Every year, my family gathers for the Reunion Dinner on the eve of Chinese New Year. It is a rowdy affair, filled with food, drink and laughter.
Ma cooks up a storm each time, and we all tuck in. Back in the old days, it was just my immediate family: Pa, Ma, my two younger brothers and me. But the participants grew as we siblings got married and had children.
These days, it is not just my brood and my brother's kids at these dinners. Even family friends, cousins and aunts are here. We didn't have Pa with us for the last three years but Ma felt we should have even more loved ones in the home for this dinner, and so the party grew to as many as 19 people.
It got so big in numbers that we had to buy two folding tables from Giant, so that we could seat everyone.
My second brother usually cooks some of the dishes too, because he is a great cook. And also, it helps take some of the load off my mother, who is already 73 years old. But Ma loves to cook for us, so she still does a fair bit of the cooking. It's in her DNA, I think. She has been making meals for us since we were born, while juggling work as a teacher.
I cherish these Reunion Dinners. I like eating at home with all my loved ones, and home-cooked meals. My children too, are used to this scene because they are at my mom's every weeknight for dinner (we live a few blocks away from my mother).
I am not sure how we would even execute a Reunion Dinner without her hands-on involvement. She has run this show and this household for so long.
Ma is what you would call the Pioneer Generation. When I think of her though, I don't think of the term Pioneer Generation. I just think of her as Ma.
It is nice, of course, to appreciate that generation for their contribution to nation-building and all that. But really, my late father and Ma impacted us in a more intimate way, providing for us and bringing us up.
They were there through all our ups and downs; when we struggled in school, when we failed an exam, when we grappled with work and business, when we got attached, when we went through breakups, when we got married, when we had children of our own, when we had a special child, when we lost a child.
Through it all, our parents were there, a pillar of strength and support. Their contribution to us is beyond nation-building. They are the very foundation of our lives.
This Pioneer Generation video below reminded me of our own family, as we gather for our Reunion Dinners.
Does it remind you of yours?
When I was growing up, my parents set up a POSB Savings Account for my brothers and me. We deposited our Chinese New Year ang pows into the account every year (well, in the early years, I think it was my parents who deposited it for us, because babies are too short for over-the-counter banking).
We were even taught to save our allowance, to put aside some of it for a rainy day. At one stage, I was so hardcore at saving my allowance, I even went without buying food during recess, bringing food from home instead. Partly because I was saving up for a really cool yo-yo, that the school bus auntie sold on the bus (along with snacks like “rat satay”).
I still remember the old National School Savings Campaign, run by the Postal Savings Bank, later called the POSB. We saved by buying 10 cent stamps, then fixed the stamps on cards until we had $2 of stamps. The filled card would then be dropped off at the bank as a deposit.
I remember there was Smiley the Squirrel, admonishing us to save. I also remember the sticky fingers (mine, not Smiley the Squirrel’s) from handling all those savings stamps. Good times.
So when we had kids of our own, the wife and I also chose to impart this saving ethic to them. I look at their bank accounts now, and feel a little poor but proud. They have quite a bit of ang pow money saved in there.
On a daily basis, they also set aside their allowance. I allow some of the allowance to go towards a toy fund, but there must be some set aside for pure savings.
I lugged some of those coins from their allowance piggy banks to the coin sorting machine recently. It was really heavy but satisfying to deposit their savings for them.
You know what? POSB is bringing back the National School Savings Campaign, supported by MOE. I am quite excited about it. Yes, the saving stamps, the stamp card, and even Smiley the Squirrel.
Find out more about the campaign here and pledge your support.
Parents and primary school students can get their POSB National School Savings stamp card from any POSB/DBS branch, SingPost outlet and at Pacific or Popular bookstores in schools from 2nd February 2015 onwards. Students can then deposit the completed stamp card into any POSB/DBS Quick Cheque Deposit location and earn a $1 bonus (limited to one stamp card per child, per month and only valid for POSBkids account holders).
Sign up here for an ePOSBkids account if your child doesn’t have one.
If anything, stamps will be way easier to carry to the bank than a 5kg bag of coins.
[Image of old POSB stamp card above by Mel Naa, used with permission]
Wow, I just realized that it has been EXACTLY eight years since I joined Twitter on the 5th of January, 2007. Has it been THAT long?
Other signs you are getting old: A new musician friend says to you, "When I read your blog and listened your podcasts, I was in Primary School."
I am Pioneer Generation for Twitter. Got any special promotion or not?
