When people ask me what my plan is for the Easter long weekend, I can’t help but think that they are expecting some sort of exotic answers. Like getting out of town, hiking, movies, parties and more parties. While my wife and I have indeed watched a movie – The Fast and the Furious 8 – as Catholics, we spend time going to Church over the weekend.
Good Friday, it rained heavily. Our car barely made it out of estate when my wife Cynthia cringing in pain. So we made a U-turn and headed back to our condo. I dropped her off at our lobby and drove to Church after knowing that it was not a matter of emergency.
By the time I have reached the Church – pretty early in normal circumstances but Good Friday is by no means normal – it was packed. I managed to find a seat in the front row. This Mass participation was for me and for my wife. I can always pray for my wife too.
Easter Sunday, we have made it to the evening Mass. Father Mike was not the celebrant. Another Indian Priest instead. This Priest is good. He speaks with conviction and clarity. During the homily, he spoke of the presence of the Rising Christ. Since almost none of us have met Jesus in real life, it is really all down to faith. Having said that, where can we sense the presence of Jesus?
First is the Bible, which is a no-brainer. Second, is the Communion – one of the reasons why we have to go to Church at least every Sunday. Third, is the community because when two or more gather in His name, He is with us.
In the theme of Easter, the Priest talked about the three P’s too. First is Peace, the single most important tool to counter life’s ongoing challenges. Second, is not punishment – ha! – but power. The power of mercy so as to forgive. Third, is to proclaim Christ.
So there you have it. This is how my wife and I have spent the long weekend. At least the more significant bits.
When you are young in your career, it is easy to make work becomes you. As though consciously or subconsciously, work is the single most important thing in life. Over time, you may find your balance. And recognize that workplace is just an entity. Your boss doesn’t own you a living. Neither do you own him or her your life.
With the amount of time we spend at work, inevitably we make friends. Or at least be friendly to others. We talk about our weekends, our overseas families that visit us, the joy – wedding, childbirth, or promotion – and the sadness – aging parents, a sick child, or health issues. We talk about our “friends” at work. We talk about our “enemies” at work. Enemies become friends (less likely). Friends become enemies (more likely). A workplace can be fun (less likely). Or it can be toxic (more likely). Most of us could probably write a book about work than writing about what happens after work, though I sincerely hope not.
Eventually, one leaves from one workplace to another. This is where I have come to the realization that besides those whom I don’t care about and those who likewise don’t care about me in my day-to-day work and beyond, there are different types of friends as I leave one workplace to another.
Type I. Friends who no longer talk and are turning into strangers.
People can be nice to each other thanks to the work environment. We find topics to talk about that are largely work related. We need each other at work. We have common goals. Outside of this environment, there really isn’t anything worth catching up on. So when separated, there is hardly any reason to be friends.
I suppose most of my colleagues at work would fall under this category.
Type II. Friends who continue talking with me most likely they still need something from me in near future.
While no one is indispensable at work, when one leaves, someone else would need to take over. It is hard to say whether or not that someone would continue befriending me when I am of no value to him or her in near future.
Pessimistically or realistically, type II can become type I. Or it can become type III.
Type III. Friends who become friends for real.
I have worked for more than two decades. I can say with conviction that I do come across people whom I have got to know at a workplace and we keep in touch after we parted. In fact, many of my best friends in life were once upon a time my colleagues.
When you come across type III friends, count your blessing. Hold onto them and stay in touch. Time works both ways. It can grow friendship; it can also kill friendship.
The past one month or so was terrible. Early last month, it was on the 10th when I had planned to spend the Friday shopping for a Valentine’s Day gift for my wife. Something suddenly struck my life’s trajectory like a meteor hits a planet. Instead, I ended up eating one of the saddest lunches ever in a food court at VivoCity and did not have the mood to do anything else. The Vietnam beef noodle was horrible. No spice nor fragrance . Just salt and water with some tasteless slices of overcooked or reheated beef. As for dinner, I thought nothing could go wrong with my comfort food at Asia Square. That burrito was one of the saddest burritos I have ever tasted. The guacamole that was supposed to be inside was unceremoniously squeezed out from the wrap in the process of being wrapped up with the aluminum foil. I really wanted to ask the girl to make another one. Why didn’t I?
