Monday, September 29, 2008

Update from the trenches

First, let me apologize for taking so long to post here, and also to everyone who has posted a comment or sent us a direct email in the last couple of weeks. We've been swamped, and I just have not had the time.

We did take yesterday afternoon off, but the backlog of email and other administrative chores has been a bit overwhelming. To add to that, I have a brand new cell phone, and I've been spending pretty much every spare minute getting it configured properly and my calendar, contacts, notes, and all the other junk I carry in my phone ported over.

I had really hoped to nurse my Nokia tri-mode phone along for another year or so, to continue to take advantage of my now-deprecated Verizon plan with nationwide analog roaming included. This has been a real boon for communicating out in the sticks, where analog towers are still the only option in many places. My plans were waylaid, however, when the hinge on the flip-style phone cracked wide open. The phone continued to work, but it would only stay in the closed position if I put it in the case, and it was clear that the little bit of plastic still holding the hinge together would not last more than another week or two. This actually happened while we were still in Florida, just after we finished there and before we were deployed to Louisiana.

Given that the only Verizon phones still available with analog roaming are low-end models with limited organizer functions, and that I am now using my phone to keep my calendar and address book as well as other personal information, I decided the time was right to bite the bullet and change to an all-digital plan, which opened up a whole array of "smart phones" with integral PDAs and even Internet access. After some pretty extensive research, I decided on the Blackberry Curve (yes, even in preference to the iPhone).

I ended up going with Sprint, whose unlimited plan includes all the voice, data, messaging, and navigation you can eat for a flat rate of $100 a month. I'll be getting a Red Cross discount on top of that, which I think is 15%. By contrast, Verizon and AT&T wanted $160 or $140, respectively, for the same type of plan. Both of those carriers have larger networks, but I did not figure it to be worth the extra money. Louise's voice-only phone is still on Verizon, so we'll have that coverage when we need it.

So far I am very happy, although I've had to do quite a bit of conversion work to get my information out of Nokia's crappy system and into the Blackberry (just as I had to do a similar or greater amount of work to get it into the Nokia from my Palm in the first place). The down side, at the moment, is that Sprint has a poor signal in the building we are using for Red Cross headquarters here, and my calls keep rolling to voice mail. I have 30 days to change my mind; we'll see if the poor signal issues end up forcing me to switch teams.

Speaking of headquarters, we are back in the same building we used for Katrina three years ago. Everything is so familiar, and we already know where all the good restaurants are. The Red Cross signed another lease on the place the following year, and set it up as a "hot site" for future storms. As usual, I am not posting a map link to our current location, but we are in a vacant parking lot of a for-lease industrial building across the street. The weather, thankfully, is again fairly temperate, so we've needed a minimum of air conditioning, and the genny is running only about four hours every two days or so.

We're working with a great crew, many of whom we know well from previous operations, and it feels good to be working in a place where the need is so great. That said, I am looking forward to the end of the operation, I hope in just a couple of weeks, to catch back up on our sleep.

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow, and I thought we were the last analog phone holdouts! Seriously though, I dread the day that our phone dies. We cradle that thing like it's a Lalique. We got it two years ago, and since then our cell provider's been bought by AT&T. The thought of switching from our meagre $40 a month plan to an "upgrade" of $100 or more is frightening! Thanks for paving the way.

    I have found though, that being on the AT&T network, we've had superb coverage from Cali to Maine, so we'll probably stick with them. Let me know if Sprint proves otherwise.


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