kshandra: long-haired woman silhouetted against a stormy sky (Bad)
2017-03-14 11:05 am
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Unsurprising, but unsettling nonetheless.

[personal profile] gridlore took my car to the shop this morning; we had a coupon for 90K service, and as Bailey just hit 100K last month, she was certainly due.

They gave Doug a list of follow-up work (prioritized, at least) that, at a glance, is probably going to be over a grand in parts and labor.

Doug's actually thinking about registering Bailey as non-operational and being a single-car household for now; I've got a month to mull that over, yet. And I'd already been thinking that next year's tax refund was going toward a new-to-us car; this news has basically made that a certainty.

But I'm so far behind at work I think I'm first, and I don't have time to think about this right now.
kshandra: jointed teddy bear, standing upright, wearing a faux-leather flying helmet and jacket, goggles, and "silk" scarf (Aviator)
2017-01-05 11:08 am
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Holy crow, you guys.

A friend of mine is putting together a fundraiser for his daughter's health expenses, and I pulled up our link in the process of giving him some pointers.

Over eight months after the trip - a year after winding up our efforts - we are still the 11th most-funded campaign in the Celebrations category.

We will be talking about this trip for the rest of our lives...and we have all of you to thank for it.
kshandra: "DONE!" written in purple stencil-font lettering at a 45 degree angle (Done!)
2016-11-29 01:39 pm
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One foot in front of the other...

After a discussion with [personal profile] gridlore, I made arrangements at work to start coming in late two days a week so we can hit the Y in the morning. It's become abundantly clear that if I try to leave it for after work, it just ain't gonna happen. The plan is for Tuesdays and Fridays.

So of course Doug was up half the night dealing with body!fail, and I had to go on my own today. :-P

There was a circuit-training class starting just as I finished with the treadmill, so I didn't actually get on any of the other machines, but I was able to get my Fitlinxx account reactivated, and dropped off our annual financial aid paperwork*. Besides, when I checked in on Swarm I discovered that this was the first time I'd made it back over since before we went to Istanbul, so twenty minutes of walking was probably as far as I should push myself, anyway. (It wasn't as bad as my first aquatic therapy session, at least, where I sat huddled in the locker room wrapped in my towel for half an hour afterward, barely managed to pull my jeans on over my swimsuit, and then went to sleep for three hours as soon as I got home. But my hips are decidedly NOT happy with me this afternoon.)

* My phone rang from an unfamiliar number while I was writing this up; turns out they need ALL of our most recent tax return, and not just the part I turned in this morning. Feh.
kshandra: Cartoon: Garfield face-down in his cat bed, a single Z in a word balloon over his head (Z)
2016-11-20 08:55 pm
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A lost day

Once upon a time, turning to [personal profile] gridlore in the middle of the day and saying "I'll meet you in bed" meant something decidedly salacious. Today, it just meant he was going to curl up and read while I went back to sleep. (At least until the air hose on my facehugger unplugged itself, anyway.)

We retreated to our bedchamber for a couple of reasons. He'd been up much later than is his usual pattern last night, and woke up ill (he loves Doritos Flamas, but the feeling is not mutual); I was still tired from yesterday's excursion, which came close to tripling my average daily step count.

And we'd had to talk about money issues, which always wears us both out mentally and emotionally. We got letters from the feds earlier in the week, informing us that we officially make Too Much Money™ for Doug to continue receiving Extra Help for his Medicare coverage, so we had to start looking at Part D prescription plans. Thank $DEITY that we actually paid for an AARP membership when he turned 50 this summer, so he has access to their coverage... So now we get to find an extra $86/month to cover that, which I'm really thrilled about. </sarcasm>
kshandra: Rich Uncle Pennybags, pockets turned out and palms upturned, over a background of Monopoly money (Broke)
2016-11-10 03:07 pm
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Wait, no, not that way!

So I was rubbing money on the sore spot last night and placed an Amazon order (nothing outrageously frivolous, but things that weren't all that high on the priority list - replacement bands for our Fitbits; an extra seatbelt extender so I don't have to keep moving the first one from my car to [personal profile] gridlore's truck; a vinyl mat and storage bag for Doug's chessmen, so he can bring them to Thanksgiving). While I was at it, I finally made the jump and signed up for Prime; we order just enough from them to make free shipping worthwhile, and having another entertainment stream for Doug at home certainly doesn't hurt. I was expecting to be given a confirmation screen so I could choose between monthly or annual payments - I'll eventually switch to the cheaper rate, but I don't have it to spare right now.

