30th Wedding Anniversary


November 17th 

30 years married

10,950 days

262,800 hours

15,768,000 minutes

3 amazing children

1 fantastic son-in-law

2 beautiful grandchildren

1 blessed family!

Posted in Places in the Heart | Comments Off

Insulting by Coin-dumping

Drowning in coins.

Drowning in coins.

About this time last year, there was a story going around claiming that Samsung paid Apple US$1 billion worth of damages in a lawsuit using 5-cent coins transported by 30 trucks. The story even quoted Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee saying that the payment mode chosen by the company is the Korean way of showing Apple that Samsung could also play it nasty. Of course it wasn’t a true story.

Lately, however, paying with coins has been very much in the news.

A daylight robber posing as a mobile phone seller dumped a thousand bucks in coins when ordered to refund a customer. When told to make payment to a car company, one retard dumped 19,000 dollars’ worth of coins from a box used to contain fish onto the carpeted floor of the car showroom.

Maybe it’s an Asian thing huh?

I have also being a “victim” of a somewhat similar incident.

Back when I was in primary school, a classmate by the name of Yong Thong Fook owed me 10 bucks. I can no longer remember the circumstances that led to that and today I bear no ill-will toward Mr Yong. In fact, I’m hoping to bump into him one day to have a chat and catch up over a cup of kopi. Anyway, Yong took a bit of time to repay me and even then I harbored no ill-will toward him but ten bucks was ten bucks so I kept pestering him relentlessly. Maybe because at that time, 10 bucks meant a lot to a 10-year-old boy like me, so I nagged and nagged him every day. Eventually he threw a 50-dollar note at me. Of course I didn’t have change and with that, he displayed a smirk on his face, retrieved the 50-dollar note and then proceeded to throw me a 10-dollar note instead. (Thank God, he didn’t throw ten bucks in one-cent coins at me!) I’m sure Yong felt a sense of triumph doing that to me. As for me, I was glad to get my money back, but I felt utterly humiliated.

I am no psychoanalyst, but I suspect the whole point of throwing money in people’s faces or dumping coins at them is first triggered by internal anger, and then next, by a desire to humiliate the person you owe money to. “You want your money back? Sure, here it is, take it you fucker, come get it!” and then throw the lot at him and use tons of coins and enjoy seeing the poor fella crawl all over the floor like a dog to pick up every bit of what is rightfully his.

Of course having a motive for behaving like a thug is no excuse for pus bags like Jover Chew of Mobile Air to justify his actions. (In addition to along list of infractions, including the coin dumping incident, making his store infamous for having chalked up the most number of consumer complaints, 25 in three months to be exact, Chew left a Vietnamese tourist in tears and kneeling on his knees begging for a refund after being charged an obscene sum of money for “warranty.”) Enough has been written about this and unless you were hibernating in a cave last week, you would know all the sordid details by now, so I won’t add to the cacophony. I just want to share that out of the whole episode, one stark truth struck me: That our government is audacious enough to incur the wrath – not to mention, ridicule – of many by banning chewing gum – and now shisha – to “protect” the population, the long arm of its laws are impotent to protect tourists who shop here, thereby reducing Singapore further as a laughing stock for not being able to prevent thugs, goons and crooks from hiding behind seemingly legitimate stores like those operated by Jover Chew.

And the saddest part of this whole thing is that con men like Jover Chew may get the last laugh, because while one aspect of our laws is impotent to protect those cheated by the likes of him, the other part of our law – that part that deals with harassment – can get into trouble all those internet vigilantes who have been playing pranks on Chew.

Yup, we are so screwed up.

Only in Singapore, only in Singapore.

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Let Down?

Disappointed“Loose lips sink ships.”

I remember those words on a poster on the wall when I was serving my National Service.

Basically it means “beware of unguarded talk.”

I tend to interpret it as “keep your promises.”

Over the weekend I heard about how an acquaintance has decided to forever terminate his friendship with another person simply because of that other person’s “big mouth.”

“Always saying this and saying that and he’s got nothing to show so far,” said my friend, “As far as I’m concerned, this idiot has zero credibility.”

Indeed, as a matter of fact, that “big mouth” has become somewhat of a joke within our fraternity.

But people suffer from verbal diarrhea all the time and promise all kinds of shit.

It’s bad to break a promise, but isn’t it worse to let a broken promise break you?

