February, 2010

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Immobile ain’t me

blog-2010-hannah-DSC_6653-infant-care It has been two months since Hannah started her weekday morning infant care at Punggol. She has adapted extremely well to the environment  and is familiar with all her care-givers. However, she always cry when she sees me at the usual 2.30pm pick-up time. She will only stop when I carry her.

For the record, she came down with a mild flu and diarrhea throughout the period of infant care. So far so good I’d say. I was informed by her principal that she’ll be promoted to the mobile group next week as she has been crawling quite well. This means that she will have more space to roam and roll and interact with other mobile babies. I just hope that she won’t hit other babies or ‘fight’ for toys.

Last Friday was the first time I had to stay back in school to finish setting two test papers. So it was the first time Hannah was left at her infant care center for the whole day. Yang could synchronize his timing with ours and hence he picked both of us up. Yay. He took a few photos of Hannah at the center with his D300 as well. :)

1:25 pm update: Matt’s coming earlier – Yay! He managed to bring his flight forward by 5 days, so he’ll be arriving on Tuesday early morning now.:)

Birthday @ The Majestic Restaurant

The extended Lentor branch of the Foo clan had our birthday event for my dad at the Majestic Restaurant, located at the newly renovated The New Majestic Hotel along Bukit Pasoh street in a very quiet spot and tucked away from the normal bustle of Shenton Way. The restaurant is headed by an award-winning chef and serves up Cantonese cuisine. According to parents, the restaurant has actually been around since the 1960s, and is quite famous among the older generation.

Dinner was a pleasant affair. The restaurant itself was pretty packed with – surprise – mostly Caucasians, but the 13 of us were hosted in a private function room, with the 7 item menu comprising several of the restaurant’s signature dishes – including its Roasted Spring Chicken marinated with Chinese Wine and Steamed Sea Perch with Sake Sauce.

Hannah was pretty well-behaved for most of the event, though at about midpoint, a mini-crisis took place when she overloaded her diaper with pee while I was carrying her, and it seeped onto the polo-shirt I was wearing LOL. Ling fed her tiny bits of dinner too, and she seemed to enjoy the sea perch especially.


And the family photo. Hannah didn’t want to look up, so here’s the best we could manage.:)


Hannah’s Wall

Since buying my first digital camera 11 years ago and getting into digital imaging, I’ve hardly ever printed photos anymore, apart from the odd occasion when we need pictures for photo frames at home, or when parents ask for them to display at Lentor.

Which is all the more funny, because I’ve been printing a lot of photos of late – and specifically, of Hannah. In fact, I’ve taken to decorating all the sides of my cubicle’s overhead cabinets with 5R photos of Hannah, and a couple more of my favorite pictures. Part of the wall now looks like this:


It’s sort of eye-catching too, because the first thing anyone sees when walking into my cubicle too are going to be these photos.:)

Oh yeah – one update: Matt will be coming after all, though given the heavy snow fall in North-East America right now he’s now flying here by an entirely different route – southwards to Houston, then to Moscow and then to Singapore and hopefully arriving the Sunday next week. The trip had to be drastically shortened from the original 25 days to now just 9 days though, with the Penang and Bali legs removed.:(


Given the heat in recent days, we’ve been trying to give Hannah a second bath each evening before the last feed of the day. This will usually be at about 8 pm. Ling bathes Hannah, and I do all the menial labor (e.g. bring bucket of water, pour bucket of water into baby bath tub, carry and pour used water, wash the tub and mat, mop floor). But what we get in return is a happy Hannah and she smells superbly nice and fragrant. We were intending to use the spare time this evening to clean up the house and move Hannah’s furniture out of the guestroom for Matt’s stay, but with that postponed, we got to clean her up, do a slow feed and set her to bed a little earlier than normal.

When Hannah’s dressed in colorful bed-time wear, and especially if I haven’t taken pictures of her in that wear before, it’s opportunity to dig out the D300 and just go nuts! Here’s an outfit I thought would make for colorful pictures: the green long-sleeved shirt was from one of Ling’s long-time friends, and the purple pants a hand-me down from her ex-colleague.


Taken using the Sigma 18-250mm. The lens sure is useful – generous focal length so I don’t have to move my legs too much. Down side though is that it sometimes has problems deciding on focus! :)

Just Bad Luck

blog-hot-spell There’s one thing that I think we should be thankful for, living along the equatorial region. Basically, we rarely get flights canceled or delayed here because of uncooperative weather. Oh, we get the odd typhoon now and then, say in Taiwan (which isn’t near the equator anyway) – but nothing like the snowmaggedon that’s hitting the midwest and East-side of America right now. The weather here on the other hand is just basically: ‘hot’, ‘hotter’, and ‘hottest with smog’ i.e. right now LOL.

