Some months ago, my son volunteered me to be a parent volunteer for one of his school outings. When I say he volunteered me, it means I only found out I was to be a parent volunteer after he told his teacher I would be more than happy to be a parent volunteer.
I decided to take the morning off from work to do it anyway. The boys were brought on a social studies tour of Fort Canning Park and since I grew up playing at this very park in the city when I was in the primary school next door, the trip had extra meaning for me.
I had almost forgotten how lovely Fort Canning is. Lush greenery in the midst of the city, clean air and the sounds of birds (and some cars and construction as well).
It made me feel thankful that we still have pockets of nature here in Singapore, filled with history and stories of Singapore. I think it is awesome to have so many trees in Singapore, kudos to our NParks folks.
So when Kleenex asked me be part of their Forest Stewardship Council campaign, I agreed. All you have to do is to take a pledge to make small changes in your own home that will improve the environment for future generations, at their Facebook page, and for every 20 pledges collected, Kleenex will sponsor the planting of a tree in a local park.
You can make your pledge here: http://mrbrwn.co/1rmGzzw
I made my pledge and also placed a wish on the Wishing Tree.
Some of the little things I pledge to do to save the world (and some I am already doing) is to make sure we don't leave the lights and fans on when we don't use them. My kids know the familiar refrain from their father: "Who left the fan on in the room again?"
It is strange to hear myself saying stuff like this, stuff my father used to say to his sons. I guess it rubs off on you.
I also have a slightly bad habit of grabbing more than one tissue from the tissue box each time. I don't know why I do it. Maybe I think two tissues are better than one. I shall use tissues more sparingly from now on.
My children are also taught not to waste water when they wash their hands or bathe. And from their grandma, my kids learn that water used for washing rice and vegetables can be reused for watering plants.
There are so many more small changes I think we can make to save the environment. Share them here in the comments, and do make a pledge and wish at the Kleenex page.
I'd like to see more trees planted in our little island.
The Minster of Defence has announced that NS IPPT will be reduced to 2.4km run, push-ups and sit-ups.
Now Lao Peng can say, "In MY time, IPPT was FIVE stations, ok? 2.4km, sit-ups, chin-ups, shuttle run and standing broad jump! And push-ups were used for punishment only. Last time, we collected rubber bands as we ran around the stadium, ok? And the black swimming trunks DAMN ugly, can? You young punks are so lucky."
@Miyagi thinks that next year IPPT will be reduced to one station: slow walk to canteen break.
I think in the near future, it may be even further reduced to 2.4m slow walk to the secret smoking point. And your maid can do for you. Reservists (NSmen) in their 30s or older are allowed to let their NSF sons do their reservist IPPT for them.
In view of the new shortened three-station IPPT, IPPT will be renamed IPT, Individuals Pass Together.
Because of the reduced need for Physical Training Instructors (PTIs), half of the current PTI force will be sent to Guardsmen and Commando course for upgrading. The remaining PTIs will be sent for Encouragement training, to help them cheer servicemen on during the new reduced IPPT, in the four national languages.
PTIs will also now need to provide high-fives and group hugs.
There will be no pass or fail or gold or whatever in the new reduced IPPT. Servicemen will fall under broad categories of Well Done, Not Bad and Good Effort. This is to ensure that they do not feel discouraged by any physical fitness shortcomings and damage their fragile self-esteem.
RT will also cease to stand for Remedial Training. It will end years of soldiers using the term wrongly, as in "You kena RT training ah?", as that would mean one is saying "You have Remedial Training training ah?".
It's like people who say ATM machine.
RT will now stand for Relaxing Tekong. Servicemen who feel like they should do better for the new IPPT can opt to go for Relaxing Tekong, a new spa, facial and fitness centre located on exotic Pulau Tekong, to improve their wellness.
With the new reduced three-station IPPT introduced, the chin-up bars at public park fitness corners will be re-purposed for use in MRT trains for standing passengers.
