Sunday, January 03, 2016

Why the Limit?

Why limit yourself?

I think I've discussed this before in this blog, but probably not for a long time. It's something that I've been thinking about lately so I thought it might be interesting to write it down again. I never understood why people think of good and evil as a dichotomy. More importantly, why do people think you can only either be good or evil?

The concept of good and evil are amazingly childish and naive. It's too simplistic to think a person can only be either one or the other is just ridiculous. Yes, I know most people believe it's a spectrum, but even then, there is only 2 points in the spectrum. To either be good or evil. Most people strives to be either one or the other, but the question is why? Why not be both?

I don't believe good and evil are mutually exclusive. If a person's goal is to Understand, then they must know both sides of the coin. Simply working towards one side of the spectrum leaves you utterly ignorant of the understanding you need to reach your goal. After all, how do you know what good is if you don't know evil and vice versa. Beyond that, what's wrong with wanting to be both? Are people's goals so simple and narrow that they only care to define themselves so incompletely?

This concept has held back our species for far too long. We fight wars, we waste resources, we waste time over this childish concept of good and evil. The potential for humans to advance and evolve lies in the embrace of both sides of the coin. The potential for humans to self destruct lies in the continued battle of good and evil.


Friday, January 01, 2016

2015 Wrap Up

2015 Wrap Up

Just having a quick look at the blog, I noticed that I tried to make a bit of a comeback last year while I was back in the US. With a whole 4 posts during 2014 and zero in 2015, I would say that the comeback to blogging was a pretty big miserable failure. Well, maybe 2016 will be the year… I wouldn’t hold your breath if past years are sets any examples.

There were a few big changes in 2015. One was changing jobs. I’m back working for a consulting company, albeit in an internal capacity. No external client work for me. It always fascinates me how some of these massive global corporations seem to be able to function so well on the outside, but looking under hood, there is a lot just being tied together with duct tape. Well, I guess that’s the kind of role I do now. Fixing things internally. I think this will be an interesting opportunity to work on a regional level and see how to better coordinate things with so many cultural and business differences. It's already been really eye opening working with people from different countries. So many things I take for granted or just assume is the 'right' way of doing something just isn't so.

We took a couple of amazing trips this year. The first big one was to France for a good friend’s wedding. I’ve been to Paris a couple of times and I never really saw what the big deal was. I didn’t experience the food that I had heard so much about and I just didn’t think of Paris all the highly. What I realized during this trip is that it’s not France that I didn’t like. It was just Paris.

In this trip, we went to the other areas of France, mostly Lyon and the French Alps. It was simply amazing! The food, the culture, the entire area. This is what you hear about in books and see in movies. Paris is basically a giant tourist trap, but go outside of it, things start getting amazing. I can’t begin to describe the amazingness of the food we had in Lyon. This was the height of French cooking (as the French says, it's the foodie part of the country and they were not lying). We didn’t go to any Michelin starred restaurants or anything. Just your ordinary brassieres and we experienced some of the most amazing food. There were flavors and combinations of food that I had never thought of putting together and it all finally matched what my brain had always imagined French food should be.

From Lyon we drove to the French Alps where the wedding was taking place. On our way there, we stopped by a castle built in the 1600s from an amazing concierge recommendation (this is the first time I’ve experienced the value of what a really good concierge can do for you). The concierge recommend a restaurant in the castle that had an amazing chicken dish (chicken with vinegar sauce and wild mushrooms) that was legendary in the area. He was not wrong.

The castle itself was pretty amazing. There has been very little done to modernize it so it kept most of its old characters. The upkeep has been well kept as I believe people actually lived inside the castle. It was a classic spiral wall design that made attackers go through a spiral walkway of death as they try to reach the central keep. Just standing there I could felt how difficult it would be to invade a castle of this design. I love looking at the archer holes in the windows and the areas where there would be bottlenecks where pots of oil would be dumped on invaders.

We then made our way to the French Alps. I have seen these types of villages in movies and TV, but so amazing to see it live. Have a look below. It’s exactly like how it would be in a movie. I don't think picture does it justice, but just take my word for how gorgeous it is. We got to meet up with some old friends at the wedding and met some new ones. We met some really nice French peeps who also didn’t like Paris (which I was so happy to hear). They thought Parisians are all rude and France (and the world) centers around them (which is exactly my compliant about them). I thoroughly enjoyed dancing till the sun came up with them. 

Shortly after we went to France, we went to Taiwan for a wedding. It’s been about 10 years since I’ve been back and overall, this is probably my favorite trip back ever. There’s a lot to write about so I’ll leave it for another post. See, I’m trying to comeback with more posts already.

