Sunday, November 23, 2008

Second Week, pass the pills

Hello there,
It's been two weeks at having two jobs and i'm happy to say they are happy with my perfomance, in both places.
I got so many comments from readers about taking lunch from home that I just want you all to know that I am taking lunch with me from home. I asked the maid about the best way to do it and she had good ideas on what I should buy to take it. So I bought a thermos with 4 containers ($6 at HiperPaiz) and I get to eat a whole lunch that's usually still warm by noon. I reheat it on the microwave anyway. I did agree with my wife to come home for lunch twice a week so we can talk over lunch instead of waiting for me until 10pm. I might cut that down to once a week since it's not easy to go home, eat and get back to the other job in just one hour without rushing everything.
I got my first paycheck from the morning job this thrusday and I was overdue in paying one of my debts so it had to go into that. No clothes bought LG :-) only medications, see below. I Need to write about my wife one day, but it's going to be a long post so I can't do it right now.  Next paycheck is going to pay up dad completely. The amount due is only about $500 (a bit less).
I'm waking up without much problem. However since thrusday I got a twitch in my right eye at night. I remember having this twitch in college when I was programming without sleep for one or more days.
Also I got called for a work emergency early saturday so I couldn't rest. Instead I was at a bank recovering an important data server until 7pm that day. By the end of the day I was sneezing, had a running nose and to top it off I woke up today with a sore throat. Yeap, I got a cold. The first indication that my body defenses are going down. At least after sleeping most of sunday I don't have a twitch in my eye today.
I'm already taking medication for my cold and I rested most of today (sunday). Tomorrow I hope my throat is better after starting to take the usual 7-day dose of antibiotics that takes care of that. I can manage most of the cold but the sore throat really makes me grouchy and in no mood to smile.
Oh, did I tell you that my notebook, this one from where i'm writing from, my "machete" , my way of work, almost my work life and some part of my personal life, gave up on me thrusday? Yeap. I managed to recover it with no loss of data. But the situation really scared me. This notebook is mine, however I use it a lot for work (all my jobs are done from it). So after telling my boss of my computer troubles , he said we would look at getting me one tomorrow. I want to tell him that I want in some way to end up with it as being of my property, rather than assigned to me by the company. I wouldn't want to work other stuff on it if it isn't mine. Even though my boss does that on his(the company's) notebook.
I'm doing some extra hours right now to complete my 25 hours for my morning job. If I get to do 25 hours every week I should get at least $800 every "quincena". I have two payments overdue but they will have to way until december since I can't pay them right now.
I know it's going to be tough to be tight with money on december but I will try to put off temptation by paying debts the same day I get paid. I know my wife would love to spend the money instead of paying debt. As I said she needs a post of her own.
LG was concerned about my arrival time at the morning job. I have to be available at 9am for a daily standup meeting. I can do that by getting to the office or by calling the teleconference phone. So far i've been at work at 8:50am by the latest.
Besides being at the meeting my boss there is very flexible with my hours because he understands that on one side I have another job and on the other hand there are tasks that require me to work at nights (like right now) when users are not using the system so I can make backups, copy large files, run long defrag jobs, etc. All the stuff needed for computers to work for a long time without users complaining.
Next week is going to be interesting. I have a provider comming in from Colombia on tuesday and wednesday. That will mean I will have to come in early to my afternoon job. So I will have to talk to my morning job boss and tell him I will work for him at nights those two days. I hope he understands, and maybe we find out some interesting things by me working more at nights. I'm still feeling my way around this job but i've been productive already and I like that.
Ok, i'm sleepy.
At least this blog is free. Your comments are priceless!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

