Free thought got killed by…

…the virus. And all it took was just a few weeks. Incredible. The moment you mention to anyone that you feel awkward about the current situation (I’m not saying which situation, but… you know… WHO knows), you risk being classified as a heretic. Or perhaps a lunatic.

Blue skies, smiling at me, nothing but blue skies do I see…

So many people are going crazy right now, getting hysterical. Wearing masks, keeping distance from their neighbours, from their friends, their loved ones, from the passers by… but the most tragic of all – so many people seem to be keeping distance from their own mind. From their own thoughts. And all of this is happening to such extent that it hurts.

It’s amazing that “1984“, “Brave new world“, “Fahrenheit 451“, “Animal farm” have all been written long ago. And now that dystopian society is no longer in the distant future but happening right here, right now – people don’t seem to realize…

Crazy shit. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I do wear the mask and I’m keeping distance and I’ll also obey any other directive that is imposed upon us. But… may I at least have my opinion on the topic? No? “Computer says no”?

Even people I totally respected and for whom I thought were free spirits and thinkers are just parroting the official narrative. How crazy is that? Hello, folks! Wake up! Heehey!

Duh. I guess it’s useless. Followers aren’t thinkers…

The worst of all – the moment you dare to challenge the topic – you instantly become a conspiracy theorist. This is probably as sad as it gets. Snap your fingers “snap!” and there you go – you’re “one of them”. Haha. It would have been really funny if it weren’t so tragic.

On the second thought – perhaps the saddest of all is the fact that the free thought has been killed in a matter of days… Yep. That must be the saddest part…

But, ok, if that’s what the world decided to be, let’s just carry on and whistle… “blue skies, smiling at me, nothing but blue skies do I see…” 🎼

A few random thoughts of a sugar-free and gluten-free semi-vegan

If you try to eat only plant based food and reduce sugar and flour all at the same time – your’re doomed. As a (semi-)vegan I don’t consume dairy products anyway and since ca. one week I stopped eating sugar and bread/pastry and… it’s hard. The hardest part is finding products without added sugar.

Sugar is everywhere. Literally, they add it to all kinds of products. Even where you’d least expect it. Try for example to buy a can of peas. Just standard (pre-cooked) green peas. Ingredients: peas, water, sugar, salt. WTF? Ok, I understand, sugar is cheap. Salt is cheap, too. But WTF anyway?

I was so happy when I found cornichons in a jar which have “only“ 4,2% sugar per 100g. Why was I so happy? Well because I love eating them but regular cornichons in a jar contain anywhere between 7% and 14% sugar (honey cornichons). Oh, man. Those are mini gherkin cucumbers, they should contain +/- 0% sugar. And not compete with Coca Cola…

And in addition, it’s a mistery to me how real vegans get enough protein? My muscles are literally melting. Today I ate 500g of kidney beans and a full bowl of soaked chia seeds in order to try and help my muscles recover a bit. But still I feel that’s not enough. I currently weigh 100 kg, therefore I need 70-200g of protein per day. I abandoned the idea with 200g of protein per day already long ago. It’s just not realistic… So I’m trying to get at least 0,7 g per kg of body weight (which in my case means 70g of protein). And even that seems like mission impossible. That’s why I do eat an egg or two from time to time. I know, consuming eggs is not very vegan. That’s where my semi-veganism comes really handy. 😊

5th day without sugar

Again I’m tying to quit eating sweets…

Yesterday I found my diary from 2016 and guess what: I’m trying to get rid of this horrible sugar addiction for years now. It’s all logged it in that diary.

Apparently, I do manage to motivate myself to start changing this stupid habbit but I fail before the addiction is completely gone, so each time I relapse and start eating sugary food again.

The worst of all – it’s totally clear to me that eating sweets is bad for my teeth, I’m aware that I’m overweight as a direct consequence of sugar consumption and in the long run, cancer cells love sugar and I definitely don’t want to be diagnosed with cancer…

This time I’m trying to quit with a help od hypnosis (self hypnosis/ Youtube video). I really hope it will help change my diet for good. So far I’ve been sugar free for five consecutive days already, so… whooho! 👍😀

Adding a good deed to my “Karma account“

Today I went to see the dentist because my beautiful, super expensive full ceramic crown broke in two. Oh, man. But, never mind. That’s life. I’ll get a new one. My mother always says: “problems that you can solve with just a handful of money are in fact no real problems”.

