Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Our next mower will be cordless

I just cut through the damn power cable for the lawn mower again. Not bad considering I have only done it once before in the 4 years in this house. This time though I grabbed my handy dandy soldering gun and got to work. Ten minutes later it was good works. I don't know how I have gone so long without a soldering gun. I have used the heck out of it lately. But mower....cordless.

The Danger of Online Billpay

So I have all kinds of automatic payments set up through Bank of America. One of them is to a Bank of America Mastercard. It simply pays $10 a month to it. Well I have more than one Bank of America credit card. I mistakenly set up two of them for this $10 payment when only one should have. The $10 was to make sure I didn't miss a payment and get hit with a late fee. Well This was set up....16 months ago. I paid off the balance on one of them about 8 months ago and canceled the automatic payment. The other kept paying. I hadn't used to latter card in YEARS. I now have a $160 credit on an account in which I have no idea where the card is and have no intentions of ever using. So I called and closed the account and will be sent a check for $160. Kind of sad closing it....the account was one of the first I ever opened...13 years ago!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hmmm yeah

So I moved my work schedule around in order to get as many days off as possible to work at my second job since it pays more than my first job. I ended up with 15 days off in May. I was hoping to work at my second job on 10 of those days. Well I gave my availability to my 2nd job and they only assigned me 4 days. Hopefully this is just the start of the month as I am only assigned through the 15th of the month. If I can get 6 days a month that would be really good with 7 being ideal.

Looking forward to my Macbook. According to MacMall it shipped this morning. Funny thing though...the UPS tracking numbers aren't showing up. If it did ship today then it will be here Friday in time for my trip to Jacksonville Sunday. If it doesn't actually ship today it won't here till Monday which means I won't actually have it till Wednesday. Booo.

Craigs list rocks. I have a buyer for my floor mats and trunk mat from my Acura. I will get $80 cash. I paid $120 for the set 3 years ago. Not bad at all...and no eBay fees!  Gotta list more.

I will have quite a bit of work ahead of me next week in getting my current laptop ready for Jami, my sister in law. I am going to wipe it clean, reinstall Windows XP, get all the updates, install Norton Anti-Virus, install Office XP and then back it all up to a DVD for restore for the day WHEN not IF things go bad. Kelli's side of the family has the worst luck with computers.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Gone Mac

I have begun to process of going over to the dark side. I have ordered a Macbook Pro. I spent all night and all of the day until now researching which Macbook to order. After literally 5 hours of reading online articles, reviews and stats I drove to the Apple store in Southlake again (I went last night with Kelli). I played with the Macbook and Macbook Pro. I picked them up, shook them, practiced typing, opened and name it. I then asked an associate a lot of questions. I will say most of them really know their stuff. I have always bought mid-range laptops with integrated video cards. This Macbook will be my 3rd laptop and the first with a dedicated video card. This is what I spent most of the time pondering. Would I REALLY use the dedicated video card? Do I need the extra horsepower? After all was said and done I decided I did need the little extra oomph. Going with a Macbook pro over a Macbook did have a huge...yet small compromise. Macbook's have a coach friendly 13.3 inch screen while the Macbook Pro has a 15.4 inch screen which isn't "coach" friendly. Sitting in coach with a screen larger than 14 inch means when the jackass in front of you leans back suddenly you can either crack your screen if its in the "wrong" spot or forget using it as it's tilted back too much. I thought long and hard. The pros of a dedicated video card outweighed the negative of a larger screen. Plus I get first class 40% of the time anyway where screen size is not an issue.

Where did I buy the Macbook pro? Well I get a nice discount from Apple thru American Airlines. The price was nice...but after taxes the price is just $9 less than the pre-discount price. Boo taxes! So I looked around. I ended up buying from The price is $250 less than after discounts and a $150 mail in rebate. I also get a HP all-in-one printer with a fax machine for $20 (after rebate) and free Parallel software which allows me to run Mac OS and Windows Vista AT THE SAME TIME! Heck yeah. This will be a no compromises laptop. I can run Windows when I need to and still learn the Mac OS. Who knows...our next computer might be an I-Mac!

