Archive for August, 2007

Timelines and Changes

Posted by Arlo on Aug 23, 2007 under Website

My 2007 Timeline

Time to highlight a few minor changes to my blog.

The first is a new image at the top of the page.  It’s a timeline of what I consider to be notable events in my life throughout 2007.

Why?  Glad you asked.  Firstly, I want it to be a supplement for this blog’s content.  Ideally, I’d like to make the events clickable, so that they’ll take you to specific blog entries.  I mean, if these things that happen are important enough to highlight front and center, I should be writing about them, right?  You might notice that some of the past events don’t have entries; that’s because I’m lazy and need to get back to writing.  You might also notice some of them are in the future; that’s because they’re things that I know I’m going to want to write about this year.

There’s another reason I like the idea of creating yearly timelines.  How many times have not been able to figure out when something important happened in your life?  Hmmm, that first road trip across the U.S.  It was in… um, well, I was in college, so it’d have to be after ’90, but it was before I moved to Juneau in ’94… um…  It’d be cool to be able to quickly look up that information, but beyond that, I think it would be incredible, later on in life, to have one of these for every year.  Pass it on to the grandkids, you know?  Oh, wow, granddad met his wife in Venezuela and then proposed to her exactly a year later in Costa Rica!

Keeping on task with this project will be hard enough.  Working backwards 35 years will be much more difficult.  Wish me luck.

More esoteric subscription/blogging software information follows:
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Naturalization IV: Passports

Posted by Arlo on Aug 15, 2007 under Life of Arlo

Looks like I’ve cleaned up a little bit since my pasty convict days...

Oksana and I are hoping to go to Australia this November, but we’ve been putting off purchasing tickets for a long time.  There’s a lot we have to do first: Arrange for time off from work, get visas, buy the plane tickets.  Before we could do any of that, we had to resolve our passport situation.

Primarily, we were biding our time until Oksana received her U.S. citizenship, but I needed to renew my own passport, as well.  I got my first passport in 1997 (a decade ago!) for a Language and Culture of Mexico class and it’s set to expire in December.  While technically it expires after our planned vacation, Australia would prefer I have at least six months remaining on it.

Oksana received her U.S. Naturalization certificate on Friday, July 27th, and we briefly considered submitted the paperwork for our passports within the hour.

We didn’t know for sure beforehand, but she would have been able to apply for her passport immediately after the oath ceremony. She would have had to send off her valuable, original naturalization certificate without making copies of it (but like a birth certificate, you’re not supposed to, anyway. You’re not legally allowed to make any copies of that document.)

We already had our passport photos, so all we had to do over the weekend was fill out the online applications supplied by the state department website. Oksana filled hers out, I filled out a separate renewal form. On the very next business day after the ceremony, Monday on our lunch break, we met to stand in line together at the post office.

It took our entire lunch to get our forms mailed off, but we were happy to do it. Both Oksana and I paid extra to have our passports expedited – we’d read about the horror stories in the news. If our passports were stuck in processing for much more than a month, I doubt we’d be able to arrange our trip to Australia in time. The postal employee who took our certified, tracked, and insured envelopes confidently assured us we’d have our new passports in three weeks. Fair enough.

That was Monday. On Saturday, Oksana’s new passport was sitting in our post office box.  Of course, there was no sign of my passport anywhere, but that’s okay because I figured the renewal process used a different queue. In fact, my passport arrived only five days after hers. Praise be to the Seattle Regional Passport Agency!

We still have to work out all those logistics before we can go to Australia, but I’m looking forward to the prospect of traveling under the same passport as Oksana. Easier visas! Sharing lines through immigration checkpoints! RFID chip vulnerabilities!

Naturalization III: Guitar Heros & Party

Posted by Arlo on Aug 10, 2007 under Life of Arlo

Guitar Heroes

Oksana and I thought it would have been cool to walk straight downstairs to the post office after the oath ceremony and submit the paperwork for her passport.  Earlier in the week we even went so far as to take new passport photos at home and get them printed at Fred Meyers.  We didn’t know for sure if she’d actually receive her certificate of naturalization at the ceremony or if it would take weeks to receive it by mail.  The latter seemed likely, so we didn’t plan on standing in the post office line.  Besides, my parents were with us and it wouldn’t be fair to have them wait around.

Oksana had to take care of one or two financial crisises at work, so she dropped us off at the hotel.  I ran over to McDonald’s for drinks and passed the time talking with my mom.  Oksana was back with us barely a half hour later and we were off to go shopping.

Home Depot was first, but we didn’t do much more than browse.  Don opted to stay in the car; he’d brought a book.  We left Home Depot for Auke Bay, to drop off Don before more shopping.  Oksana opened up our apartment and turned on the PlayStation for him, just in case he wanted to fell like a Guitar Hero.  When she got back to the car, my mom asked if we could stop real quick at a convenience store to buy my step-dad something to drink.  Took us maybe 5 minutes.  Just before she went back into our apartment, she grinned and said, “If he’s playing the game, I’m going to buy it for him.”

She walked in, he was playing Guitar Hero.  “Do you really like that game, Don?”

He didn’t miss a beat.  “Buy one!  Go buy it!  Just make sure you get two guitars!”  We added Fred Meyer on our list of stores to visit that afternoon.

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Naturalization II: The Oath Ceremony

Posted by Arlo on Aug 9, 2007 under Life of Arlo, Videos

Oksana’s speech

I think I spent most of Friday in Oksana’s car.  It sure felt that way after all the back-and-forth.