We were at the mall today, to deposit the piggy bank coins that the kids have been diligently saving from their allowance. It was heavy to lug those coins to the machine, but fascinating to watch the machine count the coins so well.
Faith didn't quite like it there and she freaked out a little. It was probably the crowd and the music and the general noisiness overwhelming her senses. She can be a little vocal when she expresses her displeasure.
It is always interesting to see the reactions of people when Faith screams or shouts in a public place like this.
Some stare. Some look on with a smile of empathy.
Some actually get up from their seats and scurry away.
Faith's younger siblings ask me, "Why do they do that? Cheh Cheh is not a monster. They are being silly."
I tell them it's ok. Some people just don't understand the quirks of her autism so they are afraid. Or they think they might be blamed for causing her behaviour. People fear what they don't understand.
We who understand our daughter's condition, also understand why people don't understand. So we rarely get mad at them.
A well-dressed middle-aged man wearing a lanyard with ID knocked on my door.
"Hello, we are conducting spalling concrete works over the weekend and we are here to do a pre-inspection."
"May I see your authorization letter? Are you from HDB?" I asked.
"Er, we are a private contractor."
"My home is fine, thanks."
Nice try, dude.
Bukit Batok has a new tourist attraction: Gardens by the Rats.
That may explain why these people have gathered to watch 22 men try to catch them all.
The infestation was blamed on residents feeding the stray dogs which apparently led to the rats coming out to eat the leftovers.
If this were an opposition ward, the authorities would probably blame the town council.
People feed stray dogs in other estates all the time, why rats don't come out like this leh?
My youngest daughter, when she saw the Bukit Batok rats in the news video, went "Awwwww!"
I blame Disney.
Maybe they can throw a tent around the Bukit Batok area and start a rat circus. Call it Cirque du 鼠 Leh.
[photos via TODAY]
The response to the most useless taxi app in the world, made by the Land Transport Authority, was swift. The app lets you see the cabs in your vicinity, but cannot be used to book any of them.
The app is named Taxi-Taxi@SG, and the tagline is, without any self-irony, "Taxi Taxi, where are you?"
I suggested that my readers #RenameTaxiAppByLTA and here were some suggestions.
1. @mrbrown: SeeTaxi #RenameTaxiAppByLTA
2. @mrbrown: WhatTaxi #RenameTaxiAppByLTA
3. @mrbrown: CrapTaxi #RenameTaxiAppByLTA
4. @mrbrown: LookNotBookTaxi #RenameTaxiAppByLTA
5. @mrbrown: OohBlur #RenameTaxiAppByLTA
6. Jermyn Wee: TaxiGoWhere #RenameTaxiAppByLTA
7. @avalon: KuaTaxi #RenameTaxiAppByLTA
8. @mrbrown: TaxiNoEnough #RenameTaxiAppByLTA
9. @omgitsjy: TaxSee #renametaxiappbylta
10. @Geoffreeeyy: BoTaxi #RenameTaxiAppByLTA
11. @lupcheong: 德不到士 #RenameTaxiAppByLTA
12. @lupcheong: No Cab for Cutie #RenameTaxiAppByLTA
13. @dead_cockroach: #NinjaTaxi? #RenameTaxiAppByLTA
14. @st_meow: CatchNoCab #RenameTaxiAppByLTA
15. @mrbrown: TaxiKosong #RenameTaxiAppByLTA
16. @mrbrown: ChangingShift #RenameTaxiAppByLTA
17. @munchykinss: YouWaitLongLong #RenameTaxiAppByLTA
18. @lupcheong: Flipbird #RenameTaxiAppByLTA
19. @northernstarlit: Turn Up For What #RenameTaxiAppByLTA
20. @DanielFoodDiary: NotVeryEasyTaxi #RenameTaxiAppByLTA
21. @funkshin: Dude, Where's my Cab? #RenameTaxiAppByLTA
22. @miyagi: AngryNoWhere #RenameTaxiAppByLTA
LTA launches a taxi app that lets you see available taxis around you… but does not let you book taxis. Slow clap.
LTA Can't-Book-a-Taxi taxi app: "Hey look, another available taxi you can't book! Hey look, another available taxi you can't book! Hey look, another available taxi you can't book!"
Isn't it fun to monitor taxi movement, folks?
LTA statement: "With this information, commuters can better decide whether to continue waiting for a taxi on the street, walk to a location with more available taxis, book a taxi instead, or make alternative transport arrangements."
I suggest that LTA takes this app to the back of the barn and shoot it, to put it out of its misery.
I read in the news that in a National Workplace Happiness Survey, Singapore's overall workplace happiness index is 59, which falls into the band "Under Happy", between "Unhappy" & "Happy".
