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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.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Badass J Rockers

Aggression can be a beautiful thing to behold sometimes, especially if it's coming from the fingers of a shredding badass Guitar Player. Jazz Maurry doesn't play the guitar, Jazz Maurry fucking attacks it:

And then, there's makmakmakochan, one of my current favorites. People online have been debating about 'her' gender and I have to admit 'she's' as sweet as a candy. I hope she's really a female, I would hate to have my bubble go POP on me.

A sweet candy with such angelic eyes that can rock so hard can really make a grown man go weak in the knees. The ability to shred like a speed demon underneath such beautiful innocence brings about butterflies in my stomach, which probably gives rise to and explains the condition of my buckling knees when I watch her play:

What I like about Japanese Rock music is their dynamic rhythm & melodies that can change in the blink of an eye to something different from the main structures of the songs and then bounce right back so smoothly to the main grooves again, all without getting out of hand or becoming discordant musically - it's like shots of fresh air interspaced throughout the songs; bits of pleasant musical surprises, if you will.

J-Rock simply Rocks.

- De Lion Speaks

Sunday, February 12, 2012

First Attempt: Using My Washing Machine

I'm now living alone for a couple days. And when you live alone, you have to take care of yourself and know how to wash your own clothes. Sure, I have a top-load washing machine in my kitchen for like 6 years already but it will just end up as a decoration if I don't learn how to use it.

My washing machine.
It says 'Twin Air' there but no hurricane ensued.
Now that was embarrassing. Yup, I don't know how to use my own washing machine and so I learn. At least I'm willing to start. Better wash late than never. All these while, I didn't have to wash my own clothes for myself but now I do.

So I went to Google to search for how one goes about using a top-load washing machine. I didn't come across anything concrete enough to help me and so I went to YouTube, figuring that a video ought to give me better learning since things are reinforced visually. I found the following video and memorized the tips & how-tos:

Noob, you say? Damn straight.

My best friend Joe had to live by himself in his own house during the early 90s. He told me back then: "When you have to live alone, you treat yourself as going through basic military training. You learn the skills you need to take care of yourself and you survive yourself."

His words from back then echo through my mind as I make my way now to my kitchen and begin to start operating on my washing machine. I can even see the scenario in my mind as it happened then; him holding on to his toothbrush in front of me in his kitchen while giving me one of the best survival advice I've ever received.

So after taking forever to figure out why my washer failed to power on when I saw that the plug next to it was already on and then realizing that there is another plug I had to power on, I began to apply the steps I've learned from that video, chose the clothes that won't make me go on a rampage should they be destroyed by a washing experiment gone awry, dumped them into the washing machine and taking a deep breath, I begin to push the 'Start' button and the washing process begins..

About 30 minutes later...
Well, whaddya know, my very first virgin wash turned out just fine and my clothes even smell quite alright. One thing I can't figure out is whether it was correct that I poured the fabric conditioner at the base of the washing machine instead of inside this little box up-top labeled 'Softener'. No matter, my clothes seem fine and after hanging them up to dry, I started to proceed with the second load of clothes, including those that matter to me which I can't afford for the washer to ruin.

Well, that didn't turn out to be as complicated as I thought it would be. I'm making this blog entry in case I need to refer to the video again and just in case someone out there is living alone too trying to figure out the same thing.

Happy washing. No, the washer won't explode if you do anything wrong as I've found out for myself. So what did I do wrong or what did I do which I wasn't supposed to?

Well, I wanted to satisfy my curiosity about how the world inside the washer looked like when it was working on the clothes, so I lifted the lid while it was doing its job halfway through and it immediately gave off what sounded like creaks of machinery protest. That was an 'Oops' moment but machine, fabric & Man survived without a scratch in the end.

- De Lion Speaks

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bintan - Virgin Trip

So my company has recently launched a new product and those of us in the Sales and Product Management teams involved with that product can get to enjoy a one day Bintan getaway if we hit the initial sales target for it set within a specified period.

Which was what happened. Yeap, we made a bullseye for this one.

Bintan - I've never been there before and the mention of its name conjures up an image of an exotic place with sandy beaches, palm trees, dancing straw skirts and cocktails galore for me. Thing is, I didn't even know if it's in Malaysia or Indonesia. Still, I wasn't that innocent enough to have thought that it's in Hawaii.

