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crafty patch

July 2nd, 2011 at 07:28 pm

Now with July 1, it turned quiet on the accounting/ pledge processing front again, probably because most of the people that I would have had to slap took Friday off as a 4 day weekend.

I seem to have entered a crafty patch. Here's what's on deck:

At work: helping write a storyboard & screenplay for a 20 minute video about our department.
At work: troubleshooting my main database to get it to play nice with Office 2010. (creative, but not so crafty)
At home: painting frames and framing some of my more interesting pictures.
At home: picking some of my Vietnam and Cambodia, and perhaps even the Paris pictures to blow up, frame, hang on the walls.
At home: potluck dish for the 4th party and fireworks.
At home: finishing up the mosaic I've started on. Glass has to be glued in the mesh and the mesh has to be mortared on my board by July 29. July 30 I learn to grout.

Bought the last ingredient to make my mosaic - the glass - today and began to do some more gluing. Still having fun and I've gotten a couple of complements on what I have so far.

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.


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.

Vietnam: Temples

March 27th, 2011 at 08:58 pm

Some people love pictures, others less so. Big Grin And a picture show isn't particularly fiscal. I plan two more picture posts: temples of Vietnam, and some of the Cambodia pictures.

One of the surprises of Vietnam was the religious life. There was plenty of it, something unexpected in a socialist country. In the north and during the war especially, it turns out that religion was restricted 'softly' using old-fashioned peer pressure: it was considered uncool. In other words, your grandmother went and wasn't harassed, but no one else in the family went. Now all the temples are busy with "customers" of all ages and offerings galore because you just never know who should be appeased. I missed the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, where Ho Chi Minh is preserved (like Lenin was in the Kremlin) and on display. Too bad for me, the mausoleum is definitely a temple for a socialist true believer.

Vietnam has a large number of Confucian temples, a legacy of a thousand years of Chinese occupation. Emperor worship belonged in that also – you worshiped hierarchy starting with your father and your ancestors and your Emperor was top dog in that. In addition to the Confucian, there are large number of Buddhist temples, a smattering of Catholic Churches, and then a couple of big outliers – Hindu, Angkor-esque ruins at My Son dating from the 9 – 14 century or so from when mid and south Vietnam was the Champa Kingdom, and a Cao Dai temple.

Its painting with the broad brush, but in general it seemed to me that the north is more Confucian and the south is more Buddhist, Catholic and Cao Dai. Cao Dai is a new one for me – it is a Buddhist inflected religion that began in the 1920s, stressing the relatedness of all religions – those temples are generally found in the south.

Hanoi: Temple of Literature. If you scored well on the mandarin exam, not only did you serve the emperor, you got your name on a stone stele resting on a stone turtle symbolic of perseverance, and stored in perpetuity at the temple of literature. There is a Confucian temple inside – offerings are plentiful, varied, and recent.

Hue: Ma Thien pagoda, a Buddhist temple.

Hue: The Citadel, the French name for the Vietnamese emperor’s version of the Forbidden City. Once crocodiles swam in the moat.

Hue: Inside the Citadel, showing the long expanses inside. The Vietnamese tour guide told us that when he first came, they were still cultivating rice along these straight-aways.

South of Hoi An: The My Son ruins. These were very reminiscent of the Angkors of Cambodia. Quite a bit of destruction occurred during the war – there were bomb craters everywhere.

Saigon: The neon blue Virgin Mary in the Saigon Cathedral of Notre Dame. The little plaques are the especially generous donors.

Saigon: This was another shot from the 20th floor of the block below – minarets and the square is a Muslim temple.

Outside of Can Tho: The ‘eye’ in the center between the two steeples defines a Cao Dai temple.

Cao Dai Temple: the inside is just as brilliantly colored as the outside – Walt Disney color scheme, I joked. The pillars are especially interesting. Greek Corinthian on the top, Confucian Chinese on the bottom. Note the center blue area at the front top of the altar.

Cao Dai Temple: Zoomed in on the center blue area on the top of the altar. No burning bridges here. You have Buddha, a couple of Dao priests, Jesus with a reddish beard, and Confucius.

Vietnam: Cities

March 18th, 2011 at 08:31 pm

The two big cities we visited were Hanoi (6 million) and Saigon (9 million). Actually, there are no words in Vietnamese longer than 1 syllable, so the official names are: Viet Nam, Ha Noi, Sai Gon (boy that last especially looks weird). If you are a member of the Communist party, you would say Ho Chi Minh City, otherwise it's Saigon. We drove through Da Nang (800,000) early in the evening and flew out through there, but we didn't see much. Can Tho sounds like a small town, but it has over 1 million! Viet Nam, at 89 million and ranked 13th largest, is a "small country" only if you are comparing it with China.

Hanoi: Scooter parking lot behind the hotel. There was no such thing as empty sidewalk in a city in Vietnam. Its business space, cafe space, market space, parking lot and, if necessary, alternate scooter lane.

