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!)

Meeting Savi and Kid4

Meeting Savi and Kid5

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.

Meeting Savi and Kid1

Meeting Savi and Kid2

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.

Meeting Savi and Kid3

Addictive Laser Toy (Not LightSaber)

Laser Engraving Machine2

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.

Laser Engraving Machine3

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

Laser Engraving Machine5

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.

Laser Engraving Machine1Laser Engraving Machine

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.

Laser Engraving Machine6Laser Engraving Machine4

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

Hong Kong Christmas11

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.

Hong Kong Christmas8Hong Kong Christmas4Hong Kong Christmas7

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.

Hong Kong Christmas3Hong Kong Christmas5Hong Kong Christmas6

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.

Hong Kong Christmas9Dec 18Hong Kong Christmas2Hong Kong Christmas1Hong Kong Christmas

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.
Hong Kong Christmas10

Nipper’s Master Voice No More

Last of HMV

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.

Last of HMV1

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.

Last of HMV2

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).

Reunion with the in-laws

Family @ SZ (14-18th Nov 2018)7

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.

Family @ SZ (14-18th Nov 2018)9
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.

Family @ SZ (14-18th Nov 2018)1Family @ SZ (14-18th Nov 2018)

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.

Family @ SZ (14-18th Nov 2018)2

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!

Family @ SZ (14-18th Nov 2018)3Family @ SZ (14-18th Nov 2018)6Family @ SZ (14-18th Nov 2018)4Family @ SZ (14-18th Nov 2018)5

She got me a ballroom for my birthday!

Joe's Birthday 20189

Surprise after surprise, I had a wonderful birthday weekend with my family and good friends. The first surprise happened 8 hours before my birthday. I came back from Shenzhen to an apartment filled with colorful helium balloons! There is something magical about floating balloons, no matter how old one is, balloons never failed to delight. It levitates happiness.


(Not a sponsored blog – The entire vlog was shot with Huawei P20 Pro)Joe's Birthday 201810

At the struck of midnight, Elkan and Felicia brought out a cake and a present from the kitchen. It was my favorite black-forest cake! Felicia and Elkan presented me with a very special and priceless handmade gift – it was a unique photo book made of fabric, imprinted and sewn with all our past holiday photos.

Joe's Birthday 2018

Harshad, Tracy and Chowpo contributed their parts too. Knowing I love to sing and drink, they organized a small karaoke buffet for me at Causeway Bay. Christin arrived 15 minutes before midnight. Thanks to her, we sang till 3am.

Joe's Birthday 20181Joe's Birthday 20182

Just when I thought my birthday was over. I received a photographic message from Felicia at 4am. The photo showed “Pit Stop 1” and we were asked to arrive at the mysterious location in our sportswear before 10:30am the next morning. That was it, there wasn’t any more clue. Is this another amazing race, I wondered.

Joe's Birthday 20184

The next morning, Elkan woke me up. He said Felicia had left the house early in the morning. Still recovering from last night’s drinks, I wasn’t in my best form. Felicia sent more photographic clues about the mysterious meeting point. The message also said, “Penalties for Late Comers”.

With the clock ticking away, Harshad, Tracy, Elkan and I took a cab. Tracy was the one who solved the mystery. She told the cabbie our location and off we went. Thankfully, we had a very knowledgeable cabbie who shared with us about the place. It sounded pretty physical and brutal.

Joe's Birthday 20185

We arrived at D2 Place where we went searching for Felicia. After a quick breakfast, we arrived at an activity space by the name of Crossfire Arena. There, we saw many human-sized balloons or commonly known as Zorb Balls. Felicia signed us up for an hour of strenuous games. Never underestimate the harmless looking games, most of us weren’t physically prepared for it. (All of us suffered 2 days of intense muscle cramps).

We had 30 minutes of bow-&-arrow and another 30 minutes of Zorb Ball Soccer. Just 45 minutes into the games, all of us were super exhausted and we canceled the last game. It was very fun but just too intense for a fat man like me. Until now, my body hasn’t really fully recovered.

Joe's Birthday 20183Joe's Birthday 20186

Just when we left Crossfire Arena, all of us received new photographic messages from Felicia. It was only then when we realized she had disappeared again.  It was a clue directing us to the second and final pitstop. Unable to decipher, Harshad, Elkan and I roamed the mall aimlessly 3 times! Tracy disappeared too and we had no idea where she went.

Joe's Birthday 20187

Just when we were to give up, Tracy disclosed the answer to us. We exit the building and made our way to the final pitstop. Thankfully, it was nothing physical but a nice cozy cafe with good food and drink to rest our tiring bodies.

Joe's Birthday 20188

Thanks for organizing this special post-birthday activity for me and our dearest friends. My wife, Felicia is no doubt more than meets the eye. She is a meticulous planner and life is never boring with her and Elkan around. Mmmm….. What’s next?

600km of Fun, Joy & … er … No hotel?

Day 4 - Hualian7

Since 2012, it has been an annual ritual when dad and friends (Uncle Bok and Uncle Tan) will fly over to visit me every summer in Hong Kong. This year was a little bit different, Dad and friends knew about my business trip to Taiwan and they decided to hijack join our party there. It was dad’s first flight after his eye-operation. He was grounded by his doctors for over the past 6 months and this “escape” meant a lot to him.

 

This is my first Taiwan trip with my old dad and I was worried about mixing 2 different groups of people together. Afterall, it was an odd assembly of people from different countries, backgrounds, and generations. My worries were unnecessary, within the first hour, everyone blended in wonderfully! The chemistry amongst them was perfect!