So today is the day of the trip. I got up real early so that I could take the train all the way to East Point to catch a ride with Lester, my colleague from the GP Sales team. Everybody was supposed to meet at this ferry terminal situated at a remote place which I had no clue on how to get there.

So after breakfast with Lester at the ferry terminal, we waited for the rest of our colleagues to arrive, rendezvoused with them, got the tickets and proceeded to board the ferry together.

We were supposed to keep this hush-hush but while making our way towards the ferry, Ken checked in his location on FaceBook but he was smart about it; he didn't tag or mention anyone else. It was just a short 'Bintan getaway' or something innocently sounding like that, heh. Showing off can be done safely with discretion :)

I've only experienced seasickness a couple of times in ferries while other times, I was ok. Still, there was this little nagging worry for this one. Jason, our National Sales Manager is very prone to seasickness, so he popped a pill.

Well, it's gonna be an hour's watery ride to Bintan, so we settled down, made ourselves comfortable and everybody started looking for ways to entertain ourselves. We mostly chatted and some of us, including myself, whipped out our phones to play mobile games, which is the next best thing to do besides chatting if you are grounded in a flight or ride and you need to kill time.

I was playing the quirky Cowboys versus Zombies and since there are lots of zombie moans and gun blasting in the game, I had to turn down the volume in order that besides making sure I wouldn't disturb anyone else in the ferry, I could also avoid possible strange looks that tell me: "You some gun-toting homicidal maniac or something?"

And finally, about an hour later, we arrived at Bintan. Whoopydoo, I didn't experience any seasickness. Either my body has gotten stronger and more resilient or my center of gravity has shifted and gone askew.

I was prepared about the weather here, which is basically of a similar temperature range and climate as home ground's, which suck. Well, we were still within the tropical belt after all.

So we booked this car transport service at this small shopping area just past the check-in section of the terminal where drinks and souvenir are sold. While waiting for our transport to arrive, I bought a can of coke with SGD and in Bintan, SGD and USD are accepted.

Cost of goods and services here are quite on par with back home, so don't come here expecting to be able to rip the market off, the local economy will rip you right back if you attempt to do so. My can of coke was a dollar in SGD if I recall correctly. I forgot the exact cost down to the decimal points but I remember coming away with my purchase with the impression that it was as if I bought a can of coke on home ground.

When our ride arrived, the driver drove us past remote areas full of vegetation that reminded me of the kampong life I've lived from birth till I was around 5 years old. We got chauffeured to this reception place which seemed to be like the rallying point for the whole island, since the free buggy service that takes everyone to & fro from the other parts of the island is stationed here.

There are buttons all across the island that you can press to request for buggy service and one will be sent to your location. Without such a system, I think the whole transportation network on the island will freeze, since the roads are narrow enough that only the buggies can traverse them safely enough and there are certain spots that made me cringe when 2 buggies heading in the opposite direction on the same stretch of road maneuvered past each other.

It was a sunny day and the weather was hot and we've already started perspiring by the time we were driven by the buggies to this place called 'Tree Tops' for lunch. The weather sucked, yes, but the scenic view around Tree Tops by the sea made up for it.

So we were having authentic Indonesian food for lunch and I have to mention that all of Bintan's service staffs we came across thus far had been really courteous, professional and very helpful. They were willing to go all out to help us, big kudos to them for that. They really made us feel like guests.

Due to a tight allocated budget by the company for this trip, we couldn't order a mountain of food but what we had was adequate, at least for me since I'm not a big eater. Right, so let me show you what we had for lunch:

Most of the food we had, I found it nice. There was just one dish that was only so-so for me. I liked the rendang, though I can't remember if it was beef or chicken.

Right after lunch, a guide came on a buggy and brought us around the island to have a look-see of the resorts. Not only was this trip an incentive reward for us, the managers made use of it to spot for resorts which were suitable for the company to sponsor doctors, which are also our customers, to enjoy with their families.

Bintan's resorts are under 2 categories - the hotel kinds and the villa kinds. We visited the villas first which were really nice with quiet surroundings but which we thought would be a little scary at night, considering that some of them are located at rather remote areas with lots of vegetation. Imagine having to live in the woods at night and you get a rough idea.

