Aquarium & Pets

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Year in Review – 2016

Doing an update to this ongoing series of year-end review posts can be really distressing on account of how the year again just went past and that we’re all a year older again.

Playstation PS4 – Mixed: our first toy-technological purchase of the year, and the number of PS4 games I’ve played on it is still.. one. The device works great as a Netflix, YouTube, media and Blu-Ray player – but is criminally underused as a gaming rig.

Aftershock S17 – Win: the largest notebook I’ve owned with its 17.3″ screen. The S17 is now a permanent fixture in our bedroom, sitting on top a portable laptop desk on the bed. The machine is brisk, the keyboard offers great depth and tactile feel, and I’ve gotten use to the relatively less bright matte screen. Not so good for watching video material, but great for productivity!

Melbourne – Win: our longest family vacation to this point, and one in which nearly everything went along swimmingly: the accommodation we selected, the itinerary, the three day-tours, and the flights both ways. The only mishaps: weather was gloomy for the second half of the stay, and the newly purchased Xiaomi Mi Note 3 kissed concrete.

Fujifilm X70 – Mixed: lovely form factor and takes stunningly beautiful pictures when used outdoors. But indoors focusing is a real hit and miss when your subjects – i.e. our kids – are constantly moving. The 3 year old E-PL6 just got fixed too – and and there’s even less reason now not to sell away the X70 soon.

The X70 vs the E-PL6 – and I’m likely only gonna keep one in 2017. Which one?!

Thule Enroute 2 Blur Backpack – Win: capacity-wise, it’s very slightly larger than the older Enroute it replaced though I still prefer the notebook compartment design of the older backpack.

Huawei Smart Watch – Win: seven months into the watch, and it still looks as pristine and new as it was. The manufacturer provided watch charger dock remains finicky, but cheap third party replacements can be had off eBay that – ironically – secure the watch far easier than the original manufacturer equipment.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 – Win: decently spec-ed phone that was picked up for cheap. This phone was purchased specifically for the Melbourne trip and sadly was the only outing it’d ever have. The phone still works, barring the cracked display screen which looks like it can completely shatter anytime and thus dangerous to use. Sigh.

Xiaomi Mi Max – Win: the largest smartphone in my inventory, nicely contrasting display though maximum brightness is a little low, and funnily, as a grey import purchased at an even lower price than the Note 3 above. And the Energizer Bunny battery that runs forever!

Stacy the Syrian – Win: I wonder how many fathers in their mid-40s purchase a Syrian hamster not for their kids LOL. But our Syrian has provided our kids with learning opportunities, though we don’t feel they are yet old enough to provide responsible care and maintenance of the hamster. The only down side? That we’re reminded that Syrians have short lifespans of 2-3 years.

Yamaha U30BL – Win: apart from the Melbourne vacation, our most costly purchase in 2016. I haven’t used the Silent Piano module very much yet, on account that my piano technical skills have, surprisingly, not degraded by that much for me to feel embarrassed of having to practice on the piano. Both Hannah and myself now spend an hour each every night making music. It’s a nosier household sure but also a lot livelier!

Wangz Staycation – Win: small boutique hotel in Outram we stayed at for our 10th Wedding Anniversary. A little light on property amenities, the room was lovingly appointed, clean and modern. Recommended for couples on short vacation stays if you like the off-city location too.

D’Resort @ Downtown East – Mixed: were it not for the bundled admission to Wild Wild Wet – a significant bonus – and that this resort was about the only property to stay in in the immediate vicinity, the resort just wasn’t as cracked up as what we’ve read from social media.

All in, this was a mostly good year for us. We can only hope that 2017 will be just as good!

Staycation Activities @ Downtown East

We’ve got a rule of thumb, and it is to avoid 3D2N holidays as much as possible, even if it means forking extra to stay for a longer period and having to wreck our brains thinking of how to fill up the itinerary! The only 3D2N stay we’ve ever had at this point was at Capella Sentosa 5 years ago. The short duration was largely on account of cost, but that property still remains by far the best we’ve ever stayed at.

