The Tiniest Things

I’m the king of procrastination. Believe me, there’s so many things that I wish I would finish and haven’t gotten around to it yet. One of those things was cleaning out my room. Despite starting it in January 2018, I finally finished it last weekend. And if it wasn’t because of certain motivating factors, I bet my room would have stayed unclean for the rest of the year.

What motivated me? Believe it or not – mosquitoes. Yes, those pesky flying blood suckers. Last week I had the worst bout of mosquito attacks in my room. I’d wake up every day with new bites on my legs or arms, and when I was awake, I would notice them flying around the room. Despite my constant spraying of Ridsect every time I went out for the day, and tubs of mosquito repellent I left around my room – they still wouldn’t leave me alone.

I knew that there was one thing left to do: I had to clean my fucking room. And so I did. I took me two days to go through the boxes of stuff I had (things I had been hoarding for over ten years), packing them into trash bags and other boxes. I threw out tons of stuff. I turned off sentimental mode. I didn’t care that it was a book of drawings I did as a kid – they were rubbish anyway, I threw them out. After that, I gave my room a complete wipe-down, getting rid of dust, dirt, hairs, and whatever left that was lying around.

The mosquitoes haven’t completely disappeared – I’m sure there are some left for me to destroy, but the bites have stopped. On the plus side, I now have a clean room and boy, it feels good. Also, it felt great to finally finish something that I started back in 2018. At least this year wasn’t such a waste. The next step is maintaining my room’s condition.

60 minutes of fame

I spent my weekend being quite productive, I must say. I organized my keyboard spare parts into plastic boxes, and threw out a lot of cardboard boxes and plastic bags. Now I have extra space in my closet for more keyboard stuff.

I’ve mentioned about having thoughts of recording my own podcast in the past before, and while that hasn’t taken off, I managed to do the next best thing: by being a guest on a podcast I regularly listen to! Over the weekend, I took up Don’s invitation to be a guest on The Board podcast and it was a lot of fun. I was expecting a lot of awkward silences and dead air, but conversation flowed pretty well. I had never been interviewed about keyboards before, so that was fun. I get to speak about something I’m interested in.

The audio quality of my microphone is pretty terrible, I should have recorded locally so he could merge the files but it’s listenable. If you’ve ever wondered what I would sound like on radio, feel free to listen to the episode. Thanks again to Don for having me on! I’ll be up for another episode down the road if the opportunity rises again!

I think my body might be telling me to quit drinking. Last night I was out for some beers and I noticed that every time I took a sip of beer, my jaw started to hurt for no apparent reason. It kept happening throughout the night. However, whenever I took a swig of water, my jaw was fine. No pain at all. I’m not sure what the cause is and googling doesn’t give me anything useful. Hopefully it was just something fucky in the air (or drink) last night because it would suck if my jaw hurt every time I drank alcohol.

In addition to drinking beer, I had a lot of water which helped my body immensely the following day – I didn’t have to sit on the porcelain throne for most of the day (something which usually happens after a night of drinking). I guess I know what to do whenever I go drinking in the future. Water = good.

Sea of Bodies

When I was younger, my family and I went to a New Year’s Eve party in the city. I can’t remember what year it was but it was long enough ago that I didn’t have a cellphone of my own (remember those days?).

Anyway, for some reason I let go of my mom’s hand in the sea of people at the countdown. Within a matter of seconds, I was lost in the crowd. A tiny young boy, all alone but surrounded by people. I wasn’t tall enough to see past the hundreds of heads around me to find her. There was nowhere to climb for a better view.

I cried my eyes out. Eventually I borrowed a concerned stranger’s phone to call my mom. Couldn’t get through to her phone (there were that many people in the area, the networks were overloaded) so that was futile. I had no idea what else to do. We didn’t agree on a meeting point in case any of us got lost. I didn’t even know the way back to the car to wait for them. I thought I was separated from my family forever. I can vaguely remember what that felt like.

