Tuesday 31 January 2012

Collector Club Runabout & Drift - I am so totally screwed

Okay, this is a story to tell for generations.
Just when you thought the expression 'everything that can go wrong, will go wrong" was just a myth or exaggeration of a run of bad luck... this raises the bar on Murphy's Law.

So, I have 3 Credit Cards, at 3 different banks. My main Credit Card is at NAB which I use most, a back-up Credit Card at Aussie that I only use if the main one is reaching its limit, and my Business Credit Card at Westpac, which I use so rarely, there are only 4 purchases on it in the last 6 months.

A couple weeks ago, I was trying to register for BotCon, using the Aussie Credit Card (because the main one wouldn't have covered the $996 Registration fee). It was rejected, and I just assumed that it was because it wasn't the one on file, or it also didn't have enough on it.
I then went ahead and used my main credit card, overdrawing it in the process.

Not thinking much about the Aussie Credit Card (because I don't use it much), it wasn't until last Saturday that I tried using it at the shops and had it declined.  I then thought that it was likely to be frozen by the bank for attempting to make a big foreign purchase (which they did in 2010 while I was at BotCon - I was NOT happy, as it tied up a fair chunk of my spending money).
I decided to get onto the Credit Card company, to unlock the Card, as I was probably going to need it for booking BotCon flights on Monday. So I had to wait 2 days until Monday morning to ring up the Credit Card company to find out if that was what was going on again.

But before I could fix up my backup Credit Card, on the Sunday, I found out that my Main Credit Card was not working, and would have to chase up the NAB bank to fix that one as well.  And I only found out it was frozen because I was having trouble using Paypal on Ebay. I had done some "buy it now" on a few Transformers, but Paypal wouldn't complete the transactions.
Since it was Sunday evening by the time I had gone through all the help screens on both Paypal and on the NAB, I had to wait until the next morning to ring up either of them, to find out what was going on.

So on Monday morning (yesterday), I was going to ring up Paypal first. But checking my emails, I found one from Amazon.com saying that they couldn't charge my (main NAB) Credit Card for my pre-order of the Movie Trilogy boxset.  BigBadToyStore was also having a problem, which had me thinking it was a problem with the Credit Card, not Paypal.
So I rang up the NAB, and they told me that the Card had been Frozen due to a suspicious charge. I looked on my statement (online) and saw a $57 charge to an online music site that I'd never heard of.

They told me that the card details had obviously been stolen, and they had to cancel that card, and issue me with a new one.
The new one is expected on Friday at my mailbox... leaving me with a lot of scheduled debits needing to have the details changed, including my server host which had tried charging the Card during the TWO WEEKS it had been frozen (and I hadn't been notified at all). Two different banks, both suspending my accounts/cards, and neither told me about it... I had to find out by myself, while trying to make purchases. If they'd told me, I could have had Paypal fixed up before I needed it, and sorted out the businesses who were charging my card during that time.
Now to keep that account on Paypal, I have to wait until the end of the week, go through the whole verification process, and then see if the two sellers that I still owe money to, are happy to wait that long.

The NAB Card was now sorted (cancelled and new one on its way within 4 days).
I was told that I could call back the next day to find out the expiry date of the new card (I already knew the new number), but would have to wait until I get the card to know the 3-digit number on the back (some sites I can now use it on, but not on sites that ask for the 3-digit code until Friday).

Now I definitely had to sort out the (backup) Aussie Credit Card, as I would need it for my BotCon airfares later that morning.
I rang up the Credit Card Company, and they confirmed my suspicion. It was indeed a foreign purchase that had them Suspending the account, but it was a legitimate purchase (a Deposit charged by the BotCon hotel). That was done on the 6th January, three weeks ago, and I had not been notified about it. They said they sent a letter on the 7th, but I never got it.
Anyway, they unlocked the account, now that it was verified that it was a legit purchase (lucky for me that they allow a suspicious purchase but block any future ones, because if they had rejected that deposit, I would have lost my reservation to the BotCon hotel).

Within the hour I was at the Travel Agent, and paid out $2000 on airfares (from my savings account and the Aussie CC)... But after the events of today, if only I had used my Westpac Business Credit Card instead.

You see, today I found out that my Business Credit Card has also had it's details stolen, and I had to ring up the bank to cancel the card, and order a new one.
And I only found that out, while I was trying to add it to my Paypal account, as a temporary replacement to the NAB CC. The Paypal screen was rejecting the card, saying that it was already assigned to another Paypal account.
Since I don't have any other Paypal accounts, I rang them up straight away to query it.
They looked it up, and asked if I knew some guy who it was being used by, and I told them no.
We worked out that there were five purchases made with that Credit Card, totalling $240.
They put a stop to that Paypal account, and I then had to quickly ring up the Westpac Bank to report the issue, cancel the card, and have a replacement sent.
That's expected to take 2-3 days (Thursday-Friday), sent to the Nearest Bank Branch for collection.

That's right, I am now down to one working Credit Card, which did have $1000 credit on it before I went to the Travel Agent yesterday... and I have an impending expense of $500-700 within the next 12 hours.
See, if I had used the Westpac card for that $1000, I would have enough to buy Runabout & Drift... but instead, I have to beg someone else to buy them for me tomorrow when they are released. Then sort out the mess later.
And since the Aussie Credit Card is not from an actual Bank, I can't just make a deposit straight into the account. The fastest option is Bpay, and that would take 24-48 hours... which would be too late.
And unlike the NAB having an instant credit limit increase, Aussie Credit Card is expected to take up to 5 days (I increased it by $1000, just in case a miracle occurs).

So a recap...
The main NAB CC - won't arrive until Friday (only have card number and expiry date - need 3-digit code to make this Toy order)
The backup Aussie CC - not enough on it to cover Toy order, and will take 2-5 days to add money or increase credit limit.
The business Westpac CC - wont' arrive until Thursday.

And even if one of those cards arrive or can be used in time, I have to worry about The Club Site rejecting any new Card now (unless their demand for a copy of the card is only when first ordering from them).

