We Will Rebuild! (Or a Blog without photos)

We’re going to move our site to a new hosting company that is local to us. I excited about it, but the Personal Hosting plan I’ve chosen gives us only 5 GB of drive space, including email, so I’m going to have to make some adjustments.

The first one of which – Our 26 Gigs of photos won’t be making the move. I’m going to move them over to Google Drive, I think.

So this blog might look broken for a while as I migrate. But that doesn’t really matter.

No one reads this thing anyway.

Cheers!

-=Sean

T-Mobile and Alaska Cruising

Early May of this year, I took a solo 10 day cruise on the Norwegian   Pearl, out of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, returning to Seattle, Washington.

It was a total blast, and next time I might bring the family.  But, we had already been on a week long cruise earlier in the school year,  so I didn’t want to push things.

I’m a post-paid T-Mobile customer and have been for a long time.  I love this company and everything they are doing to upset the status quo in the cellular industry.

However,  I do need to throw a red flag out to any T-Mobile customer taking an Alaskan Cruise.   If you check the coverage map before you leave, you will note that most of the port of call appear to be  covered.

tmobile_Alaska1

And when you drill into the maps a bit deeper, you ‘ll find that the coverage is provided by “Partners”, namely AT&T.

And this is true.  In all of the ports, I had great ATT coverage for Voice and SMS (not MMS).  However, I don’t use much voice, or SMS. Most everything I do uses data.

And apparently my plan has a 50 Mbit limit while roaming on ‘partner’ networks.  From a little research I’ve done, some folks have a 200 Mbit limit.

This gets reset when you return to a T-Mobile coverage area, most likely when your ship is returning  to Seattle or Vancouver, through the Strait of Juan de Fuca from the open waters of the Pacific Ocean.

So, this is how if played out for me.  In Canada,  you have coverage via your Simple Choice or what ever it’s called these days plans.  It’s worked great in Canada and Mexico, both last year and this year.  I think I was getting around 2G speeds, but the bandwidth was more than enough for standard asynchronous use.  I wasn’t trying to stream or Skype.

So, after losing coverage in Vancouver,  I would regain it every now and then, as we passed Canadian cities to the north.  My S6 Edge would sync up, send/receive email, update FB, and so on, and then lose connection until the next city/tower was in range.   As expected.

On the second morning of this cruise, I woke up in Juneau.  Took my phone out of Airplane Mode, as the ship had turned on it’s MarSat tower a couple of times the pervious night, and you don’t want to connect to it unless you are ready to pay $15 a Meg.   Yes, check the rates.  That TV show you just streamed cost you $500, if you were using the ship’s cell data and not their WiFi.

If you are going to use your cell phone on a cruise you need to very cognizant of who and how you are connected to the outside world. If you don’t, you have a very expensive lesson coming, especially if you are a T-Mobile customer.  They seem to have the worse negotiated rates.  One must keep in mind, this isn’t T-Mobile’s network one is accessing at sea, it’s the shipping line’s contractor, and everyone on that loop is going to make a bundle.

Anyway, back to Juneau.  Took my phone out of Airplane Mode.  Voicemail notification start rolling in.  Some texts.  Some FB notifications.    And then a text from T-Mobile saying that I had used up 40 of my 50 Mbits while roaming.?

But I was back in the US?  The coverage map showed huge swaths of magenta?  I was covered, and at LTE speeds?  Or so I thought.

I hotspotted my Asus T200, my traveling laptop/tablet and tried to get to the bottom of things.  While pulling up the T-Mobile coverage map of Alaska, I had exhausted the final 10 Mbits of roaming data. The coverage  map never finished rendering completely, and I got another text message that I had used up all my roaming data.

There is some kind of irony in there.

So, while roaming on AT&T’s network, it was true that I probably did have LTE speeds.  But it is also true that you can easily  use up your roaming data cap in minutes, if not seconds.

Now, I guess I could make calls (I never make calls), and I could send Text messages, but no pictures (MMS).  My kids and I use Google Hangout to communicate when I’m away from home.  They don’t have SMS capability.

For the  next 7 days, I was out of the data game, on the T-Mobile front.  And here is another ironic part: until we started passing Canadian cities on the windward side of Vancouver Island.  Thanks for coming back from the US.   Here’s a bit of data.