Looking back, it has been a really tough year. In fact, this rather challenging time has lasted for a good few years. Issues with my neighbors. Massive lack of sleep. Some really personal matters that are family related. On top of all these, there is work.
Good news is that last Friday something has struck my life like the first cells first created in a barren planet.
Like all things in my life, everything is so last minute but yet the timing is so good. Great stuff. Time to evolve, once again.
Peter is twelve years old. He enjoys playing basketball. In fact, he is pretty good at it. A star no less. Peter loves the sport partly due to his passion, partly due to a wonderful coach he has that recognizes his talent, knows his weaknesses, and has a good gauge of his potential. Peter likes his teammates too. When all the positive ingredients come together, Peter has a dream. To play leagues and who knows, one day Peter may represent his country in an international arena doing what he loves to do the most, with people whom he enjoys hanging out with, and with people who believe in him.
All these set to change when a new coach comes on board together with new teammates. The chemistry is not quite there. Instead of being guided to where he excels, Peter’s weaknesses get amplified. It is suffocating. Everywhere he goes, Peter meets with obstacles. Every challenge unconquered dims his passion a little bit. Soon, Peter has become a liability to his basketball team. There is only that much Peter can do to keep himself motivated, to practice day after day. But basketball is a team sport. Ultimately, the entire ordeal kills his dream. It is time to move on.
Does this sound familiar to you? In life, be blessed when you are surrounded by people who are willing to groom you to be better. People who are supportive of your passion and dream. People who believe in you. We can’t change the world. And when we fail to influence the people around us to work with our passion and dream – no fault of either party – moving on could be a good option. In fact, in life, it could well be the only option.
On the day Trump shocked the world, I was watching the US election on TV while waiting for yet another treadmill test to be conducted in yet another health clinic. My first test a month ago has shown some abnormal ECG pattern. The pattern tells a story. A borderline possibility that insufficient oxygen level is delivered to my heart. Now, that was not a very good news and as you can imagine, it has affected me, emotionally speaking. I will get to that in just a bit.
After a week’s waiting, I saw the doctor who has conducted part of the initial health screening so that he could read out the report to me (with some added flavors). He then referred me to a cardiologist who sent me to another health clinic so as to do another treadmill test. This time with the ultrasound heart scan before and after the test. The health clinic then generated another report on the spot. I hand-delivered that report to my cardiologist on the same day right after my scan so that he could read it to me (with some added flavors). I cannot imagine the amount of money involved with so many parties, so much time.
The last time I did the treadmill test I had been fasting for 12 hours. Also, I was pretty unfit. This time round, I came prepared. I was able to complete 5 stages with my heart rate exceeding 100% of my maximum based on my age. My body wanted to give up 2 minutes before the end of stage 5. I think the last 30 seconds was the hardest part of the run. It was mind over body.
In the end, it did not matter. The ECG was still borderline abnormal. But the heart scan before and after the run was fine. Hence, it is case closed: false positive.
This experience has taught me a few things.
Health is indeed wealth.
I can’t imagine what it is like for those who are living with heart diseases. The constant worry that at any time, the heart may fail.
While it is impossible to live a stress-free life, try not to stress up people around you. This applies to work and life and anything in between as well.
I have become more active. I actually feel good. In fact, I feel much better.
Whatever measured get managed. I should have invested on a wearable that comes with a heart rate monitor a long time ago.
The next day, I felt like a new man. All of a sudden, I felt like making some new shirts. So I paid my tailors at CYC Raffle Hotel a visit after dropping my wife at work.
I could go for the cheaper fabrics like I often do. Or I could go for the latest collection, which could be as much as 40% more expensive. I could also opt for some of the add-ons like solid color collar inlays and brackets to make the shirts looking even more fantastic. At work, some people often add stress to me reminding that I am a director so that I need to do more, much more. Since I am a director, I really ought to buy some better quality shirts so as to at least look like one.
Due to all these irrational rationalizations, I have spent more than S$1,000 for 6 shirts. To continue my spending spree, I met up with my old friend Robert for lunch at Asia Square and have spent more than S$18 on a Mexican fast food meal.
Every time I had that burrito and that Mexican guava drink, I would say to myself: no way I will eat this again, so expensive. But I keep going back for more. That burriot and that Mexican guava drink has become my comfort food.
