Thursday, December 31, 2009
Been playing a lot of Need For Speed Shift on XBOX Live. Really fun to play with 70 year old geezers from Iowa and 10 year old punks in England....at the same time. The voice chat is useful sometimes...other times truly annoying.
Last day of 2009. Great things will come next year.
I get a $0.30 an hour raise tomorrow.
Loving the new home theater receiver. Everything sounds better. I know it's good when even Kelli says "wow".
The new thermostat keeps the house at 65 during the night, 70 during the morning, 67 during the day (I'm home during the day) and 70 during the evening. On weekends the heater waits an extra hour to turn it up to 70. Kelli is always cold. Eh.
Bought my dad a Sony Blueray player and a few Blueray movies for Christmas. The prices have dropped big time. We paid $250 for ours (that was AFTER a 25% discount thru Amazon) just a year ago. I only paid $120 for his. His is just as good as ours. I made sure to get a profile 2.0 player so he can watch Netflix streaming movies and more. My mother in law should get a Blueray player...so many TV shows and movies I am sure she would watch via Netflix streaming. Maybe next time Kelli and I go to Oregon we will upgrade her tech again.
Excited about the next Google phone....the Nexus One.
Kelli's dogs have started to be more annoying lately. Vegas and Doogie are pissing all over their area....which is just behind the couch...which makes the living room smell.
Headed to Des Moines, Iowa today on overtime. This is my cruise fun money. I will work for 5 hours 10 minutes but only be paid for 3 hours 40 minutes. Flight crews are only paid for the time the plane is moving (really when the main door is closed and parking brake is released). The time before the flight, in Des Moines and after the flight in Dallas I am paid a whole $1.75 an hour per diem. Still This overtime trip will net me about $150....more than I earn sitting on the couch.
We've decided to stay with Progressive for car insurance. The biggest reason is the MyRate program giving us an extra $46 off. That equates to 14% off. The most one can save is 25%. I wonder how much LESS I need to drive to get that big of a discount.
As of right now I drive an average of 23.1 miles a day for 45 minutes and never hit the brakes hard. Hitting the brakes "hard" is slowing down faster than 7 MPH per second. Kelli would get nailed with hard brakes if her car were eligible. My trip to work is 9.7 miles there and 10.4 miles home. Pretty boring.
Big stuff happenin' in 2010. We are gonna drop it likes it's hot!
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Above is a view from my office. Taken at 36,000 feet coming in from the north east. Dallas is in the upper left. I could see the airport even though I was more than 100 miles away. A huge high pressure system was over the area yesterday. Very nice day.
Less than a month till the cruise. I moved my work days around next month to have off from the 22nd thru the end of the month while only "using" 6 days of vacation. Of course I pay for it by working my ass off the 1st thru 21st.
I plan on going to Detroit next month for the North American International Autoshow. Kelli has no desire to go.
I've been an XBOX live member for over a year. I only joined to watch Netflix on the XBOX 360. Only recently I started playing games online. Right now I am playing Need For Speed Shift. Pretty fun.
Yesterday I landed a 63,000 pound plane with 53 other souls on board at 12:36PM. At 12:45PM we pulled into the gate. By 12:59PM I was sitting in Kelli's car on the way to have lunch. We were meeting with Kelli's cousin Julie, her husband Bill and their daughter Katelyn. They were in town as Bill has family in Colleyville. It's all about timing.
While eating it became very apparent to me that a lot of people have no idea what goes on in the cockpit of airplanes. Bill though there were still 3 people up there. Interesting. Bill is a very intelligent guy who works in the financial industry. He does VERY well as Julie is a stay at home mother with a Porsche Cheyenne SUV and a huge house complete with a maid . That got me thinking (dangerous I know) that I will never earn as much as he does. Yeah.....
I have a new ROM on my G1. The developer at Cyanaogenmod has ported lots of bits from Android 2.0 to the G1. It's much snappier and useful now.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
I have most of the old bogs. A few that I foolishly did in Flash are gone. One thing I really like about blogging is that I can look back at any of hundreds of days in the past and see exactly what I was doing or how I felt.
Back in 1995 I fell in love with photography. I was a quiet kid. Shocking I know. But I was. Kept to myself for the most part.
I found this amazing power inside of a Canon AE-1 camera. Suddenly I could stop time and record it forever. A photograph can be so much more than pulp and chemicals (or 1's and 0's now a days). A photograph is a moment of time that has been frozen that will never exist again.
Lately I don't spend enough time behind a camera. I still take a least 20 photographs a week. Every now and then I manage to take one that I can stare at for hours.
We watched Away We Go tonight. Very funny movie about an interracial couple John Krasinski. Very good movie. I found a clip of a very funny scene on Youtube. It is an illegal post taken with a camcorder...but it works. Fast forward to 30 seconds in.
31 days till the cruise.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Previously our sound was digital from the device (Uverse, Xbox Blueray) to the TV but then turned to analog as the TV sent the audio down to the old receiver. No more.
Now all content is digital from the device (Uverse, Xbox, Blueray) to the receiver and then the receiver passes the video and audio (for those extreme cases where I don't want surround sound) digitally to the TV. I did run into two problems.
Our Samsung 750 series TV can control our Samsung BD2500 Blueray player thru the HDMI cable. This is working very nicely. Well the new Onkyo HT-RC160 has the same functionality (known as CEC). But I ran into an unexpected issue.
When I connected the Uverse box to the HT-RC160 it worked initially. When I switched to the Blueray it worked fine. Then when I went back to Uverse the screen just blinked on and off. If I pulled the power on the Uverse and plugged it back in....everything was fine. Hmm.
An hour later I figured out the CEC functionality of the HT-RC160 was the issue. The Uverse box and HT-RC160 were not able to "shake hands" when switching video. Once I turned the CEC off in the HT-RC160...all was well. Kinda.
The Xbox 360 was connected via PC/VGA cable to the TV previously. Not an option with the new HT-RC160. No issue...I have a ton of cables! I dug out a set of component cables for the Xbox 360. Once connected (I used optical audio initially) the screen was scrambled. A quick Google search found another issue.
Lucky for us we have TWO Xbox 360's (Don't judge...Eric & Angela have two as well)! The new one has built in HDMI. After a simple swap all was well.
I am very happy. We will soon go from 4 remotes down to just 2. Sweet. Maybe one day I will get a Logitech Harmony remote and go down to just one remote.
Last night Kelli was having a good time watching me scramble around the house trying to get it all running. All of the synergy I try to set up has a lot of craziness to get setup.
For example. Kelli's phone is setup to allow her to look at all four cameras in the house no matter where she is. Now she only really does this when we are on vacation. I can do it as well. Getting that to work took a good amount work on my part.
Kelli appreciates it. Years ago she lead such a simple life. Basic phone. Toyota Corolla. Simple Dell computer.
Now she has a high tech Google Smartphone, Prius, Macbook, Zune HD and a house full of LCD TVs, computers and cabling. Only downside? Well she wears contacts now....didn't when I met her. All in the name of progress.
Today is my brother in law's birthday. Kelli thought it would be funny to call him at 12:01 AM and wish him Happy Birthday. Well not her call...just a message.
I found one website that allows you to setup an automated callback at a preset time. The site is GetMooh.com as in Get Me Out Of Here. The concept is to have your phone ring at a set time to get out of a social situation. Like a date. I tried to set it up but the timing mechanism sucks.
I then found Wakerupper.com . Very easy. It can be set to call and then have a computer voice remind you of something. I had it say, "Happy Birthday Bryan from Darren and Kelli. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Don't call us back." at 12:02 AM in Oregon. Not sure if it worked as MY phone wrong at 2:02AM. Hmmm. Damn technology.
Norwegian Cruise Line has an online check in program for cruises. I emailed out directions to all who are going. Everyone at least started to process. I will check back 2 weeks out too make sure it's done.
For the cruise I am going to buy walkie talkies for everyone to stay in touch. New ones can go 20+ miles. This will come in handy staying in touch on the ship as well as in port. Especially since we won't have cell phones.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
I then read through the contract and saw all kinds of fees. There is a $10 fee to call and ask a question about airline ID verification. A $20 fee to call and ask about charges. Lots of fees. That really irked me.
Of course the rooms I wanted were put on hold by Interliner.com so I couldn't book them if I went with someone else. No big deal, I used Interlinerates.com to book 3 rooms on the same deck but the opposite side of the ship. Two rooms are together while one is just down the hall.
I still have to fax/email in a copy of my employee ID.
Each cruise line has a different policy on friends and family bookings. Interlinerates.com really breaks it down so it's easy to understand. On Norwegian only my Dad, Parents in law, kids and Kelli qualify by themselves. In order for anyone else to go they must be booked in a cabin with a qualifying person. Thus I am booked with my sister in laws girlfriend Kelly. While Kelli (notice the I) is booked in the room with my sister in law Jami and my niece Haley. Peggy and John, my parents in law, are in their own cabin.
