At Last...

The USCIS sent me an email this morning to notify me that an official notice was in the post, declaring that my permanent residency had been registered and my green card would reach me in 60 days. At long last, the lengthy immigration process is about to be over!

Time to hunker down and get properly settled....

Hoorah!

Integration

Work permit......check.

Social Security Number.....pending in the post.

Permanent Residency interview......scheduled for March 17.

All the pieces are falling into place. This whole grueling immigration experience should finally come to a conclusion on March 17. Fingers crossed that it ends up with me holding a Green Card. 

A New Beginning

 Well, I've made it to the United States safe and sound, touching down at Philadelphia Airport at 13:30 this afternoon. Getting through Immigration was relatively painless - although I still have to get my visa upgraded to a green card status in the coming week (ie. permanent residency). On top of that, I have to apply for a Social Security number and get a bank account. But for the moment, I'm content to rest at my new residence - having unpacked everything already and come online to check my mail and various social network messages.

Feels weird starting all over again again - this being my third emigration in life so far (the first two being Australia and England). I plan to spend the rest of September settling in and getting acquainted with Americana - then start looking for employment in earnest come October.

For the present however,  I'd like to thank everyone out there who offered advice and encouragement during this long-winded process. It's certainly been a nerve-wracking journey but now I'm at the conclusion and all has turned out well (although I'm still waiting for my house sale proceeds to arrive from the UK). Hopefully all that will be sorted after Labor Day has come and gone.

For the present, however, let the infestation begin! :D

Countdown

The end of the journey is almost in sight now - I am to undertake my final visa interview next Tuesday at 8am in London at the US Embassy. Hard to believe it's been well over a year now since my wife returned to live in the United States - hopefully if all goes well next week, I will be able to follow her at long last.

I completed my medical examination in London on the Tuesday just gone - the first time I've been in England's capital since 1996. However, unlike that trip (which suffered delays due to a massive M25 accident), I actually had alot of time to walk around and see more of the city this time (including a first-time visit to London's famous 'Tube'). My medical exam seems to have gone well - my physical got the best results that the examiner could give, and all that remains now on that front is for them to test my blood sample and check my X-rays. I don't anticipate any problems there, since I know for damned sure that I don't have HIV or tuberculosis (which are the main two they are looking for). The only real downside to the exam (aside from the £200 fee) was the not-at-all-unexpected verdict that my eyesight is impaired more than it should be (although this won't affect my visa decision, obviously). Given that I've spent 25 years in front of computer screens for both work and leisure, this doesn't really come as a major shock. However, my sight is only a problem when trying to read smaller text over a certain distance - it's not so for day-to-day pastimes such as reading etc.

At any rate, the exam took an hour less than they had projected, so I had plenty of time to wander the streets and look around afterwards. I could have just caught the Tube back to my arrival point, but I decided to walk all the way back - from Bond Street to St Pancras along Oxford Street. I also had time to locate the US Embassy in advance of my return there next week.

So now the last days are crawling by - I have virtually all of the documentation I need for my interview now, bar a letter from my solicitors re: the sale of my house which I plan to pick up on Friday. On Saturday, I'll get the lot photocopied (as requested by the Embassy), and I'll be heading back down to London on Monday morning. It'll be an overnight trip since the interview is early Tuesday morning, so I've booked myself a hotel in reasonably close proximity so I can walk to the Embassy on the dawn of the 21st.

And so it goes. My wife wants me in the United States by September 3rd for a joint "Welcome To The US"/Labor Day barbeque and family gathering - so hopefully everything will go as planned so I can be there in time for that.

The End Is Nigh

August 14th - Medical Examination in London for visa application.

August 21st - Final visa interview at the United States Embassy in London.

In short, this is my final month of residency in the United Kingdom after 11.5 years living here. No matter what the outcome of the visa interview, it will be "farewell Britannia" by the time September rolls in.

To say I'm anxious right now would be putting it mildly. :)

Penetrating Fortress America II

As of this time of writing, everything has been approved by U.S. Immigration for my transition to the United States. The core I-130 Petition For Alien Spouse/Relative was approved on June 13th (confirmation came in the post a few days ago), and today the I-129F Visa and the supplementary expedite request have also both been approved. All I'm waiting for now is further instructions on how to proceed - and, of course, to acquire a tangible visa in my passport to allow me entry into the States. I imagine this still requires a trip to London for an interview and medical examination, but I'll wait and see what the mail brings in the next week or two in regard to further instruction.

But for now, all the paperwork is done and dusted - so that's a big step in the right direction.