Matt was to have arrived in Singapore on Saturday tomorrow morning via St. Louis, JFK and Frankfurt – but the flights between St. Louis and JFK, and as I understand it also to interconnecting cities around the region all got canceled because of very bad weather. And even after 9 hours of calling the two code-sharing airlines, nothing alternative could be solidly arranged without incurring hefty costs – and no guarantees of the flights being timely even then – apparently due in part to the type of fare involved. As I understand it, both airlines were blaming each other for the ticketing fiasco, and utterly exasperated and exhausted at being put on hold and trying to work out solutions, Matt’s canceled the trip.

It’s a little disappointing we won’t be seeing our ang mo bud, but I can only imagine the kind of frustration he must be facing – especially since that plate of roti prata, teh tarik, steamboat, and East Spring dim sum is going to have to wait a little longer. If I could bring a stack of pratas when I head to Boston mid-year, I would – but I doubt if it’ll get past US customs! There’s that famous story of Matt, bak kwa, and US Customs he’s yet to relate here when he returned from his Singapore trip in June 2008.:)

Pixel Peeping

The list of photography web sites that I bookmark and check everyday include Imaging Resource, The Photography Blog, DPReview, The Luminous Landscape and Clubsnap though funnily, the first three sites largely present similar articles when it comes to news items. There’s also a bunch of other sites whose URLs I keep and I go to semi-frequently.

SLR Gear – a great repository for editorial and user reviews of lenses.

DxOMark – a database for DSLR sensors. I visit this whenever there’s a new DSLR body and I want to check on its specifications for fun. The site has a controversial sensor noise sensitivity ratings which gets hotly debated in online forums, especially after one of their reports stated that the top-of-the-line full frame DSLR from Nikon bested Canon’s equivalent by a noticeable margin in one albeit very important aspect for the kind of persons who’d buy those cameras.

Lenstip – this is a Polish site I think with the occasional lens review. But it contains two reference articles that I check frequently: a review of CPLs and another for UV filters.

This isn’t including the bunch of other photography-centric blog and review sites, but the ones above contain pretty useful reference information.:)

Gene Theory

While I was in Kumamoto last December, Ling and Hannah spent a good amount of time at our Lentor family home, staying with my parents.

After I got back home, Ling shared with me her experience of staying at Lentor, including listening to the many stories my Mom has of this particular branch of the Foo clan. For those of us not in the know, my Mom is a very colorful story teller – she’s the type who could tell a story of a wall getting painted, and turn it into a bestseller!

blog-twin-lens-reflex It was during this period of stay that Ling finally saw firsthand evidence proving that I take after my Mom. Including how I interact with the spouse (LOL), the way I absolutely cannot abide lateness of any sort, or that I frequently throw away used stuff that Ling would want to keep (Ling’s a pack rat). Ling finally saw for herself exactly where I got all those traits from her, and it was scarily familiar! :)

In any case, Ling also took the opportunity to pour through the photos my Dad took of us as babies and infants at our old home in Sembawang Hills Estate. While I got my looks and most of my traits and character inclinations from my Mom, I got the obsessive compulsion to record both in imagery and text from my Dad. My Dad took hundreds of pictures of the three of us using his old twin-lens reflex camera.

Just as a comparison: while I was doing my weekly backup of Hannah pictures and video, I took a note of how much videos and pictures I’ve kept of her in the first 8 months 3 weeks. And the tally goes like this:

– 1,571 pictures (about 13.6 GB)

– 196 minutes of HD video (17.6 GB)

The actual image frame count I suspect is probably three times 1,571, since I typically keep about a third of all the actual frames I trigger. Now, if I were to translate it into 1980s technology with 36 exposure film rolls, it’ll work out to about 44 film rolls assuming if I keep every one of those exposures.

Another interesting stat: Hannah’s about 264 days old. That also means on average, she gets about 5.95 pictures taken and kept of her everyday since birth.:)

I should had been an accountant!

Weird Exam Paper Answers

Nearly a decade ago I marked an examination paper on a subject I was lecturing and also heading in one of my prior institutions. This was an international examination, and the candidates sitting for my paper numbered in the several thousands from all around Asia.

I remembered the answers in one particular script weren’t very good. In fact, the candidate probably realized that he (or she?) wasn’t going to do very well, and I think this was one of my own lecture group students. Why? Because on the very last page of his answers, he wrote the following:

“Mr. Foo, I know you’re marking this paper. Please please please pass me because this is my last semester!!”

Not that I actually knew exactly who he was, because all the candidates were identified only by their student admin number.

