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Mi-grating to the Xiaomi Mi4i

Published by on August 14, 2015

I’ve been using the new Xiaomi Mi4i for just over a month now, migrated from my Samsung Galaxy S4.

mi4i

First, a little backstory. I had always wanted to keep my Galaxy S4 as long as possible, but of late it has been getting slower and slower, and a particular problem with the screen locking up recently really frustrated me. One day I dropped the phone, and the LCD went kaput, so I had no choice to repair it (for RM700 plus GST, no less) in order to turn the phone back on and save the data inside.

So my search for a new phone started. Almost immediately, I narrowed it down to either the new Galaxy S6, Galaxy Tab 2, or the Xiaomi Mi4. The Galaxy S6 is almost obscenely expensive (I can buy THREE Mi4s at that price). I liked the Tab 2’s large screen and good camera, plus they had this offer at the time where you could trade in your old smartphone for rebates up RM500. But on the other hand, I realized that I were to stick to a Samsung phone, I’m effectively looking at a lifespan of 1.5 years. Anything beyond that is a bonus.

So I decided to take a more serious look at Xiaomi. I had used Patrick’s Mi3 for a few days when my old phone was being repaired, so I knew the functions and features. But buying the Mi4 was a problem. I tried DirectD’s website for a few weeks, it was always out of stock. then there was concern that the current batch of Mi4’s were not for Malaysia market, putting some doubt of its LTE capabilities.

anyway, one day I checked Mi.com/my/ (the Malaysian website for Mi) and saw that they had just launched the NEW Mi4i! ONLY RM749!! What the heck, I said, I’m buying one.

So anyway, that’s how I got my phone. So after a month of using it, how does it compare to Samsung?

First the good points:

Price – well, the best thing going for it is the price. At RM749, I don’t mind if it lasts me a year, I can anytime buy another one, and it won’t cost me the price of a notebook. I think this will the first thing anyone considering to change phones should take into account.

Themes – like how they make changing themes very easy. Sure, you can do it for Samsung too, but here, its only a few taps and you can view the millions of user created themes.

Battery – their standby time is definitely longer than my old Samsung, and it charges very fast.

And the now the cons:

The smart cover feature doesn’t work! Whenever I close the cover, I need to click the power off button or the screen will still be active. Maybe I still haven’t gotten the setting correct, but I notice Patrick’s Mi3 had this same problem. Hmmm.

Calculator – I can’t get the thousands comma separator to appear! Can someone help me?

Camera – well, have to say they lose out to Samsung and the iPhone in this area. the camera is just OKAY, but not impressive. and it has less features.

Browser problems – the browsers freezes up frequently and exits automatically, especially if I’m opening from FB. this can be easily be remedied by installing a third party browser, but they should fix that.

The Whole Fast & Furious Franchise Marathon

Published by on July 13, 2015

Let me just put this out there first – I’m definitely no racer fanboy or petrolhead. Well, i can tell a Skyline from a Evo from a Silvia, but I have no interest in Formula One or cars in general (except for knowning enough to maintain my own).

I think the most i ever got into the scene was playing Gran Turismo and Need for Speed on the Playstation, and reading the  Initial D manga (not the entire series though).

Anyway, that just goes to explain why I’ve never watched the Fast and Furious. Never. Not a single one. Recently, though, with the news cycle about Paul Walker’s passing, my interest was piqued. I am, after all a huge fan of movies, so i thought why not give the series a spin.

So i started from the very beginning.

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

Let me just say that all in all, this is a rather subpar and underwhelming movie. The acting is stilted, the storyline is a little laughable, but the one thing that made it memorable were the imported racing cars and sharp race scenes. Storyline is Paul Walker going undercover as a street racer (gee, i wonder how many time has this happened in real life) to investigate some theft involving DVD players (yes, DVD players. This was 2001).  Somewhere in the mix are some steroetypical Asian racer triads.

As passable as the movie was, i can see how this movie spawned a sequel. But not the ehole franchise, though. Far worse movies have had sequels. But its strong point were the race scenes, something most other action movies at that time don’t do as well.

