April 30, 2007


I've just uploaded a bunch of random photos to Flickr, you can check them out starting here. There's a few photos I took on April 15 when it was really hot. The park across from our house was very busy and I had a wander through there.

We didn't do much this Queen's Day, but that's ok. The weather was pretty damn nice though and we had a late lunch outside. This weekend was just really busy, so we slept in and caught up on things at home.

Saturday I had lunch with my friend Brenda, a really nice, relaxing time. Plus it gave her a chance to go out without her two kids with her. In the evening O and I went to the house of a co-worker of mine in Hoofddorp and some other co-workers came and we had a barbeque. Yum, lots of food, and we sat out in the backyard til 11. Hard to remember sometimes that it's only April.

Yesterday we went to a birthday party for Erika and we met a lot of great people, got to see Coco, and everyone enjoyed cocktails made by Karl. Plus it was another beautiful day. I don't really want the weekend to end, but it is now less than 2 weeks until I go to the US!

April 27, 2007

Some things sorted

Yesterday I had two emails which were the bearers of good news. The first was confirming that we had a hotel booked for Sydney over New Year's. Thankfully I looked into a hotel for that already because the pickings are already pretty slim. I've never really gone anywhere for New Year's (well, once, but I didn't arrange it myself), let alone go to a city that is known for its celebrations, so I wasn't totally prepared for the lack of good accommodation already. But I found a site that had specific rates for over the holiday for many hotels and I was able to get a reasonable deal there at a hotel that is quite central.

The other email was to let me know that an mp3 player had been shipped to me Wednesday night, so it was all set to arrive at my work yesterday afternoon. This was the second shipment after the first Vibez I got had to be returned because it kept crashing. But I didn't really know if they were going to send me a new player or try to fix the one I first got. I didn't get any emails from them about what they had done, just that a package was sent to me. Fortunately it was a completely new player because I just don't think the other one I had was fixable, so I hoped they weren't going to send it back to me.

I opened the player at work and charged it so I was able to play around with it a bit before going home. It didn't crash and I was able to view the background options fine (this was another weird quirk with the first one, the background kept going blank), so it was ok so far. I got home and plonked some music on it and played some songs for a bit while playing with the menu still... No crashes! This one seems to be ok! I still feel wary of it, worried it might break on me later, but I think I'm just a bit wounded by the first one not working.

Now I've been able to use the Vibez without disappointment and I do quite like it. It's not perfect, but the things that have bothered me are pretty minor. Putting the music on it is so easy, no stupid music system needed (though it does come with an mp3 program that you can install, but if you have your own music programs already it's not needed). I connect the player via USB, Linux instantly pops up my file manager, and I can just drag the mp3s into the Vibez's folder. An average album takes no more than 10-15 seconds to transfer.

When I first had the Vibez, I realized how important the ID3 tags are for sorting the music properly on the player because it pretty much ignores the folders and file info that you are used to on a computer. So while I was waiting for the replacement, I decided I'd better fix the tags on albums and songs I knew I'd want to put on the Vibez. I downloaded a program called EasyTag that made it so much easier to edit the tags. It was pretty self explanatory and saved me a lot of time in fixing the mp3s, so I recommend it. I'll put more songs on the Vibez tonight, and pretty soon I should be all set for taking it with me to the US.

April 19, 2007

Plans for May

The Decemberists will be touring Europe again in the fall and people have been plucking planned concert dates from sources on the internet. I checked Paradiso's website, and yes, the band will be playing there September 22. I won't be in Amsterdam then, though, but O will get to go and enjoy it without me. I'm very unhappy to be missing out on the show, especially since it seems that now that they're not touring to support The Crane Wife, it's a free-for-all regarding what songs they'll play.

But I found out some news yesterday that partly makes up for not being able to see them in September. Willamette Week reported that author Daniel Handler is coming to Portland next month to promote a book of his, and he will be joined at this event by Decemberists lead singer Colin Meloy. Happily, this will take place on May 20, when I am in Portland. Finally, some good timing!

Technically, I have plans to get together with my extended family that day, but I am determined to not let that get in my way of going to the book event. It should be fine actually if it takes place in the evening; my family usually all packs up and goes home around 5 or 6. And the location is quite lucky as well. It's at Powell's Books, but not the main downtown location, it's out in Beaverton, only a few miles away from my uncle's house where my family's getting together. So I'm excited, though I don't even really know what to expect. I'll just be happy to see Colin in person. And O won't be there, so that sort of makes us even.