So, sometime in the next 8-9 hours, the two Club Toys will be put back up for pre-order, with Runabout most likely being sold-out within 24 hours... and I need to order 7 toys for others.
All options for me to do this myself are now prevented.
Off grovelling I must go. 
I am so totally screwed.

Update Feb 1st - Collector Club is still yet to re-open pre-orders as they sign up to new Credit Card processing company.  No replacement card has arrived yet, and the Aussie Credit Card hasn't had the limit increase approved or received deposit yet.  This 24 hour "stay of execution" is torturous if the pre-orders start in the next few hours (as they are now starting their Wednesday office hours there).

Update Feb 2nd - Collector Club waited until the end of their business day (Wednesday) again, which is about 7am Thursday where I live. I get the early wake-up call from Doug again, and hop online to check the one card I still have.
Finally some good news... the limit increase AND the deposit have gone through on the Aussie CC. Now to see if it gets approved by the Club site. Another anxious 5 minutes... and success.
I re-check the credit card statement, and it shows that amount missing, but doesn't yet show the transaction. So hopefully that means, after all the drama and stress (and several really early mornings in a row - I work nights), this has ended up working out. But only because the Collector Club had to change CC processors... so everyone else's bad luck, was my (only hope of) good luck.
Oh, and BTW, just to reassure any of those people I was asked to buy these for - I had enough money left on the card to cover MOST people, and would have just chased up the remaining ones later, at whatever it extra it would cost me on the secondary market. I just didn't want to alarm or panic anyone unless it was absolutely necessary.

Monday 30 January 2012

Opening a sealed, carded BotCon 94 Breakdown

This will have a few dedicated, sealed collectors screaming out in horror.  I was looking through my files, and found these photos I took of my BotCon 94 Breakdown toy (limited to about 200-300 figures) a couple years ago, which was a major loose end for me. It took me about 15 years to get it since its release, and the last 10 years I've been desperately looking for one (it had to be the BotCon version - some don't have the BotCon sticker on the back of the card).  In the end, I found a sealed one for about $400... but since my display of BotCon toys are all out of their packaging, this one had to be "released from it's prison".

So here it is as I got it.
And the back, to show it is the BotCon version.
The cutting is about to begin...
And he's out... freeeeee!!!
All the bits...
Put together...
And in robot mode...
Each of the three Gen2 Breakdown toys in Robot mode, with the Gen1 Breakdown on the left.
And in alt mode... where possible.

Sunday 29 January 2012

Doritos review - Australian flavours

Compared to the 12+ flavours they have in America at any given time, we have 3 regular flavours, and the occasional limited edition flavour, plus a couple "new" flavours that probably won't be around for more than a year.

With half-price Doritos at Coles this week, I thought I might do a quick review... even if it is just for my own future reference.

lightly salted, with its own subtle flavour. boring, but not as boring as I had thought. 2.5/5

Cheese Supreme
very fake cheesy, tastes like cheezels, so not unique enough to be interesting 2/5

Nacho Cheese
This is my favourite of the main 3 regular flavours. And when Doritos first came out, this flavour had a beefy taste, making them taste like real nachos, but a short time later, the flavour changed, wasn't as nice and lost its top rating. 4/5

Sweet Thai Chilli
One of the two new flavours. An interesting flavour, sweet and spicy, and very MSG-ish... which isn't surprising, as it is the main flavour ingredient. They call it a "Flavour Enhancer", but what is it enhancing if it is the main flavour ingredient?  Other flavour ingredients are enhancing IT. 2.5/5

Hot Mexican Salsa (not at Woolies)
Tastes like Salsa, as intended, so probably would be the one flavour to not need salsa to dip it in, as it'd be a waste. I'm not much of a salsa fan, but these aren't too bad.  Not hot though, so it only manages to get half the flavour right. 2/5

Mexicana (not at Coles)
Similar name to the flavour above, but completely different taste and ingredients.  This one has a more taco-beans type taste to it. I liked it at first, but got sick of it real fast. 1.5/5

Burn (not at Coles)
Very bity hot, and sweet on the side. Makes the nose run. Works at being burning hot, but too hot to be an enjoyable flavour to snack on. Probably best used in a dish like nachos, to soften it. 1/5

Now, put to the test... with sour cream.
(no need to buy flavoured dips - if you have flavoured chips just use plain sour cream for the same effect, for less)
Unlike the slow-cooked potato chips which are all great with Sour Cream, not all these Corn Chips flavours work as well.

The sour cream really brings out the flavour on this one. really surprised. 3/5

Cheese Supreme
softens the fake cheese taste, but not enough. 1.5/5

Nacho Cheese
Nachos are incomplete without sour cream, so this flavour is best with it. 4.5/5

Sweet Thai Chilli
The sour cream neutralises the MSG taste and some of the spiciness, making it a rather sweet, creamy taste. 3/5

Hot Mexican Salsa (not at Woolies)
A strange flavour combination, fruity salsa with creamy sour cream... I'm not sure if I like it or not. I can still taste the salsa though, so 2.5/5

Mexicana (not at Coles)
Softens the rough taco/beans flavour, but still not very nice after a while. 2/5

Burn (not at Coles)
Takes a lot of sour cream to neutralise the burn, and even still it leaves a spicy feeling behind in the mouth and lips. Still not a fun flavour on its own. 1.5/5

Thursday 26 January 2012

BotCon 2012 Boxset fully revealed - and I'm finally registered

I know this is repeating myself, but in case anyone missed my earlier rants... The early years of Fun-Pub's BotCons required promoting the convention to toy dealers & scalpers to be sure that they sold out of one of their main sources of funding - the toys.  Recent popularity of their toys though (due to getting more experienced with Transformers, and more focused on what Fans want) they don't need to do that anymore... but they still do out of habit.
So once again, we have the convention toys being promoted before the convention itself, to inspire those who are only interested in the value of the toys... instead of inspiring fans who value the convention itself to rush to purchase the full attendance packages because the guests and events were already known.
I guess I'm opposed to this "Men in Black" mentality (they did BotCon in 1996, and were jeered by the fandom for prioritising selling toys over the fan-focused elements), because I'm travelling halfway around the world each year FOR the convention... not the toys. As such, I'm a fan of the Convention, not the merchandise, and would be much happier with the convention being promoted, as it is almost insulting to those who make the long distance trip for Fun-Pub to prioritise the mere merchandise/toys.