As push-ups are now part of the official IPPT, the new military punishment will be twenty mild squats.
BREAKING NEWS: The Ministry of Defence Fitness (MINDEFF) would like to clarify that the new IPPT is push-ups, sit-ups and a 24km run.
They apologize for the extra decimal point.
MINDEFF also announced that if servicemen do not wish to do the 24km run, they can opt for the alternative three-station IPPT where you do the sit-ups and push-ups… while doing the 2.4km run. Below ten minutes. To pass.
So I told the wife I was going to watch some #GER vs #BRA action and she looked at me funny. It was to be the first free game on tv and boy did we get goals.
5 goals from Germany in the first 28 minutes alone. Then just when I thought the second half was going to be boring, another 2 more from Germany and a pity goal from Brazil's Oscar in the ninetieth minute. The last time I saw a score like this was FIFA 14.
When Brazil finally scored that courtesy goal, my friend on FB wrote, "So you guys think this is going to penalties or what?"
Meanwhile, on our tv screens, Singtel's tv hosts remind us that their World Cup hashtag is #mioBrazil. How apt. Because it is truly #沒有Brazil liao.
At least Americans will now say, "Wow, this soccer thing is pretty neat! So many goals, like American Football liddat!"
Today sure got discount on Brazillian World Cup jersey one.
And in summary of this Germany vs Brazil match:
You hear the thunder, wind and pitter-patter outside? That's the tears of Brazil reaching Singapore.
Once upon a time, three navies responded to a pirate attack.
The Singapore Navy said they arrived first. And then in brotherhood, solidarity and ASEAN cooperation with the Malaysian and Indonesian navies, who arrived later but were just as brave and instrumental to the event, fended off the pirates.
The Malaysian Navy said they came and fended off the pirates, with assistance of the Singaporean and Indonesian navies.
The Indonesian Navy said they plan to name their next ship after the pirates.
I helped an old man find his 6-year-old granddaughter yesterday. The K2 girl broke away from his grasp at the void deck, like she was playing hide and seek with him.
An auntie found her at the bus stop and told the little girl wearing a blue kindergarten uniform that her grandfather was looking for her over at the next block.
I overheard it and volunteered to find the grandfather who was by now panicking and panting from running around the neighbouring blocks looking for her, carrying her school bag and his own things.
When I brought the grandfather back to his grandchild, the little girl got a scolding from me and a second auntie who had taken over from the first auntie (her bus came).
The second auntie said to the grandpa, "Go home and tell her parents. They must discipline her. It is so dangerous for her to run away like that."
"Cannot do that ah," I said to the girl, in a stern voice. "If you get lost then your family will be so worried!"
"Ya, wait got bad men kidnap you how?" said the auntie.
The relieved and thankful grandfather and his grandchild then boarded the bus to go home at another estate.
It takes a village to raise a child. So glad to see the sense of community still alive and well in my neighbourhood.
Now that school has reopened, and the holidays are over, I can finally get down to writing about the little holiday I took with the family in June.
We didn't really plan anything so I just booked a stay in a hotel in JB, Malaysia for three days. I know what you are thinking, what is there in JB? Well, I can tell you that JB has three things going for it.
1. It is near.
2. It has affordable and good Malaysian food.
3. The hotel has a pool and a mall attached to it.
Sightseeing was not on the agenda. My kids just like the idea of a hotel stay (and staycations in Singapore cost a bomb), being able to swim at the hotel pool, and hanging out at the mall. The wife was happy to just shop in ringgit and my mother could get some marketing done too. Isaac, Faith, my wife, my mom and my helper went by the little family car. Joy and I took the bus over. Yes, I took public transport to JB.
