International Calling, Gizmo5/Google

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In the midst of trying out my new heater, washing clothes and linens, and just being domestic this morning (dishes too) I thought I'd take a break and share the news of how wonderful Gizmo5 is. Now, before you get too excited, and I haven't even started yet, Gizmo5 has just been bought by Google and is not allowing new users to sign up, sorry. The good news is that there is speculation of tighter integration with Google Voice and other services, so the waiting may be well worth it. As I live in Lebanon the Google Voice issue isn't too exciting for me as I can't sign into that service, it is only open to people living in the US.

I first got informed about Gizmo5 back around 2005, when it was known as the Gizmo Project. Being on dial up internet it wasn't too helpful and I didn't know anyone who used of heard of Gizmo so I let the account sit dormant for a while. Recently when I was wanting to make calls to my parents and friends in the US I tried to add money to my Skype account, but they rejected my purchase as the credit card had an American address associated with it (fearing fraudulent use of my credit card they said). Direct calls to America are expensive, even more so on my mobile phone, so I waited. I remembered Gizmo and looked it up. I was interested to see that it had been renamed to Gizmo5 and then purchased by Google. Deciding to give logging in a shot I hoped to get the desktop client and see if the rates to America were decent. My account was still active and the going rate to the US was 1 cent a minute...yes, I can talk to friends and family in the US for 1 penny a minute...one dollar allows me to talk for over an hour! I added $10 to the account but had to wait a day or two for the purchase to go through, so if you're looking for speedily adding money to the account you are hereby on notice. On Thanksgiving I called my parents and some friends from Lynchburg. Call quality was decent from Lebanon to the US, I am on a DSL line and the outgoing data didn't seem too crazy, they appear to have an efficient compression scheme set up. Costs to Lebanon are 11 cents and 22 cents per minute, so I may use that for some of my in country calls if I need to as it is still cheaper than using my cell phone.

The purchase of Gizmo5 by Google will be interesting and we'll need to wait to see how this changes things. Some people have expressed concerns of privacy, some have expressed concerns that the integration of Google Voice with Gizmo5 may impact international usage. Gizmo5 can be used internationally without any problem at the moment, Google Voice can only be used in the US. I personally hope this doesn't change anything internationally as I'd rather use this than Skype for my outgoing calls, especially since Skype is so paranoid about my credit card usage.

This will most definitely impact my phone usage and if you're living in the US you may just hear from me a bit more. Over the next few weeks I will try to add Gizmo to my cell phone, Gizmo5 is SIP-based (a communications standard), and my phone can accept SIP accounts. If this works I won't be tied to my computer to make calls, though I will need to be in reach of a good wifi signal. I can't speak on the Windows or Linux interface of Gizmo5 but I can report the OS X version is quite easily used and intuitive.

When more info is released on the Gizmo/Google convergence and as I get more experience using it I'll pass along updates.


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Happy Thanksgiving

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Happy Thanksgiving, for those of you in America, traveling abroad, or residing in a new country. Blessings and Peace to you all.


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brief...

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It rained today: yay!
No hot water this morning: Brrrr!
Hot water this evening: Yay!
Oppositional kids: Grrrrr!
Lacking fingerless gloves:  :(
Cold in apartment:  :(
Old Bay seasoning on french fries: Yum!
About to go to bed, relaxed and warm: :)

That is my week so far, keepin' it real from Lebanon. Will post something proper here soon and its about time for a newsletter update so stay tuned.



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Another week goes by...

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We just completed prayer week here, if you participated from wherever you might be I'd like to thank you for your thoughts and prayers. The work with the children would not be possible without your faithfulness and generosity.

The weather recently has finally started to cool down quite a bit, the next weekend the kids are on break I will need to get some winter clothing and bedding, perhaps a space heater too. When the days haven't produced rain the skies have been an incredible shade of blue and the past several mornings have provided an amazing view of Beirut and the sea.

This week we're gearing up for Lebanese Independance Day, I am preparing for a friend from my home church to visit as well. The following week we'll be off a few days for Eid al Adha so I'll have several days off the next couple of weeks to get those winter items. I've already purchased some wool socks from the Columbia store in Beirut. The kids have been great, even though I've only been here a short time I can see the growth and changes they are making. It didn't strike me until recently that youth is really a fleeting time of our lives.

Took several children climbing today and will be cooking tacos with the older boys tomorrow, can't wait to see if they can handle my spicy chili sauce! No real news to report, other than things are going well. Thanks again and keep coming back for more updates.




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Prayer Week

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Monday (today) kicks off prayer week for us at Dar el Awlad. Attached (or rather, linked) here is a copy of our prayer journal if you choose to following along with us during this time. Thanks for your prayers, support, and help as we work with the children and families that call Lebanon home.



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Illness Free Weekend?

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I had a close call earlier this week, Tuesday evening to be exact. From what I can gather the culprit may have been the coleslaw I had with lunch in the mall, but I can't be confident that it was. All I recall is that later that evening as I was in trying to sleep my stomach started to talk. It said that something bad was trapped inside and it needed to get out. I ignored the voice, but it was persistent and didn't relent. Eventually my stomach rebelled and I had to listen to the voice, which was now a loud, productive rumble...yes, I threw up. First time I threw up in Lebanon since 2004, quite a milestone. The following day I was much better, but sore. The initial fear was I'd be sick for another weekend off, as I was around 3 weeks ago.

The kids are almost all gone now, it is quiet and seems empty. Going out to see a movie tonight, have a church-packed weekend ahead. Will also likely get some climbing rope and quickdraws while I am out and about too. Prayer week starts Monday. Check back later this weekend for a copy of the prayer journal for the days ahead.

By the way, this was posted on Saturday morning, so far so good, and the movie was great :)


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