Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Southwest Airlines Myth

Southwest Airlines is a really good airline overall. Most of the employees are happy ( I talk to a few and they have the same issues that pilots at my airline have) and the flights are normally cheaper than other airlines. My brother in law might need to fly to Orlando for our vacation. I checked Southwest Airlines out of Long Island, NY. The cheapest round trip fare was $280 all in. This is for a flight leaving in less than 2 weeks. I then checked American Airlines leaving out of JFK and La Guardia. I was shocked. The cheapest round trip fare was $38 each way!!! Non-stop! If tickets were this cheap from Dallas I would consider buying them versus flying standby. I get 20% off the lowest available fare if I ever want a "real" ticket versus standby. Haven't need to use that perk yet.

The flying public has been lead to believe Southwest Airlines is the low cost leader, but it's not always true. I think one reason Southwest doesn't list with travel sites is to hide the fact that they aren't always the cheapest. Next time you need to fly...check Southwest....and check the other guys as well.

Tomorrow Kelli and I are going to visit the Atlanta Aquarium. We were going to go to Chicago to see Judge Mathis....but they aren't taping tomorrow. The flights tomorrow are extremely wide open. We are taking the first flight out in the morning. There are 21 paying passengers and 9 stand by passengers. This is on a MD-80 which holds 140 passengers. The return flights are 3X as full 60 passengers on a 140 passenger jet.

The Atlanta Aquarium is supposed to be one of the top aquariums in the country. Atlanta has a really good public transit system. We will be able to go from the airport to the Aquarium for under $2 on the train. Not too shabby. Should be a good day. The tickets to the Aquarium will cost more than our flight. We are probably going to fly coach there and first class back. Check Flickr for photos throughout the day.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Why Mac? Why!

Apple has made me pissy for the first time. When I bought my Macbook Pro there was a setting on the toolbar that I could easily change the power settings. If I was on battery power I could select a setting for maximum battery life. If I wanted max performance I could select a setting for this as well. I was happy.

Then Mac OS 10.5.6 came along. I blindly installed the update. Previous updates never irked me. My Macbook Pro has been rock solid since day 1. Two days ago I was running on battery power and tried to change the setting....but it was gone. I thought maybe there was a setting that I changed that caused the power settings on the toolbar to change. Negative. It's gone. This was not documented in the 10.5.6 update notes. I am pissy. There is now a 3 step process to change the power setting......just like Windows Vista.

Here is a photo taken from Flickr of what I am pissy about.


On the left was the old way with four different power setting. On the right is what I have now. BOOOO APPLE!

I still love my Macbook. It's kinda like a small butterfly tattoo on the ankle of a beautiful woman. You love this woman and she is absolutely stunning. The tattoo is small and rarely seen. When you do see it you stop and think...."hmm I didn't know that was there.....oh wait yes I did.....Humpf."

Long day in airports.....for both Kelli and I

Kelli flew on a plane I was flying (technically was the Captains leg...I did lower the gear and the flaps though!) for the first time on Sunday. We flew to Shreveport, Louisiana as I had an 18 hour overnight (the longest scheduled overnight I have ever had!) and we could gamble.

We arrived on time and went straight to the rental car counter. National rent a car has a limited amount of cars in Shreveport. I rented a mid-size car for $32 all in. The agent started "humming and hawing" while looking at the list of cars which made me nervous. I asked what my options were as I didn't want to end up in a POS. He offered a Cadillac DTS. Nice so I thought. Hindsight....bad idea. The Cadillac (all the cars really) were not cleaned as there was a bad storm the day prior. Also the Cadillac sucked down gas. Thankfully we didn't drive much and gas is cheap.

After checking into the hotel and changing clothes we ate lunch and then gambled. Kelli went up a bit on roulette...I wavered up and down and then crashed hard. We went back to the hotel for a bit before gambling one more time and then calling it a night.

The flights back to DFW looked bad....really bad. One bright spot is I was flying the first flight out in the morning and that is the most missed flight of the day for passengers. The flight was overbooked by 3. My plane holds 70 passengers plus 4 crew members. I checked Kelli in for the flight at 1:45 AM (non-revenue passengers can only check in 4 hours prior) and she was number 2 on the list. I was feeling pretty good as it was the first flight out...and historically people miss this flight often.

We arrived at the airport at 5AM and I went out to my plane. The rest of the crew was just leaving the hotel. The airline personnel were a bit confused seeing a pilot by himself. I powered up my plane and began setting it up for the flight to DFW. Kelli made her way through security and then took a seat and waited. The plane sits right in front of the waiting area. It was kinda odd seeing my wife waiting to get on a plane I was flying.

Kelli sent me a text that all seats had been assigned.  Kelli had moved down on the list as a few other non-revenue passengers used a higher priority pass than Kelli used. Kelli and I each get 4 high priority passes per year. We already used ours up going to Vegas and Sacramento (thanks Jami for living in a city with limited American Airlines flights!....kidding).

The rest of the crew arrived and they began their routines. The airline personnel assumed the crew was ready and began boarding. I grabbed my laptop bag to bring up to Kelli so she could have something to do while she waited for the next flight. On my way up I had to stop passengers from boarding as the crew wasn't ready. Everyone looked at me then as they were ready to leave. With all eyes on me I walked over to Kelli and gave her my laptop. That had too look odd. Why is a pilot handing this woman a laptop bag?

When the final count was brought to the cockpit...66 adults....4 room for standby passengers. We fired up the plane and left....with Kelli sitting in the waiting area. The Captain I was flying with told me a story about his own "leaving his wife behind in an airport while he went to work". A few years ago they went to Meridian, Mississippi. This was before employees could check the available seats on the Internet. He called the night before and there were more than 30 seats available. The morning they arrived another airline had canceled several flights and booked them all on American. He flew out while his wife sat in the airport all day long. She tells this story to this day. Now Kelli would have a story.

I went on to make a smooth landing in Dallas. I then flew to Lubbock, Texas and back and then on to Montrose, Colorada and back....all while Kelli sat in Shreveport. Thankfully she had that laptop to keep her company.

I was done with flying at 4PM. Kelli was still in Shreveport. Flights had been full all day. Shreveport gets  8-12 flights a day to DFW depending on the day of the week. Kelli missed everyone of the flights. Along with Kelli were other airline employees also waiting on flights. One of them was a flight attendant I had flown with a few weeks ago. This flight attendant, Lisa,  is a very nice woman who is very talkative. Apparently Kelli and this woman talked a quite a bit. I let Kelli know that Lisa was the one I deadheaded to damn Chicago and back with two weeks ago. When Kelli relayed that to the Lisa, she said that I was a very nice and funny guy. Kelli said it was odd to hear a "stranger" say something nice about me. Hmmm....I think I am a nice a funny person.  Lisa then told Kelli that if they didn't get to DFW that Kelli was going home with her and they would leave in the morning. Airline people do take care of their own.

At 5:40PM Kelli finally sat inside of a plane bound for Dallas. She spent 12 hours in the Shreveport airport. We learned that we will not travel to a small city with limited air service unless all the flights look green. My airline shows the exact number of paying passengers on each flight and color codes the flights green, yellow and red to show at a glance how the loads look. We have never had a problem like this before. Thankfully Kelli is very easy going aand had a sick day to burn.

Too bad Kelli couldn't make that first flight. I made an awesome landing in Dallas. Maybe next time.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas in Cleveland

I had no dreams about being home on Christmas day. I am on reserve December 25th thru December 27th. I initially wanted a trip that was really easy and had a deadhead (me flying as a passenger) home from Damn Chicago on Saturday arriving at 10:25AM. I didn't get it. Instead I have a trip where I fly to Cleveland, OH tomorrow night, fly in and out of Damn Chicago Friday (staying the night in Little Rock, AR) and finishing up in Dallas on Saturday at 1PM.

I wanted the first trip as Kelli and I are going out with Eric & Angela and Jason & Jackie Saturday night. I start my day at 6AM on Saturday so I will likely take a mid-afternoon nap Saturday before going out that night.

Sunday Kelli is going to fly with my to Shreveport for my long 18 hour overnight. This will be her first time on my plane. I hope to get there early and give her a tour of the cockpit. We are going to rent a car in Shreveport, check into my crew hotel and then hit a casino.

Monday Kelli will enjoy the experience of a god awful early wake up call as the flight back leaves at 5:45AM! She will fly back and go home while I go out and fly 4 more flights.

Tuesday I go to the dentist.

Wednesday I picked up 2 hours of overtime. I actually have New Years Eve off and New Years Day off.

For now I have to mentally prepare myself for Damn Chicago.

He works hard for the money

Kelli and I are comfortable in our finances. Even with all of our differences, one thing we have in common is living within our means. Hmmm I should say we live within Kelli's means. My means are ramen noodles and a 12 pack of Dr. Thunder. If it weren't for Kelli I would be struggling to keep my head above water. My paycheck covers my car payment, gas, flight school loan, and credit card expenses (mostly covered by my per diem). Most months I have a tiny bit extra to cover the smallest household bill...normally the water bill.

