Our first wedding anniversaryMon, 27th Jul '09, 5:05 pm::

It's our first wedding anniversary today! I can't believe it has already been a year since our wedding in Yellowstone. I was told the first year would be a true test of our patience, tolerance, and commitment. I was indeed apprehensive but the reality turned out to be quite the opposite as it ended up being the best year of my life. Admittedly, this past year has been tough on both of us because of our school, work, and absolute lack of time. And yet we had a blast taking long drives and short trips, watching movies, and going out on dinner dates almost throughout the year.

Our first year of school is over and the next one will start soon. It won't be an easy year since I'm taking twice as many courses as I previously did and she has to go on clinical rotations all over the state. But if this past year was any indication, no matter how difficult life gets, we'll stick together and have a good time :)

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Feeling like a kidFri, 24th Jul '09, 12:30 am::

For the first time in many years, I feel like a kid discovering how a computer works. I had been so busy with making websites, software, and applications for others that I forgot what it was like to just learn and explore like I once used to. I've spent the past decade worrying so much about clients, projects, and deadlines that whenever I had to learn something new, I rushed in, learned the bare essentials, and then got back to finishing the project. I never took a day or a week to just fiddle with new things. All I cared about was building something useful that did whatever the users wanted. While that seems quite productive initially, over time I started to lose the passion I had for computers, mainly because everything felt dull and boring because everything had predetermined specifications and deadlines. In a way, it limited the scope of my knowledge and skills by pushing me towards familiar, proven tracks.

I haven't been working on any major computer projects at home for a few months now and was having a hard time NOT working on something. The habit of constantly building something for others has become a chronic addiction. How can I sit around watching TV or spend 12 hours a Saturday training for my marathon instead of writing code? The feeling of "I should be doing X instead of Y" is one of the most guilt-ridden, debilitating experiences that an ambitious person can face. However, I also believe that all work and no play makes even the most interesting activities suck. How can I make something useful when all I care about is making something useful?

When I look back to see all the fun things I've made, I either made them when someone either asked me directly or when I was sitting around fiddling with something else. It's been a while since I've made random little things while playing around. Tonight I spent some time toying with Processing.js. It looks quite interesting. There are a million other neat projects that people around the world are working on. From a new database system to programmable art, there are so many things I want to learn about for the sake of learning instead of using them as tools for specific work-orders or turning them into full-blown business proposals. I'm excited!

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Running alongside the Flip-Flop ManSat, 18th Jul '09, 10:15 pm::

I ran 36 miles today. I jogged the last 8 of those miles with the famous 64-year-old Flip-Flop Man of Florida, Larry Perrier. I had pretty much given up at the 28-mile mark because of the heat and swollen feet and called Juliet to come pick me up. Out of nowhere, Larry showed up next to me and guessed that I was training for an ultra-marathon, probably my first 100. He said it looked like I had been running since 6-7am and had covered about 30 miles or so miles. I told Juliet that I'll get home on my own. For the next 8 miles he talked about everything from running to macroeconomics. We discussed the joys of running in the rain, the annoyance of noisy lawnmowers, and the bargaining power of Russia in the international oil market.

He is certainly a man who follows nobody rules. It was amusing that there I was, with all my running gear, hydration pack with electrolyte solution, gel packs, heart-rate monitor, and expensive shoes talking to someone in flip-flops, carrying nothing except for a cane and some food in a plastic bag. I have been doing my best to follow all the guidelines to safely and properly train for my race and there he was, just walking as if 40 miles is no big deal. Here's a short film that a couple of students from University of Florida made about Larry.

He asked me about my running experiences and issues. I mentioned about the recurring pain on the bottom of my soles and he said it's probably Plantar Fasciitis. That's why I was about to give up at the 28-mile mark today - my feet hurt so bad I was trudging along at a 3 mile per hour pace. "It's just pain" he said, "It won't go away but you'll get used to it." Just hearing that made me feel better and I ran 8 miles with him. He said I look like the kinda guy who will do a 100 miles one or twice just to prove it to myself and then I would switch to some other equally strenuous physical activity. I was floored by his ability to read me so accurately.

We parted ways when we got near my neighborhood. He said he runs into a lot of people on a regular basis and hopes that we cross paths some day again, maybe tomorrow, maybe 2011. I hope so too.

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Permanent Residence a.k.a. Green CardMon, 13th Jul '09, 7:55 pm::

After being in the US for nine years, as of today I am a permanent resident alien a.k.a. a green card holder. Juliet and I had our interview in Tampa and other than a long wait, everything went pretty smoothly. We had memorized so many little things about each other because the USCIS (previously known as INS) interviewers do whatever it takes to find out if the marriage is bona fide or not. If they suspect that the marriage is not real, they separate the couple and ask them questions independently, like "What was the last movie you saw together?" or "When did you last go out to a restaurant together?" However in our case, we weren't interviewed separately and the interviewer didn't ask any difficult questions because it was pretty easy to prove using our existing documents that our marriage is indeed real.

