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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Anime Review: Rakshasa Street

I recently watch this anime that was in Mandarin with English subtitle. The story revolves between a girl and two brothers. She met him while crossing the road without looking. He knocked her down and caused him to lose the food he was delivering. This chance encounter explains why she calls him and why he calls her stupid girl.

The anime consist of 24 episodes. The development was good, the first episode focus on her looking for a job as a fresh graduate at a job fair (where thousand of others are doing the same thing). Later she receives a text to attend an interview at night. While walking towards the interview, she looked around and realized that the building looked spooky. She then started thinking of why a company would call her for an interview so late in the night - human traffickers or organ traders. By then she was lost in Rakshasa Street filled with demon soldiers. Turns out that she is in a place for the dead and humans are forbidden there.

I enjoyed the story. It turns out the girl was special with a guardian in her and an organization was trying to capture her. The big brother is the Requiem General and protects the area with his brother. It is later, we get see the story of the two brothers, from the time their parents had to leave them to fend for themselves. There is a twist in the story on who is the elder brother and who is the younger. When the parents left them, one of them was still a baby and the other was only about five to six years old. Despite all the hardship, the eldest boy was determined to keep his promise to his father - protect his brother and protect Rakshasa Street.

The names for many of the characters in this anime were names of historic characters from the Three Kingdom. The anime contain many subplots:
  • A mute girl who selflessly protected the child against the advice of other residents.
  • A new General drunk with power causing suffering of those in the village.
  • The love-hate relationship between the two brothers.

This was a great anime and I think the live version of this anime is expected in 2017.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this review.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Simple Money Tips - Savings Part 2



This is a follow up from part 1, additional tricks of saving money.

Discounts

Some discounts are not obvious because they are not openly publicized. So the first thing to do is to ask whether the store is running any promotions. I do not memorize all the offers provided by my credit card and often miss them - the habit of asking about promotion helps in reducing the times I miss such promotions.

Some promotions that are still available at the point of my writing are:
  1. Starbucks will give a RM2 discount if you use your own Starbucks Tumbler or mug. I am not sure if they will offer the same discount if you use a non-Starbucks mug.
  2. McDonald’s will give you a free frozen coke if you spend more than RM10 and pay with your credit card.
  3. McDonald’s will also give a free item (sometimes fries, other times apple pie) if you spend more than RM20 in the drive through and have a McDonald’s VIP sticker.
  4. Beyond Vege provide 15% discount off the total bill for paying bill with a UOB credit card.
  5. Discounts for members for Bread History on the first Monday of each month.

eVouchers

On one occasion I wanted to have a birthday celebration. Instead of going to the restaurant directly, I search Groupon and managed to get 40% off our meals. However, this is not always a solution - most of the vouchers from sites like Groupon have fine prints like having to make booking at least three days in advance or not valid for weekends.

Shopback will also provide you cash back if you shop from selected websites (such as Groupon, Lazada, eBay, Zalora) via their link.

Fees and Subscriptions

Are you paying for bills that you do not need? I make it a habit to review all the subscriptions I have - if I do not use it more than 10 times a year, I will cancel the subscription. This has helped me save a lot of money on gym subscription and swimming pool membership.

Based on my phone usage pattern, I found that it is more economical for me to have a prepaid phone with extended validity. The lowest I have spent in one year is RM 60 for the whole year, that was when I did not make much calls and did not subscribe to any data plan. Sadly most of mobile providers, no longer extended validity with their new plans. At the moment, it looks like Digi still provides such a plan.

Bank Accounts

All banks are required (by Bank Negara) to have a basic no fee savings account. However, the officer may not tell you about it, but will recommend one that has an annual fee instead. The difference between the one with an annual fee and the one without will be the number of times you can perform free ATM cash withdrawal and the number of free over the counter visits.  Both CIMB and Maybank set their limit to 8 free ATM withdrawals and 6 over the counter visits. Based on my usage pattern, I am not likely to exceed these limits.

For current accounts, Maybank and CIMB will waive the half yearly fee if the balance is more than RM1000.

So to save on fees, look up the bank websites and review the options before opening an account. Note that most banks will charge you a fee if you close the account less than 3 months after you open it. Alternatively, make sure you ask the right questions when you visit the bank.

Do you have any money saving ideas? Please share them in your comments.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Simple Money Tips - Savings Part 1


The following are some of the tricks I learned over the years and thought of sharing them here.

