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Friday, January 28, 2011

Shaolin (2011) movie

I prefer not watching Chinese movies so I never do on my own accord. And I'm glad a friend suggested watching "Shaolin" this evening out of the blue and that I didn't disagree. We both came away with different takes on what the movie was about, driven of course by our individual paramount thoughts/feelings and circumstances. Our consensus though was that this was a great shows. The Slog Reviews: 9/10. Worth the 2 and 1/2 hours of your life spent watching.

I thought the movie was about the humbling of a man - how it takes losing the person one loves the most before one is brought to one's knees. About how wealth and power are not everything at the end of the day, even though these are what most of us strive for on a daily basis. And how really, life isn't just about experiences (even a dog can experience fear or anger), but also about lessons and trials (人生要有经验和磨练). If one has not been baptized by the fires of loss, hardship and trial to emerge stronger and better, but has always taken the safe and easy way out, one's character reminds undeveloped, stuck in a cycle of selfishness and self-centredness. Sometimes to win, you have to lose.

Summary

The movie starts with a scene of carnage and shaolin monks burying the dead and rescuing the injured. 1 of the injured turns out to be someone of great importance of the city that has just been leveled by the lead character, a warlord named Hou Jie. Cao Man, Hou Jie's second in command whom he addresses as younger brother, goes to Shaolin Temple to demand that the monks give up this injured character and pulls a gun on the abbott when denied. Hou Jie appears then and the injured character begs for his life and offers a treasure map if spared. Hou Jie takes the treasure map and walks away before turning around abruptly to shoot and kill. As a final insult, Hou Jie writes on the door plague (which had fallen off during a fight with the monks), no big deal. As they ride away to meet Tiger Sou who is Hou Jie's sworn brother, Hou Jie advises Cao Man to always show no mercy when one has gained the upper hand.

Tiger Sou is shown to be a brute whom Hou Jie shows deference to. Tiger Sou suggests a marriage between his young son and Hou Jie's little 7 year old daughter (Sheng Nan). It is obvious that Hou Jie and his wife dotes on their adorable little daughter and Hou Jie wonders why Tiger Sou did not ask him about the treasure map. He concludes that Tiger Sou wants the entire spoils of the city and decides to kill him before Tiger Sou can move first against him. The arrangement with his wife is that if he hits the table, she is to get up and go with their daughter to the toilet. The movie then depicts the relationship between Cao Man and Hou Jie where Cao Man is testing out arms marketed by the Russians and is tempted to accept the Russian's offer to supply the arms free of charge in exchange for support to build a railroad. Hou Jie rejects the offer as he believes the Russians want Chinese land and when Cao Man tries to speak up for the Russians, Hou Jie slams him into a wall, squeezes his neck and face until Cao Man concedes Hou Jie's superiority. Also, when Cao Man questions why Hou Jie allows Tiger Sou to bully him, Hou Jie shouts at Cao Man that it is his not his place to question this. In any case, Hou Jie trusts Cao Man enough to inform him of his plans to kill Tiger Sou at the restaurant where they are to meet to discuss the upcoming wedding and this is when Cao Man takes the chance to betray Hou Jie by sending a note informing Tiger Sou of the plan. midway during the meal.

Tiger Sou is enraged and Hou Jie has no choice but to kill Tiger Sou (who reveals during the meal that he doesn't want any part of the spoils of the city which Hou Jie leveled as Hou Jie would be leaving it to his daughter who would in turn share the same with Tiger Sou's son). In the meantime, Cao Man's men start hacking to death Tiger Sou's and Hou Jie's men with axes. Hou Jie's wife gets knocked unconscious while trying to fend off attackers from Sheng Nan. Hou Jie makes it out of the restaurant only to find his daughter running away from a group of attackers. He runs after them but is too slow/late to reach his daughter who runs into a path of a horse-drawn chariot. Hou Jie loads his wounded daughter in a chariot and an exciting chariot chase ensues. Hou Jie is badly wounded during the chase and loses control of his daughter's chariot. He manages to grab her before the chariot goes off a cliff and they both tumble and roll down the side of a slope. They then huddle in the dark and cold behind some rocks while the attackers search for them.

