Monday, 31 January 2011

A conversation you could ONLY hear in Asia...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. The countdown to CNY: Singapore is on, and one can hear the Tiger screaming his death throes as the white rabbit approaches (knock knock, Neo).

So catching you up on Sunday, I'll begin with some really, really good news. Sammy the Bull officially logged SEVEN MILES OUTSIDE!!!! The weather, whilst rainy, was perfect, as it was actually BELOW 80 degrees for a change. To quote Matt Miller: "You just have to wait for the right season to run in Singapore. The humidity breaks in the month of NEVER." That means that, when you get a chance to run outside and think you might actually SURVIVE - you take it.

Considering that my goal was to log 7 miles outside by the end of Feb, I'm certainly feeling good about my progress so far. I logged 45 minutes on the bike tonight, and during that time I saw 2 CLASSIC Hairless wannabe's:

1. Hairless Wannabe #1: 2 minutes like he's trying to create enough gyroscopic force to tilt earth off it's axis, followed by 2 minutes of heavy grunting - rinse repeat twice, followed by a VERY sweaty 1 minute cool down...

2. Hairless Wannabe #2: 40% effort at best for 2 minutes and 55 seconds. Really? REALLY?

Jackie, Muffin Puffin, and I did make it to Brewerkz for a pint, where I tried "Smokey the Beer." I'm happy to confirm that it was REALLY good (think Scotch without the Scotch), but then I made a SERIOUS tactical error in judgment - I went for the cask ale.

So those of you that have followed my exploits in the UK know that I'm a cask ale lover. These beers are WONDERFUL, especially in winter in Britain when it's colder than 40 hells. However, there are a few "nuanses" about cask ales that are tough to replicate in the Sing. Some key ones:

1. You need a cellar with natural air conditioning at 40-50 degrees. In Singapore you're lucky to get ANYTHING below 70 if your PUMPING AC.

2. You need old barrels or cement casks that have stored and aged beer and whiskey for hundreds of years. This place proudly boasts "Fine brewing since 1994."

3. You need the surroundings to be earthy so that the water can leech the nutrients and contribute to the flavor. The water here as enough clorine to clean the Mississippe 47 times a week.

I say all this to tell you that my first sip of the "AWARD WINNING CASK ALE" was, well, how can I say it - DISHWATER. Seriously, to quote the Terrier, it was DOUBLE DONKEY TRASH OF THE LOWEST ORDER. Consequently, I did what the Welshman and Lord G have always taught me to do - I sent it back. THAT, ladies and gentlemen, was a CLASSIC conversation. Basically, I won for 2 reasons:

1. I used the words "horrible and clearly an off batch"

2. She had NO IDEA what I said and was tired of trying to decipher it

But hey - I got a replacement (Golden Ale) at no charge, so I couldn't complain.

Dinner that night was Indian, where I had some GREAT vindaloo (although it wasn't hot AT ALL). This morning, however, as I contemplated the gas pain in my stomach and the rumblies in my tummy, I made the following realizations:

1. Mercifully my alcohol tolerance has COLLAPSED. I had 3 beers last night -THE MOST I've had in a single session. I'm still not at the Week 1 consumption level for the UK, for the record (I'm at 16 pints).

2. I really might have burned out my taste buds at the Doot. Stuff that makes other people cry no longer requires water, liquid or bread (minus that Habanero from Dinger, of course).

3. Whilst the heat doesn't kill me, the chilis, well...let's just say they don't "sit" as well any more. I think my intestines are starting to liquify.

Tonight was an AFD and dinner in, but I simply must recount the conversation I had at work today. So for those of you who don't know, Muffin and I are going to Vietnam this weekend for CNY. Their currency is...wait for it...wait for it...THE DONG. THAT'S RIGHT, BABY - THE DONG. I mean seriously - tell me the truth isn't always stranger than fiction. And since Paula's been to Vietnam and knows I need DONG (huh, huh...you said DONG), she stopped by my desk today. Below really is a transcript of the conversation. Granted, we were hamming it up, but let's be honest - WHERE ELSE ON EARTH CAN YOU WALK INTO THE MIDDLE OF AN HR FLOOR AND HAVE THIS CONVERSATION AT FULL VOLUME:

Paula: "I heard you're lookin' for some Dong."

Sammy: "Yep, I really need some Dong." (first chuckle - face still almost serious)

Paula: "Would you like to buy my Dong?"

Sammy: "Oh, you have Dong for sale?"

Paula: "Yes, you can't buy Dong in Singapore. But I have Dong for sale."

Sammy: "I will buy ALL YOUR DONG." (can't help but laugh - no pretense of being serious)

Paula: "I will sell you the cheapest Dong in Singapore."

Sammy: "I promise you that Dong will have a good home." (trying not to cry)

Let me say it one more time - I LOVE THIS COUNTRY.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny (the Dong trading specialists)

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Three words I've been longing to hear: "WELCOME TO HOOTERS!"

Family,

And a good morning to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Team Taylor can confirm that monsoon season (aka "winter") is DEFINITELY in effect, as it rained ALL DAY yesterday, and the skies outside at the moment are JET BLACK. Good times.

So yesterday was EXTRA AWESOME. After a nice sleep, I stepped out of the shower to hear Muffin Puffin speak words that were music to my ears: "We really need to get to Hooter's soon." HOW MUCH DO I LOVE THIS WOMAN!?!?!?!?!?!?!? 20 minutes later we were on Clarke Quay, stepping into an orange booth at the "Owl themed restaurant," and all was right with the world.

So here's the deal - whilst the prices are broadly similar and the menu is identical to the states, there are some noticeable differences:

1. The fried pickles are NOTHING LIKE THE PICTURE. Seriously - we got about 40 little chips of @#$# that were collectively the size of a thimble. LESS than a stellar beginning.

2. No refills on the drinks, and the glasses are SUBSTANTIALLY smaller.

3. Speaking of SUBSTANTIALLY smaller...well, you KNOW where I'm going with this.

All that being said, the wings (and the bleu cheese) were actually VERY tasty, and it was some GUUUUUUUUUUD eatin' at 2 in the afternoon. Needless to say that it felt like a brick in my tummy for the next 7 hours, but hey - no complaining!

After lunch, Team Taylor made the smartest play one can elect in a torrential downpour during monsoon season - GO TO AN OUTDOOR ATTRACTION AND WALK AROUND SOMEWHERE IN A THUNDERSTORM WHEN YOU'RE 2 FEET TALLER THAN THE REST OF THE POPULATION. That's right, folks - we hit up the Singapore Botanical Garden.

Now some of you will remember this from an earlier post, as I hit this place with Terri and Ruth on my first Saturday in the Sing. Jenny and I wandered through a few different spots this time, but the highlight remained the same - the National Orchid Gallery. And whilst it was terrific last time, this visit was WAY more impressive, as they had special exhibits out for Chinese New Year (but luckily you don't have to give the flowers or employees of the garden any red envelopes...).

The place ws an absolute EXPLOSION of color, and we spent over 2 hours walking around the various sections of the orchid gardens. It was also much less crowded than the last time that we rolled up, which made photo opportunities much easier. Oh, and since we actually had our "real" camera with us, that made things easier as well.


In addition to all of the different orchids (so many more of which were in bloom than the last time I'd visited - I'm practically an expert botanist now), the place was already decorated for CNY, and Jenny got some GREAT shots of the different lanterns and decorations.

We caught a cab home from the gardens, and just


as we were about to head to the grocery store, I said, "You know, I sure could do with a foot massage right about now." And lucky for us, the "House of Traditional Balinese Massage" happened to be RIGHT IN FRONT OF US. 10 minutes later, Perfect Pumpkin and I are laying back on side-by-side lounges, music going, candles glowing, while 2 gals try to crush the tendons in our feet. Seriously - there were moments where this was just plain religious. There were other moments where I felt I was in an Arab prison cell undergoing torture during the Crusades. I mean, the "let me break your arch in 11 places" technique was a bit extreme - just sayin'...
After the massage, we rolled over to the grocery store to pick up some food, where I had another "Royale with Cheese" moment. We go over to the gal at the meat counter, and I say, "Can I get half a pound of ground beef?" She looks at me as though I've just said, "I'd like the arm of your oldest child for dinner."
Only then does it occur to me - METRIC SYSTEM. However, for future reference, saying "Can I have a quarter kilo" gets you NO FURTHER than asking for something in pounds. You have to do it in grams. All the same, 246 GRAMS of beef (and $8) later, we were sorted and ready for dinner.