Cashback Cards

A few years back, I looked my credit card and how I used it. I found that it was better to get cash back than to accumulate points. This was what I concluded:

  1. Most credit card points expire. Often the points will expire before I could accumulate enough to redeem items that I wanted.
  2. In many cases, I could not find anything worth redeeming (or at least needed).
  3. When I compute the points needed to exchange for cash vouchers, the cash back yield was a better option.

This is why I prefer cash back credit cards over other credit cards types of credit cards. I consider the cash back as discounts since I have to spend money to earn the cash back. Other type of cards is useful if it provides items that is otherwise not available.

I have earned quite a lot of cash back since I switched over to cash back cards. However, in the last few years, the banks have reduced the amount of cash back their cards provide.

For example, OCBC card used to provide 5% cash back, which they reduced to 1% and then to 0.1%. Wise card used to only require spending RM 50 ten times in a few selected categories to earn cash back, but that has been changed to a minimum of RM 2000 for the month before earning any cash back.

For now, I will continue to earn the little cash back I can still earn. The ones I still like are:

  • UOB One card for petrol with 5% cash back (but only for weekends). Additional UOB Cash is earned if spent on BHPetrol stations. UOB used to waive the annual fee in the past but refused to do that this year.
  • Hong Leong Essential card which provides 0.6% cashback for all spending (for spending below RM5000).
  • The Public Bank Signature card provides 6% cashback for online spending, groceries and food (but maximum cashback of RM50 per month).

There may be other cards providing better yield, but the ones mentioned above are the ones I am familiar with.

I consider cash back from credit cards as discount since I need to spend in order to earn the cash.

Loyalty Cards

Loyalty cards like BHPetrol eCards can be used with UOB card to earn additional points. It takes 550 points to redeem RM5 worth of petrol. Among all the petrol station loyalty card, Petron Miles card provides the highest rate of return. It only takes 950 points to redeem RM10 worth of petrol.

The TGV movie card earns 10% worth of Movie money for all spendings in TGV cinema. However, I found that using the movie money will not allow you to enjoy the early bird price for movie tickets. It is better to use the movie money for popcorn, food or drinks. TGV movie card cost RM30 per year, but I was given free renewals for the last two years. The renewal comes with two free movie tickets.

Domino’s Pizza express cards cost RM50 (for new sign up) and RM30 for renewal. The card comes with a voucher for free regular pizza (which offsets the cost of the membership). With the card, we get an equivalent size pizza for any pizza we order (but only if we pick it up from the store). This is a good deal for me since my children and I love to eat pizza. Pizza Hut came up with a similar deal, but I find Domino’s more convenient for me.

The Popular book card is another useful loyalty card, for adults RM12 for one year or RM25 for three years. If you have kids, you can just get the student card for RM10 for two years. The card entitles you to 10% storewide discount.

There are other loyalty cards like Tesco card, Bonuslink, BCard but I do not use those as much and do not find the discount provided very compelling. The cards mentioned are the ones I used most often.

Follow up in Part 2.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Shell Craft

My uncle recently shared with me his retirement hobby - art using shells. I thought of sharing here for all of you to enjoy.


 Here is the nativity scene:


 Year of the Rooster:




Going to a Christmas party:






Sunday, November 27, 2016

Movie Review: The Warrior's Gate

I was looking for a movie to watch with my wife and decided on The Warrior’s Gate. I thought it was a normal Chinese Kung Fu movie but was deeply mistaken.



The movie started with a Kung Fu fighting sequence but from a video game. Turns out it was an English movie. It is a movie about a boy (Jack Branson) who lives with his mother (I do not remember what happened to his father) facing some bullies in school. His mother was about to lose their home because she has not been able to sell any houses for several months. He worked for a Chinese man who gave him an ancient looking box.  The night after he took the box back to his room, a Chinese warrior appeared and seeking his game alter ego (Black Knight) but settled with him instead. He was to protect a princess.

It started with a difference in culture but soon he managed to introduce his culture to her before she was kidnapped.

He followed the kidnappers into the box even though he did not know how to fight. The princess was to be marry the villain who killed her father so that he can take over the empire.

The pace of the movie was good with lots of action and humor. The right hand man to the villain kept misinterpreting his leader and kill the wrong person.  The princess trying to learn the western phrases like “shit” means good.The catch phrase used by the wizard and Jack is "It's complicated".

To enjoy the movie, it is necessary to ignore some things like the boy learning how to fight after a few minutes of training.