One big accomplishment I checked off this year was going to Ibiza. Clubbing capital of the world. I really wanted to go before I became the creepy old guy. I had so many expectations of Ibiza, mostly from reading magazines all these years, so many were spot on and so many were just completely wrong. It was an amazing time and I’m so glad that I got to check that off the list. I’ll leave the details for another post as well so we can get into it more. I’m sure future me will enjoy reading it.

Everytime I travelled, and when I see tragedies unfold around the world, I keep having a recurring thought. As I visit more and more of the world, what I find is that people are all mostly the same. Everyone want the same things. What’s most important in life is not trying to please some imaginary ‘God’ or anyone else for that matter. Good food, good family and friends, laughter and love. That is all that's important for everyone. If we concentrate on this, and just this, our world would become a much better place. Maybe then we can focus on bigger issues that we will all have to face soon (i.e., climate change). If we can't even agree on these basic things, we have no hope of working together against such a huge global challenge.
Much like the last few years, I have been thoroughly lucky in my life with so much love and laughter. Like everyone else, there’re always a couple of little bumps, but they just make things interesting. It’s amazing when you know you have someone supporting you unconditionally, you never have to worry that much about anything that comes up.

We have some amazing trips planned for 2016. Hopefully I’ll get it together to write it all up and share the fun details.

Oh, the new Star Wars came out this year (last week actually). What a rush to see it in the theaters again and so excited that it was a great movie. I really believe this was the best movie that they could’ve made that satisfied both the geeks and the general public. Well done you.

Pup’s had a few surgeries this year, but am happy to report that he’s better than ever. He still sits around thinking about things that shouldn’t be published, but I think he’s mellowing out a bit more lately. I think it helps that the rabbit and the moose help talk him down and distracts him with their general silliness.

Much like the last few years, I have been thoroughly lucky in my life with so much love and laughter. Like everyone else, there’re always a couple of little bumps, but they just make things interesting. It’s amazing when you know you have someone supporting you unconditionally, you never have to worry that much about anything that comes up.

We have some amazing trips planned for 2016. Hopefully I’ll get it together to write it all up and share the fun details.

Here’s to a great 2016. To you and all yours, all the best in the coming year.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Plane, Trains, Buses and Fireworks II

Part 2

On my way out of Wisconsin, I joked with my colleague that I hated going through Chicago because something terrible always happens. I’ve never had an on time trip coming in or leaving Chicago. Like Ever. Pretty impressive record considering how many times I’ve flown in and out of Chicago. I’ve experienced everything from snow, broken plane toilets, broken plane, plane running into a cart, plane running out of fuel while sitting on tarmac and many other nearly impossible things that’s cause delays in my Chicago flight experience.

When I got to Chicago, I saw that there were some weather issues coming so I thought I’d be smart and change to an earlier flight to stay ahead of it. I thought I was so smart. I got the flight changed and ran to the gate just in time for them to close the door. BTW, don’t laugh at the people hauling ass through the airport. Every second counts so don’t be a dick and clear a path.

I got on the plane and the door was closed and I thought I was all good. What happened next was a fun 2 hour stay on the tarmac. I had actually fallen asleep during part of it and waking up thinking we’ve landed only to find that we haven’t moved. They had held all flights going into LaGuardia due to an impending storm. What’s funny is that the storm is in the path to NY, but both Chicago and NY were sunny and clear.

After 2 hours had passed, the pilots came over the speaker and said that they had been up since 5:30am and by law they’re not allowed to stay on the plane anymore. This was both scary (that our pilots have been up for almost 12 hours) and good because we’d get to go back to the terminal. Just to add a little bit of excitement, the pilot said that they have to leave, but we may not get to due to regulations. Luckily, this wasn’t true as I’m sure there would’ve been a riot. We were able to leave because they had cancelled our flight. The fun never seems to end.

In the announcement that the flight had been cancelled, they also gave out the number to rebook our flights. It was a mad dash for the phones as everyone was trying to get in front of the queue. My phone had died during the 2 hour wait so that was awesome. However, there was one bright spot for me. Tess and I had planned to spend the weekend in Chicago anyway and I would’ve had to fly back the next day. This would actually save me 2 flights. Score.

As I watch the passengers madly dial and put on hold, I was thinking about what some of these passengers’ stories were. Were they going to New York for work, vacation, meeting up with their long lost love or a dirty weekend with someone they’re not supposed to be with? This has always been a good way for me to past time. It’s really fascinating how many different stories there are.

I spoke with the lady sitting next to me during our wait. She was a very nice and friendly older lady from Minnesota. She was on her way to New York where her son lives. Her son was apparently very successful and has lived in several countries, most recently settling down in New York after meeting his girlfriend. The two of them were going to take a flight to London later that night for a vacation together. I was really hoping that she’d be able to make it, but after seeing how all flights were cancelled, I knew there was no way she was going to make it. Hope she was still able to have a good vacation after a delay.

