Peaceful Easy Feelings in Nature

Took a much needed hike to clear my mind, soak in nature this past week.

The destination: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Dairy Farm Nature Park.

This type of experience is exhilirating and it really is something I don’t get to do often enough.

Look close and maybe you can see faces in the rock.

To do a blog about a nature hike really doesn’t generate a lot to write about. This outing was more like a necessity to my mental health. Too much indoors lately and I am thankful I had the time to spend on this trip. Since there is not much to say I will just upload random photos taken during my hike.

If I was an ant I’d think this is pretty neat looking climb.

There were some fascinating discoveries along my hike, like this abandoned house being overrun with trees:

It’s not really a home, it looks more like a storage shed.

I came across some monkeys and that was a lot of fun. I sat on the road and just watched these two monkeys come down from a tree and check out this bicycle. At one point it really looked like one of them wanted to ride off on it. I never saw anyone try to claim the bike.

These two monkeys were not bothered by my presence at all. Did not care.

And what trip into nature is complete without water. Water, glorious water.

Looks like a nature jail cell doesn’t it?

I do not know exactly what this is but it was worth stopping and taking a picture of:

The hike was about 2 hours, maybe two and half hours. I did not keep track of the time. I just walked and loved it. I had nowhere to be at any certain time. It was just me. I didn’t have to carry a conversation. When I finally reached the end of the trail and was ready to sit down to eat, the dark clouds over me opened and let down a tremendous pouring rain.
The feast: Butter Chicken and Naan.

Yummy time.
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Mammoth Monster Showdown

As a child growing up in the 70’s one of the first movies that had a major impact on me, I am talking major, I loved “KING KONG” the 1933 version. When the 1st remake of that movie came out in 1976 I can vividly remember standing in a long line of people that stretched way out into the cine parking lot with my parents for an hour to get in. I was fascinated by the big ape and had a poster for my wall, a set of Kong glasses that came from Burger Chef and a lunchbox. The glasses have all since been dropped with pieces of the glass being scattered across the floor without any way of putting them back together. Blame it on clumsy youth and they looked like this:

IF ANYONE OUT THERE READING THIS HAS ONE OF THESE — I’D BUY IT OFF YOU or better yet, you can gift it to me.

Back to the point, King Kong has been a part of my life since childhood and I will always march off to the local cinema whenever Hollywood decides to make a King Kong movie and this year they did: Godzilla vs Kong

As far as Godzilla is concerned, I like the character but I was never really all that into Godzilla. I saw a couple of those 1960’s Godzilla movies on Saturday maintnee television but Godzilla did not have an effect on me like Kong did.

The movie I saw two nights ago was action packed. The two big monsters start slugging it out within the first 20 minutes and the pace keeps up from there. The plot involves a giant corporation developing a mechanical giant monster that can be operated by a person who straps something on his head and controls the mechanical beast with his mind (telepathy.) If you remember a movie called “Avatar” it’s like that. I’d say the movie borrows from both “Avatar” and “Pacific Rim” to tell it’s story of Godzilla rising from the deep depths of the ocean because he can feel the danger that this man made monster poses to his existence and how he comes face to face with Kong. Humans that have been studying King Kong for a number of years think that Godzilla’s return to the human world spells immenient disaster for mankind and believe only King Kong can defeat the big green beast. They put in motion a plan to transport Kong to where Godzilla was last seen.

The characters are bland and predictable – the daughter of one of the corporate executives involved in building the mechanical Zilla, her goofy friend that sports a neat Judas Priest shirt throughout the movie, a conspiracy theory podcast host who is trying to expose the corporation (named Apex) for this terrible idea – there’s not much to speak of in terms of characters. The plot is good enough. It’s a fun movie and it doesn’t require too much thinking – just enjoy the ride, that’s what I did.

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Big and mighty munch down with 5 GUYS

More than a year ago Singapore had two American burger chains stake their claim to this city-state in an effort to cash in one of Southeast Asia’s most resilient and roaring economies, the new players were SHAKE SHACK and FIVE GUYS. Unfortunately, Covid19 came along and caused a lock down of just about everything from April to June 2020 and if I am not mistaken FIVE GUYS opened at the tail end of 2019. Since I don’t live close to one of their two locations it took me until MARCH 2021 to finally taste one of their burgers.

