Hoops, hoops and more hoops

March 23, 2007

OK, I may be dying in my NCAA pool, but I still love the event. Last night (Thursday) all four games were interesting (average winning margin of 3.5 points, including two 1 point games). Southern Illinois proved that their incredible defensive reputation was completely deserved, even in a close loss. Ohio State somehow escaped once again. Texas A&M played a great one against Memphis (truly one of those games that neither deserved to lose).

And at the same time some interesting hoops news. What does 9 straight 20 win seasons, 9 straight NCAA tournament appearances and one national championship get you? If you coach Kentucky there was a good chance it got you a free ride out of town. So in a pre-emptive move Tubby Smith takes a job at Minnesota. OK, that’s a serious step down, so he must have known he was gone.

And Steve Alford was about to get run out of Iowa, so he takes the head coaching job at New Mexico. I’m a huge Alford fan as a player, because he was a part of the Indiana national championship team. He was a pure shooter. From the free throw line he was so automatic that the crowd would mimic his shooting routine by chanting “socks, butt, 1,2,3, swish”. He wiped his hands on the backs of his socks, then the back of his shorts, dribble three times and about 96% of the time swish the shot (the crowd would yell “swish” as the ball left his hands, we were that confident).

But being a great college player and playing under Bob Knight doesn’t always make you a great coach. I hope Alford is good for New Mexico, because I really like him. But his record at Iowa was spotty.

Speaking of great guards that played for Coach Knight, Isiah Thomas is managing to not get the Knicks into the playoffs, despite being in the weakest conference in NBA history. I loved Isiah as a player, but I can’t stand him as a GM and I’m not in love with him as a coach.

But that’s the pros. College hoops is much more interesting. Vandy and G’Town in a thriller and Butler gave Florida a good run. More great games…


Firefox Add-ons

March 18, 2007

I just installed two nice add-ons, both Google map related. Both are incredibly simple. The first allows you to highlight an address on a web page, right click and map it with Google maps. Simple, but something I do all the time.

https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/1886/

The second is even more useful. Same concept but you set your home address (and optionally two other addresses) and when you highlight an address on a web page you can right click and get directions from your home to that address (supports either Google or Yahoo).

https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/1104/

To me these show how sometimes the simplest little addition to functionality can make all the difference.


Abuelo

March 16, 2007

Normally this would be a post about March Madness. But my wife’s father passed away last Sunday, so I haven’t been paying much attention. I did my picks for my pool without much thought at all (and it shows in the standings). At least my team Indiana beat Gonzaga in the first round (and I bet a lot of people picked Gonzaga).

My wife’s father was Abuelo to our daughter Danielle (abuelo is Spanish for grandfather, if you didn’t know). His death was hard for a number of reasons. Obviously it is hard on my wife. And this is the first loss that our daughter has experienced (other than a goldfish). What do you tell her? When do you tell her?

Thankfully four year olds have a very short attention span. We were going to take her for ice cream before we told her that Abuelo was in heaven. She cried and talked about how much she would miss him. And then while she’s crying in her mother’s arms, she looks up and says “can we go get ice cream now?”. Ah, to be four again.

He had a very full life. We got to celebrate his 90th birthday a week before he died, so that will always be a good memory. And at least Danielle got to know him, if only briefly. We have lots of pictures of the two of them together.

This is Abuelo with some of his grandchildren last Christmas (Danielle is on the right). We will miss him.


Adoption Progress

March 6, 2007

Things are slowly moving along with our adoption. There have been some strange concerns lately around the Guatemala adoption environment. There’s an upcoming concern about the Hague treaty. This is an international treaty around adoptions and any country agreeing to it must meet certain standards (primarily to prevent shady dealings, coercion, etc.). Guatemala has agreed to the treaty, but hasn’t put the proper procedures in place yet. If they do not do so in a timely manner the US might decide that no adoptions will be allowed until Guatemala gets it’s act together.

That, however, is down the road and we are far enough along that it should not impact us. The State Department has stated that anyone with an approved I-600A form will be grandfathered and we’re way past that part.

The next issue was an adoption facilitator in Guatemala getting arrested. It’s somewhat of a strange story. Apparently this adoption facilitator was trying to arrange an adoption for a couple in Washington state. The adoption was completed, the couple came to see the baby and discovered that the baby was malnourished and had other health issues. The couple balked, and went back to the US to consult with a doctor. But at this point the adoption had been completed so the Washington couple were legally the girl’s parents.

