Friday, August 23, 2013

San Francisco: Week One

Well, I am now in an apartment is Berkeley, CA, looking out at the campus and the hills.  I am here to do drafting for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.  They are replacing a bunch of their waterlines, digging up about six blocks at a time.  They have been doing this since 2003, and they are almost done.  Once this is complete, they have another project that is scheduled to take twenty-two years, or at least I think that is what they said.  Fortunately, I don't have to worry about the full scope of the project.  Right now I am just assigned to two of the sub-projects, a pipeline replacement along one street, and a waterline replacement on another street.  The work is easy.  Right now I simply have to show all of the existing utilities under the street so that the engineer will be able to avoid them when he designs the new pipes.  After I have finished drawing the existing utilities we will go out to the site and check them.  The engineer I am working for is a very nice, younger guy.  In fact, everyone in the Engineering Management department is quite chill.  They have been doing the same thing for a long time and their system just works.  This is a stark contrast to most of my projects, where we are trying to help clients do something they have never done before.  Moreover, the engineer has done all the research for me, he finds the utility drawings, I just have to draft them.  Usually clients just dump a bunch of data on us and say, "Hey, could you help us sort this out."  I'm not complaining, we provide that service gladly.  But it is reassuring to see that some agencies actually have a system that works.  So, work is going well, and I am happy.

Life-wise, the first part of the week was crazy, as I tried to feed myself from convenience stores, restaurants and a grocery store.  My plane was very late, it didn't arrive in Portland until well after it was supposed to drop us off in SF.  I got to the apartment in Berkeley at 8:30 PM after taking the wrong BART stop. After that, I walked a block to a 7-eleven and bought some peanut butter, milk, cereal, and some energy bars.  I called those items "Dinner" and "Breakfast" and I went to bed after consuming the former.  Monday morning came quickly, and I got to BART with lots of time to spare. Once I arrived at SFPUC I met with the CAD manager and he showed me their drafting standards.  After an hour of orientation, he broughy me up to the Engineering department and introduced me to the people I would be working with.  My engineer was not in that day, but they had me start on one of the projects anyways.  One of the drafters, a nice Asian gentleman who works for a company that is two links up the contracting chain from mine, showed me the restaurants around the SFPUC building and we bought lunch at a Subway.  After work I went to Berkeley Bowl, which is exactly the kind of grocery store you would expect to find here.  There were a number of Hemp products.  The display of bath salts caught my attention, but it seemed to be the normal kind.  One of the things I appreciated was the magazine rack at the checkout line. It had magazines that I would actually read, like Make. So I bought one, along with some chickens, more cereal, eggs, bread, green onions and a cucumber. (Cause cucumbers are awesome).

Tuesday was crazy in a similar way.  I made scrambled eggs for breakfast (the food bootstrapping plan was starting to pay off) and I met my engineer later in the morning.  I still had to go to Subway for lunch, but after work I made another trip to Berkeley Bowl so that I could buy jam and honey for sandwiches.  I also bought rice, and made this masterpiece:

Two chicken breasts and a bunch of rice

I'm still eating the leftovers.  That sums up my shopping experience.  I've still eaten at a restaurant once or twice since then.  But my life has settled down and I made it through the rest of the week.  Tomorrow 
I will probably explore Berkeley some more, particularly the campus.  Blessings to everyone back home.  On Bart today I saw a family with five little kids who had just flown in from Israel and it made me think of you.