I also wondered how folks staying in the villas can get supplies and groceries with ease without convenience stores within their vicinities. Anyway, the villas are nice and here are some pics of how they look like:

After the villas (which are expensive to rent), we went to visit the hotel and the accommodations there (which rental are cheaper than the villas) and here are some pics of how they look like:

The conclusion we've arrived at after visiting the villas and the hotel rooms was that the villas are more suitable for couples and the hotels are more suitable for families. Of course, no company would just sponsor their customers to enjoy trips without holding events or talks to promote their products to their customers. It has to be a win-win situation, which is only fair.

For events and product talks, you need venues and facilities like a ballroom, so after we were done visiting the hotel rooms, our guide brought us to the hotel's ballrooms that has facilities for talks and presentations. The scenic environment around the hotel we passed by while making our way to the ballrooms was pretty. It was just too bad the weather was hot.

After that, it was time for the main reason of why we came to Bintan - our incentive reward at Banyan Tree spa. Banyan Tree is renowned for its spa, massage and facial services and each of us could choose whether we wanted massage or facial. Everybody else chose massage and I was the only one who chose facial. It was beauty over bodily thrills for me.

So everybody else except Angela and me went to this place for for some hot-stones massage while me and Angela got buggied to another place at the villas. Strange that Angela opted for massage but got separated from the rest and had to follow me to the villas instead.

Her villa was just next to the one I was assigned to, so we both made a deal that whoever finished first would wait for the other outside our villas. And with that, I entered the villa where I would get my facial and get wowed by the excellent service by the Banyan Tree staff who attended to me.

The lone staff that attended to me and did my facial was an Indonesian woman and I could sing praises about her professionalism. She was so professional, thoughtful and courteous that honestly, I was feeling rather uncomfortable.

You see, I've never really been treated like a king before but she made me feel like one. I do believe that she could sense my uneasiness. She gave me something cooling and delicious to drink first thing before she knelt in front of, introduced herself formally and started to wash, massage and soak my feet in water filled with herbs or flower petals.

When she started kneeling in front of me, I almost asked her to stand up out of impulse because for some strange honest reason, I felt that she was degrading herself but common sense barged in and told me that she was just doing her job and so I told myself to treat her kindly in return. Honestly, I don't like it when people kneel in front of me.

Following that, she escorted me to the room downstairs where the facial started. She told me I had to take my clothes off but uh, I told her I wasn't comfortable with the idea, so I had my undies still on as she wrapped a sheet around my waist area.

I thought the session didn't include any massage at all, so I was surprised when she started giving me massage on my back, arms and legs after applying some ointment all over me. She asked me the massage strength level I would like applied on me and so I told her to go moderate.

Following the massage came the facial where I got layers upon layers of healthy stuff that made my face leap for joy applied onto me. My gosh, the whole thing was so comfortable I actually dozed off. It was actually that good. This was the very first facial treatment I went to, by the way. At home, I just D.I.Y.

There was a moment when my throat itched and I started having a mini coughing fit and my attendant immediately gave me something nice to drink. I don't know what it was exactly that I drank but it tasted herbal and when I say nice, I really mean Nice.

When the massage was over, I went to the washroom to change back to my clothes, resisting the temptation to take a shower since I didn't wanna wash away the good stuff applied on me. A pity, since I knew that going out of the villa meant facing the humid weather again.

I went back upstairs and a set of refreshment waited for me. My attendant requested that I fill up this service survey form and of course, I ticked every box labelled 'Excellent'. The service was really that impressive and I gave my attendant some tips even though my entire package was already paid for by the company. She deserved it. I was actually worried that her fingers might be hurting as she was giving me the massage earlier. I would have gladly allowed her to stop and rest if she needed to.

Angela came in as I was filling up the forms and she snapped a pic of me sitting there with the forms. We told each other excitedly about what we went through and apparently, she had a great massage session.

Bidding my attendant farewell, Angela and me took a buggy back to the island's main reception area where the buggies are stationed to wait for the rest of our colleagues. It's truly a pity that after my facial, I gotta perspire again because of the weather.

When the rest came back, the car transport we hired that brought us here drove us back to the jetty where we had to wait for the ride to arrive after out-processing at the customs. To kill time, Lester and me went to the shops on the second floor to browse around, after which the ferry came and we headed back to home soil.

We were all hungry by the time we reached home ground and the plan was to have seafood over at East Coast. So we proceeded there in a convoy and I took Lester's ride again. By then, my iPhone was almost out of juice and I mentally strangled myself for not bringing my casing charger with me.