We started with breakfast at the Southeast Waffle Company.  After carbo-loading, we had an hour to kill, so we went to our apartment.  I sat my mom down in front of the PlayStation 2, put a Guitar Hero II controller into her hands, and forced her to play through the first two tutorials.  She missed a few notes; I was concerned when her frustration began to show.  But after she successfully finished the tutorial, I put another guitar into my step-dad’s hands and encouraged them to try playing a song together.  Their first attempt went poorly because they started on the first song they recognized — You Really Got Me, by Van Halen — a tough one.  Oksana and I suggested the ubiquitous Surrender and they managed to stumble their way through the entire song.  They appeared more flustered than anything, and I thought they were about to give up entirely.  Then they looked at each other and exclaimed, “That was so cool!” 

Hook, line, and sinker!  I think they would have played all day if we didn’t have a naturalization ceremony to attend.  We piled back into Oksana’s car and drove downtown.

The oath was to be given in the Federal Courtroom in the Federal Building.  We went through the two metal detectors Oksana and I were so familiar with from previous visits.  Again, we surrendered all our electronic items, but at least we were allowed to keep our cameras this time.  About 5 minutes before our 10:15 appointment, we filed into the courtroom.  We found seats near the back while Oksana was ushered to the front.  She, along with the other 37 soon-to-be U.S. citizens, turned in their green cards and verified the information on their new citizenship certificates.

Mr. Lee, our INS agent for the day, announced to the courtroom how the ceremony would proceed.  The only thing each new citizen needed to know was that at some point they will be called to the podium.  The only requirementwas to say their name and their country of origin.  “Take 3 seconds or 15 minutes.  This is your day and you can use your time at the podium to say whatever you like.”  I scanned the list of names.  If everyone used up 15 minutes, we’d be there over nine hours!

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Naturalization I: Surprise!

Posted by Arlo on Aug 7, 2007 under Life of Arlo

Illegal to copy, print, or photograph... but not to redraw by hand!

Friday, July 27th, was Oksana’s big day.  The oath ceremony, where she would be sworn in as a U.S. citizen, was scheduled for the morning, and we were planning a party at the Thane Ore House for her that evening.  What she didn’t know was that I had a surprise lined up for her on Thursday night!

We’d been talking about the after-party for weeks, coming up with a location, deciding who to invite.  Oksana said more than a couple times that it would have been nice if my parents could have come up from Ketchikan for the ceremony.  Of course, they already had plane tickets, but I didn’t tell her that.  I always kept a straight face and said, “Well, why don’t you call them and ask?”  She never did.

I’m good at keeping secrets, but for some reason I came close to slipping up a dozen times with this one.  The worst was just an hour or so before the big reveal when I mentioned that I’d need to swing by work sometime tomorrow before the party to pick up some stuff.  Oksana wondered aloud why I couldn’t just pick up my stuff while I was at work.  Which would make sense… if I hadn’t arranged to take the day off to spend with her and my parents.

Fortunately, she didn’t think much of it, and the plan went down just like my mom and I had planned it.  With the invaluable help our friends Mike and Leah, here’s what happened:

My parents arrived at about 8pm on Thursday night.  I wouldn’t have been able to slip away without arrousing suspicion, so Mike and Leah picked them up at the airport and took them to a nearby restaurant.  Mike did an awesome job executing our plan earlier that day with an innocuous e-mail inviting us to go see Rattatouie.  It would have to be the late show for them, he wrote, and they were thinking about going to dinner beforehand at either the Broiler or the Hot Bite.  (Our plan was always the Broiler — he’d overheard Oksana express her disappointment with the Hot Bite before.)   The only concern I had was that Oksana might balk at a late show on a week night.  I needn’t have worried; she’d planned to take the next morning off to get ready for the naturalization ceremony.

That evening, Oksana decided to take a walk after work.  Which was perfect, as it allowed me to check on the flight and realize it was late.  I called Mike and we decided to tell Oksana that they were running late, that we would meet up for dinner a half hour later than planned.  Turns out the flight actually landed early — Thanks! — but Mike and Leah made it in time and simply waited with my parents at the Broiler.  Oksana and I left our apartment at about 8:25pm and I pretended to be interested in small talk during the drive.  It was torture; I had to concentrate not to let an anticipatory smile slip out.

I opened the door to the restuarant and ushered Oksana in ahead of me.  She glanced around the tables, looking for Mike and Leah.  When she spotted them, she smiled, waved, and said “Hiiii…,” while walking toward their table.  I made sure to fix my stare on her face, to see her reaction.  There was a moment of confusion — why are there people sitting at the table with them? — and then her mouth dropped open.  All the way.  And stayed that way until after she’d hugged both my mom and step-dad.  There were tears in her eyes, and all she could say was “Wow!” and “Oh my God!” and “I can’t believe this!”

So totally worth the effort.

We all had a nice dinner and explained the New Plan to Oksana.  My parents were only in town for about 36 hours, but it was long enough to go to the citizenship ceremony and after-party.  I would be taking Friday off to hang out with them.  When I asked if Oksana could maybe take part of the afternoon off from work, she said, “Well screw that, I’m taking the day off, too!”

It was a late dinner, so afterwards we said goodbye and thank you to Mike and Leah and checked my parents into their hotel with plans to meet them for breakfast in the morning.  Oksana wasn’t disappointed about missing the movie.  I don’t think she even remembered we had once planned to go.

(to be continued)