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Archive for April, 2011

on the eve

April 28th, 2011 at 07:52 pm

On the eve of both my 49th birthday and the royal wedding of young William and Kate, I have only one thing to say:

"You kids! My day! Get off my lawn!"

I mean seriously, why are you getting married on cheap ol' Friday? Surely all parties involved can afford/ muscle a booking on a high class Saturday wedding?

Then again, with British austerity, perhaps not...

On a lighter and fiscal note (not that above wasn't light or secretly fiscal), I got my last payment of the bird flu study. $50! And I get paid. The only issue there is that I'm still fighting illness. I would take the day off to recouperate except that because I'm changing banks, this paycheck happens to be a paper one. And rent has been scheduled. I don't pick up the check and deposit it, payments are gonna bounce.

Chased

April 25th, 2011 at 09:08 pm

Closed out my checking and savings account with Chase, kept the rewards based credit card. Got what I got in cash, and promptly deposited it into the credit union bank. Now both my checking and savings accounts are close to the $500 limit for the 6% interest rate. Its only $30/ year, but at least it means that even my smallest accounts are working hard. Talked to HR, my next paycheck will be paper, the paycheck after will be direct deposited appropriately into the credit union.

That project is done.

DJ friend asked to write up a special letter for the Internet radio station. There is a serious issue - he is a legal internet radio station, which means in the U.S. he has to pay royalties. What usually happens is that he submits the songs/works/etc that he or his other DJs will play, along with a monthly payment to a royalty clearinghouse. The royalty clearinghouse pays another agency who then pays BMI, ASCAP, etc. Apparently the royalty clearinghouse that DJ friend has been using has not been paying anybody and has been shut down. So its been a mad scramble to go to a new clearinghouse.

I have to shake my head here. No wonder the music industry is in the state its in - everybody else has to streamline, get leaner and meaner, etc. The music industry appears to just have gotten meaner without the leaner.

So I wrote the letter explaining the situation to all - only took me two hours. As a payment, got a nice capacity coffee card for my trouble. Free coffee for a couple of weeks!

spring cleaning

April 24th, 2011 at 07:52 pm

Even if we do nothing else this spring, it has been a successful spring cleaning. Saturday we managed to remember that a non-profit was collecting computers and computer detris. DH parted with his beloved Amiga ... finally. We also got rid of one old monitor that I had to pull from the furthest corner of the storage area (ugh), two old desktop computer boxes - one we kept for a friend for 8 years (!), one dead laptop, cables, motherboards, keyboards, my broken digital camera, my beloved old MP3 player that died last year, and another ancient MP3 player. DH packed the car trunk and the back seat.

Very cleansing, we had at least 15 years worth of stuff. We heard about the pickup from our neighborhood microblogs, so this was one of many cases that the neighborhood blog saved us a bit of money and time.

We've got rid of the hardware. Now I wonder how we are going to get rid of the software and discs. Probably the ignoble route - shred the discs, break down the cardboard, and recycle any paper or cardboard by the usual route.

Finally "got off the pot" as it were with grandma's inheritance that I've kept in Vanguard. I've put about 5% of it in a high-yield dividend fund. I've asked to get the quarterly dividends so I can plow them into my DRP portfolio.

phase three and four

April 22nd, 2011 at 10:53 pm

Hope you are all having a great Easter weekend. This week, it was on my list to keep on going with transferring my checking account from Chase to my credit union.

1. I listed out my recurring transfers, transferred them over (a couple have gone through already this month).
2. To a look at the bill pay options. Since I now only write 2-3 checks/month to the same spots I'm going to try going checkless and see how that works.
3. Filled out a new direct deposit directive from work.
4. Moved my last recurring transfer today.
5. Looked at the almost $1 interest that I got on my money so far this month. Big Grin Very enjoyable.

I get paid on my birthday this year, so what remains to be done is to check next week to see if the direct deposit went through. Then I have one last check that I'm waiting to clear on the Chase account.

