Christmas in February

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Today’s mail brought the long awaited green card (permanent residence) status for Jee Yeun.  And all it took was more than two years and two thousand dollars.  Along with every last ounce of my patience.

Anyway, we persevered.  And now that the U.S. government has granted residency status we can get the hell out of here for our long anticipated return to the Land of the Morning Calm.  Before that departure I need to secure a social security number for Jee Yeun so as to complete my tax filing obligation like the good citizen that I am.  We’ll venture back downtown to the Federal building for that purpose tomorrow morning.

And then I need to purchase two tickets to paradise (or a reasonable facsimile thereof).  I have a dart tournament to compete in from March 7-9 in Augusta, GA.  So, I’m going to shoot for a departure date of March 13.  I’m going about it a little differently this time around.  Normally, I book from Columbia to Atlanta via Delta Airlines which code shares the Atlanta to Seoul Korean Air flight.  But that has posed some problems in the past.  Flying from Columbia adds about $300 to each ticket.  Since I’m entering Korea on a tourist visa* I have to book a return trip within 90 days.  Given that we’ll be staying in Korea for six months or so** I have to change my return flight and Delta gigs me another $250 for that privilege.  The final straw was that Delta charges a baggage fee for more than one bag on international flights.  Which is outrageous.

Instead of dealing with the greedy bastards at Delta, I’m going to pay someone to drive us to Atlanta and I’ll book directly with Korean Air.  They still allow two bags per passenger at no charge, are more flexible with with rescheduling flights, and they actually seem to care about customer service.  Plus their flight attendants are prettier.

Anyway, we are excited!

* I intend to change my visa status to spouse while I’m in Korea.  Hopefully the Korean government will prove easier to deal with in that regard than my own has.

** I foresee future difficulties with Uncle Sam regarding my 6 months here and there plan.  USCIS is apparently much stricter with legal immigrants than they are with those who ignore our nation’s immigration laws.  When a person is granted permanent residency they are expected to you know, reside in the USA permanently.  I get that.  So you’d think if we spent slightly less than 6 months in Korea, and slightly more than that here we’d be okay.  My research on this indicates otherwise.  I saw some horror stories that multiple annual trips of a few months duration can put the grant of permanent residency in jeopardy.  Apparently, there is no type of visa that works ideally for our situation.  One solution would be for Jee Yeun to become a naturalized citizen.  Except she prefers to retain Korean citizenship.  I’ll probably do what I should have done from the very beginning–consult an immigration lawyer.

UPDATE: I’m such a whore.  Went online to purchase tickets.  KAL’s ATL-ICN route was $1750.  And I’d pay someone $200 to drive me to Atlanta plus 4 hours in the car.  Whereas, Delta had Charlotte/Detroit/Incheon for $1135.  The layover in DET is just over an hour, so the total flight time is almost the same as from ATL.  I’m one hour from CLT so all things considered, I went with Delta.  We’ll see how it works out…



Glory days

When I was a freshman in high school I ran on the cross country team.  Back then, the course was two miles long (by the time my kids competed it was 3 miles).  I was not the top runner on the team by far, but my best time of 10.56 minutes was fairly respectable, especially for a 9th grader.  Our star varsity runner was somewhere in the mid-nine minute range.  So, I think it is fair to say I had potential and I did work hard, never missing practice and the like.

So, it was pretty shocking when near the end of the season Coach Hedges told me get a haircut or I was off the team.  The truth of the matter is that my hair was not even that long (certainly not over my ears or in my eyes or anything).  And what I found especially irksome was my hair was every bit as short as the aforementioned star varsity player.  I mentioned that fact to the coach and then I was off the team.  And thus began my rebellious phase.

I mention this now after all these years because I didn’t realize at the time that my Constitutional rights had been violated.   The 7th Circuit Court says a short hair requirement for boys that doesn’t apply to girls is a violation of the equal protection clause and constitutes sex discrimination.

I just figured Coach Hedges was an asshole. Instead, I was a victim of government oppression and didn’t even know it.  No big deal, just one of those bumps along the road of life that cause a change of direction.  But of course, that changes everything.

Hat Tip: Althouse

It’s about time

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Jee Yeun’s green card has finally been approved!  The update above from my friends at USCIS indicates the card is in production and soon will be in the mail.  And this complicated process should take no more than 30 days to complete.

Now, I can actually start planning my return to Korea.  Still some stuff to wrap up here (primarily getting a Social Security number for Jee Yeun and getting my taxes done).  And booking our flight to Seoul!


