Thursday, April 24, 2008

Combined Shipping, Not!

For the past 4 days, I've bought a total of three brand new Swatches from eBay. Given that I already have an Irony, a Jelly in Jelly, and an AutoQuarz, I really shouldn't be buying more. Then again, this is what eBay does to new users. I mean, compared to the SRP, these things are CHEAP.

First up, I bought a Swatch Extra Thin (a.k.a Swatch Awearness) GK326 for only US $10.50 on Sunday morning. At Squiggly, it's listed for EUR 36.13.

That same night, I bought an automatic Swatch Roundabout SAN108 for US $35. On Squiggly, it's EUR 54.62. Actually, I didn't win the auction for the Roundabout. From an initial price of US $0.99, the bids went all the way up to $29. I put in an extra dollar, but looks like somebody has already put in a max bid. I kept upping the ante until I'm the winner at $31, with only a few minutes to go. Just to be on the safe side, I put in my own max bid of $35. After the deadline has passed, I found out that I lost the auction to a guy who put in $35.99 in the last 5 seconds. I was dumbstruck - now I know what the expression "having the rug pulled underneath you" felt. Anyway, the good news is that I was sent a second chance offer, which I immediately grabbed.

Today, I picked up an automatic Swatch Nume-Rotation SAM107 for US $26. Squiggly is asking for EUR 54.62.

The reason I bought so many in so short a time from only one seller is because I misunderstood one of his terms. The condition said, "maximum of 3 items for combined shipping." With a shipping charge of US $22 each, I figured that's a savings of $44. Apparently not so - you get 3 items shipped together, but the individual shipping charge still stays. Fortunately, I got a discount of $7 on the 2nd and 3rd item. I guess this means no more new watches for the next few years.

Monday, April 21, 2008

2 microSD Cards in 1 Day

Again, I blame these purchases on eBay. Do I need two 2GB microSD cards? Not really, but they're so CHEAP. Not really, but it's a great feeling to win in an auction.

On the other hand, do I need two microSD cards? Yes, one for the X20 and one for the S2 IS. Are they cheap? Yes, for now. It's even free shipping and handling from apusacution.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hunting and Gathering with TomTom

Based on Anna Gavalda's 2004 novel, Hunting and Gathering (a.k.a. Ensemble, c'est tout) is a romantic comedy set in Paris. Audrey Tautou plays Camille Fauque, an anorexic office cleaner (a.k.a surface engineer), who dabbles in sketches during her free time, much to her Mom's dismay. She lives alone in a shoe-box of an apartment. One day, she meets her stuttering neighbor Philibert Marquet de la Tubelière (played by Laurent Stocker). He sells postcards for a living and aspires to be a theatre actor. Sharing the opulent apartment left behind by his grandmother is Franck (Guillaume Canet), a womanizing chef, who grows weary of taking care of his elderly granny Paulette (Francoise Bertin). Over the course of a year, the movie tracks how the main protagonists come together and draw inspiration and support from each other.

GF was asking me what's the meaning of the movie title. I don't know the answer, but I told her that's a very good question. :-) At Westfield Hurstville, we had snacks at McDonald's and Japan Crepes. Back at home, I upgraded our old 1st Edition TomTom One to the latest software. The latest version of TomTom Home can't recognize our device, so I had to download and install an older version. Once TT Home is able to see our TT One, it proceeded to download the latest V7 firmware and install it. By using a patched ttsystem file, the TT One is now able to make use of the latest Australian maps. Easy as that.

Grilled Crunchy Salmon

I actually picked up this recipe from GF's Mom. My sisters' have done grilled salmon before, but for some reason, they're never as crunchy as the ones from Ramen-kan. So here's the trick. The secret is to pan-fry the salmon slabs, then grill it in the oven. If you get the timing right, it'll come out crunchy as pictured.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Foxtel and WYD 2008

A couple of new things happening today. My brother is not used to the lack of quality programming on Australian TV, so he subscribed to cable TV. The Foxtel cable guy came in this morning to install the service. TV viewing at home will never be the same again.

On a personal note, GF applied for volunteer work with WYD, and was accepted on a one-day-a-week basis. Starting today, she clocks in at the WYD office along Liverpool and calls back interested volunteers to get their details. Since I was in the city anyway, we had dinner at Zozo Korean Restaurant.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Steinway Spectacular

Tickets for The Steinway Spectacular are a bit pricey, but how often do you get to see eight Steinway concert grands together on one stage, played by eight of Australia's leading pianists? A hundred dollars gets me and GF front-row seats to the concert. (Second-row seats, actually.) The sound and experience you get is really up close and personal. From where we are, we can see the pianists play, their dancing fingers, their facial expressions, their glistening foreheads, etc.

Musical director, conductor, and host is Guy Noble. His spiels are quite funny and interesting. First playdate for The Steinway Spectacular is actually at Melbourne's Hamer Hall on April 11. Mr. Noble calls it a rehearsal for the Sydney leg. Another trivia: for today's concert, we have a new Steinway specially chosen by the Vladimir Ashkenazy at Steinway's Hamburg factory to replace one of Opera House's three concert grands.