I sold my old radio on eBay. The final value was $412. This is perfect as I was charged $12 in paypal fees so I got he $400 I wanted in the first place. Even better is that I didn't include my backup camera in the sale.
The money will go toward a Christmas gift for Kelli and I to enjoy. Our current home theater receiver is over 7 years old. Adequate...but old. I am going to replace it with an Onkyo HT-RC160. It's a very nice 7.2 surround sound receiver. Initially I will have just 5.1 setup. Maybe for my birthday I will get 7.2 speakers. The Onkyo has 5 HDMI ports and can do HDMI audio pass thru as well as switching. The old receiver will move down the hall to my man cave.
For Christmas my dad bought Kelli a 3 position Crockpot slow cooker. She can now prepare three meals at the same time. My idea was too cook three meals one night versus one meal each night. Eh. He bought me a nice laptop bag that I can easily store a weekend of clothes in. The bag will fit under the seat in front of me, perfect for our getaways.
I will post what I got him after he gets it.
For my nieces I bought each of them the brand new Dora's Christmas Carol Adventure DVD. I love Amazon.com! Two day shipping AND gift wrapping free. I was going to buy them cotton candy....but I will save that for Birthdays.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Lost BOTH chargers for our cameras......$40 for a new Canon charger....$4 for an off brand....yeah.
Ever since we got a new dishwasher we haven't had a way to show clean or dirty dishes. We had a dry erase board on the old dishwasher. Kelli and I have talked about getting a new dry erase board. Never did. Yesterday we got "clean" and "dirty" magnets from our sister in law Jessi Richmond (I guess Byran is involved since he is married to her). Problem solved.
Found a huge puddle of dried dog pee yesterday.
The need to "own" music is no longer with me. The need to "own" a movie is fading as well. With Netflix mail service, Netflix on demand streaming and Redbox...who needs to "own" movies ? How often do you watch the movies you "own" now?
Finally booking the cruise! My sister in law finally got the word she was approved for vacation. A few of the "cheap" rooms are gone. Will be slightly more expensive now. Tis okay.....we might get a room with a window now.
Coffee. I love it. I love good coffee. Dunkin Donuts is my favorite. The home brew stuff from them is crazy expensive. Cost more than Starbucks home brew! For a while I was sucking down 8 o'clock coffee....then it was some mexican brand of coffee. Today I switched to Community Coffee. Community Coffee is what I grew up on. Literally. It's what my parents drank. Puts hair on your chest. Sad really...I was the only 8 year old who had to have my back shaved.
Paper Heart...good movie.
Finally....my sister in law Jami is doing an amazing job raising her daughter Haley. The two are quite funny. Jami posted something on Facebook that had me laughing for a long time. I still chuckle when I read it:
Great idea, start training for a short triathlon. Another great idea spend time with Haley while training! Not so great idea, take Haley on a bike ride at 8:30am, in 43 deg weather. 15 mins in with teeth chattering she says "mommy my eyes are cold". Guess I need to train by myself until it gets warmer :-)
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Gastric bypass surgery. Some need it. Some don't. Some who get it annoy me when they gloat about how much weight they have lost and have great they are. Eh. They didn't do anything but pay a bunch of money and lay on a table. In all of my life I have only known one person with a thyroid issue. This lady exercises and eats better than I ever will, but is still large due to a thyroid issue. Beyond her I know quite a few people who struggle with their weight and do fine when they do the old fashioned diet and exercise.
My dad is the opposite of me when it comes to technology. For years he had a crappy Compaq computer. Four years ago I built him a new computer and brought it down to him. Last year I built another computer and mailed it down to him. He goes online just for email and a few other things. He has never purchased anything online (to my knowledge).
Earlier this week he was having a problem finding this certain Christmas gift for Kelli. It wasn't in the local store. He called me to see if I could find it online and then he would give me his information to buy it. The next day he ended up finding it at a store and will ship it too us. The item is available online...with free shipping. Eh. Different generations.
On the same idea.....a certain lady who gave birth to my wife (I don't want to use names to keep her identity private), has a fancy new touchscreen phone with a full keyboard, data plan and more. I was taken back yesterday when I found out she doesn't have email on the phone. That's like having a Ferrari to deliver pizza in. Sure it does the job....but take that bad boy out on the track!
Trying to sell my old radio on craigs list. I paid over $1100 for all of it last year. I am asking just $400. People on Craigslist are so fickle. No matter what I list people ask "will you take $250?" or "how about $300". I had a gentleman yesterday really tick me off.
He lives in California. Emailed to ask if I will ship it and that he will pay via paypal. I pondered it and agreed. I simply added $12 shipping and $12.09 to cover my paypal fees. He balked and said $400 max. WTF?!?!?!
I love my Zune HD. Kelli is getting to know hers.
Plug in Prius coming fall 2011. I turn my car in March 2011. Hmm what to do?
I had the temp set at 70 until 10:30PM at which point it was to drop to 65 degrees. At 5AM it was to rise back to 70 degrees. Well I screwed up a bit. The temp was set at 62 degrees....the house dropped and 65 degrees. Temp outside was 29 degrees. This does show the house is pretty insulated that it can hold 65 degrees on it's own against 29 degrees outside!
When Kelli woke up at 5AM to let the dogs out, they were all burrowed under their blankets...not wanting to come out. Before she left for work they went back to bed. When I came out it appeared there were no dogs visible. Normally they can't wait to get out. I opened all of their crates....no movement. Eventually Vegas the tard came out like he normally does. For all I know Doogie and Lilo are in a coma....no movement at all.
I love coffee.
Tomorrow I go back to work for 5 days...off two...on 5 more days. Hmmm I guess that's how "normal" people do it. Bleh.
I non-rev'd my best friend of 16 years (damn I'm old) to Houston yesterday. Still have 20 passes to burn before the end of the year!
The vacation policy at my job kinda blows. I have to bid on vacation a WEEK at a time. Now I rarely work more than 4 to 5 days in a row. I legally can't work more than 6 days in a row.
For January I bid and was awarded January 23rd thru January 29th. I am pretty sure my work days for next month for that time period will only include January 24th-January 27th. I will only get paid for January 24th thru January 27th. So January 23rd, January 28th and January 29th are "wasted" as I would have had the day off anyway. Really chaps my hide. At other jobs if you take a week of vacation....you get paid for all of those days. Boo.
I love Amazon.com. Kelli is an Amazon lover as well. I was able to share my Prime membership with her. We can now both order anything we want and get it in two days...free shipping...NO MINIMUM order! If we want it the next day its $4. This works great for sending stuff to family and friends as whatever we order gets there fast.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
It all started with two needs:
1)One of the network jacks in the master bedroom wasn't working
2)I wanted my new router to control Internet access fully
That's it....not a lot to ask for.
I started around 8AM. By 9:45AM I was ready to start drinking and smoking. Everything was down.
Over the course of the day I had internet access....but no TV. Then I had TV but then no HDTV. By the time Kelli got home from work at 3:45PM I had TV...HDTV....most of the Internet....and still a network jack to fix.
Finally around 5PM I had the network jack fixed but the new router was pulled out of the loop. Done.
I released my stress with an hour on the treadmill.
Part of my network extravaganza was spent installing and setting up Tversity. With TVersity I can watch videos from Hulu and other web sources on our TV directly or thru the Xbox 360.
Hulu has a ton of content. The problem is, it's not convenient to watch on a laptop at home. Still playing with it. If I can get the quality a smidge higher I could convince Kelli to dump the premium cable channels.
Kelli and I exchanged Christmas gifts. Don't judge.
She bought me the wonderful Sleepphones as first seen by me by Leo Laporte on Twit. They are awesome. Very comfortable to sleep with. I sleep better and longer than before. As an added plus I can pull the band down and user them to block light as well. Very happy.
I also got a Uflymike setup for flying. This allows me to use either my Bose QC2 or QC15 headphones in the cockpit.....legally. Very nice and very excited to try them out later this week.
For Kelli I bought her a Zune HD 32 gig (mostly so I could get my 8 gig Zune back) and a special edition AC/DC CD and DVD collection. There are a few more small gifts coming as well.
New thermostat is coming today. Hopefully I won't kill the heater installing it. I installed on in our old apartment just fine.
I'm very excited about the Google phone coming out. Even more anxious that it will be compatible with the T-Mobile 3G network.
My Macbook pro battery is going out. Not happy. My original battery went out 11 1/2 months after I bought my computer. I had it replaced under warranty in April. Now 8 months later it holds less than 80% charge. Grrrrr. I'm going to just deal with it. I don't use it unplugged much....just on the treadmill and at the airport every now and then. Hopefully by April I can save up enough to buy the next generation Macbook Pro. At that point this one will be two years old.
