Board Game Review: Ad Astra

Posted by steve | Board Games | Sunday 29 November 2009 10:02 pm

I haven’t written a board game review in quite a while. Getting back into the saddle, I have posted a review for the excellent board game “Ad Astra” on my games BLOG:

A World Without String


There’s a Fee for that…

Posted by steve | Mobile Phones | Friday 13 November 2009 5:46 pm

I currently own and use an iPhone with AT&T. And I love this iPhone. It offers an ease of use and seemless elegance that’s unmatched. The user interface really is intuitive. Some people dont get how important that is.

My only real complaint has been that, at least where I live, the AT&T wireless network is not as robust as the Verison wireless network.

Yes, I used to be a Verizon customer. And when the iPhone was announced I couldn’t wait for the day that it became available so I could drop my Verizon contract and open up a brand new AT&T contract. I wasn’t just a “switcher”, I was eager and delighted to leave. I knew the wireless service would not be as strong yet I gladly switched.

I tried a number of high-end mobile phones when I was with Verizon. With the new Droid phone it looks like Verizon finally has a phone that competes with Apple’s iPhone. But I’m never going back. I can sum it up in one word.


Verizon was certain to find some way to make my daily use of my phone expensive. If I wanted to transfer a picture from my phone, they had the BluTooth wireless interface crippled on my Motorola V710 phone. The only way to transfer a picture either to or from the phone without cables was to use their network. And there was a fee for that.

How about music files like ring tones? There was a fee for that too.

Synchronize my contacts with my computer? Could it have been any more difficult?

Heaven help you if you accidently used too many minutes. There was a fee for that too. And it just felt like they weren’t trying to make it easy to not make that mistake.

Unused minutes? Too bad you lost them. Money in someone else’s pocket, but not mine.

It honestly felt that their profit model was to make money off customer mistakes and even everyday power-user activities.

Now I read that they have announced that they are doubling contract termination fees for smart phone customers. Is that to stop more users from switching to the iPhone? From what I can tell, the iPhone has been a huge success in the smart phone market. Is Verizon worried that new Droid owners may still get frustrated and switch anyway?

It’s a free market and I think it’s fair that Verizon can do whatever the market will bear. I think they do have a better network. But for this customer, the iPhone just made switching away easy. I didn’t care at all whatever it took to get out from under their tent.

Do I think AT&T is flawless? No. I get dropped calls. And I would prefer even cheaper monthly wireless costs. But I have never once felt like they treated me like a revenue opportunity, ensuring to profit on everything I do. And the iPhone really is an awesome mobile device.

There is a subtle message in Verizon’s latest commercials. They actually are very clever and make me laugh. The Land of Lost Toys commercial is great. Especially because I think they hit on the only weakness that exists. The little blue 3G coverage map the iPhone shows has to make an existing iPhone user laugh. It’s a pretty good observation.

But here’s the subtle thing. I think that commercial doesn’t pick on the iPhone. Instead it’s saying the iPhone is crippled by the wireless network it lives on. I suspect that Verizon wants an iPhone in their stable, and we may see one in the future. I believe Verizon made a huge mistake on the iPhone and they know it.

That will be interesting to see if it happens. What if one day in the future the consumer can decide which iPhone wireless carrier they want? Wouldn’t that be interesting? I’d love to see AT&T compete with Verizon by being a better wireless provider.

Leave the iPhone out of the equation and see what happens. The customer wins.


Actions speak louder than loud words

Posted by steve | Politics | Monday 2 November 2009 6:47 am

“The older generation needs to understand that my generation does not respond well to anger, hate, and personal attacks. We are a generation of communicators, and to us, actions speak louder than loud words.”
– Meghan McCain (

I read those words in her recent column and they jumped off the page at me. She’s on target.

It’s not just the older generation either. The polarization of American politics has gotten out of hand. When we hear a politician speaking on a news program it seems like we want to know right away which party they belong to before we actually listen to what they are saying. As if the parties are really different enough that the solution lies with just one.

I’m with Dan Carlin on this one. I’d rather see a little badge that shows the names of the politicians biggest financial contributors. Who do we really hear speaking anymore? Do we hear the constituents?

Like he says, “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention”.


An angry appendix

Posted by steve | General Commentary | Sunday 1 November 2009 8:24 am

We had quite an interesting weekend.  Friday morning Nicholas complained that he had pain in his abdomen.  Melissa got on the Internet and looked up his symptoms and it looked as if Nicholas might be having a problem with his appendix.

We discussed the situation briefly, decided he wasn’t going to school that morning, and she called the doctor’s office.  I went to work.

While I was at work, Melissa heard back from the doctor’s office and after hearing his symptoms they recommended that Nicholas be immediately taken to Children’s Hospital ER.  At the hospital they determined that he did indeed have an inflamed appendix and that they would be performing surgery to remove it.  Melissa informed me right away and I left the office to be with her at the hospital.

Because of the H1N1 flu problems, everyone at the hospital was wearing masks.  Here’s the two of us while we were waiting to hear how the surgery went.  

Melissa waiting
Me waiting too

Nicholas went into surgery around 10:30.

After a little while the surgeon came out to see us.   He showed us a number of photographs from the procedure.  Here’s one.

the angry appendix

The appendix is that curly looking thing in the top picture. I’d never seen one before.

It took a while before they released him from post-op.  I think it took a while for him to come out of the effects of the general anesthetic.

Finally, they brought him up to his hospital room for him to recover and be observed by the hospital. Here’s a picture from right when he was rolled into his room.


Melissa spent the night with Nicholas in the hotel room.  She slept on a very hard uncomfortable looking “padded slab”.  I went home, thinking I would be getting up in the morning to go into work (on Saturday) just to see what I may have missed from Friday.

I got home around 8:30 PM that evening.

Later that night I exchanged several e-mails with folks from work and decided that I didn’t need to go in on Saturday.

The next morning I went back to the hospital and waited there with Nicholas and Melissa for him to recover enough for them to release him.  The good news is that he was eating, but still in some pain.

We were able to leave around 1:30 PM Saturday.  It was quite an interesting weekend.  Nicholas is doing better and will have probably 2 half-days beginning the school week, and at the advice of the surgeon, no Gym class activity for about 2 weeks.