Friday, July 24, 2009

Rena - Omocha! レナ - 玩具!

Rena loves playing with toys and here are some of the pictures we took while she's busy having fun. This is part 1 of my video project, so look out for part 2 coming out real soon!Lilypie 1st Birthday Ticker

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Hi. I've been posting for a bit the last month, but it's been a while since the last official blog post, with pictures and updates of Mabel and Rena. Well, I've been in a writing mood lately, hence the lengthly Transformer review, the article about finding passion in work, as well as the last 2 posts on the Leader Class Optimus Prime toy as well as Rena's latest video. I've been neglecting the normal updates and talks about what I've been up to, so hopefully with this post I can go back to the weekly regime of blog updates. Some of the factors which have prevented me from updating as frequently as usual are of course work and Rena, who was ill last week. She had a slight fever, and wasn't as lively as before, although she could still play and smile. We were a little worried due to the H1N1 situation, and decided to play it safe and give the doctor a visit. Well, she hated the medicine but thanks to it she made a speedy recovery.
Aside from taking care of Rena during the weekends, the weekdays have also past by relatively fast. I haven't been spending too much on games and toys of late, although I did get that Optimus Prime and a few other Kamen Rider figures along the way. No new games so I'm still stuck on Dynasty Warriors Gundam 2, with nearly 80 hours of game play clocked, but still plenty of things to do and upgrade. The game is getting a little boring due to the hack and slash nature and the cumbersome method of unlocking new missions and parts, but it's still a good game for Gundam fans. Wanted to get either Prototype or Infamous, but they were pretty expensive at the shops which I happened to visit. Will have to put them on the waiting list for now.
I recently bought and watched the DVD of 20th Century Boys. The movie is part of a trilogy based on the manga by Urasawa Naoki. The plot (wrom wiki) goes like this: In 1969, young boys Kenji, Otcho, Yoshitsune and Maruo build, in an empty field, a hideout they name their secret base, in which they and their friends can get together to share manga, stolen porn magazines and listen to a radio. To celebrate the event, Otcho draws a symbol for the base, that would represent their friendship. After their friends Yukiji and Donkey join the gang, they imagine a future scenario where villains would try to destroy the world, and in which the boys would stand up and fight; this scenario is transcribed and labeled "Book of Prophecy".

The series itself opens in the late 1990s, where Kenji is a convenience store owner, finding solace in his childhood adventures as he takes care of his niece Kanna and his mother. After Donkey is reported to have committed suicide, Kenji stumbles upon a large cult led by a man known only as "Friend". The cult has a plan to destroy the world on New Year's Eve of 2000, (referred to in the latter half of the story as the Bloody New Year's Eve,) and the events that are currently unfolding are suspiciously close to the plan documented in the "Book of Prophecy". Kenji begins to recruit some of his older friends, including Otcho and Yoshitsune, in an attempt to stop "Friend".The series spans several decades, from 1969 to 2017, which in the chronology of the series, becomes 3FE (3rd Year of the Friend Era.) The series makes two distinct timeline cuts during the story; one from 2000 to 2014, and one from 2014 to 3FE. Several parts of the series are also told in flashbacks to previous events as the characters attempt to unravel the mystery of who "Friend" is and how to stop his plans of world destruction; most of the children's backstories through the 70s and 80s are told in this fashion.And after watching the first movie, I went online and read the entire manga. All 22 volumes of it, within a week of late nights. The story is amazing, and the plot interwoven into the entire manga series. Lots of unexpected twists and turns along the way, making the manga full of suspense and surprises. So far, the first movie follows very very closly to the source, from the characters to the plot, and even the dialogue. Sure, they have to cut some corners to fit the plot into 3 movies, but so far it seems really faithful and that's a sign that the movies will serve to please the fans, old and new alike. For those yet to see the movie, please do so and better yet, read the manga!

