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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Today, I officially became a senior citizen.

Oh no!!!

Posted in Places in the Heart | Comments Off on Promoted

The Birdbrains at AVA

Proposed new AVA director-general.

Twenty complaints about noise led to the culling of free-roaming chickens.

The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore admitted that in a letter to The Straits Times on February 2nd.

Then on February 15th its more tualiap head honcho wrote a letter to the papers contradicting his subordinate by saying that the culling was actually to protect Singaporeans from bird flu and had nothing to do with the complaints about noise.

AVA cited a 2004 report by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health to justify its action.

But contrary to the AVA’s assertion, that very report does not claim that wild or “free-roaming” fowl should be culled as part of biosecurity measures and instead recommends culling for poultry kept under farmed conditions.

A more recent update on the FAO website states that culling of wild bird populations is not recommended, as it may disperse infected birds and does little to reduce the risk of transmission to commercial poultry.

The February 15th letter seems like a pathetic attempt to rationalize away AVA’s action and to cover up its cock-up. No pun intended.

And, today, February 20th yet another letter, this time to TODAY,  was written by the director-general saying “We do not cull wild birds for bird flu prevention.” His letter was titled “Chickens are domestic poultry and pose bird flu risk.” He went on to explain that chickens when mingling with wild birds can become exposed to the bird flu virus which can then be transmitted to human beings. He didn’t say how that can happen though.

AVA considers free-roaming chickens “domestic poultry”? Farmed-reared chickens, free-roaming chickens, wild chickens, domestic poultry, wild birds, wow, befuddling indeed.

One reader named Norman Ng retorted “So what is considered WILD? Are the crows, sparrows, pigeons and mynahs ROAMING freely around our HDB areas considered WILD or Domestic?”

AVA lends no clarity at all.

If anything, it adds to the confusion.

In any case, government-linked organizations must remember that they are beholden to the public.

Unlike decades ago, every mother’s son – and daughter today – has a smartphone and can Google for facts.

You can’t pull wool over our eyes anymore.

No sir!

We have grown up.

And we deserved to be treated like adults, not lied to like kids.

AVA seems to think that this whole chicken culling episode is some comedy routine!

Come on, why is it so hard to say “sorry”?

All the AVA board (that’s a body even more tualiap than the two clowns who wrote those confusing letters contradicting each other) has to do is to say “We are sorry that our hasty decision to cull the chickens have ruffled so many feathers. We will be more conscientious in our decision-making from now on and we will review our processes immediately. To demonstrate our remorse to bird-lovers, our director-general will be transferred to Jurong Bird Park, where he will be kept away from fowl play and where his main role is to stroke the cocks in the Park while spending a psychiatrist-prescribed amount of time in self-reflection.”

Case closed. No more cock-a-doodle-do. Enough clucking! On to our rendang ayam.

But truth be told, the flap over AVA’s heavy-handedness is not unexpected but if that is all that vexes Singaporeans, then LKY must be smiling in his grave.

In any case, AVA has lost its credibility completely. Who believes what it says anymore? Anything that emanates from AVA from this point onwards will be regarded as yet another government-linked organization “talking cock” or crowing about it’s greatness in yet another attempt to add yet another feather in its cap, at the expense of clarity, transparency, openness and truth.

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Survey? No Thanks!

The retards at LTA sent me a letter saying that my household has been “randomly chosen” for a comprehensive travel survey and that an interviewer will be visiting my house to ask questions,

The survey has been outsourced to Ascentiq Pte Ltd and a phone number of the Survey Manager Vivien Tan was included.

A week ago, I sent a SMS message to Miss Tan to inform her that my family does not wish to participate. I requested her to acknowledge my message and to confirm that she accepts my request not to participate.

And yes, as you would have probably guessed, I have not received a response thus far.

A friend told me “Let them survey you lor, sometimes they will give you a 50-dollar voucher for participating, you know.”

I have no desire whatsoever to open my underwear and let strangers grope my family jewels for 50 bucks or for any amount. My world is not driven by money. And I can’t be bought for 50 bucks, sorry.

I value my privacy and I am indignant of the fact that government bodies think they have every right to invade your privacy any time they want.

Once, when Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines was questioned about his health by a reporter, he retorted “What is the condition of your wife’s vagina? Is it smelly? Or not smelly? Give me the report.” Trust me, I didn’t make that up. It’s not fake news. Google to confirm, please.

