Saturday, December 30, 2006

Tribute

Sorry about the blog being in semi-non active mode recently. There is a reason for it which I hope to post more about today or tomorrow...now, on to this morning's post.

I am not a huge James Brown fan, but I am a music fan, and there can be no denying the influence he had on a vast variety of music over his lifetime. Therefore, I thought it would be nice to include a YouTube link to a short film he appeared in that I found rather amusing.

This is from BMW's "The Hire" series of short films...so I guess in one sense it could be considered a commercial, but it's a very entertaining one.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

We never celebrate like this where I work...

Just found this item in the news...an excerpt appears below:

Camel sacrifice shocks Turkish Airlines

ANKARA, Turkey (AFP) — Turkish Airlines took swift disciplinary action Wednesday after it emerged that members of its technical staff had sacrificed a camel to celebrate getting their job done.

Maintenance workers all pitched in to buy the beast to mark the long-awaited dispatch to Britain of the last of 11 RJ100 aircraft which Turkish decided to leave out of its fleet due to a series of accidents involving the planes.

The camel was sacrificed Tuesday at Istanbul's Ataturk airport and about 1,540 pounds of meat was distributed among the staff.


Perhaps this would be a good way for me and my fellow airline employees to show our happiness at finally starting to make a profit again...but I think we'll probably just stick to doing potluck lunches occasionally.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Never a dull moment

I've worked in the airline industry a long time and I've heard all kinds of stories and been personal witness to lots of incidents, including a pre-9/11 hijack attempt...but this was something I had never seen or even imagined happening before. The link is to a news article, and since I know a news article link doesn't work indefinitely, part of the article is quoted below:

It may be one problem airline security officials never envisioned -- a passenger lighting matches in flight to mask odors from her flatulence.

The woman's actions resulted in an emergency landing on Monday in Nashville of an American Airlines flight bound for Dallas from Washington, D.C., said Lynne Lowrance, a spokeswoman for Nashville's airport.

Other passengers reported the odor of burned matches, but the woman was not forthcoming when asked about it, Lowrance said on Wednesday.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

100 Facts in 100 Days #9

I have travelled internationally to a disappointingly small number of countries, considering my travel and military background. I've lived in Okinawa (now a part of Japan) and in England during high school, and visited Italy, but that's about it. I have since been back to England once about five years ago. Hopefully now that I am working for a larger airline, I will start travelling internationally a bit more.

Monday, December 04, 2006

100 Facts in 100 Days #8

Time to get this series rolling again. OK, random factoid about me for today is...I have gray hair. Not that it's uncommon for someone in their late thirties, but I've been getting gray hair since I was 16 (which is before I started shaving.)

My gray hair first became noticeable after I went into the Air Force and finished basic training (go figure) due to a "shock" of gray that I have above my right temples. That is still there, but lots of other gray has started to creep in over the years, not that it's really noticeable other than making my hair color look like a lighter shade of brown.

I really don't mind the color change much, but it's harder to style gray hair than non-gray hair (something about the texture of gray hair) so I just end up using a lot of pomade on it. Believe me, given a choice between gray hair and no hair, I much prefer gray hair. And after being in the military and the airline industry for the past fifteen plus years, I feel I've definitely earned every one of them.

Hello!

First...apologies for not posting more. I will try a couple quick posts here to get the ball rolling. Nothing majorly wrong going on, no illnesses or car crashes...just been (1) a lazy blogger and (2) out of town, visiting my Mom's house. Of course, I could blog from there if I wanted to but that brings back to (1) me being lazy. Anyhow....

Last week at work, before I went to my Mom's place, our union, in what is evidently a holiday tradition, bought three LARGE (bushel-sized) bags of nuts upstairs for everyone to snack on. There was a bag of salted peanuts, one of unsalted peanuts, and one bag full of mixed nuts (walnuts, brazil nuts, etc.)

I could make several observations about this...we're all nuts to work in the airline industry, it helps to have a hard shell to work here, we're a group of mixed nuts, we work for peanuts, and it helps to take things in this industry with a grain of salt.

I liked the salted peanuts but the brazil nuts are really good also. However, they are one tough nut to crack...and that could be an analogy for getting on with a major airline, a feat that took me over ten years.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Cool Phrase of the Day

In an attempt to perpetuate an endangered species, a zoo in Thailand is attempting to teach panda bears how to mate by showing them how-to videos. That's right, the world will never be the same again...because now there is panda porn.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Lameness of Cellular Cameras

Last night before I left work, there was a big fire burning at what I believe was an abandoned church. Huge flames shooting into the sky and surrounded by fire trucks. We had a great view so I attempted to take a picture of the event, and I got this...



Yeah boy, that really captured the moment.

By the time I was leaving and got to the parking garage, the fire had been put out. I tried to take another picture since I figured it might turn out better with no glass in the way...



Slightly better, but not by much. Oh well. Good thing I'm not a newspaper photographer. If I was, I'd probably have better equipment, though.

All this being said, I have had some fun with semi-spontaneous pictures taken by cellcam before. On my last trip to Albuquerque, I was driving along and came to an intersection near where the local newspaper is published. I saw a sign I just had to take a picture of for MM...and I snapped this one.



I added the text in later with MS Paint. Anyhow, I'll read up on my cellphone camera instructions and hopefully take some higher quality pictures next time I encounter a newsworthy image opportunity.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Playing with YouTube

I uploaded on of Magazine Man's old videos to YouTube (with his permission) so if any readers here haven't seen it, it's worth checking out. Actually, even if you've seen it before, it's still funny. So, without further ado, here is Magazine Man vs. Art Lad!

Friday, October 27, 2006

100 Facts in 100 Days #7

I have big feet. REALLY big feet. Depending upon the brand, I wear either a 14 or a 15 sized shoe. That's big. I wish I was as big, proportionally speaking, as my shoe size, but I'm only 6'3". Oh well.

I once met Luc Longley when he was attending UNM, who played in the NBA after college, and is 7'2". He had about the same size shoe as I do.

I have two sisters from my Mom's first marriage who are 9 and 11 years older than me, respectively. Once, when I was five, the younger of my two sisters borrowed my tennis shoes. They fit her perfectly.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A brief break from the facts...

This brief break is happening while I celebrate my birthday in Albuquerque. Much better than last year, which I meant to celebrate in Albuquerque, but instead had a very depressing day in Wisconsin, for reasons which I won't go into here right now.

All in all, this has been a positive year, even though the move to Houston was expensive and stressful, and my cost of living is a bit higher there...it's still all worth it. I was very unhappy at my previous employer for various reasons, and I was really SICK of the Wisconsin Winters (which have to be experienced to be believed.) And what the heck, now that it's getting to be nice weather in Texas, why not poke some fun at the climate I just escaped?

LIVING IN WISCONSIN

DEAR DIARY:

AUG. 1
Moved to our new home in lovely Wisconsin. It is so beautiful here. The country is so picturesque. Can hardly wait to see it covered with snow.
I LOVE IT HERE

OCT. 14
Wisconsin is the most beautiful place on earth. The leaves are
turning all different colors. I love the shades of red and orange. Went for a ride through the hills and saw some deer. They are so graceful. Certainly they are the most peaceful animals on earth. This must be paradise.
I LOVE IT HERE.

NOV. 11
Deer season will open soon. I can't imagine anyone wanting to kill such an elegant creature. The very symbol of peace and tranquillity. Hope it will snow soon.
I LOVE IT HERE.

DEC. 2
It snowed last night. Woke up to find everything blanketed in white. It looked like a postcard. Went outside and cleaned snow off the steps and shoveled the driveway. We had a snowball fight today (I won). When the snowplow came by we had to shovel the driveway again. What a beautiful place. Mother Nature in perfect harmony.
I LOVE IT HERE.

DEC. 12
More snow last night. I love it. The snowplow did his trick again
that rascal. A winter wonderland.
I LOVE IT HERE.

DEC. 19
Snowed again last night. Couldn't get out of the driveway to get to work this time. I'm exhausted from shoveling. F**king snowplow!

DEC. 22
More of that white sh*t fell last night. I've got blisters on my
hands from shoveling. I think the snowplow hides around the corner and waits until I'm done shoveling. That A**hole!

