Common Grill by Collin’s – That Weird Moment When Staff And I Locked Eyes

I have lived in Hong Kong for 17 years, Singapore for 26 years. I can tell you with certainty that Singapore cares less about customer experience. In Hong Kong, I feel that customers are kings and queens. Here in Singapore, I feel that those who are taking my money are doing me a favor. I have to bow and beg as I am spending my hard-earned money, for food and what not.

Seriously.

It sucks.

Picture this.

Tonight I craved for steak. But I didn’t feel like spending a fortune for one. Just a good-enough steak. So I headed to Common Grill® by COLLIN’S® @ 26 Jalan Membina. 8 minutes walk from my home. S$20 for a ribeye steak at a hawker center. Outdoor, literally just next to a drain, with old men drinking beer playing loud Chinese music. The ambiance is – for lack of a better word – shit. Yet I endured. Collin’s is a decent brand here in Singapore with outlets dotted throughout the island. Personally, I feel that they charge way too much at such an ambiance.

Whatever.

I was alone. After placing my order, I bought a bottle of beer. Seated right next to Common Grill® by COLLIN’S®. I have got a digital device upon placing my order. One that would ring when my food is ready for collection. I was literally just 2 steps away from the stall. As seen in the photo below.

Err … not ever I wanna revisit.

Super long queue, so I waited patiently. Halfway through my beer, the digital device rang. To be honest, I was so tired of waiting whereby I didn’t even notice the device was ringing. Next table, one old Chinese man was playing some really loud Chinese music through his phone. I waited so long till I was near death from my hunger, mummified.

Such a strange moment. My food was ready at the counter. The two staff were just looking at me, and the digital device that rang. We starred at each other. They knew that it was my order but did nothing. If I were one of them, I would have served the food – despite the fact that I was supposed to collect my food at the counter – to score some positive client experience, in the hope that the same customer may visit again soon.

I mean, I was just a stone’s throw away.

Even shorter than that.

But alas. Here in Singapore whereby positive customer experience is at the bottom of the list. Really. Think about it. It is us to be blamed.

Because?

Because we Singaporean and residences accept this sort of lousy customer experience and yet, throw money at them.

Well, Collin’s. Let me tell you this. Your steak sucks. It is dry. Thin. Chewy. Not medium-rare as I have ordered. Cost way too much when I have to eat right next to a drain.

And ya, your service is terrible too.

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Into Year 2022

The year 2022 could well be quite a significant year. Age-wise, yes. Career-wise, I am taking on a new role. Cognizant of the fact that all things are in cycles, I can only hope that it will be another upswing. But I would never know. During the pandemic, many are switching jobs. I thought of it. I don’t feel a particular urge in doing so. But I’d never know how 2022 would turn out to be.

The Pandemic

When news of Covid in China first hit Singapore back in late 2019, in the office at MBFC Tower 2 where all the tech folks were – and my team is from the business – I vividly remember one particular day, I turned around and chatted with my female colleague ND. We both agreed that this was going to turn real bad, for Singapore and for the world. By March 2020, Singapore was in a “circuit breaker” whereby among the list of restrictions, working from home has become a default. ND then asked by when we could come back to the office, going back to normal. I said it would probably be by 2020 Christmas when we could be back together as a group, having a drink like the good old days. She was shocked, in disbelief.

Covid beats my expectation by one extra year, at least.

The year 2022 could see the end of most Covid restrictions when we can somewhat go back to the norm. It is not going to be the old norm for sure. Much like after 911, we are not allowed to bring liquid onto the plane, among many other travel restrictions. The virus may become less lethal and the world gets seasonal vaccination, similar to how we deal with the common cold. Until a decade or decades later, a new Covid virus hits us. Or virus of concern may continue to hassle the world while we adapt to it.

The Technology

The last couple of years have been interesting on the technology front. Electronic vehicles (EVs) are getting more common. Remote working has accelerated video conferencing technology. We may see the next generation of chips featuring artificial intelligence (AI) in the commercial market soon. I really wish to see China as a major and competitive graphic card manufacturer. PC gaming is getting more expensive thanks to cryptocurrency farmers.

For me, I am very intrigued by non-fungible tokens (NFT) and the associated cryptocurrencies. Until you read deeper into NFT, it is hard to believe why some people are willing to pay up to millions of dollars for an image file, be it as a legitimate piece of art or just a screengrab like the first tweet post autographed by Twitter CEO.

I am not going to delve into the pros and cons of NFT as the technology is still maturing. As a gamer and as an aspired artist, I think of the potentials. Digital assets while accessed by many – think of the last digital art you have seen on the Internet – can be claimed by one owner whereby ownership can be passed onto or sold to another (though it is not enforced by law but rather through the blockchain technology and the community).