I returned the phone, thanked the stranger, and started wandering around, looking for a familiar face. At this point, fireworks were going off, welcoming the new year. While everyone around me cheered and celebrated, I didn’t revel in their joy. I was just a teary-eyed boy stumbling through the crowd, lost and miserable.

I didn’t know how long it took, but by some stroke of luck, I found my aunt in the crowd. She didn’t even know I was missing! I held on to her until the end of the night when she brought me back to my family. I had never been so happy to see them again.

Because it all ended well, my family didn’t think much of it. To them, I had only disappeared for a brief moment. To me, at that time, it was one of the worst experiences of my life. Maybe I’m being dramatic, but I was just a kid.


I’m not sure why I decided to recount the tale, but it came to mind today as I was making my way through a crowd of people at a night market. Was that incident so many years ago the first manifestation of my disdain for crowds? Possibly. At least it’s not so bad these days. I’m now tall enough to look over other people’s shoulders and I usually have a cellphone with me. I still stand at the back of the hall during gigs – not because I’m too cool to hang with other kids – I prefer the space a lot more.

Jebaiting the audience.

The other day I was just thinking to myself, what makes a story memorable? For me, it’s usually the ones with the most interesting endings. When the conclusion feels like it came out of nowhere, but it really wasn’t – I just wasn’t paying enough attention.

On the other hand, not every story needs to be The Village (remember those What a Twist! skits in Robot Chicken?). They only need to be interesting to me (I included the caveat because what I find interesting might not be to someone else and vice versa – but now when I think about it, that applies to anything creative, so I don’t think I need to mention it in the first place. I digress).

When a story kicks off, it’s meant to draw you in. There are many ways to do this – you could start off in the midst of a high-tension scene (Bullets flew past my head as I dove headfirst into a pile of trash, but what greeted me was worse than the bullets I was avoiding), or a vague quote that entices the audience to continue reading (Sometimes I ponder the meaning of bukkake armpit pickles), perhaps a click bait title (How to Make Money Without Lifting a Finger) – the possibilities are endless.

Once you’ve got them hooked, the next part would be to keep them interested all the way until the end. This part is usually easier than starting or ending (at least in my opinion). Because the story hasn’t come to a conclusion, you have space and time to open and close new or existing threads to keep readers invested – they’ve already gone beyond the intro at that point, so they’ll continue until the end. Unless you purposely write something terrible to turn them off.

Now comes the hard part – an ending that’s sensible yet unpredictable, and not abrupt unless that’s what you’re going for. It can come to an end right after a climactic conclusion, or the story can let the reader down slowly – winding down gradually until the reader is satisfied. Maybe there will be hints to a sequel, prequel, or a spin-off. Maybe the ending could be interpreted differently. Whatever it is, if it leads to discussion, it’s probably a good ending (unless the topic is about looking for plot holes).

A good story will leave you satisfied, like a bowl of good prawn mee (and this is where this story falls apart because I’m horrible at describing how tasty food is). Unlike me, Uncle Keong gets it right – he spins a good tale from start to finish. From the dish’s mouth-watering appearance that draws you in at the beginning, to its perfectly cooked noodles which keep you wanting more, and the delicious residue of prawns, onions and chili at the bottom of the soup – you’ll be satisfied when you reach the bowl’s conclusion.

If I could, I’d give this place a Michelin star, then again, those stars are overrated and would only draw a crowd I don’t want to this place. Thanks to my limited readership, this won’t be a problem. The next time you’re looking for some prawn noodles in Taman Desa, look no further.

Heaven in a bowl

Comments left unsaid

I’ve written about the perks of online dating before, and one of the best things about not being face to face (initially, at least) is the ability to take the time to think of what you want to say before hitting the send button. This aspect also translates to other aspects of online communication – like leaving comments or writing posts on Facebook. Believe it or not, despite all the stupid things I share online, there are a lot of things I’ve stopped myself from posting after second thoughts. As we all know, once something goes online, it’s pretty much there forever (probably more applicable to people with a following, but nevertheless a good thing to keep in mind if you’re worried about any backlash).

