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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Wow! Again. The power of email. In the past 5 weeks or so, I have won the Swedish lottery, the Euro lottery, and various other lotteries. Now this one! Geez, I'm going to have to retire. All I gotta do is give them my name/ address/ age/ bank account details/ tax file number and they will steal my identity verify my details and forward my winnings!

I'm a bit concerned about giving my "Marita Status", though.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

This is by far one of the strangest things I have seen for sale on Ebay:

Purchase 1 square foot of Lochaber in Scotland with "fishing rights" to the river.

Benefits: You can frame a certificate on your wall and call yourself "Lord", "Laird" or "Lady" of Lochaber. Even if you've never been to Scotland.

1. This is a bit sad - do people really need to impress others this much? Why am I asking this, of course they do!! It's still sad though. People really say "I am Lord of Lochaber, this is my official certificate (that you can buy on Ebay for $49.95 plus 9 bucks postage & handling?)

2. How do you get to your square foot of land? By helicopter?

3. Can other Lairds and Ladies shoot you for stepping on their square foot of land?

4. The official name for your square foot of land is a "Sporting Estate". What is the sport? Hopping?

5. As a new member of the Scottish aristocracy, the activities you can enjoy on your estate are:
fishing, bird watching, fungi spotting and picnicing. Just be sure you bring a small blanket!

6. Not only do you have a new title, but you will now have airport staff, hotel staff and country club staff falling all over you and giving you free gifts. Indeed. Unless of course, you happen to be travelling with another 200 or so Lords and Ladies with identical titles.

7. You are not allowed to build on the land. I think this is ridiculous. I have the perfect country estate that I borrowed from my Monopoly board.

I should have thought of this years ago. I could sell sqare centimetres of land with exclusive title to ladybugs, blades of grass, and moth and dirt rights. At $29.95 it would be a steal. I'd be a millionaire by now. And if I bought one for myself, I'd be a member of the Scottish aristocracy with land and title and the right to oppress all that enter my domain. Bugs, feathers and lost golf balls, be warned! You are about to meet your new ruler.

Sincerely, Lady of Lochaber.

(If you don't believe me, I'll fork out the $59 bucks and show you my authentic certificate)

Wow. I don't usually do this but sometimes there is that one special Ebay seller that catches my eye. I'm not going to name anybody, not interested in doing that - I'd just like to point out how important it is to read the seller's feedback before making any bids.

Seller stats:

17 sales - member since early '07

Not a good start! By the way, one of these marked as positive had left a negative feedback comment.

Some of the comments were along these lines (I am paraphrasing of course) :

"...Packaging was not adequate. Broken on arrival..."
"...Item was dirty and old, described as new..."
"...This item is not authentic OR rare as stated..."

You get the idea.

The phenomenal overall positive score for this person was 75% - this is the lowest score I have seen so far. Perhaps someone can correct me on this.

I was thinking of buying an item from this character until I decided to check out the feedback. I'm glad I did. The retail price of this item is cheaper than the Ebay listing by $30.

The point is, these people exist out there, so beware.

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I'm always looking for a way to save money. And I suppose the best way to save money is to get something for free. You can find a whole range of Free Stuff on a site called "That Freebie Site". The part that interested me was the webmaster section. Yes, a lot of information and tools on various sites are free anyway, but this site has a collection of useful tools for bloggers like myself. I particularly liked the page rank checker. Page rank is becoming increasingly important to bloggers and indeed anyone who owns a website. I also found the reciprocal link checker to be useful.

The range of freebies extends a lot further than webmaster tools. You can search through categories ranging from health products to pet supplies to long distance calling card credits.

My only criticism would be that some of the offers have expired (eg. Skype credit expired on the 13th of May). That said, I can understand the difficulty in monitoring every individual offer in each individual category.

To obtain the offers, some can be as simple as clicking a button and filling out your address details. Some may ask you to fill out a survey or make a purchase. The advantage of the main site itself lies in the fact that you do not need to sign up, join up 5 friends, and do all those annoying things that take the fun out of "free" sites.

Overall, the site contains a diverse range of freebies with something to interest most people. If you are interested in getting something for nothing, then this site may be of interest to you.

Important Note: This has been a paid review. This does not mean I am paid to have an opinion that pleases others. My review contains my own observations about the subject matter - both positive and negative. The review may contain criticism, suggestions and comments of my own choosing. See disclosure policy for more details.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

If you are staying in Hobart for a short or extended time, I would recommend the Hobart Midcity Hotel. The location is perfect, right in the centre of town. Prices per night are reasonable - you can find good rates on Flight Centre Hotels, the site on which we booked our holiday, or you can try Wotif for good last minute deals.

The Hobart Midcity is a 3.5 star hotel - not too fancy but better than some hotels I have seen! Full rate is approximately around $160 per night at the moment. We found a special deal online - 4 nights booked and 1 night free so it would have been approximately $85 per night.

This is a picture of the standard room. We had asked for a smoking room and were presented with a non-smoking standard room. When I made a point of the fact that we booked a smoking room and showed him the email I received confirming this, he upgraded us to an Executive / Deluxe room. I didn't realise the difference between the rooms until I compared these pictures.

