All posts by Mick West

Naturalization Oath in Pomona

So my naturalization oath day finally arrived.   It in Pomona, which is about 60 miles from here, and they said to arrive at 12:30.  So I set off around 11, and arrived around12 (unusually clear traffic for LA).   When you arrive it’s pretty much a case of follow the signs.  There was a huge queue of cars at the gate (gate 17, not 14 as they listed on the note), and they charge $9 for parking.

Then just follow the streams of people into the fairground, it was quite a long walk (about half a mile total), and I’m glad it was not too hot.


Then we are separated out into “Future Citizens” and “Family and Friends”.   I joined the “Future Citizens” line (click any of these photos for big versions)

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Eventually we all get inside, there’s a bunch of tables where they take away your green card (gone forever!) and write a number on your appointment letter.

Then we were given small American flags and sat down, and waited for the ceremony to begin.  This seems to take rather a long time, and I think we actually start around 1:30.

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That’s the last photo I took.  If you look in the upper left you can see a small area for family and friends to view the ceremony.  I think that space is very limited, crowded standing room only, and a lot of people ended up outside.   The ceremony started with some calling to order (seing as how it was actually a court, with a Judge and all).   Pretty much the first thing we did was stand a take the oath:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

This was done by the Judge reading it out a bit at a time, and everyone (3500 people) repeating it.   This was not so simple, as the sound system was terrible, and it was hard to hear what he was saying, especially with words like “abjure” and “potentate” in there.  Still, we got through it, and then everyone clapped and waved their flags.

Next someone gave a speech, which I think was about the history, honor, and responsibility of being an American citizen.  Unfortunately I was only able to hear one word in ten.

Next they played us a video of Lee Greenwood singing “God bless the USA“, set to a montage of images of America – Steel Mills, Mountains, Birds, Oceans, People, etc.   This seemed a little asecular to me, but what can you do.

We then pledge allegiance to the flag, sang the national anthem, and that was the ceremony over.   We were shuffled back to the tables where we went the the table number we were given earlier to collect our certificates.

A that point you are done and can leave.   But I chose to go and apply for a passport in the next building.   This took another hour, with the long line.  Plus they take away your certificate (will be mailed back later), and you are technically not allowed to make a copy of it, so you will be left without evidence of citizenship during that time, except for the reciept they give you, and the letters you had from earlier.  Passports take 2-4 weeks, so although I’m a fully legal American citizen now (feels a bit odd writing that), the process is not quite over.

[Update:  My passport arrived in three weeks, with the certificate mailed separately]

My Naturalization Interview

The next to last part of applying to become a US citizen is the naturalization interview, where they make sure you are a worthy enough person to have the right to become a citizen of the US.   Mine was scheduled for today, at 7:45 AM.

So I get up at 6AM, and set off.   They say don’t arrive too early.   I get to the Federal Building (300 N Los Angeles St, Downtown LA) at around 7:30.   There’s a short line outside, and it’s raining.  The guard directs me to the end of the line.   I did not bring an umbrella.

I’m in the line for about 10 minutes, not raining too hard luckily.   Then through security – there’s a sign saying “No cameras”, but they don’t seem to mind cell phones with cameras built in.   I proceed to the 6th floor, into a moderately large room with many people of all ethnicities.  I give my form to the lady behind the window, and take a seat.

People get called every minute or so.  Many people seem to be couples, or maybe people with lawyers.   Many people are practicing their civics questions.   I use the flash cards on my iPhone for a while, but I’m already about 99% sure I’ve got them all, and I only need 60%.

My name gets called after about 45 minutes, and my interviewer, Mr Rivera, takes me back to his office, on the way there he makes a copy of my greeen card and my drivers license.  When in his office I have to be placed under oath, standing up, right hand raised, promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

He then asks a bunch of questions, like: “have you ever been arrested for drunk driving” and “have you been a communist”.   He asks me if I pay my taxes, and then if I’ve brought my tax returns with me.   I did not.

He then turns to his computer and prints out the actual test part of the interview, consisting of ten questions, that he asks verbally, of which I have to get six right.   My six were (with my answers):

  • Who is in charge of the executive branch? (The President)
  • Name one right guarenteed by the first amendment? (Freedom of speech)
  • Why did the first colonists come to america? (Freedom of religion)
  • Describe one amendment to do with voting (Women’s right to vote).
  • What was the main US concern during the cold war (Communism)
  • If the President is incapacitated, who takes over (The Vice-President)

That’s it.  There were four more questions, but all you have to do is get six right, so they stop when you do.  We then moved on to test my mastery of english, which was a two part exam, firstly reading – where he gave me a piece of paper, on which was written:

Which state has the most people?

