Don’t anyhowly share your OTP and get scammed! The Kim Huat Help Desk is open for business!
YouTube link: youtu.be/gfM2L2R8m9o
Warning: Nerdy bag post ahead.
I was meaning to post a review in October but work and other concerns got in the way. So here it is: the Tom Bihn Shadow Guide 33 in Ursa colour.
In case you wanted to know what the colour Ursa (and the Shadow Guide 33) looks like.
I believe the smaller Shadow Guide 23 is now on pre-order, and the SG33 is in stock in both Black 525 and Ursa.
Personally I think the Shadow Guide 33 is a lovely backpack. Very useful if you need a big space to carry stuff. There isn’t as much by way of pockets and organization, compared to say, the Synik 30, but there is a useful laptop sleeve inside.
I like the SG33 because my main laptop is a 16-inch MBP. Which fits. In fact, the Shadow Guide 33 supports more laptop sizes than even my Synik 30.
The baby brother Shadow Guide 23 is more for smaller laptops like the 13-inch MBP or MBA.
The Edgeless Shoulder Straps are comfy, the back support is firm and the overall look is very modern. I can totally see this used as a travel bag, either One-Bagging it or with an accompanying side bag like a DLBC or Co-Pilot.
The aesthetic is more modern than previous Tom Bihn bags, which may please some fans looking for a more urban look. I think the Design Lab experiments are very welcome.
Ursa as a colour surprised me. I didn’t expect it to look as nice as it does in real life. I like it so much, I ordered a new Paragon Guide’s Edition in Ursa. Like Wilderness Green, Ursa has become one of my favourite new colours from the TB range.
You can see the Wilderness colourway in this photo showcasing the Wilderness Synik 22, the Ursa Shadow Guide 33 and the Mars Red Icon tote.
Now all I need is to be able to travel again and really use these bags thoroughly.
After four shows from 25th to 27th December 2020, we finally completed our run of the mrbrown show LIVE! and it was an awesome run. Four shows at KC Arts Centre, all sold out or almost sold out, and a livestream on the last show that had a nice number of viewers too.
We are exhausted but satisfied.
After all the months of hard work, it was a thrill to see the fruits of our labour. I have to thank SIFA, the crew, the band, Marc, Miyagi, producer/director/arranger James Lye, and my family for all this. Also all the family, friends and fans who came to see the show.
Special thanks to Adwin & SK of Audio-Technica SEA for the use of their mics, Pantheon Percussion for the custom-built drums, Whitney and Aeson of Salon De Maison who styled my entire family's hair for every show, and Mr Koh of Pearl's VisionCare at City Gate for my glasses (and Midas's).
Here are some photos from the rehearsals and shows, some by me, some by Daniel Tan (IG: @shredcow).
Koh Yi Da, on keybaords:
Eugene Soh, Band Leader:
Low Han Quan, on drums:
When the show ended on Sunday evening, the family and I grabbed a taxi home in the heavy rain, I rushed to settle dinner for the family with help from Isaac. No time for celebrations, because family duties await. There was laundry to be done (so many costumes to wash) and Faith was waiting for dinner at home with Auntie.
Me? I just wanted to sleep for the entire Monday after the last show.
mrbrown shares the different passions and dreams that each member of his family pursued in this difficult year of the pandemic: Passions that kept them all sane and motivated. Passions that improved their own lives, and maybe even the lives of others.
YouTube link: youtu.be/Lsv6UqxDgnY
In my previous post, I wrote about how my friends Michael and Irene came to become foster parents. At the time of writing, they had four foster children, one in Primary 2, two taking the PSLE, and one in Secondary Two.
When I stepped into Michael and Irene’s home, it looked both familiar and new.
Familiar because the wife and I came here fairly often before they were married, and Irene always kept a clean and neat home.
New because gone was the large furniture and the display cabinets of her Precious Moments toys, replaced by a box of neatly placed children’s school bags, and a smaller sofa.
Michael and Irene did not just make room in their hearts for the children they foster, they made room for these children in their home.
You can see that they have their Work From Home laptops in the living room but that was something they can put away at a moment’s notice. In my home, when I set up our Circuit Breaker WFH and HBL spaces, I had to throw away a ton of junk, and we still aren’t anywhere as neat as this household of four girls and their foster parents.