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Colonel Hans Landa’s Calabash

MovieCalabashThis is the same pipe made for the movie Inglourious Basterds and is handmade by a German-Austrian pipe maker.

It is NOT a toy or a movie replica or part of the official movie merchandise – the pipemaker made this for the movie and I own a similar pipe as well. Yes, this exact same pipe is made by the very same pipemaker who made the pipe for the movie.


I purchased it from Tabac Pietsch.

I love calabashes!

Posted in Thank You for Smoking | Comments Off

The Paper Chase – A Matter of Degrees

Your best insurance policy.

Your best insurance policy.

At this year’s National Day Rally in August, the prime minister highlighted some individuals who despite a lack of university degrees rose to prominence in their careers.

Since then, talking heads, aided by the media, have been sending forth the message that a university degree is not everything, that we have to look past paper qualifications and all that.

Almost on a daily basis, we are bombarded with such brain-washing.

The government and its mouthpieces have reasons – probably self-serving and insidious – for propagating that falsehood.

Now don’t you fucking believe that.

What an irresponsible government it is to tell its citizens to look beyond paper qualifications and to inevitably send the fatal message that professional qualifications are not all that vital.

It might as well line us up, give us a free shower, and then send us to the ovens, the way that other guy who attempted social engineering did some 70 years ago.

A qualification – academic or otherwise – is essential. It is a form of insurance.

You may not need or want to use it – I mean, lawyers have become actors, doctors have become salesmen, PhDs have become taxi drivers, psychologists have become cooks and a mathematics major is now our prime minister – but acquiring a professional qualification is still useful.

I am reminded of the Vietnamese boat people of the late 70’s. Many of them who were lucky enough to survive and land on foreign shores had only the tattered shirts on their sunburnt backs, but it was their professional qualifications that ensured them of a more secure future.

So don’t you think for a moment that it is ok to abandon your quest for a professional qualification; go for it! If you don’t have a paper, study for one. The classroom time and the opportunity for personal development is priceless. It’s ok if what you eventually do for a living has nothing to do with your degree or diploma, but at least you know, you have a skillset that is locked away.

Knowing our government, give it another couple of decades, and they’ll be condemning people for not pursuing professional qualifications. History can attest to their changing of positions. And who suffers? Not those fat cats in government, not their brown-nosing toadies, not those big mouths you see on TV. YOU, my friend, will be the one suffering.

Mark my words.

I’m a simple man with simple views, but mark my words indeed. Don’t get screwed!

Don’t you ever stop your quest to pursue an asset nobody can take away from, a means of livelihood that is useful anywhere in the world.

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Bah Kut Tail


Bah kut teh is basically pork-rib soup. While the Hokkiens prefer those dark-colored ones cooked in soy sauce and popular in Malaysia, most bah kut teh sold in Singapore are the lighter Teochew kind, peppery and garlicky, with clear soup.

One Hokkien bah kut teh business opened here not long ago but had to close eventually, a sign that in Singapore the Teochew version still reigns; strange, considering the fact that most Chinese here are Hokkiens.

Instead of pork ribs, I cook a version of Teochew bah kut teh using pig tails.

Unlike ox tails, a pig tail is smallish and one person could easily polish off an entire pig tail.

Here’s how to cook a pig tail for yourself: Blanch the tail in a pot of boiling water, drain and cut into small pieces and leave in a bowl of cold water.

Add appropriate amount of garlic, onion, crushed white peppercorns, a finger-nail size piece of dang gui, (angelica sinesis), a small stick of codonopsis, a tiny slice of ligusticum and a small star anise into a stock pot of water, bring to a boil.

Lower the pig tail into the stock, cover and simmer for an hour and 30 minutes.

Before serving, season to taste with salt, light soya sauce and sugar and throw in a couple of dried goji berries.

Serve with strong Chinese tea – after all, the “teh” in bah kut teh refers to tea (bah kut means pork-ribs) and steamed rice. Dip in thick black soy sauce with sliced red chillies in the soy sauce.

Posted in Eat Drink Men Women | Comments Off

Going the Whole Hog


No part of a pig is wasted. We Chinese go the whole hog. Even the animal’s intestines and stomach can be eaten. Cleaning these internal organs used to take a lot of effort involving multiple washing and rinsing with the use of lime juice, salt and tapioca powder; but not anymore – today’s modern supermarkets sell pre-cleaned “spare parts” for home cooks to either braise or cook bah kut teh style.