The movie is not groundbreaking but is definitely worth watching.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this review.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Deadpool Live

When I took my daughter and her friends skating this weekend, I did not expect to meet Deadpool. He was there a a photography session.

The following are some of the picture I took of him.





It was 35 degrees Celsius and whoever in the costume must be suffering in the heat.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

What I Learned From Pokemon Go II



I played Pokemon Go during my holiday in Kuala Lumpur a few months ago and discovered the following:

Speed Matters

I read that using incense we are able to attract more exotic Pokemon so we decided to do that while driving down the highway. However, traveling at 110 kilometers an hour made it impossible to catch any Pokemon the incense attracted. The incense was not very effective, it only attracted five to ten Pokemon. The ones we encountered were difficult to catch and the ones we caught would always escape.

Malls in Kuala Lumpur are better

I was unable to use GPS on my Note 3 in any of the malls in Penang but had no problems in any of the malls in Kuala Lumpur. I guess it is the way the antennas are set in the malls in Kuala Lumpur.

Mid Valley was the best mall we visited to catch Pokemon. Seems that there was different spawn schedules, some days we found many Pincers and other days we found Scyther. We also found Pikachu spawns at Sunway Pyramid.

Taking over gyms in the Mall was challenging. As soon as we defeated the gym, somebody would place the Pokemon in it (before we have a chance to place our own).

Isolated Pokestops are not good hunting ground

We went to a few Pokestops located in skate parks in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya. The spawn rates at those stops were very low, even with lure modules. Only common Pokemon like Pidgey and Ratata spawned.

Looks like the frequency of spawns and variety is dependent on the number of players near the Pokestop.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

What I Learned From Pokemon Go





I recently started playing Pokemon Go after it was launched in Malaysia and these are some of the things I learned.


GPS

Pokemon Go depends a lot on GPS and the quality of GPS differs between the phones.

Samsung Note 3 does not work indoors. Even outdoor Samsung Note 3 loses the GPS signal. I tried switching between the different GPS modes - High Accuracy - GPS, Wi-Fi and mobile network, Power saving - Wi-Fi and mobile network, and GPS only. High Accuracy is the most reliable mode for Samsung Note 3 and is only playable outdoors.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 requires switching between Wifi and Network when playing indoor and GPS only when playing outdoors. High Accuracy does not work very well with the game.

OnePlus One has the most reliable GPS.

Battery

The game drains a lot of power. Xiaomi battery lasts the longest followed by OnePlus. Samsung has the shortest life among the three phones we used.

One concern I have is how much the frequent charging and discharging will shorten the life of the battery. The same could be said with the screen that is always on during game play. Battery is slightly less of a concern with Samsung Note 3 since the battery is user replaceable.

Buttons

The only way to exit Pokemon Go is to press the home button. It is sometimes necessary to exit the game and terminate it using the task manager - when you are not able to see the items in the game (when your character will disappear or the game objects disappear).

OnePlus and Xiaomi both use soft buttons, but Samsung Note 3 uses a physical button. I managed to work around this problem by installing Easy Touch (OS 10 Style) which provides an iPhone-like shortcut to go to the home screen without pressing the home button.

Hardware

Hardware matters, some of my friends were unable to play Pokemon Go because their hardware is not supported. It could be due to lack of memory or due to CPU in their phone. Asus phones uses Intel chip and is flagged as incompatible in Google Play Store. However, one of my friends found that she is able to install the software (using the apk) and play the game.

Network

I was unable to log in to Pokemon Go while I was on mobile data and was only able to log in when I was back in a Wifi zone. My son was able to but the process was slow. It looks like we should not logout before closing the game.

Time

The game is very time consuming, but the same can be said for other games. There is a lot to learn in order to be good in the game - leveling strategy, fighting strategy etc. 



Sunday, May 22, 2016

Movie Review: X-Men: Apocalypse

I used to like X-men comics, however, I found that the stories contain too much negative energy, hatred between men and mutants. I realize that there a lot of similarities in reality. Anyway, I still went to watch this movie.



The movie starts in ancient Egypt, where En Sabah Nur (aka Apocalypse) was revered as a god on the way to transferring to a new body. As the process started, a group of people tried to kill him by bringing down the pyramid and killing the new body before the process completed. They were partially successful in their attempt - he was protected by some of his powerful followers who died protecting him.