Stuff I watch

When I’m not battling the government or playing darts, I enjoy sinking into my big ol’ couch and watching me some T.V.*  Not enough to justify the monthly premium mind you, but when I do watch, this is what I like:


True Detective (HBO) Great acting, outstanding writing.  The Louisiana setting is also a pleasing change of pace. It’s only been out for four episodes, but it’s keeping my interest thus far (which is actually a pretty high bar). Starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey.

house of cards

House of Cards (Netflix) A political drama (and remake of the British original which I have not seen).  Set in Washington, DC of course although the lead character is a Congresscritter from South Carolina.  It’s true to life in that the politicians are all pretty much self-serving hypocrites.  What’s different is in this series they are Democrats (although truth be told, the Republicans are portrayed just as badly, they are just not featured).  The Tea Party gets the usual disrespect you’d expect, but this article (spoiler alert) makes the point that the series should delight the Tea Party types.  One thing that is really cool about the Netflix format is that they release the entire season of episodes at once so you can watch at your leisure.  Season 2 was released on February 14 and I watched the season ending episode on February 16 (technically 17 I guess since it was around 2:00 in the morning). Starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.


Shameless (Showtime) Ah, the dysfunctional Gallagher family, which actually functions quite well considering the obstacles they must overcome.  Probably a more accurate depiction of a “typical” family than most of the white bread shows we grew up with.  Actually, the McCrarey household I grew up in was closer to Shameless than Leave it to Beaver (eh, but whose wasn’t?).  We were more like Shameless than all our neighbors is perhaps more apt. Maybe that’s why it resonates.  Anyway, good stuff. Featuring William H. Macy, Emmy Rossum and an outstanding ensemble cast.


House of Lies (Showtime) I hadn’t intended to rank these in my order of preference, but I guess that’s how it’s turning out.  This show is about a group of management consultants, a type I encountered all too often over my years in the federal service.  Yep, your Uncle Sam does love to fritter away your tax dollars on crappy consultants.  The series is based on a book entitled:  House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time which pretty much sums it up.  Still, it’s entertaining enough although it’s not amongst the shows I look forward to seeing each week.  Truth be told, it’s right beside Shameless in my On Demand queue, so I kill an hour on this while I’m there.  Starring Don Cheadle.

Other stuff I watch to pass the time (I normally do all my television viewing between 10 p.m and 2:00 a.m.) includes Episodes, Parks and Recreation, An Idiot Abroad, and when really desperate, Burn Notice.

Another of my favorite shows is Game of Thrones but it won’t begin airing again until April.

I supplement all of the above with the occasional documentary or other non-fiction programming that piques my interest.  I spend much more time on Netflix (around $8.00 per month) than I do on AT&T Uverse ($110 including internet).  But the best programs tend to be on the premium channels and I’m not that easily entertained.

* I will not sit through commercial television programming because of the commercials.  I just can’t tolerate the interruption. So, unless a series has migrated to Netflix or is on a premium channel, it’s a no go.  And those tricky bastards at ABC/NBC/CBS/FOX that make their shows available “on demand” will not permit fast forwarding through the commercials.  So fuck them, I just don’t watch.

A third world experience

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of big government, but I do recognize that there are certain services that we must rely on Uncle Sam to provide.  Is it asking too much that the government endeavor to accomplish these necessary tasks with at least a modicum of competence?

My latest encounter with the federal bureaucracy in the form of the IRS nearly caused my head to explode.  Today I had the misfortune to visit the “taxpayer assistance office” located in the Strom Thurmond Federal Building in beautiful downtown Columbia.  And why pray tell did this taxpayer require assistance?  Because of the sluggards who reside within the offices at USCIS.  I won’t recount the sordid details of those travails again (if you are so inclined you can read about it here and here and here), suffice to say that because my wife’s application for permanent residency (green card) has been inexplicably delayed (or in government speak “outside normal processing time”) I’ve got some hurdles to jump prior to filing my income taxes.

You see, I can’t claim Jee Yeun as a dependent exemption on my 1040 until she has an SSN.  And she can’t get an SSN until she receives her green card.  Luckily, the IRS has a solution: I can file a W-7 form with my tax return and she will be assigned an ITIN (individual taxpayer identification number).  Ah, if it were only that simple.  For when you file the W-7 in the aforementioned fashion you must also send acceptable documentation of identity, which in Jee Yeun’s case is her passport.  No worries, IRS says the passport will be returned in 90 days or so (yeah, I’ve heard THAT promise before).  Being the unflagging optimist that I am,  I fully expect we will be back in Korea long before then.  So we are going to need that passport.