I was lucky that I was on a work trip so I ended up just staying in a hotel in Chicago and it was all paid for. There are so many others not so lucky who either had to stay in crappy airport hotels or just found a corner in the airport. I went and checked with the agent that if I go ahead and cancel, I should be able to get a refund and she said yes because the flight was cancelled and they would not be able to get us out that day. After i got back and called about the refund, they said no, that's not going to happen. I was not able to get a refund because the airline said that the flight wasn’t actually cancelled cancelled. It was just delayed until the same time later so it still went (albeit 48 hours later), so no refund for me. WTF. That’s not a damn delay, that’s just the next scheduled flight, the original one did go away. I’m glad I learned this lesson on the company dollar.

As there were no flights from Chicago to New York, the same was true of flights from New York to Chicago. Tess was supposed to get on a flight the next day to come for our weekend in Chicago. As the storm didn’t move from the day before, the same situation happened with all flights being cancelled between New York and Chicago.

After finding out that she wasn’t going to be able to fly out to Chicago, she was amazingly resourceful in finding ways to get there. After exhausting several options, one finally came up. As is the case for almost anyone using this form of transportation, Greyhound buses was the last resort to get to Chicago now. A red eye bus ride that took 18 hours in cramp uncomfortable seats is more than anyone can ask. Her determination to get to Chicago to spend a weekend with me was simply an amazing feat. On the bright side, she was able to stop in cities that she would have never seen like Cleveland and Toledo. Yes, some bright side that is.

The journey seemed endless, but she finally made it to Chicago and to the hotel where we were staying. While the journey getting there was a massive struggle, we had a great time in Chicago. The weather was wonderful and we had an opportunity to do great Chicago things.

Then there’s the flight back! Just joking. The flight back was fine, just a slight delay. Way to be consistent Chicago.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Plane, Trains, Buses and Fireworks

Part 1

It’s been a few months since I’ve travelled for work. I get that like anything else, you can be rusty at doing something you haven’t done for a while. Work travel is one of those things that might seem easy, but involves a lot of things that could easily go wrong. For me this week, it all went wrong.

It all started when I got to the airport at 7am, which meant getting up around 5am. I know a lot of people wake up at 5pm on a regular basis, but I am not one of those people and I believe that’s an unholy hour that we all need to avoid. Travelling to LaGuardia airport here in New York is not the easiest thing to do at the best of times, but for whatever reason, and it had better be a good reason other than it’s Monday, there was some serious traffic on the roads. I looked later to see if the Queen or the President was in town to cause such a traffic mess, but no, just Monday getting a head start on ruining your week. Combine that with a very aggressive cab driver that’s probably been up for 36 hours and hopped up on caffeine, this did not make for a fun ride.

I finally got there and I go straight to check in machines to get my ticket. The machine kept saying that it doesn’t have a reservation for me. Stupid machine. I have my confirmation right here, why can’t it find my reservation?! I was beginning to doubt my argument that it would be better to leave it to machines to run our political life rather than to entrust humans. That’s another whole different post though.

So I head over to an actual person to see if they can figure out what the machine can’t. After looking through their system by my name, flight number, confirmation and even booking agent, the airline lady told me calmly that the booking agent has cancelled my ticket. Awesome.

I’ll spare you all the yelling that went on for the next few hours. Being that it was still 7am, no normal people were up so there was no one to call. I tried to call the travel agent’s after hour line, and I get the lady that’s probably just finishing up her night shift. I asked what happened and she said I’ll have to wait till the day team comes in. I asked what they can do for me, and she said it’s not her fault that the ticket was cancelled (I did not in any way accuse or suggested it was her fault, only that we try to find a solution).

All flights were booked and the only tickets left are $1400 (my original ticket was only $300). As much as I’d love to explain this to my boss, I don’t think that would’ve gone over well. I was trying to think of all kinds of way to get to Madison, Wisconsin. I suggested a train. That did not work out as we’re not in the 1900s anymore. I suggested a mix of flying to Chicago and renting a car to drive there. Amazingly, the cost was equal to the expensive ticket plus I’d have to drive. By now I’d be pretty happy to just jump out of the airplane or maybe get shot out of a big cannon. The lady just said, I’ll put the $1400 ticket on hold and call back after 9am and the day team will handle it. Oh, and you need to call back if you’d like to cancel it. That’s some good customer service if I've ever seen it.

