Strovek Writes


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Review: Assassination Classroom

I took my children to watch this movie last night. It is a Japanese live action version of a popular anime series (with English subtitles). I was surprised that both of them immediately agreed to watch the movie at night.  This is the first time my daughter has been to the movies at night.

The poster for the movie is a picture of a person with a smiley face was not very impressive. However, after watching the movie, I found it funny and understand why my children wanted to watch the movie. The story is about an octopus-like creature threatening to destroy the world on March of the following year. The creature had just destroyed a large part of the moon leaving only a crescent.

It is strange that such a powerful creature wants to be a teacher for 3-E of a prestigious Kunugigaoka Junior High School. It appears that the creature was fulfilling a promise to a former teacher to class 3-E. The students gave the teacher a  nickname Koro Sensei. As the movie progress, we get to learn more about each of the students. The class is treated as outcast, students in other classes were not allowed to speak to them. Their class is also located far from everything.

Each assassination is used as lessons. Even though the creature is villain in the story but the headmaster of the school appears to be a lot worst. The creature even provided each of the students field trips to Egypt, Paris and various places around the world.

The movie was almost two hours but left me wanting more since there appears to be a sequel.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this review.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Essential Skill - Self Defence

My son wanted to learn Aikido so I decided to accompany him in the class. Learning any kind of self defence is important.

Learning self defence is more than just learning how to fight. It is about how to observe and beware of our surrounding. It is also knowing how to avoid getting into threatening situation and what to do when we are not able to avoid the situation. Sometimes I wonder if I could have avoided getting mugged had I taken up the lessons earlier.

I learned how to position my body to avoid injury when falling. That knowledge might have helped save me from losing my teeth. In order for the training to be useful the movements need to become natural and be part of our instinct. This is the same like learning how to ride a bicycle. When we ride a bicycle, we do not need to think of how to balance or turn, we just focus on where we want to go and just go. In order for the movement to become natural (or second nature), frequent practice is necessary. It is also necessary to adapt the movement to ourselves. Each of us are different so what works for my colleague may not work for me (he could be taller, shorter, stronger, weaker, longer hands, shorter hands).

Learning martial arts does not mean that we want to fight but how to avoid fights. No matter how good you are, there will always be somebody better than you.

It is important when choosing a class is to have a teacher who can share how the skills learned can be used in real situations. Some martial art routines have been modified and are only useful as aerobic exercise routine.

Self defence is an essential skill, you never know when you need it.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Essential Skill - Swimming

I learn to swim after I entered college. It seems strange that someone who lives on an island does not learn to swim but I believe many people who live in Penang island all their live still do not know how to swim.

The first thing I learn about swimming is the fact that all of us have a natural buoyancy - we all float. However, the buoyancy differs from person to person. The lucky ones naturally float with either their nose or mouth above the water which allows them to learn to swim more easily. I float slightly below the water and have to hold my breath and need effort to push myself above water to get my breath.

The key thing about learning to swim is to get comfortable being in the water. It is terrifying for first timers, you are in an environment without a solid support and everything is moving. Every gesture and movement you make changes your position in the water. I felt out of control the first time I went in the pool and was told to float. It is very easy to panic. I guess that is why we read so many cases of drowning where the panicking victim drags their savior down with them.

It is very important to stay calm. Struggling and making uncontrolled movement could easily move us deeper into the water as well as zapping us of our strength. The key thing I learned about swimming is to preserve our strength - to relax until someone comes to rescue us.

Swimming is a survival skill, you never know when you need the skill!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Review: Hitman: Agent 47

Based on the previous Hitman movie, I expected a lot of action and I was not disappointed. There was a lot of action and killing throughout the movie.

The first part was confusing with Agent 47 trying to kill Katia when they were to team up (based on the thriller). Later in the movie, he explained to Katia that he was only marking her but did not really explain why he needed to do that.

