Becoming an American…it’s complicated

Big personal news: I became a citizen of the United States yesterday morning. Laura and I celebrated with a big American cafe breakfast at the sunny Square Cafe.  The citizenship ceremony was quite moving. New citizens from India, Burma, and UAE provided powerful personal testimony of coming to US.  My own feelings  were complicated; I decided to pass on the opportunity to speak to my fellow new citizens and their friends.  Becoming an American is a bigger deal emotionally than I had anticipated. I was ecstatic but wiped out yesterday by the experience.

My new American identity

Ironically, it was distrust in American bureaucracy that motivated naturalization. I wasn’t in a big hurry to move from permanent residence status to citizenship. That is, until a nasty encounter with an immigration officer at the border showed me that USCIS has way too much power for me to ever feel securely part of this society while I remained an alien. Now as long I don’t commit treason or take a super high level position in a foreign country (all quite manageable tasks), I won’t have my American citizenship taken away.

On a more upbeat note, I was reminded yesterday morning that it’s all easy to take the right to vote for granted.   I will register to vote soon and look forward to voting in American elections. As a newly minted American, I’ve also become more responsible for what the US does in the world in my name; I can’t pass the buck like I used to.

Something I need to do soon:  apply for my US passport.  I find it odd that I will have to part with my hard earned naturalization certificate one federal agency (USCIS) just gave me to prove to another agency (Dept of State) to send me a US passport.  USCIS has already scrutinized me thoroughly to grant me citizenship. The Dept of State could get data directly from USCIS instead of me.   On further reflection, I probably should be glad that the government doesn’t have me all figured out.

Moving Experiences

In August, Laura and I packed up our apartment in Albany, CA and shipped most of our stuff to our new house in Pittsburgh, PA while moving a few of our items to a little studio apartment we’re keeping in Albany. It was a rather big project that left us quite exhausted; two months later, we’re still dealing with the aftermath of our move.

During our move we may do so quite a few services, which were on the whole quite helpful. Here I want to share some of my experiences with those companies, both the upside and downsides.

DAS Auto Shippers

DAS Auto Shippers and our carWe had our car shipped across the country by Dependable Auto Shippers, one of the largest auto shippers in the country. I was a bit concerned about its reputation after reading some online reviews,with their typical horror stories. However I decide to go with DAS after someone I know reported having had good experiences (and timely delivery) with DAS. I found the first agent I talked with on the phone to be extremely friendly and reassuring. The guy who picked up our car was pleasant and knowledgeable.

The problems came down the road when after 10 days our car still hadn’t left the Bay Area. DAS had given us its standard estimate of 14 days to ship a car. Laura and I needed to have our car on August 25 for a road trip. I thought that I would be playing it safe by planning to have the car delivered by August 22. Allowing for 14 days and another two days for padding meant having my car shipped on August 6. Our car wasn’t delivered until August 25 — 19 days after it was picked up! Even that late delivery required several phone calls and a bit of pleading on my part to get any action at all. (BTW, the agent who convinced me to go with DAS was nowhere to be found after DAS had gotten my money.)

The bottom line: our car got here okay, but if I were ever to ship a car again, I’d like to find a more reliable service.

City CarShare

IMG_1164Once our car was shipped off on Aug 6, we still needed to have the use of the vehicle during most of the last two weeks of our move. We thought about renting a car for that whole time, but decided instead to try City CarShare, which allows you to rent cars on hourly or daily basis. We picked City CarShare over its rival ZipCar because City CarShare has a pod at the El Cerrito Plaza BART station, an easy walking distance from our apartment.

We were really pleased with City CarShare. Driving a Prius, the model available at the local pod, was fun. For a couple days we rented a Toyota truck, which turned out to be indispensable for our move. The last night, we got to the airport by driving the Prius back to the pod and hopping on BART to go to SFO.

