Died Brokenhearted

Attended the funeral of a friend yesterday.

Cause of death was myocardial infarction – heart attack, in layman terms.

But honestly, I think he died of a broken heart.

About a year ago my friend had no choice but to travel all the way to the US to sign a business contract.

He didn’t have enough airline mileage points to upgrade to business class, which would make the flights to and back more bearable because he had had spine surgery before and his back wasn’t 100%.

His son who works for a global conglomerate and flies all over the world, has accumulated heaps of airline mileage points but he refused to use them to upgrade his old man to business class. Said such mileage points are not transferrable and also that he wanted to keep them for travels with his fiancée.

My friend was a relatively successful entrepreneur whose modest import export business had put four kids to college. He was a thrifty man and while he would splurge on his family, and spoil them with lavish gifts and meals, he would never dream of buying a business class ticket for himself, even if it was for business-related trips.

After that flight, his back problems escalated and a second surgery didn’t help.

His health went downhill since.

Then came the heart attack.

Sure, filial piety cannot be forced, and people are free to do whatever they want, but what kind of a son are you to look at your father in the eye and blatantly lie to him that you are not able to redeem your miles for his upgrade when you know a long-haul flight will probably worsen his condition?

Has the world changed so much?

Or am I so out of touch?

What happens to people’s conscience?

Not being able to understand something exasperates me to death.

As we get older, the question of who will keep an eye on us is likely to loom larger in our minds.

If you’re counting on your kids, you can forget it.

Your kids would rather cook expensive wagyu steaks for themselves in front of you and pair them with a bottle or two of 2001 Chateauneuf du Pape which they quaff while you – ignored – sit in a quiet corner to wolf down a shitty three-dollar meal bought from the kopitiam nearby.

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Lucky Me, You’re Not Here!

Alone again, unnaturally.

My friend’s sister is a married woman with a kid but every once in a while, she takes off on a vacation all by herself, leaving husband and child behind.

Her Instagram for the next few days will brag of all the great, expensive gourmet meals she has been having in Michelin-starred restaurants. Her Facebook posts will be rife with tantalizing pictures of what a fabulous time she was having and the millions – yes, millions – of her friends and followers will “like” them all.

I know of a married man who is the father of two young toddlers and every once in a while, he too takes off for solo vacations, leaving behind his harried wife with two little hyperactive daughters.

This is a phenomenon I cannot understand.

My travels are all work-related and when I get a chance, I will go on vacations with my loved ones. Never alone. A vacation alone is unthinkable – as unthinkable as buying a huge lobster and cooking it while everyone is at home, then stuffing my face with the lobster while others watch, smell and salivate. I visited Bhutan with my wife last year and also last year, I went to Russia with my wife and younger son. I invited my elder son to go along and the only reason why he didn’t was because he had classes he could not skip, plus he really wasn’t into Russia anyway.

I would never ever dream of leaving my loved ones behind to have a vacation of my own. Nothing makes me happier than vacationing with people I love.

Far be it for me to judge those who go on trips without their loved ones, but I really have to scratch my head to try to understand how some people can do that. I mean, life is short, the time we have with our loved ones gets less and less with the passage of time. Kids grow up fast, every moment you don’t spend with them is a moment lost. And when they grow up, they may not even want to go anywhere with you anyway.

Having just turned 60, I realize my days are numbered and I want to make sure whatever days I have left are of the highest quality – spent with people I love.

Too bad, some people would rather go on solo trips or remain as cold as a dead fish and ignore their loved ones by sitting in front of a TV watching Korean soap operas all night.

Snowflakes of the strawberry generation tell me they need to go away once in a while by themselves to de-stress and to catch up on lost sleep.

Yeah, right.

Life’s that tough huh?

Maybe I am generationally challenged.

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Hey, Boobs Don’t Have Eyes!

I felt a pretty woman’s breasts yesterday – firm, bouncy and just about the right size.