His revival in 1983 appears to be due to the action of Moira, who was following some worshippers of Apocalypse - she left the entrance open and allowed the sunlight into the cavern and activated the device used by En Sabah Nur and woke him up.

We are then introduced to Angel and Nightcrawler - forced to fight with each other in an underground fight club within an electrified cage but was rescued by Raven. In this movie, Angel’s wings had talon used to tear the flesh of his opponents.

Scott Summers discovered his power while attempting to seek relief from the irritation in his eyes.

Apocalypse easily recruited his four horsemen due to the suffering each of them suffered. Ororo living in poverty with other abandoned children, Psylocke working with Caliban to provide safe passage to victimized mutants, Magneto whose family was killed by the action of the people he saved, Angel who was forced to kill others to survive.

It was not all doom and gloom in the movie. The part where Quicksilver rescued the residents in the Xavier Institute was funny.

Wolverine appeared in the movie as Weapon X and looks like part of the origin story which appeared in one of the earlier movies.

The movie tried to tie back to the stories in the earlier movies, but I found it rather confusing with inconsistencies. Captain America: Civil War did a much better job. Psylocke costume is one that is closest to what is found in the comic books.

The movie contains a lot of action with some comedy mixed in. Still too much negative energy to truly enjoy.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this review.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Movie Review: Eddie the Eagle

This movie was recommended to me by my brother. In a way, it is inspiring to see how Eddie dedicated his life (from the age of 10) to one goal - participate in the Olympics.



Parents are supposed to support their children and help them achieve their dream, however, looking at what Eddie, that dream was clearly impossible. At first it was cute, dressing up and going out in the middle of the night heading towards the “Olympics”. I guess it is not that bad then, but if my children were to do that I would go crazy and immediately ground them. The world is not safe for a 10 year old to go out into the street on his own.

As he grew up, he started trying different kinds of sports and it was obvious that he is not your typical sportsman - he was bad in almost everything he tried.

At the end, he settled upon ski jumping - a sport that no one from his country participates (but used to). This is something I can relate to - join an activity where there is little interest and you can be a leader with very little effort. The officials in his country did not see it that way and was afraid that he will make them a laughing stock of the games.

Needless to say, he succeeded in going into the Olympics. It also highlights how the Olympics Creed is forgotten by most: "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

Once in awhile we get a feel good movie and this is one of them.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this review.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Movie Review: Term Life


Term Life is a story of Nick Barrow, who plans heist, but does not participate in them.

A failed heist resulted in the death of the son of a cartel leader, Victor Fuente. Victor believed his kid was killed by Nick and wanted to kill Nick for it. The movie was slow in the beginning, but as the movie progressed I started enjoying it.

Nick kept away from his daughter, Hailee because he did not want her to be involved in his world of crime. However, he had to went Victor sent his men after her. Hailee did not want anything to do with him either slowly grew to understand and love him.

It was interesting to see how Nick uses his understanding of human behavior to plan out his work and how he uses it to hide in plain sight - especially when he told his daughter using wigs and sunglasses will make her stand out instead of helping her hide her identity. Later she asked him to show her how she plans out his heists. He did that by describing how to knock off a bakery - number one knowing how to get out before getting in, number two you look, you wait and you think - security. This is the best part of the movie.

I enjoyed how the movie made me feel - the bond between the father and daughter.

Disclaimer, I was not paid to write this review.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Movie Review: Captain America Civil War

The movie started in 1991 where Hydra being brought from a cryogenic chamber, his captors had a book that contains instructions on how to make him obedient to their command. He was then dispatched to steal a briefcase and leave no witnesses. This is later tied to the main storyline of the movie - similar to the Iron Man 3 where the something that happened in the past comes back to haunt us.

As for the what led to the civil war, the destructions and bystanders killed in the earlier movies - Avengers, Captain America 2, Avengers 2 placed pressure on the government to control the Avengers. However, Peggy Carter reminded Captain America that sometimes it is necessary to stand up for what is right even if everybody else disagrees.

The Sokovia Accord was proposed to place the Avengers under the jurisdiction of the United Nations. Tony Stark immediately supported the proposal because of of the guilt he felt after he was confronted by one of the mothers of victims in Sokovia. Steve on the other hand, disagreed because initiatives that were started with the right intend often ends up corrupted by politicians with their own agenda. The confrontation was then triggered by the bombing during the meeting to discuss the Sokovia Accord.

Iron Man’s team recruited Black Panther and Spider Man while Captain America’s team recruited Ant Man and Wanda.