On my way back from the dentist, just a few blocks down the street, I witnessed the following scene: a delivery guy left some big and heavy looking boxes on a pallet right in front of the house entrance where a young woman stood and shook her head in dispair: “how am I going to carry this upstairs, mister?” But mister delivery guy didn’t say a word. Shoulder shrug was his only gesture which signalized that he understands the situation.

I was passing by exactly at the moment when the young lady started getting really upset. So I went back a few steps and asked her: “can I help you carry those boxes upstairs?” And she reacted as if she couldn’t believe her ears: “would you? Really?” Of course woman, otherwise I wouldn’t have offered my help… So we carried the boxes upstairs and when we finished she said: “thank you! Thank you so much! How can I repay you?”

And I thought to myself: “you already did, my dear. You gave me the opportunity to add a good deed to my Karma account.”

The power of giving is so strong. Being in the position to help someone feels so good…

Being a father and writing micro blog posts

I feel that, as a father, I’m somewhere between the father figures as presented in the movies “Captain Fantastic” and “The Glass Castle” (only I’m the opposite of an alcoholic)… oh, yes and Brad from “Brad’s Status”. And perhaps a touch of Kevin Spacey in “American Beauty” (only, I’m totally not into smoking pot and falling in love with teenage girls). And if the protagonist of the movie “Into the Wild” had kids – that be me, too. A mixture of all of those…

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And… This is the first in series of my super short micro-blog posts. Since I’m not an English native speaker, writing long blog posts always takes much more time than I can currently afford. So I decided to write these micro-posts. Like tweets, only published on the blog. 😀 By doing so, at least my thought of the day gets logged. Otherwise, I’d be postponing and postponing and in the end never get to actually sit down and write and publish all those wild thoughts that are currently flying around my head or write about stuff that’s going on in my life…

Becoming a semi-vegan

Yes. It sounds silly. Semi-vegan. That’s almost like being half-pregnant. Like joining the NoFap movement but still fapping from time to time. But believe me, it works. Nah, I don’t mean fapping. Semi-veganism works! Look, adopting a plant based diet is a big step in any person’s life and I consider it a part of my life changing, self improving, personal developing, world saving, truth seeking process. It’s in the ranks of those big moments in life such as quitting smoking, starting a new relationship, finally writing a good blog post after a really long time, etc…

I’ll be honest with you – the whole point of becoming a semi-vegan is to postpone becoming a 100% vegan indefinitely. Why? Let’s keep this a secret between us, okay? Because this way you get to enjoy the best of both worlds! You get to eat plant based food as well as meat, while still being conscious about the issues of the industrialised farming. The best of all – you can claim already now that you’re vegan. Hihi. How cool is that, ha? You just cannot say “I’m vegan” because that would be a lie. Therefore “semi-vegan”. Because, the moment you become a full-fledged vegan, you’re not allowed to eat animal products anymore. Of course, everybody knows that. This is just to illustrate how ingenious this plan is… 😊

Let’s imagine becoming a real vegan instead of a semi-vegan. I mean, just imagine the following scenario: you’re being offered a piece of a juicy steak or a nice cheeseburger and you’re saying: “Sorry, I’m vegan. I don’t eat meat.” You raise your hands in front of you, as if you’re defending yourself and those poor animals : “Sorry, I’m vegan. I don’t eat meat.” Ok, for them poor animals on the plate it’s a bit too late but you might be saving the coming generations!

And this becomes your mantra: “Sorry, I’m vegan. I don’t eat meat”. And you totally don’t give a fook if people give you the weird look. You just keep repeating your mantra: “Sorry, I’m vegan. I don’t eat meat”. Just BTW, as a semi-vegan, if you say this mantra, you have to say it as if you actually mean it. Otherwise real vegans will see through your semi-veganism. And they usually don’t tolerate non-vegan style of life. Vegan veterans are like detectives, they can’t be easily fooled: “So you say you had that hot-and-sour soup the other day?” Uhm. “And those sesame bars? Don’t they make them with honey? You did remember to check the list of ingredients, didn’t you?”