Before your imagination starts going wild, no, I wasn’t making out with some newfound girlfriend; what happened was the young woman walked into me.

And I am not Joshua Robinson, so I didn’t enjoy it.

She was staring at her smartphone, busy texting as she walked, and she walked right into me.

Distracted, she was.

Distracted, I became.

Distracted too was Brian Cullinan, Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ US Board Chairman and a member of PwC’s Global Board. In addition to his firm board roles, he is the Managing Partner for PwC’s practice throughout Southern California, Arizona and Nevada.

Other than all those fancy titles, who the fuck is Brian Cullinan?

Well, he was the one who gave the wrong envelope to Warren Beatty, resulting in the actor wrongly announcing that La La Land (instead of Moonlight) was this year’s Best Movie at the Oscars.

Cullinan has since come under fire for tweeting just three minutes prior to handling over the envelope. He was told explicitly not to engage in social media use during the award presentation, but there he was, using Twitter.

Now he and a colleague who was with him have been banned from working at the Oscars.

Well, the retard should consider himself lucky.

A woman in China wasn’t so lucky.

She was out in one of the malls in Tianjin – Joy City Shopping Mall – when tragedy struck. Her two children, who were two and three years old, were with her.

Nothing joyous that day.

One child fell over the glass barrier, and distracted – as you can imagine – she lost grip of the second child and both kids plunged to their deaths four floors below.

Distraction won’t always kill but distraction distracts. Duh.

And it can be annoying as well.

While watching TV, and wanting to grab a quick glass of water from the kitchen, members of my wife’s family have the habit of standing up, slowly walking away from the TV while their eyes are still glued on the TV screen. More than once, they have walked into a pillar, a wall or someone else coming out of the kitchen with a bowl of hot soup.

And yes, it’s extremely annoying – and distracting – for the rest of us watching TV.

You stay married with someone for nearly 35 years and despite constant reminders, habits never change and you wonder if all the change management techniques on which you’ve built your entire career is all nothing but pure bullshit.

But of course, that’s the subject of another blog post another day. Can people change? That’s another post for another day indeed.

One of my sons – otherwise a very great kid in every other aspect – have the habit of dumping every cutlery he has already washed in the kitchen sink and then walking away; despite repeated reminders to transfer them to the drying rack, he continues to leave cleaned cutlery in the sink.

Can people change? Yup, that’s definitely another post for another day. (Yeah, I know, I’ve said it for the third time.) Could even be a dissertation for another PhD.

Lee Kuan Yew didn’t believe people can truly change, therefore, to invoke change in an organization, it was his view that you must first remove everyone currently in it, and start anew.

If this meant that every single person in an organization must be fired for the organization to move forward, then he would do it.

But one can’t fire one’s family right?

So I myself have to stay focused on managing my own expectations.

Staying focused is vital; allowing yourself to be distracted robs you of the full attention a particular task requires, often with undesirable results and dire consequences.

Once you’ve set your heart to accomplishing what needs to be done, garner all the tools and resources you need, put your heart and soul into it, and accomplish it, without allowing yourself to be distracted.  You can then move on to other things in your life.

If your phone beeps while you are walking, let it beep and look at it only when you are situated comfortably at a safe spot before paying any attention to it.

If you are expecting an urgent reply while you are walking, step aside, stop walking, look at your phone, decide what to do next and move on.

Common sense isn’t it?

But like Voltaire said, common sense is not so common.

And for those retards at movies and concerts, your phones may be in silent mode, but blocks of bright lights in a darkened cinema or theater are also extremely distracting, so is your loud masticating of snacks, so please, please, don’t piss me off, k?

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Joshua Robinson

Take a good look at this face, and burn it into your memory.

Joshua Robinson, you champion, man.

You is the can.

I tabik you lah!

You were caught with 321 films – believed to be the largest number of such films seized from a single person in Singapore – containing child pornography featuring children as young as two years old.