Finally...this family has a member who used to work in special effects for Dreamworks (I think). They set up their Christmas lights to sync up to music....not just any music...but Guitar Hero. The garage door has a sync'd and PLAYABLE Guitar Hero screen. Amazing. The kid wears glasses because they lights are so bright.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Track lighting is up. Will make my mother in law happy as the living room won't be so dark.
Booking the cruise tomorrow.
My home network cabling is a mess. Used to be color coded and organized. No longer. Going to take the whole thing down today and redo it.
Went to Kelli's Christmas party for her work. I had to work the next day so I couldn't drink. It was at the nicest place I have been too since she moved here. I think we've been to 7 parties. Eh.
When I sell my old car stereo I am going to possibly buy a audio package for the man cave. Need better sound. Would also like to paint the walls black. Kelli might object though.
Off to break the network.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Me being me wanted a super cool internet connected thermostat. I found one!
The ecobee is a wifi enabled thermostat. It is designed to be controlled through a computer. It was a fancy full color touchscreen and more. Then I saw the price....$499. Yeah about that.
Looking at something in the $50-$75 range. Found a few on Amazon.
Gonna go look at track lighting today. We have two chandiliers that are totally out of place in our house. I want to remove them. Actually there are 3 total chandeliers. The one by the front door will stay.
Haven't booked the cabins for the cruise yet. Waiting on my sister in law to get approval for the vacation. She should have the word on Monday Tuesday. I thought I had the most difficult scheduling system....nope....Jami has it worse.
I really enjoy my job. As of November I have flown more than 1500 hours. Of that over 1000 of those hours are in the Canadair Regional Jet. I am pretty sure I have more time in the cockpit than I do behind the wheel of my Mazda 5.
Speaking of my Mazda5....I still like it. If we had a bunch of offspring around it would be a great vehicle. Since we are only having one offspring. It is a bit much. Think a Suburban would make more sense. Ha!
During the LA Auto Show I was feeling Kelli out for the next family truckster. She still hates the Toyota FJ Cruiser. Surprisingly she liked the Mini Cooper Clubman (extended Mini Cooper). The Ford Mustang got no emotion from her. Still have 14 months to decide. The most sense would be to take Kelli's Prius and have her get a new car. Problem is she doesn't want a new car until there is some super smug electric car on the market. The Nissan Leaf comes to mind.
Haven't posted a photo in a while.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
I don't blame her for the bland foods she has made in the past. Growing up in the north freezes people taste buds and causes them too lose taste. This causes them to accept bland foods as great because they don't know any better.
The brisket meal she prepared was very good. Wonderful flavor and spice.
Heater went down when we got back. I tried basic troubleshooting. Nothing. Repairman came. Apparently the thermostat on the wall was bumped just enough for the heater contact to not make contact. Fifty dollars later we are all fixed.
My Xbox 360 games look better on our 42 inch 720P Plasma than our 52 inch 1080P 120Hz LCD. I can only imagine it's the 600Hz refresh rate of the Plasma vs the 120Hz refresh rate of the LCD.
My geek buddy made it back from Portland just fine last night. She and her boy kid had a row to themselves. Checked two bags (smart woman) which normally would have cost $50 (each way!) but was free using my buddy passes. Thus the the baggage fees saved almost paid for the travel cost using my passes.
Christmas. Kelli and I are getting each other gifts. We already know what we are getting. Might not wait till Christmas.
Major meltdown for the network yesterday. Not sure what happened. Still not back up and running 100%.
One day soon I'm going to add up all the miles Kelli and I have flown over the last two years. I know how much we have spent....just over $3K in two years. That's a lot of travel for people buying real tickets. That's a hellofalotta tickets for us.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
The hotel was...eh free. It tried to be nice...but the chair in the room was clearly well worn. It was free though. We love Starwood Preferred Guest.
Throughout my travels as part of my job I have learned being nice and talkative can get you more than you want....in a good way. When I approached the Hertz counter the lady greeted me by saying the normal, "Good Morning, How are you doing?" I almost always reply with, "great and you?" Waiters do the same routine...I try to ask as well. Just being courteous.
We then began chit chatting about weather and what not. When I handed over my license we talked about the crazy big smile I wore. After literally a few minutes (we were the only ones there), we began talking about cars.
I had reserved a mid-size for $26 all in. I had a great employee discount and a coupon. The only mid-size was a Toyota Corolla. I really wanted a Ford (for the Ford SYNC system). No Fords. She did offer a Lincoln Navigator for $10 more a day. Nah. We went through several more cars. Kelli was getting a little annoyed. Again just chit chatting. She finally came upon a brand new Toyota Camry Hyrbid. I asked how much and she said"....oh $8." I agreed. She then began going through my rate and discounts. Somehow my $20 off coupon DOUBLED and my total rate for a full size hybrid....ALL IN....was $20....Somehow I was paying less...for a lot more. I can only assume it was because of all the chit chat. Nice.
I do enjoy driving hybrids. I get way more involved than Kelli (who has a Prius) or my mother in law (who has a Camry Hybrid). Getting top MPG is a challenge too me. I had 40.4 MPG on the way to the convention center. Due to crazy LA traffic (we hit a lot of it!) it dropped to 38.6 MPG when I turned the car in.
The auto show was very nice. Very spread out. Afterwards we walked down to LA Live which is an entertainment/social complex with restaurants, clubs and what not. After finding Traders Vicks closed we headed to The Yard House.
We each enjoyed a beer. I had a Strong Arrogant Bastard...Kelli had something like a Blue Moon. We both had crazy high calorie meals. Kelli a turkey burger...me a seafood pasta. That's all we ate.
After visiting the auto show one more time (we missed....I missed a section), we left and headed to the hotel and then off to explore Hollywood.
We were going to see a movie but the tickets...even for a matinee...were $13 a piece! More than triple what we pay in Texas!
Instead we drove down Sunset Blvd and gawked. I attempted to drive up to the Hollywood sign, but the roads were ridiculously steep, curved and narrow. This was along a street with non-stop townhouses! I chickened out.
We cruises Hollywood Boulevard for a bit before heading back to the hotel. On the way back I began searching for a Pinkberry. There is allegedly one on Hollywood Boulevard (there are a TON of Pinkberry LIKE places). Never found it.
Close to the hotel we drove by where a Pinkberry MIGHT have been (again using Google Navigation). Less than a mile away we finally found one.
I love yogurt. Kelli not so much. We both had plain yogurt. Kelli topped hers with just peppermint. I topped mine with mango, kiwi, strawberry andmochi. In Kelli's defense...the yogurt is not very sweet. Not supposed to be really. Kelli does have ice cream in her blood. Her father and ALL of her siblings go nuts over ice cream. Word is there are ice cream parlors up in Oregon that Richmonds have been banned from. Just sayin.
Monday morning we headed to the La Brae Tarpits .I voted for Disneyland. Tar pits are cheaper. The weather Sunday was beautiful. Monday was cold and very rainy. The tar pits were.....well they were. We were both a bit underwhelmed. Afterwards we headed back to walk Hollywood Boulevard.
We just happened to walk upon Robert Downey Jr's ceremony for placing his hands and footprints into cement in front of the Chinese theatre. We stood in the rain and listened as the ceremony was blocked by all the TV cameras setup on risers. There was a clear canopy over the ceremony that allowed us to see....the cameras.
[singlepic id=1595 w=640 h=480 float=center]
[singlepic id=1596 w=640 h=480 float=center]
[singlepic id=1597 w=640 h=480 float=center]
[singlepic id=1598 w=640 h=480 float=center]
After the ceremony Robert Downey Jr did walk across the street and sign autographs and thank the fans. Very nice.
After walking down Hollywood Boulevard we stopped by a In-N-Out burger (again that was our meal for the day) before heading back to Santa Ana.
One VERY annoying thing about Orange County...very few gas stations!
We used Google Navigation and found a Shell gas station.....all the pumps were blocked off. The next Chevron wouldn't approve my card. The Mobil across the street had the pumps blocked off. Finally another station 2 miles away worked. Booo.
The flight back was nearly as empty as the flight there. Nice weekend.
I found a travel agent that can book any number of cruise cabins under my travel industry discount. Nice. Just waiting on my sister in law to get the final word that she has the time off.
For many of the photos from the weekend [nggallery id=36].
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Google recently released Google Navigation for the Android operating system. This is what Kelli and I have on our phones.
This weekend we flew to Los Angeles (Santa Ana....but eh). This was the acid test for Google Navigation. It passed flawlessly.
We already use Google for searching for things nearby. Now it's even easier. Example. While walking to the rental car I spoke into my phone "Los Angeles Convention Center". The phone recognized what I said and searched for it. I then clicked on the address and clicked navigate. Done.
The phone screen turned into a turn by turn navigation system with text to speech. No "left turn ahead". Instead it said , " Turn left on Santa Monica Boulevard". Every street name was pronounced.
In addition there was traffic overlay, meaning it showed where the traffic slow downs were. It gives live traffic data not only from the local traffic authority but by also using how fast OTHER phones in the area are moving. Nice.
