Thursday, December 29, 2005

More fingerprints...

Woo hoo! We finally got our fingerprinting appointment from the Department of Homeland Security! Jan. 18 is the big day. Unfortunately this means we'll probably be pushed a little further out in the timeline than we had hoped, but hey, what can you do? I think by the time this whole process is over, we'll have been fingerprinted more than O.J...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Update to previous post...

Editor's Note: After a couple of comments from readers, I must mention that the gentleman discussed in my previous post concerning my trip to the post office was NOT illiterate and therefore having his child read for him. He was not disabled in any way (unless you consider poor parenting choices to be an indicator of disability). I may be impatient, but I'm not cruel... :)


Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bret Goes Postal in the Post Office

It's the weekend before Christmas, and in the spirit of the holiday, our house church has put together a care package for some former members who have moved away. I was tasked with the job of packaging these items and taking them to the post office. I was fully aware this morning that the post office would look like a New York subway car during rush hour, but I was not prepared for what I encountered.

When I got to the post office, there were approximately 20 people in line at the main counter. Luckily, our post office has one of these new self-service machines (which I dearly love), and there were only 2 people (!) in that line. (People here in the heartland still fear computers enough to keep them away from such a machine. It might give you "the radiation.") In any case, the choice to enter this line seemed obvious. But as I approached, I began to understand the error of my ways.

You see, there was a gentleman with an approximately 5 year old daughter using the machine. He had 4 packages piled up next to him, and when I arrived, I heard the sound of his daughter attempting to read the screen in front of him.

"Does...your.....package stock...or"

Now imagine that there are 30 lines of text on this particular screen, and she's on the first one. Reading......very.......slowly. Then at the end of the screen dad says:

"Honey, which button should daddy push?"


"That's right...push no."

And then we wait 10 seconds for the poor little parent-less child to find that button on the screen and push it. On to screen 2 of 10.

I about lost my mind. I muttered to myself, "This is unbelieveable," to which the lady in front of me returned an approving smirk. About that time another couple came in and entered the line behind me. The lady says "oooooh...This line is short. This will be quick." I turned to her and in a voice loud enough that everyone heard me said, "Don't count on it." I was ignored, as expected, by the gentleman monopolizing the machine.

About this time the machine asked for his credit card. He starts fumbling around in his wallet and says "Honey, go ask your momma for a credit card." Momma was out in the van. Oh man...Smoke is coming out the ears. All Christmas spirit has abandoned me, and all I wanted to do was go at it with this guy. I'm holding packages lovingly created by my house church, but if there had been anything with any weight in those packages, I might have opened them. I'm a pretty even keeled guy, and I have a long fuse, but I'm not sure I've ever been closer to losing it than I was in this instance. Every part of me considered saying something directly to the guy about the decision-making process behind his actions when there are 50 PEOPLE IN THE POST OFFICE THE WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS.

Ok, I feel better now. A little eggnog, a dozen cookies, and I'll be as happy as Frosty the freaking Snowman.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Can you still get "government cheese?"

I work in the consumer electronics industry as a software engineer. For anyone familiar with the field or its labor practices, jobs are about as stable as a one-legged man on a unicycle. In the past week, my company has been going through a layoff process. They were kind and offered a "voluntary" layoff for a few days prior to the "involuntary" layoff. The "voluntary" package gave better severance than the "involuntary" would. Since the percentage of jobs being eliminated was to be relatively high, many people began looking at taking the offer.

Now, the obvious place to look for a job is the OTHER consumer electronics company that exists in my building. The one from which my company was spawned a year and a half ago. Old friends, former seemed like a good bet. So the rats started jumping off our ship...onto the old ship. But today it was reported that the old ship, our former employer, is looking for a buyer for its consumer electronics division. And now the rats (especially the ones who jumped) are confused and moderately annoyed. The article said that they would "try" and keep those jobs here. I find little solace in a major company saying "we'll try." That sounds like "what else can you do besides software?" to me.

The whole thing has left lots of people tense and irritable, which is making for a fun few weeks before Christmas. In the immortal words of one of my co-workers, it's pretty sad when so many people say "My wife, 2 kids, and I will take our chances on the street" rather than sticking around.

So please go to your local retail outlet and buy at least a 32" TV between now and Christmas. You can think of it as a donation. :)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I'm a certifiable Rainman...

So Monday I took a half day off at work to deal with getting some of our paperwork shipped off to various Chinese Consulates of America, as well as getting the paperwork "certified" by the Indiana Secretary of State. So what does a Secretary of State really do? Well apparently they themselves don't do any "certifying." But I'll get to that later.

First off, it was about 3 degrees in Indiana on Tuesday. I had to park at a meter, so I put in enough change for about 25 minutes and headed into the Indiana Government Center. I didn't think this trip would be difficult or long... For one thing, Indiana is the only state in the Union which doesn't charge to "certify" things. What a deal, right? I had called ahead and was told they were open from 9-5:30pm Monday through Friday. In and out. No sweat.