The adoption facilitator was concerned that the couple wasn’t going to follow through and the child would end up in an orphanage, where her condition would likely get worse. So she snuck the baby into the US, presumably to take care of her herself. She got busted for doing that.

The concern is that now Guatemala is investigating and that this will distract from the regular adoption process in Guatemala.

But despite all of that, we appear to be about 2-3 months away from adopting our baby. Below is a chart from the State Department with a general overview of the process and timelines. We’ve completed the first four steps (green is completed). Really the first five are the bulk of the process. Once the adoption goes through PGN (Guatemalan Solicitor’s General Office – step 5) you are pretty much done. PGN is somewhat of a black hole. The timeframe of 2 months listed below has a very wide swing. Our adoption agency said 6 weeks to 3 months. But still, it’s getting close. June would be realistic.

The strange thing is that if this were a normal pregnancy, my wife would be quite large by now and I think we’d be doing a lot more planning. But because the adoption is so abstract to our day to day life, we really haven’t done much to prepare. I guess it’s partly because this will be our second and we know the drill (and we have all the stuff). But the whole thing still doesn’t seem real yet.

Step

Form No. Description Responsible Office Confirmation/Document Expected Timeframe
1 I-600A Eligibility of Parents to Adopt overseas (home study, etc.) US DHS District or sub-Office in the United States I-171H and Visas 37 (or Visas 38/39 6 months (may be done in advance or concurrently with other steps)
2 Proof of “orphan” status (birth certificates, cedula, hospital records) Guatemalan Attorney USCIS form “Autorizacion para iniciar prueba de ADN” 2 months
(depends on attorney & situation)
3 DNA test submission Guatemalan Attorney DNA test results 30 days (after step 2)
4 DNA test approval Embassy DHS/ USCIS Consentimiento (irrevocable release by birth mother) to Guatemalan Attorney 4 weeks (after step 3)
5   Guatemalan court documents. PGN/ Guatemalan attorney Protocolo/escritura 2 months (after step 4)
6   Finalizing the Adoption Guatemalan Attorney Adoption Deed 7 days after step 5
7   Guatemalan Birth Certificate with name(s) of adoptive parent(s) Guatemalan Attorney Birth Certificate 7 days after step 6
8   Guatemalan passport Guatemalan Attorney Guatemalan Passport 1 day after step 6
9 I-600 Petition to Classify an Orphan (blue form) and final adoption documents packet
(Form I-600 is filed in the U.S. for escort cases)
Attorney submits to DHS/USCIS at the U.S. Embassy
(or Form I-600 is submitted to the appropriate DHS/USCIS Field office in the U.S. for escort cases)
“Pink Slip” interview appointment letter–Approved petition in US for escorts Normally within two business days following submission to DHS/USCIS at the Embassy
10   Medical report Embassy Approved Doctor, also called a Panel Physician Sealed Envelope with medical report Completed after step 9 and prior to the Interview. The Embassy recommends that adoptive parent(s) be present at the medical appt if at all possible.
11 DS-230 Immigrant Visa application Consular Section Approval at interview same day as interview
12 I-864 (for IR-4 cases only) Affidavit of Support with previous year’s tax returns, etc. Consular Section Approval at interview same day as interview
13 IR-3 or IR-4 Immigrant Visa Consular Section Visa and sealed envelope with final documents delivered to adoptive parent(s) 3:30 p.m. the next workday following the interview

Pitchers and Catchers

March 2, 2007

While March is primarily about college hoops, any baseball fan will tell you that March is a great month because of spring training. During the winter as you drive by Yankee Stadium the sign will read “xx days ’til pitchers and catchers”. Just the phrase “pitchers and catchers” to a baseball fan means that good things are around the corner.

For some reason in baseball more than any sport, spring training is the time of eternal optimism. Columnists write things like “this could be his breakout season, if only he can learn to hit a curveball”. Every team thinks they have a chance, even if they lost 100 games last year.

And in serious baseball cities, every tiny thing is reported on, discussed and analyzed. A rookie throws 98 mph in a practice session! The next Nolan Ryan! What? He threw it over the catcher’s head? He’ll work that out…

So I am very happy to report that the Yankees won their first spring training game. Johnny Damon led off the game with a home run. Giambi also went yard. Chien-Ming Wang faced six batters and retired them all (5 ground outs).

In their second game (also a win) Andy Pettite looked good, also retiring the six batters he faced. I’m a big Andy Pettite fan (my wife is an even bigger fan, though not for his pitching skills).

So what does this mean? Two spring training wins? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! But who cares? It’s fun. Can’t wait until opening day…