Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Our first timeshare experience

So we have been through our first time share experience. Southern Journeys (part of Travelers Advantage Network) "invited" us to a informational meeting. We had to pay $20 to "secure" a spot. The $20 was fully refundable upon our completing the meeting. We arrived to an office complex and saw a few cars in the lot. We walked by and saw several couples at desk talking to salesmen. Hmmm. We go in and are given a clipboard which ask our names, address, income, jobs, how much time off we get per year, where we have been and where we want to go. Two other couples and a woman by herself were in the waiting room with us. The presentation started very low pressure. The deal seemed ok. After all was said and done and "if you buy today" speel there were selling weeks of vacation in various locations for about $300 a week. Pretty good deal. The problem is you have to buy several weeks at a time. The weeks must be burned in whole and not broken up. You have to give at least 60 days notice for when you want to travel and there are a couple of additional fees that you pay at various points in the year. We only have travel plans in advance of 30 days when it's something my mother in law organizes. Kelli and I would never travel anywhere for a week at at time by ourselves. Just not our style.

After the first 50 minutes they asked if anyone would like to see a salesman or we were free to get our free gifts and leave. No one wanted a salesman. Nevertheless we were all brought to the next room to meet with a salesman. Ours had a bracelet on his right arm that looked alarmingly like a hospital bracelet like he had just been released. He was wearing a faded cotton/poly dress shirt untucked and jeans. Nice. Kelli and I planned in advance to let them know we can't take the deal because we don't plan more than 28 days in advance. The package offering at that point was 24 weeks of vacation for $9000. Too much. They then offered an employee deal for 6 vacations for $3000. If we did that package we could get access to the last minute vacations that only cost an additional $198 a week. We were still buying 6 vacation weeks we would never use. After a few minutes we were told we would be getting our free gift. Meet the third room, a "marketing specialist" who was going to give us our gifts.

The "marketing" specialist pitched us a $995 package that allowed us to buy weeks at our leisure at the wholesale rate and included 10 $200 off coupons. We still had to book 60 days in advance. This would allow us access to the $198 last minute weeks. No thanks. I told her I would have to research her company. She leaned back and asked me what there was to research and pulled open a brochure with page of BBB memberships and travel awards they have been given. I tell her anyone can show me a fancy brochure or pretty pictures and awards. How do I know they are real? She then turns to Kelli and says "don't you deserve to go on vacation? Where do you want to go? Doesn't he owe you a good time?". Nice. Kelli spits right back that we need to research the company. The sales lady then insults us asking Kelli how long we dated before we got married. When Kelli told her almost 3 years the sales lady said , "and you still married him? Wow." WTF?!?!?!!? The sales lady then states if I am not happy I can cancel within 3 days according to Texas law. Hmm yeah. Giving up she quickly explains our free gift (all inclusive 3 day 2 night in Mexico) along with writing down her contact info. She ended with "I am sure you won't research anything or even call me but here is my phone number". Yeah

Oh and our $20...we got it a Simon Mall $20 Visa gift card. Damn thing better work. Kelli needs some stuff so we will see.

If anyone is thinking about using Southern Journeys or Travelers Advantage Network (TAN) beware. The sales pressure is fairly high. Also google the company and you will see way more negatives than positives. Paying $300 a week for lodging sounds good, but it's typically at a condo or limited services motel. Paying for a true resort gives you access to food, activities, transportation and all the other little items. We will stick to our last minute vacations or use the heavily discounted vacations available thru a travel industry discount vacation company.

We might do another timeshare deal in Vegas. Alan Thicke can be seen standing in a pool promoting Tahiti Village in Vegas. It's a 3 day 2 night deal. From what I have researched they pay for airfare to and from but you only get your ticket home after the "informational meeting". We don't really need airfare home. ;-).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The joys of travel

So I am in Amarillo for the night. Getting here was interesting. The whole day was interesting. I was supposed to take off from DFW at 11:35, arrive in Amarillo at 12:40 and sit in a hotel all day. Well when we were #1 for takeoff they turned the airport around (instead of taking off south they were now taking off north). We went from being #1 to #11. Yeah. Bumpy climb out. Arriving in Amarillo there were 4 American Airlines planes here that had diverted due to weather. Crowded tarmac.