Minus the small detail of almost blowing up the house with our first usage of the gas stove, cooking was a hit. Check out my perfect pumpkin slaving away in the kitchen! It was so guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud (peppy cheekies).
We talked to my folks, Jenny's dad, Cuz and KJ before sacking out around 1:30, another great day in the books.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat later today!
Love,
Sam and Jenny

Friday, 28 January 2011

DAN DEETS IS THE TOM CRUISE OF SOUTHEAST ASIA...

Family,

And a good Saturday morning to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Okay, so Friday was, perhaps, THE MOST EYE OPENING DAY so far of my time in SE Asia. Why, you ask? Well, if the subject line didn't give it away, allow me to expound a bit further.

So there were 2 activities on the docket yesterday - Happy hour with a vendor, followed by a surprise farewell dinner for a colleague. So it all kicked off at 5:30 PM with the Happy Hour, but the moments leading up to this little "Friday drink celebration" highlighted some BIG TIME differences in the work cultures of CLT and SNG. If I may offer my observations:

1. CLT on a Friday:
a. Everyone takes a long lunch.
b. Meetings at 4 PM are frowned upon - meetings at 3 PM are barely acceptable.
c. You WILL be at Cedar St. at 4 PM for a pint (or 12).
d. At 5 PM you could detonate a bomb in GWC and damage only some servers and grimy tables in the breezeway.

2. SNG on a Friday:
a. I was away from my desk for 2 hours in meetings and had 107 new emails, 14 of which were marked URGENT (none of them were).
b. I have invites for a 5 and 6 PM meeting that day (I declined both).
c. My desk is lined up THREE DEEP with people who have been waiting to talk to me about a "critical issue."
d. When I walk out the door at 5:30, I am the ONLY PERSON not on the phone and typing furiously at the same time.
e. The last email I received from my team on a FRIDAY NIGHT was 10:05 PM.

All I can say is, well: "=.="

Back to the story: A small group of us rolled over to Harry's Bar and Grill after work. Harry's is a chain in the Sing, and they have their own "Harry's Premium Lager." Lightning Rod - I recommend we sample at least one of these before your time here is up, as it was nice and refreshing.

The highlight of the night, however, came with dinner, as we rolled over to Chinatown for a farewell dinner at the Scarlet Hotel's rooftop restaurant - breeze. This place was AWESOME - great food (I went with the red snapper - let's keep the comments to a minimum, shall we?), nice wine, and best of all - SOME GREAT QUOTES.

So get this: I'm talking about something that didn't go my way, and I say something to the effect of: "But I got great news today as well. Brother Dan's treatment is going GREAT, and all signs point to a full recovery." The girls all seem happy, and then I throw in, "He's gonna come out here in May hopefully." And with that, the conversation STOPS.

Basically, they all look at me like I've just told them they've each won the lottery. I am mystified until one of them says, "Dan is soooooooo cute! He is the cutest Westerner EVER."

I will be honest. I SPRAYED water out when I heard this.

Then the conversation got REALLY good:

Future Asian Stalker #1 (FAS1): "Oh yes - he looks perfect."

Stunned Sammy (SS): "Dan Deets is the perfect male?"

FAS2 (oh yes, they ALL got in on the act): "Oh yes. Tall. Blonde Hair. Nice Face. It is what the Asian girls dream of."

SS: "DAN DEETS. We are talking about the Wild Card. Macaulay Culkin."

FAS3: "Oh yes. He was seated by payroll last time, so I had to keep thinking of reasons to get up and walk past his desk."

FAS1: "Yes - Sam you HAVE to put him in the office by us next time. That way we can look at him."

SS: "Tell you what, if I put him in that office, will you guys throw gang symbols and blow him up when I introduce you?"

FAS1-3: (stare at me blankly)

I then proceed to teach them how to throw up 2-1-3 gang symbols and how to do knuckle blasts. I am happy to report that they became QUITE GOOD at it by the end of the night. I mean, let's face it - I'm NOTHING if not culturally sensitive and THE AMBASSADOR for American culture.

We said goodbye to the gals around 11:30, walking back home and crashing a bit before midnight. We woke up 12 hours later this morning, and now it's time to get amongst it!

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny, Co-Presidents of the "I HEART DAN DEETS" Fan Club

Thursday, 27 January 2011

The SUREFIRE way to have a prosperous year - toss some raw fish...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Today I experienced yet another CNY tradition - the tossing of raw fish.

So honestly, heading to lunch I had NO IDEA what I was getting myself into. Basically all I had been told about "Yee Sang" was that it eating it would bring prosperity. Armed with only that knowledge and a mental image of throwing a raw mackerel towards the ceiling, I headed to eat.

The place (which was AWESOME, btw) was called "Bosses." Why was it called "Bosses?" BECAUSE THE SAME CHAIN IN CHINA IS OWNED BY THE MOB - SERIOUSLY. The whole place is black, and you're pretty sure that, at some point, you've eaten some dude who hasn't paid his debts. All the same, this place was GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD (peppy cheekies).

So here's how it works:

1. Everyone starts with a piece of crusted fish skin (think pork rinds for the ocean) and Chinese tea.

2. A HUGE salad comes out, with about 5 other dishes in tow.

3. The waitress, speaking ONLY IN MANDARIN (luckily Evelyn was translating for me), then proceeds to wish us all prosperity, riches, and that all our dreams will come true.

4. She then dumps in salmon, ginger, and honey.

5. Finally, a batch of crackers (symbolizing gold) is dumped into the bowl.

6. Everyone stands up, chop sticks at the ready.

7. Everyone plunges their chopsticks into the pile, picking up the fish and the food and yelling whatever they are looking for in life for the next year.

8. Food goes flying EVERYWHERE.

9. People look at Sammy funny because he's speaking only in Spanish (P-Mac - you would have been proud. They all thought I was a FREAK).

10. It was tasty, but since I have a team of females who collectively eat in a day what I eat for brekkie and collectively weigh about 47 pounds, Martin and I were stuck eating the lion's share (you can't leave a bite behind).

After this, we had carrot cake - but NOT the carrot cake that you're thinking of. Here they bake white or black carrots into a meal and then cover it with a thin egg. I must confess that the first bite was odd, but after that it was SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD. I've been told that the black carrot is better (and spicier), so it's now on the list.

The work day was great but CRAZY fast (as always), and then JT and I hit the gym with a vengeance. Honestly, the workouts have felt SO GOOD lately. It feels so good to have a goal again and really feel like I'm making progress and improving both my endurance and speed.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny



Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Happy Australia Day!!!!

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY!!!!! Team Taylor spent it hitting the same place that Jackie and I visited on Sunday - BOOMERANG, BABY!!!!

Tonight we introduced Muffin Puffin to the delights of peppered Kangaroo loin, which she was QUITE pleased with. For me, I mixed things up and went with the "kangaroo pizza," which was an ENORMOUS slab of doughy, uncooked bread and all the kangaroo and mango slices you could ever want. Absolutely random? YES. Absolutely SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD (peppy cheekies)? Yes again. It's all about fuel for the run, right?

So the technology problems for Sammy the Bull continue. Tonight I tried to download two VERY manly songs - "Teenage Dream" by Katy Perry and "Raise Your Glass" by Pink - only to find out that something is wrong with my account. It doesn't say WHAT is wrong with my account, only that I need to contact iTunes support. Of course, there's a bigger problem with that - THEY DON'T HAVE A PHONE NUMBER OR EMAIL ADDRESS. That's right - all you do is go to the Apple website, where you are told to log in to register your problem. Of course, since I DON'T HAVE AN EXISTING ISSUE PROFILE, it won't recognize me and tells me that I need to contact support, which AGAIN HAS NO NUMBER OR CONTACT INFORMATION. These guys are harder to pin down than Tiger Airways customer support line - good times...

That being said, I must balance it with a conversation I had at work, which was QUITE funny:

Teammate at Work (TAW): "Sam, I am concerned about this."

Sammy the Unconcerned Bull (SUB): "I think it's fine."

TAW: "No, I'm really worried."

SUB: "We're good."