This morning I called the local IRS office and reached a recording that advised they don’t answer questions over the phone.  The recording also helpfully advised that I could find my answers at or I could visit the Taxpayer Assistance Office in person, “no appointment necessary”.  I dutifully went to the IRS website and did find my answer: I could bring the documentation and W-7 to my local Taxpayer Assistance Office for processing.  So we loaded into the car and headed downtown.

The Federal Building is an eight story monstrosity housing the entire alphabet soup of government agencies.  And guess what?  They offer zero public parking!  After circling around a couple of times I finally scored a metered spot a few blocks away.  I fed the meter a couple of quarters which bought me an hour on the street (told you I was an optimist).  Fortunately, it was a beautiful day and Jee Yeun and I walked hand-in-hand to our destination.  In true Buddhist fashion, Jee Yeun commented on how pleasant it was to be out walking down the street like we do in Seoul (I’ve always admired her positive outlook in life).  Upon entering the building the Federal Protective Service guards asked for ID.  My driver’s license sufficed, but the guard spent several minutes perusing Jee Yeun’s passport.  He finally asked “where is the visa?”  I momentarily pictured him calling upstairs to get INS on the case, but he reluctantly accepted my assertion that the green card was pending.  Going through security was just like the airport (no shoes, hats, belts or jewelry) but with less friendly agents.  Imagine that!

Having successful navigated the x-ray machine (and a bizarrely thorough search of Jee Yeun’s purse) we took the elevator up to the sixth floor offices of the IRS.  Where we encountered a line extending out the door of the Taxpayer Assistance Office.  To say that the line moved slower than a glacier would make me appear to be a global warming denier (which I am, but that’s another story).  Thirty minutes later I was still outside the door but I could peer inside and observe 20 or so disgruntled patrons of the IRS waiting for assistance.  Apparently, the line I was in was to get a number to be served in turn, but I did not see anyone handing out said numbers.  I did overhear one of the “lucky” people in the room say they had been waiting for four hours.  To pass the time and to overcome my foreboding upon reading a sign that said “Due to staffing limitations this office can only receive payments and provide transcripts”, neither of which I came to do, I called the IRS 800 number.  My phone call was put on hold for the “next available agent” and I played a game in my mind about who would actually speak to me first–the seemingly non-existent bureaucrat in the office or the faceless one on the phone.

Thirty more minutes go by and then a frumpy disinterested woman appeared from behind the glass wall (I had observed her listlessly looking at her computer monitor for some time) and announced “we will not be giving out any additional numbers today, and because of staffing shortages some of you with numbers may not be served”.  It became clear to me why the security procedures were so severe and necessary.  The disgruntled taxpayers had now become angry taxpayers.  I told the frumpy employee that I needed to file a W-7 and she responded that I could send it in with my tax form.  As I was explaining that I could not part with my passport, she turned to the angry crowd and told them harshly to “quiet down!”  Returning her attention to me, I told her the IRS webpage said I could file the W-7 at the Taxpayer Assistance Office.  She then advised me that they were “not staffed” to do that in this office.  I asked who was staffed to do so and she suggested I try going to Charlotte, NC.

About this time I made it through the phone queue where a friendly gentlemen confirmed the fact that Charlotte (100 miles distant) was the nearest office that could accept my W-7.  I thanked him for the website not mentioning that critical fact but the sarcasm seemed lost on him.

The day was not a complete cluster fuck however, for despite my parking meter having long since expired, I had not been given a parking ticket.  So there’s that.

Jee Yeun never directly criticizes America, bless her heart.  On the drive home she simply mentioned that during the busiest times at the Korean tax office, she never waited more than 20 minutes to be served.  She said in Korea government workers are smart and efficient and want to help you.  And they hire enough people to do the job.  I said “yes dear, everything works better in Korea”.  And I meant it.

Not only is the United States broke, it is broken.  That makes me sad.  And angry.

A Valentine from my Uncle Sam

Earlier this week I wrote about my calling USCIS in an effort to find out what was going on with Jee Yeun’s permanent residency (green card) application.

Well, the good news is I got an email from USCIS today concerning the application, which by the government’s own admission is “outside normal processing times”. Here’s what they had to say:

“You called to inquire on the status of your application. Based on our search your application has been assigned to an Officer for processing. You will be notified by mail when a decision is made, or if the office needs something from you.”

So they told me exactly nothing more than I already knew. If that’s not the classic “don’t call us again, we’ll call you” response, I don’t know what is. A nice little Valentine’s Day fuck you from my Uncle Sam. Right back at you, buddy!


Meanwhile, in Iceland…

Here’s the obligatory photos depicting the Great South Carolina Ice Storm of 2014:

Tuesday morning saw about half an inch of a sleet/snow mix on the ground...