This made me Over Sad, so I went on Twitter to start the #UnderHappy hashtag.
1. @mrbrown: Bak Chor Mee came with one less meatball. #UnderHappy
2. @kuekj: Bak Chor Mee, no ter kwa! #UnderHappy
3. @mrbrown: Boss just bought a Lamborghini after announcing this year no bonus. #UnderHappy
4. @mrbrown: "Realistic and correct salaries" for "morally upright" ministers. #UnderHappy
5. @frhn: Managed to board SMRT. Personal space violated and guy beside me has bad breath. #UnderHappy
6. @polarpaws_: Finding the last clean and dry pair of underwear when out on field camp. #UnderHappy #UnderWearHappy
7. @vinyarb: Thirsty, but Dao Huey Zui too hot. #UnderHappy
8. @mrbrown: On the ball during BMT to go to OCS, kena SAFINCOS. (Ok, it's called SISPEC now. I am old. Update: I am told it is now SCS.) #UnderHappy
9. @shunoski: My ban mian never put anchovies. #UnderHappy
10. @mrbrown: Just bought an iPad Mini with Retina Display. iPad Mini 3 with Touch ID announced. #UnderHappy
11. @mrbrown: Whipped cream on my Frappacino when I told them no whip. #UnderHappy
12. @mrbrown: Barista spelled my name wrong on my latte. #UnderHappy
13. @rasuanta: Barista spelled my name correctly on my frappe. Cannot instagram. #UnderHappy
14. @weilien: Finding the last available stall in a public bathroom, but it's a squat toilet. #UnderHappy
15. @mrbrown: Paid 10 cents to enter a public toilet. Toilet looks like shit. #UnderHappy
16. @mrbrown: Wife ate the food before you could Instagram it. #UnderHappy
17. @mrbrown: The ice in your Teh Si Peng melted before the drink became cold. #UnderHappy
18. @ErvinHan: Normal is too sweet. Siu Dai is not sweet enough. #UnderHappy
19. @marcdnair: Tapao food, forget to take spoon. #UnderHappy
20. @brianistic: Boss say leave cannot bring forward next year and no cash out, must clear by this year #UnderHappy
21. @marcdnair: Receive camera as birthday present, but win the same model last week in office lucky draw. #UnderHappy
22. @marcdnair: Got cash voucher, but only valid in one ulu outlet. #UnderHappy
23. @nyithetnyi: If Pharrell had grown up in Singapore. #UnderHappy
24. @mr_wilson95: Not all pieces of chicken on my roast chicken rice had the skin on them. #UnderHappy
25. @mrbrown: The vending machine still doesn't accept the new Singapore coins. And that's all you have. #UnderHappy
26. @mrbrown: Ordered Teh Si Siu Siu Dai, kopitiam auntie made it Siu Dai. #UnderHappy
27. @furryphotos: Leave house, phone at 50%, no power bank #UnderHappy
28. @mrbrown: Brought Powerbank for iPhone. Didn't bring Lightning cable. #UnderHappy
29. @ErvinHan: Tons of 'Likes' on Carousell but no offer. #UnderHappy
30. @mrbrown: Friend spams Carousell posts on your Facebook Feed. #UnderHappy
31. @mrbrown: The state of the S-League. #UnderHappy
32. @furryphotos: Made #UnderHappy joke but @mrbrown already did it earlier.
33. @mrbrown: Harass and scam customers, then online parody site posts your cringeworthy shirtless photos on Facebook. #UnderHappy
34. @mrbrown: Bus app says "3 MIN" but bus already "ARR". #UnderHappy
35. @DanielFoodDiary: 2nd in line. Person in front tabao 2 dozen packets #UnderHappy
36. @MrFoxxie: Want to change fries to onion rings at BK, no more onion rings. #UnderHappy
37. @syuk_cookie: After a 12 hours night shift,need to attend another 3 hours 'work life balance' course #UnderHappy
38. @MothershipSG: Ask real Indian foreign workers act #underhappy at fake riot. #UnderHappy
39. @marcdnair: First in class but report card says got room for improvement. #UnderHappy
40. @weilien: Someone praises you in the comments on Instagram but, for some reason, doesn't "Like" your picture. #UnderHappy
41. @amirulhsbm: Want to think of #UnderHappy jokes but can't think of any. #UnderHappy
42. #UnderHappy is the new #Sianhalf
43. @mrbrown: Ordered Mee Kia. Gave me Mee Pok. #UnderHappy
44. @mrbrown: No one understood your hipster-ironic t-shirt. #UnderHappy
45. @mrbrown: #UnderHappy is the Singaporean employee's Whatever.