TAW: (sending message on IM) "Here is a symbol for you that we Asians say to each other. "=.=" Do you know what this means?"

SUB: "Um, no."

TAW: "It means I will close my tiny little eyes and sweat. It is a common Asian saying."

SUB: "WOW - I honestly have no comment for that." (except to say that you'd get FIRED INSTANTLY IF YOU SAID THAT IN AMERICA)

Seriously - tell me that's not one of the funniest things you've heard in a LONG time. I am still chuckling.

No gym today, but I'm going to hit it hard tomorrow. We've logged some CRAZY hours at work, so but tonight was the first time it stopped us from logging some time at Fitness First. Tomorrow, however, we'll rectify that situation.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

(a very technologically frustrated - and not JUST by formulas) Sam and (already asleep) Jenny

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Chinese New Year - basically Hannukah in the Tropics...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Okay, so first off - apologies for no blog last night. And NO, it wasn't because I was hammered. Last night I actually sat down at 11 PM to provide you, my esteemed and faithful readership, with another tale of life in the Sing, only to find out that ALL INTERNET (both cable and wireless) were dead in the ENTIRE building. I called the front desk, only to have them tell me that they'd call me back in 5 minutes after looking into it. When they HADN'T CALLED at 11:30, I called them back to tell them I was going to bed and that they should just come up tomorrow, at which point they said, "Oh, it's been out for over an hour. Yeah - this won't be fixed tonight." Thank you for that UBER enlightening commentary, which I certainly could have used 30 minutes earlier.

So last night was a great evening, as I got a run in (4 miles on the treadmill in 34 flat - I'm pleased with that). I will say that it's a GREAT feeling to actually look forward to running again and to actually have the energy left to continue speeding up throughout the workout. I definitely still have a long way to go before I'm back up to snuff, but I'm feeling better about things.

Muffin Puffin, however, did NOT have a good first workout in the Sing. As many of you know, Jenny is a swimmer, and she's a veritable TORPEDO in the water. However, we found out that, unlike a torpedo, Jenny doesn't have countermeasures or homing devices, which makes it tough when you go to swim in AN UNLIT POOL OUTSIDE IN DARKNESS. Fret not, parents - she was never in danger. What she WAS in was a cement pond with no lights of any kind filled with renegade Asians who don't have lane lines to control them. Let's just say that muffin puffin looked none too pleased (but REALLY HOT) all the same when she popped out of the water. And what's the cure to alleviate frumpies? You guessed it - NOT having an AFD!

We rolled over to Fremantle, which is the seafood place that I'd been wanting to try. This joint has TONS of great options, but alas the fish we wanted (Barramundi) was gone. However, the silver lining was that we had Alphonsino, which was a GREAT white fish that we'd never heard of (SO GUUUUUUUUD - peppy cheekies). We also got Caesar salads that even Terri and Renee would have been proud of (Terri - the anchovy was mixed in with the dressing - at least that's how I THINK you said it should be.

We crashed about midnight, sleeping HARD until 7:30 this morning.

Today was another great one, even if quick. However, I simply MUST recout a conversation that I had with a fellow "Ang Mo" about Chinese New Year (henceforth known as CNY). Here's how it went:

Other Ang Mo in Office (OAMIO): "So you know about Chinese New Year, right? The envelopes?"

Cheap Bastard Sammy (CBS): "Yeah, luckily a teammate told me. Sounds like I need to put $10 in each one."

OAMIO: "No, no. Don't do that."

CBS: (smiling because he thinks that's too much) "Oh, okay. Good to know."

OAMIO: "1 and 0 are not lucky numbers. You need to put something that ends in 2 or 8. Those are lucky numbers."

CBS: "Wait. What?"

OAMIO: "Yeah, it needs to be the lucky numbers. Oh, and you need to make sure that it's equal. So if it's 28, then it's $14 and $14. It should be even."

CBS: "Hang on - I'm confused."

OAMIO: "Oh, and the bills need to be new. You have to get fresh money from the bank."

CBS: "Hang on - I don't even HAVE a bank. Can't I just use the plastic money? It's looks new."

OAMIO: "And remember - if you have teammates in other countries, you'll need to convert the currency. And make sure it's an even number again."

CBS: (in shock) "Anything else I should know?"

OAMIO: "Not yet. We'll talk about the food tossing on everyone's birthday later."

CBS: "Food tossing?"

OAMIO: (laughs, shakes head) "Yep. Just you wait."

Seriously - there are apparently 14 days of Chinese New Year. Where's the Asian Adam Sandler when you need him?

Tonight's workout was the treadmill for JT and the bike for Sam. It would have been a GREAT workout save for the fact that, after a scant 4 weeks in operation, my Kindle has DIED. Mum - don't panic yet - I'm going to call customer support tonight (or at least email them). However, right now half the screen is blank. Why can't it just be like an etch-o-sketch where you can shake it and start over? CP - this is NOT doing a lot for my debate about whether or not to buy Amazon...

Okay, Perfect Darling Bear is slaving away in the kitchen making dinner (at 10:40 - I can see the Tacy's shaking their heads now), so it's time for me to sign off.

That's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny





Sunday, 23 January 2011

A PERFECT First day as a couple in the Sing...

Family,
And a good evening to you from across the globe after a TRULY GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Team Taylor is back in action, and we started off our year in Singapore with a BANG. For starters, Team Taylor did what they do best (Just ask CP or Rice) - SLEPT IN UNTIL NOON. Actually, to be fair, Muffin woke up at 9:45 chipper as a bird, but Sammy the Bull was having NONE of that foolishness. However, we finally rolled out of bed about 12:30, got cleaned up, and went for a LATE lunch at...wait for it...wait for it...BREWERKZ, BABY!!!! Oh, yeah - who's excited about having a place serving $16 pints as their local? THIS GUY....
Actually, the good news is that, if you're there before 3 PM, pints are just $5. THAT, ladies and gentlemen, IS A STEAL IN THIS COUNTRY. We had a couple of burgers and a pint each before wandering down to Vivo city, where we got Muffin's Vietnam visa photos taken. We then rolled back to the casa, where we got changed and went to cross off something on the to-do list - a CHEAP MASSAGE.
Now as my entire UK project team (especially Lovely Lynda) will tell you, I'm not much of a planner or one to make reservations. Consequently it was no shock when I walked to the spa by our house and asked, "Are there free spots now?" only to have the receptionist say, "Um, no. We're booked until 9 PM." She politely handed me a card and recommended that I book in advance next time. Little does she know - that's NOT HOW I ROLL.
Instead, we wandered toward China town, stopping at this little nondescript "Thai massage house." Now, I know, I know...this SCREAMS "You want Happy Ending?" However, I can confirm that NONE OF THAT WENT DOWN.
We rocked up to the desk, and here's how the gal went down the menu:
1. "We have traditional Thai massage. Is VERY painful. Lots of cracking and pushing. No oil. I do not recommend." (translation - this will KILL your white ass - don't bother)
2. "We have traditional Thai massage with oil. Is less painful but still REALLY hurt. I think you no do." (translation - I don't want a lawsuit and you look like a sissy)
3. "Shiatsu - this is a lot of kneading and pressing. You will be VERY sore tomorrow." (translation - let's be real clear, I'm only going through this list because my boss is right here. We already know which one you're going to pick)
4. "Deep tissue - this is incredibly painful. Only if you really like pain." (does this really need translation?)
5. "Traditional oil - is very nice and comfortable. You will like. You do that." (Easy enough)
So I go into my "chamber," and there's nothing but a bed on the floor (muffin was on a table) and a sign which reads the following in HUGE print:
1. No sexual intercourse of any kind (exactly how many kinds are there?)
2. No oral sex
3. No masterbation
4. No touching of any private parts (private? Really? Are we in 4th grade?)
5. No nakedness or semi-nakedness (um, dude, they ask you to strip down. Ya gotta be flexible on this one)
I walk in, read the warning and wonder how many cameras are in this room and whether or not I'm on the set of "Hostel 2," and then the gal says, "Take off all clothes and put this on." She throws me a loin cloth (which I assume has been washed), and about 60 seconds later our gal walks in and says, "Lay down." Now granted, there was that moment where I thought, "This could get awkward." And when she straddled me about 10 seconds in, I thought, "Yep, it's officially awkward." However, 20 seconds later she was trying to rip my arms off, and I was no longer concerned about being propositioned. I was more concerned with staying alive.
All kidding aside, the massage was AWESOME. Seriously - I am loose as a goose right now. And best of all? One hour was THIRTY BUCKS. Seriously - that's cheaper than 2 pints of beer. I think I know my preferred relaxation method going forward.
We're now back at the flat, unpacking and watching the 2010 Asian games gold medal soccer match (UAE vs. Japan). Tomorrow it's back to work, so let's get after it!
And because I simply CANNOT BELIEVE I wasn't around for this picture, I just had to include it. Miller - how much did you charge to have your photo taken - a couple billion dollars?
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Love,
Sam and Jenny

Saturday, 22 January 2011

MUFFIN PUFFIN HAS ARRIVED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the globe on a GREAT Sunday morning (well, afternoon) here in the Mother Country. MUFFIN PUFFIN HAS ARRIVED!!!! I am pleased to report that United flight 895 touched down without incident 8 minutes ahead of schedule, and puffin had cleared customs within 20 minutes of touching down.

