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.
It's been a few years since my last Bangkok trip but here I am, surrounded by Samsung's latest offerings, at their SEA Forum held in the city of angels (and traffic jams).
The TV above is the new 88-inch JS9500 that features what Samsung calls SUHD technology. I was just getting used to UHD and now they added an S to it. But I am Singaporean, so acronyms do not phase me.
I don't know what the S stands for (Super? Solid? Superior?) but Samsung says it is used for their Premium products, and says SUHD delivers 2.5 times brighter images compared to regular TVs, and also 64 times more colour expression.
In Vietnam, Samsung Smart TVs don't need a set-top box anymore because you can use a card that slots into the back of the TV.
This egg-looking device is the WAM7500 and it is an Omnidirectional 360 speaker. Sound can travel in a 360-degree radius with this speaker.
It looks like I am playing music in this photo but I am really playing a game.
I also got to play with the NX500 camera. I see the Samsung has followed the retro styling that Fuji and Olympus made popular. It comes in black, white and brown but I seem to like the brown one best. (I wonder why…)
The NX500 features a 28MP APC-C sensor and shoots 4K video. It's positioned as the smaller cousin of the NX1. Besides the 9FPS continuous shooting mode and motion detection feature, the NX500 has one feature that will excite the narcissists among us. Yes, the screen flips up to allow you to take the perfect selfie. In this day and age, No Selfie No Talk.
The camera handles well and I found it ergonomic. My only gripe is a lack of a viewfinder but that's because I am an old coot with age-related longsightedness.
Of course, a tech event isn't complete without featuring the unsung heroes of electronics: Fridges and Washing Machines.
I went to check out the new Chef Collection refrigerator. Samsung claims this behemoth of a fridge can maintain a constant temperature within a 0.5°C variance. The temperatures in typical fridges vary as high as 1.5°C.
This fridge is so big, even I can fit into it. Hmmmm…
My interest in washing machines is genuine. Because my old one just broke down and I had to replace it. A washing machine is something you don't think about until it breaks down. When it does decide to go to Washing Machine heaven, you are left staring at a pile of unwashed laundry wondering how to live like civilized human beings again.
So I've become a kind of an amateur washing machine enthusiast.
That is the Samsung WA6700 top loading washing machine with built-in sink you see above. Samsung calls it "activ dualwash", which sounds better than "attached sink thingie", I suppose.
It seems like a good idea, not needing to soak/scrub your dirty clothes in a random basin on the floor first. You just do it at the washing machine's sink directly and then pour both the laundry and the water into the machine.
This front loader comes with a a door that opens really wide, for easier loading and unloading. I think you can even stuff a small pig through that hole. There is also a built-in detergent and softener dispenser.
Onward to the airconditioners and the cleaning robot.
I have to say I was very fascinated by the robot cleaner. Even its name is high tech. It's called the POWERbot VR9000. With a name like that, you half expect the robot cleaner to transform and roll out. And why is the name in all caps for the word "power"? Does one shout the first half of its name?
"Hey guys, I just bought a POWER! …bot. Come and play with the remote with me!"
The POWERbot can traverse your home automatically, mapping the place on its own, or you can use the remote to make it do spot cleaning. Me, I'd send it to the kitchen to get me a beer.
The last thing on my agenda for today is a visit to Health Land for some aromatherapy massage. That is one thing you still need human hands to execute. For now.
Project Almanac was a decent enough time travel yarn as long as you can take:
A) super shaky cam
B) major Microsoft product placement.
I mean, really? Kids all use Microsoft Surface tablets, Lumia phones and build time machines out of an Xbox? A bit obvious, right?
I think The Butterfly Effect is still the better movie but Project Almanac is light and entertaining fluff.
You do have to suspend disbelief in many areas. I mean, this is a found footage movie, and by that I mean the whole movie is shot like it has been edited together from video from consumer cameras. Like the movie Cloverfield.
They try to make you think there is a reason the young people in this movie are video-recording. Every. Freaking. Moment of their lives.
Sure, ok. We can accept that. But wow, their camera can zoom in from super far away and you still hear the audio of the couple talking as if they are standing next to the other teenager shooting the scene.
And the low light performance of these consumer cameras are astounding. Next to no light and you can still shoot so much detail!
I want that kind of high tech camera too.
The characters are likable enough. And we enjoyed the movie. But we did feel a little nauseous after the end credits.
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]
The kids have been bugging me for a better phone (the son uses a Nokia cameraless Stupid, sorry, Feature Phone, and the youngest daughter has no phone at all). So I decided it was time for an upgrade. This Nokia 208 Dual Sim model comes with a 1.3MP camera, radio, music player, and even supports Facebook and YouTube over 3.5G.
Not that the kids will get to go online (I am withholding the data plan till they are older) but it is nice to have that option.
For now, they can call us, SMS us, take some photos, and listen to some MP3s. That's already way more than I could do when I was in Primary School.
A couple of months back, John of drew&barry asked if I wanted to try some of their camera bags and accessories. You know me, bag addict that I am, I said, "Sure!"
The Wotancraft Ryker was the bag I got to use, and I have to say, this bag oozes luxury and leather loveliness. I am told this bag is not always available for sale because the Wotancraft folk are really fussy about the premium leather they use, so if that leather is not available, they won't make the bag.
The Ryker is just the right size for my mirrorless cameras and lenses, but I found it most suitable for my Fuji X100 cameras, both in size and in spirit.
I can carry an X100S (the silver one on the left) and an X100T (the black one on the right) in it, together with the WCL-X100 Wide conversion lens and TCL-X100 Tele conversion lens (seen in the middle). There is space to spare for other accessories like batteries and memory cards, and also a suede sleeve with flap, for my iPad Mini 3.
It is not the lightest bag in the world, since this much leather and metal does make it somewhat on the heavy side. But it isn't mean to be an ultralight travel bag anyway.
And another plus, I love that they don't use velcro or buckles, just a simple leather strip to hold the main flap down. Or if you want quick access, just leave the big flap be and use the magentic catches.
You can also close the inner main compartment with the zippered top cover for security, and leave it unzipped for quick access during use.
The hand strap on my silver Fuji X100S is a Barton1972 strap. I love the feel of it. The stretchiness of the strap design feels very natural. My black Fuji X100T is fitted with a longer Cub & Co. shoulder strap.
And who can resist decorating the X100's with soft shutter release buttons? These are Artisan Obscura ones made of wood. The only small annoyance I have is they sometimes come unscrewed. Nothing that can't be fixed with a little Loctite.
Just to be clear, this isn't a paid post. I shared this because I like their stuff and they make my cameras happy. Also, I have a soft spot for the smell and feel of premium leather and the look of real wood.
I just hope auntie next door didn't think I was off my rocker taking photos along the corridor, on my tummy.