It takes me a long time, but I don't want hitches.

homemade yogurt

April 19th, 2011 at 09:28 pm

Various bloggers' forays into homemade items encouraged me to tell you about my foray into a homemade item: yogurt! Specifically, I love the plain Greek style yogurt - plain because you can always add honey, fruit or jam but you can't take the flavor away if you want a lassi, dip or marinade. At its loss leader cheapest, I used to buy Greek yogurt 24 oz for $3.99. With a little bit of equipment, my latest batches have come from a gallon of free milk along with 1 $0.99 container of Greek yogurt. This is what I do:

1. Measure out 1 2/3 c of whole milk, put into saucepan.
2. Heat the milk to 180C. I measure it with a clean probe thermometer. If you don't have one, if its boiling, its heated.
3. Let cool to 116C. This is where you really need the thermometer - I've failed if its above 120C.
4. Pour warm milk into a clean food thermos.
5. Stir into the milk, one tablespoon or so of Greek yogurt. That $0.99 yogurt can inoculate at least six batches.
6. Seal, and leave the food thermos alone for at least overnight. I've left it alone for a full day without an issue.
7. Open the thermos - it should be coagulated like yogurt.

Now this yogurt is pretty loose and runny. Its not bad, but its not the Greek yogurt that I know and love. To get that, I have to strain it, and I do that using a jelly bag.

8. Set up the jelly bag. Since you're straining out the liquid and keeping the solid, the yogurt pulls away from the bag a whole lot easier if the seam side of the bag is out, smooth side is in.
9. Pour the yogurt into the bag and strain it for at least 2 hrs. You know you have a good batch if the liquid is clear, a weak batch if the liquid looks like milk.
10. Invert the bag and enjoy.

I often strain the yogurt for much longer, until it gets to be a cream cheese, and the cream cheese version is smashing also.

still sick...perfect for talking about trip costs

April 18th, 2011 at 08:23 pm

Well, I'm still sick. Although I am on the mend, I wasn't mended enough for work today, and I'm only mended enough to do what I call the on/off routine: one hour of resting/reading, one hour of light cleaning of a room. No cleaning too heavy, no scrubbing, no intense cleaners (like bleach). But the schedule was nice - a tidy room, several chapters and a bit of a snooze, another tidy room, more chapters, third tidy room... and hung two red/brass plaques that I got from Cambodia.

ceejay asked about the trip costs, and also gave me cover, talking about spending a bit on fun. I hesitated a bit to list the costs, but I seem to average a big expensive, passport-using trip every 4 years or so, its not so bad. Also, I spent for a 100% good result. Next time, as I develop more experience and risk tolerance, I might cut some bits.

Original cost of trip $5995/person. (This covers most everything once we got to Hanoi, including the tour guides and the prof's three lectures (he threw an extra lecture in for free) and it even covered some of the costs for leaving - a ghost room so we could stay the day at the hotel and to store our bags while we waited for our night flight, the van ride getting to the airport. However, plenty was not covered:
Travel insurance $400 (I booked and planned the trip before talking to my boss, so I needed the "cancel just because clause")
Plane ticket to Hanoi $1100
Plane ticket back to Seattle $1050
Visas for each country $200 (sister had to get the passport, so she added another $125)
Travel medicine/shots $50 for hep A, typhus, antimalarials, and anti-diarrehials. (didn't use 'em so thank heavens I cheaped that out)
DEET Bug spray, travel alarm clock, pyrethrin spray for clothes, suntan lotion $60 (got enough for two - gave a lot to sister for use at the farmette)
Camera and a couple more SD cards $100
Incidental trip expenses - $250 (souvenirs, cocktail before dinner, airport meals)
Clothes bought during trip - $120 (my Seattle summer clothes were not summer-like enough)
Siem Riep exit fee - $25

So about $9400.

half day

April 14th, 2011 at 08:29 pm

Because I've come down with what's going around. I felt I had to make a meeting and do a couple of things at work, but then I just KNEW that I had just enough energy to make it home if I left at noon. I slept for the rest of the day. Its the achy, shivery, tired flu-type stuff. I sound fine.

I did, however, move two more accounts from bank to credit union, and on my way home I saved the tip box proceeds - 46$ - to the credit union using the ATM card.

Didja hear about the guy who deposited checks via a picture on his iPhone, then really deposited the check elsewhere? I have to admire that lo-fi skeeviness.

phase two

April 11th, 2011 at 08:25 pm

On the project of moving my account from Chase Bank to a credit union.

Moved enough money into my account so that there's something in it.
Got a PIN.
Tonight, I got the debit card.

Tomorrow, I activate the card. Then:
I go through the monthly expenses.
Change the transactions to the CU debit card.
Explore the credit union's Bill Pay to see if I can not use checks. As it is, I only use 1-2/month.
Then move the direct deposit
Then close my Chase checking and saving.

I don't see as much of a need to move my credit card, but its time to look at that also. It feels a bit like snapping a tablecloth off a fully set table: we'll see if any of the glasses wobble.

the answer would have been

April 8th, 2011 at 09:22 pm

Apparently, there has been a deal struck and the government will not be shut down.

