Monday, August 31, 2009

The floors are done!

We finished putting the floors down over the weekend. We still have to reattach all the baseboards and then paint the walls as we lowered them. Over the last month we laid down over 700 square feet of flooring. Our house is only 2000 square feet total. The only carpet remaining is in the master bedroom, my office, guest bedroom and two hall closets. I might redo the guest bathroom next week. Will only cost $80 or so to do it. I will post photos Wednesday of the floors. I would do it now, but I am in Pensacola, Florida. I picked up some extra flying to help contribute to Tokyo...although with Chase Bank screwing

I called Chase again today and had a very balanced conversation. The agent (thankfully an American) did his best to defend the practice. When asked why I was being saddled with extra payments when I have never made a late payment he stated that Chase was in the business to make money and that they are allowed to change the minimum payment at will. Additionally they allowed me to take out a high amount of unsecured debt....."if you don't pay we have nothing to repossess and sell thus it's a huge liability". Really ? Aren't most things purchased with a credit card liabilities? After about 20 minutes of useless banter I ended the call respectfully.

Our Snow Leopard upgrade arrived today. Will likely install Wednesday. Unlike Windows, Apple's Operating Systems are sold on the honor policy. There are no license keys or activation schemes. Just install it using the honor system. I did purchase a family pack license to upgrade up to 5 computers. There are 4 Macs in my family. I have one, Kelli has one, my sister in law has one and my mother in law has one. Sure that's how it works. Yep. Hmmm Eric is in my extended family via my Fraternity. He has a Mac. Gotta read the fine print.

I have a neat application for my T-Mobile G1 that keeps track of my gas mileage. I love keeping track of gas mileage.

Since I installed the application back in March I have had my highest MPG average of 28.64 MPG and the lowest is 25.92 MPG. I average 330.10 miles between fillups. The most I have paid per gallon is $2.49. The lowest was $1.69. I have spent $303.63 on gas. I spend $0.09 per mile on average no gas. Neat huh? Well I think it is. The app has a lot more data than that.

I am going to plan a party to celebrate Kelli's last beer. Going to be sometime late October/ early November. Should be cool by then. Kelli has been a closet alcoholic...guess the term is functional alcoholic for a while. Time for her to put down the bottle. Ok not really....her last beer as she is going to stop drinking as to avoid having a baby with any more issues than I will contribute.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Screw you Chase Bank!

I have a portion of my flight school loan on a credit card. Not just any credit card....a Chase credit card.

I used a promotional offer more than 3 years ago for a low interest rate for the life of the loan. In this case just 3.99%. I have never missed a payment. I fit the minimum payment plus a little into my budget. This worked fine for 3 years.

This month I logged into my account and saw the payment MORE than doubled! WTF?!?!? I panicked. I thought I missed a payment. I checked. Never. Hmmmm then why?

I called. I was told Chase Bank N.A. raised the minimum payment from 2% of the balance to 5% of the balance to, and I quote, "help me pay my balance off faster". In reality it's going to cause thousands of people to go into default. My balance is somewhat small. I am sure many people use the 3.99% offer to consolidate balances and such. If someone had a $15,000 balance their minimum payment went from $300 a month to $750 a month. If people could afford to "pay off their loan faster" they would have. This is nothing more than a way to get more people into default thus making Chase more money. This really irks me as Chase received millions in bailout money from the Government.

I logged a complaint with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (who governs certain credit cards including Chase) and Clark Howard (a famous consumer rights advocate). In the mean time...gotta move money around. Thankfully for me it's just less money into savings versus I am sure many are stressing much more. A quick Google search found over 430 complaints on a message board. The oldest complaint is a few weeks old!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Less than two months

Less than two months till the Byrd's hit Tokyo. The hotel has been reserved...the flights well...normal standby....and that's all we have done.

I heard a neat idea on a podcast the other day (I listen/watch 3 or more podcast a day...all tech related) concerning Google Earth and travel. Before you visit a new city....use Google Earth to zoom and in see how the area looks. With street view we can literally walk around the area. Should be very useful. If I can pick up a public wifi signal over there I can use the street view on my G1 phone with built in GPS. Neat idea.

Kelli wants to go to Boston...and Las Vegas next month. Dunno if we will go to both.....hopefully at least one.

Peggy (my mother in law) the best Macbook for Kevin is the 13 inch Macbook Pro. Go to the Apple Store and buy just the 13 inch Macbook Pro to bring back to New York so IChat will be easier to use to see Gianna and the new baby. Total cost is $1199. His current wireless router will work just fine with the Macbook Pro.

The floor looks great. We should have the rest of the living room and dining room done by Sunday. Then we will have to reattach all the baseboards and then buy some thresholds. The height difference between the new Konecto floor and the existing tile is MUCH smaller than we thought it would be.

Snow Lepoard came out today. Ours arrives Tuesday via Amazon.

Speaking of Amazon...their pricing structure really annoys me sometimes. They have no low price gaurantee. Even if you buy a widget at 9:05 AM, Amazon boxes it up at noon and then at 12:05PM the price drops $30....too bad for you. Annoying. The Ooma we bought for $199 went as high as $225 this week before dropping to $189 yesterday (and today!). The $189 price is the lowest ANYWHERE by a good $40. We are porting our number over from Vonage. The device is better than Vonage in a few ways. One way is how voicemail is picked up.