My new Mazda5 has had a vibration from day one. The tires have been balanced 3 times. The vibration is worse when cold. Once the tires heat up it gets a little more subtle. I knew the tires were the issue. I dropped the car off Monday. They couldn't find the problem but the service manager really wanted to help and wanted to keep it over night. They gave me a loaner car (a 3 year old smoked in Mazda least its free) so they could drive it first thing in the morning to try and duplicate the issue. This morning I had a voice mail. The service manager stated in an astonished and shocked voice that when my tires are warm they become round and stay slightly in balance. However when the tires are cold they are no longer round and very out of balance. Tires aren't covered under the warranty but Mazda approved new tires anyway. I will be happy once this ordeal is done. The vibration really annoyed me. I don't drive much (just 1100 miles on the new car in the last 2 months) so it didn't bother me too much.

Kelli is in Burbank, CA. She flew in last night to testify today. Before she left I told her she should pack extra clothes "just in case". She normally does. I am pretty sure I told her to bring her laptop...she never does. Not this time.  Sure enough the weather that bumped me around canceled her flight and the next (last) one from Burbank.  Lucky for her I was in the hotel all day and was able to relay information about her flight status (before it cancelled), the status of the inbound plane (before it canceled), how many seats were available and more. When the flight canceled I was able to go online and figure out which hotels had free shuttles and booked her a hotel. With my access to American Airlines employee site I could see exactly how full the flights were tomorrow and what her best odds were. She also needed the phone number to the pet sitter. One would think that number would be stored in her cell phone. Bet it is now. Anyways I was Kelli's lifeline today and for that I am sure she will be eternally grateful enough to allow me to leave the TV on a little longer each night after the news (she can't stand light or noise even though I have seen her fall asleep just fine with the TV on).

Tomorrow I fly back to DFW then do a Cleveland, Ohio turn.

Tomorrow night Kelli and I go to our first time share meeting. We are just going to get the free 3 day 2 night trip to an all inclusive. I have already researched the company and the packages they sell are over priced and not very nice anyways. Plus they require 30-60 day advance notice for travel. Kelli and I live 28 days in advance max.

Good times.

Baz Luhrmann - Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Getting "The Deal"

So Kelli wanted a new washer and dryer. There is nothing really wrong with the current set. The dryer is a little loud...but they work fine. The current set was bought with my ex in 2000. Made by Whirlpool. Kelli had done a lot of research and wanted a Samsung model. Our current fridge is Samsung. It's sleek and quiet. Well we looked for the best deal. This weekend all energy star appliances are tax free. We went to Conns who offered free pedestals and 12 months no interest. We then went to Lowes with the intention of buying at Best Buy. Well Lowes had a nice associate who really knew his stuff and was very personable. He matched the deal at Conns and we were hunky dory. I had a Lowes card from when we bought our house. That's where the good times pause.

Last year I was sent a Lowes Visa card to replace my Lowes store card. I didn't ask for this. They just did it. I never thought much about it. Right now Lowes has 12 months no interest on any purchse $299 or more on a Lowes card. I asked the associate to look up my account. It showed closed. Umm no. Well yes. My Lowes Consumer account was closed and the no interest isn't valid for the Visa card. I was steamed. The associate though was very nice. I reapplied for the consumber card that was taken from me. I was approved of course and we left. We then cross shopped Best Buy and realized they could have matched the deal and given us 18 months no interest. Whatever. We headed home. Then I got more pissed about the Lowes thing. I turned back around and went back to return it all and buy it all at Best Buy. Then the good time started again.

I explained to the Lowes manager that I was upset with Lowes Credit and not the store. He listened to everything I had to say and apologized. The cashier than began processing my return. The manager then came back and offered another 10% off. I took the offer. Of course once I got home I realized the cashier screwed up a little and I ended up only getting another 5% off.  So what did we get? Well

A Whirlpool 9500 series washer and dryer the optional pedestals for each one. Total out the door price with tax (on the dryer only as no dryers are energy star) is $2411.62. This is about $100 less than Best Buy all said and done. Not bad. Turns out the first "deal" we got wasn't that good at all. We are then going to sell the old set for $300 or so on craigs list. I thought about keeping the money for myself since it was bought before we were together...but Kelli pays all the bills anyway. Good times.


Crime and Punishment

Part II of Kelli's birthday gift was a trip to Washington D.C. for a visit to the National Museum of Crime and Punishment. This museum opened on Friday, we went on Saturday. Getting there was interesting.

