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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I've been doing research on my Form I-751. To explain the form's purpose in layman's terms: for the first two years, my Green Card has certain restrictions placed on it, such as the length of time I can be outside of the country. 90 days before the two-year anniversary of my permanent residence (November 3, 2006), I have to file an I-751 to have these restrictions removed. I don't have to file until August, but if there's one thing I've learnt about dealing with the BCIS, it's learn early, and learn a lot.

I found a handy page on the official Immigration website. My favorite part about the procedure is what happens if you file the I-751 late (or maybe even early):
If you fail to properly file the Form I-751 (Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence) within the 90-day period before your second anniversary as a conditional resident, your conditional resident status will automatically be terminated and the USCIS will order removal proceedings against you. You will receive a notice from the USCIS telling you that you have failed to remove the conditions, and you will also receive a Notice to Appear at a hearing. At the hearing you may review and rebut the evidence against you. You are responsible for proving that you complied with the requirements (the USCIS is not responsible for proving that you did not comply with the requirements).

Just reading that makes me break out in a sweat. I may have to work my trip to Australia next year around the filing, because despite the fact there's supposedly a "90-day period," I would like to file my I-751 exactly 90 days before November 3.

Of course, filing the form is a pain in the arse, complete with a $205 filing fee. We have to present new evidence that our relationship is genuine. In additions to bank statements, leases, loan papers, and birth certificates of children (whoops, forgot to get those), this includes:
Affidavits sworn to or affirmed by at least two people who have known both of you since your conditional residence was granted and have personal knowledge of your marriage and relationship. (Such persons may be required to testify before an immigration officer as to the information contained in the affidavit.) The original affidavit must be submitted and also contain the following information regarding the person making the affidavit: his or her full name and address; date and place of birth; relationship to you or your spouse, if any; and full information and complete details explaining how the person acquired his or her knowledge.

We asked Cliff to be one witness, but I guess we should have maybe two more. If anyone who knows us well is just itching to write a notarized essay swearing that Matt and I love each other, let me know, but we'll probably come knocking in about May or June.

My second priority has been firing up my application to West Chester. Now that my GPA hasn't been obliterated by sociology, I'm feeling quite enthusiastic. I guess I'll start by writing an e-mail to the head composition guy introducing myself and asking for advice.

Heh, speaking of sociology, I read recently that the literacy of college graduates is in a decline. You all know my views on the subject. No need to repost my rants.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Cello StandNow that Christmas is over, I have two whole days of nothing before New Year's Eve hell begins.

For a long time, I have coveted a cello stand that lets me leave my spike out. Yes, I really am that lazy about putting my cello away between practice sessions. So yesterday, I went down to Lowes, bought myself $30 worth of wood, screws, corner brackets, and hooks, and, in the comfort of my living room, created from scratch the remarkably sturdy stand you see at the right. I'm pretty proud of it, considering the planning process consisted of a scrappy sketch and some very half-hearted measurements.

I've also been getting plenty of sleep. I think my sleep bank is almost out of the red. This is a very good thing, as last week, I was actually starting to hallucinate with exhaustion. On Thursday evening, during preparations for a class performance of Jack and the Beanstalk, I saw a giant curved streak of lightning suddenly bounce out of the head of a parent volunteer and into the backstage gloom. I kept the vision to myself. Best not to tell the parents that sort of thing. Then, on Friday night as Matt and I were driving home from Walmart in the rain, I saw an inpossibly large, coffin-shaped building radiating light on top of a hill. I blinked, and only the hill was real.

Thank goodness Matt drops me off at work every day. I don't think I was fit to drive last week.

Maybe in the first week of January when I'm on holidays, I'll try blogging about all the hallucinations I've ever had (for various, ahem, reasons). Hallucinations are awesome, especially when you are very aware they are hallucinations.

(Thus says the girl who is not mentally ill. Yet.)

I'm not exactly sure what's going on in Australia, aside from the knowledge that everyone is in hospital. Truth be told, I'm a little afraid to answer the phone at the moment. I'm terrified of hearing that my dad has passed away. I don't think he's quite on his deathbed yet, but he's apparently lost a painful amount of weight, and I'm desperately trying not to imagine what he must look like. I'm running away emotionally. Maybe if I don't hear anything, everything will be all right, right? It's all good, right?

Mum I'm not so worried about. She'll be fine.

Speaking of depression, last week's Smart Talk focused on the decision handed down by the Judge Jones in the Intelligent Design in Dover case. God, I hate people. Virtually every caller disagreed with the judge's decision - even a biology teacher who started ranting about the difference between macroevolution and microevolution proclaimed that ID had a place in his classroom. It was all I could do to keep from slitting my wrists in studio control.

