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We are what we think & my blog entries reflect how I think. Have a sip of the poison of my mind.. It's not always lethal.

Friday, September 30, 2011

QoL Event - Day 1

My company is participating in the Qualities of Life event held at Suntec City and today was the first day of the event. It's basically a healthcare event. Most of us vendors showcased our healthcare products but there were a handful of oddities like Ayam, the household brand selling their tuna and sardine. They may seem kinda out of place there but from the looks of things, their sales seemed to be beating everyone else's.

I was supposed to reach our booth at 10:30am to set up the props and products and got up at 7am plus but my manager suddenly sent me a SMS message at 8am telling me to be there by 10am. That meant I had to take a cab there since firstly, it was drizzling and secondly, the time I woke up was catered for me to reach there at 10:30am, not 10am. Bugger that. And no, I don't think I can claim the cab fare.

Our booth
I reached our booth in hall 404 a few minutes before 10am and proceeded to set up our booth with Luke, one of our Product Managers who was already there. The rest arrived shortly later.

I've been to lots of IT shows held at Suntec City with my previous company and those experiences were quite horrendously exhausting and I wonder if this event would be the same. By mid-afternoon, however, I came to the conclusion that if IT shows were hell, then this event was a walk in the park. See, the crowd flow was a disappointing thing.

We became so bored with the lack of crowd that we ended up trying to sell our products to one another. You can imagine the dismal situation, huh? We tried recommending our products to what few people who walked by but most of our time was spent shooting the breeze instead. And when anyone wanted to take a look at our products, me & my colleagues would mob the potential customer just to get into the 'excitement'. It wasn't pressure selling, we were looking for things to do.

The highlight at our booth was our 'Wheel of Prizes' that anyone who purchased at least SGD $10 worth of goods were entitled to spin. No matter where the wheel stops at, the customers would win something.

Later, Charmaine & Daxin, the 2 interns attached to my company arrived to help us out and their company did a lot of good to relieve the boredom. Those 2 young girls are funny and they cracked me up.

My lunch
Lunch consisted of yummylicious Nasir Lemak and either I was too hungry or the food was really great. Nah, it was more like a combination of both factors.

I was quite taken aback at how everyone of my colleagues were eating all over the place in the presence of everyone walking by and no effort was made to eat discreetly. Some of us even put our box of food on the display shelves and just munched away. I did the same. If I had done that during the IT shows with my previous company, I would have been screwed for sure. Honestly, I much prefer our current more carefree ways here :) I ain't complaining.

Since I was looking for more things to entertain myself, I sent a string of SMS messages to Jacelyn, my colleague-sister, lying to her about how poor thing I was and nagged at her to come over to accompany and entertain me. So after her work later, she came over. Glad you came, Jace, even if I had to trick you to.

By evening, it was clear that sales was gonna continue to suck because the crowd flow remained pathetic. So Jason told us to pack up at around 19:30pm and we left the hall by 20:00pm. We were quite surprised as we walked out that the guard was in the process of closing the exhibition hall doors. He told us that the event was supposed to end at 20:00pm. We all thought it was supposed to end at 21:00pm. Jeez..

So me, Jace, Charmaine and Daxin went over to Tawandang Brewery on the ground floor of Suntec to relax a little. I needed that since my soles were kinda tired from having to stand around for most parts of the day. They have a live band at the front section of the place but we went to the outdoor seats at the back section instead where it was humid and muggy as hell.

Anyway, apart from the name, I didn't see what was so Thai about Tawandang, honestly. The place felt more like an European pub or American watering hole to me for some reason.

When it was time to foot the bill, I used my Citibank SMRT credit card which I forgot is already expired but strangely, it still enables me to pay for my traveling using the SMRT and public buses, which is the reason why I'm still keeping it. I'm using my small Guess wallet today that only allows me to carry a limited amount of cards, instead of my bigger Braun Buffel wallet that allows me to keep all my cards in it. My SMRT credit card was the only credit card I brought with me today since I had to pay for transportation and didn't think I would have to use any credit card for other purpose today anyway. Bad idea.

So my card couldn't make the transaction because I forgot about its expired date and I ended up having to use cash to pay instead. That drew an "Again?!" from Jace since the first time that happened was when she was with me at some other place last time when I was using the same wallet. The girls already paid me their share (after rejecting the discounts I offered them myself) and so, I dug up all those cash notes they gave me and used them to pay the bill.

