Friday, July 27, 2007


Was able to renew my B1/B2 US visa this week, and it was thankfully a lot easier than I expected.

The steps for applying for any kind of US visa are described in detail at the Embassy of the United States in Manila website. In my case, I needed to renew a non-immigrant visa and therefore used the VisaPoint site.

Side note: the VisaPoint site explicitly says it works well with Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. I was able to use Firefox for most of the pages on that site, but in the end I had to switch to IE because the final step, where the site generates a PDF-form, didn't work properly with Firefox.

The best advice I can share after going through the experience is this: Read everything related to your visa type on the VisaPoint site carefully and follow every instruction.

It may also help you to know in advance that you'll need to go through 5 different queues on the day of your appointment:

  1. a queue at the entrance to the embassy where they check to see if you've actually got an appointment. They also check if you've brought along the correct forms;
  2. a queue inside the embassy where they review the correctness and completeness of your application forms and then assign you a number. Once you've got a number, you sit in the waiting area and wait for your number to be called;
  3. a queue after they call your number where you go to get your fingerprints scanned;
  4. a queue after finger-printing where you actually talk to a consul and s/he decides whether or not to approve your visa application; and finally
  5. a queue with the Delbros courier service, where you fill up a form to let them know where your passport and visa should be delivered once the embassy releases it (usually after a few working days).
Because there are literally dozens of people waiting to be processed at any one time, you may get the feeling that people are being herded around like cattle from queue to queue.

In reality, the whole queue-based process, although very impersonal, is designed with process efficiency in mind. So just accept that you'll have to line up a few times. You'll find that with the correct mindset, the wait will be much easier to handle. The employees I interacted with were all gracious and patient, and that helped too.

My appointment was scheduled for 8am. I arrived at 7am as instructed and was done with the courier paperwork (Queue #5) and back outside the embassy gates by 8.45am.

I think my experience was much easier than I expected because my previous visa had been multiple-entry. I noticed that folks like me were all assigned a number on the "Speed Line." Although everyone has to go through the same lines for Queues #1 and #2, folks who got sorted into the Speed Line had shorter waits for Queues #3 and #4, primarily because there were less of us, and we didn't have to answer questions or show any supporting documents other than our expired visas.

Overall, it was a much more pleasant experience than I expected. If all goes according to schedule, my passport with its new visa will arrive by courier within a week's time. Only then will I know what kind of visa I actually got this time.

Friday, July 20, 2007


Stumbled across Gabe Mercado's 20 Things You Want To Say To 20 People tonight, and after reading it, all I can say is "Wow!" Talk about catharsis!

I don't think I have enough angst to come up with my own list of 20.

And by golly, do I thank God for that!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Which Four-Letter Acronym are You?

Via Laura Spencer's Writing Thoughts blog:

Michael Haislip is conducting a little experiment to see if there's a correlation between a blogger's Myers-Briggs personality type and their blogging style.

I took this particular personality test for the first time over a decade years ago, because a project manager I worked with believed that knowing each individual's personality type would allow her to better tailor her communication and interaction style with each team member. I remember testing as an ENTJ back then.

A few years later, I took the test again as part of yet another team building exercise, and surprisingly, I tested back as an ExTJ. Apparently, my answers had placed me smack in the middle of the iNtuitive-Sensing spectrum, so the facilitator used the letter X instead of an N or S.

A friend of mine who specializes in personnel development reassured me back then that it's only natural for the test result to evolve, especially over the span of many years, because people adapt and grow over time.

So when I saw Michael Haislip's blogpost tonight, I gamely took the Jungian Typology test online. I guess I shouldn't have been completely surprised to see a new four-letter combination -- I'm now an INTJ.

The website offers a write-up on the various personality types, and I must say that their write-up of the INTJ personality type does describe me with frightening accuracy.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Settling the Dinner Bill: A Spectrum of Choices

I've just finished reading (with a great deal of fascination) three blogposts by three different people who were all at the same dinner party.

They present three very different viewpoints as to how the dinner bill should have been settled:

I found it fascinating because there was some discussion as to whether or not the difference in opinion was cultural. I suppose culture plays a big part of it, but I've personally experienced major differences in bill-settling habits even in my own social circles here in Manila.

For example, I have a set of friends that routinely splits the bill, despite the fact that some don't drink and others don't order appetizers, dessert, or coffee.

I've also been in situations at the other end of the spectrum. My "favorite" experience is a get-together where someone actually whipped out a calculator when the bill arrived, and pointedly asked each person how many slices of pizza they ate that evening so they can figure out how much each person should pay. Frankly, how anyone can possibly remember how many slices they've had after several beers or margaritas is beyond me.

I've also been at birthday dinners where the celebrant announces ahead of time that they'll cover the first Px,000 of the bill, then leaves the group to order their dinners as they see fit. If the group doesn't spend beyond that pre-announced amount, then only the celebrant pays. If the group bill goes over, then everyone else splits the difference evenly.

At work, our usual practice is to have one person pay the bill at the restaurant, then someone volunteers to 'do the math' so that each individual is charged correctly, down to the centavo, with the tip factored in. The computation is done off-line, when we're all back at the office, and no one bothers to double-check if the figure is correct. We each just get an email or SMS saying how much we owe, and we dutifully go and pay the person who had advanced the payment. That person doesn't bother to check the total either.

Ordinarily, we wouldn't be this anal about the lunch bill at work, but since it's the same group of people eating out together on an almost daily basis, simply splitting the bill equally would have grown increasingly inequitable in the long run, especially for the very light eaters.

What I've found from observation is that splitting the bill evenly is a lot easier to handle when everyone in the group is still single or have no pressing financial burden. When you're a mixed group of singles and couples, especially in cases where the couples have children, then budgeting becomes more of an concern.

In the end, I don't think there's a right or wrong way to settle the bill. The actual approach doesn't matter, provided everyone understands right at the onset what the rules of the group are. I'm lucky enough that I can afford to simply go with the group norm, whatever that norm may be.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Finding Entertainment in the Strangest Ways

Learned about the Tim Tang Test tonight through a question that was posted in my new favorite site, Fluther.

If you think you're really hot stuff, I double-dare, no, triple-dare you to try the test!

I'm currently in Level 2 (just started a few minutes ago but decided to pause long enough to write this blogpost), and got a laugh out of the audio clip that was playing for that level.

A quick Google search on some of the lyrics led me to this YouTube video of the Klein Four Group singing Finite Simple Group (of Order Two). [Lyrics here]

Math majors will get a kick out of it, I think.

Yes, yes, I'm revealing that I'm too much of a geek. But when you get geekyness and music together in one videoclip, I can't resist!