August, 2012

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Hannah’s New Blurb

It’s been an incredibly fast two years since I last finished Vita Una: Book V, blogged here. The photo book volume covered Hannah’s growing years up till she was one year old. I was supposed to have worked on two books thereafter – one on the month long Boston trip and another for Hannah – but never got round to it, thanks largely to procrastination. I finally got round to it this week, and after intensely working on it for the last several evenings, have finished selecting and working on the approximately 280 pictures that will be going into this volume. What follows next is writing the words of text that will accompany the pictures.

This volume sits at 220 pages; larger than Book V’s 160 pages too. The costs of printing has also gone up with the company; so while Blurb’s price plans are still cheaper than its competition, the differences are less significant now. Still, it’s a thrill to work on these books, more so when they finally ship and for me to leaf through each page. Blurb has some very premium paper for their books now too; I’ll probably be going for these grades as these volumes are keep sakes for Hannah, and thus well-worth the additional expense.

The series of pictures covers June 2010 to August 2012, and as I mused to Ling yesterday while on our way home from work, as I worked through the about 8,331 pictures of Hannah over this period, I am stunned by how quickly our girl has grown and developed. We’re thankful that Hannah’s healthy, chirpy and so far has been (mostly!) very well-behaved with a reasonably developed sense of respect for others around her and us as parents!

Flowers and Goofy

Weekend dinners are often early when I’m on cooking duties, since we often have early brunches before 10 AM. That usually leaves us with quite a bit of time in the early evening to bring Hannah out on walks either to the playgrounds at the ground floor, or Punggol Park just next door. Ling has an eye for plant life wherever she goes, and over the last weekend, she plucked a bunch of wild flowers for our girl. Hannah has become quite attached to flowers like these, and on an earlier occasion even wailed buckets when she accidentally dropped one of them in the car while on our way home.


All the flowers get put into a tiny two inch tall glass vase.=)

She got another present just this evening too, courtesy of Daddy. Of the cast of Disney cartoon characters in Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, our girl adores Goofy most. Not sure why she didn’t pick one of the other two more feminine characters i.e. Daisy or Minnie. Oh well. I ordered a stuffed toy of Goofy for her from a UK Store, and it arrived today, alongside a collection of six books each based on the cartoon that I’ll read to her as part of our nightly routines:


Both pictures were taken in the kitchen using the E-M5, 20mm f1.7. Not exactly the best of picture venues, but oh well.=)

Goofy now accompanies her to bed.=)

Local Coffee & Toast Outlets in Singapore

In Singapore, one of our favourite past times is to hang out or stopover at an eatery selling kaya toast, coffee / tea and whatnots.

I have a pet peeve over a particular such eatery of late. It is Toast Box. They are sprouting everywhere in shopping malls. Ugh. The Ya Kun Kaya Toast at Hougang Mall was recently replaced by Toast Box. Maybe it’s just me but I don’t understand why so many folks are still camping at their outlets. To be fair, their coffee and tea are decent. But I have also tried their curry, mee rebus, laksa, kaya toast, thick toast with floss, nasi lemak, etc. and didn’t like any of them. The new Hougang Mall outlet couldn’t even get their soft boiled eggs right when I was there – I was served with rather raw eggs – argh.

On the contrary, I prefer Ya Kun’s fare. Their kaya-butter toast is delectable and goes down well with a cup of thick coffee. Check out their soft boiled eggs. They are perfect and beautiful. The whole egg slides out elegantly as one entity onto the saucer after cracking it open. Don’t you underestimate the finesse that goes into preparing such a simple dish. It’s awesome. :D

Besides Ya Kun, Qiji is another favourite. We only discovered this neat little coffee place very recently. I tried almost everything on their menu and should conclude that they don’t disappoint. Their beverages are good with delicious local dishes such as mee rebus, mee siam, laksa and nasi lemak. I noticed that Qiji is popular with our Malay folks too. Yang and Hannah love their yam cakes drizzled with sweet sauce and never fail to order a plate whenever we have our breakfast hangout there. :)

Go, Ka Yun!

Go, Qiji!

Shoo, Toast Box. Hee hee :)

p.s. Just my 2 cents’ worth. Chill if you’re a Toast Box fan k? :)

Yang snapped a picture of Hannah getting ready to tuck into a plate of Qiji’s Yam cake. Look at how she’s decorated her side of the table!

Treaty Negotiations

In February this year, I wrote here about Hannah’s newly developed abilties in sentence construction. Six months and today, she’s not only able to form sentences, she can now string them together into conversations but also negotiate with us when she desires something and give us instructions even!