In the girls’ bedrooms, there is the usual assortment of toys, games, assessment books and clothes. Everything in its place. Later, I was told by a proud Irene that this is maintained by the girls themselves.
There was a sense of order, of structure, and peace.
And when you listen to the stories from the couple about the difficult circumstances the children came from, you understand why this structure is so important. It represents a sanctuary of stability for their challenging pasts, a place for them to grow into responsible adults, and for them to feel loved and cherished.
I felt it when I entered the home. It was obvious the children adored Michael and Irene, and the couple loved them back just as dearly.
I felt it when I took their photos: one family portrait, one couple photo, and one of the foster siblings together. I gave them the photos as keepsakes.
You cannot make up the affection and love that they showed one another.
It did not always run smoothly, Michael and Irene told me. There were many challenges.
Remember, these aren’t children who grew up in their care. They came from other situations, where they may have been abused, neglected or abandoned.
Each child comes with his or her baggage, and I am not talking about the bags that carry their clothes and belongings.
Yet, with patience and understanding, the couple managed to break down the walls that got in the way of their relationship with each child.
“Do you get to adopt the children you foster?” I asked.
Sometimes it happens but rarely, Michael told me. That is the not the goal of fostering, he said. Foster care does not necessarily lead to adoption nor is that its purpose.
The purpose of foster care is reintegrating the children back to their natural families, to take care of the children until their own natural family is ready and able to take them back again. To give their natural families time, as It were, to find their footing, and become capable of raising their child again.
Adoption is a permanent thing, where the adopted child assumes the rights of the natural child in the family. In contrast, foster care is a temporary arrangement to care for the child’s immediate needs in times of emergency, and provide them a safe, stable and loving home.
And the couple told me that each child in their care looks forward to going home to their own families, if possible. Reintegration does not happen overnight, but it is a gradual process which begins the moment the child enters the foster home. It is the hope of many who are in the foster care system.
I mulled over this for days after I finished my chat with them. How does one take on children who are not your own, with no expectation that they will be yours, and just love and care for them on behalf of another family, with the end goal of giving them back?
Surely this takes an immense amount of love and magnanimity on the part of the foster parents. It baffles my mind, and my heart.
And yet, here we are. Couples like Michael and Irene exist, willing to step forward and help. Some foster parents have no children of their own, and some do. All love and care for the foster children they take on.
Interestingly, Michael and Irene consulted each child before they fostered the next, even though they have the space and capacity to just proceed to take in another child after their first.
“Do you want a Big Sister?” they asked the first one before deciding on the second girl.
“Yes, I do,” said the first. And so Cheh Cheh came into the home. Then another Cheh Cheh, And another.
“Each child is a part of our home, and we wanted their buy-in before we brought home another foster sibling. We try to prepare the kids for whatever decisions that may impact their time with us.”
This is not part of any protocol, but to the couple, it seemed to be a sensible thing to do.
Another challenge they faced was the choice of school. For instance, their first and youngest child was about to enter primary school. “We did not know how to go about this school thing.”
As parents of our own children, we had about six years to prepare for their eventual entry into school. For Michael and Irene, they had about a year and a half to figure it out. With the help of the foster care officer and a kind principal, the youngest, who was transferring due to her own school closing, was able to enter the school near their home as the foster sibling of one of the older ones.
Another challenge was the first time they went to Family Court, ready to take over the care of the foster child.
“No child should ever have to be in Family Court,” said Michael, his face wincing at the memory.
Imagine a child of four, not understanding that she is not going home after court, and two families in court together.
It can be a messy and emotional rollercoaster for both families.
And yet, all this is done to ensure the child’s welfare is taken care of. The child’s wellbeing is paramount, and painful as all this sounds, it is done in the best interest of the child.
“What kind of help would you like to see, to support you as foster parents?” I asked them.
“More volunteers,” they replied.
Besides Foster Parents, there is also a need for volunteers such as Befrienders, Mentors, Transport providers and Tutors.
Michael and Irene also had a lady volunteer who helped drive one of their foster children to school every day. Volunteers who do this are also registered with the MSF.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. This is even more true in the case of foster care.
