Verizon versus T-Mobile

For several years I was a loyal T-Mobile customer. I loved their service. I paid one simple price per month, which included unlimited data, unlimited texting, built-in tethering, and a generous amount of voice calling. In addition to that, their service allowed for travelling overseas with your cell phone at no extra cost; carrying your cell phone out of the country was simply covered by your plan.

There was only one fatal problem that I ran into that made me have to change carriers: I had no cell phone coverage in my home office. This was a deal-breaker for me. I have two-factor authentication (2FA) turned on for work and most of the websites where 2FA is available, so having no coverage in my office meant that I had to login initially for work or a website on my computer, then walk outside and stand in my backyard until I received the call or text message to complete the authentication process. This was obviously unacceptable, so I begrudgingly realized that I would have to change carriers; which was really too bad, since T-Mobile worked great for me when I lived in Seattle.

So my wife and I started shopping around between the different carriers; e.g. Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, etc. Eventually we decided to go with Verizon since their coverage seemed to be the best. However, once the honeymoon period of having cell phone coverage in my office had passed, I realized the shocking revelation of just how expensive Verizon could be.

As I mentioned earlier, T-Mobile was a flat fee that was reasonably-priced and provided lots of great features at a low cost that easily beat the competition.

Verizon, on the other hand, wants to charge you for everything. They have found dozens of ways to exceed the airline industry by nickle-and-diming its customers for everything on their phones. You want Caller ID? You'll have to pay for that. You want to use your phone overseas for a few weeks? Prepare to pay hundreds of dollars. You want to use data services on your phone? Prepare to pay through the nose. You want to use tethering with your laptop/tablet? That'll be another $50 or so for two phones. Pretty much any feature on your phone comes at an additional cost.

In addition to the exorbitant fees, for some reason that I have never been able to ascertain, using Verizon for the same data services that I used on T-Mobile required around four times the amount of data. Before I switched carriers, I saw that I was using about 1GB of data per month for the apps that I use; e.g. email, FB, streaming, etc. So when I switched to Verizon, I went with a 2GB plan just to be safe. But I used that up almost immediately, and I quickly upgraded to a 4GB plan. But that was also used up pretty quickly, and I changed to an 8GB plan. Of course, each data service upgrade increased my costs yet again, so cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching... The next thing I know I'm paying Verizon two or three times what I paid for T-Mobile services, with less features.

Oh, and one more thing: on our first-month bill, my wife and I had a huge data usage the first day. This might seem normal because of downloading apps to a new phone and such, but when I looked at the per-hour breakdown on my bill of data usage, the largest part of the data usage happened before I was actually given the phone. After my wife and I had picked out our phones, the sales guy at the Verizon store said that it was going to take a little while to get things set up, so my wife and I agreed to head out to lunch and run some other errands and return to pick up our phones later that afternoon. What I am presuming happened was the sales rep upgraded our phones with new versions of the operating systems after my wife and I left the store, which seems like a good idea in principle, but I didn't think that I should have to pay for hundreds of megabytes of data usage before I actually owned the phone; Verizon should have covered the cost of upgrading the phones with the latest bits just because that's good customer service. And with that in mind, I tried fighting those charges with Verizon, but - of course - I lost that battle.

I have only had Verizon for one year now, but that has been more than enough time for me to come to the following inescapable conclusion: I HATE VERIZON.

Steaming mad

I Love Neil Zaza...

I had this melody line stuck in my head all day... and if you have to have a song lodged in your imagination, this is a pretty good one to go with.

Open-mouthed smile

Attending the Apollo 16 Launch

Early on the morning of April 16, 1972, which was exactly 45 years ago from today, my parents woke my brothers and me, bundled the three of us into the back seat of our family car, and started the long drive from the west side of Florida to the east. I was only six years old at the time, so I had no appreciation for what was to happen later; I simply wanted to remain asleep. But my dad had a bolder vision for us that day as he drove our family from Tampa to Cape Canaveral in order to watch Apollo 16 lift off for the second-to-last Lunar Mission.


When we arrived at the Kennedy Space Center, we were not VIPs, and therefore we had to watch the launch from a distance. We pulled up to the edge of Indian River, where we parked along with hundreds of other spectators to wait for the show to begin. In those early hours before the launch, my brothers and I played in the water, chasing skates around the shallows while my mom admonished us to avoid getting stung.

As the time for the launch drew near, my dad pulled us over to the car where he had a radio tuned to a station where we could hear the news coverage for the countdown to lift off. When an appropriate time arrived, my dad pointed across the water and told me, "Watch that big thing that looks like a smokestack, it's a rocket that's going to fly to the moon."