First week

Live, It's saturday night!
I had my first week working two daily jobs. Previously I had worked my main job and other odd jobs that did not require daily presence or scheduled time to work.
In all I think it was a good week. By friday I had a good schedule set. I learned that I can get up at 6:30 with little or no help from alarm clocks or my daughters actually, they are my alarm clock :-)
At that moment I just put on pants and a shirt and drive them out to school and then I drive back home. Between preparing, driving out and driving back home I arrive at 7:00 to 7:15 at my home again.
The first few days I tried to rush to get ready and leave for work. That involved breakfast, shower and clothing. I left home at 7:30 the earliest and 7:50 the latest.
However regardless of the time , I always faced massive traffic on the "anillo periferico". So I always ended up getting into the office at 8:30am, it was amazing how I always got at that time during 4 days.
I took advice from a friend that told me to stay home longer and leave at 8:20 or 8:30. So on friday I did so and took the extra time to do odd things at home and to take a bit more time for myself to reflect on the day ahead.
Then I was suprised. I left precisely at 8:29am and arrived at the office at 8:44am. That was only 15 minutes instead of the 30 to 60 minutes it took to get to work if I left sooner!
Fortunately I have now enabled myself to work remotely from almost any internet connection so if needed early I could log on from home and do some work while 8:30 rolls around and then disconnect, drive and connect again from the office where I can work faster.
Leaving morning work was difficult at times because stuff usually breaks when one is leaving so some times I left at 12:15 or 12:30 pm. Some days I drove all the way back home to eat. A couple of days I just had lunch at some place near both my jobs. Driving from one job to the other is just about 5 minutes with regular traffic. I'm still trying to find a balance on how to handle lunch.
Aigmeigh  from suggested I take lunch with me when I leave home in the mornings. i'm going to talk about that with the maid and see what she thinks about it. I know other coworkers at both jobs do that and so there are microwaves in both places. I haven't brought lunch to work in years, actually over a decade, but I could try it.
The other job was normal and I'm working there normally. I'm getting home at the same time at night and I'm not feeling more tired than before. I'm taking weekends to rest more than before to be able to work the whole week.
I'll keep you posted how things go.
At least this blog is free

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Honor Thy Father, revisited

Well it's a busy day at the blog. Two post on one day!
I told you in a previous post about my new job. That's good news in general.
On the other side of my emotions, my dad had colon surgery tuesday of last week.
He was doing a good recovery and was sent home last Thrusday night. He spent friday at home. However he started feeling very very ill on saturday and had to be admitted again at the hospital that same saturday. Oh did I mention that it was his birthday too ?
I spent most of the weekend with him since I wanted my other brothers to rest so they could look after him during the week when I knew I wouldn't be able to even visit him given my new job and my day job.
I won't go into gruesome details of what they had to do to him to improve his health but at one point his digestive system and kidneys weren't working. His blood sugar level was very high and he was unable to sleep due to non-stop hiccups.
He is better now, still not out of the woods but at least everything is working again and within normal ranges. It's been almost two weeks since his surgery and he has had only three meals , one of which was probably the one that complicated him back to the hospital. He's lost a lot of weight and it shows because he wasn't fat to start with.
As you can imagine at some points during these days I wondered if I would have a father alive for christmas. The guilt of my debt to him consumed me during his worst night. He's retired and living on his pension with basically no savings. He has assets but nothing easily changeable for cash in an event his medical coverage doesn't cover something he really-really needs. He took a loan out for me and i'm paying him back but every now and then I miss a payment and the credit card company calls him and the he calls me and I eventually pay.
So, with the snowball plan in mind I noticed that my debt to him is the smallest debt of all and even if he really doesn't owe all that money right now I feel that I should pay him back as soon as possible. I'm counting on my first pay from my new job to pay back the $750 and change that I owe him that he owes to the credit card company.
It's not an extreme situation either way. He is not strapped for cash and he doesn't have an abundance of it either. So deciding this is mostly something I'm deciding for myself not because he needs it but because I feel it's the "right" thing to do.
Financially, it could also bring some benefit to me since an early payment of the loan might mean that I could end up paying less than $750.00 since that figure includes interests for the next 10 months. We would have to call the credit card company (at least when he is able to speak again with enough strength over the phone) and see how much I would have to pay.
As you can see, the more people around you that you are related to , the more difficult it is to have a tight debt repayment plan and sticking to it. I feel like i'm still on the right path, but I wanted to share with others the real-life difficulties of repaying debt. It's easy to see a budget and trim here and there. It's a bit harder to get some extra income but it's doable. However, when family matters come into play it gets more complicated.
I enjoy all of your comments, so please post some more. Actually I not only enjoy then, I benefit from them a lot. All of you want me to be successful in my journey to not owe so much (hopefully not owe anything material). You are like doctors, you want what's best for me even if it involves pain in the process. I appreciate that. I owe you a great deal spiritually.
At least this blog is materially free.

Income! yeah!