Last night, while I was blogging, my wife played World of Warcraft. When I was done blogging, she watched a Turkish TV-series called Magnificent Century. It is about a Christian slave girl being sold to the Ottoman Empire and has got the Sultan falling in love with her. The slave girl looks very much like a younger version of Drew Barrymore. In another word, while my wife distracted my blogging with World of Warcraft, she too has distracted my Path of Exile gaming with a very interesting TV-series.
Like she is now distracting my blogging with Magnificent Century.
After dropping my wife at her office, I returned home, made myself a cup of coffee wanting to start my study for the project management profession exam. I took a look at the book that is as thick as a phone book. I gave up and have decided to record a video for the game Path of Exile instead.
I really ought to study. I have almost completed chapter 3. I got to the last page of the chapter and remembered that I have to memorize 47 or so processes. I closed the book and moved onto my next agenda.
Time to leave home as I have a health specialist appointment at two in the afternoon. My plan was to drop my car at my rental parking lot in town and take a train to Orchard. Lunch at Somerset 313’s food court (a rather uptown shopping mall) was good. My favorite Vietnamese stall is gone, together with HMV downstairs. I found a nice Japanese stall instead, which seems to be run by a Japanese. I had fried Mackerel with rice. It was yummy.
And I took some photos while I was killing time crawling from malls to malls.
After my appointment, I have a decision to make. I could take the train back to the car. Or I could walk.
Just that, the whole journey would be close to five kilometers under a very warm sun with a pair of shoes that were not fit for walking long distance.
But hey. How could I pass out an opportunity to do some outdoor activities while I am not working?
I am home! I could study. Or …
… I could swim! I have tried a different way in my swimming approach hoping that my not-so-smart Garmin wearable vivoactivity HR could automatically detect my laps perfectly.
Of course, I could only dream.
One of my favorite games Marvel Heroes has a special announcement. I have got to work on my next video!
Tonight’s dinner was stir fry chicken breast slices with green and red peppers, boiled green vegetable, and brown rice. I love cooking. It is therapeutic.
After dinner, time to continue working on my next video! I like making videos on announcement related topics (one hour or so together with recording). It does not take too long to work out the materials. I really hope that it will be useful for the fans of the game.
It took me one and half hour to write this blog entry. Time now is 11 pm. And I blame Magnificent Century. Men are really not good at multi-tasking.
In my current line of work, once a year I have got to take a two weeks long holiday. Normally, my wife and I would take a long haul flight to somewhere far as tourists. This year round, Cynthia has changed job, I have a project management professional exam to prepare, and we want to save some money. So I am staying put in Singapore for the first week of my holiday. Next week, my wife will join me.
I woke up like every other working day. Except, today is day one of my holiday! During my shower, I overheard my wife gasped and groaned loudly from the kitchen. My guess would be that she has once again made a mess while juicing vegetables and fruits. I could imagine juice all over the tabletop dripping onto the floor. Actually, all I wanted was to give her a hug. My wife is not a morning people. Yet she pulls herself out from the bed every other morning to make healthy breakfast for the two of us. As it turns out, there was a bit of a mess. I took over the washing after my shower relieving her for her daily routine.
After dropping my wife at work, I was back at home. Time to swim! As I am becoming more active these days – all thanks to this Garmin wearable watch that tracks heart rate among other things (which is mostly pretty dumb) – I managed to swim rather intensively for half an hour non-stop. I was looking forward to collecting some good data through my smart watch. Then again, my Garmin wearable watch fails me like before. I reckon if I was a professional swimmer, this watch would have automatically counted my lap time nicely. But I am not. Never will be. I have got to figure out a way on how to swim so that the watch can figure out what I do.
My plan after my swim was to make some French toast. The eggs were beautifully beaten; four slides of bread were trimmed; the coffee machine was ready. Just as I was soaking the bread onto the egg mixture, I saw some green mold on the bread. Now, that was disappointing. Perhaps I should have an early lunch instead.
I could take the car. Or I could walk. It is a 1.6 km walk from my home to the nearest food court. Why not exercise more?
It was drizzling so I brought along an umbrella. The walk to the market was pleasant. Overcast with fresh breeze. The food options were pretty meh though. Mostly unhealthy stuffs. I had black chicken herbal soup with cabbage rice – the healthiest food I could find in the food court. The chicken was prepared with its skin intact. And the cabbage rice was cooked together with thin strips of pork belly (which regretfully, I only discovered the latter as I was halfway through my meal). Not entirely healthy stuff.