The movie felt very much like Terminator 3 where two invincible killers try to kill each other in order to get their prize, first Katia and later her father. The purpose was pursuit is to create an army of agents similar to Agent 47 and Katia’s father, one of the founder of the original program was the key. The leader of the competing agency is an old acquaintance to Katia’s father and wants to create an army for his organization but his connection with the original project was never explained.

Katia was one of the subject of the original project which created Agent 47. Apparently the agent number also indicates their expert level and Katia is of a higher level compared to Agent 47. However, it felt more like Agent 47 patronizing or testing her whenever he ask her to decide their next move. Her ability is more like precognition similar to what we see in Minority Report, not quite what we expect from the experiment.

There was a mid credit scene where someone survives, it appears to be one of the body guards shot on the rooftop in the final scene.

Overall, it was a fun movie with fast paced action with a few twist in the plot to keep me interested.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this review.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Review: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

I went to this movie without any expectation - the thriller did not provide much details of the movie. I vaguely remember reading The Man from U.N.C.L.E. comics but do not remember much. It was refreshing to see that the movie using 1960s setting - so many remake of the old television and movies were modernized and did not really feel right.

The cat and mouse chase between the two main characters (Solo, the American agent and Kuryakin, the KGB agent) would great, a well choreographed dance with each trying to kill the other but failed. It also sets a stage for the rivalry that is seen throughout the movie. This movie is about how The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was formed. I still do not understand why it is given that name since there is more than one person. While the original series had only two main characters, this movie had a third agent - Gaby, a female agent (revealed at the later part of the movie).

The technology used in the movie appears exaggerated with the bugging devices appear like oversized led lights and remote control receivers. KGB appears to have more advanced technology but that was balanced by Solo’s knowledge as a super thief.

One of the attraction of the movie was that it did not take itself too seriously and poked fun at the difference in culture between the East and West. Even though, my father and I enjoyed the movie, we felt that my children and his friends may not enjoy the movie. This kind of movie may be a bit out of style.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this review.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Penang Bayan Lepas Road Closure

I was caught in a massive jam in Bayan Baru today. A colleague forwarded the following information to me. The closure is from Aug 15, 2015 until Jan 14, 2016.

Attached is the proposal of alternate routes in the attached document takes effect from Monday to Friday. The Member of Parliament for Bayan Baru, Sim Tze Tzin is working alleviate the problem.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Fantastic Four 2015 Movie Review

The latest Fantastic Four tried attracting younger audience by making them younger, probably due to the success of Amazing Spider Man. Based on the box office result, it is not successful. There are several problems with the movie.

I realize that this is a movie about the origin of the Fantastic Four but feel that too much time was spent trying to explain and build up the characters and the final confrontation felt rush.

Another problem was the characters. One of the attraction of Fantastic Four was the frequent bickering and fights between Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm but this was absent in the movie. We saw only a glimpse of that at the end of the movie. This was the comic relief that was in the first movie but missing in this movie. In the movie, Susan and Johnny Storm is almost as smart as Reed Richards; it just did not feel right.

The tracking of Reed Richards after he escaped Area 51 felt out of place - much more suitable in a Hulk movie.

The movie was too serious and lacked enough action to maintain the interest.

Did Stan Lee appear in the movie or did I miss it? Also I did not see any mid credit or post credit scenes which I have expected in all the new Marvel movies. It does not feel like a Marvel Movie.

Am I the only one who thinks that Reed Richards in the movie looks like Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Promotions Which Upsets Customers

Recently I heard on the radio an advertisement encouraging consumers to pay their Indah Water bill early with the promise that those who pay their bill in advance will be given a gift. For those who are unfamiliar with this company, it manages all the sewage in Malaysia. On the surface, this is very attractive, those who pay early will be awarded. However, when we checked with the company it seems that there are several conditions. First the gift is an umbrella but it will be given only on Mondays and only to the first seven paying customers. We think that the advertisement is extremely misleading.