I don't like contributing so little so I pick up extra flying whenever I can. Overtime at most jobs pays time and a half. At my airline...not so much. If I pick up extra flying before the day the flying is to be done I get paid time and 20% (so 120% for those who suck in math like I do). If I somehow pickup flying the same day the flying is due I get paid time and a half (the normal 150% that most people earn). I have only been paid 150% once.

Seeing as my days of flying the jet at American Eagle are limited, I am picking up as much overtime as I can. So far I have picked up 13 hours of overtime for this month. In reality I will be on duty for more than 30 hours for that 13 hours. How so? Well follow my overtime I worked yesterday.

I signed up for a Little Rock, Arkansas turn scheduled to depart at 3:30PM arriving in Little Rock at 4:35PM. I then was to depart Little Rock at 5:10PM and finish my trip at 6:30PM back in DFW. My airline requires me to sign in at the airport 45 minutes prior to departure so 2:45PM. In order to make that sign in I have to leave home by 2:05PM to drive to the employee lot, catch the shuttle, clear the security portal (I don't go through the TSA) and then sign in. Airline crew members are only paid their hourly wage when the cabin door is closed and the parking brake is released.

I signed in at 2:45PM. At 3:00PM the inbound plane I was to fly out parked at the gate. By 3:10PM I inspected the plane for safety and began loading the flight plan. At 3:11PM the Captain noticed we were low on hydraulic fluid and called the mechanics. At this point I knew this trip was screwed. At 3:30PM the passengers were loaded up and we were waiting to get hydraulic fluid. By 3:50PM we had hydraulic fluid. At 4:00PM the cabin door was closed and I finally started getting paid. A minute later we were finally being pushed back from the gate. At 5:05 PM I finally saw the runway (the clouds were overcast at 240 feet above the ground!) and made a butter smooth landing in Little Rock....35 minutes late. At 5:10PM we pulled into the gate and open the cabin pay stopped. At 5:20PM the next DFW to Little Rock flight pulls in next to us. At 5:56PM we are loaded up and ready to head back to DFW, my pay clock started again. At 7:10 PM the Captain landed on the far east side of DFW airport (we park on the west side of the airport....DFW airport is is larger than the island of Manhattan). At 7:22PM we pulled into the gate and the cabin door clock stopped. At 7:40PM I was on the employee bus headed back to the employee lot. By 8:00PM I was home.

So for just a scheduled 2 hour 20 minute flight, I was away from home for 6 hours. I was on duty for 4 hours 52 minutes. I signed in at 2:45PM which started my duty clock and my per diem clock ($1.70 an hour). My pay clock ($33 an hour + 20% for the overtime) started at 4:00PM, stopped at 5:15PM, started again at 5:56PM and stopped at 7:22PM for a total of 2 hours 41 minutes. My pay will be $106.92 + $8.16 per diem.Taking that figure and dividing how long I was on duty takes it down to about $23 an hour. Still not bad considering I don't really "work". If I were to include how long I was away from home it brings it down to $19 an hour. Hmm...when I started this blog I thought it would look more pitiful than that. Well I made more money than I would have had if I just stayed at home watching TV.

Hmm...well long story long I like picking up overtime as it's normally easy work and I like to try to help out with the bills.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tortise and the Hare

Kelli and I are very much so opposites. I grew up in a family where everything was on full speed and you had to fend for yourself and get the job done yesterday. This never bothered me and I have adopted the idea. Get it done. I am pretty high strung, talk twice as fast as most people and think 3 to 4 steps ahead at all times. I used to think 5 to 6 times faster than I could speak and had a pretty bad stuttering problem. To cure this I just learned to speak faster and chose my words wisely. Every now and then my stuttering comes back. Whenever I am given a question or a situation I quickly (but not rushed) examine the options and come up with the best answer I can. I can't stand silence. When I go to bed at home I have headphones on. When I am on the road I fall asleep with my laptop playing music. I can not sit still.  I also can't do just one thing at a time. When I am at home I can't just watch TV. I watch TV while browsing the Internet.....always. When I fly I have the hardest time "just flying the plane". Thankfully there are lots of buttons and screens of data I can browse as well as stare outside as the earth passes by.  Basically I am a hare.

Kelli is a tortoise. She takes everything one thing at a time. Nothing seems to really irk her to the point of getting agitated. She takes on a task 100% and completes it before going on to the next. Kelli is very laid back. When given a question she takes her time coming up with an answer. She thinks about each possible answer on it's own....decides on one (sometimes) and then responds. Kelli can sit in a quiet room for hours. She can just read a book. If something doesn't work....she will just deal with it. Finding out why something doesn't work is okay. She will wait till I get home for it to be fixed. Kelli must have a quiet and dark room to fall asleep in.

We mesh well together. There isn't a day goes by that we both look at each other with that RCA dog look. I don't get how she can be so laid back. She doesn't understand why I always going at 100%.

Kelli and I got to talking the other day and everyone of her siblings is married to a type 'A' personality. From the Farlex Medical Online Dictionary a Type A personality has a relatively distinct set of character traits, commonly observed in aggressive, hard-driving, 'workaholics'; a temperament characterized by excessive drive, competitiveness, a sense of time urgency, impatience, unrealistic ambition, and need for control. The condition is associated with a higher than usual incidence of coronary heart disease.

Kelli's siblings are very much Type B. From the same online medical dictionary, a Type B personality is typical of those persons who tend to be relaxed and inclined to do things 'maƱana'; a temperament characterized by an easy-going demeanor; less time-bound and competitive than the type A personality. All of her siblings  have a strong drive for their careers. They are all very relaxed and easy going. They get stuff done on time...or if no time frame is given...whenever they feel like it.  Kelli is type B except for competitiveness. She loves to 'one up' me especially on trivia games and Wii Fit.

I could never be a Type B. Kelli could never be a Type A.

Gotta love the price matching policies.

We bought our Samsung LN52A750 on November 2nd from Circuit City. The price there was $2899. We first saw the TV at Fry's the same day for $2199. Circuit City was offering 24 months no interest so we bought it there. Circuit City matched the $2199 from Fry's and then beat it by 10% for a total price of $2130 + tax. Not too shabby.

There is a 60 day price match policy at Circuit City. Friday I found our TV on sale in the Fry's ad for $1950! We made our trip back to Circuit City and after a little "we normally don't match Fry's ads" mumbo jumbo they refunded us another $185+tax for a total of $202. So in the end we will have ended up paying $1945 for a TV that was priced at $2899. Most people would have forgotten about how much they paid for an item soon after brining it home. I am not most people.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My how times change....

Netscape. Once an Internet browser that was BETTER than Internet Explorer. Netscape is no more. After being bought by AOL all development stopped.

I remember BUYING Netscape at Target in Lubbock ,Texas. Browsers haven't always been free. Back in 1995 the Internet was just getting really graphical. Texas Tech University (where I went for 1 year) didn't offer free dial up Internet access. I went to a local Internet Service Provider and signed up for a $30 a month plan (a steal then!) for dial up access. I am pretty sure I was using a 28.8 Kbps modem. That speed is a tiny fraction of the speeds available today via cable or fiber optic (which we have in our house). Access was included....but no software. This is where Netscape came in. I bought Netscape in a box...I think version 3.0 was the version I bought. It was was my computer (a 486 DX/4 100Mhz with 8MB of RAM!)..but it worked. I think I switched to Internet Explorer in 1997 or so. Netscape got "weird" around then...too flashy and bloated.

Netscape is no more. I did download the last version made for MAC OS today...just to have it around. Who would PAY for an Internet browser today?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

If only we could get credit for them

In 2008 Kelli traveled 47,010 miles on airplanes. Of those 40,698 miles were flown using my benefits. Most of the miles were on American Airlines although she did have one trip on United (using her United Miles) and one leg on Southwest (Discount fare via benefits). There were 6,312 miles traveled for business on American Airlines in which her company bought tickets. Hmm that isn't even accurate as I remember her traveling on U.S. Airways for at least one trip. I only traveled 38,812 for personal travel all of which was on American Airlines. I have no idea how many miles I flew in the cockpit. Waaay too lazy to calculate that up.

Our goal for 2009? We hope to break 50,000 miles. Hopefully we will make it overseas which will put a huge dent in that goal.

If we could get credit for the miles flown this year Kelli would have almost qualified for Platinum (50K miles in one calednar year) while I would have only qualified for Gold.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I always make good choices

Before I bought my car I researched a ton of vehicles. I narrowed down my choices to the Mazda5, Toyota FJ Cruiser and the Scion XB. All cost right around $20K or so. The winner of course was the Mazda5. The Mazda5 has won award after award this year. Turns out I made a good choice.

I have driven 4800 miles since I leased it. That comes down to about 600 miles a month. I'm very happy with it. I get 24-28 MPG which is really good considering how little I drive and the average trip is the 14 mile round trip to and from the airport. Once again I predict I will be way under miles at the end of the lease. I predict I will have about 22K miles on it in May 2011. I am on a 36K mile lease. Hopefully I will be "positive" on the car and be able to trade it in before than and "make money" like I did on my Acura. My next car will likely be a purchase. If we have a kid it will likely be the Mazda5. If we don't have a kid it will be a two door two seater.

