Not Just for Presbyterians

My panel-shape Dunhill ODA Root Briar and a tin of Presbyterian Mixture.

JRR Tolkien’s tobacco of choice was Capstan Medium Navy Cut and CS Lewis liked Gold Block as well as Three Nuns. Stanley Baldwin’s favorite was Presbyterian Mixture.

This fine tobacco originally had no name. It was blended by Alfred Gale, before the first World War especially for the Very Rev Dr John White, an influential clergyman in Scotland, who served as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. White introduced it to Stanley Baldwin, later Earl Baldwin, Prime Minister of UK in 1923, 1924 and 1935. Baldwin liked it so much that regular supplies were sent down to him and it was he who suggested that it be called “Presbyterian Mixture.” The trademark was first registered in 1925, during Baldwin’s second term as prime minister.

The brand later ended up as one of those under Planta Tabak-Manufaktur of Germany, a firm founded by Dr Manfred Obermann in 1956.

But after 63 years and three generations of successful ownership, the family-owned company stopped producing tobacco in Berlin on 31st August 2019. Mac Baren of Denmark acquired the company and now makes all of Planta’s products.

Presbyterian Mixture: “Extraordinarily soft blend of finest US Virginia grades and a number of selected Latakia leaf tips. Ideal mixture also for beginners with English tobaccos.”

I am of the view that John Calvin’s theology about predestination – a belief of the Presbyterians – is a crock of crap and there is no reason for Presbyterians – like an acquaintance of mine – to be smug and cocky as hell. However, I still think the tobacco named Presbyterian Mixture isn’t too bad. Anyway it’s only a name and has nothing to do with religion.

Thank God!

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If We had Tails

An acquaintance from long ago, Ali of Ali’s Electricals, formerly at Centrepoint, once remarked that if we had tails, we would all probably spend an inordinate amount of money on accessories for our tails. Merchants would be selling a wide array of different types of tail sheaths and other adornments, some will be plain, some decorated with diamonds, even. Just look at phone cases, and you get the idea. And now, just take a look at all the fanciful masks people wear, just to look better than others. Oh my! Other than preventing those around you from breathing in your oral emissions, masks allow you a certain degree of anonymity, so why wear one that makes you identifiable as always being the person who must look different from others? How imbecilic is that?

It’s the same with cigar cutters. In Cuba, home of cigars, I hardly see cutters – table-top ones or otherwise – being used. The cigar-smoking farmers in tobacco plantations simply used their fingernails to flick off the end and light it with matches. No fancy gadgets or elaborate “show” – such as those we see in cigar lounges – necessary. Of course, in all the cowboy movies, the super-macho cowboy would simply bite off the end with his mouth and simply spit it off in gusto.

But today, people have loads of money and nowhere to spend it and retailers know, so they sell you all kinds of cigar scissors, pocket clippers, punches and cutters – all “instruments” small and big – that you don’t really need.

Here’s a sampling:

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Nope, Not Godzilla

The Liga Privada Unico Ratzilla is a limited production offering from Drew Estate, rolled in Esteli, Nicaragua.

It is blended with Honduran and Nicaraguan Cuban seed long fillers, a USA Connecticut River Valley stalk cut and cured Habano wrapper and Brazilian Mata Fina binder.

It is said to be a full-bodied flavor bomb that will pummel your palate with deep notes of cocoa, leather, earth, pepper, and espresso, throughout a sweetly spicy finish.

In my opinion, this cigar can’t hold a candle to the No. 9, which packs a bigger wallop!

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At Fairprice, Now You See It, Now You Don’t

Seriously?

When you go to the supermarket, when an item is on the shelf, it is on the shelf. If it is no longer available, there would be a sign saying that the item is out of stock.

Can you imagine putting the item you want into your shopping basket, going to the cashier to pay, only to have the cashier remove the item from your basket and tell you it’s out of stock.

This is exactly what happens when you shop at NTUC Fairprice’s online store.

Fairprice supermarkets – all 230 of them – are run by a labor union, the National Trades Union Congress. Fairprice has an online store too. During this period, my family makes frequent online grocery purchases.

After you have concluded your purchase from Fairprice online, you’ll get an immediate confirmation. They will also email and SMS you to say that your order is confirmed and accepted, etc.

Then about an hour or so before the delivery window, on the day of the delivery itself, it is very likely and very often – happened to me each time I made online purchases from Fairprice – that you will get a SMS saying something like this:

We’re sorry, order #12345678 has been amended due to stock availability or as requested. Delivery will be on 02 June, 12 PM – 2 PM. Please refer to your email for more details. For further assistance, visit help.fairprice.com.sg.