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

Can’t remember anything about this installment except that it introduced Tyrese Gibson and featured Eva Mendes. And an over the top finale with a car flying off a ramp beside the river and landing on a moving boat. Yep, nothing unbelievable about that…

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

Paul Walker did not star in this movie, but they introduced a new character called Lucas Black, a high school student who looks like a 28 year old. Black is probably the dumbest street racer in the history of streetracing – he accepts a race challenge with the rich kids in school. On THEIR turf. ALONE. Both cars get totalled, he gets sent overseas by his mother. His opponents get off scot-free.

Goes to Tokyo, doesn’t know how to drift, has no car, accepts a drifting challenge. Someone lends him a car, totals it and loses by like 4 hours. Dumbest street racer ever.

Anyway, it probably too a lot of guts for the producers to go to the home of drifting and make an AMerican movie about drifting, and film a race scene practically lifted from Initial D.

And Vin Diesel makes a cameo right at the end, to y’know, validate that this is a Fast & furious movie, not just some lame attempt to cash in on the international market…

Fast & Furious (2009)

Wait, did Vin Diesel just say ‘Han was family?’ how do we resolve that? Let’s make a prequel to movie 3 but a sequel to movie but call it movie 4! Got it? Good. Diesel and Walker and gang are back, and Lucas Black is thankfully forgotten and buried. Again, just like movie 2, there’s all this talk about gangsters and smuggling and blackmailing and hijacking, and there’s some racing in tunnels between Mexico and the US.

It ends with Diesel being sent to jail.

Fast Five (2011)

or simply the movie where they finally got tired of using the “&” symbol. Or as I call it, Fast Five – Rio Drift. How to inject interest into a stale franchise and appeal to a broader market? Let’s drop The Rock in! So now there’s TWO bald muscle heads. Actually I felt this was one of the best movies in the series so far, cause with the Rock it became more of an action movie and not just a racing movie. But the whole climatic scene about the 2 cars dragging the vault across the city, hur… what’s a Fast & Furious movie without logic defying scenes, right?

Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

Finally, the series brings itself ups the production values to summer blockbuster status, from the ‘cheap computer graphic effects’ of the past. The gang and Rock is back, bringing cast members from different movies (and yes, thankfully no Lucas Black). Overall pretty much more of the same, this time with even more unbelievable scenes – Vin Diesel can jump and fly long distances like Superman! Plane can drag cars along a runway that’s 12 miles long!

But the funniest bit about this movie was how they turned Ludacris from ‘comic relief’ to ‘tech guy’ and turned Tyrese Gibson from ‘Angry black man’ to ‘comic relief’. Vin Diesel, on the other hand, still plays the ‘Cannot act to save his life’ character.

Well, that’s it then. I haven’t watched Furious 7. but it did watch the parody movie called Superfast! As most of these movies, it wasn’t funny at all, and a little disrespectful in light of Paul Walker’s passing… but anyway.

Catching Up on TV : The West Wing Season 4

Published by on June 29, 2015

Well, to be honest, halfway through this season, I gave up and stopped.

I moved on to other things, other shows, other matters. But the completionist in me nagged for me to finish it, so after a month or so after stopping, I picked up where I left off. It was a good thing the 3 episode story arc where I re-started was quite interesting.

This season was rather forgetful. the things that stuck in my mind was it was the re-election campaign, which wasn’t very convincing. I felt the tension of the campaign could have been captured better, I didn’t sense the urgency that Bartlet was losing or winning either way. And Bartlet winning a landslide on the back of one debate?

One of the stars of the show, Rob Lowe (Sam Seabourne) leaves halfway through the season, and he was slowly written off the storyline and replaced with Will Bailey.

The season finale was a cliffhanger as usual, although a little abrupt. it started with the Vice President resigns due to an impending extra-marital scandal. It all seemed rather deus ex machina, we hardly saw John Hoynes all season, and suddenly he gets dropped into the storyline just to set up the finale? well, anyway, the finale has the President invoking the 25th and handing over the presidency to the Republican Speaker of the House to deal with the kidnapping of his daughter.