I know it’s just a cheese burger and a milk shake but I was blown away by the size and the taste of both. The burger had nice thick patties and generous slices of cheese. What makes FIVE GUYS unqiue in the fast casual food approach is that the burgers can be customized without paying extra. What you are looking at in the picture cost $25.00 (Singapore Dollars) and I was invited to select up to 15 toppings at no extra cost. The burger cost me $15.00.

The bun was a soft potato bun that soaked up the juices of the burger quite nicely. With every single bite I kept thinking to myself, “When can they expand and open an outlet in the north west side of Singapore?”

YES I KNOW IT’S JUST A CHEESE BURGER BUT THIS WAS ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS. I say that it’s just a cheese burger because I have had so many in my lifetime and now let me praise the shake. The shake I chose was strawberry banana and like the burger toppings I was invited by the kind order taker behind the counter to select more than one flavor. I had several to choose from including peanut butter, salted caramel, vanilla, and even bacon. BACON??? In a milkshake? So strange. I was delighted with my choice and the combination of banana and strawberry was heavenly.

My final verdict is that I need to get out more and have FIVE GUYS again. This is a real treat.
I hope that they expand and stick around in the Singapore market for a long long time. They have new competition this year with the arrival of A&W and there is already a variety of independent homegrown burger places like Fat Papa’s, Wildfire and the major American chains (McD and Burger King) but I think FIVE GUYS will prevail.

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Dunkin Dunkin Dunkin

Dunkin is new to Bukit Batok West Mall in 2021

Lookkeee here at what happened recently. Dunkin Donuts, I guess they have shortened the name to Dunkin now (a rebranding attempt?) has opened up in my neighborhood mall. It’s a smart idea when you look closely at it as they are not occupying traditional store space as some of the other nearby quick eat and drink spots do (Around the corner from Dunkin is Starbucks, Coffee Bean and a 12 Cupcakes.) When I first moved to Singapore in 2007 Dunkin and J-Co were the only players on the donut scene and gradually over time both died off. I don’t know where I can find a JCO anymore but Dunkin has risen from the grave, apparently a new franchise owner is developing their comeback to Singapore which started maybe 4 or 5 years ago and it’s been all growth for them. Their website claims they’ve been in business since 2009, dunkin donut history lesson but I can defintley remember a time when I COULD NOT find them AFTER 2009. I only started noticing Dunkin’s presence around 3 years ago and now I find them in my neighborhood.

I always considered myself a Krispy Kreme guy and KK established a presence in Singapore, much to my delight, in 2013. It takes a bit of an effort for me to get to one of their locations and now I’ve got Dunkin in walking distance so I gave them a try today. It’s literally the 1st time I have had Dunkin in…..let’s just say a long long time.

Pictured below is the Choco Butternut and let me declare, this donut gives KK a serious challenge in the most delicious donut category:

It’s from their “cake donut” category, and I fell in love with this flavor. In the past I found Dunkin to have bland tasting dounts and I always preferred Krispy Kreme and I am still a big fan of the KK donut but this Choco Butternut desrves your taste buds’ attention. SERIOUSLY.

The donuts are reasonably priced at $2.00 each unless you want one of their “speciality donuts” and I think that was maybe a dollar extra. I had a ten on me so I splurged and got 5 donuts to try:

In the center left is their chocolate peanut butter flavor and after having the Choco Butternut it only made a minor splash in my mouth and although I should have known better I bought a shell donut, meaning no hole in the center, a donut that was supposed to be Blueberrry filled and as you can see from the photo, clearly is not Blueberry filled:

QUARTER FILLED BLUEBERRY = Disappointment. To be fair it’s been a long time since I tried the Krispy Kreme version of this kind of donut so I won’t draw any comparison.

Dunkin is back and this strategy of not renting store space and instead renting space on the floor of the mall much like someone with a few shelves set up offering sweet smelling aromas for the air in your home or handphone cases is a brilliant move that I expect makes the business more profitable in the long run.

Next time maybe I will try one of their drinks. They are right smack in between coffee meisters Starbucks and Coffee Bean, and unlike those two industry giants, Dunkin is all take away; you can not sit in a Dunkin sipping your drink and muching your donut. Since I am a man on the go Dunkin’s business game plan works, now if they can just take a closer look at their shell donut game plan and pump more blueberry in or just abandon that donut concept altogether.