Day 2- Taipei & Yilan13Day 2- Taipei & Yilan14

The original plan was to spend 4 relaxing days in Taipei with the old folks. Thanks to the insistence and great hospitality of my Taiwanese buddy, Chen, he planned an incredible 5D4N road trip for all of us. It was an intense 600km loop around the northern island of Taiwan. We started our journey from metropolis Taipei to the eastern coast of Yilan, through the mountainous roads along Hualien Taroko National Park and made our final stop at the old night market street in Taizhong.

Day 2- Taipei & Yilan11Drone Footage1

After a long day and late night of meetings in Taipei, we started our “workcation” right in the midst of my overseas teleconference. 7 of us barely fit inside Chen’s 7-seater car. Getting in and out of the car was a challenge for everyone. Not to mention how we managed to co-exist with all the bulky travel souvenirs that we accumulated along the journey.  Especially towards the end of the journey, there wasn’t any much legroom and lap-room. The entire car was packed like a can of sardine.

Day 2- Taipei & Yilan7

First stop – we made our way to Kavalan Whisky Distillery. I was here with Felicia, Elkan, and Tracy 18 months ago. It was the perfect tourist destination for Dad and friends as they were whiskey lovers. We arrived just before the distillery closed and the entire place was so empty. Dad and friends signed up for the whiskey blending experience to blend their own whiskey. Unlike Tracy and me who did the same activity in the most chaotic manner, my dad and friends were very “serious” and “precise” in their engagements.

Day 2- Taipei & Yilan1Day 2- Taipei & Yilan3Day 2- Taipei & Yilan2Day 2- Taipei & Yilan12Day 2- Taipei & Yilan4Day 2- Taipei & Yilan10

Later that evening, we had our dinner at an interesting bunnies-themed restaurant. No, it wasn’t a Playboy Mansion. It was a romantic happy land with furry rabbits and giant heart-shaped air cushions. Located on top of a valley, the restaurant offered a beautiful panoramic view of the city.

Day 2- Taipei & Yilan9Day 2- Taipei & Yilan8Day 2- Taipei & Yilan6

Just when the group was enjoying the beautiful evening and scenery, they were startled by my dialogue with Chen.

“Joe, where is the location of the hotel?” Chen asked.

“I don’t know. You booked the hotel. You didn’t tell me” I answered.

“No, I didn’t book the hotel, I thought you did,” Chen replied. That was the uncomfortable and hilarious moment when everyone stared at us with wide unbelieving eyes.

“Huh? No, didn’t you mentioned that you will settle all the hotels outside Taiwan?” I asked.

“Yes, I did. I sent you the photos over Wechat and you said okay” Chen answered.

“Yah, I said okay and proceed. You never give me the names and links, how the hell I know how or where to book?” I replied.

“Don’t worry, it should be fine. We just missed one night,” I assured everyone. “Right?”

“No Joe, it wasn’t just tonight. I didn’t book any hotel for the entire trip”. Chen exclaimed. This was the moment when everyone nearly fainted. There was a long eerie silence before all of us broke into waves of laughter! The old folks clearly didn’t really enjoy our impromptu and our state of confusion.

While Chen and I were in this morbid state of last-minute salvation and desperation to search for all the hotels at one end of the long dining table, my dad and Uncle Tan were celebrating joyously at the other end. Guess what, both of them just found out that they won Singapore lottery.  What an eventful night of surprises! And that was just the beginning of our joyous road trip.

Day 4 - Hualian1Day 3 - Yilan & Hualian1Day 3 - Yilan & Hualian2Day 3 - Yilan & Hualian

We spent the next few days on the road, visiting many attractions from Yilan to Taichung. Driving along the winding valley roads and through narrow mountain tunnels, we experienced 2 different seasons within hours – both summer and winter. We hiked through the majestic Taroko Gorge (太魯閣) under the scorching humid heat at 36°C and ascended the foggy 3,275m-peak of Hehuanshan (合歡山) at 12°C.

Day 4 - Hualian5Day 4 - Hualian3Drone FootageDay 4 - Hualian2Day 4 - Hualian4Day 4 - Hualian6

Certainly, a good son never fails to give his old dad a good party at the karaoke. For the first time ever, dad and I experienced Taiwanese-styled karaoke. There wasn’t much difference (be it deco, hostesses or services) between the joints in China and Taiwan except we were able to bring in our own liquors without any corkage fees in Taichung. Within 2 short hours, we drank over 3 bottles of single-malt whiskey and two dozen of beers. As usual, I was too tipsy to remember my way back to the hotel. All I remembered was we all had a great time together.

Day 4 - Hualian

So, this was it. A long workcation of work, fun, laughter, bonding, and love! A very special thank to Chen for his awesome hospitality and friendship. It was no small feat taking the wheel all by himself throughout this 600km long road trip. Thanks to all my business-cum-friends for the great companionship to my dad and his friends. I am blessed to have all of you around me, throughout my life, my work and my family.

Day 5 - Taizhong1Day 5 - TaizhongDay 5 - Taizhong4Day 5 - Taizhong2Taiwan VideoDay 5 - Taizhong3

I am very sure my old dad felt the same way too. Who knows, he may be secretly planning his next hijack.

Day 3 - Yilan & Hualian3

Coming up next, I will be flying down south for another annual reunion ritual with my mum and our infamous Rain-Goddess, Auntie Amy. Time to pack (with an umbrella of course).

%d bloggers like this: