Friday, May 30, 2008

The bad uncle

Welcome to the world Caroline Rose.

I'm an uncle again!!! Caroline is the newest member of the family and she's one good looking kid.

I almost forgot to publish this post. If I'm the best this poor girl can do for an uncle, she's in trouble. Fortunately she's got an older brother and two older cousins to watch out for her. Future boyfriends beware!

The long road home

Tomorrow morning I get on a Singapore Airlines flight at 9:25 am. I won't get off for 24 hours. The plane will leave Singapore and make straight for Moscow. After an hour on the ground topping off the fuel tanks, we head straight for Houston. How straight you ask? Straight over the top. I'll be passing pretty damn close to the North Pole. If we end up making a crash landing halfway through the flight, I wont be living on a enchanted island in the South Pacific like on Lost. I'll be killing a polar bear with my bare hands so I can take his hide for warmth.

It almost feels strange to be calling Houston home now. I've gotten used to life here in Singapore. I'm living in the place where my family will rest their heads for the next three years. Houston is "the place we're leaving." Singapore is home.

Wish me a good flight. ABS is pretty well off right now, but not well enough to fly me business class unless I'm going to see a client. I'm 6' 4". I'm spending 24 hours in coach. At least I'll be wearing my comfortable pants.

Monday, May 26, 2008

An entirely inappropriate post

I just wanted to pass on this info to all of my American friends so that they don't have to learn this lesson the hard way like I did.

In Singapore, fresh fruit juice is very popular. After a spicy bowl of noodles or a hot bowl of soup, an ice cold glass of freshly made fruit juice is very refreshing on a hot day. Many people will order this after their lunch as a kind of dessert. I've been working my way through a lot of different fruit. Pineapple has been my favorite so far.

Today I ordered papaya for the first time. Absolutely delicious. It was a bigger glass than I normally have, but it was so good I finished it all. I can't imagine how much actual fruit went into this glass of juice. It could easily have been two whole papayas. I've had some fresh papaya a few times, but just a few pieces. Never an entire fruit.

As my boss and I are walking back to my car after lunch, he looks at me with a twinkle in his eye and says, "You know papaya is a good laxative, right?"


"Yup, it works great. Better than medicine."

Uh-oh. I basically just drank the equivalent of half a liter of prune juice. In the interests of normal human decency, there will be no further status updates on this subject.

Indiana Jones and the...wait, what was that again? Seriously? No really, did that actually just happen?

Saw the new Indy movie on Saturday after work. I'm not going to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it yet. For those who have, leave a comment about what you thought about the ending.

Overall, I thought it was a standard Indiana Jones movie. My favorite thing about it is that they keep it realistic about Indy's age. The movie takes place years later, in 1958. Indy is older and it's part of the story. Don't worry, he's still the same guy, it just takes him a bit longer to get up after taking a punch.

Shia LeBeouf does a pretty good job to counteract the worst performance of Cate Blanchett's career. She may just be too serious of an actress for this movie. An Indy movie is supposed to be a bit overdone and goofy. Not really her style.

You may be able to tell from the title that I had a few issues with the crystal skull thing. I'll let you make up your own mind about the ending. I guess my biggest problem with it was that I saw it coming a mile away even though the movie tried to play it up as a big suprise.

If you've seen it, leave a comment. I want to know what other people think.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


I found some posters for Jack! A nice lady who lives in Singapore saw my post about searching and left a comment about where to look. Just like she said there would be, I found a poster store at the massive Suntec City Mall. It had so much stuff they had a catalog that you look through to pick which poster you want and then they get it from the rack behind the counter. Good times!

Many thanks to Kathy the Kiwi. I owe you one.

I'm gunna let it shine!

Listening to your kindergartener sing "This little light of Mine" over the phone has got to be one of the cutest things in the world. I was fortunate enough to get a private preview performance from Jack this morning. Jack "graduates" from Kindergarten on Friday. Apparently, the kindergarten class will be singing their version of This Little Light of Mine at the graduation. Hand gestures and all. He's very proud that he knows all of the words and I think he really enjoys singing it. I'm disappointed I'm going to miss it. On the other hand, he'll be singing for 3 minutes of what I'm sure will be a 1.5 hour long torture session of a ceremony. Have fun mommy.

Monday, May 19, 2008

...for just one hour on Newbury Street

This city just lulls you to sleep. What people say is true. It's Asia light. This country is so westernized, sometimes it's easy to forget that you're living in the center of southeast Asia. Starbucks is everywhere. I've never seen so many McDonald's and KFC. The grocery store sells Ben and Jerry's. You get to a point where you just assume it's just like home. Sure, everybody has a funny accent and really likes eating rice for some reason, but after a while you just become numb to stuff like that. Then something simple but unexpected happens to remind you that you're not in Kansas any more.

Ask yourself, "How long would it take me to find a few Star Wars posters and kids bedding in an American mall?" If it took over an hour, I'd be surprised.

A month from now, my 6 year old son will walk into his new home after 24 hours of airports and uncomfortable airplane seats. The one thing I wanted to do for him was to make his new bedroom something he'd enjoy. I wanted him to walk into his new bedroom for the first time and say, "Awesome...a Star Wars room!" Star Wars is pretty much his favorite thing in the world right now. Lightsabers and Jedi's are what it's all about. It wouldn't take much for me to make something he'd like. A few posters of Luke Skywalker and Yoda. Maybe some Star Wars sheets or a blanket. Shouldn't be that hard, right?

I went to four malls in 2 days. Nothing. A few action figures at Toys r Us, that's it. How can there be no Star Wars merchandise in a mall? I'll tell you how...this isn't America. It just isn't very popular here I guess. Most of the "kid" stuff I was able to find is really "babyish" as Jack would call it. Most items designed for kids are either themed with teddy bears and purple giraffes or they're Hello Kitty. Not the kind of thing a 6 year old boy wants in his room. While he's still our little boy, he desperately wants to be a 'big kid'. He wants nothing to do with anything that he thinks is too young or for the love of God, GIRLY. That also means I had to replace the pink curtains that came with his room.

I'm just going to have to settle for some blue sheets and try to pick up some posters and things when I'm back in Houston in a few weeks. It's not the end of the world, I'd just hoped that I'd have it all set up before he got here.

I wonder what else we're going to run into like this. I know shoes are a problem. I'm a size 11 and apparently the only person is Asia with feet this big is the Yeti.

If only Yoda were here. He'd know what to do.

Do or do not, there is no try.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Damn...I forgot my Tuxedo.

I was invited to the "Seatrade Asia Awards" last night. Kind of like the Oscars for the Asian Shipping industry, but the people aren't as engaging. Or very articulate. Or attractive. Come to think of it, it was really a pretty sad looking crowd. That is, aside from their swanky clothes.

You see, this was a "black tie" affair. The idea is that everyone wears a tuxedo and that makes the night a more classy event. The problem is that most people in Singapore don't even have a suit, let alone a tux. It's just not the style here. It's too damn hot for a jacket, so no one bothers. If you've ever met the type of person (myself included) who works in the marine industry, the likelihood of them owning a tuxedo is pretty damn small. They've got 8 boilersuits and 3 old pairs of steel toed boots, but the number of times a tux is the proper attire during your career can most likely be counted on your thumbs.

What this means is that most people (again, myself included) just showed up in a dark suit and hoped for the best. It turns out that the number of black ties were very limited at the black tie dinner. Maybe a quarter to a third of the crowd was wearing a tux. And of course, one tool had to show up in a kilt. I don't even think it was his; it was way to small. He looked like a bearded tranny wearing half a girls school uniform he stole from somewhere.

The awards presentation couldn't have been more lame. "And now we present the award for shipyard of the year. And the winner is....Keppel Shipyard." Then some guy walks up (not in a tux) and gets his photo op holding an award and scurries back to his seat. At least hit the podium and thank God or your mom or someone for this prestigious award before you sit back down and finish your tea.

At least the food was good. That actually seems to be a theme developing here. Awkward social situations but good food. The awkward part is probably my fault though. It usually is.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Seat C19

I went to the movies today and saw Iron Man. Not perfect, but not bad at all. Some parts dragged a bit, but the action scenes were good and Robert Downey Jr. actually did a pretty good job. That was a surprise. I kind of expected him to suck. I figured he'd either just mail it in or he'd try to get all artsy with it. He ended up playing the character really well. Standard superhero with a bit of humor. I'd see a sequel, and I guess that means it was good enough.

The movie theater here was an interesting experience. The main difference from the US was the assigned seating. When you buy your ticket, they show you a screen with the seating chart, then you just tell them which of the open seats you want and it's yours. Seems a bit unnecessary to me, but if it's not over organized, it's not Singaporean.

Another difference was that you buy your ticket from the same counter that you buy the candy and drinks. Makes for a longer wait for tickets, but from a sales perspective, I guess it makes sense. If you force everyone through the food line, they're bound to make more impulse buys. My guess is it won't be long before that arrangement starts popping up in the US.

Lastly, I've finished the 1800 pages of books I brought with me. Between the Red Ring of Death and not having anything to read, I'm starting to go a little stir crazy. I'm so sick of television. Maybe I'll try to get a library card next weekend.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A personal "best"

Just a quick post. I set a new record for myself today. 166 emails in one day. That doesn't include any spam or cc'd stuff. Just emails where people actually wanted something from me. This job is crazy.

Fish Burgers Anyone?

A while ago I posted about an octopus burger I saw advertised while eating in the mall. I went on this "oh so righteous" spiel about how the words 'octopus' and 'burger' don't belong in the same sentence. I mentioned my wonderful brother who owns a burger joint himself, somehow implying that through my relation to him, I existed on a plane higher than that of the lowly seafood burger.

