Sunday, July 26, 2009

Airing His Idea

This weekend has been dedicated to Sonny.

Wifey and I had promised to help him find all the stuff he needs for his school science project. Sonny approached me a few nights prior to discuss his ideas for his project.

He has settled for Aeroponics, a little more challenging than a Hydroponic project.

Unlike growing vegetables with its roots fully submerged in nourished water, Aeroponics is using jets of water sprays to deliver water and nutrients to the plants roots hanging off the "netty-potters."

From Sonny's sketches and items that make-up the Aeroponics planter, he had things pretty much all figured out. "A major advantage over Hydroponics is each pot is isolated from the other thus reduces cross infections of the roots." He stressed.

So this weekend's outing had us, for the first time, stepped into Pasir Ris Farmway 1 area. An interesting place we kept seeing always from the outside whenever we passed along Pasir Ris Street 12 on our cycling trips to Pasir Ris Beach Park or on the way to Downtown East by bus.

A direct bus Service 58 from our home took us right to Farmway 1 where the large Mainland Tropical Fish Farm billboard became our landmark to getting down at the right bus stop.

We were there after our lunch, so the scotching afternoon sun had all of us perspiring profusely just by walking a short distance away from the bus stop.

There were arrays of concrete fish tanks spread throughout the farm. The black net roof over the entire farm for the fishes brought little respite from the heat for the visitors. We went straight to the aquarium store to escape being "sun-dried."

Sonny and I started shopping to find and deliberate on the type of water pump and the correct size and water force or pressure that his Aeroponics should have, base on the size of the plastic container we thought of but had not search for one yet.

It took us about half an hour to finally decide and found all the items like plastic tubing and tube converters/connectors before we headed for a little detour, checking out the rest of the farm.

The pump cost us S$25.00 while the accessories were only S$4.00.

I bought a few bags of sponge filters, A bottle of blue itch-prevention solution and a bottle of water purifier to make my aquarium water tank crystal clear. The many goldfish in my 2.5 ft tank tends to get cloudy easily. I hope to clean the tank fortnightly now with this solution.

We saw a Fish Spa and Prawn Fishing pond catering to the adults. There is also a Longkang Fish area where children already were holding a fish net and a bucket each, catching their own guppies with along the shallow “drains.”

There were also ducks and goats to entertain the children and give the farm some variety. I saw children in swings sets and families sitting on clusters of sitting areas that give the farm a nostalgic Kampong feel.

The nostalgia soon faded when Sonny started doing his project once we reached home. I helped to bore 5 holes for the netty-pots. Sonny should me the video he got from the internet on how to actually to go about setting up the Aeroponic.

I had to continue helping him finish off his project today since he had to go for his religious class in the morning and Malay language tuition class in the afternoon.

By the time he came back in the afternoon, he was so happy to see the completed work I left it on his desk.

We started wet-testing the product and it went especially well as planned.

Sonny is now so excited to show it to his science teacher on Monday. After the construction assessment, he will then start to plant seeds in the planter.

The success of this project depends mainly of the the plants. and see if the project actually bear fruit in a few weeks’ time… that means, the seed can sprout, survive and flourish in that environment he had created.

All the best to Sonny!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Be Free Again

After the last check-up at National Cancer Centre about a month ago, Dad is ready for this afternoon's appointment with his Medical Oncologist, Dr. Lo SK.

Since Dad's last radiotherapy session, he had pain in his throat when swallowing. That prevented him from eating properly, so he limited his intake of food and fluids altogether to escape the pain. It drastically reduced his weight further another 2 Kg from the last weight check.

More about it in my "Hard To Swallow" post end June 2009.

It was painful to see him going through it, but I am aware that it is definitely not as painful as what he was experiencing... in silence. His forte... to endure hard life as he had lived all his life, and in silence to avoid being "sent to the hospital."

After some coaxing by Mom, he confessed his problem.

An urgent appointment made to consult Dr. Lo was worth every effort.

His throat was treated with Lidocaine to numb it before every meal set him eating and enjoying his food again. The pain subsided and disappeared after a few days of medication.

It was a side effect from the radiotherapy session he had a week before.

His appetite came back and sounded from Mom is now healthy again after a month of taking Megestrol Acetate tablets once daily after breakfast.

The most significant improvement is the coughing. It has stopped so much and the phlegm that always got stuck in his chest that caused him to strain to force it out often and resulted in specks of trace blood has gone too.

