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Best way to get service from Skycable

Best way to get service from Skycable

Yesterday (Sunday) my cable connection went dead. I also did not have any internet as Skycable is both my cable TV and internet provider.

I first tried calling their hotline (381-0000) so I could talk to someone on the phone. Fifteen minutes later and 3 rounds of “all our agents are occupied at the moment” I gave up trying to get a real person on the phone. After all it was Sunday afternoon, the worse possible time to try to get service from a provider.

In desperation I texted Report (My Subscriber account number) to 23662. This was a hail mary play though, I didn’t expect anything to come of it and that I would have to call the hotline again the next day, Monday. To top it all off, the only response from Skycable was an automated text telling me to visit their website for common trouble shooting tips. (This text was particularly aggravating since my internet was down as well. It’s like asking a drowning man why doesn’t he swim.)

The cable went out around 4pm. I texted the hotline around 5:30pm. Amazingly at around 8pm someone from Skycable called to inform me that they had had a service interruption in the area but it was fixed now so my cable and my internet should be working. The customer service rep patiently waited while I checked both and that was that.

So, texting Skycable to get service works! (Even on a Sunday.)

To recap, if you are having technical difficulty with Skycable:

  1. Find out your account number (let’s say it’s 12345)
  2. Text Report 12345 to 23662
  3. That’s it!
  4. Hope they contact you in a couple of hours

 

Insert Plate LTO – What the heck does this mean?

Insert Plate LTO – What the heck does this mean?

Short Story: From what I can gather, insert plate, means that your vehicle is not registered in the national database of LTO. Instead your record is still in a district office (usually the district office where the vehicle was first registered) and it has to be that district office which manually uploads the file to the national database. I use manually as you have to physically go to that district office and tell them to insert plate.

Long Story:

The car in question

In Dec 2013 I bought a new car from the Honda dealership at Shaw Blvd. The dealership had already registered the car at the LTO district office in Marikina. The license plate of the car ends in 1.

Skip forward to January 2017 and I needed to renew the registration of my car for the first time (a new car is considered registered for 3 years from date of purchase). As I live in Makati I figured I could register the car at LTO Makati. Information around the internet suggested it would be no problem renewing in Makati even though the car was originally registered in Marikina. That link I shared specifically says you can renew at any LTO office, just subject to a PHP100 “transfer fee.”

So I get my emissions test (“smoke” is the slang term) and insurance done, both in Makati. Unfortunately both smoke and insurance were unable to find the file of my car online. (Both the emissions testers and insurance providers have access to the LTO database as they are required to upload/attach their findings and insurance policy to the file of the motor vehicle in question). Both assured me though I just needed to go to Window C (Records) at LTO Makati and ask records to “insert plate”.

LTO Motor Vehicle reg form

Dutifully I head off to Window C where they inform me that they are unable to insert plate from there and I have to go to LTO Marikina.

At this point no one can explain to me what this magical “insert plate” even means.

I ask the Motor Vehicle Inspector (the guy usually at the front of every LTO office who handles renewal of vehicle registration) why I can’t can’t renew my registration in Makati. He says they just can’t do it but I can pay a 2 year penalty if I renew at Makati.

More on this “penalty”. It’s not really a penalty. Since I got my car in Dec 2013 I have to pay a 1/4 year fee for 2013 and the subsequent 3 years, 2014, 2015 and 2016 are free (since new cars are considered registered for 3 years). According to the guy at Window C (LTO Makati) I only needed to pay a 1/4 penalty at LTO Marikina. MV Inspector Makati says that’s true but if I want it done in Makati I would have to pay a penalty worth 2 years.

To top it all off the Makati Inspector was not even clear if after all that expense I would be able to register my car in Makati or if I would run into the same insert plate problem with Records.

Makati looked like a bust so I had no choice to go to LTO Marikina, Window 7 (Records). Window 7 was able to insert plate but the whole process, including getting my 2017 registration took me to the inside of the LTO office where I had to ask the IT guy to update my vehicle records. Further I had to pay twice, the 1/4 fee for 2013 and then the full fee for 2017, both times the lines for the cashier were long.