Well I was going to write about the emotional roller coaster that my financial problems bring me. However I guess more important news deserve an interruption of the planned schedule.
A couple of months ago I did some IT work for a company in the US that has hired a Honduran sofware development company. They needed to network both locations and so I was called since people on both companies know me. That was just random money that I used to pay some part of my debt.
The Honduran company moved to a new, cheaper location and needed help in setting up the networking again so I was called to do it. Then a few weeks later they changed internet provider and again I had to reflect that change in their network.
Finally the US company had a failure on their internet connection and was using an alternate connection and I was called once more to reconnect them both. I was lucky or know more than I think and was able to reestablish communications very fast.
And so the IT head in the US company started to email me about my time availability. He knew me from a previous visit to Honduras and knew me from a job interview many many years ago in which aparently I made a good impresion on him since he still remembered me.
I told him I was available on mornings and explained to him my internet accesability at home.
Then out of the blue he called last friday and said "Hey, do you want to be our new IT support guy?". After a bit of explaining I said yes and to cut it short I have to say that this past monday I started working mornings for them. I go to the Honduran company offices to connect to the US company's network and do IT support from there.
This job pays $16/hour. My friend from MO (my job guardian angel of sorts) says that i'm a very cheap IT support cost for the US company even if doing this work remotely entails some logistical problems.
If I work 4 hours every day (8am to noon) at their location, plus an extra hour on the day for being "on call" for problems that come up during the afternoon hours, which I would tend to at night, it means $80/day for doing the type of work that know how to do. For a "quincena" it means I would look at $800 or $1600 a month. I'm very happy. Very happy. I see myself going to the banks and paying my credit card debt and the phone calls stopping.
There two concerns I have. One is burnout. I'm waking up at 6:30am to drive my girls to school and then come back home to get ready for work. I drive during the terrible rush hour and as much as I try to get in at 8:00, i've only managed to get in at 8:30 so that cuts a half hour of my morning time. Fortunately I can recover that time at night. However at noon I have just one hour to get lunch either by driving back home or eating somewhere in the vincinity of my day job. Both jobs are very near each other so going home to eat lunch is not something I look forward too from the expense point of view. Then I have to get in to my other job at 1pm and work here until 9pm, then drive home and be with my family and do some odd stuff until I go to bed at about midnight.
I'm getting support from my family , mom and dad in that they are happy that I will be able to pay more of my debt. They don't know how deep in debt I am but they know part of it so they are happy. I'm getting some support from my wife, she doesn't like the fact that she won't see me mornings now and maybe not even for lunch but she understand that we need the money. She says she does need some of that money to buy clothes for the girls because their clothes are almost rags at this point. I've learned that I have to make my own mind on how much money to spend or otherwise she would spend most of it.
I've arranged with my wife and girls that I will try to get as much sleep as I can on friday and saturday nights, let's see how well that works out in practice.
The other concern is job stability. When they hired me they told me I would be an interim IT guy. So those $1600/month could be for one month, two months or who knows. However today I chatted with the IT head at the US company and I asked him to explain to me what he meant by interim. He says it meant that if I like the job and we (they and me) can make it work logistically then I could be permanent. Otherwise they would look for a IT guy to work over there.
He also stated that he know I have skills not only for IT support but also for software development so he would like to keep me and so when the IT support requests die down from time to time then I could switch gears and help with the software development, either in testing, documenting or actually writing software.
He makes it look like he wants me there for the long haul. However I have the feeling that it's not entirely his decision and so someone higher up will be watching to see if a part-time/on-call IT support guy for about $19,200.00 is worth the logistical difficulties of me being here and the equipment being over in the US.
I know that almost no job is guaranteed in the the US so I just hope to be able to hang in there for as long as possible to make a big a dent as possible on my debt.
For now all other income options, except for the calling service at are mostly on hold. I think I have to concentrate on just a couple of things that make me the most money for my time.
I still have a commitment to a US friend to help him finish an application for which he would pay me $8,000 once it's completed and paid for. That I will still continue at nights but he is hard to reach at times and so that money will come slowly since we are slow in making progress with that because i'm learning a new language with him and because we have difficulty finding times to talk about the project. Eventually I will know enough that he will be able to let go of me and I will finish on  my own. For now I feel it will take at least another month of emails, chats and calls to pour his knowledge on my head. Then I will know how much time it will take for me to finish that application by working only one or two hours per night on it. We are using a new language that is supposed to make programming faster so I'm counting on that to make up for the learning curve.
What do you think? I'm happy for the new job and the money that I will mostly send to pay my debt. I hope it allows me to sleep better.  As LG stated in one of her comments, my current main job income barely covers my monthly expenses so I have little of that left to pay off debt. So this job I hope it last long enough to get my debts paid in full or at least cut the down to a manageable size that I can finish off paying with some other source of income. What do you think about my concerns about burnout and job stability ?
I wish I could write some more since there is lots more to write about but this post is long enough as it is.
Well at least this blog is free. Have a good day

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Do you want to "call with me" ?

