Sunday, March 29, 2020

Musical journey (115)

In the age of COVID-19, "social-distancing" and "self-isolation" must truly be the words of the year. It's only time that my home state Victoria will invoke the next stage of lock down and close even more places and impose greater restricts on movement. The closure of gyms impacts me the most and come tomorrow, I'd have to resort to starting a home fitness regime using an exercise band. It's going to be challenging because there's only so much you can do without actual weights.

That being said, my gym is renting out dumbbells as a means to stem the financial bleeding but they charge $10 per week per dumbbell and a maximum of 4 per person. It's not the cost per se that I'm unhappy about, I just find it hard to justify the spend with only 2 sets of 2 (i.e. quite a restrictive weight combination). Oh well, there's a call by Fitness Australia to list gyms as an essential service so with any luck, I might be pulled out of my gym-withdrawal misery soon, or else I'll lose my definition and won't be able to do more pics and videos (G-rated or otherwise).

As you know, one of the items on my to-do list during my recent Singapore trip was to replenish my "topless KTV" files and in this month's musical post, I'll share the first entry in this new series which is my cover of Josh Groban's "You're Still You" (featured in his debut album). I started listening to his songs when he guest-starred in one of my favourite TV series "Ally McBeal". I was doing National Service back then and had to timer-record episodes on VCRs (gosh am I ancient or what)? I believe it was this series too that launched his singing career.

The track I was singing to in the clip is not the original backing track and two particular lines had different time lengths compared to the original. That's why I made some mistakes as I was very used to the original—see if you can tell which lines they are. Apart from these errors, I hope you like my rendition and the visuals (you're welcome). It's not a totally pleasant experience singing topless in a cold KTV room but hey, someone had to do it, in tiny hot pink shorts no less!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Food through Facebook (part 2)

Like I mentioned in my previous post, working from home (WFH) was imminent and now it has happened although it's kind of still at the highly-encouraged-but-not-mandatory stage. One of the reasons why I dislike WFH is because it removes the concept of 9-to-5. People tend to work at hours that suit them i.e. at odd hours and weekends. This makes following their schedules inevitable as we all work in inter-dependent teams. WFH makes it much harder to switch off especially when we all need to work more hours to overcome the loss in efficiency e.g. no more multiple screens and an ergonomic office, team meetings are held over Skype leading to a loss of focus, colleagues no longer there next to you to bounce ideas with and to provide quick essential input. The list of things we all lose and have to live with WFH goes on.

To make matters worse, with this initial shock to projects due to the loss in productivity, project managers are extra cautious about budget and scrutinise progress even more. This is the worst time for a person who doesn't have enough work to keep him chargeable full-time and unfortunately I am that person. Apparently it has been difficult finding a place for me in the head office ever since I came back from my holidays after having worked away from it for three years. Amidst the COVID-19 anxieties and uncertainties, I fear that the "every-man-for-himself" vibe is also starting to spread at work (i.e. not only at the supermarkets). I might be over-sensitive about this but I've been taught by my past experiences to be extremely skeptical. I'm working very hard to line something up in the face of the WFH policy making the whole organisation a little splintered. Tomorrow is the day when I'll need new work to come in and it doesn't look good. Curse my bad luck to have this coincide with the dreaded pandemic.

When times are tough, it helps to have something to look forward to but since travelling is out of the question for the foreseeable future and I often only travel back to Singapore, I'm left with my fond memories of my last trip, especially those of food. This post is the second part of my "Food through Facebook" series (part 1 is here). Most of the food I had and now miss was from hawker centres and food courts and I can't imagine those places being able to effectively practise social distancing (I didn't see much of that going on when I was there with COVID-19 in the air). In a society where cooked meals are so easily available everywhere and its people are hooked to this convenience, I'm sure social distancing would affect many food stall owners' livelihoods in Singapore, just like everywhere else in the world. If I were still there, I'll likely only do take-away which means I'll still get to enjoy the delicious and affordable delicacies Singapore has got to offer, like those in the pictures below.

