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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Congratulations to Adam Scott for winning the Byron Nelson Championship on the PGA Tour. He made a 48ft putt on the 3rd playoff hole to win. I have been saying he's going to start winning soon - I think I've been saying it for a few years actually! He remarked "I kind of got away with it, a bit lucky."

A bit lucky?

I think if a bird sh@t on me while I was holding a winning lottery ticket I would be unlikely to hole a 48ft putt.

Except on Playstation!

It is wonderful to see an Australian golfer beating the pack. :-)

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When I go looking for a hotel, the first place I will go is online. It's quick, easy and you can compare so many different deals simultaneously. Could you imagine trying to do the same thing with a stack of yellow pages and pen and paper? Should you be travelling to Europe, you may be looking to find a Paris Bed and Breakfast in the vast expanse of Paris Hotels. The question is how to find the most appropriate Hotel Paris for you. It could be a traditional family-run bed and breakfast rather than a generic chain hotel. Bed and Breakfast Paris provides a secure search with no booking fees so if you want a little more than a standard tourist experience, you may want to give them a try.

This post brought to you by Bed and Breakfast Paris.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

After a long battle with the automated system the mechanical voice finally puts me through to a human.

The line is long-distance and crackling. Possibly Delhi, I couldn't tell.

"Hello, Telstra how can I help you?"

"Hi, yes, I went to a Telstra shop last week and paid for an unlocking code. The guy couldn't unlock it so he put me on to this line and the lady said she would request a unique code for me and call me back within 3-4 working days."


"Well, it's more than 3-4 working days and I haven't got a call."


"So I'm calling up to get my code."

"I will have to put in a request."

"No, no, you don't understand. I spoke to someone already - they put in the request for the unique code."

The sounds of her typing in the background go ticka ticka ticka ticka ticka

"On the 21st of April?"

"Yes, that's right. And I've paid for it already, all I'm waiting for is my code."

"Yes, I can see it. It's coming up as 0000 0000."

"Yes, that's the code that the guy at the Telstra shop used. It didn't work. I'm waiting for the unique one."

"That's it, all I've got here. Would you like me to put in a request?"

"What happened to the original request? The one the lady already did for me?"

"It's not showing up. Would you like me to put in a request?"

"There's already been a request. Can you get her on the phone for me? Maybe she's got my code already"

"I can't tell you who it was."

"Can you find out? It would be best for me to speak to her since she was the person I was dealing with on the phone at the Telstra shop"

"Do you have her employee number?"

"Why would I have that? No. Strangely she didn't give it to me."

"Then we can't do anything."

"Let me get this straight. I paid for my phone to be unlocked. The guy at the Telstra shop doesn't unlock it, then he puts me on the phone to a lady who apparently doesn't exist. This lady says 'I'll put in a request for you' and now you can't find her."

"I can put in a request, it will take 3-4 working days."

"I want to speak to your manager."

"I can't do that."

"Yes you can. Just put me on hold and get your manager. I want to find out what's going on here."

"It's not possible..."

"Could you please just put them on?"


The long distance crackle is gone. The phone line is much clearer.

"Hello, I'm the manager how can I help you?"

"Yes. Where do I start. I-went-to-a-Telstra-shop. The guy couldn't unlock it. He put me on to the phone service. The lady on the phone said she would put in a request for an unlock code and it's been over 3-4 working days and I still haven't got a call from her."


ticka ticka ticka ticka ticka

"There's no records here I'm afraid. Nothing about a request being put through."

"Excuse me but the lady I just spoke to, not two minutes ago she knows it happened. On the 21st of April, she even knew the date."

"All we've got is a record of you paying for it. No request was put through. Do you want me to put one in now for you?"

"No, I don't want to wait another week when I should have had this code a couple of days ago. I'd like to find out what happened to the original one from last week. Can't you look it up? There must be something there."

"Do you have her employee number?"

"What? No. No I don't. Why would I?"

"There's no record of a request."

"But there was! She told me she'd do it. 'Put in a request', that's what she said."

"Ah, you're talking about a *insert weasel word here* request. As opposed to a *insert other weasel word here* request."

"Look, I don't care about the internal machinations of your department. I just care about my unlock code. Why is it that you can't you find it? How is this possible?"



Realisation slowly dawns as my shoulders sink.