How many other dedicated fans could they have attending the convention itself, adding to the atmosphere of the events, if the full packages sell out before the events and guests are known to help make up their minds?
Like, what if Frank Welker ended up being a guest this year, but it wasn't revealed until after the full packages were sold out... fans who then sign up without a full package, will feel cheated when seeing others walking off with a box-set without even attending the rest of the convention.
I think that if Fun-Pub feel that the toys are so important, they should be an added extra to the "registration" so that when the guests & events are known after the box-sets sell out, fans won't feel like they are missing out on the "full package" when signing up at that time.

So onto this year's box-set.
There are six toys this year in the box-set. Five Deluxe-size toys and one Voyager-size toy.

Robot modes.
Vehicle modes.

The pics are from the BotCon website.

Red car - Tracks (Shattered Glass - Evil Autobot)
Jet - Metalhawk (JP Generation One - Heroic Autobot)
Truck - Ultra Magnus (Shattered Glass - Evil Autobot)
Blue car - Treadshot (Shattered Glass - Heroic Decepticon)
White van - Soundwave (Shattered Glass - Heroic Decepticon)
Tank - Gigatron (Overlord) (JP Generation One - Evil Decepticon)

The theme this year is a crossing of their "Shattered Glass" Mirror Universe (where Autobots are evil and the Decepticons are heroic), with the regular Generation One Universe. So we have a couple of direct homage toys to Generation One, with some recoloured homages for their Mirror Universe.

I've already commented on the first four.

Number 5 - Ultra Magnus
Just like the Tracks figure, this is not meant to be a new character, just a mirror-verse version of the character.  The difference here though to Tracks, is that the real version of this character was already released with a different mould (the first Classics Optimus mould).
An interesting feature of this BotCon toy is that the head is completely moulded from clear plastic, with a painted helmet... creating a visually unique style of head. It's almost a ghostly type of character, that has no real head, just energy inhabiting the helmet. Well, unlike organic creatures that keep their brains in their heads, and would die without them, Transformers don't (plus, all senses can be housed elsewhere), and a head can end up being redundant to the point of it being more for show anyway... like this one. This mould was not a fan favourite, and these colours look a bit Diaclone Convoy, which is not a well known source for a homage, making this one rate as about as least interesting as Treadshot.

Number 6 - Metalhawk
Following on from the recent Hasbro trend of Pretender inspired toys of Thunderwing and Sky Shadow (Blackshadow), this Metalhawk is a nicely done colouring of the Thunderwing toy into a homage of the JP exclusive Pretender. It also has a new head too. It's just a pity that the Jet mode doesn't quite match the original Metalhawk, but BotCon toys are very limited by what they can replicate. Otherwise, if it were an easy accurate match, Hasbro would likely do it first. This one and Tracks are probably my favourite two, with Gigatron/Overlord coming in next. The other three are pretty lame though... and this year's full set of Convention toys will need the at-show toys to be spectacular to pull up the "average" rating I give this set of six so far.

As for the Registration... that was a real drama (it wouldn't be BotCon for me if there wasn't any drama). I got a nice wake-up call the morning after my last post about BotCon, in which I had predicted that it would be in the next couple days. However, the call was still too late for me to get what I most wanted - the Custom Class. It was only a couple hours, but all the Custom Classes were already sold out.
For someone who is one of the most dedicated and experienced at attending BotCon, I can't believe that I am still yet to experience a Custom Class. It's like I'm cursed to never get in... no matter how much I try to improve my chances to get in.
Anyway... I get out of bed and rush to get my computer started, to log onto the BotCon site to register. I start by logging into the Club site, to make sure I get the membership prices... and go through all the screens to get the Golden Ticket (a VIP concept that drew criticism when Glen Hallit's convention had it), a bagged set of toys, and to sign up for the Thursday pre-Con tour once it was revealed to me that the Classes were all sold out. Kinda like the last Texas BotCon in 2005, neither of the Tours were too interesting to me, but I had to get into a Tour or a Class to be eligible for the early package pickup on the Wednesday (otherwise you have to wait for hours with the hundreds on the Thursday, and then wait more hours in the Club store queue).
So I got everything selected, and entered in my credit card details... to be given an error message, saying that the order could not be processed, and that it would be set aside to be manually processed.
Naturally, Fun-Pub open up registration just after the close of their Friday office hours, so that by the time they would manually process the orders that had errors, people would miss out on items because they are not being held on those incomplete registrations.
I was in such a panic. I couldn't wait 2 1/2 days... not with the risk of missing out on the Golden Ticket option, or even the full registration package altogether (the growing popularity for their toys in the last 2 years had me thinking that they could well sell out in a day... two at the most).
I thought about redoing the order, but was afraid that they'd cancel both if it looked dodgy, or too confusing to work out.
I also had to try to figure out why my order was being rejected.
Either it was rejected because I used a different Credit Card than what I usually use (if they only allow the ones verified in the past), or because it didn't have enough credit on it. Later I realised that it was the Credit Card that automatically froze my account the last time I tried to do a big foreign purchase... but when that happened in 2010 (at BotCon), I had it unlocked, and told them not to let it happen again. It might be a good security measure, but it has been more trouble than help. I wonder if I can make a claim for mental hardship... :p
So I got a different Credit Card ready - one which didn't have enough funds on it - so expected that it would be declined. (since FunPub set up this online registration, the money is charged straight away, instead of days later when they used to do fax-in registrations)
I went back to the registration page to start again, but to my horror, it was not allowing me to get into the first page that lets you select the package you want. I kept retrying, reloading, restarting the computer... everything I could think of, but for some reason, it kept showing an error on that first page.
I didn't know what to do. I was out of ideas, and running out of time (I had to go to work soon).
I sent an email to FunPub to see if it was an error on my part, or theirs, plus tweeted to their twitter account.
While looking for answers on the global fansites, I made a panicked call to my friend Ian (who's been two three BotCons with me now), to perhaps see if he could register for me.
He suggested that I should clear out my cookies on the browser... I hadn't thought of that, and wondered if it would be a reason. (considering I had logged out and even rebooted, there shouldn't have been any lingering ties to the registration page)
But it seemed that he had guessed correctly, as a quick clearing of cookies allowed me to proceed through the registration page like the first time.  The difference this time though, was entering in the other credit card details and hoping that it would not be denied for lack of funds.
A tense wait... as I was running out of options.
Amazingly, it was approved, which over-drew the Credit Card by about $700, and I was worried that it would be overturned by the bank if it raised a red flag for someone to investigate.
Ian suggested ringing up the bank to see if it was really okay, and to ask for it to be a temporary overdraft... which I did, and they increased the limit to cover it.
A hectic 2 hours later, I was signed up for BotCon, with the VIP/Golden Ticket, a bagged set, Tshirt, cap, and Thursday tour.
And now I had to rush off to work, in a wired, adrenalin state... it wasn't easy concentrating that day, I can tell you.