For those interested here are the specs from my new Macbook Pro

  • 15.4-inch (diagonal) widescreen LED-backlit display

  • 1440 x 900 resolution

  • 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Processor (Penryn); 3MB shared level 2 cache

  • 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM

  • 200GB 5400-rpm SATA hard drive

  • 8x slot-loading SuperDrive (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)

  • NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT with 256MB GDDR3 memory

  • Built-in iSight video camera

  • Built-in Airport Extreme Wi-Fi 802.11n

  • Built-in Bluetooth 2.0+EDR

  • Built-in Gigabit Ethernet

  • Built-in Stereo Speakers

  • DVI or VGA adapter included

  • Built-in Dual-Link DVI Support

  • ExpressCard/34 expansion slot

  • One Firewire 400 port

  • One Firewire 800 port

  • Two USB 2.0 ports

  • Kensington cable lock slot

  • Backlit keyboard and ambient light sensors

  • Solid-state trackpad with Multi-Touch gesture

  • Mac OS X v10.5 Leopard

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Good weekend in NY

We had a good time in NY. We went to the Bronx zoo Friday. This was my first time in the was just as I pictured in my head. Not a happy place. I would not feel safe outside the zoo at night time. Very scary. The zoo was fun. Saturday Kevin (my brother in law), Jenny (his wife), Kelli and I went to Connecticut for gambling. Kelli and I each brought $100. Kelli was broke within 40 minutes. I was down only $20 after the same time. I met up with Kelli and was on the way to get something to drink when I decided to stop at a machine. Good thing I did. I was playing for about 3 minutes noticing it kept hitting with small 5 and 10 coin pays (I was on a quarter machine). I told Kelli it was about to hit big. Sure enough I hit a jackpot! 6000 coins! $1500! They offered to and I accepted for them to take out taxes right away netting me $1175. I gave$100 to Kelli, which she promptly lost and kept quite a bit. Enough to buy a new laptop. Why not save it? Well I learned to gamble from my mom. She always had fun with her winnings. I look at gambling winnings as bonus money. I need a laptop. What am I getting? Well.......


That's right a Macbook! Why? Well I want something that boots up fast, reliable, easy to use and portable. I REALLY wanted a Macbook Air, but it is totally non-upgradeable. Macbook regular will do. I have enough from my lottery winnings and the selling of my current laptop to my sister in law to pay for it in full. I am selling my current laptop for a whole $250. I could get more if I parted it out, but she really needs a laptop so I will let her take it. I will be either dual booting Windows Vista or getting the software to allow both to run at the same time.

We had a really lucky time traveling this weekend. Our flight out Thursday night went fine...we were in coach...but at least we got the flight we wanted. The flight back today...actually all the flights had plenty of seats. We even scored first class. The lunch was either a turkey sandwich or cold salmon over pasta. By the time they got to us all they had was the salmon. I love salmon...Kelli passed.

Our next flight is to Sacramento in May. Funny thing is Kelli used her American Airlines frequent flier miles for a ticket. I will use my benefits. I hope to score first class on the same flight while Kelli sits in cattle class. Ha!

Speaking of next month I was able to work my schedule for 15 days off. Four of them might end up unpaid, but as long as I can work at my second job I will make much more than I will loose.

My niece is interesting. Going through her terrible twos. She had a thing for getting quiet, putting her hand to her ear and saying "listen train". There are train tracks near by. She said it constantly..very cute. She was a reality check for Kelli and I on kids.

Good weekend indeed.

Friday, April 25, 2008

New York

In New York for the weekend. We flew out Thursday night. The flights looked really good (i.e. seats for us) in the morning. In the afternoon they suddenly filled up. When we checked in at 4:50PM the flight we were listed on was oversold by 2 seats. Not looking good. By the time we left for the airport there were suddenly 10 seats open. Where did the passengers go? Well I assume some got earlier flights to another NY airport, others failed to check in due to a change of plans while I am sure other were businessmen who hoped to go home Thursday night but had to postpone until Friday. We wanted First Class and there were 4 seats open at check in time. We ended up way back in coach...booo.

My brother in law lives in Tappan, NY just over the New Jersey border. We went to the Bronx zoo today with his wife and her daughter (my niece). We had a good time. The Bronx is "interesting". I wouldn't feel safe there at night.

While writing this my niece Giana kept peering over he laptop.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Biggest Loser

Our weight loss this year is stagnant. We haven't gained or lost anything. This can be seen as a good thing as at least we know how to maintain. We are going to start our own biggest loser. Same rules apply. Percentage of weight lost every week. I gotta get with Kelli to see if she will allow me to post her starting weight. Will prolly use to track results.

We saw Forgetting Sarah Marshall last night. Good movie. The actress who played Sarah Marshall, Kristen Bell, did a very good job. She reminded me ok an ex and I truly began to hate her character during the movie. Bravo.

