Geeky Pursuits

I’ve finally finished my sketch submission for my new company’s annual art contest. This year’s theme is “Passion is…?” so I drew up something filled with characters and things related to my geeky hobbies.

Geeky Pursuits

We were also required to describe our work in 25 words or less and here is the best I can come up with:

“Being passionate about several geeky pursuits such as technology, speculative fiction, computer games and comics meant that each one is constantly vying for my attention.”

A submission can be a sketch, a sculpture, a painting or a photograph. Sketching is what I feel I do best so I went with that. I’m just hoping that nobody else has passed anything (or at least nothing better than mine) to increase my chances of winning the first prize, an 80Gb iPod. The winner will be announced on October 12 so that’s a month of anxious waiting. Wish me luck.

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Published in: on September 13, 2007 at 6:18 am  Comments (10)  

Lunch ideas

We’ve started bringing our own lunch to work again in an attempt to cut food costs. Most of our packed lunches were left-overs from the night before and it has worked out so far. However, I’ve been scouring the web for other lunch box ideas.

Since we’re avid fans of having rice for lunch, the best ones I’ve found involves Japanese bento boxes that typically features rice. My search also led me to a new craze called Laptop Lunches, which is like the west’s answer to the bento box. I love that it looks like the food tray you get on airplanes, only with all the goodies that you pack yourself. If images of me flying to a far-off place is not motivation enough for me to bring my own lunch so that I could save for our next trip, at least I would be nourished by food that I’ve prepared myself. I also found a Flickr pool of other people’s laptop lunches that are really inspiring!

Check out the links below to see what I’m raving about.

Published in: on September 12, 2007 at 9:19 pm  Comments (3)  

The book that keeps on giving

Name a book that would entertain you for hours, give you discounts and ideas on where to go, what to do and where to eat in addition to giving you the opportunity to help a charity? Nothing comes to mind? Well, try the Entertainment Book!

What exactly is an Entertainment Book? It’s a book that is chock full of discount vouchers from a variety of establishments. Although most of the discounts were for dining in restaurants and orders from takeaway shops, it also features great savings on several attractions, activities, movies, theatre, video shops, travel accomodations, magazines, online shopping and some miscellaneous items like gardening and even dry cleaning services.

I’ve been contemplating on whether to get myself a copy of the Melbourne entertainment book since late July but didn’t really act on it till about a fortnight ago. I was planning a weekend in the future when we could go to the Dandenong Ranges, perhaps have a picnic, visit the small towns nearby and ride the Puffing Billy (hubby’s long-time request). The regular ticket for an adult from Belgrave to Emerald or Lakeside is $19 one way or $32.50 return. It’s quite pricey and I was racking my brains to cut costs when I remembered seeing an offer in the entertainment book. I searched through their website and found that the book offers a complimentary regular fare when another regular fare of equal or greater value is purchased. Now, depending on whether we get a one way or return ticket, that’s already 31% or 54% of the price of the entire book!

Of course the book won’t be of much value to us if we could only use one discount voucher so I browsed through their site. To my delight, I found several restaurants we regularly go to on their list and cinema offers that we surely use. Then there are the vouchers for other attractions we’ve been meaning to go to but haven’t had the chance yet like the Rialto, Melbourne Aquarium and Old Melbourne Gaol among others.

Having decided to finally get my copy, I googled to see where I get one. The book comes in several editions, concentrating on major cities/regions in Australia and New Zealand. I’m after the Greater Melbourne edition, which would set me back $60 plus postage. The Cancer Council of Victoria offers the lowest postage cost I could find at $6 (other institutions quote $7-$10 postage). It’s important to note that a portion of the price ($12, for the Melbourne edition) goes to the charity organisation selling it. Anyway, the council had an online shop and I placed an order for one.

A week passed but no book came. I went back to the cancer council’s site and submitted an online enquiry regarding my purchase. A lady working for the council replied back soon after, apologising for the delay because their servers went down and the order has not been processed. She then proceeded to ask for my details and promised to send the book later in the day. True to her word, the book arrived the next day. Now, when I saw photos of the book online, there was really no sense of scale and I imagined it would be the size of a paperback novel. I was a bit off the mark because although the book did look like a paperback, it was quite big and heavy (weighing in at 1 kg). No wonder they were quoting no less than $6 for the postage!