Hanoi: a fairly typical street scene, with plenty of red communist flags. The electric poles were just wild. Anytime I flipped a switch had the light come on and no one get electrocuted was a miracle to me.

Hanoi: This is the worst picture but an instructive one. The yellow building at the left is the last remnant of the infamous "Hanoi Hilton".

Hue: This is a gate fronting Ho Chi Minh's high school. Ironically, Ngo Diem Dinh, president of South Vietnam from 1955 to 1963, also graduated from there.

Saigon: The front of the Saigon Post Office, designed by Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame.

Saigon: If you asked me to pick just one picture that says everything about Vietnam, it would have to be this one. This is the inside of the Saigon Post Office - French infrastructure, with Ho Chi Minh looking out (benevolently, blindly?) over a very large tourist shop. Would Ho Chi Minh be upset over these changes, or would he welcome them? I never got an answer, and frankly, there isn't one.

Saigon: Scooters coming at ya! Jump!

Saigon: In the South Vietnamese presidential library, on the 3rd floor of the presidential palace, perfectly preserved under glass, exists a blue book - a sign that no matter where you are in life, you might need money for a second career. Who knew? This picture still makes me laugh.

Vietnam: Vistas

March 12th, 2011 at 06:31 pm

Decided that I had plenty of great vista pictures, so I decided to split Cities and Vistas into two.

Vistas in Vietnam, at least the ones we went to, involve water. We sailed in Halong Bay – part of the South China Sea - for afternoon and overnight. If you see a river going through Hanoi, it's the Red (honest!), in Hue it's the Perfume, in Saigon it's the Saigon, in Can Tho it's Mekong. The Mekong delta is further subdivided into the upper and lower Mekong. And the Mekong is broad enough and close enough to the sea to have 2 tides.

But enough of that – here are the pictures. I didn't get any interesting picture of the Red River, oh well.

Halong Bay: View from our boat, The Bhaya.

Halong Bay: This is the most dramatic one I have. The mountains are limestone, so the water eats away at bits of it. We used 4 person boats for a side trip.

Hue: The Perfume River. I took this picture in the afternoon the day before we sailed on it to get to the Emperor's Tomb.

Hoi An: Beautiful reflective water is incredibly filthy water. Had to hold my breath as I snapped this picture.

Saigon: Morning over the Saigon River, taken from a hotel window on the 20th floor. Saigon is 200 square miles, so even from a great height, the vista will be: city.

Saigon: The similar scene at night. Shipping never sleeps. Using the 10 sec delay function on the camera really helped with getting the night pictures.

A boat ride along the canals and channels along the upper Mekong.

Can Tho: Boat on the lower Mekong hauling sugar cane. Boats with eyes are passenger or cargo boats. The eyes are used to ward off evil spirits. Fishing boats have no eyes – fishermen assume that the eyes would ward off fish.

Vietnam: Crops and Markets

March 8th, 2011 at 09:50 pm

It turns out that as a general rule for rice growing that Southern Vietnam is richer and more productive than Northern Vietnam, and both are a bit more productive than Central Vietnam, which is narrow and mountainous. In the North, one could get 2 crops of rice per year off the land, in the South, an astounding 4! Astounding because it means that in the south, every 3 months/ 12 weeks, rice is planted, grows, and is harvested. As we were traveling, it happened that the North was beginning its crop, central it was growing, and the South it was being harvested.

Outside of Hanoi: Woman was bundling seedlings to be transplanted into the main paddy.

Outside of Hanoi: They grow more than just rice. Lettuce here. I saw, but couldn't quite photograph, crops growing between the road and the railroad tracks. One got the feeling that if the crop was short enough, people would seriously entertain growing something IN the railroad tracks.

Central: a field with a scarecrow in it.

South: Rice being cut and dried. After its dried, it's threshed. The stalks are used for fuel, the stubble in the field is burned, the land is left fallow for a couple of weeks, and the whole cycle begins again.

South: This is a rubber tree field. The diagonal slashes along the trunk are cut marks where the latex is harvested.

Saigon: Exotic fruit in the main market.

Saigon: A thoroughfare in the main market. I tried getting a shot of someone delivering breakfast pho, but the deliverers are way too fast.

Mekong: DH, like Monkeymama, told me about the 10 most venomous animals that live in Vietnam. Well, if life gives you lemons, make proverbial lemonade. Turns out the venomous animals are caught, killed, and pickled in rice wine – called snake wine. I had a shot of this. It tasted brown.

Vietnam: people

March 6th, 2011 at 10:36 pm

I figured to make things easy that I'd split my pictures up into big units – people, crops and markets, vistas and cities, temples.

Hanoi: they mean it when they talk about sidewalk cafes.