The horse's hoofs and then the tumbling around proved too much for the little girl. Hou Jie bursts into the Shaolin temple cradling his daughter and begging the monks to save them. They try but she dies in the presence of Hou Jie and his wife who was also rescued by the monks. Hou Jie is bersek in his grief while his wife weeps and blames him for all his evil deeds. Hou Jie is eventually subdued by the monks and when he awakes, his wife is gone, leaving him to settle Sheng Nan's funeral. He stumbles around outside and ends up falling in a boar pit dug by the temple's cook. The cook eventually becomes friends with Hou Jie who decides to cut off all his hair and join Shaolin as a monk after his daughter's cremation. The abbott takes Hou Jie in despite the other monks' protests and Hou Jie learns to do good deeds like dish out food to the poor, and to train with the other monks. He learns repentance and to let go.

In the meantime, Cao Man who had betrayed Hou Jie is a ruthless warload and allows the Russians to build their railroad in exchange for China's unearthed treasures. He kills those who oppose him without any mercy and even the laborers who dig up the treasures so they cannot breathe a word of his deeds. Hou Jie's cover/location is blown when one day he frees some of the laborers. Cao Man comes after Hou Jie with his men and Hou Jie goes with Cao Man to buy time for the other monks to free the other laborers and recover the treasure. But I should mention here that Hou Jie greets Cao Man with a face-turning slap which he says was for his daughter. Whatever happened to true forgiveness and letting go? Anyway, I suppose that was given at the ending of the movie when Hou Jie saves Cao Man's life not once but twice. The second time was fatal as it meant pushing Cao Man out of the way of a falling beam in the temple. The beam crushes Hou Jie so badly he dies wordlessly. A second blow to the temple (the Russians were bombing the place) dislodged the beam such that Hou Jie's lifeless body falls into the hands of the Buddha statue. Cao Man is then shown to go out of the temple wracked with remorse (Hou Jie keeps telling him to repent), esp when he sees the carnage around.

The movie ends with a scene between Hou Jie and his wife which is before the Shaolin temple is bombed to bits - he gives her Sheng Nan's ashes in a vase and the wife tells him that she likes him better now although she knows and accepts that they can never be together again. Closure.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuai Pui Curry Mee / Da Fei Ka Li Mien @ Penang

In addition to Penang Laksa, one of the "must-eats" in Penang is the curry mee. Mentioned on Penang's food trail brochure (available at the airport) was Tuai Pui Curry Mee located at Weld Quay. Since it was easy enough to get to the Quay with the free city shuttle service, I set my mind (and stomach) on having curry mee for brunch on our last day there.

This is how the stall looked like. From the bus interchange at the quay, we walked in the hot merciless heat down the road looking for the curry mee stall which we figured would be a prominent large coffee shop or at least a decently sized stall. However, Tuai Pui is nothing more than just a small stall which one would most easily bypassed if one wasn't looking out and asking around for it. The stall is about 5 mins walk away from the bus interchange on the opposite side of the road and near a large foodcourt that offers free wifi.

The curry mee is prepared by 1 of 2 brothers and there are all of 4 wooden tables set out under some large multi-colored umbrellas. The picture below should give one a better idea of the surroundings and set up of Tuai Pui Curry Mee. It certainly isn't a place which can accommodate a large group and really is nothing more than a roadside store. The kind that I wouldn't dare to eat at without risking a major stomachache.

However, since we had come so far and there was nothing else to be had, we decided to have the curry mee. Tired, hot and hungry, I didn't pay attention to what ingredients there were laid out at the stall and told the store uncle that I would have whatever he recommended. As a result, we both had a bowl of curry mee that came with congealed pig's blood. You can't get curry mee with blocks of congealed pig's blood anymore in Singapore according to my mother for whom this dish brought back memories of her childhood.

Of course, I didn't eat the pig's blood at all, or the pig's innards that came with the bowl of noodles but the curry was so delicious that I ordered another bowl of curry mee. However, this time, I chose the ingredients carefully - fishball noodles and chicken meat only. At RM 5 only, this bowl of curry mee was worth every calorie it contained.

There were only home-made drinks available at Tuai Pui so we headed to the open-air foodcourt a few steps down for drinks which might be safer on the stomach. I ordered the 3 colored tea which turned out to be a frighteningly sweet combination.

The Slog Reviews: 7.5/10 for Tuai Pui Curry Mee. Despite the oily flavorful richness of the gravy, it really isn't worth making an effort to go to Weld Road just for the curry mee. The curry mee is good, no denying that but the setup, surroundings and accessibility of the place (esp given the weather in Penang) are quite deterring factors.