Some of the funniest and most recent examples of this have been over her TV routine during evenings. Typically, the two of us rewatch episodes of one of our favorite comedy series Scrubs first over dinner while she (impatiently) waits her turn for one or at most two Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episodes (each is about 24 minutes long) about half the evenings in a week. Now, Scrubs‘s theme song ends with the line “I’m no Superman.” So the other evening she asked:

“Today we watch Mickey Mouse first, then after that I’m no Supermien K?” (negotiation)

Then after her first episode which had some video artifacting (it came off Youtube):

“Mommy can we not watch this one next time? That one had stop-stop.” (negotiation)

And after the two episodes:

“Daddy, please switch off the TV!” (instruction)

And each time, it brings us a chuckle!

And a totally unrelated picture taken over the weekend morning while grocery shopping at AMK Hub:

Very attached to a box of wooden paper clips we picked up at Fairprice. She’ll probably cry buckets when she learns they’re not for her but for her Teacher.=)

2012 Morning Routines

I haven’t done a post on Hannah’s morning routine for more than 2 years now, so here’s an updated post on it and our reactions as parents! Hannah has settled in nicely with her nanny and also at pre-nursery at her kindergarten. Our wake-up times though still remain – to a degree – dependent on her kindergarten bus pick-up timings, and whenever the pick-up circuit changes, so changes our morning routine for her too.

As I’m usually up at least 30 minutes before Ling, I get the honors of waking Hannah up – usually around 6:35 AM – as Ling is still getting ready. Interestingly, Hannah used to be able to wake up easily whenever the lights to her room get switched on. This couple of months, it’s turned into an iffy thing. Occasionally she’ll get up quite briskly and mumble a “Good morning Daddy” reply when I call out the same to her. Other times, she’ll refuse to get up and grumble “I’m soooooo tired!”. Mind you though she’s still mostly sleeping at the same time each evening at around 8:45 to 9:00 PM. But when she shows such reluctance, I’ll usually just gentle prod her upright and carry her out of her cot, alongside the two toys she gets to bring to bed each night.

This is considered one of those better mornings.

Hannah gets carried to the Master bedroom toilet, since her toilet seat and reaching stool is situated there. Her morning ‘business’ is quick, after which she goes over to the guestroom toilet with Ling to brush her teeth. We’re still teaching her to brush her own teeth, though because things are quite rushed in the morning, we only really can afford the luxury of having her slowly do it herself in her night routine.

When that’s done, it’s to the living room where daddy gets to dress her and comb her hair, while Ling warms up her morning milk. This is usually a good time for daddy-daughter bonding, and often a follow-up with any incident that happened the last night (e.g. she was in a tantrum), or a reminder of things that will happen in the evening (e.g. “Last night we played sticker book; tonight daddy will read to you OK?”). She has her morning milk when she’s dressed. If we’re going to be late, it’s usually going to be because of this. Depending on Hannah’s morning mood, she can still take a lot of time to finish her morning milk and often exasperating Ling quite a bit! Thankfully though she can drink her milk unsupervised without spillage so that Ling can simultaneously wrap up in the kitchen. Hannah’s morning beverage is topped off with half a cup of water, after which her hair is tidied by Ling.

Having her morning milk.

We’ve got this morning routine pretty much nailed down, though I think a couple of improvements can be made now that I’ve articulated it in this post! The routine does give us a bit of buffer time to get to her nanny’s (she gets dressed into her school uniform there) and for the bus pick-up at 7:25 AM there.

The weekend routine is entirely different. Hannah’s the best alarm clock I can ask for (she’ll yell “Mommy… WAKE UP!!!!!”) LOL. More on that in some other post next time.=)

Movie Revisits

Over the fortnight while the Olympics was in season, most evenings were spent in front of the living room TV. Not that I was consciously watching what was going on-screen, but I like having background audio while I’m working away on my notebook. It’s a habit that I picked up during the three odd years I spent in Perth. The television was on around 18 hours a day (that’s how I got to finish all those entire 7 season TV series in days) while I was working on my thesis.

With the Olympics over, I’ve started re-watching a bunch of films on Blu-ray. I’ve blogged about several of them here before already, but I often still acquire new reflections on these movie revisits. The bunch included:

Blood Diamond; the 2006 film about the conflict diamond trade, and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou. I didn’t think much of the film when I first watched it years ago, but the revisit affirmed why Hounsou was heaped with nominations for acting awards for his supporting role as a father seeking rescue of his young son who is press-ganged then brain-washed into the violent rebel factions in Sierra Leone civil war. The film doesn’t flinch from representing on-screen serious controversies, and these include mass murder of innocents and child militia executing prisoners. The film can be a little draggy at spots running at nearly 2.5 hours, and Jennifer Connelly has a supporting role which sees her all doe-eyed but otherwise doesn’t have much else to do, and the last 10 minutes feel somewhat preachy. Still, well worth a watch if you enjoy thrillers.