Prior to Jenny's arrival, I spent the day exercising and relaxing. I logged 7.2 miles yesterday, with 1 mile outside (9:26 - dude, it's HOT here), and then popped into the gym to log a 10K on the treadmill, which I completed in 53 flat (about 8:40 a mile). All in all, I was very pleased, and I'm still not too concerned that I can't log serious mileage outside. I mean, considering that I've only tried it at NOON and 1 PM in the afternoon, it's not like I've selected optimal running times for the excursions.

One thing I will say is that, despite 2 Gatorades, a liter of water, and a Vitamin water, I had a headache for the 3rd straight Saturday after my big run. There's no way around it - you lose water and minerals faster than you can imagine here, and you have to drink WAY more than you would in London or the states. I'm still adjusting (and this week was better), but I am going to start experiementing with salt tablets once I hit double figures on the mileage.

Dinner yesterday was in Robertson Quay (our hood). Jackie and I stopped by the Aussie joint called "Boomerang," where they were serving...wait for it...wait for it...KANGAROO LOIN, BABY!!!!! OH YEAH!!!!! Seriously - that stuff was guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud. We washed it down with a pair of ales called Pure Blonde, straight from Oz and pretty good (not Terrapin quality, however).

The funniest part was that, 2 hours after eating a STEAK, I was still STARVING. What did I do? I made myself sandwich, ate half a block of cheese, went through some Caribou jerky, downed half a bag of Doritos (smokin' BBQ, baby), and then finished off a tub of peanut butter. Oh yes - the metabolism is back...and so are the muffin tanks.

I finished "No Way Down" prior to leaving for the airport. Well written, but I think I'm done with "death on a mountain" books for awhile. All the same, full marks for the writing.

I then hit the airport, where I MET MUFFIN PUFFIN!!!!!!!!!!! We came home and she modeled her EIGHT HUNDRED NEW ARTICLES OF CLOTHING for me (um, Filene's Basement - OUT OF CONTROL) prior to sacking out just after 2 AM. AS I type this, it's 12:30 and she's still out, so I think I need to rouse her to try and get her on some kind of schedule.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat later today!

Love,

Sam and (FINALLY REUNITED!!!!!!!) Jenny

Friday, 21 January 2011

The best way to fly: C-I-A-B - coffee in a bag...

Family,

And a good Saturday morning to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. MUFFIN PUFFIN ARRIVES TODAY!!!! Seriously - I couldn't be more excited if I tried. She touches down in Hong Kong in exactly 6 hours, and then it's a brief layover before arriving in the Sing just before midnight. YAY!!!!!!!

Friday was a BIG DAY in the office. The Shogun himself was present, and I had but one goal on this fine, sunny Friday - TRY COFFEE IN A BAG. You see, Shogun has spoken about this stuff to the point it's legendary, and given that yesterday was his last visit to the Lion City, he had this on his to-do list (he'd actually billed it as one of the top five experiences of Singapore as recorded in the MCC - now THAT'S high praise). A few big about "coffee in a bag" that make it unique:

1. It's in a bag - seriously.

2. The price is 70 Sing cents,which is about 47 US cents. For that I get a volume of coffee that is about 2.5 times the amount I drink IN A WEEK.

3. You have 2 options: - Coffee O (which is black) or Coffee C (which has condensed milk as the creamer - yes, this makes it quite sweet).

4. You have no option - there WILL be sugar in this masterful mix (which makes it even sweeter).

5. Somehow, via some method of Pakistani voodoo witch magic, this stuff becomes HYPER-CAFFINATED, meaning that you're pretty sure your heart will explode 20 minutes after consumption.

The work day was good, and I got out of there about 6:30 to roll over to the gym for a swim before dinner. Check out these 2 photos, as THAT is the view I have whilst swimming. Honestly, it's amazing. That being said, the one drawback is that YOU CAN'T STOP YOUR GOGGLES FROM FOGGING UP. It's hilarious - the world is a patch of cloud after 50 meters. However, I did manage to log 1000 yards freestyle, which was a BIG improvement from my last swimming debacle.

I was shot down in the steam room, however, as someone had JACKED UP the temperature to about FOUR MILLION DEGREES. Seriously - I COULD NOT BREATH IN THERE. If I breathed through my mouth, my throat caught fire and my lungs felt like I'd just flooded them with molten lava. When I breathed through my nose, I was pretty sure that a) I was melting my top lip, and b) singing my nose hairs. Good times.... I made it exactly 90 seconds in there before I switched to the sauna, where a creepy dude kept trying to look up my towel. In a word - SKETCH.

Dinner that night started at Brewerkz, where I had another tasty (yet EXPENSIVE) $16 Golden Ale. Luckily Jackie (follower #22, btw - Wild Card, I'm comin' for ya) and I found 2 seats at the bar, as the place was PACKED.

After the brewski, we rolled into Clarke Quay, where, after checking out all the options, we opted for this Cuban joint called "Cuba Libre." Now I realize that I've never been to Cuba, so I am not going to question much, but a few points here:

1. There were picture of Che everywhere. That's cool, but Che was from GUATEMALA.

2. There wasn't a picture of Fidel in the WHOLE place. Really? REALLY? Did you just forget that he "works there?"

3. The staff were dressed in baseball caps and mechanic uniforms. Okay...you nailed that one, actually. Full marks.

4. NO ONE SPOKE A WORD OF SPANISH. Well, except for the band from Columbia. But I couldn't understand them because THEY WERE SPEAKING AT 180 DECIBELS.


The meal was actually really good, and the music was solid (but LOUD). Basically Jackie and I spent the last 30 minutes yelling at each other, but all in all no complaints. Muffin - when you want to go dancing - THIS will be the spot.

And now it's noon and 87 degrees outside, which means I get to do the mile jog to the treadmill. :-) We're gonna log 5.5 or 6 miles today, depending on how I feel considering that I haven't eaten yet today. But hey, it's time to get after it!

And before I forget it, CONGRATULATIONS TO THE SPEEDY NINJA, CARLY O'SULLIVAN!!!! Wonderful news, my dear - SO SO SO SO SO Happy for you!!!!

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!!!!

Love,

Sam and (somewhere over the Bering Straight and making good time according to United's web site) Jenny

Thursday, 20 January 2011

A week of "Lost in Translation" moments...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. So tonight, rather than recount the work, exercise (which was ZERO today), or movie-watching that transpired, I thought I'd present the 4 highlight moments of the week. Some of these are just funny. Others are truly "Lost in Translation" moments.

Monday - "I think it's your accent" - So Monday started off with a bang. I conducted the inaugural "Ben Admin Team Meeting," and I was determined to really "bring the team together" and have them "rally behind Sammy and his fun leadership style." Things started off good - everyone was laughing, I was hitting on some good points, and all in all I felt I was really making friends. That, dear friends, is when we went slightly off course...

Sammy (speaking to someone in Hong Kong): "Winny, let's get an update from you - how are the Siebel cases coming?"

Winny: (Silence for about 5 seconds)

Sammy: "Winny, are you still there?" (Silence) "I think we lost her."

Evelyn (another teammate in the room): "I think it's just your accent." (turns to phone) "Winny, are you there?"

Winny: (CHIPPER AS A BELL LIKE SHE'S JUST AWAKENED FROM A COMA) "Yes, Evelyn, I'm here!"