Shite, that was embarrassing and I really need to get off my ass and request for an updated SMRT card. Anyway, the following day, I squeezed my Citibank Dividend card into my Guess wallet. Just as well, because the following night, I went to Tawandang again with Miss Psychedelic.

Charmaine, Daxin & Jacelyn

- De Lion Speaks

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Territory War & Bits of English Humour

Of course everyone who owns an iPhone or an iPad ought to know about the little gem of a tower defense strategy game Plants Vs Zombies. The sense of humour in this game is yummylicious and adds to the fun which is already yummyliciously fun on its own. I've completed the game many times over since each update brings with it more new mini game modes, extending the game's playability.

Since I like playing tower defense strategy games on my iPhone (as I have a mobile need to become smarter than I already am stupid), I went on a hunt today for more games from this genre and bumped into Territory War which shares lots of gameplay similarities with Plants Vs Zombies. Only thing missing is the clever humour though; at least I haven't come across any so far yet up till the current level I've reached within the game.

The story is about the struggle between the Roman empire and the Gallic tribes which was an actual incident in history. Remember those Asterix & Obelisk comics you read when you were in school? Well, the game shares the same timeline of events as the comic series.

Upgraded archers with ATMs at the back
You start the game with only Legionnaire archers shooting normal arrows and they can be upgraded to shoot fire-arrows as the game progresses, complete with new shiny armor. When I reached the second level of the game, I was wondering why I couldn't generate more gold to build more troops when it dawned on me quickly that the unit 'ATM' is the one that produces the gold to finance your war effort. They function just like the sunflowers in PvZ.

Ok, I did mention that there wasn't any humour within the game, so if you do appreciate the usage of the term 'ATM' to describe a gold resource-producing unit, then by all means, help yourself here and giggle.

More units join in the fray
Anyway, what bugged me initially about the game was that there is no adequate tutorial and I had to figure things out on my own. Good thing the game shares lots of similarities with PvZ, my experience with it did cut down lots of the learning curve for Territory War. In comparison, it all boils down to: instead of plants, you have Legionnaires.

Another thing that bugs me is that instead of the grid format used in PvZ where all you have to do to place a unit on the map is to tap on its portrait and then tap on the selected grid to place the unit there, you have to drag the portrait of the unit to the space on the map instead. I'm sure you can imagine here the unintended 'accidents' that can happen if you are not careful enough when you need to use fingers to drag things across the iPhone's small screen. iPadders ought to have a breeze with this though.

The battle heats up
Just like PvZ, once any enemy trooper reaches the far left of the screen where your base is, it's game over. So the essence of the game mechanics and objective here is to make the most effective use of each unit's strengths and combine them together to destroy the enemy in the most efficient manner before they can reach your base. You win each level when you have obliterated every single wave of enemies the level throws at you.

You have to experiment with and figure out the most effective combos of units for your own style of playing and strategy and once you've mastered one style, you can experiment with another. That's the fun part of tower defense games. Different gamers have different gaming styles and whoever said that it's impossible to please everyone must have never played games before.

Getting mobbed
I'm not done with the entire game yet but so far, it seems that every unit can be upgraded as you progress further. And oh, just like PvZ, there are even those levels where you have to place units on bodies of water. In this game, you use wooden planks for that. I'm still stuck at one of such levels because I'm always getting overwhelmed by hordes of enemies before I could fortify my positions properly (right pic). There must be ways to pwn this level and the fun lies in discovering how to.

Every game has its share of bugs and this one is no exception. So far, the minor bug I've discovered is that if you turn off the music at the start of a level, it will reset itself to max volume again automatically when you progress to the next subsequent level or if you restart the same level. A minor thing, but an update to address this bug would be nice.

All in all, I enjoy playing this one so far and hope that some time in the near future, the developers will implement the tap-grid system for this fun little game. And I also have the feeling that by the time I reach the end of the game, my affinity towards it ought to be on par as the affinity I have towards PvZ.

And no, I don't play Angry Birds since I'm never comfortable with anything that has gone into 'mainstream' territory as well as crowd herd mentality. I've never liked crowds anyway, they can make me angry when they behave like kuku birds.

In other news, me & my Lioness went to watch a midnight movie - the British comedy Johnny English Reborn. The movie was supposed to start at 23:20pm and I was out playing Territory War. I didn't fulfill my plan of going home to prepare to go to the cinema because I was too engrossed with the game and ended up with my Lioness having to go over to where I was outside to meet me before heading to the cinema together.

