T-Mobile Simple Choice Plan

I switched to AT&T when the first iPhone was released and have had no coverage issues for the most part. Of course, if I ventured to the Grand Canyon or another remote part of the United States, all bets were off, but that is to be expected.

The one thing I did not like about AT&T was whenever I had to travel overseas. Basically, I had to turn off cellular, forward my number to Google Voice, and rely on hotel wi-fi. Being disconnected from electronic devices can be liberating, but sometimes having a phone in hand is essential. Recently, I had a chance to test the T-Mobile Simple Choice Plan when traveling to Peru.

The plan is supposed to charge $0.20/min for voice, and provide free and unlimited data and text. However, calls to Peru from the United States cost $2.69/min (I later discovered).

In terms of data and text, I accrued no extra charges. T-Mobile reported that I had used 263MB of data. AT&T charges $30 for 120MB of data with an overage charge of $0.25/MB, and $60 for 300 MB of data with an overage charge of $0.20/MB. On AT&T, it would have cost me $30.00 + $35.75 under their Passport plan or $60 under the Passport Plus. Although the iPhone was displaying the 3G icon, the data speeds were not 3G. It felt more like EDGE with the slow loading maps.

In terms of voice, the big surprise was the $5.38 charge for a two-minute call to Peru. That was unexpected. However, I had a number of short calls to 800 numbers that were not charged because they were over hotel Wi-Fi. The only long call (65 minutes!) from the airport in Lima back to the United States only cost me $13.00, or $0.20/minute. AT&T charges $1.00/min under Passport and $0.50/min under Passport Plus. $13.00 is better than $32.50 or even $65.00.

For the most part, I can live without a phone while traveling. However, during this trip, having a phone really saved me. This is the first time that I’ve experienced a flight delay, missed connection and a canceled flight all in one trip. Being able to call back to the United States to re-arrange my flight plans was well worth the $13.00 charge, even if it took over an hour to straighten out.


Apple iPhone Import Contacts from SIM Card

Solved an interesting problem tonight. I had an old AT&T Z221 phone, and wanted to migrate the address book from the SIM card to a new iPhone. The AT&T website had a support page with information about copying contacts to and from the SIM card. Still, I had no idea how to transfer that data to the new iPhone. Furthermore, the AT&T Z221 phone I had on hand had a busted screen. It would have been impossible to navigate through any menus on it.

From Apple, I found a support page on importing contacts stored on a SIM card. I knew that the iPhone 6 would have a different sized SIM card than the AT&T Z221 phone. So, I popped open the SIM card slot on a three-year-old iPhone 4S. No go. The iPhone 4S SIM card was too small. Thankfully, I still had a five-year-old iPhone 3GS on hand. I had to search a bit for the SIM card slot, which was located at the top of the phone. This time, the SIM cards matched.

For the final step, I signed into iCloud from the iPhone 3GS. After importing the contacts, the sync was instantaneous. I checked the new iPhone 6 and the contacts matched the address book of the old cell phone. Success!


Base Ten Blocks

How do you teach arithmetic? One approach is through the rote memorization of algorithms. For adults, that may be the obvious solution since that is how we solve simple addition and subtraction problems. But why do we carry-over in addition or borrow from in subtraction?

Base Ten Blocks

To illustrate this concept, I turn to base ten blocks. I had purchased a set of base ten blocks last year for supplemental Singapore Math instruction at home. We’ve used it on-and-off to illustrate math concepts. Lately, when my child has difficulty with a math question, I bring out the box of base ten blocks. With little assistance, my child is able to calculate three digit subtraction using the base ten blocks. And, after she has tackled a few questions, I return to the questions and explain the algorithm for notating the exchange of 1-ten for 10-ones.

I had also purchased mathlink cubes and ten frame boards. The base ten blocks are the most useful by far. Instead of memorizing algorithms, the base ten blocks let children figure the calculation themselves. Then, the algorithm becomes a short-cut of what they already stand.


Helix Community Science Center, Los Altos, CA

Helix by Exploratorium is a children’s science center located on State Street in Los Altos, CA. In the Bay Area, larger science museums provide more of an all-day experience. In contrast, Helix is a place for local kids to spend an hour or two in an educational environment.

Helix Community Science Center

The center is a two-story facility with hands-on exhibits placed throughout the space. The retail space occupies much of the downstairs, and is a welcome space to find some thoughtful birthday gifts for children.

Helix Retail Store

In the magnet exhibit, learners will learn and players will play. Even younger children can interact with the exhibits without having the master the finer points of magnetism. Just having fun is okay.


Adults can experiment with the spinning table and try to place the perfect object that it will remain spinning in place as the surface rotates.


The center is not large, but is probably just the right size for young elementary school children. Enough to keep their attention, but not too large that their patience will be tested.


Hiller Aviation Museum

I’ve driven past Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, CA many times. This afternoon, I finally set foot in the museum and was really impressed with the exhibits.

Hiller Aviation Museum

In the lobby, a replica of the Wright Brothers’ plane floats above your head.

Wright Brothers

In the cavernous exhibit hall, you can see an impressive collection of helicopters and airplanes, ranging from the historic to the experimental. The exhibits are well-curated with accompanying explanatory videos.


Plan on taking about two hours to visit the museum.


Mission Peak Regional Preserve

I climbed up to Mission Peak in the Mission Peak Regional Preserve, which is located at the end of a suburban street in Fremont, California. I arrived shortly before 8 a.m. on a weekend and the parking lot was full. In fact, the entire street leading to the preserve was full.