While we received admission tickets to Wild Wild Wet for all four days of our stay at D’Resort, we ended up just using passes for one day – as we accidentally dropped our entire ticket stack somewhere in the water park. We did put in a Lost and Found report at the Information Office and the park crew were nice to follow through it, but finally had no such luck finding them back.

I reckon it was just as well, as it forced us to think harder of what to fill up the rest of the days with. And of that:

Disney’s Moana @ Downtown East Cathay: Peter’s first late night cinema experience for a cartoon that hearkens back to the Disney themes from its films starting 25 years ago. This one was a gamble as we wondered how Peter would handle an 8:50PM screening – and we lucked out. It didn’t take beyond the film’s midpoint before he got grouchy (probably from just being tired) and generally annoying the heck out of Ling.

Didn’t take long before he wriggled out of his Eskimo outfit.

Orchid Bowl @ Downtown East E!Hub: you know you suck at something when your 7 year old daughter hands you your butt:

You know you suck at it when even your 7 year old daughter is handing you your butt.

Then again, this is how she got there:

Ball, meet foot.

Longkang Fishing @ Mainland Tropical Fish Farm: with ‘longkang’ literally meaning ‘drain’ for our Ang Mo bud.:) Our parents’ generation will quip that this was one of their leisure past times before Gen Y and Z’s iPads, video games and smartphones. But Ling and I just a few years ago climbed down into a large drain opposite Hougang Mall to catch fishes to supplement our freshwater aquarium – and we caught several Corydoras even!

The Farm was just a few minutes drive from Downtown East, and we spent an hour there in a small tidily landscaped and man-made drain of about 18 meters long catching critters. There’s a token fee of $4 per child for every 30 minutes, but the very nice and super laid-back auntie there gave our two kids 45 minutes of catching time.

Some bloggers have remarked how difficult it was for kids to catch these critters given how fast they swim. Funnily, we had no such difficulties. We caught 15 with most going between Hannah and Ling. I was taking pictures, but in the space of a minute also caught three too. The fishes do detect movement – I assume from the mid-morning shadows we cast onto the water – and typically scatter free quickly. So, the trick is simply to use the tiny nets provided in the opposing direction and where clusters of fishes are. We were able to scoop 1-2 critters this way a time.

Safe for kids, though Peter didn’t catch anything!

Hannah camping where the drain outlets were, since large groups of fishes were gathering there.

Our catch for the morning.

Peter looking as though he’s prepared to eat the fish – raw.

We returned all we caught back to the farm though, since our home aquarium is already densely populated with tetras and snails. But the kids enjoyed this one – and the activity gets a solid recommendation from us.

Pasir Ris Public Library @ White Sands Shopping Centre: the E!Hub @ Downtown East is a little rundown, while White Sands has just recently undergone refurbishment. Its offering of stores and restaurants remain pretty much standard fare for Singapore shopping malls, but the also recently renovated public library is very nicely done-up. We stayed and left with about a dozen loaned books.

We again feel terrifically fortunate that Hannah prefers reading instead of electronic gadgets.

And Peter just treats every thing as toys to smother his body parts with.

eXplorer Kids @ Downtown East E!Hub: we’d gone by this indoor playground earlier this year. The area was also just recently refurbished, and it looks slightly brighter now, with a few new play areas that we didn’t previously see in our last visit. More importantly is that there’s a current promotion for NTUC Members: each card holder can get free membership for up to two kids. More details here. The offer was good enough for us to drive back home to pick up our kids’ birth certificates for registration.

This was about as high as he could manage, even with assists from Mommy.

Starbucks @ Downtown East: half of the indoor seating in the store were squatted by young adults pretending to study, but we managed to put together two separate tables to chill over brewed coffee, Hazel Nut Lattes, and Signature Hot Chocolate for the kids.

Listening to pieces from the accompanying CD in the Suzuki Method book.

Signature Hot Chocolate – yummy.

His latest thing: stick his tongue out whenever a picture is taken.

After all the trauma you routinely cause mommy, you better invent some world changing technology to benefit all mankind, bud!

There was also a small Tayo & Friends demonstration area beside Starbucks. One of Ling’s ex-students was temping in the area, and he kept our two kids jolly entertained around this children road circuit.

