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.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Macbook air....$1149!?!?!?!?!

The very sexy Macbook Air is on sale for $1149 at! Holy cow! I love that air. It is not practical for a main notebook (no optical drive, ethernet port, removeable battery or exchangeable hard drive) but as a companion or secondary laptop it is perfect. The air feels so good in the hand as it's made from one piece of alluminum and is very light weight. If I had $1149 to spare...or really needed a spare laptop....I would so buy one. Kelli needs a laptop. But she is too practical too buy it right now.

For those that want ya go!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Best Place to raise a kid? Euless, TX!

Euless, TX made the news. The best city in America to raise kids. I knew this city was a great place to settle down.

TexasGetty Images



Nearest city: Dallas
Population: 51,891
Median household income: $70,179

Euless, between Dallas and Fort Worth, includes part of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport within its city limits. The city's The Parks at Texas Star is a sports-plex with baseball, softball, tee ball, soccer, batting cages, and a driving range.


The camera mystery has been solved!

So the camera has been located. It was right where I left it....on the washing the garage. The last time I used the camera was right after I polished Kelli's headlights. Get your mind out of the gudder. The headlights on the Prius were yellowing. I am sure you have seen older cars with yellow'd over headlights. I bought a polish to get rid of the yellowing. I took photos to show the results. I then put the camera on the washing machine...and left it.

Tomorrow Kelli and I are going to Sacramento to visit Jami (my sister in law), Haley (my niece) and Peggy (my mother in law). I really wanted a camera to take photos. Fearing having no camera I bought one on Amazon. I simply bought the newer version of the camera we already have. It arrived today. Before I opened it I gave one more look around to find the old one. That's when I decided give one more hard look.

We might keep it and use it only for vacation/trips and I will keep the old one when I go to work. I will ponder it. For now mystery solved. Kelli had nothing to do with this one.

The top photo is the before...the bottom is the after. Hard to tell in the photos...but the difference by the eye is noticeable.


Change. President elect Obama campaigned on it. The day after he was elected his tone changed. Obama stated the changes he would make would not be overnight. The changes might take a year...or two...or three...or maybe past 4 years. What?!?!?! Why so long? Well I began some deep thinking and research on the subject and finally figured out why.

Presidents can only influence the economy. Very little can be done to directly change it. Many of the policies and procedures put in place during a term won't come into fruition until after the term is expired. Think about President Clinton's 8 year term. His first term was right after Desert Storm and the senior Bush. Times were not so great. Clinton began to work on the state of the country and by the end of his first term things were OK. During his second term he helped put into place several programs, policies and procedures that really helped the nation and the economy. Times were great! Then Bush came into office.

The mortgage crisis of today started in 1995 when President Bill Clinton's pressured Fannie and Freddie Mac to expand the number of loans given to low and middle income people. These people previously had not qualified for conventional loans due to credit or income requirements. Suddenly millions of people could afford a house. Great right? Well there is a reason they didn't qualify for a normal mortgage. Although it is the American dream to own a's a dream....not a right!

''Fannie Mae has expanded home ownership for millions of families in the 1990's by reducing down payment requirements,'' said Franklin D. Raines, Fannie Mae's chairman and chief executive officer. ''Yet there remain too many borrowers whose credit is just a notch below what our underwriting has required who have been relegated to paying significantly higher mortgage rates in the so-called sub-prime market.'' - New York Times article printed September 30, 1999.

From the same article, ''From the perspective of many people, including me, this is another thrift industry growing up around us,'' said Peter Wallison a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. ''If they fail, the government will have to step up and bail them out the way it stepped up and bailed out the thrift industry.''

Now all of these families are living in homes they could not otherwise afford. Times are good. For a while.

Fannie Mae doesn't give loans out directly. They do buy loans from banks however. Banks were all too happy to give a loan to a sub-prime borrower and then quickly sell it to Fannie Mae. All the risk was on Fannie Mae...not the bank. Fannie Mae became the largest holder of sub-prime mortgages in the country! Some, not a majority, of the loans were poorly written with low starting interest rates that racked up higher later on. The majority of the loans however were 30 year fixed rate loans averaging in the 7% range that would drop a percentage point once two years of payments had been made. Seems like everything should work right?

