Investment malaise

About a month ago, I said that I was looking for a tenant but alas there still isn't one despite searching for 3.5 months already. It's definitely a renter's market in Singapore and KL. Potential tenants are being picky. I don't mind fulfilling their requests if they are reasonable. Relatively easy fixes like new furniture and new coat of paint are fine by me but I certainly cannot do anything about "the condo is facing the highway and so it can be noisy" @@.

On equity side, shares are taking a severe beating mainly because of continuous drop in oil price and the slowdown in China's economy. I would love to buy more but since my main income (from rent) is non-existence, I have to restraint. Sigh. Two share counters are conglomerates with revenue derived from oil & gas industry and so their shares are significantly down. I expect reduced or probably no dividends from them too.

Due to rising SIBOR, I paid about 28% more interest payment in 2015 compared to 2014. Wah, please plateau soon :)

So the plan to move to Singapore is still on hold. Main priority is to get tenant first. Hopefully soon.

Vietnam Kitchen @One Utama

Ban and I rarely go to One Utama nowadays. Paradigm Mall and Tropicana City Mall are simply closer and more convenient. Also, parking at One Utama is a nightmare, especially during weekends. Moreover, the only place we would dine at One U was Kita No Zen but since there are other Japanese restaurants closer to home that are about the same or better, there was just no reason to go to One U.

Recently, Ban wanted to pay a visit to the Boardgames stall set up at One U during Pesta Selangor weekend. We also took the opportunity to shop for a friend's birthday gift. Parking was extra bad (probably due to the festival) and we ended parking outside at Dataran. We were lucky getting that spot since even that area was crowded.

Due to where we parked and the location of the stall and craft shops, we were just looking at restaurants that we passed by. We settled on Vietnam Kitchen after flipping through their menu.

Vietnam Kitchen 1

As with any Vietnamese restaurant we dined at, we ordered beef noodle soup:

Vietnam Kitchen 2

Vietnam Kitchen 3

Vietnam Kitchen 4

The price, RM18.95, is RM3 more expensive that that at Du Viet but is fairly priced considering its location at a popular shopping centre.

The services was fast: noodle was served in about 5 minutes!

The beefy soup was delicious and not too salty. Sliced beef was quite tender but with wildly inconsistent sizes. The mint leaves were small and fresh. Its stalk was easy to break. Young mint leaves perhaps? Beef balls were not overpowering in taste, just right.

I believed the portion is a little smaller than Du Viet's but the latter's sliced beef was better, if I recall correctly. Taste is a little different...I think. Gosh, it's been sometime since I've been to Du Viet :)

The good news is that Ban, without being asked, said we can go there again next time. Yay! :)

Cholesterol 2016

I recently tested my cholesterol levels but this time, instead of going for blood test at Pathlab in PJ, I had it done at Alpro Pharmacy in Seremban where they just pricked my finger to draw blood and placed it on a plastic strip which was then inserted into an electronic device. Results out in 3 mins. So fast and cheaper by RM10 (RM30 instead of RM40).

The ref range is slightly different:

                                  Jan 2015           Ref. range           Jan 2016           Ref. range
Total cholesterol           6.0                      < 5.2                  5.8                    < 5.17
HDL ("good")               1.43                    > 1.04                1.3                    > 1.03
LDL ("bad")                  4.1                     < 2.6                   4.1                    < 2.59
Triglycerides                 1.0                     < 1.7                   1.0                    < 1.69
Total/HDL ratio            4.2                      < 5.0                  4.5*

*Self-calculated as they didn't use this ratio. Instead, they use LDL/HDL ratio which turned out to be 3.15 which is higher than their reference range of 2.0.

So the significant difference is the drop in HDL. This can be explained: I had a once-a-year bad flu for nearly 3 weeks followed by a milder infection for almost a week. I didn't exercise at all during those periods and restarted exercising for over a week just before this test. Maybe I should change my future test date after a sustainable period of exercise hehehe.

Catch of a Lifetime!

Found this in the toilet of a seafood restaurant in Canberra called Snapper - On The Lake, along Lake Burley Griffin:

Catch of a Lifetime

Too bad my phone's camera was not good enough to zoom-in on the article. It was hilarious! Snappers around Canberra swam to see this "catch of a lifetime". The snapper who caught this unfortunate man used a popular bait: hot chips with tomato sauce. Lol! Right on the money :)

Moral of the story? Don't chase after free hot chips :P

Robocraft: Rise and Fall of Fliers

As mentioned in a previous post, the current meta then was flier but what I forgot to mention was the introduction of a set of new armoured blocks: sloped cubes. The magic is this: they are less than half the weight of the corresponding normal cubes and yet their health is about 3% less. So no brainer for fliers: replace all normal and curved cubes with these ones.

This made fliers as heavily armoured as a tank and this was especially boon for tesseract: the drone made up of this sloped cubes, protecting its core functioning parts inside i.e. thrusters and rudders. With the auto-regen feature, fliers can rest somewhere safely (e.g. on top of mountains) and recover.