So, the upshot of this tirade is this:  I think it’s a bit disingenuous for T-Mobile to paint these Alaskan cities deep magenta (LTE data coverage) on their coverage map, if most, if not all T-Mobile customers (from my limited research) could exhaust their data ‘roaming bucket’ over the course of a minute or two. 

Those US based partner carriers aren’t really “partners.”

 

OLCV – Safe Routes to School

Received an email with a subject near and dear to us.

 

 

Hi Sean,

It’s hard to believe that our little one Delaney just turned 1 ½. She’s learning new words every day and surprising us with all that she understands. One lesson that we impart on our near-daily walks is that Delaney absolutely must always – always – hold our hands. See, we live in Southwest Portland.

Like many neighborhoods all over the Metro area, we have lots and lots of kids and almost no sidewalks – even on busy streets. Last week, I watched a family unload their bikes from the back of an SUV at a local parking lot because it was the only way that they could teach their youngest how to ride. Two weeks ago, I watched a neighborhood family trudge through puddles and mud – rather than brave a busy street without a shoulder or sidewalks – en route to school. I know it’s not just my neighborhood. All over the Metro region, a lack of pedestrian infrastructure leaves many families feeling like the only safe way to get around is by car – and that is if they are lucky enough to afford to own a vehicle.

Into this setting, I bring a chance for some good news. My family is lucky to live in Portland, where a ballot measure – led by the Fix Our Streets campaign – will direct much-needed dollars to a variety of projects if it passes (OLCV endorsed this measure and we sure hope Portland residents will, too!). But we need your help today to bring dollars not only to my neighborhood, but to yours as well.

Our Metro government is currently determining how to spend $17.43 million dollars in federal funds earmarked for transportation. Metro Council proposed dedicating $1.5 million over three years to Safe Routes to School education and encouragement programs. This is a great start. However, the current proposal does not dedicate any funding to Safe Routes to School infrastructure projects. We need dedicated funding to make streets safe for kids.

Metro Council’s Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation (JPACT) will vote to allocate these funds next Thursday, April 21st. Over the last year and half, folks like you have sent letters, emails, and made phone calls to all the elected officials sitting on JPACT. Our community has spoken, and we have all requested the same thing: dedicated funding for Safe Routes to School programs AND infrastructure.

Tell your elected leaders to listen to the thousands of community members they represent and join neighbors in saying Safe Routes to Schools is a priority for you.

As a mom, I cannot thank you enough,

Christy Splitt, External Affairs Director OLCV

P.S. – When you send your email, please feel free to tell your own story or otherwise customize your message to make it even more effective.

 

Paid For By The Oregon League of Conservation Voters

Oregon League of Conservation Voters
133 SW 2nd Avenue Suite 200
Portland OR 97204 United States

 

Clark Howard has improved my life. Or my financial well being. Or something like that.

Over the last six months, I’ve been catching this radio show called the Clark Howard show. He talks about savings, retirement, good deals, etc.

I love his non-condescending approach and his simple to follow advise. Listening to the show has made me think about things I hadn’t spent much time thinking about, but knew I needed to get around to, some day.

We’ve delegated debit cards to the back of the wallet, almost never to be used, for so many reasons. I was so proud of only having one credit card, but didn’t realize that that practice was actually a detriment to my credit score.  Also dropped the ‘do nothing for us’ gas card that we paid off every month.

I applied for a high rewards American Express Blue Cash Preferred and am now getting 6% cash back on groceries and 3% on gasoline.  With modern banking, I can pay off the Amex daily or weekly, so we never actually carry a balance.  My intent is to make it effectively our new debit card, albeit one that requires a bit of tending.

And that’s OK.  I’ll give you an hour of my time, once a month, if you are going to buy me a lobster dinner.

And for reasons that I don’t have the inclination to delve into here, my credit score has shot through the roof.  It was good before, but now it’s close to perfect.   Why should one care, if you try to eschew credit, as one generally should?  Well, like it or not, your auto insurance rates can have more to do with your credit rating than your driving record.  There are other implications, even reaching into the employment realm.

And the final piece that Clark has inspired me to do. This isn’t a specific meme of his, but he talks about it enough to have made me take action.  I’ve  gotten  all my retirement and investment accounts into one spot.  I’ve got accounts and 401Ks spread out..  well, all over the place.

