Thursday, August 20, 2009

Google Voice... the coolest thing you didn't know you needed. It will change the way we use phones once it catches on and free us from the tyranny of the cell phone carriers. For those of you who don't know what it is (and if you aren't dying to get it then you OBVIOUSLY don't know what it is), it is best described as "one number to rule them all." When you sign up for the service you get a phone number that will act as a gateway to all of your other phones. You can then set it up to forward your calls to different numbers, different voicemail messages, or to a "this number has been disconnected" message for the spam you hate getting.

Got that? In so many words, you get complete control over incoming calls. For example, on my system I have one voicemail message for my family, one for my friends, another for church people, and one for my classmates. So my family gets a "hi family!" message, my friends get a "I miss you!" message, and church people get a quote from the Bible (Just kidding! But I totally should. The missionaries would think I'm the coolest ever).

Even better, When someone leaves me a message, I have a whole bunch of other options as well. Google automatically transcribes the message and I can have them text or email it to me. So I never have to leave a class to get an urgent voicemail message. I can read it right on the spot! The transcription service makes mistakes, but never so badly that I don't understand the message. I can also call into my voicemailbox and listen to the messages just like with any other mailbox. If I log into Google Voice I have still more options, such as embedding the voicemail in a blog like so...

...or I can download the message and make a trance song out of it (sorry, I haven't actually done that yet), or I can block the caller so that I never have to hear from that person again unless I want to.

Do you really really want this yet? If not, here is a quicklist of some other features of Google Voice:
  • FREE incoming and outgoing texts (however, if you have texts forwarded to a cell phone, you will still be charged by your service provider)
  • Call screening: Callers not on your contact list are asked for their name. Then you are asked if you want to accept so-and-so's call or send them to voicemail.
  • Voicemail screening: If you send someone to voicemail, you can listen in on the message and decide to cut in at any time.
  • Call transferring: If you have multiple phones set up with your account, you can easily transfer an ongoing call to one of your other phones with the touch of a button (*).
  • Call recording: You can record any call simply by pushing (5) on your keypad. Beware next time we are on the phone...
  • "Do Not Disturb" function: When activated, all calls will automatically be forwarded to voicemail. Great for times when you can't answer calls but you don't want to turn your phone off.
  • Call initiation from the web: You can make a phone call from your Google Voice number using any phone. Just enter the number you want to call, select the phone you want to call from, and hit "call." The phone you want to call from will then ring your phone and the number you want to call.
  • Smart phone integration: Palm Pre and Android phone users can get an app that essentially takes over the phone functions of the device. That means outgoing calls and texts will display the Google Voice number. It also means you can send and receive texts to your phone absolutely free of charge! No more ridiculous carrier per-text charges. Similar apps are coming for other phones in the future.

The list could go on, but that should have interested you at least a little. It's really something you don't realize the benefits of until you have started using it. Once you start, you will wonder how you ever managed without it. It's a new standard of living, I'm not kidding. But perhaps the best feature is that no matter what you will never have to give out a new number or beg your Facebook buddies to re-send you their numbers due to a lost phone. No matter what phone you have or what phone is near you, you can always send and receive calls for your Google Voice number. All of your contacts will be kept safe in your account (which is linked with your Gmail account as an added bonus). And this is Google, so you know they will keep coming up with killer new features. Holy cow this is awesome!

Sorry for the full-on advertisement. I promise I'm not being paid to do all this brown-nosing to Google; I just really really love Google Voice. Sadly, it is currently invite-only. But they are giving away invites like candy right now, so sign up here and wait a week or two. I promise that you'll love it if you take the plunge and really use it.

Speaking of, if you want to know my new Google Voice number, just call my current number. I'll give you a hint, though: It has the word TRUST in it! Yeah, I picked it out myself. Bye!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Shark's Cousin.... the Stringray. Who knew? I learned that from the DOE (Dept of Environment) who was regulating Stingray city last week.

Last week was our annual trip to the Cayman Islands. Yes, it was amazing! I could never tire of that place. From the extreme humidity to the bipolar weather to the sunburn/peeling, I love it all! Bring on the burn, the frizzy hair, and the inability to be useful or productive for an entire week! I welcome all these things!

We drove to Utah the Friday night before we left for Cayman (our departure was Sunday). That Saturday (we arrived in Provo at 2:30am) we spent with my family before leaving. I also got to work on and catch up with a few clients while I was there.

Sunday we left Provo airport and arrived in Cayman about 9 hours later with a lay over in Texas. I've decided that Texas isn't very exciting. there are no mountains, well, non that I saw.

As soon as we arrived we ate dinner and stocked up on food for the next day. I was able to get a picture on my phone of a random rooster that was roaming around the gas station that we stopped to get our goodies at. I guess roosters roam the streets just like squirrels here do. it was kind of odd to see but entertaining.

The rest of the week we were entertained by sleeping, reading, eating (the food was divine...and the desserts...OH,don't get me started on the desserts), stingray city, snorkeling, kayaking, more snorkeling, more stingray city and borderline comatose-relaxation. Can you say *BLISS*

Stingray city was my favorite thing from the entire vacation. I finally became good at holding them. what's weird is that you get to hold these things that are meant to be wild....but they are not. They're gentle and soft (for the most part). I got a few "battle wounds" like getting smacked in the face with a tail from a stingray I was holding. They kind of swing their tails when you hold them and this one I was holding had a very VERY long tail that collided with my face. I also got a few over-eager stingray trying to suck my entire fist because I was holding squid in them. that was a little startling and left me with what looked like a small self-induced hickey on my thumb.

Funny story: Wednesday was an overcast day. Tristin and I went out on the catamaran and sailed up and down the bay. After 20 minutes it started to rain hard, as if stones were being thrown from the clouds. We couldn't run for shelter because we were stranded on the catamaran in the middle of the bay. The only shelter would have been to jump in the water. After a minute of freezing cold rain on my sunburned body, the sky's cleared up completely and it was as sunny as ever. This is what I meant by bipolar weather :)

The only complaint I have about the week was that Shark Week was playing on the Discovery Channel all week long. The thing about Shark week is that it's extremely mesmerizing. As soon as you start watching it you get sucked in and you wanna watch it even more. Seeing dismantled legs and arms and bodies on shows called "I survived a shark attack" was not a comforting thing to watch every night, especially when you're in the ocean every day BUT you still watch it. Obviously it wasn't scary enough to stop me from watching it but I probably shouldn't have because every time I got in the ocean I'd think "Hm...I hope there aren't any sharks near me today!"

Saturday we flew back to the States and surprisingly I was NOT harassed by immigrations or customs. I tend to be a target for suspicion in airports. the rest of the day and Sunday was spent with my family catching up and just hanging out with them. It was a very unreal moment when we had to say goodbye because it felt like we had never really left Utah. Our life in Colorado almost seemed like a very distant memory. It was very bizarre. But now we're back and in the swing of things again and I realized that although I left my home in Utah, I was welcomed by my home here in Colorado.