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Does the world care about aggressive injustice?

What should the response be from the international community to the overthrow of a democratically elected government in Mynamar?
It has been over four weeks and although there is much talk from country leaders denouncing the overthrow nobody seems willing to do anything more than talk. Maybe some sanctions, however I suspect the leaders of the military junta in Mynamar who led the overthrow are immune from sanctions because these people probably already have a lot of money in their personal bank accounts. I read today that many countries in the SouthEast Asia region disagree with the military coup but are also opposed to the USA issuing sanctions on the military generals. If the neighboring countries don’t agree with the sanctions and help the generals get around those sanctions by continuing to do business then it seems to me the military coup is being rewarded. I wonder how much of it is gender driven since it was a female president that was disrespected and overthrown.

It is an alarming situation that does not look to end with the restoration of Ms Aung San Suu Kyi’s political power as the democratically elected leader of Mynamar. The situation seems to be getting worse for the 75 year old who was once awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. As I scan the headlines of several USA news sites I don’t see any mention of the military coup. This received attention when it happened and in the days immediately afterward but now it is largely ignored by the American media. I suppose it’s because the USA doesn’t have any deep business interests within Mynamar.

Then I see what Russia has done to it’s most prominent politcal opposition leader, Alexy Navalny today. He survived an attempt to poison him, returned to the country because they asked him to stand trial for violating his parole on a 2014 fraud conviction and is being sent to a prison where is likely to be psychologically broken for the next two and half years. The USA and EU imposed new sanctions but just how much do the sanctions hurt a country’s leaders and cause it to change course?
If Mr. Navalny’s charges were legitimate and he did violate parole, certainly Russia and any other country has a right to impose punishement?

Where does the world draw the line? What justifies a war in the 21st century?
I don’t have these answers and I won’t pretend to know enough about the situations in these two countries to have a deep intellectual view point. My heart is telling me both the people of Mynamar and Mr. Alexy Navaly are victims of a great aggressive injustice.
On the topic of Mynamar, Russia and China have both gone on record at the U.N. as to state that the world should step back and do nothing about the military coup in Mynamar. They believe it is an eternal matter for the people of Mynamar to resolve. The people of Mynamar don’t have access to guns or any sort of advanced weapons to fight back that I know of so this position China and Russia has taken is nonsense. If the citizens can’t challenge the leaders of the coup, then what?

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Ranking the Bon Jovi catalog

In my quest to tap into my writing talent and get back into the groove of writing I am going to roll out something I am very qualified to talk about, the Bon Jovi catalog, one of those rock bands I have been listening to for a very long time, since 1984 to be exact when I walked into a Peaches record store on a cold end of winter day in March 1984 & bought the 1st album by Bon Jovi simply called “Bon Jovi” along with the very 1st album by Queensryche, a four song EP called “Queensryche.” I remember then walking to my uncle’s apartment on my way home and showing off my purchase to him and his girlfriend who allowed me use of their record player. The needle hit the 1st song “Runaway”and his girlfriend, a woman who would later become my Aunt, said, “I recognize this song. They play it on the radio.” Yes they did. That song was Bon Jovi’s 1st radio and Mtv hit.
Now it’s 2021 and Jovi has released 15 albums in total & I am going to rank them. I do not want to get too caught up in overanalyzing any of this music so don’t expect a real deep examination.

To be fair, I am not familiar with the band’s output from 2013 onward having only heard two of these albums in full (“Burning Bridges” and “2020”) because starting with “The Circle” in 2009 I felt the quality of the band’s music took a mighty fall. I found myself completely bored with that album upon hearing it and the songs I sampled on their next album, “What About Now” only alientated me further.

Understanding 2015’s “Burning Bridges” was the last for their long time record label Mercury Records and their 1st album recorded without long time guitarst Richie Sambora and knowing there was some minor controversy about the album of material that was mostly left over songs and unfinished songs from the “vault” I gave it a listen. Disappointed. That was my only reaction.