Evelyn: "Can you please give us an update on the Siebel cases?"

Winny: "Sure!"

What's odd here is that, whilst both Winny and Evelyn speak Cantonese, they DID NOT SPEAK CANTONESE TO COMMUNICATE during the "translation" period. OH NO - they were still speaking English. That's right - I just had my first ever "English to Singlish" translation.

Incidentally, since then I've learned that most folks are complaining that they have NO IDEA what I'm saying and that I'm a mumbler. A quote from one of my folks: "I have no idea what he says to me. I just know that when other folks laugh I should laugh." Wild Card - fret not - it's ALL UNDER CONTROL...

Tuesday: Fizzy's BEST LINE EVER

So Tuesday was D-Day for Fizzy and Lori, and I attended the call they ran about new tools we're rolling out in March. Now I think we can all agree (including Liz) that she has no trouble projecting her voice, and this made her opening line from her presentation the QUOTE OF THE MONTH. Liz introduces herself at full volume and then looks down at the polycom and says, "I'm not sure if you guys can hear me in Japan." Fizzy - I can confirm that they absolutely could... :-) You know I love you!

Wednesday: My first bag experience

So seriously, I think we've established by now that Sugar Cane Juice (which I described to Jackie as "watered down Crystal Light" - but seriously, it's GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD...peppy cheekies) is the greatest drink ever (sweet nectar was Shogun's colorful description). However, I was given a LIFE CHANGING treat Wednesday when my teammates brought some food back to me. How did the sugar cane juice come back? IN A BAG, BABY!!! THAT'S RIGHT - THAT'S HOW I ROLL!!!! Now that I know it's transportable - fat cells beware...

Thursday - You do WHAT with these little red envelopes?

So today I'm sitting in the office when the office manager walks by with 2 sets of red envelopes with BAML letterhead. I have heard of the mysterious red envelopes, but honestly I had no idea what you were supposed to do with them. But DON'T WORRY...I soon found out.

Sam: "I've heard about these. What do I do with them?"

Teammate: "You put money in them for good luck."

Sam: "Riiiiiight. But I'm cheap. There are like 20 envelopes here."

Teammate: "Oh, you will need more. You have to give them to everyone younger than you."

Sam: "I'm the 4th oldest person in an office of 100 people."

Teammate: (laughing) "Yeah!"

Sam: (not laughing) "Is this for real?"

Teammate: "And you have to give one to everyone who's single, too."

Sam: "I think I'm the only guy in the office married."

Teammate: (not listening) "Oh, and you should give them to your entire team. Last year the boss gave $10."

Sam: (in shock - no other way to describe it) "There are 10 people on my team."

Teammate: "Yes, but you have to. It's for good luck."


Note to the group - if you read about an American getting caned, you'll know it's me because I robbed an HSBC to try and pay for my Chinese New Year obligations.
Dinner tonight was AMAZING. We went to a place called Samy's Curry (that's right - it's how I roll), where Biju (who speaks Tamil) ordered for us. I gotta tella ya, this place was AWESOME.
The flavor was amazing (Muffin - just like Spice Junction), the lime juice superb, and the Kingfisher Extra Sout was SOLID (no pun intended). I had 3 beers tonight, which takes my grand total to 9 PINTS IN 15 DAYS here in Singapore. I think I did 21 pints in my first WEEK in London. I am a new man!
Samy's Curry is on Dempsey Hill (same place as the Thai-German Microbrewery), the site formerly occupied by British Military Barracks. In fact, all of the restaurants are in the old blocks, and this was block 25. Honestly, it was some of THE BEST Indian EVER. And to top it all off - we ate on REAL BANANA LEAVES!
So there you have it - 4 days, 4 classic moments. And now if you'll excuse me - it's time to watch "Tropic Thunder." I have a feeling this will SUCK - but at least it was free.
VFF Update:
Color - CHECK - Big time
P - still a no go
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Love,
Sam and (enjoying her LAST SLEEP before she hops a plane to be with Husband Bear!) Jenny

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Christmas Catch-up #2: Makin' up with the Mouse...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. In an effort to bring us back to even, I wanted to get out the 2nd installment of Team Taylor's time back in the states over the holidays. Let's get amongst it!

Sunday: REUNION!!!!!

So I have no lie to tell – after the evening we’d had, that was an EARLY flight on Sunday morning. And to beat it all, I’d actually set my alarm INCORRECTLY, meaning that I woke up at 6:30 instead of 7:30. This worked out well, however, as it gave me time to a) drink several cups of coffee, b) shower, and c) have Liz remind me about the last 45 minutes of the night (which I honestly still have no memory of). But to quote the legendary ADAA Dodgeball All-star Peter LeFleur: “Rough mornings usually follow good nights.” Seriously – can I just tell everyone that, once we’re back, watching that movie is pretty much THE FIRST thing I’m going to do (with a Mountain Dew in hand, of course).

The flight itself was easy, and I walked into the baggage claim to find MOMMA WAITING FOR ME!!!!! Oh man, it was just GREAT – after a SIX MONTH hiatus, I was back reunited with mom! So we hopped in the car, where Nanny (my grandmother) and Steve (my stepdad) where ready to get to the house after 2 days of driving. Before arriving at the house, however, they asked me what I wanted for lunch. Spoilt for choice, I just DROOLED as the restaurants rolled past. But then, like a beacon shining in the night, I found the spot for me.

Some folks hear the call of steak. Others…chicken. For this country boy, however, the call of “the precious” was…wait for it…wait for it…BARBEQUE, BABY!!!!!! OH YEAH!!!!!! Give me some fried pickles, a sandwich of pulled pork the size of my head, and a gallon of sweet tea, and you’ve got a recipe for success. When I think about that meal, so American in every way, my heart fills with warmth (and cholesterol).

After that, it was over to the house – talk about a FAT pad! Seriously, this place (VRBO forever, baby!!!!) was AMAZING – 5 bedrooms, pool, hot tub, plasma TV in every room, playstation, and even a GAME ROOM!!!! That’s right – we had pool, air hockey, foosball, and even a basketball net. Check out Nanny and Charlie (my 5 year old cousin) in action! And now should be noted that, despite being 78, Nanny is a FEROCIOUS air hockey player. I started out joking around with her when we played, just tapping the puck down her way. Well, that lasted until I was down 5-0, at which point I went on the offensive “bar in college” style. Seriously, I realize that I am no all-star when it comes to bar games, but I am a decent air hockey player. Nanny, however, was a natural. I barely escaped with a 10-7 victory, but I am never challenging that woman again!

The day was GREAT – tons of relaxing, catching up, and football on the TV. It was the first time I’d just sat with no agenda in what had to have been 6 months, and I must confess that it felt guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud. And what felt even better? Going to a steak house for dinner! Oh man, if this isn’t livin’ the dream, I don’t know what is.

I passed out that night around 10 PM and had THE BEST sleep of my natural life.

Monday: Sammy vs. Side-show Bob

So Monday was just EXTRA AWESOME all around. For starters, I hit my first park in a decade – UNIVERSAL STUDIOS!!!! WOO-HOO!!!! Seriously, I hadn’t been to this park since I was 14, and so this was a CRAZY stroll down memory lane.

We went to Universal with the goal of riding “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.” It was only after dropping FIFTEEN BONES to park and walking to the gate, however, that we realized Harry was at Islands of Adventure, which is the all roller coaster/thrill ride park. And since I was the only member of the party who could actually ride any of the coasters, we abandoned that idea and rolled over to Universal instead.

So first off – FULL MARKS to Universal for some GREAT rides. Shrek in 4-D – GENIUS. Twister – WICKED. Terminator 2 – STILL cool after 14 years. Jaws - FUN. The Mummy Returns – FABULOUS for an indoor coaster (especially the part where the ceiling catches on fire!). I mean, it was ALL great – but then we found Krustyland.

So for those of you who’ve been to Universal, you’ll remember the “Back to the Future” ride. Well, that’s gone the way of the dodo, and it’s now been replaced by a Simpson’s ride called “Krustyland,” which basically is a motion simulator where you and the Simpsons go throughout the park while Sideshow Bob tries to Murder you. Honestly, after having ridden it, I think he really MIGHT have been trying to murder us. SHEESH…

Despite her air hockey prowess, Nanny was basically staggering coming off the ride. Steve looked like someone had dropped a sledgehammer on his back, and I think mom wanted to throw up. Add in the fact that I was queasy and this little Spanish baby was screaming for his LIFE behind me, and you have a recipe that says “let’s pack it in for the day, shall we?” But hey, did I mention this was a small price to pay to get MY TURKEY LEG, BABY!!!!!!!!! So guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud (peppy cheekies).