We had a similar experience with a promotion by the Chicken Rice Shop several years ago. The company advertised that they were giving away free lunches between noon to 1 pm. My parents brought my children to one of the outlets. They arrived early - around 11:30 and was told to come back at noon. However, when they returned at noon, they were told that all the free mails were already given out.

Both examples above are promotions that are counterproductive. Instead of attracting customers, they push away customers. In fact, my children were so upset with Chicken Rice Shop that they avoided it for several years. We finally ate there when we received some discount coupons to the establishment several weeks ago. I do not understand why business would carry out such campaigns. They would be better off if the campaigns are never carried out. These kinds of campaigns tend to create ill feelings and some consumers have long memory.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Terminator Genisys vs Jurassic World

Terminator Genisys and Jurassic World are two highly anticipated movies shown in 2015. Even though both are reboot and try to reclaim the success of their origin, only one was successful. This is my analysis of both movies and the reason why one was successful and the other was not.

Terminator Genisys

The movie attempts to use Arnold Schwarzenegger to draw the crowd in the movie that made him famous. Unfortunately, many of Arnold fans are action movie fans. The story is too confusing and puts off the very same fans drawn to the first movie. The story was predictable so part of the excitement found in the first movie is lost.

After four movies and a television series, the story is stale. Also there is a lot more competing stories of android/cyborgs drawing attention of the fans - (example Robocop, Vision in Avengers).

I tried to get my children interested in this show did not succeed. The title and the thriller was not compelling enough to get them interested. There lies the main problem, it was not able to draw in new fans. The movie was still successful, it managed to $305 million from a budget of $105 million.

Jurassic World

The first movie in this franchise was so successful, that the theaters were fully booked even after one month. The only other movie to do this was Titanic.

Adults and children have always been fascinated by dinosaurs. Other than the movies in this franchise, no other movies have even come close to creating realistic dinosaurs. So far the movies have been evenly spaced with a four year gap. The gap allows the movie to attract new generation of fans. There is nothing else to compare this movie to. I did not even have to ask my children if they wanted to watch the movie, they asked to watch it immediately after they saw the thriller.

At the end the result speaks for itself, Jurassic World made $1.5 billion dollars from a budget of $150 million. It is now the third highest grossing movie ever.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Malaysian Banks Are Cutting Back on Credit Card Benefits

The banks are cutting back on the benefits of credit cards in Malaysia. These are the ones I know:

OCBC Titanium card started with 5% for groceries, food and petrol but reduced it to 1% without limit. However, this year they changed the cash back to 0.1% for all purchases except for online purchases which still gets 1 %.

UOB One card followed with by taking off the cap of the maximum cash back available for each month but reduced the cash back for week days to 2% (plus 1% UOBCash for BHPetrol).  Cash back were removed for spending at pharmacies. Breakdown of new cash rebates are as follow:

Petrol2%5%RM500.00Additional 2% if pump at BHPetrol with cap of RM 400/-
Cinema (GSC only)2%5%

Groceries1%2%RM1,000.00Aeon Big, Tesco, Cold Storage, Jaya Grocer and Giant
Telecommunication1%2%RM300.00Maxis, Digi and Celcom

I was not able to confirm is there is reduction in UOB$ earned for BHPetrol on weekdays, it looks like it is 2% for both weekday and weekend.

Maybank 2 card used to have 5% cash back for amount spent on weekends but not anymore. Only points will be awarded.

Public Bank Signature card which provides 6% cash back for groceries and purchases online reduced their monthly cap from RM 60 per month to RM 50 per month as of July 22, 2015.

Based on feedback from a friend in the bank, the amount of points needed for redemption will also increase soon. All these are bad news for consumers, especially those who pay in full every month.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay Review

I recently bought a Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay (which I will refer as the unit)  to allow me to back up my personal photos and videos. The unit looks like a cable tv decoder but much heavier since it contains two hard disk.