Hannah quips that this was our best vacation ever. Putting aside the bleh stay at D’Resort, it was certainly enjoyable also for us parents. We’re start planning for our mid-year vacation spot for June 2017, so more to come on that soon enough!

The Pet Project – Part 4

Stacy – our family Syrian hamster – is now four months old. She’s also grown noticeably larger from about 8cm when we first got her, to 13cm long from snout to her stump tail. From what we’ve read, this is supposed to be nearly about her maximum size already, but I reckon we didn’t expect her to grow up quite so fast!

Though she’s comfortable with either Ling or myself holding her, she’s still quite shy socially and can be easily startled by movements around the house. She’s otherwise pretty fearless, and spends a good amount of time every night climbing the bars of the cage. On several occasions, we’ve seen her hanging precariously at the top of her cage with just one paw. Occasionally, she’ll be able to swing herself up so that her feet can grip the cage bars. More often than not though, she’ll fall right down, dust herself off, and try again LOL.

One habit we’re trying to break of her though is her chewing of cage bars. And that’s despite her cage having about six different types of materials she can chew – apple sticks, mineral chews, ropes, wood blocks, dog biscuits, and even toilet rolls. It got so bad that she chewed through the coating of the cage bars, and we had to physically fastened chew sticks there to block her from getting near the cage bars.

Left to it, she’d probably gnawing through the bars and onto freedom!

She lets us carry her now, though she won’t remain still even then.

Hamster with spider genes!

The two feet cage has plenty of toys for her to interact.

The Pet Project – Part 3

Apart from the new Savic Bristol cage, we’ve been on small shopping sprees over the nearly 10 days we’ve had Stacy the Syrian, accumulating a small stockpile of food items, treats and toys for her. Here’s our rundown of things that worked and those that haven’t so far.

Sand bath and house: as a start, we went with Trustie’s Small Animal Bath Sand and Lavender flavored. I wonder if there are unscented sand about since I’m uncertain if scented sand will affect the hamster’s sense of smell over time. With VIP discount, each 1kg bag costs about $5.50, with the accompanying dome-styled bath house just a couple of dollars. Each 1kg bag of sand can last likely last for about 10 sand changes, or about 2 months. Now, hamsters are supposed to roll around in the bath house, as the sand helps with their cleanliness. Problem is that ours does everything except roll around in it. She’ll rather poop in it, and just yesterday after pooping, napped in the house too LOL.

I love rolling around in my poop.

I love rolling around in my poop.

Hamster wheel. The wheel that came with the Habitrail Cristal cage was a relatively large 7.5 inch wheel. Many cages – and even the larger ones – routinely include much smaller wheels. That said, after we upgraded her cage to a Bristol, we had more space to mount a larger wheel, so went with a 8.4 inch wheel that we picked up for cheap at Petmart @ Serangoon North Avenue 2. Funnily, the store assistant there thought I was buying the wheel for a Chinchilla. The Bristol cage can hold up to an even larger wheel of likely 11 inches, but that’d likely mean some major furniture rearrangement then. And oh yes – the Cristal wheel while reportedly of the ‘silent type’, was loud enough to wake Ling up when Stacy started speed running on it dead of the night. Hopefully this one’s sturdier to hold up the hamster’s weight!

Feeding bottle. Feeding bottles are typically bundled together with cages. The hamster at this young age takes perhaps just 15-20ml of water everyday, so we didn’t see a reason to use the 150ml capacity bottle that came with the Bristol.

Bedding material. This one was a tough decision, given the number of options available for it, and as a starter, went with Pet’s Dream: Paper Pure. The pellets are made of recycled natural products, is 100% biodegradable and of reasonable pricing. The material is pellet-like, which makes them easier to handle, and dust-free for the most part. They are also odorless and seem to mask Stacy’s excrement smell well enough, though she’s not pooping that much to begin with. The tricky thing about this product though is that the pellets are also dark-colored, which can make spot-cleaning (i.e. finding and picking her poop then tossing them) a little hard.