I wasn't.

Since Friday's a federal holiday, my paycheck had fortunately posted a day early, so the money was there, but I kinda need it for other bills.

(I went into my account and changed it immediately, but now it looks like I have to wait for the original transaction to post so they can refund it. Which is frustrating, because I know from my own job that those transactions can be voided same-day.)

I was anxious anyway this week; why not add money stress to the pile? :-P
kshandra: Cartoon: Garfield face-down in his cat bed, a single Z in a word balloon over his head (Z)
2016-11-02 11:48 am
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Creature comforts

Every once in a while, something actually goes right.

As the few of you who have been to either iteration of Offhand Manor are aware of, [personal profile] gridlore and I have had a futon in our living room for a number of years. The cushion was a hand-me-over from somewhere, and has never been comfortable enough to actually use as a couch. It was moderately better as a sleeping surface - [livejournal.com profile] blueashke or [livejournal.com profile] eleri can correct me on that if I'm wrong - but the padding wasn't thick enough to keep one's legs from hitting the frame and cutting off circulation. We've made it work, sort of, with stacks of other blankets, sleeping bags, and the cushion from Doug's late, lamented papasan chair, but that really only made half of it tolerable.

But, of course, we're Broke™, so actually investing in a new cushion was nowhere near our priority list. I've been periodically checking Craigslist for decent looking ones, and hit paydirt yesterday. It was only a year old, largely unused in a spare room, and the original owner had kept it in a mattress protector the entire time, so it was in immaculate condition when I arrived. He helped me load it into the back of the truck (he had a set of these that I am GOING to get for myself, because they made it so much easier!), I rolled home, and Doug and I managed to Tetris it into the living room.

The new cushion is so thick it almost didn't fold in the middle to fit on the frame. (This was not helped by the fact that we dropped it on top of the old cushion; we'll wrangle it better this weekend.) It also landed tag-side-up, despite our best efforts when pulling it out of the truckbed, but this at least meant I could check the manufacturer's info.

Some searching this morning, and it seems that I managed to score one of these. Manufactured within 200 miles of my home, in March of 2014.

For FORTY BUCKS.

I'm gonna be spending a lot more time sitting on the couch with Doug, now...
kshandra: The Burning Man effigy, lit in blue neon, arms by his sides; an orange half-moon is visible over his shoulder. (BurningMan)
2016-09-20 09:45 pm
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Putting this in front of a few more eyeballs...

[personal profile] gridlore and I are in agreement that this was our last year tent camping for That Thing In The Desert. We've done some basic research and determined that we are looking for a used 13' travel trailer (something like a Scamp or a Casita). For health reasons, we are specifically looking for Deluxe models with an onboard flush toilet.

We're not going to be doing any serious shopping until February when our tax refund comes in, but expect lots of stupid questions from us once we get to that point.
kshandra: Rich Uncle Pennybags, pockets turned out and palms upturned, over a background of Monopoly money (Broke)
2016-02-23 03:42 pm

Istanbul, Update 28 - Money makes the world go 'round...

I placed an order with our bank for a supply of Turkish Lira - we'll be charging most of our purchases to the debit card, but having cash on hand for tipping housekeeping at the hotel, etc. is always a good thing. They called this afternoon, and I'll be able to pick it up tomorrow.

EDIT: I found out from the bank when I went to pick up the money that there's a 3.8% surcharge on foreign-currency debit transactions, vs. a $5 flat fee for using a foreign-currency ATM. Looks like I'll be getting to know where the nearest bancomat is.

Stock photo of Turkish Lira, showing a fan of bills in 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 denominations, plus coins in .05, .10, .25, .50, and 1 denominations.

"We need to visit more places with pretty money," says [personal profile] gridlore.
kshandra: (Wedding)
2015-12-30 05:28 pm

Istanbul, Update 26 - Shaking the can one last time

Folks, this is it. The last time we're going to bug you about our trip to Istanbul. We've decided to make December 31st the day we stop pimping the trip, and start focusing on going.

Thanks to your amazing generosity, and with the boost from EarthBaby, we've raised a stunning $11,640. We're just $860 from reaching a goal that frankly scared the hell out of us when we started this thing. Because of you, we have already purchased:



In the coming weeks, we'll be booking tours and dinner cruise reservations, getting our visas, and doing the eight million last-second things that this trip requires. [personal profile] gridlore is actually upset that 2016 is a leap year, because it means waiting one more day.