Standard Room - official shot:

Our Actual Room:

Hehehe! Bonus!! Anyway, I can definitely recommend this particular room, I can't comment on the other rooms. This room was huge, comfy, secure and just what we were looking for. Room service had a good menu, prices were reasonable (eg. $4 for a toasted sandwich) and the menu included standard pub fare such as wedges, hot chips etc. I can't comment on these meals as we never ordered room service during our stay. I have mentioned the mini bar in an earlier post - the prices are not prohibitive, but they are just enough to make you pause before you open the bar fridge. I have also mentioned Austar (Foxtel) TV, 24 hour golf and movies was a nice touch. When the temperature dropped, there was a column heater, a wall heater and an electric blanket. The spacious cupboards contained an ironing board, fan, heater and various other useful items. Oh, and did I mention they give you a lot of towels?
My rating for this particular room - 8.5 out of 10. I only took marks off for the majestic view of the carpark. And the bed could have been a tad comfier. But overall, it was a nice place to plonk a suitcase.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The last time I went to the Cat and Fiddle Arcade I was very small. Nevertheless, when I walked into the Cat and Fiddle Arcade on the 25th of May, I had a strange recollection of the place. It seemed somehow familiar. There was something charming about the place. There's that word again. Something about seeing the Cat and Fiddle Arcade and the cow jumping over the moon - it made me feel like a kid again.

This video shows the cat playing the fiddle, then the cow jumps over the moon. Apologies but the video ran out before I could capture the dish running away with the spoon. (silent, no sound)

If you are ever in Hobart, take your kids to see this. They will thank you for it. Yes, it's quite old and it doesn't have TV screens or a big lightshow. But all the kids standing there, in awe and opened-mouthed said it all.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Hobart is a difficult city to describe, unless you have been there. It reminds me less of a city and more of a town, like Geelong - for example. However I can think of no city or town in Victoria that can compare to Hobart. It's just totally different. For example, coming over the Tasman Bridge felt like coming into a mini San Francisco - it just has that sort of layout. The hills are covered with houses, sloping down towards Hobart itself. Everywhere I went in Hobart sloped either up or down, except for the docks and Parliament. Hobart can be great for burning calories as you are either walking up or walking down, wherever you go. Each way I looked, I saw a hill or a valley. It just happened to be covered with roads and houses.
When first arriving in the city of Hobart, I described it as a "Wonderland". It has a strange feeling to it that is hard to explain. It feels like the past, I suppose. It's 1996 and that's a good thing. I loved 1996. A strange Neverland of dreadlocks, skateboards, punk rock, death metal, punk fashions that don't look try-hard, independent music shops, and best of all, a pub called Trout that seemed like the Punter's Club resurrected. It kind of had that grungy feeling of safety. We saw beautiful buildings untouched by redevelopment. "Quaint" and "Charming" were words that came to mind. It's also got a certain something. I don't quite know how to explain it. It needs to be taken seriously, I think. You can't joke about a place like this once you have been there.

The weather was hilarious. It wasn't cold. 19 degrees was the warmest and 16 was the coolest weather during the holiday. It got down to 12 degrees one night. I have heard so much about Hobart weather and to luck upon unseasonably good weather is quite amusing. On the first day we arrived in Hobart, it was windy. The biggest hazard was avoiding getting a chip packet in the face.
The Hobart Midcity Hotel was great. It had a big bath, you could smoke in the room, great shower, mini-bar, reasonable room service prices and to our delight, Austar TV. I didn't know what that meant until I flicked around the channels a few times. It means Foxtel.
One of the most useful things in the hotel was the "Do Not Disturb" sign. We left it up the whole time. And every day we got a new, ridiculously big bag of white towels, soap, and an inordinately large amount of shampoo left outside our room. How much shampoo does one person need? It's like getting a Christmas present every day.

The bath was fantastic. It was the most relaxed I have been in ages. The first and throat clenching terror I had felt on the plane just melted away.

The mini-bar was very handy - the prices weren't too bad considering the convenience. $9 spirits, $5 Boags, $2.80 chips, $3.75 water. Okay the water and the spirits were kind of overpriced but considering we could grab any one of these items when the shops and the city had basically closed for the night, it wasn't such a big deal.
Also, we got 1 free night at the Hobart Midcity, saving something like $130! We booked it through the Flight Centre accommodation website, which finds some great deals from time to time.
The New Sydney Hotel was right across the road from the Midcity and had a great selection of beers. Many people have warned me about the Boag's vs Cascade rivalry. I didn't know that Boag's made an excellent low calorie "Blonde" beer. I did know however, not to confuse it with the Cascade Blonde we had at a place called Maloney's near the docks.
Somehow, I did it anyway - asking the bartender if the Boag's Blonde in my hand was a Cascade Blonde. He looked at me as if I was mad, then there was a pause.
I said "I just made the biggest Faux Pas ever, didn't I"
He looked at me with half pity, half a wry smile. "Yes you did" he said, and walked off.
The New Sydney had an outdoor smoking area as you can't smoke inside anymore. How annoying. At least the weather was okay. Here is a piccy of the outdoor smoking area at the New Sydney (which became a nice place to stop off from time to time!)

