Strovek Writes


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Movie Review: King Arthur (2017)

The thriller for the movie looked interesting enough with lots of action so I thought how bad could a story of King Arthur be.

The movie is a complete departure from the legend of King Arthur. Modred was killed by Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon, at the beginning of the movie. Excalibur is made from Modred’s staff; that was never the case in any of King Arthur’s tale before. In the past, King Arthur is crowned the king immediately after he pulls the sword from the stone but in this movie, he had to learn how to use the sword. Merlin did not appear in the movie, instead you have a mage that is more like the Beastmaster than a mage. Vortigern, Uther’s brother took over the kingdom.

The story was also very confusing. There was a point where he threw away the sword and then later he has the sword again. How does Arthur with a handful of comrades evade the whole army of Camelot and why does the army support Vortigern and try to kill the true heir of the kingdom.

The 2004 version of King Arthur was much better with stronger characters and the progress of the story was much smoother.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this review.

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.