Tips, deals, and advice on traveling the continent on a budget.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Time travel to beat Christmas crowds

By Kerrie Murphy

IT'S close to the time of year when Defrag turns our attention to Christmas shopping.

Actually, that's a lie. It's close to the time of year when Defrag thinks we should turn our attention to Christmas shopping, but with everything going on at the moment we won't get around to any attention turning until just before Christmas, as usual.

Then we'll decide the shops are too crowded to cope with, even with Defrag's excellent Christmas present-buying strategy of buying a gift for ourselves for every one we buy someone else. So we'll limit ourselves to things that can be purchased online, but with the increased demands on the postal service, a few items won't arrive until after Christmas, leaving us partly empty-handed on the big day.

You'd think Defrag would learn a lesson from this, but you are woefully underestimating Defrag's skill in non-lesson learning.

Without this attribute, Defrag's arms would boast considerably smaller amounts of scar tissue, because we would know better than to think dangerous thoughts such as: "Hey, let's pat the cat."

But still, it's pretty poor form to have to tell someone that they can't have their dream gift until after Christmas, unless of course it's someone who asked for a PlayStation 3, because that one is totally not Defrag's fault.

If they requested a Nintendo Wii, we would also feel on solid ground in turning up giftless, because we could simply explain that we were unable to say the name Wii without laughing and therefore were unable to ask for one at the shop. This is also on the list of things that aren't our fault, because seriously, Wii? They're just taking the, well, Wii with that name.

And although the (non-)recipient of the games console is not getting the item they wanted, Defrag feels that we're giving them a much more useful gift, which is a lesson about the fruitlessness of thinking you can somehow buy a games console at Christmas in the same month it has been released. That's the sort of gift you can't put a price on. Although if you had to, Defrag would say it's saving us $399.95.

It's also the sort of gift that might result in having the now-wiser person spit in your turkey, so perhaps Defrag should think a little harder about our present plan.

That's when it hit us: the present. Defrag's whole problem with presents is that it's the present, which is December 2006. If we could somehow arrange it so it wasn't, our problem would be solved. So instead of wasting our time and money ordering gifts online that won't arrive before Christmas or trying to get games consoles that aren't available, we should put all our energy into building a time machine that allows us to travel into the future, skipping Christmas entirely. For the price of a console, we're sure we could build a time machine with an impressive amount of levers, dials and valves. We could probably even afford to splash out on some furry dice.

Now at this point, some of you may be thinking: hang on a minute, Defrag. Isn't tinkering with the basic laws of the universe just to avoid Christmas shopping a little extreme? Especially when these days your average service station is open 24 hours a day and has a wide range of items, meaning you rarely, if ever, have to buy someone 4l of synthetic oil and one of those stinky tree-shaped air fresheners.

To which we say: we're wary of buying anything more sophisticated than chocolate and the newspaper from our local servo since we attempted to buy a birthday card there, only to be told that they don't come with envelopes.

For all we know, a DVD purchase would only net us the disc, or a teddy bear only the stuffing. Perhaps the drinks come sans bottle.

But we must confess that we have an ulterior motive when it comes to building a time machine. It would be killing two birds with one stone - if Defrag wasn't opposed to such senseless cruelty to animals.

According to, Google executive Nikesh Arora has predicted that in 12 years the capacity of an iPod will be so large it will hold all the television shows in the world.

"In 12 years, why not an iPod that can carry any video ever produced," he asked, which is all the convincing Defrag needs.

That's right, in the future, we'll be able to carry around all the television in a world. Even Hey Dad, which admittedly is an apocalyptic vision of a future dystopia even more terrifying than global warming and nuclear war.

Despite the bad-sitcom-related risks, this is a future of which Defrag wishes to be part.

Of course, the problem is that, should we be successful in our quest, we'll find ourselves in December 2018 and so we'll still have to buy Christmas presents.

And should we fail to live up to gift-giving expectations then by not purchasing a PlayStation 11, the disgruntled can do more than mess with our food. They can make us watch every episode of Everybody Loves Raymond.

"These devices are repositories for stolen music, and they all know it. So it's time to get paid for it.'' Universal Music Group chief executive Doug Morris on moves to get Apple to pay a royalty on each iPod sold. (Hey, Doug, you just called more than 42 million people thieves, and they all challenge you to a duel to defend their honour).

This week: Phishing emails are asking people for financial information and money in exchange for tickets to The Oprah Winfrey Show. Here are the top 10 signs an offer of Oprah tickets is phoney.
10. The advertised guest is George Bush who will be "telling the truth about Iraq".
9. The offer is accompanied by an invitation to Tom Cruise's wedding.
8. You get exactly the same offer from 48 people in one day.
7. It asks you to include enough money to pay for the free cars given to audience members.
6. The episode you're invited to is called "Springer update: Steve and the pregnant hooker", followed by "Pimps, Hos and Hillbilly evildoers!"
5. The topic is Get Back in the Kitchen, why women shouldn't have it all.
4. According to the email, the show will be recorded in Broken Hill.
3. On the back of the tickets is a coupon for a free session with Dr Phil.
2. The featured Oprah is Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Nigeria.
1. Oprah's name is mentioned only once on the offer, there is no photo of her and no reference to her book of the month.
Contributors: Keith Cundale, Matt McCarthy, Tim Borten, Paul Hunt, Mark Simmons, Emma Crane, Kitty McGee
Next week: A US survey finds that one in five parents think their children spend too much time online. Send us the top 10 signs your child is spending too much time on the net. Answers before Thursday afternoon, please.


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