Saturday, August 08, 2015

Why I would not cruise with Norwegian Cruise Lines ever again

Alaska Cruise

About a year ago my dear brother convinced me we should take our families on a cruise of Alaska. During the planning my sister decided she and her husband would come along too and we'd have a sibling reunion--fantastic! Norwegian has cruises that leave from Seattle, and so we booked an end-of-July sailing.
In the main, we had a wonderful time.  But here's what happened that convinced me never to cruise with NCL again.


Laurel had to dodge a fellow passenger while jogging on the jogging track and twisted her ankle.  It promptly swelled up to mini-football size.  My dear siblings Mike (physical therapist) Mary (PT assistant) and Tim (internal medicine doc) all said "oooh--get some ice on that thing right away".  So Laurel, stoic woman that she is, set out for the ship's medical office.

Norwegian Crew's Response

Get your own ice

Laurel found the office closed, and a sign directing her to dial an extension on the nearby wall phone. She did so, explained to the person answering (nurse?) what happened & asked for an ice pack.  The nurse came and unceremoniously thrust two empty plastic bags at her, directing her to go up 8 decks to the cafeteria and fill them up with ice.

That lacked in bedside manner, to be sure, but Laurel got what she'd asked for, so she took it in stride, ascended the 8 decks and got the ice.

Ace Bandage?

About two hours later it became clear that holding the ice against her ankle with her hands wasn't really working.  The plastic bags were small and light enough that gravity was not much help in keeping the ice in contact w/Laurel's ankle.  The swelling wasn't going down, and it was awkward as hell.  "Get you an ace bandage, and we'll lash the ice pack to you so you get compression and ice at once." said the physical therapists.  Doc brother agrees--good idea.  By now my chivalry kicks in & this time I go down to ask for an ace bandage.

The office is still closed, so I dial the extension & the following conversation ensues:

Me: Hi, my wife twisted her ankle on the jogging track earlier, and we need an ace bandage for her.
Nurse: An ace bandage?  I can't give you that.  You need to see a doctor to get an ace bandage.
Me: Seriously?  Well, okay--we're traveling w/my brother, who is a physician & he says she needs it.
Nurse: No, no, no--if you want an ace bandage, you have to see our doctor, and doing that costs $184.
Me: Are you kidding me?  With all the money you're charging us to be on this cruise you can't give up an ace bandage without bilking us for an extra $184?  That's outrageous!
Nurse: That's correct--you must see our doctor to get an ace bandage from us.

I hung up and went back to the stateroom.  Nobody in our group could believe that they'd effectively charge us $184 for a stupid ace bandage (well, they could believe it, but all agreed that it was outrageous).  I later went to the customer service desk to verify that what the nurse said was true, and they confirmed that no, they will not give you an ace bandage without seeing their doctor, and yes, seeing the doctor cost $184.  I gave the poor woman a piece of my mind & stalked off.

What's that--a sprained ankle?  Cha-ching!

So it seems to me that Norwegian Cruise Line looks upon a passenger injuring herself while underway as a revenue-generating opportunity.  While you're at sea they have a captive customer base and so, just like the bottled water package they hawk at you to purchase while on board (among dozens of other packages, treatments and miscellaneous 'experiences') ace bandages are similarly marked way the hell up.

This is not a business that I or anybody should want to patronize.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Why I'm Returning My (Beloved) Windows Phone 8x

In which I explain my love of WP8, but why I'll be returning my HTC 8x.


The 8x is the second smartphone I've owned.  I got the first (an original Samsung Galaxy S on T-Mobile) about 2.5 years ago.  Great phone, but I was very frustrated by the glacial pace of OS updates coming out for it (and then cut off completely after one major update).  I'm technically inclined & so rooted/ROM'd it up to ice cream sandwich, trading the formerly-decent battery life and stability for updated OS.  When our contract came up we decided to switch to Verizon & so needed new phones.

I love music.  Love being able to listen to whatever I want, wherever I am.  I've had some sort of personal media player since saving up paper-route money to get the Mura Hi-Stepper advertised in the Sharper Image catalog back in the early '80s.  I also love subscription music--have discovered a ton of wonderful bands through my Zune Pass XBox Music subscription, and am delighted at the number of options I now have (rdio, spotify) for music subscriptions.