I don’t know if it applies to everyone but I have erased a lot of comments and posts I’ve made online before hitting the send button. 99% of the time, I decide it’s not worth saying anything because it honestly doesn’t affect my life or I don’t care about it enough. I just ignore the post and move on. In a few hours, the post will be buried, and you’ll never have to see it again.

The 1%? I share stuff in a private group chat and talk about it there. That way I get the opinions of people I care about and not have to worry about what other people think about my views.

And no, I’m not saying that it’s what everybody should do – far from it. I believe in the freedom the internet provides us, after all, who doesn’t like to laugh at the stupid shit that some people say?

On that note, why do some people insist that you ‘pm for price’? I never understood that and still don’t. It’s a fucking marketplace, people expect to be told the price of an item before they decide if they want to buy it. Why is it private information? Are you going to tell people different prices depending on who’s asking? Are you going to dispute complaints that people may have about the price because it isn’t listed publicly? Why not just put the regular price down and give discounts privately? Why make people jump through extra hoops just to buy your shit? It’s so scummy. I read news about it being made illegal a while ago yet I still see people doing it. If you’re selling stuff, don’t be a dipshit and post your prices publicly.

The finality of death.

Yesterday, the empty spot next to my grandma’s urn was filled with my grandpa’s. It sucks that he’s no longer around, but I believe it’s better than living tethered to a bed.

Thank you for all the trips to the cinema to watch Jacky Chan movies. Thank you for buying those tapes of Mind Your Language (I think it was Mind Your Language, I’m not 100% sure) so we could enjoy learning English together.

Thank you for all the trips to Genting Highlands, I hope you weren’t too scared when I was behind the wheel for one of the drives. That C Class was a blast to drive. The first time I saw a car phone was in your old ass Mercedes. I wanted to press the buttons but was told not to fuck around with it.

There was one time, we were coming down from Genting and I couldn’t hold my pee in. I remember grandma had to hold a bottle for me to pee in because you didn’t want to stop the car, or there wasn’t a stop nearby – I forgot. All I gotta say is that was one messy trip. Sorry, grandma.

Grandpa’s death reminded me of two stories. One – from a motivational speaker who was saying that everything in life is neutral – it is up to you to place a value onto it. He gave an example about the death of a loved one. It isn’t inherently bad or good – you decide what it means to you. It can be negative in the sense that you’ll miss that person, or in some cases their debts/problems get pushed to you. It can be positive because they no longer have to suffer, and it brings families together. Especially if they don’t meet up very often. This time, I experienced the latter. It was nice catching up. I still don’t agree with trying to convert attendees during a wake, but hey – it wasn’t my say as I didn’t organize it. Also, what’s the point of eternal life? Stay classy, Christians.

The second story was more of a joke/”psychological test” that I heard many years ago about why someone would murder their own family member to go to a funeral again. I wasn’t planning to kill anyone, it was just one of the things that popped into my mind.


I’ve been to way too many funerals recently (they’re not enjoyable even though they contain the word ‘fun’) – hopefully this will be the last post on the topic for a while.

Rest in peace, grandpa.

School for Adults

It’s that time of the year again – where almost every working adult has to allocate time and resources working out how much money they owe to the government for the past year. For the past few years it has been pretty routine for me – doing the same thing I have been doing for the past few years. This year, it’s different. I’m now a contract worker – not part of a full-time workforce (even though my work pretty much takes up all of my time, so it’s like a full-time job without the benefits of a full-time job). So, the taxing process is a bit different. I have to fill in another form (I’m technically working for my own company) – something I haven’t done before. And because I don’t know who to ask for help, I’m figuring stuff out on my own. If I do get in trouble for fraud or mistakes in my tax application, do know it’s because of my ignorance/stupidity not because I’m trying to fuck with the system.

Which reminds me of the first time I ever had to file my taxes. I found the whole process so cumbersome and counter-intuitive. I had people to help me out with it back then, so I managed to figure it out in the end. But now I’m back at step one again, filling out a different form. Back then, I remembered thinking to myself – how come there’s nobody teaching these life skills in school? School and college (AKA daycare) didn’t prepare me for this. In fact, nothing did. I had to learn everything through trial and error.