Now to organise the flights, and I'll be all covered for this year.
There have been some cheap flights to Dallas lately, from Brisbane, so hopefully I can still score one of those.
And I'd better get onto it soon, as time is running out.
With nothing of interest in Dallas, and no toy sources within walking distance of the hotel, I'm not planning to stay there longer than the convention this year.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Spicy Burger Twisties and Vanilla Mars sampling

Continuing on with the Food theme of the last couple days, I found some new items at Seven-Eleven last night (I had the munchies).

Hot on the heels of the Cheesburger Twisties, we now have a Spicy Burger flavour.

Again, with the word "Burger" in the flavour title, it grabbed my attention. But when I tried them, I was wondering why this has the word in the title... it was a nice mild spicy flavour (which is mild enough to enjoy a pack or two), but couldn't taste anything "burger" about it.
So I decided to look at the ingredients, for anything there, but only saw a lot of spices listed, and down at the end was a Tomato flavouring.  So maybe it's the Tomato that warranted the "burger" title... for marketing purposes of course. Otherwise, the most accurate flavour title would be something like "spicy tomato", which would still sound interesting, but perhaps not "interesting" enough for the execs to approve.
Worth a shot, but not likely to be a regular flavour (which I like seeing from Twisties - trialling all these new flavours in the last year, to perhaps see if any are popular enough to add to their regular range). 3.5/5

The other item I found last night was Vanilla Mars.
Nothing fancy, but suggests that Mars could well be able to offer a range of flavoured Mars, to consolidate the brand as being more than a "one hit wonder" of the regular (caramel) version.
They recently had a chocolate version, and a non-fudge version... and this one also similarly maintains a standard "Mars" taste and texture. It's nice, but the strong tasting caramel and chocolate coating pretty much conceals any Vanilla flavour... so ends up tasting like a less-bitey regular Mars. 3/5
One thing I'd like to see is a multi-pack of these mid-size or bite-size bars with different flavoured fudges in them - chocolate, caramel (the regular one), vanilla (this one), strawberry, cherry, coconut, mint... etc.
It could be done like a chocolate box tray or like a pack of Timtams... with or without an indication of what flavour each one was - like a sampling surprise concept.
Damn... now I feel like Timtams... :p

Hungry Jacks Farmyard Feast Burger (version 2)

Okay, that burger name is likely to have people scratching their heads, wondering why they've never heard of it before.
Well, last January I had a custom-made burger done up to incorporate all the different meats Hungry Jacks had available - Beef, Chicken, Bacon.  (they had recently dropped the fish burger, so I wasn't able to include that as I had originally wanted)
They looked like this, one with ketchup (left) and one with BBQ sauce (right).
And cut open, they looked like this:
(each had cheese, onion, egg and mustard as well)

I posted up the pics on Flickr February 2011 of my creation, and within 3 months, Burger King in Japan brought out the "Meat Monster" which had the same 3 meat items in the same order (beef, bacon, and chicken on top). They did add salad to theirs and left off the egg, but it needed the extra colour, as my "meat-only" version looked a bit boring.

When Hungry Jacks brought out their Angus patties about a year ago, I was thinking about doing a new version with the four different meats this time.
Last weekend I went to the HJs at Sunnybank, with a "map" of the burger, showing each item layered in the proposed burger. Something like this:

Bun top
beef patty
chicken patty
angus patty
Bun bottom

I layed it out to separate the meats as much as possible, as well as distributing the sauces as well, because most HJs burgers put the sauce on top last, making the bottom half rather dry and less tasty.
I also had a second "map" done up for a "healthier option", which was inspired by the Japanese Meat Monster.
Okay, it isn't "healthier", just more colourful.

Bun top
beef patty
chicken patty
angus patty
Bun bottom

After a couple minutes of amused discussion between register-operator and the store manager, I was informed that they couldn't do it because they don't have egg any more. (thanks to that STUPID decision to drop the AUSSIE BURGER)
I pointed out that they have eggs in their breakfast menu, which was countered with those being "freshly cooked" (as opposed to the pre-cooked ones on the Aussie Burger)... and that they wouldn't be cooking any outside of Breakfast. (I was there Saturday Night, so if I wanted to do this as planned, I would have to come back in the morning)
Dejectedly, I headed home (with the Country burgers that I reviewed yesterday) and waited anxiously for the next morning.
At about 10am I headed back to the HJs, and handed over my "burger map" to the staff, who quickly handed it to the Manager on that day.
Again, after a few minutes of amusement, they said, okay.
So after working up the total cost of the two burgers, they borrowed the map to make up my two monsters.
(the cost, for those wondering, came up to $7.20 each - which I thought was cheap, but I guess was about right with all the meat in it)

About 7 minutes later, I was handed a bag with my two burgers, and headed home to review them.