I'll leave this post in a beautiful setting, outside at the New Sydney Hotel drinking a Cascade Blonde.

Argh! I mean Boags!!!


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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

My partner and I decided to go on holiday to Hobart, Tasmania. It was quite an experience and we had a ball.

...except the flight....

When we boarded the plane I did a double take. I have only ever been on overseas flights, never interstate. 747s and 767s were the scope of my experience. So when I stepped onto what looked like a V/Line bus with wings I thought there had to be some mistake.

During takeoff I came to terms with my own mortality, solved several philosophical dilemmas, found religion and finally accepted my place in the scheme of things.

It's amazing how fear can focus the mind.

I didn't want to play anything on my mp3 player for fear I would forever associate the song with the blind terror I was feeling, thus ruining it forever. I thought sweaty palms were a bit of a myth. Now I know. My hands looked like I had just washed them.

Here is a direct quote from me during the flight:

"my a$$ is in my throat" Quote unquote. Without the dollar signs of course.

Oh yes, and the Captain. The untouchable, shining brilliant captain whose skill and precision holds your life in his hands. When we put so much faith in these people we are bound to be disappointed.

What I expected to hear from the cockpit:

(say in smooth calm voice) "Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. The weather conditions are fine, flight should be smooth and we'll be arriving in Hobart shortly."

What I actually heard sounded like the last rites:

(say with Aussie nasal twang) "G'day folks, I'll try not to talk your ear off for too long....Ah.. we're travelling at an altitude of 35,000 feet. Unfortunately there are 70 km winds coming up in front of us so there'll be some turbulence. I'll try to keep it steady for you."

At this point I nearly lost consciousness, contemplating the effect of 70km winds on a plane the size of a large airport shuttle bus.

After the captain's announcement I decided to have my last supper. As soon as I saw the hostesses wheeling the tray down the aisle I contemplated a double shot of vodka. Why not? What did I have to lose? I settled for a VB that refused to pour and gave me a mouthful of froth. Maybe it was the altitude or maybe I was already foaming at the mouth.

"Here's to the Skypub" we said, trying to make a clinking sound with our two plastic glasses. Looking out at the top of the clouds spread out like a doona below us, a strange feeling of calm enveloped me. Suddenly I felt invincible. If anything happened, I was no longer concerned. The beer had done its work.

Another thing that kept my spirits up during the journey was the presence of a little girl, maybe 2 years old, cheekily grinning at us. She would cry, fuss and struggle but when she turned to us and we smiled at her, she stared and stopped fussing. Her Mum said "Can you guys keep smiling at her for the whole trip?" The little girl had a cheeky 2-bottom toothed grin, stripey trousers and huge blue eyes. She made everything all right. Even during my most heart-stoppingly panicked moments, I gathered the energy to turn my head and do a trick with my sunglasses to stop the little girl from crying. I know why she was crying, too. She did it every time my ears felt the pressure and started popping.

At one point we really did feel like we were about to go into outer space. So as we descended from the clouds we couldn't help humming the Star Trek tune (old series of course).

When the flight landed they rolled out "the stairs" onto the tarmac. I loved this. It made me feel like the president of the US or something. Or the First Lady. All that was missing were our security team and photographers. I resisted the urge to wave. It probably would have just red-flagged me for security.

When I arrived I said "this is the smallest airport I have ever seen. It was the size of 2 RSL clubs.

Strangely the police presence at Hobart International Airport (is that an oxymoron?) seemed set up for the arrival of a Columbian drug lord. I wanted to pat the cute beagle sniffer dog but I don't think it would have been appreciated. Anyway, all the sniffer dog could smell was the residual odour of fear from the other traumatised Jetstar passengers.

The flight cost a mere $39 each. It was one of those special web fare deals. Needless to say it was more relaxing on the way back.

I was vaguely amused through all my fear. All I could think about was the part in "Beavis and Butthead do America" where the plane starts to take off and Beavis freaks out and says "Hey. Hey what's goin' on?" and then totally freaks out and screams "We're gonna die!" Then he eats all the medication from the old lady's handbag, bursts into the cockpit and ends with Butthead trying to pick up an air hostess and eventually rolling down the aisle because they have invaded the cockpit, sending the plane off balance. If this were real, I would be Beavis and my partner would be Butthead. I could just imagine him saying "what's your problem, Beavis?" I could have easily put my jacket over my head and roamed the plane asking "Are you threatening me?" Who knows where I could have ended up. I don't think airline staff are known for their sense of humour in such situations.
Thank God for the Jetstar air hostesses. Their calm and nonchalant manner made me realise that this was a routine 1 hour flight, they had done it a thousand times, and I was panicking unnecessarily.

Next installment...Hobart!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I have been on holidays....I haven't forgotten to write, just haven't had the time...
stay tuned for more....