Well, I’m more than halfway through the 7 seasons. Next up are the non-Alan Sorkin seasons, can’t really say I’m looking forward to it. But going to push on anyway…

Pulau Ketam for a Day

Published by on May 22, 2015

We’ve been talking about Pulau Ketam (Crab Island) for the longest, longest time. For more than a year. Every month had its share of distractions, but during one Sunday lunch we finally decided to set a date during the long Labour Day weekend.

After some logistics that went like clockwork, we picked up my MIL at 9am who just came down from Ipoh with my BIL. Off straight to the Cheahs’ across the highway. Packing everyone in one car (6 adults and 3 kids), we drove on the Federal Highway all the way to Port Klang. Getting to the jetty is a cinch, just go to end, past Port Klang town and turn right.

There’s a new jetty complex, and limited parking. At 10am cars were already lining up both sides of the road outside. Just follow the sign to the jetty queue, you will see the ticket counter eventually.

port klang

all set to go

ferry schedule
(I hope I get Ah Boy’s boat!!!)

Ferries run hourly, but on weekends and public holidays, they run continuously as long as there are customers. we waited about 45 minutes and the queue was pretty long. If you take the smaller speedboat, the queue and travel time is shorter.

Via air-conditioned ferry, it takes about 45 minutes.

lineup

boarding
(all aboard!)

Land ho! Upon alighting, first thing you notice is that all that although that Pulau Ketam is quite far out in the river mouth, the water surrounding the island is shallow and much of the ‘beach’ is exposed at low tides.

line to board

At low tide you can see millions of tiny crabs and giant mudskippers. Them mudskippers are almost double in size of the ones I used to see in Ujong Pasir Melaka as a kid near my grandmother’s house. I guess generations of diesel and rubbish contaminated water has help mutated the species to what they are now. And also, I wondered WHO discovered that the mudskippers and these small crabs are NOT edible? Poor guy had to be the guinea pig to eat them first, and discover they tasted horrible.

mini crabs

Folks on this island stay in houses on stilts, exposed to harsh waves especially during storms.

homes on stilts

Once you clear the long jetty, you are greeted by the largest restaurant on the island. Reviews show that this is probably also the best on the island. But we decided to walk around a bit first. It was also at this point that my MIL mentioned that that she just realized she HAS BEEN HERE TEN YEARS AGO. Umm okaaay.

landfall

There’s only one main walking path through the islands, crammed with pedestrian tourists and cyclists. Along the way you’ll see a few stalls selling snacks, knick knacks and well, not much else.

stalls

fried ice cream
(FRIED ice cream. As if ICE CREAM wasn’t unhealthy enough)

the centre of the island is where most of the restaurants are concentrated (which is to say maybe 5 of them). it gets crowded very fast, so make sure you arrive early or wait a long time. We chose a restaurant can Remember Me but didn’t really expect much of the food, since reviews said that the seafood here is nothing spectacular. Bill came up to RM80 for all of us. Didn’t take any good pics.

After lunch we walked to the other end of the island. there’s a huge temple with a open square of some sort, and mostly houses.

big temple

temple

sidelanes

snapping photos

view from jetty

Since got not much else to do, we walked back to jetty, stopping to buy some keropok and ice cream. Then we waited for the boat.

I guess Pulau Ketam is good for maybe half a day visit. There’s really nothing much to see, so you really need to manage your expectations. The smell of sewage (it drops straight into the sea) wasn’t as bad as I expected, but the rubbish is really overwhelming. I really feel they should organize a massive cleanup (granted, most of the rubbish has been there for generations) if they want to capitalize more on tourism.

So anyway, by the time we got back to Port Klang it was only 4pm, so we decided to join the mad crowds in this place I’ve heard SO much about – GM Klang.

After jostling for 2 hours with what seemed like half the Klang population, we left for dinner. Since it was so early, I thought we could take a slow drive back to PJ. But someone pointed out that since we were ALREADY here, why not stick to the original plan of eating dinner at Port Klang. I thought well okay, but its kinda early.

