Friday, March 27, 2009

Life is a never ending rollercoaster

Every month....hmm....every week....well really everyday I hear nothing but doom and gloom about my job. Hiring stopped last May. Since then the economy has tanked. Planes have been parked in the desert. Schedules have been reduced. But not pilots have been let go.

The talk of furloughs has been all around the cockpit and crewroom for months. Yesterday there was an email sent out from my union that furloughs are imminent. How many? No one knows. I have exactly 299 pilots below me as of March 24, 2009. Last time there were furloughs the airline let go 300 pilots in a little more than 6 weeks. This was right after 9/11. Rumor is future bookings are at levels not seen since winter 2001....or right after 9/11.

To borrow a line from Steve McCroskey;"Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue."

Eric (of will be joining the Macbook world soon. He is getting a new job where he can work from home. Part of the job includes a Macbook Pro. Nice. I am sure he will be in for a huge culture shock like I was going from a PC to a Mac.

Kelli and I might be going to Minneapolis Sunday for lunch and to visit the Mall of America. Flights are open and a rental car from Dollar is $17 all in.

Kevin, my brother in law, is coming to town in a week to apply for a job  in the local police job. Houses are super cheap, Police jobs are high paying and lots of Hospitals around for his wife to get a job as a nurse.

Could be a rough couple of months until this economy comes back.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Four years later

Four years ago I married a woman waaaaay out of my league. Over the last 4 years I have somehow convinced her too stick around. I can only assume it's a combination of my extreme sense of humor, expertise in computers....and the free flights....that have kept her around.


After much thought....pretty sure it's the free flights that's keeping her around.'s okay with me.....better not lose my job.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Money taken to Vegas STAYS in Vegas!

Money taken to Vegas STAYS in Vegas. Kelli left exactly broke. I left with $10.

For all the Vegas photos (I care to share right now...more on Flickr later in the week) click the 'March 2009 Las Vegas Trip' link at the top.

The trip was fine. It was really fun to hang out with the Rennie's and the Bridge's (easier than saying Jason, Jackie, Eric and Angela). We did quite a bit of walking during the weekend. I turned one year older while losing money at various casinos. We really enjoyed ourselves. Getting back home today was interesting.

On the streets of Vegas one can not avoid people handing out "cards" for "hot girls". They are everywhere! It really bothers me as it is impossible to bring kids to Vegas without exposing them to porn as the cards litter the strip. I was fond of the shirts the people handing out the cards wear. I saw one in a gift shop...but they didn't have my size!

My game is blackjack. Reading up on the game really helped me out. If I had ONLY played blackjack I would have come home with money. Those damned slot machines kept calling me over. Bleh. Eric did very well at blackjack. He almost always left the table with more money than he started with.

Kelli played craps quite a bit. She did really well at times and "what the heck just happened", at other times.

Our flight to Vegas was wide open. The return flights looked great last week. The night before we were to go home we looked and saw 50+ employee standby travelers and oversold/full flights all day long. Uh oh.

Kelli is used to non-rev travel so we both began looking at options. We both have T-Mobile G1 smart phones so we were hammering away at ways to get home. The initial route was Vegas to Los Angeles to San Francisco to DFW. The only problem was there were 50+ standbys on the first flight out of San Francisco. They would roll over and end up being ahead of us on the standby list. The next option was Vegas to the Chicago to DFW. Problem was the flights were full/oversold with a few standbys. Things were looking dim.

I then thought about flying on an airline other than my own. I can jump seat on almost any carrier (for free!) while Kelli can ZED. ZED stands for Zonal Employee Discount. A ZED fare is a set amount of money for a set distance. The 'Z' is for Zonal. If the flight is equal to or less than the distance set for 1 zone it's a set fare. This price data is made up, but here is a ZED price structure:

1 1-450 $29

2 451-750 $35

3 751-1600 $40

4 1601-3200 $53

5 3201-4080 $60

6 4081-5000 $79

7 5001-6100 $83

8 6101-7100 $90

9 7101-9000 $110

Thus if the flight is 451 miles you pay the 2 zone rate. Not bad. ZED's are some of the last people on the stand by list as it's still standby travel. In a jam or as a back up plan it can really help.