Luckily, the food industry has been taking care of us health-conscious vegans and semi-vegans lately, by substituting real honey with glucose syrup. Thank you, food industry. You’re making our lives so much easier! And you’re keeping food prices stable, despite the inflation. Thank you, thank you!

Afterwards, when you feel ready – you can take your mantra to the next level: “I’m vegan. I don’t eat meat.” Notice how you’re not ‘sorry’ anymore for being a vegan. You’re breaking out from your ‘I’m-not-sure-about-this’ role and standing proud in front of the world: “I’m vegan. I don’t eat meat.” Before you know it, you’ll have the guts to stand up in the middle of a restaurant or at a dinner party and proudly announce: “I’m vegan. I don’t eat meat.”. Of course, this period of coming out as a vegan will last only until you have no more non-vegan friends and you notice that you’re not being invited to parties as much anymore.

In the final step, the mantra changes to: “I’m vegan. You should be, too!”. At this stage it becomes a part of your life purpose to educate the world about the suffering of animals and industrialised factory farms where hens are forced to lay eggs and a heavy burden is imposed upon bees to fly out and produce more and more honey… And if people don’t listen to what you’re saying, simply start being cynical and start making condescending remarks until they feel really bad. Because, animal well being is important. And vegans need to make sure that everyone understands this.

But hey, all of the above would just be an issue for those who wish to become real vegan. Semi-vegan don’t have such problems. Therefore… 😊

Be semi-vegan, my friend.*

   

  

   

  

* sorry, Bruce.

Travelling from Bangkok to George Town (May 2019)

Now that nobody is travelling because of the stupid Covid-19 virus pandemic, I decided to finally deliver on my promise and write about travelling from Bangkok to George Town. So, here we go…

For those of you who don’t feel like reading the whole blog post, here’s the summary:

There is a comfortable and relatively inexpensive overnight sleeper train service from Bangkok to Padang Besar. At Padang Besar station you cross the Thailand – Malaysia border and catch the regular KTM commuter service to Butterworth on the Malaysian side. From there, board the ferry to George Town on the Penang Island and Bob’s your uncle. It’s really as easy as it gets.

And here’s the whole story…

From major travel forums across the Internet I understood that getting from Bangkok to George Town was relatively easy and not very expensive altogether. In all these forums you can also read how you don’t have to go crazy planing in advance and purchasing the train ticket online because this train service is rarely booked out. And I totally relied on this information…

I landed in Bangkok on May 15th, intending to to stay until May 20th. And the very first thing I did after checking in and leaving my backpack in the hostel was heading to the train station to purchase the ticket for that overnight train service for Monday, May 20th.

Hua Lamphong Direction Sign
Finding Hua Lamphong train station is easy. Just follow the signs…

Quickly reached Hua Lumphong train station, found the ticket booth, asked for the ticket and…

“Sorry sir, all booked out”. WTF? Why do such things always happen to me?
“Ok, ma’am, if 2nd class is booked out, I’ll take the 1st class ticket”. Me, a smartass. 😀
“Sir, this train service is fully booked”, she repeated. Duh…
“Ok, and how about one day earlier, May 19th?”
“You’re lucky, there is one last bed in the lower berth available on this train. Please enter your name” She turned the computer keyboard my way, so that I can type in my name.

After paying 960 baht (ca. 26 euro) I got a printed ticket with my name on it. Whoooha! Mission accomplished. But… this experience proved once again that we should never believe everything we read in Internet forums. 😀 So… while it is apparently true that you don’t have to plan too far ahead, buying a ticket for a specific date only five days in advance could be risky…

A short video of the Hua Lamphong train station main hall

On the day of the departure I arrived at the station almost one hour before departure (which was scheduled for 15:10 h). Honestly, the whole experience doesn’t differ much from taking a train in Germany or any other European country. The station itself is very orderly and clean.

My “Special Express Train No. 45” departs from platform 4.

Found the platform and boarded the train, which departed exactly on time. Shortly after departure, the steward came to ask me if I wanted to order anything from the on-board restaurant. I haven’t ordered anything as I was on my “one meal a day” diet and I had already eaten.