Hanoi: two Imperial crowns. Not sure if the Emperor of Vietnam traded them off or one was worn every day and the other formal. Smile FYI – this was definitely a surreptitious picture. Museum setting on the camera!

On the way to Halong Bay: a farmer with a water buffalo, plow, and yoke. Yet to be planted rice paddies in the background.

Hue: Bun and oven guy heading home.

Hue: Dad and baby in a scooter. Scooters were everywhere and would come up within inches of the side of the bus.

Saigon: I’m available for weddings and bar mitvehs! Smile Turns out that Sunday morning in the park by city hall is a popular wedding picture setting.

Cu Chi Tunnels are a historical park for the Vietnamese, serving much the same purpose as Gettysburg might in the States. A Vietnamese park ranger demos how to get into a tunnel. Tunnel entrance is rectangular - you have to raise your arms so your shoulders clear, and you need to turn your head so it clears.

Can Tho floating market: The pho lady comes to you.

Vietnam and Cambodia: a few words about the trip

March 6th, 2011 at 10:06 pm

Before I start with the pictures, a few words about the trip. Sister and I flew Seattle to LAX, LAX to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Hanoi to join the rest of the tour. It turns out that I misinterpreted the schedule - the first afternoon read like a simple cyclo ride, something to do while everybody got there. Well, that was the case sort of but it turns out that we missed a bit of old-quarter Hanoi sight-seeing that most got.

Big lesson 1: don’t over-interpret the tour schedule.

If you think of Vietnam as a big "S" we went from the top inner curve (Hanoi, Halong Bay), went down to the middle (Hue, Hoi An), then went to the bottom outer curve (Saigon, Can Tho).

From a full day in Hanoi, we drove about 60 miles to Hai Phong to Halong Bay. Buses could only go about 40 miles/hour tops, so one really had to slow down. It made things relaxing for those who could slow down, but it meant that the schedule itself got re-arranged often and we had to be flexible about it.

Big lesson 2: Be flexible

From Halong Bay we drove back to the Hanoi airport to fly out to Hue (pronounced Way), a day in Hue, then a drive from Hue past Da Nang to Hoi An, another day in Hoi An and the Cham site in My Son, then a flight from Da Nang to Saigon, a few days in Saigon, with a side trip to the Lower Mekong at Can Tho, then back to Saigon to fly out to Siem Riep, Cambodia.

Big lesson 3: you see a lot, but you will definitely see that lot from a bus seat and from a plane or two.

Nearly every day we had three meals – a full breakfast (or rather, a buffet breakfast that took a rare amount of self-control to not make full), a fixed 5 course lunch, a fixed 5-7 course dinner. Yikes! Who eats like this anymore? The food was good, but tamer than I had hoped…and it was fixed. Beer was generally considered part of the meal; it turned out that beer was cheaper than bottled water.

Big lesson 4: treat your liver extra nice after the tour.

Since we did many meals, another strain on me was small talk. I wish I was better, or rather in some cases, I wish I didn't have to do it. I enjoyed about 97% of the trip – I saw everything that I wanted to see, learned a tremendous amount of culture from the Vietnamese and Cambodian tour guides, learned a lot history from the professor and his son who came with us, got some exciting souvenirs and stories.

My 3% dissatisfaction came from the fact that I was being immersed into 3 big cultures: Vietnam, Cambodia, and the culture of the type of person who could afford the trip. Smile My thought was that many on the tour broke my big rule of travel: eyes open, mouth shut. Sister and I seemed a bit at odds sometimes with a few of the rest of the group. Sister and I were a bit younger (not terribly though), I was a bit quieter, neither of us brought our electronic toys (which often worked, wonder of wonders), and we both decidedly didn't want to play keep-up-with-the-Joneses like many others did. However, sister and I did have farm skills and since Vietnam was still mostly a rural society, playing guess-that-crop on the bus was an asset. That being said, about 1/3 were cool, 1/3 could be taken in regulated doses, and the other 1/3 we wanted to avoid. I suspect others felt the same way, but they had their strategies in place to avoid the folks they wanted to avoid. And several told me that the group dynamic was reasonable – no one got sick, no one was chronically late, no one shopped 'til they dropped slowing everyone down. It could have been actually bad instead of 3% dissatisfied!

One woman shared with me that she felt the same – at odds - when she began going on tours and gave me some good advice about it. In a nutshell, she defined what she wanted to get out of the tour – in this case, she wanted to learn about the culture of the country. If she made friends on the tour, fine, but that wasn't her goal and she was all right with that. She told me it was perfectly okay to be quiet, and as far as small talk was concerned, get your lunch partner to talk about their grandkids and you'll never have to say a word. Smile!

All in all, I think I would go again, but I probably would on tours if the culture was edgy enough that I'd prefer the bubble. A couple of the women went to Iran, which I think would be perfect for a tour. For Europe, I wouldn't bother – the mechanics of the tour and the probable Jones-ness of the others on the tour would put me off.

before Vietnam, actual fiscal news

March 4th, 2011 at 08:04 pm

Discovered that one of my Drp stocks did a 2:1 split while I was gone (WEC). Actually, the split got completed my first day back.