We rolled home before heading back to the airport, where we picked up MUFFIN PUFFIN!!!!! And then, with 2 former O-town locals in tow, we went to a Sunshine State institution – the Orlando Ale House. Everyone say it with me: “IT’S ZINGER TIME, BABY!!!!!!”

It was GREAT, and all just felt right with the world. I had “all my women,” football was on the telly, Fat Tire and wings were in front of me, and life was good. We hit the sack early again that night, as Tuesday started the run on Disney.

Tuesday: I LOVE VIRGINIA TECH!!!!!

So Team Taylor started this day RIGHT – BREAKFAST WONTONS!!!!!! And just what the hell ARE Breakfast wontons, you ask? Well, they are a specialty of my mother (who doesn’t have a drop of Asian blood in her but knows how to make these puppies), and she went all out on this day. Throw in biscuits and gravy, fruit, bacon, and some of Steve’s sausage balls, and you are pretty much guaranteed to NOT need lunch. And so, with bellies full, we rolled to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

So I’m sure all of you know this, but I worked for Disney in 1999 and 2000. In ’99 I was a life guard, and it was pretty much the coolest job ever. Your day consisted of:

1. Swimming for an hour every morning as “training”
2. Putting on sun screen
3. Playing around with kids for 10 hours
4. Sitting around during a 2 hour rain delay
5. Staring at lots of HOT women through your glasses (but none as hot as my wife, of course)
6. Rinse-repeat

In 2000, however, I worked in their television marketing department. I won’t name any names (because Satan has enough names already), that experience couldn’t rate much higher than 1 or 2 notches above a stint in the gulags or Pol Pot’s detention camp. That experience, known as the “dark times,” was pretty much the WORST 6 months of my life, and I didn’t leave with a favorable opinion of the mouse or his minions.

However, a decade later, I have to admit – Disney is FUN. But more than that, I think Jenny said it best – it truly is a phenomenon. The smiles, the families speaking 40 languages but all queued up for Mickey’s autograph, everyone walking around with a t-shirt, the food, the fast pass, pointing with 2 fingers, you name it. Disney has it ALL figured out, and they market it to the bone.

We had a GREAT day in the park, complete with a FANTASTIC run through Kilimanjaro Safari and Countdown to Extinction (where I got another TURKEY LEG, BABY!!!!!!). After the safari and the jungle walks, the highlight was the newest ride – Expedition Everest. However, this was a highlight that almost wasn’t.

So Jenny and I have been in line about 10 minutes, and we notice the sign that says (2 hour wait from this point). 5 seconds later someone appears beside us and says to the 2 folks behind us, “We just got these 2 extra fast passes – would you like them?” Well, of course those folks say “SURE!” and run off. Now I am about to spit nails and ask “Why the hell didn’t you pick us? Look how hot my wife is!” when I hear the couple who gave away the fast passes say “Congrats on your engagement!” Okay, fair enough – they won the battle.

Given that we had limited time and wanted to see other stuff, Jenny and I decide to bail on Expedition Everest. And seriously, I am lifting the rope to walk away when a guy decked in Hokies gear from head to toe says, “I’ve got 2 free fast passes – do you two want ‘em?” Um, is a bird in hand worth 2 in the bush? (KJ – that was for you).

The lowlight happened on Kali river rapids. Let me paint the scene: It’s 4:45 PM, and the sun is setting. It’s about 55 degrees, but the sun light is weak. We have 1 ride left, and Jenny doesn’t want to go on it. However, we have fast passes, and I’ve assured her that, in ALL the times I’ve ridden it, I’ve never had a DROP of water on me. Reluctantly, she disregards her better judgment and trusts her husband. This is aided by the guy who gives her his poncho on his way out, saying, “Good luck – you’re gonna need it!” All the while, about a BILLION people stream past us soaked. Jenny is fazed. I am not.

So we get on this thing, and the FIRST THING that happens? A TIDAL WAVE of water comes over the boat, and hits only TWO seats – mine and muffin’s. 20 seconds later, we go over ANOTHER drop, and 2 people get CRUSHED – me and muffin. 10 seconds later, a jet of water blasts 2 people in the face – me and muffin. 10 seconds after that the ride is over, with 4 cats TOTALLY dry and 2 SOAKED – me and muffin. I could already tell that I was NOT going to get lucky that night.

Jenny and I spent the next TWENTY MINUTES in the bathroom with our clothes under the dryer. Why was this so important, you ask? Because as soon as we left the park, we had to go to AN OUTDOOR BARBEQUE!!!!!

That’s right, Sammy the Bull showed up COMMANDO to this shin dig, where he quickly put on all his layers and ran STRAIGHT for the beer tent. I mean, when you’re wet, you just need to put on the beer jacket, right Cath? But in truth, it was all good – I was warm, the ribs were good, the beans were EXCELLENT, and the mac n’ cheese was off the chain. Throw in 2 hours of characters dancing, Cowboy Trevor doing rope tricks, listening to some good ole’ fashioned country, and discovering a new dance called the “Hoe Down Throw Down,” and you have a recipe for another GREAT night.

Wednesday: So THIS is Parenthood…

So Wednesday was a GREAT day all around, especially because JT and I got a chance to experience Disney in a way we never had before: as “parents.” That’s right, sports fans, on this day, Team Taylor had my 5 year old cousin in tow in THE MAGIC KINGDOM. Can someone say the perfect storm?

We arrived at the Magic Kingdom around 11 or so, at which point Charlie told us, “You lost me yesterday – don’t lose me today.” (For the record – we didn’t “lose” him in the park, meaning he was wandering around on his own for 12 hours – we simply broke off from Mom and Steve who were keeping him. I mean, come on – I’m not a TOTAL ogre!). And so JT and I spent the day with “Charlie-man”, Benny, and Kay (his parents) setting a BLISTERING pace through the park. And I gotta tell you – it was a BLAST.

For starters, Charlie rode EVERY ride with us – so cute! He was always sitting between me and Jenny – you literally couldn’t have fit a greased dime between us on those rides. And when the crowds were bad, we each had a hand on him – it was pretty darn cute (if I do say so myself). Side note – the one ride JT and I went solo was “It’s a Small World.” Now granted, I know that they have no desire to change this ride, but if the PC police ever crack down on Disney, let me just confirm that there are some SERIOUS violations in there. Examples:

Japan: Dude with slits for eyes RIDING A WATER BUFFALO and doing ninja chops
Australia: Aboriginal kid holding a boomerang RIDING A KANGAROO
Africa (that’s right – no country breakdown here): 20 small black children riding a drunk elephant (although, now that I know what I know about Amarula, this might be a bit truer)

The other thing to note about this ride is that, at the end, everyone is dressed in the same clothes and all singing together. This is fine, until THE RIDE BACKS UP AND YOU’RE STUCK IN THE LAST SECTION WITH THEM SINGING OVER AND OVER. Seriously, Rice – if there is a Hell, that just might be it. All I could think of was Steven Bullion (buddy from high school) saying: “My own hell would be having Satan bolt me down to a chair and watch a high school performance of ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ over and over and over…”

The highlights of the day (since I didn’t get a Turkey leg) were definitely the Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, and Space Mountain, but I must confess that I got a REAL kick out of watching Charlie and Jenny do the shooting in “Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger.” I did the steering, and I am happy to report that we collectively vanquished Zurg from the Galaxy.

We didn’t hit everything in the Magic Kingdom, as we had to get home for Christmas dinner. However, I think we definitely pounded the pavement and made a healthy dent in the activities, including ending on a high note with Thunder Mountain. And whilst the coasters were good, they were NOTHING compared to Steve’s turkey dinner! Folks, we are talking one tender, succulent bird, and I ate at least 6 pounds of it. Pooh – this was your finest effort to date – FULL MARKS!