  The ultimate lunch for a weight-watcher - lean pork soup with tofu and preserved vegetables (no rice). This kind of small-portioned light fare is lacking and much-needed in the Australian Asian food scene. #WatchingWhatIEatInPreparationForCNYGorging

It is 12.40am and I got the munchies and so all the weight-watching earlier today is out the window as I'm eating this now!!! #IndianRojak #SoGoodButSoBad

PS: I'm very surprised that they don't charge more with the less diluted coffee!

Here is my late lunch with Mummy which means no dinner is required. #TheReasonWhyIAmBack #CuttingBackAfterCNYGluttony

A simple neighbourhood zichar dinner with Mummy dearest. #SimpleThingsInLifeThatMeanSoMuch

I have SO much CNY goodies left to eat but I've been craving Famous Amos for weeks and finally I succumbed! #PlainMacadamiaCookiesAreMyFave #HowAmIGoingToFinishAllMySnacks

I've never seen actual bacon and pork belly being sold as bak kwa when I was last in Singapore 3 years ago so I guess this is "new". Very tempted to buy but ended up getting the cheaper normal variety instead as I have a feeling it's too fatty and no one at home would eat it if there are leftovers (which is highly likely), but I really do want to try. To those who have tried it, is it any good? That being said, I did buy some intriguing BBQ prawn bak kwa (from the better 林志源) to try and I'll let you know the verdict when I've tried it.

OK, I finally bit the bullet and bought the 2 items I really wanted to try. The prawn bak kwa has a strange texture but does taste like prawn unlike the lychee chiffon cake which has ZERO lychee taste.

Here's the most expensive supper I've had this trip. In fact it's the dearest variety i.e. even higher-priced than Musan King/猫山王. I can now go back to Melbourne happy. #黑金#BlackGold #Thats42DollarsDownMyTummy #TopGradeDurianCravingSated

My first and last McDonald's for this trip. Crispy buttermilk chicken burger and twister fries achievements unlocked. #ILikePineappleSoILikeThisBurger

The food I've missed for 3 years.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Food through Facebook (part 1)

As COVID-19 rages on, this is the best time to stay at home and game away (with "No Man's Sky") and that's exactly what I'm doing. Ision and I are now playing the same game, which is always challenging. He did ask me an interesting question though—if one of us needs to be quarantined or gets the virus, where is the other person going to live during that period as we're in a one-room apartment. That being said, in such close quarters, if one of us has gotten it, it's almost certain the other person would get it too so we can both be cooped up in the same place. However if one takes a much longer time to recover than the other, I'm not too sure how to manage it, but I guess we'll cross that bridge when it comes.

On the work front, I'm not sure when will my company ask everyone to work from home (following Telstra and Facebook) but I must say in my field (engineering consultancy), working from home is highly ineffective and practically impossible if the same level of efficiency and productivity is expected. This is because there's a lot of intensive collaboration involved especially during crunch time i.e. a few days before deadlines. Even one person in the team working from home makes it tough, let alone the entire team doing it. Like all other aspects of life, this is a developing global situation so we shall wait and see.

In the meantime when uncertainties are swirling around, I know for sure that life back in Australia has well and truly settled in after my long holiday. In the next two posts, I'll share what I've posted on Facebook regarding my Singaporean food encounters. I've said many times before on my blog and I'll say it again, the biggest thing I miss since I relocated twelve years ago is food from home and looking at these pictures again, I feel the urge to fly back just for the food. But for now, till my next post, let me get back to gaming.

 This doesn't look like much but it's something that's not easy to find in Singapore nowadays. Super delicious and a must-have when I'm back. Ision none for you!!!

Something you can never get in Australia and is a compulsory treat whenever I'm back home.

Pre-gym breakfast of champions. #PrataDoneRight #DefinitelyNotTheAussieCrap

A big pau named after an 80s Asian female soft porn star. Glad I gave it a try. #HugeEnoughToBeMyDinner

There's also the Old Chang Kee curry puff flavoured potato chips that I've seen. I need to try them all out!

Finally found the margarine and sugar roasted beans to make kopi back in Melbourne. Got 1kg of it (good for 80 cups)! Ision your taste buds are in luck (if you're good. Hehe).