Here is an article about the most recent Mazda5 win. Oh and it list it as Crossover/ WAGON!

New 2009 Mazda Mazda5 [ 2008 , 2007 ]


in Affordable Full Size Wagons

Based on analysis of 47 Mazda5 reviews and test drives.

MSRP: $17,995 - $22,675

Invoice: $16,865 - $21,229

MPG: 22 (Est) City / 28 (Est) Hwy

Get local dealer price quotes:

U.S.News Scores


  • Sliding rear doors minimize dents and dings

  • Best wagon and minivan features in one package

  • Three rows of individual captains chairs

  • Lots of cargo space

  • Engine not at sporty as other Mazdas

  • Limited cargo space with all seats up

Mazda Mazda5 - What the Auto Press Says

The 2009 Mazda Mazda5 ranks 2 out of 8 Affordable Full Size Wagons. This ranking is based on our analysis of 47 published reviews and test drives of the Mazda Mazda5, and our analysis of reliability and safety data.

The Mazda Mazda5 is proof that a little sacrifice can lead to great reward. Combining minivan-like comfort with wagon performance and fuel economy, the Mazda5 is a fun choice among family haulers and is the winner of the U.S. News Best Car for the Money award for compact crossovers, beating industry stalwarts including the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.

It isn't perfect, though. The styling is odd for some people's taste, and while sportier than most wagons or vans, the Mazda5 doesn't have the zoom-zoom of other Mazda models. Still, the 2009 Mazda5 is a solid attempt to create a car with the cargo space and practicality of a minivan, while keeping the size of a wagon. "What are they putting in the guava juice at Mazda's design headquarters?" U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman writes. "Whatever it is I want some. In a market filled with nichebusters and me-too copycats, the No. 4 Japanese automaker keeps finding ways to turn out clever, affordable funmobiles that are a bit more creative than the competition."

The 5 is available in three trims, the Sport, Touring and Grand Touring, all of which have the same four-cylinder engine. It's part of Ford's C1 platform, along with the Mazda3.

  • "This sporty van combines the ride of a sedan, the convenience of a hatchback, the easy access of a minivan, and the utility of a small SUV. Inside, seating for six in three rows offers great flexibility, with a flat-floor design for maximum legroom." -- Car and Driver

  • "We recommend it to small families with kids under five or six years old, with the caveat that we'd like it better if traction control and electronic stability control were available." -- New Car Test Drive

  • "Mazda5 comes along with many of the attributes of a minivan -- except the frumpiness. It is actually a ball to drive." -- U.S. News

  • "It fits neatly into tight spaces. It presents no visual obstruction to other drivers. But it can carry six passengers and judicious amounts of their stuff." -- Washington Post

  • "The 5 has an unmistakably road-friendly character apparent in its responses and ease of parking, and the edge in visibility doesn't hurt." --

  • "Who's it for? Well, after living with it a bit, I'd say it's for youngsters, oldsters and many inbetweeners." -- The Auto Channel

  • "As small vehicles go, this one's big. And as minivans go, this one's cool." -- USA Today

Mazda5 Performance - 7.7 (Good)

Even if the Mazda5 is missing some of the brand's trademark zoom-zoom, New Car Test Drive writes, "It tucks into tight parking spaces, thanks in no small part to a turning circle that bests all the competition by several feet. Everyday errands are run with a reasonably clear conscience, and without requiring a home equity loan, thanks to respectable fuel mileage." Continue with our full Performance Review for the 5's fuel numbers. continue

Mazda5 Exterior - 7.5 (Good)

Reviewers can't quite decide what the Mazda5 looks like, but most agree it won't suit everyone's taste. Road & Travel Magazine says it "sports a no-apologies look of fun." But U.S. News' Rick Newman calls it "tall and ungainly." Our Mazda5 Photo Gallery will allow you to judge the 5's appearance for yourself, or continue with our full Exterior Review to read reviewers' appreciation for the Mazda5's sliding doors.  continue

Mazda5 Interior - 8.0 (Very Good)

The Mazda5's interior is all practicality, from the seats, to the space and the design.. Check out the Mazda5 Photo Gallery for pictures of the inside, or continue with our full Interior Review to read about the level of comfort found in the 5's three rows.  continue

Mazda5 Safety - 9.6 (Excellent)

The 2008 Mazda5 gets great government crash test scores. Our full Safety Review gives details on the 5's passive and active safety features.  continue

Mazda5 Reliability - 7.0 (Good)

The 2009 Mazda Mazda5 reliability score shown is the Predicted Reliability rating provided by J.D. Power and Associates. This score is based on trending the past three years of historical initial quality and dependability data from J.D. Power's automotive studies, specifically the Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) and the Initial Quality Study (IQS). Mazda offers a basic warranty for three years or 36,000 miles. Check out the full Reliability Review to learn more about Mazda's extended coverage.  continue
Review Last Updated: 12/15/08

Monday, December 15, 2008

Day Without a Gay....really?......really?

Apparently I missed the memo.  I forgot to call in gay last Wednesday. No one told me!

Really? Really? Seriously? This is a real organization.  I'm confused by the message. Are they stating being gay is akin to being sick? So people who are gay are sick? Really? Either way I checked my benefits and I don't have any time in my gay bank. Really? Seriously?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

If you had it...or are responsible for it...WATCH IT!

Last night in Cleveland was interesting. There was an "audition" going on for the John Robert Powers acting and modeling agency. There were a large gathering of people. When I went down to the gym, a member of the hotel staff was right in front of me. You need a hotel key to access the GYM or pool. I walked in to see 7 or 8 kids ages 8-11 playing on the treadmills. Not a parent in sight. There are signs on the door stating you must be 18 or older. Between the pool and GYM is a glass wall. On the other side of the wall was a group of 4 adults...appeared to be parents.The hotel staff member told the kids they had to leave the GYM. Two of them were along one wall look in the mirror. One of them fell while playing on a treadmill and busted her nose. Nice. The kids left. I picked a treadmill and could see in the reflection the parents get upset that the kids were back with them. They gave the hotel staff member a dirty look. The hotel staff member left. The kids tried to get back in...knocking on the door. I ignored them (I had on headphones and was watching TV...large LCD TV's at each treadmill!). The parents then gave me a dirty look. The hotel staff member came back in and just stood guard. The kids then began running around the pool area. Parents not parenting. When I left after more than 45 minutes they finally packed up their stuff and were leaving. They apparently had dinner there (several pizza boxes) and had no intentions of cleaning up after themselves. I know they were not staying in the hotel or they would have had a key to get into the GYM. They were just crappy parents doing a horrible job of leading by example. If you had it...or are responsible for it....WATCH IT!!!! You need a license to drive a car....any two idiots can have a baby.

When I was in college I was an intern at a Junior High School. The teacher was very nice and we had many upper level discussions on society and such. She made a very important point. Smart people are causing the level of intelligence in society to fall. How so? Well many educated people aren't having kids or if they are having kids are only having enough they can afford. So a well educated couple might have 0 or 1 kid while an under-educated couple might have 2 or 10. Statistics show that those who grow up in educated families have educated kids and the cycle continues. The inverse is true as well. By not having a kid...Kelli and I are dumbing down society.

My umbilical cord was cut

So I was in Cleveland, Ohio last night (right now I am in Little Rock, Arkansas). My phone worked fine when I got there. After eating dinner I went down to the gym. The hotels I stay at are required to have work out facilities. The hotel we stay at in Cleveland is very nice and has an awesome gym (HDTV LCD's at EVERY treadmill!). When I went inside the gym I noticed I had no service on my phone. I assumed it was because of the walls and lack of signal in the gym. No biggie.

After working out I went back up to my room...still no signal. I was standing next to a floor-to-ceiling window (the entire wall is a window...wall to wall for to ceiling...very nice) and still had no signal. I rebooted the phone...nothing. Then I got an email on the phone. How in the hell am I getting email without service? Wi-fi was turned off. Thinking it was a fluke I used my laptop to send my phone and email.....arrived right away. WTF??!?! I tried making a service. Tried to service. Hmmm.

I called T-Mobile...via the hotel phone of course....and after 20 minutes was told my SIM card had gone "bad" and needed to be replaced! They could give no answer how it went "bad". Being in Cleveland at a hotel I was in a bad spot. I told them I would be in the Chicago O'Hare airport today followed by downtown Little Rock, Arkansas and if there were any T-mobile stores nearby. Negative. I would have to wait until Monday to get my phone fixed.

Being a geek I did not believe that my SIM card had spontaneously went bad. I tried resetting my phone to factory defaults. With the G1 from T-Mobile all contact information is stored online with my G-Mail account. By defaulting the phone I would only lose my text message history, installed programs and any settings I changed. Not a huge deal. After the default....same issue. Bummed I went to bed.

This morning..same problem. When I got in the hotel van one of the flight attendants told me his T-mobile phone also quit working last night and that it did the same thing last week when he was here. Hmmm...I now had hope my phone would start working again in Chicago.

Today was the hardest day of flying I have had in my career. .I worked my ass off with high winds, crippled airplanes, bad weather and high winds.....did I saw high winds? It was very very bumpy and turbulent all day.

