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No Printer yet

August 8th, 2013 at 01:53 am

After work today (tomorrow starts a long holiday weekend), I stopped by three different electronics stores. I was looking for the Canon portable printer that's most similar to the IP100. I have an IP90, and I had both an IP70 and another IP90 over the years. I like the quality and durability of the canon portable printers. For reference, I bought an HP portable, and it didn't even survive its first trip offshore.

I went to three different retailers over here, and none of them carried the printer in question. You can definitely find this printer here, but I will have to make a trip to the one store where I know it was carried earlier this year when I saw it and didn't buy it.

Dubai is very cosmopolitan, but the political structure segregates different brands to the importer who got the exclusive contract. If the brands don't choose an exclusive importer among the Emirati elite, they don't get in. It stinks for those of us peons who aren't benefitting from the lack of competition, but it keeps the income of the powerful at a reasonable (from their point of view) level.

I know the same store also had my scanner, so that's where I'll be shopping today.

See? I can spend money if I have to.

I just haven't done it yet.

Maybe It's Me

August 6th, 2013 at 01:57 am

Many of you have seen and commented on my rant about DW spending and using our debt cards - they certainly aren't credit cards - to do upgrades and changes around the house.

Yesterday, my portable scanner failed. It just doesn't work anymore. I've had it about four years, and I used to use it all the time. Well, about 8 months ago, my portable printer failed. It didn't really fail, but the ink "spilled" (I don't have a better word for it) inside the printer so it leaves a colorful "trail" along one edge of the paper, and that trail is just not going away.

Anyway, I use these a lot when I travel for work, but I haven't been able to use the printer for nearly a year. So, why haven't I bought a new printer? And why did I almost cringe when I thought about buying a new scanner when I decided it was actually broken?

I think the pendulum has gone too far, and I've become too averse to spending money. I think I need to loosen up more and go a bit back toward my old spendy self, just not all the way toward my old self. I'll just have to remember to remove the ink cartridges when I pack up my printer. And that scanner... well, this will be my fourth one in the last 12 years or so. I guess the scanners are just consumable.

There's no "shopping around" over here for anything. Many of the stores have Ramadan sales going on now, so I think I'll go out today and see if any of the electronics stores have printers and scanners on sale. I'm not holding my breath.

Back in Dubai

July 13th, 2013 at 04:56 pm

Well, the hectic trip was "hecticker" than I imagined it would be. We made it to DS's wedding and met his bride's family. They seem to be really nice folks. Almost all of the older men at the wedding were US military veterans, from both sides of the family.

My parents were not able to make it to the wedding. I was warned that my mother has symptoms of dementia, but when we flew to VA to see them, I found out the brutal truth of the situation. My mom remembered me, but she kept asking my wife who she is. It is really quite sad, but my father is coping with it well. Luckily, they are well-set financially for their retirement, so his only worries are taking care of my mom.

DD2 and her hubby (SIL2) have closed on their house. They haven't moved in yet as they are having a lot of work done before they move in. They are replacing all of the floors and painting. I suggested they replace the windows and put in more attic insulation, but instead they are doing the cosmetic changes.

I helped SIL2 put in some purlins in the attic (like there would be purlins anywhere else). I left my nailer and compressor at his place and showed him how to determine if a wall is load-bearing. I also showed him how to brace back to a load-bearing wall for the additional purlins he's going to have to put in. DW is working with DD2 this weekend to help her paint the inside.

Their contractor has finally given them prices for some of the interior changes. His prices are in line with the amount of work to be done. In addition to our house-warming gift of $2K, we're making them a substantial "Bank of mom and pop" loan as well. We're making them sign some papers, but that's more so that everyone knows the terms than for any legal purpose. I seriously doubt that we'll do any legal action if they don't pay us back. Of course, I'm sure they will pay us back, else I wouldn't have approved of the loan.

I spent the remainder of my time doing repairs on the house DW will be staying in. She insisted on a new Tahoe, and I made her get the LTZ model. If you're going to have a new car, you might as well get a good one. We financed it with our CU, who offered 1.49%, but after negotiating the deal, the dealership asked what our interest rate was. He said he could beat it, and therefore our rate is actually at 1.19% through Capital One. That's not a bad rate, in my book. DW should have it paid off in about 1.5 years by the amortization schedule we worked out.

