The little boy who can memorize everything!

Meeting Savi and Kid

We were perfect strangers until we met yesterday. And it turns out to be one of the most enlightening meetings of the entire year! Thanks to an old friend in India who connected us a month back.

Meet this amazing father and son, Siva and Anirudh.

Anirudh is only 10 and he is already one of the top memory talents in India. Representing India, Anirudh flew to Hong Kong to take part at the 27th World Memory Championships. Anirudh’s feats are aplenty. One of his feats is able to memorize up to a 100-digit number within minutes and recite it with distinctive accuracy. Not only that, he could recite the numbers backward. Anirudh is also able to memorize a couple decks of poker cards simply! (Yes, I thought of bringing him to the casino to play blackjack!)

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Anirudh is like any other kids you see on the street. He is shy, humble, curious and kind. Credits to unconventional and amazing parenting methodology, Siva unlocks the hidden wonders in his boy. A very humble (full of humanity and positive energy) and wise dad, Siva reminded us a few times that his son is not special or born with a special power. Siva said with discipline, conviction, and practice, all of us can unlock the other unused % in our brains.

We were at a cafe at Tamar Park when Siva asked if we wanted to see a little demonstration. Felicia, Elkan, Harshad and I were thrilled to see the wonder boy in action. Four of us formed a unique 22-digit number randomly and Siva read the number to his son (Anirudh didn’t get to see the number). In less than 120 seconds, Anirudh memorized the number and he recited the number effortlessly front and back to us. What’s more, Anirudh is able to tell us the sum of the same 22-digit number! It was amazing! 45 minutes later Anirudh is still able to remember the numbers.

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It was more than just Anirudh’s feat that enlightened us. It was the love and passion of Siva who enlightens us on some of the most important things in life:
1) Never give your child money or gifts. Anyone could offer the same thing to any child. Give them time, experiences and teaching so the child can become a better person when he/she grows up.

2) With good practice and discipline, anyone can be as amazing as his son. We just don’t explore the other parts of our mind and body. If a right-hander starts using his/her left hand more often, the left hand will grow strong over time. Just like our brain, we do not train it to its limit. Our reliance on digital tools made us lazier than ever. To unlock the wonders in us, we must start exploring and training the “unused” wonders of us.

3) Maintain a balance in life. Stay healthy in physically, mentally and emotionally. If we are able to achieve a state of good health, we will be able to channel our body and mind to achieve the unexpected. Watch our daily posture, maintain good oxygen intake, eat well and sleep well (not under and over), these are the nutrients our body and mind need.

4) The more we use our 5 senses, the more sensitive we are to capture all the memory. Because memory is more than just what we see or hear… we smell, taste and feel. All these 5 senses help to anchor and relocate back our memory.

Just before we say goodbye to our new friends. Siva gave my son and us 2 simple tips. The first tip never fears or be discouraged for not achieving the impossible. Start with the first steps and add more challenges as we grow stronger. Second tip, 10 minutes before we doze off every night, try to replay (in details) the things we did today. Not just in vision but also reenact the sound, the feelings and the taste of what we did.

Siva is a great father, teacher, and friend to his son. A very motivating and inspiring duo. A kind soul unlocked with amazing skills, I am certain we will be inspired by their next adventure in the near future!

Our real-life encounter with Siva and Anirudh is humbling and inspiring. And with that, we threw away our skepticism and started a little test last night. Never underestimate our human body and minds, and with that belief, Elkan attempted his little impossible feat last night with great success!

It is great meeting you guys! Hope to see you soon! Thank you, Raghu for connecting us.

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Addictive Laser Toy (Not LightSaber)

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I fell in love with laser personalization machine 10 years ago when I was working in the agency. Back then, I flew to Taipei to meet up with a Taiwanese vendor, Mr Chen whom I found in Alibaba (and we become close friends ever since). Mr Chen and I pioneered the first laser engraving machine that can be engraved directly on paper (through the thin packaging’s polywrap without burning the plastic wrap). What’s even more amazing was our machine took seconds to finish the engraving while other took over quarter of an hour. Our machine and software was indeed superior back then and Mr Chen traveled around the globe selling the machine. The machine wasn’t cheap then, one machine cost over USD32,000.