Trail mix and treats. Many enthusiasts suggest that the trail mixes that are sold in stores typically offer a well-balanced diet, and hamsters are perfectly fine eating these exclusively. Just for fun though we’ve been trying to spread her diet a little: and she’s taken after Sunseed Grainola Treat bars quite well – though they are typically far too large, and could take weeks for her to finish a single bar – and also Odour care treats from Mark + Chappell, and small thinly-sliced pieces of raw carrot. The challenge with fresh food is of course cleaning it up as they can go bad real quickly in Singaporean humidity – which can be tricky as hamsters like to hide food LOL.

Sunseed Granola with oatmeal and raisin treat, and loving it!

Sunseed Grainola with oatmeal and raisin treat, and loving it!

Chew materials. These are necessary as hamsters need to constantly gnaw their teeth down. Funnily, Stacy didn’t take after the mineral chews sold in-house by Pet Lovers Centre, and ended up chewing on the bars of her new cage instead. That is, until we bought her neatly cut apple branches for a couple of dollars – which she took after immediately.

Toys. Aside from hamster balls, the in-cage toys seem to come in broadly two types: wooden-made ones and extension modules that can connect to modular cage systems. Since we’d moved off the Habitrail cage, the latter extension modules didn’t make any sense for us. So we picked up a variety of wooden toys that ranged between a couple of dollars, to a one square feed large small animal maze. We’ve not really seen a persistent pattern of use from Stacy for these yet – or maybe she just enjoys them in the dark when we’re sleeping. Who knows LOL.

Pets these days have everything. With the exception of the maze, most were priced at about $10 apiece.

Pets these days have everything. With the exception of the maze, most were priced at about $10 apiece.

Care and concern: from left to right, chew sticks, bath sand, odour care treats, and roast mealworm treats!

Care and concern: from left to right, chew sticks, bath sand, odour care treats, and roast mealworm treats!

So all in, Stacy the Syrian has given the kids lots of interest and things to talk about though she’s also still shy and too jittery to let any of us hold her. Small steps, and more to report I reckon when she finally comes round to it.

 

The Pet Project – Part 2

It took us just a day to conclude that the cage we bought Stacy the Syrian was going to be a little too small once our baby hamster gets past a few months old, more so that Syrians are larger than their dwarf cousins. She seems fine in it now, but we figured we’d better just get a larger one now so she wouldn’t have to readjust again to a new habitat soon.

Still, our comments about her first cage – a Habitrail Cristal Hamster Cage.

Fairly small area of 166 square inches

Feels sturdy and well-assembled.

Affordably priced at $50 with the loyalty card, premium-looking, compact and pleasing aesthetically for her human owners. If nothing else the cage looks pretty. Good mix of clear plastic and wire cage to permit ventilation.

The cage door though is a little fiddly, and requiring a bit of skill to shut it without jolting the cage and possibly waking the hamster up.

Well-designed bundled accessories. Comes with a roughly 7.5 inch large wheel that runs silently (which we will transplant over to the new cage), a plastic ramp with ridges, and a small feeding water bottle (not too large or bulky).

Most importantly, as far as we could tell, our baby hamster looked happy enough in it!

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As for the larger cage, some enthusiasts recommend a cage of 2 feet by 1 feet at least for Syrians, others go with the often-cited figure of 360 square inches. There aren’t nearly as many large cages specifically designed for hamsters sold in local pet stores, and we also had to be mindful that we would also need the cage to be reasonably mobile (i.e light) as different parts of the house can be quite warm in the first half of a year. There are some pretty nicely designed cages sold through Amazon UK, but are also pretty large.

We decided to go with the Savic Bristol, which has a floor area of about 348 square inches, and after hunting around for availability, picked it up from The Pet Safari @ Eastpoint Mall.

Nearly the recommended size at 348 square inches.

At S$75, affordably priced locally if you have Pet Lovers Centre’s VIP/Loyalty card. It lists for USD140 and £52 on Amazon and Amazon UK respectively.

Feels less premium than the Cristal.

Of sufficient height to allow both a basement (where we have her bedding, a cooling mat and a sand bath), a level for her to run around, and overhanging toys to be mounted at the top too.

Very large cage door that opens from the front. Some owners commented that the cage door swivels loosely and might crash on your end (or critter). Our unit seemed reasonably stiffed though so we don’t foresee this problem occurring for us.