"...Because the lady on the phone at the Telstra shop never did anything, did she? She just told me she'd put in a request, then hung up the phone after speaking to me and did absolutely nothing."

"Yeah, pretty much."

"...Left me waiting for days.."

"That's what it looks like."

"And now I have to go through all of it again."

"I'll put in the request."

ticka ticka ticka ticka ticka

(groan) "If you do find her, perhaps you could have a talk to her."

"Oh yes, there'll be some enquiries."

"Like these ones? That's great."

"Is there anything else we can help you with today?"

(restrained) "No. No there isn't. Thank you."

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Monday, April 28, 2008

I played my fourth game of golf this year over the weekend. I would like to say it was easy, that I hit every shot like Tiger Woods and chipped around the greens like Seve Ballesteros. It was one of those days when I almost felt like golf was conspiring against me to make me quit. There were a number of factors contributing to my experience:

1. Public Holidays = Golf

It was a public holiday. My partner and I assumed everyone would be at the Dawn Service, then the ANZAC Day marches and barbeques and two-up.


Everyone and their dog was playing golf. Not literally, because dogs aren't allowed on the course.

2. Slow Play

The people in front of us were S-L-O-W. Unfortunately, the people in front of them were even slower. Which made for quite an interesting bottleneck.

I don't know about you but when the people in front are slow it really irritates me. If they are genuinely trying to hit the ball I don't mind so much but these particular individuals chatted, paused, changed clubs, walked back to their bags, paused and generally fluffed around. GRRRRR!!

3. Bad Etiquette

The people behind us (a group of 4) hit up on us constantly. My partner and I are fast players, always keeping up with the group in front. Walking after my first shot, I looked up to see a ball whizzing less than a metre from me. I turned back to look at the offenders. My reward was to get another ball whizzing even closer. "Fore" would have been nice.

Later, on the next tee one of the guys yelled out. "Sorry about that before." and I said "no worries."

I was, however thinking if you were actually sorry you would have yelled 'fore' so I didn't get hit.

They continued to pummel people with balls and crowd around the tee while other groups were playing. When I went to tee off the bastards were talking and laughing in my backswing. I was 10 etiquette rules away from swinging the other way and hitting the ball into the centre of their ill-mannered gaggle.

4. Stress

When I get faced with these situations I get uptight and find it hard to relax properly. I think I handled it pretty well but it was only on the 8th tee I realised how beautiful the course is and how I haven't been noticing it at all.

5. Reality Check

It was only when I got to the nineteenth hole that I realised I had got my first bogey. Ever. I remember it happening at the time, congrats from my partner, but we had to hurry off the green and whiz along to the next one.

I also realised that I had hit my longest ever drive on the third hole, leaving just a short chip to the green.

And then I realised the 8th tee had been the staging point for my most spectacular 5-iron shot ever. And my longest.

It's amazing how golf can creep up on you like that. You think you played a certain way (I thought I had played terribly) but the further away you get from the round, the more you realise how well you actually did. I went away thinking I had lost the plot and my partner thought I had played the best game of my life. I just couldn't see it at the time. Which is funny because he thought he had played terribly as well but got a score similar to his average round.

This is an important lesson. Don't ever walk off the course in disgust (I saw two people do this during our round). Don't throw clubs or deliberately mess up because you don't care anymore. Just play the hole and go on to the next one. It is very difficult to judge your own performance while you are in the midst of a round. Trust you are doing okay and just keep going. Luckily, that's what we did on this day and that's why I have my first bogey on my scorecard. :-)

BOGEY: One over par for the hole. The word orginates from a mythical golfer, Colonel Bogey, who was said to play every hole in the standard stroke score.

It was originally used to describe the target score which a good amateur should achieve, in the same way "par" became associated with professionals.

The two terms were interchangeable at one stage, until "par" became the standard term.

- source BBC Sport

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Monday, April 21, 2008

I must begin by detailing this wonderful purchase on Ebay. A Samsung SGH-C300.

$16 for a phone that cost $100 new. Not bad at all. I have only been watching items for what seems like 2 years but I finally got one. Now, the phone was locked to Telstra so I decided that the price of unlocking (around$30) added to the price of the phone did not make the cost prohibitive.

So, it was simple. I go to the Telstra shop at a local shopping centre. The wait was excruciating and for anyone who has dealt with Telstra over the phone, you will know what I am talking about. So I waited, and waited.