We planned on flying on an 8:50AM American Airline flight. We checked in and were on the bus when I noticed the flight was coming in from Kansas City and had diverted somewhere else. Not good. When we got to the gate the flight was delayed because the flight had smoke in the cabin and diverted to Wichita, Kansas. The flight was expected to get to Dallas at 9:40AM and depart with us at 10:15AM. I checked and saw the flight had a plan filed to DFW from Wichita...but had not left. I started making backup plans. There was a 9:30AM flight to DCA (Ronald Regan Airport)...but it was very full. I then found a flight to Washington National that was very empty leaving at 10:30AM. I checked the Washington Metro authority website and found we could easily get from Washington National to the museum with little fuss. We easily scored first class seats out to Washington. We had a nice lunch and arrived a little late. Well we had tickets for 2PM for the museum. We landed at 2:30PM. We rushed through the airport looking for transportation. We saw a sign about a bus to the metro rail station. Somehow it was $9 a person....the Washington Metro website stated $4.50 all in. In a hurry we paid. I later learned it was a private company charging $9 and the Washington Metro buses leave from another area. We got to the museum and had no issues getting in (even though we didn't get there till 4PM). Using a new mobile employee website I checked us in for the 8:55PM return flight using my phone. Museums tire me out. Not the walking...but the reading. There was information overload (all very interesting) to absorb. After about 3/4 the way through I was done reading. We left and walked over to the subway and rode it to Ronald Regan Airport. We were early and ate dinner. The airport was vacant...very few passengers. I looked at the load for the return flight. Only 4 people in first class and 14 in coach. There are 140 seats total! I thought about first class, but since we already ate dinner we sat in coach. We each had our own row.

We REALLY like the many options we have being able to book our own flights and re-route as needed. There were many passengers who were out of luck on our original flight as it was delayed till 1PM and eventually cancelled. Flying standby can suck....but it can also really pay off.
Below is our trademark "outstretched arm " photo. We take one everywhere we go. I will one day post them all.


Toward the end there is a live crime scene with a ton of information and clues given so you can help solve the crime. Again information overload. They did have a few informational posters which Kelli verified as correct....but dated.


The Museum has a lot of hands on and neato exhibits. Around the middle of the tour is a room with a thermal camera. Pretty nifty.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Started out El-Cheapo Nav...ended up a TomTom

So Kelli and I had been talking about buying a portable navigation system to use while when we travel to various cities and walk or drive around. Most units that are user friendly are $200+. Too expensive. especially....considering I may be out of a job this fall. Anyways we got a $100 refund check from AT&T for signing up for Uverse. I decided I would use the check for a portable navigation system. I then forgot about the idea. Well we are going to Washington, D.C. tomorrow and this morning Kelli reminded me of our desire for a nav unit. DOH! I spent the morning doing research as well as looking through advertisements. Fry's has a Holux portable navigation unit on sale for $99. I read reviews and specs and found out that the Holux unit has awesome battery life (6-8 hours!) but just average software. Hmmm. I then looked around more and found out that the Holux unit is easity hackable  upgradeable to other navigation software. Yadda yadda yadda I installed TomTom Navigation software on my Holux. It now operates exactly as a TomTom with all the features and maps. If I covered up the Holux logo no one would be the wiser. Not too shabby. I saved $60+ compared to the cheapest TomTom which has no where near the battery life of my Holux. To be fair the Holux software isn't that bad...but the maps are not upgradeable. TomTom is. Good times.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Free shipping...but ya gotta wait a week!

So we like They have good prices and free shipping on many things. I bought a few DVD's (Airplane, Airplane II The Sequel, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off) for $4 a piece including free shipping. I was in no hurry to get them. Well Kelli wanted Mario Kart for the Wii. The price on is $49.99. We ordered an extra steering wheel for $9.99 as well. We will save $16 and change as compared to Best Buy. When I ordered from Amazon if I chose free shipping it wouldn't ship for 1 full week. If I picked standard shipping for $5 it would ship the next day. WTF?!? I think the week delay is just punishing those who actually take advantage of the free shipping offer. I am sure it will sit on the shelf next to the ones that ship via standard shipping for a week. It will then be picked up by the same human and put in the same box as a standard shipping order. We are in no hurry for the game. Amazon used to ship everything next day. I guess times are rough. Still..a week Amazon? Really. Really?

Seriously a week?

I mean 7 days to go from the shelf to a box?

Is it a really high shelf? Maybe the free shipping ladder is in the shop?