Leonardo and Hounsou dashing through the war-torn city of Freetown.

The Watchmen: re-watched the butt-hurting more than 3 hours Director’s Cut of the film in a single siting. I’ve blogged about the theatrical edition of the film here, and the extended edition fleshes out numerous bits from the comic book with Rorschach benefiting the most off the additional time. I think director Zack Snyder did a great job condensing the very complicated graphic novel into a manageable size, but it still remains somewhat thick for viewers unfamiliar with the novel, given its large cast of super-hero characters spread across several generations. Most of the cast do alright, but Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorschach remains the real stand-out. He gets the best line in the film too.=)


Rorschach about to barbeque an unlucky foe.

Up in the Air: Also blogged here before too. I enjoyed this comedy-drama from two years ago, and found myself paying even more attention to its subtleties in the Blu-ray revisit. There are spots of the film that reminds me of Luc Besson’s Léon: The Professional, especially with regards to Ryan Bingham (George Clooney)’s love for predictable routines and having to reconcile it with love interest Alex (Vera Farmiga) and his young upstart colleague companion Natalie (Anna Kendrick). One of the major themes of the film – that of corporate-level downsizing and the reactions and sentiments from those getting fired – remain thought-provoking for me, eliciting memories of the companies I worked for pre-Millennium who went through the Asian Financial Crisis and saw retrenchment. Has a heart-wrenching ending that even surprised Ling (“So sad”… and she sniffed).

How many times we’ve also sat this like waiting for our ride.

More film re-visitation snippets to follow in the coming weeks.=)

Work-in-Progress – Part 7

It’s the Hari Raya Puasa, or breaking of the Ramadan fast public holiday today. Ling has been feeling quite under the weather with a week long coughing spell, but nonetheless was still well enough for us to swing by The Minton condo while on our way to brunch. Our stopover point this time was Blk 142 level 12 again, which we last checked out our new home in construction 5 months ago in March. The view looks quite different now, but as always, pictures will tell the story.=)


The Minton, about 16 months away from expected completion.


Our unit on the left hand side! One side of the balcony – the planter area perhaps – has railings installed, instead of glass panes like the front-facing side of the balcony.


The cascading waterfall section in construction. Our unit faces this section, and we should get some pretty scenic views looking down from the balcony next time (or so we hope!).


Mitsubishi Electric air-conditioning units still in the box sitting on each floor and ready for mounting.


According to the map layout, this rectangular thing will be the 50m lap pool.


No Minton blog will be complete without pictures of Hannah, since the place is really to get her into our school of choice.=) Got some nice bokeh using the Panasonic 45-200mm lens.


A last look at our block from the ground floor before heading back out to brunch.=)

Blog Writing

Interestingly, over the years while we’ve had many friends who’ve tried blogging, not many keep up with posting after a while. I think a good part of it is that blogging in itself isn’t convenient, relative to social network sites like Facebook or Google+ anyway now. It’s a lot easier to post up microbits of reflections and notes that you can share, as opposed to logging into your blog provider site and writing up a new post, or in my case – a Blog Writer – to write something more substantial than a sentence or two.

Our domain here is about 12 years old now, and we’ve been blogging regularly since 2006 – somewhere in my last year of my research when I was done with my thesis and packing to return back to Singapore. At times, I’m sure even Ling would have wondered why we’re still posting so much, especially when it’s so out of fashion these days, and our reading audience comprises maybe about a dozen close friends and fellow parents of young children! Moreover, the sort of work that the both of us do in real-life presents implicit expectations of our public behavior, including what we do online – which sort of means the only safe things I can write about is entertainment, technology, photography and children.

It’s funny too to note that Ling still uses the somewhat clunky WordPress front-end to write her blogs. Usually she’ll write her post and put up her pictures, and then tell me it’s ready for posting whereupon I’ll look through her post, clean up any formatting issues and check her tags before posting or scheduling it up for her. For myself, I’ve posted here about blog writing software that I use; namely Windows Live Writer.

The program though doesn’t work very well with the super-high display resolution on the new MacBook Pro. Basically, the program lacks a zoom feature (e.g. similar to what you see on word processors). After some searching and trying out of alternatives, I found a nifty add-on/plug-in/extension that’s supported by all the four major browsers (Firefox, Safari, IE and Opera): it’s ScribeFire. Unlike Live Writer, ScribeFire doesn’t run as a separate program but as a tab in your browser. The program isn’t as full-featured as Live Writer (e.g. direct insertion of images into the Editor doesn’t work very well on Firefox), but otherwise works well enough and works in offline mode too.

