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Thank You Skype for Not Sucking, and For Saving my Afternoon
desktop background image of a fall-foliage scene at the Enkoji Temple (円光寺), Kyoto Japan -- Thinking Cap at the Enkoji Temple (円光寺), Kyoto Japan -- Enkoji Temple (円光寺) -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 200mm f/2 — 1/125 sec, f/4, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Thinking Cap
at the Enkoji Temple (円光寺), Kyoto Japan
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I've been feeling remarkably lazy about writing lately, sorry.

My wife and I were in a travel agency the other day (here in Kyoto, Japan) to purchase some pricey tickets for some upcoming family travel, and since it was a lot to put on the credit card at once, I had called ahead to my US-based credit card to let them know the charge was coming so that it would go through smoothly.

Of course, while standing there at the travel agency office, the transaction was denied. Sigh.

desktop background image of a mossy area near the parking lot of the Miho Museum (ミホミュージアム), near Kyoto Japan -- Next to the Parking Lot at the Miho Museum (ミホミュージアム) near Kyoto -- Miho Museum (ミホミュージアム) -- Koka, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24mm f/1.4 — 1/800 sec, f/1.4, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Next to the Parking Lot
at the Miho Museum (ミホミュージアム) near Kyoto
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I couldn't call The States with the travel agent's phone, so we were facing the prospect of having to bicycle back home to make the call to the credit card company (again), then head back to the travel agency (again) to try the transaction (again). What a pain.

But before leaving the travel agency, I had an idea. I had installed the Skype app on my iPhone years ago but had never used it. I do that a lot... I've never launched most of the apps that I have on the thing. (I mostly don't even remember what I've put on there most of the time.) Anyway, it was on my mind because I've heard good things about Skype's quality for app-to-landline calls from Paul Barr who uses it to chat Stateside while he's in Japan. The calls are not free, but they're cheap enough not to matter, but you do have to fund your account with some money to use it... or so I thought.

Picture I took of some chick taking a pic of some guy taking a pic of some leaves. (at the Nishi Hongwanji Temple (西本願寺), Kyoto Japan) -- Nishi Hongwanji Temple (西本願寺) -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/2500 sec, f/1.4, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Picture I took of some chick taking a pic of some guy taking a pic of some leaves.
(at the Nishi Hongwanji Temple (西本願寺), Kyoto Japan)

I hadn't given Skype any money, but on a whim I gave the Skype app a try and dialed the toll-free number shown on the back of my credit card, and voilà, I was talking to my credit-card company as if they were sitting next to me. It was amazing.

I guess toll-free numbers are supported as such (without toll) by Skype. Very, very nice. I encouraged the credit card company to acquire a clue, the travel agent retried the card while the company was still on the line, and all went well.

It saved my afternoon. Thank you Skype, and thank you Microsoft for not screwing them up when you bought them.

I've since funded my account with $10 just in case I ever have to use it to call a non-toll-free number. US calls go at a the not-worth-thinking-about rate of about a buck an hour, so practically speaking I'll probably never use that $10, but it's cheap peace of mind.

desktop background image of a fall-foliage scene at the Enkoji Temple (円光寺), Kyoto Japan -- Moody at the Enkoji Temple (円光寺) -- Enkoji Temple (円光寺) -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 200mm f/2 — 1/1250 sec, f/2, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Moody
at the Enkoji Temple (円光寺)
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These photos have nothing to do with the article... they're just some recent photos from among the huge backlog my laziness has prevented me from dealing with.

And no, I did not place the yellow leaf on the small statue's head in the lead photo.
(I saw someone else do it and took the opportunity to snap a picture :-) )

desktop background image of a foggy/smokey scene at the Tenjin Shrine (天神神社) in Koka, Shiga Prefecture, Japan -- Fog and Smoke the latter from an early-morning leaf-burning fire at the Tenjin Shrine (天神神社) in Koka, Shiga Prefecture, Japan (not far from the Miho Museum) -- Tenjin Shrine (天神神社) -- Koka, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/640 sec, f/3.2, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Fog and Smoke
the latter from an early-morning leaf-burning fire
at the Tenjin Shrine (天神神社) in Koka, Shiga Prefecture, Japan
(not far from the Miho Museum)
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Comments so far....

Just FYI: I loaded some money into Skype to use while traveling internationally a few years ago. Every year I get a mail saying if I don’t use any of this credit, it will all go away. So, I have to make a 2 second call to myself on a yearly basis. I guess it keeps me from feeling too lonely.

Thanks for the heads up. It seems from Skype’s terms of service, it goes “inactive” after six months, but you can “reactivate” it, so you don’t lose it. I don’t see the point in making one go through the hoops of pressing a “reactivate” button, but that seems to be the situation. The one exception is credit bought on their web site when “you’re located in Japan” (how do they know? IP lookup?) actually does expire. I’ll have to look into that more. —Jeffrey

Update: thanks indeed for the heads up on this. I sent a note to Skype asking how they determine what “in Japan” means, and whether my actual purchase was one that would expire (and if so, to please issue a refund so that I can replace it with a non-expiring purchase). The answer I got was sufficiently vague that it had no meaning, but they issued a refund anyway and I replaced the credit via an iTunes purchase. In having used them now a bit (with great success from an airport where I’d missed my connection), I realize that one must be a bit careful about planning one’s credit. At 2.3 cents/minute, five bucks should get me 217 minutes, but it turns out that they add a 4.9 cent startup fee per call, and they round all values up so that, for example, a 1-minute call is 8 cents (4.9 + 2.3 = 7.2, rounded up). This means that five bucks might be worth only 62 minutes instead of 217. Not that this will break the bank or anything, but it may be important for planning one’s use while on a trip. —Jeffrey

— comment by Bill on December 19th, 2013 at 6:37am JST (4 months, 5 days ago) comment permalink

Why couldn’t you just make a “regular” call on your iPhone?

My ignorance of the ability to make international calls, or cost to do so, left me only with the nightmareish imagination of a worst-case scenario. That, and the fact that I simply didn’t think of it. —Jeffrey

— comment by Steve Friedl on December 24th, 2013 at 11:19pm JST (3 months, 30 days ago) comment permalink

While I don’t have the international situation you do, I am a computer consultant in NYC and when on projects spend about 50% of my time on the phone. I am a big fan of skype as it has proven to be much more reliable that Google Voice and GotoMeeting when bandwidth is tight.

That’s a good datapoint, thanks, because I’ve heard exactly the opposite with respect to a Google Voice / Skype comparison. I guess it really depends on the situation, and one must test their own for themselves. —Jeffrey

— comment by Jonathan on December 27th, 2013 at 7:49pm JST (3 months, 27 days ago) comment permalink
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