Strovek Writes


Monday, June 26, 2017

Movie Review: The Mummy (2017)

I decided to watch The Mummy because I was given a free ticket. I tried going yesterday but the cinema hall was full (except for the first two rows), so I decided to book the ticket online and went today.

The story was straight forward; an ancient princess made a pact with the devil and was sealed alive in a tomb. She is then set free by a person with questionable ethics who in turn was cursed by her. In the end, that person becomes a hero.

As part of the Dark Universe, there is a team specialized in seeking out monsters, study them and destroy them. The leader of the team is Dr Jekyll who has to inject himself with a serum periodically in order not to turn into Mr Hyde.

Tom Cruise plays Nick Morton who uses his position as a U.S. military officer to recover artifacts and sell them in the black market. His friend Vail appears to be there to provide some comic relief.

Overall, the movie was enjoyable but not very memorable.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this review.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Movie Review: Despicable Me 3

My son wanted to watch Cars 3 but will only be released in August so we decided to watch Despicable 3 instead and I am glad we did.

The main villain of the show is Balthazar Bratt, who was a former child actor who portrayed a young super villain which was cancelled when he reached puberty. Gru was fired from the Anti-Villain League by its new leader because of his failure to apprehend Bratt. His minions thought that this would be a good opportunity for them to become villains again. They abandoned him after he flatly refused them. Only two minions remained because they were not present when the rest of the minions made their demands to Gru.

This set the stage for Gru to meet his long-lost twin brother Dru. They were separated when their father and mother divorced - each taking one of the twins. Turns out both parents were disappointed with the child they raised. The father was a super villain but Dru was not good at being one while the mother did not want Gru to be a super villain.

There were a few subplots within the movie. They are:

  1. Agnes, the youngest daughter love for unicorn. She sold her stuffed unicorn after she learned Gru had lost his job. Went to search for a live one based on the story told by the bartender and gladly accepted the goat with a broken horn as a substitute even after learning that the goat is not a unicorn.
  2. Lucy learning to be a mother to the children. She mistakenly asked Margo to participate in a courtship dance after Margo told her that as a mother she can set rules and do not have to say yes to all the children all the time.
  3. Story of Mel, the leader of the minions and his close relationship with Gru and his decision to return to Gru because of that.
  4. The development of the relationship between Gru and his brother Dru.

The movie continues to be captivating and entertaining even though this is the second sequel; we enjoyed it.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this review.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Writing to Improve

It takes practice to improve so that is why I try to write at least one article a day. However, I wonder whether I can do that without having a coach or without having someone to look over my writing and suggest improvement.

Tools like Libreoffice and Microsoft Office have spelling and grammar checking feature but they are not very effective. It failed to identify a lot of grammar mistakes when I tested the feature. appears to be the best free tool that I am aware of that will help identify my spelling and grammar mistakes. The tool also rates on usage of bad word phrases, the use of transitional phrases, length of my sentences, usage of passive voice sentences, simple sentence starts, vocabulary and an overall grading.

Majority of my articles receive C grading and interesting enough so do many of the articles I have read online. It would be nice to improve get a B or A grade my articles but I have not figured out how. According to the FAQ, the rating is based on many factors including  word choice, spelling, grammar, and more.

A few actions I am trying are:
  1. Read articles and books to experience different words and styles used, especially ones that will attract readers.
  2. Renew my toastmasters’ membership and work on the tracks available.
  3. Listen to speeches and understand how to constructive words that will attract listeners.

Meanwhile, writing here will help keep my mind agile and active. The challenge at the moment is to come up with something worth writing. If anyone reading this have ideas, please feel free to provide me with suggestions on the topics to write or ways to improve my writing.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

PDF to Kindle

Files in Portable Document Format (or better known as PDF format) are great. The format is universally recognized and what you see in terms of layout is the same no matter which device is used to open the file. This become a problem when you try to read these documents on a small form factor device like your smart phone. The display is either too tiny or if you enlarge the fonts, you will be faced with the problem having to scroll just to read a line of text.

Luckily, there is a solution. Amazon provides us a way to convert these PDF files into kindle format. In that format, the text will automatically wrap around within the screen improving the reading experience. In order to do that, just send the file as an attachment with the word “convert” in the subject line to your kindle device email address. Each device with the kindle app installed will have a unique email address available under the settings tab within “Manage Your Content and Devices” section. There is an option to edit and change the email address to make it more readable.