The Ooma system has a base station and a remote station. Both are capable of playing back voicemails directly via built in speakers...the way answering machines used to work! Setup is crazy easy. Again this would be a great device for my long distance bills...heck no bills period.

HD-DVD's have been out of production for a while. I've been picking up HD-DVD movies for under $3 including shipping. HD-DVD's quality is equal to if not better than Blue-Ray...but Blue-Ray won due to more marketing money spent by Sony. Eh. I now own the next Beta (orphaned) player.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The state of the floor

I'm old. I feel it big time. Working on my knees for 12 hours yesterday. Ooof. Knees, back, arms....I'm not 15 anymore. Not that I did anything like this when I was 15. Bleh.

Here's some photos of what I (along with Kelli's help) have done so far. I have done most of the work because I happened to be off in the middle of the week. So while Kelli brings home the bacon, I prepared the floor for her to walk on. Hmm that sounded funnier in my head.

The images haven't been reduced so if you have a slow connection (can't imagine anyone reading this has dialup??!?!?) it might take a while. There are two pages of photos....not captions because...I'm lazy.

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Sold the old mower and trimmer finally via craigslist. The guy who bought it was allergic to the fumes from a gas lawnmower. Electric is a necessity.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Who needs an SUV when you have a Mazda5?

The Mazda5 is super versatile. It can carry 6 people and a few groceries. It can carry 4 people, groceries for a week for said people and luggage for said people. It can also carry 1000 pounds of flooring. Yeah that's right....1000 pounds of flooring plus me.

Our flooring came in last week. The store forgot to call us. I was a little worried 600 square feet of flooring wouldn't fit in my Mazda5 so I was going to have Kelli meet me so we could be the extra in her Prius. Well Kelli ended up working a little late so I arrived by myself. The warehouse personell questioned me twice if I was intending to put all the flooring in, "that little van?". Nice.

The flooring fit fine. I had to fold down both rear rows of seats. I could have easily held another 150 square feet.

The first picture shows my Mazda5 loaded down with 1000 pounds of flooring. Second picture is said flooring stacked in the back. Final photo is my Mazda5 sans flooring.

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I'm planning on going to a flooring store this morning to purchase the transitions we will need to go from tile to vinyl and carpet to vinyl. We are keeping all the current tile (in the kitchen, front foyer and around the fireplace). I am thinking we can have all the flooring done in 2 days if we both work at it. Otherwise I might get started tomorrow (I'm off until Friday). I can easily get the main hallway done by myself. Who knows.

We might go to Vegas next month. It would be nice if my sister in law and her girlfriend could go with us...of course we could always go again another time with them.

I finally learned how to eat a grapefruit. I have been hooked on grapefruit for about a month. Each morning I eat one for breakfast. Until this week I thought I was simply buying crappy grapefruits as they were very light pink on the inside...not dark pink like I see at hotels (yeah I eat a lot of breakfast meals at hotels). I had a grapefruit that had been sitting in the kitchen for about a week. It turned a deep orange color. I thought it went bad. Nope it was ripe. Booyah that's what I am talking about. Now I just need to let my grapefruit sit for a bit before I eat them.

The damn Ooma device went up by $25 yesterday!!! GRRRR!

For now....I have three days off.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cutting the budget so far nets 28 months of diapers

It's no secret I am paranoid about finances and money. One of my biggest fears of having an offspring is not having enough money. My parents raised 5 of us without a problem. They had money issues (but I never knew it) and made it work. Still....I am paranoid.

An offspring is still at least 11 months away...but I am already going into "budget cutting mode". So far I have saved $180 a year by cancelling XM radio, $380 a year by switching to Progressive Insurance (we used to have Geico), $300 a year by no longer buying a case of soft drinks a week and soon to be another $300 a year by canceling Vonage.

Vonage has been good to us. We subscribed to Vonage when we bought our house back in April 2004. We have never changed our calling plan or features. The plan started at $14.99 a month. After taxes it was $16.94 a month. That price stuck until May 2006 when the monthly bill rose to $19.79 due to new fees/taxes. The price for our plan went to $17.99 a month in 2008 and after taxes/fees the monthly bill was $20.27 a month. In 2009 the taxes/fees went even higher and we now pay $25.15 a month. Time to trim some fat.

I have been searching for a good, reliable, and affordable phone system for a few weeks. Google Voice is great, but it still relies on us having some kind of phone to use. MagicJack is decent, but it doesn't allow us to port our phone number. Skype could work, but in order to make all the phone jacks requires too much work.

Kelli and I went out with Eric & Angela Saturday night. I mentioned to Eric that I want a cheaper VOIP provider. He mentioned that is mother had issues with MagicJack. He then mentioned Ooma. Hmmm.

Ooma has been around for a few years. The idea is that the customer buys a rather expensive piece of hardware and then is set for life. No monthly feees. Of course they have optional/premium services to make extra money each month. The initial investment is $199 for the hardware plus $40 to transfer/port our number. Kinda steep. The ROI won't happen for 10 months. After 10 months we are "saving" money each long as Ooma stays in business. I am almost ready to pull the trigger. Kelli could care less what phone system we use. Eh. I tossed the idea around of simply increasing our monthly minutes on our T-Mobile plan, but that wouldn't help a whole lot as we still have a home phone bill. Google voice is supposed to offer number portability at some point. If they offered it now then I would consider dumping the home phone system all together.