So here they are, the world premier of the all new Hungry Jacks Farmyard Feast Burgers...
A bit messy, but that's what makes them look so delicious.

The regular Farmyard Feast:

And the Farmyard Feast Deluxe (the "healthy" option)

And both of them cut open to show the layers...

I wasn't really wanting the thick Angus patty from the new Premium menu, but unfortunately one of the recent menu changes was to drop the regular Angus patty for this more expensive "fancy" one that regular (blue collar) HJ patrons aren't going to buy anyway.
Aside from that overbalance of the Angus meat patty, the whole thing ended up being the best tasting burger I have ever eaten... even better than my Giant 10KG Burgers.
I had managed to space out the sauces and meats to give it flavour throughout the entire burger, not just the top half. Perhaps something Hungry Jacks should look into with their bigger burgers... instead of a big squirt on the top of the burger, have a little squirt at the top and midway.

So if you are a creative one with your burgers, or just a burger fan in general, give this a go at your local Hungry Jacks (or Burger King if you are reading this outside of Australia), but remember that if you want Egg on it, you have to get there before about 11am for the Breakfast hours.

Now to see if the Japanese Burger King release a new Meat Monster in a couple months time...

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Apple Mango and Coconut Juice - so addictive

Just to show that I don't just live off junk food, here's a new Juice flavour I found last week, and can't get enough of it.
Apple, Mango & Coconut Juice.

Not since the Golden Circle Pineapple & Coconut drink, or the discontinued Berri Carrot & Apple Juice, have I tasted a fruit juice that was so delicious.
I usually go through about 2 of those Brekky Juice bottles per week (the one with Vitamins A, C & E), but am currently stuck on this new flavour... which doesn't have the important vitamins of the other one, so I have to keep myself to one of each per week instead.

I think these are still only available at Woolies.

Cheeseburger Twisties - get em while you can

Naturally, anything with the word "Cheeseburger" in it, gets my attention... so when these came out at the start of last year, I was all over them. And since they were noted as being "limited edition" I ate as many as I could while they lasted.  And they quickly disappeared from the Coles Express stores (which was the only place I could find them). Then middle of last year, they started appearing at Woolies... and the gorging began again.
Okay, I didn't get stuck into them as much as before, because by then, I had pretty much desensitised myself from the flavour.

And that flavour - well, it comes down to what sort of pickle person you are... do you pick off the pickles, or like them. Because that's the dominant flavour of these Twisties.
You see, in America, they seem to have a thing about pickles... to the point of serving a whole pickle on the side like Fries, at diners and restaurants that serve burgers.  It's the weirdest thing for a non-American to have sitting on the plate, next to the burger and fries... but I guess it's an acquired  taste that we just haven't quite acquired here in Australia.
As such, this "pickle" flavoured Twisties would be more enjoyed by Americans... who already have corn chips and Pringles of that (pickle) flavour - because the demand is there for it. Here though, it seems that Smiths Snackfoods (an American company) have used that same basic flavour from their American products, but renamed it to something more appealing to the Australian market.  After all, who here would buy "Pickle flavoured" chips or snackfood here? It just isn't a "traditional" flavour here.

For me though, I love the pickles on burgers, as it gives the added flavour perspective or dimension to each bite. Sure, the ketchup is supposed to give you that bitey tanginess in the cheeseburger, but the extra "layer" of flavour, and its own unique texture create a much more enjoyable eating experience than one without it.

I noticed at Woolies the other day that their Cheeseburger Twisties were on clearance... which is the term used for items that aren't being restocked.  So the "limited" 12+ month release of this flavour is finally about to come to an end.
So, if you like this flavour, or haven't yet tried it... get to a Woolies fast, in case these really are never coming back here.
It's not a "stand-out" or "wow" flavour, so I'd be surprised if we ever see it again here. And I doubt we'd see the equivalent Doritos or Pringles version of this flavour here either.

Hungry Jacks Country Beef Burgers

About 6-8 weeks ago, Hungry Jacks (that's Burger King for those outside of Australia) overhauled their menu and menu-board theme to give the brand a "fresher" look.  One of the major changes at that time was the removal of their iconic "Aussie Burger" (no longer supplying the franchisees with beetroot or allowing them to cook eggs outside of Breakfast), and added two organic burgers with the menu launch. The BBQ Onion Country Burger and the BBQ Deluxe Country Burger (yeah, the names are so uninspiring and vague, they need to fire who ever came up with them).

Since I tried these two burgers before starting up this blog, I didn't do a proper review... so last weekend I went to my nearby HJs at Sunnybank, and asked for one of each.

On the left is the BBQ Onion Country Burger, on the right is the BBQ Deluxe Country Burger.
They actually look quite nice in reality, unlike most fast-food franchise foods... these actually translate quite well from their menu-board "fake" photos, looking like what you'd get in a cafe or diner.

BBQ Onion Country Burger
This one has the new beef patty & breadroll, with lettuce, tomato, red onion, chopped onion and BBQ sauce. With no cheese on this one, it is the "lighter" burger of the two.  It tastes very unique with the organic beef and wholemeal roll, plus the BBQ sauce with the chopped onions gives it a relish-like taste and tangyness.
The bun is small, close to cheeseburger size, but a little taller. And the beef patty is even smaller - noticeably smaller than the small breadroll.
An expensive burger, but worth the experience, as it is quite delicious... just not cheap enough to be worth eating too often. 3/5

BBQ Deluxe Country Burger
This one has cheese and mayo instead of the chopped onions of the other one (but has the same lettuce, tomato, red onion, BBQ sauce, beef & wholemeal roll), giving it a creamier, "thicker" taste and texture, especially while it is warm.
I like this one too, but again, it is a very quick eat (being so small), that it isn't worth buying too often. 3/5

Cut open to show how different these look to normal burgers. Definitely not what you'd normally expect from a Hungry Jacks... which is why these sort of "premium" ideas won't work (more on that later).