A ticking time bomb was silently ticking away over the United States. As other parts of the economy weakened (9/11 had a big part in it) these low and middle income households could no longer make mortgage payments. The houses went into foreclosure and Fannie Mae got less than what was owed on the Mortgage. Remember the extreme majority of the low and middle income borrowers put NOTHING down. When the housing market got hot.....prices went up. Many bought at the top of the market. As the market cooled...prices dropped....below what the houses were purchased for initially.

The housing market plays a huge role in the economy (consumer confidence is also a large factor). When all these families were losing their homes the economy began tanking faster. This huge buyout is not the direct cause of President Bush. This ball got rolling....this bomb was put in place by President Clinton. The economy is at a low point. President elect-Obama really only has one direction he can go...which is up. He does have an uphill battle. His own party is trying to increase the amount of money and the number of companies involved in this bailout.

Speaking of the bailout. I think the Big 3 should be allowed to fail. The writing has been on the wall for years. They kept building big SUV's, car and trucks while overseas car companies were investing in small cars, hybrids and fuel efficiency. GM for one is saddled with the huge weight of the UAW pensions. More than $2K of EVERY car sold goes to pensions. They can't make money with that kinda of debt. Bankruptcy will allow them to reorganize and come out stronger.

That's enough of my soapbox.

Oh..I am getting a new cable for our XBOX 360. A HD VGA cable. Should allow for a better picture over composite cables as well as allow regular DVDs to be up-scaled to HD. I feel better now...some kind of technology mentioned in this post.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Off Spring

So apparently 3/4 of my siblings have had kids. The first was my bother. He married into one kid and then had one with his wife. The second was my second youngest sister. She had one a few years ago......lost it to through the courts....had another....not sure where that one is. She is in prision. I was clicking around myspace this morning and see that my youngest sister had a kid about a month ago.

After my mother passed away my family kinda splintered. I only talk to my dad....and that's about it. I have my own reasons why I don't talk to my siblings. Am I right for not talking to them? I dunno. It's my choice. My personal belief is that neither sister should have had a kid. We all grew up under the same house which had a lot of babies in it for a while.

My mother started her own adoption agency in the mid 80's. She worked hard. When she first started she would sometimes bring newborns home for a few days before they were placed with the families. I still remember running down the stairs on a Saturday morning, jumping onto their bed and seeing a white baby there. The first time I was very confused. This thing looked nothing like me and it was not here the day before.

That didn't last long as she truly had a passion for what she did. She grew her agency into the second biggest agency in Texas. I had a huge shot of birth control seeing all of these women....and girls...pregnant. The youngest girl I saw pregnant was 11 years old. Her family was very religious and didn't believe in abortion. Her parents made her go full term and place the baby for adoption. There were quite a few teenagers who placed their babies for adoption.

One would think seeing all of these women pregnant around them would keep my sisters from getting pregnant before college/marriage. Yes it's possible to have a baby and go to college (I've seen just as many Lifetime movies where women make it that don't), but it's a huge obstacle. My youngest sister is very intelligent but I have doubts on her educational future as she know has to take care of a baby...with a high school education....nothing more.

On a different note. My best friend just sent me a text message that she has been laid off. She used to work for the Carreker corporation for at least 5 years until they were bought by Checkfree and she was laid off. She has been with a new company for 2 years or so. She is a Corporate Event planner. If anyone needs one...lemme know.

I'm still very worried about keeping my job. American Eagle is one of a very small group of airlines that has not furloughed/laid off workers this year. The extreme majority of my pilot friends are furloughed from airlines. They all hired on around the same time I did. Kelli says her job is secure....but is any job really secure? I guess a mortician.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Box of photos

I got bored while Kelli was exercising and went to my office closet and pulled out the only box in there. Ok that's a lie...I pulled out the only box I could get out without causing an avalanche. The box contained may photos from my college years and before. I found the best photo showing my previous hairstyle and scanned it in. Scanners...I remember when they first got "cheap" at $150. The interface was horrible. The scanned images were just barely decent...but it worked. I still have a scanner (obviously) that I use a few times a year (like tonight). The first photo is a fraternity portrait while the second one is a homecoming photo (wallet size so a little more fuzzy blown up!) from high school from 1994.

I went to homecoming with my best friend of going on 16 years Katrina. I was really skinny in High School...I think my low point was 150 pounds at 5'10.

I do have several photos that suffered water damage at some point over the years and are stuck together. Anyone know of a safe way to separate them?? I also have a bunch of slides....might need to ask Santa for a slide scanner....and a negative scanner....prolly a combo unit.

Thinking outside the box

I have always been a creative person. In high school I took my creative energy and expressed it in photography. I took that craft and majored in Photojournalism in college (along with a dual major in Sociology....that and $1.08 will get you a McChicken). Problem solving has also been one of the skills that I excel in. Where am I going with this?

With our TV now mounted on the wall, I mounted the front three speakers on the wall as well. I pondered mounting them on the ceiling....but there was waaaay too much work involved. Instead I mounted the speakers directly on the wall on three sides of the TV. The rear speakers will eventually go on the ceiling as I can't figure out where else to place them. When I do place them on the ceiling I will likely have to run the cables through the attic and down to the receiver....which will suck. I could run the wires along the wall....we will see.

With the speakers on the wall I had to figure out a way to hide the wires. I ran the wires up the wall and then to each speaker. I was initially going to buy plastic speaker concealers and tape them to the wall. The problem I ran into being they are kinda bulky....and kinda expensive. I went to three stores today and could only find speaker concealers that run along the floor and none that are designed to be attached to the wall. I was about to give up when one of those creative thoughts popped up.

What are two tools that no proud Texan would rather die that be found without? WD-40....and Duct Tape! No I didn't use the WD-40....but I did use Duct Tape. I remembered a month or so ago I bought black Duct Tape to help secure the backup camera in my car. The camera is mounted inside the rear hatch on the roof. I needed the tape for reinforcement. I bought white Duct Tape today for the walls.

I straightened out each cable and then taped it to the wall with the Duct Tape (I have no idea why I am capitalizing Duct Tape). I then painted the Duct Tape using the existing paint color already on the wall. The result? The wires are barely visible.

Digital cameras. I use them often. I lose them often. Most of the time I find them. I lost one this time last year when I was drunk at a Denny's. Our current one has been missing for about two weeks. Last time I saw it was after I got back from a trip and before we went to Vegas. Whenever we go somewhere Kelli get's in this cleaning whirlwind and all of my stuff ends up all over the place. The camera disappeared in this time frame. I have looked for it for a few dice. I might have to pony up and buy another one. I used to take it with me on trips because my camera phone sucked. Now that I have a decent camera phone I won't need to do that anymore.

401K. Most people are upset that their 401K values are tanking. I am not...because I don't have one! I do now! I finally opened an account. Now that I am on 2nd year pay at work (I got an $8 an hour raise Oct 29th) I can afford to fork over some dough for my future.

I might look for a camera on eBay. Bleh.

This one might stay

I have gone through over 100 themes (way this site looks) this morning. I tried several. If you looked at this site between 7AM and 10AM you probably saw quite a few. I think the current one is the theme I will keep. I wanted something simple...yet nice....and easy to read. I was never really a fan of white text on a black background....always seemed kinda hard to read. So for the near future...this theme will stay. Simple blue.

Testing Themes today

This site will change a lot this morning...trying new themes!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Buying stuff online

I have been buying stuff online for over 11 years. I started back in the big Dot com rise of the mid 90's. Some of the first things I bought were computer parts from I later bought shaving cream, Mach 3 razors and toothpaste from was an interesting site. They sold drug store items for less than I could buy them at the Drug store.....and had free shipping. After about a month they started offering "same price for life" on certain items. I would buy Mach 3 razors for $1 and that price was good "forever". The same razors cost more than $6 at WalMart (WalMart is no longer Wal-Mart). Well that site went bust within a month or two.

The point of all of that is I have been buying online for a long time. When I was in college the UPS and Airborne Express guys knew my schedule and would leave stuff at my door or would wait till I was home to deliver. I never had a slip stating they missed me. I know what sites to go to for the best deals and where to get online coupons from. Lately there has been a convergence of sorts. has gone from mostly books to mostly everything. I have ordered from Amazon 75% of the time over the last two years. They have free shipping on many items and have low prices...lower than WalMart even. How? I'm not sure.

That being said one still has to be careful buying on Amazon. Many times the exact same item can be sold by Amazon and one of the Amazon partners. Kelli and I wanted a new piece of furniture to hold our components for the home theatre system. Previously we had a nice metal and glass rack. This looked fine next to our huge projection TV. Now with our slim flat looks chunky. I found a nice entertainment table at (this item isn't sold in the store). The price is $147 including tax (item is here ). has a VERY nice option where shipping to the store is free! True not the same as free shipping home...but it's very reasonable. I was okay with that....and ordered. I then went to Amazon "just to look". I found the SAME  (click here ) $149 with free shipping to the house! I looked more and found the same item again on Amazon for $180 + $50 shipping (click here ). I am sure many simply find the first item they see on Amazon and buy it not knowing that they could save money buy searching around a little more. True I am spending $2 more at Amazon vs Walmart, but I am getting it shipped to the door step vs having to drive and lug it to the car myself. I am taking a risk if the item arrives damaged...but we will see.

I am stuck on one thing with The have a Amazon Prime Membership where you can get free 2 day shipping on anything you order and $3.99 next day limit. The membership cost $79 a year. Can't justify it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cheap stuff at Wal-Mart this Saturday

Anyone needing a new laptop, TV, PS3 or more should go shopping at Wal-Mart Saturday.

A very nice laptop for $298....a nice 46 inch Plasma 1080P tv for $798 (holy cow!)  and a PS3 for $399 (which includes a $100 Wal-Mart gift really $299!!!). All can be seen by clicking here.

Don't F with McCain yard signs

This kid has replaced a McCain/Palin yard sign with an Obama sign twice in the recent past. The owner attached an electronic fence used for pets to the sign. When the kid went to replace the McCain sign a 3rd time....he got a little surprise.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Why did you vote?

Watching CNN Headline News. They showed several people who appear to be black. When asked why they voted for Obama more than one said because "he is black and he represents me." They didn't state and issue. They stated the color of his skin. November 5, 2008 is the day I will bring up when I say "I told you so." The day will come. No...the days will come. Would you get on an airplane to fly across the country if you were told the pilot has only flown around the city and never ventured far out? No. Obama has very little experience. Yes he had done many things, but at what LEVEL. Hell I have been flying for 2 years. I have 1200 hours of time spent in the cockpit...but I know I am no where NEAR qualified to be a Captain of a plane. Yet the country has been fooled into believing Obama is qualified to lead the country?

If the country really wanted "change" from Bush and the Republican party they would have elected Kerry in the last election. Times were crap then. The years after 9/11 were horrible....yet the country re-elected Bush. If Obama was white (which he is just as much as he is black) there would not have been as many people voting period. Additionally if Obama had kept to his WORD and taken public financing I think the results would have not turned out the same.

Obama before the election said he was going to CHANGE so much. Today during his post election speech he stated well the CHANGE might not happen in one year....two years...maybe not even in four years. Nice. I have no faith in Barack Hussein Obama. I am more worried about the future of this country now than I was on 9/12/01. I honestly hope I will never use these words....but I fear I will have to. Let it be known...I TOLD YOU SO!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The President

Millions of people voted for Obama not because of the issues, but because of the color of his skin. This election will be studied and the results will show that millions of people voted in this election who have not previously voted and that those people will list the color of his skin as the reason why he voted. Voting for Obama was the "in"thing. Something different...regardless of what different really is. The United States is a racist country. The "1 Drop" rule from the past is obviously still in force. Obama is 1/2 Black....but he is also 1/2 White. The "1 Drop" rule means every there is one drop of black blood in you then you are black.