Thursday: Not a good night to be Jewish…

So Thursday was the big one for Team Taylor – EPCOT!!!! We hitched a ride with Benny, Kay, and Charlie to the parks, as they were stopping at the Grand Floridian first (Charlie had a “pirate’s adventure” that sailed from there, so we tagged along). JT and I’d never actually been in the Grand Floridian, and I can confirm that it is POSH PUMA. Seriously – it’s like a mini-Opryland Hotel – impressive. Mom – I know that it’s been on your list forever – I definitely think you’d dig it.

We said bye to the Wilson clan (Green Light, Benny!) before hopping the monorail (that’s right – still in action!) over to the Transportation and Ticket Center, where we changed lines and headed towards the Golf Ball (I mean Spaceship Earth). And so began an 11 hour ASSAULT on the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.

The day was PERFECT – sunny skies, light wind, no clouds. And the attractions were better than ever: Figment is back, as is CAPTAIN EO!!!!! That’s right, Michael Jackson was back in 3-D, dancing his way to the liberation of Angelica Houston and her minions. And whilst Avatar shows just how much 3-D has progressed since 1986, it was still fun.

The Living Seas are gone (farewell, Seabase Alpha!), but Test Track was cooking, as was the Land (Dad – it’s better than ever – you wouldn’t BELIEVE some of those crops now). The Land Pavilion actually had the best ride in the park – Soarin’. This ride, which simulates gliding over California, was REALLY cool (especially with the fast pass!).

We met Nanny, Mom, and Steve for lunch in Italy at this AMAZING restaurant, where we ate like KINGS. Seriously – I couldn’t stop consuming food – it was SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUD. Lasagna, gnocchi, goat’s cheese – you name it – we made it COUNT. And YES – peppy cheekies were involved.

After that was a true highlight for the trip – the Candlelight Processional. This is really, REALLY neat, as a massive choir processes on stage and sings various carols whilst a celebrity reads the Christmas story. Our celebrity was Brad Garrett (the brother in “Everybody Loves Raymond”), and he was HILARIOUS. He got on stage, and the monologue was something like this:

“So it’s really great to be…hey, TURKEY LEGS!!!!” (runs off stage, is dragged back) “Sorry about that, folks. I’m a little drunk.” (mother in front of us covers daughter’s ears). “Sorry I’m reading this thing. I just found out Disney wanted me to do this last night. I wasn’t their first choice. They wanted Bill Cosby, but he’s too old to get on a plane.”

The show was a great mix of humor, reverence, and music, and we really, REALLY enjoyed it. And once it was all said and done, and the choir had finished with a big flourish on “Joy to the World,” Brad looked at the audience and said: “Wow…not a great night to be Jewish.” CLASSIC!

EPCOT has always been, and remains, our favorite park. I think we appreciate it more now that we’ve traveled a bit (the England section was BANG ON, for the record – look at the pub!). Oh, and the trolls in the Maelstrom of Norway – still priceless: “INVADERS!!!! Disappear! Disappear!”
I fully expect that JT and I will be back to EPCOT – it’s all about a) picking a Knights game that works and b) actually living back in the US…details.

The evening was wonderful, as we had a GREAT Christmas with the fam. Jenny and I hadn’t actually wrapped anything, and so we resorted to the tried and tested “male college roommates at Christmas” method of a) wheeling everything out in a suitcase, b) asking folks to close their eyes, and c) dropping it in their laps (rinse-repeat). JT and I were big winners, walking out with 3G Kindle’s, baby!!!! Woo-hoo!!!! I’ve already downloaded my first book (“One Second After” – can’t WAIT!).

In retrospect, it’s AMAZING how fast that week went by, and it was absolutely PERFECT. Mom – thanks SO MUCH for organizing it, as it was a BLAST. Jenny and I had SO much fun, and it was so great to see everyone – we just wished we had longer! Now get busy planning that Sing trip…

Okay, that’s enough for this installment. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Dinner with Cagney and Lacy...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Today was a BLUR, as I was in meetings STRAIGHT THROUGH from 9-6:30. Tomorrow's going to be the same (um, Integration week anyone?), but then mercifully it levels out. And given that I had a late workout last night, Sammy the Bull took a pass this evening. After all, I had big plans. And what were those plans, you ask? Why, dinner with Fizzy and Lovely Lori, of course!!! That's right, sports fans, catching them fresh at the start of their WHIRLWIND tour of the globe to promote the magic and mystery that is HRO, Lori and Liz rolled in to town today to chat with our project team about upcoming global changes and potential impacts. I mean, when you see THIS sign on the door, tell me that you aren't in for a good day. :-)


Honestly, it's been so amazing to have so many friends from previous transitions here in Singapore during my first couple of weeks. For starters, it's made the adjustment to life in Asia much smoother, as I've still had folks to have dinner/drinks with, but it's also been great from a work perspective, as it's helped make the assimilation into the Asian work culture much, much easier. Between the Terrier, Malaysia (aka K-Dub), the fellow Tarheel alum, and Fizzy, life's been pretty much perfect for the first 2 weeks.

This evening we all met at 8 PM in Clarke Quay for din-din, walking past the "owl themed restaurant" and passing on Fremantle (Muffin - prices aren't bad, so we simply GOTTA hit this place for our James Squire) before arriving at a place that truly SCREAMS Singapore - Muchos Mexican Grill.

Seriously, this was CLASSIC. The menu is totally legit, but when you get to the fajita section, it actually says, "Prounced "fuh-hee-tuh," this tasty Mexican dish allows you to build your own meal!" I mean really? REALLY? WHO THE HELL VISITING OR LIVING IN SINGAPORE DOESN'T KNOW WHAT A FAJITA IS?" But since Lori dared me, I felt I had to make a scene:

Sammy the Gringo (StG): "I'd like the Fuh-JIIIII-tahs, please."

Lee the Asian Waiter in the Mexican Restaurant (LAWMR): "You say you want beef?"

StG: "Yes, beef is good for Fuh-JIIIII-tahs."

Lee: "Okay, I give you beef with fajitas."

StG: "Thanks."

Seriously? He doesn't call me out? Come on, Lee - you gotta come out swinging next time. Leave nothing but a vapor trail.

The weather was perfect, the food was great, and the laughs were plentiful (Muffin - they now know about the Turkish bath. Shogun - don't even say it...). It was SO GREAT to see them, but it was sad to watch them walk away in CQ. After all, unless I can convince them they need to provide floor support, it's gonna be 11.5 months before I see them again! Safe travels, gals!

A few more points of note:

1. Shutter Island is a great book. Don't read it before watching the movie because it MIRRORS THE STORY EXACTLY. It will have no drama for you.

2. Muffin - the Mountain Dew shirt is fitting better. I think I'm trimming down! Dinger - shut your trap...

3. Something is wrong with my sink in the kitchen. Whenever I turn it on, there's a smell for the first 20 seconds that can only be described (to quote my father) as "ROT GUT FILTH." And worst of all, if you're washing your hands, it sticks to the skin. Stay tuned to find out what sewage I've been ingesting for the past two weeks.

4. VFF Update:
a. Color - CHECK
b. Other items - still pending

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and (fresh off breaking the bank at Target and bonding with Cuz 1 and 2) Jenny

Sunday, 16 January 2011

All kinds of news - bad, decent, good, and great...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Tonight's blog is all about news - none of it terribly earth shattering, but all of it important to this farm boy. Let's start with the bad and work our way up...

Bad news: Today, in an effort to determine how well Sammy's fitness level would hold up under "worst case disaster scenario" conditions, I left the condo at 1:30 PM with no food and barely any water in me the day after an illness to see how I would fare in the heat. To make matters worse, I rolled in a jog to the top of Fort Canning Park to kick off the first 5 minutes. Both of these ideas were COLOSSAL mistakes, and I learned a very, VERY valuable lesson today.

For starters, within about 30 seconds of jogging, I was a ball of sweat. Seriously, there were beads of sweat on my forehead the size of volvos, and every ounce of fluid I had in me was seeping out INSTANTANEOUSLY. And when you add in the fact that I was running UPHILL IN THE RAINFOREST, well, let's just say that the $10 I carried in my shorts was a lifesaver when I bought some vitamin water.

The bad news was clear: while I still have 4+ months until the Marathon, I managed only 1.75 miles outside without stopping, and I was in trouble. I knew that I wasn't in the shape of my former self, but I didn't realize I was this far down the curve. But hey, nothing like a good ass kicking to movitate.