Mission Peak

First off, this was not a hike. From my parking space two blocks away, I had a steady climb up to the entrance of the park. And, as I headed up to the peak, it was an unrelenting uphill march. Not a stretch of flat land where I could relax and catch my breath. I usually get my 10,000 steps in a day so I am not completely out of shape. But, walking up a steady incline is a different beast than walking on level ground, as all the still sore muscles continue to remind me. A bit hazy in the morning, but I did enjoy an aerial view of Fremont.


I couldn’t see Mission Peak until the last 20 minutes of the climb. The entire time, I was just focused on the next turn in the trail. Didn’t take long before the people further down the trail looked like little ants.

Mission Peak

Eventually, you’ll make one more turn and Mission Peak will be right in front.

Mission Peak

Then you wait in line to take a photo with the marker.



D-Day Tours

Next week, Normandy will celebrate the 70th anniversary of D-Day. I was in Normandy last December and signed up for a tour of Normandy with Christophe Gosselin of Normandy Heritage Tours.

My adventure started at the Paris Saint Lazare station. I am glad that I arrived early at the station because I needed every single minute to retrieve my tickets from the machine. With my print-out in hand, I walked up to the ticket machine and entered my information, only to be told that my tickets could not be located. That’s when I began my mad search for a staffed ticket office. I walked through the entire station and was redirected to the correct platform and another machine that displayed the same symptoms.

In addition to the confirmation code, the machine also asked for my name. The reservation listed First-Name Last-Name, so I tried that and it didn’t work. I reversed the order and tried Last-Name First-Name and that didn’t work either. As a last resort, I tried Last-Name only and that worked. The machine promptly printed my tickets and I was off to the platform. The machine should have simply asked for a family name or surname, and I would have be spared from all this angst.

Upon arriving in Bayeux, we walked to the Hotel Reine Mathilde. The hotel was centrally located within walking distance to the Bayeux Tapestry Museum, Bayeux Cathedral, and nearby shops and restaurants.

Hotel Reine Mathilde

The next morning, we met up with Christophe in the hotel lobby. His van comfortably transported us on a private tour of Normandy. If you have time, you may consider a two-day tour. Normandy is such a large area that one-day may not feel enough. It all depends on your level of interest in World War II and historical events.

Sainte Mere Eglise

Our first stop was Sainte-Mère-Église, which Google Maps tells me is 55.9 km (39 min) away from Bayeux. On the exterior of the church, you can see a paratrooper with his parachute caught in the tower. Inside the church, we admired the stained glass windows which honored the paratroopers who helped liberate the city.

Next, we drove along the hedgerows and stopped briefly at the Batteries d’Azeville et de Crisbecq. Then, we proceeded to Utah Beach.


The Utah Beach D-Day Museum was closed during our visit. However, there are monuments and artifacts outside that you can see. Even if the museum was open, I’m not sure that we could have spent too much time there since our schedule was quite tight. From there, we drove to the church at Angoville Au Plain, where medics Robert Wright and Kenneth Moore treated soldiers from both sides of the war.

On D-Day, U.S. Army Rangers had scaled the cliffs to capture Pointe du Hoc. The site itself is quite impressive with massive craters still in place marking the allied bombardment of Pointe du Hoc.


Also, look at the bulk of this casement.


Our last destination was the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. These men and women gave their lives so that we could be free.

Normandy American Cemetery


Let It Go in Chinese

If your child has already watched Frozen several times and has already memorized the lyrics to Let It Go, here’s a challenge. Learn the song in Chinese. Disney has a Cantonese, Mandarin and Taiwanese Mandarin version.

I like 随它吧 by Bella Yao the best of all the Chinese versions.


Free Wi-Fi v. Verizon Jetpack 4G LTE

I’m sitting in the bleachers at a local ice skating rink on a Saturday morning wondering how fast the free Wi-Fi is. Speedtest.net reports the download speed as 1.25 Mbps and 0.35 Mbps as the upload speed. My experience is that the connection is perfect for reading text, but struggles with video.

Fortunately, I also have a Verizon Jetpack 4G LTE. In the belly of a concrete ice rink, Speedtest.net reports the download speed as 2.30 Mbps and the upload speed as 1.36 Mbps. That’s more than twice as good since the connection isn’t being shared. 😉


Obviously, the Verizon Jetpack 4G LTE experiences a bit of variance in performance depending on the location. At home, Speedtest.net reports a download speed of 4.41 Mbps and an upload speed of 0.56 Mbps. Strange that the download speed is faster than at the ice rink, but the upload speed is slower.

April 11, 2014 – At the gymnastics center, the download speed is a swift 11.49 Mbps and the upload speed is 0.87 Mbps. Quite a bit of variance.


TurboTax Business

I think every Mac user must have a love-hate relationship with Intuit. I still don’t understand why Intuit had dumped Quicken for Quicken Lite a/k/a Quicken Essentials for Mac. Ugh. But, I’m glad that I jumped on iBank instead of waiting around for the long-rumored Quicken Deluxe for Mac. I’m sure it is still just around the corner.

Despite the rocky relationship, I still turn to Intuit for its tax software. The regular TurboTax, which works on a Mac, and TurboTax Business [Download], which I have to run in VMWare/Windows. It’s always cheaper to pick up a copy from Amazon instead of getting it direct from Intuit.