Saturday, February 28, 2009

Got the T-shirt

I now have the T-shirt version of my Valentine's Day card. :)

Whaddaya think, can L turn the furkids into a T-shirt line?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Breaking up is hard to do

I have been using the same credit card issued by a foreign bank incorporated in Singapore for quite a few years now, and I charge almost everything I buy to it because I don't carry a lot of cash with me. So the monthly bill is quite a bit because it reflects almost my entire expenditure, from necessities to household bills, and maybe the occasional luxury shopping item. But that helps me keep track of all my various expenditures at a single go.

But the card doesn't offer me very much benefits, other than accumulated bonus points, which can be redeemed for mostly shopping vouchers. Which holds no attraction for me since I'm not a great shopper. The card also offers some discounts at selected merchants. Which also doesn't appeal to me since a 10-20% discount is really just making you pay 80-90% for something.

So when a local bank offered a credit card that gives cash rebates, I decided that it'll benefit me more, and I decided to switch credit cards.

Getting a new one was easy. Cancelling the existing one was much harder. Foreign Bank Incorporated In Singapore wasn't going to let go of me that easily. When I called customer service, they politely told me that someone else would return my call.

Two days later, nobody had called me. So I called again. They either had a lot of people wanting to cancel their credit cards or they're making breaking up hard to do, I told customer service, even though I knew it wasn't their fault. They had to pass me on to someone more senior. And this time, they did. No call backs, they transferred me through straightaway. Well, not exactly straightaway. I was put on hold for a few minutes, during which a recorded voice informed me that Foreign Bank Incorporated in Singapore was aware that my time was very precious, that my call was important to them, and that I would be tended to shortly.

By a senior officer who had the authorisation to dangle all sorts of carrots -- freebies and bonuses -- to make me retain my credit card. She would upgrade me to a Platinum card. Not interested. She would give me vouchers and discounts, mostly at premium merchants. Don't shop there. She would waive the annual charge for the Platinum card. Local Bank's credit card waived the charges for three years.

She only gave up when I pointed out to her that I'm still a customer of Foreign Bank Incorporated in Singapore -- I still have a bank account with them, it's only the credit card that I'm cancelling. And that I will probably still let my money stay in Foreign Bank Incorporated in Singapore. Even though market talk has it that Foreign Bank Incorporated in Singapore's overseas parent may be nationalised.

The thing is, it isn't only the banks who are bending over backwards and dangling carrots when customers want to walk. Various service companies, telcos especially, are equally guilty. They offer all sorts of gifts and bonuses to attract new customers to sign on with them. But these are never offered to long-time customers who have remained with them. They only woo these people when they want to leave. And by then it's too late, the customer's mind is made up long before he reached the exit. You're just lucky he's not letting the door hit you on his way out. Isn't retaining a customer is more important than getting a new one a fundamental rule taught in business school? Well, I guess some people have been skipping classes.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dicing with ice

L at the food court drinks stall:

"One bandung, one lime juice, no ice, please."

"No ice?" the stall assistant wanted to make sure before she dispensed the drinks into the paper cups.

"No. If you give me a cup full of ice, I won't get to drink anything." It's true, you take two long sips and all the drink's gone and you're left with a cup full of ice and you're still thirsty.

"Hey, ya hor, you're right." And a light bulb goes off in the head of the guy behind L in the queue.

L is now on his way to an iceless drinks revolution and pretty soon, we're going to be banned from the food court.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

On guard

I'm well aware of having to be on the lookout for abandoned bags and suspicious packages on the subway but until I saw this poster on the platform, I didn't think that we're being threatened by rogue herds of footballs too. But I will now view every ball I see with suspicion. Anything to fight terrorism.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Light lunch

This was what L fixed me for lunch today -- a minced chicken patty (he calls it a chicken scone) lightly seasoned with salt and pepper then panfried with garlic, on a bed of chopped celery topped with cottage cheese.

Before your mouth starts watering, let me tell you that this was *dog food* that I was eating.

Yup, he made the "chicken scones" for the dogs, to top their kibble. Mine just happened to be stacked restaurant style on something green and plated nicely.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

L got the furkids down right, especially Queeni. But I think he misrepresented himself by giving himself too much hair. :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I found it!