The bundled feeding water bottle is IMO too large for hamsters, so we swapped it with the one from the Cristal cage.

The bundled overhanging cage which would let Stacy have a birdseye view is a little hard for her to get to. I might swap it with a hammock that’s closer to her level so that she can easily climb onto it. The bundled wheel is also too smaller for a Syrian.

Just two clippers that secure the wire cage to the plastic base. You’d need to find alternative ways of securing the cage if either of them break.

Our hamster seemed pretty happy with her upgraded apartment. Just after an hour after introduction to her cage where she burrowed at the basement level and slept for a bit, she was up and about exploring the cage – including, incredibly, hanging precariously on the top grill with just one paw before dropping to the bedding below.

Exploring all nooks and crannies.

Exploring all nooks and crannies.

Stacy seeking a second career as a spider-hamster.

Stacy seeking a second career as a spider-hamster.

Next post soon when accessories and the like!

The Pet Project – Part 1

Pets. As parents of young kids, we’ve heard a lot in media about not letting kids pressure us as parents into buying pets, and the dangers of impulse buying. As cute as some the furry little critters like hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits might be, the novelty cute pets bring to kids might die off quickly enough – and when that happens, it’s routinely parents who end up having to be the pets’ caregivers.

So, it’s a strange turn of events when it’s the adult – me in this case – who bought a cute furry pet for himself and not on the kids request, and certainly not on impulse. I approached this project in exactly the same way as I would buy a new tablet or mobile phone: a month or two of research, thinking of the various options, planning for its home at our home, and what we would do to engage any such pet. Hannah though suspected that something was afoot when she saw me especially starting to frequent pet stores in various malls and taking a visible interest in browsing wares and the like.

My summary notes of what was going through my head:

Went with a Syrian hamster. Why not rabbits? Well – we couldn’t quite afford the space at home to give a rabbit the necessary room to run around, and we’re staying in an apartment block with a large balcony and plenty of places for rabbits loose in the house to fall off the balconies and to their demise. Guinea pigs were a real possibility and perhaps at some point in the future, but we figured we should start small first.

Of the hamster breeds, Syrians are generally considered quite easy to care for, and also of the right size and temperament for kids to handle once both parties are ready for it.

We didn’t thoroughly explore buying from pet farms, nor adoption from Hamster enthusiast groups or SPCA (or rather, none were available for adoption when I checked). We checked out pet stores @ shopping malls primarily out of convenience, but took our time to select the most appropriate critter of the species.

We picked up a rectangular-ish cage that was a compromise between wire fencing and also transparent plastic. Some enthusiasts recommend going with aquarium-styled acrylic tanks, but I was worried that there would be insufficient ventilation for the fellow – more so if we have to mount a small fan somewhere during the hot/humid parts of the year. We did avoid cages with built-in plastic tunnels though, reckoning that they can be difficult to clean well.

There were a few options for bedding material, and we went with a large 20 liter bag of recycled paper pellets. They were quite attractively priced and fairly large pellets. But on the other hand, they’re also rather dark colored, which could make identifying areas to find spot-clean areas, and the hamster’s droppings are also harder to spot.

All in, the initial expenditure was a shade under $200. $32 for the critter, $50 for her cage, $3 for a chew toy, $10 for a large bag of store feed, $12 for a bag of sandbath and a hamster bath tub, $23 for bedding material, $40 of toys, and $8 for a sizable hamster ball.

Assembling the cage @ Pet Lovers Centre.

Assembling the cage @ Pet Lovers Centre.

Introducing Stacy the Syrian hamster!

Introducing Stacy the Syrian hamster!

More in the next post!

Fishy Business

We haven’t been blogging about our aquarium for a few years now; the last such post about our tank at home was nearly three years ago now. The three feet tank still graces our living room, and it was put up five years ago when we first moved to our home here.

blog-2011-aquarium-OLYP3639-tank

The way I’ve set it up from the start is that it mostly runs on auto-mode. Basically, apart from the daily critter feeds and a fortnightly partial change of water, the only other maintenance routines is the about bimonthly cleaning of filter inlets, trimming of plants, and scrubbing of fish-tank waters.