Aside from the book, a gold card was included with the package. Although paper vouchers could be torn from the book and presented for instant discounts for most establishments, the gold card should be used when eating at fine dining restaurants. The card number could be used to register in the entertainment book website, where members could read and submit reviews of the different activities, establishments and attractions included in the book. The members only section is also useful for keeping track of changes and updates to current offers and getting some bonus offers as well.

With a validity of up to June 2008, I still have plenty of time to get the most value from the book. So far we’ve already saved $28.95 by using the book’s vouchers and we even haven’t used the Puffing Billy voucher yet. I’m also being cautious of not overspending just for the sake of getting a discount. I’m not sure yet how much value we could get from this book but it’s certainly looking like it has been a good investment. I’m currently keeping a log of the vouchers we’ve used so far so perhaps I could do a review of the whole entertainment book come June. One thing is certain though, there would be some fun times ahead for us without having to break the bank!

Published in: on September 6, 2007 at 12:10 am  Comments (1)  

All mixed up

To err is human and this saying has been brought home to us by two incidents in the past few weeks. The first one involved incorrect entries in the group certificates given to us by our employers. There was an entry in one column that was reported as a separate income but was actually already included in our gross income. This meant the amount of tax withheld from our salary each pay period was not nearly enough and that we would have to pay more tax. In fact, hubby and I have almost a grand tax payable when we filed our returns last month.

The good news about this PAYG amendment is that we probably would not have to pay as much tax as originally computed. The bad news is that if we decide to go back to the tax agents for them to take care of the amendments, we would have to pay $45 each for the appointment. This would also mean more documentation and the possibility of mistakes and confusion cropping up in the future. What a hassle! However, there’s really not much we can do except do the extra work ourselves. We decided we’d just print the amendment form from the tax office’s website, fill that out, attach the necessary documents and hope that everything goes well after that.

Another instance when someone else’s mistake created more work for us involved our health care claims history. I consulted with my osteopath a fortnight ago and had my claim for insurance coverage rejected by our health care provider. Both my osteopath and I were puzzled, I’ve only had five consultations with her previously and there’s no way I’ve already reached the claims limit for the year. Aside from that, there doesn’t seem to be any other logical reason why my claim should be declined. I SMSed hubby, who coincidentally also had an osteopathy consultation earlier that day, if his claim had also been declined. He said no, his claim went through without any problems.

First thing I did when I got back from the osteopath’s office was to check our health insurance account online. It was then that I discovered that my previous consultations with my osteopath have been entered into hubby’s name. Looking at our claims record, you’d think that hubby goes to two different osteopaths twice a week, most of them even occuring within a day of each other!

I quickly composed an email requesting an amendment of our claims history and asking for the reason why my claim was declined on that day. After several email exchanges, we found out that my osteopath had been incorrectly entering ‘1’ on the HICAPS system, thinking that I am the primary policy holder. In fact, she should have entered ‘2’ to indicate that the claim should be for me, the secondary policy holder. I had to ask my osteopath for a letter stating that it was me who consulted with her all along with a list of the consultation dates and send it to our provider.

As to the question of why my claim was rejected, it didn’t have anything to do with reaching the yearly maximum claim amount allowable at all. The claim was declined because they only allow one claim per person per day. Since hubby had already claimed for that day with his own osteopathy session and because my osteopath is trying to claim under his name as usual, the request for payment was declined. I was asked by the health care insurer to fill out a claim form, send them the receipt and post it all via snailmail to have my last claim honoured.

When I checked our online records today, the request for the amendment of the claims had gone through yesterday. All fine and dandy? Well, no, there was still one incorrect entry on the adjustment they made. Now they have charged hubby’s last osteopathy session to me and have totally ignored my separate claim for that same day. Argh, why is this so difficult!?!

All this grief just because someone else wasn’t paying attention. Perhaps I should send these people a bill for lost time and productivity and then maybe they’ll be more careful next time.

