New music

Bought some CDs recently. Remember them? Maybe ask your grandparents what those were.

The Spinto Band - Nice and Nicely Done is by a band we caught after going tothe Barfly in Camden to see Melbourne band The Morning After Girls (who were crap: too many guitar heroes for one band). If you like Bright Eyes and the like, you'll love these young lads from Delaware. Highlight of their set was the silly medley they did at the end including Was (Not Was)'s Walk the Dinosaur, with all the moves!

controller.controller - History is a Canadian band I heard on GPC and I'm hoping to catch them at the Barfly in a few weeks. Kind of somewhere around Life Without Buildings, PIL, Joy Division sound. There's some full-length tracks on the web site.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Tepid PeppermintWonderland is an anthology from these guys who are doing their best with the laudable goal of keeping music evil. Turns out they're playing in Germany around the time we'll be there, so hope to see them. Maybe they'll end up playing Roskilde, since they're in the area around the same time.

Can we have store-and-forward SMS please?

So I'm on the tube this morning and realise I need to tell Holly something. I send her atext message on my phone. Now this is pretty damn advanced phone, you'd think it could handle that. There is, of course, no mobile reception on the tube, but it should be trivial for the phone to wait until there is reception and then send the message. Don't fucking expect it!

So when can we expect store-and-forward to work for SMS? We're not talking rocket science here.

Very odd dream

I don't normally remember my dreams but this morning I had a very vivid one, which seemed like something out of a sci-fi movie. It was all about an evil Russian scientist who drugged me and implanted a mind control device in my brain. Not sure what exactly he was making me do, but the mind control thing and the implant were very vivid. Strange.

Wonder what the dream interpreters would think of that?

Ahhh election season

There's one good thing about election season: I get to tell Tories quite how much they disgust me in the comfort of my own doorstep. And they have to be polite! Hours of entertainment. This is more fun than god-botherers, and less likely to be on a Sunday morning.

Tim Flannery tonight!

Last night I went to the launch of Ryan Heath's book Please Just Fuck Off, It's Our Turn Now (Holding Baby Boomers to Account) at Australia House. Quite a fun evening, and the debate was quite entertaining and thought provoking.

While there, I discovered that Greatest Working Australian Tim Flannery is in town promoting his latest book, The Weather Makers, which is all about climate change.

The event is on at The Menzies Centre at 18:00. Not sure I'll be able to make it as I'm getting a vaccine in Victoria at 17:30, but I'm gonna try.

Translation tools

This interweb thing is great! I've been translating a bunch of strings in our software at work from English into French. We used a translation company for most of it, but these are the little bits that got left out. Not sure my translations will be perfect, but they'll get what they get. Anyway, I've been relying heavily on a few fantastic web sites.

WordReference.com is your standard dictionarytool, but it's quite comprehensive and fast.

The government of Quebec provides the fantastic Grand dictionnaire terminologique which has an exhaustive range of technical term translations in just about every technical field you could imagine from aeronautics to zoology. You have to be careful though, because Quebec French isn't always the same as French French. For example, the standard translation of email in French French is "courriel" while in Quebec they say "courrier electronique".

Finally, and probably more useful for someone who's a bit rusty in French these days, is Verbix which conjugates verbs into the 15 main tenses. Incredibly handy, particularly when you don't have your red book to hand.

Not a good start to the day

The aftermath
The hole

We had a rather abrupt start to the day this morning: the ceiling in our kitchen collapsed! There's now a 2m diameter hole in our ceiling.

A few months ago upstairs had a leaky bath. The ceiling started to crack and our useless not-very-handyman missed two appointments to come and repair it. After this collapse, we got him to come around and do the majority of the cleanup, though we've spent much of this evening cleaning still.

Well it's historic dust at least, last seen when George V had his royal buttocks on the throne.

Photos here.

Shittybank does it again

Last Friday I had a rather unfortunate experience with my bank card. It stopped working, with conflicting messages from different points: ATMs said "your bank is unable to process your transaction" while POS terminals just said "Declined" (just before the checkout clerk looks at you like you're a bum).