I’ve found a tool called Financial Engines, and have at least consolidated the information there.

Anyway, my point to all of this is that Clark Howard has made me think about and actually make some changes in my day to day life, that will improve my family’s well being.

And for that, I thank you for your Service!

Norwegian Cruise Lines – The Ultimate? Beverage Package

ultimate-beverage-packageThe Ultimate Beverage Package – Enjoy unlimited soft drinks, beers, spirits, cocktails and wines by the glass”

We’ve got this package for an upcoming cruise and it seems pretty cool.   But I was digging into the fine print, and… well,  NCL might want to reconsider the use of the word “Ultimate.”

Package does not include room service, package sales, ship specific promotions or beer buckets, designated Super Premium brands (subject to change), bottled wine, mini bar purchases, bottled water, fresh squeezed juices, select Lavazza coffee beverages, energy drinks, vending machines, wine stations or spirits, cocktails, draft or bottled beer and glasses of wine over $11.

OK, I understand in regards to room service and bottles of wine… But bottled water? Fresh Squeezed juices?  Specialty Coffee, i.e Cafe Mocha?

So, you can order premium Bahama Mama, and that’s just fine.  But, you’d better pony up for that bottle of water.  Bottled Water is just a bit too Ultimate.

But it’s cool.  NCL was gracious with us.  There is ONE bottle of water included with our Haven Suite.  Family of five.  I wonder how far that’s going to go.  I’m sure our butler will help us figure it out.

It’s OK.  I don’t make it a practice to drink bottled water, in general, any way.   I’m not that Ultimate.

 

 

Cruise Critic – Note to Self

I’ve been doing some research for an upcoming cruise we are taking, mostly lurking on a website called cruisecritic.com.

Boy  Howdy, the vitriol and trolling that goes on over there is amazing,   A short list of users I hope of never have the displeasure of encountering:

LrgPizza
abe3
Rydan
Rvsullivan
detroitlions
maywell
motleyfan
newmexicoNita

Los Angles Union Station to Portland Union Station via the Coast Starlight

(Found this in my drafts from February of 2014)

Having just arrived home from my latest 30 hour excursion on Amtrak’s 14  – Coast Starlight, I wanted to jot down some notes.

Why must all of the Sleeping Cars of the train smell like poo by the second day of the trip?  Time and romanticism seems to obscure this confounding observation, but I really need to remind myself of this reality when contemplating a repeat booking.

Dining Car:
Surly Attendants, Unintelligible over head announcements, inconsistent 
announcements (First Call, Second Call, Third Call, Dinning Car is Open) and the walk-about reservation system is silly.  These folks don’t seem to be interested in serving customers. They seem to be simply burdened by them.  And going through the motions.  

Let me rephrase that.  There is almost a palpable contempt for the dining car customers.

That being said, everything I’ve eaten on board has been delicious.

Unions:  I am generally pro-union (in concept) , but if Amtrak is a example of what a unionized work force is like, then I want to steer clear, both personally and professionally.

Communal Seating – I’m so over this.  I think next time I will just bring some tupperware and when my meal arrives, scrape it into the tupperware and take it into the Parlour Car to eat in peace.

Especially breakfast.   I don’t want to be social for breakfast.

There are plenty of tables, but I think they want to reduce the amount of tables that need to be bussed.

Pacific Parlour Car:
I love the Pacific Parlour car.  It’s the (only?) reason I keep riding the Coast Starlight.  I can’t imagine taking trips without it, and haven’t considered other lines, because of it’s absence.

Attendant-  Seemed so desperate to retire and obviously not interested in being there.  Complained about slow bar sales and the impending elimination of the Parlour Car Attendant’s position, but was often absent.  In the evening, waited 15 minutes for her to reappear so that I could buy a cocktail.

On that note, Bottled wine prices seemed to be rather expensive at $30.  You can bring your own wine on board.  Hint, hint. 

The red bag of wet towels shouldn’t be stored in the shower.  There is very limited space in there to be start with.

Deviations from previous trips:   No more champagne or sparking ling cider during departure.  No flowers (fresh or otherwise) in the Parlour Car.

I think I am no longer in love with the Coast Starlight.    Aw, well, we had some good runs.

Our Family – Are we too easily made glad?