I found out because I look at the share prices every couple of days and it was freakishly low. Like, tear my hair what happened low. Nice to know it was a divide by two situation.

I'll be checking the transfer agent to see how they account for it and how they calculate the cost basis, but as for me right now maintaining my spreadsheet, all I'm doing is multiplying the shares I have by 2, and dividing the price I paid by 2.

Also turns out that the dividend increased by a couple of pennies per share also. Good news on that front.

I picked up a copy of Turbo Tax yesterday. My financial moves this year have been pretty boring - no IRA conversions or odd schedules coming from an inheritance. (Unless I find $100 bills on the sidewalk, the IRS doesn't particularly want to know.) This year, bread and butter. I can do bread and butter myself.

Finishing up catching up at work which has been a struggle. I'm still jet lagged and when I wake up I think that I'm not in Seattle but somewhere in Asia. Its been much rougher than Paris. Getting to Hanoi I wasn't particularly jet lagged, or perhaps I was so excited that I didn't care. Could also be the light - Paris is a similar latitude as Seattle, so the day lengths are similar - May/June nice and long. Vietnam, being close to the equator, has a day length close to 12 hrs year round, while Seattle, not so much.

Did make it to the gym and miracle of miracles, I'm under 170, with a 1 lb weight gain. That after 3 full meals/day, hours mostly on the bus or a plane with a bit of walking, and multiple course meals with beer or wine. I thought for sure I'd have put on at least 5 pounds.

Sent sister the $5000 for farmette upkeep. She's back in Milwaukee from the trip. I hope she had a good time - those last few days when the tour ended and we were flying home was especially rough. Incheon airport in Korea with an 11 hour layover was especially hard.

I'm back!

March 1st, 2011 at 01:10 pm

Came from 35 degrees C to 35 degrees F! I had fun, and will have pics and color commentary soon.

A quick FYI - someone picked correctly on the Fantasy Celebrity Cemetary for 2011 today.

already, blew lunch

February 8th, 2011 at 09:38 pm

..well, just once. We went to Duvall on Sunday to watch the game on their big screen (which cut off the Pittsburgh side of the score which was a great feature), then we watched Glee and chatted. None of us thought any of the super bowl ads grabbed us - maybe we were jaded. Unfortunately we didn't get leftovers and I got back too late to make and pack a lunch, so I ate lunch with friends. That was Monday.

Tuesday I still had timing issues. I wanted to roast the duck thawing in the refrigerator, but didn't get that done in time either. So lunch today was:

1 cup peas/carrots
1 slice ham
1 fried chicken drumstick

Got the rice, and now am roasting the duck tonight. We'll see whether I get it done in time for lunches.

In other news, I am now fully packed. Sister's bed at our place, an air mattress and sleeping bag on the living room floor, our kitty is warming up. Work is coming together and should work out. It had better!

I am just freaking excited, and find it hard to sleep even. Thursday night sister comes into town, Friday night we fly out. I'm trying to manage expectations - I'm going to try to go off the net in a developing nation. And no looking for change - in a place with landmines, picking up shiny circular objects is not smart.

as I was saying ....

January 28th, 2011 at 08:43 pm

Apologies I went down. DH was "improving" our wireless, which meant 3 days of tearing his hair out trying to both configure it with the security and get both of our laptops on it. In the meantime cursing the Fry's guy. So he multi-tasked.

Other than that, I'm working like a demon to get everything set up for when I'm away. I can't plan for the unexpected, but then again neither can anybody else. Less than two weeks before sister and I fly off to Vietnam. Now we are both obsessing a bit. She's freaking out about baggage weight. We have a couple of flights on the tour, and their restrictions are 44 lbs. I'll be a beast and underpack: less than 30 lbs. (10 lb kitty NOT included) Room for souvenirs! If the choice is a bathrobe or souvenirs, souvenirs win. I'm freaking out about plane flights. Hopefully sister won't need my credit card to board her flight to get to Seattle. Hopefully this will be fun. Hopefully we can sleep a little bit and won't go crazy being on a plane for 15 hours.

Actually, I'm not so worried about the last item. I chatted with a co worker with family in SE Asia, so has made the trip often. She asked me about the carrier. I'm flying Cathay Pacific... she told me that that is one of the nicest cushiest ones, even in coach class. So yay. And she commended me for the price I got for our flights.

