Monday, November 30, 2009

Interline Travel FAIL

I have a degree in Communications specializing in Photojournalism. I double majored in Sociology as well. The Communications degree required quite a bit a writing via journalism courses. I also studied people and groups in social situations.....not that that is at all relevant to my rant. 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 ( )that actually states the NCL policy.

Interline Eligibility
• 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 calls Kelli. Easy.

Being financially responsible

We were planning on hitting Vegas next Sunday. After looking at my bank account I decided it would be best to avoid such a large expense.

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. 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

I'm on a boat! Well I will be

For the second year in a row I was able to spend Thanksgiving with Kelli....actually I have spent every Thanksgiving with Kelli. I have missed a Christmas a few times though.

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 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 @ .

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Luck on my side....a little bit

Itinerary Map

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 -

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.

Itinerary Map

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


Thinking about going on a cruise in January. Would like to drag the inlaws along as they both have (or will soon have) fancy new passports. We can go on the same cruise we went on last time for $129 a person for an inside room or $199 a person for a balcony room.

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 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 are enrolled in a $10+ monthly discount group. Again you don't give them your credit card (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.

1032045 has been scammy for a while. Surprised to see US Airways...kinda...they are hurting financially. Beyond 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

I'll be somewhere for Thanksgiving

I head back to work thru Saturday. Not sure where I will be. Maybe I will be home. Maybe not. Kelli and I bought food for Thanksgiving in case I am home.

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

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!!!!

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.

Another reason I don't have dogs

Had a nice weekend. Flew to Cleveland Saturday night on overtime. Beautiful flight. The Marriott hotel we stay in was recently overhauled. It now very trendy. Problem I have is the thermostat in the rooms.

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 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 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

Pretending too fly

Today is my yearly 4 hour session in the simulator. It's a pretty long day. I have a 10:30 show time prior to my session. The session starts at noon. There are a few breaks, but not enough time to eat a meal. Kinda sucks.

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.'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

Will the real Darren Byrd please stand up!

Finding people...tracking them down....can be kinda hard.

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 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?

Heritage Family Dentist Colleyville, Tx Review

The title of this blog serves a purpose. Hopefully those searching for a dentist will steer clear of this place.

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.

Cold head

Right before I left college I shaved my head. Prior to that....for more than 5 years I had dreadlocks. Since then I have shaved my head roughly every two weeks.

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:

Norwegian Sky
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

Better luck in Vegas?

Small post Our attempts at procreation failed this month. Kelli thought it was a go. Strips proved otherwise. Since we have a few weeks until the stars align again we are penciling in a trip to Vegas during the first full week of Vegas December.

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

Just another coughing Monday

Still coughing. Official record.

Saturday night we went out with Eric and Angela from (I would make a but Kelli seems to think she is above blogging as given evidence by 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 Baby

Heard a song yesterday that I haven't heard in a while. The song is by country artist Blake Shelton and is called The Baby.

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.

Can't catch a break

On the way to work yesterday my rear tire was flat. While filling it up the air stem broke off. I was shocked. All the air blew out. Thankfully I decided to leave for work a few minutes early. After changing the tire I made it to work late, but with time to get  my flight off the gate on time. I figured it would be like a $40 repair. Nope. $130! Since 2007 all cars must have a Tire Pressure Monitoring System installed. This means more things to break. I feel this should be under warranty, but it will be hard to prove as it's physically broken. Not happy. After being sick for more than a week I get kicked with a flat tire then this morning I get slapped with a hefty repair bill. Hope this streak ends soon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Less coughing....made my death bed

Stopped by another medical office. Never saw a real Doctor. I used CareNow's "Web-Checkin". This is supposed to allow you to hang out at home until they are ready too see you. Once you get there you should be taken to a room and seen quickly. Yeah.

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

It's the end of the world as we know it

It's the end of the world as we know it...and I am sick.

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 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

Nice weekend

For the first time (without using vacation) in months I had a full weekend off. Nice change. Kelli and I really didn't know what to do with ourselves.

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.

2009-11-08 14.53.33

2009-11-08 14.54.15

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

Looking Back

Kelli and I flew to Houston for the day Saturday. The flight down was fine until the landing....the pilot appeared to have forgotten to flare...ouch.

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.

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Here is the photo before I retouched it.

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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.

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Below is my baby photo. When I was born, more than a few nurses swore I was "white".

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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.

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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.

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They were happy to see me at first. They likely assumed I could play...because I was black. Well once they saw me I only played one year.

I tried golf as well. Only at Disneyworld. I coulda been Tiger! Check out those socks.

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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.

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My buckwheat photo

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A Darren and Santa photo

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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.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

I hate being sick

Flew with a Captain who was clearly sick earlier this week. Two hours confined in a small space will almost always mean transfer of germs. Happened. He would sneeze and cough and said it was allergies....allergies my ass. I'm finally 99% over it.

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

Windows's that good

Installed Windows 7 Home Premium on my Netbook. Runs great. I still have a release candidate using dual boot on my Macbook Pro. I find myself using Windows 7 almost as much as Mac OS X lately. Windows 7 really is that good.

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.

Yeah...prolly not.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Back to the real world

I went back to work yesterday. Kelli goes back today.

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 ( . 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 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

I know the pilot in the story. He flies the same plane I do. I've also flown the schedule in the story....the 4:30AM van is a killer especially when delays happen and I ended up working till 7PM

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.

Recent changes
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.

Tough stretches
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.

Rocky start
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.”