The Rhinathiol Promethanzine Syrup that Dr. Lo prescribed for Dad is like a miracle medicine.

Dad does not need to use the Oxygen Concentrator at home any more to aid his breathing in order to improve his sleep.

This afternoon's consultation has Dad increased his weight by 1.70 Kg to 53.70 Kg. I was happy when I read the display on the weighing machine before we went into Dr. Lo's consultation room.

In fact, Dr. Lo was pleasantly surprised to see that Dad's health has improved. She cautioned though, the blood test that Dad takes each time before every consultation will not monitor its CA count as much, but to monitor Dad not to be anemic.

"I feel much better and energized now." Dad retorted while we went down the escalator, flicking his hands like he was warming-up before exercising.

We left NCC and went straight to Sheng Siong Supermarket, Dad's favourite place for groceries. He missed his independence going there on his own whenever the kitchen needs stocking up.

"I think I can start coming here again." Dad said while he was choosing some ginger. I could see how happy he seemed going from isle to isle shopping for groceries.

He knew where all the stuff were and wasted no time getting them. It is his territory.

Mom had a list of stuff to buy at the supermarket before we left for home. It was so much, I had trouble carrying the bags and bags of groceries up the bus and all the way to their home.

I do pray that Dad's health will continue to improve and that he will be able to regain courage to get out of the house again and become the independent man he has always been... free again.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Clouding My View

My iPhone beeped two days ago.

It was a reminder I keyed in from last year to alert me of today's event.

I was all excited yesterday to wake up this morning to witness a phenomenon... even though it is only a "10%" event. Nonetheless an important one because it happens only once in every 18 years and 11 days.

Alas, I woke up early this morning to a heavy rain. The sky was dark and the rain poured hard and relentlessly as I got ready and made my way to work... disappointed.

By 8:30AM, the local TV channel was already telecasting live broadcast all the way from China. The Total Solar Eclipse was already starting.

In the thunderous morning, I watched the live telecast for about 15 minutes while having my morning break with a group of friends. Singapore would have seen the maximum 10% partial eclipse at 9:30AM.

Instead, my most anticipated moment was clouded by dark skies and heavy rain with streaks of lightning.

It was left to the imagination until before lunch. A colleague forwarded an email from her friend who is stationed in China the images of the phenomenon that happened this morning.

It was fascinating just by looking at the images, but it would have been a spectacular experience to watch it live...

Well, now will look forward to see a Lunar Eclipse that will happen on 6th August 2009. Will it rain that night, or will puffy floats cloud my view then too?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Internet Radio Rocks!

It just occurred to me that subscribers to Starhub's Premium Broadband package will enjoy a free upgrade from a newspapers announcement a few weeks ago.

I realized this when I received an email from Starhub that my home will enjoy up to 100Mbps upgrade from our paid 12Mbps line. Yes!!!

I believe Sonny is so pleased with this as he must have noticed a much better online game experience these few days.

No wonder the internet radio I always turn on whenever I am on my iMac has continuous streaming since last weekend. I had very few interruptions and was thinking I was just plain lucky.

The free upgrade started on Friday, 17 July 2009. I am lucky... along with the other Premium Subscribers.

I am now tuned to a better sounding quality internet radio when I switched the Bit Rate, jumping to 192 from the normal 128... taken into account most radio station sources are from the United States. On top of that, the streaming is exceptional too at this higher rate.

Thank you Starhub!

It needs a competitor to increase the quality and standard of service on this island that benefits its consumer unlike another major IP that focuses much on squeezing every last penny from its subscribers.

Starhub has answered the call favorably as far as I am concern.

I am tempted to jump ship for a bundled package for my cellphone line with my cable TV with this provider as well. That should save me some money monthly and also support such provider that has its consumers' interest in mind.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Raya Shopping Starts

The past 2 weekends have seen me out of the house, not for outing, but for shopping.

Shopping for the house, in preparations for Hari Raya celebrations. It is when siblings, parents and grandparents, friends and relatives will make time to visit each other.

Aidilfitri, by the Arabic name is the Muslims' festive celebrations in the month of Syawal after Ramadhan or fasting month that will start at the end of August 2009.

Yes, it is a tat early for such shopping, but by Wifey's calendar, the coming final exams that Sonny will be sitting will be during the fasting month.