Hotel D'99 at Muar

A couple of weeks back, I was hit by a really bad craving for fried fish eggs from my favourite restaurant at Muar and so we decided to spend the weekend at Muar with the intention of popping by Melaka. As this was a January weekend, I figured that my favourite hotel in Muar -Streetview Hotel - would have rooms available and didn't bother making any reservations. Unfortunately, I was proved wrong when we tried to get a room about 12+pm and so my CEB suggested that we try one of the hotels that we had driven past called Hotel D'99. Here is a pic of the hotel he took while we were driving back across the bridge from the Giant hypermart.

This hotel is a far different cry from the boutique smallish type of hotel like Streetview Hotel as evidenced by the size of its lobby. The Chinese male receptionist was very fluent in English and most efficient during the check-in process. We were of course delighted that the price of the room was more than affordable at RM113 inclusive of breakfast.

Here is a picture of the room with its queen-sized bed and extremely basic furnishing. There is a safe in the clothes cabinet, a mini-fridge, a water dispenser and a small lcd tv that comes with cable TV. All of these in the room work just fine but the flush of the W.C in the toilet was spoilt.

I wanted to change rooms but my CEB was in favour of staying in the current room because of the river view from the windows per the picture below. The bridge in the pic across the river is the bridge which leads to the highway (Highway 5 and not the NS highway where one has to pay toll) to Melaka. I conceded to him only because he could flush the W.C by pulling something within the system beneath the lid. Like he says, Msia hotels are usually pretty ill-maintained.

Breakfast was on the first floor of the hotel and no surprise what the spread (which was decent enough given the price paid) consisted of - nasi lemak. I suppose this is to cater to the large number of Malay guests staying at the hotel which we had originally assumed was catering to the Chinese crowd because of the KTV/lounge/bar on its 7th floor.

For dinner, we ended up at the Delifrance restaurant in the same building as the hotel. This is the first and only Delifrance Bistro in Johor and it has a surprisingly wide variety of items on its menu ranging from soups to ice-creams. That is my CEB(on his iphone as always) with the Delifrance trademark logo behind him and 1 of their ice-blended drinks in front of him

We both each had a bowl of the lobster bisque which was priced at RM9.90 and let me tell ya, ya can't get lobster bisque soup this good at less than SGD5 per bowl anywhere in Singapore. Although it didn't have that much meat, it was warm, creamy and most satisfying.

I have been on a croissant binge recently and compared to the SGD6.90 I paid for the same croissant from Delifrance across my office, the croissant below only cost RM9.90. However, the chicken did not taste like chicken but more like tuna. The Slog Reviews: 7/10.

My CEB did better than I did with his cheesy baked seafood rice which looked and tasted pretty good.

My CEB and I concurred that Hotel D'99 is a viable alternative to staying at Streetview Hotel so if one is en route to Melaka and needs a place to crash for the night, one can swing by Hotel D'99 at No 173 Jln Abdullah 84000, Muar.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Euro RIch Hotel @ Bukit Indah

Pariss Hotel was fully booked during the December school holidays so we decided to try Euro Rich Hotel for one of our weekend getaways. According to Agoda which I usually use to make hotel reservations, the room I booked was the last room available for that Dec weekend. So, while I thought we were lucky to get a room, I had my doubts if that was really the last room.

Well, when we checked in, we were told that indeed it was the last room. However, the room wasn't ready so we waited at the hotel lobby which was very simply done up as a waiting area without provision for refreshments to be purchased ie no bar/restaurant/cafe at all.

After we had lugged our bags up the large flight of stairs to the second floor (the hotel has a total of 3 floors with the rooms occupying the 2nd and 3rd level) and to our allocated room, we were rather dismayed to find that the room was not only windowless but tasteless and tiny.