The only negative is the power consumption. Wow. I brought along a cigarette USB power adapter. It charged the entire time and never topped off.
Beyond that I have no problems at all.
Getting to hotel was a snap. I opened the email of the reservation. The address was in simple text format...not a link. I put my thumb on the address and held....a box popped up and I selected 'Map'. It then opened Google Maps. I then clicked on the location and clicked navigate. I love Google Navigation.
Lots of perks. Free upgrades...always up too date....
I now have one less gadget to carry along.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Kerry of Kerrymwhite.com , wanted to fly to Portland. Ironic don't ya think? I told her in the past that getting to Portland can be hard. The non revenue gods were watching her as the last flight out last night was barely half full. She didn't decide on going until 6:45PM. The flight left at 9:10PM!
No biggie. I had her listed and ticketed (for non-rev anyway) within a minute. People who use my buddy passes get a few perks. They pay the same price for first or coach and can check two bags per person for free!
After I checked her in I emailed her boarding documents to get through security. She then was off to the airport. I thought she might need a little help...but she got out just fine (like Kelli, Kerry also holds a Masters degree...damn smart women!). She checked her bag curbside and breezed through security.
She would have had First class EASY except for the fact that she was traveling with her offspring. Since the flight was so empty she did get her own row.
I have 22 more one way passes to use before December 31st.....any takers?
Kelli is in Los Angeles. I am in Euless. Haven't flown the last two days I worked. Today I have airport standby and tomorrow I have reserve. I am sure I will fly somewhere tonight. Always works out that way. If I don't fly, then tomorrow I am on a 2 hour call out...which 90% of the time equates to a day off since I am off on Sunday.
Thinking about getting a Roku box.....or a Dell Zinio. Would like more streaming TV options. Windows Media Center can do somethings, but Roku does more...faster....and easier.
Sliding back down the scale again. Pretty sure I can stick with this diet....for a while.
Really love my Zune HD.
No idea what I am getting Kelli for Christmas.
I've been radiated by computers for almost 21 years. I got my first computer type device (A US Vidotel terminal) when I was 11 years old. My first real computer came along for Christmas when I was 13 years old. I never used Windows on my own computer (Windows 95 by then) until I was 18. Prior to Windows 95 I did everything by the command line.
Gave up on Linux today. I had Ubuntu running on the computer next to the bedroom for a few months. I got tired of having issues with java websites. Tried to install java, got an error. Tried many more times. Never worked. Windows 7 it is. Too bad...Ubuntu booted fast and worked great....except for java.
Looking forward to the Los Angeles auto show Sunday.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
The first snow of the year is here. There will be a ton of car accidents today. Texans freak out when it rains. They go clinically nuts when it snows. Many will assume any SUV can go 80 MPH on the highway because it's a SUV. They can also take corners at full speed....because it's a SUV. God Bless Texas. No really God Bless Texas.
Flew to Little Rock, Arkansas and back yesterday on overtime. The Captain walked on board and said, "isn't this great overtime, $300 for a quick 2 1/2 hours." I replied...."$300 for you, $100 for me." Okay so it's $108 for me. Eh. One day I will make "big money". Enough that I can pickup a simple 4 hours and earn enough for a car payment/TV/bad ass toy for the offspring.
I kind want a Nook instead of a Kindle. The Nook however is being severely delayed. Hmmm.
I sleep with headphones on EVERY night at home. Not comfy. I found Sleep Phones. Either getting them for Christmas for for myself. Heard a review of them yesterday from Leo Laporte (part of my TWIT podcast). He loved them. Sold.
Kelli is going to be a road warrior...kinda. She's flying to Burbank, CA tomorrow to testify. She then flies back Friday evening. Sunday we fly to Santa Ana, CA.
Almost done putting my car stereo back together.
Liking my new diet program. Able to eat low salt and low calories. Right now I am eating 28 Weight Watchers points a day. Not hungry and it's easy to use.
Off to find long underwear on Amazon. I bought my current sets in Chicago 2 years ago. Hard to find around DFW.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Interlinetravel.com is a site I used for our first cruise. The company is based nearby and it was fairly painless.
While looking at rates for the next cruise I saw this posting.
NCL Dawn - 5 Nt Western Caribbean Cruise sailing roundtrip from Miami stopping in Grand Cayman and Cozumel on
- Jan. 24, 2010 - $199/Inside $229/Oceanview $329/Oceanview with Balcony $529/Junior Suite Cat. JS from $99/3rd & 4th persons - Get extra cabins for family & friends at the same rate!
Now reading this posting (which is located behind a members access login) one would think that for the January 24th sailing I can get an inside cabin for anyone I call family or friends for $199 a person. Pretty clear right? No asterisk or notations. Apparently I am illiterate.
When I contacted the company yesterday I was advised that NCL (Norwegian Cruise Lines) doesn't offer interline rates to friends and family. I was confused. I then cut and pasted the above and emailed it back to the representative who skated the issue and replied back with a generic statement. WT?F?!?!
So I won't be using them. I did find a site (interlinerates.com )that actually states the NCL policy.
• Employees of Airlines who are IATA/ARC appointed
• Employees of Cargo Airlines
• Employee's Parents & In Laws
• Spouse of the Employee
• Dependent children (under 21 yrs. of age)
• Retired employees of airlines currently in operation
• Employee's parents & In Laws are eligible to sail without the employee
• Friends are eligible when sharing a cabin with an eligible interline person
So simple. So clear. I am an employee of an airline who is IATA appointed. Clearly my dad, mother in law and father in law are good to go...they can even go without me! Friends can go if they are in the same cabin as someone who qualifies. So my sister and law and her girlfriend can go if they stay in our room, my in laws room or if we share a room on paper. Same goes for anyone else. I don't know why the first site couldn't clearly state the policy.
With that said I am going to keep an eye on how full the boat is getting. My sister in law won't know if she can go until December 15th. I am going to hold off booking as long as possible so she can get the better rate. Last time we went we booked a week prior and got one of the last two rooms.
When booking a cruise online I can pick the exact room I want and thus can see how many rooms are available.
Sink is fixed. Wasn't too hard. Kelli has been banned from peeling potatoes in the sink.
I ripped my Pioneer Avic D3, bluetooth, XM radio and backup camera out of my car last night. Not ripped...uninstalled.
Now that I have free turn by turn on my phone, have a Zune and my car came with factory bluetooth....I don't really use the Avic much anymore.
I found that I can sell the main unit back to Crutchfield for $290. Not sure about the other bits. I might try Craigslist or eBay first. I paid quite a bit more for it.
I am in the process of reinstalling the factory radio. Almost done. Just have to reinstall the Kenwood subwoofer. I do like the factory bluetooth a little better. It's voice activated. I simply say, " call Kelli" and...well ya know....it calls Kelli. Easy.
We would pay for one of the two nights for a hotel, $60 for a rental car, $100 a day average in gambling (per person), and Kelli would have to pay $135 for a pet sitter. Ouch. I could dig into savings, but we are going on a cruise next month. Makes more sense to save money for that.....will be gambling on the boat as well.
Instead we are going to Los Angeles for two days. Kelli mentioned hitting Sacramento. Flights to both are open (for the first time ever a flight from Sacramento is wickedly open....less than 30 people on board!). We could head out separately. I want to hit the Los Angeles Auto Show. This will be my fifth auto show this year. I hit Detroit, New York, Dallas, Tokyo and maybe Los Angeles. We went to the Chicago Auto Show last year. All I have left would be Miami.....that's about it for the "big" shows. Miami really isn't that big. Eh. For Los Angeles we are using Starwood points for a night at a Four Points by Sheraton. I love the Starwood Preferred membership program.
Under the Starwood Preferred program I can get a hotel for as low as 2000 points. More commonly is 3-4000 points. With our previous Holiday Inn program we needed 25,000 points. By and large the Starwood hotels are all nicer than Holiday Inn. We both have Starwood American Express cards. We used Starwood points for our hotel in Denver and Tokyo. Painless. Awesome.
So free hotel in Los Angeles. I found a Hertz coupon for $26 all in (taxes, fees and BS) for a midsize car for two days.
Beyond that I get to work in the Kitchen today. Kelli decided to cook last night. Kelli is an incredibly intelligent person...but the kitchen is not her domain.
She peeled four good sized potatoes. No problem. But she put all the peels down the garbage disposal.....without any water running....or the disposal turned on. Clog. Bad. No water is getting through. I bought some professional strength drain cleaner from Home Depot. Nada. I am going to have to get some PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and manually drain out all of the drain cleaner/water and take off the disposal and likely elbow down below. At least it's my day off.
Passed 13,000 miles on my car yesterday. Only 12,200 are really mine. It came with 800 on it. Still averaging 642 miles a month.
Back in 1995 I went to a Target in Lubbock, Texas and bought a copy of Netscape. What is Netscape? Well Netscape was an Internet browser (like Internet Explorer or Firefox). Back then there were very few "browsers". I paid $30 a month for a dial up Internet account. I remember the ISP (Internet Service Provider) having to really work with me to get my account. Very few private individuals had dial up Internet accounts. Mostly businesses and well....that's about it. Netscape was slow to load, but ran great. I never used Internet Explorer until Eric told me about Internet Explorer 4.0 and how great it was. This was at least 1997. Eh....Netscape is long gone.
I've got a secret. Fatsecret.com. A Weight Watchers like site that's FREE. Has a free application for my G1. I can scan the bar codes of food with my phone and it stores it in the phone and online. It counts calories, fat, carbs, fiber...everything. Very easy to use. Even calculates Weight Watchers points.
When I worked in an office I did very well on Weight Watchers because I could put my food into the website as I ate since I worked on a computer. Being mobile it was hard...thus I didn't do it. With this new application I have no excuse. It has a huge database of fast food and restaurants as well. I am more than happy with the quality of the program and website.
Friday, November 27, 2009
The cruise is penciled in heavily. We will be sailing on the Norwegian Dawn on January 24th. Still not sure which cabin. Most likely the $199 per person inside cabins. My mother and father in law are in. My sister in law, Jami, and her daughter along with my sister in laws girlfriend, Kelly, might go as well.
Years ago Kelli and I told Jami to get an airline miles card. She did...an American Airlines card. She just checked her miles...over 78,000! Enough for three tickets to Miami to get on the cruise. Score. My mother in law should soooo get a Continental One Pass credit card. She would have enough miles in two months to get first class tickets to Miami. Eh.
Not buying anything today for Black Friday. I did score two down comforters from Sears for $20 a piece. Gotta pick them up some time this weekend. Damn...I bought comforters on.....not computer stuff....I'm getting old.
I've used Windows 7 more than Mac OS X over the last week. Still using Mac OS X for my photo library. That's about it. Maybe this is a fad?
Anyone else who wants to go on a 5 day cruise leaving January 24th at 4PM from Miami and returning the following Friday at 8AM.... shoot me an email. My name @ stillageek.com .
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Everything fell into place this month and I get to spend at least 1/2 of Thanksgiving at home. Nice.
We decided on what cruise we want to go on. We will be sailing on the Norwegian Dawn in January or February.
Day Port Arrive Depart
Sun Miami - 4:00 PM
Mon At Sea - -
Tue Grand Cayman 8:00 AM 4:00 PM
Wed Cozumel 10:00 AM 7:00 PM
Thu At Sea - -
Fri Miami 8:00 AM -
Anyone who wants to go let us know. We can get the friends and family rate for anyone tagging along. Not sure which room type we are staying in yet. Highest price per person would be in the low $300 range. Everything but booze is included. We had a blast last time.
For now....gotta warm up food. We didn't do Boston Market this year. Prolly could have...would have been about the same as we spent. Maybe next year.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
I love Google Navigation. Combined with Google Latitudes...amazing.
Below is a list of websites that I will no longer use. They all partnered with "promotion" sites that scammed people out of millions of dollars. I've seen the scam. Once you made a purchase from Buy.com for example, a box would pop up asking if you wanted a coupon for your next order. By simply giving them your email....that's it.....you are enrolled in a $10+ monthly discount group. Again you don't give them your credit card number...Buy.com (or whoevery you made the legit purchase thru) GIVES THEM YOUR CREDIT CARD INFO. I'm sure there is some fine print I have never seen. Anyways here's the list of bad companies.
Classmates.com has been scammy for a while. Surprised to see US Airways...kinda...they are hurting financially. Beyond Buy.com the only other sites I used were Pizza Hut, Hertz and 800 Flowers.
A small chance I will be home at least 1/2 of Thanksgiving.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Penciling in Vegas on December 6th. I was trying to work in the Los Angeles Autoshow as well. Not gonna happen this year.
I have an idea for a way cool vacation for January. Waiting on Kelli's approval. The vacation involves a short flight. Her Dr. doesn't like the idea of Kelli flying while knocked up. Eh.
I looked at what the insurance difference would be if I replaced my Mazda5 with a Ford Mustang GT....$260 a year increase. Ouch.
Yesterday I reinstalled Mac OS X and a retail copy of Windows 7 on my Macbook Pro. Happier now.
No idea what we are getting each other for Christmas.
I have New Years Eve off. I won't know about New Years Day until December 20th. If I have it off....eh.
When we travel we normally carry along our GPS. The GPS has a 3 year old database...but it works for major cities. No longer!
Yesterday I installed Google Navigation for my G1. Previously the program was ONLY for Android 2.0 software. I was jealous.
The Google Navigation software is a full navigation system. It has text to speech and plays thru the speaker. It automatically displays traffic/construction delays. It also uses street view to show you what the ACTUAL turn looks like. You see an actual photo of the anticipated turns and directions. Nutty. Very easy to use. Best of all....free!!!!
My mother in law ended up with a different Verizon phone. She bought an EvTouch . I saw this phone but ASSUMED it was touch screen only. Nope. Full keyboard. My mother in law has entered the digital age. The phone even has a data plan.
When I walked in it was on 69 degrees....and not running. It was no where near that cold in the room. I turned it all the way down to 64...it ran for 5 minutes and shut off. I pulled out my portable atomic alarm clock/thermometer. It showed 71 degrees. I turned the fan on the air conditioner just to get air flow. It was warm all night...with stiff air. The bed weren't comfy either. Glad I don't stay there often.
The flight back was also nice. Due to non-existent winter winds we were 45 minutes early! Since I was on overtime I still get the full projected value of the flight. I flew for 4 hours 58 minutes but was paid for 5 hours 45 minutes. Score! Overtime is only an extra 20% though. Eh.
We had lunch with friends we haven't seen in 6+ months on Sunday. One of them, Wendy, recently had a baby. Doing very well. Hopefully we won't wait another six months to hang out.
Kelli's dogs go in a fight Sunday. I saw this coming. The boy dogs are both very aggressive when playing with the toy balls. Yesterday Kelli was playing with them at the same time. Sure enough Vegas had part of his ear bitten off by Doogie. Blood all over the place...off to the vet Vegas went. One hundred fifty dollars later Vegas was back home. Another reason I don't have dogs.
I go back to work tomorrow. Work Tuesday thru Saturday. There are a lot of open trips so I am pretty sure I will be gone on Thanksgiving. Ironically flights to Sacramento, Portland and New York are all open....we could have gone to see family.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Heritage Family Dentist billing is still horrible.
Apparently Mazda is no longer a part of Ford. My AMR discount no longer applies to Mazda vehicles. Guess I won't be buying a Mazda next time. I do really like the new Ford SYNC system though. Lots of geek points.
I have eaten Grits for breakfast everyday for like a month. Cheap...filling...it's Grits.
Kelli is going to see the vampire porn movie that is New Moon today.
My mother in law is in need of a new cell phone. Her current phone is a vintage flip phone. Barely color. She uses Verizon who has the new Droid phone. The Droid might be too much phone for her. I recommended she get the Samsung Rogue. It's a nice size touch screen phone with a full keyboard. It will be a huge step up for her. Cnet posted a very good review of the phone. It has Facebook and Internet capabilities.
Kelli used to have a simple cell phone as well. Right before her current T-Mobile G1 she had a phone with a near full keyboard. Now that she has a smart phone she will never go back. Prior to though she stated all she needed was a phone. Kelli also protested a laptop....then a Macbook. She uses her Macbook on the couch almost as much as I do. See....mere mortals don't know what they need. Geeks know what you need. Listen to the geeks. Our offspring will grow up with a netbook in the crib. The offspring will type 50 WPM by age 3.
Kelli ironed today. Kelli never irons.
I've used Kelli's name a lot in this blog.
Got little more than a month until Christmas. Shop now avoid the rush.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
For example...if you search for Darren Byrd in Google....some damn baseball player comes up. Not me. However at the BOTTOM of that Google search is me...via my Google profile. If someone searches Darren Byrd Nacogdoches...or Darren Byrd Time Warner....they will find my Google Profile.
My Google Profile was made by me. It has basic data about where I've lived and worked. If someone from my past is looking for me they will find my Google Profile (assuming they are using Google...safe bet). On the Google Profile page is a link to send me a message. Very nice. This would be great for women as they can list their maiden names as well.
Take a few moments and create a Google profile....just do it. Unless you don't want to be found....but what fun is there in that?
I initially went here because Kelli went there. My first visit was in December 2008. On the first visit they "recommended" a deep cleaning not covered by insurance. $1100 later I left thinking I paid for that visit.
Over the next few months they had me in regularly. At each visit I would pay whatever they asked. They seemed to really want to max out my insurance ASAP. After a bit of work I got to a stopping point in February. I still need more work done, but my insurance was maxed out. I left and was told I owed nothing else.
Nine months later I get a bill for a very size able amount....nearly as much as I earn in one month. Along with this bill come several insurance statements that looked like bills. I tried matching the bill from the dentist to the insurance bills. They didn't match. I called the insurance company to get an explanation. They told me to fill out the forms and fax them back. I did. I then tried to call Heritage Family Dentist. I left messages. No one called back. I then get another bill from the dentist. Somehow it went down via a payment from the insurance company. When I called the insurance company they show no payments to the dentist since March. Confused. Additionally the insurance company explained all the forms I was getting from them were the result of the dentist actions.
For lack of a better term the dentist was "fishing". The dentist submitted all of these procedures they wanted to do and wanted to see how much the insurance company would pay. Why?
The work done by the office was fine. The billing procedures leave much to be desired. To date they haven't explained why it took 9 months to send a bill and when they did it was for such a large amount. A simple phone call/letter explaining that I still had a balance sometime in the last 9 months would have allowed me to plan for the expense. Instead I get a huge bill with 3 weeks to pay it.
Needless to say Kelli and I will not be back to Heritage Family Dentist. I would advise those looking for a dentist to look elsewhere.
It's easy. Cheap. But I have problems in the winter. My head gets cold. I'm thinking I need to start wearing my uniform hat. It's optional. In the winter though my brain holder thinks its required.
Cruises. We went on our first back in April. I get weekly emails on travel deals available to those in the travel industry. There are some really cheap winter cruises.
We might use our free cruise coupon (which is valued at $199 per peson which is the price we paid for the original cruise) for one of the following:
3-night Bahamas - Miami round-trip
● Nov 20, In/Out/Bal $109/149/199
● Nov 27, Jan 29, In/Out $129/159
● Dec 4, In/Bal $129/199
● Dec 11, Jan 8, 15, 22, In/Out/Bal $129/159/199
[Miami, Nassau, Great Stirrup Cay, Miami]
The most likely time frame would be in January. We paid $199 per person for an inside room. For the same money we can get a balcony. Nice.
I'm using Windows 7 more and more lately.
The idea of video calls was a mere fantasy when I was a kid. George Jetson and The Jetsons would make video calls from their living room, car or even watch.
In the late 90's and early 2000's there were super propietary devices that allowed video calls. They were point to point meaning the device had to travel with the person.
Now just about every computer sold has a built in webcam. There is free software that can be used to make video calls around the world. Two of my nieces were able to have a video chat literally across the country (NY to CA). Crazy. They will grow up thinking it's common place.
I thought it was cool growing up in the 1991 when I first used a computer to talk to another person with text. Technology just keeps making life better and better. I love it.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
It appears to most I will save with Progressive Insurance Myrate is 17% or $46. According to a reply to my last post this INCLUDES the $30 technology fee. If that holds true it will be worth it.
It's neat seeing my average driving habits. I drive very little on Fridays. That 20.2 miles is the exact distance from the garage, up thru the middle of the airport, to the employee lot and back. The airport is just 5 miles away, the employee lot for my terminal is on the north side of the airport while we live on the south side of the airport. Anyways on the average day I take 3 trips for 48 minutes, 24.6 miles and never have panic or near panic stops. Go me!
I am hoping Kelli and I will start cooking more soon. Kelli's cooking is limited to the crock pot. The old saying that "the way to a mans heart is through his stomach," was lost on Kelli. Unless Hot Pockets count.
There is a new service coming up called Sezmi Tv. Cable TV channels....over the air...unlimited DVR....for $25 a month. More here.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Saturday night we went out with Eric and Angela from EricandAngela.com (I would make a DarrenandKelli.com but Kelli seems to think she is above blogging as given evidence by Richmo32.com). We went to Buffalo Wild Wings. I had the second hottest flavor. It hurt. But good. We then hung out at their place. Good times. They live in Wiley. That area is exploding. On the corner in front of their house is a Taco Bell, Wendy's and an Arby's. Everywhere Kelli eats. Kelli wants to move.
Looking at maybe taking our free cruise in January. If we can't go we will try to give it away to a family member then friend. We will see.
I'm thinking I will have 21,000 miles on my Mazda5 when I get to March 2011 and then end of my lease. I paid for 36,000 miles. I will have to choose between selling it, keeping it or trading it in. Hmmmm. Choices. I will say it's been a great vehicle. Very versatile, great gas mileage for the size (always 25MPG+), roomy and I will dare to say stylish.
Kelli has almost 70,000 miles on her Prius. Her extended warranty runs out next year. Hope it keeps running.
Dell has a new line of computers our that fascinate me. The line is the Inspiron Zino HD (link here). They are a small form factor (8 inches by 8 inches) computer line that have powerful features. Even the base model at just $229 has a HDMI port. This could EASILY be a media center computer. I'm giving it strong thought for Christmas. I could also grab one for our Zune server. Currently I have fairly large size computer in the bedroom on the dresser that charges and syncs our Zunes. It's overkill. The Zino HD would be perfect. Hmmm. You can even get pretty colors on them.
We might hit Vegas next month.
Apparently my mother in law is coming to Texas in January. She normally visits in September. Hmmm.....
We saw 2012. The suspension of disbelief required exceeded my tolerance.
Gotta study for my simulator check Friday.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
The lyrics that clicked with me were:
I got a call in Alabama,
said come on home to Louisianna
and come as fast as you can fly.
Cause your momma really needs you,
and says she's got to see you,
she might not make it through the night.
The whole way I drove 80
so she could see her baby.
She looked like she was sleepin'
and my family had been weepin'
by the time that I got to her side.
And I knew that she'd been taken,
and my heart it was breakin',
I never got to say goodbye.
I softly kissed that lady
and cried just like a baby.
The night my mom passed away I had driven back to Nacogdoches for the night. The phone rang just past 10:30PM. By 10:45PM my ex was driving me to Houston.....hazard lights on...speeding. Rough night indeed.
Still coughing. CareNow called and stated my chest X-rays were "inconclusive" and that I should have another if I still feel sick.
Just keeps getting better.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I checked in at 3:30PM. I was called at 4:30PM. I arrived at 4:50PM. Taken to a room at 4:55PM. I then sat there until 5:45PM!!!!! WTF?!?!?! Literally as I was standing up to leave a Physicians Assistant walked in. No idea what's wrong. Chest X-Ray. Nothing. Prescribed 875MB of Amoxicillin. I stopped by Target to get it filled. Target also has $4 prescriptions. The great thing is their computers give you the discount automatically even if you have insurance. My dose was way too high to be covered so I paid $10. The prescription was ready in 15 minutes which is 3X faster than Wal-Mart. Target is my new Pharmacy.
Still coughed all night. Slept in the guest bedroom. Ugh. I need to get my affairs in order. Never been sick for a week. Today is day 8.
Had a dream the other night Kelli was pregnant with twins. She was telling her mom and sister when I walked by. I was pissed. Twin!?!?!?!? WTF! Kelli is an overachiever in many ways. Whenever we decide to try again she will have to mellow down and be normal...maybe even an underachiever. Those eggs better recognize!
Off to work. Flying to Little Rock, Arkansas. One leg there. Long overnight. Then I hop in a hotel van tomorrow morning at 4:30AM for a 5:40AM flight back to DFW. This is the overnight from the article I posted last week.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
My illness started a WEEK ago today. Seeing as I got a flu shot over two months ago, I think there is a good chance I had either a REALLY bad cold or H1N1. It was pretty bad. Since Saturday I have had a cough.
I went to the Minute Clinic at CVS yesterday. The nurse gave me a script for Benzonatate. I asked her point blank if this causes drowsiness/nausea and that I'm a pilot. She clearly stated I had nothing to worry about.
Seeing as I am a broke ass I wanted to see if the script would be covered by Walmarts $4 prescription drug program. If not I would end up paying $20 through insurance at CVS. After looking it up on my phone I saw it was covered. Nice.
In addition to the Benzonatate she prescribed Mucinex. Once I got home I read the bottle for Benzonatate....it has stickers galore! "May cause drowsiness, use caution when driving or operating heavy machinery". Also "May cause nausea". WTF?!!? I can't take these meds and fly a plane.
Wanting a good night sleep (I coughed a lot the last three nights) I took the Benzonatate and the Mucinex. Bad idea.
When I went to bed I was coughing more than ever. In addition my sinuses were becoming very congested. It got so bad I slept in the guest bedroom to keep from bothering Kelli.
I coughed from 9:45PM till 11:30PM. Finally I had enough. I couldn't breathe thru my nose....I was tired.
Months ago I bought sleep aids when I was having problems sleeping. I knew there was one left.
For a reason I can't explain, Kelli and I keep our drugs in the kitchen. I raided the shelves. Finally I found the little blue gel cap. I turned to open it. The gel cap (perfectly round) rolled UNDER the fridge. NOOOOOO!
I was desperate. I reached down to find it. Nothing but 5 years of dust. I used pen to flick stuff out. Finally it rolled out. After a good washing off in the sink I popped it. Nice. Sleep at last.