I have an antipathy toward Apple products that I can't really explain, except maybe to cite the "apple tax" on their hardware, and the numerous frustrating experiences I've had with iTunes doing tech support for my wife & daughter's ipods.  But I recognize that I probably would love the shit out of a macbook pro if I could bring myself to cough up for one.

Things I like about my new phone

The 8x

It's gorgeous.  I would actually have preferred a Lumia 920 if I could have gotten it on Verizon, but the 8x is no slouch either.  It's slim, elegant-looking and eye catching.  The screen is absolutely stunning, and it feels great in the hand.  The GPS (something that never worked very well on the SGS) is rock solid. It's got excellent cameras, front and back.  I like that there's a dedicated camera button I can use to take pictures w/out having to unlock the phone.  I really like that it works with the play/pause button on my headset, so I can pause & ff audio w/out taking the phone out of my pocket. (This is particularly killer when I'm running.)

Windows Phone 8

I love the lock screen--love how much useful information it shows, love that I can configure whether it shows details on my next appointment or on the last text I got.  I love that it will cycle through my facebook album photos if I want, or ones from reddit, or ones I have on the phone directly.  I love that it shows play/pause rew/ff controls if I have audio going (whether that's music, an Audible audiobook, or a podcast).

I love the home screen with its live tiles.  I can send my wife a text from a locked phone w/one swipe and two taps.  I can see her last facebook status w/just the one swipe.  I can send my whole family a text or e-mail w/that same swipe & two taps.  I love that I can pin, not just the music app, but my favorite artist to the home screen to start them playing w/a single tap.  Or an album, or a playlist, or a podcast.

I love the light-on-dark theme that e-mail and search results have.  I love the way text squinches up & then bounces back to let you know you're at the end of a web page or e-mail when you try to scroll past the end.

The keyboard is excellent.  I expected to miss swype, but the predictive text is scary good--much better than swiftkey IMO.  I thought I would miss being able to e.g., long-press the 'w' key to get a number '2' instead of hitting a shift key to switch the whole keyboard over to numbers/symbols, but I don't.

I like that it's not overtly hostile to me using my own music for ringtones or alarm sounds.  It's not quite as easy as android (which lets you use pretty much any mp3 you can get on to the device with a simple long-press) but definitely better than ios.

And as much as anything else, I love how different WP8 is.  That's probably indication of shallowness on my part.  So be it.

Things I dislike/hate about my new phone

The 8x

Because the volume rocker and camera buttons are all on the right side of the phone, there's no easy way to get a firm grip on it without inadvertently hitting a button. I'm a runner & sometimes like to hold the phone in my hand as I run in case I need to do something with it & the first time I ran with the 8x I took a lot of pictures of the sidewalk by accident, and turned the volume down to 0 more than once.

The display brightness sensor does not seem to work--it just sets the phone to dim & leaves it there.

The phone does not heed the volume +/- buttons on my headset, which really would have been nice.  My wife's iPhone has no trouble w/this of course.

Probably the worst things about the HTC 8x are that it has no removable battery, and no expandable storage.  It took me quite a while to make peace with that, but in the end the gorgeous display won me over (I could have gotten the aesthetically-raped-by-verizon lumia 822 which has both, but it doesn't have the gorgeous resolution of the 8x).

Windows Phone 8

I really miss my Priority Inbox on gmail.  I get a lot of crap e-mail and PI is wonderful at sorting the wheat from the chaff.  Bing maps & Local Scout are both very very cool, but I really miss the free spoken turn-by-turn navigation you get for free with android.  Similarly, the voice commands on WP8 are decent, but not nearly as good as android's for understanding me and doing what I want.

I dislike that there's only one volume control for everything--alerts, music and alarms.  In particular the alarms always seem to be too quiet, which is weird because this phone has a wonderfully loud speaker on it.

I've had a pretty bad time trying to use multi-tasking on the phone.  In particular, I want to record a run with Endomondo or Runtastic, while listening to an audiobook on Audible or a podcast.  I've only had the thing a week & so probably some of this is user error, but the only way I was able to both get my run recorded and listen to audio, I had to make sure that Runtastic was the foreground task constantly through my entire run.  So no changing podcasts, no switching to music or audible--just start something playing, dismiss it to the background & keep Runtastic at the fore.  If you really have to do that it's lame.