Would those dimwits who run LTA like to have ME conduct a survey in their households? And I’m sure that moron Miss Tan seriously needs to get some training on manners and some lessons on communications.

I mean, if she can’t handle this job, maybe she should go away for a break to recharge.

I hear Ethiopia is nice this time of the year.

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Who is a Hero?

If you spend heaps of money to raise a champion who wins an Olympic gold does that make you a Singaporean of the Year?

I have no answer to that question, being the simpleton that I am.

What I do know is that Singaporeans who have proven themselves truly outstanding definitely deserve our adulation and emulation and should certainly be given due recognition.

But why pick just one individual as Singaporean of the Year?

All 12 nominees in the recent very unoriginal Singaporean of the Year award sponsored by a leading local newspaper and a bank are extraordinary Singaporeans noted for sacrifices, courageous acts or nobility of character – each is a hero.

But each is outstanding in his or her own way.

To name one person as Singaporean of the Year kinda negates the achievements of the 11 others because there is no way all 12 nominees’ accomplishments and feats can be measured equitably. To do so, one must “compare apples with apples” and “oranges with oranges.” It is as inequitable as TV shows like America’s Got Talent; how does one measure the talent of a singer versus that of a sword-swallower? The basic premise of such a contest is flawed right from the beginning.

The 12-year-old Singaporean boy who rushed to the aid of a pregnant woman involved in a car accident – while others were busy taking photos with their cell phones – is no less heroic than the 54-year-old security officer who underwent 10 hours of surgery to donate 60% of his liver to a complete stranger or the 50-year-old mechanic who generously gave 6,000 bucks to fund the studies of a former drug addict he met at a bus stop.

Similarly, the cook who led a team of six to clinch a historic victory for Singapore at the Culinary Olympics in Germany is no less a hero than those doctors who alerted us to Zika.

And surely our persevering paralympic swimmers are no less worthy of exaltation than Joseph Schooling’s devoted and farsighted mum and dad.

Isn’t it more meaningful to simply recognize say, 12 Outstanding Singaporeans of the Year on an annual basis instead of voting just one nominee as Singaporean of the Year?

Posted in The Good, the Bad & the Ugly | Comments Off on Who is a Hero?

Meet Singapore’s Most Sensitive CEO

Mr Wong Heang Fine, what you did ain’t fine!

Wong Heang Fine, Surbana Jurong’s CEO, is a real sensitive guy. When 54 of his employees were sacked, he couldn’t sleep for a week, lost his appetite for his Chinese New Year reunion dinner and donated his entire year’s salary to help the families of the 54.

In addition, like Mordecai of the Old Testament (see Esther 4:1), Wong tore off his clothes, put on sackcloth, rubbed ashes on his head and face and walked out into the city wailing loudly and bitterly while beating his chest.

Yeah, right.

Fat hope!

Fat fucking hope indeed.

The cold, hard, brutal truth is that Wong had those 54 sacked BEFORE Chinese New Year and in a Hitlerite email uncovered by the press, Wong made the pronouncement that “the company could not allow a small proportion of poor performers to drag down the rest of the organization.”

The tactic of the bottom 1% having to go for the sake of the other 99% is the oldest trick in the book. It used to be fashionable – in American companies especially – to fire the bottom 1% every year to keep the rest on their toes.

Surbana Jurong’s board is said to be a list of who’s who in the corporate sector, and its senior management includes a former top civil servant who previously headed two statutory boards.

But the Temasek Holdings-owned company was openly rapped last week in Parliament by no less than Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, who declared that it was unacceptable for Surbana Jurong to publicly label the 54 employees it recently axed as “poor performers.”

The two unions that represent the company’s workers hit back as well.

One union leader claimed that Surbana Jurong did not follow due process and challenged the company’s assertion that the axed workers were poor performers, saying that eight were either re-employed after they reached retirement age or had their contracts renewed.

And Singapore Industrial and Services Employees’ Union general secretary Philip Lee called the company “heartless to the extreme” for sacking 54 employees just before Chinese New Year.

(Other shenanigans emerged from employees’ complaints – one, whose company was acquired by Surbana Jurong, wrote to the press saying that Surbana Jurong – unlike many other companies – does not have the practice of paying salaries earlier during festive months.)