This morning. I woke up somewhat better. The Mucinex wore off. I can breathe again. Not going to work. If I don't feel better by noon I wam going to go to a real Doctor.
In other news I should get kickbacks from Apple. Since I bought a Macbook Pro in April 2008 I've convinced 4 other Mac purchases.
First was Kelli and her Macbook. Then my sister in law, Jami, got a Macbook. Then my mother in law, Peggy, bought an Imac. Yesterday my brother in law, Kevin, bought a Macbook. Seeeesh. Only person left on that side of the family is my brother in law Bryan.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Saturday was our day trip to Houston. Sunday though started kinda odd. By 8AM we were both sitting on the couch. I am still overcoming a cold/flu/cholo. We just sat there watching TV. No idea what to do. Finally noon came. Kelli commented that we have wasted half a day sitting on the couch. That was fine with me.
We did "make a move" (in my dad's words) and get out of the house. After washing all the bird crap off Kelli's car we headed to Fry's. We used to go to Fry's all the time on weekends.
After 30 minutes and $16 (I bought 3 - two port USB car chargers which can be used in the car OR on ANY American Airlines plane) we went to lunch at Sweet Tomatoes. Stomachs full we headed to the grocery store. I saw gluttony like I have never seen it before.
There was this huge woman on a motorized cart that I thought was for elderly/injured/disabled people to use. She has a bluetooth headset in her ear, phone in one hand and three obese children behind her as she loaded nothing but fattening foods into the built in cart and the one her kids were pushing.
We then spent the rest of the day just relaxing. Good weekend indeed.
Today I plan on getting rid of this damn cough, firing up my desktop computer, calling the insurance company about a strange dental bill I received and being a cool dude.
Tomorrow I go back to work.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
I rent a lot of cars. I made two reservations. One at Thrifty and one at Alamo. I prefer Alamo/National but the Thrifty website stated it was ON airport. I figured if that was true it would save a few minutes. Using my airline discounts for both put them both at $23 all in.
The Alamo site had compacts at $15 a day with $1 increments from Standard, Midsize and Fullsize. I figured the Nissan Versa pictured would be fine.
When we walked outside I saw vans for Alamo AND Thrifty. So Thrifty wasn't really onsite (I think it used to be). We went to Alamo. Once we arrived and I walked outside there was ONE compact car...a 2 door Toyota Yaris. Too small. After politely asking for another choice she "let" me have a midsize for free. The ONLY midsize was a Kia Spectra...which is really a compact. Earlier the agent offered me a midsize for an extra $14.95 a day. WTF?!?! I hate when the prices sky rocket at the counter. The prices should be the same range as the original quote. Annoying.
The drive out to my dads house was fine. We flew into Hobby airport (which is on the south east side of town) while my dads house is in northwest Houston.
We hung out for a bit and I worked on his computer before heading out for lunch. After lunch we went through some old photos.
Old photos being well....old...some had damage from age. I used photoshop the best I could to clean some of them up. They were all transferred to digital using the macro mode on my digital camera. Faster than scanning them in...but not as great quality.
The first photo was one I had not seen before. It was a photo of my mom when she was very young. I suspect in her 20's.
[singlepic id=1582 w=800 h=600 float=center]
Here is the photo before I retouched it.
[singlepic id=1586 w=800 h=600 float=center]
Below from left to right are my Aunt Babs, an Aunt I can't remember, My Great Grandmother Mama Erie (who I get my second middle name Milow from) and my mom.
[singlepic id=1576 w=800 h=600 float=center]
Below is my baby photo. When I was born, more than a few nurses swore I was "white".
[singlepic id=1577 w=800 h=600 float=center]
I was 10 pounds 13 ounces at birth. I walked out. When my mom told the nurses about me (while I was in the nursery) they corrected my mother by stating, "No mam, that baby is a white baby, I think you're mistaken". Really?
I darkened up quickly once I hit the sun. I still have a very apparent farmers tan.
[singlepic id=1583 w=800 h=600 float=center]
When my parents bought the house I grew up in...we were THE ONLY non-white people. Literally. In elementary school if someone said "The black kid did it"...they would say "Steve or Darren". Yeah. Here is a photo of my baseball team.
[singlepic id=1585 w=800 h=600 float=center]
They were happy to see me at first. They likely assumed I could play...because I was black. Well once they saw me swing....eh. I only played one year.
I tried golf as well. Only at Disneyworld. I coulda been Tiger! Check out those socks.
[singlepic id=1584 w=800 h=600 float=center]
My brother and I look nothing alike. He is much darker and taller. Below is my brother, my sister Lauren (who is half black and half white) and me. All of my sisters are 50/50 biracial and were adopted into my family.
[singlepic id=1581 w=640 h=480 float=center]
My buckwheat photo
[singlepic id=1580 w=800 h=600 float=center]
A Darren and Santa photo
[singlepic id=1578 w=800 h=600 float=center]
Of course this nice kid would one day end up drunk next to his car on his 21st birthday.....for a reason I can't remember.
[singlepic id=1579 w=800 h=600 float=center]
Thursday, November 5, 2009
This is my last day of yearly training. Haven't learned much in the way of new stuff....a good thing as it's designed to be a review.
We are still planning on heading to Houston to have lunch with my dad tomorrow.
Kelli's Zune was acting up. Took me over an hour to figure it out. I had to erase all the music and start from scratch. We share the same main library of music. I simply went thru and put on everything that looked like crap or 80's music.....kinda the same thing. I went to bed after getting 700 songs on it. That's enough for one day.
Still enjoying my Zune HD. I miss the video out. I wish it had bluetooth. Oh well.
Does are still alive.
My father in law is involved with a new hybrid car that never has to be plugged in. The Discovery Channel is financing and following a trip across the country in the car to test it. He will be stopping in Dallas. Should be very cool.
Off to my last day of training. We get to hop in the cabin trainer and play with emergency doors, fire extinguishers and cool stuff....oh and take a final exam.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
When I'm on overnights I normally use my laptop/netbook to recharge my cell phone. Last night I had my netbook, but forgot my netbook charger. Thankfully the hotel I stayed at ( ) has powered USB ports....just gotta plug in a USB cable. Worked great. I love the Cambria Suites.....awesome breakfast.
Ever since being back from Tokyo I've been dragging ass. I need caffeine nearly non-stop. This sucks.
I go to ground training the rest of the week. Once a year I have to go back to the school house and great training to make sure I'm up too par. I get three days of 8-5...nice.
We are planning on flying to Houston to have lunch with my dad Saturday. Yeah Kelli said she was done flying....don't know what she was thinking.
Loving Google Voice. I now have my cell phone voice mail being handled by Google Voice. All voicemails I get period will now be transcribed to text and emailed/text'ed to my phone. Lovely.
My plane is getting a first class section next year. I was hoping there would be a front lavatory...nope...still just one in the rear. There will be meals on board though....maybe they will stock extra for the crews.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Having not flown in two weeks (in the cockpit anyway), I was a little slower than I used to be on getting things done. Ideally the Captain would take the first leg and I can get back into the groove. Nah he gave it to me.
Everything was fine until landing. I lined the plane up with the runway in Little Rock. Night time. Runway lights looked great. I took moment and realized something didn't look right. Oh yeah...I needed to descend! I was quite a bit high about 1 mile short of the runway (shorter than you think). With a quick snap of my wrist I quickly descended back to where I should be. Somehow I even managed a nice landing.
Still looking forward to going back to Tokyo.
I installed a new application for Windows 7 called Connectify (http://www.connectify.me/) . This allows me to turn a laptop/computer into a true hotspot. Why? Well for when Kelli and I travel together we can pay for just ONE hotspot fee versus two. The software only requires one wifi card...it splits the card into two allowing one side to connect to the wifi signal and the other too allow others too connect. WPA2 is required for security. I also use the software to connect my G1 and Zune HD while sitting at the airport. Setup was easy and best of all it's free. The company found code that Microsoft left in tact, but incomplete inside Windows 7. Awesome.
I installed Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade on my Netbook. No issues. Macbook Pro is next.
Pilot’s arduous 2-day schedule reflects demands on flight crews
12:36 AM CDT on Sunday, November 1, 2009
By ERIC TORBENSON / The Dallas Morning News
This time, he required coffee. And Doug Gibbs doesn’t like coffee; he’s more of a Coke guy when he needs a boost. So he dulls the taste with lots of cream.This Tuesday would demand maximum caffeine: a 3:40 a.m. wake-up call to ensure he was on a shuttle bus by 4:30 from the hotel to the Little Rock airport.
A first officer for American Eagle Airlines, Gibbs had to check in for the 5:40 a.m. flight to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport – the first of five flights he’d be in the cockpit for on a workday that wouldn’t get him back to his Lewisville home until after 6 p.m.