By the time we got to Bagan Hailam, I realize that 6pm is apparently NOT too early for dinner. the carpark was nearly full.

the view from bagan hailam

Bagan Hailam is just across the Klang river from the Port Klang jetty to Pulau Ketam, but it was a great ambience. “More Pulau Ketam than Pulau Ketam” was an apt description.

our bagan hailam restaurant

the gang
(waiting for food)

Ive been here for dinner a few times before, but the last time was probably about 14 years ago.

dinner at bagan hailam

fish slice

Dinner was really good, compared to the bland lunch today. I should come back here more often. Can’t remember what the bill came up to, but the delicious fried fish slice above cost RM75.

It was still early when we got back to PJ, so we drop by Softsrve in Uptown.

softsrve

softsrve fluffy

the dry ice thing is really gimmicky, the ice cream is nothing to shout about. I’d pick Inside Scoop over this place any day. But the d├ęcor is nice though.

So ended our long day out. Too bad Patrick and Mei Yan couldn’t join us. Maybe next time.

Letterman Retires

Published by on May 20, 2015

So I hear David Letterman is retiring today after 33 years and 6,000 shows.

If you were to ask me if I prefer Leno or Letterman, in a heartbeat I’d answer Letterman. I’ve been a Letterman fan ever since I started watching him on the old MetroVision channel (remember that one?) in the mid-90’s. Even then Leno was more popular than Letterman, especially with the younger crowd. But to me, Letterman was funny, Leno wasn’t. there was this smarmy ‘I’m funny’ side to Leno that I disliked, to me Letterman was genuinely funny. 90’s Letterman was mellowed version of his earlier persona (judging from reports and Youtube clips). After I watched ‘Late Shift’, the movie about how NBC screwed over Letterman by giving Johnny Carson’s old job to Leno, the more I empathized with the former for his self-depreciating humour.

I’ll have to admit that I haven’t watched old Dave for more than a decade. These recent years Dave has really mellowed far too much, I can even say that he’s hardly even trying to be funny anymore.

between the new guys – Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon and Conan O’Brien, I watch all three of them (thanks to their online videos), and I like all three of them. I’d say I like Conan the most for his sense of humour, but all 3 of them have their good and bad points. Kimmel’s a nice guy, but he’s not putting the effort to be funny or innovative. I never found Guillermo, the late Uncle Frank (or Veatrice) or Adeline funny. About the funniest thing on his show is his Cousin Sal, now that guy’s funny. Give him more segments, I say.

Leno’s successor Jimmy Fallon is another nice guy, and undoubtedly funny. but there’s just something about his humour that doesn’t really sit right with me, but I really like his skits and games with celebrities. Now that’s putting in the effort to be innovative.

Conan, well, to me he’s the best of the trio. Being gracious even after getting screwed over by Leno earns brownie points from, but he’s genuinely funny and an affable host. He has a good sidekick (Fallon’s whatsisname sidekick is just creepy). and Conan’s Clueless Gamer series is just about the funniest segment on late night TV.

So coming back to David Letterman. obviously he can’t compete with these new younger guys, so I think its way past due that he retires. Goodbye Dave, and thanks for all the laughs, chief.

Catching Up on TV : Twin Peaks

Published by on April 30, 2015

Twin Peaks, a.k.a. “Who Killed Laura Palmer” is often mentioned as a cult TV series, but one I’ve not watched. I watched the first episode on RTM2 when it was shown back in 1991 (or possibly 1992), but I never continued the series. In any case I don’t think RTM finished broadcasting the first season. But I generally know the story, homecoming queen Laura Palmer was murdered, the entire surrealist series explores the townsfolk and seeks to solve the mystery.

So while on a break from The West Wing (getting somewhat boring) I started the with the pilot.

There’s a two hour premier, followed by 7 episodes of Season 1. Season 2 has 22 episodes, rounding it up to 30 episodes in total. After the series ended, there was a movie called Fire Walk With Me. Recently Showtime confirmed a new season will be coming, after close to a quarter of a century later.

Re-watching the pilot, I find myself only remembering the key scenes, namely the first (Laura scene) and the Ronette scene, and were probably the most memorable. Some websites have noted the premier as one of the best pilot episodes on TV. I tend to disagree, but its top notch tightly plotted no doubt.

The aforementioned opening scene is when a fisherman finds the body of Laura Palmer washed ashore, wrapped in plastic. Soon after that, we are introduced to the townsfolk, each seemingly hiding their own personal seedy secret. After that it can seem a little confusing, too many characters are introduced, each linked to someone else. the only 3 straight arrows seem to be Sheriff Truman and his 2 deputies.