After a decade of experiencing different laser personalization machines (fiber, CO2 or UV) on different materials (glass, metal, paper, wood, leather, plastic), nothing surprises me anymore. In fact, I often tell my friends not to buy those cheap (anything that is under USD500) laser-engraving machines that were marketed on Kickstarter, Facebook Ads or Instagram Ads. Many of those videos were speed up to create the illusion of speedy engraving. In reality, these affordable (low-powered) laser heads work but it takes numerous minutes (not seconds) to engrave.

Being a geek and shopaholic, I was intrigued by a Taobao ad displaying a small USB-powered laser personalization machine (Brand NEJE DK-8-KZ极速微型激光雕刻机刻章机). The entire unit is only 16cm x 15cm x 20cm and weighs about 1KG! I watched the video (which was speed-up at least 20X), read the positive reviews and was impressed by the finished products. What attracted me was the price. It is selling at only RMB500! That’s about USD72! Without any hesitation, I bought it on Taobao and it arrived at my place 2 days later.

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Impulse Mistake Number 1 (Warning for Mac User) – this machine requires a PC to operate. To get this going, I have to spend extra HKD1,500 to install Parallel software and Windows OS on my iMac. The software UI is not as pretty as those offered by more established technology companies but it was quite easy for me to figure out (as it was similar to the other marking software I used). Connecting is simple. Just connect the USB power cable and data cable to any USB slots in the computer and the machine connects instantly to the software.

 

Using the machine is simple. Most laser engraving machines use the same process:

1) Import the Graphic (BMP) or Text
2) Select the engraving time/power (the longer, the slower and deeper the burn)
3) Pre-Marking Alignment – see the area where the graphic will be engraved
4) Adjust the effective laser height – the precise height for the laser to work
5) Start Marking

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I tested a couple of graphics (which came with the software) on paper and unwanted wooden items I can find at home. The machine was very very slow but it worked perfectly! The “marking resolution” was better than what I have expected from a USD72-machine. A small 30mm x 10mm graphic took over 15 minutes to engrave. For those who never experience the commercial machine, this speed may be acceptable. In comparison, Mr Chen’s commercial machine takes less than 12 seconds to complete the same task.

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After a week of trials and experimenting, NEJE is quite a reliable hobbyists’ tool. It is quite an addictive toy (to watch and use) and I had fun engraving my own graphics/text on the gifts I was making for my friends.  NEJE is a very low-powered Fiber-Laser Machine so it can’t be used on any reflective and transparent materials like acrylic, glass, stone, gemstones, and metals. Due to its small size, its maximum engraving output size is at 38mm x 38mm. This model is perfect for many households small items products like souvenirs and keychains.

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Verdict? At USD72, it is a steal and good buy! For someone new to laser engraving machine, there will be some confusion and frustration trying to adjust the marking position and also the effective laser height. Once the user is familiar with the machine’s logic and flow, it is as simple as getting set, on your mark, go.

Merry Time

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There is always something special about the Christmas season. Maybe it is at the end of the year when most are winding down and looking forward to another refreshing new year. Or it could be the cooler weather that brings out the best mood in people. Look around you, people, in general, are happier and smiling more during this time of the year. I see lesser hate news on social media, my news feed is flooded with endless photos of happy reunions. For those with friends and loved ones around you, this is indeed a blissful time to chill out and enjoy the joyous moment with those who matter most. Nevertheless, this can be an extremely sad and lonely season for those who are away from their families and friends. Hang on there, there is always something bright and positive to look forward to.

I never like to count down to any occasion cos’ it feels like the final moment of an awesome party.  On the contrary, I enjoy the moments leading up to the final countdown. If you have been to any firework countdown celebration, you know what I mean. Everyone is so hyped and excited right before the strike of midnight. Once the countdown and fireworks are over, the atmosphere becomes really awkward. It feels like someone has just broken the “happy spell”. Instantly, the people who were celebrating wildly minutes ago turned Cinderallas. Suddenly, everyone is heading home.

What I do love most is the festive gatherings! Mine was the healthy family version, no hard liquor, and other unhealthy activities. Like the year before, we had an hour of pretty intense violent indoor games (with guns, arrows, and bows), followed by a 3-hour long outdoor BBQ dinner at Taipo.