I am moving up the seniority list on the CRJ at American Eagle. I get to hold a line next month. This means I will know every flight I will fly for the entire month. No more wondering when I have off or if I can make a movie with Kelli. The bad thing is I won't know until like Sunday. The line I get is a composite line. The line is made up of all the flights other pilots above me drop for vacation or that they just don't want to do them. This still beat reserve.

I am very happy with my car. Once I get the back up camera I will be truly satisfied.

Gotta find something to do today. Think I will cut the grass and finally tie wrap the network cables that were installed back in February. Slacker I know.

Kelli made a comment that I don't update this site as often as I used to. This is true. I do however have 4X the blogs that I had this time last year.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ford Focus....not so bad

So I am in Jacksonville, Florida...again. Last time I was here I scored a Prius for $23 a day. I was hoping to do the same this time. Nah...Ford Focus. Enterprise rent a car is interesting. They rent so many different models that today's Economy car can be tomorrows Mid-Size. I quickly learned to rent the cheapest car and "barter" my way up. It's fun. The Ford Focus is an honestly good car. This is actually the nicest Ford I have ever driven. The interior quality is amazing....good enough for an import. The features and appearance are also quite good. The only negative I found was the key's almost exactly the same key fob I had on my 1995 Ford Explorer....old and way outdated. The hotel I am in is a dive, but for $27 a night thru Priceline I can't ask for much. The last hotel was the same chain, but down the road. That one was nicer. Bleh.

I am here thru Sunday for my final checkout to teach the ATP Regional Jet Course. The flights luck pretty full Sunday evening, might have to stay another night or look for an alternate way home, maybe Continental thru Houston.

I bought a sunshade from Pepboys today....the little guide said to get a Jumbo. It's waaay to big. I think I will order  a model specific one from Mazda. I haven't had one since my first car, with a black car I will take all the cooling power I can get.

The flight here was full. I sat next to a large woman and behind a larger woman. The woman ahead leaned her seat back, which is her right. She then pushed back with all her weight moving the seat back even further. Nice. Coach sucks. I wanted first class, but it was full. I have been spoiled by my ooodles of legroom in the cockpit. At least I scored a seat though. I have only been bumped once so far.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Green Wire....with a black stripe...and oh yeah silver dots!

So my auto-dimming rear view mirror with homelink and a compass is now 100% working. It only took me a little more than a week. Why? Well the instructions stated to tap a blue wire with a red stripe and a green wire with a black stripe. I found the blue/red wire easily. The green and black wire that I found was HUGE. I tapped it....but of course it didn't work. The homelink buttons lit up...but didn't talk to the garage door. Well with the help of my Mazda5 forum ( I found the CORRECT green wire with a black stripe. Seems as though it's the green wire with a black stripe AND silver dots. There was no mention of silver dots!!!! Yadda yadda yadaa the auto-dimming and compass turned on. Now for the homelink I googled instructions for homelink and lift maser (maker of the garage door opener). After reading them I remembered that with my Acura and the Prius I had to teach the car first and then the garage door. After I taught my Mazda using the original garage door opener, it was able to talk to the garage door. Nice.

My pilot leather jacket came in today. I ordered in back in December. It came the first time late February. I ordered the SAME size as my dress jacket. The leather jacket was too small. Odd. I returned it and yadda yadda yadda, finally Spring. Bleh.

Kelli is going to New York to testify tomorrow. Just for the day. The Defense Attorney arranged her travel. She is going up there on American Airlines, but was scheduled to come back on U.S Airways with a stop in Charlotte, North Carolina. Well she wants to avoid a stop so she is going to us my flight benefits to hop on an American Flight instead. My job my not pay much, but the benefits are very nice.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Navigation installed

Navigation system is installed for the most part. Well all part really. Everything works, I just gotta fix some aesthetics. Total installation time was just over 9 hours. Being my first car stereo installation I learned a lot. The installation kit came with a bright silver mounting kit. I don't like it. The original radio is dark grey. The 2006-2007 Mazda 5 has a bright silver radio. I am ordering a second kit and will take my time and try to match the paint color. The bluetooth works ok. I think my smart phone is too smart for the bluetooth...I will have to tinker a bit. The XM radio works wonderfully. Having a color screen means each channel has its own picture associated with it. I was also able to connect my Microsoft Zune to my new radio. I am able to display everything on the zune on the Navigation screen. I can in theory watch movies, TV shows, podcast or just listen to music. I say theory because it is illegal to do so while the vehicle is in motion.