DEC. 25
"White Christmas" my busted a*s. Mother f**king snow. If I ever get my hands on that son-of-a-b*tch who drives that snowplow, I swear I will castrate the dumb b*stard. Don't know why they don't use more salt on this f**king ice.

DEC. 28
More of the same sh*t last night. Been inside since Christmas day
except for when "Snowplow Harry" comes by. Can't go anywhere. The car is buried in a mountain of white sh*t. The weatherman says expect another 10 inches of this sh*t tonight. Do you know how many shovels full of snow 10 inches is?

JAN. 1
Happy F**king New Year. The weatherman was wrong (AGAIN). We got 34 f**king inches of snow this time. At this rate it won't melt until the 4th of July. The snowplow got stuck down the road and sh*t for brains had the balls to come to the door and ask to borrow my shovel. I told him I broke 6 shovels already, shoveling out the sh*t he plowed into my driveway.
I broke the 7th shovel over his f**king head.

JAN. 4
Finally got out of the house today. Went to the store to get food and on the way back a deer ran out in front of the car and I hit the f**ker. Did about $3,000.00 damage to the car. Wish the hunters would have killed them all last November.

MAY 3
Took the car to the garage in town today. Would you believe the body is rotting away from all the f**king salt they keep dumping all over the roads. It really looks like a piece of sh*t.

MAY 10
Moved to Florida today. I can't imagine why anyone in their right
f**king mind would want to live in the God forsaken State of Wisconsin!


So, all in all, I'm fairly satisfied with life, but there are some things I want to improve on in the next year or so...get back into a regular exercise routine, lose some weight, actually attempt to go on a few dates...but overall, compared from last year at this time to this year, I like this year a lot better (even if my apartment is messier now than then.)

Posting will be a bit on the lighter side until I get back to Texas.

Friday, October 20, 2006

100 Facts in 100 Days #6

Keeping up the numbers theme...as a requirement/occasional benefit of my current job, I have ridden in the cockpits of eleven twelve different types of aircraft. (EDIT: I recently jumpseated on an Embraer 145 regional jet, which I forgot to list below.)

Some of them were a one-off type of experience (I was travelling somewhere and the cabin was full...this was easier to do pre-9/11 but is still possible) and some of them were required for my job (under federal regulations, aircraft dispatchers are required to ride up front 5 hours per year on their own company's aircraft for operational familiarization.) For those of you new to my blog, or who are just curious about what I do for a living, an excellent article on the subject (which I have referenced before) can be found here.

Here are the planes I've ridden in the cockpit on my "required" trips:

Saab 340 and Dash 8 (both turboprops)
Avro RJ-70, Fokker 70, Canadair RJ, and BAE-146 (regional jets)
Boeing 737 and 757 (I'm sure most everyone has heard of these.)

On my "fun" trips to get somewhere (or get back from somewhere), I've ridden up front on the Airbus A320, as well as a Boeing 777 (on my last trip to England, that was how I got there) and a Boeing 747-400.

Jumpseating is an option most commonly used by pilots when they are commuting to or from their "hub" where they fly out of. In popular culture, "Catch Me If You Can" showed Leonardo DiCaprio's character, Frank Abignale, impersonating an airline pilot and travelling all over the country jump seating. Due to post-9/11 security procedures now in place, this would be very difficult to pull off today.

Many pilots are unaware dispatchers can ride in the jumpseat, which I always find annoying. I used to jumpseat a lot on Southwest when I lived in Las Vegas, and after a couple of incidents, I got to know exactly which paragraph in their flight operations manual said that dispatchers from other airlines were allowed to ride in their jumpseat. Still, since there are only a few thousand dispatchers in the US, versus tens of thousands of pilots, so I guess it's understandable.

Riding in a cockpit jumpseat is exciting initially, and it's a great view, but the novelty wears off fairly quickly. After that, it's usually just a way to get somewhere. I always do try to learn something from the flight crews I'm travelling with, though.

Wow, this turned into a semi-decent post, once I got going! To top it off, I will add a picture of me in the cockpit taken by a friendly pilot when I got to ride up front on the 747. I apologize for the crappy picture quality, since the camera was using a flash and the picture is too bright...but this is about the only photographic evidence I have that I really have ridden up front before. I'll try and take some better pictures next year.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

100 Facts in 100 Days #5

Along my way to getting a bachelor's degree, I attended four different institutions of higher learning. In order, those would be Texas Tech University, the University of New Mexico, the University of Maryland, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I patched that together with some CLEP tests, a video course in economics, and credit from my military training to finally get a bachelor's degree by the time I was 25. I currently do not have plans to get a master's degree, but never say never. If I find a program I like that I can afford, I might just go for it.

Back to the facts...

Sorry I've had such a long break. I really have no excuse except to say I've been in kind of a down mood lately for no particular reason. I did finally find a local brewpub here that I like. That was one thing I enjoyed in Wisconsin that seemed to be rare here. Don't get me wrong, there are TONS of bars...but few places that make their own beer. They also have a good food menu, quite a step up from the typical bar fare I've seen around town so far. Anyhow, Two Rows is only a few miles away from where I live so I'm sure I'll be visiting there quite a bit. I am quite careful to moderate my intake when I'm driving, though. With good beer, I find it to be quality, not quantity, that matters. And with that, let's resume the facts stampede!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A Break From The Facts...

...but just a temporary break. More facts to come shortly!

Sorry I've been in non-blogging mode for a few days, but I just got back from a symposium put on by the Airline Dispatchers Federation which was very interesting. There's a lot of stuff happening in the rulesmaking process for aviation, in the US as well as other countries, that goes on "behind the scenes," and the ADF symposiums help keep me up to date about what's happening. I hope to become more involved with the ADF this year; we'll see how things go.

I saw lots of new flight planning/monitoring software products at the symposium that were really cool. Of course, being a new dispatcher at the Rather Large Airline, I have almost no input into what software products the RLA decides to buy. I do plan on talking up my favorites of the ones I saw demonstrated, though. I also went into chotchke-grabbing mode, collecting pens, lanyards, and whatever other goodies the vendors were offering. Hey, I need them to remember the names of the vendors' companies, right?

Also duuring the symposium, my new (used) car's air conditioning decided to quit. Since this isn't really an optional item to have in Texas (even in October) I did a bit of poking around and discovered that my AC fan belt was missing. After a bit of searching, I found a new fan belt for under $5, but I lacked the tools to put it on myself. Actually, even if I'd had the tools, it would have taken me all day to do it, because frankly, auto mechanics is not my strong point. So, I found a shop that was willing to put it on for $50, which I thought was fair. I was just glad it wasn't anything serious.

The owner of the auto shop was Korean, and most of the reading material in the waiting area was written in Korean. He had a magnetic darts set out which I started playing with to kill time, since I didn't have much to choose from in way of magazine that I could understand. It had an electronic scorekeeping function. The shop owner showed me how to use it and said, "You like? I have for sale, only $59, no tax!" I opted not to become a magnetic dart set owner this time, though.

The shop finished my car in record time (under 30 minutes) so I could drive places without sweating again. It's always good to be able to make it work without needing a shower when you get there.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

100 Facts in 100 Days #4

Since I have started working in the airline industry, I have lived in six different states (New Hampshire, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Texas.) I might also count Florida, which is where I went to do my aviation training. I am hopeful that my move to the Rather Large Airline that I am at now is my last one for a while.

Moving seems to get ever more stressful/expensive as I get older and accumulate more stuff. I have nostalgia for my first move, which just consisted of all the crap I threw in the back of my pickup over ten years ago when I was moving to New Hampshire.

Friday, September 29, 2006

100 Facts in 100 Days #3

Continuing the foreign locale theme...in my junior year of high school, I was an exchange student to England, in a town called Hemel Hempstead. I didn't like it as much as I thought I would at first, but after I got into the groove of things I enjoyed myself pretty well. The last month I was there I spent with a new host family I had a lot more in common with than my first one.

