Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Getting ready to move

I have an rather imposingly long list of things I need to do before I move to England. One by one they are being checked off, but still I think there is going to be a whole lot of last minute scrambling.

Visa Woes

My friends from other countries, particularly those without green cards, are always bemoaning the complications of getting their visa in order. Now I know what they feel like. The UK is cracking down a bit on immigration and as a result the process for getting a work visa has become pretty darn complicated -- including various types of biometric scans. Starting this month it is even more complicated as they are instituting some sort of foreigner id card Nonetheless, I did manage to get my work visa... but the process makes me feel like i had best stay out of trouble once I get there lest it gets revoked and I have to go through the process all over (maybe that is the point).


Being that I have no idea what the British health care system is like I've decided to go get a whole lot of tests done here while I still have good old american expensive insurance. So last week I went to the doctor, got a couple of vaccinations, had some tests done and the doctor reported that I'm in fine shape (apparently he didn't see me sucking wind while trying to get back into running this summer). Fortunately, my cholesterol is extremely low, so I can go to the UK and eat all the artery-clogging food with reckless abandon. The visits to the dentist were a bit less perfect. I've got to have a few minor things done in the next month which, no doubt, will be exceedingly unpleasant.

My Apartment

Before the economic meltdown I thought that I might be able to sell my apartment in Hoboken for a nice penny. That was then, this is now. So I'm going to try to rent it for a while. But before that happens there are a whole lot of things in the apartment that need to be fixed. The windows leak like a sieve and need to be replaced. The shower leaks on the poor guy downstairs and needs to be patched. The hot water heater works only sporadically. And much of the apartment needs to be repainted after the apartment above me flooded on me. All this needs to be done in the next four weeks. ... and of course I need to rent the thing. Wish me luck.

Finding an Apartment

Real estate in Oxford is like real estate in NY or the bay area -- insanely expensive unless you like living in a shoebox. Fortunately, Oxford owns some properties that it is willing to rent to its faculty for reasonable rates. The place I will be staying (on Canal Street in the Jericho neighborhood of Oxford) is fine as far as having enough floor space. And it is very convenient to the Theoretical Physics department (on Keble Road) and to Somerville College (on Woodstock Road). Unfortunately, the plan for building this apartment appears to have been to keep adding walls until they had twice as many rooms as you need, each with half the space that you would like. Not sure what I am going to do with all the small rooms. I guess one advantage of having extra rooms is that there will be space for friends to come visit me (hint hint).


Oxford uses only one moving company, and they have been a bit reticent about giving me all the details -- like cost breakdown, and how long the move is going to take. I gather however that when it comes to moving they are efficient like locusts... they enter the apartment and an hour later the apartment is completely empty. I'm not sure they are playing with a completely full deck though. Oxford graciously agreed to pay moving costs up to 6,000 GBP. (These days 1.5 $ =1 GBP) . The estimate for moving costs was 5,945 GBP. Coincidence? Perhaps.

Cleaning out the junk

Before the movers arrive I'd really like to get some of the junk out of my apartment. I've managed to take a bunch of boxes of stuff up to my parents home in Rochester (things they claimed to have use for -- except maybe the toaster. Not sure why that was included). Then another bunch of stuff was taken to the Salvation Army for donation. About a hundred pounds of books went to the nice people at the local used book store. Some random stuff of dubious value will go to friends who speak up at the right moment. Anyone want a nice desk lamp?


Perhaps the only possession to which I am emotionally attached these days is Betty, my 1997 Honda Civic. 170,000 miles and never had any substantial problems. I'm really going to miss her. I'm hoping a friend will buy her so I can get visitation rights.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I'm so proud of my country

I have not blogged for almost a month now. I've been pretty crazy trying to get ready for my big move, but also working on the Obama campaign, pounding the pavement of urban Allentown PA to get out the vote. The once proud factory town is pretty poor now, with many houses foreclosed and empty. People looked at me and immediately knew that I didn't belong in the neighborhood. But once they saw that I was an Obama volunteer, they treated me like a long lost brother. Many of them told me how excited they were about electing Obama, not only because he is black, but because they are simply tired of a government that has completely ignored their frequently desperate and now worsening problems. One woman told me that her mother had been very sick, but she kept saying that she wanted to live long enough to vote for Obama. Unfortunately, she died last week but she was buried with her Barak Obama pin.

The election of Obama has really made me feel very proud of my country. Growing up, I would never have believed that in my lifetime a black man would be president. Even as recently as last year, I had great concern that most of this country is simply too biased to give Obama a fair hearing. I'm happy to find out that I was wrong. It is really an amazing moment in history.

Of course, now that Obama has been elected, he has his work cut out for him. My country is in such a deep hole that it isn't clear to me that even Obama, and the first rate team that I'm sure he will assemble, will be able to make a whole lot of progress climbing out of it. I do have confidence, however, that Obama will be wise enough to not keep digging.