Monday, May 19, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

So I scored Memorial Day weekend off. This is the first time I have had this weekend off in years. For 4 years I worked for NCR meaning I worked every holiday. I then started flight training which included training on all but Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last year I was in Jacksonville, Florida for Memorial Day. So....what does one do on Memorial Day weekend? I dunno. Part of my birthday gift to Kelli will be taking her to Washington, D.C. Saturday for the brand new (opens Friday) National Crime Museum. No idea what we are doing on Sunday or Monday. I am penciling in flying to Cleveland for the Texas Rangers baseball game. Flying to Cleveland will not only be something to do, but will also be Kelli's first time on the plane I fly (CRJ-700). Who knows. I "work" Tuesday thru Friday this week. I put work in quotes as I seriously doubt I will actually do any work. Instead tomorrow I am going to hand wash then wax and detail my car. At some point I will also cut the grass. Wednesday I will attempt to clean up my office and maybe the garage. Thursday I will mull around the house till the evening and then go see Indiana Jones with Kelli. idea. All paid days....not too shabby eh? :-) .

Photos from the Bronx

My brother in law emailed a few photos from our visit to the Bronx zoo. I decided to share two of them.

In the first Gianna is complaining that I haven't hooked her up with the normal vodka and instead slipped in the cheap stuff *.


The next is Gianna and I heading out to explore on our own. "Screw you guy's we are out of here!" We didn't get far as I remembered that as some point her diaper would need to be changed.


* All statements concerning giving a minor alcohol aren't true. Don't want to have a knock on my door from a guy with a shiny badge.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

You buy'em books...send them to school...and still

So the laptop I sold to my wonderful sister in law lasted one week. I got a text this morning. I called her this evening after work (looong flight to Nassau, Bahamas and back) and walked her thru fixing it. Virus and spyware it appears. She still owes me beer from a while ago. I guess I will tack it on her bill. It will be a keg soon. I don't mind helping out Kelli's side of the family, they all appreciate my computer expertise. I just wonder that they would do without me ;-)

Bill O'Reilly Spoof

Bill O'Reilly is an idiot...someone spoofed him. If you haven't noticed...I really like


Friday, May 16, 2008

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Must Torment Dogs

So I like screwing with the's no secret. Latest thing is....wasabi (heavy horseradish taste...intense) beans. I bought some from Sprouts...this fancy store in Southlake. Of course they are spicy. Well I play a game every now and then with the dogs called Hungry, Hungry Hippos. I toss a bunch of whatever on the ground and watch them scrounge around. The wasabi beans are a neat one. They all run around wanting to eat them....but they don't. Not right away anyway. They smell them...lick them...and more on to a new one. All afraid to eat one. After a few minutes fat lilo dives in. Cruching through the pain. Doogie soon joins in. Vegas almost cries. He wants so badly to eat them. But waits...till only one is left...and powers through it.  I honestly think lilo will eat anything. Her stomach is made of iron. She drinks beer (true alcoholic), eats spicy food and even survived eating bug poison. Good times.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My last Grandmother passed away

My Grandmother from my mothers side passed away. She outlived all of her daughters. All three daughters died the same year (2000) from the same condition....heart attacks. She was 83 years old.Winnell Cavaitt Smith  
MRS. WINNELL CAVAITT SMITH expired on May 7, 2008. Visitation is Tues., May 13, 2008, 7:00-9:00 p.m. Funeral service is Wed., May 14, 2008 at 11:00 a.m. Both services are to be held at McCoy & Harrison Funeral Home Chapel. The Reverend John Binford, officiating. Interment: Paradise South.

Our Wedding Video

I have had our wedding video digitized for a while...dunno why I never posted it. While watching it on my Mac I had a brain here it is. If this looks funny....USE INTERNET EXPLORER! Firefox mucks this page up something evil. This page looks fine in Internet Explorer 7.0 or Safari! Direct link to the video


edit: Thanks to This should display correctly on all could I have the last HOUR of my life back? URF!

Getting the Richmonds to Texas

So I...along with Kelli...have a plan to get as many of her siblings to Texas as possible. Every time I am around either Kevin or Jami I repeatedly tell them how cheap and great it is to live in Texas. Part of this is genuine that they are fun to be around and it would be nice to see them more often. Additionally it truly is cheaper as Kevin and his wife Jenny live in New York while Jami and her wife Priscilla live in California. Not cheap places. I think Kevin and Jenny are at least considering moving here after Jenny completes nursing school next year. I don't know about Jami and Priscilla. They just bought a house in Sacramento. Of course a year from now the real estate market will have rebounded and their $200,000 small house will be worth $290,000. They can then sell it and put down almost half the cost of a house twice the size and many times newer here in the DFW area. Jami is going to be a nurse so she can work anywhere. There are a ton of very highly rated and understaffed hospitals all around including one less than 5 miles away! Priscilla will have been at her job for a little more than a year and a half so she should be able to slide into a similar position here. They could easily live like queens (pardon the pun) on Jami's salary alone!