Homes in my neighborhood have fully rebounded from the "soft" hit they took during the downturn. Empty lots are going for exorbitant levels. The house beside ours is listed for $1250 per month as a lease, and it is significantly smaller and less well-kept than ours. Rental estimates for our place are about $2K. I have considered selling it, but every time I look at its value, it has gone up yet again. Right now, it has increased by over $60K in less than a year. Although those are unrealized gains, there's no way I'm going to sell until that pace of increase abates.

So, now we have a car payment again. I can't say I'm happy about that, but at least DW has a safe car to drive in. This trip also put our house payoff schedule back a few months. It looks like we won't have it fully paid off until the first quarter of 2014 now. Oh, well, the best laid schemes of mice and men oft go awry, as the Burns poem states.

I'll be back at work in the morning, and have already received about 10 phone calls about minor issues that needed my input. I guess I'll need to get back into office-work mode this evening. I won't be taking any more time off for at least 6 months.

Ramadan started this month. "Ramdan Kareem!" to those of you who follow the tenets of Islam.

Exercise and Flying

January 27th, 2013 at 02:51 am

I have been working out in the gym in our apartment building for the last week. This is after a 20 year hiatus from weight lifting, and ten years after doing any organized sport activity.

I ache everywhere. If you remember the old Dick van Dyke episode where he went skiing and got hurt, you have an idea of where it hurts. (Season 2, episode 22 if you have netflix. Don't Trip Over That Mountain)

I hope that continuing the visits will alleviate some of the pain.

Just saw an article on Yahoo. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/when-is-the-optimal-time-to-bo...

It says that you should book 7 weeks in advance for domestic flights (49 days) and 10 to 11 weeks in advance for international flights (81 days). I've heard that 21 days is best for domestic flights in the past. I have to book flights all the time, but it is usually at the last minute, so there's not a lot I can do to lessen my fare. Of course, it's business travel, so it gets charged to the job, but it comes out of my office budget, so I'd still prefer cheaper fares.

Exchange Rates and Spending

January 11th, 2013 at 03:29 am

As I've said many times, I am a US citizen living in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. I have lived overseas for maybe 12 years in total over the last 35 years. You would think I would be used to different monies, and for the most part you would be correct. I can easily convert from one currency to another in my head, as I've traveled extensively and it is imperative that you be able to do such calculations to enable you to both stay on budget as well as not get ripped off in marketplaces.

The interesting part is that even though I know that 99 Dirhams (the local currency) is just a bit more than 25 US dollars (around $27), in my head I still THINK of it as if it were ninety-nine dollars.

Tomorrow, our "Saturday" - which is actually Friday on the calendar, but it is the first day of our weekend - DW and I have plans to meet some friends for a mid-day brunch. The whole gig costs 99 Dirhams per person for food and drink, but in my head I cannot help but think that we're paying nearly $200 for a day's entertainment and food.

This has the beneficial effect that I tend to buy less than I otherwise would. When I see apples for 14.50 per kilogram, I immediately think "$6.50 per pound for apples is a LOT of money" - my head also automatically converts metric to "real" units of measure such as we use in the US. Of course, it's really about $1.75 per pound as the 6.50 represents the local Dirham currency, which is still a lot of money for a pound of apples, but not nearly as bad as my head automatically applies to the price.

Too bad I can't transfer this to the US when I return. When I get back, $1.00 per pound for apples is going to be $1.00 per pound, and no brain-tricks are going to be able to help me.

Just as an aside, typical apples imported from the US can cost twice as much over here. Red Delicious from the US are about 29.50 Dhs per Kg, which is about $3.50 per pound.

Kids are gone...

January 9th, 2013 at 04:09 am

and so is much of our money.

DW and I actually spent only about 60% of the amount budgeted for the kids' trip, so we actually did quite well. I asked her if she wanted me to send some of the surplus back to the US for loan repayment, but she deferred and said to send it at the end of the month. She's right. I've been sending too much back the last few months and leaving us with a tight week at the end of the month... making us actually stay on budget!