My first nemesis -- the signs leading me to the Secretary of State's office. I walked down a long hallway with a huge sign over it pointing to the Secretary's office down a hall to the right. I followed this hall all the way to a set of doors which led back outside -- never saw the Secretary's office. Turned around. Followed same path. Turned down same hallway. Hit same doors. Yeah, doors. 57 steps to the doors. 57 steps. Don't want to miss the office. 57 steps then doors. 5 plus 7 is 12. 7 days in a week. Five doors. Can't find the door. Yeah. Wapner at 4:30. Can't miss Wapner. Back and forth.

Anyway, on a whim, I decided that the one thing I had walked past in my pacing was an elevator. I jumped in, but still no directions. Headed for the basement. Lucky break. There was the office. Would it be so hard to put a sign next to the elevator stating such? I have a strange feeling that footage exists of my walking back and forth mumbling to myself with a pile of birth certificates and medical records in my hands. 4:30... Wapner at 4:30. Yeah.

Now that I was in the office, I thought I was set. There was one person at the counter, and one other lady waiting. They informed me that I was next up. I went up and said, "I have 9 documents that need to be certified."

"Oh yes, Shirley does the certifying."

"And I'm to presume that your name ain't Shirley?"

"No, I'm Sue. Shirley's gone."

"When will she be back?"

"Dunno...She went to lunch."

"But it's after 2:00pm?"

"Yeah, Shirley is a busy bee."

"Is there someone else in the office who can help me?"

"Oh no, Shirley is the only certifier."


"Yep...The only one."

"And you don't know when she'll be back?"

"Nope. Probably in an hour."

" Ok. I need to go put more money in the meter."

"But you'll lose your place in line?"

"But I'm the last one who got here?"

So I went back out into the snow to put 2 hours worth of change in the meter. Better safe than sorry. When I went back into the building (quickly heading to the elevator this time) and walked back into the office, the other lady who was waiting ahead of me was handing a large stack of paperwork (including birth certificates I could see) to a nice, younger lady.

"Oh great! Shirley came back early? (tee hee)"

"Oh no, (this is Sue again) that's not Shirley. That's Denise."

"Ah...So she's not getting certifications done?"

"No, she is. Denise is doing them for her."

I really thought I was losing my mind.

"But you said only Shirley?"

"...And Denise!"

Fine. About that time the REAL Shirley reappeared from lunch and immediately took my stack of documents. After that, it was smooth sailing. I headed for the Post Office, and about $600 later, including Consulate Fees and mailing costs, I was headed for home. I thanked Shirley (and Sue) and headed out...leaving in my wake 2 lovely state employees and a meter with 1 hr, 45 minutes left on it.

You know, I'm sure my experience at the Indiana Secretary of State was a cakewalk compared to other more, er, populous states. But these little experiences definitely leave me wondering if our beloved state is a little, you know, slow.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Who steals socks?

Just a quick update to let everyone know that the draft of our home study came back, and we're in the process of making a few adjustments. Hopefully that will get turned around quickly, and we'll have one more piece of the puzzle in hand. Erin's birth certificate has been stamped by the secretary of state in California and is on it's way back to Indiana. The next step is to get everything stamped by the secretary of state here in Indy, and then everything will head to the Chinese embassy. We're still hoping to have all of the paperwork on its way to China by the end of January. I think we're on track!

Also, I just want to thank the California based portion of Erin's family for their hospitality at Thanksgiving. We had a great trip, and it was nice to see everyone in one spot! It was also fun getting to hang out in San Francisco with Erin's parents. I even managed to take everyone on a driving tour of the city, and Erin only cried in fear one time.

I will say that flying over the holidays was a bit tiresome. When we arrived in San Francisco last Wednesday evening, we grabbed our luggage off the carousel and headed immediately to our hotel in San Jose. On Thanksgiving morning, I opened the suitcase and there was a lone brown sock where I could have sworn there should be 4 PAIRS of brown socks. Hmm... Did we forget to pack them? About this time, Erin discovered that her curling iron/brush/firestarting-wand-of-doom thing she uses on her hair was also missing. I was dejected at the thought of wearing dirty socks on a holiday, but Erin was even more inconsolable over the possibility of needing a hat. (And Deb and Dave can attest that when she first visited their room to alert them to this situation, she definitely needed a hat...) Luckily Deb came through with the curling iron, and Dave loaned me a pair of white socks. Only in California could you find a Payless Shoes open on Thanksgiving Day having a sock sale, no less. It's a holiday, people?!! I was grateful, none the less.

I guess we should have contacted American Airlines about where the heck our stuff went, but neither of us had the energy at the end of the weekend. And frankly, I think Erin was glad to see my brown Dickies industrial socks go into Luggage Purgatory.