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  1. With or Without Rhythm
    The cover band is back. I almost missed them, as I haven’t heard them practice in weeks. I don’t know if they are practicing elsewhere or not, but they don’t seem quite as shocking. Except, that is, for their rendition of “With or Without You” that just ended. (That song is everywhere this week.) Just a little suggestion for their drummer… if you’re not necessarily THAT good to begin with, don’t torture yourself by trying to play it double-time. (I swear the song was over in 45 seconds.)

    In Other News
    We had a half-day of work yesterday. Seeing as it is the end of the Australian financial year this weekend, the “boss” took us out for an amazing lunch (I didn’t even eat supper, I ate so much) and told us to go home. We almost went to see Transformers, but I was too tired and afraid I’d fall asleep. I think we’ll be going tomorrow, if we can get out of a family thing. I’m just excited for the theme song — I’m so proud of those guys.

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  2. No Good Reasons
    We were getting breakfast this morning, and Thirsty Merc‘s “20 Good Reasons” came on… because I just can’t escape that song these days. (Song more overplayed — “20 Good Reasons” or the Silverchair comeback single? Talk amongst yourselves.)

    Anyway, Hans demonstrated how you can sing “With or Without You” overtop of it… which I argue can be done with half the pop ballads released since then. But to me it’s a combination of Train (who I’ve hated ever since they decided they could start using “chicken” in their lyrics), the “WOWY” aspect of U2, and somehow the opening line of the song made me think of “Letter B”— though after watching the youtube of it, it doesn’t seem to be the way I remembered.

    Play Along
    On the train, we somehow got talking about the Mrs. Potter movie. This led us to the question of how many movies we could name that had human/cartoon interaction. This is what we’ve come up with so far, but if you can think of any others, please leave a comment.

    1. Mrs. Potter
    2. Mary Poppins (me)
    3. Pete’s Dragon (H)
    4. Bedknobs & Broomsticks (H)
    5. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (H)
    6. The Incredible Mr. Limpet (me)
    7. Cool World (H)
    8. Space Jam (me)
      UPDATE
    9. Anchors Aweigh (Barry)
    10. Alice in Wonderland (Barry)
    11. Little Shop of Horrors(Barry)
    12. Loony Tunes: Back in Action (Barry)

    There was also an Australian film that came out last year that we were going to count, but neither of us could remember the name. I just remember I fell asleep to it on two flights to/from New Zealand.

    EZYdvd Update
    Further to yesterday’s post which ended with mention of a refund, as of this morning, the money isn’t actually in our account.

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  3. EZYdvd — Order with Caution
    How interesting to hear that I’m not the only one with a bad EZYdvd.com.au experience…

    But anyway, this is the background to my story.

    Being a native Iowan, I am a COMPLETE fan of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man. It was the first theatre production I ever had to audition for and made. I’ve seen it about a zillion times. I love it.

    So I’ve been singing some of the songs lately. One day we saw a kid in his striped school uniform jacket, and I started humming “Lida Rose” subconsciously. And I keep wanting to show it to my in-laws, because I think they’d get a real kick out of “Iowa Stubborn“, with classic lines such as “join us at the picnic — you can have your fill of all the food you bring yourself” and “we’re so dog-gone stubborn we could stand touching noses for a week at a time and never see eye to eye”.

    Last Thursday I decided to try my luck at finding a copy of the movie somewhere in this country.

    I checked the online store for THE dvd/cd store here. It wasn’t in stock, but they will order it in.

    I asked around the office to see if there was any other place to get DVDs online. A colleague mentioned EZYdvd.

    I searched, and found it. And to my delight — it was IN STOCK!

    I quickly put it in my shopping cart. I also added Season 5 of Scrubs. Sure it was more expensive than other places, but we had a weekend of nothing ahead of us, and suddenly it was about to be filled with all the movie/tv watching that we could handle. I was excited.

    I specifically checked the box to say that I wanted it sent via Startrack Express (an overnight courier service) for an extra charge so that I would have it in my hands before I left work on Friday. Bring out the popcorn, folks — we’re watching movies!