Tuesday morning saw about half an inch of a sleet/snow mix on the ground…

Today that snow base is covered with a sheet of ice.  Hard to get a good picture of it, but it's rock hard and slick as a skating rink.  I nearly fell on my ass several times in the process of taking this photo...

Today that snow base is covered with a sheet of ice. Difficult to get a good picture of it, but it’s rock hard and slick as a skating rink. I nearly fell on my ass several times in the process of taking this photo…

The car that will remained parked until the ice has melted.  It was supposed to get above freezing today. but as of now some light frozen precip is still falling...

The car that will remained parked until the ice has melted. It was supposed to get above freezing today. but as of now some light frozen precip is still falling…

UPDATE:  I caught cabin fever this afternoon so I ventured out to the grocery to check out the empty shelves.  My driveway slopes downhill so I was able to sled out.  Couldn’t get all the way back up the driveway, but I’m out of the street at least…



I have a dream

It’s a simple and straightforward dream: that my government will make serving the interests of it’s citizens a priority.  It has become apparent of late that that is only a pipe dream.

What I had suspected to be true was sadly confirmed by the New York Times:

Many thousands of Americans seeking green cards for foreign spouses or other immediate relatives have been separated from them for a year or more because of swelling bureaucratic delays at a federal immigration agency in recent months.

The long waits came when the agency, Citizenship and Immigration Services, shifted attention and resources to a program President Obama started in 2012 to give deportation deferrals to young undocumented immigrants, according to administration officials and official data.  …

Until recently, an American could obtain a green card for a spouse, child or parent — probably the easiest document in the immigration system — in five months or less. But over the past year, waits for approvals of those resident visas stretched to 15 months, and more than 500,000 applications became stuck in the pipeline, playing havoc with international moves and children’s schools and keeping families apart.

I guess I should count my blessings, at least Jee Yeun is stuck here in the states with me.  But the fact the President made the DREAM Act amnesty program for illegal immigrants a priority over people like me and half a million other citizens is outrageous.  I am well beyond mere anger at this point, a fury which is only exacerbated by the fact that I am powerless to do a fucking thing about it.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  I did pick up the phone and call the USCIS customer “service” number.  After navigating the recorded phone tree options I was eventually connected with a pleasant enough human being.  Apparently her training only allowed her to read from prepared scripts.  I patiently explained that after receiving a letter dated August 2, 2013 stating our residency application would be delayed approximately six months due to “workload” issues there had been no further contact from USCIS.  This prompted the spokesbot to recite from the script that said my case had been accepted on April 30 for processing at the Lee’s Summit, MO facility.  That was all the information she had.

I told her the August 2 letter said that if I hadn’t heard anything in six months I was supposed to call the customer service number, which is what I was now attempting to do.  This comment apparently resulted in the spokesbot accessing a new script to read to me.  Progress!  This time I was told that my application had been received on April 30, had been processed at Lee’s Summit, MO, and sent to the Charleston, SC service center for adjudication.  So then I asked the only question I care about–how much longer do I have to wait?  She didn’t have an answer for that, so she put me on hold.  When she returned to the phone she advised me that my application was received on April 30, processed at Lee’s Summit, sent to Charleston, and that my case was “outside normal processing parameters”.  Alrighty then.  Now what?

The helpful spokesbot then carefully took down all the information I had previously provided and assured me that the Charleston office would be notified of the fact my case was outside normal processing parameters and that if I hadn’t heard from Charleston in fifteen days I should call the customer service number.  So, the circle jerk has now completed a full loop I suppose.

I asked if making an appointment to speak in person with someone in Charleston would be helpful.  Her somewhat ominous response was that it would not be “harmful” to do so, but that I’d have to schedule an appointment online in their “info pass” system.  I thanked her for her time and effort and the call ended.  I immediately went to the info pass system to schedule a potentially unhelpful but unharmful appointment in Charleston.  The joke was on me apparently.  Here are the options for getting an appointment:

We offer 4 kinds of appointments for a case that you have already filed. Please choose from the following –

The only one that potentially fits is the last one.  So if I don’t hear back in the 15 days I’ve been promised, I can wait another 30 days and schedule an appointment.  That’s not really helpful, but I guess it wouldn’t be harmful either.

Who knew the DREAM Act would be such a nightmare?





“A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive, will not long be safe companions to liberty.”


So said James Madison with whom I’m a kindred spirit if this personality test is to be believed.

