Money Monster Review

Money Monster

I saw Money Monster with my wife the other week and we both enjoyed it quite a bit.

George Clooney plays Lee Gates, the host of a financial show called Mad Money. Julia Roberts plays his director, Patty.

All seems like it’ll be just another normal day for the show until an armed gunman, played by Jack O’Connell, comes onto the show and threatens to shoot Lee if he doesn’t do what he says.

The gunman pulls out a suicide vest and straps Lee into it. The vest is wirelessly connected to a deadman switch that the gunman, named Kyle, holds in his hand. If Kyle lets go of the switch then the bomb goes off.

While arguing and threatening Kyle explains that he invested his entire savings into a stock named IBIS that Lee previously recommended. The stock has now tanked due to some unknown error.

Lee and Patty work to keep everyone in the studio alive until the police can deal with the situation. Eventually they come to
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Buying a House

My wife and I have been thinking about buying a house for awhile and over the last few weeks we have set things in motion for us to actually get one.

The first thing we did was to call a real estate agent that had gotten a house for a couple we’re friends with.

The real estate agent set us up on a tour of houses in Davis in what we’d guessed our price range was. We fell in love with the first house we saw and none of the other houses compared to that one.

The house itself has four bedrooms and two full bathrooms. There’s an additional room upstairs that is designed to be an office space. There are two living rooms, a back patio, and a side patio. The kitchen is massive and there’s also an awesome play structure in the backyard. On top of the roof are some solar panels. The house is at the end of a block long cul-de-sac and right next to a park at the back of the street.

Basically, the house is amazing. We fully believe that we could live in the house for the next forty years.

So after deciding we wanted to make an offer on the house we had to go through a flurry of gathering papers and sending them off to the lender to get us a mortgage. Bank statements, loan statements, W2s, paystubs, credit card statements. SO MANY STATEMENTS!

We quickly got a prequal letter for a mortgage and we made an offer on the house.

The house had been on the market for five months, so initially we were going to lowball it. But apparently two other couples had gone to the open house and were going to make offers on the house as well. We went for list price and the current owners snatched our offer up the next morning.

The next step was lining up house inspections to make sure we weren’t getting a dud of a house.

The inspections happened this week. They found a few problems, but nothing major (no walls made of cardboard, no explosives under the floorboards, etc.). We’re asking the current owners to fix some of the problems before we close escrow.

There’s been a steady stream of other forms to sign going back and forth between my wife and I, the real estate agent, the solar company, our insurance company, and the lender.

It’s been an exhausting experience. When I get home I’m often printing off another form to sign, signing it, scanning it back into my computer, and then emailing it off again. The process would probably be even more exhausting 25 years ago when the forms all had to be dropped off in person or sent through snail mail!

But we’ve lined up an amazing house to move in to. Here! Take a look!

The view when you first come into the house.
The view when you first come into the house.
One of the TWO living rooms.
One of the TWO living rooms.
The big ol' kitchen.
The big ol’ kitchen.
I will climb on this thing every day once we move in.
I will climb on this thing every day once we move in.

-GoCorral

New Year’s Resolutions

So there’s this tradition of making a resolution to improve yourself at the end of every year. It’s supposed to be a method of self-improvement.

When I was a kid most of my resolutions were to brush my teeth more often. After I started being interested in dating my resolutions mostly revolved around putting on more muscle mass.

This year they’re mostly about being a better person for my wife instead of my parents (teeth brushing) or a potential girlfriend (muscles).

1) When someone has a birthday I will try to make that day a little better for them.
I’ve become something of a Grinch when it comes to birthdays because I don’t like my own. I go to parties and am a nice guest, but I don’t try to do something for someone when there isn’t an established event for them already. I’ll try to change that from now on. Of course this will depend on how close I am to the birthday person. Doing something for them might just mean a message on their Facebook wall. It could mean I get them a cool present and send it in the mail or even offer to plan a party for them!

2) Enjoy my own birthday.
Related to the birthday Grinch thing, I don’t enjoy my own birthday. I don’t like the idea of getting older and have wanted to stay the same age since I was seven. Getting older sucks once you get all the privileges! Now its all about more responsibilities. Well, I should stop blaming my birthday for that and have a nice time. No more being grumpy for the two weeks that surround my birthday.