In spite of my working in the airline industry, I only have been back once since my high school years. I hope to go again within the next year or two, though.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

100 Facts in 100 Days #2

I was in the Air Force during the first Gulf War (Desert Shield/Desert Storm.) However, I was never stationed in the Middle East during that time, since I was stationed in Okinawa, and the squadron I was in, where I repaired F-15 avionics, was never deployed there. The official word I heard was that they kept our unit in Okinawa just in case Korea decided to pull anything while the US was occupied with Kuwait/Iraq.

I didn't mind at all not being deployed, since moving the test stations we used to work on the F-15 avionics is a huge pain in the ass, and the living conditions in Saudi Arabia (where most people in my line of work were stationed) were not as good as where I was at in Okinawa. All of the pilots were disappointed, though. Of course, my mother was extremely relieved I was nowhere near the fighting.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

100 Facts in 100 Days #1

I am left-handed. This hasn't been too much of a hindrance for me in life because I'm semi-ambidextrous. My Mom said when I was really little I would use either hand to grab something, not favoring my left hand until I was two or three. My Dad thought I might end up being a switch-hitter, but I never liked baseball as it turned out. I can't write well with my right hand, but I can use right-handed scissors with no problems. In the blogosphere, both Magazine Man and Wil Wheaton are also left-handed.

New Blog Series!

In an attempt to get into the habit of regular posting, I've decided to start a new blog series. I realize my current blog series (The Airline Chronicles) is seriously overdue for another installment, and there is some other stuff I want to write about (my move down here, some family history, etc.) that I haven't done yet...but I think this new series will get me in the habit of posting regularly, since I seem to be more consistent about posting short entries rather than long ones. So, with that said...we bring you...100 FACTS IN 100 DAYS!!!

Basic idea is, I will write a random fact about me several times a week (I can't honestly promise I'll post one every single day) and then when I'm done, I'll attempt to index them all and put them into my greatest hits list over on the right. Who knows, this may even give me some more series ideas.

I stole this idea from Jess, the Apropos of Something, which I found while randomly stumbling about the blogosphere. Seems to be a pretty cool blog, though, if you want to check it out. Thanks for the idea, Jess!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Personality Test Time


My Personality
Neuroticism
27
Extraversion
17
Openness To Experience
13
Agreeableness
82
Conscientiousness
75
Test Yourself Compare Yourself View Full Report
Find your soulmate / pysch twin

Friendster, MySpace Codes and MySpace Layouts by Pulseware Survey Software



This one was pretty accurate, in my opinion. And, it didn't take long to complete. Try it yourself and see what you think!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Back, and no longer a pedestrian...


Greetings, everyone. I know I haven't posted for a while. It has been a busy week or two. As a bonus to this somewhat-overdue post, I have decided to include a picture from my new Razr phone that someone took of me at work. I thought about not posting this picture since I don't like to reveal TOO much about where I work, but if you can figure that out from this shot...you are very good.

First off...my trip back to visit Mom went all right. Not great, due to the problems my Mom was having at where she was living. She REALLY hated it there. Due to this, and the fact that we were perhaps too honest with the people running the place, she is moving back to her house. However, being by herself all the time at home wasn't really a great option either.

So, my sisters, who are in Albuquerque right now, have found a really good home care agency that we are hiring to make sure Mom is eating well and taking her medicine. They also do some housework and can help with running errands, and will only cost about half of what we were paying for rent and meals where she was at. My sisters are currently in the process of moving her back home. I suppose the house will be all right; it kind of needs painting and new carpet, but overall it's in pretty good shape, so we'll see how things go there for a while. I certainly don't mind helping with yard work and stuff my Mom can't do when I visit, but I can only visit every month or so. Mom is really attached to the house...I think a little bit too much so at times...but I have to admit I'm fond of it also. After all, I did grow up there. It will be nice to still be able to stay there when I visit.

My sisters and I (with the concurrence of Mom's friends and doctors) have also decided it's time for Mom to stop driving. While she has not been in an accident that we know of, there have been several close calls reported by her friends and one ticket for running a red light. For her safety and the safety of others, we decided this was best. And this benefits me because...TA DA...I am buying her car. While it is an older car (1996 Chrysler Concorde) it's in pretty good shape and only has about 54,000 miles on it. Unlike most used cars, I know the WHOLE history on this one...and no worries about rust, since it was in Albuquerque, or any chance of flood damage.

Car loans are very easy to get, and I know I could have bought a new car easily enough. But after my move down here, and all the expenses involved from that, I've decided to spend a couple years at least paying off bills and moving up in the pay scale at my new airline before I take on another loan.

Speaking of bills, if anyone uses T-Mobile out there, I am a recent new customer and have been very underwhelmed by them so far. In the month leading up to Mom's move, I used a lot of minutes and went over on my plan. I switched to a higher minute plan but not until one day after the billing cycle ended. The first time I called they were VERY uncooperative about making any kind of adjustment to my bill. I finally got someone who was able to get me a $100 credit on my bill (at 40 cents per extra minute, those charges add up quickly.) So that was all well and good. However, due to paying all my other bills, I couldn't pay the T-Mobile bill in full last month. So, I made a partial payment and planned to pay the remaining balance along with my new monthly charge this month. Wrong! T-Mobile deactivated my phone. When I called up to explain my situation, I got zero sympathy. So, I did pay off the bill a few days ago, and the phone is working again, but they also are going to be losing me as a customer when my contract ends. Maybe I'll go back to Sprint, my previous carrier that I probably shouldn't have left. Oh well.

Anyhow, enough complaining about money issues. I drove my new used car back from Albuquerque to Texas last Friday and spent the night at a relative's house before finishing the drive Saturday morning. It was a trip filled with nostalgia for me for a couple of reasons...it's the same route I used to travel as a kid when going to visit my grandmother's house, and I also passed through the town where I went to college for about two years after I finished high school, way back in the eighties.

I never liked Lubbock or Texas Tech very much, but some people love it there. In fact, one person I know from high school who went to Tech still lives in Lubbock working for the university hospital there. I did drive through the very attractive campus, past the dorm where I lived in my final year I attended, and I tried to remember why I hated the place so much that I blew off my classes and almost flunked out.

People I've discussed the matter with have varying opinions on this...one of my good friends said that he thought neither of us liked the university we first attended because our parents pretty much picked them out for us. I don't completely agree with that, but it is true my Dad was happy with my choice in schools, since that's where he graduated from. One person I know at work who is from Lubbock and went to Tech said that it couldn't have been easy going there at 17 and not knowing anybody...and this is an argument that has some truth to it, since I never did find anything much I liked doing in Lubbock.

I had a scholarship offer from Tech, and I didn't want to go to UNM in Albuquerque because I didn't want to live at home with my parents while I was going to college. Of course, several years later, after I did a term in the Air Force and got out, I finished up my undergraduate degree while living at home with my parents (not at UNM, though.) I guess hindsight is 20-20 sometimes.

Anyhow, there are a lot of small towns with funny names out there...before reaching Lubbock I passed through towns with names like Progress (it hasn't), Bovina, Shallowater, and Muleshoe. After leaving Lubbock I had dinner in a little town called Seymour at a place called the Rock Creek Cafe, which has been around since at least 1945 and doesn't look like it's been remodeled much since then...but they do have some tasty chicken fried steak there.

One of my earliest memories is from that restaurant, actually. On one trip from Albuquerque to visit my grandmother in Denton when I was about three, we stopped there to grab a bite. I remember I got a piece of pie, and I was really looking forward to eating it when my Dad grabbed it away from me, intending it as a joke. I started screaming at the top of my lungs. Dad put the pie back quickly. Mom later said that she had felt like killing both of us right there. Ah, family memories.

Most of the rest of my trip was in the dark, but it was thankfully uneventful (no flat tires or speeding tickets.) And now, here I am, car and all. Below is a picture of my car in my reserved covered parking spot at my apartment, which I finally now have something to park in.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Yes, I'm still here!

I've been kind of lazy when it comes to my blog posting. I haven't been up to a whole lot, besides working. As a matter of fact, today is my one day off, then I work another six in a row, and then I finally have four days off, but I'll be using that time to go visit my Mom at her new place in Albuquerque...so blogging will probably be a bit limited for a while.

However, I did do one thing recently that I thought was interesting enough to blog about...I made a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. I was unfortunately out of cheddar, so I had to use Swiss cheese.