Penetrating Fortress America

Things are now rapidly moving on the "move to the States" front and my nerves are shot to hell. Haven't slept properly for awhile now (ironically my sleep cycle is now ideal for the US but not for the UK). All the paperwork has now been filed and I'm pretty much at the mercy of the U.S. immigration authorities. All I await now is the official summons to the embassy in London for an interroga....interview and medical exam. Given that I have virtually no criminal record, no history of illness, and will be taking over a reasonable amount of funds with me, I can't imagine many possible reasons for me to be declined a visa. That said, immigration officials are notoriously fickle.

My house is also in the early process of being sold to a private buyer, and with that transaction completed, all my debts in the UK will be cleared. If I get the visa approved, it's simply a matter of shipping off my personal effects and jumping on a plane.

Been over 10 years since I last went through this malarky. It was so much easier back then :P

What Lies Beneath (MySpace X-Post)

Although I wouldn't normally watch the National Geographic channel (much less television in general), there was an hour-long documentary on it last night that I simply could not miss - Giant Squid: Caught On Camera. It follows the exploits of a Japanese research team led by Tsunemi Kubodera to capture a live giant squid on camera back in 2004.

I've been fascinated by giant squid since I was a youngster, as my father could readily attest - they used to have a full-sized replica of one at what is now the Te Papa Museum in Wellington, NZ. The idea that such monstrous creatures actually exist (they were, after all, allegedly the basis of kraken myths) was something that kept me in perpetual awe*. Hell, several of these critters have even been found beached in my original homeland - where they evidently lurk in the deep southern Pacific Ocean waters.

They've even invaded my sleep on occasions. I rarely have 'nightmares' because there's not many things I fear that could elicit them. But a giant squid (or octopus) is definitely on the shortlist of things that do. Imagine, if you will, floating alone in the midst of the Pacific Ocean - with no boat or any other life in sight - then having your foot brush against something large and spongy under the water. Then you look down to see a massive single eye staring back up at you from beneath the surface (they have the largest eyes of any living creature on the planet). Imagine the inevitable outcome of such an encounter - these colossal beings have ten huge tentacles, a massive hooked beak (like a parrot's), and an aggressiveness that sees them battling opponents as large as sperm whales.

The creepiest thing of all, without doubt, is that these might be the stuff of nightmares, but they also really do exist.

That all said, scientists have now managed to photograph a live one on camera - and, as of 2006, actually capture one on camera - but one wonders how these specimans (the latter of which was immature) compare to the ones we've hitherto not seen yet. Since the depths of the Pacific Ocean remain unexplored by humankind, one can only wonder how large giant squid (or colossal squid) actually get. For all we know, the ones we've seen so far in photographs, or as beached carcasses are small compared to what may still lurk out there in the dark, unknown depths of the oceans.

* My fascination with squid and octopi was no doubt also the genesis of my interest in the Cthulhu Mythos - since Cthulhu himself is, of course, an octopus-headed monstrosity dwelling in R'lyeh under the depths of the South Pacific.

Knowledge Is Power (MySpace X-Post)

In a recent foray into MySpace Groups, I came across an age-old question from someone wanting to break into a new belief system. Basically, they wanted to know where to begin. As expected, there was a chorus of answers, all suggesting that they read a book (ie. all of them suggested the same book). This is all well and good, except I added a footnote to these to state that said book should not be the 'be-all and end-all' of information on the belief system itself. There is always more to learn.

Unfortunately, a large number of people seeking to adopt a belief system are just plain lazy. They naively think that by reading a single primer that they will know all there is to know on a subject - and woe betide them if someone much better read and better informed comes along! The old saying 'knowledge is power' is still very true - those with knowledge will always overcome those who lack, because that 'power' is also credibility.

Of course, some belief systems discourage looking beyond their 'core text' because they fear that the cracks in their dogma will show. A certain Bible stands as a primary example of this - because it is expected that its readers have 'unquestionable faith', it can be as ambiguous (or contradictory) as it likes.

But for belief systems that do not place such emphasis on 'blind faith', there is no excuse for a new prospective adherent not to take a studious approach and devour all the information that he or she can. Consider the author of the 'primer' text - who inspired or influenced him or her? Read their books too. Look at alternative styles or traditions of your intended path - what insights do they have to offer? (of course, more insecure factions of a belief system may choose to proscribe others that don't share their exact beliefs - but this is no excuse not to give them a look anyway!).

Knowledge is power, but it also goes hand-in-hand with experience. While being a bookworm isn't in itself enough to pursue many belief systems, being better informed gives you a much broader range of ideas and options to explore and experience. Certainly moreso then if you choose the lazy approach and read a single book, thinking that's all there is.

