Ling was remarking the other day that I haven’t been taking a lot of pictures of Hannah at home for a month now – or at least since that series of Droolmeister pictures from just over a month ago. I mean, we do still take pictures when we’re out of home using the Panasonic LZ8 and the iPhone when either of us forget to bring the compact camera, but the pictures have been pretty flaky in quality.

So, as these things go, I’d better start taking more, since Hannah’s growing real quick and each day it’s an opportunity lost to record these wonderful moments of watching her grow. Especially since there’s practically no cost involved in taking pictures, and storage cost is so cheap.:)

blog-2009-baby-DSC_4428-sleeping
blog-2009-baby-DSC_4440-playingblog-2009-baby-P1010280-yoshinoya

All three were taken on Sunday afternoon today. The top picture’s her having her afternoon nap and quite completely zonked out at 2:30 PM, bottom left: Hannah wide awake and just before we took off to Compass Point for an early dinner (took the picture using the eye-off-camera viewfinder technique blogged before her); and bottom right: dinner at Yoshinoya.:)

If there’s one thing I’m learning about Hannah, it’s to expect abrupt transitions as she grows up! She’s now all of 5 months 4 weeks, and at the end of this coming weekend will be exactly six months old.

Since the last week, the two of us and even Lentor grandparents have noticed significant changes. As mum puts it, Hannah’s starting to ‘recognize’ faces, and with that she’s also started fussing about who gets to carry or burp her. E.g. she used to be alright having me burp her after a feed, but since the last week she protests loudly when I try to do the same. And for the first time since Hannah’s birth, mum had difficulty feeding Hannah even when we dropped her off at Lentor yesterday morning.

blog-2009-baby-IMG_0070-wesleyblog-2009-baby-IMG_0074-wesley  

This morning at service she all but remained still too, alternating between fussing and grumbling – so much so that Ling had to bring her to the cry room lest she made a louder din than all the other babies and children that was sitting at the last few rows of the Sanctuary. Two iphone photos here: one just before the service started, and another when we were settling back into the car parked at Fort Canning Park.

Thankfully, she about completely knocked out when we swung by Hougang Mall’s Subway restaurant for brunch after service. Probably from all her vocal exertions.:)

We’re exhausting the places at Hougang Mall we can have weekend brunches with Hannah. There was a new Pastamania outlet opened at the mall though from a few months ago, so we checked out the place for brunch just now over the Hari Raya Haji holiday.

The compact camera pictures turned out quite lovely, and Hannah seemed quite intrigued by the bright and sunny colors of the place:

blog-2009-baby-P1010256-pastamania blog-2009-baby-P1010270-pastamaniablog-2009-baby-P1010275-pastamania

The breakfast we had there itself though wasn’t so good. Ling’s coffee was pretty bitter – even after tossing in 2 packets of sugar and creamer. Her tuna pizza tasca arrived after I’d finished my pancakes, and Ling even remarked that my pancakes looked like miniature sponge cakes and they weren’t warm. We saw several other families having the other breakfast sets tucking away happily, so I’m concluding we should have ordered something else.

On the upside, the staff serving us was very polite, and also appropriately apologetic when Ling’s tasca took 15 minutes longer to arrive. The garlic bread side was alright, and no one can complain about the bill too. Breakfast was just a shade over $10 – cheaper than at equivalent fast food restaurants.

26. November 2009 · Comments Off · Categories: All Posts, At Home, Photography & Cameras · Tags: , ,

Continuing from the previous post.:)

The Ikea sofa (Win). We’d been thinking of replacing our living room sofa barely a month or two after its purchase from the furniture warehouse 3 years ago. The old sofa set fitted looks wise with the decor of the living room, but sitting on it felt like lying in bed with a porcupine. It’s a wonder neither of us developed a bad case of rash.

We procrastinated over purchasing a replacement sofa though on account of the fact that it was going to be a huge waste dumping something we’d just bought. So we bore with it for nearly 2.5 years until we decided we had enough and picked up a 2 + 2 corner sofa Ektrop series with Idemo Biege. And life has never been so good thereafter.

The Sigma 18-250mm (Win). This was a hard decision. I’ve taken around 9000 pictures using the old Nikon 18-55mm VR lens and despite its plasticky and almost fragile build, it’s amazingly sharp and very reliable. Unfortunately, I kept finding myself wanting a bit more range on the zoom end, and the whole thing about changing lenses wasn’t working very well for me when I was traveling alone. Nikon had its 18-200mm VR of course, but it was going for an arm and a leg and had a couple of design issues.