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The BBQ venue is big! It is unlike any other venue I have been. There are different formats of space where you can BBQ – standard tables, on platforms and even inside private huts. There is even a giant air castle slide for the kids. We made a mistake by parking ourselves right beside a big playing field. There were a lot of kids playing soccer by the edge of our platform. I wasn’t too comfortable having these amateur kids around me. A few times, the ball came flying into our space. I even yelled at a kid to buzz him away. Dear Joe, where is your Christmas spirit, Harshad asked.

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Thanks to 2 youthful friends – chatty Christy and crazy Fiona – they definitely lighten the atmosphere and made us feel younger with their youthful childlike not-so-old company and personalities.  Christy was so hyper that day. She was there for 2 things – fun and photography. I have never seen any girl so engrossed in selfies and bananas. Now, I understand the pain of “Instagram Boyfriend”.

Being a nice senior, I decided to end our little gathering before 930pm so it gives these youngsters enough time to head home, get dressed for their ultimate Christmas Countdown! Me? I slept soundly at 11pm leaving my poor son counting down to Christmas Day all alone by himself. My son was planning to open all his gifts at midnight but he was so nice to wait for us the next day.  Elkan also made us a very “green” Christmas Tree out of paper shopping bags and personalized greeting cards using old magazines this year! As usual, I got him a new gadget, this Christmas, a mini retro arcade machine.

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Merry Christmas to all! Can’t wait for my next festive reunion trip in Taiwan next week with my Taiwanese friends! Perhaps I shall make another exception and experience the firework countdown at 101. And here is another ZEPETO moment of us (while the fab lasts). See if you can recognize the fancy people here.
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A Special Gift for a Special Friend

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For years, this great friend of ours has been faithfully sending us all her handmade gifts. And every of her gift was personalized to the most incredible level of craftsmanship. She spoils us with so much love that we look forward to every Christmas and birthday. There is always something unique, surprising and special. We love her so much but we have never given her anything handmade by us.

We chanced upon a Christmas stall by Starology (click to see her facebook) while shopping at PMQ last weekend. We instantly fell in love with Starology’s multi-dimensional light boxes. Just when we wanted to buy one of the “Galaxy Boxes” for our dear friend, Felicia said we could actually DIY the lightbox on the spot. At first, I was worried about the complexity of making one but the teacher convinced us that it was easy to make. So, Tracy and Elkan sat down to learn how to make the gifts.

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Assembling the parts required precision and good craftsmanship. The teacher (and our very own Master of Craft-cum-wife, Felicia) guided them along. It was a fun exercise and it took them slightly longer to complete the gifts. What a sense of satisfaction!

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Just hope our mysterious dear friend likes this little gift. May your dreams and love be as sparkling & lasting as the stars in the box. (Disclaimer: LED “Stars” last over 15,000 hours. Powerbank not included).

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For those who have no idea what to give to your special one, head down to Starology or FLorat (click the link) to make your own. (It takes less than 2 hours.) A handmade gift is more meaningful and special than those you buy in the store.

Nipper’s Master Voice No More

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The day finally came. Faced with lawsuits over unpaid rentals, HMV closed its last 3 outlets in Hong Kong after 25 years of operation.

It is sad to see my favorite stores gone. After all, I grew up with HMV since my young adulthood. It has been a reliable source for all my gadgets, tech magazines, pop t-shirts, games, movies, and music albums. I bought my first PlayStation, PSP, drone (Parrot), first blue ray and many other “firsts” at HMV. Despite the rise of music and movie app stores, HMV was always a great weekend hang-out place for me.

I always knew this day would come. And HMV saw it coming too. They really tried to rejuvenate their retail offering. In recent years, HMV Hong Kong revamped their stores at Causeway Bay and Central, added other new categories (cafe, restaurant, event space, movie collectibles, computers, toys, audio accessories, designer fashion, and accessories, Kickstarter gismos and more!). They even tried to duplicate Ikea’s grab-&-go hotdog guns at a very attractive price of HKD5! Despite all these efforts and changes to attract a new generation of shoppers, HMV succumbed to its final cessation.

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What HMV did right was the new creation of the loft-themed retail space at Causeway Bay. However, the segmentation of categories (toys, games, gadgets, music, movie, fashion, accessories, electronics) was not well-curated and linked. The gaming zone and toys were placed separately on 2 different floors.