By being active means that I would need more food intake. So I bought some banana from the wet market. The shopkeeper asked what sort of bananas I would want. There were so many types of bananas. Different shapes, different colors (one was muddy brown in color!). He asked if I wanted to fry them. I said I just want to eat them raw.
I bought some buns too as I plan to have some tea break with my wife this evening.
On the way back, I took a different route. It was a 2 km walk instead. The sun was up. With the rain, humidity shot up the sky.
After yet another shower, it is time to study! I made myself a cup of Nespresso all ready to prepare for my project management professional exam.
I barely survived the first chapter when I needed a nap.
So, nap I should.
I felt great! Time was running out though. There were so much to do today. I wanted to continue my study. But the material is really boring. So I checked out my YouTube channel and replied to friends’ comments. Yesterday I have published a video about our 16th wedding anniversary. Oh yes. Time flies.
I should study for real. I managed to finish up to chapter two. Very much common sense materials, so far.
It is music time! I miss playing music. My Filipino neighbors downstairs are super noisy from time to time. They love to sing karaoke. We could vividly hear all the notes and screaming. Well, guess what? I too used to jam. I could be pretty loud too! Except, there ain’t many in this world who have heard of or even like what I play. Because I write my songs. There is a saying in Singapore. If you can’t win them, join them. Good luck consuming my work-in-progress music /grin.
I have got to stop whatever I was doing (i.e. jamming) and start preparing for dinner. Tonight was chicken soup cooked with chayote. I have already deboned two chickens over the weekend. This soup was prepared with two chicken carcasses and two chicken thighs and drumsticks. Skinned.
After the dish was all set inside my pressure cooker, I continued jamming till 17:30. I had no idea that playing music can be a good workout to the heart too!
Time to leave my apartment and pick up Cynthia at work.
Home sweet home and dinner was at seven. The soup was delicious. We expected no less /smile.
Time to blog. My wife is now playing World of Warcraft with her level 85 Undead Warrior. This is very distracting.
I have planned this Monday holiday months in advance. Because Tuesday is National Day, a public holiday. I have been wanting to have some time on my own, to reflect upon life and to simply admire nature, to be connected to the ‘bigger picture’. It seems that our souls need nourishment once in awhile especially when day in day out we are stuck in a corporate rat race.
In some ways I am happy that my wife needed to work today. When both of us are on leave, we would take our time doing very little, at home mostly. Nothing is wrong with that of course. A different kind of soul nourishment. A mutual nourishment.
After dropping my wife off to work at a quarter to nine in the morning, I drove to the Botanic Gardens, a UNESCO site.
This plan of mine did not get hatched until late last night. Botanic Garden always makes me happy. Be in as in Hong Kong when I was studying or in Singapore. Today felt like a makeup session for a birthday outing that I did not have.
Armed with a camera phone, a book, and a bottle of water, I felt happy even before entering the garden. It took me some time before I could find a parking lot by the street, right at the back of the children’s garden, which is on the far end of the map.
As expected, the day was warm and the air was humid. I got a bottle of water but I forgot to bring some suntan lotion. I got a book but I forgot to bring some insect repellent.
I love my new phone. Finally I could take some photos to commemorate my days, edit and upload along the way with GPS tagging. Six hours my phone’s battery has lasted. I was tired but delightful at the end of the trip.
So where was I? Yes, the parking lot.
I am amazed that so many people hang out in the Botanic Gardens on a working day (though I must say, many must have taken leave today like me). My plan was to have a nice breakfast inside the garden upon arrival. But since I was parking so far away, I took a stroll instead as I headed towards my first destination – a restaurant that serves proper breakfast.
First thing that greeted me besides the toilet at children’s garden was a group of old folks trying to exercise. That scene actually scares me. I am motivated to start doing some exercise asap. I hope my back would bend better than them when I am at their age.
Casa Verde is right in the midsection of the garden. Quite honestly, the food is very so-so. And it is rather pricy. But the decor is rather OK. I managed to find a seat inside the airconditioned section of the restaurant. I could sit outside though. But today was a warm day. Cool air was a welcoming sight.