In 2016 they released their 1st album with the new guitarist. Phil X, called “This House Is Not For Sale” and I listened to some of it thanks to YouTube and nothing really connected with me, probably the best song of the bunch was “Born Again Tomorrow.” We could start this list with any of these albums so let me do this:
15. What About Now
14. Burning Bridges
13. This House is Not For Sale
12. The Circle

At 11 I will declare the new album “2020” is actually surprisingly better than expected. “Beautiful Drug”is one of Jovi’s more rocking songs and I call attention to it because so much of the recent songwriting has been stuck in mellow adult contemporary style and has little in common with the Bon Jovi songs of the past that I love. I understand if he’s “outgrown” writing hard rock music, if he is not inspired to write like that and it’s just not in his soul I can’t fault him for pursuing a different musical path in the last 10 years. I’d rather hear music that’s true and from the heart than a half assed attempt to recreate the past. Having said that, even the mellow songs, and there are plenty to choose from, are more interesting than other recent Jovi songs, “Story of Love” is a really sweet song. Then there’s “Blood In The Water” a lyrically deep musically heavy hitting song about recent chaotic political events in the USA and the devil.
Now comes the hard part, ranking the rest of the Jovi catalog.

10. “Lost Highway” although I could swap out “Crush” here. The “Lost Highway” album in 2007 was born out of the fact that a country rock single on the previous album turned into an unexpected radio sensation going all the way to the top of the charts (Who Says You Can’t Go Home) and that song propelled big sales that just would not have been there for the band if it wasn’t for this country rock cross over song that was sort of thrown onto the album as an experiment and the success of that one song led to the band writing an entire album of country flavored Jovi rock. The album works for me.
It’s different, it’s fun, there’s maybe one or two forgettable clunkers but overall, a winner. The last real winner in the catalog for me.
Favorite songs: “Till We Ain’t Strangers Anymore”& “Lost Highway”

9. “Crush” which came out in 2000 at a time where American audiences had largely written off the band as a “has been” act. Bon Jovi was not ready to retire. They teamed up with Max Martin who had co-written hits for Backstreet Boys and Britny Spears previously and the result of this collaboration was one of the most catchy pop rock songs of that year, “It’s My Life” and outside of that the rest of the album is mostly an insider effort with 7 of the 14 songs written only by Jovi and Sambora. There are 4 songs I skip over when listening to this album and out of 14 that’s a good ratio.
Favorite songs: “Just Older” and “Thank You For Loving Me”

8. “Bounce” came out a few months after the 911 tragedy and that event produced one of Bon Jovi’s heaviest songs in “Undivided” that starts the album.. The pace continues with a solid positive rocking uplifting song called “Everyday” and “The Distance” – in fact this might be the best 3 song opening to any Bon Jovi album. The trouble with the album is that they start to veer off into mellower directions with songs that sound like uninspired attempts to replicate Bruce Springsteen. To be fair, Springsteen is an influence and that has come across in Jovi past but not to such a huge extent as in “Joey” or “You Had Me From Hello” both songs I can totally live without.
Favorite songs: “Everyday”and “The Distance”

7. “Bon Jovi” – ahhh the beginning, the youth, 1984, the harder hitting style than what the band developed into over time. It’s a special album and maybe some songs have not aged so well but there’s a real timeless quality about this album. This is “pop metal” or at least that’s how it was marketed in the day. There’s a bombastic quality that gets your feet tapping and it’s hard not to love most of these songs.
Favorite songs:”Roulette” and “Love Lies”

6. “Keep The Faith” was released in late 1992 when Bon Jovi’s style of music was falling out of favor with the general American record buying public but let me not talk about the circumstances and focus on the music and the music on this album was mostly brilliant. At the time of its release I might have said it was my 2nd favorite album in his catalog, but with time comes a different perspective. I really enjoyed the fact that they wrote songs that were more centered on social crisis (“Dry County”) and believing in a higher power, God, you can interpret the lyrics however you want (“I Believe” and “Keep the Faith”)
Favorite songs: “In These Arms” and “Keep The Faith”

5. “Slippery When Wet” If you’ve been exposed to Bon Jovi music chances are pretty good you heard a song from this album. The biggest selling albun in the catalog with 3 Top Ten hit singles. I am a hesitant to rank it higher than “Keep The Faith” but when I consider the power of songs like “I’d Die For You” “Let it Rock” or the huge hit “Livin On A Prayer” I feel it edges out “..Faith” just a weee bit.
Favorite songs: “I’d Die For You” and “Living on a Prayer”

4. “7800 Faherenheit” The 2nd album in the catalog where the band was still developing in its style and finding itself. I will go out on a ledge here and declare this is almost a perfect album. “King of the Mountain”is the only song I’d edit off of it if I were sitting in the producer’s chair. It’s a very upbeat in your face hard pop songs that still hold up today, 36 years later. It’s chock full of so many memorable songs that bring a smile to my face that it’s hard to narrow down my favorites.
Favorite songs: “The Hardest Part Is The Night” and “Always Run To You” or “To The Fire” ?