    My excitement waned that afternoon when I got the email to say that my product had been shipped — via Australian Post. (No offense to the dear people of the AUSPost, but you’re just as reliable as the USPS.) (emphasis added)

    Your parcel was shipped today (21/06/2007) by AUSTRALIA POST SURFACE MAIL
    Whilst the Australia Post mail service is generally very reliable, it is not unusual for some items to become delayed within the postal system. Should you experience significant delays, we ask that you check thoroughly with your local post office for your parcel and wait a minimum of 10 business days before lodging a query with our office.

    Oh no no… I immediately sent an email to say that I was quite certain that I had asked for the courier service.

    I got a reply 3.5 hours later…(emphasis added)

    I can advise that you did select courier as your delivery option, however our Credit Card provider had problems with their server yesterday and we could only manually process orders.

    Unfortunately the processor who put your order through sent it by Aust Post Surface Mail in error.

    We are really sorry about that and apologise for any inconvenience caused.

    Ugh… fine. Maybe I was quick to get irritable. Perhaps the postal service would come through with flying colors. I decided to wait until the next day before getting upset.

    Well, I think it goes without saying that the package did NOT arrive on Friday. So I sent a response to my customer service girl…

    I appreciate the reply. However, I am somewhat disappointed. The whole reason I ordered from you guys was because my husband and I wanted to watch as much of “Scrubs: Season 5 ” as we could on the weekend, and I thought I would have in my hot little hands before we left work today. If I had known you weren’t going to send it via next day delivery as I requested, I would have canceled my order and gone to JB Fi-Hi to get it $7 cheaper on Saturday. Perhaps it might be nice to implement a policy to inform the customer before shipping if you’re going to change things up on them.

    Fine. Whatever. I officially am never using them again, but there wasn’t anything I could do. So we went home, rented the first season of 24 and got over it.

    Got over it until Monday, that is… when a package from EZYdvd arrived… SANS The Music Man! There was a Warehouse Stock Discrepancy Notification that basically said they didn’t have it. But nowhere on that form did it say anything like “we will be ordering this for you posthaste and apologize for the inconvenience” or “you will be receiving a refund for the cost of this item” or anything like that.

    So I fired up my email once again… (emphasis added)

    I received a package today with Scrubs only. There is a piece of paper giving indication that, while your website said it was in stock, “The Music Man” was not there, in actuality. Full payment was taken out of our account yesterday. Please let me know if/when I can expect this item or the refund.

    Oh yeah… they had already taken the money! Communication, people. Seriously.

    Four hours after that, I get a response… (emphasis added)

    Unfortunately I am unable to give you a date to when more stock will arrive, however I can confirm that we currently have placed an order for The Music Man with the distributor and expect to see it soon. As soon as this title becomes available again, we will immediately send a copy to you.

    We apologise for the delay.

    What. The. Crap. Honestly… if I wanted to wait for it to be imported from America, I would have just called my mom and had her send THE COPY I ALREADY OWN over… and I told her so…

    Thanks for the reply, [Helen]*.

    Could I please just have the $19.83 refunded to our credit card? I already own a copy of the movie and can have my mother ship it to me in a couple of days. It was one of those impulse purchases, because I thought I would have it by last Friday… and we already know how that turned out.

    Thanks for your help!

    Five minutes after I sent my email, I was copied in on Helen’s email to Pat* asking her to refund our card. And this morning I got a confirmation email that we were refunded (though I haven’t checked our account balance online yet).

    I can’t blame Helen, and once she got the refund-ball rolling, it happened. But I’m just so dissatisfied with their lack of up-front communication. Pretty much if I didn’t have the videos by last Friday, I really didn’t need them from EZYdvd at all. Maybe I’m overreacting, but I just felt conned after each little step.