I know, I know, I have no social life. But this wasn't just ANY grilled cheese sandwich! I made it using an iron.

I just KNOW whoever came up with this idea is a guy. I'm not dating right now, but I could imagine the converation a married guy would have trying to do this:

Wife: "What the HELL are you doing?"
Husband: "I'm making a grilled cheese sandwich!"
Wife: "With an IRON? What are you, out of your MIND?"
Husband: "But this is so cool! I'm cooking something, using an iron!"
Wife: "Don't you DARE use my iron for that again."
Husband: "But honey, it uses less electricity than the stove burner does!"

At any rate, the sandwich turned out quite well and was very tasty, although it was a bit tricky to get it to brown evenly on both sides. And yes, I do have a frying pan, stovetop, et cetera to make grilled cheese sandwiches in the traditional way. But what fun would that be?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Taco Town! And other restaurant news.

While I don't want this blog to turn into just a "share YouTube videos" blog, I found the following SNL spoof so funny that I had to embed it here.



On a personal note, while I was eating dinner at Pei Wei tonight, which is just around the corner from where I live, I happened to sit next to a cop on his meal break. He was having a conversation with a table of four people also seated near me. Soon after I sat down, somebody at the table asked the cop this:

"I have this burning question I've been wanting to ask. If you have a concealed weapons permit, in what circumstances are you allowed to legally shoot someone without being arrested or charged with murder?"

I busted up laughing. Couldn't help myself. That definitely isn't a question you hear asked every day, especially of a cop.

The police officer's diplomatic reply was that it was basically up to the grand jury whether they chose to indict you or not, but if someone was invading your home, people USUALLY weren't indicted.

Shortly after this exchange, the cop's food arrived, and my food arrived, and the conversation dwindled. But it did put me in a good mood for the rest of my meal.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Chad Vader

Someone I know from my days in Wisconsin appears in this video. I think it's pretty damn funny.

Friday, July 21, 2006

About what I do for a living

Since it's rare to see a well-written, detailed article about my chosen career field, I thought I'd include this link to a recent piece in Aviation Now.

There is a lot of good information in the article, including some quotes from my old teacher, Eric Morris, who is now in charge of the school where I went to receive my FAA license, Sheffield School of Aeronautics.

Where I've Been

Some of you may have noticed a dearth of posts from me lately. There are two reasons for that...first, my home internet was on the fritz and has only been fixed today. I don't post stuff at work. Second, I was out of town last week, helping to move my Mom to a retirement place.

She really didn't want to move out of her house, but it was time for it to happen. It was an exhausting trip. I don't know if anyone here is a Sopranos fan...



...but if anyone remembers the first season of the show, and Tony Soprano's mother's reaction to being forced to move to a retirement community...well, it wasn't that bad, but it felt like it sometimes.

Mom is a really awesome, wonderful, sweet person, and while my sisters and I would have liked to let her keep living where she was, it was time for a change. Now that she's moved, the hardest part is over, hopefully. And while the place she moved to isn't a house, it is a nice apartment where I think she'll make a lot of new friends.

More updates as they occur...and I have some other stuff I would like to post about, including continuing my Airline Chronicles series, once I can force myself to sit down and start writing about it.

Hope everyone has an awesome weekend!

Meme Time

Courtesy of Dariush, who posted this on his blog. He promised eternal Hellfire and damnation to anyone who participated and didn't post it on their blog, so I thought I should try and avoid that...plus, it's kind of a cool meme.

If you comment here:

1. I'll respond with something random about you.
2. I'll challenge you to try something.
3. I'll pick a color that I associate with you.
4. I'll tell you something I like about you.
5. I'll tell you my first/clearest memory of you.
6. I'll tell you what animal you remind me of.
7. I'll ask you something I've always wanted to ask you.
8. I'll pick a song that reminds me of you.

I am not going to put any onus on people who participate to post it on their blog, although I think it is a fun meme, to invite audience participation...so if you WANT to copy and post, feel free!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Double Bacosaurus

I found this pic of two aircraft that make up this blog's title on a former co-worker's web site. Both planes have since been retired from passenger service in the US (although they may still carry passengers overseas, depending who ends up buying them.)

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Rooftop Love

At my office, we overlook the roof of a parking garage. The garage normally isn't too crowded on Saturday or Sunday. Occasionally, on weekends, you'll find people up there sunbathing, or maybe some skateboarders, but last weekend, something happened that had never been seen before! A couple decided it was the perfect place to make whoopee. Unfortunately, this happened on my one day off, last Sunday, so I didn't get to see it for myself. Fortunately, someone had their digital camera handy.



The digital-camera-wielding individual actually made a video clip with audio of various co-workers commenting on the proceedings in the background. With the creator's permission, I uploaded the video to YouTube, but it didn't comply with their content policies, and it's since been removed.

UPDATE: The video clip has since been re-uploaded to Putfile, if anyone wants to check it out they can do so here.

Evidently someone finally went downstairs and informed the couple they were being watched by 50 or so people upstairs. I'm told the girl in the picture waved as she walked off. Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the people watching were my male co-workers.

I guess working weekends isn't always a bad thing...

Friday, June 23, 2006

Speakerphone Hazards

Yesterday at work, there was some type of Bring Your Kid To Work Day going on, and lots of kids being taken for tours in our department. Kids can ask funny questions sometimes. One dispatcher, who was black, was attempting to explain all the things we do in our job (weather, tracking flights, etc.) and one of the kids asked him, "So, do you like rap music?"

Then, he got an inflight call from an aircraft, and decided to show how we talk to our flights by using the speakerphone to answer. When we talk to aircraft in the US, we normally use an airphone service so it's just like a regular phone call. A paraphrased conversation follows:

"RLA Dispatch."
"Hi, this is Captain X from flight such-and-such, I'd like to get an update on the weather around Chicago."
"There are some scattered storms south of there, but nothing right over the field, currently. Captain, how has your ride been so far?"
"Really shitty!"
"Um, captain, you're on speakerphone, and there are a bunch of kids here taking a tour listening in..."

(Long Pause)

Kid on tour: "Why did he say shitty?"

Everyone in the office was laughing uproariously about this one.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Happy and Sleepy

Just wanted to let everyone know that I have FINISHED my training and now am signed off as an official dispatcher in my job at the Rather Large Airline. Which is good for many reasons, including the fact that I now get a pay raise.

I went to bed kind of late due to nervousness, and got up early so that I could get to work on time for my final desk check, but I will try and follow up with details soon. Unlike my move, which is still awaiting a detailed writeup/smackdown of my moving company, this is something I'm happy to relive in my mind. But for now, I'm going to go take a nap.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Cool Phrase of the Day

In my line of work, I deal extensively with weather conditions throuought my airline's route system. Part of this involves reading weather alerts issued by the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma (where a lot of really smart, talented meteoroligists are located) and dissemenating this information to our flight crews.

Anyway, today there was a weather watch for severe thunderstorms in effect for eastern Colorado that said, in part, "the previous supercell activity near I-70 has decreased in intensity but increased in size, now forming a multicellular cluster." And I thought, Wow! What a perfect description of a bad day!

It's like, how did your day go? Dude, it was a total MULTICELLULAR CLUSTER. Or, if you had an idiot for a manager, you could say, my boss is such a MULTICELLULAR CLUSTER.

This phrase is probably too multi-syllabic and geeky to ever be used by the Cool Kids, but I still like it. I don't think anything will ever top Hawesome or ass strep, though. Unless you were having a multicellular cluster of ass strep. And that would be very bad.

For an entertaining example of what a real multicellular cluster can do to airline operations, check out this link this VIDEO!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Airline Chronicles Chapter I: Destination, New Hampshire

In the procrastinating tradition of this blog, here is a post I promised last week but due to the holiday and traveling, never got around to posting...the long-delayed official first chapter to my second blog series.

When we last tuned in (many months ago) I had just finished my training to get my FAA license, and received my first job offer for a position as an aircraft dispatcher, a job which I am still doing today, over ten years and five airlines later. As I previously mentioned, the airline that offered me a job was called Business Express Airlines, and offered regional (feeder) service for Delta and Northwest throughout the northeastern United States.