She wants to concentrate on him totally and not tottering around looking for and worry about the festive preparations.

Wise planning. I should add.

Top of the shopping list were curtains for the living room, master bedroom, her study, my Gym cum den and Sonny's room.

Then there was the carpet for the living room that "should match the fabric sofa covers" we custom-made a year ago to use specially for this year's celebrations.

The master bedroom needs matching bedspread since there will be a dark wood headboard that I will be fixing-up this year. It thus "should go well with the window treatments."

We have the modern zen-like furniture for several years. This year's color scheme will be a simple "off-white and subtle black tones", but overall... Wifey is aiming for a clean and fresh look for the house.

Going back and forth, we looked for the right items and those that had "potential" that would match with this and that. So in between scouting for the right prices and quality, Wifey has dragged me all the way to the west end of the island in Woodlands and back to the eastern part where we live... and everywhere in between.

Geylang Serai is still predominantly the place to shop for Hari Raya things. From household items to clothes, from good Malay food to Raya cookies. It is a one stop place for many Malays and Muslims.

With not less than four trips there between the two weekends, Wifey finally made her mind up to have that "perfect" curtains and bedsheets after much deliberation from all that scouting. Phew!

The simplest of shopping was for the black shaggy carpet at Ikea in Tampines Retail Park is the unanimous "love at first sight" for the both of us. We finally bought it today.

The hard part of the Raya shopping is about done. Now for the flowers... Wifey wants the old faux flowers to be replaced.

Yet the hardest part all them all has not happened.

Our traditional Baju Kurung Melayu or Malay traditional clothes for Raya will have to wait until the Geylang Serai Hari Raya Bazaar is open and matures during the Ramadhan month to get a little more bargain power for a reasonable price to dress all three of us up.

Wifey's clothes will be the hardest to find, but we will survive anyway as we did every year.

There will be so many for her to choose from and with varied price range which will normally create a little headache every year. Once that is done, the clothes for both Sonny and I with matching colors with Wifey's will be a breeze to get.

This weekend, the newly rebuilt Geylang Serai is opened for business. Though it still is partially as the blocks of houses behind the large market building are still being contructed.

Long gone was the cramped, damp and pot-holed wet and dry markets.

In replacement is a clean, airy, modern multi-storey shopping complex that is also elderly and wheelchair-friendly.

I will be taking Dad for his monthly oncologist check-up this Friday, 24 July 2009. After that appointment, I will take both Mom and Dad to the new Geylang Serai. I wish for them to experience the new place.

It will be interesting to know what they will think of the place as they make their early-bird Raya shopping with me end this week.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Showers Of Bloom

Looking at the sky as I alighted from bus Service 7, it seemed not an inviting day for an outing.

I decided for some alone time doing two of my many favourite things... being close to nature and amateur photography.

The ideal place for such an activity was definitely the Singapore Botanic Gardens at Napier Road, I thought. This is the second post of that outing. The first I posted was called "Kaleidoscope in Cactus" during the park's celebration of 150 years back in April 2009.

The weather was not as cooperative as I had hoped. It was cloudy and dark clouds were approaching from afar. Not much light for good photography I figured and as predicted, it rained heavily in the late afternoon.

Nonetheless, the water drops on the subjects added drama to the photos.

I took hundreds of photos that day but showed only the few in that one and only post. The rest are still stored in my iMac waiting for me to do something about it.

I have not forgotten about the photos, but have just not enough time to sort through them and choose the ones for my posts. The last time was cactus, so this time is about flowers. Macro shots of them, my favourite style in photography.

Nowadays, the digital camera can do wonders to make the photos look stunning. My Canon EOS 450D dSLR did most of the technical job while I provided the hands and legs, while my eyes kept a lookout for the colorful beauties that were bursting out in all its glory from the greenery.

I can remember my quiet time there, exploring the park, witnessing the beauty and tranquility nature has to offer.

Next to cactus, flowers are the most easiest to photograph. Other than that occasional gust of wind swaying my subjects back and forth, with a little patience the photo can turn out quite nice.

I cannot say the same for the fauna yet though. The many fast-moving and elusive animals at the park were just to quick for me to steal a picture from. The ones that I did get were blurry and uninspiring... the good ones are too few and far in between.