A pot of braised pork, pig skin, intestines and stomach may not constitute gourmet cuisine, but nose-to-tail diners appreciate the taste and “mouth feel” of such cheap food and even fancy restaurants are now springing up where nose-to-tail – and anything in between – dining is touted as the in-thing, a culinary secret best known to true connoisseurs. Yup, if caviar and foie gras have been your standard fare, a salad of pig ears or a bowl of peppery pig stomach soup can really perk you up indeed!

I love robust Hokkien and Teochew-style cooking and nothing makes me happier than a pot of well-braised pork, pig skin and all the rest of it, plus a couple of hard boiled eggs. In the picture above (click to enlarge) you can easily spot tau-pok (deep fried bean curd), bits and pieces of pig skin, intestine, stomach, pork and tofu. This used to be the food of the poor laborers of yore, but today, well-traveled gourmands with jaded palates are finding great delight in eating such peasant fare.

To cook yourself a pot of such goodness at home, fill a pot with four cups of water. Add in the garlic, pork belly, intestine, stomach, pig skin and cracked pepper. Bring everything to boil before adding the hard-boiled eggs, tofu, tau pok, light soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, and dark or black soy sauce. Lower the heat to medium and braise the contents for 30 minutes or so until everything is cooked through and is tender. Add salt to taste. Continue to simmer on the lowest heat for another 15-20 minutes. Serve with rice. Wash down with beer. End the meal with a Montecristo #2 or a Por Larrañaga Picadores.

What more does a man want?

Posted in Eat Drink Men Women | Comments Off

Leeches and Freeloaders

Can you spot the outplacement consultant?

Can you spot the outplacement consultant?

There’s a rip-off artist who passes himself off as an outplacement consultant. Some years back he contacted me and told me he wanted me to be his co-facilitator for a management workshop. He started dropping names saying most of his clients are multi-millionaires, the who’s who of Asia and there’s tons of money to be made, that my working with him would be mutually beneficial. Actually he wanted me to teach him how to conduct ice-breakers. I was a young man then and gullible and shared everything with him, and he never got back to me.

Then there’s another fraudster who would tell me about the shitloads of work he has lined up all over Cambodia and China and how he would definitely engage my services. “We could do stuff together; be partners, you know, make some money together.” So far, it’s been hot air. And I hear the same spiel every time he comes back to Singapore and phones me to say “hi.” In the end, I concluded that he just wanted my CV on his website to boost his own image, to show the world that he has a whole coterie of subject matter experts or associates just to assure his clients that he is not another one-man band.

I’ve gone pass being naïve. But today at 57, I am amazed at how people still dangle carrots at me and how they throw crumbs and bones at me.

I have helped many people in my life but seldom am I the recipient of others’ generosity and largesse.

If anything, people are out there to steal your lunch. You are a change management expert, others claim to be as well. You are an organization development expert, others are too. You are a trainer extraordinaire, well, others have certificates to say they are trainers too. You write a book, they claim to be authors too. Wannabes and posers proliferate. You see, those whom you think are your friends are often the same ones who do you in. It’s not always your enemies who push you over the edge, I’ve since realized. Often the murder weapon is yielded by someone you least suspect.

Am I bitter about it?

You bet, but I’m a lot wiser now. And I don’t keep it in my heart.

I help myself. I try never to rely on others. Nobody will help me. Everyone’s looking out for himself. I won’t rely on others to get me assignments. They will only dangle carrots and throw crumbs and bones at me. And if I really have no choice but have to depend on others, I make sure I pay back. It may take a while, and I may have to pay back in kind, but I never forget a kind deed. That’s my personal philosophy.

I’m not like those leeches in my life.

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Crippled by Crutches


Some time ago, a plastic surgeon boasted that she spent a couple thousand bucks on a pair of panty hose.

If you gasp, then she’s got the reaction that she wanted.

Well, I guess if you have it, you are entitled to flaunt it, but some people collapse when they have nothing to flaunt.

A friend who had to sell off some of his most prized possessions when he hit the hard times told me he felt naked without his 100,000-dollar solid-platinum tourbillion watch lined with diamonds. His wife felt inferior when she had to sell off her 70,000-dollar handbags and go around just using an unbranded handbag. They were ashamed to tell people that that they now live in a small apartment and no longer in a bungalow in district ten. They were miserable because their crutches were gone. It was like the rug had been pulled from under their feet. No longer on anyone’s A-list and not being members of the upper class and international jet set any more made them feel like shit.