I had been a member of the New Mexico Air National Guard prior to getting this job offer, and I was able to transfer to a new unit in New Hampshire after I started with Business Express. However, I discovered that the traditional weekend Guard schedule didn't mesh too well with an aviation career (since as a new employee I always was scheduled to work on weekends) so I ultimately got out of the Guard when I left New Hampshire. But let's get back to the main story here...

This was my first professional job ever (not counting the four years I spent in the Air Force) so I was pretty excited to be heading up there. I loaded up all my stuff in the back of my pickup truck (which I had just gotten a camper shell for) and headed out. It took a long four days of driving but my truck and I made it with no problems, and I arrived at the first of February, 1995, in Portsmouth, NH. As I was to discover, winter is the slow time of year in that part of the country.

Training for the job consisted of about two weeks of classroom stuff, and two weeks of on-the-job training. I also got to do my very first "jumpseating" which is a nickname for riding in the cockpit jumpseat. An FAA requirement for my job states that five hours of this is required every year. When I first started in the industry, many years ago, this was beyond cool to me. Now, while I still enjoy doing it once in a while, the thrill has definitely worn off. However, it is still a good way to understand more about my job and how pilots deal with my department.

I was a little rusty, having finished my training at Sheffield several months previously, but I'm pretty good at computers, and once I started on the desk I got the hang of things fairly quickly. At Business Express (or BusEx as we usually referred to it) there were four dispatch positions, two or three crew schedulers, and in the middle of the room, a coordinator, who handled all the aircraft swaps and determined which flights to cancel if necessary. He relied on the dispatchers to help him make the go/no-go decisions during periods of bad weather, but we left the aircraft routing up to him (during my tenure there, all of the coordinators were male. I don't know if this changed after I left or not. However, the manager of dispatch, who hired me, was female.) Below is a picture of yours truly circa 1995.




Work was definitely interesting and sometimes challenging, especially during bad weather. I lived through my first Nor'Easter shortly after I arrived, and the following winter was a heavy snow year...we must have had four or five of them. This combined with summer thunderstorms could make for busy times at work, especially since we had a fairly high workload.

Before any commercial U.S. flight can depart, it has to have a dispatch release prepared. We averaged around 65 releases per ten-hour shift when I was at Business Express, giving you less than six minutes per flight to prepare each one. While on a good weather day, this was not a problem it could make for hectic times on a bad weather day when you're looking at more weather information (does the flight need an alternate or not? What are the braking conditions like at that airport?) so I'd say we definitely earned our pay.

I spent my first few months in New Hampshire living in a winter rental in Hampton Beach, NH, at a hotel that was being remodeled along Ocean Boulevard there. It has since been renamed as the Atlantic Motel, but when I lived there it was known by the less romantic name of Motel 391. At $90 a week (furnished) including utilities, it wasn't a bad deal at all, although it was a bit of a drive to work. I was to discover as the summer drew closer just how BUSY Hampton Beach could get when the tourists arrived. For this reason, I decided to look elsewhere for permanent accommodations when selecting my apartment, and I ended up in a place in Dover, NH, about ten miles from Portsmouth.

I really liked Dover because, in addition to being cheaper than Portsmouth, it was also closer to the mountains, making it that much easier to go hiking or sightseeing. And, should I desire to go to the beach, it wasn't far from there either...but I've always been more of a mountain person. Two of my favorite hikes when I lived there were up Mount Major (easy but fun and with nice views) and Mount Washington (rather challenging but worth it!) For those of you interested in winter Olympics trivia, Mount Washington is part of the same mountain range where Bode Miller grew up and learned to ski. As longtime readers of this blog are aware, my own attempt at skiing in New Hampshire was rather less glamorous.

It sounds like Dover has gotten rather trendy in the years since I've left but when I lived there the trendiness was more confined to the Portsmouth area. I think that a magazine named the Seacoast New Hampshire area as one of the best areas to live in the whole country several years running, and it's sent property values there skyward. For instance, the apartment where I lived (which was a SMALL one-bedroom) has recently converted to condominiums selling for over $100,000 each. I realize that compared to a big city that might seem like a bargain, but when I lived there, you could probably have bought a small home for that same price. Oh well.

As I mentioned, the winter of 1995-1996 was an especially rough one, which basically shut the airline down for several days. We'd been having some financial issues (due in part to a greedy owner) and ultimately, the aircraft company that we leased most of our planes through forced the company into Chapter 11. This was of great concern to me since I used my flight benefits to travel back and visit my parents a lot, and I didn't like the idea of getting stuck in New Hampshire with no relatives nearby should the airline go out of business. But after the initial shock, things actually proceeded more smoothly than they had immediately prior to the Chapter 11...however, my boss and the department head both put in their notices about the same time, so I started looking for new work also. The department had quite a high turnover rate throughout the time I was there, due to the low pay...when I finally left, after just over a year, I was fourth highest in dispatcher seniority out of about fifteen dispatchers.

Looking back on things, I probably would have stayed longer if I'd known how things would turn out. My department head who left was replaced by someone that I got along with much better, and ultimately, the airline did survive. I guess things were touch and go for a bit but Business Express eventually got a codeshare agreement with American Airlines, and later was bought out by the parent corporation of American, AMR, to become part of their express carrier, American Eagle. The airline stayed in New Hampshire for a couple more years after that, but was eventually incorporated into American Eagle's own offices located near Dallas, Texas.

At the time, leaving seemed like a no-brainer to me since I went to a larger airline, with jet equipment, that was located only abut 180 miles away from my parents' house in Albuquerque. It was still a regional carrier, but they had jet equipment, which Business Express had when I first started (the jet in the linked photograph is actually a bacosaurus relative) but later got rid of after the ski season ended in 1996. I had to pay for my own move, which I financed by selling my pickup truck (I guess that's become a familiar pattern recently) and loaded up my small apartment full of stuff onto a U-Haul in April of 1996 to proceed on my way to Farmington, NM. I also got a pay raise, and the cost of living in Farmington was a bit lower...but as you will see in my next chapter, things aren't always as good as they seem at first glance.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Humor In Training

We're in the last week of classroom training this week, using a product known as an electronic worksheet that we will be using to do our job once we get signed off in a couple weeks. Today at the end of class, our instructor said, "You can always learn new stuff every day you work with the electronic worksheet." I replied, "Yes, the electronic worksheet is like a box of chocolates." The instructor didn't think it was that funny, but everyone else did.

Hey, on an aviation-related note, I am going to try and post Chapter I of the Airline Chronicles this week! Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Random Act of Kindness...

I have been riding the bus to and from work, since it's only three miles or so from my apartment and I still haven't purchased a new car to replace the one I sold (but I will probably do so next month, as soon as I get a post-initial training pay raise.) At any rate, a blind guy got on the bus and was trying to get to the street I live on...I offered to show him the way since he wasn't familiar with the area.

Without going into a boring story, he asked if I had any extra cash, and I ended up giving him some money when I got him to his bus stop. The problem was, he kept asking for MORE money. I gave him a little more, but finally had to draw the line. I do have a bit of extra cash thanks to a rebate check from the apartment locator service I used during my move, but I was beginning to feel taken advantage of before the end of this chance encounter.

Let me emphasize that if this guy was trying to con someone about his disability, he was doing the best job of it I've ever seen. He got around pretty well using his white cane, but being blind in an unfamiliar area has to be one of the scariest things ever. All that being said, I'm definitely not flush with cash right now. So, instead of feeling a warm glow from doing a good deed, I ended up kind of feeling taken for a ride. If anyone has any thoughts on this, feel free to share.

I think that next time, I'll just donate some stuff to Goodwill.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Blah kind of mood...

Sorry for the downer tone of my title, I just am having trouble to get motivated to do anything productive last couple of weekends. I did find out I was suffering from allergies which may have been part of the problem, but I still can't get psyched up to finish unpacking. Today, my AC has been acting up in the apartment, and while it's fortunately not too hot yet, that has kind of sapped my energy also. Fortunately, the new apartment does appear to have very responsive maintenance, so I'll call it in tomorrow and it will hopefully be fixed by the time I get home. Had it been mid-summer here, I would have used the emergency maintenance number, but since the temperature is tolerable, I'm just saving on electricity this weekend instead.