When I got to Chicago..same problem. Little Rock. Same problem. Being cut off is very stressful for me. When I am on the road my phone is my life umbilical cord.

Calling Kelli was a multi-step process. I would send her a text message from with my hotel phone number and room number. I would back it up with an email sent to her phone. She would then call the hotel and then my room. Bleh.

Right before I went to dinner I wanted to give T-Mobile support one more shot. I called and got Jeff. Jeff was very nice and sounded like just the geek a geek needed in a time like this. I calmly explained my problem. He had my do the same troubleshooting steps and then said "hey wait an minute...I found the problem". I told him if he fixed my phone he would make my week (it's Sunday....nice way to start would be a fixed phone). Within a minute he had me fire up my phone...and I had BARS! It worked. Somehow T-Mobile deactivated my phone. I don't know how. He doesn't know how. I am glad it's working again.

Our G1's (Kelli has one too) have been very problematic. I am a power user. My phone will sometimes forget ring tone settings, lockup while getting multiple emails or refuse to go on the Internet...unless I reboot. Kelli is the opposite of me. She uses the phone and sends text messages with very little web access. Her phone will stop taking phone calls. Someone can call and the phone won't respond. No waking up. Nada. She has to reboot also. The problem is she doesn't know she has a problem unless I call her on the home phone and tell her I have been trying to call her cell phone. Hopefully T-mobile and Google will get everything fixed. My Windows Mobile phone (while slower and not as useful) wasn't this quirky.

I'm glad I have my lifeline back. I think I will have to start carrying one of my old T-Mobile phones as a backup.

Friday, December 12, 2008 good deals. The site sells all kinds of items for cheap. Shipping is always $5. One great thing is they ship from nearby in north east Dallas so orders arrive pretty quickly.

Recently they had an aerobed on sale for $59. They offered both full size or queen size for the same price. This is a really good deal as a full size bed is normally over $100. We bought a queen. Shipping took a while but it finally shipped. When the box arrived it was a full. Dissappointed I emailed Woot. They quickly apologized and told me they would ship the queen size ALONG with a shipping tag to return the full size. Fair. A box arrived two days ago with the Queen size bed inside....and that's it. No shipping label. I am going to email them about the missing label as we have no use for two aerobeds.

Curiously there is a price tag from Linen-N-Things on the queen bed for $179.99. Linen-N-Things is currently going out of business so I assume this was purchased from them in bulk and sold to consumers.

Thursday, December 11, 2008 gift registries easy!

So my geeky friend Kerry (a woman who has MORE websites than me.....I think just to scorn me ;-) ) is having a baby. She is registered at a few places including is my new "it" store. I ordered our blue ray player, my mother in law a scrabble CD, my Nine Inch Nails CD, my brother in law a Christmas gift for his wife (HA! Jessi I know you read this!) and more from The prices are lower than a "real" store and as a "prime" member I get 2 day shipping on 1000's of items free.

Kerry is registered at for her baby. The registry at is very nice. In addition to a list of items the owner is able to specify a priority. You can list "like to have", "nice to have" or "must have". This way friends and family can have an idea on what you really want...versus "hey this is neat!". Ordering is very easy. Since I am a prime member my orders still arrive in 2 days...for free. Kerry being a geek placed a Macbook Air on her list. Thankfully there were other much more pilot salary friendly gifts to choose from. Good luck on the Macbook Kerry. For more about Kerry (she is very witty) like on Kerry White under Other Blogs on the left side...or heck just click here.

I leave for a 4 day trip tomorrow. I overnight in Pittsburgh (snowy and cold), Cleveland (snowy and cold) and Little Rock (just crappy and cold). Kelli might join me in Cleveland. I am there 13 hours. We will see.

Windows Home Server...a product I love

I have had Windows Home Server up and running....I think for a year....hmmmm it's been a while. The product is the one Microsoft product that just plain works. No bugs. No issues. No crashes. It just works. Everyday it backs up all the computers in the house (except my Macbook Mac OS...because...well it's a Mac...and Windows doesn't like Mac's). In addition to backing up all the computers it allows me to connect to any computer while on the road. I simply use any computer that has Internet Explorer and I can connect to any computer in the house and it's as though I am sitting right in front of it. Windows Home server is also a central location for all of our photos, video and music. I truly love it.

Now with that said, Kelli's laptop is super duper slow. It shouldn't be. It's only a year old. Windows Vista is the issue. I used Windows Easy Transfer to save all of Kelli's documents, settings and such to a simple (30 gigabyte ! ) file just in case the backup process that the Home Server stores is faulty. Then I tried to install Windows XP yesterday....FAIL. I then reinstalled Vista using the HP restore process and it made it like a brand new computer. I ran the Windows Easy Transfer to get all of her settings back. Worked like a charm. The computer was still dog slow.

Today I decided to use the restore feature of Windows Home Server. I put the CD in her laptop and launched the restore program. The most recent full backup was December 7th. I started the recovery. It took about 90 minutes to transfer the 70 gigabytes of data from the server to the hard drive, but it worked fine. Amazing. I am also glad I was able to restore a single partition and not the entire drive. Her computer has two partitions with one being normal "C drive" and the other containing recovery software. I only restored the "C drive". I then removed Norton Anti-virus and installed McAfee. Both were free via our AT&T Uverse. McAfee is less intrusive though. Should help things out.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

T-Mobile Cameo

I am writing this on Sunday December 7th. The subject is the T-Mobile Cameo. I won't post it for a few days as it's a gift for my mother in law.

The T-Mobile Cameo is a revolutionary type of digital picture frame. In the past with digital picture frames you had to manually copy the photos you want onto a memory card and then insert it into the picture frame. Not horrible...but can be tedious.

With the T-Mobile cameo you can simply take a photo with a camera phone...and text the photo to the frame! Too hard? Well you can also email a photo to the frame. Photos taken with "normal" digital cameras must be reduced to 1024X768 and then emailed to the frame. Anything bigger gets rejected. There is no required intervention from the user other than plugging in the device. That's it!

My mother in law can now get photos from all of her kids instantly. If my niece Gianna is covered in red popsicle while wearing a white dress....the image can be taken in New York and displayed on the photo from in Oregon in seconds. If for some reason my mother in law misses Haley's birthday, a photo can be sent right away to the frame showing Haley blowing out the candles. Best yet...the frame holds 500 photos that simply rotate over and over again. Simple. Easy.

She has the option of manually adding photos via memory card.

I tested it quite a bit. Photos I sent via email began displaying in under 3 minutes. Photos I sent via a text message began displaying in under 2 minutes. Nice.

That's the good part.

The bad part? Well This morning I got a text message that I was going to be charged $35 for the new activation on my line. What activation? I bought a picture frame and was NEVER told about any activation fee. I called T-Mobile customer service. The store I bought the frame from IS a T-Mobile corporate store. After 15 minutes I was told that I would have to call the store as they charged me the fee. I have never called T-Mobile customer service until this year. The first time was with all of our inital issues with the T-Mobile G1....I got nothing but bad service or incorrect advice. Now I was being told I am SOL with this fee.

I finally called the store and was told they would take care of it which they did. I hate bad customer service. I have worked the other end of the phone. Having done so taught me that being rude gets you no where. When I get bad service I am firm but fair. If I don't get my way I always "kill them with kindness" and end the call with "you have a great day sir, thanks for your help". I am sure it throws them for a bit.

The frame should have arrived today. I love my FedEx discount. FedEx gives employees of AMR a 75% discount on shipping. FedEx ground isn't included so it's only applicable for next day or second day air. The price ends up being what FedEx ground normally is. I forgot to include the instruction manual so I will have to put it in the mail.

Lucky Charm Treats

Kelli will be 30 next year. Her metabolism is slowing down big time. She used to be able to drop 5-7 pounds a month easy. Now it's 1 to 2 pounds with the same or more exercise and watching what she eats. Welcome to 30 sucks.

I got a CD in the mail. Pretty Hate Machine by the Nine Inch Nails. This is going to be one of my top 5 CD's ever. I couldn't download any of the songs on Amazon or Microsoft Zune. Not sure why. I got the CD on Amazon for $5.

Windows Vista. Horrible operating system. Quite possibly worse overall than Windows ME. I have it installed on a few computer mostly because I am ignorant. I still prefer the MAC OS then Microsoft XP. Kelli's computer has been slow since we bought it. It's a Core 2 Duo with 3 gigs of RAM and is dog slow. I turned off all the eye candy, extra services and other waste...still slow. Today I tried to install Windows XP. No go. For some reason the installer couldn't find the hard drive. Not sure if it's because it's a SATA drive....or some funky HP formatting BIOS. Will try again tomorrow.

Kelli and I are pretty similar when it comes to buying stuff. For the most part we wait until we have the money and then buy it. We make one exception per year and buy it no interest for 2 or 3 years. This year it was the new washer and dryer. When I bought my new Macbook Pro I waited until I had the money and then bought it. Right now Kelli could use a new laptop....but she won't buy one because she doesn't have the cash. Her current one is just over a year old...but runs like it's 4 years old. I don't know how she stands it.

