Progamer to Programmer

Sunday, October 31, 2004

All Saint's...

Yay! I actually get a small mention in Sacha's blog. ^_^
I've been trying to resolve a ServerSocket problem I've been having. It appears that the fault is in Microsoft Windows - they have limited the TCP backlog queue to only 5 in the Home edition of Windows XP; Giving me a lot of unexplained failures. At least now I know how to explain them. :)
My sister arrived today from China! It's a bit surprising how happy I was to see her. The last time I remember feeling like this was back when I was in grade school. Too bad she forgot to get a Go-ban (Go board). It would have been fun to play a 19x19 game that wasn't on a computer screen. Oh well, she goes back on January. I will need to pester her then. =)
It's so hard to work away from my "Home PC". All I've managed to do is browse the net and do some reading and research (... and blog). I've read through some parts of the JMX Specification. Surprisingly, it all flows logically now! The last time I tried it, it seemed like some parts had to be memorized... But now, no need to commit anything to memory, since you can simply reason it out. Cool.
I have to remember to go through the USACO training course. I want to achieve yellowness, (hopefully even redness), by next year. Then maybe I will actually be qualified to coach in next year's ACM. I'd still rather play than coach. Heh.
Finally getting over my horrendous performance at the TCO Finals. It's still an unforgivable sin. But I can at least live with it.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Acquiring a (Non-Immigrant) US Visa

Acquiring a (Non-Immigrant) US Visa in the Philippines

- A Philippine Passport
- A 2x2 Picture
- Some money (See Expenses)
- A good reason to go to the US. Supporting documents are optional, but a big plus factor.(Possibly replaced by a lot of money/evidence of financial capability)

The first step is filling out a Visa application form. The actual application form is freely available over the net (The EVAF). However, a "supplementary information" application form is also required - this form costs a processing fee and can be acquired at specific BPI branches.

The next step is a calling a toll number in order to schedule a Visa interview. Before you are delegated to the actual conversation, you need to listen to some warnings of what not to bring to the embassy (cellphones), a warning issued in a slow but clear voice that the call is being billed, and then the entire thing over repeated in Tagalog ;). A pleasant phone attendant will ask you to dictate all the details of whatever you have written down in your application form. Afterwards, the attendant will read out to you all the details of whatever you have written down in your application form. Then you are asked whether there are any problems with all the details of whatever you have written down in your application form. A booking number and interview schedule will then be provided. Finally, are asked to repeat the booking number and interview schedule to the attendant (just to make sure that you got everything down right).

In the case where the given interview schedule is too late for your travel plans (it is advised to apply at least three months before travel time), you may file an Early Appointment Request Form. Fortunately, it only requires sending a fax to the embassy (if you have a US organization sponsoring your trip, it is advisable to have them send the fax instead - the request will have more weight coming from them). If the Early Appointment Request is approved, you will be informed and you will have to call the toll number and provide all the details of whatever you have written down in your application form. A new booking number and interview schedule will be given. Of course, you need to repeat the booking number and interview schedule to the attendant (just to make sure that you got everything down right :).

On the scheduled day, proceed to the US Embassy (located along Roxas Boulevard near the UN Avenue), and prepare to stand in line. There is a small screening process, where they make sure that you have filled out your forms properly. To entertain yourself, you can either chat with the other people in line, bring a book, or maybe just people-watch. You can be sure that the people coming in have interesting stories behind their trip; But then, interest is a matter of choice, ne?

Finally the interview! The consulate officer will ask you questions regarding the details of your trip, the reasons behind them, some background information. If the officer decides that you merit a visa, it will be granted. You are then directed to a booth where you can arrange for the delivery of your visa (for a small fee, of course).

The Interview:
(Note, this is reconstructed from memory, so it is probably not 100% accurate)
CO - Consular Officer
CO: [looking at application form] So, you've been in school for quite some time, huh?
Me: [smiles]
CO: When do you graduate?
Me: This semester.
CO: So that is this coming... April? May?
Me: That's correct.
CO: Who is this MaryBeth Luce? [Contact person written in my app form]
Me: She is the operations manager. But the letter I've got here comes from Greg Paul.
CO: Show me what you've got.
Me: [Pulls out letter from TopCoder and hands it across the booth]
CO: So you're going to join a programming contest. How did you get chosen?
Me: There was a qualification round for two months, where we submitted programs. These programs were reviewed, and I was chosen as one of the finalists.
CO: What kind of programs did you write? Were they small programs?
Me: Relatively. Yes, quite small.
CO: Could you name some of them?
Me: I wrote a Test Email Server, a Content Highlighter, and... [small pause as I search my head for the remaining component] a Site Validator.
CO: [smiling] I didn't understand any of that, but it sounds impressive.
Me: [smiles]
CO: How long do you intend to stay?
Me: 4 days.
CO: So you don't intend to go sightseeing afterwards or... ?
Me: No.
CO: I see. Got to go to school huh? Do you have any relatives in the US?
Me: Not that I'm aware of.
CO: Do you have any plans after you graduate?
Me: Probably go to work at a software company. Or maybe a Master's degree.
CO: You mean, here, or in the US or... ?
Me: Nothing definite.
CO: Okay, I'll tell you what, you can go take this yellow form and arrange for your visa delivery. And if you win, you can tell us. [Hands over yellow slip and all supporting papers across the booth]
Me: [smiling] Thank you very much. [Traditional small bow after engaging in business]

Visa Application Form: 100$ US (5700 Php - the bank is generous with the exchange rate)
Toll Calls : 16 Php/Minute; Around 5-10 Minutes per call. 2 Calls in my case.
Visa Delivery Fee: 165 Php (Extra for provincial deliveries)

Saturday, October 09, 2004

He Qualified!

Surprisingly, ShindouHikaru has qualified for the TopCoder Open final round in the Development Component competition. I did not have enough faith in him, and so I didn't tell him to get a US Visa earlier this week. This is unfortunate, because now he is going to have problems acquiring one: From Friday's Visa appointment availability date of October 16, it was moved drastically to December 6 today. That means he will have to fill out an early appointment request form. It would be so funny if the Visa problem is what will prevent him from attending the final round.

Blah. What a time to start a blog.