(To add insult to injury, I've had my 2 best runs ever since getting the phone, and both times Runtastic failed to upload the data to its server (after repeated manual attempts to get it to do so).)

The new software for syncing data on the phone w/a desktop is heartbreakingly buggy and feature-poor.  This is baffling to me because WP7 used Zune software for syncing, which is a fantastic application.  I understand the zune name is marketing poison nowadays (or so goes the popular perception anyway) but given how much else consumer-facing stuff is recycled from WP7, it's inexcusable that microsoft didn't just rebrand and reuse that very functional program instead of relaunching WP with half-baked "beta" software and promises that things will get better Real Soon Now.

(My dear brother was a happy WP7 user for several years, and upgraded to a Lumia 920 when his contract was up.  The poor sync software was his reason for turning in the Lumia & getting an iPhone.)

All of this is annoying and disappointing, but I can look past it and/or hope for improvements in the future.  None of it is a dealbreaker, not even in the aggregate.

What is a dealbreaker for me is that my employer's exchange server refuses to sync my work e-mail and calendar with the device.  I believe this is because exchange server thinks my 8x is in some way insufficiently secure.  I work for a large provider of health care/health insurance, and so it's definitely worth expending some effort to make sure that our e-mail (and data generally) are secure.  But given that it's a large org and WP8 is at best a niche mobile OS at this point, our tech support has not been bending over backwards to help me figure out what exactly is lacking in the 8x, or whether it's the result of a bug either on my side, or theirs.  Android worked fine.  IOS of course works fine too.

Supposedly Verizon will let me return the phone w/out the early termination fee all the way out to January 15th.  But I expect to return it this week and trade it in on--I guess a galaxy note 2 (since it's the only verizon phone with jelly bean on it).  But what a disappointment.

For the sake of the platform & having the alternative open in the future, I hope others are having a better time of it with WP8.

Monday, March 10, 2008

I am a leet rails haxor...

Been playing with Rails a bit, to see how easy it is for me to learn (since I have some nodding familiarity with Ruby). It's generally fun, but I really disliked the new (in v2) style scaffolding. Apparently, the scaffold generator no longer inspects any existing tables in generating the views. You've got to list everything out on the command line. Very disappointing. I whined about it here.

Encouraged by the kind folks on the Rails Talk group, I tried writing my own scaffold generator--generally a complete ripoff of the original, except that if you don't specify any attributes on the command line, it sniffs the db for a table w/the proper name & then packs the arguments with whatever it finds. It's not fully tested, but seems to work for me. Here is the relevant code:

def initialize(runtime_args, runtime_options = {})

# TODO: test this proper (adapt rails' scaffold_test.rb)
# This is hokey, but it's within my powers.
# Rescue the noob who generates scaffold
# on an existing table w/out specifying attributes
# on the command line.
si_uncounted_arguments = %w(--skip-timestamps --skip-migration)
if (runtime_args - si_uncounted_arguments).length == 1 then
# Called in "static introspective" mode--pack
# runtime_args with name:type pairs if we find
# an existing table.
si_table_name = runtime_args[0].pluralize.underscore
puts("Called without any attribute specs on the command
line--looking for a table called '#{si_table_name}'
from which to infer attributes...")
si_cols = ActiveRecord::Base.connection.columns(si_table_name, "#{name} Columns")
rescue ActiveRecord::StatementInvalid => err
# Table not found.
puts("Sorry--table '#{si_table_name}' not found--you're
going to have a lame-ass scaffold. Did you forget
to run 'rake db:migrate' maybe?")
si_attributes = []
si_ignorable_fields = %w(id:integer created_at:datetime updated_at:datetime)
si_cols.each do |c|
si_attributes << "#{}:#{c.type}"
si_attributes -= si_ignorable_fields
runtime_args += si_attributes
# No need for a migration in this case--we're using the existing table.
runtime_args += %w(--skip-migration) unless
puts("User specified attributes on the command
line--no introspection done.")




I think this will work well enough for my purposes. I'll be using it (gotta get back to trying to learn Rails) for my toy app & will see if it serves me. If it does, maybe I'll try to gem it up (or package it up however such things get packaged up) and put it someplace accessible. In the meantime feel free to steal it, suggest improvements, make fun of it, etc.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Special Guest Dog

For a while now we've been sort of 'fostering' our neighbor's dog, Sadie. Isn't she a cutie?