Decent news: My 1.75 mile jog landed me outside my gym, and so I was able to climb onto the treadmill and log 5 miles. In truth, I was slow but felt really good, and I still had gas left in the tank when I stopped. That put me at 7 miles and 800 calories burned for the day, so I can take solace in the fact that my fitness level is ahead of schedule (I hadn't planned for a 7 mile run before Feb). However, I am now learning that Singapore is a RUTHLESS place for outside jogging. And mum, don't worry - I was checking the pulse the whole time, and that was never an area of concern.

Good news: In a surprising - scratch that, SHOCKING - turn of events, Sammy washed a load of clothes this weekend (that's not the turn of events) to find that the dryer in the single washer/dryer until ACTUALLY WORKS!!!! Muffin, it's AMAZING! You tell it to dry, and it ACTUALLY DRIES!!!! In fact, it dries too well, as EVERYTHING came out crisp. Luckily nothing shrunk, but we will have to keep an eye on that. What a refreshing change! Of course, this doesn't tell the whole story of how I called the front desk when I couldn't get it to work, only to have the technician come up, point out the "TO TURN ON WASHER, PRESS HERE" switch DIRECTLY ABOVE the machine, but hey - details...

Great news: After 2 weeks of waiting, THE HOUR COUNTDOWN UNTIL MUFFIN ARRIVES IS ON!!!!! That's right, sports fans, in less than 7 days, my perfect pumpkin will be in the Lion City. YAAAAAAAAY!!!!!! Muffin, haffa hurry!

Not a whole lot else to report tonight. Dinner was with Jackie and Kristin at Brewerkz, and it was AWESOME. True, you get FLEECED on the prices, but the burgers were GREAT and the beer was SUPERB. They actually have 12 microbrews on tap, including a...wait for it...wait for it...GOLDEN ALE, BABY!!!!! KJ - it's not exactly Terrapin, but it's honestly the closest thing I've had to it in a LONG time. That makes Sammy a VERY happy camper.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and (bright eyed and bushy tailed waking up a Cuz's place) Jenny

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Let's DO the TIME WARP again!!!!!!!!

Family,


And a good Sunday morning to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. After barely moving aside from exercising and sleeping 11 hours, Sammy the Bull finally feels better today. Yesterday's diet was mostly fruit, but I'm already back to form, as evidenced by the ocean of Doritos I just shoveled down.


Saturday was a very EASY day, especially considering that I spent most of it in the house reading and trying to move as little as possible. I'm about halfway through "Up in the Air," which I've quite enjoyed so far. True - it's a bit exaggerated in places, but I think the author does a nice job of showing a) how easy folks can lose touch with reality and b) how addictive travel and its associated perks can become. So far, it's been worth the money.



Yesterday's featured exercise was - for the FIRST TIME IN 20 MONTHS - swimming!!! A few comments about the "first laps back" :



1. HOLY @#@$ am I out of swimming shape. I looked like Snooty swimming with a pack of Olympic dolphins in that water. WOW.



2. After about 50 meters of freestyle, I just wanted to crawl into a hole and die.



3. The view (I forgot to take a picture) from the pool is EXTRA AWESOME. It's cut out of the side of a building, and every time you pop up for air you have a view of the Central Business District (CBD) and the Singapore Flyer (think London Eye).



4. They don't do lanes in Singapore - you're all basically in a cement pond trying NOT to run into each other. For me, that didn't always work. Oh, how I'm sure they LOVE out of shape white people in the pool...



After swimming I stopped by the Esplanade theater to pick up tickets, pausing briefly at the civilian war memorial. This monument was erected to commemorate the civilian causualties during Japanese occupation from 1942-45. It was simple yet interesting, and definitely worth a brief visit.



But I'm sure by now the readership is asking: "What did you buy tickets for, Sammy?" Well, in case the title of the blog didn't give it away, I went to see theBIGGEST, the BADDEST, the SEXIEST, ROCK 'N' ROLL show of all time. That's right, folks, despite the absence of toast, tights, or a boa, Sammy went to see THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, BABY!!!! And let me tell you - it was, quite possibly, THE MOST fun I've ever had at a musical.

I mean, I must confess that I had my reservations about them truly going ALL OUT here in Singapore. After all, they claim to be fairly strict about sexual references and language. After seeing this show, however, I'm pretty convinced that there IS NO MINISTRY OF CENSORSHIP - WOW. Hairless - I will warn you right now - sitting through this show would have been your own personal hell.

Picture folks dressed up like trannies, EVERYONE in a boa, and the crowd yelling out throughout the show exactly on queue. The narrator was a local Singaporean actor, and I'm pretty sure they'll cane him for having participated in this show. But vocally, you just WOULD NOT HAVE BELIEVED the talent on that stage. It was a true rock opera, and it was a BLAST! People stood up and danced the time warp, which was HILARIOUS. We even got to dance it again during the curtain call - SO FUN.

After that it was back home, where I chatted with Muffin (and Mel Mel) briefly before sacking out and calling it a night. And now it's time to get amongst it and get a workout in. Since I'm feeling better, I think I'll go for a jog and see how that treats me. Fingers crossed!

Oh, and I just finished "Green Zone" with Matt Damon. I quite enjoyed it - DEFINITELY the best film that I've rented so far from Fitness First.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat later today!

Love,

Sam and (exhausted from a full day of shopping at Target, Limited, and Banana Republic) Jenny

Friday, 14 January 2011

I'M LEGAL, BABY!!!!!

Family,

And a good Saturday morning to you from across the Globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City. It's official, sports fans - Sammy the Bull is legal to work in Singapore! Yesterday I received my "Long Term Employment Pass" from the Ministryof Manpower. It's basically a driver's license without the ability to drive, and I have to have it on my person at all times. However, as the alternative is to carry your passport at all times, I am NOT complaining. Actually, the only thing I am complaining about is the fact that I look like an AXE MURDERER in the photo. Seriously - just call me Escobar from now on...

So the work day was great - the week finished on a high note and was very productive, minus one teeeeeeny weeeeeeensy detail involving a single letter of the alphabet in Frankfurt. X - I hope this blog finds you still on a bender somewhere in the streets of Germany, with the thought of multiple bloody mary's on the flight home as further solace. It should be noted that, still reeling from the Dim Sum debacle, Sammy opted instead for a nice, mild Chicken & Bacon Ranch sandwich from (in the spirit of Amsterdam) - Subway, baby! Seriously - it's so far the ONLY place where I've seen mayonnaise. That stuff is more precious than gold here - same with mustard. I'm going to start calling both of them "unobtainium" (Rice - that Avatar reference was for you).
Also, keeping to my motto over here of "conquering the world - one Siebel ticket at a time," our team recorded some GREAT progress. Consequently, Martin (my boss) showered a few of them with chocolates. Check out a few members of my team!
I didn't work out yesterday, but I'm heading to the gym as soon as I finish the blog. Instead of burning calories, I consumed about 56,000 whilst crossing off another must do here in the Sing (and one I'll cross off about 700 more times) - dinner at Clarke Quay.

So back story - Clarke Quay, you may remember from the original mention of $18 beers, is THE SPOT to hang out in Singapore (and yes, they have OUTDOOR AIR CONDITIONING). There are about 46 THOUSAND bars and restaurants, all very cool, all very trendy, all VERY expensive. The selection of the evening (excellent call by the Terrier) was "Jumbo Seafood," which was a solid plan in theory until we sat down and Jackie said, "I don't eat shellfish." However, being the trooper that she is, we forged ahead, eating everything in the ocean.
I went for something called XO scallops - apparently XO is a type of sauce in Hong Kong. And whilst they were VERY tasty, let's just say that, from a digestive perspective, this morning's been a little rough for Sammy - and there's no end in sight. Shantan - we might be sampling your Christmas present if this continues...

Also, I watched "Knowing" last night. Honestly, for the 3rd night in a row I've managed to pick a film that is ABSOLUTE DONKEY TRASH. Seriously - this is a definite contender for the "Bottom 20" and maybe even the dreaded "Donkey Trash Ten" - it's THAT BAD. However, I'll be dropping it off for a new one today when I hit the gym - fingers crossed!

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat later today!

Love,

Sam and (sitting in Mel Mel's living room, drinking wine, petting Trooper, and sneezing because of that cat) Jenny