But we want to end this year's fundraising with a bang. If everyone reading this gives just a little - ten bucks, five, even a dollar - we can meet the goal and be secure in the knowledge that we are paid for.

So ring that bell a few more times before we ring in the new year.

Thanks again to all of you for making this happen. Doug is getting to see a place he's dreamed of since childhood, we're both getting an amazing 25th anniversary trip, and you will get a ton of photos.
kshandra: Rich Uncle Pennybags, pockets turned out and palms upturned, over a background of Monopoly money (Broke)
2015-11-13 04:04 pm
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Istanbul, Update 21 - That awkward moment...

...when your bank's fraud-protection unit works TOO well...

The charge for the hotel room was blocked. I got an email notification, and I logged in immediately to say "Yes, this IS a valid purchase," but the transaction still got reversed. I called the bank, who said that they'll accept the transaction if the vendor resubmits, but they can't call it back once it's been reversed; I called Hilton HHonors, who actually called the front desk at the Doubletree Istanbul Old Town for me. As they're 10 hours ahead, the reservations department has quite sensibly already gone home for the night, but should be back tomorrow "until noon" (though the Honors rep wasn't too certain of whether that was noon their time, her time, or my time). For once, my nocturnal nature is a point in my favor, as I'll be able to call before I go to bed tonight and see if we can fix this.

Yes, this is one more hassle in a week that has been nothing but for me, but as I said to [personal profile] gridlore, imagine if I hadn't tried to make an $1100 purchase and the bank let it through without question.
kshandra: Rich Uncle Pennybags, pockets turned out and palms upturned, over a background of Monopoly money (Broke)
2015-11-06 09:24 pm
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Istanbul, Update 18 - A bit of a setback this week...

My boss checked his frequent-flyer mileage balance, and discovered that the lion's share of his miles expired at the end of 2014 after he didn't renew the credit card they were linked to. So I started looking at other flights, operating on the premise that we would have to go fully out of pocket for the cost of the tickets. I found a flight on a different airline, with only one stop of a reasonable duration, for less than $3000/ticket, and sent the info back to my boss (who is currently out of state himself with limited online access).

36 hours later, I still hadn't heard back from him...and the new flight I had found was now $80/ticket MORE than the non-stop flight on Turkish Air that we'd been looking at in the first place.

*sigh*

We're so close to getting everything booked I can practically hear the seagulls over the Bosphorus Strait. Which makes a delay like this all the more frustrating, especially with the price tag it looks like it may carry with it, as well.

https://www.generosity.com/fundraisers/douglas-kirsten-in-istanbul-the-queen-of-cities/x/1033705
kshandra: jointed teddy bear, standing upright, wearing a faux-leather flying helmet and jacket, goggles, and "silk" scarf (Aviator)
2015-10-19 08:44 pm
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Istanbul, Update 14 - HALFWAY TO GOAL!

I keep staring at the numbers, and they don't get any smaller.

https://life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/douglas-kirsten-in-istanbul-the-queen-of-cities/x/1033705

We're halfway there. Further than that, because we've maxed out the matching grant from my employers. We were going to deduct that $4K from the total to reflect the offline contribution, but that doesn't appear to be an option. (It's easier than asking my boss to make the donation, only to hand the funds right back to him to purchase the plane tickets, since he's the one with the frequent flyer miles.)

There will never be enough words to thank you all for this.
kshandra: jointed teddy bear, standing upright, wearing a faux-leather flying helmet and jacket, goggles, and "silk" scarf (Aviator)
2015-10-19 02:57 pm
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Istanbul, Lucky Update 13 - Wow.

We are just $400 away from hitting the ceiling on the dollar-for-dollar donation match offer from my wonderful bosses at EarthBaby. With those matching funds, we go over ten grand. That means this becomes real. Because then we can start blocking out dates, making flight and hotel reservations, starting the visa process.

We're still working to hit our total goal, but this hurdle is the big one. Let's knock it out of the park!

https://life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/douglas-kirsten-in-istanbul-the-queen-of-cities/x/1033705

Remember, any donation of $50 or more gets the collection of some of [personal profile] gridlore's best blog posts as compiled by two-time Hugo Award winner Christopher J Garcia. And there are still chances to become a character in Doug's NaNoWriMo project in exchange for a donation. "An excellent holiday gift," Doug notes, "and far more legit than those star registry scams!" Details here.