Lester reached the mouth of the ECP when Clarissa called me and warned us not to head in there any further because of a massive jam. True enough, there was one. Lester's car was already just right inside the entry point of the expressway and all the cars in front of us were all at a standstill.

Then this cyclist all on his racer bike cycled over to us and advised us to make a u-turn and that was what we did. Lester than reversed and the cars behind us started doing the same thing. I remarked to Lester how comical the whole situation was, considering that was the very first time I've seen cars reversing out of an expressway.

By the time we reached the dinner place, the rest of our colleagues have not arrived yet. They were ahead of us when we started the journey here, so I guess they took a longer route. Anyway, the seafood restaurant we were supposed to be having at is called 'No Signboard Seafood'. Quirky.

The MacDonald's here is really out of place, since every other restaurant here is a seafood restaurant. So it came as no surprise that only a sprinkling of customers was in there, most of them students using the premise to study, as students here like to do in fast food restaurants.

Anyway, when the rest arrived, we ordered some dishes but due to allocated budget constrain, we couldn't order much and we were all hungry, so we made do.

When we finished, we split and when Lester and me reached his car, I remarked to him that since he really enjoyed his hot stones massage during the afternoon at Bintan, he might just already be so addicted to it that when he reached home, he would probably find go out again to look for some stones, bring them home, heat them up using his stove and run them on himself. That cracked both of us up.

So Lester gave Clarissa and me a ride since she didn't use her car today and dropped her at her turf before driving me to Paya Lebar train station, just up ahead the road from where Clarissa is staying.

Lester parked outside the train train station where we chatted for awhile before I split and took the train home. And by the way, Bintan is a scenic and pretty place, though the weather there is not something I'm pleadantly agreeable with.

Update: Lester left the company shortly later. He worked with us for a duration that was coming to a year. Thanks for all the rides all these while, man. It's a pity you had to go.

- De Lion Speaks

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Catalyst For Change

I've never seen my colleague-sister Jace like that before. She was despondent, quiet and just kept to herself in the office this morning while she was glued to the office computer laboring herself away with some paperwork and email. That sure as heck wasn't her usual self. I told her I was really worried about her and asked if there was anything I could do to help her with her workload.

Workload. That's the reason why all of us are stressed up lately, especially this morning. Jace wasn't the only one affected, I was too. Even our managers are being squeezed themselves. Jace is in the Pharmaceutical Specialist Sales Department and me, Pharmaceutical Consumer Healthcare. The extra workload demands (especially those damned paperwork) came so fast & furious to both of us across our departments we are feeling suffocated. Fuck, we can't breathe properly.

We are all feeling down. And hungry. So for lunch, Jace, Lester, our intern Charmaine & me went to have Japanese Sushi at Singpost to cheer ourselves up. It's just too bad the damned tropical hot-as-hell weather lately is compounding our situation from bad to fucked-up. Everyone of us in the Sales Division who make our living running about the country is bitching about it and rightly so.

Guitar 77
Anyway, it's already past 7pm and I've just finished visiting my final retail outlet of my customer for the day at Funan the IT Mall. I can't wait to go home and rest but the defiant me told me to hang on to my life outside of work and go check out the guitar shops in the basement of Excelsior Shopping Center next to Funan. So that's what I'm doing now, ignoring my tiredness.

I just have to remind myself of my favorite hobby again so that my work life will not drown it out of my consciousness. I'm still feeling down but the guitars do cheer me up. Standing outside Guitar 77 (pic on the left), I remind myself that this was the very guitar shop where I modded my Washburn N4 with the coil-split mod. The memory makes me smile. I thought I couldn't smile anymore for the rest of what remains of this day.

Yet, I'm feeling guilty and sad that lately, I've not touched my guitars because I have to keep up with my work. During the day, I have to travel about working at my customers's outlets and by the end of the day, I'll be so darned tired but when I get home, I still have paperwork to whittle down.

Which was what I've been doing for the past few days in an attempt to free up my weekend. So far, so good.. So what; You can imagine my dismay when the extra paperwork came piling on me this morning and Thursdays are so damned close to the weekends.

Don't get me wrong, I do understand that when it comes to work, such things are to be expected sometimes. I'm just worried about my guitar practice time. The situation is still bearable if I just crash through it and exhaust myself but the earnings are now much much tougher because of our grossly bloated sales targets and my commission for last month was pathetic. I could have netted for myself a few hundred extra bucks if my commission scheme hadn't changed for this year. I am starting to question if a drop in earnings coupled with a degraded quality of life is worth it.