Then star of the series, Agent Cooper, makes an appearance.

Out of the whole ensemble cast, and this being a HUGE cast, the standouts for me are definitely Kyle MacLachlan (Agent Dale Cooper) and Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey Horne). watching the series really made me wonder why Fenn never made it as a huge TV or movie star. Well, the mysteries… Some roles/characters were weak, like Joan Chen (Josie Packard), overplaying the victim role far too often.

The first season was strong, partly due it being shot and tightly plotted.

Then when I came to season 2, it was disappointing. I know that David Lynch was pressured by the network to reveal the killer midway through the season due to sagging ratings, but what it did was kill off the show prematurely. After the killer was revealed in the 8th episode, the remaining 14 episodes started to lose focus and get more surreal. the storyline line moved on to Windom Earle and Black Lodge / White Lodge arc, which to me, wasn’t as compelling as the Laura Palmer storyline.

The finale was the Black Lodge episode, full of symbolism which at the time I couldn’t really be bothered to decipher, and it all finally ended with an X-Files-like ending.

On to the movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

It was filmed as a sequel and prequel to the TV series, but personally I felt that it was a horrible movie. The only people who would have watched it would have been die-hard Peakies. Anyone else would have fell asleep or walked out of the cinema. I think it ruined the legacy of the series somewhat. The mystique of Laura Palmer was gone, in its place, we see this disturbed and unstable girl taking up most of the screen time.

it did end well for her, though, but it never really explains what happened to Agent Cooper, which is my biggest gripe.

In conclusion, Twin Peaks was definitely an outstanding TV series, for daring to be different. After completing the series I went back to the Internet to read the threads, and wow, I seem to have missed quite a bit of the symbolism especially about the two lodges. But I suppose Twin Peaks is a series set in that time in our TV history – the slow burn pacing and slapstick humour would definitely not fly on TV today. I’m not sure the secret of the killer would be kept that long today, either.

On another note, I was pleasantly surprised to see a few stars appear on the show, like Lara Flynn Boyle (The Practice) playing a major role, David Duchovny (X-Files) as a cross dressing FBI agent, and Heather Graham. the movie had Chris Isaak and a very young Kiefer Sutherland.

So we wrap up another series in my Catching Up with TV series. Now, I wonder if should go look up those Sherilyn Fenn movies…

Anime Review: Tatami Galaxy

Published by on April 12, 2015

Its been close to 6 years since I stopped watching animes, the last one was Ergo Proxy, and even that took me a few months to complete. In the interim, I’ve moved on to lots of the other series, mostly American drama and sitcoms. But I’ve always wanted to come back to anime, time permitting.

So six years, some reminiscing about Fullmetal Alchemist and Black Lagoon, i started reading about new anime series. It seemed that the scene has changed a bit since my last visit, with better and more matured series.

Anyway, i started with Tatami Galaxy, partly because it was only 12 episodes, and easy starter back into the scene.

<img src=”https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/2a/Tatami_Galaxy_cover.png”>

The series is a slice of life comedy drama about a college student dreaming about his rose coloured life on campus. The first 9 episodes are the retelling of the same scenario, sort of like a parallel universe version of his life. The story is always somewhat the same, the protagonist has an optimistic view upon entering college, joins a club to meet his dream girl, gets disappointed and alienated. In the process of the repeated scenarios, we are introduced to the supporting cast – a zen like master, a troubling making best friend, aloof girl classmate, hot dental assistant, etc.

Although in retrospect, the first 9 episode, though repetitive, tell a overarching storyline, sitting through it started to get tedious for me from the 3rd episodeonwards. Only from the 10th episode onwards did the plot start coming together and moving forward. I think the 12th and final episode is the strongest (the 11th is too surreal) and really shows its maturity in narrative.  

On the whole, i liked that it tried to take a different approach in the anime medium. I would recommend it for a quick watch, just persevere through the monotony of first half of the series.

Catching Up on TV : The West Wing Season 3

Published by on April 5, 2015

This post is much delayed, I finished the season 2 months ago during CNY, but never got round to write about it.