I began looking at airlines flying out of Las Vegas and where they fly to non-stop.  I then looked at the loads for American Airlines out of each city. I finally found a non-stop flight from Vegas to El Paso on Southwest airlines that we could then connect to a flight on American. I called the Southwest non-rev automated system and checked the flight loads. Things looked good. The flights on American were also good. I called American to setup the ZED ticket for Kelli. Total cost was $43 (not bad for a last minute fare!)  The plan was set.

We left the hotel at 6AM and headed to the airport. I first had to buy the ZED ticket from American. The ticket counter was very busy. Thankfully an agent helped me out and within minutes we had the ZED ticket in hand.

After making our way to the Southwest ticket area, we printed out security documents that would get Kelli through the TSA checkpoint. As a pilot, most TSA checkpoints don't require me to show anything more than my work ID.

We cleared security and then just had to wait. While waiting I checked us in for our connecting flight in Texas. I then exited security to find a boarding pass kiosk to print out our boarding passes. We only had 30 minutes between the scheduled arrival of the Southwest flight and the departure of the American flight. I looked at the El Paso airport webpage and it looked like we had to re-clear security to go from Southwest to American. Not good!

Once the Southwest Airlines Las Vegas to El Paso flight was listed on the TV monitor at the gate, I went up and finished the jump seat process. Southwest is awesome for jump seaters. I told the agent I was new to jump seating (until now I have only jumpseated on my own airlines). She explained everything I needed to do and after verifying my credentials against a national database, she handed me the boarding pass.

Kelli was next. She went up and traded her ZED ticket for a boarding pass. Almost done.

Jump seating is a privilege. I waited by the gate to either be first on to ask the Captain for a ride or wait for him to come up and ask him for a ride. I saw him up at the doorway and politely asked for a ride. He examined my boarding pass and company ID. He then asked if I was traveling alone or with family. Once I told him I was with my wife he said to take a seat in the cabin and try to save a seat for her. Deal. I didn't really want the real jump seat.

I boarded early and took a seat in the back of the plane. The flight was supposed to be a little empty. Turns out it was totally full. Kelli was one of the last to board. She took a seat next to me. I wasn't relaxed until we pushed back from the gate. I was fully expecting to be called to sit on the real jump seat. Didn't happen.


View from the back of a 737-300 on Southwest. Just past the Grand Canyon.

This was my first time flying on another airline other than my own in at least 4 years. I will say Southwest knows how to quickly load and unload a plane. The employees all seemed happy and truly cared about doing a good job. Not a bad place to work.


While reading the Southwest magazine I noticed they allow GPS devices to be used while flying (my airline does not). I fired up my GPS program on my phone (which waas in airplane mode!). We had a nice tailwind!

Once we landed I waited until all the passengers were off and then thanked the crew for the ride. Kelli and I scurried through the terminal. I asked a TSA agent if we could get to the other terminal without leaving the secure area. Sure enough he pointed the way! We were issued our boarding passes (the plane was 1/3 full!)  and boarded our flight home just 20 minutes after getting off the Southwest flight. Good timing.


Looking back on one of the Southwest planes that brought us 1/2 way home.

After we got home I checked the standby list for flights from Las Vegas. The standbys who were on the list this morning at 6AM were STILL waiting nearly 10 hours later! I don't see many getting home tonight. I'm glad we have to options of my jump seating and Kelli using ZED. I'm only allowed to buy ZED passes for Kelli, our offspring and and my dad. We will not hesitate to use Southwest again. Every employee we encountered was extremely helpful and truly happy to be there.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The worst bet in Vegas....Hotel Internet Connections!

Our trip out to Vegas was fine. I woke up at 3:15 AM Saturday morning and checked us in. I was the first employee to check in for the Vegas flight by about 1 second. This turned out to be good thing as Kelli and I were ahead of a party of 3. If they had been ahead of us we would not have gotten first class seat. Turns out we did and we enjoyed them. I had a nice egg omelet during the flight, while Kelli had pancakes.

