Taylor 210ce Plus

Every guitarist, at some point of his or her life, would have dreamt of owning a Taylor.

And I am going to be honest, when I am moody or down or discouraged, I cheer myself up by buying things I like.

So, one thing led to another, and one day I got the order confirmation from Swee Lee, and the next moment I had this huge box sent to my room.

Packed in a standard aerocase, with a solid sitka spruce top and Indian rosewood body, the sound is bright and warm and offers enough projection.

I would think that any Taylor out of the factory would have been well or fully setup in terms of playability, but I spent just 30 minutes on it today before my fingers started to hurt. I realized by default it comes in .13 strings which is a gauge too heavy even for elephant-skinned fingers, so I am intending to bring it down slightly to .12, and overall it still feels rather stiff so I am gonna sending it for some additional touch ups.

I have previously engaged my friend Jarvis from The Guitar Spa some time back for my previous gutiars, and he has also improved tremendously over the past few years so I will be entrusting my Taylor to him to complete the setup.

I can’t wait to start playing again.

Life Chooses You

I posted this almost 2 years ago. Back then I was going through a rough patch, and that post was birthed out from a whirlwind of emotions. Reading it now may seem like a bunch of gibberish, probably sounding like some incoherent speech from a homeless drunk.

This came back to haunt me recently, and I am starting to wonder if we get to choose life, or perhaps is it the other way round.

I guess for most of us, we feel that we get to choose life.
We choose the life we want from the decisions and choices we make.
Our day to day decisions play a part in influencing and shaping our lives.

We choose the life we want.
We want to live a life of victory and success, so we develop a plan to work hard and achieve good results.
We want to live a life of fitness and good health, so we stick to a strict diet and also a regular exercise regime.
We want that new car, we want that branded bag, we want that nice watch.
We want to get what we want. We want to have nice things. We like ownership. We like control.
We like that we can control our outcome and we determine our own results.
A lot of things are within our reach, and achieving them gives us fulfillment. Having achievements brings us meaning, it makes us happy.

But as I progress on this journey on my own, for the past couple of years, my perspective started to shift.
Maybe we don’t get to choose life after all, we like to think we do, but actually we don’t.

Life chooses us instead.
To a great degree, we have completely no control.
In the first place, we didn’t even get a chance to choose whether to be born or not.
A big part of us are already pre-determined.
Life chooses your genetics and your physical attributes, as much as you would like to be a Usain Bolt, your Asian genes won’t allow you to do so.
We can’t choose our parents or the families that we are born into.
Some people get born into wealthy families whose grandparents inheritances can last for 5 generations.
Some people who aren’t so lucky, don’t get the privilege to study in good schools and some people don’t even get the opportunity to study. The fact that we can read this entry on the internet already tells us our privilege. There are probably kids who get born in the mountains or countryside and they never had a book to read, because life chooses them. They had no say, they had no control. Life chose for them to be this way.

As much as we think we can control outcomes to live the life we want, there is just so much that we can do that is the determining factor. For the most part, they are already pre-determined.

Perhaps you disagree, or maybe I am wrong,
Maybe some of us do actually get to choose the life that we want,

But whether life chooses us or we choose life,
We still must live,
And life,
Must still go on.

Desire Discipline Delight

I should have done this a long time ago. Perhaps you can call it a new found motivation, or maybe it is just a simple desire to return back to an old love.

I have had my Hanzo S for more than 2 years now but I don’t think I have even clocked more than 100km on them. I use them every year to train for my IPPT and once I have cleared my 2.4km test, I just return my shoes back into storage for next year’s IPPT.

I am almost hitting my mid-30s and I tell myself, “It is now or never.

So I guess it really is just a desire from within, for me to literally get back on track. It is a personal choice, something that I want to do for myself.

The beginning is always the hardest. Your body struggles to regain its posture, your legs try to maintain their strides, your cardiovascular system work harder to increase your endurance, and all these usually simplified with some help from muscle memory.

As we begin to practice this habit and continue training over the next couple of weeks, that’s when we reach the stage of discipline. I used to always tell myself that if I have to go for 4-days without running, whatever I have trained during the last session will be wasted. With that in mind, I end up training minimally twice-thrice a week. However to be fair, that was more than 10 years ago, I may not be able to put in the same kind of commitment now, which is exactly why discipline is so important to keep the momentum going.