In order to prevent spam, the email from which the file is sent will need to be authorized. By enabling Personal Document Archiving, all the documents will be added to the Kindle Library. The converted files will be listed as documents within the content tab in “Manager your Content and Devices”.

I found a few limitations in the convert capability:
  1. The conversion works with text only. Everything else will be discarded including tables and other forms of formatting.
  2. Some fonts may not be properly converted so you will find the spaces in odd places making the words difficult to read.
  3. The converted files (docs) can be delivered can only be sent to the following devices:
    • Fire tablets
    • Kindle e-readers
    • Kindle for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch
    • Kindle for Android
    • Kindle for BlackBerry10
  4. The resulting file will not have any table of content.

This is the only option I know that will allow me to read my PDF file collection on my phone comfortably.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Love for Reading

Ever since I was in primary school, I loved reading books. This continued through secondary school, college and also when I started working. I read all the technical books on programming from cover to cover even though most of my colleagues just read selected chapters.

However, I stopped after I found that reading had caused my eye to get very tired. It became worse after I found that one of my eyes was affected by cataract. After the cataract operation, I was forced to use only one eye when reading since the eye that was operated on could only be used to see far. I could not enjoy the pleasure of reading anymore. I then switched to audio book and later to podcast. It seems like a good substitute to reading (or so I thought).

A few years back, I found that I needed reading glasses; previously, I only needed glasses to see far. It just happened suddenly, my sight was blurred and I could not see close objects clearly. The optometrist confirmed that I needed reading glasses to see objects that are close by clearly (including the monitor my notebook).

It was only recently that I rediscovered my love for reading. Podcast is not a good substitute for a good book. In fact, it is even more enjoyable reading the book using the kindle app on my phone. The kindle app is great since it remembers where I stopped and allow me to resume from that page even when I switch to a different device. Also, I do not have to worry about finding space to store the books after reading.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Constructive Dissatisfaction

I came across the phrase “constructive dissatisfaction” while listening to Knowledge@Wharton podcast. It was on the topic of the four behaviors that define successful leaders where one of the CEOs defined his job is not to please the three groups of stakeholders (shareholders, customers and employees) but instead to keep all of them constructively dissatisfied.

At first I find it strange that he should say that but later decided that it makes sense, only those who are constructively dissatisfied will seek change and find ways to improve. If we are already happy and contented with what we already have then we will stay within our comfort zone. Many organizations like Blockbuster and Kodak have failed because of their failure to adapt and change. They remained within their comfort zone for too long.

We can also create the feeling of constructive dissatisfaction so that we are motivated to make changes in our lives and look for opportunities to improve. Simple dissatisfaction does not work since such feelings will just leave us feeling helpless and frustrated. I suppose the best way would be to direct the dissatisfaction towards action and ideas to address the source of the dissatisfaction.

I like systems and processes and found the best approach is to first identify all the different sources of dissatisfaction, break it down to smaller pieces and select and focus on one at a time. This may be time consuming but this approach has a higher chances of producing results (especially if we select the right thing to focus on).

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Frugality Needs to Be a Family Culture

Saving money can only be achieved if it is part of the family culture. It all started with my parents, they instilled the sense of frugality to me and also my children. I am lucky that my wife shares similar values as my parents and myself.

Being frugal doesn't mean never ever splurging and rewarding ourselves, it is fine to spend extra occasionally. What is important is the frequency of doing that and what we do the rest of the time.

Developing a culture takes time; in my case a lifetime. I learned a lot from observing my parents:

  • When possible, repair instead of buying a replacement.
  • Cook at home instead of eating out. When eating out look for places that are less expensive.
  • They often keep leftovers for lunch or breakfast.
  • Eat together during dinner in order to reduce leftovers.
  • Buy only what is needed.
  • Use recycled items whenever possible.
  • My mother used to sew our clothes (not so much anymore since we can get some inexpensive clothes in the market).

When everyone in the family shares the same value and are very cautious when it comes to spending money, it is difficult if you spend too much. Even though no one will scold you or punish you, subconsciously, you will feel guilty. I guess it is similar to peer pressure but it runs within the family.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Movie Review: Wonder Woman (2017)

When the thriller first came out for Wonder Woman, I thought it would not be very interesting; I expected a dated and dull scene set in the 60s. After watching the movie today, I am glad the movie was totally different. It turns out to be one of the best movie from the DC universe since Man of Steel.