Went to the dentist yesterday for the first time since 2000. I have been avoiding the dentist out of pure ignorance. The good news was they said that for not having seen a dentist in almost a decade my teeth are better than they expected. I still need a lot of work. One VERY annoying issue is my top three front teeth. They are fake. I fell down a flight of stairs in college ( shoe caught the skip guard....fell on my face) and shattered them. They replaced them with crowns and they were COLOR MATCHED the my existing teeth. Thus I can never have pretty white teeth. Well I could get veneers OVER the crowns....maybe one day.

We watched our first Blue-ray movie last night. The quality was amazing. One disappointment was the BD-Live feature. BD-Live is extra content online that is accessed through the Blue-ray player. Loading took a good minute. Once was hard to navigate and well kind boring. Hopefully people get the Profile 2.0 players the BD-Live content will get better.

I made Lucky Charm treats instead of Rice Krispy treats. I was a little worried about having too much marshmallow action....turned out very good!

I added a countdown to Disney World in the top left hand corner....because I wanted to.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Advantages of Blueray

We have a Blue-ray player....but have yet to watch a Blue-ray movie. This will change soon.

Netflix offers Blue-ray movies for just $1 extra per month. Once I added the Blue-ray option all movies in our que there were available on Blue-ray were set up for that format. Some of the movies that were "long wait" were now "short wait" or available "now". Nice. Most of the homes in the United States have plain "old" DVD players. Blue-ray is still an emerging format. Only within the last 6 months has a Blue-ray player been available under $300. Previously the most inexpensive Blue-ray player was the PlayStation 3 at $399. I think Blue-ray players will be under $150 within a year.

Unlike DVD there are many types of Blue-ray players available. The basic players (Profile 1.0) movies. The next step up (Profile 1.1) play movies and have can access special features on the disc. The final step (Profile 2.0) plays moves, can access special features, has on-board storage of at least a gigabyte of memory AND can go on the internet. Most people will likely choose the basic it's the cheapest.

The player we have is the top level Profile 2.0 player. I am very happy with it. The Netflix integration is great. We can easily watch movies on DVD, Blue-ray or over the internet....all from extra cost beyond our monthly fee.

One thing the Blue-ray player (and many newer regular DVD players) can do is upconvert regular DVDs. DVD's are recorded at 480P. That means there are 480 lines of resolution. HDTV's are with 720P or 1080P. Up-converting means taking a regular 480P DVD and making it a 720P or 1080P DVD depending on what the TV can take. In easy terms...up-converting often makes regular DVD's look amazing....high definition like.

Our first two real Blue-ray movies are in the mail. We have The Dark Knight and Step Brothers on the way from Netflix.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Plane crash over Florida - 4 pilots not coming home

There was a plane crash in South Florida Saturday. A 1979 Piper Seminole, owned by the flight school I trained and instructed at, collided with a Cessna Skyhawk over an area used for flight training practice. After the planes failed to return Saturday night a search was put out and the wreckage was found Sunday morning.

Flight training is mostly done without talking to Air Traffic Control. The training is done using VFR (Visual Flight Rules) which means they use a "see and avoid" method to stay away from other aircraft. There is no way Air Traffic Control could reasonably manage flight training activities. Many times a common radio frequency is used for a practice area and pilots announce where they are and what they are doing. This is totally voluntary.

When I was flight instructing the other instructors at my school would almost always announce where they were and what they were doing over a certain frequency. Typically I would announce I was performing maneuvers over the small town of Hillsboro, TX between 4500 feet and 5500 feet. Another pilot would announce they are working over Lake Alvarado at 3000 feet and so on. There could be 10 planes all within a somewhat small area.

While teaching a pilot to fly I would keep a constant eye outside to look for traffic. Even small planes fly at 100 MPH. A piece of sky can be clear one minute...and have a plane in it the next.

I had a few close calls. Mostly near airports though. Small airports have no control towers and pilots are supposed to announce where they are. Not all pilots do this or if they do many foreigners are training in the United States and do not have a clear understanding of English. The closest I ever got to hitting another plane was probably 200 feet away as they came from behind me and crossed overhead.

Planes crash everyday...but this one hits me a little harder. The crash involved a plane from my flight school. I checked the tail number, N118TP, to see if it was in my logbook. Although I flew many Piper Seminoles, I did not fly that one. Two flight instructors and two students (not confirmed statuses...but given the area it's likely) won't be coming home tonight. They flew west. For those that don't know what flying west it's an aviation term for when a pilot dies...regardless of the cause.

Flying West

I hope there's a place, way up in the sky,
Where pilots can go, when they have to die-
A place where a guy can go and buy a cold beer
For a friend and comrade, whose memory is dear;
A place where no doctor or lawyer can tread,
Nor management type would ere be caught dead;
Just a quaint little place, kinda dark and full of smoke,
Where they like to sing loud, and love a good joke;
The kind of place where a lady could go
And feel safe and protected, by the men she would know.

There must be a place where old pilots go,
When their paining is finished, and their airspeed gets low,
Where the whiskey is old, and the women are young,
And the songs about flying and dying are sung,
Where you'd see all the fellows who'd flown west before.
And they'd call out your name, as you came through the door;
Who would buy you a drink if your thirst should be bad,
And relate to the others, "He was quite a good lad!"

And then through the mist, you'd spot an old guy
You had not seen for years, though he taught you how to fly.
He'd nod his old head, and grin ear to ear,
And say, "Welcome, my son, I'm pleased that you're here.
"For this is the place where true flyers come,
"When the journey is over, and the war has been won
"They've come here to at last to be safe and alone
From the government clerk and the management clone,
"Politicians and lawyers, the Feds and the noise
Where the hours are happy, and these good ol'boys
"Can relax with a cool one, and a well-deserved rest;
"This is Heaven, my son -- you've passed your last test!"

Author: Capt. Michael J. Larkin
Dedicated to: Capt. E. Hamilton Lee

Saturday, December 6, 2008

I don't fly the plane....I just sit in the back

So my "cush" assignment last night was even more a bad way. I deadheaded to Chicago on American Airlines. I asked for a first class seat (all travel while deadheading is why not?) and got one. Good thing. I ae a nice baked chicken dinner on the way. We arrived early.

I walked toward the American Eagle gates and checked the departure monitors.....gate G5. As I got to the gate I noticed a large crowd of passengers standing around and a flight to Montreal, Canada still on the board....already delayed almost 2 hours. Not wanting to get involved with upset passengers I went across the hallway to an empty gate and pulled up my schedule. They added on more flying Saturday including an overnight in Little Rock, Arkansas. My flight tonight was still showing to leave from G5. Over the next few minutes several passengers walking by made a B line for me as I was an airline employee standing behind a counter, which held a computer. I helped the best I could. A few were looking for the flight to Northwest flight. I told them if they sat near by I would let them know as soon as I did. I checked my schedule G1.

We all gathered our things and walked to G1. There I saw the other flight attendant going on my trip. She is a very tall blonde Russian woman that is not the norm around here. She is very nice though. I put my bags behind the counter and notice a CRJ 700 (the plane I fly at American Eagle) outside at the gate. I pull up my schedule again to check the tail number of the plane I was supposed to fly. The tail number had been removed. Not good. I tell the flight attendant the news and leave the area. The customers I previously helped didn't seem to notice my escape. I sat down in an empty area next to a set of departure monitors. Within a few flight cancelled. Bad news for the customers got worse as the next flight was already delayed by an hour. Those that thought they would be home at 9:50 would now not arrive until almost midnight.

I found an empty computer and checked my schedule again. It showed my flight was cancelled...but nothing else. The first flight attendant that deadheaded up with me found me. She is a very nice woman and this would be my first time flying with her. Most people in this business are very easy going and most interactions are as though you have known them for years. Kinda hard to describe.  I tell her the news. We check our schedules. They now have us deadheading BACK to Dallas Fort Worth on the last flight leaving Chicago. I was to show up for a 1:35PM flight Saturday to Springfield to do a turn and then the Little Rock, Arkansas overnight.

Going back to Dallas was fine for me. I lived there. The flight attendant though commutes. She commuted in that afternoon, to deadhead to Chicago and is now deadheading back to Dallas. Because she is based in Dallas she has to find her own place to stay. Commuters have to budget for these little events. Most stay in hotels nearby that give crew discounts.

We checked first class. It was full. Coach it was to be.

Springfield, Missouri is a very nice city. I assume it is anyway. I have never been there. I have been assigned to fly there 9 times (including this trip) over the last year. I have never gone. It's always downgraded. This morning I checked my schedule.....gone...downgraded again. Now I have the whole day off until 6PM when I fly to Little Rock, Arkansas.

Going with the flow

The New Obama Administration

December 6, 2008

Posted: 10:25 AM ET

This photo of Favreau and Clinton appeared on Facebook Friday.

This photo of Favreau and Clinton appeared on Facebook Friday.

(CNN) — Jon Favreau, future White House director of speechwriting, has so far been at a loss for words over Facebook pictures of him at a recent party.