Michael and Irene strive to provide all the necessary comforts of family life for their foster children, to give them a safe and nurturing space they may not have experienced in their natural families for whatever reason. And above all, a place where they can feel loved and cherished.
I hear it in the laughter from the girls’ rooms. I see it in their interactions. I sense it in the neat rows of clothes hanging in the cupboards, and the library books and text books stacked neatly on their desks.
Order from instability. Hope from the ashes of despair. Love that comes from a positive family life.
This is what Michael and Irene, and many foster parents like them, give to vulnerable children in Singapore. Let’s hope there are more people like them out there, willing to stand in the gap.
If you are interested to find out more about the MSF Fostering Scheme, you can join their upcoming sharing sessions. More details can be found at https://mrbrwn.co/msffostering2. Alternatively, you can call 6354 8799, WhatsApp 9645 8231 or email [email protected]
During Circuit Breaker, my kids suddenly saw more of me. We were all under the same roof, for months. Eating, studying, working, playing, arguing, nagging, sulking, and laughing.
It was life-changing, to say the least. We saw more of each other that we ever planned to. That is when you see both the good stuff and the bad habits amplified.
Faith, our oldest, and who has autism, could not go to her Day Activity Centre. So she stayed home and we had to keep her occupied. It is not easy to keep a 19-year-old severely autistic young woman engaged, let me tell you.
Isaac and Joy, age 17 and 15, both had HBL, so we had to do some serious spring-cleaning to make room for them to attend their lessons online whilst the wife and I found our own space to work. But soon we settled into a groove.
The kids, were for most part, well-behaved. But they are at an age when they are looking for more independence and defining their own identity. So at times, I have to balance between maintaining discipline and giving some leeway. They learned very quickly too, what I expected of them, like helping with the dishes after dinner, setting the table, and generally putting their books away after they were done studying (not always done).
But I count myself blessed to have these three in my life. Every day is a learning process. Every day, I figure out what it means to be a parent. Because you learn on the job. And hopefully, my kids learn to become sensible and responsible young adults.
But what about kids who don’t have this kind of family environment? Some kids come from homes torn by abuse, neglect or abandonment. Where do they go? Who looks after them until their biological families are financially, physically, and psychologically ready to take them back and raise them?
I found out two friends of mine, Michael and Irene, had decided to become foster parents. When I last saw them at our common friends’ wedding in June 2019, they had two kids in tow. And they told us, they were on their way after that wedding to pick up another. And when I finally met them to chat with them about their foster parenting journey, they had four lovely girls in their home.
I laughed and said, “Guys, you have more kids than we do now! How did you go from no kids to fostering four?”
And that was when they told me about their touching journey to making that decision to be foster parents.
Michael and Irene spent some time in Cambodia helping out in the villages yearly, and seeing children there who needed so much love and care made them want to help those who can’t help themselves. I understood how they felt because I went on two of those medical trips with them before.
They got married in 2014 and starting exploring fostering in 2016.
“Where did you go to find out about fostering?” I asked.
Michael said that he was helping out at the church tuition service when he thought, “How do I help more kids beyond volunteering to give tuition, beyond the two hours every weekend I am here?”
One night, he came home and asked his wife what she felt about fostering. At the time, Irene candidly said, “I got very angry because we were still trying to have kids of our own and here he was suggesting fostering? Was he suggesting I was incapable of having kids?”
Michael then backed off from the topic, wise husband that he was.
One day, they were at a Bible Study and a lady shared about fostering. The lady fostered not just one kid but many kids, some even with special needs. Five minutes into it, Irene’s heart open up and she was moved to tears, thinking, “Why did I close my heart?”
When she went home that day, and told him of her new conviction, and he laughed, and jokingly said, “How come I say you didn’t listen but others say, you listen?”
With his wife in agreement with his desire to be foster parents, Michael went to a foster care road show at Nex mall, organised by Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).
That was when they encountered the first hurdle. For potential foster parents wanting to care for children below 13 years of age, they must ensure that their windows have grills. Obviously, it was for the safety of the children they foster but it did not occur to them at the time, that it would be that big a deal.