I’ve had a lot of luck with Sigma lenses, so as soon as the 18-250mm optically stabilized lens was released and the first reviews positive, I ordered one from B&H Photo-Video in August this year for SGD885. 2 months later and about 2000 photos later, this lens has proven itself to be a keeper. The Nikon 55-200mm was sold away, and the Nikon 18-55mm is now a backup lens.

The Nikon MB-D10 (Win). I haven’t blogged here about my purchase of the vertical hand grip for my D300. The grip costs about SGD380 at shops here in Singapore, but it’s made of the same tough and high quality material as the rest of the D300. I found an online shop based in Malaysia selling the same unit for just a shade under SGD300 though, so didn’t hesitate in picking it up right away. The MB-D10 is now a permanent attachment and hasn’t left the D300 since purchase. No more flapping chicken wings when taking portrait shots.. hooray! :)

Part 3 and the concluding post in this series next.:)

As a new mother, the selection of diapers, formula milk and milk bottles can be bewildering. For a start, I went for brands which have been used and trusted by my relatives and friends. It has been 6 months now and the only brand which I didn’t change (yet) is the formula milk (Hannah is still on Similac). For those who have been reading our blog you would know that I have switched from Avent to Bfree for the milk bottle.

Choosing a suitable diaper for your baby is a hit-or-miss thing. My hospital (Thomson Medical Centre) used Huggies for their newborn babies. It was okay except that it kept sliding down Hannah’s waist (she kicked a lot even as a newborn) and looked a bit too small for her build. I tried some samples from Pampers but it cannot prevent leakage as the gathers at the legs were too loose for Hannah. Anyway, Pampers is the most expensive brand and I was most happy to avoid it. Then there was Mamy Poko. We were initially most satisfied with this Japanese diaper as it was a good fit and comfortable for our girl. However, I noticed that Hannah’s clothing began to reek of urine and feel rather damp if the diaper was worn for a longer period of time.

So the search for the perfect diaper continues.

We received a lot of Drypers’ samples somehow. It resembles Mamy Poko a lot but is inferior in terms of: 1) Material – quite coarse, 2) Sticky tape instead of velcro (can’t stand the irritating noise when peeled).

I went back to Huggies again upon reading some positive feedback from other mothers on the Singapore Motherhood forum. I tried both Huggies Dry Comfort and Huggies Ultra. The former did a superb job at absorbing urine while keeping her skin dry and rash-free but I find it frustrating to put this diaper on Hannah as it does not open flat out. It is also bulkier and feels like a rock covering her bottoms. Huggies Ultra has the good points of Dry Comfort without its minuses. It’s a pity that it has some quality control issues; a few diapers could not open properly as the glue stuck the sides and a few others have some hardened parts. Anyhoo, I’ve decided to call it quits with this brand as it has another shortcoming: its width is too narrow for Hannah’s bottoms. If she moves a lot, half of her one buttock would be exposed. Duh, cannot cannot.

diapers

I tried Nepia in between Huggies and Mamy Poko – once again, based on recommendations from other Motherhood mothers. Initially, I wasn’t impressed with this Japanese diaper as it looked a wee-bit thin and flimsy. After using it for a few days, I was really satisfied with this diaper. It has many desirable qualities I want in a diaper: no leakage, comfortable material, rash-free, little urine smell, can tahan large urine load, sufficient space for holding poo poo, good buttocks coverage, not too thick. Well, it also boasts of another feature which is really not essential: it has colour indicator strips to tell the extent of wetness in the diaper. You can order Nepia online. It is cheaper when you buy a carton of 4 packs there and along with it is free delivery. In addition, any unopened pack can be exchanged for a larger size if our baby has outgrown it. :)

blog-obsessed-01 Obsessed (2009) – on rental. My only impression of Obsessed comes from a  trailer that was screened during Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen if I remember correctly. The general premise of the film was easy to tell from just the short preview: that Obsessed was an updated version of the 1987 classic Fatal Attraction, starring Glenn Close and Michael Douglas.

For the benefit of those of us who aren’t familiar with the 22 year old thriller, the story in Obsessed goes like this. Derek Charles is a happily married man to his homemaker wife Sharon, and baby boy Kyle. A temp, Lisa, joins his company and develops feelings for him which Charles unintentionally encourages since he’s your typical nice-guy. Things reach a head when Lisa thinks her crush on Charles will be reciprocated, and when it’s not, she goes berserk, stalks Charles – and the latter’s marriage gets into jeopardy.

There are a couple of significant changes from the old classic though in this new film, and many of them turned out all wrong. For starters, though Charles is played by Idris Elba, a physically imposing British theatrical actor, he’s written as a spineless weakling in Obsessed. The guy wilts, gives into his wife too easily, and you’ll wonder how a guy like him could even climb up the corporate ladder to occupy a high rung the film writes him as.