The countdown continued, and when the clock approached 00:00:00, the sky surrounding the massive Saturn V burst into flames in a colossal and terrifying display of unbridled power. Seconds later the mighty rocket slowly lifted off as it clawed its way into the air, fighting the earth's gravitational pull for each and every inch of altitude. If you watch the news coverage in following video, the footage from 1:48 to 2:20 shows what the launch looked like from my vantage point.

Moments after the Saturn V left the ground, the deafening roar from the first stage engines reached us and the whole earth seemed to quake. Too many years have passed since that day so I do not recall for sure, but I am willing to bet that a great deal of cheering from the assembled multitudes was taking place at the time.

As the launch vehicle soared higher and higher into the sky, our family joined the hundreds of spectators gathered around us as we collectively stood motionless while we craned our necks to catch our last glimpses of the rocket as it climbed out of sight. Shortly thereafter it was gone, and the crowds of spectators slowly began to pack their things and head off in whichever direction their homes were located.

In the past 45 years I have grown to appreciate the significance of that day's events, even though I was too young at the time to discern the magnitude of what I had just seen. Nevertheless, I am extremely thankful that my dad woke my brothers and me early that morning and made the multi-hour drive across the state for us to watch the launch; it has remained one of the most-impressive displays that I have ever seen.

PS - Here are a couple of extra notes:

  • 35 years after the launch of Apollo 16 I was able to attend the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis (mission STS-117) as it carried part of the International Space Station into orbit; this launch was also an amazing spectacle to behold.
  • Another view of the Apollo 16 launch from NASA's footage is available at The footage in this video does not shift every few seconds like the news coverage; most of the footage is from a single vantage point, which makes it somewhat easier to appreciate the sequence of events from a spectator's point of view.

Who Says the Military Doesn't Have a Sick Sense of Humor?

When I was stationed with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Fulda, Germany, I lived in a sleepy little village named Kleinl├╝der, which was over the hill and through the woods from post. At the time that I lived there, a Surface-to-Air Missile Battery was situated on top of the nearby mountain. Actually, they were kind of annoying, because we could hear them from our apartment every time they had an alert. (Oh sure, they were protecting us from invasion and all that... but I still wanted a peaceful night's sleep.)

Anyway, it's been more than 25 years since I left, and the land where that missile battery was located has long-since been sold off. However, I found it interesting one day recently when I was scrolling through the area on Google Maps and I noticed that the SAM battery's motto has managed to survive on one of the old launch platforms:


Now, who says that the Military doesn't have a sick sense of humor?



Note: Click the following link for the original map:

Road Signs for Cyclists

I tend to pay attention to this warning sign more than any of the other warning signs when I'm riding around Saguaro National Park...


Open-mouthed smile

PS - True story: the sign depicted above is posted right before a very steep descent into a 90-degree right turn, which is immediately followed by an almost 180-degree turn to the left into a steep climb. I have ridden that section of the park almost 200 times, and yet I still navigate it very slowly, because I am reminded of the cyclist I once met who lost control of his bicycle in that section of the park; he woke up in a hospital with a femur which was broken in four places and no memory of the preceding two weeks before the accident.

Surprised smile

Bicycle-Friendly Rock Classics

I first mentioned this in my Ride Notes for Cool Breeze 2015 blog, but I like to rewrite classic rock songs with a cycling theme while I'm out on my weekly rides. As a reminder of past contributions, I came up with the following offerings during the Cool Breeze Century:

  • Sung to the tune of "Safety Dance":
    "We can pass if you want to,
    We can leave your friends behind.
    'Cause your friends can't climb, and if they can't climb -
    Well they're no friends of mine."
  • Sung to the tune of "Hotel California":
    "Welcome to the Cool Breeze California,
    Such a tiring race, such a grueling pace.
    You'll question your mind at the Cool Breeze California:
    I'm no competitor; why'd I register?"
  • Sung to the tune of "Margaritaville":
    "Climbing the hills again in California,
    Wondering why I'm still here at all.
    Some people say that there's a friend I can blame,
    But I know - it's my own dang fault."

During this week's ride (on a particularly blustery day) I penned the following:

  • Sung to the tune of Jim Croce's "You Don't Mess Around with Jim":
    "You don't coast on all of your downhills,
    You don't ride into the wind,
    You don't pass the leader before the first mile marker,
    And you don't buy a bike from Schwinn."

Winking smile