I reserved a convertible weeks ago. When we convertibles. I asked the agent and he said to pick any other car. Hmmm...ok....but I wanted a convertible. Once he understood that I actually reserved a convertible (and wasn't just asking for one!) they went to go find one, nice.

We stopped by the Vegas sign for the first time ever. I have been to Vegas at least 15 times....never stopped by.


Day one had Kelli and I losing money. She went up for a while playing craps. I never went up. I am here to have fun anyway.

We met up with our friends Jason & Jackie and gambled with them for abit. We also met their friends from Chicago. Late last night we all had dinner at a really good mexican resturant.

Once we were all full we stopped by a smaller casino on the strip. Kelli and Jason went to play craps. I bought two mini-pitchers of beer with the intent of sharing while they played craps. By the time I returned they both crapped out! We stood around for a bit drinking before heading to another casino for more money losing gambling.

Eric and Angela arrive this morning. The winds were are going to be crazy high. The winds will be steady 20-40MPH with gust as high as 50MPH. Bad hair days to follow.

Finally hotels in Vegas get enough money from the casinos. Why must they charge $15 a day for Internet access!!!! Ridiculous. I am using my OLD cell phone to connect my laptop to the Internet. Slow...but it works. We got a very nice room. Our first room with a view.


Friday, March 20, 2009


Kelli bought me a Marble Slab Gummy Bear Ice Cream cake. Yes I know gummy bears get hard in ice cream. I like GUMMY BEARS IN ICE CREAM!

Me being me and Kelli knowing how hmmmm......eccentric I can be, Kelli had 32 individual candles on the cake. I think getting numbers is taking the easy road out. Additionally I can test my breath. The day I can no longer blow out my candles is the day I know I am old.


The cake was awesome. I can't wait to see how Kelli tops it next year. Yes I expect each birthday cake to be better than the last. My 31st birthday cake was pink bubblegum from Baskin Robbins. I thought she couldn't do better. I was wrong.

Getting older...I am actually getting more healthy.

When I started flying in May 2006 I had high blood pressure. How high? Well near Stage 1 Hyper-tension. Heart issues run in my family. My mom and her sisters all died the same year...all heart attacks.

I bought a blood pressure machine which records readings. Here is the reading from 2 years ago.


That's 140 over 91 with just 63 beats per minute! I was rested!

Here is my current reading....


Yes 117 over 75 with 76 beats per minute. I wasn't as rested...but a much lower reading. This is normal...the higher side of normal...but normal. I lowered my blood pressure with diet and exercise. Not too shabby.

Tomorrow I will turn 32 while sitting in a 737 (hopefully First Class) at 7:36AM. That's right....March 21, 1977 at 7:36AM the world was changed forever.....greatness was born.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Kelli's next car

Kelli is determined to keep her car until 2011 or 2012. At that point her current 2004 Prius will be 8 years old and have 90K or so miles on it. By then maybe a 100MPG Prius will be available...or maybe she will get this......


The  2010 Aptera 2e will cost about $25K (a little more than a Prius). The Apetra will be a full electric car capable of at least 100 miles on a charge. The battery pack is still being finalized. The true range could be much further. Before you say "only 100 miles!?!?!" think about how much you drive each day. Most Americans drive 40 miles a day. For the times when one has to drive more than 100 miles a day...take a different car. This could work in our house if we have a 2nd "normal" car.

The Aptera will have dual front airbags, ABS and many other safety features of cars today. The car can be recharged via a regular household plug or for faster charging via a 220 volt plug. For more on the Aptera click here.


The car will have a touchscreen GPS, air conditioning and more. Sales start in California. Hopefully by 2011 or 2012 they will be available in Texas.


The new security software is working very nicely. When motion is detected on certain cameras in certain areas I get a text message on my phone instantly and photo emailed to my phone within 1 minute. Brinks Home Security can't touch it. With my anticipated Vegas winnings I plan on adding in wired cameras to cover the sides of the house, garage,and  front and rear door porches.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Funny every time.