It is the lack of differentiation and high-selling price that led HMV to its final downfall. HMV is unable to compete with the convenience and lower pricing of iTunes offerings. While it tried to offer and introduced new categories into its store, HMV did not have any advantage in terms of pricing or varieties. Just like the downfall of BestBuy in China, shoppers went in to browse and experience the products but chose to purchase elsewhere online where the price was much lower than the physical retail outlets. With the emergence of Taobao (and the convenience of home delivery provided by SF Express), shoppers are spoilt for choices and lured by lower pricing.

Another failure of HMV was their slow and weak efforts to invest in their online APP and CRM program. For years, HMV VIP Program and APP failed to lock and incentified loyal shoppers. Instead of moving forward, HMV introduced the old “collect a stamp” card which shoppers can redeem cash rebates after a full collection of stamps. Their online web store was poorly designed and not user-friendly. Poor UIUX wasted the company’s investment.

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Really… it is a great brand with a rich heritage and a beautiful story. We visited the island stores over the weekend for one last time before it closed for good. Most of its suppliers and brands have taken back their stocks, leaving the store raw and empty. I felt sorry for the remaining staffs. It is never a good time to wind down, especially when Christmas is just around the corner. I sincerely hope the brand HMV will be revived to fit tomorrow’s demand.

2018 is the year of the Dog and sadly, it did not bring HMV the luck it needed to survive. Really wish to adopt Nipper for he will be homeless with the silence of his master’s voice. (Let’s hope Hong Kong HMV sells me Nipper).

Didi said the darndest and funniest thing!

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Like all the trips before this. It was impromptu, unplanned and last minute. It all started during a family reunion dinner in Singapore when Didi spoke to me about his passion for programming. Somehow that dialogue continued after I left for Hong Kong. After a few exchanges of messages with my sister (and with the blessing of my tech partner in Ho Chi Minh), the entire family (including my parents) flew to Ho Chi Minh!

Thanks to Didi, a small chat triggered an overseas family trip. For a long time (except for CNY), we haven’t been traveling as a complete group. The last time when all of us had a holiday like this was back in 2008 when my sister family and parents visited me in Hong Kong. Wow, that was 10 years ago!

As it was such a last-minute trip, tickets were extraordinarily expensive. To avoid paying a ridiculous extra HKD2500/pax for the tickets, it was more worthwhile for us (from Hong Kong) to fly in 48 hours before the arrival of my sister family and my parents. We had 2 extra days and saved over HKD4,000!

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This is our 2nd family trip to Saigon this year. We were here with my mother and aunties in June. Felicia and I spent our first day in Ho Chi Minh City fully in the hotel working. We were trying to clear some work before the arrival of the others. We had booked a big service apartment right above the most popular city mall, Takashimaya in District One. Food and shopping was just a stone’s throw away. We hardly left the hotel at all!

On the 3rd day, I went to pick up my sister family and parents at the airport. This is Jovel’s family first trip to Vietnam and they experienced several unpleasant events at the immigration. As expected, Vietnam’s stuffy hot weather and the congested messy traffic didn’t give them a good impression. It was a good thing we stayed at the Sedona Suite at Saigon Center. It provided good comfort for them to slowly get used to the city’s harmonious rhythm. There is an unwritten logic within this chaos. It takes one sometimes to feel it.

Right after we checked in the folks at the service apartment, my partner sent 2 cars to pick up the children and adults to the tech lab. For the next 3 days, we are going to park our children there to pick up some basic coding fundamentals. Hopefully, through their limited time at the lab, they learn something useful.

It started well with the robots. My partner taught the kids how to program simple body movements and dance moves. In less than 1 hour, the kids mastered the logic and got bored. Before I knew it, they were throwing balls in the meeting room. My poor tech partner didn’t know what to do with them. And that was just the first day.

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While the kids were at the lab, the adults explored the city. I brought my sister, my brother-in-law, and dad to the usual “must-visit-touristy” sites. Their favorite place – local SUPERMARKET! At VivoCity, my dad bought a carton of local beers! Yes, one big carton of 24 cans beer! When I questioned the feasibility of bringing so many cans of beer back to Singapore, my sister exclaimed: “We plan to finish all of these here! Come drink with us brother!” With that, that terminated all my excuses to sneak out at night. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop me from bringing them (both adults and kids) to the notorious sleazy Little Tokyo. Nope, the men didn’t get any chance to experience “special massage” but we had the best Japanese ramen there. Even Didi verified that.