Thanks to everyone for your generosity and kindness. Y'all are amazing.
kshandra: a stack of hardback books, spines facing away (Books)
2015-10-16 03:11 pm
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Istanbul, Update 12 - Tuckerization!

[personal profile] gridlore has an offer for you today:

I'm working on a novel for NaNoWriMo. Working title is The Prophet Principle and it's a SF thriller/caper novel. I will finish this and publish it through Createspace. I'll be honest; this book is unlikely to win a Hugo, or sell more than a few dozen copies. But I think it will be fun and I am determined to be published.

But here's the thing. . .

I suck at names. I tend to use name generators, which are fine, but I would prefer to both do something fun and raise some money for the trip. So I'm selling naming rights.

I have about ten characters who will be in most of the book. About half will die along the way. Here's the deal.

For a $250 donation to the fund, I'll name my protagonist after you, or whoever you want. I'll take your description or photo, any mannerisms or quirks, and write them in. Note the character is a confidence artist and thief.

For a $100 donation to the fund, you get to name one of the supporting characters. Some of these characters have roles established, so we might have to find a good fit.

For $50, your name gets mentioned. Somewhere. Random bartender, Krazy [name]'s Used Starships, mook who gets killed and his mate goes nuts screaming "They killed [name]!" As above, but details will be limited.

When the book is published, I'll autograph a copy and mail to all the people who became part of it.


For those of you who have already contributed, if you're interested in being in one of Doug's other stories, drop us a line.

http://igg.me/at/VsXlp2e9W5o
kshandra: Rich Uncle Pennybags, pockets turned out and palms upturned, over a background of Monopoly money (Broke)
2015-10-13 11:39 pm
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Istanbul, Update 11 - Well, that was unexpected...

We were looking at flights again tonight (which I imagine we'll do every few days until the trip is actually booked), and as we discussed the subject, I started doing some research into traveling with my CPAP. I was relatively certain that it won't count against my carry-on allowance, but I figured there were probably other details that hadn't occurred to me.

Most of the flights we've looked at thus far (particularly if we're able to get the upgraded seats) will have power outlets, but the recommendations all seem to say "carry a back-up battery with you." My current back-up is NOT something I can take on the plane with me, so I started pricing actual batteries.

I'm better off staying awake for 13 hours on the damn flight.

([personal profile] gridlore asked me if it would be possible to rent a battery, instead; the one place I found wanted a refundable deposit that was twice the cost of buying one outright.)

I thought we'd set our goal with a good cushion for something I once heard described as "expected unexpected expenses." I can see now that we're going to need every penny.
kshandra: jointed teddy bear, standing upright, wearing a faux-leather flying helmet and jacket, goggles, and "silk" scarf (Aviator)
2015-10-10 10:08 am
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Istanbul, Update 10 - The Mehmed II Mystery House.

Today's eye candy/history lesson is Topkapi Palace.

Imperial Gate at Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Sultan Mehmed II (soon to earn the label "the Conqueror") found the old palace wholly inadequate. It was crumbling, dirty, and falling down in places. He ordered a new palace built to the northeast. The Saray-i Cedid-i Amire (Imperial New Palace) was the primary residence of the Sultans and their huge (dare I say Byzantine?) bureaucracies for 400 years. During the reign of Mahud I, the palace was renamed Topkapusu Sâhil Sarâyı (Cannon Gate Palace by the Sea) after another palace that had been destroyed by fire. The current name simply means Cannon Gate.

The Topkapi was the home to Ottoman rulers until 1856 when the Sultan moved to the more modern (and European) Dolmabahçe Palace. The bulk of the Imperial bureaucracy remained in the Topkapi until 1924, when the new Republic of Turkey made the complex a museum.

As of this writing, roughly $1200 of the matching funds my employer has pledged remain. That's two dozen people contributing $50 each (which also gets you a writing sampler of Doug's work, compiled by two-time Hugo Award winner Chris Garcia). Once those matching funds kick in, we will be at 80% of our goal.

There will NEVER be words to thank you all enough.
kshandra: jointed teddy bear, standing upright, wearing a faux-leather flying helmet and jacket, goggles, and "silk" scarf (Aviator)
2015-10-07 10:48 am
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Istanbul, Update 9 - Oh, the places we'll go!

The more [personal profile] gridlore looks into places to see and things to do on this trip, the more he finds that gets added to the list. Just doing the research is exciting him beyond any reasonable level.