So you check your email and it says:

Important note regarding your order #43339636

Hi Mr So and so

We’re sorry that amendments have been made to your order due to stock availability or as requested. The final payment amount is based on the following revised order…

Here’s what happened: without first consulting you, they removed an item that was no longer in stock, recalculated your total purchase price before proceeding to go ahead to deliver your order. And no, you don’t get a chance to stop the order, because they only inform you just before the delivery window you have chosen. Fairprice’s email is only to inform you of what they have done, nevermind that reductions in the number of items in your shopping cart may affect the final price, usually revising it upwards.

I have been a consultant for decades and I have increased the productivity of many manufacturing as well as retail clients before. I have installed many JIT systems in companies all over the world, so I am puzzled how Fairprice operates its online inventory.

Often, consumers purchase an item to compliment other items. For example, a housewife may order a bottle of oyster sauce with a pack of choy sum, amongst other grocery items. She wants to cook oyster sauce choy sum but if oyster sauce is not in stock, she won’t buy the choy sum, so just removing an item from her basket without informing her in advance screws up her menu for dinner.

It’s not a big fucking deal.

But it’s damn annoying, for sure. There is a dichotomy between Fairprice’s online site and/or app and what’s in – or not in – their warehouse.

Customer satisfaction takes a back seat because of this dichotomy. Don’t even talk about customer delight.

This whole thing is so annoying that I was reminded if you juggle the alphabets NTUC, you’ll get CUNT.

But does Fairprice care? I doubt so. I suspect they don’t really care or understand too much about the concept of “customer experience.”

Fairprice has the largest market share as far as supermarkets in Singapore go, it has driven many little mom-and-pop grocery stores to the ground, causing many to go bust. It has bulldozed it’s way into every housing estate and put other grocery stores out of business by price cutting. It has become another behemoth in the corporate world, that’s why whenever I hear of the very “atas” Cold Storage or very downmarket Sheng Siong expanding, I never fail to applaud with glee.

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Lookie Here Y’all, Ah Yam Alive!

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

When the word “spy” comes to mind, I always think of suave, debonair lady-killers like James Bond or Ethan Hunt – handsome hunks who are super-intelligent, and who can do anything and everything, from being able to speak 25 different languages to picking locks, to riding motorbikes up stairways, to paragliding, to skiing at hyperspeed on hazardous slopes set against snow-capped mountains, to flying planes, to being submerged underwater for an infinite period of time, blah, blah, blah, you get the idea.

And in real life, I always believe Mossad’s tradecraft and covert intelligence is second to none – they have ferreted out ex-Nazis and quite a few of Hitler’s henchmen who have disguised and hidden themselves all over the world – they seemed to like Argentina or Brazil – and brought them to justice. Mossad also tracked down and killed those responsible for the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.

Yup, don’t fuck with the Jews!

The best spies in the world are those you never hear of. They never get caught.

Anyway, no country has spies, all countries, however, have “intelligence officers.”

And the worst of the lot, must be those who provide “intelligence” on Kim Jong-un.

When Chubby failed to attend a April 15th event commemorating the birth anniversary of his late grandfather and national founder Kim Il Sung, the world went bonkers, after hearing about the “intelligence” provided by spooks, moles and informers.

Some of these retards providing so-called “inside information” on North Korea can be said to have committed some ludicrous acts of staggering stupidity.

Their mindless speculation led to all kinds of crap being spewed by world-class morons like Thae Yong-ho, former deputy ambassador to Britain and a defector to South Korea who got himself elected to the South Korean parliament recently.

He was almost positive that Chubby was dead. Oh, correction: actually, it was a heart-surgery gone awry. No, actually, his surgeons were so nervous they severed an artery, so the fat pig bled to death. Chinese emperor Xi Jinping rushed a team of surgeons to North Korea, but alas, it was too late.

The other prominent defector elected to the South Korean parliament, Ji Seong-ho, was 99% certain that Chubby had died after cardiovascular surgery and an official announcement would come “soon.”

What that was, was abject failure of “intelligence” on full display. The prodigious bullshitting of these defectors reached unprecedented heights. What they said was beyond stupid, to be honest.

A well-regarded defector website, Daily NK, which is funded by a US think tank, echoed their views.

The rumors kept growing and the echo chamber grew louder.

In none of this was there any actual evidence: there were some very “insightful” analyses of train movements and activity around the resort of Wonsan that seemed to weigh on the side that Chubby might not have expired – yet.

Then, on May 2nd, some photos were released by North Korea, showing a healthy and happy-looking Chubby at a fertilizer factory.

Speculation and “analysis” went on over-drive.