The Slog Reviews: 2/10. Don't ever book a night's stay at Euro Rich Hotel. Pariss Hotel in the same area is just SGD15-20 more and is like, a million times better (as I'd reviewed earlier). Euro Rich Hotel is not within walking distance of the hypermarts (it is located amongst shophouses which have nothing very much) and the cramped rooms are dismal without windows. The design of the bathroom is ridiculous with a shower head placed in between the toilet bowl and the sink. If one takes a bath, it means the toilet seat and the basin area where one's toiletries are laid out would get wet. The whole affair is just horrid and the rating of 2 is for the lcd tv which has cable tv. This is definitely more like a low end motel than a hotel. The layout it such as to maximise the most number of rooms that would fit in the building and without consideration of aesthetics. Not a good place to spend one's time. Ugh.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The best Penang Laksa and Restoran Nasi Kandar Line Clear @ Penang

One should not ever miss out eating the famous penang laksa slightly off Jalan Penang. And that is where I brought my good old Mama despite her protests about how sour the laksa would be. I've blogged about it before so I won't go in to too much detail save that it is THE best laksa. We tried the penang laksa at Gurney Drive (the hawker food there is really dismal) and some other local coffeeshop but nothing comes close.


However, do not make the mistake of ordering chendul/chendol from this coffeeshop - the one outside where many stand slurping down the chendul is way better. The 50cents to bring that chendol into the coffeeshop is well spent as compared to ordering the overly sweet and sticky chendul from this coffeeshop. As mama was hungry, we ordered fried kway teoh too. The Slog Reviews: 9/10. The two prawns that came with the small plate (RM4) were succulent and fresh and the kway teoh was fried to perfection - not too oily and no burnt bits.

Good old mama didn't stop there though - she ordered the fried ngoh hiang which I am not a fan of but hey wow, the Slog Reviews: 8/10. The fried tofu was really good and the meat thingy was stuffed full of meat. I was impressed with how warm, soft and fresh the inside of the tofu was. The sauces that came with the dish were pretty delectable too. Not to be missed if 1 is there.

While walking down Jalan Penang in the direction of Cititel, we also passed by the famous Line Clear Nasi Kandar place - the entrance to the place looks like this. I remember the last time my CEB and I were there, the queue was so ridiculously long that as much as we wanted to try the food, we could not imagine joining the queue.

However, at 3.45pm in the afternoon, there was no queue whatsoever so despite being stuffed from the penang laksa, fried kway teoh etc, we waddled in the narrow alleyway to check out the offerings. On the left side of the wall were some cheery testimonies to the stall's popularity.

The prices of the items however were displayed after the offerings. :D Notice though that the prices of the prawns were not set out...and with good reason, one prawn was RM10!

So, the offerings - a mind-boggling display of pots and plates heaped full of various appetising food which assaulted not just the eyes but the nose. The guy in the picture appeared, or at least behaved like the owner of the place when he decided for mama and me how we should have our food packed for take-away. When I told him how long the queue was the last time and how glad I was to finally be able to try his famous food, he appeared rather pleased & promised me tt he would remember me. And, give me a "cut-the-queue" pass the next time(s).

We ordered chicken, 2 prawns and some veg out of the offerings (consisting of sotongs) below because these were, according to him, the items which would keep for dinner. We just couldn't put any more into our bellies at that time. The bill came to RM27 because 2 prawns = RM20!

In the night, we fell upon the packed food and it tasted as fresh as ever despite being left in packets for 3 hours. The Slog Reviews: 9/10. Like Shakira's song "Hips don't lie" in this case here, the queues don't lie!

Golden Sands Resort @ Penang

Per my last post on Traders Hotel @ Penang, there is a daily free shuttle service to their sister hotel located at Batu Ferringhi which is essentially, Penang's most famous beach. The trip takes about 30-40mins and is almost always full so do remember to make reservations at the hotel concierge. I think the reason is that the room rates at Golden Sands Resort are twice that of Traders Hotel and most of the shops along Batu Ferringhi are closed in the day.

However, as the well-known Chinese saying goes "Yi Fen Qian, Yi Fen Hou" ie what you pay is what you get and Golden Sands appears to be a far nicer place to stay at than Traders. Esp so if one likes the resort-style type of hotel, and if one has a family with small children. The grounds and concept of the hotel is much like Singapore's Rasa Sentosa as you will see from the pics.

That's mum by the pool side - the pools here are really lovely and family-friendly. It's all very nice really - right from the reception area to the paths down to the pool and then further on to the rather clean and well-kept stretch of beach. I took the picture below standing on the beach and I bet you'll agree with me that the resemblance to our Rasa Sentosa is undeniable! The picture also shows the famed Penang restaurant called Sigi's which opens right to the beach.