Anyway, we're going to make our full goal this year unless something very expensive intervenes so a one month delay on a partial payment won't make any difference.

The kids left at 6:00 Monday morning, and arrived that evening in Texas. They called the next morning with news that the kitchen drains are backing up again. Due to this, it is quite likely that we're going to need to hit the EF for a significant amount to square away the plumbing drains. That will leave ONLY the "front of the house" water supply plumbing to complete the renovation of the house 100%. The back of the house plumbing - supply and drain - was done before, so now we have only the front of the house left. We don't want to pay $13K for both at one time, since only the drains are in need. That's the lion's share, anyway.

We got to watch the fireworks at the Burj Khalifa and the Burj al Arrab from our balcony on NYE. It was quite a show. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LO8G5jUp9KA and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FKYebXq-PY. The Burj al Arrab show went on for a full 15 minutes and never slowed down. We couldn't see the Atlantis Hotel display from our balcony, but we got to see the other two. DD got some great photos (she's a professional photographer). The photo attached is approximately the view from our balcony, though it is a professional photograph and not one I've taken.

We did the desert safari (rode camels and 4x4's nearly rolling over in the sand dunes), went up the Burj Khalifa, shopping, Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, more shopping, the Big Bus tour, and pretty much kept busy every day the kids were here.

I have to do a report in the next couple of hours, then I'll have off until Sunday (our "Monday"). It's the first real vacation I've taken in over 4 years. I really needed it.

New car, new me

December 23rd, 2012 at 02:59 am

After nearly a year at the new job, we were finally given "our" car. For the last 51+ weeks, we've been driving a rental Toyota Camry. Now, this isn't a bad car, unless you're 6'4" tall, which I am. This means my knees were in the dash for the last 11+ months.

Thursday of last week, we picked up a new Nissan Armada. Gas over here is a little less than $2.00 per gallon, so being a V8 isn't that much of a drawback.

Thursday was also the last day of work before my Christmas vacation. Except I have to go in today to meet with a prospective new customer. We get to pitch him on using us as his one-stop shop for upgrades. As we've done this for others, we have a great chance of doing this for him, as well.

The "new me" is that I've started exercising regularly, so I'm down about 8 lbs (3.5 kg). I'm at 205 (93 kg). As noted, I'm over 6' tall, so that's very close to my target weight. I was getting a bit soft in the middle, and my legs weren't able to get me going like they used to.

I read an article where folks over 50 have a new test. The object is to start from a standing position, then sit on the floor, then stand again, all without help from the floor or using your hands. That means "no hands on knees," or any "kneeling as you stand up." The object is to go from standing to seated to standing without using any other body parts.

You lose one point for every "help" you give yourself. Eight or higher is good. Three or lower is bad. I've been doing this every night for about ten days. I've gotten ten all but three times. Not bad for a guy over 50, but my goal is to keep this at 10. You also lose half a point if you struggle too much, even if you don't touch anything.

The point of this is that the researchers found that folks who scored less than 3 had like an 80% mortality rate over the 6 years of the study. I think it was three; don't quote me on it, though. The explanation was that those who are overweight are more prone to diabetes and similar problems and those who lack the lower body strength and coordination don't get enough exercise/activity. I don't think this addresses smokers directly.

Time to get ready for work... I hope your vacations are better than mine, in this respect. DD2 gets here with her husband in five more days. We're really looking forward to their visit, even though it puts at least another month on the home payoff. Sometimes you just have to get off the rice and beans, and forget about the lions chasing you. We've set aside a considerable amount of blow money for this Christmas, starting with the plane tickets.

I had gone to Bath and Body Works to get some candles for DW, but they didn't have the correct scent in stock. I gave them my cell number and told them to call me when they were in. I was driving with the car pool, including DW, and my phone rang. I don't take calls while driving most of the time, so I handed my phone to DW, who answered. It was B&BW, telling me the candles are in. So much for that surprise. She doesn't know about the others, though, so at least not all of Xmas presents are known.