Pictures of Favreau, 27, at a recent party appeared on Facebook Friday. In one of the photos, Favreau, who served as President-elect Barack Obama’s chief speechwriter during the campaign season, was dancing with a life-sized cardboard cut-out of future secretary of state Hillary Clinton. In a second photo, a friend was offering the cutout a bottle of beer while Favreau stood beside the likeness with his hand on the cardboard New York senator’s chest.

The picture was reportedly up for a scant two hours or so before Favreau removed it, along with every other picture of himself beyond his profile photo — but there’s no getting the Facebook genie back in the bottle.

Favreau wasn’t talking to reporters about the incident, but transition officials said he had offered an apology to Clinton.

The Clinton camp reaction? "Sen. Clinton is pleased to learn of Jon's obvious interest in the State Department, and is currently reviewing his application," Clinton aide Philippe Reines told the Washington Post.

Filed under: Hillary ClintonJon Favreau

Friday, December 5, 2008

Cush Job

I love what I I rarely ever truly actually work. Today I have been assigned to fly to Chicago on American Airlines (as a passenger of course), then fly to Northwest Arkansas (in the "working") and finally fly home tomorrow morning on American Eagle Airlines (as a passenger). So of the three flights I will be on...I will only "work" one of them. If I play my cards right and have the Captain fly to Northwest Arkansas...then I won't "work" at all. Pretty cush. If this were part of my line or overtime this would be a horrible assignment. Since I am on simply beats sitting in an airport.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pepto take me away

I was down yesterday. Hard. I woke up and spent a good twenty minutes in the restroom. I alternated between resting on my rear and resting on my knees. There was no alcohol involved in making me hug the porcealn god. I think it was leftovers.

Tuesday night I had a plate of leftovers from Thanksgiving. Everything tasted normal. But the next morning....ooooof. Eventually I slugged my way to CVS to get Pepto Bismol....which helped. I couldn't keep anything down beyond Pepto until late in the afternoon. I had to cancel my dentist appointment as there was no way I could have sat there as nauseated as I was.

On a lighter note, I really like .My sister in law recently bought a Macbook. Her printer is least 4 years old. It's a basic Lexmark inkjet that has seen better days. Having a laptop means freedom from wires. I could have likely helped get her old Lexmark working with her Macbook....but tha still would require her to walk into another room, plug in the USB cable...and then select print.

In our house Kelli and I use laptops 99.9% of the time. Kelli's desktop has been recommissioned as the home server and my desktop gets very light use. The printer is attached to the server (I had a print server but it didn't work well with our printer). When we want to print all jobs are routed to the server and then out to the printer. No need to attach anything to the laptop. I wanted something similar for my sister in law...guess I can give her a name...Jami.

So I spent 3 to 4 hours researching network-able printers for Macs. Some were easy....some were not...some were ONLY wireless...some were both wired and wireless. I finally decided on a Brother MFC-465cn. The editors of Macworld magazine said the average user could get the printer installed using the wired network connection in under 5 minutes. The printer can be wireless....but apparently it requires a good bit of work so wired it shall be. There was no network cable included in the box, so I FEDEX'd her one along with a few CD's I made for her. Hopefully all will go well. The printer is also a scanner, fax machine and copier if she ever needs those functions. Second runner up was a Brother laser printer....but seeing as it was black and white only and the Brother inkjet refills were extremely inexpensive...I went with the inkjet.

While on Amazon I also ordered a Play-Doh set for each of my nieces, Haley and Gianna. Every kid needs Play-doh.

I am feeling much better today...not 100% yet....maybe 95%. If I don't feel 100% by Noon I am going to call in sick. I am not going to fly around 74 people if I am nauseated.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

American Express "My Wish List"

If you have an American Express card you can participate in "My Wish List 2008". The event allows cardholders to buy or win items at heavily discounted prices or even free. They had T-Mobile G1's for $125, Sony 42 inch top of the line HDTV's for $700 and more. They used to have high end luxury vehicles for $5000. This year they are free. Today I won a 25% off an entire order! Now I need to think of something to buy.

For more on My Wish List 2008 click here.

Monday, December 1, 2008

It's a Mac!

My sister in law is now the owner of a white Macbook. This is the previous generation model that was $1299 just two months ago. She paid much less. She should have very few if any issues now. It's a new computer and the Mac operating system is very reliable, stable and free from all the "gotchas" that Windows has. On top of that it's much harder to "accidentally" install software from pop-up ads. Virsuses are fewer and much farther between on Macs vs PCs. All she needs is Office for Mac and to get her printer working. That's it.

I truly love My niece Haley is flying from Sacramento, California to Houston, Texas to Orlando, Florida next month. She will 1 1/2 years old. There is a nifty child seat belt in SkyMall for $79.95

There is only one FAA approved child safety restraint and it's made by CARES. I get a 20% discount from Skymall through my employer. The price after the discount and then adding shipping ($13.86) went from $79.95 to $73.86. Hmmm not so great. I then thought about good ol' Amazon. Yup sells it directly for $55.95. Exact same product and exact same (and only) manufacturer. I get two day shipping free. rocks!

Here's some text about the product from the manufacturer. Now there is an easier, better way to fly safe with kids. Just carry a CARES in your pocket or purse, install it on the airplane seat in one minute, and turn any airplane seat into a safe airplane seat for your child. CARES (child aviation restraint system) is the first and only FAA approved harness type child safety device. CARES is an innovative restraint for kids 22-44 pounds that attaches directly to the back of the airplane seat and augments the regular seat belt. CARES weighs 1 pound, fits in a 6" stuff sack and is FAA certified for all phases of flight ¿ taxiing, take off, turbulence and landing. CARES fits all size airplane seats and takes one minute to install. CARES takes the hassle out of flying with kids and keeps them as safe as a car seat.

I was talking with a pilot buddy of mine who wanted a Garmin GPS for his wife. The found it on for $50 less than local stores. is the Wal-Mart of the Internet.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

About that

I returned the Samsung Home Theater system. I will just keep what I have. It's worked fine for years. I will wait for a few months an revisit the idea. Only problem...I returned the system with Kelli's Tae Bo video inside. Ooops.

The laptop that served me perfectly for over a year and was sold to my sister in law is officially dead. It was working fine a few weeks ago. I checked up on her today...working ok. Then she called and said it was running a check disk. Then it worked. Then died. I feel bad. I have no idea what is causing her to have some many problems. The computer was wiped clean when I was last there. I installed all the updates.....and thought she would be okay. Negative. She called me from Fry's Electronics. They had a basic Acer Notebook onsale today for $298. By the time she got there they were sold out. I sent her to Best Buy. They have a nice HP laptop for $499 although I told her if it were my money I would buy a Macbook. Jury is still out as to which one she will get. This will end me selling/giving any computers to friends or family. I have done it three times. The first time was back in college. That one turned out pretty  good. I sold a Pentium 200 MHz computer with 128MB of RAM (a ton in those days!) to a fraternity brother. When I met Kelli I built a computer for her mom....tested it....shipped it out....and it died within days. Now this laptop. It's just not meant to be.

Friday, November 28, 2008


I research everything I buy. Seriously. That's just the way I am. I had been eyeing this Samsung HT-Z310 5.1 Dolby and DTS Home Theater System ( ). I knew that Samsung used proprietary speaker cables to simplify connections for new users. No biggie. I could spice the cables into my existing cables. What I did like was home the devices supposedly talked to one another (i.e. TV talks to Home Theatre and vice versa) to allow for easy operation. The price dropped from $230 to $150 today. I was ready. I brought it home all happy. I opened the box and noticed the cable biggie. I then began inspecting the speakers. The backs of the speaker also use a proprietary connector to attach to stands. My $250 Maganavox Home Theatre from 7 years ago uses industry standard connectors. Hmm I could rig it I thought. Before I went too far I connected everything to the TV and did a basic twisting of the existing cables to my new cables. I wanted to see how it performed. This is where my heart sank.

The TV immediately noticed the surround sound system and configured itself. So I thought. When I turned up the volume tv surround sound receiver would respond...but no sound. I had a HDMI cable connected between the two. I then realized the HDMI was only the crosstalk. I then had to run an optical audio cable down from the TV to the receiver. I then had sound....but wasn't happy because I like using the optical audio for the Xbox 360. Not good. On top of that the sound wasn't as rich and full as my existing speakers. Too much compromise indeed. My research didn't pick up on the need for HDMI AND optical audio cables. My research also failed to show that the damn speaker mounting system wasn't standard. Alas the system will go back. Not sure what I am going to do. Probably keep what I have. Nothing really wrong with it...I just wanted to simply and reduced remotes.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Screw lining up in the cold tomorrow morning!

Many stores have their Black Friday deals available online....and for store pickup! I wanted Samsung surround sound system that had been $230 at Circuit City....$219 at and $169.99 at Best Buy. Well in the Black Friday ad for Circuity City it's $149! I thought I would have to go stand in line for that pice. Nope. Available online and I selected store pickup. Boo yah!

Today at there is a REALLY good deal on anyone with more than 2 computers in the house or needs a way to easily backup files. Amazon has a HP   Home Server onsale for $399 all in! Free shipping. This is normally $549. I could barely build a computer of similar specs for $399. Our Windows Home Server has been humming along for month with zero issues. It backs up all the computers, is a central, easy place to store photos and allows us to get files from it while we are on the road. Very simple to set up....even my wife's family could do it!