The actual navigation is very good. There are multiple ways to view the route including a birds eye view.

Now with my first paycheck over $1000 from my second job I will be adding a backup camera. Why $1000? Well Kelli and I have a "get out of debt" plan. I will be attacking my student loan like crazy. With the second income and help from the best mother in law in the world, we hope to have it paid off in 3 years. Should be easily doable.  I plan on working at ATP at least 5 days a month and hopefully will do 8 days. The pay is $300 a day so more is better

Click on the photos below for more detail. The photo on the left shows the XM screen, then the Navigation screen and finally the Zune screen.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Navigation Installation Day 2

I spent last night soldering wires. This morning, after the power came back on (damn Spring thunderstorms!) I went to work. Crutchfield sent instructions on how to take the dash apart. Well they used a 2006 model. I have a 2008 with a few new features in the cabin. After cutting my hand for the 2nd time I called them up. He didn't have a whole lot to say other than "pull". Nice. I opened up a Mazda 5 technical document for a 2006 model. I was able to start tearing apart more and more trim pieces. Finally, 3 hours later, I had the radio out. I then began installing the cabling for the new radio. I was going to put XM and Bluetooth boxes under the seats. I then realized how big my glove box was and how much room there was in the dash above the glovebox. I decided to use some heavy duty velcro and put the boxes in the dash. I put the XM antenna at the back of the vehicle and routed the cable up the channel normally used for roof rails. I installed the GPS antenna in the dash to the left of the XM an bluetooth boxes. I was hoping to use the existing microphone (and still might if I can find it) but installed the supplied microphone on top of he rearview mirror then ran the cable along the headliner, behind the A pillar and down to the box.I had to redo a little wiring to get power to the XM and bluetooth boxes. I then tested the cabling. The radio turns on, XM works and bluetooth works. The GPS works as well. What doesn't work? The steering wheel radio controls. I am going to leave that battle until tomorrow. Tomorrow the actual installation kit arrives. Since I have done 90% of the work today, tomorrow will be a piece of cake.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A day of wires

I attempted to install an auto-dimming rearview mirror in my new car that also has homelink buttons (able to use the homelink buttons to open the garage). The installation is rated at 1 1/2 hours for a Mazda I gave myself 3 hours. The mirror came with instructions. They are pretty good. Some steps are oversimplified when they shouldn't be. I took my time and got thru 1/2 of it in about an hour...then I got stumped. I couldn't get the trim off the "A" pillar (the piece between the base of the windshield and the roof. Pull, twist, cuss, pull..nada. I soldiered on. I had the old mirror off and new one on. I then worked the cable into the headlines and behind the trim on the "A" pillar, not the right way...but it was hidden. I then went to find power. The instructions stated to use the included tools to tap two wires. I found one...but the other is quite large and doesn't fit in the included tool. The wires are amoung more than 40 in bundle. They are each color coded. The instructions called for a blue wire with a red stripe and a green wire with a black stripe. Well I found the blue/red fine. The green/black is huge! With just the blue/red connected the homelink buttons light up when I press them but don't seem to work. The compass and autodimming mirror are not working. I searched online and through forums and came up dry. I posted in two forums hoping someone else has run into this same issue.

Tonight I wired up the radio. I am planning everything out inside before I take it to the car, which should be Friday. I soldered the Pioneer harness cables to the Mazda compatible harness cables. I then wired up the device that will allow my steering wheels radio controls to keep working. As is all I have to do Friday is tap the speedometer cable and reverse cable and then it's all plug and play. Tomorrow I don't go into work until 8PM so I will start placing other components (XM radio and Bluetooth modules) into place. I am pretty sure they will both go under the front seats. I will likely use heavy duty velcro to secure them.

My dash kit is supposed to arrive Friday. I get back Friday morning at 9:30AM....would be nice if it came then. Normally though the UPS man comes around 6PM. Boo.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Day of travel.