Since this movie tells about the origins of Wonder Woman, it contains some basic elements such as
  • She was formed from clay (so she is not really one of the Amazons).
  • Her first enemy is Ares, God of War.
  • The first man she meets is Steve Trevor.
  • Her primary weapons are the bracelet and the Lasso of Truth.
  • She goes by the name Diana Prince.

I loved the pace of the story, where at a young age, she was already interested in learning to fight against the wishes of her mother. The mother finally relented but asked that her training be tougher than the others on the island so that she will be best and surpass her trainer.

Even though Diana was powerful and knowledgeable, she was very naive about the way of our world. She thought that killing Ares would immediately bring peace to the world.

Using shield against machine gun fire made the movie more realistic (even though I do not remember her ever using a shield in comics). Also, having her distract the German army in order to defeat them was a stroke of genius.

My daughter asked me a question I could not answer, why is she called Wonder Woman when the name was never mentioned in the movie?

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this review.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Stock Option Trading

The first time I heard of stock option was when I opened an account with a discount broker, however, I kept away from it because of the high risk stated in the disclosure form more than ten years ago.

I decided to learn more about stock options within the last six months, reading articles, watching YouTube videos and also listening to podcast on the subject. I was surprised to see the amount of information and sources on this topic. The trading strategies such as Iron Condor, Iron Butterfly, Butterfly Spread seems too complicated for me.

After reading through all the material, I decided to focus on the following basics:
  1. Options can be bought and sold.
  2. Options have a strike price, premium and expiration.
  3. Selling a call option means we may have an obligation to sell shares at the strike price (even when the market price is higher that the strike price).
  4. Buying a call option will allow us to get the shares at the strike price if the price of the underlying share reaches or goes above the strike price.
  5. Selling a put option means we may be obligated to buy shares at the strike price (even if the market price is lower than the strike price).
  6. Options represent 100 shares of the underlying security.

At the moment, I prefer to do the following:
  1. Sell calls when I already own the underlying shares and the strike price and premium is high enough that I would not mind giving up the underlying shares.
  2. Sell put for shares I plan to buy anyway if the premium is high enough (provided I have enough funds to cover the price of the shares should the option be exercised).

Using the above approach, I stand to collect the premium with very little risk. To further reduce the risk, I look at the following:
  1. Only trade options that expire after known major events such as earnings.
  2. Trade only if the premium is high enough (more than 50 cents but I prefer premiums that are closer to $1). This is because anything less is not worthwhile (after taking into account the fees and risk in the trade).

In terms of investment, the focus of my returns are: dividend followed by capital gain. Option trading provide additional income but only when the opportunity presents itself; I do not plan to chase after it.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Anime Review: Denpa Kyoushi

Another title for this anime is “He Is an Ultimate Teacher”. In the beginning, the protagonist, Junichirou Kagami appears to be a slacker giving an excuse that he is ill (with a disease called YD - Yearns to Do) which means he cannot do anything unless it is something that he yearns to do. Instead of looking for work, he would just stay at home to play games and update his blog.

His sister was not willing to see his wasteful lifestyle helped him get a part-time job as a teacher in a local high school. In the school, he was faced with a few situations which piqued his interest allowing us to see his capability. The first was a girl who had a beautiful voice who wanted to be a voice actor. She was being bullied by three her classmates. He decided to help her because of the value he placed on voice actors (or gods and goddess to him). He was later fired from the job after being accused of being a molester, he took the blame because he wanted to protect a student of the school.

After being fired, he was offered a job to teach at Hiiragi Academy. Koyomi Hiiragi (who he called “Options”), the Chairperson of the academy felt that Japan has become boring and wanted Kagami to make it more amusing with his unusual teaching methods.

I liked the different lessons he thought, like using a soccer game to teach a school bully the value of teamwork, teaching an uptight student council president (who he nicknamed Uneven Twin Tail) to respect the discipline and valuable lesson that are involved for those working in maid cafes.

Throughout the series, Koyomi appears to work in the background to guide Kagami realize his true calling. This include the opportunity to help realize his theory of the “Anywhere Door”.

This series shows creative ways of approaching and solving problems.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this review.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Anime Review: Bamboo Blade

I was stuck with nothing to do for three days while I was in the hospital so I decided to watch anime to pass time. The title is Bamboo Blade focused events within the Kendo club in Muroe High School.