As an avid gamer, NFT becomes even more interesting when we could in the ideal situation play-to-earn. This concept is not new. For example, during this holiday, I have been playing Euro Truck Simulator 2 (ETS2). There is an ongoing event until mid-Jan next year for players to complete objectives and “earn” in-game cosmetic items that can be traded in the Steam marketplace for real money (caveat: you can only spend the money on games). On the record, these items don’t sell for a great deal of money. Most just worth a few cents. But some fetch more money than others like the one below.

This in-game plush toy can be hung at the cabin’s rear mirror worths S$12.46 as of Dec 31, 2021.

To best describe NFT and its challenges without going into all the details, going back to the plush toy above, what drives the price is two folds. The rarity of this digital asset and the ongoing trucking community. First, this digital asset is rare because once the event is over, it cannot be earned. That is to say, as of today, there are only a limited number of Plush Excavator available for sales in the Steam marketplace (I personally would like to keep it). Second, the demand comes from the vibrant trucking community. This game has two versions. The European and the American. As of today and looking at the daily peak stats, the former has around 50,000 active players while the latter 10,000. Putting the two drivers together, you can understand why some of these digital assets may be worth more than the base game when on discount (currently, the American version is selling at S$6.50 while this particular in-game plush toy can fetch up to S$12.50). Today, this digital asset is traded through real money. I can totally see how this can be done through NFT.

The challenge of course is that the trucking publisher may choose to re-run the event and put more of the same digital asset into the Steam marketplace or in the unthinkable scenario, players stop trucking or Steam may shut down. Hence, the value of this digital asset may fall or even drop to zero. A similar challenge is faced by NFT when the same digital asset can be re-tokened or the underlying blockchain cryptocurrency may devalue to a point that lesser and lesser people want to farm it.

Are we thinking too far ahead? Does the above matter? I mean, how much of what we buy today really last … forever? How many of, say, the watches in today’s world have good resell value?

As a gamer, I am keen to keep a lookout for NFT and cryptocurrencies. What an interesting year 2022 may turn out to be.

My Personal Front

I still don’t have a new year resolution per se. But I have some personal goals for 2022.

I have been procrastinating for a health checkup and I have finally made an appointment in 2022. Fingers crossed.

I have lots of unread physical books at home. I am keen to dedicate some time next year to read them. Learn new vocabulary. Gain new perspectives. Write book summary for some. Donate some that I may not want to reread in near future.

There are a few things I want to sell off at home. Because they are taking up space and I don’t use them anymore.

I should save some money to upgrade my NAS. Tech obsolescence, you know.

I still would like to publish a book. Perhaps hire a professional editor. This will be my stretched goal for 2022. My potential retirement job (besides being a full-time gamer to earn through NFT!).

Drink less and exercise more, perhaps.

Bailey the Pomsky Diary #2 – First Time Stuffed Kong … Yummy!

This is a transcript of a video I have posted on Bailey the Pomsky’s first experience with a stuffed Kong toy.

Hello my friends, welcome to my channel. As most of you know, I am a gamer at heart. So this video may sound strange to some but familiar to others, especially my long-time subscribers. And if wish to subscribe, please do so for my gaming videos. Dog videos are my side-hobby, for now.

This pandemic does strange things to people. One day, Cynthia has decided to bring home a puppy. Long story short, I am stuck with this puppy through many seasons or leagues. Cynthia has named him Bailey.

In this video, I would like to share with you Bailey’s first experience with a stuffed Kong toy. Spoiler alert: it was a great success. I am sharing with you my recipe too in case you too have a Pomsky or a puppy. For those who find my accent strange, you can refer to the transcript in the description of the video.

For those who are not familiar with the dog breed Pomsky, it is a hybrid class. Its 10-point talent system spreads between a Pomeranian tree and a Husky tree. Some Pomskys are spec’ed as 7-3 looking more like a miniature Husky. Some are spec’ed as 3-7, which is more like a Pomeranian. As for Bailey, he is too early to tell as he is only 6 months old. Time will tell. Please stay tuned. I suspect he is a 5-5 hybrid.

What I do know is that Bailey is very high in agility. He sprints fast. Super playful and has a very high DPS. Bailey destroys toys. He has destroyed rare quality Kong, which is blue in color. I have skipped the red unique quality because even with the black legendary quality, he can chew through it. At times I think, why spend money buying toys for Bailey? He chews through slippers and sponges and derives the same level of satisfaction.