Additionally I don't think another candidate will ever take public financing again. Obama said he would take it....McCain did...Obama backed out. If I could spend $3 for every $1 you had I could convice the world of anything.

I will go on later....but I have to go to work.

Wii Fit

I am enjoying my Wii Fit. The exercises really help with the monotony of the treadmill. Being able to track my progress helps as well. On the Wii each user designs a Mi. A Mi is a cartoon of one self. Mine is a cool black guy with dreadlocks. Before I got the Wii Fit my Mi was slim....well with the Wii Fit the Mi became chubby! Each day I weigh in and it charts my weight on a graph. Thankfully I have been watching what I eat and the graph has continuously gone down. One part of the Wii Fit I don't like is the ideal weight it has for me. The Wii Fit thinks I should be 158 lbs! I was that slim in High School for a while and it was FAR from healthy looking. I will be happy in the 175-185 range. I got a lot of "junk in my trunk" which will not go down no matter how much weight I loose. I do enjoy the sit ups and pushups of the Wii Fit. Scary that I would say I like sit ups and push ups.

Gas is going down. As low as $2.08 at QuickTrip.

During my recurrent training for my job today an interesting topic came up. We were discussing CRM (Crew Resource Management). First let me say the instructor is not a pilot but a professional teacher who has taught at many airlines. Through his many years of studying CRM, stress management and workplace interactions he has found no other group of workers is more studied than pilots. Pilots have a very unique workplace. Everyday they are put under stress. The workplace of pilots is volitale...literally. Pilots fly around in a metal structure full of people, cargo and fuel. They fly through weather and traffic dealing with very tight schedules. Pilots can't often find time to slow down. If a office building catches evacuate. A pilot can do no such thing. They are flying the office building. If an accountant makes a mistake with a spreadsheet...they fix it. If a pilot makes a mistake in math..or just bad judgement while landing the result can be the end of a career. There are many, many ways for a pilot to get violated. Pilots have one of the only professions I can think of that losing a job means starting back over at 1st year pay. A pilot can literally work for 20 years with a clean slate. They have one bad day (of course a bad day for a pilot is a really bad day) and not stop in time and go off the runway. The FAA's investigation could result in the pilot losing his license. That's more flying. The company can also do it's own investigation and decide to let the pilot go. Thankfully here are unions to protect a pilot in some cases...but still...can you think of another profession where one mistake could end everything?

As good as it gets?? Well it got better.

When we bought our beautiful Sony 57 inch HDTV 4 1/2 years ago we were on cloud 9. The TV had an amazing picture, capable of 72oP and 1080i. The only bad thing was a somewhat limited viewing angle. Over the years the TV has been flawless. The high definition picture looked great and there were enough high definition ports for our Wii, XBOX 360, DVD player and Cablebox. How could we improve? Well we did.

This new TV literally makes the Sony look like a 20 year old basic color TV. The color quality on the new Samsung LCD is eye popping. The reds are deep, the blacks are inky deep, the white is crisp and clean and the green is money. I spent time yesterday walking back and forth between the Sony and the Samsung showing the same HD tv show. The Sony didn't look like HD anymore....even though it was.

Everything isn't cherry though. The Sony switched between inputs faster. Going from the Xbox to the Cable box took 1 second at the most. The new Samsung takes 3 to 5 seconds once the Cable box is selected in order to begin showing a picture. Also with the Sony I disabled the internal speaker and used m surround sound for....sound. Even then I was still able to have the TV control the volume. The Samsung can't do that. Once the internal speaker is disabled sending any volume commands to the TV does nothing. Not a big deal, I just set up the Cable box remote to send a signal to the home theater receiver for volume.

Beyond those two little things...everything else is better. I can now select 1080P on the  Just looking at the dashboard on the Xbox 360 is amazing. I'm now itching for blueray. Samsung has a line of devices designed to talk to one another. You simply plug an Anynet Samsung blueray player into the TV and the TV will configure the blueray player and allows the original TV remote to control the blueray player automatically. The user does nothing. The same goes for the following Anynet Samsung Devices ; Home theatre system, Camcorder, Digital Camera or DVD/VCR player. Pretty cool.