This morning started at 5AM in Houston. We woke up and drove to George Bush Intercontinental Airport. We were on standby...but looking good. We both got on. I got first, but gave it to Kelli and grabbed her seat in coach. All was good....for a few minutes. I then get called up to the front. I was being pulled off due to seniority as another Eagle pilot was going up in the jumpseat...but it was he got my seat. No biggie, Kelli has keys to my car so she can go home and wait for me.  I went back to the terminal and was on the top of the list for the next flight. Meanwhile I went over to Continental to see if I could get on an earlier flight. Not likely as it was full and being a smaller jet....likely weight restricted. Pilots can travel free on any airline...good perk. Back to AA. I check in for my later flight to Jacksonville, Florida. It was oversold and had a lot of stand day indeed. The next flight to Dallas from Houston is looking even more full...but no other pilots are on it. Sure enough I get the jump seat. The pros to the jumpseat are it's free (I pay a small fee for coach) and has the best view. That's it. The jumpseats in most planes are thinly padded pieces of metal. This was no exception. We landed early and Kelli picked me up. We get home and I quickly repack my suitcase and change into my uniform. If I travel in uniform I can bypass security in Dallas. Saves time. We leave for the airport but before the terminal we make a stop back by the employee lot. My headphones fell out of my car when we left Dallas Saturday morning. Lucky for me they were still in the lot where I parked my car. She drops me off at the terminal with 30 minutes before the flight leaves. I bypass security and check the gate. I am #4 on standby and they haven't started boarding. I dash down to Mc Donalds. They are normally quick. Not today. Ten minutes later I am back at the gate. Just my name is on standby. I was feeling stressed. The gate agent ask if I am Byrd. Yup. Type, type, type, I have a seat! Straight to the back of the plane. We get here on time. I rented a car from Enterprise. Being the savy shopper I booked the cheapest car at $15 a day. I get to the lot and they tell me it's a Chevy Aveo. No biggie...only here two days. As we walk out they tell me they have no Aveos and that I have a Chevy Cobalt. Fine. Walking to the car I spot a Prius. "How much is that ?" I ask. "$5 more per day." the agent replied. SOLD! I will easily recoup the $5 a day in gas.

Being back in Jacksonville is odd. Haven't been here in 8 months. It was almost a year ago that I left Euless to come out here. I did get to shop at my favorite store....Publix. Love this place. Good times. Speaking of time. I need sleep. It's 7PM here.....long day. publix.jpg

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Loving sliding doors

I am really digging having sliding doors. I am amazed I have gone on driving for 15 years never having a car with sliding doors. They are sooooo convenient. I like being able to slide the door open, throw in whatever and slide it closed. When I get home I do the reverse. While driving I don't care to have a lot of stuff on the seat next to me. Being able to place it behind me rocks. Before I would have to step back, open the door, close the door and then step forward. Being able to simply stand in one spot is awesome.

The Mazda 5 also handles very well. It corners flat and is reassuring around the curves. This is my first true black car. I had a black 1996 Saturn SC2 "classic" for 3 weeks...but I returned it under the Saturn 30 day money back guarantee. Keeping this car clean will be a challenge. I have a California car duster that will help. I love the interior. Very well built and dark. I got my all weather mats in today. I love them. They were recommended to me by our friend Jason years ago. They are easier to clean and make the car look nicer.

Sooooo I may be in luck for the car radio installation kit. Another site ( claims to have them in stock. Still hasn't shipped yet. Stay tuned.

Wi-Fi hot spots. So most hot spots are simple. You connect, open up a browser, and agree to the terms of service. The Wi-Fi at Harris Methodist Hospital is not so easy. They give you a print out on how to connect. At the bottom it states "if you can't connect please contact your laptop manufacturer"...nice. Well I would connect, but would never get the terms of service page. I would open a browser and could go nowhere. I remembered seeing http://helpdesk on the back of a computer during check in. I tried that site...ta da the terms of service agreement showed up. I agreed and was on-line. I bet 90% of users give up. It shouldn't be this difficult.

For those that don't read well...I won't be a father anytime soon. We lost another one...which is why I was in Harris Methodist Hospital.

And the beat marches on.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Why offer it if its not out yet!

So I have boxes galore on the way to our house for my new ride. I did a TON of I always do. The centerpiece is the Pioneer Avid D3 navigation system. To install this I need a install kit. The kit has plastic and metal pieces to install the unit so it looks "factory" and professional. There is one kit sold in Japan for $200. Ouch. Luckily there is a kit from Metra (a major supplier of such kits) for $25. YEAH! I found only ONE site that offers it. The product page says nothing about it not being in stock. The page looks like any other product page. I placed my order last Friday. I heard nothing by today so I shot them an email. They don't have it yet because Metra hasn't released it yet! HOLY CRAP BALLS! So this means I can do nothing with the new navigation system. I have 30 days to return the Navigation system and get a refund. This sucks. Really sucks. Why offer something for sale if you don't have it ? If you KNOW you don't have it why not simply state "not yet in stock, no ETA". Then I would not have ordered it or the Nav system yet. Bleh!