Moving subjects are hard to target and missed moments are just too many. I am so far away from being skilled to take pictures of animals or insects in the wild. So the paid entry to the zoo for photos of the animals there was my restitution.

There are so many flowers to choose from. These are some of them, but only wish I had taken down the names of these beauties...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Our Prized Cat-ch

I thought it only happens to us... a one instance, a random and very isolated case, but as it turns out, a few of my family members are experiencing the same thing as we are.

It probably is a cosmic "trend" of sorts, but I would call it a "phenomenon."

Nothing serious or mind-blowing, just being a little dramatic here. It is about a cat. Yes, the common cat... stray cats to be exact.

For the past few months, we have been visited by this jack-black cat.

We would see it taking catnaps in between our flower pots, under the cool shades of the bushy plants. A nice and quite place. I would pick that spot too if I were a cat!

Since the cat did not use our flower pots as its pubic toilet, nor did it marked the pots as its territory, we let it keep the spot for its day time naps... away from other cats and busy human traffic downstairs.

One fine day, Sonny came back from school late in the afternoon. The cat followed him home.

It took the elevator with him and was stood beside him at the front our door when Wifey opened the door... looking at Wifey as if to say "Please don't shoo me away."

Looking at us with its big green eyes, hesitating a little, Wifey could not resist but to let it in our home trailing after Sonny.

We gave it the leftover cat food we had for Wednesday... our former adopted cat that left the house and has never returned since, this black cat eat it as quickly as it could.

It allowed us to stroke it as it was eating. Wifey admired it but kept herself at a distance. She had a phobia of black cats because the last one she held when she was a teenager scratched her badly.

I had an interesting surprise coming back from work several days after that day.

The black cat was already sitting and facing the front door. It did not scamper when I approached the door, instead it purred at my feet, expecting the door to open after I rang the doorbell.

Wifey opened the door and was stunned to see the black cat at my feet. She in turn stunned me by calling the cat "Lola" with such delight. Wifey and Sonny had already given it a name.

Apparently, Lola had visited our home for several days already. She already prepared the cat food in an air-tight plastic container, placed near the front door for easy reach. She was expecting Lola to come by to feed.

Yes, Lola is a female, the reason no territorial stink marks on the flower pots. Thank goodness.

Another good thing about it is that she had already been neutered, sighting from her clipped left ear. An indication done by SPCA on strays to prevent breeding while giving the cats their freedom and right to live amongst humans.

From that day onwards, Lola will come about two to three times a day for her meals. Like children during Halloween, Lola will meow at the door. We will open the door and greet her while putting food outside for her to feed.

I thought this was a unique incident until my Mom told me the same thing that happened to her and Dad. They have an adopted stray cat that came to their front door for food for the past weeks.

They have since called their cat Minah. A very common Malay lady's name. Their cat is one beautiful white feline with brownish-gray spots and green eyes. I witness what they told me one day when I visited them. I was fortunate to have my camera with me to take its pictures.

Not long after that, Second Sis told me she was visited by a female cat at her front door too. Meowing for food, Sis let it in and fed it. She has a cat of her own already but is now too old and frail.

The new comer is about a year old. It stayed for the night but fell sick with runny nose and often sneezing. Sis nursed it back to health in her home for the next four days.

The little cat recovered from her bout of flu and left her home after that. It keeps coming back only for food.

If I had known better, I would say it is the trend with cats nowadays. These cats prefer to be free to roam outside unlike "traditional" house cats I was used to when I had cats as pets while living in the village home then.

These cats come to feed, stay for a while for some human compassion and love, and then leave until their next meal. At least that is the trend with cats in Singapore, it seems.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Like Old Times

It would be ideal if I could post my entries as close after the event day itself as possible, but time keeps slipping away from me.

Between work, family and good sitcoms on TV, I barely have any time now to write about my day... much less surf to read other blogs. When I do find time, the only two places I go to often are my blog and Facebook sites. My iMac is so underutilized... why do I get so tired and out of time lately?

This entry is about Father's Day.

Yes, that special day came on Sunday, 21 Jun 2009 and had been long gone. I started writing about it on the actual day itself, but it just got stuck for so long. Yet that day has to be remembered in my blog because of two special reasons...

Thank You Dad

One, I felt I returned at least a tiny bit of happiness back to Dad with our outing at the Singapore Zoo on Saturday, a day ahead of Father's Day.