During the day, the cabin features regular seats:

Regular seats during the day…

Towards the evening, these seats are then converted into beds by the cabin attendant:

…turn into beds for the night.

I slept really good and in the morning when we reached Padang Besar Station (Thai), the cabin attendant came to ask me where I was travelling to. I said: “Butterworth”. He then said: “Please stay. Next stop. Padang Besar”.

Don’t get off at Padang Besar (Thai) if you’re going to Butteworth!

As in every station so far, all kinds of street vendors boarded the train and offered food, cold beverages, souvenirs, etc. Suddenly an older, apparently local guy, sat on the seat across me. He had no food, no drinks and no souvenirs to offer. “Change money?” he asked. And I thought: “Yeah, I should exchange a few euros to Malaysian ringit because I didn’t have any at all, but I’ll probably be able to get a better exchange rate on Padang Besar train station, when I get off the train.” He wasn’t pushy or anything but never the less I thanked him and didn’t exchange any money with him.

Salamat Datang to Malaysia.

When we arrived at the last stop – Malaysian side of Padang Besar, all the passengers hurried across the train platform and through the main hall, towards the immigration checkpoints. And I followed. First we queued up at the Thai border crossing to get an exit stamp and then queued again at the Malaysian checkpoint to get an entry stamp in our passports. And that went rather quickly.

After clearing the immigration everybody again hurried upstairs to get the train ticket for the KTM commuter train to Butterworth. I reached the ticket counter in no time, but surprise, surprise: cash only. Oh, man. The lady at the ticket counter was really nice and immediately told me that I can exchange money downstairs, in the immigration area.

So I ran downstairs to exchange money in order to buy the train ticket to Butterworth (11,40 RM / 2,6 euro). What I found there was not an official exchange office, but rather some woman who seemed to be just sitting there and doing business. The exchange rate was a bit worse than the exchange rate which the guy in the train offered, and when I pulled out a 10 euro note, she said: “20 euros minimum”. But that was ok. Because I didn’t have any alternative, anyway… 😀

By the way, KTM trains are super modern ‘bullet-type’ commuter trains. If I remember correctly, we reached Butterworth in less than two hours. Ferry terminal to George Town / Penang is located just across the train station and it’s really easy to find.

Just look for Terminal Feri…

It takes ca. 30 minutes to get from Butterworth to George Town by ferry and it costs only 1,20 RM (0,25 euro). And that’s it.

After 24 hours on the road finally I was at the destination: George Town, Penang Island. Yes, I hear you saying: “I would never…” but believe me – this was a very nice travel experience and I met some really nice people along the way (some of whom I even met again in Kuala Lumpur a few days later).

And in the end – what matters is the journey, not the destination. 😀

The (most) famous mural in George Town: “Little Children On A Bicycle”

Lost my job today…

Remember that super-duper job I was so excited about six months ago? Well, that’s it. Today was the last day of the probationary period and the company decided to move on without me.

A few days ago, an invitation from my boss to a “probationary period final review” appeared in my Outlook inbox. I expected this, it was the standard procedure in this company (or at least in my department) and I was looking forward to it. They always do one review meeting half way through the probationary period and another at the very end. I still remember the two colleagues, who joined the company a few months before me, coming out of their review meetings with big smiles on their faces. Afterwards they threw a big party and… oh, what a joy. I was thinking along these lines while I was finishing some paperwork and preparing to go into the meeting room for my final review.

I remember mentioning to one of the colleagues earlier today that I’m having my final review meeting in the afternoon and went on saying how this was the last day of my probationary period and that I was so exited. We agreed that this company rule was indeed a bit awkward and that perhaps the company should not always wait until the very last moment to let the employee know if they’re staying or leaving. But we were both sure that in my case, this was a pure formality as I was doing a good job and I also fit quite well in the team. “Yeah”, I thought, “for the past few months I’ve been living for this job, so what could possibly go wrong?” My booking numbers literally exploded since I took charge of my own account portfolio. Or at least that was my impression…

“I’ll come straight to the point”, said the HR lady the moment we sat down. She was sitting right there in front of me, at the opposite side of the table. My boss was sitting quite a bit further away, almost at the other end of the long conference table, as if she was not participating in this meeting. “We decided to move on without you” the HR lady said. The first thought that crossed my mind was that she was trying to make a joke. So I smiled for a second. We got to know each other well during the past few months, were going out for lunch together and had a really good vibe. Or so I thought. Therefore I considered a joke to start off this kind of meeting quite ok. But then I turned to my boss and saw her sitting far away at the other side, holding tight to her chair. She just sat there in her black pullover and despite the sunny Friday afternoon, her face suddenly seemed to be turning gray. She stared back at me without saying a word. And within a second I realized this was not a joke. That’s when it hit me. Holy Moly, this is for real. I’m being fired.