So I ring the bank and they lie to me twice. First they tell me that their fraud detection system has suggested there might be fraud on my account. Not unreasonable considering I've been buying lots of stuff all over the world for our big trip: train tickets in Germany, SIM cards from Switzerland and Hong Kong, flights and festival tickets in Denmark, hostels and trains in Spain. Fair enough, that's pretty unusual activity given my past usage. She then tells me that they called and left a message: they didn't; lie 1.

Next she goes through some of the transactions. The useless thing about all this is that for most of the transactions she couldn't tell me more than the date and the GBP amount. She couldn't even tell me the currency of the transactions, let alone the merchant putting the transaction through. I don't know about you, but I don't have an encyclopedic knowledge of all the transactions I've made recently, converted into GBP!

Anyway, I get through that and figure it's _probably_ kosher, so she says she'll unlock my card. This will, of course, happen immediately. Lie 2 comes in and my card still doesn't work. Another call later in the day and, whaddaya know, it's not unlocked. Grrrr.

Fortunately Scott spotted me some cash for the gig we were going to. Thanks mate.

Now the interesting part: it seems that Shittybank's ATM network has been cracked. At least my situation wasn't as bad as this poor guy visiting Toronto.

Phone for travel

In case you don't know, Holly and I are heading off travelling around Europe in April. We're planning to be on the road up to eight months, so I've been doing some research into communications on the road.

Mobile phone companies are making ridiculous amounts of money from what they charge for roaming. Text messages cost 30p and data can weigh in at £16 a megabyte!

After rather a lot of hunting around, I've found there are other options. In fact, some of these options are worth considering for UK residents anyway as they're cheaper than most pay as you go tarrifs. Prices are in Euro unless otherwise specified.

I'm going to get two SIM cards, one for Holly and one for me.

My one is the GT-9 which costs €39 and gives you a UK mobile number. It does 26 cent/min calls to landlines (worldwide) and 9 cent SMS. It also allows data, so we can check our email and browse web. Downside is you pay for incoming calls (38 cent/min) while you're outside the UK and it has limited coverage so a couple of our destinations aren't covered: Belarus, Ukraine.

This would be worth exploring even if you live in the UK and don't travel all that much. 9 cent SMS, 26 cent/min calls to landlines or 39 cent/minute to mobiles is certainly cheaperthan Orange's 10p, 20p and 40p, what's more those rates are for calls and texts to anywhere in the world!

For Holly's phone, we'll get United Mobile for £29 which gives you a Liechenstein number. This has free incoming calls in all the places we'll be visiting (except Gibraltar, Ukraine and Liechenstein), coverage everywhere though in the abovementioned and some other places you need to pay for incoming, 49 cent SMS, 39 cent/min calls to Australia and UK or 59 cent/min calls to Australia and UK mobiles.

This way we've got coverage in all the places we're gonna be, can make calls at quite reasonable rates and can receive calls free (the caller needs to call Liechenstein, but the rate for people in Australia is the same as calling a UK mobile). Most importantly, SMS will be cheaper than it is in the UK and I imagine that's what we'll be using most.

Whatever happened to the self-cooling can?

As a kid growing up in rural Australia, I used to religiously watch a programme called Towards 2000 (inexplicably renamed Beyond 2000 in 1981) which showed cool technology we could look forward to seeing. For the Brits, I imagine Tomorrow's World was the same idea and probably where they nicked the idea.

Anyway, I distinctly remember a really cool thing being demonstrated: a drink can that cooled the drink within when you popped the top. Now this was back in the early to mid eighties and now, twenty years on, I still haven't seen the technology.

From memory the can had a small CO2 cylinder which was released when you opened the can. The expanding gas would cool down the drink, so cold that there would be a thin film of ice on top. Brilliant!

Holly and I are going to be spending a lot of time over the next half year camping, and there's nothing nicer after pitching your tent than a cold beer. But we won't be carrying an esky, so where are these self-cooling cans we were promised?

A quick Google around finds New Scientist talking about such a device, though it looks like a fairly different technology. Maybe the CO2 thing was too expensive or there were safety issues. So it looks like this sucker exists, and has done for some time. So, beer manufacturers, how about it? I'd pay a premium for only having to carry the beer, not ice and insulation!