The only other thing we want for Christmas is a blue ray player...preferably a Samsung model supporting Anynet to allow super simple control from one remote. If we can find a one we will have just two remotes for our entire setup.

Thanksgiving dinner. I wasn't sure if I was going to be home today. I am on reserve right now. Thankfully (pun intended) I was able to select a "reserve availbility period or RAP" today which means I have a two hour call out to go to work. My RAP began at 4AM today and goes until 6PM. Legally I can't work more than a 14 hour duty period unless weather or mechanical delays then I can work 16 hours. I have already "worked" 4 1/2 hours today. Because I have a two hour call out the latest they can really call me is 2PM to get to the airport by 4PM. Even then the flight has to be incredibly short to be done for sure by 6PM. Realistically if they don't call me by noon I am scott free.

Back to Thankgiving dinner. In years past we always used Boston Market. This year it's just the two of us. The smallest meal at Boston Market was still huge...enough for 6 people. The price was more than $70...which is just too much to spend. We instead bought 3 side items at Boston market (corn bread, mashed potatoes and stuffing) for $25, 5 items at Albertsons (roasted pepper and golden corn, thai green beans, mashed sweet potatoes, rolls and a small cheesecake) for $33 and 3 items from Tom Thumb (small frozen uncooked turkey breast, small uncooked ham and a bag of mini-marshmallows) for $27. Do the math....we should have bought the Boston market meal...even the slightly larger one. Of course this was we will have much less waste. Next year though we decided we will order a Boston Market meal regardless of where I will be. Why? Well we can always have Thanksgiving earlier or later than Thanksgiving day. I did put in for vacation for next Thanksgiving...who knows if I will get it. IF we decide to have a kid and IF we start trying in will be due in November. Hmmmm... yeah. IF.

Back to looking at sales! I will likely get airport standby tomorrow...hopefully tomorrow afternoon so I can still go to Fry's and stand in line for deals.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Darren and Kelli go to Hard 8 BBQ

I've had this video sitting on a hard drive for over a year. I would start to edit it...then stop. With IMovie (once again Mac computers are sooo much easier to use than PC's!) I gave it another whirl. After about 20 minutes I was finally happy with the product. There is a term in avaiation called "The $100 Hamburger." The gist of it is flying is expensive. Flying just to eat a meal is even more expensive (as driving there is way cheaper!). There are many airport resturants that get a good chunk of business from people flying in...eating...and flying out. In Stephenville, TX there is Hard 8 BBQ ( I have been there over 20 times over the last 2 years. The airport is about 63 miles away from the Arlington, TX airport I was based at. Any flight over 50 miles is a "cross country" flight when viewed by the FAA. A pilot needs so many hours of cross country flight for various ratings....thus it was a common destination for me and many others at my airport. So here it is....a video of Kelli and me flying to Stephenville for some $100 BBQ.


Monday, November 24, 2008


I got to fly yesterday! A whole 2 hours! It's kinda scary how it happened. I was doing my normal airport standby 6AM - 2PM shift. I was sleeping soundly in a recliner when my phone rang. "First Officer Byrd, this is Lori in crew scheduling, there is a Little Rock turn I might have you do. It was supposed to leave at 7:45AM, the original First Officer did not show up. Start heading that's at gate B9A." Thankfully B9A is just down from the crew room. I gathered my stuff and headed upstairs. The time was already 7:50AM when she called. I got to the gate and used a computer to  check my schedule and then the Captain of the flight.... thankfully he is a really nice guy I flew with in July. I headed down to the gate. My eyes still sleepy. I poked my head First Officer. The Captain greeted me and let me know he has everything set up. I threw my bag in the closet and hopped in my seat. The flight attendant offered up a cup of coffee without my asking. I must have really looked tired. We were pushed out of the gate at 8:02AM...just 17 minutes earlier I was sleeping soundly. Kinda scary. I was awake...but having not flown in 3 weeks I was a little behind. The Captain took the trip up to Little Rock and I flew back. Not having flown in so long made me wonder how nice my landing would be. The stars were aligned as I made a very nice landing back in Dallas.

I bid for vacation for January and was awarded what I wanted. My mother in law is paying for all her children, grandchildren and anyone to married (and in good standing) to one of her kids to go to Disneyworld for a week in January. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to go due to my training class for my new aircraft I will be flying. Thankfully I will get back from vacation 2 days before I go to training. Nice. All we have to pay for is airfare...booze...and that's about it. She paid for everyone to stay at a Disneyworld Villa, a meal plan and transportation to and from the airport.

The flights for January are VERY empty. Vacations spots normally fill up months in advance as very few people go last minute. Every flight to Orlando is less than 1/4 full. Nutty!

Time for a beer. I have worked 48  in the last 6 days. I deserve it. Seriously!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My latest Youtube video!

I made another youtube video following from my last flight as a flight instructor to today. If you have 10 minutes to spare...why not take a look?

Here is the direct link

Or simply click below:


Friday, November 21, 2008

How Obama Got Elected

Yes I know I have to wait until 11/06/2012 for change. This previous election will be studied for years. The media was more slanted in this election than in anytime during MY lifetime. Take 10 minutes of your life and watch this video. Obama supporters were asked the same 12 political questions.  Many of the answers were from fake news shows and election spoofs (like Saturday night live) and not from the actual candidates. I truly believe Obama won due to the media slant towards him and away from McCain. Obama won because he was almost always presented in a positive light on news storys and fake news shows (like The Daily Show a heavily anti-republican show with a high percentage of viewers age 18-35).

For those that don't want to watch, few could name which party Nancy Pelosi belonged to but they could name who could see Russia from their house (which Palin never was a spoof on Saturday Night Live)

512 Obama Voters 11/13/08-11/15/08 MOE +/- 4.4 points - Poll done by Zogby.

97.1% High School Graduate or higher, 55% College Graduates

Results to 12 simple Multiple Choice Questions

57.4% could NOT correctly say which party controls congress (50/50 shot just by guessing)

71.8% could NOT correctly say Joe Biden quit a previous campaign because of plagiarism (25% chance by guessing)

82.6% could NOT correctly say that Barack Obama won his first election by getting opponents kicked off the ballot (25% chance by guessing)

88.4% could NOT correctly say that Obama said his policies would likely bankrupt the coal industry and make energy rates skyrocket (25% chance by guessing)

56.1% could NOT correctly say Obama started his political career at the home of two former members of the Weather Underground (25% chance by guessing).

And yet.....

Only 13.7% failed to identify Sarah Palin as the person on which their party spent $150,000 in clothes

Only 6.2% failed to identify Palin as the one with a pregnant teenage daughter

And 86.9 % thought that Palin said that she could see Russia from her "house," even though that was Tina Fey who said that!!

Only 2.4% got at least 11 correct.

Only .5% got all of them correct. (And we "gave" one answer that was technically not Palin, but actually Tina Fey)



Thursday, November 20, 2008

Save me from Zero!

Last night I was singing this damn song while getting ready for bed. Kelli came in saying it was stuck in her head too. I couldn't place the ad...only the damn song! Toyota please move on to a new series of commercials!


Relaxing in the Samsung room

I have been in the same room....for 6 hours. Not at home. I have been in the Samsung Room at DFW Airport Terminal E gate 32. I am assigned the horribly boring Ready Reserve shift from 2PM to 10PM. Anyways all this time has given me a lot of time to think.

Right now there is a computer hidden in the house that simply records video from the security cameras all day and night. That's all it does. There is no monitor attached...just the computer. The only way to see the cameras is to remote desktop to the computer. This is fine for on the road...but every now and then I want to see what's going on in front of the house...while I am home.

There is this big beautiful TV on the wall in the living room. How to get the video signal from the computer to the TV was a big Hmmmmm. The distance is about 40-45 feet considering up the wall, across the ceiling and down the wall. I thought about some kind of CCTV box to broadcast the signal. But that get pricey quick. I then thought about wireless transmitters. Some will transmit to a 3 or 4. But then I thought about our neighbors watching us by mistake. I then pondered more. Finally I came up with a really...really long compositve, VGA or S-Video cable. I then went about finding such cables. The VGA cable was knocked off the list because the XBOX 360 uses that port on the TV. The S-video cable was removed only because there would be no audio...if I ever wanted audio. That left good ole' red, white and yellow composite cables. I found a 50 foot cable over at (awesome website!) for $13.95. This should work. I just gotta make sure I have empty ports on the back of the TV.

I've been in this room too long. I need to go home.

Xbox 360 is more Wii like

With the new Xbox360 update...the appearance is very Nintendo Wii like. On the Wii you have to create a Mii to play games. A Mii (pronounced Me) is a character you design. Mine looks like the old me (with dreadlocks). Now on the new 360 you have to do the same thing! The menus and the feel of the menus is also Wii like. Odd seeing Microsoft copy Nintendo. Here is my Xbox Avatar.

My Xbox 360 Avatar
Yes its cooler than I look currently....but the hair reminds me of my college self.

