sweating the small stuff – mobile phone bills

Time of the month to receive my mobile phone bill. I allocate RM100 for my mobile phone usage, and I get deliriously happy when the total payable amount comes up to less than that. Then I think back of the times when the bills would more than double that amount and I place sweet incense and fresh flowers at an altar dedicated to the Internet gods.

I just had this conversation with my colleagues the other day about the gradual shift in communication mediums. Mobile service providers’ rates are cheaper than say, 5 years ago. Yet sometimes I am unable to use up whatever amount or plan that I committed to. Often I have to remind myself to call and chat with e.g. my mom because (1) she’d emo if I didn’t, and (2) I’d have unused credits that cannot be brought forward to the next month.

These days, my friends and I mostly communicate on-line via assorted instant messengers. Our 9-5 jobs usually involve us staring at a monitor attached to a constantly-connected CPU/ notebook anyway. Dinner outings? Get everyone in a group chat and decide on the location and time. Can be daunting at times because we tend to stray from the main topic, but ultimately it gets the job done. Planning for a weekend getaway or holiday? Mass-email, reply-to-all, reply-to-all, reply-to-all.

In my world, instant messengers, blogs, Facebook and Twitter are effective to keep track of your family members’ daily assorted blah. My sister (1) imparted valuable information on tax-exempted items when I told her that I registered for e-Filing. My sister (2) tells me what Ryan is up to while I’m at work (“Mama, Nicholas says that sharing is caring. You have to share your pear!” then proceeds to eat 3/4 of it). Whenever I see my mom in person, I’d start to tell her about what I did recently and she’d exclaim, “Oh I know, I read it on your blog already!”

Also gone are the days of booking movie tickets via phone. You call up the number, select your language, select the date, select the movies, select the time, wait wait wait, and what do you know – tickets reserved for phone booking are all snapped up. Repeat tedious process for another time or movie. @#&*@# Wasted my time and mobile phone charges.

Granted, it’s nice to hear a loved one’s voice now and then. That’s why I call my mom at least once a week (sucking up). Like I said, it doesn’t cost very much these days. Let’s say I call her every week and we speak for 10 minutes. Even with the most expensive call rate available, that won’t cost more than RM 15 a month. Plus 10 minutes is quite long you know; I reckon we’d hang up after 5 mins or so.

Roaming charges lain kira lah.

Don’t know about you, but I was overpaying my mobile service provider for the longest time. They have all these rate packages and plans that look damn attractive. So I’d subscribe or switch to this or that plan, assuming that I was saving money thanks to the lower rates designed for that particular package. One day I picked up my phone bill and thoroughly studied every item. Then I realised that I was paying an additional RM10 or RM15 for nothing, but I still had to pay it because I committed myself to that package. Damn tulan with myself for not paying attention to details earlier, switched to another package with a higher rate plan but lower commitment fee. Still paying less than what I used to pay before.

Same goes for 3G service. I was shelling out RM99 every month for the unlimited package because I thought I’d use that much. Turned out, I didn’t. Cancelled the service, opted to pay as I use and the usage came up to RM25 a month. Should be lower this month because I opted for the 5MB that costs something like RM8.

Here’s my accounting:
RM 75 voice plan = payable RM 75; then
RM 80 voice + RM 99 data plan = payable RM 179; then
RM 50 voice + RM 99 data plan = payable RM 149; then
RM 50 voice + RM 25 pay-as-used data plan = payable RM 75; then
RM 50 voice + 5MB RM 8 data plan = RM 58 now.

Just checked my bill for this month; total payable is RM 60.xx. So happy.

Okay lah, I’m sure this is a small amount for a lot of you rich geezers out there. But for people like me who don’t get mobile phone calls allowance, every little bit counts! So difficult hor, for Maxis to earn money from me.

nst ‘writing blogs’ workshop – i lived to tell the tale

I was recommended by a couple of people to facilitate a workshop hosted by the New Straits Times, titled ‘Writing Blogs’. The reason I didn’t mention this before is because I didn’t want any of you there. Well, I wasn’t sure what kind of image you guys and girls have of me, and I certainly didn’t want to ruin whatever (il- or de-)lusion you have in your mind. Selfish reasons definitely, but it’s over now so I can gladly talk about it :D

In my world, I know anything and everything there is to know. Outside my warped sense of reality, other people are masters in their field of expertise. Hence I asked a few friends if they could spare an hour of their time to share their knowledge. They did, and I am most grateful and indebted to them. More on this later.

NST blogging workshop - Timothy, CL, Suanie, Audrey
Timothy, Cheng Leong, me and Audrey

So how did I do? In both my own world and reality, I sucked. Nerves + lack of sleep + ill-prepared + side effect from Reductil + sore throat + assuming too much = participants’ WTF look. Trust me, I’m not being hard on myself.

To begin with, I had to devise an outline for the workshop. It was a 2-day over the weekend thingy with 10 hours to fill. Since I’d allocated a few hours to my friends, I had effectively 5 hours to cover the basics of blogging and what-not. Sounds easy right? That was what I thought. I haven’t been on-line, blogging and reading thousands of blogs and articles for years not to learn, understand and implement some tips and tricks. Assuming one is a newbie to blogs and blogging, oh boy you wouldn’t believe the information I have to share!

One problem was compiling everything into a comprehensible structure and module. Being ignorant of the participants’ level of knowledge and understanding was a bit of a concern. I made the mistake of assuming too much or too little, of which I won’t go into details. Another problem was my (lack of) presentation skills. It is just something that I have to work on if I want people to understand what the heck I’m trying to say.