OK one might think that the strength in his union comes from his wife Sharon; but actress Beyoncé Knowles has really hammed it up in this one. She’s thoroughly annoying, bitchy, and barrels into impulsive judgment at the first whiff of her husband’s possible extra-marital affair.

blog-obsessed-02

Ali Larter plays Lisa, and her role of the office flirt turned psycho when spurned isn’t too different from the role she’s already very famous for in the Heroes TV series. Trouble is: you never quite get a clear picture why she’s going after Charles, outside the oft repeated dialog remark that he’s “such a nice guy” in the script. With that Fail, you don’t empathize with her. When she comes solidly between Charles and Sharon and arguments turn to blows, it’s hard to decide who to root for: the weakling, the vamp seductress, or the annoying wife. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s also an incredibly dumb investigator detective in this film who’d believe anything witnesses tell her.

The film does have one interesting and much-talked about scene: a big cat-fight between Sharon and Lisa where the two of them look pretty seriously intent on clawing each other’s eyes out. Their fight involves lamps, telephones, wooden planks, lamp stands, chandeliers, staircases and even the attic LOL.

But outside that and as these plots go, you don’t need to watch beyond the first 15 minutes of the film to already guess what the ending is likely heading towards, and no there aren’t any surprises in Obsessed.

In all, in Obsessed, you get unsympathetic and unlikable characters in a story premise that already holds no surprises. Disappointing.

24. November 2009 · Comments Off · Categories: All Posts, At Home, Entertainment

Echoing from my other blog.

After completing Dragon Age Origins (DAO) a weekend ago, I decided to try BioWare’s other RPG – Mass Effect – just before this one too. This sci-fiction RPG was in the news in Singapore last year when it was banned from sale here for a short period of time as there was an adult make-out scene involving the player’s character with another character.

Truth be told, there’s nothing in that very short scene that you don’t already see on screen in theatrical films here, so I don’t quite understand what the fuss was about. In any case, the game was eventually made available here under the M18 rating.

blog-me-01

As with DAO and the numerous other very successful CRPGs that’s come out of BioWare, there’s a complex story in Mass Effect with lots of twists and turns and supplemented with great voice-acting. The story is also refreshingly different from the typical space-operas that you see in games of this sort. Specifically, in Mass Effect, humans aren’t the center of the universe, and are only the most recent newcomers to intergalactic politicking. There are already well-entrenched alien species, several of whom form a galactic council that is also almost distrusting and resentful of the human endeavors to join that council and better stake human interests.

Mixed into the lot is also a secretive and elite – no surprise – unit of operatives who undertake missions that work outside the law and can never be officially sanctioned by said council. This group of operatives is known as the Spectres, and when one of its operatives turn rogue and seek to bring back a genocidal species of aliens, the player character is invited to join the Spectres group and tasked to eliminate the threat.

blog-me-03

That’s a capsule version of the story in Mass Effect, and like the other BioWare games before and after this one, conversations and dialog trees form a good part of the story-telling. Each of the characters that can join the player’s party of three come from different species, have different specializations and strengths, and each have unique personality dispositions and back stories. The superb character to character and at times mutually antagonistic relationships in DAO is absent here though, but the player character through conversation options can steer selected companions towards romantic relationships, possibly eventually leading to the aforementioned make-out scene with one of them.

There’s also plenty of character progression and customization for players to get into, and they are centered around three classes: pure combative, biological and technological, with each having its own unique perks and skill sets that players can spend talent points in. For instance, I chose the ‘Soldier’ class for my first play through, and directed most of my points towards assault rifles, first aid and the remaining towards character conversational skills that in turn opened up more dialog options.

blog-me-02

Visually, the game’s a mixed bag even upon giving tolerance on account of the game being nearly 2 years old for its console version. A lot of work had gone into facial animation and textures, with good lip sync to the spoken dialog. But textures elsewhere range from just alright to outright poor, for example in the character uniforms that you’d notice. Art design fares better: it’s top notch with aliens looking suitably out of the world though a couple look suspiciously like denizens of the Mos Eisley’s Cantina, and the stealth cruiser Normandy – where the player will spend a good amount of time as commander – looks futuristic and splendid with its numerous compartments, and background characters as they go about running the ship.

A minor gripe though: most of the alien species speak like humans and outside one species’ instance, there’s no suggestion that there’s some sort of universal translator device at work. So, there’re a lot of scenes where you’d be dialoging with an obviously alien creature but who speaks with like a New Yorker LOL.

Still, Mass Effect is a refreshing RPG from the more common high fantasy-esque type, with a well-realized fictional world that you can get immersed into. The second game in the projected trilogy will also be released early next year.