I decided to speak up and I said (as if it was going to make any difference): “first of all, thank you for the chance you’ve given me. I really appreciate that. But I do have to ask: why didn’t you give me a signal, a warning signal that I might be steering in the wrong direction? I explicitly asked for feedback on several occasions. And didn’t get any, let alone an honest feedback.” “This decision was not an easy one for us to make”, she replied. “But why in the world did you ask me about my future team unit preferences just the other day, if it was obvious that you were letting me go?” “I am truly sorry.”, she answered in such tone of voice that it felt as if I was talking to some AI phrase generator. The HR lady interrupted this dialogue: “…the commission you’ve earned will be paid out to you in the time to come”. “Well, I sure hope it will”, I thought. After all, I earned the money, didn’t I?

And then, in an unusually calm, low voice, as if she was talking to a child, the HR lady said: “we will now go over to your desk, so that you can pack your personal belongings”. And while I was collecting my stuff from the drawers, she quickly took the laptop and the mobile phone from the desktop.

I gave each teammate one last hug and said goodbye. Even my (ex) boss stood up. I can’t say for sure, but it looked like she might have expected a hug, too. “I wish you all the best, from the bottom of my heart!”, she said. I slowly raised my hand and kind of just waved back at her, without saying a word. I mean, what was I supposed to say? “Yeah, I wish you all the best, too!” And perhaps add a “Cheerio!” to that?

And there I was, headed towards the exit, carrying a silly paper bag full of my personal belongings, escorted by the HR lady. A scene you’d normally see in those American movies happening to me in real life. Heh. Surreal. When we reached the door, she said: “Come here, let me give you a hug”, in a bright and ever so friendly voice. Honestly, I was so totally confused at that moment, that I just replied, without much thinking: “Nah, you don’t have to” and stepped out of the office building for the last time.

And now? What is left from the dream castle I’ve been building during the past few months? Well, for one, a few absolutely beautiful, unforgettable moments. And a few really nice acquaintances. New experiences and lessons learned. And a feeling of guilt. Guilt that I didn’t try harder. Guilt that I didn’t fit in better. That I failed. I had a chance and I blew it. And a feeling of shame. I’ve never been fired from any job before in my life. Ever. So it feels totally weird…

But, ok folks – you know how they say: “in every difficulty there is an opportunity”. So, let me wrap it up at this point and go look for my opportunities… 😎

Couples therapy

My wife and I were having a slight variance of opinion lately on various (= just about any) day to day topics regarding our lives. And… since this “lately” lasts for many years already I decided to finally do something about it. Bam! I moved out of the family home to a small apartment, where I’m now lying in bed and writing these lines. But wait, before you judge me, before you call me a coward or something, read on…

It became obvious to me that my wife was not going to do anything about the situation, so I had to take another step towards finding a solution for our problem. And where do you go first, when it comes to relationship problems? A shrink. Yeah, right. Ok, but since I’m not alone in this mess, I googled “couples therapy” and “marriage counseling” and came accross this guy’s website offering a trial session. Not a free trial session, but never the less a trial session. “Heck” I thought, “why not give it a try?”. So I filled out and submitted the online form. The theraphyst replied rather quickly and proposed a date and time for our first session. I accepted the appointment and – before you know it…

…my wife and I were sitting in this guys office, in comfortable leather armchairs. He was looking curiously in our direction while my look was wandering all over the room, analyzing the abstract pictures that were hanging on the walls, massive wooden door, the ceiling with the old pieces of stucco… I turned back to him when he said:

“First of all, I’d like to know what you’re here for and I also want you to tell me what you expect from this session.” Huh. I knew that a question of this kind was going to come in one form or another, but I was really not ready for it. And it is anyway obvious what we were here for. So I asked him, as if I hadn’t understood the question: “What do I expect?” He confirmed: “Yes.” I thought for a second and then I answered, forcing a smile upon my face for a second: “A miracle”. He took it seriously and replied: “A miracle? What kind of miracle?” The first thought that crossed my mind was: “What kind? Oh, man. What do I know what kind? Just a plain vanilla regular kind of miracle. If they would be selling miracles in coffee shops, one would order it as: “One regular latte-miracle to go, please.” So I just said: “A miracle that would help us find a way out of our current situation.”