Once normal work hours started, quite a few people were trying to help me from the office. It went all the way up to the head of procurement who personally called the head of the travel agency to get this sorted out. They admitted that there was a bug in their system that randomly cancelled my flight and I got on another flight later that day which they will cover the difference in cost. Before this was all sorted out, I actually went home because I didn’t think anything was going to happen in terms of me getting on a flight. Of course, as soon as I walked into my apt., it was resolved and so straight back out to the airport I go. BTW, traffic has only gotten worst since 7am so the rides back and forth were really fun for everyone. I eventually got to Madison where my colleague picked me up and it was instantly relaxing. All the open fields and much slower pace of life was such a change coming from New York. I was pretty sure the worst parts of the trip was over, boy was I wrong.

To be continued..

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Everyone’s Gotta Eat

With the amazing amount and variety of food in NYC, even Pup has to take some time out in his world domination planning for some good meals.
Here are a few from this past week.  

Txikito - 240 Ninth Ave

Went to dinner with a couple friends at this nice place in Chelsea.  I didn’t know much about the restaurant other than it was supposed to be good.  Walking into the restaurant, there was a warm buzz about the place with a full crowd and very handsome waiters moving through the small space.  We had a look at the menu and couldn’t decide where type of cuisine it was.  It looked Spanish (the country) to me and Portuguese to others.  Looking at the wine list, we noticed that there were a lot of wines from Basque

I had no idea what that meant, but luckily my friends who were much more worldly and said that they are an indigenous group of people from around north-central Spain and south-western France.  A lot of the menu was written in Basque hence no one could make out what it was exactly.

We had a selection of small plates (tapa-ish) to share which were all delicious.  My favorites were the Octopus Carpaccio and the blistered Gernika peppers with sea salt.

Overall, the restaurant was nice and the wait staff very helpful and friendly.  The food was well executed and unique.  Be ready to wait on busy nights.

Bareburger – 366 West 46th Street

We wandered by this burger joint and thought it looked nice so we stopped in for lunch.  Bareburger specializes in basically all-natural, free range, sustainable, organically sourced everything.  They know where every piece of their food comes from.  There are 9 types of meat you can put in your burger.  Everything from your usual beef to your more exotic bison, ostrich and everything in between.

Since it’s my first time I just went with a regular beef burger figuring if they can’t get this right, they’re not going to get the others right either.  The burger was fine, nothing to write home about, but it did taste much fresher than other burgers (it could be that I was reading about the farm that the cow was raised and how nice it seemed).  The burger was also a very good size.  Not so huge that you can’t fit it into your mouth and not too small that you’d still be hungry afterwards.  The sides were probably the main attraction here.  The sweet potato fries and onion rings were fantastic.  The salad was also very full of variety and taste.

Overall, there are way too many good burger places in NYC so I probably won’t revisit any of them.  Bareburger is good for a light snack or if you have vegetarian friends coming with you.   

Haru Sake Bar – 1327 Third Ave

After a long day of exploring the upper east side, we decided to make a pit stop for a drink and maybe a snack.  We happened on Haru Sake bar as I’m usually pretty excited about Sake bars and especially if it’s an izakaya (basically a Japanese bar with small plates).  Boy were we disappointed, they were not an izakaya (the host almost seems insulted when we asked) and the sake selection was pretty slim (for one that has ‘Sake Bar’ in the name of the restaurant).    

We had a couple of sake based cocktails and a few shared plates which were both pretty good, but again, nothing special.  The waiter seemed a bit annoyed that we were neither drinking fast enough nor ordering enough food. That didn't make for a good experience either.  It would be that we were pretty tired and cold from the day's walking, but this place certainly didn't put us at ease.

Overall, there are much better Japanese at the higher and lower end (price and location wise) than Haru.  I don’t think we’ll be revisiting this place again.

Gallo Nero – 42 W 44th Street

After going to see Kinky Boots (and meeting Billy Porter by standing by the stage door forever like a teenage fanatic), we were looking for somewhere for a small bite after the show.  We wandering into Gallo Nero as it had a very warm open vibe to the restaurant (also a sign that said ‘Wine is how ‘classy’ people get trashed).  We sat at the little bar (6 seater) and was quickly greeted by the manager who was very friendly.  

We had 2 glasses of wine that were simply amazing.  Even better, he let us try the wines which is a new thing for me.  Often times you’re more or less guessing at which wines to order, but to be able to have a taste first is amazing.  We then order 2 of the night’s specials.  One was a Burrata (a cheese made with Mozzarella and cream.  It’s amazing and I can’t believe this is the first time I’ve had it).  with prosciutto and Beef Carpaccio.  Both dishes were wonderful and beautifully done.  Everything was so fresh.  It was light and substantial at the same time.  Reminded me of our meals in Italy.

Overall, I was very impressed with this place that we randomly found.  I would highly suggest it to anyone and it may make it on our come back list to try the rest of the menu, but with so much great Italian around NYC, we’ll just have to see.