I’ve got my UK settlement visa

Welp, there we go – after just two months, I’ve received my settlement visa confirmation from the UK Home Office, plus my passport with a horrible picture and ‘Valid Until: Indefinite’ visa!

Woo-hoo!

What this means, basically, is that I can live and work anywhere in the UK, and come and go as I please, without restriction. I can even leave for up to 2 years at a time and re-enter the country, as long as I can show that I am returning for settlement reasons (for instance, if I were a Peace Corps volunteer or something in Vietnam, left for a year or so and came back).

What this DOES NOT mean is I have citizenship. A lot of people unfamiliar with the whole process of how UK immigration works (basically, anyone who isn’t an expatriate in the UK) think that I am a citizen now, but I’m not. I just have ‘settlement’, which is sort of halfway to being a citizen. The first step to get here was to be approved for a work permit, which is now called ‘Tier 1’ I think (the UK changes its laws on immigration, etc., every 2-4 years, depending on how you got into the country) but there are other ways, such as long residence (10+ years), marriage, Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) and other methods.

In my case, I had to wait 4 or 5 years on a valid Work Permit, then apply for this (I got in just before the UK Home Office raised the fees AGAIN and changed their rules).

After a year of having this settlement visa, I can pay another exorbitant fee and apply for citizenship, where I’ll have to get letters of reference and other similar things.

…So after I explain this to my friends and acquaintances, the next question is if I’ll apply for citizenship.

The short answer to this is ‘yes’, and why not? It’ll definitely make travel easier, since I’ll be able to go into the EU citizen line when returning to the UK or EU, and I can also use the US citizen line when going back to the US. Plus I’ll have extra rights, I’ll be able to vote (a surprising number of people don’t care about this, but it is important – just think of Bush/Blair/Brown) and there are other considerations. So it’s time to get saving! Again…

Meditation class tonight

I went to an evening meditation class organized by the local Buddhist center, it was very mellow, instructive and quite nice.

I guess this is kind of long but maybe it will help some folks to google ‘(local area) meditation class’ like I did:
There were just 3 other people plus a helper from the Buddhist center and an actual monk (in robes, etc.). After initial greetings from the helper everyone sat down and the lady went through some of the courses and things the center is doing soon, then the monk came in. A young woman, probably 30 or younger, which was a little surprising since ‘every Buddhist monk is Tibetan, of course’. She said hello and we went almost right into a nice breathing meditation which I want to write down because it was very useful. Basically we sat in our chairs (which were kind of uncomfortable, I’d rather sit on the ground) and she talked us through focusing on the room, then seeing ourselves in the room, then seeing ourselves floating and relaxing all the muscles from the top of your head to your toes. Then breathing out our bad thoughts and worries as black smoke, which dissipates to nothing. Then breathing in white light, then maybe doing both (light/smoke) at the same time instead of concentrating on just one or the other.

After this there was a talk from the monk. I was still getting used to the idea of the whole thing so I didn’t absorb it all and just checked out her shaved head, hand-knit robes, etc., but she used a book called The New Meditation Handbook, written by a Tibetan monk who’d moved to the UK some 30+ years ago, and read some passages from it to us between just talking about the feeling and purpose of meditation.

There wasn’t any evangelical ‘join Buddha’ talk but there were many references, but it certainly wasn’t a sermon in any way (I was raised Roman Catholic). There were some concepts such as meditation can cure or fix anything, and stuff like that (I may be remembering it wrong, forgive me). There were points I was thinking ‘if this person were older I’d feel more confident in this advice’ but basically I felt that was skepticism and tried to ignore it.

After the talk we had a focused meditation, I forget what she called it but it was about feeling love for everyone: we were told to concentrate on the breath coming into our nostrils and the breath going out, and then concentrated on someone who’d given us love and affection. After we concentrated on them we also concentrated on someone else and then tried to spread that love to everyone. I guess this is a ‘basic’ meditation but I got the idea. It was nice.

Afterwards we had tea & coffee and shared what we were trying to get out of meditation. One woman was trying it for the very first time and has an autistic teen son. Another woman is a stressed IT pro who’s tried all sorts of things from Daoism (sp?) to who knows what. The last guy had been to several classes previously and works as a home carer for autistic and sick people and was the most ‘experienced’ of us there, other than the monk. We all agreed that CDs and books are good but a ‘formal’ meditation with an actual person was great, and this one in particular. I think the main reason was because you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get with a meditation CD, whereas I was pretty sure with a Buddhist monk leading the way I wasn’t going to get some strange crap thrown at me.

Anyway, I quite liked it, will be going again next week.