You pleaded guilty to having unprotected sex with two 15-year-old girls and for showing an obscene video of yourself “in action” to a six-year-old, while her father was in the same room.

And you only got four years; no caning.

Minus the public holidays and possibly “discount” for good behavior, you’ll be out walking our streets again, in no time, after being a “guest” of our government.

That’s why I say you champion.

You were a celebrated poster boy for Contact Singapore, whose mission includes bringing global talent to work in Singapore; you were touted as its poster boy.

Being a MMA trainer is considered a talent?

Well, what do I know…

In a promotional video made for Contact Singapore, you can be heard saying, “Life in Singapore, to me, feels really easy.”

Sure, sure.

So darn easy, isn’t it?

Well, they say sex predators like you are despised even by the worst of criminals and you will get your comeuppance in jail.

Heard they gonna tear you a new one, Josh!

Kinda sad that some people look to other criminals to exact revenge that the law (ie, society) is unable to impose. I don’t condone taking the law into our own hands, of course. But if any harm should befall you, I guess your martial arts skills will come in handy, Josh. 

Good luck!

Please introduce me to your lawyer, by the way.

I could surely use him!

Such heinous crimes but despite the huge public outcry and a petition that has garnered tens of thousands of signatures, the law has proven rather ineffective against scumbags like you.

Let your lawyer be my lawyer cos I too am gonna do my crime and enjoy “life in Singapore…really easy” as you did and still do.

An easy life in Singapore shouldn’t be a privilege reserved only for non-Singaporeans like you.

I will escape the rotan anyway – they don’t cane anyone above 50.

Meantime enjoy our hospitality.

Hope you won’t have problems walking haha.

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Upside Down

What do you do when you live in an upside down world and drive an upside down car?

Anything to get attention!

You smoke an upside down pipe!

From Italy, a Ser Jacopo Insanus Spongia Rusticated Upside Down Billiard, for the truly insane!

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A Pipe with a Mouthpiece made of Ivory

The buying and selling of ivory in Singapore is allowed. Since 1990, however, the commercial import and export of ivory has been banned, although non-commercial import and export – such as for museum display and research – is still allowed with the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority’s approval and documentation.

On March 1st, the Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon announced that the sale of ivory here will soon be banned as part of Singapore’s commitment to tackle the illegal ivory trade and support elephant conservation.

The authorities are working out details of the implementation, and Dr Koh did not provide a timeframe for the ban on domestic trade to be introduced.

When that happens, I’ll never be able to purchase another pipe such as the one shown above, which is the only pipe I own that has a mouthpiece made of ivory.

(By the way, that yellow “thingie” is amber, and the metallic part is silver.)

If you purchase such pipes from Paronelli, please note that in my opinion, the sellers behind the Paronelli site are ripoff artists and scammers. Not only are their pipes badly made, with stems badly bent beyond any angle of acceptance, there is simply no pride in craftsmanship at all. This is especially those pipes they sell that are supposed to be unsmoked, vintage pipes. So be warned, they have already conned me of three such pipes.

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A Kirsten for my 60th

First invented in 1936, each Kirsten pipe has six basic components – mouthpiece, radiator body, valve, bowl, bowl screw and bowl ring.

Kirsten bowls come sandblasted, carved, smooth and rusticated bowls and combinations thereof. There are even corncob bowls!

A Professor Frederick K Kirsten who arrived in the US from Germany back in 1902, and who eventually ended up at the University of Washington to become a Professor of Aeronautical Engineering, is the inventor.

Rightly called the coolest pipe in the world, the Kirsten pipe came about when a doctor advised Professor Kirsten to switch from cigarettes. He quickly dreamed up a way to trap the moisture, tars and tongue-biting acids which attack the users of briar pipes.

And the rest, they say, is history.

A Kirsten pipe comes in several finishes – black, silver and gold.

Thanks Daniel for gifting me with one on my 60th birthday.