PSA. Other than being spicy, this has none of the 麻 ("numbness" in Szechuan cuisine), so it should be just 辣, not 麻辣. You can all give it a miss. #FalseAdvertising

Craving hot & spicy KFC for the longest time as it's not available in Australia as a regular menu item so you can imagine how much I want to try this as it's spice on top of spice. Verdict? It's very good as it's still crispy and not smothered with sauce.

Here are two interesting concepts but one failed terribly in execution while the other triumphed. Guess which flopped? #HainaneseChickenBao #BeefRendangPuff

Can you believe this is the first time I've had 麻辣香锅? This will also be my last time. #TotallyUnimpressed #WhatsSoGoodAboutIt #WorstThingIsItsExpensive

Sunday, March 8, 2020

CNY 2020 through Facebook

It's only been two weeks back at work and I'm already drowning in shit. The moral of the story is—stay off-work for as long as you can unless you really love what you do but sigh. Based on my financial projections, I need to slog for at least four years more before I can contemplate easing off on the work front (e.g. doing it on part-time basis). So I'll stop whingeing now as that's just going to be a never-ending process and move on to my next series of posts in which I'll share what happened during my almost two-month long break. I can also use these as a chance to think back fondly on those carefree days when work was a million light years away.

First up, the pictures below give an idea of how I spent my Year of the Rat/Mouse, which was mostly a family affair i.e. just the way I wanted it to be. I'm not sure if I'll make it to the next Chinese New Year but I know I'll definitely be back between the next one and the one after that.

 Paying respect to my Papa and offering him his favourite dishes. I'm so glad I have the chance this year to uphold this Lunar New Year family tradition.

Everything is bigger and better when I'm back for reunion dinner. Here's some top-grade seafood that Mummy will soon perform her magic with! #SizeQueen #MummyIsTheBest

Apparently as a horse in this new lunar year I'll 冲太岁 (clash with Grand Duke Jupiter) and so all zodiac predictions are pretty much the same across various sources. Do I believe in all this? Not a single bit.

I think this year Mummy went a little crazy with getting CNY ornaments, in addition to the 迎春接福 banner (挥春) I got from KL. Like the Western tradition of decorating Christmas trees, this is ours, and it's equally meaningful and fun!

Put together over 2 weeks starting from food-shopping, all of Mummy's hard work culminated in this most scrumptious banquet and I could feel her love in every bite. This reunion dinner has made my trip back home. I love you Mummy! #BestChefInTheWorld #CNY2020

Free samples of CNY goodies of every kind almost literally shoved into your mouth by the sales assistants (you don't even need to ask). One round and now I'm full. #FreeSamplesAsLunch

Here's the Chinese version of the Christmas tree we have. Guess which one I like better? The Western or Chinese version? Happy 2nd day everyone! #TimeToPigOutOnCNYGoodies #年初二 #HappyAustraliaDayToThoseBackInOz

Banquet number 2 on the 2nd day of CNY. Apparently Mum still has even more love (and energy) to give! #BlissAndBlessed #FamilyReunion #FatDieUs

This pic is getting viral on Facebook (pun intended). If they were to go out of stock, they'd truly be the preferred red packet-filler this festive season. #GiftOfProtection #DoYourPart #StaySafe

For those who haven't tried lo hei, you should as it's great fun. How often in your adult life do you get to play with your food legitimately and then eat it? Today we had vegan lo hei and valuable family-bonding time, not like last year when I could only join in the action via video chat from faraway Melbourne.

Another first for me. Praying to 太岁 to ward off the ill effects of 犯太岁 as a Horse. Apparently you need to come back again before the end of the year but you can have someone do that in your place (i.e. would have to be Mum as I'll not be in Singapore). #DoesNotMakeSense #TempleMoneyMakingExercise #JustInForTheExperience

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Musical journey (114)

Hello again from Melbourne! I'm almost done sorting through all the pictures and videos taken during my long break and I'll start sharing them from next week. In case you don't know, I developed a cough whilst in Singapore when the COVID-19 situation was taking off and I saw a doctor immediately upon my return to Melbourne who recommended a 14-day self-isolation just in case since Singapore has the highest number of infected persons outside of China at that time.

