Convergence

They say that technology is converging and that our gadgets will soon do much more. I’m not sure who they are, but it seems to be true – mobile phones can take photos and play games, computers double up as VCRs, and even fridges are online.

My apartment here in the Czech Republic is a fine example of Czech architecture, and is lovely and spacious. It’s got most of the modern conveniences I could want, except for a telephone line. I have a mobile phone, but it’s very expensive to call my family back in England, and just as expensive for them to call me.

I hate shameless plugs, and this is sounding awfully like one, but for the past few months I’ve been using Skype. This is a nifty bit of software that allows you to talk for free to people on the internet. This is handy enough, but they also offer a service, at a cost, called SkypeOut. This gives you the ability to call normal telephones from your computer, and thus solving my landline problem. The bonus is the calls are much cheaper than you could get via a traditional phone.

Recently they’ve introduced a service called SkypeIn. This is where it gets clever. You pay your 10 euros and select a telephone number in a country of your choice. This becomes your number for three months and whenever anyone with a normal telephone dials it, they get put through to your computer (provided you are online and running Skype). The best part is that the people dialing you only pay a call to the country in which the number belongs. In my case, I have bought a UK number and so my family only pays a local UK call, even though it gets routed through to the Czech Republic. I don’t pay anything for the call either. Amazing!

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The real reason for blogs

I came across a series of photos at Notes From A Desi Geek that show the amusing-yet-interesting cultural oddities in India. One thought led to another and I arrived at the conclusion that the blog is the perfect vehicle to show all my international oddities discovered on my own travels. I think I am developing a hobby in this respect, as this follows on from a previous post about the best onions in China. Still, photos for amusement sake are fine by me (and I so wish I had a photo of the Chinese shampoo ‘Ugly Girl’).

Anyway, the first picture is of the control panel on my Chinese microwave. It is innocuous enough until you look closely and discover that an ordinary microwave can possess the power to cause universal discord.

Chaos Button

Sadly the actual meaning is ‘defrost’, but way to go on that translation! A nice touch is the coupling with ‘white fungus’ – you can either cause havoc, or zap mushrooms (white ones anyway).

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Air Rage

On the flight back I experienced an occurrence of what is now known as ‘air rage’, although I prefer the term ‘stupid drunk person’. A man, one seat over from me, began the 11 hour flight by drinking from a bottle of Whiskey he had secreted in the front pouch. While this was initially met with the thought ‘are you kidding me?’ it did become more worrying when he’d drunk nearly half of a 1.5L bottle within a few hours.

This incident made me think about what would happen if he turned violent. My first thought was that either the flight staff, or some passengers, would restrain him. However, the man was big, and obviously a bodybuilder, so I couldn’t imagine that happening without problems.

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We’re off to see the wizard

So today I am flying to Hong Kong, via the less exotic Frankfurt. I’ve already checked-in online, which is pretty amazing really. According to the web blurb I can collect my pass 30 minutes before take-off but… I don’t think I’ll risk it just yet, and will arrive my dutiful 2 hours in advance. Despite being a computer nut, I’m still sceptical of these things actually working in the real world.

And why is it that no matter how many times I select the vegetarian option I still get ‘no meal preference’. Gah!

Thanks for that, Jackie!