It was Chubby’s first public appearance in almost three weeks and all the spies and “analysts” were cracking their heads over the photos and making wild guesses. They noticed that he didn’t lose weight and probably just had a haircut. What insight!

Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, quipped on Twitter: “Well, I wouldn’t say Kim looks healthy, but he definitely doesn’t look dead.”

His entourage, they noticed, included his younger sister Yo Jong, who was among those standing closest to him, an indication of her “elevation” in the North Korean power hierarchy. She appeared to be wearing makeup and a hair band for the first time – both new additions according to Jeongmin Kim, a correspondent with the Seoul-based NK News website. The change in appearance could suggest “she was aware of her new, higher profile.” Fucking ridiculous conclusion, if you ask me. Maybe I should wear makeup and a hair band too.

At least one member of Chubby’s entourage could be seen wearing a face mask, “keeping alive speculation that COVID-19 is still concern in North Korea.” Sure.

A green golf cart pictured behind Chubby also caught every one’s attention. It’s similar to one seen when Chubby returned from an almost six-week absence in October 2014, walking with a cane and facing gossip that he was battling gout.

Someone with Chubby was seen holding a slender white stick. Oh dear, did Chubby go blind or was that a walking stick of some kind? Nope, other photos that appeared later showed that the stick was actually a pointer used for presentations.

Any idiot can make those guesses. I can easily do the same, sitting at home, reading the news.

It behooves South Korea to keep an eye on those defectors.

Then, on May 24th, Chubby showed up again, this time at a military meeting he presided.

Very much alive and kicking.

As if nothing happened, because nothing happened.

I visited North Korea in 2011 and one visit does not make me an expert on the country.  I believe – though I am no “intelligence officer” – that there is a very simple explanation for Chubby’s vanishing act: our dear Chubby was merely staying safe and relaxing in isolation and didn’t want to be out and about in public being seen wearing a mask for it would damage his image and people’s perception of him as divine.

Can you image Smiling Buddha walking around with a mask?

I mean, Chubby is almost divine and God-like. He could even catch bullets with his teeth, he ain’t gonna let some goddamned virus bring him to his knees, right? Despite that, best to play safe but he’ll look like a clown wearing a mask, so he stayed away.

Conclusion: the espionage business – a bullshit business, anyway – has more boneheads than brains. Those supplying information on North Korea are worse than Maxwell Smart, Austin Powers and Johnny English combined.

Nuff said.

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Descend into Cannibalism

If you have been following, I’ve been experimenting with salads in a half-hearted attempt to fight the flab during the last two months of “house arrest.”

Sometimes I added a bit of non-veg, like prosciutto bits, baby abalones and even some silvers of bacon, to tempt the palate.

But the lure of meals complete with meat, glorious meat, is hard to resist. After all, I’m no vegetarian, more a “meatarian” or a carnivore.

So here’s a slow easing process into meat eating again.

No more raw salad, and the full-blown journey back to meat began with cooked spinach.

Another day, and a chunk of grilled chicken was added to some greens.

Canned sardines – an easy way paving the road to meat.

Eating meat got really serious now – pork belly cooked in soy sauce, with boiled eggs, dried shiitake mushrooms and fried bean curd. This dish, good enough to feed several people, looked like hell but tasted like heaven!

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New Abnormal

An extension by any other name would smell as shitty.

An elevated set of safe distancing measures, as a circuit breaker to preempt the trend of increasing local transmission of COVID-19 was started on April 7th. These measures were supposed to end on May 4th but have been extended to June 1st.

When the government announced on May 19th that the circuit breaker will end on June 1st, everyone went ecstatic.

But the truth of the matter is that very little will change.

Two glaring facts stand out:

People still cannot visit friends.

Restaurants remain closed.

That is beginning to harsh my mellow.

Explaining why Singapore is being reopened in phases, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong referred to how actual circuit breakers work at home.

He said that if there is a fault in the electrical system, the circuit breaker will kick in, the electrical switch will trip and everything is turned off. To find where the fault lies, the switches have to be turned on “slowly, one by one.”

To turn all of them on at the same time would only risk another short circuit.

Similarly, with COVID-19, he warned that Singapore cannot “turn on all the switches at the same time” as it would only lead to another outbreak.

“So we have to be very careful,” he said.

Yes, Mr Gan, (he’s Health Minister but has no medical degree, like that douche who runs WHO), I totally understand why it’s necessary to talk this way to Singaporeans, like “dumbing down” to five-year-olds. In fact, I’m beginning to suspect that the entire PAP government is based on the premise that all Singaporeans have IQs of little children.

And I totally understand that we need to break the transmission chains decisively by having everyone minimize social contact to the minimum necessary.