Fortunately my manager was fine with this which is to be expected as he and the rest at the office definitely don't want to catch anything. I'm not complaining at all because my 6.5-week break got extended to 2 months with a full fortnight for me to adjust back to Australian life (and to binge on the  PS4 game "No Man's Sky"). Today is the last day of my self-isolation and I've fully recovered with no symptoms (e.g. cough, runny nose, fever, shortness of breath) so I'm all good to return to work tomorrow. I'll keep you updated whether or not I have a OK-enough project waiting for me. Hope I ease back into the office environment well after being off-work for so long.

Whilst my 2-month party is ending, the Sydney Mardi Gras party is currently in full swing. Although I have no real desire to go to Sydney, I must say that Mardi Gras would be the only reason I'd consider visiting the city that I've forsaken for Melbourne (refer to my post here for my Sydney vs Melbourne comparison). After living in Melbourne for many years, I can positively say through my personal experience that overt (face-to-face) racism is a more serious problem in Sydney (I've written about this in detail here), which is a major reason why I left.

Racism remains a problem in Australia and I'm not immune to attacks in Melbourne as I still encounter it on the dating apps (I've included a screenshot example below), which gave me the inspiration to write the song I'm featuring in this month's musical post.

As members of one of the most oppressed communities in Australia, it's imperative that we all rise above racism as LGBTIQ. Our community is also one that knows how to have a good time so in this Mardi Gras season, I'm presenting my attempt at incorporating this important message within a dance anthem. I had great fun composing this piece and I hope you enjoy it while letting your hair down in between drinks and hot men!

[Rise Above]

When you say "no rice" what do you mean?
No slanty eyes, small dicks or just no yellow skin?
These words hit hard like bullets that cannot be seen
It's easier to kill hiding behind a screen

No matter what you utter
I'm proud of my colour
Gonna blow your cover
So run, you better

You can say whatever
But I will never
Succumb to pressure
All together now

I will rise above the pain
And I'll fly beyond the hate
You can no longer touch me

"Go back to where you come from" it's getting old
"FOB" is "fresh off the boat", yes I've been told
It's shit that's coming from those living with a blindfold
So take it off and rid your heart of that frigid cold

A coon, a chink, an Abo
A wog, a spic, a Lebo
A curry munching fellow
All that coming from a gwailo
Let's all leave the shallow
I will lead, you'll follow
So love can have the right place to grow

Put your hands up, if you're with me
If you want change, love is the key
So let's break these chains, and come with me
We will rise above, and set ourselves free

PS: My original draft of the lyrics had "you motherfucker" instead of "so run, you better" to make it more G-rated. On hindsight I should have stuck to the original words. Which line do you prefer?

Friday, January 31, 2020

Musical journey (113)

Hello from hot and humid Singapore! I've been busy catching up with the 3 F's that I miss so much—family, friends and food, and I'm having a great time. I'll post details of my trip through Facebook post snippets over the next few months so I'll keep this post short. I've also recorded new musical clips this trip (both of me busking and me singing topless in a KTV room) and will be sharing them once I've done some quick edits.

I'll be flying back to Melbourne in about a week's time and then it's a day of rest before heading back to work. I hope that there's something lined up for me because no one is responding to my email asking for updates. I really don't want to worry about that during my vacation so I better stop whingeing. I also hope the Melbourne air quality wouldn't be bad upon my return and that the coronavirus outbreak there is totally contained.

For this month's musical post, I'm covering a Hokkien song by Taiwanese singer 蕭煌奇 called "上水的花" which means "the most beautiful flower". I don't follow Hokkien pop music but I do listen to his songs and that was where I discovered this gem. I like this song for its melody not for its lyrics as they are pretty run-of-the-mill. It has a pretty dramatic MTV in which a man kills his terminally-ill lover to end her suffering though it isn't obvious in the clip whether or not it was consensual.

See you all back in Melbourne soon!