As for the sackings, the company later admitted grudgingly that the process could have been better managed.

Too late.

The damage’s done.

If this is how a Temasek-linked company does its HR, one wonders what other companies are getting away with.

If indeed poor performance is an issue, employers share the blame too.

Straits Times’ manpower correspondent Toh Yong Chuan weighed in by saying that “The dismissals came at a time when the economy is slowing and more workers are losing their jobs. The prospect of the sacked workers finding new jobs is dim. The timing also compounds workers’ fear that Surbana might have axed them to avoid paying retrenchment benefits.”

He added: “And, for the rest of the employers in Singapore who watch this saga from the sidelines, the bottom line is clear. Employers have the power to hire and fire, and no employer owes any worker a living. But, it does not hurt for them to treat workers with sensitivity, compassion and dignity, especially when the workers have to be let go.” Wise words.

The Manpower Ministry’s investigations into the Surbana Jurong cases are supposed to be ongoing.

I hope the Ministry has the moral courage to do the right thing.

One question it must ask is what is the role of HR, the so-called custodian of organizational conscience in all of this? I suspect, most times; heartless, cold-blooded HR is being willingly used as henchman of the equally heartless and cold-blooded clods who run the company perched comfortably at the top of the ivory tower. And is it sheer coincidence that Surbana Jurong’s Group Chief HR Officer used to work for an American company for 17 years?

Surbana Jurong’s HR should be sacked.

Along with the CEO.

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Cull the Children!

Chickens’ revenge – AVA executioner now transformed into feather duster.

Children in the neighborhood are making helluva lot of noise, cull them!

My sister-in-law’s three kids (straight out of DSM-5) are the worst-bred, most ill-mannered brats on planet earth, cull them!

The neighbor next door has two kids who look at you as if you are transparent; totally zero EQ, cull them!

Thanks to Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore for the inspiration!

AVA has slaughtered 24 free-ranging chickens around Thomson View and blocks 452 to 454 Sin Ming Avenue, after it received 20 complaints last year from residents, mostly about the birds being noisy.

Chickens noisy?

Oh those kids I mentioned don’t stand a chance!

Yes, chickens got killed cos they make noise?

Oh come on!

Those Thomson View and Sin Ming Avenue residents must be real assholes. Ditto AVA. By the way, those complaints could have originated from just one nutcase for all we know, and AVA could have culled some endangered red jungle fowls along with the other chickens.

The Year of the Rooster is turning out to be a bad start for these regal birds but among chickens, only roosters crow loudly, not hens. Hens never crow and are generally quiet. (I’m not talking about my Rosmah Mansor here.) They – the hens, the feathered ones – make just a wee bit of noise, when announcing the arrival of a freshly hatched egg. (Who wouldn’t? That short-ass Philip Yeo laid only smoke bombs and maybe a foundation stone or two yet he screamed like a peacock while strutting around like a little Napoleon with a short dick. He even made a career out of it.) The sounds made by the hen, however, are short-lived and never happens at night. When it does happen, they last only a few minutes and take place only once every 24 to 36 hours. Trust me, I know all about chickens. Scientifically, chickens may have the potential to generate a noise level of 70dB, but it is a noise level they rarely reach and that 70dB-level is measured very close to the chicken, at a distance of 2 feet. The inverse distance law predicts that at ten times the distance (20 feet), the sound pressure would drop a tenth, equivalent to a decibel drop of 20dB. That means that a chicken making a 70dB sound will translate to humans hearing it at 50dB which is roughly equivalent to a quiet conversation at home.

And for this level of “noise” those retards at Thomson View and Sin Ming Avenue had those poor chooks killed?

No “silent” chickens exist unless their vocal cords are surgically removed – which is an option with those kids I mentioned if culling them seems too inhumane – but the noise chickens generate should be regarded as the sweet sound of nature.

I was on assignment in a neighboring country once for a year and though I lived next to the university, each morning I could hear roosters crowing. Typically, roosters crow couple of hours before dawn and I was delighted by the fact that I was privileged to once again enjoy that sound of these “natural alarm clocks” from my childhood days.

Today at my apartment, squawking mynahs outside my window wake me up every morning, not a very melodious sound no doubt, but it is nature and I welcome the birds. I don’t reach for the phone and summon the authorities to come and kill them.

