Sit back, get comfortable, pour a large single malt and let me set the scene.
My Friend… let’s be a bit creative and make up a really cool name to leave Ian with a shred of dignity.
On second thoughts, let’s not.
My Friend Ian (hereinafter referred to as MFI) decided that he is taking an extended trip to “the Old Country”. A several month jaunt through the wilds of both Irelands, Wales, England, Scotland, England, Scotland, an assortment of Western Isles, Scotland then England again. Nothing too strenuous as you can see. Just the usual once around the block and then home.
Now lets get this quite clear, this trip has been a year or three in the planning. It’s not like he woke up one morning last week and decided “Lets go to the UK for a quick “once around the block”. No this was meticulously planned for some time. Meticulously… MFI… what’s wrong with this sentence? Meticulous here is used in the sense of “lets go overseas and drink Guinness… that sounds like a plan”. Irony. I’m sure that’s the word I am looking for. I digress.
Now in between MFI (that’s My Friend Ian for those of you who came in late) deciding to go on his jaunt and the actual going, he recorded (and rerecorded and then rerecorded some more bits and then wrote some new songs which needed to be recorded and then the whole thing needed to be rerecorded yet again, just to be safe) his first solo album, his band’s second album and in his spare time he acquired a weekly segment writing a topical poem on a Melbourne radio station (It’s the JVG Radio Method On 3RRR).
And then just as the boxes of actual product showed up. Yep, you guessed it, he buggered off. AND to add insult to injury the most technological device he took was a camera and a mobile phone. Now as useful as these are (especially if you are MacGyver… MFI isn’t) it’s not really all that useful for communicating in the 21st Century. Now I can hear some of you saying “He’s got a phone, he can use that” well yes he could except that listening to SMS on the radio is a bit.. well… quiet. and have you ever tried to write a website with SMS. I rest my case.
What’s that? “He could phone through the radio segment with his mobile phone”.
Well spotted young grasshopper (the force is strong in this one) and you only missed out on the gold elephant stamp and light-sabre bonus points by the ever so tiniest smidgen. Sadly, you forgot about the time zone thing.
When it’s bright and sunny here it’s NOT over there. In fact they are asleep over there, especially if the person in question (MFI) has decided to take up a one man crusade to test the quality of the Guinness in every pub, working mans club and any other watering hole he can find in both Irelands, Wales, England, Scotland, England, Scotland, an assortment of Western Isles, Scotland and then England again. So the chances of him actually being awake to phone through the weekly missive to the colonies would be in the realm of the mind bogglingly astronomically huge (I have more chance of winning Tatts… without a ticket).
So how did I solve this problem? (“hmm quite the three piper eh Watson”)
Well the websites are moving along swimmingly without any input from MFI (indeed the websites are moving along swimmingly probably because there is no actual input from MFI). They will both be online and taking manual orders by the time you read this. And the radio show? Well there I got a bit clever (here comes the scary bit, thatch is being clever… run and hide now).
Rather than mess about with answering machines and voice-mail and the like (so low tech), I had read of a wonderful company called Gabcast http://www.gabcast.com in one of the tech lists that I subscribe to. Gabcast’s mission in life is to allow people who want to dip their toes in the podcasting waters (without buying a ton of expensive toys) to do so using nothing more technological than a phone (ooooh that would be MFI).
They have localish numbers that you can ring up from all over the world. Handily there is one in Ireland and one in England as well as one in Sydney. So,you record your drunken ramblings, er, poignant observations on the human condition and then (and this is the really clever bit) the Gabcast website will notify any subscribed fans via an RSS feed (that’s techy for send an email) that a new drunken rambling is waiting for the fan. They then open a browser and there, in all it’s pristine glory will be Chapter 11 of the “Travels of MFI” or whatever the site has been called.
So rather than let people listen to the aforementioned “poignant observations” I then download the MP3 that MFI has recorded at Gabcast, process it a tad, delete the fluffed lines or large trucks driving past, and then put it up on the website where the radio show host (Jonnie Von Goes) can grab it and put it to air. There is also a copy of the poem, preserved for posterity at http://ianbland.com.au
Now some of the more technologically literate of you will be straining at the reins with all kinds of wonderful solutions, and in deference to you I will knock a few on the head straight away.
Netcafes get stroppy about you plugging in mics and headphones not to mention reconfiguring their PC’s with Linux on a Stick USB keys (trust me). Great idea but as a rule it tends not to work.
Finding the netcafe in the first place is always an interesting exercise (especially this early in the tourist season). Kiosks in pubs are great for picking up your email, but then you would be distracted from the Guinness and the band (and probably in that order)
Update: MFI is currently lurking in Cornwall. There is internet access at the dive shop (woo hoo), the problem is that the dive shop is closed because they are always out diving… going well isn’t it?
And then the next half dozen ideas will all probably involve his laptop… that he didn’t take.
For the PLAN B aficionados (secret handshake is a Swiss Army Tinker knife, secret password is Jack Dalton Lies) among you who have spotted the single point of failure (thats techy for if gabcast goes down MFI is up the proverbial creek… No paddle but you can back it in he’ll have a Guinness), I enabled a Skype dial in number with voice mail for three months, and with luck we won’t need it (fingers crossed and sacrifice a politician to the gods). From where I am sitting the Gabcast stuff sounds better than the Skype voicemail, in my opinion.
So there you have it “What Bland Did on His Holidays” and how I survived it.
Now I need a holiday.