Given the mode of travel, the one thing I wanted to do was to pack as little as possible. I managed to squeeze three days worth of clothes, toiletries, and electronics in this little 20L Deuter daypack. When I say electronics, I mean my Sony A7 camera with two lenses and my iPad Air. That was it. No laptop, no PS Vita, and no bulky headphones. I just wanted to chill with the family, and maybe listen to some music or watch a tv show or movie on the iPad Air if there was time.
Enter the Klipsch R6 and R6i (with iPhone remote). This is the replacement for the Klipsch S4 (and S4i), the entry-level earphones that I used and liked in 2011 (how time flies!). And just like the last time, I experienced the Klipsch while on a trip.
For the purposes of this review, I used the R6i, with the iPhone remote. The R6i surprised me. If you didn't tell me they are meant to be entry level earphones, I would not have thought they were. The signature S4 sound is still there, but vastly improved. First of all, that sibilance that used to be fairly pronounced on the S4 is pretty much gone. Second of all, the build quality has gone up significantly, using aluminum and elastomer for a more high-end look. The headphone jack, a critical part, looks reinforced, which means better protection from failure.
The bass is punchy but not overwhelming. The mids are now less muddy compared to the S4 series it replaces. In fact, I could hear details that I didn't used to get from the S4. I also felt the sound was slightly warmer. You could say that the R6i is a more refined brother of the S4i.
The best way I can describe the R6 is that it is balanced. Soundstage has also improved over its predecessor. And the new flat cable is much better, making the R6 less prone to tangling.
It is very diminutive when you pack it for travel. Even in its pouch, the package is slim. I shoved it into my pants pocket when I wanted to take it along, and other times, I just shoved it with its pouch into my backpack. It was light, small and got out of the way, and rarely got tangled up.
The oval ear-buds, a Klipsch thing, made the R6i very comfortable for long periods of use. The remote control on the R6i is also nice, with the play button being obvious to the touch, while the volume controls are flush with the remote. This means that without looking, you can locate the single bump of the play button very easily instead of being confused by three bumps.
I normally burn in my earphones by playing them for more than 20 hours before using them, but the R6i was something I just grabbed for the trip and used. Sounded great out of the box, which I didn't expect. After hours of using it on the road, it sounded even better.
Oh, how could I leave you without photos of our little vacation, right? Here are the kids enjoying the heck out of the hotel pool, which even had a dinosaur theme pool area.
The yellow float cost me ten ringgit to rent, which was ok, I guess. I rented two floats so the kids wouldn't fight over it.
Faith totally loved the holiday. We let her swim all she wanted, and there were no plane rides (not her most favorite thing). And I got to eat all the lovely street food in JB, and even squeezed in some time for a late night massage with the wife.
Not bad for a last-minute holiday.
Klipsch SEA is giving away 20 pairs of Klipsch R6/R6i! All you have to do is to answer a few questions in their quick survey and you will automatically stand a chance to win a pair!
A big thank you for taking part and good luck!
One evening, Isaac took out a booklet of donation lucky draw tickets and asked my mother-in-law, "婆婆，你可以买我的Lucky Draw吗？” ("Grandma, can you buy some of my lucky draw tickets?")
"用华语讲." I said, waiting him to practise using his Chinese.
Joy piped in, trying to be helpful, "La¹ Key³ Draw¹."
Annoyed, I replied, "Saying the words Lucky Draw with the Chinese tones doesn't make it Chinese, ok? It is… it is… wait ah…"
*checks Google Translate app* "It is 幸运大抽奖 lah!" I declared proudly.
Hey, you have to give this father points for trying ok?
I've seen my share of stylo circuses, like Cirque du Soleil, Cirque Éloize and Zumanity, so I was looking forward to watching LE NOIR at Marina Bay Sands Grand Theatre, because it features former stars of Cirque du Soleil and other big acts.
The wife and I took the two younger ones with me, and we were quite blown away by the show.
The Ringmaster, performed by Salvador Salangsang Jr, was hilarious, as his antics helped to bridge the death-defying acts. In the photo I took above, Ignatov-Radokhov was spinning his cube with aplomb.