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A Clay Pipe with a Difference

 

For centuries, clay pipes have been cherished throughout the west. These were long, plain-looking pipes and pubs would provide them to customers. After smoking one, the pipe would be returned to the pub. The next customer who wishes to smoke it would snap off a little of its mouthpiece before doing so. The pipe gets shorter and shorter and will eventually be discarded.

Clay pipes were – and are still – popular also because with clay pipes, just as with meerschaum pipes, there is no ghosting. Even the best briar pipe can subtly retain the flavor of the tobacco that was smoked in it, but not clay. However, traditional clay pipes were not only plain-looking, they smoked hot, making it difficult to hold. If you look at old paintings of people smoking clay pipes, you would notice that they were always held by their long stems. The bowls would be far too hot to touch.

Lepeltier clay pipes, made in the US, are game changers.

Handmade of a unique mixture of four American clays and fired to a temperature of 2300 degrees Fahrenheit or 1260 degrees Celsius, Lepeltier pipes produce an ideal marriage of strength and porosity, so necessary for true enjoyment of pipe tobacco. Each individually painted Lepeltier clay pipe gives the smoker all the advantages and benefits of traditional clay pipes, yet is shatter-resistant, smokes cooler and is scaled in size and shape to please the modern smoker.

I was blessed enough to receive one as a gift from Julian on my 60th birthday.

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A Pipe with a Mouthpiece made of Amber

On my 60th birthday, Landrick presented me with a vintage, unsmoked pipe from Italy with a mouthpiece made of amber.

Pipes with mouthpieces made of amber are extremely rare.

Actually, the fossilized resin of prehistoric plants, amber is rare due mainly to the unbridled exploitation carried out in the past centuries – just think of the famous Amber Room of the Tsars.

It is so scarce and valuable that whatever minuscule amount that is harvested has mostly been secreted away to make jewelry – rings, necklaces, cameos, earrings and the like, and pipes with amber mouthpieces are very hard to come by, and extremely pricey.

History has it that it was some skilled Viennese and Hungarian craftsmen who were the first to use amber to make mouthpieces for pipes.

Such pipes are now almost exclusively available only for viewing in museums or private collections, because they are almost never made nowadays.

Kudos to Landrick and his resourcefulness for having found this, and of course, my heartfelt gratitude for his generosity.

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A Von Erck Pipe

A Von Erck pipe commissioned for my 60th birthday.

Handcrafted, one at a time in Negaunee, Michigan, the very exceptional pipes of Lee Von Erck have been demanding attention throughout the pipe smoking community worldwide.

Pipe smoking aficionados claim that Von Erck’s pipes are well sought after due to their unique design, meticulous craftsmanship, and great smokeability.

Von Erck himself believes that his pipes are appealing because he himself has been smoking pipes for more than 50 years and he personally knows what appeals to the demanding pipe smoker. When he carves a pipe, he strives for one that is eye-catching, expresses the natural grain in the briar, feels good in the hand, and above all, smokes well.

Each Von Erck pipe created is a one-of-a-kind piece, having being developed based on the character of the briar itself. The personality of each particular piece of briar is what dictates to Von Erck, the consumate craftsman, how each piece will develop, and become that one-of-a-kind pipe.

Boring, shaping, and polishing of the pipes is done in a small workshop in the Northwoods of Michigan. The pipes are then put through a lengthy proprietary oil-curing and drying process before they are returned for crafting of their mouthpieces. Each mouthpiece is as unique and individual as that of the pipe it is created for. The final step in the lengthy process is to assign and stamp each pipe with its own individual serial number and nomenclature.

I have been privileged to have met Von Erck several times and am impressed by his dry wit, his sense of humor, his dedication to the craft, and above all, his humility.

Von Erck pipes are found in the collections of many prominent collectors and are prized for their uniqueness.

I am honored to be presented with one on my 60th birthday.

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