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!

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

The End of Harry Potter

I have just finished reading the final book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I can finally start surfing the web again without fear of accidentally seeing spoilers. I didn’t even want to mention my fear for spoilers before now, just in case someone out there reading my blog decides it would be funny to tell me how the book ended or which characters died (yeah, bro, I’m looking at you!).

As I don’t want to spoil it for anybody reading our blog who hasn’t finished reading the last book yet (and Raquel has just started reading it), all I can say is that I liked the last book very much. I was very satisfied with how some of the loose ends in the series were tied up and how some mysteries were explained in the end.

I just feel sad knowing that there won’t be any more Harry Potter books in the future. I wish that JK Rowling will eventually decide to write about the HP universe again. I’m thinking that maybe a book about a different character’s point of view of the same events in the same series could be interesting (like Ginny’s or Neville’s).

Slightly related to reading Harry Potter, a male co-worker of mine asked me what I did last weekend. I told him I went to the CBD to pick up my copy of the last Harry Potter book. He laughed and couldn’t believe I was interested in reading a children’s book. I wasn’t at all embarrassed. I love the series and I love books, and I’m proud of it, too. Too bad that he doesn’t seem to appreciate books as much as I do.

Published in: on July 25, 2007 at 11:10 pm  Comments (2)  

Harry Potter Launch Event Tomorrow

The long-awaited day has finally arrived. The final book of the Harry Potter series titled Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be made available for sale tomorrow nationwide.

To celebrate the event, Borders will even be having a Melbourne Launch Event tomorrow at Federation Square in the CBD from 8am to 1pm.

Raquel and I are planning to head over to the CBD tomorrow to join the fun and excitement of the launch. We’ll of course be taking photos of the fanfare and the people who may turn up dressed as wizards and witches. I need to head off to the city to pick up my pre-ordered copy of the seventh book anyway.

Unfortunately for me, I pre-ordered my copy at Dymocks. I can’t complain about the pricing though as both Borders and Dymocks have priced the book at $29.95 if pre-ordered. However, a pre-order of the book from Borders included a bonus Hedwig beanie owl toy! Meanwhile, Dymocks is only giving away a lousy bookmark and maybe a bag (I’m not sure of this one). I definitely prefer a toy Hedwig. It’s too late at any case.

Dymocks will be having a launch event tomorrow as well. Still, we’ll probably head on over to Federation Square first as that may be a bigger event. Once we got tired of what’s happening there, we can then go to Dymocks, see what’s up there and pick up my book. I just cannot wait.

Published in: on July 20, 2007 at 11:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

We Have Hamthology!

I wrote about a little comics project I’m part of called Hamthology a while back. Our complimentary copy of the published graphic anthology was sent to us at around that time. I was even afraid that it might get damaged when it got here to Australia as the postman might try to squeeze the package into our tiny mailbox.

Two weeks later, we got good news and bad news. We got a slip in the mailbox informing us of a package waiting for us at the post office. That’s good news because it meant that our books were still hopefully intact. The bad news was that the post office opens its doors to customers only at hours when we are usually at the office. One way to claim the books was to wait for the post office to open and be late for work. Either that or call in sick. I chose to do the former.

The books came in a thick carton box designed to fit the two books exactly. It was sealed with a lot of tape, too, for added security. Since I was in a rush to drive to the office, I never had the time to open the box.

It wasn’t until Raquel and I got back home in the evening were we able to finally open the box and admire the books we long waited for. I was so happy to see it. It was actually pretty good for our (as in we and our friends at Ponju) first independently published book.

With a modest price tag of US$10, we earnestly hope that it will sell at anime and comics conventions in the US as well as through the online store at Lulu.com. Sell enough books and we’ll be able to get back some of the money we’ve invested in creating it. Or at least have the profits from the first book go towards the publication of the second book which we are already planning for.

PS. To our Pinoy friends: Happy Independence Day!

Published in: on June 12, 2007 at 12:47 am  Comments (2)  

Library Elf

In modern mythology, Santa Claus is always assisted by his own army of elves. They’re there to create toys in the workshop, wrap gifts and help Santa in every imaginable way possible so that Santa could deliver gifts to little boys and girls who’ve been good all year. I’ve always thought that Santa is lucky to have these long-suffering elves working for him, wouldn’t it be cool to perhaps employ one myself?

If you think I’ve gone bonkers with this talk of elves in the middle of the year, please bear with me. As you may already know, I’m a regular library user. I frequent two libraries, the one in the city and the one in Werribee. As such, I have various books, DVDs, CDs and magazines going overdue at different times in the two libraries and I’ve incurred fines that could have been better spent elsewhere. I’ve always lamented the fact that they don’t these libraries lack a reminder service and would only send you a reminder several days AFTER an item was due to be returned.

