An old missing cat poster I created in Singapore

We were looking through old photos on my wife’s old laptop a few days ago and we found this poster that I made when we lived in Singapore.

10 years ago, I posted this missing cat poster around Pasir Ris in Singapore. We had been feeding this cat below an HDB there for a few months and, one day, she suddenly went missing. We did eventually find her. One day, she just showed back up under the building.

I still wonder what she was doing during the week or so that she was missing. We were in contact with other people in the area that were caring for her and we knew she had already been spayed, so it wasn’t that.

Maybe she was exploring? Or had a bad encounter and was hiding out?

I like to think that someone else had decided to adopt her but then saw that other people were concerned for her and let her back out. It’s nice to think that there are a lot of people who care about animal welfare.

Anyway, this cat isn’t really “Mini” anymore. She’s about 11 now and she lives in Manhattan, New York City, with my Mom. We brought her with us when we moved.

I guess she’s pretty spoiled now. She eats shrimp, steak, and other table scraps in addition to her regular food. She has an apartment and a balcony to herself as well. No other cats to compete with.

Marble, living the big life in the city.

Another year…

I’ve had this blog set up for something like 12 years now. I haven’t really been using it that much recently. It’s not so much that I don’t have things to talk about, but that I don’t know if what I have to say really matters in the grander scheme of things. Or would have any impact anyway.

When I started this blog, I was living in Singapore. Or rather, I started a version of it there on Blogger. Then some other blogs, and then I rolled them all into this blog and kept posting. In Singapore, blogs seemed to matter quite a bit. People took them seriously in a way that they just never did in the US. So, when I posted something, I had an expectation of a reaction of some sort.

Now, and maybe especially now with the rise of Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. etc., posting on a blog is sort of like screaming into the wind, or into the eternal void. You can make a lot of noise, but chances are that no one will hear you or even notice.

And even if you say something really important and meaningful, it hardly matters anymore. Maybe I could add a blue check mark to the title of my blog? I dunno. I think it’s because of the polarization of online content in general. People only want to see what’s loudest on both ends of the spectrum. There’s not much room or interest for what’s in the middle. That’s pretty sad but I guess it must be human nature.

And so I let this blog sort of stagnate.

Beyond that feeling that blogging just didn’t matter as much here, I was having a lot of technical issues with Dreamhost. I still am, actually. I’ve had my blog constantly getting restarted by their server because it’s supposedly taking up too much RAM or eating up too much of the CPU, which seems ludicrous to me. I’ve trimmed it down to being really basic and it hardly gets that much traffic anymore, but it’s still apparently being problematic. I can’t even do updates without the thing crashing half the time. Honestly, I think Dreamhost is just punishing me for not upgrading to Dreampress.

Fuck Dreamhost. Fuck them in their ass.

I’ve been coming to a realization though, that I’ve been thinking about blogging the wrong way. Maybe I always have been. Or maybe I started doing this at some point without realizing it.

There’s a difference between blogging to be heard and blogging for myself.

And I think I was blogging to be heard and when I realized that I wouldn’t be heard, or most likely wouldn’t be heard, I lost interest.

So maybe I should be blogging for me. As a way to get my thoughts down and work through them and maybe come to some interesting conclusions. A professor I took a history course with told me once that you never really know what you think about something until you have to write down your thoughts about it because it forces you to really clarify your opinions. She was right. Thanks, Professor.

So, I’m going to try to be a bit more consistent here, even if what I’m posting is something that is only going to matter to me. I’m not trying to be a news outlet. Just a me outlet.

Burning Out Stress on the Running Track

East River Park Running Track
East River Park Running Track

When I was living in Singapore, my wife and I would go jogging 3 times a week or more.  Even though it was hot over there all the time, even at night, it was exhilarating.  Besides being in good shape, every time we would run and hit our target, it gave us a sense of accomplishment.  Participating in the first Run350 event on Pulau Ubin Island and finishing the 5k in 31 minutes, despite the god-awful big hills on the course, was amazing!