My goals for the weekend were: work on unpacking, exercise, update my blog, do laundry, and study. So far, I'm doing my laundry right now (Sunday night!) and this is kind of a lame blog update.

I did see a doctor about the allergies and am now taking Claritin so that should help some. Part of my laziness just may be stress related to recovering FROM the move. This move was STRESSFUL. Without going in to details (yet), if I may make a suggestion to those who read this blog, avoid using a small company for your moving needs when the time comes for a long-distance move. And if you happen to peruse the Galaxy Van Lines site, run far, far away. I thought I'd save money by using them and after all was said and done, a full-service national moving company would have cost about the same amount! Oh well, live and learn. I will provide more details once I've unpacked more and can write about it without getting upset.

Training is going all right, Houston is fine, and aside from a couple minor paperwork issues at work (they seem convinced my last name is MANN JR. and not MANN which is screwing with my company email, among other things) the new company is a nice place to work. I am still waiting on a check for some relocation expenses but that's actually handled by a separate firm who I will be calling tomorrow.

OK, this makes two goals down (blog, laundry.) I'll do studying next. Unpacking and exercising probably are not going to happen this weekend, so I'll try and get a bit done each day during the week, and work out tomorrow after class.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Alive in Texas

For those few of you who have been looking for updates...I have survived The Move, and The Lazy Movers From Hell. Much more information on them to follow shortly. On a positive note, the job at the new airline is going great! We'll be in training for several more weeks though. Perhaps by the time training is complete, I'll be done unpacking...but don't count on it.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Adventures In Public Transportation

OK, for all of you who read my HAWESOME news a few posts ago, you may remember I was worried about how I would afford the move. This is what I decided upon to make everything swing financially...I sold my car. Now, regular readers of this blog will know that I was very fond of my car. However, it was just a car, and it was all paid off, and since it was well maintained and had low miles for a 2001 model, it still had some good residual value. In addition to the cost of the move, I also owe money on my taxes this year...as well as the deposit plus rent on my new place, and rent through the end of May on my current place...so for this, and other reasons, selling the car seemed like the best decision right now. The RLA (really large airline) which just hired me is giving me a positive-space ticket to fly to the new city where I'll be living in.

I had originally listed my car in a nearby local paper at a moderately high asking price. Not over-the-top, just on the high end. I got no response. I attribute this in part to the fact I'm living in a smaller-sized market...not tiny, but not a big city either. Anyway, after my apartment hunting trip was over, and I received no calls, I decided to drop my asking price. That did the trick. I probably could have got closer to my original price had I been willing to wait, but my new job starts next Monday. I definitely got a lot more than I would have selling my car to a used car dealer.

I had a guy and his significant other come to check out my car on Sunday, which was a rather rainy day to look at the car, but at least it gave me an excuse for not washing it recently. They seemed to like it, although I had never really thought of it as a "family" car...but they only had one kid, and it is a sedan. They called me later that night to say they wanted to buy it...in fact, they wanted to pick it up on Monday after the got off work. I told them that was fine, but my going away get-together was already planned for Monday afternoon, and I had arranged for a ride home from that since I didn't want to worry about drinking and driving...so they agreed to meet me after my party was over at the local brewpub, pick up the car, and give me a ride back to my place, which was only a couple miles away. I was a bit on the tipsy side but not so far gone as to be slurring my speech or anything when I signed the car over to them. It's kind of funny to look back on it, but they really wanted to pick up the car ASAP, and that's how things happened.

Now let's fast forward to this morning. While I do live in a smaller sized town, they have decent bus service and my apartment is right on one of the bus lines. So, after a visit to the gym this morning and saying farewell to some of the people there, I decided to ride the bus to my bank to deposit the check. All fine so far. I had put the check in a folder so I wouldn't lose it, and I double-checked the folder on the bus to make sure that the check was there...then I put the folder down and neglected to take it with me when I got off of the bus.

Yup. You heard it right. Yours truly left a MULTI-THOUSAND dollar check payable to himself on a public bus.

Naturally, this had a somewhat traumatic effect on my mood once I realized this after my walk to the bank. I didn't start screaming in public, but I was close. I immediately called the bus company, which said the same bus was on the same route all day, and that they would notify the driver via radio I'd meet the bus to pick up my folder...but I was still worried someone took it or something. I walked back to the bus stop and waited for one of the longer half hours of my life. The bus finally showed back up and opened its doors, and I asked the driver if I had left a folder on his bus. He grabbed it and handed it to me, with the check still inside. I practically screamed "THANK YOU!!!" to him and my tension level ratcheted down several points. I then walked back to the bank and deposited the check.

After that, I decided to go get a haircut, which was long overdue. (The salon I go to was near the bank.) I have hair which tends to stick straight up if it's cut too short on top, which it was this time, but it's still a decent haircut. I swear, I get grayer every time I go to get it cut; however, I do still have my hair in my late 30's, so there's something to be said for that. My opinion is, I think gray hair kind of looks cool, plus if I get tired of it there's always the Grecian formula option. At the same time, it does remind me that I'm not a kid any more. The results of the haircut are posted below for your enjoyment.




After the haircut, it was back on the bus to go visit my chiropractor. After my recent back issues, I decided it would be prudent to go in for a final adjustment prior to the move (even though I'm not doing anything but packing.) He agreed we'd come a long way since December and that I seemed to be doing fine. I finished off the day by doing a bit of shopping for clothes at the mall located near his office (I needed some new Dockers) and then a final bus ride back to my apartment.

I am starting to pack and clean my old apartment beginning tomorrow. I imagine that the computer will be one of the first things that gets packed (after I finish doing all my various computer style errands like paying taxes, balancing my checkbook, paying bills, and changing my address) so that it won't be a tempting distraction FROM my packing. I can be very lazy about starting a job like cleaning or packing, but once you start, you really build momentum. So this will probably be my last post until I arrive in Texas to start my new job.

See you in Texas!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Hospital Chronicles, Indexed

Greetings all. As a quick summary guide to my first blog series, I've decided to index them all in one post for easy reference. Here we go:

Part I: Birth
Part II: Horse Sense
Part III: Driving Range Adventure
Part IV: Go-Cart Crash
Part V: Car Crash
Part VI: A Flash Of Stupidity
Part VII: Winter Fun In New England
Part IX: A Voluntary Experience

Yes, I know there's no Part VIII. I skipped that one on purpose. Can't blog about EVERYTHING, ya know.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

April Fools

Well, I should be busy packing, but progress is slowly being made, so I thought I'd celebrate today by reminiscing about a couple of memorable pranks.

The best prank I ever pulled was when I was visiting my friend's house in Tuscon and he was gone for the day...leaving me at home, with access to his answering machine. I changed it to say, "I'm too drunk to come to the phone right now, but if you leave a message, I'll call you back as soon as I sober up!" I should note that he wasn't job hunting or anything at the time, otherwise I wouldn't have pulled that one. The hard part was, he didn't notice I did it for like three months. Someone he worked with finally told him to call his answering machine when they were out at a bar somewhere. I don't think I'll ever top that one, personally.

The funniest prank I ever heard of was a high school prank where these two guys convinced one of their friends that the local Dunkin Donuts was a front for a prostitution operation, and that the secret phrase to get hooked up with a hooker was to order a dozen jelly donuts. Evidently the guy tried it and came out all puzzled looking with a dozen jelly donuts in a box while the other guys waited outside in their car. They told him, "I don't know, dude, maybe you're just not saying it right!" I can just imagine him going back in and trying it again..."No, no, a dozen JELLY donuts..." While this story could be urban legend material, I can actually see someone in high school being naive enough to fall for it.

Have a fun and safe weekend, everyone.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Housekeeping

Just wanted to let you know for those few of you that subscribe via an RSS reader to see if this site is updated...the feed has been renamed with the new blog name. That is, the new link is feeds.feedubrner.com/beyondthecheddarcurtain instead of northofthecheddarcurtain. You may be directed automatically, I'm not sure...but if you have any issues, changing the feed address should fix things.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Hunt

I arrived in the Really Large City, Texas, headquarters of the Really Large Airline that just hired me, on Monday afternoon. I chose to stay at a hotel adjacent to my new employer's headquarters for two reasons: 1) I needed to do some last-minute paperwork with my new employer and 2) They gave a nice room rate based on who my new employer is going to be. Additionally, I was able to get my boarding pass in the lobby prior to heading back out to the airport, always a plus.

