Vietnam Trip in September, 2013

My fiancée finally got her immigration visa. I went back for moral support as well as to see if there may be any questions that I might need to help her answer at the interview. Although we had a tough interviewer, everything went well and she’s on her way! That was the main reason I went but it’s also nice to take a mini-break and visit Saigon. This time I didn’t go anywhere and just stayed in the city. I did manage to take a few photos though. Enjoy!

Remodeling Photos

The remodeling is continuing as planned.  This weekend I picked up a Samsung gas range in stainless steel (model # NX583G0VBSR/AA) and a Samsung overhead microwave oven, also in stainless steel.  I wasn’t planning on getting new appliances but I figure why not?  The old appliances are over 15 years old and it’s about time.  They should be a welcome upgrade to the old appliances.

As promised, here are some progress photos of the remodeling:

Remodeling Time

With a new fiancée on the way, it’s about time I remodel the place.  I’ve been here over 12 years and the place is beginning to show its age.  I’ve deferred a lot of work on the house since my brother, sister-in-law and their two young children have lived with me but I can’t stand it anymore.  So last week I began the remodeling of my bathrooms and kitchen in earnest.

I’m using TL Premier Construction in San Diego to do the work.  Those guys are super efficient.  Most of the major demo occurred in the first day with remediation work done the following day followed by electrical rough-in, framing, flooring work and plumbing rough-in.  My house was built in 1952 so it’s over 60 years old.  It has remarkably held up very well over the decades but there are some things that needed repair work.  That’s the toughest part of remodeling an older home.  Construction standards were way different back then.  Materials were different too.  In some cases they were better but the majority is better today.  Material science have gone a long ways since the 1950’s!  Still, a lot of the work is repairing before the renovation.

I’m hanging in tight though as the project is moving quickly.  I’ll add pictures at some point here so you all can see what I’m talking about.

Immigration Services

Completing immigration paperwork is like doing taxes.  You either like it or you don’t!  The fact is that is not’s terribly difficult – it’s just very paperwork intensive and bureaucratic.  Missing one document or answer can have your application sent back to you to begin again.  I should know – I recently went through this sponsoring my foreign fiancée to America.

Luckily, if you need help to complete your immigration petition/application or other forms from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and either don’t have the time or are too intimidated by the process to do it yourself, there’s help! Trusted Immigration Services in an affordable service to help you sponsor your foreign/alien fiance to the U.S. or to sponsor a foreign/alien relative like parents, siblings, etc.

Trusted Immigration Services provides affordable help to get your application/petition completed.  All for a fixed price of $300 with no hidden fees or strings attached.  The truth is that most immigration cases are pretty simple and do not require the help of an attorney.  Attorneys won’t tell you that though.  They’ll try to scare you and get you to pay thousands of dollars for essentially clerical work.  There are definitely some cases where you need legal help.  But if yours is a simple one, don’t let the attorneys scare you into using them and wasting your hard earn money.  Do your due diligence and check out Trusted Immigration Services and see if they can help you.  Who knows?  You might end up saving a lot of money!

Gmail app for iOS

I just downloaded the Gmail app for iOS. As a Gmail user, any improved efficiencies would be very much welcomed. In my brief foray into using the app, there are several things I’m seeing already. It appears to be faster than the native mail client in iOS. The built-in attachment viewer is also extremely powerful and definitely more user-friendly than the one that ships with iOS.

So what’s bad about it? Plenty. It doesn’t support multiple Gmail accounts like the native app and forget about email accounts from any other service. The built-in attachment viewer, while nice, has bugs. If you leave your device when viewing attachments and the device goes to sleep or you manually put it to sleep by locking it, coming back will result in a blank white screen with no way to get back to where you were before. Only kill the app by double-tapping the home button and then holding down your finger on the Gmail app and selecting the minus sign that comes up will kill it and let you go back in.

Is it a total loss? No… there are a few things Google can do to improve it. One is to fix that attachment viewer bug. Two is to support multiple Gmail accounts at the very least. And lastly, if there was a way to save attachments directly to your Google Drive (this isn’t even available on the desktop!) it would make it very nice indeed.

How does it look at this point? I’d give it a 2.5 star out of 5. So for now I’m sticking with the native client.

 Gmail app in the App Store

Rambutan or Chom Chom

One of the great things about visiting Vietnam in the summer is all of the fruits that are available to eat.  One of those is the rambutan or “chom chom” in Vietnamese.  The name means “hairy fruit” and you can see why it’s called that:


The skin is soft, as is the hair.  You can peel it with your fingers very easily.  Inside is the flesh of the fruit itself, which is a translucent white.  It looks very much like a large longan.  In fact, there is a variety of ramubtans in Vietnam called “chom chom nhan” which literally translates as longan rambutans.  Here’s what it looks like inside:

Inside a rambutan
Inside a rambutan

The fruit itself is sweet but not overly juicy.  There’s a big single seed inside, the out layer of which will oftentimes stick to the flesh of the fruit as you’re eating it.  If you’ve never had rambutans before, I suggest heading down to your local Asian supermarket and see if they have any fresh ones available.  Some of them in the bigger Asian communities do.  The canned variety in light sugary syrup does not do the fruit justice.


Vietnam 2012

I recently got back from a two week trip in Vietnam.  What an amazing place!  It’s the mother country for me but I haven’t been back in 30+ years.  It has a tropical climate that’s hot & humid with periods of heavy rain mixed in here & there.  It’s very reminiscent of Hong  Kong or Singapore (and I suppose also Hawaii although I’ve never been to Hawaii).  The people who live there feel different about it since for them it’s just normal and many struggle just to get by.  But as a visitor, it was a pretty cool experience.

Over the next few weeks I’ll post more of my thoughts on Vietnam but for now enjoy the photos!

500 miles with the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid

I’ve lived with the new Camry Hybrid for a week now and have put about 500 miles on it, including a trip to Los Angeles and back for work. Since I’ve taken delivery, I’ve managed to get an average of almost 42 MPG on a full size sedan. The Los Angeles trip clocked in at a crazy 46 MPG! I’m not driving much differently except that I make sure I’m accelerating smoothly, anticipate when I need to stop for lights, etc. and coasting appropriately and using cruise control more on the freeways. It’s pretty much what everyone else tries to do when gas prices go through the roof.

Overall I’m pretty happy with it and it should serve me well for years. I plan to drive this car as long as possible. I’ll keep reporting periodically on the driving experience and what it’s like to own a hybrid, cost wise. I was a bit worried that perhaps I made my decision too hasty to go with a hybrid compared to say a diesel, like the Volkswagen Passat diesel that gets almost 40 MPG in real life. But what swayed me ultimately was Toyota’s reliability, slightly cheaper gas prices compared to diesel and that in the real world the hybrid Camry gets more miles per gallon than a comparable diesel sedan.

An old fashion blog – the way it was meant to be!