Fiscally, I'm up to $130K on my 403B. Am at about 168 lbs. Grocery prices are again starting to become reasonable - the loss leaders look pretty good. I'm thinking that the Super Bowl is starting to become the big grocery eating fest like Thanksgiving is. And speaking of the Super Bowl: Go Pack.

she wants to come along

January 18th, 2011 at 09:31 pm

I'll know why I'll be picking out black cat hairs from my pho in Hanoi.

packing and a Roth

January 4th, 2011 at 09:15 pm

Moved $5000 into my 2011 Roth last night. Yep, don't waste any time, get that extra year to incubate tax free. If you can, one makes a bit more money if you contribute at the very front end (the first days that you can) rather than at the very back end (April 13).

Also began something else very early too - packing for Vietnam! I know 4 weeks out that its freakishly early, but I really much prefer that than running around the night before grabbing stuff in a hurry and then when you unpack you say "huh?", or worse you have to buy what you need, depressing when you know you didn't have to.

Anyway, I know I pack differently than most. What I do is begin to put items that I know I need to pack on the floor of the living room. I keep adding items to the pile, perhaps reference a list. Especially with clothes, I lay them out to make sure that every combination will work as a outfit. When the pile gets large enough so that I can't stand it, I get out the suitcase and carry on and begin to pack so the pile gets straightened up. At the very end, I pull out the camera and take a picture of the bags, so the bags will be the first file on memory card. I figure that if the checked bag doesn't make it, it will be a lot easier to show the airline what my bag looks like.

liberty dime

December 27th, 2010 at 09:01 pm

I found another silver dime yesterday, half buried next to a tree in front of a church. This one's a bit older - date minted was 1944 - and its a Liberty head dime. For all you young whippersnappers (including me), here's a picture of one. (not a pic I took, I can't focus it enough using my little digital camera). Its a little grungy, but the relief is nice on it - only the E Plurbis Unum is faint.

I also looked at my PTO accrual as I was figuring out the percent on my 403B. 255 hrs. I'm waiting for HR to bring the hammer down. I could call in sick for a few days.

Finally, I'm working on my FCC list. Have about 8 that I'd like to follow, so 2 more and I'm done. Thank you scfr for a couple of more ideas.

I've been saving relatively crisp $1s and a couple of $5s for the Vietnam trip. So far I have about $30. Because I'm saving for the trip, I've decided to slow down the tip box savings, and return to it in March. I'm now reading and taking notes in a notebook, to bring on the trip.

money coming in

December 23rd, 2010 at 07:36 pm

December is generally my most spendy month. This year has been exceptionally spendy, after buying Vietnam trip and plane tickets for sister and I.

However, sister is moving money so she asked me what her share is: A bit more than 8K. So I will be getting that back.

DH's mom sent us a bit of Christmas money. DH needs it way more than I do, but a got a bit of it, so about $400 that I didn't expect.

The final bit of fiscal news is not about money coming in. Turns out that the HR software payroll uses to pull money for the 403B works on percentages, rather than flat dollar amounts. So no more $666.66 taken of each paycheck, now its 31%. Works out that I'm contributing a hair more than I have in the past - even closer to the $16.5K upper limit. Took a look at how I'm doing on the 403B. Not quite as nice as a last year, but I'm up about 8%.

minor breakthroughs

December 14th, 2010 at 09:14 pm

Found over $10 in change last month! Thank you rainy Seattle - no one who drops coins wants to stay out in the rain and pick them up.

My passport with the Vietnam and Cambodia visas is sitting at Fed Ex right now. Not too bad - it took about 17-18 days. I now absolutely am going. Checked out one of the two books from the Seattle library. Its all about the Vietnam War - actually from the 1920's to the 1970's - so multiple Vietnam wars. Very interesting.

Big data dump (BDD) has occurred, so my email account now sports a message - I'm working on 43M worth of data, so stop bugging with your $25 stuff.

'brellas in the trashcan

December 8th, 2010 at 09:08 pm

Again, not much happening. The big expense - the Vietnam trip with sister - has been paid for. The Hep A shot was gotten on Saturday morning, and all I can say about it is: OW!!! It felt like the nurse dulled the needle and pounded in the shoulder. I couldn't even move my left arm Sunday, and had to hold it like John McCain. I'm in the process of taking my typhus oral vaccine - a capsule every other day, first thing in the morning because I have to take with no food, no chewing because the capsule with the attenuated bacteria have to get past the stomach. Its a bit of a challenge with my serious gag reflex, but I'm gonna do it.

Work is getting very busy again, with the big data dump (BDD) happening within a few weeks. I'm very happy about that because said BDD usually happens in late January, possibly interfering with the trip.

Today was rainy. Not surprising for Seattle, but today the rain was heavy and plus a fair amount wind which would catch the umbrella and do very bad things to it. As I walked 3rd Avenue downtown, a number of umbrella handles stuck out of trashcans all along the way. This rain's rough on even the natives.