This is how Vegas will die. He will scare himself to death and run into a wall.


I stumped the State of Texas!

Unique is a word sometimes used to describe me (odd, weird, strange, funny, special are used as well). I have had personalized license plates for over 10 years. My mom bought my first set "DJ BYRD" back in 1998. My parents used to get personalized plates often (before they had kids!). There is a stack of them in the garage of my dads house. "DJ BYRD" stood for my name (well part of my name... I have two middle names). Some people thought I was a Disk Jokey. Ummm no.

After  "DJ BYRD" I bought "GEEEKY". I wanted "GEEK" or "GEEKY" but they were taken. A little over three years ago "GEEK" became available. I bought it right away and added my alma mater, Stephen F. Austin State University, to the plates as well. There are only two extra options one can get for license plates in Texas, personalization and an affiliation. I had both which is rare because it's expensive.


Most cars in Texas cost $60 a year to register. My car cost $140 a year. I pay $40 a year for personalization (which is a rip off as I don't get new plates each year!!!!!) and $30 a year for the affiliation. Part of the $30 goes into a scholarship fund.

This year I decided I wanted to save $30 and drop the affiliation. I scoured the state of Texas websites to see how to do it. No information. I called the hotline yesterday. The clerk said she had never encountered this situation and she has been at this job for years. After being placed on hold for a few minutes she said I would have to go down to the local Tarrant County Tax Office and tell them.

Most of the time I wait until the end of the month to register my car. I can do it online....but always wait until it's too late. This means there are long lines as everyone else waits till the last minute as well. Today being the middle of the line.

I brought in all my paperwork and told the clerk what I wanted. She began typing into the computer and stopped. The computer wouldn't let her reissue new personalized plates (I needed new ones to remove my affiliation) as "GEEK" was already taken. She called over a supervisor. She began pointing while the clerk began typing....and then stopped. Phone calls were made and shoulders were looked over. Literally 15 minutes later the problem was fixed.

I will give them credit. In the past I had to write two separate checks for my plates. Now just one. Also in the past the new plates would arrive in downtown Ft. Worth. I would then call and have them transferred to the office in Hurst where I would pick them up. Now they will be sent straight to my house!

I don't think I will ever have "regular" plates again. Gotta keep up my adjectives.

Yesterday on the way home I passed 7777's soooo time for Vegas!


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I love technology!!!!

I have had security cameras in the house for a few years now. The camera idea started with a pet sitter and spread from there. I first started with just monitoring via a web browser. I quickly moved to security camera software with motion based recording. I used software from Xmedia Studios for about 1 1/2 years until it became buggy.

I updated my cameras to night vision cameras as well as pan and tilt cameras (I can remotely move the camera around for a different view). The cameras came with decent software. The software was very heavy on CPU utilization which required me to run it on a dedicated computer.  The motion based recording didn't work correctly so they simply recorded 24 hours a day. The files were broken up into 15 minute chunks. I had no way of remotely monitoring the cameras unless I had a broadband connection and ran Windows. I had to remote desktop to the computer running the software and then view the software. The refresh rate was slow....but it worked.

Yesterday I was hopping around the Internet when I came upon software from Blue Iris. They offered a 15 day trial of the software. I downloaded it this morning and installed the software on the dedicated computer. Setting it up was easy (mostly because I have dealt with camera software a lot in the past). I then dove in to the features. Not only does the software have motion based recording (that works!), it also has a built in web-server, text messaging capability, email capability and more. The web-server peaked my interest. I tried to connect from my Macbook. The interface worked great. I then tried the ultimate phone.

My jaw dropped. The web-server has built in detection for mobile devices! The web page loaded up fast and I had live (well 1 second delay!) STREAMING of my cameras to my phone. I could stream all four at once or one by one. The quality of the video is just like I was viewing it from my laptop.

