Writing a blog post on BART

I’m currently on a BART train from Lafayette heading towards San Francisco. Last time I made a journey like this I could only access the Internet from my PC. The newest phone I’d used was a flip-phone and it was pretty much only good for calls, texts, telling the time, and playing a small version of poker on.

Today I can write a blog post using an on-screen keyboard, check my email, look up my location using GPS on a map that is downloaded as I need it, and the list goes on.

I am very impressed by how much technology has improved since then. 🙂

Seattle

I’m currently in the Westin Hotel in Seattle, Washington. I’ve been sent here by Amazon. Originally I was going to be here for a week, but that got extended to two, and then three. It’s recently been changed back to two weeks, so I’ll be leaving here on Friday.

I’m going to go to the bay area for the first time since I lived there back in 2005. I imagine both I and the area itself have both changed a hell of a lot since then. For a start I am now married. 🙂

As soon as I found out I would be coming back to the USA I began making a list of all the things I want to eat and drink while I’m here. A lot of them are junk food. Some are things I can’t really get in Seattle, but should be able to find in the bay area. I’m really looking forward to going back there and I hope at least some things are exactly how I remember them.

When I first came to America it was almost everything I wanted it to be. I’d come from living in Mansfield for the vast majority of my life, to living in a large city or suburban area surrounding a city. I could get on BART and be in San Francisco city centre in under an hour. I could drive for under an hour and be at the top of a mountain.

Now I’ve come to Seattle 8 years later from London, and it feels anti-climactic. London is a bigger city than Seattle. It has a bigger population, more expansive transport systems that take you from anywhere to anywhere else in short order. It’s quite a strange feeling. I always had this idea of America in my head when I was younger, and the bay area fulfilled, or even surpassed that expectation. I guess didn’t realise that it wouldn’t be as impressive when coming from somewhere other than Mansfield.

I still like Seattle quite a lot. I would like to spend more time here if possible, but I don’t think I’m anywhere near as infatuated with the idea of America as I was before I saw more of the rest of the world.

Got engaged

Cheryl and I are engaged! 🙂 It happened a few weeks ago, in fact. We’ve booked a place for the ceremony, been to give notice, and even bought engagement and wedding rings in the last three weeks or so.

We’re planning on keeping to a very small ceremony this time, but we plan on doing it all with a bit more style later on.

So yeah, I’m going to get married! Yikes!

Updating Remote Recorder

My job has recently changed from mostly programming in Perl to mostly Java. As such I’ve been playing around with Java at home a bit too.

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from someone who bought my Sky+ Remote Recorder app asking if I’d be updating it. I replied saying that I wouldn’t because I didn’t think it was worth the effort when Sky have their own app and at least my asp still worked for people with older versions of Android.

A couple of days ago I read that Sky’s apps got pulled because they got hacked. I cursed myself for not having bothered to update my own app and decided it would be good practice at Java and would be a welcome improvement to the people who still use my app regularly.

I’ve spent my evenings working on a new version this week. It’s coming along quite slowly because I’ve got no experience of most of the new Android development practises or designs.

I hope to have a very basic ugly version working by the middle of next week and then spend some time polishing it and doing what testing I can on the devices at my disposal before releasing it.

Court date

Cheryl got a letter yesterday setting the court date for the hearing for her visa application appeal. It’s set for August 28th, which is a pretty long time into the future.

We’re going to look at hiring a solicitor to represent us in this because if it’s not insanely expensive we think it would help our case quite a lot. We have a bit of paperwork to prepare before that date, but it’s probably not really anything that we haven’t already got together for the original application.

Kind of all seems a bit silly since by the time we go to the hearing we will have been living together for over 3 years, and all we have to prove is 2. The UK Border Agency already accepted our evidence from March 2011, so it’s been well over 2 years at this point. This could all be avoided if common sense ruled.

Thinking of moving

Over the last few months while Cheryl has been applying for her visa we’ve spoken several times about the possibility of moving to Singapore together.

I enjoyed Singapore a lot when I visited last year, and I could definitely see me living there for a while. It opens up the possibility of Cheryl taking over her parents’ company, which would definitely help set her up for the future. I don’t know how much she’d enjoy the work, but with any luck she could take the business far enough that she didn’t have to run it day-to-day. That’s all speculation for another day though.

Since we spoke about it I’ve actually mentioned it to my boss at work. I’ve looked at Amazon jobs in Singapore to see if it would be possible to move internally and have a guaranteed job when I get there. The main issue with that option is that I don’t really know if I’m well-suited for, or interested in, the jobs on offer there at the moment.