3) Try harder to be a vegetarian again.
My wife is a vegetarian for ethical reasons. She thinks its wrong to kill an animal just because you want something tastier to eat than the delicious combination of cheese and beans (We are fans of Mexican food). I phrased the question of vegetarianism to myself a little differently awhile ago. Who is a better person, someone who kills animals when they don’t have to or someone who doesn’t? That kind of made it clear to me. Someone who doesn’t kill animals is better.
While I don’t think I can stay off meat entirely because too many of my favorite recipes lack adequate substitutes. There are good soy substitutes for chicken, but not for bacon for example. Thus I told my wife two years ago that I would make an effort to replace or subtract meat from my meals when I felt it did not add anything to the meal. I’ve since started slipping in that promise, so I am reaffirming it as a New Year’s Resolution.

4) “Donate” money to Kiva.
Kiva is a cool organization that loans money to small business owners in developing countries. Note that Kiva doesn’t give money to them, it loans money. If you give money to someone they often don’t spend it wisely. There’s a natural tendency to see a gift as “fun money” instead of money to improve your station in life. But if the money is a loan, then the debt ensures that the money will be used to improve the person’s business instead of buying a TV or whatever.
About 10% of the people who receive money default on their loans (The site says 1.25%, but 10% was the number I remembered when I looked at it previously). For some perspective, the USA default rate on small business loans is 1.5% right now and was 6% during the recent recession. Another problem is that although you are fronting the money for the investment, you make nothing off of it. When the business owner repays the loan the interest is used to pay the salary of the collector working for Kiva. You get back your original investment, but that’s all. So what if someone defaults? Well, Kiva encourages you to spread your money out over multiple people in $20 amounts to avoid this problem. Then if someone defaults you’re only out $20.
I said I was donating the money though. My plan is that when I get my money back that I will just reinvest it in another person until its all gone due to defaults (which could take years). I got a $200 gift from my grandparents for Christmas, so I think that’ll be the starting amount of my Kiva account. I’ll add in more later as I get older.

5) Set up my wife’s Roth IRA.
Kind of strange to have this one follow up a resolution to invest money for other people, but investing money for yourself is important too! There are tons of different retirement accounts, but the do it yourself ones are called plain IRAs and Roth IRAs. Plain IRAs are taxed when you start withdrawing money from them after you retire. Roth IRAs are taxed before you put money into them, but never after that. Which one is better? It depends on your tax bracket. If your bracket is going to go up by the time you retire, then a Roth IRA is better. If its going to stay the same, a regular IRA is better.
I have a Roth IRA set up for myself. For someone in the bottom tax bracket like me, a Roth IRA will earn three times as much as a regular IRA in investments by the time I retire. My wife is in the same boat for her tax bracket. She doesn’t have an account set up yet and we’ve been talking about it for awhile. Next year I will set it up and we can start saving for retirement even though we are in our 20’s.

And those are my New Year’s Resolutions! I’d love to hear your own resolutions and the stories behind them in the comments below.

-Mister Ed

Annie Movie Review

Annie Movie Poster

I went to see the new Annie movie recently with my wife. She’s a big fan of one of the previous movies, the 1982 Columbia Pictures version.

As my wife’s a fan of the 1982 version we spent most of our time comparing the new 2014 movie to the older one.

There’s some rather obvious changes they made to adapt the movie to the modern world.

The original was set during the Great Depression with Daddy Warbucks earning his money by selling weapons. The new movie replaces Warbucks punny name with Will Stacks and his stacks of money he earned from his mobile phone company.

Annie used to be in an orphanage with dozens of other girls. Now she lives in foster care with four other kids.

Roosevelt is removed from the movie. A political element is still present as Stacks is running for mayor. He takes over Annie’s foster care as a PR move for his campaign instead of the nonspecified reason that Warbucks does in the first movie.

A few of the songs are missing, but the originals are joined by a few new ones such as “Opportunity” which you can hear on Youtube.

The song performances themselves are good with the exception of Cameron Diaz who plays the evil foster caretaker, Miss Hannigan. “Easy Street” and “Little Girls” are much worse than their 1982 versions, but how could anybody compete with Carol Burnett and Tim Curry?