Having spent too much gold on Bailey’s toys, I have got to come up with a solution. One that can engage him for hours with something that he doesn’t destroy in minutes.

A stuffed Kong toy.

It was my first time stuffing a Kong toy and it was Bailey’s first encounter with a stuffed extreme Kong toy, a black legendary quality Kong toy. Here is a recipe that I am sharing with you so that you too can craft your very own stuffed Kong toy for your Pomsky or puppy.

To make 5 servings of yummy stuffed Kong fillings, I first peeled and cut 7 grams of Japanese sweet potatoes into one-inch-thick cubes. You could of course cook more for your own consumption. Then I steamed the sweet potato cubes over a slow fire for half an hour. By then, the sweet potatoes should be soft and nice. Good for human consumption and good for dogs. Mash them well using a spatula.

Add 1 gram of frozen mixed vegetables and half a gram of kibble onto the mashed sweet potato. Stuff that into the extreme Kong toy. Leave a bit of space and seal it with a teaspoon of Adam’s 100% natural peanut butter. You can use any peanut butter of course but please make sure there is no Xylitol as it is toxic to your canine friends.

Wrap the stuffed Kong toy and put it into the freezer. As for the rest of the filling, wrap it up and put it into the fridge for future use. If you are making extra mashed potatoes for your own consumption, please label the food so that your family members would not eat the one with kibble. You would not want your family members to sprint as fast as Bailey and chew as hard as Bailey.

As it was the first time Bailey tried to tackle a stuffed Kong toy, I left it inside the freezer for three and a half hours. If you wish to lengthen the playing time, you could extend the freezing period up to six hours.

As you can see in this video, Bailey is having a good time with the stuffed Kong toy. He has spent more than 75 minutes playing with the toy. That is 75 minutes of quiet time for me.

I hope you enjoy this video. Bailey and I will see you soon! I shall leave the camera on in case you wish to see more.

Bailey the Pomsky Diary #1 – Before You Bring Home a Puppy, Read This

On March 20th, Cynthia has decided to bring home a puppy. We, of course, deliberated a great deal at a hawker food center next to the pet shop. I was still am against the notion of having an animal living under the same roof. After two hours of discussion, I thought I have achieved my goal. She said she would spend the weekend thinking about it. Then we passed by the pet shop. She stopped and looked at the dog inside the cage waiting for a new home. One pet shop assistant whom we met earlier on came out and invited Cynthia back into the shop. The rest is history.

Meet Bailey the Pomsky. Photo taken on March 25th.

At one point while we were going through the paperwork at the pet shop, Cynthia did show signs of hesitation. This is happening. Is it really what we want? By then, it was too late. I said you have made a decision. Let’s stuck by it.

So, we brought home a puppy that managed not to pee or poop inside our car as we drove from Ang Mo Kio to Tiong Bahru. At home, the puppy peed onto the pee tray (it happened to be a one-time-only occurrence and our excitement was short-lived) and shortly, pooped in our living room.

Ugh.

When Bailey is calm, he can be rather adorable. Photo taken on March 25th.

Before you bring home a puppy, allow me to offer you what to anticipate, especially when you are a first time dog owner. Ironically, I have fully anticipated this and more. But the draw to a wolf-like puppy that no one seemed to want (this puppy was stuck in a pet shop for a while and was more than 5 months old when we brought him home) was too much for Cynthia.

  1. Is your home suitable to have a dog or a puppy? It is hard and almost impossible to get rid of saliva marks on the floor. Can you handle the hair shedding of a dog? You will need to ringfence a part of your home for the dog to be unsupervised. Can you put up with the ongoing inconvenience of accessing different areas of your own home?
  2. Puppy destroys stuff when unsupervised (even when supervised). Bailey tore off wallpaper, scratched the wooden floor, bit off a bit of the wall, put a hole onto the curtain, and etc. Would you be okay with it?
  3. Training a puppy takes time. It also costs if you are a first-time owner and when you need to engage a professional trainer.
  4. A dog can be a constant attention seeker. Can you handle it?
  5. A dog needs to be mentally stimulated, emotionally bonded, and physically exercised every day without fail. Can you do it?
  6. Are you good at sticking to a schedule … every day? Walk the dog, feed the dog, play with the dog, train the dog …
  7. If you are unable to take your puppy out for peeing every so often and you need to train your puppy to pee at home, are you ready to put up with dog pee smell throughout the day, every day?
  8. Puppy can have accidents and pees in random places. Are you ready to clean up every time when it happens?
  9. Dog food costs. Medical fees cost too.
  10. The different breed requires different attention. How well do you know of the dog’s breed? PS. Don’t trust the pet shop fully. Their job is to sell puppies.
  11. Training a puppy or a dog can be frustrating, especially when it doesn’t seem to listen. There will be days when you would ask yourself, what have I done?
  12. And then there are other daily activities such as cleaning ears, dental care, and brushing the hair. Every week you need to shower the dog. And etc. A dog doesn’t really grow up and learn to do things on his or her own as humans do. You have to look after the dog for the rest of his or her life.