I have also added my CV to JobStreet and have applied for a couple of interesting positions that I am confident I could do. I’m not convinced that I’ll get shortlisted for any though, as I’m not a citizen, or a permanent resident. Lots of the job advertisements specify that you have to be one of those two things before you can even apply.

It’s quite frustrating, but certainly not the end of the world.

We’ve been looking into the various visas on offer for me. It seems like I have several main options for an employment pass, which would be helpful, and then there’s also the option of getting married to open up other options.

I’d ideally like to stick out my current job for a while, get some experience in Java, more experience with Amazon on my CV, and save up some money so that I can afford to move to Singapore and find a job while I’m there, rather than finding one from here. I think it would be a lot easier, but obviously a lot more expensive.

So yeah, exciting times.

Running

When Dan got back from New Zealand and stayed with us we began running together. I haven’t done much running since I finished school. Of course I’ve done the odd bit here and there. There was one particular instance where I went to the gym with Dave and ended up running 4 miles on my first attempt just to beat him. 3 months of shin splints later I’d decided not to bother very much.

Well, this time I did it properly. I went to a shop and had a basic gait analysis done. The lady informed me I needed neutral shoes. I spent £110 or so on some nice new running shoes to force myself to take it seriously. I then began running every 2 days for the last month. I have had to switch days a couple of times to fit in around other things, but I’ve basically been running regularly.

When I first started I was terrible at pacing myself. I would run far too fast and have to stop several times on a 5km run. I gradually learned to pace myself and kept increasing the distance I could run. Within two to three weeks I could run the entire 5km distance without stopping, maintaining a consistent pace throughout.

Yesterday Dan and I went for our usual run. It was cold and raining quite a bit, but you can’t let that stop you. We made sure we spoke to each other on the way around, and that helped to keep spirits high. I think music would achieve similar results if you’re running by yourself. Some form of distraction is definitely helpful.

We managed to run 10.74km in one hour and six minutes. We had a fairly consistent pace of around 6:14 per km.

In the last month, since taking up running, I have lost somewhere in the region of 7kg (1 stone 1lb, or 15lb).

It feels good. 🙂

UK Border Agency problems

Back in December Cheryl and I applied for an unmarried partner visa so Cheryl could continue to stay in the UK, keep her job, live in her house, and continue our relationship sensibly.

The main requirements were that we’d lived together in a serious and committed relationship for 2 years. We have lived together for almost 3 years now. Sadly, the proof required by the UK Border Agency basically only included letters from utilities companies or the government. When we first moved in together I had my own house. I was on all of the bills there, so I didn’t get myself added to Cheryl’s too.

The application letter said that it was advisable to get letters from people we lived with, or people who knew we lived together to cover any months we couldn’t account for ourselves. We got Rik to write us a letter because he introduced us and has known us both longer than we have known each other. We also got Tsomo to write us a letter because we lived with her at Ropewalk Court in Nottingham over 2 years ago.

When we got the reply from the UKBA it said that Cheryl’s visa application was rejected because they didn’t believe we met the definition of partners and we hadn’t been living together for long enough.

It’s infuriating to have some organisation make a decision about your entire future based on whether E-On can say you were living together or not.

We’ve requested an oral appeal, and submitted nearly 50 pages of Facebook relationship data to support that we’ve been together for more than long enough.

If they still say we weren’t together I’m not sure how we can prove it. It seems a lot like we’re being assumed guilty until we can prove we’re innocent here.

Ten Years of Blogging

Just the other day I realised that I will have been writing and maintaining this blog, or some version of it, for 10 years on January 6th. That’s a decade of my life spent writing the occasional post about whatever takes my fancy. Most of it is pointless to most people, but all of it continues to be interesting, helpful, and enjoyable to me when I come back to read it.

So, here are some statistics I’ve come up with for the timespan of this blog:

I have moved house somewhere in the region of 12 times, not counting some very brief stays in temporary places, and perhaps forgetting some.

I’ve worked for 5 companies (6 if you count Amazon and LOVEFiLM separately).

I’ve made lots of new friends, and completely stopped speaking to some of the ones I was friends with when this blog began. There’s even a small subset of friends that I’ve both made and stopped speaking to during the last 10 years.

I’ve lived in America, I’ve visited Canada, Germany, Romania, Poland, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Spain (and Tenerife), France, Singapore, Indonesia, and Australia.

I try to write updates on my blog while I’m doing these big life events, but in the end I tend to give up half way through because I’m busy writing updates on Facebook or Google+ instead. I find it kind of a shame that my post rate has dropped on here so dramatically because of social networks. It makes me wonder how much longer I’ll continue writing updates on a blog. It would be a bit of a shame to stop completely after 10 years though.