Part one of consolidation occurred - most of my savings and CDs are now at ING, all pulling together and earning 1.2%. Not great, but I'm not trapped by a CD. Part two of the consolidation - moving from Chase to a credit union is stalled out. I'll have to talk to the credit union because I still haven't gotten my PIN number for my permanent card. I do have some savings in it and that are earning 6% ... so I can't be too mad.

all quiet

December 2nd, 2010 at 09:47 pm

Been about a week since I last posted. Mostly because not much has been happening. Waiting for my passport with the visa to come back from the visa service, and I plan to hit my medical center to get the shots I'll need for my February trip. Hep A, typhus shots, along with a blister pack of anti-malarials just in case. With that, the heavy duty buying is done, the rest is just collecting for the packing list.

Sister is a bit funny - she's asking me whether I'm reading what's on the book list. I think she means the professor who is leading the tour. If that's the case, probably not. There isn't going to be a formal test, at least not one that couldn't be passed by buying two slots on the tour. Smile

Sister sent a TON of turnips in her latest box. I was at a bit of loss on how to use them - DH hates turnips so too much hiding is out of the question - until I remembered how much I liked turnip pickles at the Indian/Middle Eastern restaurants. Turns out making them is very easy:

Turnip pickles
6-7 medium turnips
2-3 tiny beets
2 1/4 tsp kosher salt
red pepper flakes
1 c warm water
1 1/2 c white vinegar
clean glass jars

Peel turnips and beets, slice into 1/4 - 1/8 in slices. Put in large bowl, sprinkle red pepper flakes and salt over slices. Toss to get everything well mixed. Cover, let sit for 12-24 hrs.

Pack slices into the glass jars. You should have a bit of liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Add the warm water and vinegar to the bowl, mix well, pour the liquid over the slices in the jars.

Cover, let sit for at least 2 days. And this is what they look like...

no-spend but a lot of spend

November 17th, 2010 at 09:52 pm

Had a no spend day, but in planning for the trip, I've spent for plane tickets, visa, soon some more for a Hep A shot, typhus shot, and for a bit of anti-malaria drugs, and very soon will finish paying for the rest of the Vietnam/Cambodia trip in February with my sister. I hate to see the money go (funny how you INVEST so much in the number when you know your net worth) but it will be fun and exciting and I still have plenty even after the spending.

The most interesting part with buying the tickets is the Chase Fraud alert phone call ten minutes later. Its doing its job.

I mailed off my passport for the visa ... a little scary, so I sprung for the USPS tracking with 24 hr delivery. $18.30, paid for no mistakes and so far no mistakes.

Anyway, I'm nearly done and the plan is taking shape. Sister is flying out from Milwaukee to Seattle, we fly out together to Hanoi, with stops in LA and Hong Kong. We go on the tour with an additional 35 people (tour closed - no more free spots). Then at the end, we fly home from Cambodia to Seattle.

sides, no entree

November 13th, 2010 at 11:09 pm

Updates from the last few days, a few fiscal but most not.

Got into the dress I bought for the workplace social with the 60s theme and I think rocked it. I also demonstrated the best and most polite way to eat finger foods using white gloves. Even got 'wow' comments that I didn't stain the gloves while I ate. - But that's not really a surprise; one usually doesn't stain one's bare hands either.

We did the canning exchange at work the next day. From my 4 half pints of quince marmalade, I received: 1 half pint pear butter, 1 half pint of apple chutney, 1 pint of pickled okra, 1 quart of tomato vegetable soup. I was a tad nervous about the soup, but I did eat it already and had no ill effects. I did boil it hard for 15 minutes though. The pickled okra came from lawyer friend and the time table for it was thus: got home at 6:45pm, opened the okra; 6:47, had eaten 2 okra, began to boil the soup; 7:00, had eaten about 1/2 the okra; 7:10, all the okra was gone. Big Grin. Hope the gang enjoyed my marmalade. Out of all the jars, mine was the prettiest - a bright pink red.

I got the travel materials for the Vietnam/Cambodia alumni trip - visa information for both countries, bill for the rest (I just put down the deposit for sister and I), travel information, guidance for how the plan will go. So far there are 21 other people who booked. The tour managers gave me another set of everything for my sister. Today I mailed it off, and went to Walgreens for another set of 2x2 pictures for each visa. And yes, no smiling ... I think that your passport/visa pictures should pretty much match what you look like after you step off the plane. That way the customs official doesn't have to use his imagination. Now to book the flights, which determines the date of the Vietnam visa.

Consolidation on my accounts is proceeding. The first CD will be fully in my ING account Tuesday. And I get paid on Monday.

We are going to the Duvall friend's house for Thanksgiving. WE might mix it up a bit and have prime rib instead of turkey. It will give me license to make some British-inflected sides and dessert. I get the feeling that cranberry trifle might be smashing. The Duvall friends just started their blog, and it looks to be pretty good. Want to learn how to build a goat barn?

....and catching up, period

June 8th, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Its been a week. Apologies! So let's see...