Going past the stage of discipline, once you have found yourself already maintaining a fit and healthy lifestyle, that’s when we arrive at the stage of delight. We love, and we enjoy what we do. Some days you can’t wait to get started, it becomes the highlight of the day.

It was once a part of me, and now it is a new beginning, and I hope to see myself through.

Vaccination 2021

Due to the nature of my previous job, I was considered as frontliner/essential worker and thus had the opportunity to pre-register for the vaccination. I remember my company’s HR submitted my name some time back around early March, and in early April, I received the SMS from MOH to book my vaccination slot.

The SMS comes with a unique code that you need to use to identify yourself online when you book your slots. A list of all the available dates and venues will populate, together with the different vaccines available: Pfizer and Moderna.

The queue for the Pfizer options are significantly longer as you will notice majority of available slots are for Moderna instead. However one thing I did was to keep refreshing the page at various times throughout the day and as people change/postpone their appointments, you will see the earlier slots start to become available.

I went for my first dose on 22nd April. I arrived punctually at my appointed time and the registration process took less than 10 minutes. I am not sure if the registration process differs at the various vaccination centres, but basically the first station is where you do your Safe Entry and they will check your identification and appointment time before issuing you with a queue number. You will then wait for your turn to go to the second station where you need to declare your medical history. Following which, you will be called to the third station where you will be given the actual jab. As a regular blood donor and also someone who has tattoos, I would say that the jab is probably only a 2 or 3, out of 10 on the pain threshold.

So after that, you will be led to a monitoring area to rest for 30 minutes. There is really nothing to do, except to just sit there for 30 minutes. If you feel any discomfort, there are medical personnel on standby and staff who are also walking around should you require any assistance.

At the end of 30 minutes, your queue number will be called again and you proceed to the counter to get your vaccination card to come back for your second dose.

I was prepared to experience the side effects after the first dose, but there was nothing significant except for a very slight fever (37.5) and soreness at the arm that developed after about 4 hours. I was fine after waking up the next day.

I was scheduled for my second dose 3 weeks later, which I promptly went. The entire registration process is exactly the same, but don’t forget to bring your vaccination card because they will ask you for it.

I have heard that the side effects after the second dose are much stronger so I was prepared for it. I went home and popped 2 panadol tablets just in case. The whole afternoon and evening I waited but felt nothing. I went to sleep at night and woke up the next morning with extreme soreness on my arm. It hurts so much I had trouble just lifting my arm up. It slowly subsided as I tried to move and swing my arm more, but beyond that, there wasn’t really anything else that I felt.

Then again, the side effects are different for everyone because our immune systems react differently. I had a friend who said he had sore eyes after vaccination but I am not sure if that is even related to the vaccination. I hope that it doesn’t stop anyone from getting the vaccine when it’s available, because everyone has a part to play in this to protect themselves and their loved ones.

In the meantime, stay safe and mask on.

Way Out

I think Sungei Buloh is one of those places in the entire world that you would least expect to find me. I have never stepped foot there my entire life and it has never crossed my mind as a place I would like to visit, so by a work of miracle, I found myself inside Sungei Buloh with the company of good people.

I read up on some reviews before we embarked on our walk. Apparently there are 4 different routes, but the most scenic and easiest to walk would probably be the coastal route. As the name suggests, it follows the coastline and the terrain is relatively flat, except for a few flights of stairs.

From the visitors centre to the coastal route, there weren’t enough signages to point us in the right direction even as we entered the forested area. We weren’t sure if the route we embarked on was the correct one (since there are 4 different routes), but we tried our luck and decided to walk ahead nonetheless. At one point we found ourselves surrounded with trees and looking at mudskippers, so we questioned ourselves if we were actually heading the right way, I replied with not much thinking, “Doesn’t matter, let’s just walk, every route will have a way out.”

I was amazed at my own moment of genius, but at the same time I pondered about what I just said. It was a simple statement but I felt like it carried much substance. (We were walking the correct route anyway in case you are wondering.)

Looking back, I have always wondered how I survived the past 33 years. At various stages of my life, I find myself at certain checkpoints questioning myself if I was heading the right direction. I wouldn’t say I am a pessimistic person but I think at times when we lack confidence, we tend to fill ourselves with doubt. Perhaps some of us have even lost our way, we embarked on the wrong paths, and I guess the majority of us would have ever felt like giving up at some point.

But look at where you are today.
Look at where that got you.
You are fine today,
And you will be even better tomorrow,

Because if there is anything I have learnt so far,
It is that every route will have a way out.