3. “These Days” This album inspired me to write today. I listened to it in the gym and came home wanting to write about this album. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I haven’t visited these songs in a long time. Whatever, a blog about one Bon Jovi album seems silly so born was the idea to rank their catalog. It’s probaly their most darkest introspective album. The songs are all pretty deep lyrcially speaking and the best way to describe this album is to say Bon Jovi fully grew up on this album. It’s serious music and it’s damn good. I am tempted to declare it my 2nd favorite in the catalog.
Favorite songs: “Hey God” and “These Days” although “Diamond Ring” is a strong contender too.

2. “Have A Nice Day” What I like about this 2005 album is that once again Bon Jovi dug deep and wrote really powerful lyrics to match excellent musical arrangements diving into topics such as the shallowness of the music industry to politics to holding on to optimism in difficult times. Of course I can’t not comment on their experiment to record a country music influenced song that resulted in them having their 1st number one hit single on the country charts. A first for any traditonal hard rock band. The song hit the top 40 in 7 other countries. “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” is pure gold. A charming song for the ages.
Favorite songs: “Welcome To Wherever You Are” and “I Am”

1. “New Jersey” From 1988 this album marks the 1st time I saw Bon Jovi in concert and they put on a truly bombastic hyper energy fun entertaining show while showcasing many of the songs that are included in this set. That could be part of why I cling to this album. I have listened to it more than any other Jovi album. I think its filled with fantastic songs. One after another. The last song on the album, “Love For Sale” feels like a throw away and I don’t agree with it being included as it sounds out of place but that’s a small criticism. Fun trivia, in 1989 it became the first official American rock band album to be released in the Soviet Union. What makes the songs so good is that Bon Jovi grew and progressed. They kept the vibe from the successful “Slippery When Wet” and expanded on it.
Favorite songs: “Born 2 Be My Baby” and “Blood on Blood” with honorable mention to “Wild Is The Wind”

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Keeping Promises

I resurected this blog at the end of January with the intention of giving it more of my attention and yet here I am staring at the calendar that says 18 February 2021 and thinking what to write about?
I started a book at the end of December, I am still not finished with it, an enormously long book in my humble opinion, “HIGH PERFORMANCE HABITS” by Brendon Burchard. There’s plenty of good ideas, including one page where he encouraged me to journal everyday. There are many ideas expressed that I just don’t feel it applies to middle class people like me, the kind of person who is dependent on a company to employ him (or her) and he makes some assumptions that we (his reader) is going to know a lot of highly skilled intelligent people doing financially better in life who are just waiting for us to call them and ask them for their time to mentor me. He also suggest emailing these people. I understand the idea of getting around new people, successful people, and their ideas, their experiences are something useful for me to tap into and if all goes as laid out in his book, I will change my personality and have more success. Easier said than done and the fact is, I don’t have a network of contacts. People in that upper level of the social economic order that Brendon refers to are not within my reach.

There is something he expresses on page 178 that I totally and completely accept. I didn’t even need to read this to know it is true in my life: . “Information Overwhelm” and “Analysis Paralysis”
Yes many days I do feel there is too much information and data to consume and I can feel overwhelemed trying to determine what exactly to focus my attention on.

This year my focus has been on finding new employment since the company I work for, long story I am not getting into now, has decided to shut down at the end of the 1st quarter 2021. My other focus is this TEFL course I recently signed up for. I am hopeful a new skill and credentials of being a TEFL certified English teacher will open new doors for me, doors of employment that are more rewarding than the past 5 years has been. There is a door of opportunity I am excited to enter next month and am grateful. If it goes as expected I may blog about that in the future.

