Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Visa progress: Step 2

I added time in Mérida before and after our Peru trip so that I could push forward on Victor's visa.

The U.S. Consulate in Juárez handles fiancé visas, and they say they sent some papers to Victor on February 7th. As of today, he still has not received anything. (See my note about Mexico's postal system!) Fortunately, they also sent a copy of at least the main page to me, mailed from El Paso instead of Juárez!

With that, we were able to complete Victor's lengthy online visa application. I expected to immediately see instructions for selecting an interview date, but that didn't happen. Even after returning from Peru, nothing. When I called, after fighting through the recorded prompts and hunting down my application confirmation number, I finally was told that I needed to pay (more!), wait for the receipt, and then schedule the interview.

The website says this additional fee can be paid online, and I spent a long time unsuccessfully hunting for that. The same page says the fee could be paid by phone, but when I tried that, they said the website needs updating; the fee can only be paid in pesos at specified banks in Mexico. They also could not help with scheduling the medical exam in Juárez, nor could they even tell me whether interview dates were available starting in a week, a month, or six months. Every little step of this process is aggravating. GRRR.

I paid the additional fee this morning and received the email receipt at once. That did enable me to get to the interview appointment page! So we finally have the dates for the final step. Victor will go for fingerprints, etc. in Mérida on April 30th, and we will then go to Juárez. The medical exam is walk-in, no appointment needed. The interview is set for May 7th.

Peru — March 2018

Me with a tailless whip scorpion

Macaws at a clay lick

Link to more photos.

Given our love of wildlife and knowing that Victor would feel very comfortable in another Spanish-speaking country, I signed up for this tour along the Tambopata River in southeastern Peru.

Initially, I intended to add a visit to Machu Picchu either before or after, but that was more complicated than expected, and other things intervened, and ultimately, I didn't do it. We did have a few spare hours in Lima, but we didn't do much additional sight-seeing there, either. I had hoped to see the Circuito Magico del Agua, but Victor was too tired.

The trip went well. I was very pleased that we had little rain, mostly overnight. Given the mud, I was glad we were provided with rubber boots! The macaws were beautiful. I was disappointed by how few animals we saw in the jungle. Plenty of birds and spiders and butterflies and other insects, but few other animals. The river travel quickly got monotonous; the scenery varied little. Perhaps I should have sought out another tour, maybe including other areas of the country and Machu Picchu.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

My unwritten book, Apples and Oranges

"Knowledge is classification"
John Dewey, 1925

For nearly fifty years, I collected notes for a book I titled Apples and Oranges: Intellectual Categories and Their History. I last added an item five years ago.

Sure, now that I'm retired, I could actually start writing the book, but it would take a lot of work, and I'm not sure how many people would be interested in it. The other day, I thought I should at least mention it here.

I began thinking about academic departments and majors, but I was also intrigued by the numbered section of Roget's Thesaurus, which I found fascinating. My 1962 edition has eight classes, each with numerous divisions and sub-sections — 1040 numbered entries in all. In the latest edition, there are six classes and 1000 entries. Clearly, there's some history to be told here.

Along the way, I learned about the trivium and quadrivium. I have notes on the history of encyclopedias and the Dewey Decimal System and the Library of Congress classifications.

I have lengthy excerpts (Thanks, Xerox!) of books on the subject by Langridge, Palmer, Herdman, Sayers, Hutchins, Amsler and Sowa; notes about books by Maltby, Ranganathan, and others; quotes from Aristotle, Kant, John Stuart Mill, Wells, Lenat, Landau, Fodor, and Lakoff.

Being a computer scientist, I added notes about clustering algorithms, taxonomies, and the rise and fall of categories and classes in the Smalltalk browser.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Autographs ― Dave Eggers

Dave Eggers' most recent book, The Monk of Mokha is about Mokhtar Alkhanshali, a young Yemeni American who becomes a coffee entrepreneur. Both of them were scheduled to speak at the Los Angeles central library last night.

I'm not a coffee drinker, and I'm not very interested in that book, but I went hoping to hear Eggers and get his autograph. I was only partly successful, and not the part you might expect.

Eggers got stuck in transit, and didn't arrive until after the talk! Alkhanshali spoke for nearly an hour. It was mildly interesting. Eggers arrived just in time to sign books, and most people had multiple books for him to autograph. Plus, he first talked to some of the library staff, then to the two people who had spoken briefly before Alkhanshali.

They were serving special coffee at the reception, and I hear it was very good, but there were long lines for that, and I really didn't want to have coffee late at night, so I didn't stand in line.

I'm glad I got the autograph, and I look forward to reading the book, but I still felt that most of the evening was a waste of my time.