View from inside the office of LTO Marikina

Basically I spent 2 mornings (1 at Makati and 1 in Marikina) running around LTO for something as simple as registering a car.

I have no idea why:

  1. The record of my vehicle had not been uploaded to the LTO database in the first place (and was “stuck” in the LTO Marikina database)
  2. Why LTO Makati couldn’t just call LTO Marikina and tell the latter to upload/update the vehicle file
Bougainvillea Cutting Propagation

Bougainvillea Cutting Propagation

In my last few posts I shared that I’ve recently moved house. I wanted to bring some of the old house with me though in the form of plants.

Just digging them out of the ground, roots and all, didn’t seem very sporting. I wanted a mix of the old and the new. (Get a plant by its roots and you just have the old plant.) So I set about getting cuttings. They are what they sound like, you cut a part of an existing plant and hope that you can grow it into a new, separate plant.

My new place has a wide roof deck with lots of sun, perfect for a few plants. I chose Bougainvillea as it’s quite hardy, likes the sun and has a pretty bloom of flowers when it’s in the mood.

I also hope to eventually make the Bougainvillea crawl down the side of my townhouse, forming a shade against the sun for the rooms as well as making the facade more appealing.

So how do you cut Bougainvillea for propagation? I have zero gardening skills but managed to do it so I’m sure you’ll do just fine.

Super easy: cut off a few branches, stick those branches into the ground. Wait a couple of weeks.

Did I mention my gardening skills were zero? And yet they grew. New sprouts/buds will appear at the ends of the branches so try to get a branch with a lot of tertiary branches growing from it.

Bougainvillea likes its soil dry, do not overwater.

Air conditioner keeps tripping the breaker

Air conditioner keeps tripping the breaker

I recently moved into a new house. We got it for a good deal as the owner’s immigration visa to Australia was granted suddenly and he was eager to sell his property.

Anyway we were using the air conditioner in the master’s bedroom every night for around 3 weeks when one night the AC just died and we heard the thud/clunk of the breaker tripping. I reset the breaker and the air conditioner came back on. It lasted for around 30 minutes and then died again, along with the breaker once again tripping.

I had no idea as to how well maintained the AC unit was; whether it was on its last legs or the problem was the breaker or something else entirely. That’s the thing with buying real estate second hand, you’re never entirely sure how comfortable/reliable it is until you actually live in it.

Cleaning the air conditioner and getting it checked out was the easiest thing I could do to try to address the problem. The AC unit in question is a 2HP split type air conditioner with its compressor/motor located a floor above us on the roof deck.

I have an AC service place I use regularly (for Alcoves) so they came over the next day to clean the air conditioner. Once they started cleaning it was quite apparent that the AC had not been cleaned in awhile. They would blast water into the unit and really dark, cruddy liquid would wash out. (AC cleaning is basically cleaning out the innards of the air conditioner with pressure blasted water.)

So, the air conditioner was very, very dirty. It doesn’t help that Manila air really isn’t the cleanest to begin with and the property is located somewhat close to a major highway.

Once the AC had been cleaned it resumed its normal operation without tripping the breaker.

Long story short: A dirty air conditioner doesn’t work as efficiently so it could be drawing more and more power from the mains until it trips a breaker. If you have an air conditioner which is constantly tripping a breaker, consider having it cleaned.

Cancelling a booking with Makati Crown Regency through Getaroom.com

Cancelling a booking with Makati Crown Regency through Getaroom.com

On the rare occasion that a double booking occurs at Alcoves we either upgrade the guest to a nicer room with us or find them alternate accommodations at an equal or nicer place.

This is how I ended up booking at Makati Crown Regency, in order to accommodate an overbooked guest. Booking online a room with Makati Crown Regency was painless and quick.

However the double booked Alcoves guest ended up no longer needing the room. As such, I had to cancel the booking with Makati Crown Regency. And this is where the story gets interesting.