One idea I am realizing is that multi tasking, championed in my American culture is not the best way to go through life. Multitasking can mean I don’t properly focus fully on the task because I am trying to do a few other tasks with it and my brain is still processing the last task.

And that is where I will end this. I have kept my promise and written something today.
I am successful.
Greater things are coming my way.

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Stop holding on to the past….saying goodbye to insurance

In 2009 I accidently stumbled on to a job posting for a Client Service Representative at an insurance broker in Singapore. I needed employment sponsorship to stay in this country since I was only a guest, and this offer came. I mostly heped arrange and explain employment benefit insurance plans to a variety of people of all nationalities. It was interesting and I met a lot of people, but formed no real bonds or friendships through all of this, which in retrospect seems like a wasted opportunity.
In 2014 this position came to an end. Suddenly. I exited with a two month severance pay package and the desire to start over. Naturally I assumed I could build on this experience with another insurance broker or an insurance company. 5 years should mean something to someone. That’s what I told myself.

I remember the interviews as if it was yesterday. I had no trouble landing interviews. AON, Mercer, Towers Watson, Aviva, Lockton, Swiss Re and Aetna. Two of these interviews were awful phone interveiews where between an awful connection, an accent on the other end, I had real disadvantage to listening and responding. It was very awkward and I am sure this came across to the Aetna and Towers Watson females on the other end of the phone. In the end I received nothing. No offers just continued unemployment. My dream of advancing in this industry and growing with a bigger company was dead on arrival. If the elites who make hiring decisions don’t believe in you, there is no way to advance and grow. Show up and do your best, if they let you.

Now it’s 2021 and I find myself still occasionally applying for positions I know I am qualified for in the insurance industry and every week my job subscriptions send to my email inbox a vast array of job postings in this industry, and today I said to mysef “why”

Why do I continue to receive these notifications from an industry that chewed me and up and spit me out? I don’t get calls. 5 YEARS HAS PASSED. It’s like allowing myself to remain in the negativity of rejection. I was good at what I did and I have no doubt about this fact. The biggest objection I remember hearing from all these “hot shots” I interviewed with was: the insurance broker that employed me was too small, we need a guy who can handle employers with 100plus employees.

HEY!! I have the knowledge and passion, give me a chance to prove that I CAN GROW WITH YOUR COMPANY – NO no no no no. That was the message.

I did not set out to work in the insurance industry, it was an accident and today I deleted these”job alerts” so I will stop seeing these postings week after week. Taking steps to disconnect with a past that only served to keep me employed long enough to gain my ultimate goal, permanent resident status and homeowner in the country that’s become home for me, Singapore. Goodbye Goodbye.

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God and I

Some people, including myself sometimes, fall into the trap of questioning Is God really there and does God really care about what happens to me.

The question we should be asking is:  Do I care? Am I there for others?  Am I making the most of an opportunity, of a salary, of a position ?  Am I behaving in a manner that shows I am the answer to someone’s prayer?

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They don’t deserve the business

I could write many blogs about the deplorable level of customer service in the Singapore F&B (dining out) establishments but I won’t, however tonight I make exception to vent on my experience at the Pezzo pizza in Causeway Point (Woodlands)

Buy a slice of pizza and tell the girl she doesn’t have to put it in a bag because I will just eat here like I always do. There’s tables and chairs.  She says no. It’s closed for renovation. I look around.  I see no  sign of renovation. Nothing at all to indicate a construction crew has been working on the outlet. All I see is a mop bucket blocking the way to the tables. They are just too lazy to wipe the table clean after customer eats that’s all.

I told her that you should never tell a paying customer no and then proceeded to put my money back in my pocket. I told her she just lost a sale and Pezzo lost a customer.

They – the F&B industry–need me more than I need them. I will continue to eat food from the grocery store at home. Being raised in America has led to certain expectations about customer service that Singapore just doesn’t deliver. The customer service is almost always terrible. People working in this industry seldom smile and seldom make you feel welcome but to tell a paying customer no they can’t eat at one of the four empty tables is for a nonsense untrue reason is just flat out wrong.

If the dining area was really closed for renovations why wasn’t there a sign?

Why wasn’t there anything remotely resembling construction work going on?

Just another lazy person with a bad attitude working a job they don’t deserve.

No passion. Not a care in the world for the customer and the pay cheque they get from being employed by Pezzo.

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