(Index of autographs)

Monday, January 29, 2018

Scholar Stones

Impression of Shengshan 2, 2015
by Zhao Meng

I've always liked scholar's stones. Now, I've just purchased the sculpture pictured above, inspired by them. It's about ten inches from end to end. It's my biggest art purchase ever. Here's the back story.

I was looking at collections of photos of scholar's stones and related sculpture, such as this batch, and I liked one in particular:

I would have purchased a copy, but there are none. It's one of a kind, in a private collection, and not for sale. But the sculptor, Zhou Meng, has done other similar pieces. Rasti Chinese Art in Hong Kong sells his work. The piece I bought is one of the cheapest available.

I am generally pleased with my purchase, but there were several annoyances along the way. Mr. Rasti always responds to email, but, of course, there is a long delay in correspondence due to time zone differences. His prices are negotiable, but I hate haggling, and I'm not good at it, and I almost certainly overpaid. Worse, the only payment method he accepts is an international wire transfer, which is slow, expensive, and must be done in person at a bank. (He did cover the fee.) The shipment was held up at Customs for several days; no one knows why.

Finally, the work has some streaks, spots, and discolorations:

Rasti says, "The discolouration is deliberate to make the sculpture more natural. It actually gives depth to the rocks," but I prefer it clean and white (as in the photograph I based my purchase on!). Some of the marks do come off, and I am working on that.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Legalize marijuana already!

(click to enlarge)
My letter in response to Attorney General Sessions ending legal shelter for state-sanctioned marijuana was published in today's Los Angeles Times:
Bring it on. Let's force the issue.
If the feds begin wholesale arrests and imprisonment of pot dealers and users, it will only enrage everyone who supports legalization.
The cowards in Congress will either have to finally legalize marijuana or face the wrath of the voters.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Visa progress: Step 1 complete

Our visa case was approved on Dec. 14th! They do believe that we are free to marry, intend to marry, are not terrorists or criminals, have established a relationship, and have met in person. This is the first of three steps.

Probably next month, the State Department will ask Victor to apply for a visa, including a medical exam. They will conduct more background checks. That is Step 2. If all goes well, they will interview Victor in person at the U.S. consulate in Mérida. That is Step 3. After that, he should get the visa!

I knew Step 2 was for Victor to fill out the lengthy online visa application, and I assumed this week's notice would say to do so. I was prepared to go to Yucatán very soon to help him, since his answers have to be in English. But no, Step 1 was handled by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), part of the Department of Homeland Security, and Step 2 is with the State Department. So right now, USCIS is sending our case to the State Department, and we have to wait to hear from them. This could happen in a few weeks, but with the holidays upon us (and with Trump's downsizing of the State Department!), it might take longer. Sigh.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Mexico mail delay

Suspended umbrellas — an art installation in downtown Mérida

As I previously wrote, the feds wanted Victor's statement of intent to marry. He mailed that to me on October 26th, via airmail. Many years ago, mail to and from Mexico took a long time, and sometimes never arrived, but I hoped that now things were better.
No such luck. After three weeks, I still had not received his letter. So I made my shortest-ever trip to Yucatán to get Victor's signed statement.

I mailed everything back to the feds on Nov. 25th, and they acknowledged receipt on Nov. 28th. Now we wait for them to check it out and, I hope, then tell us they want Victor to fill out his online application.

Meanwhile, yesterday, Dec. 7th, I finally received Victor's airmailed letter!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

One Year Later

One year ago, I wrote about my reactions to Trump's election. One of the bullet points was "I suspect this blog may return to its title and original purpose in the years to come." Mostly, and happily, that hasn't happened.

As explained in my welcome message, the blog name is because I was upset that others were not as outraged as I was about George W. Bush.

Well, Trump hasn't managed to accomplish much politically! Certainly not as much as Dubya. There was a stolen Supreme Court seat, but the theft preceded him. There have been lots of terrible executive orders and undoing Obama-era regulations, but that's pretty typical in a party shift Presidency, and, for that very reason, can be as easily undone by the next Democratic President.

The worst and longest-lasting Trump accomplishments are his judicial appointments. As I've written before, "For me, it's the courts, stupid!" Update, one day later: In today's New York Times, I find this piece: Trump's Most Troubling Legacy? His Judges

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Faded Poster

The painting on the left is by Doug West. I think it is titled Taos. It was used in the poster for the Music from Angel Fire festival sometime in the 1980s. I bought the poster in Santa Fe back then.

The photo on the right is what my poster looks like today. It has never been in a lot of direct sunlight, but it gets some. The reds are all gone. The large words below the illustration ("Doug West" and "Angel Fire") are completely invisible now.