Something I probably didn’t think too much about at the time but realize more now is that jogging is also a great way to burn stress.  Last semester was hell for me.  I took on way too many classes and had way too many assignments due.  I’m still sleeping almost 11 hours a day recovering from the lack of rest, especially over the last few weeks.

Despite the time crunch I was under, I still took time to jog.  Why?  Because it gave me an opportunity to stop thinking about due dates and complicated research questions for just an hour or two and gave me a sense of achievement and accomplishment when I met my running goal.  Every successfully completed run was a pat on the back that motivated me to not only keep running, but to get back to my classwork as well.

The bonus on top of it all?  It’s an opportunity for my wife and I to bond.  She runs too and we almost always run together.  This month is going to be a little different.  She’s working full time and I’m busting my ass to get my master’s degree as soon as possible, so I’m taking summer classes.  The summer class I have this month is at night so on Wednesdays we’ll have to run solo like I did yesterday.  It wasn’t as much fun, because I enjoy the competitiveness of running with my wife.  She’s almost as fast as I am, so she keeps me moving when I start to get lazy.

Fake Chinese Food

Once upon a time, before I actually visited a mostly Chinese ethnic country, I thought I knew what Chinese food was, and it looks like this:

American Chinese food.

Imagine my surprise to not find egg rolls over there.  No one knew what an egg roll was, unless they’d been here.  There’s something similar called lumpia, but it’s not quite the same.

Chinese food in the US has been thoroughly Americanized, to make it more appealing to the local palate.  The Chinese food I ate in Singapore was a lot blander in most cases, with most of the flavor coming from dumping lots of chili sauce on everything.  That or eating green chilies along with each bite of food.  There’s also a lot of MSG used.  (Just a note, I’m basing this on the common Chinese food found in food stalls that a person would eat at on a daily basis, not expensive restaurants.)

Chinese food in Singapore.

Chinese food in Singapore.

[Update: It was very rudely brought to my attention by some piece of shit Singaporeans that I accidentally uploaded the wrong photo from my folder.  I’m quite aware that this is ramen, a Japanese dish, most likely from that Japanese food court in Tampines 1.  I can’t remember its name.]

That’s not to say that the food there, the ‘real’ Chinese food, was bad.  On the contrary, a lot of it was awesome, and thankfully I did read about a place in NYC where I can get chicken rice and pork rice.  The pictures looked similar to the dishes I grew to love in Singapore.  I’ll blog about it when I find it and try it out myself.

One other thing, the orange duck sauce that you can find at most Chinese restaurants in the US?  Ya, that’s nowhere to be found in Singapore that I saw.

Maybe Laptop Prices in Singapore Weren’t That Good After All?

A long view down an aisle at a Super Walmart.

My aunt’s mother says that if you can’t find it at Walmart, you don’t need it, and you really could live by that.  A Super Walmart has groceries, clothes, electronics, and even car parts and it’s all sold for low, low, sometimes ridiculously low prices.  I remember when I was younger I didn’t like the idea of shopping at Walmart, but that was back before I was spending my own money on the things I wanted to buy.  Now that everything is coming out of my own pocket, I look for good deals over fancy brand labels.

Something Walmart seems to be doing really well at is their laptop pricing.  Have a look:

Laptop prices at a Super Walmart.

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I remember seeing that 278 USD (362 SGD) Acer for sale in Singapore for 600 SGD.  I remember seeing that 298 USD (388 SGD) HP laptop for 800 SGD in Singapore.

Walmart really does have some low prices, and I’m not complaining.

MNG (by Mango) Now At JCPenney Department Store

Now, I don’t really care all that much about ‘high fashion’ or brands, but this caught my eye because the first time I’d ever heard of Mango, or it’s MNG line of clothes, was in Singapore, where it’s apparently very desirable.  Singapore in general is very fashion conscious and the malls are filled with high end boutiques.