After a while, I concluded that fliers are superior to other movement-type bots and among fliers, tesseracts are kings. I tried one but alas, I'm not skillful enough to pilot one. Instead, I used a walled-smg copter as a guardian against enemy fliers, especially tesseracts. Here's a video of my gameplay:

Sorry for the lag. Don't know why the recorded video is not performing as normal.

There had been call by the community to the developers to do something about this. Right after Ban pointed out the "magic", I immediately said that they should decrease the cubes hitpoints. Similarly, someone suggested making them heavier. Another suggestion I like was to disallow thrusters to be placed back-to-back i.e. create a zone of denial like the wings.

Instead, Freejam (the developer) just released a new weapon: a flak cannon. Against fliers, it has DPS equal to 6 top smg and half of that against ground. When its shot is near an enemy flier (within an area the size of a megabot bay!!), it will detonate and damage that flier.

So did it work against tesseract? Well, better than plasma. It sure gives anti-air players more avenue to shoot it down but it still requires a little aiming. However, it affects other fliers so much more. People can argue its effectiveness but the bottomline is this: if you want to play flier, your best bet is still a tesseract. If you're not skillful enough to pilot one, then there's nothing for you. The sky will be either empty or plied by skilled tesseracts only judging from how the way things are going. Goodbye copters. Goodbye winged fliers.

In the meantime, I'll stick to playing either smg mech or hover-copter medic.

Sydney Airport

One my way back from Australia, I transited at Sydney because the air ticket was cheaper than that via Melbourne.

I regretted it almost immediately after the purchase :) Unlike Melbourne airport, Sydney airport's international terminal is not walking distance from its domestic terminal. One would need to pay (oh yes, it's not free) to go from one to the other:
  • Bus - AUD 5.50
  • Train - AUD 5.80
  • Taxi - AUD 17-22 (yes, for a journey that takes up to only 10 minutes)
There are free bus shuttles provided by Qantas and Virgin if you're transferring between their own respective flights.

I took the train. I had to walk to to the station, purchase ticket and wait for the train. Compare that to Melbourne where I just need to walk...for free!

Once at the international terminal, here was what I found at the Air Asia counters:

Sydney airport 1

Sydney airport 2

There were 3 check-in counters and 3 baggage-drop counters. The queue for the latter was easily 4 times longer than the former. Does that makes sense? Air Asia was penalising people who checked-in via website or phone and rewarding those who chose to use the check-in counters. Mind-boggling. Later on, they did open an extra-baggage drop counter but that still didn't narrow the discrepancy sufficiently. It would be hilarious if people learn from this and start flooding the check-in counters in future. Bye Sydney airport!

Oh, one thing I did learn was that paying extra for Hot Seat also entitled you to express boarding too. That was so helpful because the normal queue was long and there was concern about getting to use baggage storage that was conveniently located near my seat.

After dropping my checked-in baggage, I'm off to hunting for lunch. Decided to go through immigration and baggage check first.

Sydney airport 3

On the directory, there were a number of F&B outlets but they were scattered all over the terminal. Some were even as far as 400m from the centre. So to scout all of them, you would need to walk about 2km in total. Ridiculous!

Predictably, the shops in the middle had long queue. I ended having a pastry beef hot dog as a snack:

Sydney airport 4

Gosh, such a badly designed airport.

So lesson learned: pay extra to transit at Melbourne, rather than Sydney. Also, shorter international flight duration from Melbourne.

Costco in Canberra

As stated in their website, Costco is a "membership warehouse club". To me, it's similar to Tesco here in Malaysia except that you need to pay for membership. They do have significantly more items packaged in bulk. Malaysia used to have Makro hypermarket that charged for membership but they didn't survive.

According to my sister, it can't be said in general that things are cheaper there. They have items that are cheap but others are priced similarly as, say, the supermarkets. So you will need to pay attention to the things you buy and the number of trips you make to determine whether it's worth paying the membership fee.

So here's a photo of how it looks inside:

Costco 1

It does have the warehouse kind of look, doesn't it? Not too far off from Tesco except that Tesco looks more like a supermarket?

It even has a small foodcourt:

Costco 2

Costco 3

Although there was hot food sold by that small store, we purchased food from inside Costco and ate at the table here. Many people did that too. It's cheap doing it that way :)

One would think that members are people who are looking to save money because they are on tight budget (and so every dollar counts), or at least that's what I think. This Costco can certainly fit the bill...until you see this:

Costco 4

Ah yes, I'm sure the rich would automatically think of Costco when they want to buy expensive jewelry :)

Robocraft: Golden Lovebeam video

Here's a video of my Golden Lovebeam in action. Sorry for the laggy parts.

As you can see, after the last major patch, map awareness becomes critical because you need cover to auto-heal.

There's also the decision of when you should do that because you will need to stop shooting for more than 10 seconds to heal 100%. Does that make it worse for your team? Team mates dying in the mean time? Fusion tower at risk of being hijacked? Or does it make it better? Once healed, you're at full power and thus able to push back enemies better? Survive better?