What I liked 

I like the fact it comes with RAID 1 (mirrored) configured. One of the fear I have is losing all my precious collection should the hard disk crash. The unit also allows me to replace the hard disk. I assume that this will allow me to upgrade to a higher capacity when it becomes more common. Hopefully the unit will support the higher capacity then - seen cases where the firmware may not support the higher capacity.

The Seagate Media software supports Android and allows me to back up the photos and videos I take on my phone directly to the Personal Cloud when I connect to a wi-fi anywhere in the world. However, I am disappointed that it does not backup the mp3 files from my phone.

The unit also allows me to start and stop services I do not use, so I could turn off everything related to Apple (since I do not own any apple devices).

The unit support direct torrent file download and me to control the bandwidth used by the torrent download.

What I do not like

The Seagate Dashboard is unable to detect the personal cloud. This was the software meant to automate the backup for my computer. When I install the software, it detects it but does not detect after I shut down and restart the software. I use synctoy from Microsoft as a workaround.

I cannot figure out why the personal cloud takes at least eight minutes to start up - longer than even my old Windows XP machine (when I had it).

The documents on Seagate website is not up to date. Majority of the document refers to Seagate Central. I was not able to find a complete document of what the LED light means.  I do not know the unit is completely shut down - maybe when the light is off. I like to shut down my electronic devices when there is a lot of thunder and lightning outside but the unit just takes too long to shut down. Not sure pulling the plug before it complete shutdown is good for the unit. It is a tough call, risk damaging the unit myself or risk the lightning taking out the unit.

Even though the unit comes with two USB slots, copying files from my external hard disk to the personal cloud uses my network.  Why does it not have an option to perform direct copy? While transfer the content, it affects everybody else in the house. Alternatively, I can hook up my computer and the unit to a separate router but this requires a lot work and a separate router.

I was unable to display my content via DLNA to my ezCast adapter attached to my television but this is due to ezCast and Seagate’s fault.

What I would like to see

I would like to have an option to perform direct copying between the unit and external devices connected to unit (via USB).

It would be really helpful if the unit will be able to startup and shutdown faster.

I wish there was a version of SDrive app for Android. The SDrive available on Android is only meant for business NAS devices and not for personal cloud.

I noticed that the business NAS comes with an antivirus app but not the Personal Cloud. Would be nice to have one to check on files we drop into the unit.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Recognizing Customer Service

I would like to recognize two exemplary customers service I received this week. 

First was the salesperson from Yes in Queensbay Mall. I was considering to subscribe to the new FIZ unlimited broadband service from Yes. Even though my house is within the coverage service, I wanted verification on the stability and the speed before committing to the two year contract. I called their careline and was recommended to visit their outlet in Queensbay in order to get one of their technicians to my house to check on the service stability. However, during my visit, I was told that they are short handed and suggested I take back one of their units (after placing a RM400 deposit with them).  

Luckily for me, one of the salesman - Razak volunteered to come with me to my house to perform the check after I told him that I will sign up for the plan immediately if the service stability is proven. He spent close to two hours at my house checking on the signal quality and perform the speed test. I suspect that he skipped dinner on that day. He also took the time to explain to me the differences between the various services and how the signal strength affects the internet speed. The FIZ plan was limited to 1 Mbps with no quota. However, based on the signal strength, I would only get a fraction of the speed. Based on the finding, the plan was not suitable for me. Even though Razak has been with the company for six months, he is very knowledgeable about the service. I hope the company recognizes his contribution and feel that he is an asset to them.

The second person was the Telekom’s technician who came to my house to fix my Streamyx connection. I have been complaining about the service quality in my house for more than two months and have submitted more than six reports. The earlier technician placed the blame on my modem and each report was closed with problem resolved.

However, this technician was different, first he checked on the phone and then after a few minutes was able to identify the cause. He fixed the connection on the telephone in the hot sun. It was a faulty cable connection and only took 10 minutes to fix but my family suffered two months of frustration. It is sad to see how Telekoms have outsourced their services to incompetent technicians when they have such capable technicians in house.