    As far as I am concerned, these are the facts:
    1. Their website said my two items were in stock.
    2. The items were not in stock.
    3. They said they would send my items via overnight delivery.
    4. They decided they weren’t going to send my items via my requested method.
    5. Points 1 & 3 are the only two reasons I ordered from them in the first place.
    6. I won’t be ordering from them again.
    7. I wouldn’t encourage you to order from them either.

    *Names changed to protect the innocent.

    Space: My Occupational Frontier
    At work, we’ve been putting together a series of space dvds, that I’m disinclined to mention by name… but you can find here. We get them, edit them, and send them on for duplication. We also forward the masters and edited scripts to Sweden for their market. The last
    five scripts are due next week, and unfortunately, they were given to me in pdf format. And not like a document printed to PDF… more like pages scanned out of an old binder and saved as a PDF. So I’m using text-recognition to try to avoid having to type them all out again, but it has kept me busy this week.

    All that to say, did you know that 95% of all UFO sightings turn out to be space junk re-entering Earth’s atmosphere?

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  4. Americans Among Us
    I went to the Arbonne launch last night (as of next Sunday, I’m a consultant again!) and only had a couple of moments where I felt compelled to affect my Australian accent to not be associated with the Americans in the crowd. (Mostly when we were in the lounge before time, and one of the men could not stop being the loudest person in the room.) It was weird to be in the company of so many people from “back home”. We (yes, I dragged Hans along) sat next to a couple from Kentucky, and the lady and I Southerned it up before it started. Oh, how I miss Nashville.

    One thing they should have pointed out to the speakers before they got up is that Australians… they understand you. You may have a hard time figuring out what the phrases here mean, but trust me when I say that your accent and figures of speech are nothing new here.

    Anyway, we have the day off today, and two nieces are coming over later. I’ve got rice krispie bars to make!

    Posted in Nothing in Particular.

  5. Link to Look at Later
    The Sketchpage: I came across this one doing a search for Anatoly Kalashnikov and don’t have time to look deeper at the moment.

    Coming Soon…
    My rant on why NOT to purchase from EZYdvd.com.au: a post filled with keywords like “screwed”, “horrible service”, “bad experience”, “lies lies lies”, and the like for all those Googlers out there. (Unless someone sends me a super-sugary-sweet reply to my somewhat irritated email.)

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  6. Look Ma — I’m Eating Waffles!
    I can’t remember ever REALLY liking pancakes, mostly because I find maple syrup too sweet. Growing up, we didn’t have a waffle iron in my household, but I didn’t feel like I was missing much with the aforementioned aversion to the default sweet sauce people feel compelled to put on them.

    Sometime in my 20s (goodness, I’m old), I discovered IHOP and their crepes of joy. Cheese blintzes with strawberries? Yes, please. Why didn’t someone alert me to the greatness of alternate pancake toppings sooner?

    A while back, we bought the cutest little waffle iron for Hans. Combine that with my killer recipe for buttermilk waffles, and you get this:

    waffles

    Seriously, if I had known it was acceptable to incorporate ice cream into breakfast this way sooner, I would have become a huge waffle advocate… and by huge, I mean about 200 pounds heavier… but still.

    And while I’m uploading photos, this is the candle shade I was talking about the other day:

    frangipanicandle

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  7. Brrr
    I know I can’t seem to do anything but complain about the heat here… but dang it’s cold. Record cold for the area, in fact. It translates to around 40 degrees (F) with wind chill.

    Sidebar Updates
    I’ve added a few more Americans in Australia over to the right. Audra is a Californian (I think) in Sydney. The Briddles are New Englanders in Perth (my city of choice if I had to move somewhere else in oz). And Outback Dobbs has been linked to before, but they’re in Melbourne. It’s somewhat therapeutic to read the thoughts of people in similar situations.

    Good Golly — Galahs!
    I snapped a photo of the galahs this morning on our walk to the train. I cut out one of them that was facing the camera, and I know it’s a bad photo… but I’m still amazed by the wildlife that I’m surrounded by here.

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  8. Going Green
    Today Oprah’s “Going Green 101” episode aired here.