Mum and I are not fans of alfresco dining given the stifling heat and murderous sun rays but the view from the outdoor tables at Sigi's was simply far too lovely to resist. So sat outside we did taking in the view of tall coconut trees, white sands and blue seas. And it wasn't hot because they turned on the ceiling fan and there was the cool fresh ocean breeze. Ah bliss!

Sigi's has a lunch time menu which means that plenty of items are not available in the day, in particular seafood like scallops and all.

If you know me, I'm allergic to chicken because it triggers my anger mgt issues (okay, I know how lame that sounds but it's better than not having an answer when questioned about this alleged allergy). However, my mum likes chicken so I decided to surprise her.

The Slog Reviews: 8.5/10. The cook did such a great job of tenderising the chicken meat that my mum thought it was fish meat (as I didn't tell her I'd ordered the chicken). And with the melted cheese which lends a very nice twang to the meat, even I who hate chicken would recommend this dish to a friend! Definitely do not miss eating at Sigi's if you are at Batu Ferringhi!

We stumbled upon this on the hotel's grounds, as I said, this is a very family-oriented hotel and there are no lack of activities for one to engage in and at pretty affordable prices too! Traders Hotel's guests are entitled to use the facilities here as well free of charge but not the facilities at the Rasa Shangrila Hotel located next door. If Golden Sands is this impressive (for Penangs' standards), I wonder how good Penang's Shang is given the rates are double Golden Sand's!

The sign above isn't to be taken lightly - there ARE jellyfish in the seas. However, the water sports like para sailing, jet skiing are so affordably priced that it would be a pity to miss these while holidaying at Golden Sands. There is also a reflexology/massage shop by the beach. Here is a picture of the Batu Ferringhi beach taken from Golden Sands' grounds. In the short time we were there, there were at least 3 brightly colored para sailing folks up in the air! I wish we had brought our swim suits because even my mum was tempted to go para-sailing. She has been a really good sport recently, having gone white water rafting in Australia with us just a few months back and I reckon I will bring good old mama for some para-sailing some day!

Traders Hotel @ Penang

For our mother-daughter trip to Penang, the choice of hotel was easy - Traders Hotel. Not only because of its superb location but also cos one should not bring one's mama to stay at digs less than decent. In any case, I figured I could use my Golden Circle membership which I'd acquired in 2008 staying at HongKong's Shang when travelling for work. The orangy card is my membership card and the reddish card is the special room keycard given to GC members only. And guess what, it does nothing more than an ordinary room keycard - bah.

Given that we were in Penang so near to the festive Chinese New Year period, the hotel lobby was decorated (rather garishly I felt) with lots of red. I'm not sure how the hotel lobby looks like on an ordinary day but I would think it doesn't quite look like tt with lots of dragons & lanterns.

No luck for a free upgrade to a club room despite the GC membership so a deluxe room (as I'd booked) on the 12th floor it was. I know that this isn't the Shang (although before it was re-named Traders it was called Shangrila) but I was quite surprised that this hotel was quite so old and old-fashioned. I didn't like the corridors of the 12th floor which were dark with thread-bare carpets and as for the room, well, how many hotel rooms these days still have CRT TVs! Even budget hotels have LCD TVs. And don't get me started on the limited cable channels. There was complimentary broadband service but no free wifi. The only thing I really dug about were the beds and beddings which were so plushy - it was so easy to fall sound asleep and a real struggle to get out of 'em in the morning.

We had a view of the city from our room - a view that reminded us of the blazing sun and merciless heat outside. According to a local, it hadn't rained for a month and this is the monsoon season we are talking about!

We didn't use any of the hotel facilities such as the pool but we had dinner at Island Cafe. The prices of the food are ridiculously cheap, esp for a Shang group hotel - RM25 nett for a large steaming pot of salmon fish head curry. The Slog Reviews: 7.5/10. Spicy definitely (esp if you eat the chilli in the pot) and more than enough meat for 2 adults to share because an entire fish head was used. However, sweet pink salmon meat doesn't really go so well with curry (or maybe I'm not used to that) so this dish isn't a must-try.

Now, when I say superb location of the hotel, I meant the hotel's accessibility to one of the bigger shopping malls in Penang - Pranglin Mall which spans two atriums. It has a Parkson at one of the atriums as well as a Giant supermarket, Watsons, Guardian and all sorts of local clothes and shoes shops. Nothing high street like Mng, Zara much less, Bebe or LV. There is also a cinema on the top floor of Pranglin Mall.

