Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Remind me next time not to use my cell phone in Canada.

I can't say that this came as a surprise, because I fully expected it.  So this isn't really a rant.  But when I was in Québec City last month I used Google Maps on my phone to find the hotel when we got lost on our way there.  And once I had already taken the plunge I decided to look up the meaning of flashing green lights in Canada.  And, coincidentally, I happened to receive a phone call during that time.  At the time I estimated that I had used between 5 and 10 MB of international roaming data, and expected an additional charge of between $50 and $100 on my next bill.

Well, I just received that bill.  The additional charges are as follows:
  • $1.58 for 2 minutes of international voice roaming (@ $0.79 per minute)
  • $82.52 for 5498 kB of international data roaming (@ $0.015 per kB)
In case you're curious, AT&T is my wireless provider.

I fully knew that this would happen, but I agree with Galen's remark that it's a little ridiculous that cell phone companies charge this much for international roaming.  It clearly does not cost that much to send a few megabytes of data through the tubes, even if it is in another country.

So my advice if you are a smartphone user traveling to Canada, or another country...  Don't expect to use the smartphone services that you have grown so attached to*.  Alternatively, you can buy an international data plan - AT&T offers monthly add-ons between $25 for 20 MB and $200 for 200 MB.  I actually did this when I went to South America, and it worked out alright (though I still payed extra for roaming in some areas that weren't covered).  You can add and remove these features at any time without any penalties, but you get a prorated cap limit depending on when you do so.  If you have a GSM family phone you could also try buying a local SIM card that may offer data at a cheaper rate.

It's too bad that AT&T doesn't define "international" the same way that American Airlines does.  Galen still had to pay the fee to check his luggage because AA only allows a free bag for "international" flights...and Canada is *not* international to them.

* UPDATE - As Joe P. astutely pointed out, I forgot to mention that you can still use your smartphone at free Wi-Fi hotspots.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Now that Apple's killing Lala...

Remember when I dedicated an entire blog post to singing praises to the music website Lala?  And remember how Apple's acquisition of Lala frightened me at the time?  Well, Apple's shutting Lala down at the end of the month.  Boooooo.

So now I need to find a new music discovery tool.  A couple of days ago I signed up (or re-signed up, since I had an account with them before they reinvented themselves) for MOG.  It's kind of like Lala, except not free ($5 a month) and with a smaller catalog.  On the plus side though, you can listen to any song as many times as you want on MOG, and their queue management is better.  There are other services out there that offer similar capabilities (Zune, Rhapsody, etc.), but there's a pretty obvious reason that I initially picked MOG over them: it scrobbles to

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Pearl Jam @ Scottrade Center (5/4/10)

Remember when I was a huge Pearl Jam fan-boy?  Yeah, so that was about 7-10 years ago...before I became completely immersed in the Radiohead phenomenon.  This concert brought back a few memories of the past.

First off...Band of Horses.  Did you know that they're from Seattle?  By the looks of them on stage (guitarist wore a cowboy hat, singer had a southern twang), I would have guessed that they were from somewhere in Texas.  Anyway, I enjoyed the few songs that I recognized from whichever of their albums I own.

As for PJ...those dudes have way more energy than they should for being in their mid 40s.  Jeff was spinning all over the place while Mike showed off the best kick-jumps in the lead guitar biz and Eddie did his dangle-from-the-mike-stand thing.  Ironically, one of the high points was the crowd singing most of "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town", which is a softer ballad.  They played a lot of material from their earlier albums...which is good because that stuff is better than the new material.  Too bad Mike still does guitar solos that are way too long (Eddie took a smoke break during one) and they feel the need to end most songs in dramatic epic fashion.  Overall, it was about what I expected from them.


Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Jónsi @ Métropolis (5/2/2010)

I don't have too much to say about this show (nor do I have the time right now to do an extended write-up), but I concur with Galen's assessment that this was the best show that he has seen in a while.  Musically, it may not quite match up with the Mew show in December, but the visual spectacle made it at least as good an overall experience.  The stage set-up was just about the most creative and awesome that I've ever seen (you can kind of make it out in the videos below), especially in a smaller venue.  I enjoyed all of the songs that I recognized from the album, but the new (to me) ones didn't quite resonate as well, as they were mostly softer acoustic pieces.  As beautiful as Jón Þór's voice is, I prefer it when there's more music in the background.

My favorite moment of the show was 3/4 of the way through "Go Do" when they slowed it down and lit up the audience, and everyone went nuts.  I encourage checking it out in the video below, but it does not come anywhere close to doing it justice.  I get goose bumps when I watch the video, listen to the song, or even just think about it.  Other highlights included "Sinking Friendships" (which trumped the album version) and "Around Us" (which had an awesome piano lead-in that segued unexpectedly from the song before).  On the other hand, "Boy Lilikoi" was a bit underwhelming, but still quite good.