I’ve done the Myers-Briggs assessment several times (the government enjoyed spending tax dollars on that type of thing).  This test was similar, but of a lesser scope (only 50 questions). I’d say these results are reasonably accurate:

Compared to the general population, you are:

  • Below average on Extroversion, indicating that you are an introvert who prefers calm environments to large social gatherings.
  • Above average on Openness, indicating that you prefer to strike a balance between seeking out novelty and preserving the status quo.
  • Average on Agreeableness, indicating that you alternate between being tenderhearted in some situations and tough-minded in others.
  • Average on Conscientiousness, indicating that you take a balanced approach between sticking to plans and deadlines and being flexible about updating your current goals.
  • Average on Neuroticism, indicating that you respond adequately to changes in your environment and feel some measure of stress under pressure without letting it get to you.

Which President are you most like?

Thanks for coming

The latest lefty outrage these days is on the subject of income inequality.  I’m pretty much old school in my thinking I suppose, but there have always been rich and poor and there always will be. I have a bigger problem with the government playing Robin Hood than I do with inequality.  Anyway, I came across this article entitled “How When Harry Met Sally Explains Inequality”.

You can read the link if you are so inclined, but the article got me thinking about my favorite scene from that classic 1980s movie:

The clip above reminded me about the time a woman told me how there are in fact three types of orgasms.  That was news to me so I asked for further explanation.  She smiled and said: Well, you have the affirmative orgasm which sounds like this “oh yes, oh yes, OH YESSSS!”  Then there is the religious orgasm which is “oh god, oh god, OH GOD!!!!

Intrigued, I asked about the third type of orgasm.  With a serious face she told me:  Ah, that’s the fake orgasm–“oh John, oh John, oh John.”

Hey, it was funny at the time.

Here we go again I guess

I guess things get to be cliche because they get repeated, well, repeatedly.

I guess it’s become cliche to say those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it (although it wasn’t cliche when George Santayana said it first).

I guess while folks are being distracted about nonsense from the past and frivolities of the present they will ignore the clear and present danger (which I guess is another cliche).

I guess in looking back it will all have been so obvious.

I guess by then it will be too late.

I guess you should read this and understand why 2014 is Asia’s 1937 all over again.

I guess even the President of the Philippines sees the handwriting on the wall.

I guess we’ll continue to downsize our military in the face of this.

I guess we are all fixing to pay a high price for our ignorance.

I guess I’ve said all I’ve got to say about this.  For now.

Unrewarded effort or just deserts?

It is frustrating to actually work hard at losing weight only to weigh-in and discover that you’ve in fact gained poundage.

I’ve been diligent about the treadmill (one hour a day +/- 3.5 miles).  And I’ve gotten off my ass and practiced my dart game an additional hour a day.  That may not be much, but it’s lots more than I was doing when I was shedding pounds like snake skin over the past year.

What’s changed?  I expect it may have something to do with metabolism.  I’m no longer smoking cigarettes which could be a factor.  I haven’t noticed myself eating more, as I still typically only have one regular meal a day.  I snack on cheese, nuts, and celery.  Although I do flavor the celery with peanut butter.  My only real “cheating” has been my inability to resist having a delicious smoothie periodically during the week.  But how bad can that be?

My smoothie consists of a handful of strawberries, a banana, a dollop of peanut butter, two scoops of vanilla ice cream, and some milk.  OK, maybe that is pretty bad.  But still, I usually do that in lieu of eating a normal meal.  I wouldn’t think I’d be punished so severely for such a small deviation from the low carbohydrate reservation.

The other possibility is that I’m playing darts four times a week.  And while that is itself a form of exercise, I’m sure those benefits are counteracted by my ingestion of several (low-carb) beers.  Hmm.

Anyway, this week finds me back to 233.5 pounds, a gain of two from last week.  I’m going to keep with the program and maybe add a little more exercise.  I could probably ride the stationary bike while watching TV.  And drinking a smoothie.




A qualified success

Those of you who have been following my darts “career” will recall the numerous accounts of my valiant efforts to actually qualify for a Regional event, only to either utterly fail or (even worse in some ways) to fall painfully short of making the cut.

I am pleased to report that as of today those failures are all in the past.  That’s right, the ol’ Walrus has earned a spot to play in Augusta on March 7*.  You can’t make the Nationals without winning a Regional.  And the first step to winning a Regional is to qualify for one.  Mission accomplished!

* Of course, I still hope to be back in Korea anytime now.  But given that the mailman continues to disappoint us each and every day, I can’t make firm plans for our departure.  I’m resolved now to apply for Advance Parole in the hope that it will expedite things.  Yes, I should have done so months ago, but I naively held out hope that Uncle Sam would do the right thing.  Still, if something shakes loose in the next week or two I might just schedule my flight for March 8.