It can be the small things that trip you up, and for the Michael and Irene, the grills was a source of angst. Their windows didn’t have grills, for aesthetic and view reasons. It may be a small thing to others but not having window grills can be important to some.
But just like those of us who become parents with our own kids, sacrifices and adjustments have to be made. I had to give up my study room so that my kids would have an extra room to sleep in, and also stopped buying my toys when I realised the kids needed space for their books and toys. And Michael and Irene had to change the way their home was configured to welcome foster kids into their lives and provide them with a safe place to stay.
They submitted their forms after a few months of mulling over the big decision, and then the assessment process began. The MSF-appointed assessors interviewed the couple and assessed their suitability to be foster parents. Everyone who lives in the household will be interviewed. If you have elderly parents living with you, they have to ensure that this does not compromise the care you are giving to foster children. In Michael and Irene’s case, it was just the two of them in their home.
The couple also had to go for a medical checkup and chest X-ray screening. I have to hand it to the MSF, they are certainly thorough.
Part of the interview process was also to find out the parenting style of the potential foster parents and how their own parents parented and disciplined them.
“How did you feel when you were caned by your parents?” was apparently one of the questions.
Michael said, “When they asked that, I was like, how would I remember something like that from 30 years ago?”
But some of us do remember. And it can inform and define the kind of parent we become. So it was quite an important question to ask.
One thing I learned was that foster parents cannot use physical punishment on foster children under their care. It is a sacrosanct rule. Some of these children come from homes with child abuse issues, and using physical punishment might remind them of their past, causing them to feel hurt or threatened. So the foster homes must be sensitive to this. Physical or any other forms of punishment are not allowed.
Once Michael and Irene were approved to be foster parents, they went for trainings held by Social Service Institute (SSI) where they learnt about topics such as helping children with trauma and attachment issue or with emotional and behavioural needs.
Michael said the lessons were enlightening and very useful.
Their first mentor and instructor for their course, who was also a seasoned foster parent herself, also helped them tremendously. After the sessions, she told them, “I think you two are ready.”
Michael laughed and told me, “I told her you sure or not?” This was because the course really gave a realistic picture of fostering and Michael felt a little apprehensive. But there was no turning back, the couple was determined to forge ahead.
You can put down what age and gender you prefer in the application form, they told me. And what criteria you may have. But it is important to have some give and take. If you have overly stringent criteria, it would be hard to find kids to place with you. But it was also important that the foster parents (and the biological parents) were comfortable with the arrangements.
For example, Michael and Irene told the MSF that they had no helper and needed to attend church. So the foster children would need to come along with them when they went. The biological parents of the foster children in their care were fine with it, so that was that.
Sometimes, schools or childcare arrangements may need to change too, depending on the circumstances of the foster child.
When the foster children are placed with a couple, there may be an estimated timeframe but sometimes, due to circumstances, the timeframe can extend. Michael and Irene said they were mentally and emotionally prepared for that scenario. One year can become two, perhaps because the foster child’s family circumstances did not improve.
Fostering ends at 18 but in some cases, foster parents continue to look after the child until he turns 21 with support from MSF.
Yes, there is a monthly fostering allowance provided by the State to help defray the cost of caring for the foster children such as food, clothing, transport, school fees and other needs. Medical Fee Exemption Card (MFEC) is also provided and this will fully cover the Foster's child medical expenses at polyclinics and government hospital. There will also be subsidies for infant care, childcare and student care.
But don’t ask foster parents how much money they are “making” from this. Nobody does this for money. Love is the only currency they give and receive. You really have to have the heart to take fostering on. It is a huge responsibility to take care of someone else’s child and provide a stable and loving environment for the vulnerable.
In my next post, I shall share some of the challenges Michael and Irene faced along the way.
If you are interested to find out more about the MSF Fostering Scheme, you can join their upcoming sharing sessions. More details can be found at https://mrbrwn.co/msffostering1. Alternatively, you can call 6354 8799, WhatsApp 9645 8231 or email [email protected]
This Christmas, for the first time ever, the mrbrown show goes LIVE! at KC Arts Centre!
Catch mrbrown, Kim Huat, Marc Nair, Mr Miyagi and more of your favourite characters, in a never-show-before live concert and performance at SIFA v2.020, to mark more than two decades of entertaining Singapore on the internet.