    I’ve been sort of a hippie at heart for years. I think I first really became conscious of that when I was a freshman in high school back in 1991-92. For speech contest, I was part of a Reader’s Theater, and our whole performance was about recycling and saving the planet.

    Watching the program today, I realized that our household is relatively friendly to the environment. And as I was telling Tash (love you too, my dear!) last week, part of my mental well-being here involves me finding joy, happiness, and satisfaction in where I am right now, whether I ever return to the States or not.

    So I’m making this list as a sort of pat-on-the-back to myself and reminder to my future self… and also as a challenge, particularly to my American friends… only because I could have made some of these changes earlier but couldn’t have been bothered. (And to the Queen of the Plastic Cups, love you though I do, I feel the need to publicly call you out on that issue and beg you to use a glass glass at least once a week… baby steps.) 🙂

    [Items in green have been implemented since my move to Australia.]

    ▲ Recycle
    I did this in Nashville, but let me tell you, they didn’t make it easy. My roommates and I filled the bins we bought ourselves and then had to fit them in the car and drive to a grocery store up the street. Once there we had to separate the clear glass from the colored glass from the aluminum from the paper from the cardboard and put it all in the appropriate dumpster.

    I also rallied to become a paperless office, but when your boss is a meticulous record-keeping attorney, those cries are in vain.

    However, here our recycle bin (thanks Alyda) is three times as large as the garbage can we keep in the kitchen. And all items with the recycle triangle on it can go in. (We used to only be able to recycle plastic with certain numbers in the triangle.)

    ▲ Compost
    My roommate from 10 years ago and I talked about composting for four years and never lived in a place where we could really start doing it. Mostly because we didn’t really know how to start.

    However, the day we moved into this house, Hans’s dad brought over a black, plastic garbage can with a large hole cut in the bottom and smaller holes drilled around the sides. He set it upside-down near the bush at the bottom of the stairs and told us to put all our scraps in there. We’ve been composting ever since.

    You don’t need to know how or why it works, but it just compacts itself, and there is always room for more. It never stinks, and my only complaint is the mosquitoes that seem to hang around it — but it’s Australia, so mozzies are everywhere.

    With no garbage disposal, this definitely keeps our little garbage can under the sink from filling up with skanky stinkness.

    ▲ Use a Clothesline
    Now I’ve always had certain garments that I wouldn’t let go in the dryer for fear of shrinkage. Tall, long-torsoed people need all the length they can get. But here… people just don’t HAVE dryers.

    I can honestly say that for the last year and nine months (bar the two months in America) that I have not used a dryer for ANYTHING. And while part of me longs to have fluffy lint-free towels and sheets, the other part of me knows that I’m saving energy.

    ▲ Don’t Own a Car
    ▲ Use Public Transportation
    ▲ Carpool
    I put these together, because for me they all go hand-in-hand. We don’t have a car, and thus use public transport. And when we are in a car, it’s because we’re going to the same place as the people who own the car.

    From the day I turned sixteen until the day I moved to Australia, I only went a couple months at a time at the MOST without easy access to a vehicle of my own or a family member. I argue that it’s difficult to live without a vehicle in America unless you are in a metro area with a decent public transport system. However, carpooling is definitely an option.

    (And while there is considerable disdain for the Franklin Trolley system over at the koolaid stand, I’d like to think that if I were to move back there now that I would make more use of it knowing life as I know it now. I guess it was never destined to work in a community where your social status is dependent upon being seen everywhere in your H2.)

    ▲ Bring Your Own Grocery Bags
    Every grocery store here sells reusable polypropylene shopping bags. They cost a dollar most places, and it’s a norm here. I have about 7 green ones and 3 purple ones. 🙂 It’s so easy to take them along, and it’s great to know we aren’t using all those plastic bags.

    ▲ Reduce Water Use
    “White people bathe too much.”

    That’s the only thing I remember Professor Williams saying in my African-American History course, though he’s probably right.