Suddenly a strange man appeared. He was gnarled with yellow teeth and a strange hangnail growth of some sort. I am not joking. He looked quite a bit like this guy:

Although similar in looks to Lo-Pan from "Big Trouble In Little China" the similarity ended here. He was not all-seeing, powerful, flame throwing or supernaturally gifted in any way.

In fact, he couldn't even unlock my phone.

"Can I help you?"
He seemed to appear from nowhere and was suddenly standing to my left.

"Oh, yes. I want to get this phone unlocked. It's locked to Telstra and I have another type of SIM card." I showed him the phone.

"How long have you had it?"

"Uh, just got it."


"Excuse me? I thought it was around thirty dollars."

"FIFTY DOLLARS." The room seemed to shake with the force of his words.

"But...this isn't a new phone. It's quite old. Look." I showed him the phone again, scratches all over the face of the screen indicated a very used phone.

"It might be new."

"How?" I was growing tired of him.

"I can't tell if it's new. You can't tell if a phone is new by looking at it."

"Well I can." I'd had it now. What did he think I had, a custom scratching machine for scratching new phones so I could save twenty bucks?

"Hmmmm." He looked at me suspiciously.

My cortisol levels were rising and he seemed to be enjoying it. What he didn't seem to realise was that I was two seconds and bad judgement away from grabbing his neck and throttling him over the desk.

"This phone ok? If not, I unlock it and it doesn't work, you just wasted your money." He cackled at me.

He spent what seemed like hours trying to find the serial number. He absent-mindedly removed the battery and laid his elbow over it.

"Uh, shouldn't you be turning the phone off before pulling the battery out?"

"You have sim card?"

I handed it to him.

He then proceeded to dangle his sleeve and buttons over my sim card and went back to resting his elbow on my battery.

He spent another five minutes looking up a code. I was mortified to find out it was the same code I had seen on the internet this morning. For free. But no, I wanted to be a responsible citizen and do everything properly.


So, he finally punches in the code he spent five to ten minutes finding in an official Telstra mobile phone shop. This is the same code I spent two point five seconds finding on the internet.

Oh god, I just want to get out of here.

Then he spent another five minutes (that seemed like twenty) scratching his head and tapping the keyboard with the rather disturbing long nail of his. He still wouldn't look at me.

"Is there something wrong?"

"Come over here." He bundled me over to a desk with a computer screen and a phone. He called a number and while he was calling said I'd have to talk to them.

"Can't someone here do it? I mean, unlock my phone. That's what you do isn't it?"

He mumbled something about the code not working and handed me the phone, leaving me in the middle of a noisy shop with an electronic voice for company.

"If you are ready to continue say, 'continue'".


"I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that. Would you mind repeating it?"

Why do computer simulated voices try to sound human? They're not fooling anybody! Even if it said to me "nahwarries mate got a bloody good code ere for ya ang on I'm just gunna get a beer" I still wouldn't believe it.

So I repeat 'continue' and it stops dead. Nothing.

"Hello? Um, 'continue'. Uh, 'repeat'"

Still nothing.



I called out to the Lo-Pan guy who was off 'helping another customer', his feet on a desk.


By now, most of the people in the shop were looking at me. One of Lo-Pan's coworkers got his attention and motioned to me.

"It stopped working." I told him.

He pressed a couple of buttons and now I was back to an earlier menu.

"Here is the code. After you enter the code, wait for further instructions."

I tried it. I was not really astounded to find out it didn't work.

"Did this code work? Say yes or no."

"NO!!!" I yelled into the mouthpiece, causing more people to look in my direction. By now had I access to cigarettes I would have lit one up in the shop, smoking laws be damned.

"Please hold while we put you through to an operator."

Oh now I get to talk to a person. Lucky lucky me.

"Hoiy, what soims to be the problem?" This are not typos, this is her diction.

I took a deep breath.

"I came to this Telstra shop to get my phone unlocked and now the guy hasn't unlocked it and put me on this phone and the code didn't work."

"Orh, right. What's your oymeee?"

"My what?"

"Your OYMEEE!"

"I heard you, I just don't understand what you're talking about."

"When you open your phone there's an oymeee."

I opened the phone, searching around. "Is it some kind of number?"

"Yeah, an oymeee."

Oh for f@%$@k's sake. I spotted something. "Hang on. You mean this? An I-M-E-I number!"

I felt like I had cracked the DaVinci code.