As for other things keeping me busy while I'm in the US, I'm planning to go on Portland Walking Tour's underground tour with some friends, which I think will be fun. I'll likely go for a day to the coast with my parents, though I'm kind of dreading this, especially with my Alzheimer's-y dad yelling about everything. I'll finally go to a concert, Ben Gibbard solo at the Roseland. And when I can I will tackle my ever-increasing shopping list, including likely going on a trip to the mall, which sounds horrendous, but I think I could get a lot done under one roof. Anyway, it's not as jam-packed as the last trip, so that's good, and I hope to spend more time downtown than we did in October.

April 11, 2007

Flights booked!

As planned, O and I booked our plane tickets for Australia last weekend. So now I know when I'll be leaving! I leave August 26, arriving in Melbourne the evening of the 27th. I feel fortunate to not be coming from the US since coming from that side means you cross the International Date Line and all sorts of weird things happen then, and you arrive in Australia two days after you left, so you lose time.

O will be joining me in Melbourne at the very end of November, and then we both leave Australia at the end of January. We booked in a stopover of about 2 1/2 days in Kuala Lumpur on the way back.

So that (big, expensive) part is set. This weekend I need to go into town and ask for a check from the bank again and also get some passport photos. I think those are the most pressing things for now, I won't really worry about sending in my visa application until late May.

April 6, 2007

Not a happy bunny

Well, the Vibez has so far been disappointing. It's crashed many times and it also has problems just displaying the pre-installed background images. It was having the background problem before I had even put any songs on it. I have seen from some customer reviews online that the crashing problem is not uncommon, I'm just really sad it happened to the player I got. I will be trading it for a new one at the shop I bought it at, but if the new one has the same problems, I'm afraid I'm going to have to go with a different player.

If it worked fine, I would be rather happy with it. It's a good size and it was easy to put music onto it. A downside is that the scrollwheel can be a bit annoying to use; you are meant to press in the middle to select something from a menu, but it is hard to hit it the right way, so you often end up in the previous menu level instead. I do like the features it has though and the files it can support, but the bugginess has made me feel wary of the whole product. I hope the replacement works better.

In happier news, I recently sent in my initial application for the Australia program and the organization emailed back the same day to say that I had a spot reserved on the program and they sent me all the info on what needs to be done now to get the actual visa. I have until mid-June to send it in, so there's no rush, which is good because I have to gather a few more things this time. The application itself is rather simple and they give you clear instructions on how to fill it out, so no worries there. I unfortunately have to get another check in US dollars though to pay for the required travel insurance. I don't think I mentioned what had happened with the last one... After waiting more than a week for the call from the bank telling me the check was ready to be picked up, I finally called them to ask what was up with it. I'd seen that they'd taken the money for it already, so I asked how long it would be before it was ready. I had this feeling that they'd sent it to the US even though I'd asked them not to (and even though I was assured over and over that they wouldn't mail it for me), but they couldn't (or didn't want to) tell me if they had mailed it, the guy I talked to just repeated that I would hear from the bank when it was ready to be picked up. So I emailed the work abroad organization (which I should have done earlier) and sure enough, they had the check already. I was happy they had it, but I was just so pissed at the bank for not being able to tell me what they done with the check and insisting I just needed to wait to hear from them.

In the meantime, I can go ahead and book my plane tickets. In fact, I have to have the tickets booked before I send in the visa application because I have to show that I have a return ticket out of Australia. I plan to book the tickets this weekend actually, which will be freaky, to have the dates that I'm gone set. I asked for advice from some co-workers on what airline is best to travel with, and Malaysia was very recommended, so I'll go with them. O and I will also plan a stopover of 3 days or so on the way home so we can see a bit of Kuala Lumpur. So it's all finally moving forward. It's funny how in the past week I've had just about every one of my co-workers ask me how my plans are going; I joked that I should start sending around a weekly newsletter so I don't have to keep repeating myself.

April 4, 2007

I went ahead anyway...

After being persuaded by Steph and Steven's arguments that I should wait until I'm in the US to get the mp3 player I planned to buy, I had some more internal debate yesterday and thought, fuck it, I'll just buy it now. So I did. Last night. It should arrive at my work tomorrow, just in time for the long weekend. I know, I could have saved some money by buying it in the US, I could have even ordered it online so that it would be ready and waiting for me at my parents' house, but I decided the savings weren't worth not having it already for the trip to the US.

I also pondered spending 24 euros on the skinbag that is made for the player (though this price is about 10 euros higher than many German websites selling it), but then O suggested just using a sock like he has for his Archos, and he said he'd make one just for me. Aww. Anyway, I am looking forward to finally jumping on the portable mp3 bandwagon.