I have started two income streams related to phone calls. I hope the ball starts rolling.

First of all, I have started a calling service to any country in the world. Actually it is targeted to calls to Honduras since the prices are so low. They are even lower than calls within Honduras!

For example calls to Honduran cellphones cost about $0.13/min. That's lower that the normal $0.20/min rate from a Honduran cellphone to another Honduran cellphone! The next rate available is $0.17/min, still under 20 cents !! There are two rates because I can cater each account to use more than one international carier to complete the call if one or the other is too busy.

I have trouble with getting payment because both paypal and Google checkout don't allow Non-US accounts to accept payments. That's my only weak spot with this service. Any advice or help with this I would appreciate a lot.

I started this business by selling calls to my ex-brother-in-law's stores. They have three stores and cater mostly to Hondurans. Regular calling cards to Honduras have such high rates and connection fees that even adding a 50% markup on the my service's call rates still makes it interesting to customers. The stores pay me by wiring money with one of the companies that charges a fixed fee (about $10), they usually put about $500 every week. That gives me about $60 per recharge.

I have had it running now for 2 months and I know things work very well. They mostly sell calls to Honduras, but even Mexicans and Guatemalans like the way the service is provided because they pay only for the minutes they use. There are no connect fees, administration fees, call completion fees, etc. Many people talk for over an hour and enjoy it because with calling cards they are limited to 20 to 30 minutes at times.

The way the stores sell calls is using calling booths very much like cybercafes here in Honduras. Calls are routed via the internet to the international carriers, which allows to get this low rates. The store managers go to a web page to check the call records and see how much each call costs and from that they calculate how much to charge the customer.

This also helps them attract people to their stores to offer them other services or products. People go in the store to call but also end up buying groceries or food or sending money with them as well. The store managers are smart and sometimes use the calling service to compete with other nearby stores in the remittance service. For example they offer Mexicans free calls if they send money with them instead of the Mexican store. It only a few pennies per call but it drives a lot of business to them because the person can send the money AND call their relative to let them know the money has been wired.

The website is (it means "call with me" in Spanish).

Right now the website it's very simple and I try to keep it simple , but with more content, so that many types of browsers can read it with no problem.

I bought the domain with and it only cost me $15 for one year. There was a special sale and I took advantage of it. They are even hosting my website for me for "free".

You can go there to check rates for calls to any country in the world. Just add 12% to the rates you get and that's what the call will really cost. The 12% is my profit margin. I'm not trying to set a high profit because I want to earn on volume. I deduct the 12% from the amount credited to the user's account.

If you know someone, specially a Honduran individual or a Honduran store in the US or anywhere in the world that would like to try it out, tell them about my website and have them write to the email there with their phone number so we can talk some more about how to get them set up. You would really help me a lot if you spread the word. I'm sure Honduran (or Latino) stores could use the extra people traffic.

There are many ways the service can be used. If it's used in the US there is a phone number that can be called to access the system. There is an web phone application right on my website to make calls from the computer. And the most convenient way is to buy an Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA for short) like the ones used with Vonage or other voip service providers. It's a little box that plugs to the internet on one side and to a regular phone on the other side, allowing you to make calls the way you are used to make them.

I would really appreciate your help. I understand that I'm not the only one in need of money so I'm open to partnerships or paying a "finder's fee" if you help me get someone to use my service.

Please visit the page, let me know what you think. Help me spread the word if you think it's a worthy service.

The website is once again

I will tell you about the other income stream soon. I'm just starting with it and want to have more experiences to tell you about. To some of you it may shock you, and to others it may seem pretty reasonable. As I've told you before, I open to do anything to get some more income to pay my debts. I'm very motivated to get out of debt. I have been so busy with several projects trying to hedge my bets that at least one should work well.

Well at least this blog is free. More importantly, your advice and words of encouragement are free to you and priceless to me.