At the beginning there was only the coach and one student; everybody had left the club because two of the members (who are no longer active) took pleasure is hurting and bullying new members. The coach who was always broke made a bet the coach (Ishibashi) from Machido High kendo club that if his team (Muroe) is able to defeat Machido’s club, he will get to eat sushi in Ishibashi’s father’s sushi restaurant for a full year. However, there was a problem the match requires five girls in the team. This triggered the search for new members for the club and how the club grew from a nameless club to one that successfully entered the national kendo competition.

Most of the credit goes to Tamaki, a first year student who initially did not want to join the club. However, she decided to join the the two bullies challenged her while she was at the club to try out. She felt that the club needed a hero to protect it, just like her hero like her idol Blade Braver, a TV superhero.

This is a story of teamwork (with two male students who continue to support other members of the team even though they could not participate in the main competition. It also takes us through the growth (in terms of skills and maturity) of each of the students as well as the coach. Tamaki’s sense of honor also helped her to defeat her opponent even after she was badly hurt through some dirty tricks.

Tamaki started out as an invincible player, her weaknesses were later revealed (like the memories of her mother cause her to freeze up when her opponent uses a certain stance, or her lack of social interaction with others).

I am glad I chose this anime to occupy my time in the hospital - it was entertaining with a few emotional parts.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this review.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Multiple User Accounts on Android Phone

The ability to create multiple user accounts (I shall refer as profile to avoid confusion of accounts for apps) on Android phone was introduced in Lollipop but I could not find it until I started using OnePlus One. This feature is disabled in brands like Samsung, Xiaomi and Asus. I think this option is enabled for Sony Xperia. Multiple user account option is enable if the Users option is available in the Android settings (see the picture above).

This is an excellent feature that allows me to separate my office information from my personal information; I do not have to worry about the enforcement of policies required by my company affecting my personal user profile. I tried Samsung Knox briefly but did not like it because the Google policy still had to be enforced on the main account and also Knox consumes a lot of memory (since it is running with Android on my main account) and makes the phone very slow. With the multiple user profile, I can decide which one to use (and less memory is consume.

With multiple user profile, only one will be active at anyone time (similar to what happens on Windows). This means if I am playing music on the one profile, it will stop when I switch to a different profile. The same goes with the Bluetooth connection, my Bluetooth headset will disconnect when I switch to a different profile.

The main account is the one that is automatically created when the phone is first configured. All other accounts are secondary accounts. Secondary accounts have limitations in terms of the configuration options such as a button to synchronize all (one time synchronization) for the Google account or displaying the battery percentage. I have not found all the limitations but noticed a few. If you install an app in the main profile, you can add the same app to the secondary profile without reinstalling the full app (i.e. the app is shared, so it will not consume unnecessary storage). Accounts added to the main profile and the secondary profiles are independent.

Switching between profiles is straightforward, just touch the user icon on the top right hand corner of the screen and then select another profile.

Do not set the "Do not disturb" mode and switch profile. I did this once and found that I was not able to disable that option with the button when I switch back to the profile where the mode was set. The "Do not disturb" mode is enforced for the phone, not just the active profile. I found out, after much research, that the do not disable mode can only be disabled by turning the volume to zero first.

By default, the Google account added to the secondary account is set to auto synchronize. I turned off the auto sync to avoid draining my battery.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery

Two weeks ago, I went to see an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) specialist after having my cough for more than a month (and consuming two and half course of antibiotic).

After examining me, he concluded that the problem was with my sinus, and it will continue to cause me problems if not addressed. A CT scan was performed to verify the extend of my sinus infection and the scanned confirmed that most of my sinus cavities are filled. I was admitted to the hospital and administered intravenous antibiotics over the weekend and scheduled for surgery on Monday.

The surgery was carried out on Monday, May 15, 2017, at 8 am. I had to fast from midnight so that I would not throw up during the surgery. The procedure was called functional endoscopic sinus surgery (also known as FESS). According to the doctor, he used a scope and laser to remove the polyps and widen my nasal passages. The whole procedure took about 45 minutes due to the number of polyps that had to be removed. I was under general anaesthesia and so did not feel anything during the procedure. I was still sleepy when I returned to my room after the procedure.

After the surgery, I could breathe better; no more congestion. I had to perform regular nasal wash to remove the blood crust building in my nose. Initially, I could feel strong taste of blood in my throat and some blood crust and stains was visible when goggled or perform the nasal wash. The doctor sucked up some blood crust and phlegm (which the nasal wash could not remove) during my follow up visit.

This was the first time I have heard of this procedure. I found out that one of my friends had gone through a similar procedure last year. I was surprised to learn that there is a simple way to perform the nasal wash. According to my mother, previously, the doctor was the only one who could perform the cleaning.