I was also holding my breath when I took this photo of Gediminas Pavlovicius doing his Rolla Bolla act, balancing on metal pipes. It is easily one of my favorite acts from the show. I got to pick up the pipes later backstage and they are just plain pipes, no tricks. Just sheer skill and balance.
This is the second time LE NOIR has come to Singapore, and this time it adds the Wheel of Death, something we didn't get to see because the performer sprained his ankle at an earlier performance and had to heal up. I hope he gets well soon. Still, the rest of the show was great.
The show started its run in Tokyo, and has already been to Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and after Singapore, it will be heading to Atlantic City and Australia. Then only will the cast get a four week break, the Ringmaster tells me.
We were enthralled by this skating act as they spun on a small little circle of a platform. What would happen if she flew off? *shudder*
We also gasped with wonder at the dexterity of all the performers. And we admired the costumes and the well-choreographed dances. So artistic.
After the show, we got a little backstage tour led by the Ringmaster himself. That was a real treat for the kids. Salvador (who is really from Hawaii but acts as a French clown) showed us his props and the gear used by the cast. Joy and Isaac got to try pulling the giant industrial-strength balloon he uses for his funny balloon act. I am told it costs about US$60 for one of these balloons.
LE NOIR was thoroughly enjoyable, even for this veteran cirque fan. You can find out more and book tickets at the MBS site.
Now I am hoping my kids don't tell me they plan to run away and join the circus. At least wait till after their studies lah.
In what was the longest Facebook outage in recent times, social media fans faced having no Facebook for all of twenty minutes. In that period, experts tell us that workplace productivity went up by 200%.
Just imagine, if Twitter and Facebook went down together, we’d have to go out and actually talk to people face to face. *shudder*
With the Facebookless masses rushing to Twitter to feed their fix, I asked my Twitter followers the things they did when Facebook was down.
1. @mrbrown: Looked for my Google+ password.
2. @Anders_Ong: Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh…
3. @cynn04: I actually did some work.
4. @mechaniqa: Rewrote Ophelia in Modern English.
5. @kallangfortis: Reactivate my Friendster account…
6. @jakachuuu: Found Waldo.
7. @mrbrown: Took a dump.
8. @mrbrown: Wrote the sequel to The Iliad.
9. @mrbrown: Built a house.
10. @mrbrown: Finished reading War and Peace.
11. @HongJieOng: Faced my book =/
12. @icelava: Phoned my friends to tell them how much i disagree with their political opinions.
13. @mrbrown: Rebooted the Spider-Man and X-Men franchise.
14. @mrbrown: Had an iced latte kosong and a fresh fruit tart.
15. @mrbrown: Made #ThingsIDidWhenFacebookWasDown trend on Twitter.
If it wasn't for the fact that Joy was performing at a church Parents' Day event, I would've forgotten it was Father's Day today.
But every day is Father's Day, really. And today was no different.
In one day, I laughed with my kids, shouted at my kids, sniffed my kids' butts to find out where the poop smell was coming from, exchanged silly stories with my kids, chased the kids to bathe, scolded one kid for not closing the door when he changed thereby showing the world his birthday suit, waited 40 minutes for my order of pizzas for the kids' dinner at my in-laws, repaired a plastic-pearl-encrusted cat hairband for the youngest kid, felt pride as that same kid sang on stage and did a split without stage fright, gave my two younger kids $5 each just because, and fussed over the oldest kid who was sick.
Faithie had a throat infection, which she told me by holding my hand to her throat and giving a little demonstration cough. This is a first. She has never managed to communicate what ails her when she is sick, because of her autism. Until now.
I had mixed feelings of wonder and worry. But we had no time to feel much of either because we had to make sure she took some medicine to sooth her throat so she could eat some food. Oh, and clean up the mess after she threw up the first round of medicine.