I played around with the software all morning. The software stated it is supported by Windows Server 2003. Now for the deal breaker....will it run on my Windows Home Server? After a few minutes of resetting up the opened perfectly. No issues. Sold! I then set up remote storage to instantly save photos on a remote server. This way if the server is stolen/burned up I still have images.

I happily paid the very fair licensing fee and was sent a code to unlock the software. Now Kelli and I can easily keep an eye on our house while we are away. We can be in the middle of a Casino, driving down the coast or simply across town and feel at ease that all is well at home. Since I can run it on Windows Home Server this means there is one less computer that will be running while we are away.

The next task for me is to see how to easily integrate the home alarm system into the Windows Home Server as well. I would like to remotely arm/disarm, have motion detection, fire detection and intrusion detection.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Wii Fit gives marriage advice

My workout today started a little odd. The Wii Fit likes to keep motivation up. If I don't exercise for a while it will ask Kelli how I am. If neither of us exercise for a while, when we do it ask where we have been.

Kelli has been doing her Tae Bo thing for a while and not using the Wii Fit. This morning the first thing I saw was this.


Then after saying she looks the same I saw this:


This is almost like marriage counseling. Odd. Gotta love the Wii Fit.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mud Bugs!

I am a very UN-picky eater. I was raised to eat whatever was put down on my plate. I don't think either of my parents are picky eaters. In fact I don't ever recall them ordering anything special.

Growing up in the south I eat some food that Kelli has never heard of....or seen. I grew up eating chitterlings, pigs feet, collard greens, and the very tasty crawfish (aka mud bugs).

img_0779.jpgSwimming around in the sink awaiting the pot

Every year (contrary to Kellis' spotty memory) I have cooked/eaten crawfish. I only cook them if I can buy them live. Frozen/precooked (cold) crawfish aren't my thing. Some years I can't find them live or don't have time and I will buy them freshly boiled at a restaurant.

Kelli doesn't really do seafood. She didn't care for me "killing" animals in her kitchen today (even though she literally never it's not really HER kitchen).

Finding live crawfish isn't easy around here. I used to go to the Chinatown area of Arlington to buy them. They charged more than I liked ($3.99 a pound!) but they were large. This year and a few times in the past I shopped at Fiesta Mart. Fiesta Mart is a Hispanic targeted grocery store. I first learned about them when I lived in Houston. They are huge there. Fiesta Mart's in Houston are like a Wal-Mart on steroids. You can do more in a Fiesta than you could ever thing of doing in a Wal-Mart. The seafood section is crazy. They have several tanks of live seafood. Very fresh.

The crawfish at Fiesta were labeled "medium" and were $2.99 a pound this year. I bought 3 pounds. They were more small than medium....but I thought it would be okay.


From the sink


To my plate!

Once I got them home I cleaned them (soaking them in water and changing it out a few times to get rid of the dirt) and then boiled them up. Apparently I cooked them a little bit too long as the tail meat in some of the smaller ones was hard to impossible to get out. I enjoyed them though and might buy more.

Maybe I will make some chitterlings. For those that don't know...chitterlings are pig intestines.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

My very smart mother in law

I flew with a Captain this week who is taking his kids to Disney World on Sunday. This upcoming week is apparently Spring Break for most of the nation. The flights are oversold and then some. The standby list for employee travel (stand by) is over 60 people today and 50 people tomorrow. There are less than 15 seats available ALL day today! He looked at flights from all of the HUBs for American Airlines and every flight to Orlando is full. Some people are taking flights to Miami with hopes of getting to Orlando from there. If my mother in law had planned for the Disney trip to be this week Kelli and I would have had to drive or fly to somewhere close (made Atlanta!) and drive. Crazy.

Same token I made a rental car reservation for Vegas. I have NEVER paid more than $70 all in. I could have had a really good deal, but I delayed making a reservation until I knew I had the days off. This was a mistake. Rental car reservations are the most missed reservation in the world. There is zero commitment. If you don't show up...most companies don't charge! Well I waited and instead of paying $65 all in I am paying $103 all in. Eh. I know Taxi's are cheaper. I am going to use my Discover Miles Card points so it will be free anyway. Right now the BEST deals I can find are $190 all in for a Chevrolet Aveo! It's gotta be Spring Break rates or some major convention.