We live in a materialistic society where people are judged according to the clothes they wear, the restaurants they patronize, the handbags they carry, and even the breed of their pet dogs so it is understandable that some people feel not up to snuff when they eat at food courts while their friends are posting pictures on social media of their gourmet meals at Michelin-starred restaurants or how they vacation at St. Moritz or how they luxuriate in first-class suites on Singapore Airlines or how they could bypass the two or three year wait for a 10,000-dollar Birkin because they have VIP status at Hermes. (Gentle reminder to the uninitiated: prices are in US dollars, mind you.)

As an aside, if you take a cold, hard look, and scrutinize all those Birkin or Chanel bags on the arms of practically every other Ah Lian in town, one can’t help but wonder if they are all the real McCoy. People are not stupid. They know a show-off when they spot one. Plus they look at how old you are, estimate how much you earn and they can conclude that (1) you have maxed out your credit or debit card, meaning you possess zero financial literacy (2) you have a rich husband/boyfriend/lover (3) you come from old money (4) you have done something to get the kind of money to buy such a bag, oh my goodness (5) your bag is a fake, God forbid! (6) your bag is one you rented from one of those bag rental places, tsk, tsk (7) your bag is second-hand, meaning a used bag that once belonged to someone else, what a poser you are! (8) you did something for someone he felt so bloody good he gave you a 10,000-dollar bag, oh what a slut you must be!

How pitiable is that? How pathetic are you?

In my late 20’s I was flushed with money from a good job and I had little financial commitments so I splurged a lot on myself.

From the top of my head to the tip of my toes I was drenched in designer togs.

In fact, I was like a walking Alfred Dunhill boutique. If Alfred Dunhill made underwear, I bet I would have worn them too.

It took me years to realize how crude I was flaunting all that, how distasteful I had been and how idiotic I was trying to keep up with the Joneses.

It took me a while before I realized that whatever I own owns me.

I now live in a crutch-free world.

Nowadays I am embarrassed to be seen with anything branded or expensive.

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Happiness in a Pot


Old-timers believe that rice tastes better when cooked in a claypot over a slow charcoal fire.

Throw in some meat and you’ve got a one-dish meal called “Claypot Rice.”

How it’s done is this: Just before the rice is cooked, marinated chicken pieces, silvers of salted fish (if desired) and slices of Chinese sausage are thrown in.

When the pot of rice is completely cooked, garnish with chopped scallion, drizzle in some vegetable oil and some good quality thick black soy sauce, then stir the whole thing up and serve.

Problem is it can be a pain to do this at home, as it’s quite a bit of work; that’s why when a claypot rice stall opened up in a coffee shop near my place recently, it really draws in the crowds!

If you are dining alone, or with another friend, and both are small eaters, a small pot which costs S$11/- will suffice. The S$16/- pot is good enough for three persons but if you and your friends have hearty appetites you can always order the S$20/- pot.

And if you still want to try cooking this at home, the recipe is relatively simple: just soak a cup of fragrant Thai rice in a cup of water in a claypot for an hour prior to cooking, put the pot on medium heat over a charcoal stove and bring it to boil. Put on top of the rice marinated chicken pieces, thin silvers of salted fish (this is optional as some people may not appreciate the taste and smell of salted fish), generous slices of Chinese sausage, then cover the pot, control the heat to low and let the pot simmer for another ten minutes. And voilà, you’ve got your own claypot rice! Garnish with scallion, pour in a little oil and black soy sauce, stir and serve. The picture above shows the claypot rice before the oil and soy sauce have been added. (It’s important to use the best quality, thick black soy sauce, the cheap, inferior quality ones are way too salty.)

Seems easy for some, but for me, I’ll just walk over to the coffee shop nearby and pay 11 bucks. No hassle, no preparation, no washing afterwards.

And the best part? I like the burnt rice that sticks to the sides and the bottom of the pot. I scrape this crust out with a ladle and enjoy the crunchy bits. Some restaurants selling claypot rice will pour clear chicken stock into the pot after most of the rice has been consumed, bring the whole concoction to a boil and the dish becomes a soupy rice broth complete with the crunchy bits of tasty burnt rice and ta-da! you’ve got yourself a two-course meal!

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