So I order an overpriced egg benedict that cost S$16. An additional cup of what appeared as an instant coffee that cost an extra S$4. I still enjoyed my breakfast though, because today was a happy day.
Over breakfast, I have started reading The Devil in the Flesh by a French author Raymond Radiguet. A book I have borrowed from the library. I don’t know how anyone can read books these days. I was so distracted by my electronic devices.
Talking about electronic devices, what’s wrong with the world today?! Here I was immersing myself into nature, listening to the sound of the insects, of the birds, and of the wind brushing against the tree leaves (of course, the sound of construction nearby can be annoying). I saw waves and waves of people glued to their electronic devices playing Pokemon Go as though they were possessed, living inside a world of augmented reality.
It is very easy to spot Pokemon Go players (more so because I was once an Ingress player).
They are often in group talking to each other while interacting with their electronic devices.
They have a tendency to stop in some random spots again interacting with their phones or tablets.
At times, they look stressed (which is strange because no one should look stressed inside a garden).
They are oblivious to all that is around them. I bet even as Taylor Swift walks by, they would still look for those virtual beings.
Very often, you see them carrying a power pack to charge their phones on the go. Some would actually play with two devices (ah, good old Ingress days of mine).
Also, at times, these players (or hunters?) tend to cast me a suspicious look. As though I am there to steal their price.
Look, this is a garden. The only time I would cast a suspicious look to a fellow visitor is when he or she looks like a terrorist.
But then again, who am I to judge? I have lived through those insane time with Ingress (the step-father of Pokemon Go?). I am still spending a lot of time at home playing video games, even at my age. To my defense though, I think what is going on behind closed doors is none of others’ business (duh, my YouTube channel has betrayed me). Roaming in public places like Botanic Gardens in a zombified state, that is weird.
Or perhaps, I am the weird one. Because if I am to count the number of people whom I have come across playing Pokemon Go versus those who were like me enjoying the scenery and the ambient, we the real lifers are definitely outnumbered.
I got lost a few times inside Botanic Gardens. How often when you read a map by the roadside and even though it has “You Are Here” in a font and color that cannot be missed, you just not sure which road leads to where?
If I were to design roadmaps, I would certainly go that extra mile and draw two things right at “You Are Here”. A simple line to denote where the signboard is from a top down view. And a man or an eyeball showing you where you are facing.
One great thing about getting lost is – besides the extra exercise I so need (remember the old folks at the beginning of this entry?) – I came across places that subsciously I wanted to visit but I was not really looking for them.
Like a toilet and a place for food. The gift shop was a bonus.
By the time my late lunch was served, my colleague at work has already called me for help. The good news was that it was not something unexpected. I was mentally prepared. The bad news was that I was at least two kilometers away from my car, not counting the extra miles I would need to partake once I got lost. That is a story for another day.
Or not ever.
On another positive note though, I really enjoy reading Devil in the Flesh. It is about a young boy in love in great details. It is about a young boy in love with a girl who is with another man. It is about a young boy infatuated with someone older than him. All three, I can relate.
Earlier this month, our government has announced that 30 hectares of forest will be cleared so that more housing estates can be built in Teacher’s Estate. Believe it or not, I am someone who likes nature and I do feel rather sad hearing this news. Had this took place in Hong Kong, I would imagine a series of protest or demonstration may follow. But here is Singapore, no one seems to care enough. Does forest make money? Obviously not. So why do we care?
Singapore is a modern city. Greenery is a treasure we shall behold. Opposite my home, a highway is built. We were used to seeing a vast piece of greenland in front of our condominium. At dawn, we were used to see a beautiful layer of mist rising from the vegetation across the main road in front of us next to a reservoir. Today, this piece of greenland has been removed, made way for the construction of the highway.
This new deforestation announcement does not come as a total surprise. Near to our home, a train station is under construction, ready in 2020. As of today, it makes no sense to have a train station in our quiet estate. There are virtually nothing here except a few condominiums. Hence, I have been anticipating something big is going to happen.
According to the URA masterplan, new housing estates will be built. They are likely to be highrises too.
What so precious about Lentor Forest? According to a position paper by Nature Society:
URA’s summary of the wildlife records has noted the presence in the forest of the following nationally and globally threatened mammal species:
1) Sunda Pangolin: critically endangered.