Our flights next week are still "green", meaning we should have no problems getting on. We picked this weekend only because our good friends Jason & Jackie were already going and invited us to tag along. Good timing on their part.

We are still pondering a flight somewhere overseas.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


It's finally raining in Texas. Been a while.

I finished my blackjack book. I learned quite a bit. For a while Kelli and I would play whatever $5 blackjack table we could find. Well not all are created equal. Many Vegas strip casinos pay 6 to 5 on Blackjacks instead of the normal 3 to 2. The 6 to 5 payout is much less money for the player and much more money for the house. Hopefully we can find decent/fair blackjack tables next week. I have been practicing for at least an hour a day. If I stick to the strategy in the book (which is a little different than "normal") I do pretty well. I am going to do my best to avoid playing by "my gut" or letting the table influence my decisions.

Kelli had an alarm clock issue this morning. Twice in one week! Every night I ask her if her alarm is set...she always responds yes. Hmmm yeah.

April 1st will be the one year anniversary with my car. April will also be the one year anniversary since I bought my Macbook Pro.

I turn 32 in less than 2 weeks. Getting closer to 40 by the second.

Our Sony 57 inch HDTV is having issues. The light gun that displays red is misaligned on the top left and bottom right portions of the screen. The manual aiming isn't working well. We only watch the news on it....might have to google how to fix the issue the hard way. Our 52 inch Samsung LCD A750 is performing flawlessly.

In addition to the Wii Fit I am also walking on the treadmill again. If I can sit on the couch and watch TV then I can walk on the treadmill and watch TV.

The economy sucks. American Airlines announced they are reducing capacity. American Eagle has not announced any more cuts. AMR (the company that owns both American Airlines and American Eagle) already planned DEEP cuts last fall. The cuts looked severe, but appear to be just right. The number of passengers flying on American Eagle in February was down 14% from last year. This looks bad.....and it is. The good part is the load factor (how full the planes are) was only down 3%. This means there were fewer passengers flying, but the planes were only slightly less full due to the preplanned reduction in flights.

Hopefully that Obama guy can get his crap straight. He spoke so much on how he would reduce wasteful spending. The first few bills he signed were FULL of pet projects. Today there is a $410 million dollar bill that is FULL of pet projects that will be on his desk. I bet he will sign. Obama hasn't done anything worth of value in his first 100 days. November 6, 2012 can't come fast enough.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Gotta run the numbers

Rumors fly around my workplace more so than in high school hallways. Pilots are a chatty bunch for the most part. Last night I heard that I might be displaced next month. This means I might not be flying my plane after least not out of DFW airport. This same situation came up a few months ago and it never really happened. If it does happen this time I have to run the numbers to see what is best for my wife and my pocket book.

If I stay in DFW I will have to fly a different plane for less money. If I want to stay on my plane I can go to Chicago. I will make the same/more money...but will be away  from home longer. Could get dicey if we have an offspring (most people call it a baby). Eh.

I found a nifty site where you can design your own bumper stickers! is super easy and affordable. I ordered one. Might order another.

My blackjack book is really helping me with my playing skills. Maybe I will leave Vegas a winner!

Kelli forgot to change her alarm clock. Woke up an hour late. Doh!

I got to fly last night. First time in almost a month. My landing this morning showed how long it was been. Allegedly the landing was so rough a few oxygen mask popped open in the cabin. This was reported by a very funny (and smartassed) flight attendant. I was rough...ouch. Left quite a bit of rubber on the runway.

Hotel remote controls are gross. Nasty germ ridden things. I always clean them twice before using them. Even then after cleaning them I wash my hands. Icky gross.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Can't pass up a good deal

I love good deals. I hunt them down and roll around in the savings. Literally. Whenever I get a good deal I then get the cash I saved and roll around with it on the floor. It's what I do. Don't judge me.