Then I thought about why wasn’t it taught in school? Was it not relevant to most of the kids who would be growing up? My mind wandered on, and I realized that there were plenty of skills that you need as an adult to survive in today’s world but nobody ever told you what they were. You’d need to figure them out on your own. I guess that’s what makes life interesting – the wealth of new scenarios you’re yet to experience. But for some folks who want the shortcuts and cliff notes, there could be something to help them. Then I realized, there should be a school for adults.

I’m not sure if the demand is there rightaway to start a brand new school, but it could begin as classes/supplementary courses in colleges, universities and offices. If it gained enough traction, it could expand to dedicated centers around the city and eventually country.

We’d teach people the basics of being an adult: how to file taxes, what to look for when buying a home or secondhand car, applying for loans, what to do in the event of a car accident, how to read body language, how to handle interviews, how to write a CV/resume, how to dress up for different occasions, the importance of dressing well, grooming, how to cook, what to do when your wallet is stolen, how to handle a pregnancy, basics of raising a child, handling breakups and divorces, and so on. We’d start with the most important things, but the number of topics relevant to being an adult can go on forever!

It should be only a few days long at max – because adults don’t have much time for anything else. And it could also be something they wouldn’t have to take leave from work to attend. It should also be affordable – since we’re not teaching rocket science, we don’t need to hire professors to educate.

It’s unlikely I’ll start my school for adults in the future, but if anybody decides to run with the idea, feel free to credit me. Or not. In the meantime, I’ll go back to figuring out how to fill up my e-B form.

Traveling With A Dog (Not A Guide)

Immigrant dog

Traveling with a dog on a plane can be easy – if you have the funds to do so. Just look up for a pet transportation service, contact them, employ their services and fork out the money. Easy. However, if you’re looking to save some money by not going through a third-party service (trust me, they aren’t cheap – I inquired at least five different companies before deciding to do it on my own) – be prepared to spend a lot of time looking up information, making calls and sending emails.

Note – this isn’t a guide, but a description of the process I had to go through to bring Snuggles to America. It may not be the most efficient or best way to do things but it’s what I did. It worked, which is what matters, right?

My plan was to bring a dog (schnauzer-poodle), from Malaysia to the United States. If you have other pets you’re thinking about traveling with, this post may or may not be useful.

Preparation

Your pet needs to be healthy, so make sure he/she has been vaccinated, vaccinated for rabies, dewormed, and all the other necessary stuff.

Your dog also can’t have a snub-nose if not it won’t be allowed on the plane (it’s not because they don’t like them – it’s for the safety of the pet). Apparently snub-nosed dogs have trouble breathing up in the air.

Get your dog measured (height, length, width) and weighed – you’ll need the details to make sure you can purchase a suitable cage, and for booking purposes. Speaking of cages – you have to make sure that they are flight-safe (they are stronger, have proper ventilation, locks, etc). If you have a tiny pet, you can save a bit of money for flying the pet since some flights allow you to bring the cages as carry-on, which should be cheaper than taking up baggage/cargo space.

Your dog will also need to be micro-chipped to get into the US – I believe it is a requirement for most countries (you’ll have to check).

You’ll also need to get the documents for your pet prepared. There’s no manual for this – the documents will vary from country to country, but essentially they want documents certifying the health of the pet. This step will require you to get in touch with the countries and/or airlines that your pet will be flying on. Fortunately, most airlines have all the answers you need on their websites. If they don’t, you’ll need to call or email them for the specifics. I know a lot of them just say – proper documents, as though we know what that means. My best tip here is to get in touch with a vet who has had experience doing this before. Your vet should help you sort out the necessary documents for your pet’s health. My vet was a great help here as he had done it in the past, so he was familiar with the procedures that I had to go through.