I do not know when a visit to the neighborhood GP went from an average of $28 to what is now $52. Don't fall sick in Singapore. Can die one.
What went up for doctors? Rent? Staff salaries? Cost of antibiotics?
Firstly congratulations to Serena Williams for winning the finals in Singapore.
Secondly, where did they find the geographically-challenged commentators for the WTA Finals?
I think some of us were gobsmacked when we heard WTA Finals commentator say "Goodbye! From China!"
Oi! Singapore where got is part of China? China your head lah!
And then friends and readers heard a commentator say that 50% of our population speak Mandarin as the main language, with English as our second language. Simisai?
Then yet another commentator said that this is the first time Singapore has had live telecasts of major tennis tournaments.
What The Finals, man.
Update: The commentator Kevin Skinner, has apologized for the China remark.
One of our favorite Sound of Music songs came on in the car, "I need someone older and wiser, telling me what to do…"
"Remember, you don't need a man telling you what to do when you grow up," I said to Joy, age 8.
"Then why do you tell me what to do?" she retorted.
"It's different. I'm your Pa. I'll always tell you what to do."
The Wife piped in, "The toilet light is broken, dear."
"I'll get it fixed right away," I immediately replied.
Joy: "Papa, how come you don't have a six-pack?"
Me: "I have. In the fridge."
Joy, squeezing my tummy: "You have flub."
My kids, they keep things real for me.
In case you are wondering, the six-pack I have in the fridge right now is Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc.
Siri: "Turn right at Tam Pines Avenue 2."
Hmmm, so Siri pronounces Tampines that way…
Me: "Siri, give me directions to Tam Pines St 12."
Siri: "OK, getting directions to… 10 Pines St, Niceville, FL, USA."
One day Ah Beng decided to apply for a job. They gave him a form to fill.
First Name: "Tan"
Middle Name: "Ah"
Last Name: "Beng"
Salary Expected: "Yes"
Last Position: "Standing"
Desired Position: "Sitting"
Able to Work Shift: "Yes, and Caps Lock too"
What is Your Availability: "Single"
In an Emergency, We Should Call: "Police"
I didn't expect the #ReturnMyCPF Protesters/YMCA Hong Lim blog post to generate that many comments. In case you don't feel like fading through the more than 240 comments on my blog (and elsewhere), I thought I'd share some of the classy ones I got.
This one is from "Chloe", who writes: "You absolutely lost it. Just because you are unfortunate to give birth to a "special needs child" doesn't give you the right to blaspheme our brave freedom fighters. Get the context right - unless you also have special needs."
I like how Chloe uses the word "unfortunate" to describe our family situation. I assure you, we don't feel unfortunate. We are very happy and blessed to have all our children in our lives. I also like the use of the word "blaspheme". I didn't know I was dealing with messiahs.
Here is another one from "selamat": "…We don't care if your daughter is autistic or why you are suddenly sucking up to the pigs. We do care about your brazen attack on our champions. Bring it on, stop using your children as a shield. You are pathetic."
While hiding behind the shield of internet anonymity, the commenter accuses me of using my children as a shield. It amuses me.
This final one is from Singapore’s very own brave anonymous crusaders, Occupy Singapore. Yes, the ones who same fellows who declared "Occupy Raffles Place" and then didn't turn up. They throw in their 2 cents on my Hong Lim post. It made a small tinkling sound on the pavement.
Update: A PUB gentleman called me up a few days later and told me his guys found a blockage in the sewers along the street and cleared it. And gave me his mobile to directly call him if any more blockages or smells happen again. Cool.
Me to LTA hotline, 29th September, Monday, 10.22pm: "Hello, I want to report a nasty smell along Upper Serangoon Road, at the junction of Simon Road. I think it may be sewage. I can see a trail of water on the side of the road running for quite far. Maybe a sewage truck spilled it or a pipe burst somewhere. It is very smelly."
LTA hotline: "Thank you for the feedback. We will inform PUB."
The next day…
PUB hotline calls me, 30th September, Tuesday, 1.21pm: "Hello, you reported a smell at Upper Serangoon Road? Did you see any water flowing out of somewhere?"
Me: "Er, yes, I reported it. No, I did not see any source, just the smell. And a trail of water along the road side."
PUB hotline: "Ok, I will send my man down to investigate now."
Me: "I made this report last night. I think the water dry up already."
Maybe I was two days too early for the new Municipal Services Office hotline.