The only complaint I had was being locked out of my car once in Berkeley because the car was (for some unexplained reason)out of radio contact with City CarShare headquarters. It’s a bit disconcerting to think that you can be stranded one-day while far away from any other means of transportation. But I don’t expect it to be a regular occurrence

One Big Man And One Big Truck

One of the challenges that we face as we were running out of time the last week of our move was moving furniture out of our apartment and to our studio. We turned to One Big Man And One Big Truck, a local company that I had used in 2005. One thing I find attractive about One Big Man is that you pay by a 15 minute increments. The movers were friendly and reasonably efficient. They were real troopers in its extracting and moving a large IKEA cabinet out of our apartment, which unfortunately, we couldn’t give away.

Ecohaul

EcoHaul and our IKEA cabinet
We surprised ourselves by underestimating how much junk we would be left with even after packing everything up that we want to save. We had envisioned that we would make a lot of trips to GoodWill and places like Urban Ore (which thankfully did take a recliner and a large file cabinet from us).

EcoHaul came to our rescue. Without EcoHaul there was no way that we could have emptied out our apartment in time, let alone dispose of the giant IKEA cabinet. I’m hoping that EcoHaul did manage to find a home for the cabinet, rather than having to dump it into a landfill.

I’m back….

I kinda fell off the face of the earth, digitally speaking, as I finished up my ATDP course and pushed on a couple of chapters on my book. Focusing on the book all the time helped move it along in the short term but it led to some intense emotional compaction. I continue to focus on the book but I’m starting to let myself dream and plan for life-after-the-book!

There should be time to look back at 2006!

Today is the last day of 2006. Happy New Year!

As I sat the church today, I concluded that it would be a good time to
reflect on this past year. Alas, I won’t be able to do so
comprehensively today. I’m under pressure to keep working on my book
(that is, to keep looking forward) today. I will take next month
(January 2007) as a transition time in which to look back and to look
forward.

Time apart

This morning, I dropped Laura off at the airport on her way to a
five-day trip to Honolulu. I’m already missing her but know that Sunday
night will roll around exceedingly quickly. In the meantime, Laura and
her mom will have a splendid time in Hawaii while I get some time to
indulge into some programming projects that I’ve not been able to
immerse myself in as a married man.

Down with a cold

On Thursday evening, I realized that I had a cold. My throat started to
hurt, and I felt unusually tired. I took off yesterday from work as a
sick day (though I did make an important hard-to-set-up meeting at
9am.) I slept a fair amount and tried sleeping even more. I suspect
that I’ll need to nap throughout today and tomorrow to make sure that I
get well ASAP.

My mind continued to race while lying in bed. My body was saying, “You
must rest.” My brain says, “You must work.” I hadn’t counted on being
so drained by the code4lib conference, followed almost immediately by
Mashup Camp, combined by the rigorous demands of teaching a new course
plus a whole lot of other circumstances. Even as I write this
paragraph, my eyes and legs feel droopy and draggy. Time to nap a bit.

Busy last week before vacation

It’s the last week before the holidays, and not surprisingly, there’s a
lot to do! Not only are there major strategic decisions to be made but
also taking care of the business of daily life. (For instance, it felt
good to dig up my latest credit card bills and pay them this morning.
The Getting Things Done system is supposed to keep me on top of tasks
large and small, but I need to intervention of a higher power and
intelligence to get me back on track with GTD.)

Children Learn by Monkey See, Monkey Do. Chimps Don’t. – New York Times:

    Mr. Lyons sees his results as evidence that humans
    are hard-wired to learn by imitation, even when that is clearly not the
    best way to learn. If he is right, this represents a big evolutionary
    change from our ape ancestors. Other primates are bad at imitation.
    When they watch another primate doing something, they seem to focus on
    what its goals are and ignore its actions.

Relaxed and focusing

My honeymoon was by far the best vacation I’ve ever had. Undoubtedly, I’ve had many wonderful trips in my life, but none has been as deeply relaxing and fun as my ten days away with my best friend and now wife, when we had little of great concern besides feeding ourselves and enjoying the aloha spirit of Maui’s people and land. Though I’m back in the office, feeling relaxed and energetic, I’m still getting up to speed on the many things that have happened since I was last in the office.