Karma is a funny thing. Guess what the special is at his place this week.

Special Sandwich
Locally caught striped bass ground together with shallots, parsley, garlic, lemon, salt, pepper, and panko bread crumbs. The breaded fish is fried until golden brown and served on our homemade hamburger bun with baby spinach, tomato, and tarter sauce.$8

Lesson as always: Matt should keep his opinions to himself.

At least it's a beautiful fish. Nice catch Joe.

The Next Bassmasters Champion

If we ask nicely, maybe Joe will tell the story of catching it in the comment thread. From what I hear, it's a good story.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Good Food, Good Friends, Good Times

On Saturday, I was invited to the home of one of my coworkers for a "welcome party." He's a Japanese Principal Engineer in my department. He invited all of the Japanese folks from ABS Singapore and me to come over to his place for sushi and drinks. Needless to say, it was great fun. There was plenty to eat and and drink and everyone had a great time.

Here's a few pictures:

Me and my new friend Hiroshi Sasajima.

"The Boss" - my VP, Terry Kaibara

My host, Junji Nakagawa and Yukiteru Naguchi

The Aftermath

After the party ended, the night most certainly was not over. From here, I took a cab to "Bar Bar Black Sheep." Bar Bar is the place where a lot of the Expat Surveyors hang out and have a few drinks. A good time was most definitely had by all, as can be seen in this picture:

My new Indian friend on the left was working on beer number 11 by the time I arrived. Melissa (obviously on the right) is one of the Surveyors here. She had this guy convinced that he could pass for an African American in the Bronx if he could just get the slang right. I spent the rest of the night listening to slurred versions of "You my homeys" and "I is from the streets, bitches" being yelled in an Indian accent. There's no way to describe how funny this was. What made it even funnier is that after he left, two actual black guys from the US (the first I've seen in S'pore) sat down at the table next to us. I don't even want to think about what would have happened if they came in as he was yelling, "I'm keeping it real muthafuckas!"

It doesn't get any more real than that.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Going Postal

Went to the post office for the first time today. Guess's just like the post office in the US. The line was so long it went out the door, the people working there were capable but disinterested, and most of the people in there for service (myself included) had no idea what they were doing.

Of course, I was at least smart enough to put my shipment in a box. The guy in front of me in line had a bunch of small items in a plastic grocery bag. He actually asked if he needed to tie the bag closed or if they would just send it (to Indonesia) like that. When they told him that he'd have to buy a box, he truly seemed surprised.

At least I was able to get the Xbox in the mail. And just in case you were wondering, it's more expensive to send something from Singapore to the US than from the US to Singapore.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Repair reference # 1060720668

For the last 5 weeks, aside from some sporadic social interaction, I've spent the majority of my time doing one of three things. I work, I sleep, and I play Xbox.

I use my Xbox as more than just a childish toy to play with. A lot of the time I'm using it, I'm playing online with my brothers or other friends in the US. It's a great way to keep in touch and have some fun. I even have a webcam attached to it that I use to video conference with my brother Mike. It works really well.

Actually, it worked very well. (note the past tense)

See this:

It's a sight know far and wide throughout the Xbox community as "The Red Ring of Death."

When the lights on the front of your Xbox360 look like this, it's the machine's way of saying, "I've just turned into a $400 paperweight. You're screwed." The technical term the Xbox manual uses is "General Hardware Failure." In common speak, "Your Xbox is very broken."

This has happened to so many people that Xbox had to extend their planned 1 year warranty period to 3 years. The internet rumors are that at least 15% of all machines fail this way. Others put the number closer to 50%. Either way, it happens a lot.

Fortunately, because of the warranty extension, my machine is covered. Xbox will send me a special box that I can use to send my machine to them at absolutely no cost to myself. It will be returned to me within two to three weeks as good as new. Then, the warranty is extended for another three year period. While the hardware failure is frustrating, it's a reasonable solution...if you live in the US.

If you buy an Xbox in the US and then move to Singapore, then you're screwed.

While there are Xbox service centers in Singapore, they can't work on my machine. Apparently, the boxes are made differently in different countries. Probably because of the parts they use to build it. And the Singapore service center isn't trained and doesn't have the parts to repair a box built in the US. That means, if I want my machine fixed for "free", I've got to ship it to the US, then have someone ship it to the repair people in the box provided by the Xbox people. (By the way, Xbox owners affectionately call this box "The Coffin")

Of course, my problem is that as of June 13, I don't have a mailing address in the US. So I must act quickly. This weekend, I have to find a box and pack my Xbox into it very well. Then, I get to spend $50 to send it to my wife, who will then ship it off in the coffin for repairs by the nice people at Xbox.

Provided there are no snags, I should get the machine back in the mail about a week before my family and I are permanently out of our Texas home. What are the odds this goes smoothly?

At least I'll have a lot me free time to post blog entries. Saturday I'm going to a Japanese colleague's place for Sushi and Sake. I'll try to bring a camera.