Oh, I just heard Common Sense telling me that that's a dumb question, really.

And there's the product test next Monday which means I have to spend time studying over the coming weekend which will eat up my precious weekend time and that's like adding salt to injury.

I don't actually mind a product test, it's just that I feel we've been doing too much for just one product and the amount of nitty-gritty field research I have to conduct for it makes me wonder if the words 'inefficiency' & 'redundancy' apply to our case. It's easy to forget nowadays that our portfolios do not involve just a single product we are responsible for, as well as their respective sales targets. I don't think we have lost focus, we just do not have a healthy focus that is balanced across the board when the whole picture is taken into account.

And for goodness sake, I didn't even have the time nor energy to change the strings of my N4 and Ovation acoustic which I've been putting off lately. I wanted to, but lately, after coming home from a tiring day in the field and after whittling down the paperwork, I got so burnt out I had to crash & sleep, forgoing everything else.

This cannot go on. I have to do something about this and change the way I do things and reschedule the timing for not just everything I have to do but also for everything I want to do. I refuse to let work destroy what I love doing outside of work and vice-versa since both are important things we cannot do without.

Remember Maslow's Hierarchy. If you have no hobbies or personal pursuits, you will end up lost and empty when you are old and retired. Perhaps that explains why some of our elderly here do senseless things sometimes while living like lost souls.

I have wonderful customers. The Pharmacists I serve are the reason why I've been holding on to everything still, despite the times when I feel I've reached the end of my rope and despite the corporate nonsense I sometimes have to put up with that reeks of 'more work automatically equates political correctness, nevermind if they are actually productive or even necessary'. Efficiency and true productivity get thrown out the window in favour of looking good on paper sometimes.

Anyway, visiting the guitar shops at Excelsior will not be a complete experience without visiting Davis Guitar at Peninsula Plaza which adjoins Excelsior, the oldest guitar shop here that existed even before I decided to learn guitar way back during the early 90s. Did I mention I started playing during the early 90s? No way I'm gonna just let everything rot away when I've come all these way and this far. Besides, I still love playing, so that's the most important thing.

So here I am outside Davis looking at the displays of guitars window-shopping style and there's this guy in his work clothes too just standing there checking out the axes. I wonder if he is going through the same thing as me - contemplating about how to balance guitar practice time with work.

I hope he does ok with his life and I hope that I can too. I have to start with overhauling the way and timing which I do things and modifying their schedules in ways that allow me to breathe again and allow me to go to bed every night (or every morning during the weekends) with a smile of satisfaction and fulfillment.

Going to bed with the knowledge that you've done something useful and fulfilling with your day is priceless and is the secret to a good restful sleep.

10 bucks still say that in the end, sleep will be offered on Life's sacrificial altar in order to achieve a work-life balance. As usual. Perhaps this will be the only constant that will never change, at least until the day I can finally retire for good.

Damn, I'm tired.

- De Lion Speaks

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cover Art For My Facebook Timeline

I've converted my Facebook page unintentionally to the Timeline version when I was frolicking with Soundcloud. There is no way to reverse the process short of probably paying David Zuckerman a visit in person and persuading him to turn back the Facebook clock.. which would be moot anyway since everybody who hasn't done so will have their Facebook page automatically converted to the Timeline version when the dateline is up. Those not willing to do so will be dragged there kicking & screaming and howls of protest shall fall on deaf ears.

Since I was notified by Facebook that my Timelined page will publish itself on the 10th whether I accept it or not, I figured it would be inappropriate for that to happen without a personalized cover art. So I fired up Photoshop, made the following cover pic, fed it through my iPhone app to add in the labels of my webpages, fed it back to Photoshop to add in some distortion filters and uploaded the whole thing on my Facebook page:

I think the whole process took me around 40 minutes but it could have been much shorter since I'm as picky as heck. Just when I've finished my cover pic once, another idea struck and I repeated the whole process. That happened like around 3 times or so.
Just like the banner of my blog here, I'll change the pictures in my Facebook's cover art periodically, since I can get sick of looking at my own same old pictures over time.
And also because it's fun ✔

Update: As of the 12th of February, I've changed my blog's URL address to the current one.

- De Lion Speaks