I tried to new Netflix application this morning on the 360. Everything worked perfectly. All you have to do is go online to your Netflix account and add videos to your "watch instantly" que the same way you would for a normal DVD que. I then launched the Netflix program on the 360 and all the movies were there for me to scroll through. I selected a movie and it began playing within seconds. The quality was just as good as a DVD. There are a few...and I mean few High Definition movies to select from as well.

I bought a 12 month (with a free 13 month) XBox Live Gold card from Amazon for $38.99. This is way cheaper than the normal $50.  We will see how it goes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New XBOX 360 update...time to go for Gold

The much awaited update for the XBOX 360 came down tonight. I have been looking forward to this. One of the big reasons is that Netflix is now available on the 360.

Right now with our Netflix subscription we can order DVD's through the mail AND watch movies online (free!)...via a computer. This works for me on the road. At home we don't watch movies on the laptop as it's not very convienient. With the new 360 update, Netflix is integrated into the 360 itself. We can now start 1000's of movies...whenever we want. There is no HD content yet, but being able to browse and start a movie whenever we want will be great! The only problem? You have to be an XBOX live Gold member. Booo. I ordered a 12 month card (+ a 1 month bonus) from Amazon for $39...normally $49. The card should arrive Monday.

Speaking of the 360. The new HD-DVD player makes regular DVD's a little better by upconverting them to 1080P (from 480P). This is only done when the HD VGA cable is used (which I also bought on Amazon). I think with this new 360 update the XBOX 360 will be even closer to being the center of entertainment in living rooms across the United States. Seriously.

Clear instructions my ass

I finished assembling our new entertainment cabinet. The box said clear instructions along with quick and easy assembly. Lies! First there were not instructions in the box. I emailed the company and explained we had no instructions.I left my mailing address thinking they would mail me a set. Instead I got an email with just the instructions. No apology. Nothing. Just the instructions. Nice. South Shore furniture collection instructions are confusing! The piece we bought is part of an optional two piece set. At first I thought I had the wrong set. I then scrolled down and saw a drawing that looked like what we bought.

I printed out the parts listing and made an inventory. The number of screws, nails and hardware I had was about half of what was listed. I was thinking they shorted me. Instead of getting mad I just started building the unit. As it turned out the entire instruction set is written and constructed for both the base which we have and the optional hutch (which we don't). This is why the parts inventory was off.

The whole "quick and easy" assembly is a lie. I am an able bodied 31 year old male. Some of the instructions were flat out confusing. Every screw needed super human force to get all the way in. Eventually I to resort to my drill with a phillips attachment to get some screws in.

After it was all assembled the unit looks nice. This is a slightly above average piece of particle board furniture with a nice laminate. I kind of regret buying it online as it would be cost prohibitive to return. If I bought it at Wal-Mart I could have slid it into the back of my Multi-Activity Vehicle (shut up Lacy!) and taken it back.

To sum it up. Don't buy South Shore furniture....bad support, horrible instructions and slightly higher priced than it should be furniture.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I love my sister in law

My sister in law is an amazingly intelligent woman. But lord help her with computers. I sold her my laptop for a very low price back in May. I restored it to the factory configuration and then installed updates and Microsoft Office. All was good for about a month. I worked on it again this weekend and it was peachy keen when I left. Today...its crapola. WTF!?!?! I seriously want her to buy a Macbook.....but the nursing software she uses is not supported on a Mac. It's supported on an iPhone...but not a Mac. I hope I can get her computer running normally again. She really needs the computer. If it is truly dead I will help her get a Macbook as she can run the nursing software on her phone if she needs to. *sigh* Haley and Gianna will be getting a iMacs as soon as they are old enough...prolly around age 5.

Picture frames. I am designing a "Wall of Darren". Really just a wall of letters/photos/memorobillia of me. Well my flying career anyway. I bought several frames today and plan on putting stuff up this week. Not sure where though.

Our entertainment cabinet should be arriving via UPS any minute now. It weighs 97 pounds....and I got free shipping. The cost is the same as Wal-Mart. Either there is a huge markup or Amazon is losing a lot of money.

HD-DVD's look amazing! I watched One Six Right this morning. I have it on regular DVD...the HD-DVD makes the regular DVD look like crap. HD-DVD's are orphans. They will no longer be produced. I bought the Xbox 360 player for $39....damn good deal. HD-DVD movies are under $12 on shipping. Not too shabby.

This website has been a place to store my thoughts for the past 7 years. They are my thoughts. The fact that you are reading them just means you some how found my website (I don't advertise). Kelli used to (well still does) get upset at my post. I explained to her she could have her own website. After a year or two...she finally started one. Anyways I could careless who reads this (hence I don't require you to log in to see my thoughts). I did recently change the way post appear in that one has to click on it to read the full post simply to see my visitor count. My other blog has a different blogging software and is able to count visitors. I was curious about To my surprise my flying blog get's 60-80 unique (meaning different physical computers) visitors a day, which is twice the number this site gets. Who'd a thunk it. Anyways is all about me. Getting upset at what's written here (an inantimate being...really just a file sitting on a computer) is akin to getting mad at brick. Finally...two quotes to think about.
Complaining is good for you as long as you're not complaining to the person you're complaining about.
Lynn Johnston, For Better or For Worse, 11-06-03
Canadian cartoonist (1947 - )

I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.
Martha Washington
US wife of George Washington 1759 (1732 - 1802)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Nice weekend

Friday was a long day. I started at 6AM with airport standby. I finished my shift at 2PM (I haven't flown a real plane in over 2 weeks!) then Kelli picked me up. We went home and packed for a trip to Sacramento. The flight we wanted at 4:05PM was oversold so we waited for the 8:30PM flight. The flights back looked a little full so I bought standby passes for Southwest Airlines. I am able to buy extremely discounted standby tickets on almost every U.S. airline for Kelli and I. The plan was to fly from Sacramento to Denver and then catch American Airlines to Dallas. The tickets are fully refundable and usable on any airline for 1 year.

We scored first class to Sacramento and had Cheeseburgers for the dinner. We have never had Cheeseburgers in first class. They were very tasty. I had my two bloody marys and relaxed.

My sister in law Jami (Kelli's sister) picked us up and we went straight to bed. Saturday we ate breakfast at Crepeville and then took a trip to IKEA. Jami is going through a divorce from her wife and needed to buy a few things to replace stuff taken by her ex. Afterwards I worked on her laptop while they (including my mother in law Peggy) assembled the furniture. Saturday night we ate at a Mexican food restaurant. Kelli doesn't care for Mexican food and just at chips. Afterwards we visited The Big Spoon (awesome ice cream place!) and called it a night.

Sunday we ate at another local restaurant (we never eat at chain places in Sacramento) and then were delayed while Jami's ex-wife took my niece Haley for a bit. Once she returned we took a trip to San Francisco to visit the Zoo. I drove Peggy's Camry Hybrid for the first time. It's a very nice car and gets gas mileage in the upper 30's to low 40's...about 9MPG less than Kelli's Prius. We were making good time until we got to the Bay Bridge. We then crawled for a little over an hour.

The zoo was fun. Haley loved the kids petting zoo area the most. She was really fond of a little tractor toy. I loaded her up on cotton candy and then we headed back. The 130 mile drive took nearly 3 1/2 hours. Traffic was horrible.

[caption id="attachment_352" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Haley on the Wagon, Peggy looking at her camera, Jami taking a photo and Kelli trying to get Haley to smile."]Haley on the Wagon[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_354" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="Haley after Cotton Candy"]Haley after Cotton Candy[/caption]

This morning we woke up at 3:45 and left the house at 4:30 to catch a 6 o'clock flight back. Thankfully there were enough seats on American Airlines and we didn't have to fly to Denver on Southwest. The American Airlines flight only had 1 empty seat. Kelli and I both got middle seats in coach...boooo coach! But we are back.

Kelli and I are still pondering having a baby. If we do I am going to make us sign a legal document stating if we ever get divorced one of us must jump off a bridge. Just watching Jami deal with her ex is enough to not want a kid. Jami moved on and is seeing another woman. Nothing serious...but she is out there. Her ex doesn't like this one bit and (from what I see) is being quite harsh and short with Jami. Haley is stuck in the middle. With all the politics on gay marriage Jami isn't sure if her marriage is legal or not. Either way her ex won't sign for a divorce for 6 months. make marriage super complicated. I am gonna have to iron out some kind of "what if" document.

Haley was previously my favorite niece. She is approaching 2 years old...and getting a little cranky. Haley has never met my other niece Gianna. They will meet for the first time in Disney World. I think I am going to order some Disney Survivor Buffs and have my own Survivor Disney while we are there. Best niece wins. Relax Peggy...I'm kidding.

I was really tired today...but was bored when Kelli left to see the new Bond movie. I got off my arse and mounted the rear surround sound speakers to the ceiling. After 4 years there are finally no more wires running through the living room. Our next house will be pre-wired. In 2008 I have run network cable through the entire house (with the help of Eric!), mounted our LCD TV and ran a bunch of cables down the wall and today wired up the rear surround sound speakers. Ugh. Enough.