After I arrived, I only had a couple hours of apartment touring time remaining, so I decided to check out a place that was close to where I was staying. There are lots of apartment high-rises near there, most of which are priced rather extravagantly. The one I looked at wasn't, but it was also built two years before I was born. While it was well-maintained, it also lacked some modern amenities, and to borrow one of my friend's phrases, I just wasn't wild about the taste.

I resumed my search the following morning after calling around to a few more places. I used a really helpful (and free) apartment locator service called Apartment World. I also checked Craigslist but I didn't have enough time to check a bunch of private apartments and I got no response from the few emails I did send out, pre-trip. (AJ had similar issues when he relocated to LA.)

I was trying to keep my apartment fairly close to where I live. (The Really Big City where I'll be moving has notoriously Really Bad Traffic.) The second place I looked at was within walking distance to work, but it was also in an area that has become very fashionable in recent years as a hip place to live. Therefore, the only apartment I could afford was rather small. Not quite an efficiency, but call it a mini one bedroom. "You'll really like living at Yuppie Village!" the leasing agent gushed...but I had my doubts. Don't get me wrong, it did seem like a nice place, just overpriced. Additionally, I've heard that the local area nightlife can make things noisy on the weekends, and the apartment I was looking at was both street-side AND ground level. I was also approached by panhandlers four times that night when I went out to eat in that area, and I discovered some non-remodeled areas near there that were less than picturesque.

My next stop after Yuppie Village was at a CVS Pharmacy to buy an umbrella (since it had started raining, great timing) and then back to my hotel. I caught a cab from there out to my next destination (I didn't rent a car this trip) which was about three miles away. The leasing agent at this property was very friendly...he even showed me his own apartment, since they had no models available with that floorplan and the one they had coming available was getting the carpet replaced. While this was an older place, it seemed fairly well maintained with decent amenities.

Since the next place I wanted to look at was rather close, I opted to walk rather than call another cab and wait. This may have been a mistake since it was still raining. I did have my umbrella but by the time I made it to the next property, I was kind of soaked. "You really need to have a car in this town," the next leasing agent informed me. Duh, tell me something I *don't* know, dude. This property seemed nice but not as convenient as the one I'd just looked at...perhaps due to its location right next to a one-way busy street. At one point, I waited about ten minutes to look at a unit while the leasing agent went to fetch the keys. He came back rather apologetic saying he couldn't find the keys. OK, thanks, next property, please...

While I was waiting for the keyless agent to return, I got a call from the place I'd just visited (with the nice leasing agent) who told me that they had a floorplan I'd been interested in available. (When I was there earlier, he didn't think they had any of that plan ready to move in.) I made my soggy pedestrian journey back there. I came in kind of wet and the guy ran to get me a towel to dry off.

In my experience with apartments over the years (and working in the airline industry, I've seen my share of apartments) I have never had a good experience where I toured a model and then moved into an apartment with the same floorplan. There's always something not quite right...carpet that needs replacing, broken shelves, etc. Conversely, if I've seen the actual apartment where I'd be living, I've never been unhappy. Therefore, when I went back and saw the large, reasonably priced one bedroom I'd be living in, ready to move into, I was pretty much hooked.

In addition to the reasonable rent (less than a dollar per square foot per month) and convenient location, they property offers a free Monday through Friday shuttle service downtown. The agent even gave me a ride back downtown. So, I guess you know which apartment I ended up choosing, and I just found out today my application was approved. Yay!

As an epilogue to this day, it finally stopped raining and the sun came out about 4:30 that afternoon, right after I'd finished looking at my last property of the day (Yuppie Village Plus, even more expensive than the first one I'd seen in the morning.) However, by then, I just felt like taking a nap.

Now, I just have to pack, and find a way to pay for the move! But I'll figure out something. My new employer, the RLA, is paying for many of the move-associated expenses (including lodging and per diem for this apartment hunting trip) but not for the movers themselves. In the airline industry, this is not at all uncommon. Actually, it's common to receive no moving assistance whatsoever. I have had one paid move from the five different places I've worked in this industry. So I'm not complaining.

More relocation adventures as they occur, internet access permitting...

New Blog Name

Thank you to everyone who offered suggestions for a new blog title (Shane, Shafa, Marvo, and Thimbelle, I really do appreciate it.)

I have decided to make only a minor change to it for now, since I really like the "Cheddar Curtain" phrase, and the current title seems to fit in with where my life is going right now...even though I'm not originally from Wisconsin, I have lived here quite a while.

Oh, and I'm back from a successful apartment hunting trip. That apartment was no match for me and my trusty 12-gauge! OK, I'm lying about the 12-gauge. But I did find a place I liked. Details on my trip to follow shortly.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Apartment Hunting

Today I am flying to Texas to do some apartment hunting. Hopefully I can find something I like fairly quickly. My new employer is paying for my trip, which is nice. I have to remember to keep receipts.

I put in my notice at work last week, and they opted to just pay me my last two weeks salary rather than having me finish out. I'm not sure why they did that, but I'm not complaining too much. Gives me plenty of time to pack.

Bleah, I'm no good at writing early in the morning. Still trying to get into the habit of posting more often, though. At any rate, I should have more news in a few days when I get back.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

HAWESOME!!!

This seems to be an eventful time for some of my blogger friends. AJ got hired by Playboy to do a radio show for them on Sirius satellite radio. Magazine Man has also had an eventful couple of months (vacation, hospital, recovery.) Now, I'm joining the party...and I'm stealing Shane's phrase to title my blog entry.

Late last year, I had a couple of job interviews. I have nothing against my present airline, but due to our switching code share partners recently, it's getting to be more and more difficult for me to fly to the places I like to visit (usually out West, which is where I'm from.) At any rate, both of the interviews I had seemed to go all right, but nothing out of this world. I was kind of bummed about not getting the second job I interviewed for, since it was with an RLA (Really Large Airline.)

As it turns out, they liked me enough in the second interview to keep me in mind when some more positions came open in the spring. So, I'm giving my two weeks notice at my present job today and heading to TEXAS next month. Yee haw. In the tradition of this blog, I'm not mentioning exactly which airline it is that I got hired by. Aviation aficionados will probably be able to figure it out on their own eventually. I'm very excited, but a little bit nervous.

For the three or four faithful readers I have (very faithful, given that I haven't kept this thing updated enough) I would like to ask your advice. What should I rename this blog after I move? I definitely won't be North of the Cheddar Curtain anymore, living in Texas. The web address of the blog won't change (I'll always love the bacosaurus) but the title will.

I realize I still haven't started my Airline Chronicles. I promise I haven't forgotten about them. I will try to work on them some this weekend if I have any time. First though, I'm flying to Texas to do some apartment hunting.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I'm back! (again)

OK, I know this blog seems to be a litany of excuses about why I don't post more. I won't offer excuses this time except to say there are reasons I wasn't feeling like writing much. More details on that possibly at some point in the future.

My new pledge is to blog something at least weekly even if it's a lame-ass, short post. So here is my lame-ass, short post for this week:

When I turned 30, I was really bothered by that age for some reason. Recently, I've thought about turning 40, which will happen in 2.5 years, and it doesn't bug me nearly as much as turning 30 did, in spite of the fact that I'm still single.

I haven't forgotten about the airline chronicles. In fact, I may be trying to post Chapter I by this weekend...but I make no promises about the posting schedule, since that seems to be a guarantee that I'll break my word.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

I Love Winter (not)

We're currently digging out here from our biggest February blizzard in 93 years, and an extremely cold air mass has moved in behind the storm. This is from our latest weather warning:

A WIND CHILL WARNING MEANS THAT A COMBINATION OF VERY COLD TEMPERATURES AND WIND WILL CREATE DANGEROUSLY LOW WIND CHILL VALUES. THIS WILL RESULT IN FROSTBITE AND LEAD TO HYPOTHERMIA OR DEATH IF PRECAUTIONS ARE NOT TAKEN.