The new Rooster character is a lot creepier than how I perceived the Tim Curry’s comical performance. I’m unsure if that was a decision made by the director or just that when the character is updated for a modern audience his creepiness comes out in a way that I can appreciate.

The movie has a few problems with lip syncing which is… odd. You’d think that’d be something they could’ve worked out by now with software.

There’s tons of other new additions to update the movie, Annie has a Twitter account run by her fans for example. There are still plenty of homages and jokes to please people like me who liked the original. If you enjoyed the 1982 Annie then I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy this new version as well. Quvenzhane Wallis and Jamie Foxx are just as cute as Aileen Quinn and Albert Finney.

-Mister Ed

Warband Streaming

Steam had their usual Halloween sale and I snatched up a game I’d been watching for when it went on sale, Mount and Blade: Warband.

I wrote a review of the original Mount and Blade game back in March 2014. While my review was positive, I felt like after two playthroughs that I was done with the game and probably finished with any sequels as well.

To be fair those two playthroughs were massive in length and I didn’t want to get any sequels because I felt the gameplay wouldn’t be any different. Kind of like how I’ve only played the first two generations of the Pokemon games. I caught all 250 already, dammit! I don’t need anymore!

But eventually the call of a game I loved so much becomes too strong… My mind says, “You know you want it. And its on sale. Its only $10. You can get it.” And my mind forgets to mention that the real cost of a game for me isn’t the money, but the time I spend playing it instead of doing other things.

I usually play Mount and Blade when I’m by myself, so what other things could I do by myself that I’d be missing out on by not playing? I could read, watch something on Youtube or Netflix, draw, write something, stream a video game on Twitch-

Wait! What was that last one? I could stream a video game on Twitch you say?

Well, why not stream Mount and Blade?

I’ve been doing that and it’s tons of fun!

I’m exploring more of the mods for Warband. I’ve been learning more about tech trees and trading within the game. I’ve found other people who play it (Finally!). All around I’ve been having a blast replaying it. I even got my wife to play it for a minute which is a rare thing indeed.

I’ve been streaming in the morning on weekends and I plan to do a little more during the week as well. You can catch me at http://www.twitch.tv/gocorral

-Mister Ed

Samurai War

It's back, baby!
It’s back, baby!

One of my favorite websites, Samurai War, has returned from the banished depths of the internet!

Samurai War is my favorite website mostly for nostalgia reasons.

When I first started going on the internet in the late 1990s I spent most/all of my time at the GameFAQs boards learning more about the games I was playing at the time.

GameFAQs has a series of discussion boards devoted to every video game ever.

When you post on the boards you have the option of every single one of your posts being followed by a signature. The signature can really be anything and often people would put links in their signatures.

The links could go to the user’s website or to something more fun like a browser based game.

Samurai War was one of those browser based games that I grew to love.

The concept of Samurai War is pretty simple. You’re a samurai/ronin in ancient Japan. Your goal is to become the most powerful samurai in Japan. Maybe you want to be in charge of a noble house or maybe you want to remain a ronin, either way the goal of the game is to advance your character’s stats.

Stats are advanced through training, but you have to pay for training. Where does money come from then?

Well if you click the link above to Samurai War’s webpage you’ll be introduced to the first method of earning money in Samurai War.

The second method is by engaging people in combat. The winner takes whatever is in the loser’s wallet. In the modern world we call this mugging, but in Samurai War it is called honorable combat.

Of course if you’re just stealing money from other players then no new money enters the system. The game fixes that by having a NPCs spawn every few minutes for you to rob and murde- I mean defeat honorably.

The game is extremely minimalist beyond that. It’s mostly text. There are a few images on the site but nothing stunning. There are zero animations in the game.

So with so little to offer in this game, why do I love it so much?

I’d have to say it’s mostly the friendly competitive atmosphere that developed between the me and the other people were playing it.

After you’ve got a decent amount of money you have to rush to use it to train before someone else in the game sees you with a wallet that big and decides to “honorably take it from you.”

And if they kill you after you’ve already used the money, then you get to laugh at them.

It’s a great game and if you’re into little time wasters you should take a look at Samurai War.

-Mister Ed