I’m all for social distancing, so I am quite fine with that. I’m no social butterfly.

What I’m disappointed with is that I still can’t sit down for a proper meal at any of my favorite eateries, just yet.

Sitting down somewhere to eat – even at food courts – may happen only in July, or perhaps even later.

Below is a chart produced by The Straits Times. As you can see, each phase could last between weeks and several months.

Sigh.

However, yesterday, among the 373 cases of infection reported, one was a work pass holder from China and the rest were migrant workers in dormitories. There were no new cases involving Singaporeans and permanent residents. The last time there were no new cases among citizens or PRs was on February 23rd. I’m hoping that cases of community infection will remain low and stable and that Phase Two can begin earlier than planned.

Anyway, when we emerge blinking into the sunlight after finally squelching this pandemic, we’ll find that the world around us has changed.

I wonder how the “new normal” in Phase Three will be like. It won’t be anything resembling normal, that much I know is true.

My wistfulness about the places I’ve been and those I yearn to visit will not stop.

Last year, from June, I took a six-month break from blogging to traipse all over Greece and Germany.

Looks that that’ll be impossible this year.

Let’s see.

Posted in Places in the Heart | Comments Off on New Abnormal

A Strong, Powerful Smoke

Liga Privada, meaning “private blend” is a cigar from Nicaragua created by two Americans, Jonathan Drew and Marvin Samel.

They claimed that this cigar was originally crafted not for resale, but for their own personal humidors.

Seven different tobaccos from seven distinct vegas are included. Wrapper is hand fermented for more than 18 months. Cigars are aged a full year before offered for sale.

It is a common trope in cigar reviews to assert that non-Cuban cigars are harsh and take getting used to, but the No. 9 is quite flawless in both flavor and character. Rich, complex, strong, powerful and full-bodied – and without being harsh – it is lush, earthy and espresso-like with incredibly dense body.

It is certainly an unparalleled smoking experience for those who enjoy strong cigars.

The Biblical verse (Joshua 1:9) on the cup is very appropriate.

This is another non-Cuban cigar I enjoy tremendously but because it is strong, it can be too much for some people. The nicotine hit can pack a wallop. A friend of mine smoked one, and puked after that. So never smoke one first thing in the morning, or on an empty stomach, and never smoke one in a hurry. This is a cigar to be slowly savored when you can set aside time for it.

One other thing: if you notice that the cigar produces lots of smoke when it is lit, that’s because of – according to an “industry insider” – the oil they apply on it to give it an oily look.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, if smoking doesn’t kill you, oil probably must!

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Flattening Curves

Many who have been following the latest developments of the global COVID-19 outbreak will have noticed doctors, healthcare professionals and government officials in recent days increasingly refer to a curve that needs flattening.

Called an epidemic curve, it is used to visualize when new cases happen and at what speed during a virus outbreak.

This simple n-shaped curve presents the stark reality of how quickly a virus can spread if unchecked, and the importance of intervening in a timely and decisive fashion.

There is at least one other curve that needs flattening.

The UK Lockdown Diet Report by The 1:1 Diet by Cambridge Weight Plan has revealed that almost half of Brits have put weight on since lockdown began in the UK on March 23rd.

The millennial generation is of greatest concern with 59% seeing “considerable weight gain.”

In the US, Withings, a maker of scales and body-measurement devices, studied what happened to the weight of some 450,000 of its American users between March 22nd — when New York ordered people home — and April 18th. The company found that some 37% of people gained more than a pound. (A pound is 0.45kg.)

The French started their lockdown on March 17th, and according to an Ifop poll, people put on an average of  about 5.5 pounds (2.5kg) during the lockdown.

Singapore started a “circuit breaker” period from April 7th. There are no statistics on weight gain, but people’s weight ballooning are hardly black swan events. After all, food is an escape hatch. I’m sure there’s an obvious uptick of overweight people – even Napoleon Chan looks fatter than be was BC (Before Covid) and what with every Tom, Dick, Harry, Mary and Jane, Ahmad, Siti, Ali and Ah Beng ordering food to be delivered or when everyone is cooking and baking up a storm, thinking he or she is a Violet Onn or Nigella Lawson incarnate – “Where has all the flour gone? Shops struggle to restock fast enough amid circuit breaker baking frenzy,” screamed a newspaper headline – or when lots of bored people are stuffing their faces round the clock with snacks and whatever food they can lay their hands on, even buttons on clothes are “social distancing.”

Jane DeVille-Almond, chair of The British Obesity Society said: “If you are concerned about your weight don’t wait for lockdown to finish before you start making changes as that’s simply another excuse for never getting started.”