And then we started our long discussion about the marriage, kids, parenthood, feelings, problems and challenges,… He’s good, I must admit. A real professional. Asks the right questions and then leans back and lets the two of us talk about all the shite that was bothering us… And so we went on for almost two hours, each of us explaining their position and telling the story from a different perspective. Obviously, we haven’t found any tailor made solutions during these two hours. But rather just learned a general recipe for finding a solution: listen to each other, try to acknowledge and understand the position of the other one and so on… And – interestingly enough, this was a nice chance to say things and talk about topics which would otherwise remain untold, simply because neither of us was ready to hear them.

I can’t wait to see how all this develops. I’ll keep you posted!

Days of health and gratefulness

Yesterday we had a so called “Health Day” in my company. Each employee was given the opportunity to apply for a short medical examination, including lungs, eyesight, hearing, blood pressure, blood count etc. So I applied…

And there I am, sitting in a small office room which was converted to a doctor’s office for this occasion. The medical practitioner, a friendly and chatty mid-aged woman started right off with an interview:

“Height?”

“180cm”

“How much do you weigh?”

“92kg” (I lied, I’m currently closer to 93-94kg)

“Any chronic diseases?”

“No”.

“Any known eyesight issues?”

“No.”

“Ok, we’ll check that”.

“Hearing. Is your hearing ok?”

“Yes.”

“We’ll check that, too”.

“Are you suffering from tinitus?”

“No. That is, well, if I really concentrate I am able to hear a very high pitched sound when my environment is completely still and silent. But I don’t hear this sound all the time, no”.

“Any issues with your bones? Joints?”

“No. Wait, yes – my knees do hurt sometimes but I attribute that to my being slightly overweight. I expect this pain to disappear once I’m down to my goal weight od 78-82 kg”.

“Do you smoke?”

“Nah, I quit several years ago.”

“Alcohol?”

“Nope. It’s been a few years since I quit that, too.”

“Not even a glass of vine or a beer, occassionally?”

“No. Honestly. Not a sip.

And then I told her that I’ll go ahead and jot down all of the above in my “gratitude list”. “Gratitude list”? She looked at me. Yes. A gratitude list. Some time ago I discovered by “coincidence” (I’m putting coincidence in quotes because I believe that “coincidences” don’t exist. Everything happens for a reason) a book on this subject, where the author wrote down 1000 reasons for being grateful in life. And this came just after I finished reading Nick Vujičić’s book “Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life”. Oh, that book was a life changer. I was instantly cured of all the issues I thought I had. I realised that not only I was not missing anything, but I actually have (much) more than the most: I’m alive, healthy, have enough to eat, have enough money, there is no war going on here where I live… Nick is, for example, totally grateful for the one foot he’s got (he was born without arms and legs). Among other things, that is. I totally recommend this book.

So she went on with the examination, my eyes are ok. My hearing is perfect. My lungs have 97% capacity. Blood pressure 107/68. Woooha! And so on…

In my gratitude list I currently have 35 items, ranging from “I’m grateful for having healthy and strong arms, hands and legs” to “I’m grateful for being able to take a shower with fresh water, whenever I want, and choose water temperature which suites me best”.

Too often we forget what we have. We forget our health, we forget that we posess so much of everything, all the necessary and unnecessary bits and pieces. Those of us living in the West also tend to forget that there are no armed conflicts around us.

Alive, healthy and free. This is my foundation. Everything else that comes on top is a nice extra. It’s not that I’m not developing my “extras”. Quite the opposite – I enjoy working on all aspects of my life, starting with health, wealth, various skills and ultimately true happiness.

And what is it that you’re missing? And what are you grateful for? 😀