I am glad I went through the procedure.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Anime Review: Assassination Classroom Season Two

Assassination Classroom (also known as Ansatsu Kyoushitsu) season two continues with the second term for E Class. This anime took me through an emotional roller coaster from joy, fear and sorrow.

There was a part when the teacher forced the whole class to help out at a preschool after they accidentally injured the elderly principal instead of studying for their midterm. This provided an opportunity for the students to use the skills they had to do something other than killing and also made them realize that they can do more with the skills they acquired in the past six months.

This was followed by the kidnapping of all the students by the assassin known as Reaper. The situation appeared hopeless for the Koro-sensei and his students, especially with the betrayal of one of their own ~ Karasuma (one of the teachers of the class).

The rivalry between the top class of the school with E class (the worst class) intensified in the second season especially after E Class managed to defeat A Class in the sport festival’s pole-toppling event despite the fact that A Class having the clear advantage (transfer students who are bigger and stronger, more students). This let to the involvement of Gakuho, the principal of the school. Gakuho’s twisted educational method and his directive to make the end-of-year exams very difficult was not enough to defeat the students of Class E (all of whom achieved the top 50 positions in the school). Gakuho, frustrated with his failure confronted Koro-sensei with an almost impossible situation. During the confrontation, the similarities between both teachers were revealed; their love of education and their early experiences in the field.

In order to maintain the trust of his students, Koro-sensei told the story of his origin, how he gained his powers, why he had chosen to be the teacher to Class E, the story behind the destruction of the moon and the reason the deadline of his assassination. The story deeply affected everybody in the class and made the final confrontation extremely emotional.

I had intended to only watch the first part and the last part of the second season but was drawn into the story and watched all the episodes.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this review.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Movie Review: The Founder

I heard of Ray Kroc when some people approached me to join a multi-level marketing group, using him as an example how networking and franchising can help make me rich. I joined the group for a short time but was not really successful in it.

As a result of the above experience, I was intrigue when I heard of The Founder, a movie about Ray Kroc. I was able to identify with him the challenges of trying to sell five-spindle milkshake maker, the frequent rejection he had to face (but I did not find his sales pitch that convincing). His experience with the slow service and wrong orders at the various dining establishments are still present today.

It was incredible to see how Dick was able to remove all things that did not add value to their business and developing a process that made their restaurant very efficient while maintaining quality and consistency. However, Ray Kroc found more value in the brand name.

One of the things Ray learned when he recruited franchisees was that middle-class investors who are willing to put in the effort are more successful compared to the wealthy investors who do not want to bothered by the day to day running of the business.

Another thing learned was that it is difficult to run a business if you charge too little. The 1.4% royalty he charged his franchisees could not cover his running cost and he was running out of money even though his business was striving.

I could understand some moves he made in order to make the business successful, however, I am not happy with some things he did, such as:

  • Divorcing his wife who has been supporting him for many years.
  • Cheating the McDonald brothers of the royalty for their ideas.

I do not know whether what is depicted in the movie is true and if it was, Ray Kroc is not a nice person. I liked the movie for the business and life lessons it teaches.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this review.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Book Review: Blink

I just finished reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. It introduces the theory of thin slices where attention of details performed within a second or two can tell us a lot.

One of the examples provided in the book involves a marble known as kouros. The problem was first identified by Federico Zeri, an Italian art historian. He could immediately see that the kouros did not look right but was not able to articulate the problem. The next person was Evelyn Harrison, one of the world's foremost experts on Greek sculpture. In both cases, it sounds like intuition. This was confirmed much later that the kouros is fake.

The gift of reading deeply into the narrowest slivers of experience is incredible and is present in many professions. Imagine making quick and accurate decision using this approach and if this is part of what it means to be human, the potential is immense. Our unconscious thought process is more superior when the choices become more complicated (and we have to juggle many variables).

The decisions and conclusions that we make are influenced by words, situations and circumstances we are in when making those decisions.

This is what I took from the book, we can take use blink if we have the following:

  1. Deep knowledge in the topic we are trying to decide on.
  2. We are calm when making the decision (emotions may create false clues or input that affects our decision-making).
  3. Personal prejudice may affect our decision (so we need to take steps to remove it from the decision-making).

The book provides some great ideas and examples of uses as well as failures (and potential causes). It was a bit confusing towards the middle but overall I thought it was a great book.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this.