Snuggles in America

Flights

Once you’ve got all the above settled, the next step is the hardest part (IMO) – figuring out which damn airline to fly. This step could have been easier if I had an unlimited budget, but since I didn’t, I was making most of my decisions based on costs and the number of stops. Every airline has different rules about pets. Some allow pets as carry on, some as cargo only – I was looking for airlines that allowed pets to be brought on as excess baggage (cheaper than shipping as cargo). This is important because if you don’t have a direct flight to your destination, you have to take into account the rules of the airlines/countries you’ll be transiting to. Just because your initial flight can take your pet, it doesn’t mean that the connecting flights will.

For example, I found a reasonably cost flight from KL to AUS via KLM and Delta. KLM would have no issues bringing my pet, but Delta has a rule of pets as carry-on only. Since my dog’s cage was too big to fit under the seat, I couldn’t bring her as carry-on which meant I had to look for an alternative flight. The more airlines you have travel with, the more rules you’ll have to look up – which is why I tried to get a flight with as little changes as possible.

Layovers in a country also might require documents even though that city/country isn’t your final destination. You’ll need to be prepared for all these things. Another thing you’ll have to worry about is that while an airline might take pets, not all of their planes and not all airports do. So there’s an extra thing to worry about.

So in short, you’ll need to keep in mind:

Does the airline allow flying with pets, if yes – as carry on, checked baggage or cargo?
Does the airplane allow it? (you’ll need to provide size and weight of your cage + pet here)
Does the airport allow pet transfers?
If yes, what documents or procedures are required to be completed?

I flew Snuggles from KL to Austin via the following route/airlines:
KUL to NRT via JAL
NRT to LAX via JAL
LAX to AUS via AA

Flight-ready cage

Costs

For costs, there are no guidelines to how much extra this will cost – it varies from airline to airline, but based on what I know they will charge you according to the weight of the cage + dog, and some extra charge for them being animals (because they can). If you have extended layovers, some airports will charge you extra for taking care of you pet at their pet area/hotel (as far as I know they are compulsory since the pets can’t be released at the airport). This doesn’t include the fees you’ll have to pay for all the jabs, documents and cage that your dog will need. And let’s not forget the air ticket.

Doing all this by yourself can save you a few thousand ringgit (which is a big deal for me). However, if you have the money to spare, trust me – it’s much easier and stress-free to pass the task along to more capable hands.

Here’s how much it cost for me to bring Snuggles from KL to the US:
Vaccination, documents and cage – RM1000 (my vet helped me to get everything done, so it was a package deal)
Transportation costs from KL to Tokyo – USD400 (RM1600)
Transportation costs from LA to Austin – USD200 (RM800)
Total – RM3400

3rd party services I got quotes for started at around RM7000, so I saved quite a bit of money doing it by myself. Based on the trouble I had to go through, I can see why people would pay that much money for somebody else to handle the process.

Food, water, information

Miscellaneous

Other things I’ve learned during this process (accurate as of Jan 2019):
MAS, KLM, JAL, AA – accept pets as excess baggage
BA – only accepts pets as cargo (will also need to be arranged via a third party service and their shipping company – IAG Cargo)
Delta – only accepts pets as carry on

There are also risks involved when traveling with pets. I’ve heard some horror stories about pets being left out to die in the sun at the airport, or pets not surviving flights. On the other hand, I’ve also heard many success stories. As usual, it will all depend on the staff that day (how they perform, whether or not they’re having a good or bad day, the weather, the flight, etc) and your pet itself. There’s no guarantee your pet will make the journey – just like there’s no guarantee you will make the journey. Don’t travel with a sick pet.

I don’t know if it really helped my dog, but I read somewhere that putting a shirt with your scent in your dog’s cage can help them feel more comfortable when they’re alone. I did it anyway.

Put your dog’s photo, name, flight details and your contact details on the cage. In the event it goes missing, at least there’s information to help locate you or the cage. If you’re going to be on the same flight, make sure it is stated there (“owner is traveling on the same flight”).
Make sure you have your pet’s documents with you at all times (I had at 4 copies just in case). Don’t put them in your luggage, keep them with you in your backpack. You’ll need to show it to the authorities when asked.