Singaporeans should ask: Would we rather listen to the usual cacophony of dogs that can bark all night long, power tools, mating cats, copulating humans,  loud pounding from a mortar and pestle, motorcycles, car alarms and the myriad of other loud noises frequently heard in our neighborhood than the therapeutic sound of nature?

If Thomson View and Sin Ming Avenue residents themselves are completely, utterly, 1000% silent, then maybe they have every right to ask for the chickens in their midst to be killed, but methink we should all be more tolerant. Cos if not, you yourself may be the next one who will get culled. When these Thomson View and Sin Ming Avenue douche bags grow old one day, their grand kids will have them culled for their relentless loud farting.

You can trust me on that.

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Should I Apologzie To Those Who Do Me Harm?

Intruders with ill intentions can come into your territory, take advantage of all the benefits there are to be reaped, give nothing back, and on occasions, even wreck damaging havoc and cause deaths with their ideology and militarism. So, you protect yourself. We Chinese do know a bit about walls, you know. Of course, we didn’t ask those interlopers to pay for the wall – that’s stupid, impractical and plain impossible to execute. I agree with my friend Phil on that. Phil is one of the brightest men I know and his perspectives are razor sharp. He gets things.

Well, what’s wrong with wanting to protect your own country? What’s wrong with keeping the undesirables out? Aunty Angela thinks there’s nothing wrong; well, look at Germany now.

If there are genuine talents from foreign lands that can be of help to us, we’ll of course let them in, but not before stringent background checks have verified that they are men and women of character, with skills not available in our own country.

This is what we as a country has been doing for umpteen years.

Far away in the west, the president of what is considered a great country is doing precisely what many other countries are doing – protecting his country’s borders, and hence protecting his people, but he came under severe attack by lots of people from his own country. Even the judges in his country rebelled against him. Spurned their president, they did.

The press seems to lead the lynch mob, one retarded journalist named Nicolas Kristoff, even wrote a piece of utter crap in The New York Times on February 2nd apologizing – on behalf of his president – to a group of people who had brought much destructive annihilation and death to the innocent people of his country and to the innocent people of other countries. Think 911, think Boston Marathon, think Paris, November 2015, think Nice, July 2016, think Berlin, December 2016. Has Kristoff completely forgotten those mauled down mercilessly and had their lives snuffed out?

Well, I supposed if you are as fucked up as the American press (look at their dismal and laughable “prediction” and “forecast” about who would win the 2016 presidential election), you would indeed need to do all kinda shit to regain some face. This is called “grasping at straws.”

So, it’s time for clowns like Kristoff and his kind to take off their gloves and start whacking, just to prove that they are not taking up space and using up other people’s oxygen; “diversity” and “acceptance” provide the excuses needed.

I wonder if Kristoff would still embrace some of those barbaric monsters he apologized to if one of them should kidnap one of his relatives or if one of these murdering pricks beheads one of Kristoff’s loved ones. “You love your daughter, don’t you, Mr Kristoff? Okay, let me slice her head off with this serrated knife.”

Ah, Krisfoff. I shake my head, reading that rubbish he wrote. His ass must be jealous of the amount of shit that comes out of his mouth. Pulitzer Prize winner indeed. Not once, but twice. And he writes shit?

Kristoff’s gene pool could use a little chlorine, to be honest.

Maybe he has a death wish.

I’m sure those killers he apologized to would be more than willing to help him out.

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Cathay Pacific’s Premium Economy is an Epic Rip-off

Pick a number, any number, and see her disappear.

Except for one or two flights, I’ve flown business class since I was a teenager and flying economy has always been a problem for me. Recently airlines were aggressively touting Premium Economy seats and giving the impression that they are somewhat similar to their business class seats. What a crock of crap. I should have known but I was determined to give it a try.

I flew from Singapore to Hong Kong on January 19th and returned on 24th on Cathay Pacific’s Premium Economy.

Was it worth it?

Well, here’s my experience.

An economy ticket price for Singapore-Hong Kong-Singapore on Cathay ranges from S$582.70 to S$958 and a Premium Economy seat is being sold from S$1032.70 to S$1710.70.

Cathay’s website hypes it up convincingly, their copywriter must have gone nuts and got carried away. Certain perks mentioned were simply lies. They don’t exist.