Film. Sister enjoyed my tale of the film and said, "hey, submit it to the Milwaukee Film Fest in the fall". So we did - at least screenwriter friend applied, slipped the DVD in, and I paid the submission fee. $50. We also applied to Chicago, which is happening a couple weeks later. Since the film was made by a student, student fee was also $50. Chicago, though, suggested an additional $2.50 as "protection". I used to live in Chicago; "protection" made me laugh. Oh well, if dead men can vote in Chicago, they probably can make movies too.

Beef. We are going to "visit" the beef that we bought. Since our little consortium put a down payment on a whole cow, we can pick the animal. I plan on pictures, although I'd rather pick the steer that looks like it might be involved in a tractor jacking, if you know what I mean.

Work. Performance evaluations are done! Now its the final push for the end of fiscal year pledges. Instead of a bus pass, we are going to get work Orca cards. A bit more pricey a month, but much more flexible - it will work with 4 different transit systems. And because it does that, the card stores when and where it was used. And it because it does that, a co worker asked the basic question of HR - Are you going to monitor our trips? We got a confused answer.

Printer. I have been printing all the Paris photos out on the $20 HP printer I bought at the Greenwood yard sale. I got medium-end (not highest, not lowest) HP paper. Works great! But so far its $15 for 100 sheets, and I ran out of ink - $45 cartridge which should last for 500 pictures. Yikes! I have to console myself by breaking it down.

(15$/100) + (45$/500) = 15 cents for paper + 9 cents for ink. 24 cents per picture. That makes me feel better.

Oh yes, I nearly forgot. I had some good luck finding money over the last week.
$45.93: 1,018 pennies, 41 nickels, 163 dimes, 41 quarters, 2 $1 bills, 1 $5 bill, 1 10 pence coin worth 15 cents.

Paris pics, pt 4

June 10th, 2007 at 04:44 pm

The weekend is nice and lazy, so its a perfect time to put up a few more Paris snaps, with commentary. Noticed that I hasn't posted many pictures from La Defense, several museums and the cemetary, so here are some of those.

The Dali Museum was as wacky you would expect...

But the oyster shell spoon was exquisite. (FYI - It might just be me, but I had much better luck taking snaps of the small, telling detail than of the great landscape)

The Grand Arch of La Defense, built in 1989, is the third landmark of Paris that follows the same line as the Louvre and the Arc de Triomph. The specks on the stairs - people - give you an idea of scale. The two rods leading up to the top mark the elevator.

Past La Defense, France is building something that looks as suspiciously 21st century high-tech bland as anything in the US.

Back again in the 19th century, the Musee d'Orsay was once a train station and got recycled into the main museum for Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. I had as much fun taking pictures of the interior spaces as I did the art. This is the main tramway.

And what you would look like on the main floor as you walked through the tramway...

Another treat was the Picasso Museum. It was a treat to be amongst hundreds of Picassos and it was a treat to just see a ton of Picassos without commentary. The juxaposition between these two couples was striking -

And on the last day in Paris, we paid our respects to Jim Morrison.

And the cimitarie cat.

Make sure you get a map of Pere Lachaisse Cimitarie, otherwise you will feel like this:

back to life

June 7th, 2007 at 09:23 pm

Saving log - $6
Spending log - $1.84 coffee, milk + $8 lunch

Thought I would take a break from the Paris pics to list what is currently going on:

Taking over all of the little functions as a supervisor - time cards, approving time off, reporting who is out, sitting in on the evaluations, planning to move some of my duties onto them. Tomorrow the plan is to determine whether my two staffers are interested in 1-on-1 meetings or not.

I found, to my surprise and delight, that the promotion came with a 5% pay raise, its retroactive from the paycheck before the trip, and is separate from a raise coming from a decent evaluation. And I get evaluated tomorrow.

My lower back locked up, so the chiropractor claimed, and I gained approximately .4 lbs during Paris. Or maybe not. I told the trainer that I didn't do any of the upper body drills in Paris. She didn't seem all that upset; she was positively chipper as she put me through an exercise routine that made me regret not doing the drills. Big Grin

Ate the cheese I brought back (thank you customs dog for giving me a break), and brought chocolates to work. Found out that it only took 1 week for the postcards to travel from Paris. I sent three postcards back with no writing, just a Jackson Pollock induced spray of coffee cup rings. Lawyer friend is still talking about his. Hey, anything you write from Paris on a postcard is going to be banal...why not say everything by saying nothing?

Something odd happened to my PayPal account - I saw two mysterious transactions. I emailed PayPal, they refunded the money and locked up my account. I figured that now's the time to change all my financial passwords.

Paris pics, pt 3

June 6th, 2007 at 08:51 pm

No pictures of underwear, I promise!

We visited Versailles on a rainy Sunday. Once it was the Hall of Mirrors, now its the the Hall of Camcorders..

But there is great shopping in the parking lot where all the buses congregated.