Amazon Prime has been a really good deal for me so far. Both Kelli and I have purchased items that were cheaper than we could buy in a store. Getting the items in 2 days for free or next day for $3.99 is awesome.

Thursday Amazon had the Seinfeld - The Complete Series posted as the deal of the day! I love Seinfeld. I have seen every episode multiple times. I bought Seasons 1 & 2 when they first came out for $35. Since then each season has been $30. There are 9 seasons. I couldn't afford to buy all 9 seasons. Well I could...but it would have been a lot of money.seinfeld

Yesterday when I saw all 9 seasons PLUS The Official Coffee Table Book for $99.....I couldn't pass it up. A steal! I used the free 2 day shipping which is included with Amazon Prime. Ordering on Thursday meant it would have arrived on Monday. The item shipped out of Kansas hit Tulsa Thursday night, DFW airport Friday morning and my doorstep Friday night. Awesome!

The sale was a deal of the day on Amazon. Today it's back to the normal price of $180. I will now get $80 out of the ATM and roll around on the living room floor. It's what I do.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Deep Pockets?

Gadgets. People are carrying more and more of them. First there were Sony Walkmans. They used batteries that could be replaced. Later came CD Walkmans...they used batteries that could be replaced. Car Phones came on the scene. I got my first CAR phone in 1993. It was truly a car phone. I plugged it into the cigarette lighter and it could not be used outside the car.

Cell phones then became portable. People still had to buy a car charger and maybe an extra charger for work. Cell phone batteries became better....but cell phones became more powerful.

The phones Kelli and I carry are amazingly sophisticated. In addition to making phone calls we can get instant email, use the power of GPS satellites to figure out where we are, browse the Internet at near DSL speeds, listen to music, watch videos, play high quality games, take photos of a higher quality than the best digital cameras made less than 5 years ago and of course send text messages.

All the sophistication takes power. My cell phone does pretty good with casual use. When I browse the Internet a lot or use the GPS often the battery begins to go south. I bought an APC mobile battery pack from Fry's for $14 a few months ago. It was a steal as it sold normally for $60. The battery could be charged via USB and could easily recharge my phone from 10% to 100% three times. I soon figured out why it was so cheap.

Last week the battery died on my way back from Chicago. I figured it just needed to be charged. No joy. The battery would not respond to a charge. I contacted APC. They advised they can do nothing for me as it has been discontinued! SONOFA$!% !

This was a great product. In addition to charging my phone it charged my Zune as well. When I was using my computer I could recharge the APC battery and my phone at the same time. I love USB charging. Boo.

I searched for a similar product. I found one. The Black & Decker Pocket Power battery pack. They too had been discontinued and are available for just $3.99 a piece (they used to be $60!). I read the reviews and most people were happy with them. I somehow missed one important detail.


The Black & Decker Pocket Power batteries are HUGE!

The APC battery is truly pocket sized. For size reference I put a hotel key (from Las NEVER go there) next to the APC battery.

The people at Black & Decker must be HUGE with HUGE pants and HUGE pockets. This damn thing won't fit in any of my pants. Maybe I should buy some "thug" style baggy pants....then it would fit.

To the defense of the Black & Decker Pocket Power it can power USB devices and regular 2 prong electrical devices. Thus with a simple 3 prong to 2 prong (non-grounded) adapter, the Black & Decker Pocket Power can charge/run my laptop.

I bought 3 of $3.99 a piece why not? Yeah. I figure I will keep one in my laptop bag, one in my flight kit (to charge my phone when I fly) and give one to Kelli. For kicks on the day these batteries arrived I tried charging the APC battery came back to life.

Kelli and I are both looking forward to Vegas. We are meeting our friends Jason & Jackie and Eric & Angela. The last time Kelli and I were with them in Vegas was our wedding....four years ago.

Getting to Vegas might be interesting. For the next two weekends flights from DFW to Las Vegas are very full. The weekend we are going has very empty flights. Of course this is still 3 weeks away. My backup plan is for us to fly to Los Angeles and then to Las Vegas. Even this crazy routing get's us into Vegas by 11:30AM.