She was a rescue, but our neighbor says she's a malamute cross. To me she looks more like a combination Collie & English Sheepdog, but who really knows?

Kodos loves having another dog around, even if she doesn't always want to play when he does.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Urine Nation

I have problems...

The family took a lovely road trip down to Tucson a couple of weeks ago. The house was going to be empty for 5 days or so, so we:
  • boarded the dog
  • up-ended a bag of cat food into a big bowl & scooped their litter boxes for the cats.
Since returning, 1-year-old Kodos has peed in the house four times, in 3 spots. And it seems not to be the regular, only-mildly-offensive pee. This is especially pungent stuff. I can smell it in the room, even after cleaning it with the Get Serious enzyme cleaner, which is supposed to make the smell imperceptible even to the sensitive noses of animals. I've gone over all 3 spots with that several times, and with an upright carpet steamer, and with a hand steamer. The smell is better (at least once the affected spots dry) but I can still smell it if I put my nose down in the affected area. I am definitely in the market for carpet-cleaning tips--please tell me how I can fix these!

Until I can get these things cleaned, I dare not let K into the carpeted areas of the house, so we're back in baby-gate purgatory for a while. This is particularly a drag, b/c my in-laws are visiting, and they are not the most nimble folks.

Have I mentioned that I need carpet cleaning tips?

So what the heck is going on? Why the sudden backslide of house training at this late date? I had trusted Kodos to roam all over the whole house for many months. He hadn't had an accident since I took away the beef bone that seemed to make him, um, incontinent in a different way.

Here are some facts to bolster the conclusion I'm about to lay on you. ;-)
  • At the boarding kennel, Kodos was stationed 2 kennels down from a female in season.
  • While we were gone, the cats took to using one of the bedrooms (the one K first peed) as a litter box & the place stank to high heaven. (Thankfully, they peed on bedding, which was easily removed & laundered--not so much with our carpeting.)
  • Kodos has recently begun lifting his leg to pee, as opposed to squatting.
So I'm thinking that Kodos has had a more or less sudden sexual awakening, and that that is causing him to 'mark' in the house (e.g., pee not to eliminate urine, but to spread his scent around, as a way to mark his territory). More importantly, I'm hoping that getting him neutered (and we did that this past Wednesday) is going to remove this impulse from him completely.

That's right, isn't it? The vet 'fixed' him, didn't she?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Consarn it, I've been tagged by Orion Count Drulzelot. Apparently, this means I need to write a new blog post (which I've really had to do anyway) and mention 7 random facts/habits about myself. Since this blog belongs to Roy (the human) rather than Kodos (the majestic, mischievous Newf puppy), I'm going to write about me. So here goes.
  1. I am besotted w/my puppy Kodos, who is now a year old. (Big ups to my Mom, who pointed this out during her recent visit out from NY & used that word 'besotted', which is exactly right.) You're shocked, I know--it's not as though every blog post for the last year or so mentions him prominently...
  2. Just about all of my favorite TV shows have been cancelled by FOX. These would be: Arrested Development; Futurama; Firefly & (just recently!) Family Guy.
  3. I have a law degree that I've never used--never sat for a a bar exam, certainly never practiced, and have pretty much reverted back to a normal person. All that's left are the student loans. Yay.
  4. I am pretty sure this whole 'world wide web' thing is a fad, and will blow over any week now.
  5. I have a very long commute to work--2 hours there, 2.5 hours home. But it's in part a beautiful ferry ride, and I don't drive any bit of it, so I get a lot of work done on my laptop during it.
  6. I am one of those knee-jerk liberal Democrats your parents may have warned you about. Probably the education is to blame for that. I've been in a kind of political fetal position ever since the 2004 presidential election. Got me one of those mp3 music players right then & have been doing a wide eyed la-la-la-la-this-is-not-happening-la-la-la-la ever since. I don't normally talk about this, but this morning's announcement of Scooter Libby's get-out-of-jail-free card has me particularly outraged today. Bloody bastards.
  7. I am a Cancer, which explains why I am not into astrology. Who likes to say they are "a Cancer"? They may as well have named the sign "Pestilence" or something...
Next! ;-)