On the car ride home from my in-laws, we were telling each other stories, and Joy told us about a classmate who said her mother works at The Ship restaurant.
I said, that's cool, your mommy and I used to date at the old Ship restaurant.
"I thought I heard Sh*t Restaurant, and was wondering what kind of restaurant that was!" Joy laughed. "I asked her is it a kind of poop place? And my friend said SHIPPP! As in BOAT!" said Joy, by then in a major giggling fit.
"Maybe the food is brown!" laughed Isaac. Trust him to have the poop jokes on hand.
The wife and I couldn't help laughing at the poop story, because we are basically 11-year-olds inside. But I still managed to throw in a "Watch the language ah, don't use the S word, ok?"
Because that's what fathers are supposed to say.
In an earlier conversation, Joy asked me, in all seriousness, "Papa, do you regret that I turned out to be a girl?"
I said, "Of course not! Why would you think that?"
"Because people seem to like sons more."
"Nonsense," I said. "Girls and boys are equally good. I am equally happy to have each one of you: Cheh Cheh, Kor Kor and you. I love all of you just as much."
"When I grow up, I will look after Cheh Cheh. I will live with you and Mommy and force my husband to live with you too," Joy said.
"Well, I don't think you should force your future husband to live with us, you should decide together," I said. "But I am very happy to hear you are willing to care for your oldest sister this way, Joy."
Then the son piped in, "Papa, when I grow up, I will sign you up for a massage package!"
"Er, that's good too, son."
A lifetime commitment to care for each other, and a future massage package for me: what more can a father ask for on this day?
Son, watching Revenge of the Fallen: "Optimus dies here but later he is saved by the All Spark."
My wife: "All stuck? Why they all stuck?"
The son and I replied together, "All. Spark."
"It is what gives the Transfomers life," I explained. As if that is the most logical thing in the world.
When you think about it, these Transformers movies are pretty violent. I mean, Optmus just ripped Grindor's face off in that battle. Just because they are machines, it's PG-13 to show that? Maybe I'm getting old and fuddy-fuddy about Autobot violence.
Isaac then asked me who the satellite Transformer was. Soundwave, I told him.
"He was supposed to be a cassette player in the cartoon," I said. "Just like Megatron was supposed to be a gun."
"Oh ya. Michael Bay said he didn't think it was a good idea to portray Megatron as a gun," said my 10-year-old.
"How did you know that? Michael Bay your friend ah?", I asked, surprised.
"Oh, I watched the bonus features in the first Transformers movie DVD."
At least I am getting some value out of that DVD if the kids also watch the extras. Next they will tell me they watched it with the commentary on too.
"Why are you fast forwarding this part?" I asked Isaac at one point.
"Sam and his girlfriend are just whispering stuff to each other. I want to watch the fighting scene."
Michael Bay would be proud that my kid cares more about the explosion parts of his movies than the dialogue.
Which is what Michael Bay movies are anyway. A three-hour long string of explosions held together by some kind of random plot and a bunch of hokey lines.
Then we came to the scene where Shia Labeouf says to Megan Fox after waking up from near death, and meeting the Primes: "I love you, I love you."
"Hurry up lah," heckled my son, "No time to kiss liao! Save Optimus!"
If you have been observant, there have been some changes to my site. The fonts have been changed to something more legible on mobile screens (if you are a Typeface Geek like me, and want to know, it is Bitter and Source Sans Pro). I have also made the body text bigger (16pt).
The font thing has been bugging me for a while, partly because I have Old Flower Eyes (Presbyopia, or age-related long-sightedness) and reading small text has been increasingly difficult. So if it helps me read better, it should help you too.
The column widths have been made wider too, so I can now display nice big photos, up to 800 pixels wide. I like to look at big photos. That's me at Ephesus, Turkey, in the photo above. Nice or not?