If you’re feeling stressed or want to focus on something or anything like that, I’d recommend giving meditation a try!

Yes We Did! Obama is my President

Sorry to borrow the soon-to-be-overused line, but dammit, Obama WON!

And not just by a squeaker, not a safe margin, not even a landslide (which is what I thought it might be), but by a damn tail-tucking ROUT!

I was hearing more and more stuff as the days crept closer to the 4th that McCain was getting worse and worse polling numbers, his negative attacks were getting worse and worse and the pundits and news teams were giving him a smaller and smaller chance of winning.

Yesterday I decided I’d stay up as late as I could to watch the returns coming in, so I booked the morning off from work and got some Magner’s Irish cider ready and made a few sandwiches to occupy myself while I watch CNN international, the BBC and NBC coverage on British channel ITV. I also had the laptop open with about half a dozen websites open plus a couple of forums where people were keeping up-to-the-minute with the incoming results. By about 3 or 4 AM it was becoming clear but some states were really close, then Pennsylvania, Ohio were called for Obama and when the polls closed on the west coast all the channels didn’t even hesitate and just called Obama for the win.

And how sweet it was. To see 8 years of W going out the door, with long-time Washington power players getting the hell OUT, that can only be a good thing. Hopefully they’ve learned that negative campaigning doesn’t work and by mobilizing people who’ve been suppressed for decades you can make history.

I’m so proud to have been a part of it.

I’m proud to call myself American again.

I’m even proud to call myself Texan again, since San Antonio was one of the urban areas that went for Obama – even if McCain won the rest of the state.

It’s too bad the crowd at the McCain HQ didn’t have a tenth of the class of the Obama crowd – when McCain mentioned Obama, the crowd booed; when Obama mentioned McCain there were no boos and even a bit of applause. At least McCain sounded like the McCain of old and not the bitter old man he’d turned into earlier this year.

Anyway – I’m glad. I’m proud. I’m happy. I’m eager! And I’m anticipatory. I hope he maintains this momentum during his ‘first 100 days’ when the press watches to see who he gathers around him, who he picks for his cabinet, etc., and carries the momentum for the next four years.

Now to get W out of the White House, tar and feather the bastard and get the Obamas in!

I go forth to Battle!

Nah, not to fight or anything, just popping down south to the site of the Battle of Hasting (in Battle, East Sussex) for me birthday weekend! We’ll be camping down there in a big tent I got, doing a battlefield walk where someone from English Heritage will explain how the battle unfolded, checking out Battle Abbey which King William had built to commemorate his victory, plus checking out some other castles in the area including Bodiam Castle and Arundel Castle, both of which are very ‘fairy tale’ type castles.

(in case you’re not aware, the Battle of Hastings in 1066 was THE major battle of the early Middle Ages, and decided the direction of Britain’s power and monarchy for hundreds of years – it’s worth reading about)

YouTube Comment Snob

I love Firefox, partly because it’s not Internet Explorer but mostly because of free add-ons like this! (and of course the awesome new address bar feature. and tabs.)

You know when you go on YouTube and the comments section of a video page is overrun with 12-year olds practicing their hate speech and typing skillz? Well I hate that, so that I don’t even look at comments any more. This Firefox add-on removes all the immature ranting, loads of exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!!!! and misspellings so that you only see the comments from people that matter.

Me fingers are greasy!

The other day, while adjusting the rear derailleur (the springy bit with the 2 pulleys) on my commuter bike, I managed to adjust the chain into the spokes, which bent the derailleur so much it wouldn’t work.

So instead of riding my commuter bike to work the past couple of days, I’ve been on my mountain bike, which still has its semi-slick road tires on.

Popped over to Wiggle yesterday and ordered a new derailleur, it arrived today (probably didn’t have to get priority delivery but it was good to get it next day) and I put it on the mountain bike. I figured, why put the brand new (quite nice) derailleur on the commuter, the unit from the mountain bike is good enough for the commuter, if older, but it won’t get as much abuse as the unit on the mountain bike.

It was a surprisingly easy swap, too, took about 15 minutes total. I’m not entirely confident adjusting the shifter cable tension with the barrel adjusters but everything seems to shift just fine, except for shifting off the largest cog, but I’ll see how it shifts while I’m riding it. While I was at it I tightened up the front derailleur cable as well, because it wasn’t wanting to shift to the big chainring and I usually have to coast downhill instead of pedal.

Here’s a picture of the mountain bike with the road tires on it, I’ve already taken the rack and bags off the back:

This is on the bike rack at work. The reflective tape will be coming off the wheels and I’ll probably move the cycle computer over to the commuter.