Having said all that, if you can handle all of the above and more, it can be rewarding for some when your furry friend would greet you when you return home and love you unconditionally. Because you are all that he or she has.

Bailey is still a puppy and need to sleep rather often. Photo taken on March 25th.

Making Sourdough Starter & The Story of Thanos

These days I am into making sourdough. For those who are not familiar with the process, the concept is surprisingly simple though the execution is more like an art than science. Whenever I feed my sourdough starter at night, I would imagine myself being Thanos. Hang in there. I will explain.

Today’s breakfast was omelet and sourdough with butter.

Sourdough Starter, What?!

Unlike making bread that uses industrial yeast, sourdough uses wild yeast. You can read more on the benefits of sourdough and the difference between yeast and mold through a Google search. Meanwhile, just take my words for now. Sourdough is a healthier option than bread. And yeast is not the same as mold.

To create wild yeast, you can ferment flour by adding an equal amount of water (by weight). Yeast and bacteria that occur naturally in flour (again, take my words and hence, don’t eat raw flour) and the environment around us. That mixture is called sourdough starter. There is an excellent article written on how to create one.

Every day, the sourdough starter that you cultivate would consume the flour and water you feed it with, grow in size, and fall back to the original size once it becomes hungry again. Each day, you feed your sourdough starter with more flour and water.

The rubber band shows the original size of sourdough starter before it grows as I feed it with flour and water.

Unless you bake every day, your sourdough starter would grow exponentially. Because as you add more flour and water each day, the population of wild yeast and bacteria will explode requiring double of what you feed the day before.

Unless …

… unless you do a Thanos on your sourdough starter. You discard half of them, into the bin or into the toilet. The portion that left behind, you feed them with the same amount of flour and water as yesterday.

In short, during each feeding interval, you wipe off half of the wild yeast and bacteria population randomly. The remaining part gets to live for another day. The part that doesn’t, vanishes from the kitchen and into oblivion.

Just like Thanos in the Avenger movie.

I made this sourdough with my own hands! Imagine, say, the first batch of viable wild yeast appeared on day 2. Since I baked this on day 12, only 0.1% of the original wild yeast survived as I discard half of the sourdough starter every day!

Baking Sourdough

I was so excited about my first sourdough so much so that I have stayed next to the oven throughout the entire one hour of baking. Making sourdough is a labor of love, for sure.

Mixing the ingredients is straightforward. No kneading is required. I followed a recipe that uses a sourdough starter (my creation muhahaha), warm water, olive oil, bread flour, and salt. Because wild yeast works so much slower than industrial yeast, the mixture took six hours to rise to a point that I could bake it. Each hour, I folded the mixture and left it alone for another hour. Each hour I observed its size and made a decision if I shall bake it or leave it alone for another hour.

How long does the whole process take?

It takes 12 hours after feeding the sourdough starter for it to attain its most active state. It takes 1 hour for autolyze to take place before rolling the mixture into a ball and another 5 hours to rise with folding to be done in an hourly interval. It takes 1 hour to bake and another hour to cool down.

Morale of the story? Do plan ahead when making sourdough.

I have been feeding you for 10 days. Thanks for making my sourdough rises. Time to go to the oven!

Was It A Success?

When I shared my sourdough making adventure with my friends and family, the first question would be, how does it taste?

Consider the fact that this is the first time I have done any baking, I would say the result is pretty decent. The texture seems right. It has this unique tangy sourdough taste. It isn’t too dry even though I have left it overnight covered with clothes. I am not a sourdough expert. But I am happy with the result.

In retrospect, I wish the sourdough starter could double in size every day instead of just expands for 20% in volume. I wish the sourdough could double in size during rising, although I must say, it was pretty close. I could make the top cut a bit deeper and perhaps, the sourdough may look prettier after baked. I may bake it a little bit longer and crack open the oven door toward the last 10 minutes of baking.

So, the sourdough starter is indeed active. It is just that for some reasons unknown to me, it doesn’t double its volume when it becomes most active in between the daily feed.

To that, I have decided to change the flour origin and give it another shot.

Stay tuned.

Look at the bubbles. My sourdough starter is indeed active!