Having to explain Branston pickle is like having to explain Marmite. The natives love it, everybody else hates it. It's terrible on its own but makes yummy anything that you put it on.

I was introduced to Branston pickle when I was a university student, at the Third World Lunches at the campus chaplaincy. You paid a nominal sum for a ploughman's lunch of bread and cheese, and the money goes towards good causes in the developing world. An industrial sized jar of Branston stood next to the bread and cheese, I learnt very fast what a piquant pickle can do to liven up a dry cheese sandwich.

And then I had a 20-year drought of Branston in this part of the world until last summer's holiday in Britain. I think I must have put Branston on almost anything that I ate (unless I was eating out), chiefly to finish off a bottle in the few weeks that I was there.

I do remember standing at Tesco and wondering whether to buy a bottle home but decided against it as I wasn't going to risk a broken bottle and pickled clothes.

And then today, I found it here. In an expensive upmarket supermarket that catered mostly to expatriates.

L isn't going to touch this, there are apples, which he is alllergic to, in the pickle. This one is mine. All mine.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It won!

When I bought Raising Sand more than a year ago, I never thought it'd win a Grammy for best album -- even though I thought it was a pretty good album. Yay.

To add to my post of November 2007, if the Plant of Led Zep would have done a double take at the Plant of Raising Sand, then I wonder what he'd have to say to the Plant at the Establishment Grammys.

I wonder why broadcasters (and maybe TV audiences) in this part of the world are so fixated on movie awards but no attention is paid to music awards. We had the red carpet run-up show to the Golden Globes, in addition to a live telecast of the awards show, plus a repeat later in the evening. And the Oscars are being blurbed (live telecast again). But we didn't get to see the Grammys. And not even a whiff of the BAFTAs.

Even rock stars deserve awards, don't they?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Could anyone eat this with a straight face?

Spotted this in a pharmacy, in the supplements section. I had no idea what Horny Goat Weed is (it comes in two versions, His and Hers) and had to Google for it. Turns out it does naturally and herbally what Viagra does.

You gotta admit that with a generic name like that, it can sell itself without much marketing effort. And it's probably more organic than a blue rhumboid pill. But do you really want to put a Horny Goat Weed in your mouth?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

That's my ringtone story and I'm sticking to it

I never use the electronic beeps that are programmed into the cellphone for you to select as your ringtone. I can never tell which is mine, and I need to use a melody ringtone that I can recognise if I ever hope to answer my phone.

Once, when a new cellphone was still set in the programmed beep that it came with, I ignored it as it rang and a friend who was with me asked me why wasn't I answering my phone. I didn't even recognise that my phone was ringing, I thought it the electronic squiggly noise was his phone going off and was wondering why wasn't he answering his phone!

So for the longest time, my cellphone played the theme from Star Wars when it rang.

Then L got a cellphone that could do sound recordings. I know that most cellphones do that now, along with the ability to carry out DNA testing and various other wonders that come with all the bells and whistles that come with a cellphone, but I like my phone to just let me make and answer calls -- if that's not too much to ask of a phone. So I used his phone to record Queeni barking (easily achieved by getting him to ring the door bell), and then sent it to my phone and Queeni barking became my ringtone.

It stayed that way until one day, I came back to my desk at work and very strange looks from my colleagues. I had left the cellphone on the desk when I wasn't there, and they were wondering why an empty desk was barking.

Time to change the ringtone. So I set the phone to another melody -- Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries.. Then I realised one thing -- sometimes when I was home watching TV, I'd hear the ringtone and then go off to pick up the phone, only to find that there was no call. There wasn't even a missed call, so it was not like I didn't pick it up in time before the caller rang off. But I swore I heard the Ride of the Valkyries go off. Most peculiar.

It wasn't until last week that I realised that Tina Fey's ringtone in 30 Rock was the same tinny Ride of the Valkyries..

Laugh all you want. But when you're prising yourself away from the sofa to answer a phone, you're not paying attention to what's going on on the TV, and you miss the fact that Tina Fey is also answering the phone and that Ride of the Valkyries stopped as soon as she did so.

It's time to change my ringtone again. Now, it plays Guns 'n' Roses' Sweet Child Of Mine for calls from home and Bon Jovi's Livin' On a Prayer for calls from other numbers.

I am unapologetic for my taste in 80s rock.