A Game of Thrones

Yes, it's the famous book, in a series called a Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin and now made into a tv series too. No, I haven't been following the series.

A friend is so keen on me watching and/or reading it that he bought the book for me to read. I faithfully read past halfway. On this rare occasion, I skipped ahead to unravel the suspense of a particular plot line and I didn't like it. Later, that friend, with my encouragement, told me more about the story and that further solidified my resolve to discontinue reading the series.

Why? That's because there is frequent shifting of sand. Characters, and sometimes their entire families, assassinated so often that it would leave the assassin guild breathless and envious. This makes it hard to root for anyone. I don't mind this per se and I acknowledge that characters can die, even major ones, but I understand that this is a recurring theme throughout the series at the rate similar to how often my 2-year old nephew changes his attention. "Hmmm I'm bored with this character. Let's kill him." "Oh, don't like this family. Massacre them. Oh, let's just throw in all their retinue as well".

Some say that the series is great because the characters and environment are realistic. They are all shades of gray, with sides changing frequently like grass bending with the wind. If I want to read about things close or similar to reality, I rather read non-fiction books. In fact, I much prefer reading history. Recently, I was caught up reading about history of modern China.

The series has interesting stories, no doubt, but I already have my quota of realism and so no thank you.

Telling problems

When women tell men problems they have, most of the time they are not asking men for solutions. They are usually seeking empathy and understanding. In fact, some may get offended if men offer solutions and some even go further in accusing men for not understanding them.

For me, of course I agree that firstly, I hope that the listeners (men or women) understand my problems. However, I would definitely welcome and treat it as a bonus if they provide solutions.

Seriously, why not? Why don't listen to their suggestions to solving your problems? Maybe they have great ideas. No harm in bouncing ideas with them, isn't it? If you are tired and just want to pour out your problems, then that, to me, is a separate issue. Just say, "Thanks for your suggestion but I'm tired and just need some understanding." There's no need to be grumpy about it. It's an unhelpful reaction.

I gather that most of the time the frustration comes from listeners who jump straight to solutions without giving proper thought to the problem and how the person feels about that problem. That itself then lends credence to the conclusion, "Haiz, you don't understand lah."

Chap fan (mixed rice)

I am a fan of chap fan because it's the cheapest balanced food I can get hold of. I have it every day for lunch, except for Sun, and would probably have it more often if I could buy it at other meal times. Unfortunately, it's difficult to do so for dinner.

My favourite place is the one near Ban's place where I'm given regular customer's price. I usually will have 1 egg/tofu + 2 veg and be charged RM3.50, rather than RM3.80. Even at the normal price, it is cheaper than many places in PJ.

In Butterworth, food is generally so much cheaper than PJ. For example, a bowl of noodle costs RM3 compared to RM4.50 in PJ. The only exception is chap fan. Generally, chap fan there is about the same price as PJ's and so that makes it looks expensive when compared to other food.

Fortunately, my sister came across a place in Butterworth that sells cheap chap fan. In fact, for 1 tofu + 2 veg, I was charged only RM3.20. So cheap! Tasted good as well.

A trivia: instead of styrofoam box typically used in PJ, that shop in Butterworth uses card box. Yay to recycling!

Magic: The Gathering ("MTG")

MTG is arguably the most successful trading card game alive today. It was introduced in 1993 and has outlasted many other card games both in terms of longevity and popularity. Amazing, isn't it? Naturally, it is a profitable business.

Perhaps about a decade ago, I first heard of it from a friend. In fact, we both bought a pack (can't remember whether it was an intro or booster pack) each but we never got around to play it. I had only very vague memory of looking at some cards from the deck.

Ban mentioned this game to me when I was playing Yugi-Oh! card game on my laptop (software obtained from his brother). He claimed that MTG was a better system than Yugi, which is not too difficult to believe since the latter has some balancing issues.

It was only on my latest trip to Australia that I learned a little bit on how to play it by watching my brother-in-law playing the digital version ("MTG: Duel of the Planeswalkers"). Ban and I were aware of this version but we didn't like it because it disallowed deck-building, which is a primary source of enjoyment for card game players.

Now we are play-testing MTG using two web based deck-builders. It is better to do this than to plunge straight into buying cards because they are expensive! In fact, it is an expensive hobby and so I'm still not sure whether I'll ever buy any.

I have built some decks but the more successful ones are modified from other people's suggestions. I'm still really green at this. My current favourite is a black+blue milling deck i.e. to force my opponent to draw down his deck much faster. I'll win if he has no more card to draw on his turn.

I should really try other builds.

Family visit

The last two weeks were crazy chiefly because of my illness. That just blew up the tediousness of work. Hence, I'm looking forward to a more placid pace for the next 12 days when I'll be in Penang visiting my sister and her family.

Oh wait a minute. It won't be entirely relaxing with a 2-year old toddler around. I have already experienced such phase with my other sister's 2 sons and so it won't be a walk in the park. It's definitely an interesting phase though and I wish everyone to experience it at least once (Ban, you hear this? :) ). What more, this nephew seems more talkative than the other two hahaha. Gosh, I hope my sorethroat's gone soon.

Like his parents, I would also need to thicken my skin and keep blood from flushing my face whenever we go out to eat. My nephew is at an age where he wants to feed himself, no matter how clumsy he is. The result: a piece of art on the table, chair and floor after every meal, worthy of being auctioned off. Unfortunately for his parents, this will go on for at least another 3 years. Wuahahaha :P

I've not met my sister and family since October last year. Can't believe it's been that long. I look forward to spending time with them (pray not much work to do) and hope it'll be a good trip!