I called up Makati Crown Regency, gave my confirmation number and asked to cancel the booking. I note that I tried to cancel the booking online but the link provided in the confirmation email had no option to cancel or modify the booking.

Makati Crown Regency  confirmed the booking but said they couldn’t cancel it as the booking had been done online. I said fine, transfer me to someone who can cancel the booking. I get transferred to the reservations manager who, after also having to call someone to check the procedure for cancellation, informed me I would have to contact the online agent from which I had booked the room from. (I had booked through Getaroom.)

Again I said alright do they have a phone number I can reach the online agency with(at this point I was already dubious since Getaroom is an international site). After some fumbling on the other end, I am informed they do not have a phone number, only an email address. A little exasperated at this point I say that it’s kind of silly that even though I am already directly talking to the hotel with which I have a confirmed booking with I can’t cancel said booking. They say they can only give me an email address.

Resigned I get the email and send a request right away. Honestly I was pretty sure I would get no reply or at best a reply a couple of days later. But in fairness someone replied within a couple of hours to confirm my cancellation.

So on one hand the current method to cancel a booking is pretty silly, Kafkaesque even. Even though you’re talking to the hotel with which you have a booking, and the hotel confirms the same, you can’t cancel the booking. On the other hand the roundabout method in place now works well, if you can get over your initial skepticism that someone will reply to your email.

After all that trouble I never even stayed at the Crown Regency.

Buying Bitcoin (BTC/XTC) in the Philippines

Buying Bitcoin (BTC/XTC) in the Philippines

I got into Bitcoin back when it was still new, the days when CPU mining was possible and GPU mining was just catching on.

If you have no idea what that means then just take my word for it that I’ve been following bitcoin for awhile now.

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How to: Pay your St Luke’s Bill Online

How to: Pay your St Luke’s Bill Online

My grandmother (lola in Filipino) has been sick for quite awhile now. Basically it’sIMG_20160323_091324643 just old age as her organs are not working as well as they should be (particularly her heart and kidneys).

Because of her illness, my lola is frequently in St. Luke’s Global. At one point she has stayed there for 3 months straight. As such, I have a lot of experience dealing with the doctors and staff of the hospital. Overall the people at St. Luke’s strike me as very competent, professional and caring.

Long hospital stays though mean that there are constantly hospital bills that need to be paid. Fortunately St. Luke’s has an online payment system which is easy to use.

Online payment is particularly useful for:

  1. Long confinements where you have to constantly keep paying a rising hospital bill
  2. When the patient is ready to be discharged and you can’t make it to the hospital to settle the final bill.

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How to: Pay your Globe bill online

How to: Pay your Globe bill online

I hate waiting in line at banks or merchants. So whenever possible I try to pay my bills online. My globe landline bills are enrolled in an auto debit arrangement with my credit card (the bill gets charged to the card so I only need to worry about paying the credit card bill).

My mobile number though is not enrolled so I pay that online.

Fortunately Globe, whatever its other faults, has a very easy to use online payment system.

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Other Ways to Make Money on Steam

Other Ways to Make Money on Steam

So I’ve talked about how to make money with Steam cards.steam-logo

Steam cards are fun but it’s a long plod before you see any kind of meaningful profit. There are other, far more lucrative ways of making money on Steam. Caveat though, I’ve never tried them.

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An (Almost) Complete Guide to Making Money on Steam

An (Almost) Complete Guide to Making Money on Steam

This article will primarily talk about the money to be made buying and selling Steam trading cards. For convenience let’s just call them Steam cards from here on. Also for convenience, mostly mine, the steam-logoprimary currency used will be Philippine Peso (PHP). That’s because my Steam account is in PHP and so all of my trades are in PHP. I’ll occasionally refer to a USD equivalent to provide an easier reference to judge a transaction.

There are other ways to make money on Steam. To be honest though I’ve only thoroughly explored the buying and selling of Steam cards. Update: I also post occasional Steam Market tips and observations.

