Time Out

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I thought I should explain this before I go for a while.

It’s been a tough year. 2 job changes, a health scare that required a drastic change in diet and lifestyle (a change I’m still struggling with), my first gout attack (one that lasted right through a car review, too) and of course, every parent can empathise with the technical aspects of welcoming a new addition to the family.

The past month, in particular, felt like a lifetime. Four weeks ago, my father started experiencing breathing problems, but resisted going to the hospital to check himself until a week later. When he finally did, doctors found his difficulty in breathing was caused by a “sizeable” heart attack. And because my father also had weak kidneys, an angiography (balloon stent) was risky because the iodine that would be injected into his system for the operation would wreak havoc with his kidneys and possibly tie him to dialysis for the rest of his life.

The family got together to deliberate. I initially, my father was resistant; he’d seen many of his peers suffer through failed kidneys, and he felt it better to protect his kidneys rather than his heart. Besides, he said, “I consider myself very lucky already. My father died at 62, my eldest brother at 68. I survived cancer and bargained myself another 24 years of life, and I’m 70 now. I’m ready to go.”

I respected his position, but my sisters doubted it. My dad is a fighter, an aggressive man that wouldn’t take any bulls hit from anyone or anything, even from cancer. A few one-on-ones and a family get-together at his ward later, he decided to do the angiography.

A day or two after the decision was made, 2 hours after he went in to do the procedure, I received a phone call while I was in the office. An angiogram was done, and the clogged arteries were too severe for ballooning to be done. He would need to do a triple bypass.

When I next see my father, he was in a sombre mood. It was a tedious process: the hospital he was currently in didn’t have the facilities to perform bypass surgeries, so he would have to be transferred. And the islandwide hospital bed crunch that the nation had by now grown quite accustomed to meant we had to wait more than a couple of days for it to happen.

He finally had his bypass last Wednesday. It was reduced to a double bypass because the surgeon determined that one of his arteries was open enough not to require one, and it was done in about 5 hours.

My father began the recovery process well. He was eating, moving, and his usual surly self, except he had constant high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat. At one point the doctors thought he was well enough to be shifted from the high dependency ward to a general ward, but he only spent a few hours up in C-class before they had to shift him back to ICU in the middle of the night due to a dangerously low heart rate.

Then yesterday, he suffered a stroke – a blood clot on the left side of his brain.

It happened at 8.30am, when he suddenly passed out just after breakfast. Since then, he hasn’t gotten worse. That’s the only good news they can give us.

As of now, we aren’t even sure if he can understand what is going on. I think he knows we’re around him, but he can’t talk and he can’t move his right side. He’s also moving around involuntarily.

Doctors can’t say for certain how this will pan out. He can either get better or he can get worse fast, but they will only know after 3-4 days. Initially they were contemplating experimental procedures because he just came out of the bypass and his recovery process doesn’t allow for standard procedures to apply, but in his current state the best they can do for him now is to continue with current treatment and see if he gets better.

My sisters are taking turns keeping vigil at the hospital. My mother is bracing herself for the worst. I tried to remain strong, but my limit was breached when my mother quietly said to me in a shaking voice, “He doesn’t have a suit.”

I now find myself juggling a new job that I started not one month ago (which thankfully I now realise I fit very comfortably in), keeping track of my own father’s progress and grappling with all the possible outcomes being presented to us right now as a family, and my commitment as a husband to the Mother of Xander and father to the two kids, because as I try to remain a pillar to my wife and children, right now my wife and kids are my strongest pillar of emotional support.

I write this now because writing has always helped me process my thoughts and emotions in my times of need, and also I committed to keeping The Blogfather true in words to the person I am in real life. But now, the blogs have to take a hiatus, to be dusted off and revisited at a better time.

I’ll see you soon. Hopefully.

[Giveaway] 30 Years of Transforming Mindsets

The Blogfather and Son now act too.

We were invited by Hasbro to be featured in a short videoclip in celebration of Transformers’ 30th Anniversary.  Will there be mind-blowing Michael Bay explosions? Robot metal flying all over the city smashing into buildings and causing devastating chaos?

Nah. The boy and I opted for something a tad more subtle:

If you found that story familiar, it’s an abbreviated version of The Blogfather’s “The Reason We Buy Toys” post ending, with an extra nugget of Transformers trivia thrown in.

And just as they created The Blogfather’s Transformers memory in such a big way, Hasbro Singapore wants to help you create your own Transformers memories, with a Transformers toy hampers worth $100 each, for 3 lucky winners! It’s a pretty substantial prize, so you’ll need to work a little for it, yeah?

UPDATE: I got a little confused with the mechanics (big prizes tend to come with more complex mechanics, sorry), and thought this was a cross-platform giveaway, but The Blogfather has been corrected. Please note this giveaway is for Instagram only.