The TV mount should arrive on Friday and I will mount the TV to the wall Sunday. Once done we will decide on where to put the components. Right now they are on a very nice glass/metal vertical rack. We might buy a simple shelf and mount it to the wall. For now...Robin Meade in all her beautiful glory. If you don't know who Robin Meade's prolly because you are a woman.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Early Christmas

Television. Kelli and I watch a lot of it. We have a big on as well. When we moved into our house 4 1/2 years ago we bought the best TV we could afford. We bought a 57-inch Sony HDTV Projection TV. The price was $1799 from Best Buy. We got 3 years no interest as well as a $250 gift card. We used the gift card to buy an X-Box. The TV has served well. We have had zero issues with it until recently. With our new UVerse TV service (which we love!) the box is a native HDMI output. I bought a HDMI to DVI cable. This worked fine until a recent software upgrade. Now if the TV is turned on before the box (a matter of a second or two as the same remote blast out signals to turn them both on at the same time) the box won't send out video. This causes us to turn the TV off and back on. Not a big deal. But annoying.

The TV is also pretty massive. The depth of the TV is a good 3 feet. The makes the TV sit nearly 3 1/2 feet off the wall. Massive use of space. At the time we bought it a 42 inch Plasma TV was over $2500. We couldn't swing it.

This morning I looked through the Fry's Ad (like I do everyday that doesn't begin with the letter T) and noticed a Philips 50 inch Plasma 1080P TV for $1377. True it's 7 inches smaller than our current TV....but the price is good and the 1080P is something I wanted (our current TV is 1080i). We went to Fry's to "check it out". The TV looked only where near as sharp as our current Sony. Contrary to popular belief the sharpest pictures produced today are still made by old-fashioned CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors. Why? Well they have been in production for over 50 years.... damn good research and production. We then wandered around looking at other TVs. I used my new phone to quickly look up prices to compare to other nearby stores and online stores.

This is the Fry's ad I saw this morning.


There was a nice Samsung Plasma 50 inch Plasma 1080P for $1150. I liked the picture...but it was the floor model box. No thanks. a salesman...very nice and knowledgeable man....greeted us and showed us several models. Kelli and I look at TV's often. I drag her through the TV section of Fry's or Best Buy at least once a month. We noticed a new technology called 120 Hz for LCDs. The new LCD's produce a much sharper picture than LCD's from last year, which used 60 Hz,  by having double the resolution. To be fair Plasma TVs use 480Hz so they have never had an issue with images smearing or ghosting. The salesman showed as a really nice Sony TV that was in our price range...but not 120 Hz. We liked it. We then noticed the TV next to it showing the same programming...but looked 100X better. That TV was a Samsung 52inch LCD with the 120Hz feature. We were standing 10 feet back and were amazed at how different they were. The price was a little more than we were comfortable with. The salesman showed us the same Samsung TV in a lower ($100 cheaper) model next to the higher model showing the same programming. Still the picture was just that much better. The TV's were tuned to the same colors, contrast and picture quality...the details were just amazing.

Thinking I could find a better price we left and visited Circuit City, Starpower and Best Buy. Circuit City and Best Buy had the same Samsung TV...but $800 higher than Fry's. Circuit City would price match plus 10%...Best Buy would only price match. We are Best Buy people. I attempted to buy the TV from Best Buy but after waiting more than 20 minutes for the associate to verify the TV was in stock at Fry's (part of the price match system) we left. The customer service was lacking. When I said I would go to the Circuit City around the corner they told me they were closed (an outright lie). We went back to Circuit City and had more bad service...but we got the TV for $880 less than they were advertising it for. For the record we bought a Samsung LN52A750 (click here for more info on the TV). The 52-inch LCD TV has 4 HDMI ports, an Ethernet port (to pull video from a computer and RSS feeds from the net), and more. I bought the mounting bracket for $40 from . The prices for mounting brackets from Best Buy, Circuit City and Fry's were crazy! Using my phone I scanned the barcodes and found the exact same mounting brackets online for a MINIUMUM of $100 less than in the store. I did a lot of research and picked a basic tilting bracket. I was going to get one with an articulating arm.... but was leery as most models have issues with really big TVs (ours weighs 67  lbs). I also bought three 15-foot HDMI cables and some speaker brackets (in case I get a hair up my rear to mount my speakers on the wall).