November 14th, 2012 at 09:43 pm

DW and I just signed the rental agreement for our new apartment. We are moving to the Palm Jumeirah, the man-made islands here in Dubai that look like a palm tree from the air. We got a sea-view where you can see the Burj al Arab, the Burj Khalifa, and the indoor ski slope. DD and her husband are coming to visit in December, after we're all moved in, so they'll get to see the view from our window.

As I've been reading the posts of others, I keep seeing people who are trying to save to "retire before we're XX years old." I don't think I'll ever fully retire. Part of my job requires travel. Right now, I'm in negotiations for a job in Australia. If the negotiations come through, I'll take DW with me. For the cost of a plane ticket, she'll get two weeks in Australia at the company's expense. Often, the hotels I stay at are resort hotels or similar. Why should I retire and pay for the vacations out of my own pocket. I may have to work for 8 or 9 hours each day, but I often get weekends off, so there's still time for tours and short excursions.

Does anyone know where Credit Karma and Credit Sesame get their real estate value estimates? One of them has me listed at about 75% of my US house value. The other has be listed at about 20%. Neither of them is right, but how can one of them be off by so much?

Apparently, I have a credit card I don't even know about. It says I've had it for like 5 years, and it has no balance (and never has had a balance). I'm going to call the bank and ask them to send a new card to my US address. DD can bring it with her when she comes. I won't use it, but I hate to have the credit without the card. I don't want to close the account, but it won't affect my credit score if I do, I don't think. 0% of X is the same as 0% of Y credit available.

Speaking of credit cards and Credit S and K, it looks like my score has finally recovered from my depression spending. The Amex that I let go into collections is still showing on one of the reports, but it's gone from the other two. Of course, I paid it off when I started recovering, but it was still hanging around as a reminder of my "don't get a hoot" days from a few years back.

Looking back, letting the bill go ended up being a good thing. Because I did that, I got fed up with banks and bills altogether, and paid off everything. All's well that ends well, I guess.

DW and I are trying to decide if we should buy a house now or wait a bit longer. Interest rates are probably at all-time lows, but the closing can take quite a while, so we'd have to make time to come back to the US for all the paperwork. I'm not sure how my oversea's pay would count toward salary. I guess I'll need to talk to a banker when I make my trip back to the US.

Speaking of the trip back, I was scheduled to leave today (my time), but had to postpone due to job happenings. Basically, a customer had an emergency, which forced me to cancel my reservations. In the end, it turned out that I could have left after all, but now it is too late. Oh, well... things happen.

Next week is DW's birthday. I asked her what she wanted. She said, "new clothes." I told her she'd have to buy them herself. Trust me. She and I don't see eye-to-eye on fashion. Maybe I'll get her a burka. One of the problems with budgeting is that you don't have extra money "hidden" to buy surprise gifts. I really have no clue what to get her. She specifically said not to get her any Pandora charms, which is one of the reasons I got her the bracelet. It gave me a fullproof gift to get her every occasion. I guess I cashed that check too many times already.

Money Well Spent

October 10th, 2012 at 12:34 pm

A while back, while I was still living in the US - don't worry! I'm coming back eventually. - I bought one of those High-Efficiency Washer and Dryer combinations.

This was during my "spend it even if you don't got it" phase, so I'm not even sure what I paid. But that's not the point.

Shortly after I got the pair, the computer went out on the washer. The repairman came and replaced it. He said something to the effect that had I had to pay for it, the part alone was over $500.00.

Five Hundred Dollars!!

So, I went out and bought one of those high-current, appliance-ready surge arresters for about $50 and put it onto my machine. I've had zero problems since.

So, was this "money well spent" or was this "you fell for it, sucker" money? There's no way for me to say definitively, but I'm putting it in to the former category.

Cheap, Safe Bug Killer

September 3rd, 2012 at 03:08 am

I learned about this years ago. In the late 1980's, I was living in Houston, Texas. Our house was about 90% carpeted, and we had two dogs. One dog carries, by my approximation, 100 gazillion fleas.

At the time, there was a service that promised to remove fleas, called "Rx for Fleas." I mentioned to a friend that I was thinking about using this service, as they promised to get rid of fleas for up to a year. My friend told me how to make my own bug killing mixture that is safe for pets and children. I've used it ever since.