DH told me that, yes, he was considered essential and would have had to report to work to answer phones. His supervisor, however, wasn't. So the weird answer would be that the mice are essential, but the cat ... not so much.

In other fiscal news, I moved $300 more dollars into the credit union accounts - I have about $400 in each. Last week, I decided that my summer project was to prep things and move my checking/savings/ from Chase to the credit union. Haven't gotten totally screwed yet from Chase, and we aren't talking about the bulk of my money (just paycheck and tip box savings), but I figure that its only a matter of time.

The only hitch to this project was that I never got the credit union ATM card to work. Re-asked for a new ATM. We will see.

I guess we'll find out

April 5th, 2011 at 10:24 pm

DH works Customer Service for the IRS, which last I checked was part of the Federal Government. He expects that he will not be working next Monday if the government shuts down. No word at all about it, or at least no word that he told me. The IRS is very busy - no quiet time as you can well imagine.

But I wonder, if state and Federal taxes are due on the 18th, is his function "essential"? I guess we will find out.

Cambodia

April 3rd, 2011 at 09:32 pm

This is the last picture show of the trip. For the Vietnam parts, click here here here here here.

Cambodia, compared to Vietnam, was a challenge to understand. Compared to it during the Khmer Rouge year zero, it's improved ... but that's not saying much. Vietnam, not free, yet with an allowable free market and its corruption carefully hidden, gave us a handle for understanding. Cambodia, "free and democratic" in name only (Hun Sen is a dictator), is still desperately poor. Siem Riep is a tourist area (aka tourist trap), with the tourists providing most of economic activity. Our tour guide trained as a pediatric nurse, yet was paid so poorly that when tour guide came up, he leapt at it.

All of the temples had 20 or so small children (5yrs and up) come up to us, no one in school. They did try to sell us something, but then switched quickly to simple begging. A thousand years ago they were part of an empire of technical virtuosity and power. Now it's a "dollar dollar please madame".

Silk worm farm these little workers munching away are about a week from cocooning. About 10% of the cocoons are reserved to develop into moths to lay eggs and generate more worms.


Silk worm farm silk cocoons being spun into raw silk. Phooey, I ran out of batteries.


Angkor Thom: the face tower of Bayon. The inner temples were Hindu; when Buddhism swept in, later Khmer kings added Buddhist carvings on the outer gates. All temples were constructed in several parts. Core and foundation blocks were laterite soft to carve, but when exposed to the elements it turned rock hard. Sandstone blocks were set in and used as the finish. Intricate carving was done in situ carvers went to work after the sandstome was set in place. Incredible!


Angkor Thom: An impromptu temple inside the gates.


Ta Prohm: Jungle growth, anyone?


Angkor Wat: Khmer dancers in the inner courtyard. FYI - no bare shoulders in the temple. In other words, those tourists are NOT dressed properly.


Angkor Wat: The towers were a bit of a terrifying climb if you were afraid of heights (like me), but a view like this awaited you. Remember, all the carving was done after the finished block was set in place.


Banteay Srei: Incredible detail that was done after the finished block was set in place. I asked the tour guide what caused the black marks on the red sandstone. "Soot from burning" was the answer, which puzzled me. When we left on the bus, a sign about a 1/2 mile down the road stated, "This area is being burned as a first step to clear land mines." Turns out that this area was one of the last holdings of the Khmer Rouge.

mystery solved

April 1st, 2011 at 09:57 pm

For reals, even...this is not an April Fools thing.

A bit of setup for this. We live on a "T" corner, meaning that one of the streets deadheads. We are fenced on the north for a bit of privacy, with a wide driveway leading out to the road. About 20 yards south of us is another "T" corner, where the street that was deadheaded leads out. In other words, following one of our streets is a bit of an intelligence test ... that I don't mind using.

Anyway, about a week ago DH and I woke up one fine Monday morning and we noticed spots of white powder on our drive way. The spots formed a line and edged our driveway, hit our cherry tree and our laurel bush.

We were both a bit taken aback - I touched the white powder with my foot ... definitely powder. We were going to call our landlord, thinking that it was some sort of herbicide/insecticide/something but we went to work and forgot about it. And then a couple of days later the white powder disappeared.

The neighborhood blog had an answer - our driveway was part of a marked hash house harrier running trail that the "hares" put down for the "hounds", and the powder was flour. Whew.