The two major changes since that last post has been removal of a costly CO2 injection system that I added when first setting the tank up (the system was too cumbersome and controlling the flow of the gas for optimal plant growth was too difficult), and adding a second aquarium filter to the tank. One of those dreadfully expensive but highly-regarded made-in-Germay Eheim filters.

The tank has also, remarkably, stabilized very well for the last three years now. We rarely have critter deaths. The last non-natural critter death as I recall it was one tetra that inexplicably took a leap out of the tank two years ago.

We haven’t been replacing the critters though. I had this big idea about replacing the entire substrate layer a year ago (a major and very time-consuming operation for those of us who know about the hobby). The substrate the current tank uses is aquatic soil, and it has a finite life-span; slowly turning into slush. I picked up nearly 30 kilograms of inert replacement gravel, but haven’t quite got round to actually doing it! Oh well; maybe at the end of this year.

Ling was asking about our longest lived critter. It’s this little bugger:

blog-2011-aquarium-OLYP3638-cory

He’s an Albino corydoras. We’ve had him for 4.5 years now. He grew from a little runt of about 2/3rds of an inch, to a grand size of nearly 1.5 inches now.=)

Undersea adventures

One thing you try to do in a marriage is couple activities. OK, whenever we go out, e.g. to shop for things, to see parents/relatives/friends, or to small group, it’s a couple activity. But when you’re at home, are there as many such activities or are we more likely to disappear to our separate corners in the house to do our own individual thing?

One of the most conscious things I’ve been (trying!) to do is to get Ling involved in computer games. Of course things in this respect would had been that much easier if we’d gotten a Nintendo Wii in Dec 2007 instead of the PS3. Without getting into detailed arguments, let’s just say that serious gamers don’t really regard the Wii as their primary play console, as fun and as social as stuff on it is and that the Wii is the best selling console of the three main players now.

There’s been a couple of PS3 games that I’ve picked up that Ling has been interested in enough to give it a go. There was Virtua Tennis (though she found it pretty tough), the visually stunning exploration sequences in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (though I had to do all the gun battles for her), Prince of Persia (which she watched me play but didn’t want to try) and Lego: Indiana Jones which Matt bought for us in June last year.The latter was plenty of co-op fun, but I think much of that game’s references to the movie trilogy was lost on Ling.

My goal really is to get her interested enough to get her (mildly) addicted. So, four games so far that she’s had an interest in, but not quite to the point where she says things like “Darling, can I try…???”

That was until I found two titles that I think will absolutely do the trick. So, after Open House on Saturday, I picked up the below: Aquanaut’s Holiday:

blog-aquanaut

Funnily, this is a game in the most general of terms. Produced by Artdink, a Tokyo based game development studio, you play an adventurer who’ll explore oceanic life in a fictitious Kisira Atoll situated in Polynesia. The visuals are amazingly life-like. Heck, they’re so good that Ling can recognize all the marine critters from her scuba-diving days, even creatures from a distance where they’re still about a pixel wide on the screen.

The outstanding visuals and that the game really teaches the amazing biodiversity of marine life aside, Aquanaut’s Holiday is no good as a game though. Way too much soliloquy (must be a Japanese thing) where the main character talks aloud to himself, and one story arc is this mystical voice that speaks to him. Breaks the realistic immersion.

But it’s been $65 well spent. It’s just simply fun to watch her squeal excitedly whenever she finds a new discovery: “Darling… see see SEE??? Hammerhead shark!!!!!” She’s gotten so into the game she’ll come check on me frequently when I’m alone in the living room to make sure I’m not playing the game without her LOL.

The litmus test? When I asked her yesterday night if she likes this game, it was a resounding and definitive  ‘yes’. And after a while, she added, “now there’s finally a game I like that doesn’t need me to blow things up!”

Blowing things up. That’s my kind of game. But I guess marriage requires sacrifices, so… :)

Five or six

blog-2008-aquarium-p1000524-six-ottosOne thing the two of us couldn’t agree about the aquarium at home was how many Otocincluses we had in in the tank. I’ve always thought we’ve got five, but Ling believes there’re six!