It never is. Don't limit yourself.

Evolution Of The Dead (MySpace X-Post)

Having kept an eye on certain horror movie sites lately, one thing I've noted in regard to upcoming 'zombie' movies is that their writers or directors have a habit of rambling on about 'bringing something new' to the concept of the walking dead. Uh, why? The original concept (introduced by George Romero back in 1968) hasn't been fully explored yet. Yes, there have been hundreds of zombie movies released in the last thirty years, but how many have been both good and memorable ones? How many have been low budget copycats of superior films? Just because there have been alot of zombie films made doesn't mean that they've expanded upon the concept - most of them have simply rehashed it. And then, of course, there are the remakes and sequels to remakes that have been cropping up recently...(Night Of The Living Dead 3D, Dawn Of The Dead, Day Of The Dead, Day Of The Dead: Contagium et al - of which only the Dawn 'remake' is any good).

And yet, over the years, we've had people trying to introduce something 'new' in the form of running zombies, talking zombies, teleporting zombies, kung-fu zombies, and a whole series of alternative takes on the original 'classic' shambler. Most of them claim that the 'stock zombie' is not 'scary' because it is slow and stupid. They miss the point entirely. The whole 'creepy' factor of the original shambling, flesh-eating undead is that it is a mindless killing machine - formerly a human but now devoid of reason or emotion. It is a rotting shell, with the sole unceasing desire to eat warm flesh. Singularly, it's rarely a threat - but in numbers, they are lethal. And most important of all - they will never stop seeking prey. Sure, they are slow and awkward, but they are relentless and nothing short of a 'second death' (ie. destruction of the brain) will halt them.

To illustrate the point, imagine if your best friend, partner, or close family member had, hypothetically, died and reanimated as one of the living dead. Someone you love dearly and shared wonderful times in your life with. And now, that all means nothing. He or she may look the same (save perhaps a glazed look in his/her dead eyes), but to him/her, you are no longer a friend or lover - you are a meal. And no amount of pleading or reasoning on your part will dissuade him/her from that singular objective. This is no longer the person you once knew and loved, but a now-empty shell whose only motivation is pure, unending hunger...

It's a scenario that has been presented in a fair number of zombie movies to date, usually resulting in the protagonist emotionally wrestling with the thought of 'killing' a loved one even though he or she is now dead and eager to devour flesh. Sometimes, they do pull the trigger - sometimes they don't, and get either bitten (thus soon becoming a zombie themselves) or eaten alive. It can be a very powerful scene, depending on how it is handled by the actors and director.

But for me, the one aspect of the genre I don't feel has been adequately explored is the more widespread societal aspect of a zombie apocalypse - most likely because that would require a budget that most zombie films couldn't hope to muster. In most films - including those of Romero - we only know what is happening elsewhere due to television or radio broadcasts that the protagonists watch or listen to. We very rarely get to see this first-hand. What is the government actually doing? What are the local governments doing? Where is the military? National Guard? Civil Defense? You rarely ever see these because most zombie films are focused on small groups of survivors in isolated siege scenarios (farmhouses, shopping malls, bunkers etc.). We can see in such films that society has collapsed rapidly - but why? We get vague explanations and theories, but we're never privy to the actual decision-making processes that result in such spectacular failure to contain these epidemics. And this is the kind of thing I'd really like to see. Romero has always said that his movies are less about the zombies and more about the inability of humans to co-operate during times of crisis. Surely this is a concept that is aching to be explored on a much larger scale than a small handful of refugees?

There's two upcoming movies which I am (perhaps vainly) hoping will do exactly that - to an extent. Romero's latest 'Dead' film - Diary Of The Dead - follows a group of college students as they document the original zombie outbreak (ala Night Of The Living Dead period). This potentially might show some of the elements that caused the epidemic to spiral out of control as they record the 'beginning of the end' on video camera.

The other film - Army Of The Dead - is a return to zombiedom by Zack Snyder (director of the 2004 Dawn Of The Dead 'remake'). This film is apparently about a father in search of his lost daughter in a quarantined Las Vegas in which the living dead now roam. On paper, it sounds potentially great - but it's unclear yet whether Snyder will reuse his 'uber-fast zombie athletes' from Dawn or revert back to the classic Romero-esque shambler types. Personally, I'm hoping like hell for the latter...

"Snyder, who has been on a press tour promoting the opening of "300" domestically and overseas, told Daily Variety that he wants "Army" to have a sweeping, epic quality, along the lines of the highly stylized "300". "I feel like there hasn't been a zombie movie on the scale that we want to do it," Snyder said from the Bahamas, where he is shooting a commercial."