Well, I’ve discovered a web-based tool called the Library Elf. Create an account for free then add the libraries you use into a list and provide your library number and library account password. The tool would check for items that are about to be due and send you regular emails to remind you to return them before they are due. You can set how often reminders would be sent so you shouldn’t be inundated with email messages you don’t want. It could also list items that you have on hold waiting for you at the different libraries so that you’ll know to pick them up when you return your items. Simple but functional, the Library Elf does the job although I wouldn’t mind the ability to search the catalogues of the libraries in my list when looking for a particular book and the ability to put them on reserve through this interface would be cool too. Fingers crossed that these wish-list features show up in future versions.

Not quite Santa Claus’ elf yet but it helps me keep track of my library stuff and at least reduces the chances of incurring those pesky overdue fines.

Published in: on May 31, 2007 at 12:40 pm  Comments (3)  

Hamthology, Out Now!

You may recall that I involved myself in a comics anthology project called Hamthology last year. As a quick recap, here is a description of the project:

The people of the Ponju “Piggy Farm” online community of webcomic artists, writers and fans (of which I’m a member) has recently started a comic book anthology project. The end product is a book the size of most American graphic novels you’d see in Borders nowadays, but maybe thicker. Instead of one long comic book story, it’ll contain a collection of short comics each created by a different team of people who are members of the community. That includes me.

On top of submitting a short comics story about a young busker girl living in Victorian-era Melbourne, I was also taken in as editor for the publication but had to bow out due to an increased work load in the office (my day job as an IT analyst programmer). However, near the date of printing, I resumed my editorial role and helped proof-read the text in the anthology.

And now, after a long wait, our baby is finally finished and available for sale starting this week! As initially planned, my American colleagues will be selling copies of our book at anime and comics conventions across the US. And for those of us who couldn’t buy them at those conventions whether because we don’t go to those or we simply don’t live in the US, we can buy the book direct from the printing press at Lulu.com.

Here is the description of our book as written in Lulu.com:

Everyone undertakes a quest at some point in their lives, whether it be as mundane as fetching groceries from the store or as grand as researching a cure for a deadly illness. In the first Hamthology: The Quest, the artists and writers of The Piggy Farm forums take you on range of quests in ten short comics.

Join a variety of protagonists as they dodge enemy agents to make a contact, prove themselves in wrestling tournaments, and piece together the story of a silent ghost. From the hilarious to the heartfelt, there’s a little something for everyone in here.

Suitable for ages 10 to adult. Contains mild action scenes, mild language, and some mature themes. For more information, visit http://hamthology.ponju.com.

The Hamthology: The Quest (Volume 1) has the size of your typical graphic novel and is 122 pages thick. And all for only US$9.99!

As a contributor, I’d be getting two complimentary copies of the book via post in the next few days. Raquel and I can’t wait to get our hands on it.

Published in: on May 25, 2007 at 1:01 am  Comments (2)  

Missing Japan

It’s already been a week since our trip to Japan and yet, I still can’t stop thinking about the place. I can’t stop thinking about the delicious food we’ve tried there, the colourful busy streets, the tranquil and serene temples and the lush flora of the parks there. If it was only cheap to go back there, I’d do so in a heart beat. Even now that we’re back in Melbourne, I’m still yearning for Japanese-related stuff.

We’ve been eating more Japanese food lately. I started making sandwiches for breakfast that are similar to those we’ve eaten while in Tokyo. We’ve been eating at Japanese restaurants and fastfood during lunch break more often than not. We’ve even been having home-cooked Japanese dishes for dinner at home. Yeah, we bought a Japanese cuisine cookbook at the airport on the flight home. (The sad part was that the very same book was also for sale locally in Melbourne for cheaper.)

Although I know it’s a bit too late for it, I’ve started learning to speak and read Nihongo in earnest. I want to eventually be able to read the cool art books I’ve bought when we were in Japan. Incidentally, my interest for anime (Japanese animation) has been rekindled, too. I want to be able to watch anime in the original Japanese eventually. Not only anime, but even the live drama stuff.

That reminds me of our flight back to Melbourne. With Singapore Airlines, each passenger has a small TV monitor in front of his or her seat. You can choose which in-flight movie you could watch. I chose to watch two Japanese movies. One was called Free and Easy, a supposed comedy that turned out to be more drama than comedy. The second one was a drama film called Nada Sou Sou. I hate to admit it but that movie made me cry. I loved it! Can’t wait to get my hands on more films. Luckily, there is a shop in the city along Bourke Street near Russel Street that sells Japanese DVDs and CDs. I can just buy more movies there in the future.

I’ve started listening to the Japanesepod 101 podcast again to help me pick up Nihongo faster. I’m also studying a book called “Japanese the Manga Way” which uses Japanese comics to help teach how to read Japanese. Hopefully, I’ll stick with this. Next time we visit Japan again, I will be better prepared.