For example, one of the things he really wants to see is the Theodosian Walls. The 5th-century city walls, built by Emperor Theodosius II, stretch for 6.5 km (4 miles) from Istanbul's Golden Horn to the Sea of Marmara. These walls were legendary in their time, and only breached twice in the city's long history. So few city walls remain, seeing them with restored gates and guard towers was obviously high on his list.

But then he learned that one of the best places to view the walls was very close to the Kariye Museum, originally built in the 4th century as the 'Church of the Holy Savior Outside the Walls' or 'in the Country' (chora), it was indeed outside the walls built by Constantine the Great. However, less than a century later, the new city walls placed the church solidly inside the city. Of course, nobody bothered calling it anything different. The current building and mosaics date from the 11-12th centuries.

Best part? There's an established tour that hits these two sites as well as other great stops.

As I write this, roughly $1500 of the matching funds my employer has sponsored remain open. That's thirty contributions of $50 to get us to the $10K mark after the match goes in. From there, it's just raising the rest of the money to cover our expenses in-country.

This is really happening.
kshandra: jointed teddy bear, standing upright, wearing a faux-leather flying helmet and jacket, goggles, and "silk" scarf (Aviator)
2015-10-02 09:07 am
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Istanbul, Update 8 - More Ways to Help

I normally wouldn't post quite so soon after the last update, but I'll be at a convention all weekend, so I wanted to take a moment before I leave to talk about other ways you can help.

The flight we're presently looking at is a direct SFO->IST trip on Turkish Airlines, which is a Star Alliance member. If you have bonus miles on a partner airline that you'd be willing to contribute towards upgrading our flight out of economy class, that would help immensely. Likewise, our intention is to book our stay at the Doubletree in Old Town, so if you have Hilton HHonors points that you'd be willing to donate towards a night of our stay, that also helps our bottom line.

It was also pointed out to me earlier this week that donations through IGG require a credit card. If you don't have one, and would rather send something through PayPal or Popmoney or your preferred fund-transfer site, send me a message and I'll give you the email address to use.

Finally, and I know we've talked about this before, PLEASE boost the signal. I know all too well how tough times are for everyone, which is why it's so important that we get as many people to see the campaign as possible. You may not be able to contribute, but one of your friends might. Or one of their friends might.

Again, as always: Thank you. This is actually looking possible, and we could not have done it without your support.
kshandra: jointed teddy bear, standing upright, wearing a faux-leather flying helmet and jacket, goggles, and "silk" scarf (Aviator)
2015-09-27 11:49 am
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Istanbul, Update 6 - Two weeks. 25%.

We cannot thank you enough. Have some more eye candy to celebrate.

The Hodjapasha Cultural Center is located near Topkapi Palace in the Sirkeci district, and is built in a restored hammam that dates back to the 15th century. (You'll be hearing more about hammams from us later in the campaign.) Below is a montage from Rhythm of the Dance, which combines folkloric dance from the region with more modern styles of bellydance. I'm incredibly excited about the prospect of seeing this show.

Rhythm of the Dance from HODJAPASHA DANCE THEATER on Vimeo.



https://life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/douglas-kirsten-in-istanbul-the-queen-of-cities
kshandra: jointed teddy bear, standing upright, wearing a faux-leather flying helmet and jacket, goggles, and "silk" scarf (Aviator)
2015-09-24 11:43 am

Istanbul, Update 5 - now with matching funds!

[personal profile] gridlore and I just got an amazing offer from my employer.

Between now and Thanksgiving, EarthBaby has committed to matching, dollar-for-dollar, every contribution we receive, up to a total of $4,000.00. This gets us to the $10K mark, at which point we can seriously begin booking flights and making reservations.

In addition, some time in the next week or two, we will be able to offer a great perk to everyone who contributes $50 or more. Details to follow.

You can see the wide range of contributions we've gotten so far - everything from $1 to $500. Every one of these contributions gets us closer to our goal, and for the next two months, every one of these contributions gets us twice as far.

Teşekkür ederiz, once again, to everyone who has contributed so far; if you haven't yet, and have been thinking about doing so, please consider doing it during this matching period. And whether you can contribute or not, please, PLEASE boost the signal. It's every bit as important that we get our campaign in front of as many fresh eyeballs as possible.

https://life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/douglas-kirsten-in-istanbul-the-queen-of-cities/x/1033705