MNG (by Mango) is now available at JCPenney

I developed a particular distaste for Mango, not because of how the clothes look (I’ve never even been in the store, but the stuff in the online JCPenney catalog looks nice), but because we lived with a roommate during our first year in Singapore that talked about the brand non-stop.  I’m sure you know the type of person I’m talking about.  She wasn’t happy unless she was telling you about how great and fashionable Mango (or some other brand) is, and about how many items she has, like I gave a damn.  It got to the point that when we’d pass a Mango store in the mall, either myself or my wife would say, “Look! It’s Mango!”  The reply would usually be, “Fuck Mango.”  Like I said, not because the brand is necessarily bad, but because we were tired of hearing about it and associated it with a bitch we didn’t like.

mng

Anyway, in Singapore, and I presume other parts of Asia, Mango is a very desirable brand.  If you have Mango stuff, you’re cool.  I suppose that’s just not the case in the US, though.  Maybe it just never caught on the same way it did in Singapore?  Mango has a few stores here and there in NYC and on the West Coast, but I just don’t get that same ‘exclusive’ feel that I did before, knowing that Mango is carried at department store now.

Regardless, if you’re from Asia and you were wondering how to get Mango clothes in the US, you can get it from your nearest JCPenney now, or just order directly from the JCPenney online catalog.

(Note: This post is not sponsored by Mango in any way.)

Spring Kyushu Fair

These are pictures from the Spring Kyushu Fair held in late March to early April of this year in Singapore.  This is what I meant about being agitated about not having a Japan blog, because I should have posted them then.  This is a bit dated, but I thought it was worth sharing anyway!

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The fair’s banner was hanging in the center section of the Tampines Mall.  Tampines Mall is set up as round levels with an open center.

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This is the view from above, from I think the third floor.  The fair was set up in the middle of the mall and was jam packed with people every single day.

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I was shocked at how expensive these arus melons from Miyazaki were.  If you look at the blue text on the sign you can see that 49 SGD was already the marked down price from their usual 60 SGD.  I think we went on the last day of the fair.  I tried to do a little research on the melon but there’s little available, through Google anyway.  What I did find says that the arus melon is considered “The King of Japanese Fruits” and is highly sought after as a gift for its fragrance, beautifully netted skin and great taste.

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There was a booth selling selections of fine tea.  I kinda wish I’d bought some now that I look at the photo.

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Photos of the crowds and some of the booths.

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A lot of the booths were doing cooking on the spot, like this booth, where a girl was preparing takoyaki balls.

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And what Japan fair would be complete without a booth selling sake?  The sake he was holding was actually really, really good and I wanted a bottle of it but he had already sold out.  He didn’t mind letting me have a few shots from the sample bottle though, which was pretty cool of him.  We wound up getting a sparkling rose sake for my wife, but got so busy with getting ready for our trip to the Philippines at the beginning of May that we we gave it away as a gift instead.

I’m looking forward to visiting another Japan-related Fair.  Hopefully there’ll be one in Manila sometime soon!

I Guess It Couldn’t All Make It Through Shipping OK

One of the running jokes about having things shipped by the military is that you’re bound to have something get broken.  When I was a kid, we did a military move from Hahn AFB in Germany back to the US and the movers managed to lose a whole section of a German wall shrunk, as well as damage some other stuff.

German-Shrunk

This is an example of a German wall shrunk.  How do you lose even a section of something so big?

I thought I’d left that behind along with my service to the Army, but I guess mistreatment of shipped goods is a universal problem.  My HP F2120 All-In-One didn’t quite survive the trip.  The glass on the scanner bed was shattered in one corner.  It’s a shame too, because I was hoping to get started on scanning stuff and now I have to see about getting reimbursed.  I have no idea how to start the process.  I guess we’ll take the receipt and pictures of the broken device to an LBC office to find out what the procedure is.

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This is what’s left of my HP F2120 All-in-One. Thanks a lot guys!