Which I read aloud, then he gave me another piece of paper, and told me to write “California is the state with the most people”, which I did.    There were spaces on both pieces of paper for multiple attempts, but I managed to get it first time!  I think that because it was obvious I could read and write, he was just doing the minimum required to get the paperwork done.   The tests both went into my file.

It seemed like we were done, but he then informed me that they need to keep my tax returns on file, as I was self employed.   He then told me I could bring it in today or tomorrow, or mail it in – but mailing it in could take a really long time to process.   So I said I would bring it in today.

So, another 45 minute drive home, then I printed out five years of federal tax returns, sorted out the bits that were needed (1040, including the bit on self-employment tax).   He kept saying I’d need business tax returns, but I think he thought I ran a small business.

Anyway, drove back, the room is now totally packed, must be 400 people in there, but I tell the guy at the window I’m returning with documents, and he goes back and tells  Mr Rivera, who comes and gets me after about five minutes.

Then that’s about it.  He examines my tax returns, seems to think they are in order, adds them to my file (which is now about two inches thick – they use a LOT of paper).  He rustles through the file for a while, then eventually gets out his big APPROVED stamp, and stamps a few pages, hurrah!

So then he gives me a piece of paper (N-652) saying I was approved, and tells me the Oath Ceremony will be in a few weeks, and I’ll get a letter.   I can also apply for a passport directly after the ceremony.

Not too bad really.  Pity they did not make the information about bringing tax returns more apparent, but it just added two hours to the process, and was just annoying rather than a problem.   One thing I was worried about as I arrive was that I just brought my current passport, and not the one I entered the country with originally.   But he asked for neither, so all was well.    If in doubt though, bring everything.

The Naturalization Process

I’m currently living in the US as a “premanent resident”, with what is known as a “green card”.  This means I can live here as long as I like, but I’m not a citizen.  I can’t vote, I can’t leave the country for more than six months at a time, and there are some tax problems.

On Election day this year, November 4th 2008, I decided to apply for citizenship, and so filled in my form and sent it off.   This is what happened so far (I’ll update it as more thing happen).

Nov 4th 2008

– Filled in the N400 form.  This can be downloaded from the slightly confusing USCIS web site.  It’s a PDF that you can fill in at your computer and then save and print out.   I’m sure eventually they will accept it over the internet, but for now you’ve got to mail it in.
– Took some passport photos.   These have to be ratther particular, 2″x2″.  There’s a nice page explaining all the details, or you can just pay someone to do it for you.   You need to send them two, and keep two for later.   I did them myself, Holly took a photo of me with a white background, and I cropped it to fit.  You write your “A Number” on the back of the photo, in pencil.
– Wrote check for $675.   Somewhat expensive.
– Sent it all in (I actually did the above over a few days, but I mailed it on election day).
(There’s a handy checklist for the above).

Nov 13th 2008

An I-797C Notice of Action arrives, telling me my application has arrived, and I should hear from them within 425 days.  Yes, it actually said 425 day.

Nov 20th 2008

Rather surpisingly, I hear from them a week later, with a letter telling that I have an appointment to be fingerprinted on december 4th, at 12 PM.  Not too bad.  But I think the long wait comes after, waiting for the interview.

Dec 4th 2008

Fingerprinting day.  I arrive at 11:40 for my 12PM appointment.   Not very busy.  They are very serious about their “No Cellphone” rule, making me leave mine in the car.   I fill in a form, and am called in less than five minutes.   The fingerprinting took arount 10 minutes (a grumpy Russian woman, constantly berating the machine).  My fingers were too dry, so they were squirted with water several times, but eventually it worked.

They game me a book to study for the Naturalization test, questions like:  What is the “rule of law”.  Now I just have to wait until an interview is scheduled.  No idea how long that will take.

Dec 18th 2008

I’ve got my appointment for the interview.  Set for Feb 17th 2009, at 7:45AM.

Feb 17th 2009

Naturalization interview.

March 3rd 2009

I get a letter informing me that the Naturalization Oath Ceremony is on March 25th, 2009, at the Pomana Fairplex, 12:30 PM.   I am to bring the letter, my green card, probably my passports (just to be safe).   I also have to assert that since the interview I have not practiced polygamy or been a habitual drunkard.

They also note that “Proper attire should be worn”

March 25th 2009

Naturalization oath ceremony, I’m now an American.  Applied for passport.

