Yes. I still have this tee. How many of you bought it back then and still have it?
I couldn’t fit into it for a long time but I can fit into it again.
Wow, 2006 felt like just yesterday.
Yes. I still have this tee. How many of you bought it back then and still have it?
I couldn’t fit into it for a long time but I can fit into it again.
Wow, 2006 felt like just yesterday.
1. You can use dustbins everywhere instead of your pocket.
2. You aren’t spraying disinfectant on your hands every time you enter a store or restaurant.
3. You aren’t given a “Mask Envelope” to put your mask in, when you’re dining.
4. People talking loudly on trains.
5. A public bus doesn’t come once every hour in the rural areas. Addendum: There is no such thing as a rural area in Singapore either.
6. You get up the bus from the front door where the driver is, instead of the rear door.
7. You don’t check the weather before going out anymore.
8. A bottle of Shōchū costs five to ten times more.
9. There isn’t a vending machine at every corner.
10. The restaurant staff don’t shout their greetings and don’t shout their thanks when you go in to eat or go out after eating.
Behind the scenes of Ah Girls Go Army, shot on my secret film camera.
(Read the full post and see more photographs at https://brown.exposure.co/uncle-brownie-and-ah-girls-go-army or view the embedded version below.)
When it is your wife’s birthday, you take her on a staycation and tell her she can do whatever she wants.
She wanted to play badminton. So we played badminton for two solid hours after breakfast (I won one game, she won two).
Then we swam in the pool for an hour.
Then broke for lunch.
Then we went bowling. Bowled for more than hour, played 6 games each.
Then we walked 25 minutes to the hawker centre for dinner. And walked 25 minutes back.
I didn’t know the Birthday Staycation was going to become The Olympic Games.
But hey, whatever The Wife wants, The Wife gets.
I have a Sporty wife. So I better get with the Sporty Life.
Talk to you later. I am lying down in recovery mode now.
(Side note: I need to add this small detail. My wife, while not a #fitspo gym person, has a very high level of fitness. She does aerobics, and other forms of exercise, at least three times a week and crushes it. I, on the other hand, have just begun my slow and steady fitness journey. So you can imagine how much she runs rings around me. I’m just glad I could keep up with her, barely, during this staycation.)
Adventures you can have in Singapore:
1. Scale Mount Faber.
2. Fight for a table at Tiong Bahru Market on a Sunday morning.
3. Queue at the “lucky” Hougang Toto booth for the Hongbao draw.
4. Ballot for a place in a popular primary school.
5. Try to book a slot to swim at the MBS Infinity Pool on your staycation during the school holidays.
6. Find parking at nex mall on weekends.
7. Be a parent with a child taking PSLE.
8. Take a week of leave to stay home, to rest from Work From Home.
9. Avoiding sales people at MRT stations.
10. Be the first to travel along the newly-opened extended stretch of the Thomson-East Coast Line, from Caldecott to Springleaf.
Wife was doing some culling and packing, and I was reminded of this hifi set. This box is 22 years old. The hifi is gone but the box remains.
The JVC UX-V10GN was a major part of our home in the early days of our marriage. I think I got the mini-compo free by redeeming some points from my credit card or something. Oh, I remember now. I redeemed it with my Shell points saved up from pumping petrol back in the days I had a car.
It was very fancy for its time. The compact disc loaded vertically. Sound was decent too. Auto Reverse cassette deck leh.
The box now holds our winter clothes, which has not seen action for more than 2 years now.
My wife is so gonna scold me for showing the messy bits of our home.
I was very honoured to give the keynote at the SPED Learning Festival 2021 on the 21st of November 2021, and sharing the stage with MOS Sun Xueling and DSEN Lucy Toh.
It was a meaningful time sharing my journey as a parent of a special needs child, and discussing SPED issues with the 3,000 online participants from the education and SPED fraternity.
Thank you all for having me today. May we create a future of hope and love for our special needs students together.
[First image courtesy of Veron Wong]
Found some of my old comics from the late 80s at my late mother’s home. Longshot was a personal favourite of mine. I have all six issues of the limited series. I also had a thing for comics done by Bill Sienkiewicz and John Byrne.
Also of note, my collection of Mai the Psychic Girl and Lone Wolf and Cub. At some point, certain issues of Mai and Lone Wolf were banned in Singapore. But they aren't anymore. I, er, had all the issues back then.
A lot of my allowance and tuition salary went into this comic hobby. No wonder I was so broke all the time.
This is my Minimalist workspace today.
Sometimes you have writing and podcast editing to do, and all you need is a small folding table, the 2021 iPad Pro with the M1 chip, an Apple Pencil, and the AirPods Max playing some Spatial Audio music from Apple Music’s Dolby Atomos tracks.
Oh. And some peace and quiet in the bedroom whilst the rest of the family occupies the living room for their WFH and HBL.