<img src=”https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/e/e0/West_Wing_S3_DVD.jpg”>

This season is ominous because it originally premiered in the US right after the 9/11 attacks back in 2001. There was a special to address this event, done with the best intentions but it was rather boring and preachy to say the least. The good thing was this episode was not part of the main storyline chronology.

 Season 3 proper started off with the cliffhanger of the previous season, President Bartlet expectedly announcing he is running for re-election. The main storyline was the leak that the President had multiple screlosis (MS), and that he hid this fact from the public during his campaign. They did a good job in building up the momentum leading up to the Congressional hearings, but the storyline fizzled out when he avoided the confrontation by taking a censure from Congress. I was disappointed in this turn in the plot, i thought in real life rhe Republicans would not have let him go off so easily, and would have milked it for all its worth especially with the reelection coming up. The second thing was i thought it would have made better drama had the confrontation played out further.

Anyway, there was a side plot of CJ getting a love interest, and another about a terrorist from Qumar, which led to the cliffhanger for the season.

But the best bit from the season was a culmination of the reelection storyline when Barltet finally meets his Republican opponent face to face. Good TV there.

Right. So that was season 3. In the 2 months since, I’ve gone off drama in general, spending more time on books and other stuff. I’ll get back to West Wing. Sooner or later. 

Catching Up on TV : The West Wing Season 2

Published by on February 24, 2015

This is an ongoing review series, to read my take on the first season, see here:
Season 1

After the euphoria of Season 1, I started the second season immediately. The first season cliffhanger was the shooting of President Bartlet, although we all know well nobody’s going to get seriously wounded.

Season 2 started off strong, with a flashback 2-parter, showing what everyone were individually doing before the campaign team was assembled for the Bartlet campaing. It was timely to show the backstories of the main characters, because in the course of the first season they’ve dropped tantalizing hints on how Jed Bartlett decided to run, and how the team came together. I really loved this 2-parter, and I look forward to more flashback episodes, especially on the key moments in the election campaign and victory.

But as the season moved along, I started losing interest mid-way through, so my progress slowed a bit. The latter half of the season picked up considerably, helped by key developments in the story arc – The president’s multiple sclerosis, the death of Mrs. Landingham (that was really unexpected) and his decision to run for re-election.

Overall, I thought the S2 was weaker than the premier season, even if the characters are more fleshed out. Josh Lyman and his assistant Donna are still my favourite characters.

Catching Up on TV : The West Wing Season 1

Published by on January 23, 2015

So after finishing up with Jack Bauer’s 24 (read about my reviews here), I was wondering what TV show to catch up on. I was googling up on ‘Greatest TV shows of all time’, and had narrowed down a shortlist like ‘Band of Brothers’, ‘The Sopranos’ etc.

As usual, Boone came to my rescue. what about The West Wing? Bingo! I was soon on way watching.

Before starting on the show, I had a rough idea that the show is a drama on the life of the President. I assumed it was a serious drama, with heavy issues the President faces in real life. But after a few episodes, I realized, it is more of a dramedy (as much as I dislike that word), or drama with comedic moments. Kind of like Ally McBeal, or Suits.

Anyway, on to the review of the first season, starting with the pilot episode. I thought it was clever for them to talk about the President the entire episode, but not show him right until the last scene. And when President Bartlett finally makes an appearance, man, what an entrance.

The West Wing is about the daily lives of the 6 White House senior staff and the Democrat President. The supporting cast includes their assistants and the First Lady. Everyone talks fast, and is incredibly witty. Although all 7 stars get equal camera time, my two favourite characters are Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) and Sam Seabourne (Rob Lowe). In fact, my favourite parts of the show are the ‘walk-and-talk’ scenes between Lyman and his assistant, Donna. Their witty repartee is TV gold. How come my real-life assistant in my office isn’t so funny? She spend most of the time shopping online and gossiping on the phone.

the_west_wing

The season ending cliffhanger is slightly out of character for the show with its high drama, but its good nonetheless.

I loved the first season. So much so I wanted to write about it as soon as I finished the watching this morning. Let’s see how season 2 fares.

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