When I cancel Vonage I will have cut our yearly budget by $1160. My next project will be cutting the homeowners insurance bill. After that I will have to take a step back and see where else I can trim some cash. I can buy 160 Pampers Cruisers size 3 (16-28lbs) diapers for $41 (2nd day  shipping free!) from Amazon. So with the money saved so far I can buy 28 months of diapers (assuming 160 diapers last month....better last a damn month!). Hmm of course I haven't saved any money for baby food, clothes, toys, furniture or college yet. Doh!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Geek rant ahead

I'm a geek...more hardware than software (Eric of is more the software guru). I'm always looking for ways to improve my websites.

My pilot website uses recaptcha to block spammers from leaving comments on my website. This also makes regular users not want to leave a comment. This morning I was listening to an audio podcast from Twit.TV (Net@Night) and they mentioned a new commenting system called Echo. The system allows users to login via an account held elsewhere. For example if they had a Facebook account they could click a link and instantly be logged in via their Facebook login. Simple. Once they left a comment they could post the comment and a link to my blog on their Facebook wall. How cool! I went to the software website, signed up, PAID MY $12 and installed it. I then spent an hour trying to get it working.

After the first 10 minutes I visited the support area. This is where I started to get really pissy.

I expect a free plug in to have limited support or support via a community system. For a paid plug in I want a real human from that company. Getting that real human seems impossible. I searched the community system and found several people who had he exact problem I was having...for answer!

After an hour I fixed my own problem.  I was then advised (via a popup box) that "due to the large number of comments on your site you will need to email your wordpress admin username and password to...." WTF? I'm not giving anyone my admin username and password. That's just silly. I don't have more than 150 comments to migrate over. That was the last straw...asked for a refund. Looking elsewhere for a different commenting system.

October 1-7 will be spent with my mother in law, sister in law and one of my nieces. Should be interesting. Not sure what we are going to do with them beyond a visit to The State Fair of Texas. During the visit we will eat lots of fried foods including:

2005 Most Creative Viva Las Vegas Fried Ice Cream
2005 Best Taste             Fried PB, Jelly and Banana Sandwich
2006 Most Creative         Fried Coke
2006 Best Taste             Fried Praline Perfection
2007 Most Creative         Deep Fried Latte
2007 Best Taste             Texas Fried Cookie Dough
2008 Most Creative         Fried Banana Split
2008 Best Taste             Chicken Fried Bacon

Good times will be had. I am sure Haley, my niece,  will be screaming with joy from all the sugar and grease.

Just two months to go until I reach my 2nd anniversary of being hired by my airline. A few things will happen.

1) I will get a pay raise to $36.25 an hour (sounds like a lot but that's on a 75 hour A MONTH pay scale!)

2) I will finally get 24 one way buddy passes per year

3) Well...that's about it.

My little netbook case is too small for me to travel with at work. I need more pockets. My previous bag doubled as my man purse. Gotta find a solution.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Our vida loca

Getting back from Portland was interesting. For the first time we used Alaska Airlines to get home. The flights on American were all full. Kelli bought a ZED and I used my jump seat privilege to fly on Alaska Airlines from Portland to Phoenix. Once in Phoenix we hopped on an American flight home. Although it would be nice for American to have more flights to Portland, the fact that the flights are full is good for the company which trickles down to me keeping my job.

I brought my Macbook and HP Mini 5101 netbook on that trip. I still wasn't ready to cut my cord from my trusty Macbook. I'm currently back on the road (stayed in Amarillo last night...hopefully back home tonight) and brought just my netbook.

Traveling with my netbook has been much easier than traveling with my Macbook Pro. The netbook weighs less than 3 pounds and takes up much less space. As far as what it can't do...well I can't watch flash video full screen. Videos on Youtube and Hulu can only be watched in a window. I can however watch Netflix streaming movies full screen. Netflix uses Microsoft Silverlight software to stream the movie. Apparently Microsoft Silverlight is a "lighter weight" and "less demanding" program than Flash.

Beyond that I am happy. The keyboard is very nice. I can touch type without a problem. Battery life is fantastic. It's truly an all day computer. The most I have used while unplugged so far is 4 1/2 hours. Even at that point there was more than 35% of the battery left.

It's been an odd last 7 days. I've only slept in my bed one night of the last 7 nights. Kelli is living a little part of my life as she was sent out to Los Angeles last night at the last minute. She had just 6 hours of rest last night before having to show up at the courthouse. I jokingly welcomed her into my world. She didn't laugh. Ironically my overnight in Amarillo is 17 hours. I wish it were shorter. Not much to do in Amarillo. She did enjoy having a "real" ticket to Los Angeles versus standby.

My mother in law is still loving her Mac. I am going to shoot an email to my brother in law on how to install Skype. I finally figured out how to block all the random (mostly porn sites) from requesting me to add them to their contact list. I need to enable that setting on my mother in laws Mac and then all will be well.

From what I can tell Skype has better video processing than IChat, but IChat is easier to use.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Life is better here.....on the Mac side

Over the last year I have convinced at least 3 people to buy an Apple computer. These three just happen to be my wife, my sister in law and most recently my mother in law.

I noticed an interesting association this weekend when discussing Apple computers with my sister in law and mother in law.