And right next to Pranglin Mall is the new shopping centre called First Avenue. It appears to be very new with a (not-yet-opened) covered linkway to Traders Hotel. There is supposed to be a supermarket here but it isn't opened and the shops look slightly higher-end (there is supposed to be a Coach store soon) but that remains to be seen as the place isn't fully tenanted.

The Slog Reviews: I'll rate a stay at Traders Hotel Penang 8/10. While you should not expect to be blown away or even the least bit impressed with the rooms or the state of the hotel because of its Shang branding, the location (shopping) and accessibility (not just to public transport but to all the famous eating places at Jln Penang / Jln Burma) makes it a viable hotel option. There is also a free daily (11.30, 2.30 and 4.30pm)shuttle bus ride to and fro Golden Sands Resort (also under the Shang group) which one has to register for early due to the limited seats (lots of Japanese tourists stay at Traders and use this facility).

Because Traders Hotel is right next to Komtar, one can take the public bus 401E from the airport to Komtar and walk the 2min walk to the hotel. The bus ride costs only RM2 per pax as opposed to taking a taxi from the airport to Komtar at RM44+. However, I should mention here that I had waited 45mins at Komtar for the 401E to get to the airport on the last day and it never showed - the taxi driver we used in the end mentioned that there is only one bus and well, if that bus gets stuck in the a traffic jam (which Penang is famous for) or breaks down, one could wait a really really long time...like more than an hour!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Absent minded me!

The recent dearth of posts is a result of my having misplaced a considerable sum of dollar notes. Those who know me well will know that I can't stop obsessing over lost items, even if it so much as a S$2 pencil. The person I was with at that time could not bear for another minute to hear me go on and on about the pencil and bought another more expensive one in an effort to placate me but I could not let the matter go still. And yes, I never did find the pencil which is probably why I still write about it.

How much the item is worth isn't so much the point - the point is that the questions WHEN and WHERE are unanswered. My mind can't just stop grappling with these 2 Herculean questions in an effort to locate the item, and like a busted washing machine, my memories of the day in question when the item went missing get spun round and round.

I can accept loss of an item. Like if a item isn't where i last put it or where it should be - eg the sinking feeling of dread of reaching into/going to where it was last laid or supposed to be and not finding it there. I must have lost it, dropped it or someone took it. There are answers, possibilities. However in this case, while I can remember the thought I had while hiding the money, I cannot for the life of me recollect where the hiding spot is. So I can't even conclude that I have lost the money. I have truely outdone myself this time in the stupid category.

Anyway, the past two days were spent searching my office and room for the monies. Hence I could not blog about other stuff since I was either mentally or physically committed to searching for all possible hiding places. I figured that if my memory was going to play me out good this time, I'll work by the process of elimination - covering all possible bases.

I tried this method once before when searching for an item of great sentimental value - a huge birthday card my first bf had given to me - and I mean huge - like the length of my arm. I remember keeping it safe but when I wanted it, I could not find it. I must have taken apart the office looking for it and I never did find it. After some months, I gave up and resigned myself to not having it (not the loss!). Then more than 2 years later, it somehow surfaced in a file cupboard. So I guess in this case I could resign myself to waiting for the money to show but with less than 2 weeks left to go before my last day in this company, and the lost item being money and not a card, I don't think waiting is an option.

I can only hope I didn't place the money in the car. My car is notorious for being a black hole. That, or as my sister claims, there is a gremlin in there. One that apparently has eaten the left side of her Ferragamo shoes, my Rayban sunglasses and a gift I bought back from Australia for my CEB. :(

Monday, January 10, 2011

Double Bay Australian Dining & Bar

Just like nothing beats a piping hot chocolate drink on a cold rainy day, nothing warms the soul more than a friend who takes the effort to show care and concern. As you may guess from the pic below, I had both today.

I'd been shivering and miserable the entire morning in the office because of the weather and my doubts about well, certain decisions and people. A friend of mine decided to relieve me of both by taking me out for lunch to a restaurant I'd never been before - Double Bay. He said a change of scenary would cheer me up and so we sat outside in the non-smoking alfresco dining area with a full view of Raffles Hotel's majestic architecture, sipping hot chocolate, talking and watching the world (rain and people) go by. The Slog Reviews: 9/10 for the hot chocolate - it was really warm, sweet and frothy. And bitter at the end bits which is a sign apparently, of a good quality chocolate drink. Best antidote for a rainy day.