It was our session at Little Tokyo when Didi said the darndest and funniest stuff. When my brother-in-law and I were walking in the alley, a couple of beautiful skimpy-dressed massage girls approached us. Didi (who is 10 years old) became very protective and tried to shield us from the girls.


Puzzled by his act, I asked Didi “why you did that?”
He replied, “Because my dad is taken, I cannot allow any woman to touch him if not, I will push the girls away”. I then asked him what if these girls approach his grandfather (my 70-year-old dad), he instantly said: “Okay, no problem!” I asked why the double-standard, he explained “Old people must enjoy themselves before they…….” and he gave me a finger gesture that depicts “death”.

We laughed at his reply. And then, I asked “what about grandmother (my 70-year-old mum)? If a group of young handsome men approached her, is that okay?. Instantly he gave me a comical puzzled expression. That was as good as shouting “stupidly impossible” to my face.

“No lah, why would handsome young men want old auntie?” and that was Didi’s most direct nonchalant reply. Including my mum, all of us burst into waves of laughter! Too bad my sister wasn’t there to witness her very talented boy!

Vietnam has a strange charm over her visitors. In less than 48 hours, both adults and kids forgot about the chaotic traffic and indulged themselves in shopping. Staying in the heart of the city, we were just 5-minute walk to any major shopping markets (Saigon Square and Ben Thanh Day/Night Markets) and local coffee shops. On their last day, I booked them a half-day trip to Cu Chi Tunnel. I don’t think the adults enjoyed the tour as much as I did. My dad has a phobia of dark tunnels as he has a fear for worms and snakes. And Mum cannot walk too much due to her weak kneecaps.

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It was also a good time for me to return to Vietnam. Besides work and attending a few meetings with my partners, I got to replenish my favorite ceramic mugs. I just broke one a couple of days before the trip.  (I love those handmade ceramic mugs made by Amai Saigon. Feels very organic and uneven, earthly but polished. Check it out here.)

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My family reunion in Vietnam ended so fast. It was a very rewarding trip with friends (Kelvin) and family. I got to work (with Tai and Tu) and meet new clients while traveling with my family. This trip, I got to spend more quality time with my brother-in-law (James) and Didi. Indeed, we had such a great time together!

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Sorry, it took a little longer to finish this blog and vlog. The entire blog and vlog were shot using Huawei Mate20pro phone (NOTE: this is not a paid blog for Huawei). I think I made a mistake by not selecting 4K in the setting. Some of the videos were quite blurred and bad. Most of the photos are acceptable. Guess convenience does come with a price. Overall, the phone replaces all my heavy gears. I must say it is quite good for a casual vlog. Enjoy!

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Reunion with the in-laws

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Exactly a month ago, Mum-in-law returned with her 2 lovely sisters, Auntie Nyong, Auntie “Cookie” Fong and cousin Carrine! All 4 of them have visited us separately in the past. Auntie Fong and Carrine were here in 2010 while Auntie Nyong and mum-in-law last visited in 2009. It was memorable as she arrived on the same day as Typhoon 8. That was in August 2009! Also that year, she celebrated her 60th birthday in Hong Kong with us.

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Unfortunately, due to failing memory, Felicia and I couldn’t recall many details about their last visits. Auntie Fong and Carrine were excitedly reciting what they did during their last Hong Kong trip. Half the time, Felicia and I listened in disbelief. Thankfully, I kept a blog (my most reliable memory vault) and after a few simple searches, I managed to refresh my memory with the help of the old photos and posts.

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Out of the short “4-day shopcation”, we spent 3 days shopping in Shenzhen. The ladies shopped tirelessly from dawn to dusk. Like my mum and Auntie Amy, they came fully-equipped. Every morning, they left the hotel with an empty suitcase and returned with hoards of bargained treasures. Most of the time, Elkan and I took refuge inside our hotel room, making appearance strategically during meal times.

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Age caught up with the old folks. They weren’t as energetic as before. They took more short breaks between their shopping sprees. On their last day in Hong Kong, I took them to shop at Sai Kung Weekend Flea Markets by the Pier. There, we took a 45-min boat ride out and visited a small UNESCO Geopark island, Sharp Island. We didn’t have time to attempt the 2-hour hike across the island as the ladies were flying back in the evening. It was more of a touch-&-go short tour.

Great to have you ladies here. Please do not wait for another 9 years to visit us again!

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