The concert opened with Gerard Willems and Clemens Leske playing Mozart's Sonata for two pianos in D major, KV 448. After that, we have Tamara Smolyar and another guy playing Babadjanian Armenian Rhapsody for two pianos. Next up is the Alla marcia & Tarantelle movements from Rachmaninov's Suite No. 2 for two pianos, Opus 17 performed by Sydney Conservatorium of Music students Gregory Kinda, the youngest scholar to enter the Conservatorium, and Alexey Yemtsov, recently discovered and championed by Ashkenazy. Then, a four-piano arrangement of Gounod's Grand Fantasia on Themes from Faust before the interval.

After the interval, we have Strauss' Die Fledermaus Overture, Grainger Fantasy, Ravel's Bolero (with the inclusion of flute and drum), a Gershwin medley, and the final movement of the Organ Symphony by Camille Saint-Saens. For the finale, the eight Steinways and the Grand Organ played The Jolly Jumbuck Fugue from the Waltzing Matilda ballet written by Sir Charles Mackerras. As an encore, the pianists played Peter Allen's I Still Call Australia Home. The piece was so moving, I almost broke into tears.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bavarian Bier Cafe

Had dinner at the Bavarian Bier Cafe with some fellow Fil-Chi's. I had my reservations at first, given that the place is usually quite noisy whenever I pass by. Turns out it's not boo bad during weekends. We had the pretzel, the pork belly and the sausages. You also need to try their flavoured beer.

For dessert, we went to Lidnt Chocolat Cafe at Cockle Bay Wharf, but there's just too many people. so it's off to Starbucks for coffee, chocolate, and conversation.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

1st Australian Red Bull Flugtag

What's a flugtag, you ask? I don't know myself, but Wikipedia tells me it is flightday in German. Cooked up by Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz and first held in 1991 in Vienna, the competition would have groups of people trying to fly homemade human-powered contraptions as far as they can. Very similar to the Birdman Rally competitions held in Manly Wharf, though I can't say which one is the original. Most oftentimes, these things don't actually fly at all. Competitors and audience alike are only there for the fun of it.

GF and I got to Mrs. Macquaries Point a couple of hours after the start of the event. The embankment area is truly packed with people. We stayed for a while and watched groups of people launch themselves into the water in their flying machines. It was funny the first few times, but then it starts to get monotonous pretty quickly. The weather was quite good, so we walked our way back to Circular Quay through the Royal Botanic Gardens. Coffee and hot chocolate at the Customs House cafe.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

First Ever eBay Purchase

I'm in the market for an mp3 player. Not just an mp3 player though because most of my music collection is encoded in OGG. So that narrows down my choices to iRiver or Samsung. I started to lean towards Samsung because the newer ones are becoming more and more stylish. Aside from that, some of the Samsung players now come with Bluetooth. Paired with a pair of Bluetooth stereo, you can get your music wirelessly. What's more, the Samsung can support two BT devices. More fun for everyone. Still, I believe the iRiver has better sound quality.

So I logged on to eBay and did a search on iRiver x20. A couple of hits came up. One has a starting price of $50 on Marchi 31, currently $60, and the auction ends in 9 hours. I've never tried bidding on eBay before, so I immediately signed up and put in a bid of $61. There was an instant counter-bid of $62. Apparently, eBay has this feature called proxy bidding. Put in your max price, and eBay will slowly counter any winning bid up to the maximum bid price you define. So I put in $63. Another automatic bid of $64. I put in $65, and lucky for me that's how it remained till the close of the auction.

What I didn't notice is that the seller has another x20 for sale, ending at about the same time. With all my attention on the first x20, the second one slipped through my radar - there's only 1 bidder for it with a few minutes to go. Notwithstanding the fact that I've already won an x20, I put in a bid for $51. Proxy bidding upped it to $52. I was about to bid more when the auction ended. Checking the bidding log, my rival increased his max bid to $55.55. Too bad for him, some stranger swooped in and won the auction at $56.55.

Ah, didn't know this eBay thing could get so competitive and addictive. The way I like it.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April Fools Birthdays

It's a good feeling when people remember your birthday. The whole 6th floor cafe area was reserved for the big event. Lunch buffet consisted of salads, sausages, steaks, chops, breads and rolls and potatoes. For drinks, we've got mineral water, softdrinks, fruit juices, beer, and wine. For dessert, everybody got a portion of the big chocolate cake, and before we left, everyone got a bottle of wind (your choice of 2005 red or 2007 white.) Happy birthday, NSN.

After work, I met up with GF. As to be expected, she has some presents for me (sweaters from my favourite store), even though I specifically asked her not to get me anything. For her punishment, I didn't invite her to my birthday dinner at Botoli. Fortunately, somebody else did. We ordered honey prawns, mushrooms and vegetables, lemongrass chicken, and a few others I forgot already. Anyway, one of the kids on the other table is celebrating his birthday, so the restaurant gave him an ice cream scoop with a candle on top. I'm always up for a freebie, so we asked the waitress if we can have the same thing. To my surprise, she declined. I had to admit I was a bit miffed, but not for long. After we had our orange dessert, the waitress brought out an ice cream cake from Pure Gelato, complete with sparkling candles, courtesy of GF. Ah, one of the more memorable birthdays I've had.