Good times.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Red Box

A few years ago Kelli and I were at a dog show down in Conroe, Texas. While at a gas station we saw this vending machine called Red Box. The machine dispensed DVD's for $1 per night. Wow. I rented one or two to watch during the dog show. Ahh dog shows....I can honestly say I don't miss them at all.

Anyways we thought it was a great idea and wished we had one in our area. Well over the last year they have popped up all around us. Seeing as I sit around the airport A LOT I needed to find something to do. For a while I was just watching movie's via Netflix's streaming service. The problem is they don't have new release movies. Solution...Red Box.


I joined the "free movie monday's" text message service. Every Monday I get one free movie. Easy. Then this month they have "March Movie Madness" and give free rentals on Wednesday too. The business model is so simple that I can only imagine the ROI is very short. I am sure they have very low overhead beyond power, internet and one employee or so to service an area.

It would be nice if they would start a Blue Box....for Blueray movies. I am sure it will take a while as Bluerays players are still a small portion of the digital movie players in the United States.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I have a hard time with change

For the most part I am very ritualistic. I do the same thing over and over again. The thing could be  eating breakfast, getting ready for bed, preparing for a flight, or planning a trip.

Every time we have gone to Vegas (at least 12 times so far) I have rented a car. It's just what I do. I can normally find a deal that's cheaper than getting a taxi. Most of the time we pay no more than $15 a day all in. The convenience of having a car comes in handy.

We are headed to Vegas in a couple of weeks. Alamo has a deal going on where you can rent a car for $10 a day. We used this deal a few weeks ago in California. We rented a mid-size car for $62 all in for 4 days!

The deal is in Vegas....but there is something fishy. The cars are $10 a day (for a compact...mid-size $4 more) for the weekend...but starting on Monday the price quadruples. A 4 day rental is going to cost more than $120 all in. Not good.

I have time to keep searching for deals. Hopefully something will come up.

Kelli is going to Washington state today to testify. She is overly happy as she can travel in her normal clothes versus "airplane clothes". When we travel non-rev we have to dress business casual. I'm used to dressing this way. I will say that in high school and my first year of college I dressed in jeans and t-shirts. After joining my fraternity I started dressing nicer. Collared shirts and khaki pants became the norm. I feel more comfortable now with a collared shirt than a t-shirt. Kelli is the exact opposite. She is a jeans and t-shirt kind of woman. When we first met I didn't see her in something other than shorts, t-shirts and sandals until it got cold. Then it was jeans, t-shirts and tennis shoes. I tried to change her...didn't work. That's just how she rolls.

Today when she flies out to Washington she will be very comfortable. I am going to predict jeans, a list pastel t-shirt and a Michigan State sweatshirt.

I bought a book today for Vegas, Golden Touch: Blackjack Revolution. It's a blackjack strategy book. I know basic blackjack strategy, but would like to learn more. I have plenty of time to read it before our trip.

My aviation blog is back online. I had to remove all references to my employer in order to keep from violating policies and laws. It sucked taking down all my blogs as the covered my entire 1 1/2 years of my airline career. I still have them burned to a CD. One day I will export them and maybe edit them.

Kelli did our taxes this year. So far we owe $56. This is after us both paying the higher single rate taxes and all of our deductions. The reason? Well my part time contractor job. I only earned $2800 but it was all non-taxed. I still haven't finished putting in my airline deductions. I am sure we will break even or maybe get back a few hundred.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Way back then

I stumbled upon a website called The Way Back Machine (click here for the site). The site stores websites on various days. has entries from 2001-2005. I was kinda shocked. not every day is on there, but quite a few are. The sit even stored some of the photos. One photo I no longer have is one of our apartment after the fire on 09/11/2003.

The fire started by lightening striking an antenna on the apartment above. The sprinklers were set off in that apartment. Our apartment got a lot of water damage. Below is a photo of the living room.....notice something missing? Like the ceiling!