(Pictures from Gamespot)

It has been fun to watch Hannah’s reaction whenever we try to wake her up from her naps or long night’s sleep.

The common patterns are: 1) kept turning her head sideways and refusing to wake up, 2) open her eyes the instant we pat her and doing a push up and smile, 3) stretch her little body and then stare blankly or at us. The video captured here is of the third kind. :)

Now that bringing Hannah out for outings have become a regular event every weekend, we’ve steadily expanding our range of places and different environments to expose Hannah to instead of just alternating between Swensens’ at Compass Point and McDonalds at Hougang Mall.

Here’s Hannah at Ikea – Tampines below:

blog-weekend-01

blog-weekend-02

There was quite a bit of a crowd Ikea’s cafeteria in the late morning, no doubt because the breakfasts there are pretty low-priced, and the entire place is kid-friendly. So yep, there were a lot of kids, toddlers, infants and baby prams everywhere.

We also took the opportunity there to start stocking up on items that’d baby-proof the areas that Hannah is going to crawl around in in the next couple of months. Ling wanted to replace the kitchen cabinet handles, and also buffer-thingies that’d latch onto the corners of the coffee table in the living room.

Oh yeah; we picked up a couple of soft toys for Hannah too for her cot. She took to them very well: I’m gonna have to take some photos of her playing with those toys soon when the light’s better at home (gloomy weather over the weekend).

The other picture was on Sunday at Compass Point‘s KFC. Yep, she’s interested in Daddy’s MacBook Pro. Steve Jobs’ starts getting converts early LOL.

It’s come to that time in the year again where I get to look back at some of the most major decisions this year and and with the benefit of a mite bit of hindsight look at how they went. This is gonna be a long post, so it’s gonna be posted in parts.

Switching to the iPhone (Win… maybe). Now that the novelty of the iPhone has worn well-off 7 months after picking it up, I’ve still got mixed feelings of what pundits call the Messiah Phone but thankfully it’s still mostly on the positive side of things. Sure it’s got a great UI and a huge online store which is choked full of both free and paid applications. I used its mobile Mail program a lot, and that it can sync with Microsoft Exchange for work email is a god send. On the down side though, the phone’s still too clunky and prone to mysterious crashes.

Buying a portable HD camcorder (Mixed). The Panasonic HDC-SD20 camcorder I picked up in March this year was on account of Hannah coming along, and also for my San Francisco trip. I think of all the camcorders I’ve owned, I’ve shot more video on this Panasonic unit than all the others combined – especially of Hannah. That’s testament to how useful the tool is. That it takes video in the MPEG4-AVC/H.264 codec saves a lot in by way of storage space, but at the (huge) expense of editing work. Either I fork out money for Adobe Premiere Elements, or I convert the .MTS file to a more editor-friendly codec like .AVI and work from there using free tools.

More seriously though is that the camcorder is awful in lowlight… and a month after I purchased the unit, all the other competing camcorder manufacturers came up with their own line of budget HD camcorders, many with even better specs. Ouch.:(

Buying the huge lemon, whoops iEcologi (Lost). Ling did a lot of homework on this one, and while she was well-aware of its less-than-desirable characteristics (especially weight and effort-to-floor cleanliness ratio) she was still absolutely sold on the utility of this product. We forked out a huge wad of cash for this baby, and since February, the number of times she’s used it can be counted on two hands… maybe. It’s painfully heavy, requires a lot of post-use maintenance, and requires way too much effort to get a clean floor that we could achieve by hand-mopping, Japanese style, in 1/5 of the time spent.

The one thing we can’t do using the latter is sanitation which we don’t need to yet, but Ling says as soon as Hannah starts crawling, she’s going to dust off the cob webs off the iEcologi and use it more often. We’ll see.

The MSI Wind (Win). This one’s easy – considering that this little netbook has accompanied me to San Francisco, spent several nights at Thomson Medical Center, and has been thrown into and taken out of backpacks countless times… and has yet to miss a beat. Ok, so the limited screen resolution of 1024×600 means I have to keep scrolling vertically when I read stuff off the web, but it’s hard to complain for the low price I paid for it compared to the immense amount of photo productivity I’ve got out of it. Why pay a lot of money for portable photo storage when there’re netbooks.

Apple MacBook Pro (In Progress). The new wave of CULV processor-equipped and Nvidia ION-powered with 11.6 inch LCD screen netbooks hitting the shops were really tempting, and was initially my choice for replacement of my NEC Versa E6310. I eventually decided to go with the Apple MacBook Pro though, and even Ling was surprised at my change of heart. At this moment of writing, I’ve only had the unit for a couple of weeks so my evaluation on whether it was a good or bad decision is still in-process.

More in the next post.:)