But that’s about the extent of strange answers I get in my 14 years being an educator. Other educators around the world though have very different experiences, and someone even did a collection of it here. Here’s a sample from that web page:


Be warned though: some of those samples are a mite vulgar, if innocently so. Also, many of those samples seem to come from mathematical assessments, which leads one to wonder maybe assessments in that subject sees the strangest answers.:)

Mining for Gold in Sewage

Step aside Newater, gold is the in thing now.

I was reading this interesting article about many (and wild) possibilities of making sewage useful. The world’s population produces around 1.2 billion tonnes of faeces and 15 hundred billion of urine per year. Somebody discovered that there’s similar gold content in sewage when compared to mining from geological ore deposits. In fact, certain cities and towns in the world produce higher amounts of gold in their sewage.

According to the article, one of the main sources of gold is human excrements. Our diet contains gold in trace amounts. And our faeces have significantly higher gold contents than chicken, cow or kangaroo droppings.  Other sources of gold compounds come from medicine ingested, abrasion of gold jewellery during washing and industrial effluents coming from dental practices, electronics industries and jewellery manufacturers.

There are also other useful substances such as other metals, vitamins, proteins, fats, carbohydrates and mineral oil in sewage waiting to be tapped upon.

Well, here we have another valuable renewable resource as long as we live :)

Inglorious Basterds

blog-ib-01Inglorious Basterds (2009) – on rental. Quentin Tarantino is one of those film directors who can make any film he pleases: and even with the trademark eccentricities in his productions, everyone of them will still be critically acclaimed hits. The entire list of A-actors in Hollywood typically line up for roles in his films, even for cameo work.

The story of Inglorious Basterds concerns a small squad of Jewish-American soldiers in World War II specifically organized for one reason: to kill Nazi soldiers in the most vicious manner possible, with each person in the team expected by their commanding officer, Lt. Aldo Raine played by Brad Pitt in his usual bad-boy mode, to chalk up 100 scalps as due payment to him for accepting them into his squad. Tied into this main overarching story are major story lines of a young Jewish woman Shosanna who operates a French theater selected by Joseph Goebbels, the German wartime Minister of Propaganda to premier a Nazi-produced war film, and also a senior German SS investigator and officer, Colonel Hans Landa, nicknamed the “Jew Hunter”.

For those of us not in the know – scalping is most commonly associated with the practices of Native American Indians in the 19th century in claiming trophies when they killed their enemies: and it involves using a sharp knife to remove part of your enemy’s forehead, usually but not always when they were dead. Just to get it out of the way: you’ll see this act of scalping in Tarantino’s film – and it’s only for this reason why I didn’t watch this film when Ling was around. She might just have fainted from the sight!


But like Spielberg’s films, you won’t feel that gore or violence is gratuitous in Inglorious Basterds, unlike say the two Kill Bill films, also by Tarantino. The violence here is tightly integrated into the narrative, and it’s portrayed as it might had been in reality – war is a nasty and messy business. The film has substantially more talky and dramatic scenes of tension than outright violent action (i.e. combat). There is a handful of scenes where firearms are used and people are getting killed, but they are very few and short but extremely violent.

There are two more aspects of this film that must be mentioned. Firstly, there are no sacred cows in Inglorious Basterds. Every character is fair game, even the main leading ones. You don’t expect a main character to meet his demise, and when he suddenly does (or doesn’t), you’ll be left shocked as how next is the story going to turn. That contributes to a very high level of nervous tension in the film, and it’s worth mentioning again that that anxiety doesn’t come from violence but simply well-written and dialogued dramatic scenes. I haven’t chewed my finger nails while watching films for a long while, but this film had me doing just that!


The stunning script is matched also by some of the best acting performances I’ve seen in the last 12 months, of which Christoph Waltz’s Colonel Landa (above picture) tops the heap. The Austrian actor speaks three languages fluently: German, English, and French – and he exercises this linguistic talent by speaking all three and Italian in the film. His Landa is a cultured, well-mannered and milk-drinking (!) gentleman, but also frighteningly and ruthlessly methodical, and efficient with a brilliant mind at investigation. The closest match in character composition and theme I can think of is Ralph Fiennes’ Commandant Amon Göth in Schindler’s List, but Waltz beats Fiennes by the mile here. His portrayal of Landa is utterly mesmerizing, and he now ranks as the best onscreen villain ever – Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lector is now a distant second. Waltz has been unsurprisingly nominated for the Best Supporting Actor in the upcoming Oscars (he’s already won an astonishing 26 acting awards for his role in this film) – an award I hope he wins!

Inglorious Basterds has also been nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director apart from Waltz’s Best Supporting Actor nomination. I’m uncertain if the film will take the first award though, given the stiff competition it’s getting from the other war-film nominated in the list, specifically The Hurt Locker, and also James Cameron’s Avatar – which was all spit and shine but relatively little substance. Even if not, Inglorious Basterds is one of the best films I’ve seen in a while, and rates an unqualified…