Because Australia is famous for its pies, we decided to order the first pie on the pie list (I forgot the name) which was big enough for 2 pp to split. The Slog Reviews: 6/10. Would not recommend this pie to those who do not like vegetables or fish. The fish baked in the pie - sea bass - tasted very fresh but very fishy - and I have to say the chunks of fish were far from plentiful, making this pie a very over priced item indeed (it was more than 20 bucks I recall).

In any case, if I don't go back to Double Bay for its food any time soon, I'll certainly remember it as the place where I was struck by my friend's willing expenditure of his precious time, money and brain cells just to make me a rainy lousy day just that bit less gloomy for me. He impresses me - what good is all this talk about caring, or even loving if there is no effort shown indeed? And worse, what is the point of sweet words when one directs/uses one's effort and time to do things that do not build the relationship that one claims matters?

So, if you want to be where I was when I had all these mind-numbing relevations or just want some pick me up hot chocolate, you need to make your way to 252 North Bridge Road #01-22A Raffles City Shopping Centre. The telephone number is 65-6334 6530

Ode to a Job - The first decision

To quote Freud, "Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness."

I'd said earlier that I had made 2 big decisions in 2011. The 1st was to accept a job offer I'd received and leave the company I've been with for the past 4 and a 1/2 years, something which I hadn't envisioned myself doing just a mere 3 months ago.

Being a creature of emotion, I usually hold off taking the final irreversible step until
(a) I myself am convinced that there is absolutely no more hope/reason left to continue (after trying my utmost to find any straws to clutch at and failing); and/or
(b) the pull factors triumph whatever reason is left for staying.
And then when I take that final irreversible step, whether in a relationship or wrt to a job, I don't turn back ever. While I am still mulling, wallowing or weighing, I can still be swayed, but not when I have made up my mind.

I almost wanted to quit this job once b4 - 3 years back when I allowed the mess of my personal life (the ending of that 10yr relationship) to affect my work. That was an all-time low - smarting from a really bad yelling at by my beloved boss, a not so good performance appraisal rating and a paltry increment (thanks to the rating), I was all ready to throw in the towel and move to greener pastures. My good colleague was the one who convinced me to stay. He taught me 2 fundamental things about quitting (1) Never leave a job on a low, always on a high (2) Leave on your terms.

So I didn't leave then. Despite the pay, despite my having to work "triply" hard to redeem myself and despite the insane level of stress and travelling required to complete the project while balancing the day to day work. Now after the successful completion of the project, and 2 consecutive yearly promotions together with 2 great appraisal ratings later, I have written and submitted my resignation letter to my beloved boss.

The terms which I would leave this present great job for (just 3 of them - at least a 30% pay increase, a boss who would like my beloved boss be a role model, and to work for a mnc) came earlier than I expected or would have liked. However, to be clear, if 1 certain event had not happened in November this year, I would not have even considered that job offer because as surely as I know my first name, I know the anchor that had kept me in this company all this time - unquestioning devotion and loyalty to my beloved boss. That is not to say I don't think that my company is not a great one to work for without her alone - I believe it is, it is my honor and privilege to be in a position to serve such a prominent public listed company with values and a strong management team.

So, the reason for blogging about my job change is because this would mean a change in the life that I have always known. This means this blog will no longer be the same as it was the past year. I will try to keep it so with my review of things that come my way, but the things that will come remain veiled. Hence, I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to my readers who have followed my blog as a travel/fishing/food blog, for my inability to formulate concrete (instead of abstract) resolutions for 2011 or to pursue my interest in fishing/prawning/squidding/travelling or even exploring new food places. However, if you would like to still journey with me into the unknown, please do continue reading. :)

Thursday, January 06, 2011

$ is everything and everyone has a price

After a few long conversations this morning with 3 separate individuals, it has struck me why I always turn to my good colleague for advice (despite our differences & disagreements) and why my mum and my bfs (ex and present) invariably ask me what my beloved boss feels about a matter which I refuse to heed their views on.

It isn't because of the amount of respect or love (love for my beloved boss) that I have for each of them. And it isn't because they are the few people whom I can listen to without reacting instinctively. It is simply because they are the very few people whom I know can't be bought.