So did I find the movie nice? Come on, it's Rowan Atkinson; the same guy who played Mr Bean. So you tell me if he's funny or not. Besides, it's British Humour, for laughing out loud; something that has a lot of bite and class at the same time. Anyway, the whole cinema was laughing all the way from beginning to end and it was a jolly good time.

Oh, and since it's British humour, there isn't anything unacceptably stupid regarding the storyline or script. However, there was something during the final scene that seemed too good, or rather, too 'accurate' to be true - I won't ruin it for you here if you haven't watched the movie yet but during that scene, Johnny's aim seemed a little too coincidental in terms of hitting the mark.

Actually, he wasn't even aiming since he didn't realize yet that the gadget in his hands was actually a weapon. However, if I were to think along the lines of: 'Hey, they are government-sponsored agents with state-of-the-art technology, so that gadget ought to have some auto-lock feature on the nearest metallic object', then everything kinda fall sensibly into place for me.

Besides, Johnny did have that gadget pointed in the general direction towards the target anyway even though he wasn't specifically aiming at it. Good enough for me when the line of thought mentioned above comes into play.

So leave your Grouch Mode at home and go watch the movie with lightheartedness. It's bloody hilarious and tickles your funny bones, mate.

- De Lion Speaks

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fixing My iPhone's Push Notification

It took me a few days to realize that ever since I've re-jailbroken my iPhone, my push notification service had been broken (pun not intended). It dawned on me when I discovered that my WhatsApp messages were received only when I launched the app. It was the timestamps on those messages that showed they were sent much earlier before I received them upon launching the app that made me realize so.

Initially, I thought it was just the WhatsApp server having gone all screwy, but when my alarm bells started ringing upon the realization that the situation has remained the same for days and I tested my Lioness' WhatsApp and saw that she could receive the push notifications and the messages on time, I couldn't help but acknowledge that mine was kaput.

So it took me a few days doing an indecent amount of research online and reading about the things other folks did in making attempts to rectify the problem. Nothing helped except for just one thing: PushFix. Lots of folks swear by it and so far, it's the only known effective way to resolve the issue - and you have to pay USD $5.99 for it.

Apparently, push notifications break when an iPhone loses its unique 1024 bit certificate and PushFix provides a unique certificate for your phone after you pay for it. It works by using your phone's unique IMEI series of numbers to identify your phone and providing a certificate for it.

And apparently, multiple restores via iTunes can give rise to this problem, even on non-jailbroken iPhones, as folks on the Net have reported. So if you are thinking you are all legit & high & mighty because you are holding an un-jailbroken iPhone, wipe that smirk off your face since this could happen to you too. Come off it, Apple doesn't love you that much. And for that matter, jailbreaking is not illegal.

What it means when it comes to your phone's unique IMEI is that you only need to pay for PushFix once and should the same phone with the same IMEI ever requires PushFix again, like say, when your push notification breaks again after subsequent re-jailbreaks on newer firmwares in the future, you don't have to pay for the service again to re-fix the issue. Handy.

Since not being able to receive push notifications is like always being the last to know about the party as well as always being the last guy to turn up at the party, I had to nip this pain in the butt right in the butt.

So I went to PushFix's site, paid for the service using PayPal after keying in my phone's IMEI so that PushFix can identify and acknowledge my phone, fired up Cydia and added the following repository source:

PushFix's Repo added

PushFix installed
Once the PushFix repo has been added, I went into it, looked for PushFix within the repo page and installed it. I then launched WhatsApp (and it prompted me to allow for its push notification service of which I responded with "Where in blazes have you been all these while?"), altered some settings in it to 'wake' its notification service up just to deal it a more assured double-whammy kick in the gut, closed the app, grabbed my Lioness' iPhone and used it to send a string of WhatsApp messages to my own phone and VOILĂ€!!

My push notifications worked (tested on all 3 Edge, 3G and Wifi connections) and I was back in telecommunication business. And just as a side-note, sending messages to myself can kinda build some self-awareness along the way, I figured >:)

Not just WhatsApp, but all of my apps with push notifications are now working without a hitch. Good fuckin' riddance to always having to go through the hassle of blindly checking my social interaction and communication apps every 30 minutes just to see if I've received new messages like a paranoid. What if my friends thought I was being proud or girls thought I was playing hard to get just because I couldn't respond to them in a timely manner, Sheesh! No more of such bull crap :)

By the end of it all, my PayPal receipt stated a bill of SGD $7.63 after an exchange rate conversion from USD. This is the very first time I have to pay to troubleshoot my phone but hey, it's just a tad more expensive than a bottle of Heineken and definitely cheaper than a packet of smokes. Gee, peace of mind can still come cheap these days.