I'd give both a 4 if they were cheaper, and a 5 if they were bigger than a cheeseburger.
I would like to note that I don't feel as "gluggy" or "sloth like" after eating these, like I usually do with their normal (fatty) burgers.  These fulfill their claim of being a lighter option, but if I wanted a lighter option I'd go to a Subway instead. I'd end up getting a lot more for my money as well.

This was the one criticism I have of these burgers - the lettuce was all blackened. Visually, it puts one off their food when they see blackened, expired food used.

My recommendation to HJs (aside from, bring back the Aussie Burger) is to drop the organic gimmick and keep these burgers on the regular menu at a cheaper, better value price.  No one is ever going to decide to eat at HJs for any "heatlh" reasons, so it's much like KFC's recent failed attempts at pitching to the non-KFC demographics - just stick to your core demographic, or else you'll lose them as well, with them turning towards a real "reliable" BURGER franchise.
Here we have six new burgers that are marketted, and priced, above the social class demographic that supports HJs, or fast food in general.  Those people are wanting quick, cheap, food... fancy and pricy are not what they are interested in. And the people who would be, would never step foot in a HJs.
So the Premium and Organic burgers as nice ideas, but shouldn't be over-emphasised or even made into a significant theme for the whole menu.

(they helped create an iconic "Australian" burger with beetroot and egg, and now they turn their back on that legacy... such a shameful decision by someone high up at HJs - and everyone at Mcdonalds is laughing at him for allowing them to cash in on it with the return of the McOz)

Thursday 19 January 2012

Toy Review - Transformers Alternity Dai Atlas

I just can't call this Dai Atras... It is ATLAS!
The colour homage is there, and if they still did bios, I'm sure it was meant to be named for the Japanese character from the original series - Dai Atlas.
It's almost like someone at Tomy did it intentionally to poke fun at their "Engrish"... or at least, I'm hoping so, as it wouldn't make any sense for them to go to so much trouble using English on the packaging to not proof-read or notice the name being spelt wrong.

So here it is... I don't have the original Dai Atlas yet, so like with my recent review on the Generations Sky Shadow (Black Shadow) toy, I can only comment on what I have seen of the original in pictures.
Note that the toy is mostly blue, with black, white and some orange placed in some odd places.  Although, it wouldn't look odd, if the orange wasn't so clashing to the rest of the dark colour scheme.  It isn't even the same orange of the original Dai Atlas toy, which had a lighter shade. But taking another look at the original toy, the blue was also a lot lighter... so perhaps the lighter orange didn't work well with the dark blue of the Alternity figure (which I think needs to utilise real-world car colours). Since the car had to be a dark blue, the orange probably would have been darkened up to match.
I still don't like it though. Especially on the wrist panels, and the head. (I can understand the head being half painted orange, as it succeeds in "hiding" the Optimus shape of it)

The transformation of Alternity toys has a gimmick that was utilised in the 2007 Movie toys - a part of the toy "auto transforms" during the process of conversion. In other words, when you move one part of the toy, another part will be moving into place, thanks to gearing within the toy. It's an interesting gimmick, don't get me wrong, it does work, and does appeal to fans.  However for me, who always tries to convert a Transformers toy before resorting to instructions or packaging pictures, any part that moves on its own is unplanned and often not taken into account. As I'm trying to work out the puzzle that is a Transformers Toy, I'm planning ahead on what moves I'm going to make, or need to make in order to get from start to finish. If I come across a toy that is meant to have parts move into position on its own, I'm usually not going to be ready for it (as in, I'm working on a different procedure or order when converting sections of the toy), which can even sometimes lead to damaging the gears from trying to force parts (or prevent parts) to go where I'm wanting them to go.
The auto-transform component of this Alternity mould (there have only been four Alternity moulds created so far), has the side panels of the car front, slide forward and together to make the chest, when folding the whole top half of the robot torso into place.

I like the car mode detailing, and the robot mode isn't too bad. "Heavy" diecast is always a plus, from the perspective of a classic, old-time fan.
But I just can't get past the colouring.  It just didn't work on this toy, and surely they have other homages they could have done instead. (and Dai Atlas was a jet, drill, and base - where does "car" come from that?)

And is it just me, or is the inability to stand a common problem with this Alternity mould?  The front of the feet have to plug into posts to lock them into place, but that then makes the ball joint at the ankle useless... preventing any posing or balancing of the toy to compensate the tiny heels. I have to keep the toy leaning forwards, or make sure it doesn't do any action poses, as the huge backpack kibble pulls its centre of gravity back past the tiny heels... on feet that can't be posed thanks to ankle joints that are locked in place with pegs & post holes.

Oh, and that reminds me... The big thing that annoyed me most was actually in car mode - the right front panel of the car just wouldn't line up with the rest of the car. I could get it to lock into place near the door & windshield, but then it would sit up at the front bumper. And when I'd push that down into place, it would push out at the door end.
It felt like a production flaw - something put together at just a marginally wrong spot or angle. Considering the amount of parts to these toys, and the repetitious, boring, and difficult working conditions, I'm surprised more of these complex toys (by regular toy standards) don't have similar alignment issues in the end product.
We often have fanboys crying over paint smudges or loose parts, or even wrong parts... but maybe they should sit in for a day and produce these things at the same rate for little reward, and then see how "perfect" their efforts end up.

I don't really recommend this particular figure, unless you are a completist. The mould was better done four times beforehand as Optimus/Convoy, and even though this is the first time it has been done in blue, the orange spoils it too much to be worth getting the blue version of this mould. If you want this mould, look for a previous version. 2/5

For anyone interested, all previously released Alternity toys can be seen here, from my collection:
(the smaller ones on the right side - click on the photo to see it full size)

So far in the Alternity series, there have been:
5 Convoy/Optimus (Silver, Red, Ultra Magnus/White, Black, Dai Atlas/blue)
3 Megatron (black, grey, blue)
3 "Seekers" (Starscream/white, Thundercracker/blue, Skywarp/black)
3 Bumblebee (yellow, Cliff(jumper)/red, Goldbug/gold)

(I don't have Goldbug yet, as it has only just been released).