Nothing in life is permanent, so while it’s true that good times don’t last forever, then neither do the bad times.
If you are walking in darkness, keep walking, because every route has a way out.
If you are walking in the middle of a valley, keep walking, because every route has a way out.
If you are walking through hell, keep walking, because every route has a way out.

Then one day when you sit down and reflect back on life, you will be amazed at yourself and how you have made it this far.

CMFAS

I have been hesitating for the longest time to take my CMFAS exams. I felt that there was no need for such qualifications in my current job, but also mostly because I doubted my own ability after graduating for more than 8 years, I haven’t been using my brain much since.

Some time early last year I thought of putting myself up for this challenge but the start of the covid-19 pandemic changed the dynamics in how things were operational. I decided to give myself more time and when things got better this year, I signed myself up.

It was a big leap of faith because I was unsure of what to expect and also, instead of having physical textbooks to read, we were just given e-books to download. The 4 basic/main papers to complete were the M5, M9, M9A and also Health Insurance (HI).

There is no particular order to complete them and also there are no limits to the number of attempts. However each exam is about $100-$120 so unless your pockets are really deep, it will be better to sufficiently prepare yourself before the exam day.

I know people who crammed several exams within the same week but my personal experience is that I took the exams a week apart from each other. This allows me sufficient time to go through the entire textbook from cover to cover, and for me to take note of the key concepts for each module. Some modules have online lectures in the SCI website but as I went through the textbook, I realized that I can actually skip some of the chapters for the online lectures. However to truly test your understanding, for the final step of your revision, you will need to go through the mock papers.

I spent about 3-4 days for my M5 and M9, averaging about 5-6 hours a day, so that probably gives you a gauge of how long you will need to prepare. For M9A and also HI, I only spent 2 days because they are relatively easier. (HI is super easy if you already know the key concepts of Singapore’s healthcare, it’s only all the numbers and limits that you need to remember.) On average for each module, it took me about 8-10 attempts for the mock papers before I felt confident enough, and even so, for my M5 and M9 exams, there were questions in the actual exams that weren’t in the mock papers. Those will shake you off a little because the answer choices are closely similar to each other.

I am not sure how efficient my studying strategies are, but at least they worked well for me. I passed all my papers on my first attempt. I will eventually go on to take the other exams such as M8 and M8A, but for now I am done with the main 4.

La Maison Du Chef

During my reservist call-ups over the years, besides going through all the trainings, it is also a good time to catch up with fellow commanders and men.

We come from all walks of life, and among us, we have Chef Firdaus. Whenever we have a conversation about food, he gets very passionate and would share with us everything about what he knows.

This year’s reservist is no different, we were talking about food again, in particular: onion soup. I have never had onion soup so I don’t know how it tastes like, but the rest of the guys were debating on where to get the best onion soup.

Firdaus then recommended this French cuisine ran by a chef who operates from his own home. We made a reservation with the chef directly, and due to social distancing measures, we also had to minimize the number of participants. As a result, there was only a handful of us present.

First on the table was the much anticipated onion soup. I am not quite sure how to describe this dish but from the taste of it, I could tell it’s beef broth with a generous serving of onions. The garlic bread adds a little sweetness to it. I am not sure if this would be considered the best onion soup, but it was really appetizing and I enjoyed it.

Next we had this toasted goat cheese salad. I know that goat cheese typically smells a bit funky with a sour aftertaste, but this didn’t have that particular strangeness that comes with it.

Then we had the pan-seared foie gras and escagots. The foie gras came with 2 different sauces for pairing but I think it was already good on it’s own.

I did not expect what was going to hit us next. We had 2 servings of beef bourguignon, and while it looked just like rendang, the beef is so soft that it literally just melts in your mouth. The chef explained that this dish is slow cooked for at least 4-5 hours.

I ordered a 200g ribeye as a main to fill up the rest of my stomach. Honestly there was nothing special about it as you can get good steaks in a lot of places. However the potato gratin that came with the ribeye and beef bourguignon is amazing. Potato wasn’t mashed, yet was soft enough to just swallow, and together with some salt, cream and cheese to make it extra flavourful. If this particular potato gratin was to be sold as cafe food, it would definitely sell.

It was an amazing experience to dine at the home of the chef. Thank you Chef Nordin for the awesome dinner and for passionately explaining to us what goes behind every dish.

You can make a similar booking by sending him a message on WhatsApp directly. (Note: He uses a Malaysian number but he is based in Singapore.)