Make sure you have extra cable ties and a way to easily remove them (i.e. nail clipper or pen knife) taped to the side of the cage – this way you can easily extract the pet if the cage needs to be checked at an airport, and you can secure the cage again after inspection.

Tape a bag of food and feeding instructions to the cage, this way the airport/airline staff can feed your pet if they run out of food during any layovers.

Snuggles ended up not eating much (she did drink all the water though, which I refilled at the LAX stop).

Whenever possible, bring your dog out for a walk and toilet break. During my transit in LAX, I could bring Snuggles to the restroom at the airport where she made a mess on the floor (I cleaned up, of course) and she could run around for a bit.

The mission was a success. I managed to bring Snuggles to America. For those of you looking to do the same thing, I hope this post has information to help you out. Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions about the process and I’ll do my best to help!

Happy in the USA
Farewell <3

Austin 2019: Epilogue

And so, my week in Austin has come to an end. It was a nice getaway from the country – I really enjoyed my time there. I accomplished what I had set out to do: bring Snuggles to the US, and attend my sister’s wedding. I also ate great food, made new friends, experienced new weather (honestly, I don’t see myself making it through a month of cold weather – I don’t know how you guys do it! I’m definitely taking weather into consideration if I ever decide to migrate to anywhere in the future).

My flight back was uneventful – going as planned with no additional delays. I did have to take a shit on the plane though. I kept farting for most of the journey. I’m not sure why. Might have been some beans I had for one of the meals. No idea if it stank (I couldn’t smell anything), sorry to whoever smelt it.

I watched a few movies on the way back – The Big Lebowski (great comedy) and Office Space (started off pretty good but became kinda meh midway) – I also noticed that both films made prominent use of the phrase ‘Fuckin’ A/ay/eh’, something that I had only heard before in Clerks. I also watched parts of Say Anything, Bad Night at the El Royale, Oceans 13, Mission Impossible: Fallout (while drifting in and out of sleep). They were alright films.

Felt strange coming home to no barking even though I was expecting it.

Josh, Liz and Paul: thank you for being extremely gracious hosts. You guys made sure I always had a place to stay and that my tummy was never hungry. This trip wouldn’t have happened without you. Dad – I didn’t get to spend much time with you but you’ll be back in KL soon and I’ll see you again the next time I visit! Dave, Chance, Tyler – it was great meeting you guys. Looking forward to hanging out again next time!

Austin 2019: Turn up the radio, give them what they want

Have you ever been so cold that your nipples hurt when warm water touches them? Yeah, that’s right. I never knew my body was capable of experiencing such sensations. Apparently, the night I landed in Austin was the last normal day I’d be having in the city. Since then every other day has been getting colder and colder. I definitely take Malaysia’s weather for granted. Today the weather dropped to 0 degrees C. While my arms and legs were doing alright, it was the cold winds blowing in my face that made it unbearable. Also, every time I took my hands out of my pockets. You know it’s real bad when I only smoked two sticks today because I didn’t want to stand out in the cold. I guess if I ever wanted to quit smoking, I know I’ll be able to do it in a cold country.

Yesterday was the ring ceremony and dinner for my sister’s wedding. It was an enjoyable night. Not much to say there I guess, everything went according to plan. Except for the weather, but that was a given. Fortunately there was no rain. Today I went for a day trip to San Antonio where I learned about the Alamo and its significance, traveled around the river walk, drank beers and ate some snacks. One thing I realized here is that people really enjoy their beers. It’s not uncommon to see people ordering beers with every meal. Or just as a casual drink. In Malaysia, beers are reserved for certain occasions or nights out. Then again if beer was this good in Malaysia, I’d probably have it all the time too. I didn’t drink much today because I still have last night’s alcohol in my system.

Tonight is the last night I spend here in Austin and also the last night I get to spend with Snuggles. Don’t know if she knows that she won’t be seeing me again anytime soon but I know I’m going to miss her a lot. Going back home after a long day at work isn’t going to be the same again: no more loud barking, curious sniffing and licking, and her jumping onto my lap or bed whenver she wanted my attention. Ah well. Until next time, farewell Snuggles. <3

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