My sister in law needed to access a nurse job system that required, among other things, Windows. My sister in law uses a Macbook running Mac OS X. She was curious as to what version of Windows she had installed and assumed it was Windows XP. I explained she doesn't have any version of Windows installed and that she had Mac OS. This got me thinking. Most people associate a computer with Windows.

When netbooks first came out most of them had Linux installed. People got them home and were confused when their software didn't work. Linux is an Operating System just like Windows...but it of course is not Windows. Linux is an entirely different Operating System. The return rate on these Linux netbooks was very high.

Linux has been around for a long time. There have been many attempts for computer companies to sell computers with Linux. Each attempt has largely failed. Consumers are used to Windows.

Companies, for the most part, aren't trying to “trick” consumers into buying Linux based computers. Many state they have Linux right on the box. Consumers likely assume Linux is some nifty software program that runs in Windows. I can see how they can make a mistake.

As technology improves, it will become less and less important which Operating System a consumers chooses as more and more applications are becoming available “in the cloud”. “In the cloud” meaning web based services. Already most consumers are used to opening a browser to check email and watch videos. A few years ago many consumers used email clients (I BOUGHT a copy of Eudora and Netscape at Target back in 1995 so I could check email and browse the web) and downloaded videos to watch using media players. Now a days most consumers get email via logging into a website and watch videos by visiting a website.

In just a few weeks Microsoft will be giving Microsoft Office away FOR FREE via a web based interface. Once this occurs consumers will be even more Operating System independent. At that point consumers will be more free to pick a computer based on price/performance/style/service.

As time goes on I think service will be the determining factor. Years ago I had zero qualms about sending people to Dell for a computer. In the late 90's early 2000's they had very well built computers and award winning service to back them up. Over the last few years Dell has been cost cutting the components and service. They recently scored LAST of all computer makers (ironically on August 18th some other company released a report showing Dell the top PC maker...24 points behind Apple). Sad. Who's tops? Apple.

True Apple computers cost more for an identical PC. The difference can be a few hundred dollars. The extra money pays for the amazing service that backs up the computers. I have never called Apple for support (I prolly should have a few times). My sister in law has had to call Apple for help and she had no problems. One advantage of an Apple computer over a PC is that Apple controls both hardware and software. On the PC side of things, Microsoft makes the software while it leaves hardware vendors to make it all work. On a Mac it's all seamless. I did have two problems with my Macbook Pro during the first year. One caused by myself, one by just time.

The first problem to occur was my CDROM drive stopped working. This was due to me dropping all my loose change into my laptop bag. The change would find it's way into the CDROM drive and bounce around. Yadda yadda yadda the drive stopped working. Apple replaced it without a problem.

The second problem was the battery not holding a full charge. This was due to wear and time. Being so mobile my battery was often drained and recharged several times a week. This caused 1/3 of the cells to go “bad” toward the end of the first year. I brought my Macbook into an Apple store. Within 15 minutes I was walking out with a brand new battery.

Mac's aren't perfect, but they are pretty good. One of my most used gadgets is 100% incompatible with the Mac OS. My Microsoft Zune MP3 player is Windows only. In order for me to use it on my Macbook, I had to install Windows on my. I have software for my pilot logbook that is also Windows only. For most people though switching to a Mac can be very painless.

My sister in law came out of the Windows closet last year. She had some initial confusion, but got through it fine. Kelli decided to go Mac and won't go back earlier this year. This weekend my mother in law took a bite out of Apple and was so happy she thanked ME for getting her an Imac. She previously only used her PC for a few minutes as it was slow and she had a lot of errors. She was in awe at just how fast and EASY it was to use a Mac. I set up Ichat so she can have video calls with my sister in law and her daughter. Using Ichat is easy. My mother in law loved it. I'm still looking for a PC program that can video chat with Ichat.

Who's left? Well both brothers in law still have PC's. One of my brothers in law lives in New York. My mother in law would be tickled pink to be able to video chat with her other niece. There are two options I currently know of. The first is for him to install Skype. Skype is cross platform communication application. Skype works fine, but both Kelli and I get request from strangers (I believe they are adult oriented sites) asking to be added to their contact list. The second option is to ship my brother in law a Mac. EH.

I have high hopes for PC's....they are what got me started in technology. Windows 7 is really good....but until the hardware is 100% there.....I think Apple will continue to gain market share.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Roid'd Up!

The Dr seemed to know my issue almost right away. The problem I have is mucous hanging around in my eustachian tube. When I used the sinus rinse, the mucous would temporarily be washed away. To combat this he gave me Veramyst (a nasal steroid) nasal spray to try. After a week I will call back and either get a prescription or go back in for more test.

Lowes has a very nice return policy. I bought an Azelea about a month ago. It died a horrible death. They have a one year plant guarantee. I brought it back and they refunded my money no questions asked. I wondered why I wasn't offered a new one. Reason? They are out of season I guess as they had none in stock. Oh well, maybe I will buy something else later.

My mother in law has come to Euless every fall for years. I thought she wasn't coming this year. Nope. She's coming, along with my sister in law and niece. Nice. We will all go to the State Fair of Texas and chow down on chicken friend bacon.

Windows made me mad yesterday. I am so used to the "it just works" mentality of Macs that when I had to go and hunt down drivers and then uninstall the old drivers before I installed the new one. Annoying. I also forgot how annoying uninstalling programs is. Sure just click the add/remove programs right? Well no because pieces of the program can (and often do) stick around. On a Mac it's one file/folder....that's it.