There is also a happening LIVE band accompanying the mrbrown team, because how can you launch a debut music album without a live band, right? And the show is directed by music producer James Lye!
In-venue tickets are S$50 each and very limited (not bluffing you, very very limited) so get them quickly. There is also a live stream option available for the last show, Pay As You Wish: S$20, S$25, S$30 (unlimited tickets).
In-venue live performance:
25 Dec, Fri, 8pm
26 Dec, Sat,3pm & 8pm
27 Dec, Sun, 3pm
27 Dec, Sun, 3pm
Tickets can be purchased at:
Check out the rest of the exciting SIFA lineup of programmes, shows, and talks at sifa.sg too!
YouTube link: youtu.be/MMKi91v8UXQ
Mile 22 was a pretty crappy movie. I’m glad I didn’t watch it at the cinemas in 2018. I think this may be Mark Wahlberg’s worst movie.
Marky Mark plays James Silva, an always-angry CIA operative whose Overwatch (haha!) team needs to escort an asset from Indonesia who knows where some bad nuclear thingie is. They have to travel from the embassy of “Indocarr” (fictional place but they speak Indonesian) to the airport where a plane is waiting to extract them, and it is… 22 miles away.
Of course, they don’t call a Gojek, but instead fight their way to their destination while being chased by Indocarr’s special forces and street punks. Taking Gojek would have been faster.
In the middle of the movie, Mother (John Malkovich) who is their handler, computer team leader, and general eye in the sky, has to explain the plot all over again so that you will not be confused by the convoluted first half of the movie.
There is even the line from a recurring series of SNL Andy Samberg sketches parodying Mark Wahlberg, "Say hi to your mother for me."
Wah, they play mother one.
You also get to hear Wahlberg explain a bunch of things in the middle of the movie to his debriefing team. In case, you need more exposition. And you also get to see how bad Ronda Rousey's acting is.
They have it all. A crack team, every weapon known to man, air and satellite support provided by Asian chiobu rapper CL (Lee Chae-rin), killer drones, nerdy MIT-trained computer experts saying high-tech things but unable to unlock an encrypted hard drive, and documents that they sign before a mission that state they are no longer American citizens as evidence of their ultimate patriotism.
The only thing they don't have is a decent plot.
Naturally, a country must be depicted like some dingy Third-World banana republic full of corrupt cops and slums. And for some reason, the motorcycle-riding bad guys wear black from top to toe. In our Southeast Asian heat.
Even the twist in the plot (yes, I will save you the trouble of watching this by telling you there is a twist), was ultimately unsatisfying and a cheap attempt at setting up a possible sequel (Mile 23?).
What a waste of John Malkovich and The Raid’s Iko Uwais.
Option 1: Diplomacy
Option 2: Military
Option 3: Watch something else.
Why do you need a wallet when you can have PayLah! with you all the time? Kim Huat shows you how! And stay till the end for a bonus code for new signups!
YouTube link: youtu.be/CjE2Vr-MSmQ
Men shopping for clothes: “This pair of pants fits me well.”
Proceeds to buy it in light blue, dark blue and black.
I could not wait any longer. The pants I owned started getting too big, and even the belts I had were now the wrong size. So I finally bit the bullet and went to get new pants. I had dropped about 10kg, and 3-4 inches at the waist, since Circuit Breaker and WFH started. In the process, I also took out all the old too-big jeans and gave them away. In case anyone wants to know, this wasn't Robinsons (crazy ah, go and fight with the crowd for last-minute deals at the end of a 162-year-old shopping insitution).
I was at Muji Plaza Singapura. I tell you, it is quite exciting to be able to finally fit into pants that Muji sells. The store is notoriously Japanese in their sizing. There is usually nothing more than size 34 for their pants and if you are lucky, you MAY find a stray size 35 on their shelves. But I like the Asian cut of their clothes (even the length is right)… as long as you can lose enough weight to fit into their sizes.
I am still about five kilograms away from my target weight but I am quite happy to be lighter. Needing to get new smaller clothes is actually a nice problem to have.
Next thing to tackle, the shirts and tees that are now too big too, haha!