    Southeast Queensland (see map) is in the middle of a drought, and we’ve all been forced to take measures to conserve water here. But you don’t have to wait for a shortage to become water conscious. Take shorter showers. (Even better, share the shower.) 🙂 Only run the dishwasher and washing machine when you can do a full load. We also keep a bucket in the bathroom to catch the water that runs while we’re waiting for the shower to heat up. We then use this perfectly clean water on the plants outside.

    ▲ Buy Meat from the Butcher
    ▲ Buy Vegetables from the Market
    I don’t know that these are exactly a “going green” effort, but we do waste less by getting our meats from the butcher. There’s absolutely no styrofoam packaging, and I know I’m getting the freshest meat possible.

    Same goes for the markets. We buy as much as we are going to use and don’t have extra packaging. (We bring our green and purple bags along, of course.) And we save lots of money in the process.

    ▲ Use Non-Toxic Cleaning Supplies
    I miss Method more than I can express. I still remember coming across it at Target and eventually buying everything they non-toxically make. Even turned my mom on to it, as cleaning products usually turn her hands into dry, cracked wastelands of their former selves.

    I am happy to say that we’ve started using Cinderella products here, and for the most part they are a happy substitute until Method graces our shores. Most people won’t mind, but the multi-purpose spray is spearmint-smelling. I just hate spearmint, but I’m learning to get over it.

    ▲ Adjust the Thermostat
    Depending on the season, turn the thermostat up or down to save energy. I did this in Nashville, because my room was always the co
    ldest in the summer and warmest in the winter. But our house here doesn’t even have a thermostat; I can’t say that I’m doing this one by choice. So I sit here in 17 layers of clothing under a blanket and am considering putting on gloves, and in the summer we open the windows and sweat. While we live in the extremes, perhaps adjusting your thermostat a degree or two wouldn’t be such a struggle.

    ANYWAY, there you have it. While I’m impressed with myself, I know there is more to be done. We’re slowly replacing our bulbs with energy-efficient ones. We’re trying to get in to the habit of turning things off at the outlet. (Yes, outlets have switches here.) And we’ve been know to leave a computer or two on all night. But let me know what you guys are doing to go green lately!

    Posted in Nothing in Particular.

  9. Linky Links
    Holly’s Plate: she finds such fun, cute stuff… and has Anthropologie Thursdays. I mean, is this someone after my own heart, or what? *ahh… just waiting for the day that my stores ship internationally without requiring my firstborn as payment*

    Though I must say that I am starting to find some cute items that suit my decorating taste. Hans bought me a little candle shade the other night… (I think that’s what they’re called. It’s a little porcelain dome that is illuminated underneath by a tealight…) I apparently have a lot of guilt money coming my way after I approved his computer purchase a couple weeks ago. He also bought me a lavender plant and two bunches of roses (peach and orange) at the markets. I love my coffee table display at the moment!

    MattBites: a food stylist with gorgeous food photos and yummy-looking recipes.

    Ice Cream in a Bag: not that I’ll ever get around to trying this simple recipe…

    dandruff: an Australian in Canada with the proper recipe for Lemon Lime & Bitters. (I bought my first bottle of bitters on Saturday. Wheee!

    U.S. Stuff
    Firstly, I forgot to mention that I got a letter from my pals at the IRS two Fridays ago saying that I hadn’t paid my taxes. Now, I know I’m usually last-minute, but this year I even started way back in March. So I had to spend my whole weekend hyperventilating about it, because my parents were out of town. Finally called them on Monday to tell my bank co-signer (aka Mom) about the deal and had to wait until Tuesday to find out what she found out.

    What did she find out? Oh, that my payment was taken from my account on the 10th of April. That’s good news, of course, except that I now had to call the IRS. From here.

    Turns out that they have a really great system for overseas calls. An automated system answered on the second ring. I went through two menus and was on the phone with a real live person two rings after that.

    My dear IRS friend Joe said that my payment was received on the 10th of April. I agreed and then asked what the letter dated May 28 was about. “Oh, there must have been some crossover between when the payment was received and when they issued the letters.” 48 days-worth of crossover? Pthht… whatever. At least it’s not my problem anymore.