"Yeah, oymeee." she sighed like I was an idiot.

I read it out.

"Okay, hold on...(silence)... I can't get you the code for three to four working days. Can I get your number and someone will call you back."

"Can't you find out now? I'm in the Telstra shop. I have already paid and the guy hasn't done anything. I don't want to leave a shop after paying for something I haven't received. Do you understand this logic?"


"So if I leave now and I get a call in a few days and then THAT code doesn't work, what happens then?"

"Um, you get a refund."

"I get a refund"

"Yeah..." she said tentatively.

I gave her the number, left the store and went to buy hardware supplies, possibly for later use when I return to the Telstra shop.

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For a lot of people prepaid phone cards can be a lifeline while travelling. Therichcom.com is a prepaid phone finder site. It will compare deals and look up various phone cards using a search by country function. In design, it seems a little tightly packed but when you get the hang of the format, it is so full of great deals and simple to use. It is so much cheaper and easier to use phone cards than to use the conventional international phone methods. Sometimes you can save hundreds or possibly even thousands, depending on how long you are away and how much you like to talk on the phone! You can find cards for each destination, from France to Indonesia, Egypt to Venezuela. While researching your own prepaid phone cards, make sure you work out where it is you want to call - a lot of the cards are very specific and you need to get the right country, not just continent. You also need to work out where you will be calling from. For example, you may be in Texas, wanting to call relatives in Venezuela. You must have a card that calls Venezuela from the US, or specifically, Texas. Once you get this right, the rest will seem much easier. Some have connection fees, some don't. Make sure you find these details out and compare to find the best deal for your specific needs. You could be saving money straight away. You could find yourself with more spending money on your holiday, or you could find your phone bill at home a lot more manageable. Either way, it's a great way to save money.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A big congratulations to Trevor Immelman of South Africa on his win at the US Masters at Augusta, 2008.

A big thank you to HDTV broadcasting the event - the coverage was excellent and the picture, as usual, was perfect. Now all I need is a TiVo/HD recorder so I don't need to get up every morning at 4 or 5am to watch it!

Immelman is the second South African to win the Masters. The last South African to win the Masters was the legendary Gary Player in 1978.

Player was a great inspiration to Immelman and was said to have left a message on Immelman's voice mail during the tournament saying "I know you're going to win." He was right.

Gary Player compared Trevor Immelman's swing to that of the great Ben Hogan.

And yes, I was going for Tiger.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

This is the silliest Paypal spam I have ever received.

Nous avons rcemment dtermin que diffrents ordinateurs connect sur votre compte Paypal, Mot de passe et de multiples checs taient prsents avant la connexion. Nous avons maintenant besoin de vous confirmer nouveau Les informations de votre compte PayPal. Si ce n'est pas achev d'ici le 17 mars 2008, nous serons contraints de suspendre votre compte indefiniment, Car il peut avoir utilis d'une fins frauduleuses. Nous vous remercions de votre comprhention dans cette manire. Pour confirmer votre banque en ligne des dossiers, cliquez sur le lien suivant:

>>> Cliquez ici <<<
Merci pour votre patience. Paypal service la clientelle. S'il vous plait ne rpondez pas cet e-mail car c'est seulement une notification. Mail envoyer cette adresse ne peut pas tre rpondu. 1999-2008 PayPal. Tous droits rserves.

Firstly, why do they think I can understand French? I listened to two of the French Pod Classes and I can talk in a rudimentary way about the weather and what day it is. However no matter how little French I have actually learned, ain't no way I'm "Cliquezing icire" (sic).

A rough translation comes out like this:

We have dtermin rcemment that diffrents computers connect on your Paypal account, Password and multiples checs taient prsents before connection. We now need assure you new information of your PayPal account. If it is not achev from here March 17, 2008, we will be constrained to suspend your account indefiniment, Because it can have utilis of fraudulent ends. We thank you for your comprhention in this manire. To confirm your bank on line of the files, click on the following bond: Click here

It seems that French spammers spell just as badly as the English ones.

Also, I received this on the 9th of April 2008. Why give me a deadline of March 17? I mean, I'm not trying to help them here, I just thought a bit more work went into these messages.

Perhaps they need to work on their comprhention.