With that said I am working a little harder to get Mac OS on my netbook.

I still have love for Microsoft. My heart is thumping fast to get my hands on the Zune HD.

Arlington Carpet One must be using the Enron calculator

We are going to put new flooring down for the living room, foyer and main hallway. Six hundred square feet total. For our "test room" we paid $2.99 a square foot total. I later found out I get a hefty (10%) discount through my employer if I buy through Carpet One in Arlington. I called for a quote yesterday. I was told for 27 boxes (22.5 Square Feet per box) the total would be $1520 including tax before the discount. After the discount it would be $1368. Nice. That worked out to $2.25 a square foot. Huge savings.

This afternoon we stopped by the Carpet One in Arlington (the location on Main Street not the other location which has a different owner) to make sure we didn't want to change colors. The store is very small. Turns out they don't even have the Konecto product on display! They checked the back....nothing. Hmmm...Kelli wanted to see the other colors, back to the other store in Southlake we went.

Twenty minutes later we walked in. Same salesman/owner as the first time we bought flooring. He remembered us. After a few minutes we decided to keep the same color. Now pricing.

I told the salesman that the other store had us down to $2.25 a square foot including tax. He looked shocked. After a minute working on his computer the best he could do was $2.58 a square foot before tax. Something was off.

After whipping out my phone I called Carpet One in Arlington again. The same lady I saw thirty minutes prior (and spoke with yesterday) stated again $1520 - 10% so $1368. I then told her we were at a different store and they were much higher and I wanted her to confirm the price. Nine minutes later she came back.....$2100 before discount and $1890 after the discount. They were off by $500! I can give $50 here or there...but $500!?!?!?!?!?!?

Needless to say we stayed with the Carpet One in Southlake. All told we paid $2.70 a square foot after tax so $1640 total. Not bad. We should have it all installed within 2 weeks.

Headed to the ERT

So the sinus rinse helped a lot...but not enough. I am headed to an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor today.

One thing that I hate about visiting the doctor is filling out forms. Thankfully many doctors are putting the forms online. Some put them online to fill out and submit electronically while most have the online to print out and bring in. My doctor today has the former.

The doctor is part of the Texas Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist group ( They have a helpful website that I was sent to in order to fill out the required paperwork.

When I saw that the forms were in PDF format I was happy as I though I could simply type in my information. Nope. Once downloaded they are simply high quality scans of the paper documents (i.e. I couldn't edit them). Booo. I didn't want to waste time filling them out by hand. I wanted to waste time typing in my information. After a few attempts with Word and Acrobat I found a nifty website PDF to Word ( I uploaded the multi page PDF file and about 5 minutes later had a Word document emailed back to me. Score!

My HP Mini 5101 could be my most intelligent purchase yet. Still working on getting Mac OS X on it. I have been able to install Mac OS, but can't get the wifi, ethernet or sound working. I can get bluetooth working though....odd. Still working on it. The HP Mini 5101 can do 90% of what I use a computer for. I can access the web, work on my websites, do email, watch streaming Netflix movies, and play basic games. I can't edit video,do much with photos or play high end games.....but for $400 not bad at all. Oh and the battery last at least 6 hours and can stretch to 7 1/2 hours. Nice. Below are photos of my Macbook Pro next to my HP Mini 51010. The keyboards are the same size, the Mini's screen is 5 inches smaller, and the palm rest area is much smaller. Interesting thing is the Mini has 3 USB ports while the huge Macbook Pro has just 2. Yeah the Macbook Pro has Firewire. I've never used Firewire on the Macbook Pro. Eh.

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I did install Windows 7 RC 1 on my HP Mini 5101. Once I had everything working I made a system image via Windows 7 and saved it to an external hard drive. Now I can easily blow away the hard drive while trying to install Mac OS X without having to reinstall Windows 7.

Kelli is worried about Aerosmith cancelling the concert in Seattle next week. She bought tickets months ago. Eh.

We might switch to Sprint for phone service next year. With the discount through my employer the total bill will be $30 a month cheaper than T-Mobile. Again....$30 a month saved to buy diapers. I will lose T-Mobile hotspot access. Hmmmm.

Monday, August 10, 2009

XP to Windows 7 to Mac OS X in a flash

We have made hotel reservations for Tokyo. In typical Darren & Kelli fashion it was a bit complicated.

I have enough Starwood points for 2 free nights. We have enough points on our Capital One card for 2 free nights. So we booked two sets two nights in the same hotel. Ideally the hotel staff will "get it" and we will be able to keep the same room for 4 days.

We had dinner with the person who has known me the longest outside of my family yesterday. Kelli and I met up with Katrina at Sweet Tomatoes for dinner. Sweet Tomatoes is a upper end salad bar. I scheduled to meet at 4:30PM. Right when we walked in an employee pushed a card over which changed the price from $7 to $9 per person as "dinner started". Hmm whatever. We were the only ones there.

Katrina has been without a job since November last year. She has the problem I had when I was laid off. I made much more on unemployment than I would if I got a job at McDonalds. She worked it out that she has to get a job making at least $11 an hour to make it worth her while. I keep telling her she can get a job at the airport. Her husband will be coming back from Iraq soon. They could both get jobs at my airline. She could get  job as a Gate Agent and he could get a job as a Ramper. Just sayin.