    Winter Picnic
    I’m also in the process of planning our second-annual Freezing Fourth of July Family Picnic. Last year was so much fun, we decided to do it again.

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  10. Little Update
    There was a show last night. Much fun was had by all… except that we weren’t home until midnight. The fact that I even have to mention that proves that I’m officially an old fart.

    On the way home we were talking about methods to keep ourselves awake while driving when overly tired, such as opening the window and turning the radio up, etc.

    My trick was to aways turn it to NPR if it wasn’t already. Just the talking itself made me pay attention and be more alert. But if that didn’t work, I would force myself to repeat everything they said. It was nearly fool-proof.

    However the best tip came from Gareth who said that his sister used to roll her window down a crack, put a piece of hair out the window, and roll it shut again with her hair still out. That way if she would start to nod off, she’d feel the pain of her hair pulled and snap out of it. How brilliant is that??

    Chills and Goosebumps
    I just can’t help but cry when I see the videos of Paul Potts on Britain’s Got Talent. His first performance singing “Nessun Dorma” was so beautiful, and then the semi-final performance singing “Time to Say Goodbye” was just spectacular. (And after having listened to that Sarah Brightman album endlessly, I could sing right along with him.) He’s just the guy you want to win the whole thing on behalf of all the kids who were teased for not being just like everyone else.

    Lost in Translation
    slice (slyce)
    n. a square dessert or snack item; the Australian culinary equivalent of an American bar
    “I’ll have a coffee and a macadamia nut slice, please.”

    Gah, I HATE this term with every ounce of my being. It just sounds so gross to me. I cringe from it like others cringe from the word “moist”. They’re bars, people. They are chocolate/walnut BARS. Toffee nut BARS. Toasted almond BARS.

    On that note, people here don’t make rice krispie bars. What is up with that? It’s the simplest snack in the world to make. Don’t tell Mom, but I don’t even measure. Just melt the ‘mallows with a little butter. Add a dash of vanilla. Throw in enough rice krispies but keep the mixture still gooey. Spread in a buttered pan and… my family’s secret ingredient… cover with M&M;’s. Yummm!

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  11. Video Killed the Blogger
    I’ve spent all my evenings at home working on the vacation video. I don’t want to narrate the thing, so we had to do some strategic interview shoots in the backyard that looked slightly rainforest-y. I’m learning “>Vegas<a>, and it’s been working a treat. Though I might end up dumping the footage at work to use a footage stabilizing plug-in, and then everything will look dolly-licious.

    And hey, if everything turns out nice, maybe it would be enough to apply for an editor spot at StudioNow.

    Poor Little Rapunzel
    Yes, Paris is all over the news here too. You can debate all you want about whether she deserves to be there or not, but there is an American in jail who doesn’t. Check out FriendsofEricVolz.com.

    And in Games…
    A new DS game that has been keeping us entertained on the train is Picross. I’m zooming through the puzzles, but it is also fun to play together and online. New York Times Crosswords… mmmm. Also can’t wait for Settlers. Thus ends your geekery for the day.

    It’s freezing today, and I think we’re going out to the backyard to fly Hans’s Spongebob kite he got in his stocking at Christmas.

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  12. Here are a few quick photos I’ve uploaded from our trip to the Bunya Mountains last weekend.

    This is a photo of the house where we stayed. (Click pics for larger size.)


    Every morning we woke up to the view of clouds rolling through the valley. It was absolutely beautiful. Then as the sun came up, they would melt off until the next morning.


    In the words of the Carpenters, I’m on the top of the world looking down on creation. It’s actually just me on our “mountain”.


    The house was constantly surrounded by little (red-necked?) wallabies eating the grass. I took this photo one morning at the top of our driveway.


    I’m not exactly what you’d call a nature girl, but somehow we thought it would be a good idea to climb the vines of this tree. And it’s a wonder that wasn’t the one who ended up with a tick!


    This is us in the rainforest on our first anniversary. Yay!

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