April 15th 2009

Passport arrives, and the Naturalization certificate was returned in a separate envelope.  Basically five and a half months from applying to getting the passport and certificate.

Nepal Photos from 1993

Back in 1993 I took a trip to Nepal with my ex-girlfriend Carol.    I took a lot of photos on that trip, and finally got around to scanning them in:

Six days of the trip were trekking near Pokara, in the Annapuran region.  This is approximately the route we took:

From Nepal 1993

It’s about the easiest trek you can do. We walked for about five hours a day, maybe a bit more, but were really only walking 5-8 miles. It was a lot of up and down though. The heights on the map are in meters.

Where it all began

This is how I got started programming, 20 years ago, 1988:

Actually I started a few years earlier, but this is probably where I really got into writing code, and writing games.  That’s a Sinclair ZX-Spectrum in a dK’tronics keyboard.  Microdrive on the left.  TV as a monitor.  Sound sampler plugged in the back, plotter on the right.  Cassette player (from before I got the microdrive).  I still have that pink folder under the calculator.  This is all on my desk in my room at Needham Hall, from when I was at UMIST (now Manchester University).

Books I Have Read on the Kindle

Books I’ve read since Feb 4th 2008, on my Kindle, with a ranking out of five of how much I enjoyed reading them.

1984 by George Orwell. (4/5)
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (4/5)
Sabriel by Garth Nix (4/5)
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (4/5)
A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian, by Marina Lewycka (3.5/5)
What is the What, By Dave Eggars (4/5)
World War Z: An Oral History, by Max Brooks (4.5/5)
Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (3/5)
Lirial by Garth Nix (4/5)
Abhorsen by Garth Nix (4/5)
13 Bullets by David Wellington (3/5)
American Gods by Neil Gaiman (4/5)
The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (3.5/5)
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (4/5)
Gate of Ivrel by C.J. Cherryh (3.5/5)
Eat the Document by Dana Spiotta (4/5)
The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester (4.5/5)
In the Woods by Tana French (4.5/5)
East of Eden by John Steinback (4/5)
The Likeness by Tana France (3.5/5)
Duma Key by Stephen King (4/5)

HomePNA Ethernet over CATV Coax

[Update June 2009] The following account might still be useful, but I don’t think the DPH548 is available any more.   I would now recommend the NetGear MCAB1001 Adapter kit, which Amazon is currently offering for $180 for two adapters.   It gets very good reviews.  Someone reported problems getting it working with FiOS, but according to a comment below: “I’m Chris Geiser, the Product Line Manager for the NETGEAR MoCA bridges. The MCAB1001 works fine on the Verizon FIOS network and has been extensively tested.”

Continue reading…

Sharing Two Kindles, How does it work?

It works great!

My wife and I both like to read. I recently got a Kindle, and Holly just had to have one too. One downside of e-books is that you can’t share a book with a friend. However, if two people can share one Amazon account (at least, just for Kindle purchases) , then they can share all their books between their two Kindle’s.

kindle-buy-options.jpgIt works really simply, and really well. When you get the second Kindle, you just register it to the same account as the first one. Then when you buy a book, or download a sample, you get a drop-down box that lets you choose which Kindle you want the book sent to. In the image to the right I’ve selected “Mick’s Kindle”.

So it gets sent to whichever Kindle you like. There’s no option to send it to both Kindles, but once you’ve bought it, then it’s in your “Media Library” on Amazon, and from there you can send it again to either Kindle.

You can also buy books on the Kindle itself, and with that it works just as you would expect – the book goes to the Kindle you ordered it on, and to the Media Library, so it can be downloaded to either Kindle at a later time.

Finally you can also get a copy of the book on the other Kindle without using the computer. Just go to the “Content Manager” on the Kindle’s main menu. In the Content Manager, some books are labeled “Kindle”, meaning they are in your Kindle, and some are labeled “Amazon”, meaning they are just in your Media Store. If Holly buys a book, it will automatically show up here.

So, to download a book Holly just bought on her Kindle, I just select it in the Content Manager, and then select “Move to Kindle Memory” from the Menu. The book will transfer, and twenty seconds later you can start reading.

This all brings me to an unexpected advantage of the Kindle. We can read the same book at the same time. Normally you’d read a book and then lend it to someone. But since we have two Kindles, with two copies of the book (for less than the price of one paper book), we can both be reading it at the same time. We are currently both reading What is the What by Dave Eggers, and it’s a novel experience to be able to discuss the book while were are both still reading it.