We have joint bank and stock accounts, we bought a car together, we have spent our holidays with each other's families, we filed joint income taxes, and we refinanced our house together. The view of the INS is that real couples do all these things because it makes better financial and social sense for couples that intend to stay together for the long haul to plan their finances and social lives together. Fraudulent green card marriages usually have tell-tale signs like separate bank accounts, separate assets, spending holidays away from each other etc. The other thing that made our case easy was that neither of us has ever been arrested or been in legal troubles aside from a parking ticket or two.

I am very thankful to all the people who helped us with this entire process. My coworkers Kelly & Vinnie, my boss Eric, and most of all, my friend Arthur who agreed to be the co-sponsor along with Juliet because she is in school and does not have a full-time job at the moment. Arthur was more than willing to help us in any way he could and unlike me, did not procrastinate on preparing any paperwork. INS requires that the sponsor of the green card via marriage (i.e. the US Citizen spouse) hold a full-time job to support the applicant (i.e. the immigrant spouse). If the Citizen spouse does not have a full-time job, the couple needs to find a co-sponsor with a job who is willing to spend a LOT of time preparing documents and mailing paperwork.

We hired an immigration lawyer, Mr. Creighton Shafer from Diaz Shafer in Tampa, because I did not want to get into problems because of technicalities like above. Had we not hired an immigration lawyer, I would not have known about the requirement of a co-sponsor in our specific case and would definitely have been in some trouble because of it. I'm sure eventually everything would have worked out but missing or incorrect paperwork often causes months to years of delays, during which I couldn't leave the country easily. Fortunately, our lawyer told us the right way to go and we got Arthur involved as a co-sponsor from day one.

Mr. Shafer was with us all day today and had made sure beforehand that we had every single document in order. Originally I had planned on going through this process on my own but later realized that there are so many gotchas when it comes to US Immigration laws that the best thing to do is revert to a professional. Since our case was pretty straightforward, it would have been possible for us to be fine without a lawyer and Mr. Shafer himself assured us of that, in case we could not afford his services. However, we went ahead and hired his services because honestly, I did not want to take any chances with the INS in case there were any issues. Thankfully there weren't any.

After the interview, Juliet and I celebrated by having a big lunch at P. F. Chang's in Tampa. We had the biggest dessert they offered and as usual, I ate 90% of it. We got home, napped for a few hours, and here I am.

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Tue, 7th Jul '09, 9:55 pm::

I'm having a pretty crappy week. My boy kitty Giga has been sick for past few days with high fever. We have been dropping him off at the vet hospital in the morning and picking him up in the evening for two days now and the same goes for tomorrow. They don't know what's making him sick but today after getting some fluids, he seems to be acting healthier. His blood sugar is extremely high and all signs point to feline diabetes. He is under five years old and in a pretty healthy shape overall so I'm hoping it's not diabetes but just the stress of having a fever.

Our electric bill for last month was a shocking $340! Normally it is about $200 in summer and $125 in winter. At under 800 sq. ft., our house is tiny and the air-conditioner doesn't have to be on all day. The refrigerator is working fine and we just got new washer/dryer that are much more efficient than the old ones we had. Only thing I can think of is that the air-conditioner might have a leak or an electrical problem that makes it very inefficient and so keeps it running constantly.

We have been trying our best to save as much as possible for those dreaded rainy days but it seems like they are here already. $325 for vet, $150 overage for electricity, $250 for medical bills that insurance won't cover, and who knows how much for a technician to come out and inspect our a/c unit. It all adds up. *sigh*

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Fri, 3rd Jul '09, 10:15 pm::

The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men often go awry. For the past two weeks, I had been planning for this three-day holiday weekend with Juliet and well, things got off to an unexpected start. I got a call this morning from a coworker that a water pipe burst at work and all the side-offices including mine were two-inches deep in water. Considering that all of our computer equipment and power supplies sit on the floor, that was enough to get me worried.

I drove off to work immediately, taking Juliet with me hoping that the damage would be small enough that she could sit in the car while I went in, picked up a few computers, and let it all dry out over the next couple of days. Alas. My entire office was flooded and it took my coworkers and me almost four hours to get rid of most of the water from the building. Thankfully, none of the servers were affected and all the office computers were working fine. Monday is going to be a rough day.

We picked up two movies on the way home, Seven Pounds and Juno, and just finished watching them. Juno was pretty funny and cute. Seven Pounds was a very touching movie and Will Smith gave a very good performance. I think tomorrow we'll go down to Sarasota area during the day and see the fireworks at the St. Petersburg Pier in the evening. After my long runs over the past few weeks, I took a break but I need to get back into some serious running once again. Sunday will probably be a long-run day. September is approaching fast and I need to get into some serious shape by then.

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