At the check-in counter at Singapore’s Changi airport, there was no dedicated counter for Premium Economy passengers. Baggage is tagged as economy baggage and won’t be given priority on the carousel upon arrival in Hong Kong and Premium Economy passengers are not invited to the Cathay lounge at the airport.

In the cabin, the seating configuration was 2, 4, 2. Space between passengers appears to be larger than in economy class but seats are only a little bigger. No problem with the legroom – I’ve always managed to survived squeezy legroom despite being over 6-foot tall but I do covet the larger space between passengers – I once flew on a conducted tour to Israel on economy and the tightness in the space between passengers made me feel really claustrophobic. The space was so tight I couldn’t even read a newspaper without elbowing the next passenger’s eyes.

Not only are the seats in Cathay’s Premium Economy just a little bit bigger than regular economy seats, they were hard, uncomfortable seats with limited recline space.

The discomfort is made worse by the horrendous inflight service. I have flown Cathay on first and business class before and the impression I had then was that the crew would rush through a meal service and never appear again. It was the same this time, only worse.

You might be a Premium Economy passenger but you are basically an economy class passenger – one indication is that there is no dedicated toilet for you front of the plane, you trek all the way back to use the same toilets as other economy passengers.

On the flight to Hong Kong, breakfast was served; cabin crew offered juice and if you wanted coffee you had to ask for it at the same time, because they don’t come back and offer you coffee later.

Food was the same food served to regular economy passengers.

From Hong Kong to Singapore, dinner was served but when I asked for coffee but the cabin attendant snapped “We are not serving coffee at this time” but she never returned with coffee or tea.

Half an hour later a cabin attendant ran around dumping tiny tubs of ice cream on passengers’ trays while screaming “Ice cream, one flavor only.” It may have been Häagen-Dazs but it was frozen rock solid and impossible to eat.

Soon, the trays were cleared and the cabin crew disappeared for the rest of the flight.

The temperature in the cabin was too warm, people were perspiring and passengers were fanning themselves.

So is Premium Economy worth it?

You decide for yourself.

To me, it’s an epic rip-off.

This is confirmed by the fact that on Cathay’s website, there is simply NO place to provide feedback. Access to Cathay Pacific seems impossible; all email addresses are hidden.

After this experience, I told myself, if I am unable to fly regular business class, I am not flying. Period. I rather forgo a trip than subject myself to being treated like cattle.

Don’t believe a word by bloggers crowing about how great Premium Economy is – most of these scumbags have been incentivized to write such crap.

Me? I actually paid good money and flew it.

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Earth calling OSIM, Earth calling OSIM

No more lonely nights.

Once they got your money, most companies regard you as some sucker who is no longer of value to them.

OSIM is one such company.

A couple of years back I was given a massage chair that – I was told – cost nearly S$8000/-, and lately I’ve been wanting to replace the headrest which is beginning to look kinda worn out, so I went to their website which says just bring whatever you need replaced to any of their stores and they will send it to be fixed. The only caveat is that you would have to go to their head office to collect the replacement.  (This in and of itself is a bit stupid, do they expect people to haul an entire massage chair that weighs a ton to one of their stores?)

I visited an OSIM store at JEM with the headrest but the lady in the store was completely befuddled by the whole idea. “You sure ah? Like that one meh?” she asked and then walked away.

So, when I got home, I emailed OSIM to get a definite answer.

That was January 13th. The auto-reply said they will respond within five working days.

Nothing happened.

I emailed them again on January 24th – and yes, no prize for guessing it right – nothing happened again.

I then phoned them.

Waited half an hour listening to elevator muzak and then a recording said “You are in queue number two.”

15 minutes later “You are in queue number one.”

Then, five minutes later, “You have exceeded the length of waiting time, good bye” (or words to that effect) and the line was cut off.

I should have known.

I must have forgotten that OSIM was started by some Ah Beng who got his beginnings by selling cheap electronic crap at People’s Park.

So expecting a modicum of decent customer service was I guess a bit much, huh?

I guess once Mr Ah Beng got the eight thousand bucks for the chair, I’ve outlived my usefulness as far as he’s concerned.

Posted in Toy Story | Comments Off on Earth calling OSIM, Earth calling OSIM