Here’s what you have to do: share your own story about how Transformers came to be a part of your life on Instagram only (people, your account needs to be public, otherwise I cannot see) with, or show us a photo of any Transformers experience you’ve had anywhere. Tag me (@blgfthr on Instagram) in the post so I know what’s going on (and can read your story, too), and include the hashtags #Thrilling30SG and #HasbroSingapore as well.

Take note: this giveaway wraps on 29th November 2014, after which The Blogfather will be picking the 3 winners (gimme something good ya?), and results will be announced on the Hasbro Singapore Facebook Page (not here hor, so you go like their Page first better) on 30 November 2014. I’ll update here when I can as well, but for all intents and purposes, all winners will be notified by Hasbro.

Mai tu liao!

The Blogfather Transformers 30th Anniversary Instagram Giveaway – Terms & Conditions:

  1. Contest is open to all Singaporean Citizens and permanent residents except employees of Hasbro Singapore.
  2. All entries must be submitted by 30 November 2014.
  3. All entries must tag the Blogfather (@blgfthr on Instagram), and also include the hashtags #Thrilling30SG#HasbroSingapore, and posted on a public account to qualify.
  4. Prizes are non-exchangeable and non-transferable.
  5. Contest participants agree to be bound by all terms and conditions, which are final and binding in all aspects and waive any right to claim ambiguity.
  6. Hasbro Singapore reserves the right to alter any terms and conditions without prior notice.

Wah, So Big Already Ah? – A Primary 1 Orientation Walkthrough

They grow up too fast.

We had Xander’s primary school orientation earlier this week. It was a bittersweet moment for the Mother of Xander; it is the passing of a milestone for our firstborn. I said to her, “That’s why we have a second child, so we can relive it all over again.”

It was a bittersweet moment for me as well; the notion that the textbooks and uniforms take a big chunk off my livelihood was taking a toll on my heart. And we have a second child, so we have to relive this all over again.

After arriving at the school, we got down to business at some makeshift tables lined along the corridor before the school hall entrance, each table serving as a registration counter for the Primary 1 classes. We were given a plastic folio containing brochures, pamphlets and a few forms we had to fill out and submit after the orientation talk was over. Different schools may have different set-ups and facilities, but ours came with:

  • a Pupil Data Form;
  • a GIRO form for school fees;
  • a consent form for in-school dental treatment;
  • a student daycare registration form; and
  • a National Library membership registration form.

As we made our way towards the school hall, we were instructed to leave our children in the care of the school, who filtered them off into a separate staircase to the gallery area.

P1-Orientation-Stairs

That was when the Mother of Xander felt her first pang of  primary school separation anxiety, but we next saw him in the school hall seated in the gallery stalls, so she calmed down somewhat (honestly, we both did) when she saw how well he was doing with his peers around him.

P1-Orientation-Hall

The talk proper started off with a brief introductory video of the Family Matters @ School programme, followed by a number of not-unwarranted chest-beating cultural performances, including a killer wushu performance and a contemporary dance number done with a Daft Punk/Lady Gaga remix mashup (yes, I was sold on the school’s nod to Daft Punk).

P1-Orientation-Performance

Midway through the programme, the emcee announced that the kids were to be moved off to their respective classes. Once again, pangs of separation anxiety. You could tell just about all the parents began tensing up as they momentarily drew their eyes to the back of the hall to see their children being whisked away class by class while the speaker of the moment tried to pry their attention back onto the stage.

P1-Orientation-Speaker

A little later, the vice-principal would take to the stage, outlining the school history, special projects and introducing the faculty heads, as well as alumni and parent support group chairpeople. The various heads would take to the mic to explain next year’s syllabus changes (the Chinese curriculum seemed to be in the most state of flux right now; the Chinese textbooks are still being finalised and printed at the time of the orientation, and couldn’t be pushed out on time for release before December).

Meanwhile, the not-yet Primary 1s were being shown where all the toilets were.

P1-Orientation-Toilet

For any of you thinking of skipping the dry, administrative part of the presentation at any school, don’t. Unless you already know the school start and end times, what the procedure is to fetch your kid for early departure, how much allowance you need to give your kid on any given day, what the drill is for fetching your children after work regardless of whether you walk, drive or put your kid on the school bus, or where to install the name tags for your kids’ uniforms, you’ll need to stick around and possibly take notes because most schools are not known for their stellar website FAQs.

And The Blogfather couldn’t tell you even if he wanted to because we skipped the dry, administrative part of the presentation, and decided to go take photos of kids cramming into toilets, then join the sneaky ha-ha-I-got-here-before-the-other-600-parents queue for the textbooks and uniforms instead.