New Milo breakfast cereal

Found this new variety of Milo breakfast cereal the other day at Woolies.
I love the original Milo cereal, and even the Duo variation that came out a couple years later.
This third version has the cereal bits done in a similar shape to the Mini-Wheats or the new Sultana Bran Buds... but are instead, hollow (would have been great if they had some sort of filling like those other cereals noted above). The sample image on the packaging had me thinking that they were tubes, but it was just two of the "bites" cut open.
Note that it is a small trial pack, which Woolies often gets in when a new cereal is released... I didn't want to risk spending $6-7 on a full size pack in case I didn't like it.
And it was lucky too, as these weren't anywhere near as good as the previous types of Milo cereal.  These weren't as tasty, and didn't absorb the milk enough, so stayed too crunchy. (if you're cereal stays as crunchy as when they are without milk, then they should be packaged as a snack pack like crackers, not as a breakfast cereal)
Not recommended.
Stick with the regular Milo Cereal, or the Milo Duo Cereal, as they are a nicer flavour, soggy up just enough in the milk, and leaves you with a delicious milo milk "drink" in the breakfast bowl at the end.

Now if they filled the hollow buds/bites with a creamy or even light fruity centre like Sultana Bran or Mini-Wheats have, then it'd be worth eating.

What The? (19/1)

Time for another edition of "What The?"

Something I found yesterday online...

And from the archives of Rove's Classic What The?
An interesting shape to a kid's tent. Kinda fits the theme of the first pic above.
And Elmer Fudd's holiday resort, during "wabbit season"...

Monday 16 January 2012

Beast Wars Megatron and Cryotek quick fix

This was something raised recently on the Ozformers fan forum, and I'd never thought about it myself... so grabbed the toys, a screwdriver and did this quick fix.

On the back of their dragon neck, there is a lever that you slide back to straighten out the neck. On the first version (Megatron - the red one), the slide lever wasn't meant to lock in the "straightened" position, but can be.  The later blue version (Cryotek) had a little tab of plastic added to the neck section for that lever to lock into... however, the lever was left facing "backwards", preventing it from locking into the tab.

The quick fix is removing the screw on the lever, turning the lever around, and replacing the screw.
On the left (blue Cryotek) is the corrected lever - the Megatron has the lever in the original position. I've changed both now, and both neck levers can lock into place... but the neck doesn't move that much to make this a vital gimmick. It's probably best being a loose sliding gimmick, rather than being a two mode, locking gimmick. And since Cryotek is the only one with the tab on the neck (you can actually see it in the photo above, underneath the lever on Cryotek, vs the smooth panel on Megatron).

This is one of the easiest fixes, of what may be a production error.  There are a few other production errors over the years that have been a little more complicated to fix, so I've never tried attempting it before in case it damaged or destroyed the toy.
I just thought I'd share this one, with pics to show what needs to be done.

Sunday 15 January 2012

Pastry snacks - Lavish French Twists

Found these at Coles the other day, an imported crunchy pastry snack, available in 3 flavours... for about $2-3 each.
 They look like fried fritters, but are a drier crunchy texture instead. And very sweet.
They are made in America, and come in three flavours - Original (sugar Cinnamon), Maple French toast, and Wild Raspberry. All three are listed as "Sweet Cinnamon Taste", so the Original variety is like crunchy cinnamon donuts. They taste so "American", it was like I was back there.
Very recommended, while stocks last (as they are imported, it is likely to be a one-off shipment).

KFC Fresh Sub - second chance

Was at KFC for a Dinner box, and I figured that I'd give them a second chance with their Chipotle Sub (the worst one of their newest items, that I reviewed last week here).
After all, everyone can have a bad day, so maybe the mess they served me last time was just a combination of errors.
Getting it home, I unwrapped it to find that at least this time they got the right sort of chicken (the grilled, not crispy), plus it actually had sauce you could see this time. But as you can see in the picture below, it is still light on salads, and the chicken fillet was just cut into two in a rough way, as was the single slice of cheese.

The Sub would have been a lot better with the chicken cut into four strips, so that you don't end up eating half the sub with no chicken in your bite. It actually took me three bites from both ends to finally get chicken in my mouth.
The presentation isn't the best, but this is KFC, not a gourmet restaurant.  It holds together better than the Signature Burgers did.
So with the added sauce and the right chicken this time, I give this one a 2/5 now. Equal to the Honey Mustard Sub. (but still not worth going back for another one though)

Since this is being heavily promoted by the cricket... the Subs at KFC were a big swing and a miss.

And I shall call him Mini-me

Took a couple photos of the new Junior 3-pack I got the other day, next to their full-size versions:

The two Fort Max toys though, paint an interesting picture...

More January stuff

So last night I decided to go online and check on a shipment of toys by its tracking number, expecting it to still be somewhere in transit... and was really surprised that it had arrived at the post office that day and was ready for pickup.
It was like Christmas - I was all excited about the next morning... setting the alarm early, having trouble going to sleep, and when the morning did arrive, I was off to the post office before it was even open.
Waiting for me was a big box, filled with Transformers I managed to buy from the Hasbro online store, and have shipped to me via a shipping agent.
The order included several NYCC exclusives and Rescue Bots toys that aren't easy to find online, or are very expensive on ebay (which is stupid charging about double retail, because they are still available at the Hasbro online store for retail).
Top has the NYCC Cuponk game (aim pingpong balls at cups that have electronics to light up when you make the shot, based on various tricks), & NYCC Bumblebee deco Nerf gun (which pairs up with the SDCC Optimus Nerf gun I already have).
Below that is the NYCC Prime 2-pack of Bumblebee, Arcee & humans Jack & Raf, plus the orange redeco of the TF3 Voyager Ironhide (which isn't here yet).
And at the front is the Rescue Bots Walker Cleveland (2nd version), Boulder (now just missing Blades of the robots), & Cody (2nd Version of the individual release, but 4th version so far of Cody).  