Kudos to Judge Jones, though, officially my favorite church-going Bush-appointed Republican judge ever.

In the last few days, I've watched Le Roi de Coeur, a gorgeously funny movie recommended by Matt's parents, and I read Glengarry Glen Ross and half of Shopgirl while I was at Larry's house for Christmas dinner. I need to read the second half of Shopgirl. I feel like I've been left hanging.

Trivia: Geneviève Bujold, whom I quite fell in love with in Le Roi de Coeur, was first pick to play Captain Janeway.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Hey, I got a B on that Sociology course I rightfully should have failed, given my late and/or missing assignments. Hahahahaha! HACC strikes again.

Now I need to clean the house. I'll write more later.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Almost Christmas
Happy that you're here
Merry Almost Christmas
Happy Almost New Year
Sure it's cold but we've hot chocolate
And a fire burning away
By the fire see the clock lit
Now it's almost Christmas day
Merry Almost Christmas
Now that we are here
Merry Almost Christmas
Happy Almost New Year

  • That’s when the teacher interjected, just a few lines before the verse that announces the arrival of “a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.”
    “The teacher stopped reading and told us no one comes down the chimney,” Jamey said, curling into a ball on the couch, bracing her chin on her knees, her voice shrinking away like melting ice cream. “She said our parents buy the presents, not Santa.”

...Happy Almost New Year

Thursday, December 22, 2005

From what I can gather, the Mental Health Review Tribunal of New South Wales is holding a hearing tomorrow for Mum. I flipped out a little when I first heard, but then I did a bit of reading, and it's probably just a routine thing. I'm guessing it's because she was involuntarily committed. Trevor says she had "quite a breakdown," which probably means she was arrested at some point. She's back on the higher dosage of Valpro and Lithium.

I can't help feeling bad for not being there. If I had been there, it wouldn't have gotten this far. My mother might not have seen eye to eye very often, but I was always very good at convincing her to come quietly to the hospital before she cracked (even if it was a matter of tricking her into thinking we were going somewhere else). She definitely would have been admitted by last week.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

In a judicious denial last night, I wrote, "An e-mail from Dad states that everything is all right down south and that Mum is 'fine.' I'm leaving it at that until after New Year's Eve."

Why the fuck do I jinx my family by saying things like this?

Trevor e-mailed while I was sleeping. Mum is back in the psych ward. Looks like she'll be there for Christmas. Over the past few months, her local family doctor, whom I would personally enjoy throttling if I ever have the opportunity, reduced her medication from 1500mg to 200mg. Oh my fucking god. What the fuck was he thinking? Yeah, she's been unable to reduce her medication without being hospitalized for mania despite frequent attempts in the last 18 fucking years, but you know, maybe this time it will work! Fucking idiot. Or, as Trevor so succinctly put it, "Bugger the GP."

Trevor is definitely growing on me.

To make Christmas even more festive for the Shong household this year, Dad is back in hospital with a blood infection. Trevor says he's very skinny and won't stop passing blood.

I'm upset that both my parents are so unwell, but at least they are in the safest place possible. Especially Mum. Knowing that she was having a breakdown and that the only people around her were a schizophrenic who has never committed her before, an invalid dying of cancer, and a 93-year-old grandfather was worrying. I'm glad she was looked after, and Dad too. And, horrible as it is that they will spend their Yuletide in wards, I'm glad Trevor might get a little peace this Christmas.

God rest ye merry, Gentlemen. Let nothing you dismay.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Yeah, I know, I suck. I haven't written a blog entry in ages. Truth is, I've been too drained to want to blog. Clark and Melissa weren't kidding (not that I thought they were) - December is a killer of a month at Gamut. In the past week, we've done nine performances of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and an early morning performance of Hamlet. We would have performed 'Twas ten times, but we woke early and drove all the way up to Scranton on Friday only to discover that school had been cancelled due to the practically non-existent snow. Perhaps the ultimate tribute to the closeness and easygoing nature of the core company is the fact that four of us can sit, exhausted, in a tightly packed van for six hours in uninspiring surroundings on a futile mission while remaining completely amicable.

We stopped in Wilkes-Barre on the way home and ate lunch near Wachovia Stadium where Nine Inch Nails played a few weeks ago. Who knew that I would end up spending time in Wilkes-Barre twice this year?

I just finished reading What's My Motivation? by Michael Simkins. It's a hilarious light read, and makes me want to see Ian Holm's King Lear (already recommended to me by Sean) and Topsy Turvy (since recommended to me by Clark). Bah, movies? I haven't even read half the books we received for our wedding. Too many books to read. Not enough time.