For now though, I’ll just look at the photos we’ve taken while we were in Japan. I remember our walking around Tokyo and Kyoto whenever I close my eyes. The thought of that place has kept me relaxed and cheerful despite the stress and pressures from work.

Published in: on May 10, 2007 at 11:32 pm  Comments (2)  

Waiting for Harry Potter

The last book of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, will be available in Australia on July 21 later this year. I’m a big Harry Potter fan and I’ve been so looking forward to the final installment of the series.

Normally, I wait till the paperback version of the book comes out before I buy one for myself to read. However, after an incident with my brother spoiling the sixth book of the series for me when it came out a while back, I decided not to take a chance with spoilers this time.

The seventh book is available for pre-order at Dymocks Booksellers for only $29.95 (as opposed to the regular price of $59.95 for the hardbound book). So for the first time ever, I pre-ordered something to ensure I get a copy on the day it gets released. Having to pay for it cheaper than the regular price is and added bonus, of course.

Can’t wait.

Published in: on April 24, 2007 at 8:10 pm  Comments (3)  

Bargain at the Music Shop

I was very disappointed to discover that the Billy Hyde music shop here in the CBD was closing down for good. I only found out when I dropped by their store last Friday to look at Recorder-related books and music sheets. That Friday was supposed to be the last day for their sale that we mentioned in an earlier blog. When we got there, we then realised the actual reason for the sale.

They were going to relocate to Blackburn and December 8 was their last day in the CBD. I’ll miss that shop. They’re the only music shop in the city that carried its more than fair share of recorder music books and sheets. The Allans music shop in the city didn’t carry as many recorder titles (unlike their branch in Kew). And so, I’ll sorely miss the Billy Hyde shop.

Anyway, the original deal was that the newer books were 25% off and the older books were 80% off. But that Friday being the last day, they slashed the price even further. The newer books were now 30% off. The older books, while still 80% off, could be taken for free with a purchase of a newer book.

I couldn’t believe it.

I was interested in two of the new books they have on sale: Enjoy the Recorder Descant Tutor book 2 by Brian Bonsor (because I already have the first book) and Recorder Excellence by Bruce Pearson and Wendy Barden (only because it comes with a CD and a DVD). To be absolutely clear that I understood their bargain deal, I went to the cashier with the two new books in tow as well as three old books.

“So, if I buy these two new books, I get these three old books for free?” I asked the cashier tentatively with one eyebrow raised.

“Yeah,” he answered cheerfully. “You can take the lot.”

Take the lot, huh?

I went to the bargain boxes and grabbed two more old books that interested me and soon returned to the cashier. Again, I asked the same question with a slight ammendment. “So, if I buy these two new books, I get these five books for free?”

With no hesitation, he agreed. I then quickly pushed the books toward him before he changed his mind and said, “I’ll take them!” Maybe a little too loudly, though.

In the end, I was able to take home seven books from the shop for the price of two books that were both discounted by 30%. It was a pretty good deal.

It was only later that I realised that maybe I should’ve also looked at the old books for other instruments as well like for the piano, guitar, violin and flute! D’oh! At the very least, I could’ve sold those free books at eBay for something. Ah well.

Published in: on December 12, 2006 at 12:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Borders Addiction

Raquel and I love books. We love hanging out in the library and bookshops even when we were still in the Philippines. Here in Australia, we still frequent the libraries and the bigger bookshops like Borders. For those of you in the Philippines, think of Borders like a bigger PowerBooks bookshop where they have a wide selection of books and it’s okay for you to just read there while having a cup of coffee.

I’ve already bought a lot of books from Borders but now we found ourselves buying books from there on a regular basis. We joined the Borders e-mail subscription service a few months ago and we’ve been receiving amazing discounts for books on a weekly basis since then.

They started small actually by sometimes sending a discount voucher for 20% off on all full priced books. Of course, the offer was too good to pass up then so we bought a couple of books. A few weeks later, it’s 25% off all full priced graphic novels and manga. Being a comicbook geek, how could I pass that up, right? The next few weeks are followed by more discount vouchers at 20%-25%.

Raquel had already commented to me that the Borders e-mail vouchers are making us addicted to buying stuff from Borders and that we should stop being a slave to Borders’ discount coupons. But two weeks ago, we got a voucher for 30% off for full priced books! We resisted the urge to buy something from Borders despite the 30% discount.

Last week though, the offer was now “buy any 3 books and get 30% off or buy any 4 books and get 40% off!” Now, 40% off I just couldn’t let pass. There were books I’d love to buy but found them just too expensive in the past. But if they were 40% discounted, I’d certainly get myself a copy of these books.

So, earlier today, while everybody else in Melbourne was probably watching the annual Melbourne Cup, we spent our day at the Highpoint shopping centre where there is a Borders shop (the nearest one from our home). We ended up buying four books.

Darn you Borders and your darned discount vouchers!

Published in: on November 7, 2006 at 11:59 pm  Comments (4)