The real issue is that there’s a huge price difference in these types of things between Singapore and the Philippines.  Even if we get a full reimbursement on the scanner, it wouldn’t cover the cost of the exact same scanner in Manila.  There’s a mark-up.  Singapore is one of the cheapest places in the world to buy electronics, so unless we get a one-for-one exchange where they give us money to cover the purchase cost of a new unit, we’re just SOL.

Can’t win ‘em all I guess.

Speaking of that, I’m still engaged in an e-mail battle with Philippine Airlines to get a reimbursement on the pet carrier that they damaged during the fiasco where one of my cats wound up running around on Changi’s tarmac and in the belly of the plane before take-off.

Tomorrow (or later today) I’m heading to the Bureau of Immigration in Manila.  I have to get my Visa taken care of before I wind up being here illegally.  Hopefully that all goes smoothly!

LBC and the Cat Welcoming Committee

Slowly but surely we’re making minor improvements to our living arrangements.  It’s something of an uphill battle and I’ve been trying to clean and organize as I go, with short dedicated periods of cleaning up every day.  Parts of the house seem to have not been used in months or years.  That was the case with the room we cleaned up during our first visit.

I haven’t gotten back to organizing the bookshelves on the second floor.  There are still books all over the place as well as files and random bits of paper that will probably wind up as tinder for the fire I plan on making to burn quite a bit of this junk.  I really want to get back to that, but other things keep popping up.

LBC Shipping Box

The day after we got here, the first box we shipped from Singapore arrived.

Cat Welcoming Committee 1

Cat Welcoming Committee 2 

After the welcoming committee finished using the outside of the box as a scratching board, we started to unpack it and bring everything upstairs.

Cats on the Gym

It was a pretty happy occasion for all of us, since there were things in it we could put to immediate use, like the cats’ gym, some cables I was looking for, clothes, and the tool that you have to use to remove a SIM card from an iPhone.

We’ve been doing a lot of shopping as well.  Living here is temporary, but it’s just not going to work if there’s no furniture, which there wasn’t.  Luckily, furniture is cheap in the Philippines, if you know where to go and shop around for good deals.  The problem we’re facing now is overcrowding, and we haven’t even received the 2nd and 3rd boxes we sent from Singapore yet, so we’ve been buying plastic boxes to organize everything.  We’ll put them on top of the dresser and under the bed.  That should help us utilize the space effectively.  When we move to Manila, pretty much all of this stuff will go with us and we’ll have more room for it.  For now we’re staying in my wife’s old room, so it’s understandable that there’s not much space.

Computer Desk

One lucky break is that I keep finding scrap metal everywhere.  I’m going to make quite a hefty sum when I sell all of it, which I can then reinvest into further renovations around the house.  I swear there are half a dozen unfinished projects in here and for every unfinished one I see, there are that many more that I’d like to start on.  I’m not willing to make that large of an investment here, but we’ll do what we can while we’re here.

Living Without Our Cats

Right now I’m in Singapore and my cats are in the Philippines.  We transported them there earlier this month by plane, but had to return to Singapore briefly to wrap up some loose ends.

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So, I thought to myself that this would be a great break!  No need to scoop cat turds.  No need to check their food and water.  No need to constantly sweep up cat hair and litter.  No cats on my head, or doing gymnastics and singing competitions while I’m asleep.

But, it’s just not the same without them around.

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There’s more to cats than just the drawbacks of having to look after them and every time we go somewhere on a trip I worry about them and miss them.  It’s even weirder now that I’m back here in Singapore, in a house where they used to live with us.

When I open the door I keep expecting to see them standing there waiting.  When I get in bed I keep checking to make sure I don’t accidentally kick a cat off the end of the bed while getting under the blanket.  In the morning I keep expecting to find a cat sleeping next to me.  When I see something laying on the bed or the floor out of the corner of my eye, I mistake it for one of my cats.

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For all the trouble and drama they create, I miss having them around.  I’m looking forward to getting back to the Philippines so I can play with them, brush them and torment them on a daily basis again.

Our cats really are part of the family.