Steam Market Analysis

  1. Cyclical slump (March 2017)
  2. Change in Steam Email Confirmation (January 2017)
  3. Market Crash (November 2016)
  4. Market Behavior During Steam Sales (August 2016)
  5. Prison Architect Steam Cards rise by more than 100% (June 2016)
  6. Gem price stabilizes (May 2016)
  7. Price of Gems up by by around 50% (April 2016)
  8. Loser markets (April 2016)
  9. Account currency (March 2016)
  10. Steam down (March 2016)
  11. Card prices go up (March 2016)
  12. Confirmation needed for steam sales (March 2016)
  13. Xcom2 Cards in a Slump (March 2016)

What are these Steam trading cards and how do I get them?

Most games offered on Steam have virtual trading cards which consist of an event or character from that game. Steam cards are basically like all of the other trading cards you’re familiar with, sports trading cards, comic book character trading cards, etc. One big difference though is that Steam cards are virtual, you’ll never get to hold a copy of the Civilization V Trading card Science Advisor, for example.

You receive Steam cards by simply playing the games on Steam which offer these Steam cards. These card drops happen randomly and you’re only eligible for a certain number of card drops.

If you’ve spent any amount of time in Steam you probably already have some Steam cards. In Steam, click your Profile Name (after Community) and select Badges. There you’ll see all of your cards segregated by game.

Steam Game Badges
Steam Game Badges

Alternately you can also select Profile Name then Inventory to see your cards.

Of course, you can also buy Steam cards through the Steam Marketplace. Select Community then Market.

How much money/income are we talking about?

Not much. Let’s say I buy a Steam card for PHP5 (around that’s around USD.09) and sell it for PHP5.5 (around USD.12) that’s still only a profit of 50 cents (PHP). Even if I had a thousand of those transactions (that’s a heck of a lot of buying and selling) I’ve only made PHP500.

You’re definitely not going to be putting your children through school with Steam Cards.

Also, any money you make is simply credit to your Steam account, you can’t withdraw the money and convert it into actual cash.

Why do it then?

For one, the return on investment (ROI) is crazy high, between 5-15% after 7 days. The example above (buy at PHP5, sell at PHP5.5) is about the average ROI after you have some experience with Steam Cards. With a bit more experience you could sell the cards for higher, around 15-20% ROI, but you have to know your markets pretty well (see below).

I can’t think of any investment which would give you a 10% ROI after 1 week. Most transactions which offer that kind of return in that time frame are scams, ponzi schemes or other fleecing machinations.

Two, it’s better than checking Facebook or Instagram or Twitter obsessively every couple of hours. Now I just check Steam obsessively every couple of hours.

So it’s a hobby. One to fuss over when life gets annoying.

Let’s Get Started!

1. Buy Low – Sell High

The gist of making money with Steam cards is the same as any other commodity. Buy them cheap and sell them at a higher price. Commerce is commerce and the same basic rules which apply to physical goods also hold true for virtual goods.

That said, you need to have a sense of what’s a low price and a high price for that particular card. Many Steam cards fluctuate in a predictable price range band. For example, the average price of a card may range from PHP8-PHP11.

To discover the price range you’ll need to observe the behavior of a card over several days. Sure you can check its trading history but there’s nothing like looking up the price several times a day to make that price range stick in your head.

Look for cards with a predictable price range with frequent dips and climbs. Those are good cards to buy and sell.

For example, check out the price band of Elizabeth I from Civilization V. Assuming you bought the card at PHP1.6 and then sold it at PHP2.5 that’s a profit of .9 or around a 56% ROI. Not bad!

Lots of activity with this Civ V Steam card.
Lots of activity with this Civ V Steam card.

2. Transaction fee – Seven Day Wait

All purchases of Steam Cards are subject to a 15% fee which Steam adds to your purchase price. For example,if  you want to sell a card at PHP1, the actual selling price which everyone will see is PHP1.15.

15% is quite a hefty fee and you need to take that into consideration when you buy a card. You could buy a card at PHP6 and, based on the prices you’ve seen, you think you can sell it for PHP6.15, a small margin but a profit just the same. But if you set your price at PHP6.15, the actual selling price would be PHP7.07!

