My Blog

Back at home. It’s been a week

Back in da ‘hood, Friday afternoon.

I have just finished up that part of my work schedule that requires six 12hr shofts in 7 days, the first three in the daytime and the last three at night. I spent a good part of that time in a sleep-deprived, cotton-headed state. sleep.jpg While working in the daytime, I had an 11pm call from my son, who had a flat tire on his truck. Since he has lost track of his spare, I had to rescue him, leaving me with 2 hrs before my alarm clock went off.  I spent the other afternoon fruitlessly searching junkyards for a replacement.  I found an wheel on the ‘net, but it’s $100 with shipping.  Ouch.

My night shifts were spoiled by morning bill collection phone calls directed to my son, thanks to a small bank debt that he unwisely ignored, allowing it to balloon into a big debt that has no doubt been sold to a collection agency. Jerks.  I ended up telling them that he doesn’t live here any more.   I also had one short night due to some mandatory training at work that started at 11am on Wednesday. Anyway, it’s good to have a few consecutive days off.

It’s February 8, just about two months since I sent the paperwork for Monica’s jan2008-138.jpg K-1 visa application. Except for the initial receipt, we have heard nothing from the Vermont Service Center that processes visa applications for this region. According to (a wonderful and encouraging site) we’re almost halfway through the first part of the approval process. Approvals are now taking about 129 days. After the initial approval, there will be more stuff to do, including a visit to the American Consulate in Rio. Unlike our very bad experience last April, when Monica’s tourist visa was denied (because her schoolteacher job doesn’t pay enough money) this one should be better. Monica’s K-1 visa is NOT up to the consulate personnel to approve or deny – as long as we meet the requirements (and we do), she should receive it. The procedure last spring left a very bad taste in my mouth, though.

Last night, I purchased a plane ticket for a trip to Rio for May. I go every month, and I check the prices often. It’s possible that after May, I may be buying a double ticket (wouldn’t that be cool?)  gregandmonica.jpg so I’ll watch the visa process carefully from this point. I often use to check prices. I was able to book the trip for just over $800 from a travel site in the UK. I have paid as much as $1300 and as little as $650 for this trip. It’s an E-ticket, and the AA site already has confirmed the flight. I was able to get window exit-row seats (essential for the 9hr Miami-to-Rio legs) because I booked so early. The booking also included a change of airlines to United for the last leg. I will get home almost three hours earlier than with the American flight that I usually take to PHL. All in all, I’m really happy about the purchase. Since the purchase was international, I used my Capital One card (no extra charge for international transactions – saves 3% over Citibank). This afternoon, I received a phone call from Capital One’s fraud dept, making sure that the charge was okay. I really like Capital One’s service. I use the card in Brasil all of the time. I will never use my Citibank card there again. They charge a 3.5% fee on all international purchases, you get a less than favorable exchange rate and they charge you interest on international purchases from day one, even if you pay your statement in full. Bad card, back in the wallet for you.

geek.jpgCaution, GEEK spoken below……

While I was in Brasil last month, my laptop picked up the elitemediagroup-media motor (where did Drew find that?). This is a very nasty spy/adware program, and it slowed down my laptop’s internet access considerably. After doing a bit of research, I decided that the easiest way to remove the intruder from my laptop would be to dump my hard drive ans start over. When I bought this Dell laptop, I made a disk image of the drive before I ever turned the computer on. I burned that image on a bootable DVD using Norton’s Ghost, so I have a good starting point. After dumping the virgin image onto my drive, I immediately loaded Spybot and an anti-virus program (I like Avast) and began the tedious work of loading stuff back onto the laptop. It took a few hours, but I’m done now, and the computer is back to normal. The computer had to download and install 92 updates for Windows XP – wow, that took a little time. Spybot is now active all of the time – I should have had it set that way while I was gone. I would have saved a bit of trouble….

I really miss my Nokia N95  n95.jpg. Many of the photos on the blog were taken with this neat little device. It’s a great camera as well as an internet browser, and the GPS even works in Brazil. I use its VOIP capability to call home from Brazil through my wifi connection. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to keep in touch with the US without going broke. Oh, and it’s a cell phone, too. Just before I came home from my last trip, the browser stopped working. After doing some research, I found that there was a firmware update. I loaded it onto the phone, turning it into a brick. It is still under warranty, so I sent it off on Friday. I hope the repaired phone is back before my next trip to Brazil. I really miss having a camera in my pocket all of the time. I see all of this neat stuff…. /end Geek

It’s been warmer than normal this week – even though it’s still February, it seems that spring is just around the corner. The nasty old tree that I need to cut down in the backyard already has buds on the branches. I should get to that this weekend. It’s back in the forties today, so it’s a little more seasonal, but still warmer than we’re used to in Feb.

My taxes are done!! tax.jpg  I did them the other night on the ‘net and filed them free.  I used TaxAct, which is totally free, although the free edition does remind you from time to time that you would be better served using their premium edition, which is only ten bucks anyway.  I’m e-filed, and the IRS has accepted my return.  I should have my refund by the 15th.  My taxes are silly simple, anyway.  Standard deduction, one dependent….

Round up for the week….

Good things:

#1 Mobissimo, #2 Capital One, #3 Spybot, #4 Avast, #5 Nokia N95, #6 TaxAct

Bad things:

#1 Collection agencies, #2 Elite Media Group (bastards!!),  #3 Citibank, #4 US consulate in Rio (see #2)

hopefully, it won’t be a week before I can do this again.

Monica just showed up on MSN, so I’m gone








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