I know I should stay away from descriptive writing, knowing how "well" I command the English language, but these writings are my memories I wish to cherish should my memory become poorer than it is today.

I chose the zoo for our outing because I wanted Dad to relive the happy times we had here with the whole family during my childhood.

Dad's then employer, Singapore Telecoms, held their annual Family Day at this park as it was the popular choice among its employees when surveyed.

My own folks could never afford and would never fork out so much money for the costly entry tickets for a whole family of ten. Even then, I knew that amount of money would be better spent on our daily necessities as Dad was the sole breadwinner of the family.

I do know that the bus fares for the whole family must have cost Dad a tiny hole in his pocket for that month. It was after all, a long ride to and from our village home. Nevertheless, Dad gave us that chance to experience modern attractions the park had to offer.

The journey was as thrilling as the park itself. Coming out from the rural village near Paya Lebar to the clean and at-the-time modern cityscape, the long journey to Mandai Road kept me wide-eyed.

We would get free packed meals, goodie bags and play lots of fun games while gawking at many of the animals in their enclosures all day. It was one of the most happiest days of my childhood memories outside the village.

That particular Saturday has great significance to me.

Knowing Dad is getting much older and frailer every passing day, he now uses the cane to aid walking. He gets tired easily from walking, so it makes him scared to go out for grocery shopping now.

And Mom, well she is already getting around in a wheelchair whenever she is outside the house, so taking my old folks outings need some careful planning on the type of places and activities that they both enjoy while the getting around to and from the destination will only have one option... by cab.

Wifey did not come along that day. She already accepted a prior engagement with the mothers from Sonny's school. It was their first "girls day out" getting to know more about one another and sharing their experiences on coping with teenage children.

So it was just my parents, Sonny and me. That means we only needed one cab for transportation. Else, my parents will ride with me in one cab while Wifey and Sonny takes another. Quite an expensive affair on a weekend just for transport alone.

Yet, the experience to enjoy each others' company is priceless and I will not trade it for anything else. Making beautiful memories is my thing!

Thank You Sonny

Settling on the transport was one thing, but exploring the zoo meant for lots of walking. The most unlikely place to bring my old folks.

Fortunately, with the school holiday promotion, a bundled ticket price was truly welcomed. For S$25.00 Adult and S$19.00 Seniors, we get to unlimited rides on the trams around the entire park and a riverboat ride, a first in the zoo across the Upper Seletar Reservoir.

We got to cover most of the enclosure with the tram rides and only walk little distances to take a closer look at the animals.

We ate tuna and lettuce sandwiches I prepared at home before we left for our breakfast at the picnic area right after the entrance. There were met with visiting birds there with loud sounds of chippings and monkeys as if we were deep in the jungle.

Lunch was a perfect time. We had packed Nasi Rendang for us, while Dad had Nasi Lemak. We ate at the elephant amphitheater and had a good rest. Dad dozed off for a bit before the elephant show started. We did not have to rush for eats at all.

I think both Mom and Dad enjoyed the riverboat ride very much.

Dad kept looking at the water for glimpses of fishes peeking out to the surface during the ride. In fact, Dad kept looking at the water in the moat and ditches at all enclosure that had them for fishes.

It was more interesting to him than the animals in them!

That reminded me that Dad likes fishing and used to go for overnight fishing trips with my older brothers and brother in laws when he was much younger.

He was thrilled to feed the Kois at The Bottle Tree Park I took him the weekend before. I have yet to post any photos of our outings there. Looks like our future outings will involve places with body of water and the opportunities to see lots of fishes.

Yet the most amazing thing about the whole outing was Sonny. He focused his attention to Mom the whole time. He took charge to wheel her around from the moment we stepped out from my parents' home. Had lots of conversations with her until we were safely back.

I was so proud of Sonny for his maturity. He took the responsibility to care for his grandmother throughout the outing. That made me so happy and able to concentrate on Dad.

At times, Dad was thrown out of balance, I was like his shadow discreetly ready to catch hold of him if needed. I really appreciate his and very proud of Sonny. It was my Father's Day gift from him while I was giving that to my Dad.

Happy belated Father's Day Dad. We all love you.

Australian Outback

Ethiopian Great Rift Valley

Siberian Tigers

Upper Seletar Reservoir Riverboat

Asian Jungle

Asian Elephants

West Africa

Sumatran Jungle