For those of us not in the hobby, Otocincluses, or usually just called Otos for short, are dwarf sucker catfishes. They’re among the most hardworking of algae eaters, and one typically finds one or two of them in a freshwater aquarium.

That said, these little critters can be hard to spot if you’ve got a well-planted aquarium, since they typically don’t move around much (ours apparently work at night only too), they’re small, and they can hide underneath plant leaves.

So, it was quite a surprise on Christmas afternoon when we were tidying up the tank for our small group event on the 27th, Ling spotted all of them lined up nicely along the filter intake. I didn’t have time to dig out the D300 or set up a nice shot, so the picture here is taken on Ling’s compact Panasonic camera.:)

All six of them!!

Year In Review – 2008

It’s coming to the end of the year again. Towards the end of each year, I’d sit back and reflect on some of the key events and decisions made in the past year or so. It’s a pretty interesting exercise as you’ll see the decisions that turned out right, and those that turned out all wrong; all with the benefit of a mite bit of hindsight at the end of the year now.

So, running off my head and in no particuar order:

Going to Phuket first in June then Bali later in September (WIN). Because right smack on the week we were in Bali in September, thousands of travelers in Singapore had to postpone their Phuket trip because the airport had shut down! Too funny for words. Bali posts tagged here, with Phuket ones here.

Having a baby (IN PROGRESS). Well, not saying too much away here, but the decision wasn’t an easy one. There were concerns about health and well-being for example. Funnily, we faced little of the ‘traditional’ sort of pressures. Oh, Ling’s mum asked about it now and then, but there was absolutely no (even polite) queries or pressure exerted on my side of the family. Nor did the announced incentives in August factor into our decisions. First announced here.

Going with a Nissan Latio (WIN). Well, on the upside, the car hasn’t broken down. Moreover, our Latio survived pretty much unscathed compared to the Honda Civic I bumped into nearly a year ago. On the down side, Ling’s been remarking that the car makes funny squeaky noises occasionally, and doesn’t give her the vibes that the Latio is better built than the old Civic we were driving. And we haven’t been getting the 14 km/litre fuel consumption milleage some drivers claimed. But a 12.5 to 12.8 km/litre isn’t too bad. First blogged here, then here.

Red and silver.

Publishing a book (WIN). This, funnily, was the hardest decision I’ve made this year. My work and research has been published in several places prior to this of course, but publishing in academia is quite different from producing a commercial publication. There’s all the legalese in the author’s contract with the publisher, all my liabilities since there’re now new issues of distribution, ownership and copyright. And to top if all off, it’s not as though my book is gonna be selling a million copies allowing me to enter early retirement. The summative royalties I expect are essentially, for lack of a better word, non-existent. First blogged here.

Deciding between a PS3 or an XBox 360 (WIN). No kidding! I had long chats with Matt about the virtues of one console over the other. Moreover, the decision wasn’t as simple as which had the games I was interested in or studying. The decision to go with one of them was made when the high definition standards war was raging, and investment in the PS3 wasn’t a sure decision. It could had turned into a white elephant! First blogged here then here.

Of course I could have bought both, like Matt…

Ling having a go with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.

Investing in a new camera system (IN PROGRESS). And what a huge investment it turned into. I was determined to get it right this time by doing proper research, and proper accounting to what I was acquiring. So far, so good. Ok, so the photos are still a long way off to progressing from ‘crappy’ to ‘mediocre’, but I’m working on it! First blogged here.

Trying to fatten Matt up (LOST). As soon as Matt firmed up arrangements to visit and stay with us for a month in June this year, Ling and I drew up a strategy to make sure that this time, he’d leave Singapore weighing heavier than he arrived. And boy, did we try hard! We enlisted everyone’s help. Even my mum, and Doreen. Even our small group was involved. But Matt easily showed that he could beat us all without trying, and he left Singapore weighing less than when he arrived. So we failed miserably again.

He conquered durians even.

But as soon as he’s firmed up plans for a third visit, this time, it’s WAR. If we have to bury him with Banquet pratas or drown him with teh tariks this time, we will!! Ling’s tribute to The Champion here.

There you go. If I can think of any more significant milestones, I’ll append them here later.