That’s not an everyday occurrence for Gibbs, who was on the second day of a two-day sequence that saw him making eight flights in 35 hours. But because he’s paid only for the time when the plane is actually moving, he’s got to work several such sequences each month to log enough hours to earn his $38,000 a year.
It’s the accumulation of days like this over a month that has the nation’s air safety regulator moving to change how often pilots can fly and when they must rest.
The proposed rules change comes in the wake of a February regional jet crash in Buffalo where the cockpit transcript showed both pilots were clearly tired, plus a string of small-jet crashes in recent years where pilot fatigue played a role. The Federal Aviation Administration’s proposed rules are due before the end of the year.
This week speculation over whether two Northwest Airlines pilots may have been sleeping when they flew 150 miles past Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport brought more attention to whether pilots are overscheduled.
The Northwest pilots – in their mid-50s and with decades of experience – told regulators they were distracted by a discussion about pilot scheduling and denied being asleep.
While regional airlines have been in the FAA’s spotlight, the Northwest incident demonstrates how concerns over pilot behavior go beyond the small carriers.
Both small- and large-jet operators have been scheduling pilots with decades-old limits that critics say haven’t kept up with the economic pressures that airlines and pilots face today.
Under current scheduling rules, pilots can be at work – preparing for flights, actually flying and waiting to fly again – up to 16 consecutive hours. They can physically be flying a plane only eight of those hours.
Initial reports from the FAA’s rulemaking process suggest that a pilot’s duty day – the time at work – will shrink, but the amount of actual flying time allowed may increase, if the flights are scheduled during daylight hours.
“On one end you’ve got pilots doing long-haul international flights and on the other you’ve got guys slogging through bad weather in the Northeast on turboprops flying five or six times a day,” said Bob Mann, an aviation consultant for R.W. Mann & Co. in Port Washington, N.Y. “It’s a tall order to make a set of rules to fit that.”
The new rules will alter how airlines plan flights, force them to hire more pilots and potentially lead to unprofitable routes being eliminated.
Airline pilot scheduling has changed in the last decade for a host of reasons:
•Regional airlines try to keep costs low by maximizing the productivity of their pilots and using as few reserve pilots as possible.
•Pay cuts have prompted pilots to fly as much as they can to keep a standard of living.
•Many pilots choose to commute to their assigned crew bases because of high living costs, adding more travel time even before they punch the clock to start flying.
Compounding the problem for commuting pilots, recent cutbacks in airline flights have meant far fewer empty seats available. Consequently, some pilots have to fly a day in advance to ensure they make it to their crew base, lengthening their time on the road.
In the Buffalo crash, for example, the 24-year-old co-pilot had flown overnight from Seattle to New Jersey before starting her day.
The Regional Airline Association, which represents nearly all regional carriers including Eagle, has launched its own study of pilot fatigue that will also examine commuting’s effect, president Roger Cohen said.
“There’s been very little research in this area, and we need better science,” said Cohen, who has been defending his industry’s safety record since the Buffalo crash.
He also questions whether regional pilots are more prone to fatigue than their mainline counterparts.
“There could be more fatigue, but it may also be the opposite outcome,” said Cohen. “Maybe the frequency of the flights keeps them more alert and active.”
That frequency of flights is where regional pilots may have it tougher than pilots at mainline airlines.
Eagle has an average flight length of 350 miles compared with American Airlines’ 900 miles. So, if they fly an equal distance, Eagle pilots will make about three times as many landings and takeoffs – the most stressful part of the job.
American’s pilots have schedules that aren’t easy to fly either, but with longer flights they can work fewer total days a month than Eagle’s pilots do.
“I wish the industry would raise the bar on flight time and duty time rules, which hopefully is coming,” said Gibbs, the first officer, over a lunch of chicken fingers at TGI Fridays at D/FW’s B Concourse. He gets $1.75 an hour for food per diem, but “eating out three times a day can really add up.” To save money, he often packs Pop Tarts (Frosted chocolate fudge or chocolate chip are his favorites).
Eagle seems to be a better place to fly than other regional airlines, Gibbs said, after comparing notes with friends at other carriers. “The safety and training programs here are top-notch,” he said.
However, Eagle can’t escape the declining economics of regional flying, especially as fuel prices rise. Eagle stopped flying 54 planes in June 2008; other regional airlines have seen their flying for major carriers cut and the rates they get paid reduced.
Living his dream
Despite the hours and disruptions to his sleep schedule, Gibbs said being an airline pilot is the job he’s wanted since he flew in a 1956 Cessna 172 when he was 15 ½ years old and growing up on his family’s farm in central Illinois.
“I love the freedom,” he said. “I love not being in an office all day.”
Gibbs, who’s flown for American Eagle for almost four years, nearly got a job at Comair, which does regional flying for Delta Air Lines Inc., but Delta’s bankruptcy filing in September 2005 scotched it. An extension program through Southern Illinois University got him in the door with Eagle.
In his first assignment, Gibbs was stationed in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he and his colleagues dubbed themselves “Pilots of the Caribbean,” which explains the skull and crossbones sticker on his crew-kit bag.
It’s also where he met his wife, Iris, a sixth-grade English teacher, who, ironically, doesn’t like flying though she’s getting more comfortable with it – and with having her husband in the air all the time.
“It’s hard on her, but she supports me,” said Gibbs, who turned 27 last month but often gets asked by passengers if he’s 13.
As a first officer on Eagle’s Canadair Regional Jet, Gibbs’ duties are basically the same as his captain’s, though Gibbs does the “walk-around” of the plane before and after each flight to check its airworthiness.
Gibbs also serves as an elected union representative for the Air Line Pilots Association, which bargains for the 2,500 Eagle pilots. His union status allows him to talk to the media; everyday pilots – like his captain – cannot be quoted without permission from the airline.
Pilots use their seniority to bid for flying and fly in “sequences.” Gibbs and his captain flew a sequence of eight flights over two days Oct 19-20.
During this trip, Gibbs will do the takeoffs and landings on the outbound parts of the schedule; the captain will handle the inbound parts. They’re fortunate: two cloudless fall days to fly to the cities on their schedule – Little Rock on the first day, Lubbock and Des Moines on the second.
The first flight to Little Rock nearly never happens. When a flight attendant closes the Canadair Regional Jet’s door, a bolt snaps, and Gibbs gets out of the cockpit to assess the problem and call in maintenance. It is one of five mechanical issues he deals with among the eight flights.
The plane he’s flying this day also lacks a functioning auxiliary power unit, a not-too-uncommon issue. It’s not a safety concern, but the unit does help start the engines and can run the air conditioning on board. Passengers complain about the stuffiness on board the 70-seat plane.
Good news: Maintenance finds the needed bolt and fixes the door. It’s fortunate for Gibbs and his passengers because it’s the last one in stock and a Canadair Regional Jet a few gates away just snapped the same bolt. A little more than two hours after the scheduled departure, they’re off to Little Rock.
After turning around and returning to D/FW Airport, Gibbs flies back to Little Rock – his third flight on day one – and hops on the employee shuttle to a riverfront hotel. He does two hours of phone work before grabbing dinner, and then turns in around 6:30 p.m. for as much sleep as he can get before his 3:40 a.m. wake-up on Tuesday.
The layover is longer than usual for Gibbs and his captain. Mann and other consultants say short overnight layovers for regional pilots contribute considerably to fatigue because they can’t get adequate sleep if they’re on flying trips that last four, or in some cases, five days. And rest periods can get eaten up by paperwork at the airport and traveling to and from hotels.
“At some point these regional carriers push productivity to a point where it’s no longer gain but pain,” Mann said.
Gibbs’ first flight on day two starts with another minor mechanical problem; the plane’s backup de-icing system was giving it trouble, even though there wasn’t any ice in Little Rock.
Eventually the problem clears, and he returns to D/FW to then make a quick hop and back to Lubbock, just 243 miles away.
Back at D/FW, Gibbs has a three-hour wait until his final round trip to Des Moines. That’s the frustrating part of the schedule; it allows a leisurely lunch, but he’d rather be flying and getting home sooner.
After flying out and back from Iowa, Gibbs is finished with his two-day sequence. If he’s tired, it doesn’t show in his greeting passengers or in his cheery public address announcements.
Gibbs heads to the employee parking lot and eventually back home. He’ll be back in the air in three days headed to Pittsburgh.
If Gibbs wants to be a captain – which could ultimately boost his pay at Eagle to more than $100,000 a year – he’ll be waiting for several years as the seniority list at Eagle isn’t moving quickly.
If the FAA changes the rules on rest, it would likely mean regional airlines like Eagle would need to hire more pilots. That’s potentially good news for Gibbs’ career advancement.
However, if American Airlines can’t make money on Eagle routes, it could cut more flights, reducing the need for more pilots.
At some point, Gibbs may have to make a choice to commute from D/FW if he wants a chance at being captain, though it would mean more time away from home.
Being a captain “is always a target that’s off there in the horizon,” he said. “This is all I want to do.”