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The Sedona method is a tool that shows people how to master the law of attraction, as discussed in "The Secret", while letting go of ego in the process. The Sedona Method is said to be a bridge of sorts, where A New Earth meets The Secret. The Sedona method brings a practical application to the work of Eckhart Tolle in his work on "A New Earth: Awakening To Your Life's Purpose". The section on bridging the gap between A New Earth and The Secret explains how the Sedona Method works to practically and immediately let go of what is termed "ego" or "the pain body", which causes suffering to individuals and the others surrounding them. The section on "A New Earth of Presence Awareness" discusses how the Sedona Method takes you through the four basic ways of letting go and the fifth way of releasing. You can also find a section on "The Secret Behind the Secret". Many people are aware of the "Law of Attraction", however this section touches on the lesser known "Law of Surrender" and "The Law of Letting Go". The Sedona Method is holding retreats which have been running for some years. You can listen to excerpts of the 2005, 2006 and 2007 retreats on the site. The site is also giving away a free CD and DVD and a bonus mp3 download, which can be found on the free signup page.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Consider these tips for saving money:

* Make your own lunch - lunches can cost upwards from $8 to $20 (or if you go to one of the swankier restaurants in the city, $35-$50). Bringing your own lunch in a container ensures you have nutritional food every day - especially if your partner is a good cook!! :-)

* Make huge meals and freeze them. I have mentioned this in my posts on Baccarat cookware. The 8L dutch oven can make enough food for a week, sometimes more. It works particularly well on the nights you can't be bothered cooking!!

* Replace every single light in your house with compact fluorescent light bulbs. It will be a bit more expensive at the beginning, but you will thank yourself when your new, smaller energy bills come in.

* Direct your efforts to paying off your credit card or credit cards. Once these are paid off, lower your limit so you don't get in trouble again. If the bank offers you a higher credit limit, say "NO".

* Say "NO" to 24 months easy finance on home goods, store cards, special rewards credit cards, extra personal loans and refinancing mortgages. If you don't have the right advice, refinancing can be devastating. Stop taking out loans. If you are unable to do this, you may have a problem. Seek advice, legal and personal. A compulsion to take out loans can be as damaging as a gambling problem.

* Try to save a small amount each week or month. Try not to touch it and see what happens. You can find a number of good accounts with the main banks - see if you can find a savings account with interest around the 7% mark.

* If you already own your own home, consider installing solar panels. You may be eligible for the solar panel rebate, as discussed on SolarGen's website. The outlay can be expensive but the rebate, plus the decades of free solar power will take the sting out of this purchase.

* Have a cooling off period of 1 day for each purchase you are considering. It will give you time to prioritise and decide whether you absolutely positively need this purchase right now. This is advice I personally follow. If not, I would have so much questionably useful stuff from Ebay and no time to use it.

Until next time, happy shopping and saving!!

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Monday, April 07, 2008

I have become aware of a number of TV programs like "A Current Affair" that are uncovering the discrepancies in grocery prices across Australia. Strangely enough (for those of us naive enough to think all animals are equal*) many of the wealthier suburbs enjoy a better range and cheaper prices for groceries. So if it isn't bad enough for these people to live in a crap part of town, the chain grocery stores further insult them by displaying mouldy tomatoes and charging $7 a kilo.

Tips for saving on groceries:

1. Buy in bulk. If you are constantly buying 50g containers of coffee, why not invest in a 500g or 1kg tin? I tried this once (before I gave up coffee!!) and the tin lasted about six months. When you think of how many 50g tins you would have to buy in that timeframe, you realise the saving.

2. Junk mail is a scourge that should be wiped out however a Coles or Safeway advertising mag can save quite a bit of money if you plan ahead. You can find the specials and buy accordingly when convenient.

3. Shop at local markets and grocers. Not only will you often save money and find better quality, you will also be supporting local businesses. Local grocers often have a better organic range of vegetables for half the price you would pay in the supermarkets.

(click to enlarge)

After all, where else would you get to buy "wedding sausage"? ....*holds in double entendre compulsion* ... too many jokes....

4. Try shopping on your way home, or near your work. As mentioned earlier, sometimes the prices can vary greatly between suburbs. You may be able to make significant savings on various items.

6. Lay off on buying meat. I do not say this because I am a militant vegetarian (I'm not!!) This weekend I watched a Victorian news story featuring the large chain stores and how traces of metal have recently been found in various meats. Unless you think you don't have enough iron in your diet, steer clear for a while.

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*"Animal Farm" - George Orwell