That brings the current total in the collection to 3,486.
I've already updated the Prime and Rescue Bots page of the Collection here.
Specifically, the Rescue Bots shelf...
...and the Prime shelf.

Reviews tomorrow.

Saturday 14 January 2012

Rest of Thursday's items

Before I reveal what I picked up at the post office this morning, I should finish off commenting on the toys I got on Thursday... before they get shelved and forgotten.
Since starting this blog, I've found that I'm making more time for my toys. Something I've been missing, and longing to revive, as recent years they've mostly just been coming in, recorded, and being shelved into the collection.
I get to explore again... to enjoy the collection once more.

Gen Sky Shadow
 The colours of this seem to work, and since I have no exposure to the toy this is apparently homaging (Blackshadow from the Japanese Original Series), I'm not being biased or blinded by what it may or may not be supposed to look like. I think it would have been a nicer homage if they gave it the actual name too, but I guess Hasbro either needed to keep the Sky Shadow name valid, or didn't want to pay for registering the Blackshadow name (or couldn't).
This figure is not just a redeco/recolour of the Thunderwing toy (which was released about a year ago). I was surprised to find a couple of alterations to the actual mould itself - a new head and new chest panelling. Something that I wasn't aware of between the original Thunderwing & Blackshadow toys (Blackshadow is a recolour of Thunderwing but with a new head and chest detailing. I may have noticed this before, but since I still don't own Blackshadow (yet) it was only through exploring this new Sky Shadow toy that I really realised it. 4/5
The photo below shows the differences of the two Generations toys.

Generations Junkheap
This is an interesting figure, because it is the third "mould" version of this motorcycle toy. Hasbro first released it as Wreckgar last year, then Tomy released it with a new head in Japan as part of a special 3-pack with Kup & Rodimus... and now this one has a third robot head and colourings. It just seems strange that the three different heads don't appear to be all released in either market. It looks like one or two of the heads will remain "exclusive" to either Tomy's market or Hasbro's market.
I also like the way the three different Junkions have all managed to maintain a Junkion colour scheme, without any of them being similar to either of the other two. 3/5
The colours of all three.
And the three different heads, which all seem to have the back part of the head made of clear plastic. (I didn't get a good angle on the pic though)

DotM Darksteel

Oddly enough, the colouring of this toy and the new head actually make this figure seem completely different to the Sideswipe toy it was originally released as. So much so, that this mould would have been best to only be released like this, and not as Sideswipe at all. (they shoulda just used the TF2 mould, which didn't have the big hole in the middle of the car)
The gold colouring on the chest and metallic aqua on the car are nice touches, and very "Tomy". 3/5
A closer picture of Darksteel, next to Voyager Ironhide and Legion Soundwave:

Air Raid
 A gangly, skinny robot mode, which was to be expected from a long skinny jet form. I like the colouring of this figure, and the jet mode, but the robot mode has a few flaws to it. The right arm is too long and stringy, and there is a fair bit of back-pack kibble... in addition to the skinny legs. 3/5

Armor Topspin
 As mentioned in the posting a couple days ago, I love the detailing on this toy. The robot mode is a bit lanky, with a lot of back-pack kibble. This one is very shell-formerish, as the legs and arms are all pretty much contained within the car shell that now sits on its back (folded up). The colours are good on this one too, just like the first release of Topspin (in dark blue). 3/4

Legion Soundwave

I already talked about this one too, but wanted to add that its robot mode is probably a little too simplified. At least, compared to the Human Alliance version I got recently, which makes the impression a little biased. Here's hoping the Deluxe version is just right (not too simple, not too hard). This one is still worth getting, to add to the collection of small-scale Movie cast figures. 3/5

Speedstars Leadfoot  
Already spoken about, so just enjoy these new photos instead. (only worth getting if you collect RPMs/Speedstars)
Front of card & top of car.

 Back of card & bottom of car. (click on photo to see full-size version if you want to read the bio)
Next to Topspin, to show it is just a redeco on top...

...but the underside is new, to feature Leadfoot instead of Topspin.

DotM Specialist Ratchet
I may have called this one "Rescue Ratchet" in the previous posting, but I was getting mixed up with a previous Ratchet redeco. Ratchet is just one of those characters I've had enough of, after nearly 5 years of Ratchet toys... so having it in red doesn't make this any more desirable, because it isn't even homaging the Ratchet from the Original 80s series. It does however replicate the proposed Movie Ratchet colours before it ended up being changed to green. I just don't know if it was intentional though. 1/5

United Tracks
This is the best JP version of a Hasbro Classicverse toy. It doesn't have any random splashes of chrome of Henkei, and the half-assed metallic colouring of United figures actually pays off with Tracks - because the robot mode isn't ruined by joining panels of metallic and matte like other United toys (giving us a mismatch like Hasbro yellow Alternator & Classics Sunstreakers). For Tracks, the car bits on the robot mode are only on the chest, away from the matte blue parts on the legs and wings. Plus, it has a proper Autobot symbol on the chest instead of the black (rubsign) square on the Hasbro version. The rest of the robot mode is mostly identical to the Hasbro version (the shoulders and crotch and eyes are different), but the car mode is the big improvement, with metallic blue colouring, and the proper Gen1 flame deco on the hood. It's no wonder this one sold out so fast when released, and has been difficult to find cheap. 5/5
See... look at how he glistens.  Tracks, the real Tracks, wouldn't be seen dead with that crappy Hasbro colouring. :p

United Jazz
This was released at the same time as Tracks in Japan, and similarly sold out fast. Mostly because it had a few extra paint details in car mode. I mostly wanted it just to add to my Henkei collection, as it was one of the few United toys that would fit in. I don't like the legs on this figure... they just bug me.
Aside from the added car decos, and Autobot symbol, the JP Tomy version has silver parts instead of the grey Hasbro gave their toy. 4/5

A photo of these new figures together.