However, since I've generally been too tired to do anything interactive this week, I have done more than my usual share of slumping comatose before flickering screens. Matt and I saw King Kong and loved it. I caught myself tearing up towards the end before I realized I was crying over a giant CG gorilla and dried up. The action sequences, however, are truly amazing. The brontosaurus stampede? Good lord. There must have been at least five minutes of brontosauri tumbling down and squashing people. Hooray for ragdoll physics! It was like the flash game of GW Bush freefalling over circles, only with giant herbivorous dinosaurs, hapless humans, three dimensions, realistic textures, and sharp pointy rocks. But by far the best sequence was Kong's fight with three T-rexes. After sitting dutifully tensed for what must have been at least half an hour of gasp-every-five-seconds combat, I started laughing uncontrollably. By the jaw-dropping (heh) finale, I was almost hysterical. It was beautiful. I felt like a cigarette afterwards.

Matt and I also watched The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and some episodes of Arrested Development and Strangers with Candy while we were at Meathead and Anita's house on Saturday night and Sunday morning. I may as well declare it publicly: if I weren't happily married, I would happily have sex with Steve Carell. Hey, wow, his IMDB profile says he's signed on to play Maxwell Smart next year.

Speaking of things I didn't know about actors, I forgot to mention that I recently discovered that Mariska Hargitay is Jayne Mansfield's daughter. Apparently this is common knowledge, but I somehow missed it. More than this, Mariska was in the back seat of the car asleep when her mother was killed. Hooray for useless knowledge about Law and Order actors.

My dream job would be blogging about Law and Order. For a buttload of money. Come on, TNT, you know you want to. Or just hire me as a consultant, even. I have lots of great ideas. For example, if you want a riveting Law and Order marathon, may I suggest playing, back-to-back, all the episodes in which major cast members enter and exit. Start with the very first episode, then play Phil's last show, Lennie's first show, Paul Robinette's last show, Ben Stone's last show, Jack McCoy's first show, Mike Logan's last show ... you get the picture. It would be AWESOME. I am a GENIUS.

I bought me a cheap violin on eBay.

An e-mail from Dad states that everything is all right down south and that Mum is "fine." I'm leaving it at that until after New Year's Eve.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

For the latest in trivial news, read this blog post.

My class performed brilliantly on Saturday. I was a little worried after the dress rehearsal, but everyone pulled together wonderfully, and it looks as though a lot of the students are re-enrolling next semester thanks to some satisfied parents. I'm thrilled! They're a great class, and a couple of them have oodles of talent, so I'd love to see them come back.

The GIANT MONSTER CHICKEN at the Pennsylvania State Museum, which I blogged about less than a week ago, is gone. I'm heartbroken and desperate to see it again. I even had a dream in which I found it in a storage room lying on its side, its enormous legs sticking out.

In an impulsive fit of frustration, I set to work trying to remove a buzz which has developed in my cello. After virtually taking the entire instrument apart, I traced it to the metal fingerboard; I transplanted the super-cheap fingerboard from my super-cheap cello, and the buzz has disappeared. Good thing fingerboards aren't very expensive. I could pick one up for about $15 ... or I could splurge and think about getting a very pretty one like this for myself for Christmas.

Speaking of eBay, I'm selling my electric violins. So far, nobody has bid on the cool one, and the uncool one has fetched more than I paid for it. Huh.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

I have nothing new to report, but I want to thank everyone for the hugs and love and support. I don't know what's going on in Australia right now, and I don't know where I am emotionally. Everything is being put off. Today I have three performances of Twas the Night Before Christmas, and my Theatre Basics class is giving their final performance to their parents in between. Tomorrow I'm performing Little Red Riding Hood around lunchtime at a private birthday party function at the theatre. After that, I'll have at least 36 hours to think, feel, break down again, whatever.

Some of the things my mother said to me on the phone keep crossing my mind in a disembodied kind of way. You can always tell when my mother is ready to be committed - she is overwhelmed with guilt, and she preaches that money isn't important. When she's sane, she usually can't stop talking about the supreme importance of money and how guilty everyone else should be feeling.

Towards the end of the conversation, Mum kept remembering the cat I owned when I was twelve. Cratty was run over one night, and a passing pizza delivery man brought her to our door while I was watching It on the television. She was barely alive, wheezing and coughing up blood. I cried and begged Mum to take her to the vet, but she refused, knowing that Cratty would not survive, and not wanting to pay the fee to have her put down. So she packed me off to bed and drowned Cratty with her bare hands in the laundry tub.

It shook her up much more than she thought it would. And now, with her mind in pieces, she has latched onto the event as one more reason to feel guilty. She begged me for forgiveness, and I bewilderedly told her that she had it, but she wouldn't stop weeping.