There are two ingredients. You can buy them cheap, or you can buy them for a lot.

The first ingredient is called "Boric Acid Powder," or orthoboric acid (in powder form). You can get this in a pharmacy, where it is pure and intended to be mixed with water to make a disinfectant liquid for cleaning skin-borne bacteria. I once was prescribed this by a vet to be used to clean the eyes of a rescue kitten. As felines clean themselves (including their faces), I deduced that this acid was not harmful to pets, as advertised. The pharmacy version of Boric Acid Powder costs about $4.00 for about 4 or 6 ounces (7 to 10 grams).

You also buy this powder at a dollar store. It will be in a plastic bottle. It will be called something like "roach proof" or "roach powder" or something like that. Just look on the label for "boric acid" or "orthoboric acid." The only problem with this type is that it often has a light blue tint, as if they added a tiny bit of blue chalk from a pool cue piece of chalk. Just don't use this on white carpets, or you can buy the pharmacy version, which looks like baby powder. Anyway, the dollar store version is one pound (28 grams) for a dollar.

Before I go on to the second ingredient, let me talk a bit more about boric acid powder. Bugs are actually clean critters. They are constantly cleaning themselves by the equivalent of licking themselves clean. Therefore, anything they walk through, they ingest when they clean themselves. When they walk through boric acid powder, they clean it off by swallowing it. The powder gets into their digestive tract where it damages and kills them. I think a person or cat would have to eat like a half a cup to do the same, so small quantities such as you'd get from dust in the air being breathed in or swallowed won't hurt a healthy person, baby, or animal. I'd be careful of lizards, or someone with lung problems.

You can put boric acid powder anywhere that people are not likely to go, but bugs are likely to go. I got a "Planters Peanut" jar (the one with the metal lid held on by a plastic ring; I think it was a pound), and put a bunch of holes in the top using a nail, like a big salt shaker. I use this to "distribute" the powder. Places I've put it are: In my attic near the walls, behind electrical outlets, and onto my garage floor, especially near the walls. I use the pure boric acid, and just "sprinkle" the area. Remember, bugs will walk through it and pick up the talc. It takes very little to kill them.

The second ingredient for the carpet treatment is "diatomaceous earth." This, too, comes in two forms. You can buy it in some hardware store insecticide areas, where it was $4 per pound when I priced it. Instead, you can go to the pool supply area, and buy it for like $10 for 25 pounds (about 11 kg). It is used in pool filters for cleaning the water or backflushing.

Diatoms are really small creatures with skeletons. I don't really know where they fall in the animal kingdom. When diatoms die, their skeletons, carapaces, or shells (whatever) remain. These things are too small to make out as more than dust to the human eye, but to a bug, they are as sharp as razors. When the bug walks through a place with diatomaceous earth (millions of dead diatom shells), they get the powder onto them, and into their joints. The diatoms cut into the joints, and cause the bugs to bleed out.

Mix 10 parts of diatomaceous earth with one part of boric acid powder. This dilutes any coloring in the cheap version of the boric acid powder until it is nearly non-existent. Put about a half jar into the peanut jar, and use it as a "salt shaker" all around your house on the carpets, dog beds, or anything cloth on the floor.

Before starting to sprinkle the powder, make sure all food is covered, and clean all dishware afterward. Personally, I just keep the cupboards closed and don't have any dirty dishes out when I spread the powder around.

It doesn't take a whole lot. I'd say about half a pound (250 gms) per 1000 square feet (100 m2), maybe a little more. Sprinkle it liberally, and then work it in with a broom. Leave it messy and powdery for two days or so, then vacuum and dust normally.

You won't see any change in your bugs for a week or more; however, after about a week, you're going to see hundreds of fleas and think I've steered you wrong. Wait about three days to a week for this invasion to subside. You won't see another flea for six months or more after they subside.

This will remain effective for at least a year, with one warning: If the powder gets wet, it will dissolve and stop working. Therefore, steam cleaning or other means of getting your carpets wet means you have to wait until they are dry, then reapply.

I've used this for years, and I can personally attest to its efficacy.