Gotta love wintertime in Wisconsin. On a positive note, my new car battery is holding up well in the cold weather. Looks like I changed it out just in time.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Back in the (Audio) Saddle

Best Buy finally got my car audio receiver fixed. It's good to have some audio besides a cheap boombox in my car. The cheap boombox has been moved to my extra bedroom where it will get little usage, but might be nice for my infrequent overnight guests to have available (or me, if I'm working on a project at my hobby table in there.)

My car deck is Sirius radio capable, and I have the receiver installed, but I'm not a current subscriber. That may change, though, since a fellow blogger (and Egg Radio founder) AJ is getting his own show on the Playboy channel soon. I believe production starts early this month sometime.

As I mentioned to AJ, I'd let my Sirius subscription lapse due to me not using it enough. I'd love to hear his show, though, and they do have some very hiqh-quality radio (every musical genre imaginable plus lots of news, talk, etc.) so I may give them a whirl again.

Sorry about the infrequent posting of late. One of my favorite all-time big bloggers, Wil, has recently said he's going to try blogging ten minutes a day. I may try that myself, I'm not sure. One thing that is for sure is that I need to increase my posting frequency here. I think I'm too worried about making every post perfect, and I need to remind myself this is a blog, not a serial novel or something.

Look for chapter one of The Airline Chronicles (Destination: New Hampshire) to debut shortly.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Sounds Of Silence

As I mentioned in a recent post, I'd been having trouble with my car stereo lately. It was most noticeable on road trips, but it had been intermittently acting up even on short drives for several months when I tried playing CD's. I had it cleaned, but to no avail. I finally scheduled an appointment at Best Buy, where I purchased it (the stereo that originally came with the car was stolen over a year ago, but that's another story.)

When I purchased this stereo, I got a four-year service agreement to go along with it. I figured, compact disc, moving parts, why take a chance. So, at the end of last month, prior to going on vacation, they pulled out the stereo. To be fixed, it had to be sent in to a service center, since Best Buy is pretty limited as to what they can repair in-store. It still wasn't back from service yet when I got home on the 7th.

It finally came back from the service center a couple days ago, and I scheduled a time today to get it put into my car. It worked great, but when I got home I noticed a hinge cover missing on the faceplate. (This is one of those models where the front cover flips open...see here for more details.)



I called the audio install people, who immediately transferred me up front, where I got put on indefinite hold. I was mad enough at this point to drive directly back to the store, where I showed it to the person who had re-installed it. He agreed that there was a problem...as did the employees up front...but unfortunately, they have to send the stereo BACK to the service center again to get it fixed.

I'm well aware that, as problems go, this is a rather minor one, but it sure is annoying. Especially after anticipating having my stereo back, finally. Oh well...at least it's all covered by the service agreement.

In their defense, the local Best Buy service representative did try really hard to see if they could just order the part without sending the whole deck back to the service center...but they couldn't. So, I'm stuck without any car audio for another two weeks or so. Unless you count me singing out loud while I'm driving. Perhaps I'll work on my Simon and Garfunkel cover songs. Hello darkness, my old friend...

UPDATE: Rather than suffer through another two weeks with no mobile tuneage at all, I bought a cheap CD boombox at Shopko today and powered it through a transformer I already owned for my car battery (so I can just plug it in and avoid buying alkaline batteries.) Of course, the sound quality sucks compared to my regular system, and there's no anti-skip protection, but it beats just hearing engine noise while I drive around. I suppose someone might be tempted to break in to my car and steal it, but this is Wisconsin, and it's a really cheap boombox.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Airline Chronicles: Prologue

Although it's hard for me to believe it, I've been working in the airline industry for over ten years now. This is the start of a retrospective on the different airlines I've worked at over the last decade.

I had kind of bounced around a couple of different colleges, not being sure what I wanted to major in. I started off in engineering but I really wasn't enjoying it, and this was reflected in my grades. I ended up joining the Air Force for four years, and I had pretty good experiences there, although I wasn't wild about my career field (which was working on F-15 avionics.) I looked into cross training into a different career field, air traffic control, when my time was almost up. Due to them screwing up some paperwork, though, I was told that I'd have to re-enlist first and THEN apply for cross training. I decided not to re-enlist at that point.

Since I had never gotten my 4-year degree, I spent the first year as a civilian finishing that up. I moved back to my hometown, Albuquerque, and lived with my parents while I was finishing my degree. I made ends meet through the GI Bill, which paid my tuition, and a work-study job at the Veterans Administration. I was getting a type of general aviation degree through a branch campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. While I liked aviation, I wasn't sure what kind of job I could get with the degree after I was finished. I had a minor in Aviation Safety, and there are safety jobs at most airlines, but the departments are generally rather small and positions there usually filled internally.

While I was copying an article out of an aviation magazine for one of my classes at a public library, I inadvertently copied an advertisement for Sheffield School of Aeronautics. I didn't really read it at the time, but I did look at it after I had written the paper the article was copied for. Hmmm, I thought, that sounds like an interesting career field. When I was close to graduating from Embry-Riddle, I explained what I wanted to do to my father, and he was rather supportive. I couldn't afford the tuition for Sheffield on my own (although the GI Bill did help a bit) and he paid it for me. I did pay for all my own living expenses and the trip there and back.
I ended up graduating from Sheffield on my 26th birthday, in 1994. I have a picture somewhere of me from when I was at Sheffield, but I can't seem to find it to scan and post. I will add it later, if it shows up.

It took me a few months to get my first airline job. Since I had no prior airline experience, lots of people weren't even interested in giving me an interview. However, through Sheffield's job notification program for its graduates, I applied for and got an interview with Business Express Airlines which was located at the time in Portsmouth, NH, on the grounds of the old Pease Air Force Base, now known as Pease International Tradeport. Business Express was a regional airline for Delta and Northwest at the time. Therefore, they were only able to get me a ticket on them to fly up for the interview in their own route network, which didn't extend west of Detroit. My mother helped me out this time by letting me use some of her frequent flier points to get a round trip ticket on American to Boston.

I did fly on Business Express on the very short flight from Boston to Portsmouth and interviewed with them the next morning. I wasn't sure how well I did on the interview, but they were hiring three people, and I ended up getting one of the job offers. Soon after that, off I drove from my parents' house in my old pickup, packed full of my belongings, to my first professional civilian job.

More details of the trip up there and my experiences in New England to come in the next episode: The Airline Chronicles, Chapter I.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Magazine Man Grab Bag

A few months ago, Magazine Man regaled the blogosphere with his Giveaway Of CRAP. I did bid for an item in that giveaway (see the previous link for more information) but I didn't win it. However, as MM said at the time, everyone who bid wins something. Unfortunately, due to the popularity of his Giveaway, he was unable to mail something to all the bidders until recently, over the holidays. I got my consolation prize in the mail last week, and let me tell you, for a consolation prize, it's pretty freakin' sweet:



As MM describes it, it's "something to read, something to listen to (if you can scrounge up one of those ancient devices they call a tape player) and something to wear." The "something to read" is an awesome illustrated version of a Stephen King novel. The "something to listen to" is another Stephen King goodie, an audiobook of a few short stories he wrote. I do in fact have one of those relics of ancient technology known as a Casette Player that is not hooked up to my stereo, so this gives me an excuse/motivation to do that. The "something to wear" is called a Polar Buff, really cool and very appropriate for the winter weather here in Cheeseland.

Thus, it's time to make good on my original bid/promise, which was to give away some of my own CRAP to Goodwill. But I will go above and beyond, in the spirit of giving, and find someplace to volunteer my services (I know there's an animal shelter nearby my residence) although it will probably take a week or two look at various opportunities and settle upon something. However, the Goodwill giveaway should happen much sooner, within the next day or two. Photos of that will appear here shortly.

In the spirit of personal self-improvement, unrelated to the giveaway, I'm planning on rejoining my gym today (I need to lose this weight I gained over the holidays) and starting a new series in my blog...the Airline chronicles. It may be a couple of days before that gets started, but series are a good motivation for me to write here.

I'll end this with an "action photo" of one of the many ways it is possible to wear the Polar Buff...



Hope everyone is having a great 2006!