Katrina turns 31 at the end of this month. We have known each other for 16 years. Nutty.

My HP Mini 5101 arrived last night. I have never touched a 5101 before it arrived. I bought it without testing it. I relied on reviews and photos. I am very happy with it. The keyboard is nearly the same size as my Macbook Pro. The keys feel a little better than the Macbook Pro. One great thing is I already have a laptop bag for it. Way back in college I bought an IBM Z50 with is about the size of the HP Mini 5101. The Z50 needed I bought this neoprene case that had  hard piece of plastic inside the liner on one side to protect the screen. The Z50 stopped working, but I never got rid of the case. Good thing I didn't as the case fits the Mini 5101 perfectly. Kelli wasn't happy when I told her this is another reason I should never throw anything away.

I booted to Windows XP Home for the first time in my life. I played around for 5 minutes before blowing it all away and installing Windows 7 RC from scratch via a USB thumb drive. Played around for 10 minutes before starting the process of installing Mac OS X. Still working on that. I plan on having Windows 7 and Mac OS X on it. Wish me luck.

I love technology...because it is

It's no secret I love technology. My love of technology started in 6th grade when I first saw Microsoft Flight Simulator on a IBM 386 computer in wood shop. I then begged for a computer and got my first one for Christmas. I was the kid who lived in the house whom you never saw. Technology became my best friend.

Since then (for 20 years now), I have embraced technology. Things are moving faster today than I ever thought possible. There are over 350 million unique user accounts on Facebook. Of those over 250 million are active (meaning in use more than once a month). Facebook is becoming a primary means of contact for people. Years ago people would call. Then texting became popular. Now it's Facebook. I find it facsinating that friends who have multiple ways to contact me (phone number (to call or text), email, and Facebook more often than not now pick Facebook.

At it's peak Myspace had 150 million users. Facebook has more than double the number of users. Myspace is dead. They did have a huge paid for spot in the movie Funny People, that I viewed as sad. Facebook appears to have the power to stick.

Twitter is another powerful tool that is having teething issues. Not enough power to scale amid the growing popularity. I use Twitter, mostly for my pilot website. One thing that I don't like about Twitter is the number of porn/adult websites on Twitter. What the sites do is create an account and then "follow" everyone in hoping people will click on the adult site website. I go through my followers once a week and block all those who I can clearly tell are porn sites or simply a business website. Annoying.

Skype. Skype is a powerful communication tool that can make phone calls for cheap in addition to free calls. I have a Skype number for my Mid-Cities Geek startup. I also signed Kelli up for an account. With a Mac using Skype is stupid easy. I can place a call to Kelli and have a video/voice/text chat without having to set anything up. Kelli "got it" very quickly. When my mother in law gets a Mac, Kelli or I (depends on if I travel to Portland next weekend) will install Skype and show her how to use it. Skype to Skype calls are free. All Macs have built in microphones and cameras. Both are very high quality and can be used even in a noisy environment as the microphone doesn't pick up back ground noise.

Kelli now has a Google Voice account. She doesn't know why she has one. But she has one. This is one more step in my goal of killing our monthly phone bill within 6 months. Right now we pay $19 a month for Vonage. Not much, but it's $240 a year we will soon be spending on diapers. My plan is to either get a MagicJack or use Skype for our home phone service. MagicJack works fine on Windows Home Server and is just $20 a year. Skype can be set up so it's invisible to the home user (like Vonage is too Kelli), but takes a little more tinkering. Skype can be as low as $4 a month. Still planning out all the details.

When we go to Japan we will be able to stay in contact with family and friends on the cheap mostly due to Skype and Google Voice. Kelli can call her mother via Skype for free. We can also make cheap phone calls via Skype and/or Google Voice.

Nine years ago we would have had to make costly calls back to the United States via long distance carriers or maybe a prepaid calling card. We would be able to email photos back....and that's about it. Fifteen years ago we would have made only costly long distance calls. Few had email and no one had a digital camera.

I love technology.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The sad state of education in this country

I am going to use my degree in sociology this morning. Hmmm I guess I use it everyday. Eh.

Picking name for an offspring...I 've been working on names for over a year. We haven't sought outside help. We are already planning on saving money and resources for said offspring.

There is an under educated lady who is using EBay to select the baby name for her SEVENTH child. Yeah SEVENTH like in 7.

Her husband just left her and she needs money. She has no money, no job and needs money for her baby. Now at first I thought this was an interesting effort. Then I read her ad. (full link here )


Up for auction today is the legal first name for my son.

He will be born somtime in september, so after you win this auction, just send us an e-mail with your desierd name to us.

And after he is born we will notify you and give you a certificate with your name and the baby's.

He is allso going to be my 7th child so he will be a lucky one!

You can name him annything like after a loved one, a departed one, or any great boy name!

Im am doing this only to help my family. I'm a single mother of 6 soon to be 7 kids and i am in a tight situation. We live in a small house located in Arkansas, wich is barely enough room for all of us. I have no job or anny source of income so my sister pays for my rent, my phone bill, water bill, gas bill, ALL MY BILLS. And our car is on the last leg of its life. So all the money will be used to pay for a new car (one that can fit my BIG family) some baby cloths, and maybe if some one is generious enough a new house. but we are despritly in need of a new car, so we hope to get around 20-25 thousound. So please help out a great family in need.