Some thoughts on the 2021 iPad Pro: it is wicked fast. That new M1 chip chews through any task I throw at it. Including video editing. The Liquid Retina XDR display is the best screen I’ve ever used on a tablet or a laptop.
The Centre Stage feature of the iPad Pro’s new 12MP Ultrawide front-facing camera is also very neat for video conferencing as it digitally zooms in on your face and follows you as you move around. It’s like having your own cameraman.
My only gripe is that the camera is located to the side of the iPad Pro when you use it in landscape mode, and you may look like you are looking away, and not at members of your meeting, when you look at screen.
In case you are wondering, no you can't add an external webcam to the iPad Pro still. So it is just as well the front-facing camera has been improved and has the Centre Stage feature.
And the Thunderbolt 3 port on this iPad Pro means file transfers are going to be so fast. Slap a Caldigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt dock on it and you have a desktop mode iPad Pro. All the ports you’ll need. You can connect up to a Pro Display XDR external display at full 6K resolution but be aware that it is only in mirror mode.
For folks who use a lot of Pencil work, like design, art and AR/VR, the iPad Pro with M1 chip is probably the best computing device for their needs.
I am wondering if I can even use it for a travel video editing tool in lieu of a MacBook Pro when work travel resumes. Hmmmm.
That white Magic Keyboard is really pretty, and it works on this 2021 5th generation iPad Pro as well as the previous 3rd and 4th generation models. I only worry about cleaning it. If you like, you can still buy the black Magic Keyboard for this M1 iPad Pro. It all works. Personally, I think the white Magic Keyboard looks nicer with the silver iPad Pro, and the black one goes with the Space Grey iPad Pro.
On a totally unrelated note, this is a photo of brunch on one of my WFH days with the iPad Pro in the background. Home-cooked food is the best.
My Guide’s Edition Paragon in Ursa has arrived and I transferred all my stuff from my Guide’s edition Wilderness Synik 22 to the Paragon.
It does not have the same organization as the pocket-laden Synik but it has a nice slim silhouette that belies its 20L capacity. It is taller and more right angled than a Synik 22 but slimmer in depth.
Internally, it’s basically one big space. So I found it handy to use a Freudian Slip meant for a Synapse 19 inside to give me more flexibility in storing my knick knacks. Because there is only one mini pocket on top inside and a larger pocket outside.
My EDC consists of many things I use for work.
So there is usually an Montbell trekking umbrella, a tabletop tripod, a few microphones like the Shure MV88+, MV88, two Sennheiser MKE2 lavaliers, Rode Wireless GO II wireless mic set (inside the Handy Little Thing), Sony field recorder (inside the Freudian slip), a small camera (in this case, the Fujifilm X70), USB-C and Lightning charging cables and a powerbank (inside the tethered Ghost Whales).
Also in there are my Moment filters for my iPhone, a toothbrush kit from Muji, contact lenses inside the tiny Ghost Whale, and secondary wallet.
I also tested my MacBook Pro 16-inch inside the sleeve behind. Fits great. I could never fit that in my Synapse 19 or Synik 22. So it’s nice to be able to schlep it with the Paragon.
It is definitely lighter than the Synik 22. The S22 is 1,100-1,200g. This Paragon is about 672g and even with the Freudian Slip, it weighs about 870g. Still lighter than the Synik 22. You do have about 2 litres less space though.
I like the flexibility of the big space inside the main compartment. I even manage to put an entire hoodie inside after I packed what you see here.
Think of this as a beefier Daylight Backpack. If you love the DLBP, you will love this too, especially if you want a laptop compartment and comfier straps.
I added the little red zipper pulls as accents to the already nice Ursa/Coyote colourway. I think the look works well.
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.
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]
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!
Our family is honoured to be part of the expanded edition of Bob Lee’s photography project, Memory Blocks.
Bob came to take our family portrait in our living room recently, and we love the way the photos turned out.
We were very happy that Faith was well-behaved during the session because it is not that easy to keep an autistic 19-year-old young lady still for very long. She looked like she enjoyed the photo session and even managed a smile. Though she did run away at least once during the shoot.
Side note: I love how he asked me to turn on my work lights for the photo. Yes, I have two huge lights in the living room for video work, on wheeled light stands.
Memory Blocks captures portraits of families staying in HDB flats. The portraits are made in the living room, a “potent site for familial interaction”.
This expanded edition of photographs captures how the pandemic has changed the way we live.
The project is part of the 7th Singapore International Photography Festival (7th SIPF 2020).
Something I wrote for Father's Day, for my church publication, the Trinitarian magazine:
“When your children see you 24/7 at home, they see their father in every situation. When he is working. When he relaxing. When he is praying (or not praying enough). When he is angry. When he is goofy. When he is loving with their mother. When he is arguing with her too.
Everything. Laid. Bare.
In these times, you start to ask yourself, how do you be the father you need to be to your children?”