I would expect the bookstore and uniform supplier to be pretty organised as well, in anticipation of the horde that would be greeting them once the school hall presentation was over. And they were. The bookstore had the primary school enrolment list on hand for 2015, and they had all the textbooks sorted out in Ta-Q-Bin boxes according to ethnicity (CL for students taking Chinese, ML for Malay and TL for Tamil Language). Once you got there, you checked off your kid’s name, run through the checklist and mark out the items that you need to come back for (remember the Chinese textbooks aren’t out yet), pay the woman handing you the box, cry a little at why textbooks are so expensive (we blew a little over $200 in a flash), and then move out of the little room.

P1-Orientation-Bookstore

The uniform supplier isn’t quite as straightforward. You’ll need your kid there to ensure you get the right sized garments, and once the crowd builds, they will pre-measure your child before you collect his or her uniforms. Pre-measuring is a bit risky, because you might end up getting a size too large or too small, but you are assured by the supplier that you can always go back for an exchange if you find the size too small when you try them on at home. But if you have the time to spare, just bring the uniforms and your kid to get a fitting away from the crowd and head back in if you need a size change. The uniform segment set us back a little under $90.

As I carted our son’s new academic life home over my shoulder, the Mother of Xander held her son’s hand a little tighter than usual. Our son was getting bigger now, and in another couple of months, he will be officially inducted into the first of his many years in the cold, hard, rigorous Singapore education system.

With all his books and stationery weighing heavily on my left, still good shoulder, I clutched my wallet with my free hand a little more tightly as usual, because in another couple of months, he will be a lot more expensive to maintain.

They grow up too fast.

Dyson – Making Life Suck Better

When the Mother of Xander and I first moved into our apartment as a newly married couple, we had one of those couple fights one night that left me absolutely livid. I can’t remember the context of the argument now, but I do remember I had to find a way to expel all that pent-up angst at the stroke of midnight, in our freshly-renovated family home.

So I got a bucket, and a rag, got down on all fours, and began mopping the floor, Oshin-style.

Oshin-mops-floor
After a while of this, you really forget what the argument was about.

I took 4 hours. And the floor of our home has never seen that level of cleanliness and shine ever since.

In the course of our 8 years’ stay at our humble apartment, we have gone through a total of 5 different vacuum cleaners, 2 of them handheld, and all of them sucked one way or another, and all not perfectly.

And each time we got a new vacuum cleaner from the appliances store, there would be a handful of models I would always look lingeringly at before my wife would whisk me away to the sub-$100 island counter. You might know the specific type of vacuum cleaners I’m referring to; they have a very specific look, kind of like this:

dyson-digital-motor

Then last week, I received an invitation to dodge work for an hour or so to attend a lunchtime launch event featuring a new Dyson product near my workplace.

I thought, “Cool, free lunch.” So I said yes.

It must be said that Dyson really do go above and beyond into just about everything they do – rigorous R&D processes, forward-thinking technology, aggressive aesthetics, sleek marketing … I mean, look at their machines and tell me they don’t look like they’d be right at home at the Avengers headquarters in between Captain America’s La-Z-Boy and Thor’s Asgardian Marble Throne of Lounging. The launch event no less impresses, as we get introduced to Dyson’s latest cordless handheld star…

Fluffy.

dyson-fluffy

I get it. It’s got a fluffy roller that, when coupled with its highly compact yet powerful digital motor, is capable of wiping clean and sucking up large grains to fine particles in floor crevices and tile grout. That’s what reminded me of my little episode with the rag and the floor all those years ago, but this is Dyson doing the Oshin thing with finesse. There was even a side table where they pitted the Fluffy against a competitor to such up talcum powder (used to simulate dust mites) on a mattress surface, through a bedsheet.

dyson-mattress-demo

But… Fluffy?

dyson-engineer
Will Postle stroking Fluffy lovingly.

I can more than buy into the idea that Dyson developed the fella through a whopping 406 prototypes before finally pairing their state-of-the-art digital vacuum motor with this adorably efficient wiping vacuum cleaner head that does feel like a nice, fluffy puppy dog when you stroke it lovingly. It also helped that their design manager not only knew what he was talking about when he ran through the entire unit from hand to floor, he was also pretty easy on the eyes, too. His name is Will, by the way. If you want his number, I will see what I can do.

But model number DC74, the standing version of the DC62 with the head that can otherwise clear a floor of dry gunk far better than any of the 4 other competing vacuums the Dyson team brought in to pit themselves against, surely deserves a better, stronger name. Like the Dyson Excalibur, or Dyson Oshin, or, uh, Dyson DC74.

dyson-race
The demo setup had pet food on carpet, oat spill on marble, fine dust in tile grout, and what I believe to be unicorn dandruff on wooden flooring.

But nooOOoo. They had to call it Fluffy.

At any rate, a launch event is still very much a controlled environment, despite all the objectivity the organiser will try to bring in. The Blogfather would like to see Fluffy pit itself against some real competition. That’s why I requested a review unit to take home to see how it would fare against the $3000 monster vacuum cleaner we have sitting at home.

Besides, the Mother of Xander likes puppy dogs.

To be continued (pending arrival of review unit).