Good hunting in the glass-skylit Galleries in the 2nd arrondissment (let me know if I'm spelling that wrong). DH's first cousin took us around.

The first cousin also took us to, I believe, the Canal Saint Martin. This photo is terribly, terribly dark, but atmospheric.

Still life with cafe chair legs.

Regimented cafe umbrellas at the Pomipidou Center.

Paris pics, pt 2

June 4th, 2007 at 09:44 pm

by popular request, some more pics...

Some of these are going to be funny, and maybe even telling of frugalness. It turns out that while I packed pretty well - the shoes from Goodwill and the sheath dress performed like champs - I did get caught short of one vital thing: only 5 pairs of panties. And somehow spending a ton of euros on french lingerie didn't appeal. So before the laverie came this:

Turns out that a metal disc with a little rubber center by the shower is a secret clothesline. DH showed it to me. The little rubber center is one end of the string, you pull it out and hook it to the latch at the other end of the shower.

Candid, accidental shot under the Arc de Triomphe.

Speaking of the Arc de Triomphe (it just struck me as looking best in blue)

I didn't bother seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, but it was fascinating to me that archeology is still being done around the medieval levels of the fort of the Louvre.

Night Paris - not all streets are narrow. If you can read the jittery lettering at left, the Monoprix (and its little sister, Monop') is the Wal-mart of France.

Speaking of nightlife, Paris has its nerds too. Each of the cars is a realitie virtualle game.

Everyone comes and puts their feet up at the Flea Market...

Paris pics, pt 1

June 3rd, 2007 at 08:59 pm

A quick itinerary:
18th - L'Opera & the neighborhood around the 1st arrondisement
19th - Madeleine Church, Rue Royale, Invalides, Napoleon's Tomb, Champs Elysses, Arc de Triomphe
20th - French lunch with the Parisian side of DHs family
21st - Notre Dame, Ile de Cite, a little bit of walking around the Rive Gauche
22nd - Montmartre; Dali Museum
23rd - Louvre, Place de Bastille
24th - 2nd french lunch with MIL friends, a nap, then an evening at the laverie automatique. Smile
25th - Le Defense, Effiel Tower
26th - Marche aux Puces (Flea Market); walking tour of the Pallisades
27th - Versailles
28th - Picasso Museum, Pompidou Center
29th - Rodin Museum, Musee d'Orsay
30th - Pere Lachaisse Cimitaire

Thank you, Paris Metro and the Paris Museum Pass (PMP)! We managed to get to museums before the crowd did early on, but we got the 2-day PMP for the 28th and 29th. The PMP doesn't pay if you calculate it against admissions, but boy it does in terms of time and aggravation. The cheap person waits an hour in the rain, the frugal person gets the PMP and walks right in.

These pics aren't exhaustive - they're just some of the fun ones.

From the hotel room balcony

The cafe scene along the Champs Elysses is not as intimate as one would like Smile

A nice atmospheric from the top of Notre Dame. Sepia setting, not sunset.

I have a ton of great Louvre snaps, but I just love this one. What you would really get if you tried to wrestle a big cat to the ground.

The laundromat next to the boulangerie...

Damn, its big...

Well you get the idea. Might just as well stop before y'all fall asleep. Big Grin

First weekend home

June 3rd, 2007 at 08:31 pm

At least the house was clean. But about $110 left from the trip went nearly poof.

Haircut - $16
Groceries - $51
Drugstore - $11 (DH put our toothpaste in his carry-on heading out to Paris; I shook my head - TSA took it away at the airport, so we used mine of the approved size)
2 lunches - $25 (good old comfort food at a place next to the post office depot our mail was held at. We got the held mail, sorted and dealt with it, all while the food was made. The best way to deal with two weeks of mail.)

Then laundry.

Then a quick pitstop at work to shovel through 180 emails for the obviously useless ones. I could do it at home, but I just don't like doing this at home. I try to keep home at home and work at work. Found out that my postcard mailed to the office actually made it before I did.

Then sleep. Last night I didn't get the semi-dream/semi-hallucination of me sleeping in my hotel bed in the middle of L'Avenue de Opera that I got the night before. Yippee!

I'm back!

June 1st, 2007 at 01:07 pm

Just a quick note...I'm back and after I've un-jet lagged (or is that une jet lagged?) I'll post more with some pics.

Turns out that for the 20 French words that I knew, I could deploy effectively, and my French accent was bon. Not tres bon, but I'll take bon any day. Much better than the "mercy buckets" that I feared. Didn't have any awful problems, and found that the Paris denizens were formal but polite. When you think about it, its more amazing that they are as nice as they are. After all, we come to visit their museums in herds without any clear museum visiting skills. I'll bet a few euros that 95% of those who showed don't visit their own museums!

Anyhow, back to unpacking, moving pictures to the computer, and picking some fantastic snaps!

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