Blog writing using ScribeFire

Introducing Emotions to Young Children

The idea of teaching emotions to Hannah never occurred to me. It all started from reading a Chinese story book where animals became happy, sad or angry when naughty children make friends with them or pull their tails.

Little did I know that this book was to become a springboard to the realm of emotions for Hannah who was around one year old then. She started saying things like “mommy be angry” when I was angry at her or “is mommy happy?” to check whether I was still simmering. A part of building relationships for social creatures like us is the ability to read and communicate emotions. When she was a bit older, Hannah started recognising her own feelings and began to articulate them. Of course, her vocab is limited. She still uses words like “sad” and “angry” but it helps us understand what she was going through without having to second-guess her unhappiness.

I shall never forget the question which my then pregnant girl friend asked me, “What are the joys of parenting?”. I don’t know. Can’t really nail it down. I suppose when Hannah goes banging at the door “mommy, what are you doing?” when I was trying to shower, “mommy, do you want to play lego with me?” when I was warming up her milk, “mommy, I’m very sad” and proceeds to hug me, “MOMMMMMMYYYYYY!!!!” when she woke up in the morning, “Mommy, my friend gave me a sticker!” after she got home from the nanny’s, “Mommy, let’s go swimming tomorrow okay?” when weekend is drawing near, etc etc. Oops, I must have gotten a bit emo and digress again. :)

MacBook Pro Retina

The MacBook Pro Retina (rMBP) arrived on Tuesday afternoon, about 8 days after placing an order for it. The notebook configuration I chose wasn’t the base configuration. Given that the new series of rMBPs can’t be user-upgraded later after it leaves the assembly plant, I went with a 16 GB RAM upgrade, judging that storage is going to be less of an issue with portable harddrives as opposed to onboard system memory. The custom configuration must have factored in the slightly longer time it took for Apple to complete assembly, since some buyers have reported receiving their notebooks quicker than I did.

I’ve posted earlier before of Apple’s streamlined and iconic packaging. The rMBP is no different, coming in the usual white box, black in-trays, the notebook, a small instructional booklet, power adapter and sockets.


Packaging for the MacBook Pro Retina

After spending two days using the new notebook, my feelings are mixed, even though Apple fanboys still tout this as the best notebook yet. The plus points include:

Classy build. No loose parts, no awkward or sharp corners, no question about it. The MBPs’ aluminum unibody chassis helps the notebook cool down when not in use.

Light and slim. After lugging around the 6.3 lbs of Dell every day to and from work, the 4.5 lbs weight of the rMBP makes this feather weight.

Super-high resolution Retina-class screen. It’s a stunning screen alright. With less glare than the Dell XPS.

Very fast SSD storage. Several times faster than the entry-level SSDs I’ve got installed on my home PC and Dell XPS.

But then again:

Super-high resolution Retina-class screen. Outside the couple of browsers and OS 10.8, everything else looks terrible, including Windows and everything else running on it. It’s tolerable once I bring the LCD resolution down to 1920×1200 pixels, but text in turn now looks rather blurry.

Less contrasting screen compared to the Dell. Sorry fanboys but the Dell XPS 16’s RGBLED screen surpasses the rMBP’s Retina screen. Hannah looked better on the Dell.

Windows 7 takes forever to load. The Dell XPS takes about 14 seconds to load up Windows, despite its slower SSD. The rMBP takes nearly a minute with Bootcamp despite its faster SSD. Bleh.

Keyboard is a little fiddly. It displays absolutely no flex (compared to the very slight flex I got on the Dell), but it simply felt better typing on the Dell with its better key travel than the rMBP. I’ll probably get used to speed typing on the rMBP soon though.

Only two USB ports. Gaaah. But at least it’s on opposite sides of the notebook now, compared to the old 13 inch MBP which placed the two ports side by side.

The last two evenings have been spent configuring the rMBP to work with three operating systems: WIndows 7, Mac OS 10.8, and a Linux build that I have been tinkering around. Once I’m fully satisfied that all my work related files and settings have been correctly replicated on rMBP, I’ll be wiping my Dell XPS (*sniff*) and configuring it for Ling to use.

OK; the usual pictures!


From left to right; the Dell XPS 16 (love this machine), the new rMBP, and my workplace’s MBP.


The rMBP is just a wee bit smaller width-wise compared to the Dell XPS 16.


On the other hand, it’s loads thinner! The Dell XPS 16 looks like a 10,000 pound Elephant here.


It’s also thinner than my work MBP too.