I realized that many computers are sporting larger screens now, so making my page width bigger won't affect too many folks. Heck, I am using two 27-inch monitors (at 2560x1440 each) myself. And most laptops are doing at least 1280×800, if not more.
The site should display fine on mobile devices too.
Hope you like the changes.
My theory is that Taylor Swift canceled her Thailand concert because if she sang Red, the Yellow Shirts would protest.
In other news, maybe Thailand can market itself as a Coup Destination.
1. "Amazing Thailand: It Begins with the Military Junta".
2. "Feeling Coup-ed up? Visit Amazing Thailand!"
3. "Looking for a weekend junta somewhere? Amazing Thailand!"
4. "There is no place as beautiful to view the overthrow of a government as Amazing Thailand!"
5. "No one does martial law as wonderfully as Amazing Thailand!"
Faith came up to me and handed a DVD to me.
"No tv in the living room right now, Faith," I said, "Papa wants to listen to music."
"Weeee-guh," said Faith, shoving the DVD into my hand.
"No DVD now, Faith."
"Weeee-guh, weeee-guh, WEEEE-GUH!" she vocalized more insistently.
"No Wiggles, Faith… wait, are you saying Wiggles?"
I am amused and a little shocked.
13 years and hardly any speech, but she knows the words that matter to her most.
Needless to say, she got her "Weeee-guh".
[Images from a recent attempt to take her photo for her new ezlink card.]
Since the exams are over, I thought we'd take the kids to Universal Studios for the day. What I forgot was that another two gazillion families had the same idea.
So not only was it hot, it was crowded. The Transformers queue was 100 minutes long. We could have watched more than half a Transformers movie while waiting.
When you have this much time queuing, it means you have a lot of time to torment your son with Dad Jokes.
Me: "You know who is Starscream's brother?"
The boy also attempted his maiden ride on the Revenge of the Mummy roller coaster. His last coaster ride, when we were here last year, was the kids' coaster at the Shrek area. He was ready for an upgrade. He assured me he could take it.
So we queued up for the Mummy ride while the wife took Faith and Joy for the milder dinosaur flyer at Jurassic Park.
"If you are scared, you can close your eyes," I told my 10-year-old. "Papa will hold your hand."
But I didn't have to worry. The capacity for a kid to adapt to new things is amazing. And not only was he not afraid, he was really lapping it up, whooping at every turn.
When we finally left the ride, he told his somewhat green-faced old man that the ride was "Awesome!".
I looked around for the rest of my brood, wondering aloud, "Hmmm. Where's your Mommy?"
Isaac replied, "It's over there!" and pointed at the two Egyptian statues.
"I said YOUR Mommy, not The Revenge of the Mummy lah."
Seen in the news: Malaysia PM to decide on new names for Feng Yi and Fu Wa"
How about An An and Wa Wa?
Here are some other suggestions for #MsiaPandaNames:
1. @mrbrown: 美友 (Meiyou) and 吃前 (Chiqian)
2. @mrbrown: Gong Gong and Dai Dai
3. @Decade78: 黑黑 and 暗暗
4. @mrbrown: Eng Eng and Cheng Cheng
5. @zhendema: KL and KK
6. @mrbrown: Tam Tam and Jiak Jiak
7. @gregkoh94: Lan Lan and Duo Duo
8. @mrbrown: Bo Bo and Leh Leh
9. @mrbrown: Hamtam and Bola
10. @kelvinlammh: 够力咯 and 几厉害。
11. @lennel Tuan Tuan dan Puan Puan
12. @addyted: Truly and Asia
13. @orbigood: Lianlian and Bangbang
14. @mrpangss: Chun Chun and Xiu Xiu. #夜市人生
15. @_wingu: Ai Koon and Ai Jiak
16. @moemasri: Hitam" and Putih
17. @mrbrown: 人山 and 人海 #MsiaPandaNames
18. @mrbrown: Bobo and Chacha #MsiaPandaNames
[image via CNA]