Many transactions which look good will actually end up losing you money once you take into consideration the Steam fee.

All purchases of Steam Cards are also subject to a 7 day hold before you can sell them on the Steam market or trade them. This 1 week hold negates any quick turn around plans you might have for your Steam cards.

Steam cards will become available for sale/trade at the same time every day. In Philippine time it’s 4:00pm. So if you bought cards on March 1, they would be available for sale/trade starting 4pm on March 8.

3. Find your markets – Know your markets

I tend to look at each game as being a separate market. Usually all the Steam cards of one game will trade in around the same price brand. There are exceptions of course but as a general rule most Steam cards of the same game will be similarly priced.

Most of the Steam Cards for Xcom are similarly priced.
Most of the Steam Cards for Xcom are similarly priced.

Before dipping your toes in a new market, observe the price fluctuations for a couple of days. It’s critical you get a sense of the price band of the Steam cards you’re interested in.

When starting out, find 2 or 3 markets, watch them for a couple of days, get a feel for the price ranges.

After you’ve made some money on Steam you’ll notice that you’ll still have credit left over even after looking for good deals in your customary markets. Then you’ll need to branch out into new markets, again getting a feel for the price ranges.

4. Foil cards are like hookers – They look  good when you hire them but afterwards you realize you paid too much

Foil cards are uncommon/rare versions of ordinary Steam cards. Because Foil cards are more rare they’re also more expensive.

It may be tempting to buy a foil card and make a projected profit of PHP10 in one go instead of the usual profit of PHP.50 on one transaction.

Resist the temptation! The prices of Foil cards are much more volatile than the regular Steam Cards. What may look like a good deal in the flush of the moment may not look so rosy one week later.

Because Foil cards are rare, there’s less of a market in them. Usually only 1 or 2 of the same type of Foil card get sold in a day (this of course depends on the market). This lack of transactions means there’s no averaging out of price. One minute the price could be PHP40, the next, PHP16.

Getting a feel for the Steam card price ranges is possible because the volume of transactions allows for a mean to emerge. You don’t have that volume with Foil cards.

I’ve personally gotten burned on several Foil cards which I thought would do great but ended up costing me money.

Nowadays my strategy for Foil cards is to only buy them when I’m really sure that the price being offered is well below the market rate.

5. Nitty gritty – Organizational Tips

Making any sort of money with Steam cards requires you to be organized, this part of the exercise appeals to the OC (obsessive compulsive) in me.

As with anything organizational, Excel is a must. Keep an Excel file which tracks how much you bought each card for. Since there’s at least a 7 day gap between your purchase of a Steam card and when you can sell it, you’ll need to have a system in place to track just how much you spent on each card.

I also make general notes in my Excel file such as what is a good price, based on the history of the cards, to pay for cards from a certain game. I also note how much in the past I’ve been able to sell each card for.

Do your buying through your browser. The Steam client is clunky for checking out the prices of multiple markets.

I bookmark the search results of each market in my browser and then just open all of the bookmarks as new tabs to check all of  them. I do this several times a day to check if there are any good deals in the markets I’m trading in.

6. Using the buy order feature

You can place advanced orders for any steam card or item. Simply input the amount per card you are willing to spend and how many cards you want. The system will automatically fill your order if someone sells that card at your selected price.

Auto buy or buy orders are great when you already have a feel for what is a good price in a particular market. Moreover I place buy orders usually on markets which I’ve classified as abandoned.

Note also that you’ll need to cancel your buy order if you want to manually purchase a card at the market rate. Say you have an order to buy 5 Xcom Psi Class cards at PHP3 per card. Then you see that someone is selling that card at PHP3.45 and you want to buy it now. You’ll have to cancel your existing order of 5 Psi Class cards before you can buy the one card at PHP3.45.

Slow and steady wins the race

Dealing in cents won’t make you a millionaire or perhaps even a thousandaire. But it’s immensely satisfying when you buy a card at a low price and manage to sell it a week later at a much higher price.

And again, Steam trading is more productive than just checking Facebook.