Now for Kevin and Jenny. Kevin graduates from the NYPD police academy in June. Jenny finishes her own nursing program next year. A nurse and a cop! They are both in high demand. Jenny can get the same high paying nursing job as Jami. Kevin can slide into a high paying, cushy, police job at any one of the nice suburbs around the mid-cities. Heck we live next to the Euless police station as is! They are currently paying 2X what our mortgage is in rent! They can easily afford a very nice house anywhere in the mid-cities area.

Once this is all done the greatest mother in law in the world can make just one trip to see three of her kids!

Of course this is all one big scheme so that when Kelli and I do have a kid....we have free baby sitters!

Hmm think I will sign Kevin and Jami up for the Texas, Dallas, Fort Worth and Euless tourism and relocation newsletters.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Hmmm so want to browse the network?

Honeymoon with the Mac is over.  When I first got it home I easily browsed my Windows workgroup. After I installed all the more workgroup. Odd. I searched online and found its a common issue. This sucks! I was trying to add my printer that's controlled by my Windows Home Server. I am sure I can still add it as it's still a network printer....but it's not as easy as I think it should be.I am however enjoying the 4-5 hour battery life and the lighted keyboard. Having the keyboard backlit helps quite a bit as I am still getting used to the layout. Also when I overnight in a hotel I have the computer in the bed so I can listen to The Russ Martin Show while I sleep. Using the keyboard at night is sooo easy with this keyboard.While in California I brought my previous laptop out to sell to my sister in law. It's still a very capable laptop that I was going to part out and sell for more than it's worth whole. She needs a good laptop as her previous desktop died. I re-imaged the laptop, installed Office, Norton Anti-Virus and all the Windows updates. Hopefully it will last a few weeks before she gets it full of spyware and adaware.  Below is a thumbnail of the lighted keyboard. macbook-lighted-keyboard.jpg

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Loving the Mac

So a few days in and I am loving my new Mac. Things are just easy. I brought it with me to my second job in Jacksonville, Florida. This thing travels very well. Wireless networking is easier, faster and more reliable than it was on Windows XP or Vista. The battery is a good 4 hours and is small versus my jumbo battery on my HP that was 6 hours...7 on a good day. Turning this thing on is easy and it boots up to a useable Operating System in less than 30 seconds. Playing a DVD? Pop it in....and it plays. No 3rd party software to load or mess media just plays. Using Windows inside of the Mac OS is also very easy. I am so happy that I would comfortably encourage my mother in law to get one when she is ready for her next computer....which should be soon as it's been a good 4 years or so. I also think the case of the laptop is sexy....all aluminum.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Mac + WinXP + Win Vista

So I had an issue installing Parallels last night. Something bad happened. I didn't want to think to much about it so I used my restore disk and reimaged my new powerbook. Then I read the directions on Parallels (funny how reading directions most of the time helps stuff) and reinstalled Parallels and the installed Windows XP. I used the license from one of the dead laptops. I then used Bootcamp to install Windows XP (same license since it's technically the same computer) and then upgraded it to Windows Vista. So now I can dual boot EITHER Mac OS or Vista and if I choose Mac OS I can go back and forth between Mac OS and Windows XP. Nice. This computer runs Windows very well. Mac OS X has all the drivers needed on the Mac OS restore DVD. How nice is that!Still happy. I am now in the process of backing up my old laptop, transferring the data to the new Windows Vista and verifying everything. I will then wipe the old one clean.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Writing this on a MAC

So my MacBook Pro came today. I was worried that I would miss the UPS man. I had a flight to Huntsville, Alabama and back that arrived at 1:40PM. The UPS man normally brings stuff around 2PM or 6PM. I rushed home and was here about 10 minutes before he came. So far I see a nice big learning curve ahead. I gotta figure if its possible to click using just the touchpad and not the mouse button. The keyboard is also different. I used the home, end, pgup and pgdown keys alot. All are gone. This will be fun...and I am sure frustrating.