Thank you so verry much, and God bless.

Yeah. Wow. Aside from the spelling and grammar mistakes (I have been known to make a few), she wants the money for a car? WTF? During the TV interview she stated she had no expectations, but in the eBay ad stated she wants twenty grand? There is so much wrong with this situation that I don't know where to start.

She should not have been allowed to have 7 kids. No one should. I think if anyone is on government assistance they should be temporarily banned from having kids. If they can't support themselves, how can they support a child?

This woman thinks a NEW car (not used) is the key to helping her family? How about a suitable living environment? How about a job? Ridiculous.

Back in college I interned at a small high school just north of Nacogdoches. The teacher and I once had a discussion that educated people are making the United States well.....less educated. How so? Well educated people are more likely to only have as many kids as they can support. So 1 to 3. Educated people know how babies are made and how much they cost. They typically plan for such events (my brother in law is an extreme exception). Non/under educated people (this lady, my sister) have kids almost magically. They just keep pumping them out. As each one is born they fill out the proper paperwork (they are well versed in government forms) and prepare for the next bundle of government burden.

A single mother can take care of a child. Thousands of strong women have done this in the past. I have a friend who is the definition of strong woman. She was born deaf. She met a nice man, married, had two wonderful boys. Then the man left. She raised both boys while working a full time job. She never used her deafness as a crutch. Heck I didn't know she was deaf until she told me. I met her a few times and couldn't tell.

The proper thing to do would be to place her 7th kid up for adoption. The eBay auction is only up to $2900. If it were a few hundred I would love to name the kid, "Tell my mom to stop having kids".

Thursday, August 6, 2009

How much will I save with MyRate from Progressive ?

So I have had Myrate for 30 days now. It takes 30 days for the Progressive Insurance computers to work up an estimate on how much the driver will save. Total projected savings for me?? 17%.


Now that 17% equates to $47. Pretty good right? Well there's a catch. Texas law allows Progressive to charge $30 per term (so $60 a year per car.....they only sell 6 month terms). So that reduces my savings to $17 per 6 months or roughly 7%. Worth it? Still debating. For those thinking about it (I get a lot of Google hits for the Myrate Program), here's a chart showing my average daily use, which I think is REALLY low.

savingsmyrateMy daily averages are way below the "average" MyRate user. I drive an average of 3 trips a day, during low risk times for just 46 minutes totaling 23 miles. I never have sudden starts or stops and my speedometer never passes 75 MPH. I think I should get near the max discount of 25%. Nope.

There are many states that don't allow Progressive to charge the $30 fee. If we lived in one of those states it would be no brainer as to keeping the MyRate program in place. I dunno. I miss being able to floor the gas pedal every now and then. Eh.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

So far so good

The preliminary results came out late in the evening yesterday. As for now I stay in Dallas on the my current plane (CRJ). The results did show that I am the most junior First Officer in Dallas flying a jet. This of course means if anything changes between now and the final results I will be Chicago based. I am not going to celebrate until the final results come out. Last time there was a displacement bid (April), the preliminary results showed me being displaced while the final results showed me staying put. Here's hoping for good news.

In support of Kelli (and because it will save money) I am going to give up soft drinks. Kelli is quitting caffeine again. I am still on caffeine, but will only drink coffee. I used to drink 4-5 diet cokes a day. Now just coffee in the morning. Of course I drink a lot of a whole pot. Don't judge me. Recent reports have showed coffee is good for you. Not sure about a whole pot....but whatever.

My netbook shipped from MacMall yesterday. Should prolly have it Monday or Tuesday. is all new. Eric switched to Wordpress (the same software this blog runs on). For the most part I am very happy with Wordpress. It is the mostly easy to use and very customizable. All of my blogs run on the same blogging software and a few have the same theme, but they all look different. I'm really happy with how my pilot blog looks. After many months of search engines (mostly associating my name with by pilot blog, it's finally set free. Due to a multitude of reasons I have to refrain from giving any clues to who I work for while writing for my pilot blog. To accomplish this I had to remove all mentions, links, and tie-ins with and my pilot blog. I can't even mention the address in this blog as a search engine will pick it up. I've changed the domain name, removed all mentions of my name and become very vague in discussing my job. In the process the average unique vistors dropped 30%. No big deal as I do it to help those who are interested in the profession, not to make money or to become famous.

My geeky friend Kerry has always had more domain names than I. Even now I have/control 6 domain names and 5 websites....she is still beating me. There is one tech area where I have DOUBLE the coverage.....Twitter accounts. I have two. One for this website and one for my pilot website. If anyone wants the URL to my pilot website shoot me an email at Darren at stillageek d0t com.

Finally, saw this clip on a video podcast I watch called The Dig Reel. Made me laugh.



Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Finally a solution to my sinus problems

I never had allergies until I went to Stephen F Austin in DEEP East Texas. I started taking allergy medication every Spring since then.

This year wasn't as bad. However toward the end of May I came down with a bad head cold. I thought it was a simple cold. Well ever since then I have had sinus issues that are flaring up like allergies. I have been to the doctor twice and been given steroids and antibiotics. Both helped a little. I still have sinus issues and a slight ear issue. Annoying. I've been meaning to go to a specialist. Haven't made the effort. I have been browsing pilot forums and came across one concerning sinus problems. I might have fixed myself for $10 at Wal-Mart.