There is a funny thing about HDMI cables. The prices vary between $13 and literally $200 for the EXACT same cable. The "Monster Power" 24K gold plated HDMI cable performed exactly the same as a $13 generic cable...why? Well HDMI is digital....1's and 0's. The signal either gets there or it doesn't. In the past with analog cables outside interference could alter the signal. Buying shielded, high quality cables, brought a better picture. The cheapest HDMI cable at Best Buy was a 4-foot cable for over $79!!!!'s cheap. I read several articles and reviews and every one of them ended the same way....the price of the cable doesn't change the picture or sound produced.

This week I have recurrent ground training and a check ride for my I likely won't mount the TV until next Sunday....maybe. Kelli and I will also likely buy/acquire some type of table to place under the TV for all of the components.

Take a look...every paragraph started with T! And the TV fit in my MULTI-ACTIVITY VEHICLE just fine. If we had bought a 56 inch TV.....we would have had to take it out of the box or pay for delivery. The TV we bought slid in perfectly with a few inches to spare. Our friends Lacy and Raymond bought a smaller Plasma TV that wouldn't fit in their much larger and gas hungrier Mazda CX-7.


Saturday, November 1, 2008


Vegas was nice. We flew in Tuesday night. The flight was very empty. We enjoyed our first class seats and meal. With the softening economy planes, are getting more and more spacious (people aren't flying). To save money we rented from Dollar rent a car. The rate of $9 a day was way lower than our normal rent a car company, Alamo/National, at $25 a day. The price though showed during the check in. There were no computer terminals for customers to use. Instead we waited in line for 15 minutes. I could see the Alamo/National area....ghost town. The Alamo/National kiosk were waiting for any customer. We finally got to the rental car area and after inspecting a few cars (Dollar is kinda ghetto and the condition of the cars showed) for damage we picked a nearly new Chrysler Town & Country minivan. Kelli drove for the first time ever as the rental was in her name. I normally rent the car and end up not being able to drive as I drink. Kelli rarely drinks so her driving makes sense...except I hate the way she drives. Oh the drama that ensues.

The first night we stayed at the Stratosphere. The hotel was okay. We gambled only a little bit before heading to bed. Wednesday morning we ate our free buffet breakfast and checked out. We picked up Eric and Angela ( at the airport and headed to Harrah's. Too early to check in we walked around, gambled and began drinking until we could check in. Over Wednesday and Thursday we all gambled, ate, drank and had a good time. We all enjoyed playing roulette on both the normal tables and the new rapid roulette video game. The rapid roulette uses a traditional roulette wheel but allows the players to pick numbers on a touch screen monitor. I found a machine I liked at O'Sheas called $100 or nothing. It's a dollar machine...either you win $100....or nothing. That easy. I won $100 twice and only gave up $25 in the process. As of Thursday afternoon I was down $240. By Friday morning I was only down $80. Not bad for 3 days of gambling. Kelli left without a penny to her name...but she had fun.

The flight back was just as nice as the flight there. The plane was a 767 which is the second biggest plane in American Airlines fleet. There were 30 first class seats and we scored two of them. The seats were the new lay flat type. We didn't lay all the way down,  but we both reclined and enjoyed the flight. The meal was not as tasty as the meal on the way to Vegas.

I am not sure when we will go to Vegas again...probably not until March at the earliest. As I got ready for bed last night I realized I had not slept in my own bed in 6 days...just hotel beds. Nutty.

It's Official

Absolutely cutest and best niece WEST of the Mississippi river. There is an equally special niece EAST of the Mississippi....but I don't have photos of her.