Published in: on September 5, 2007 at 12:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Art Contest at the Office

I’m still very much enjoying myself at my new job. I feel pretty good because I believe I’m doing quite well with the tasks assigned to me since I started. I like the camaraderie and the work environment there. I love the view of Melbourne from our spacious pantry at the office. I’m thrilled that we have these company discounts for Dell and Apple products.

However, what really got me excited was the fact that there is currently an art competition going on at the office open only to all employees of the Melbourne branch. The art entry should be a painting, a photograph, a sculpture or a sketch. I figured I can at least submit a sketch that fits the contest’s theme.

If I win first prize, I’ll get a spiffy new 80GB iPod including a mobile sound system for the iPod. Although I already have a 4GB iPod Nano, I’ll certainly take the newer bigger iPod that allows you to watch video on it. Even though the second prize is only a 8GB iPod Nano, that still has more storage capacity than what I already own. The third prize is an iPod Shuffle which I’m totally not interested in but, hey, I’ll gladly accept that, too.

The submission deadline was supposed to be this coming Friday but was moved to Friday week. That and the fact that the contest organisers have been bombarding us with email reminding everybody about the contest makes me think (or at least hope) that there aren’t a lot of entrants yet. The less people who join, the bigger my chances of winning so I’m not really complaining. I’m just worried that they may cancel the contest altogether if there weren’t enough art entries.

So, I spent the weekend thinking about what to draw for the contest. As of this writing, I have a pretty good idea of what I want to sketch but I have yet to actually draw anything on paper. I’m hoping to start and finish the piece tomorrow. I’ll probably post a thumbnail of the final piece here when I’m done. In the meantime, you can see a small rough thumbnail of what I intend to draw on the right.

Wish me luck.

Published in: on September 4, 2007 at 8:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Native Languages and Hijabs

One of the things I like about living in Melbourne is the free weekday afternoon newspaper, MX, available at all major train stations around the city. My favourite section is MX Talk where the readers get to have their say. I learned a lot about what my fellow Melburnian commuters think just by reading their printed letters and text messages.

Although I like the talkback section, it sometimes causes me great distress when I read stupid, ignorant and rude comments sent in by some readers. One of the things that always gets discussed on and off is the issue of people not talking in in public. There are some people who just can’t accept that there’ll be people in public who would speak to each other in their native tongue. I understand that this may seem rude if done while in the company of friends who do not speak the foreign language.

However, when I’m in public with my wife, I should be allowed to speak the language we’re most confortable with. It’s not that we don’t want to speak English or can’t speak English (we can, as evidenced by this very blog), it’s just that speaking in the language we grew up with is just a lot easier. We’re just talking to each other so why go over the hassle of translating everything we want to say in our heads before we actually speak out?

I bet that if these whingers take a trip to France, they’d be talking to other Aussies in English, whether or not they can speak French. I bet if they go to Bali for a summer holiday they’d speak English amongst themselves and not Bahasa Indonesia. I bet that even if they decide to live in Bali and master the language, they’d still talk in English when talking to other Aussies who may have similar Bahasa skills. It’s not that you can’t speak the second language, it’s just easier to speak with your first.

Of course, I totally agree that if a person intends to live in Oz for good, that person should learn the local tongue, if it’s in their means to do so. It just makes it easy for everyone if we can all communicate with each other using a common tongue.

Another hot issue in the talkbalk section right now is that there are people who want to ban muslim women from wearing a hajib, a sort of head scarf. According to the people calling for the ban, it’s a symbol of male oppression. The only problem is that there are women who prefer to continue wearing the hajib regardless. Maybe they want to keep on wearing it not because of any religious reasons at all. Maybe they just feel exposed without it.

I thought we live in a free country. If people want to start wearing daggy oversized shocking pink 80’s shirts again, I can’t stop them (even though I secretly wish that trend doesn’t come back). If some women want to wear turtle neck shirts instead of shirts with plunging necklines thereby showing much of their cleavages (which I think is quite popular here in Oz), I say let them. If nuns want can wear habits, women who prefer to wear hijabs should be just as allowed to do so.

Published in: on September 1, 2007 at 8:24 pm  Comments (9)