The product is called Neilmed Sinus Rinse.


I tried the product yesterday and finally felt normal. The first time I used it I didn't use it correctly as it's an odd feeling. The second time I felt much better right away. The solution is made up of filtered water and a saltwater solution. No pain, no chemicals! I can breathe a lot easier as well. Best $10 I ever spent. I can make the solution myself by buying kosher (no iodine) salt and sodium bicarbonate. I slept much better last night as well. Safe to use everyday with no side effects.

No word on where I will be based yet. Might have results Friday. Everything is being done by hand.
I should find out Saturday how much money I will be saving with MyRate. I will say it's changed my driving habits.

An unfortunate reality

I just might be looking for a crashpad of my 'own' soon. This is a very candid look at crashpads. I bet most Americans have no idea what a crashpad is....even though they might be living next to one. This is a very well written article. For those who don't care to read the whole thing, I pulled out a quote that puts the whole regional flying thing into prespective:

The wife of a captain who stays at Sterling Park said she resents the situation, particularly his sharing a house with other women while she and their children live on the other side of the country.

"Sometimes I feel as though he's off to this life we know nothing about," the woman said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of fear of career repercussions against her husband. "He kind of lives like a single person in a dorm. I don't know any of the people he talks about. I don't know any spouses or any family. There are no Christmas parties, no socializing."

She said it has been difficult for their children. "My little girl, she says, 'When is Daddy coming to visit us again?' I said, 'Daddy doesn't come and visit us. This is his home.' "

Here is the link to the story. There is a very interesting photo slideshow of a crashpad.

Sweating for a month for two bucks

So our July power bill (for usage in June) hit $185. We were shocked. Our thermostat was at 78 degrees (about 18 degrees higher than my father in law likes it), we not only turned off, but unplugged just about everything when not in use and we have a house full of compact fluorescent bulbs. The uncontrollable factor was the Texas heat which was over 100 degrees daily.

For July we bumped up the thermostat to 80 degrees. We wore shorts around the house. Somewhat uncomfortable with leather couches and laptops on our laps. The power bill arrived yesterday. A whole $2 saved. We pay 11.9 cents per kwh. Crazy. The thermostat is back to 78 degrees.

Twitter. It took me a while to warm up to it. I like it. Twitter will never replace my blogs. I have much more to say than can be combined in 140 characters or less.

Kelli has a Skype account. I installed it for no reason. I have one as well. Macs have built in microphones and webcams. We can have video chat very easily. We can also just talk back and forth. WHEN my mother in law gets a Mac in theory ( although I doubt she would) she could simply call Kelli via Skype and chat. True a headset would provide better conversation clarity than the built in microphone. eh.

I decided on which netbook I want, the HP Mini 5101. The HP 5101 isn't the longest lasting netbook (last 6-7 hours in normal use as compared to over 9 hours for the Toshiba NB205.) Funny thing, I ordered it from with just $9 shipping. The same product from PCMall (which is owned by the same company that owns charges $25 shipping. The HP 5101 isn't listed on, I had to search for it. Right now it's on backorder as HP hasn't started shipping the 5101 yet.

I have the best wife I could ask for. Despite our differences (and there are many) our relationship just works. Whoever thought it was a good idea to marry someone with a lot of stuff in common got it all wrong. By being so different we both have seen, done , discussed and experienced things we likely never would have done had we not met. Even though I think she is wrong about a lot of things (politics, the environment, food, television, music...I could go on), I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, August 3, 2009

We got points

We had a nice weekend. I worked Saturday evening....I was on reserve at home on Sunday.

Kelli and I saw Funny People yesterday. We both really liked it. The previews for the movie were interesting. Some previews portrayed the movie as another comedy/wacky movie from Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen while others portrayed the movie as a comedy drama. Those that went thinking it would be a non-stop funny movie were likely disappointed.

We are still planning to hit Japan in October. I have enough Starwood points to get two free nights in Japan. We should be able to use our Capital One points for two more nights.

We stopped by Best Buy yesterday. The 24 inch IMac I want my mother in law to buy is very nice. Big..okay...huge monitor which makes the keyboard look really small. I liked it. Kelli thought it was too big. Eh. Ideally my mother in law will get the 24 inch IMac, an Apple Time Machine/Airport Express and the wireless keyboard/mouse and be truly ultra hip/chic.

The bid process as to where I will be based closes tonight. Not sure when the results will be released. I bid the following:

1- Dallas CRJ (where I am now, pipe dream bid)

2- Dallas ERJ (Smaller jet, same pay, but lower QOL)

3- Chicago ERJ (Smaller, jet, same pay, higher QOL than Chicago CRJ)

4. Dallas ATR (Big turboprop, less pay, higher QOL than all the above)

5. Chicago CRJ (same pay as now, much lower QOL)

6. Euless Houseman (no pay leech of a job)

I am pretty sure I will be Chicago ERJ. I am still debating going to Chicago I have till 11PM.

Kelli caulked the baseboards this weekend. The room is 99% done. Just have to fill in the nail holes in the baseboards. Only 3 to 4 small holes per baseboard. The room looks very nice. Hopefully we will have the hallway, foyer, living room and dining area done before the end of the year. I think we will likely get it all done next month.