Grilled chicken and watercress soup

At the dawn of May, I decided to cook these two dishes - a combination of the last two dishes I cooked - for dinner.

Grilled chicken May

I marinated the chicken (and left it overnight in the fridge) with light and dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, white pepper powder, garlic and parsley powder, cornflour and olive oil. Grilled it over medium heat for about half an hour (I think!). Ban and I liked it although I don't think it's as good as previously. I suspect this was due to lesser dark soy sauce and olive oil.

Watercress soup with wolfberry

I boiled this soup the same way as previously except that

  • at the beginning, I poured in boiling water on the cut-up chicken meat and threw it away after boiling it for a few minutes. It was a method that my sister used and gotten from my dad to get rid of the scum. It worked beautifully as I didn't need to continuously scoop out the scum later like previously; and
  • I added wolfberries, which changed the taste a little bit. Sweeter.
Ban and I liked the soup too and there was some leftover for the next day too.

Unfortunately, the next day was the onset of my illness. Bah.

Caved in

Since the onset of my current sickness, I tried to let my body heal itself by just eating right and getting lots of rest. With respect to the latter, I had to take some medicine so that phlegm/cough wouldn't prevent me from having a good sleep.

However, it wasn't working well because I had work to do, both actuarial projects and tuition. The past week I felt dull. I couldn't get myself interested in the usual things, found it hard to concentrate, had less patience, etc. I had to cut down some of the usual activities from my daily routine. No exercise. Very little reading of investment news. Read no actuarial news. I could barely work.

I don't know how some people could tough it out without seeing doctor and taking medication. There was definitely improvement in the illness but it wasn't fast enough because I had work to do. So after tuition on Friday, I caved in and saw a doctor nearby.

I feel better now and more importantly I feel my usual self coming back. Phew.

I have loved ones who are suffering from illness that leaves them easily fatigued and experienced the emotional symptoms described above. It is terrible to have such illness that's not easily "cured". I hope that they will get well soon.

Sick, sick, sick

Gosh, this illness is still going on after 1 week. Look at how it has changed so far:

  1. Sorethroat
  2. Sorethroat worsened, phlegm accumulation, backdrip, cough
  3. Sorethroat, phlegm accumulation, backdrip, cough worsened
  4. Sorethroat lessened, phlegm lessen, backdrip lessen, cough, runny nose
  5. Sorethroat, phlegm lessen but thicker, backdrip lessen
  6. Sorethroat, thick yellowish phelgm, backdrip lessened, cough less frequent but "deeper"
  7. Sorethroat, thick yellowish/greenish phlegm, cough
On top of this, I had work to do to meet a deadline next week. Due to illness and lethargy, I couldn't put in solid number of hours each day to work. As a result, I had to cut down the usual stuff I do each day e.g. I stopped reading the daily news e-mailed by IAAust, I rarely read investment news, no daily walks, no computer/board games.

I also realised that normally I can visit my sister in Australia after school term ends for the year and before the following year's school term starts i.e. after Oct and before Mar due to tutoring a student. However, due to projects that I've committed to so far, it looks unlikely I can visit her this year or early next year. This is because such projects have regulatory deadline of around 31 Mar and so work has to be done approximately 4 months before that.


Pre and post election

I was supposed to go back to Seremban on Friday to vote on Sunday. On Thursday morning, I woke up with a very painful sorethroat. I had to tutor my student that morning too but luckily he was quite cooperative that day. Come to think of it, he seems to be more cooperative this year compared to previous years.

My illness worsened that night as phlegm started to accumulate non-stop throughout the night. This resulted in coughing. Decent sleep was elusive. When Friday morning dawned, it was a forgone conclusion that there was no way that I could drive back home and get well in time to vote on Sunday.

Even now, my cough is still there albeit a drier one. I now have runny nose whenever the effect of medicine runs out. Gah. I really need to get well soon as I have some errands to run and also work to do.

The election was fraught with phantom voters, extra ballot boxes magically appearing towards the end of counting process, dubious foreign voters gangsterism and indelible ink that wasn't indelible. Gah. They were blatant dirty acts by the incumbent government to hold on to power. The police and election commission were in cahoot with the government in destroying this very fundamental democratic right.

If such right is not honoured, what more can the people do? Judiciary's independence is questionable. Police cannot be relied upon. Mainstream media is government-controlled. Very frustrating.

Yes, BN won but thank goodness not with a two third majority. In fact, it won fewer seats than previously.

Overall, I choose to view the outcome on a slightly positive light. Opposition won more ground. What's even more heartening and inspiring is the fortitude and determination shown by Malaysians, regardless of age, race and religion, to have free and fair election to the extent that they sometimes put themselves in harm way too. They protected each other and the integrity of the election as much as possible.

Let's hope for a better GE 14th!

Share investment Apr 13 Part 2

(continue from Part 1)

Here's my current portfolio, according to invested amount:
Invested amount 26Apr13

Average purchase price and closing price as at 26 April 2013:
Price 26Apr13

Historical dividend yield:
Div yield 26Apr13

The annualised dividend yield for a counter was calculated as sum of the actual dividend yields (actual dividend yield = amount of dividend paid divided by invested amount) pro-rated to a year. This was done sensibly by taking account of the frequency and timing of the dividend payment.

Shares with dividend history of less than a year were excluded.