If you are finding yourself having to tango with a broken push notification service, trust me on this, I did my fair share of research and tried everything. I still cringe at the thought of the amount of time and experimental misadventures I had to go through looking for a fix. Through it all, Pandora (that's what I named my iPhone and I've decided that she's female) had to suck up all the abuse I had to throw at her in stride, the poor thing.

If I have to retire her some day, I'll give her something on par with a state funeral in her honour since among all the phones I've owned (smart phones and stupid phones), Pandora has been the phone which is 'closest' to me in terms of the amount of interactions I've had with and through her and the amount of workload I've squeezed out of her, like this blog, for example.

So when it comes to fixing broken push notifications, only PushFix works. For now.

And by all that's enlightening, I learned lots of new things regarding the finer intricacies of how the iPhone and the services associated with it actually work through this experience. The next thing I think I should do is to think of ways to capitalize on the extra knowledge gained and do something useful with it..

And you don't have to worry about security issues because the certificates don't reveal information about your phone. It took me less than 10 minutes with PushFix, so spare yourself the time, trouble and hassle if you are running late for the party on your own iPhone.

And in other news, I went to the salon just now to do something that involved my hair having to drink up loads of chemicals. I will not be able to dye it until a week later (better still, 2 weeks). Bugger that, the long wait for a 'purple haze' to envelope my head again is gonna be an excruciating one. Oh well, at least my hair is smelling really good right now after the salon session.

* Sniff Sniff *

- De Lion Speaks

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pharmacy Fair 2011

Every year, my biggest customer will hold a Pharmacy Fair and this year is no exception. Ever since I joined my present company in 2007, the venue for this yearly event has always been Le Meridien Hotel. So that was where I headed first thing this morning since I had to be there at 8am to set up our booth with Jason, my National Sales Manager and Luke, one of our Product Managers from the Marketing Department.

I hung out with Miss Psychedelic last night at Cafe Cartel in Plaza Singapore after work having drinks and chit-chat and we broke the promise of letting me go home by 9:30pm since we ended up with too many things to talk about, as usual.

I was supposed to get up at 5 in the morning to prepare to go to the Pharmacy Fair but I reached home during midnight. That got me worried that I might oversleep or something. By hook or by crook, I had to make it to the fair since the 2 managers accompanying me there this year would be attending a Pharmacy Fair for their very first time, so I had to take the lead with things there, especially with the interactions with my Pharmacist customers whom they are not familiar with.

So this morning, I found myself waking up at 6:30am (doh!) which meant I had to call a cab, since I had to take an hour to prepare myself. And since there was a traffic jam at PIE, I reached Meridien at 8:10. Bugger that, for that meant I couldn't have that morning cup of coffee I planned for at the coffee shop next to the hotel; something I do every year during the day of the event. Late birds don't get their caffeine fix and I willed myself to snap out of Zombie Mode and be on my toes. Couldn't afford to fuck up during the fair.

So I proceeded straight to the ballroom and bumped into Kimberly and Moh Wah, two of my Pharmacist customers who were in the organizing committee for this year and I handed to them the lucky draw prize sponsored by my company - a pair of Golden Village Gold Class movie tickets before proceeding to the booth allocated to my company.

Our booth
Jason was already there, he called me when he reached before I did when my cab was at the vicinity around the Istana and he has started displaying the props and product samples, so I hustled to do the same. Luke was still stuck at the PIE.

I saw A---, the Regional Manager for M------- whom I worked with before when my department helped his company with the distribution of their merchandise. His booth was just right next to mine. Nice to have extra company and he showed me the photos of his new China girlfriend on his phone. According to him, she's not his only girlfriend, he has like one girlfriend each in every continent he does business in. I guess some guys need love everywhere they go.

Later, Kenneth came to our ballroom since he was late and didn't wanna just barge into the ongoing talk next door. So he came to me and we chatted for a long time. I didn't see him ever since he got promoted to Area Manager from retail Pharmacist and catching up with him was swell and funny since we talked lots about married life and having kids (he got married sometime just before or after his promotion years back).