In the midst of everything, I forgot to post my final sociology assignment. So it looks like I'll be getting zero for that, thanks to the lateness policy. Terrific. I'll be lucky if I get a C for the course.
  • Oh shit. The music industry is to extend its copyright war by taking legal action against websites offering unlicensed song scores.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Urrrrgggghhh my nose is so stuffed up that I can't sleep. I've left my nasal spray at work, there's too much snow outside to drive to the pharmacy, and I can't sleep properly if I take anything containing pseudoephedrine.


I don't know if I'm getting sick or suffering from allergies, or if my nose is just malfunctioning after the earlier waterworks.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Jesus Christ.

I just called my mum. She is fucking bananas.

Jesus Christ.

I can't stop crying. She is screaming at me to come home. I spoke to Trevor. He confirms that she is completely off the deep end. She is screaming that Dad is about to die. He isn't. It's all her. Jesus Christ. Jesus.
So, I'm getting drunk.

My mum is apparently LOSING HER SHIT. She didn't hear from me for TWO WHOLE DAYS and she got John's wife Precy to leave me multiple voicemail messages, and her sister and brother-in-law that I don't even know to leave a message too.

She cried at them, I hear. She declared, "Her dad is dying!"

I call. Nobody answers. I try again. There's something wrong with the phone. Finally, Dad answers. He is not dying (well, not right away). I hear that, and relax, and start crying, because, of course, I bottle up my goddamn feelings in order to function and don't feel a goddamn thing until I relax. Mum is going crazy. It's summer. Apparently, on Epilem, she goes nuts in the summer instead of the spring.

That follows. She was last committed in December 2002, a week before Matt arrived in Australia.

So I drink a little bit to make the crying go away, and since I havebn;t eaten in a while, I'm drunk.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

In addition to making me continually wrong, irritable, liable to forget singing lessons, and slow, PMS makes me think of the darndest things. For example, today during a conversation with Robert, I related to him at great length a fluffy news story I saw last Easter which showed footage of baby chickens eating Peeps. Having been awake for well over 24 hours at the time (ahh, those crazy days at WHP), and being possessed with an unexplainable chicken fetish, the story scarred me for life.

And so, I talk about it for no apparent reason to people every now and then. But, hey ...

There is a giant peep at the Pennsylvania State Museum. Of course, they don't have a picture of it on the website, because otherwise nobody would visit. It's a fucking monster. It's the goddamn Cthulhu of peeps. Thank god my experimental days are behind me, because if I'd seen it for the first time while tripping my balls off, I would have keeled over and died on the spot.

Seriously, the thing is the size of four elephants. Its beady little eye must be as big as a beach ball.

Look at this! We bought it the other day just because it's called Peepee.

Another thing that crosses my mind when I have PMS, aside from shooting myself in the head for being wrong all the fucking time, is ripping people's lungs out. For example, there is a fellow I know - let's call him Turd - who drives me to distraction even when I don't have PMS. The worst thing about Turd is his creepy little habit of making involuntary revolting sounds with his mouth and vocal cords. When he eats, it sounds like tentacle rape in the next room. Before he speaks, soft incoherent murmurs escape his mouth. And even when he's sitting in utter silence, for some reason, he makes weird tiny moaning noises every few minutes.

The other night, I was sitting near him, surrounded by an uncomfortable silence broken only by these bizarre little moans.



"Hhhhm. Mmm."

And all I could think about was reaching over and ripping out one of his fucking lungs.

SHHHHLLLLRROOOOOOOPP! Yeah, let's see you make moaning noises without one of your lungs.

I started writing this blog on Saturday, so some of these news stories might be a bit old.
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: HOME AT LAST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!TODAY
Date: Wed, 07 Dec 2005 15:06:35 +1100
From: Cindy Shong


IN THE MEANTIME I WILL HANG-IN THERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Friday, December 02, 2005

A while ago, I saw a band from Boston called Fluttr Effect, and thought they were wonderful, not least because they are all Berklee grads, and the band features an electric cello and a MIDI marimba. From their mailing list:
We are just a couple of days away and very excited about it. Our Harrisburg show is the second night of this December tour and we really hope you'll come out, share the night with us and send us off to a good start.

DRAGONFLY - 234 N. SEcond St

We are sharing the stage with BoBim.
The show is 21+, $7

I'm considering going, if I'm not too tired and/or broke.

I've been getting into the Christmas spirit by feeling revoltingly materialistic. Following the lead of millions of children worldwide, here is a list of stuff I covet which have been sitting in my bookmarks for anywhere between two years and a week. Call it a Christmas window shopping list:

And now, here is a picture of Dick Cheney becoming a lizard:

I am staying up late, watching Oprah on Letterman.