Seem strange that Black Panther was able to hold his own during his fight against the Winter Soldier without his suit and that his suit provides him similar protection as the Iron Man armor. Each of the characters in the movie was almost equally matched with another. I guess this makes the movie more interesting rather than have one vastly stronger than the others.

I cannot not get used to seeing such a young Aunt May. In the comics and earlier movies, she is either much older or had white hair.

The main villain is Captain Zemo, who used to be the Sokovia army. It is impressive how one person could have manipulated the events that caused the civil war.

Throughout the movie, Captain America is reminded that the shield does not belong to him. As in other Marvel movies, this movie was fun to watch with action combined with some humor.

At the end of the movie, Avengers no longer exist as a formal organization, but Steve Rogers left a message to Tony Stark that his team will be available if Avengers is needed again.

The mid credit scene had Barnes (Winter Soldier) agreed to put back into a cryogenic state until a cure is found (for his mind control) in Wakanda.  The post credit scene focused on Peter Parker discovering a feature in the web shooter from Tony Stark.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this review.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Opportunity to Discover

I recently started downloading podcast and listening to them on the way to and from my office. Podcast works great since I can download it at home and listen to it (without mobile data) in my car. I tried listening to Audiobooks in the past but takes too much time to download and also to listen.

I discovered a podcast series that was just started this year called “The Way I Heard It”. Each episode only last about six minutes and so far the few episodes introduces me to interesting stories of things and people I did not know about.

Some of the stories include:

  1. The person who came up with the technology used in modern wifi.
  2. How a teacher managed to help a shy boy realize his gift and became one of the greatest voice of our time.

Only 12 episodes (with the first episode explaining why the podcast was started) have been created so far and it looks like a new episode is made available each week.

I just thought of sharing this great discovery.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Movie Review: Mr. Right

This is an R rated movie and not a movie for children, so this is not one of those movies that I want my children to watch.

The movie beginning was refreshing, Martha’s classmates shared what they wanted to be when they grow up - policeman, lawyer etc, but she came out and said that she is a T-Rex. Years later, she was having problem finding the right man and her best friend was trying to help her after her last boyfriend cheated on her.

Mr Right is a reverse hitman, instead of killing people he is assigned to kill, he kills the ones who hired him. He noticed her in a convenience store and immediately took a liking to her and asked her out. Even though he told her that he is a hitman, she thought it was a joke until much later in the movie. After finding out that he is a real killer, she tried to break up with him but could not. Instead, he promised not to kill, even though there were many people out to kill him.

Great jokes throughout the movie and love how the way he kills - giving the other person a chance to change their mind. As the movie developed, we find that she has hidden talents making her equal to him and why he was attracted to him in the first place.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this review.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Removing Skin Tags

I do not remember when I skin tag first appeared on my neck. Skin tags may appear cosmetic, but I have some tags that feel sore, the kind of soreness that seem to come from the nerves.

At first, I did not know what to do with the tags, but luckily for me, my wife came up with a way to remove the tags. She pulled a strand of her hair and tied the tag. The tag will turn black and fall off together with the hair. This approach was effective until my wife decided to shorten her hair and her eyesight started to deteriorate.

Since then I tried looking for alternative ways of removing the skin tags. One of the approaches is to apply apple vinegar on the tags. I tried it, but it did not work for me, either because of the way I applied or because I had not applied it frequently enough (I applied it only at night because of the strong smell of the vinegar).



I considered freezing the tag using hydrogen peroxide - treatment used to remove benign warts. The pharmacist recommended an alternative solution - Treatmorz, an ointment to apply on the skin tag. It claims to be a harmless and painless way to remove the tag within two weeks. 



When I first applied it, since there were so many tags close to each other, I applied it on the whole area around on my neck twice. The ointment has a nice scent to it. The area where I applied the ointment turn red and became a painful (it was not at the beginning). I applied the ointment on a smaller area (or try to apply it on the tag only, but was difficult with the roller on the bottle). Just as I was about the give up, some of tags started falling off.  One of the tags went into the bottle via the roller and I used water to wash and roll before getting it out. I continued to apply to one remaining tag, but the smell was as nice as when I first applied the ointment.

Based on my experience, the bottle of ointment cannot be shared (since doing so will be sanitary). It works well for larger skin tags, but not for tiny ones. I am just glad to have an inexpensive way of removing my skin tags.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this article.