about going into the lobby, and I thought it might be in ad form to pad out there in flops and nightshirt). Not pretty, but it works. Better an inconvenient connection than the strong connection that didn't work correctly at the Hyatt.


I'm in Bristol

The redeye from Miami to London was thankfully not full, so I wasn't boxed into my seat, and my arrival in London Tuesday morning was uneventful -- wait for interns to arrive, wait for CEO to pick us up and take us to Bristol, check out office, check into hotel, eat dinner, zonk out.

My week was dedicated to finding housing. I thought the US had a lot of extraneous fees! For each application, we pay a credit check fee of at least 205 pounds, which we can't apply to other applications or dispute if it doesn't come out in our favor! Then there's a Council Tax, which tacks on another several hundred pounds to our monthly fees. Plus, the office is in Aztec West business park in North Bristol, too far from City Center, where housing suitable for our situation is abundant (commute would suck), so pickings are slim. In the meantime, 'home' is the Premier Inn Filton. No frills, but it's clean and the staff have been friendly.

So far, I like the office at Aztec West. The property management staff are friendly and helpful whenever I bombard them with questions. I share an office with the two interns, which is a nice change from Burlingame, where I sit in a huge suite by myself (our lease there is up in December and we'll downsize then). The COO took that photo of me today. If I'd known he was doing it, I would have made an effort to not look so goofy, but what the heck. The original he sent was a 1.3M file and when I opened the email, all I saw were wrinkles and age spots... aaahhhh!

No big plans for fun yet, although my friend is coming out from London in the morning. She's looking at one house with me and then we're heading to a pub. Well, I guess the pub part is fun!



Well, I survived 3.5 days in Miami with my family and my niece's wedding! I arrived disgustingly early Friday morning so I wouldn't miss the rehearsal dinner that night. When I walked into the Hyatt Regency Coral Gables somewhere around 6:30am, plunked down 4 huge bags filled with 2 months of junk, and started sifting through them and muttering to myself so I could drop off my bags and find somewhere to work until check-in time, the clerk very graciously allowed me to check in early, probably so he could get the muttering street urchin out of his lobby!

I walked into my room, a suite that does double duty as a conference conversion and was hit with a slight mildewy smell, probably due to the fact the bathroom fan was broken and I was in a hot, humid state. But I was exhausted and didn't care, so I climbed into the Murphy bed and zonked out for an hour or two. I worked a few hours that day and took the afternoon off to do the family thing, and then went to the rehearsal dinner that night.

Saturday I just relaxed and went for a little run, lifted some weights, got my nails done... and discovered my internet connection didn't work correctly -- I could send and receive plain text, but not hypertext. I spent over an hour on the phone with the hotel's computer support company, who concluded that everything was right on their side and the issue had to be my Macintosh. So I thought okay fine, I have to transmit paystubs anyway, I'll just use my Windows machine... except of course, it had the same problem! When I tried to get the support people back on the phone, they were gone for the day. Evil jerks.

My job on the day of the wedding was to keep my sister from stressing too much, because when she did, it stressed my niece. So I tried to keep things light and keep my sister distracted and help out when I could.

After hair and makeup, I looked at my niece and for the first time realized just how much like my sister she looked! My sister also had her hair done, pulled back into a loose bun that made her look like an asian Eva Peron. That's my sister and niece in the photo. My niece normally looks more like her biodad in terms of individual features. Go figure.

The ceremony was refreshingly short and the reception generous with the booze. It was fun! I met my niece's oboe teacher, snapped candid photos, did a little drunken dancing and of course, spent quality time with family, including my other niece I only see maybe once every few years (she lives in Puerto Rico and has a small child).

My flight from Miami to London wasn't until Monday evening, so I spent the day with family again. This time they wanted to take a bus tour of Miami and boat tour of "Millionaire Row," neither of which were really on my list of things I wanted to do before I die, but spending as much time as possible with family was, so I tagged along.

The tour people let us out of the bus in Little Havana and I ran away from the tour group to use the restroom at the McDonalds, then continued down the street to a little tienda to buy candy to bring on the plane with me. On the way back to the bus, a man on the street called me 'chinita,' and I gave my usual response to that remark, 'yo soy japonesa,' and the next thing I knew, the guy was walking back to the bus with me! His name is Santos, he's from Cuba and he thinks either Japanese women or my hair is pretty, or possibly both. That's about all I could get from the Spanish I know.

Our shuttle driver, Alfredo, dropped me off at a local hotel with a free shuttle to the airport (the Hyatt didn't have a free shuttle). Alfredo rocks! And the security people at MIA rock! Wow, they are so much nicer than the security people at SFO! Everyone was friendly and courteous, and because their attitude put the passengers at ease, they were also very efficient. Security agents at other airports should be trained by the folks at MIA.


Quick Update

I didn't have http access in Miami, and I'm paying something like 8 gbp per hour for access here in the hotel in Bristol. So... will catch up with everyone when I'm no longer homeless and have a reliable connection, or maybe if I have time during the work day this week!