Robocraft: Golden Lovebeam

There was a huge major update (named "Full Spectrum Combat") that changed Robocraft building process significantly:
  • Only 1 set of chasis cubes
  • Fewer sets of weapons and movements
  • A paint tool
  • No more pilot seat. Bot destroyed when at less than 25% CPU left
  • All battle modes made available at the start, except for the new League mode which is ranked battle for maxed RR 25k. Yes, RR is also revamped
  • Auto-heal kicks in if you don't get shot and you don't use your weapons for 10 seconds. Thereafter, the regeneration can still be interrupted if either condition is breached
  • Bots on CRF can no longer be rented. They must be purchased. Many bots can be purchased with RP
For more details, please check the official patch note here.
In my last post on Robocraft, I was considering modifying my Lovebeam Mercy. I tried but unfortunately it didn't pan out well. So I scrapped it and built another from scratch. The result is a medic hover (with 8 hoverblades) that is inspired by Kaevik's Kae Bone but definitely not a copy as it is still significantly different. I adopted the general shape and gun placement but everything else (length, width, depth, shield) is different.

Golden Lovebeam 1
Golden Lovebeam 2

Golden Lovebeam 3

Golden Lovebeam 4

I'm quite pleased with this bot. Compared to Lovebeam Mercy, Golden Mercy (yes, spray painted gold :) ) is more stable and has better gun clearance. It is wider than Kae Bone and so a larger target of course but that also means the guns on each end are further apart from each other sets and thus survive plasma better...I think :) It is also faster than Kae Bone due to a pair of thrusters.

Only problem is that current meta favours fliers and evidently it's not so useful in healing flying team mates unless they swoop down to it. That's the reason I bought Lightstorm's UmbraWraith - a hybrid copter hover medic. I've been doing well with it so far. I'll blog about this bot in future.

Review of 2015

One thought common across the years is how fast each year passes by hehehe. So 2015 is no exception.

I had thought that I usually review the year once it is just over but apparently not. I think it's quite a good idea to have a summary for reflection. Here's a summary of 2015:

(1) Books

I didn't read as many books as I would want to, mainly due to spending too much time on the laptop. I expect people would think that I spent too much time on games but that's not true. Oftentime, I do not play games until late afternoon before dinner and after dinner. If there's work, it would be just at night. I would surf Facebook, read news, do some financial housekeeping, read actuarial and investment articles, blogging, and working on actuarial projects. Yes, I do read frequently but reading books is different.

(2) Games

Finally stopped playing Guild Wars 2, just before their expansion. I knew I would stop playing it since Ban has stopped playing long before I did.

Dusted off my Warband campaign and played it until Galadriel controlled all settlements except for a town. By then, I had to stop. Perhaps pick it up again in another 1.5 years? Hehehe.

Broke some personal records on Duel of Champions. Alas, it's a shame that the developer no longer supports the game development and so I stopped playing. As many CCG veterans had said, this was the best CCG game in terms of mechanics.

Started and completed a couple of Crusader Kings 2 campaigns, one of which was on Iron mode @@ It was tough but I'm quite proud having done it with an empire established. Not sure I want to do that again though. Experimented with a couple of succession laws, other than the conventional Primogeniture.

Was introduced to Robocraft by Ban. I'm still playing this game. My building skill is still not good enough to go toe-to-toe with another but I think my playing skill (except for playing rail) improves a lot. I have yet to try Tesla blades. My favourite is plasma alternating with medic. Current meta favours fliers.

I think the only new PC games I tried were Talisman and Telltale Games: Game of Thrones. The former: not recommended, too tedious. The latter: only if you are fan of the serious and treat this game as an interactive tv series.

(3) Personal

Slowly increased my investment in shares, especially during downturns. Hopefully this will work out well once the market recovers.

Major financial bad news is the my condo vacancy. I granted tenant to terminate the tenancy on compassionate ground. My agent is still looking for a tenant after nearly 3 months. Hope to get one soon.

Major expenditure were air ticket to Australia due to last minute change in plan, tooth crowning, and car repair.

It was a treat to have my sister's family over here in Malaysia and as usual I went over to her place later in the year. It was initially canceled due to bedbug scare (on my side) but later she changed her mind with us taking much precaution. Ban came along for the first 2 weeks and I'm happy that he got along well with them, especially the twins :) I stayed longer than usual (6 weeks!) to attend my sister's graduation ceremony (Master of Philosophy). Thanks!

Perhaps most importantly, I came out to my parents and it went well. Yay!

What's next?

First and foremost, I need to get a tenant as soon as possible. Once that done, I would seriously consider moving back to Singapore (but I'm reluctant to do so) to maximise my chance of renewing my PR which needs to be done before Oct 2016. The establishment of National Security Council in Malaysia is the culmination of a series of bad behaviour by the current ruling coalition and I fear for my future. Maybe I'm paranoid and I hope I am because if not, then we are all in trouble.