True that.

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More Distant than Social

3.2 million live in Housing Development Board apartments.

Elevator buttons are one of the most frequently touched things.

So, the government applied on all elevator buttons a special disinfecting solution that is harmless to humans and can last three months. Yes, it was applied onto each elevator button.

That’s 1.5 million buttons in 26,000 apartment buildings!

My friends tell me, “Go ahead and go downstairs for a breather or even make a quick walk to the market nearby for essential stuff, it’s allowed, you know.”

The operative words are “breather” and “quick” because no longer peregrinations are permitted. Parking lots at parks are closed to discourage people from driving too far away from their homes to exercise.

I was told that taking time to sneak out for a bit of a workout in the vicinity of my immediate neighborhood – permitted if done alone – would make me happier.

How can we find and hold onto happiness when so much in the world abets unhappiness?

I know how: it’s something I’ve been doing for years and it’s social distancing! I’ve been doing it long before the phrase has become “cool.”

I was once accused of being a social snob because I refused to enter elevators that were packed, would walk to either end of the train platform because the carriages are less crowded, refused to go to the cinema on weekends and declined to sit at restaurant tables that were separated only inches away from the next table.

In any setting, being near to idiots and morons is totally intolerable to me and it gets much worse in an environment when everyone is relaxed and chilling, and sometimes imbibing alcohol – like in a cigar lounge.

If you put a one-cent coin into the piggy bank every time I wanted to throttle some imbecile in a cigar lounge to death, you would be a millionaire by now.

There is the occasional mensch in these places but unfortunately, most of these places are dominated by deadbeats; mental midgets who start arguments or say shit to troll people. They may start provocative conversations but they are incapable of decent discourse and commit the fallacy of argumentum ad ignorantiam, or arguing from ignorance. They like nothing more than the sound of their own voices. And they think the louder they yell, the more believable they become.

People do this to neuter their own inadequacy.

It’s what you do when you have a very short penis.

I hate noise and superfluous words.

The guy that spoke before Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg went on for about two hours – his speech was 13,607 words long. Lincoln got up and spoke just 271 words. That was still too long for me, to be honest.

One Malaysian working in Singapore, a fraud, and unfortunately an occasional visitor to my cigar lounge, is particularly obnoxious.

I hope the retard’s nearly non-existent private parts gain putrescence and rot.

He should be forced into solitary confinement of some kind.

The human instinct to socialize has always been balanced by an urge to withdraw into solitude. That’s true for normal human beings.

I don’t think our fraudster understands that at all.

“There are many modern thinkers who emphasize the individual’s dependency upon society,” John Cowper Powys, a British writer and advocate of solitude, observed. “It is, on the contrary, only the cultivation of interior solitude, among crowded lives, that makes society endurable.”

Because of all those unsavory characters populating cigar lounges these days, I have carved out a private place at home where I can indulge, undisturbed. I have air-purifiers and odor-removers installed. My cigar humidors and my pipe tobacco are within reach. I don’t have to listen to anyone’s bullshit. I am not in a hellscape of extroversion.

Charles Kingsley, priest, university professor, social reformer, historian, novelist and poet regarded tobacco as the ideal accomplishment to the solitary life – “a lone man’s companion, a bachelor’s friend, a hungry man’s food, a sad man’s cordial, a wakeful man’s sleep, and a chilly man’s fire.”

True that.

Finally, my monastic life style has been vindicated.

Decades of minimizing contact with other human beings…validated!

In a world that prizes youth, old men possess the power of invisibility but when you are not even in a cigar lounge, you are 100% totally invisible.

In the safe sanctuary of your home, you receive news about how people with under-developed dicks are still misbehaving, still making crazy claims and still spewing crap.

You are not affected because you are not even there.

It was in the 70’s when an engineer by the name of John J Fruin who developed the concept of the “touch zone,” an area of three square foot around the body which, if encroached upon, would be considered an invasion of one’s personal space. The typical area of comfort, he concluded, was about 10 square feet of room.

Fruin’s personal comfort area measured a full meter more than the two meters’ distance we are advised to keep in preventing the spread of COVID-19, but it’s not a problem for me because I’m safely ensconced in my home, my own castle. (Two meters’ distance is the recommendation of The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The recommendation of WHO and Singapore Ministry of Health is that people should stay at least one meter apart from one another.)

Two meters or one, it’s a very special pleasure to sit in the privacy sanctuary of my own domain, my own tranquil paradise, plotting the downfall of cons and posers.

Cutting them off is done easily; the way cigar scissors snip off cigar tips in a jiffy in preparation for a satisfying smoke.

Ah, no rest for the wicked!

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