I'm not talking about extreme situations like their children being held at gunpoint in exchange for them doing something against their morals. Or situations where they are asked to compromise their values so that they can save a thousand starving children. We all know that these situations are extreme/rare and only a higher power has the right to judge the decisoins taken then. So what I'm talking about is "the everyday". I'm talking about integrity - what do you when no one is watching? I'm talking about doing the right thing. And my beloved boss and my good colleague are those who would hold by their principles even if it came at a great cost or sacrifice, even if the world sneered or mocked them or even if they derived nothing but pain and trouble from holding fast.

How true it is indeed that who we are, our characters, are shaped not just by circumstances but by the people we associate with. My good colleague and my beloved boss are beacons of light for me amongst the darkness of those who have fallen from grace. They stand out because they have what so few of us have, and worse, what so few of those I know strive for - integrity along with the ability to walk the talk. They don't just talk, they do. They don't make promises they don't keep. They don't behave different when they think no one is watching. They don't cut corners, or do what is morally or ethically wrong. And, they don't lie so that they don't have to deal with the consequences of their decision. In short, for all their other flaws (and tell me who is flawless), they are deserving of respect. That is, if one values the quality of integrity.

I'll tell you this story that I came across on the net, which reminds me of many people that I know - the story of Bernard Shaw who asked a young woman if she would sleep with him for a million dollars, to which she replies yes. He then asks her if she would do so for a dollar. "Why of course not---what kind of a woman do you think I am!?". Shaw rejoinds: We've established that already---now we're just haggling over price." (or words to that effect).

Moral of the story is simple - if you don't act with integrity, if you can be bought, you fall in the eyes of everyone, especially the one you think you are getting a good deal from, the one who is buying you. The person who failed to buy you may not like you, but he will go away respecting you. The person who succeeds in buying you will never trust you fully, and will never respect you either, because he knows you can be bought, that you have a price tag.

My friend, the Slug, judges people based on this standard - whether they operate/have double standards - a laxer one for themselves and a more stringent one for others. He has no tolerance for hypocrisy of this nature.

My yardstick will be simpler when it comes to assessing people and myself - Whether you can be bought (and if so, at what price). And while I do not dare proclaim publicly that I do not have a price tag and cannot be sold, I am going to live by this: Never Yield to Pressure, Only to Principle

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Meet the Parents: Little Fockers (2010) movie

No surprise for guessing where we spent the New Year - in JB! I'd booked our favorite getaway place there for the weekend (Thistle) in anticipation of the overnight fishing we would be doing on New Yr's Eve but because of the bad weather, that was cancelled. So my CEB and I ended up shopping at NEX before gg back to my place to watch the DVD he had bought at Nex. There is more I want to say, but anyway, yeah...what a way to welcome the New Year. Heh.

The next day, we were at Jusco with the express purpose of changing monies but we ended up checking the movie timings at the cinema and buying tickets for the comedy. The Slog Reviews: 6.5/10. Jessica Alba appears to be in better shape than ever in her role as a well, temptress. The jokes in this movie are a tad re-cycled - you know, the 2 fingers pointing at the eyes "I'm watching you", "yeah I'm watching you watching me" but if one is out looking for a laugh, there are plenty to be had in the movie. Slap stick verbal humor mostly - think "Fockerised" and "Godfocker" but the rap during the credits is worth staying for. My humble opinion is that this movie should be watched on DVD rather than on the big screen since there is nothing remarkable about the movie or effects.

Monday, January 03, 2011

The first post of 2011 and resolutions

Happy New Year, my dear reader, whoever you may be! May 2011 bring you your heart's desire!

Each new year brings change and challenges but 2011 will be life-changing for The Slog here in more than 1 way. Have pity on her not, she only reaps what she sows :D And sow away merrily she did in 2010, planting the seeds of change in the two most important areas of her life, seeds that will flourish in 2011.

Despite that, The Slog has only TWO resolutions this year, which are

(1) Think and stay positive in thoughts and words; AND more importantly,

(2) Do whatever The Slog likes but only within the boundaries of what is right.

Afterall, as the saying goes - "Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts inspire your words. Be careful of your words, for your words precede your actions. Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits. Be careful of your habits, for your habits build your character. Be careful of your character, for your character decides your destiny."