I teased him hard about why he's holding so long on having kids when he suddenly remembered that I have none too and teased me back. I was just waiting to see how long it took him to realize that while I was making fun of him and it was comical as heck.

Later at around 10am, the Pharmacists came out from the ballroom next to ours where they attended a talk and presentation event and they started filtering into the ballroom where us suppliers are stationed. One moment it was quiet and the next, you suddenly see them coming in in waves. This is always the moment during the fairs when I get into my 'Look Alive, Trooper' mode and snap to attention.

When they came to our booth, we handed them the goody bags we have prepared for them and handed a questionnaire for them to fill and passed them a piece of Golden Village movie ticket each, put nicely in their envelopes, which has always been very well-received with my customers. In fact, we have always been the only supplier that gives them the tickets.

But alas, it's just a pity that for this year, each of them received one ticket each instead of a pair. We have always given them a pair each year except for this time round and I'm still quite bitter about it and I've tried debating against the idea when it was first announced to me.

Suffice it to say, my department had a change of management and so, certain departmental modus operandi inevitably changed. I was told that we had to tighten our budget shoestring but at the same time, my company has undergone an expansion, moved to a much bigger premise, expanded in operations and logistics, won a SME award and just like the universe, apparently still expanding. Go figure. Still, we sponsored a pair of Golden Village Gold Class movie tickets as a lucky draw prize this year.

My manager told me that to make up for it, he would like me to organize lunches with my customers from the key outlets; on our company's expense of course. Honestly, it makes more sense to me to maintain the practice of giving my customers a pair of movie tickets each just because hardly anyone goes to the movies alone, rendering the whole thing rather half-hearted. Besides, I do go for lunches with my dear customers quite often anyway.

But still, I trust he has his valid reasons and our budget is probably really tight this year, considering that an expansion is not always a sure-shot guarantee that what is shown on the expenses versus revenue chart portrays a positive outlook on things, especially with the current world-wide economic situation which is expected to slide downwards towards the bleak side, if it hasn't started its way down the crapper already.

Anyway, following the booths visit and buffet breakfast (which I didn't eat since I was on diet and wasn't hungry anyway, next to the fact that I was feeling uncomfortably bloated for some reason), the lucky draw started and S.L., one of my favourite Pharmacists won the lucky draw prize my company sponsored and my heart leapt for joy for her when her name was announced. S.L. was funny, she later came and stood in front of my booth a few feet away, looked at me and using those big round pretty eyes of hers, gestured my attention towards those leftover movie tickets on the table in front of me.

She then walked over and asked me if she could exchange the lucky draw prize she won with 10 of those normal movie tickets. Smart enterprising girl. Unfortunately, I couldn't do that. Wish I could comply with her request though. So I supposed that she, not wanting to put me in a difficult position, flashed her pretty smile at me and waved me goodbye while saying 'bye bye' in such a sweet little-girl way. Libras have killer smiles indeed.

Later in the day, she and me WhatsApped each other and I took the opportunity to apologize and explain the situation to her since I was still feeling bad about it. In fact, even before the fair, I've already apologized to several of my customers whom I've had the chance to notify regarding the cut down in movie tickets this year. All of them took the news gracefully which made me feel even more guilty about it..

The fair ended around noon and Jason had to hustle off, so me and Luke loaded what was left of everything we brought over into his car before we split. I didn't inform Jason that for every fair I attended before this one, I was always given a pair of leftover movie tickets by every one of my past managers who attended the event with me. They themselves got a pair too as a reward for all the work. But since my customers received only one each this year, I didn't have the heart to request for any, so I kept my mouth shut about it.

For this year's fair, there were many new faces and I could no longer see lots of once-familiar faces I used to always see during the previous fairs. There is only a handful of old-timers left. People move on. On my part, I guess I'm the witness of this changing tide for all these years. Can't help but wonder if I'll move on too someday. A situation like this makes you wonder.

Until the next Pharmacy Fair next year. The next time you visit the Pharmacists, do treat them kindly, they are good folks.

And they like watching movies, I'm glad to say.

- De Lion Speaks

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Me Playing Guitar - Politicalamity

I dug my N4 out of her hard case and made this video of me playing the song 'Politicalamity' by my favourite band Extreme, with some improvised licks thrown in here & there. If you suspect that based on the title of the song, this video was inspired by current events, you may be right.

- De Lion Speaks