2) Banded Leaf Monkey: critically endangered.
3) Sunda/Greater Slow Loris: =assumed extinct, but now regarded as rare by mammal experts.
The Lentor (Tagore) Forest is indeed very rich in forest birdlife. NSS has recorded 71 bird species out of which there are 31 forest species, resident as well as migratory. This comes to 41 % of the total species recorded there. Out of this, 14 are uncommon resident species, and 1 rare (the Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting). Out of these uncommon residents, 10 are listed as nationally threatened while 5 are globally threatened.
Last but not the least, the vegetation.
From the URA biodiversity report, it must be said that the forest, 30-hectares in size and contiguous to the Teachers’ Estate, is rich in biodiversity. This is very well reflected by the fact that, from NParks’ finding, at least 32 species are worth salvaging, among which are 100 specimens of the Elephant Foot’s Fern […] What is very striking from a conservation point of view is that there are 2 critically endangered species, 3 endangered and 6 vulnerable species (inclusive of the Fern mentioned above), as reported by NParks. This is simply amazing for a relatively small secondary forest in Singapore.
In the good old days when my knees were still strong, I was used to jog pass Lentor Forest all the time. I would start the 4.8km route at around 6.50am when the sky was dark and the air was crisp and fresh. As I made my return trip at 7am, the sun rose from the horizon. I would experience that magical moment when plants started the photosynthesis, as though I could hear the plants at work. That imaginary humming sound. Be one with nature. That kept me go on jogging.
I think for those who don’t live around Lentor, it is just another piece of land made available for some modern buildings. For me, it is something special.
Just how big or small is 30 hectares? The entire Singapore Sports Hub is around 35 hectares.
A good friend of mine whom I have not met for a long time asked if I am still updating this website. Now, why haven’t my friend and I met for so long, let’s talk about that first.
His priority has always been work, then friends. With new found love, I am bumped into category 3. It may well be lower because since we have not talked for that long, he may have new found passion in life. That’s why.
As in why have I not updated this website for what seems like an eternity, it is a rather long story. But stories are something I always happy to share.
In a way, blogging is sharing one’s passion in life. That’s how I see it. To share, there are many ways. Ever since I cut ties with Facebook and dived into Google+, I have been more active over in that platform than in here. Because the level of engagement was fantastic. I could write here all nights, attending blogger events all over the island, and promote my website in all sorts of ways, with Google+, I could reach out to a much wider audience globally. If Google+ had a timeline like Facebook – do they still have that? – that could have been my website version 2.
But Google+ doesn’t have it. And to be honest, I don’t think the platform is doing that well lately. So how do I dish out my random thoughts onto innocent audience all over the world?
Why have I not discovered YouTube sooner? It is a great platform because we are into visual stuffs these days. Who reads book when we can watch TV the whole day (OK, I know some do read and believe it or not, I have just finished reading a book)? In fact, my wife Cynthia and I have just finished watching Jessica Jones season one. It is a-m-a-z-i-n-g!
My journey with YouTube started off as an experiment. One day I was playing a video game and I thought, why not record a clip with commentary? Soon, I was putting in effort into creating guides for my favorite online game called Marvel Heroes with only 2 subscribers in YouTube: my wife and my buddy Mark who is also into video games among other things we have in common.
Over time, I create better guides and clips and soon, subscription number picks up. Now, even looking at where I am today, it is far from being a successful or a popular channel. My view count per video is at best in thousands, not in millions. But I am happy. Because quite a few do appreciate my work and actively seek me out in YouTube and in game. I have made friends from all over the world. The latest is from Bulgaria. Granted, people do move on from one game to another. It is a nice feeling nonetheless. I am not that alone in this digital world.
If you were to ask what contributes to where I am today in YouTube, I think it is a combination of luck and good timing. Marvel is a good brand. There are fans out there all over the world. Marvel Heroes the game is not that popular. It is a niche product. But the fans are loyal. That makes my channel a niche channel. And my subscribers also seems loyal. The good news is that this game is likely to last for quite some time. Gazillions the developer has secured a 10 years licence from Marvel.
Do I enjoy what I am doing? I am happy to share. And I love to reach out to make new friends. As someone who is comfortable in front of a microphone and in front of the public – thanks for all the years of training in a band and as a consultant – YouTube is a great creative outlet for me, at least for now.