At the end of the first day, I went home feeling miserable and soundly deflated because (1) I did a piss poor job; and (2) I haven’t covered as much as I’d like to. Some food and sleep helped, then I got working on my presentation and notes to be printed out for the participants for the next day. I’d like to think that I somewhat redeemed myself the second day, but that’s not for me to judge :P

Re: my friends who contributed to the workshop. David Lian came in to talk about blogs and media from a communications person POV. Timothy Tiah talked about blogs and advertising + blogging community. Cheng Leong covered blogging and Malaysian law. Peter Tan talked about blogging for advocacy, and shared some basic SEO tips. Yvonne Foong shared her experience of raising funds for her surgeries and her life with Neurofibromatosis.

Well my friends, thank you again for giving up some precious weekend time to share your knowledge and views. Also, thanks to your respective partners for not having my head for taking away that precious weekend time. Much humbled, touched and appreciated :D

NST blogging workshop - group photo
Group photo on the second day

After the workshop, I went through the feedback forms. The glaring dissatisfaction was about my poor presentation skills and maybe some bits on the organisation of information. That I very well know, have accepted and will strive to improve. Apart from that, the feedback was pretty encouraging, really. So that was a bit of a pleasant surprise.

Well, that was an experience. Here’s my list of thank-yous, ala an Oscar acceptance speech. To the five guest speakers listed above, thanks for sharing. To the workshop participants, thank you for being kind and responsive. I learned a lot from the workshop and from you, and I hope that you went home with useful information and knowledge. To ShaolinTiger, thanks for your input. To Gier, thanks for the reassurance and for allowing me to work on my presso the working day before :P To T and JS, thanks for your votes of confidence.

Last but not least, thank you to Kulwant of NST NIE. You are amazing, and definitely a ‘Cool One’ ;) By the way the ayam masak merah served for lunch on the second day was fanfuckingtastic.

how i got a free sandwich with my starbucks latte

This morning I stopped by Starbucks on the way to work to grab a cuppa. If you know me well enough, you’d know that my usual drink is iced latte, size venti/ large/ paling besar. So I asked for that, and spotted some nice sandwiches on display and decided to get one as well. The lovely lady at the cashier rang up my bill, and the total payable amount was RM 12.10.

Now, if you’ve ordered the same thing countless times before, you’d be well acquainted with the pricing structure. On the menu board, it says that my large iced latte costs RM 11.50. Then you add in the 5% government tax and it would be RM 12.10. So I was a tad puzzled with what I had to pay. Not that I was complaining of course, but you just want to know lah.

The lovely lady at the cashier explained the mechanics to me. There’s this ‘Breakfast Pairing‘ at Starbucks thing going on. For something like RM6.50, you get a house coffee and a sandwich. Add another RM 3 to switch your plain black coffee to a tall latte. Another RM 2 gets you a Venti size. Sub-total is RM 11.50; 5% tax is RM 0.58 so total payable is RM 12.10 (after rounding up).

So that was how I got a free sandwich when I purchased my Starbucks iced latte. Just thought I’d share :D

ryan and his coin box(es)

Like many people, I leave loose change lying around in my room. If you live with a kid, what can you do to maintain the habit and easiness of placing your coins everywhere after emptying them from your pocket or bag, while ensuring that the coins do not end up halfway between the kid’s throat and stomach?

Just make sure that you put the coins at a place three times the kid’s height lah. By the time they are able to reach the shelf (or grab a chair, climb on top of it to reach the shelf), they’d already wise up to the fact that the notes and coins are better off exchanged for shiny new toys instead of being food substitute.

Apparently all the loose change in my room are already Ryan’s. “Ryan, give me back my coin please?” “No, it’s my money! It’s mine, it’s mine!!!” “Uh, okay…”

I told him that I’d get him a piggy bank to store his ‘new found’ money. I did; it was in the shape of a cute pink piggy with a fat stomach that I got at one of those stores that sell cuteness-overload, space-consuming and pretty much useless stuff.

Ryan and his pink piggy bank
Ryan liked his piggy bank

Two problems: 1) it was made of polyresin; 2) I forgot that Ryan’s a 4 year old boy. The next day I saw bits and pieces of the piggy bank in the bin, and felt my heart sank a bit. I really liked the pig.

Oh well. Off I went in search of a coin box that won’t easily break. I took the boy with me and he picked out this plastic orange teddy bear, which was honestly the best of the lot. Doesn’t say much about the selection, but at least the boy’s got taste.

Ryan and his orange teddy bank
Ryan loves his teddy bear coin box

I pray for the teddy bear coin box’s longevity. After all the two coin boxes already cost way more than what I leave lying around in my room.

Tasty chicken and lamb mandy @ Al-Rawsha

Update on 20th April 2012: Al-Rawsha has since moved to near Bulatan Kampung Pandan.

We went for a company lunch earlier this month at the Al-Rawsha restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. Since then, I’ve not been able to get the chicken mandy dish out of my mind.

Lamb and Chicken Mandy, Al-Rawsha

It was tasty, succulent and scrumptious. Something like our nasi beryani (and I’m talking about the Batu Pahat version), but this one was a lot healthier. For one, they do not use gallons of oil to cook their dishes. The entire platter of rice you see in the photo above seemed to contain only a tablespoon of olive oil. It was so aromatic and delicious that I would have consumed more if I could. The chicken and lamb meat were nicely done and most yummy. Take a fork to it and the meat falls like cotton from the bone.

Not sure what was ‘mandy’ so a quick Google search directed to a mandy spice mix.

Need to revisit the restaurant again. If you want to get there before me, it’s along Jalan Damai (Off Jalan Ampang). The map on the restaurant web site is somewhat accurate, except that it’s not directly opposite of Kelab Aman. You’ll have to go slightly further than that, past the Chinese school and a couple other Middle Eastern restaurants. Service was blah, but food was good.