As of the last update on Kamen Rider Decade and the Shinkenger series, I'm still downloading them, but only watching Decade. I also downloaded the Tomica Heroes Resue Fire series, but I still hate the designs and will leave them for rainy days. On the other hand, Decade is done with the 9 main worlds and is moving towards other worlds, including the Showa riders (Black is coming real soon), and even the Shinkengers' world. Yes, a cross over! First time ever, this year's rider and sentai are forming a team together. Even if it's just for a 2 episode period only, this marks a first and hopefully we get to see more such cross over productions soon.

I'm finding time to work on another video production, this time will be a more directed effort to capture different shots of Rena, but mostly it will be a fun video again. I've already selected the song, and will spend some time on the transition and textual effects while collecting photos worthy of putting into the video. Will take some time though, so be patient! Mabel's also deep into planning for Rena's 1st birthday celebrations (yes, in fact she started way before you can imagine), and we're making arrangements to make the event as memorable as her first month celebrations. This time though, it will be bigger and definitely not at our place. We're also planning for a few upcoming excusions, to the zoo for example, so hopefully we'll get to take some good shots and post them on facebook or here. Until next week, check back again or add my on Facebook at!

Lilypie 1st Birthday Ticker

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Rena - Happy Times

Short video clip showing Rena playing. Song used is Funny Girlfriend by The Brilliant Green. She is 7 months and 2 weeks old during filming. It's not the project I mentioned earlier that I was working on. That one takes more effort and is currently in planning stage :)

Lilypie 1st Birthday Ticker

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Transformers ROTF: Leader Class Optimus Prime

After watching the movie and reading a couple of rave reviews on the Leader Class Op Prime, I decided that after 20 years, it was time to get a Transformer toy again. This will be my second Prime figure, 1st one being the Power Master Optimus Prime which my mum got me when I was around 10.

Well, I hesistated in the beginning due to its hefty price tag after receiving a email update from my regular Japanese toy supplier. $80 seemed a tad expensive, so I told myself I'll just wait until they slash the prices like they did back in 2007, where the Leader class Prime were selling as cheap as $40 when the movie fad was over. Well, I got more worried as I passed by more and more departmental and specialty shops which only packed dozens of Leader Class Megatron. No Prime to be seen anywhere. It was completely sold out. Even Chinatown Square Central only had 1 or 2 left, and it was sold as part of a bundle. In the end, I had to go to OG Chinatown as a last resort. Spent $109.90 on a damn toy which I'll most probably not touch after a day. At least I've not been spending much lately.
I'm not going to write a review, but just post some thoughts on this figure. First, this thing is huge. Lotsa parts, articulation, and well painted too. Looks really realistic as well, much better than the 2007 version which didn't look anything like its movie counterpart. The 2 forms, vehicle and robot look really good too. This is as faithful as can be to the movie, especially when you're talking about a CG robot with millions of moving parts.
However, the transformation between the 2 modes is a total bitch. Pardon my language, but it took me an hour on my first attempt, and seriously the instruction sheet didn't help and instead made matters more confusing. I'm think I lost a couple of years lifespan trying to figure where all the parts go to. The packaging says it's for kids aged 5 and above. I'm sure most adults might find Rubik's cube a tad easier. Seriously, the adults who bought this toy for their kids are most probably the most frustrated lot trying to transform the toy for them. Just check out this video and decide for yourself ( Like the person, I was swearing while trying to make it transform, though my words tend to be of the Hokkien variety. But on the whole, it's a very nice figure with great asthetics. My Gundams might not really welcome the new addition, but I've already made space for him. Just don't request for any transformation when you visit. Macross Valkryie VF-1J was already a pain, but this one takes the cake. :p
Lilypie 1st Birthday Ticker

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Escaping the Rat Race

You've probably heard the saying a thousand times. “Choose the job you love and you never have to work a single day of your life.” It is a simple quote, but inevitably weakened by clichés as one grows to realise the harsh facts of life. How many people really do love their jobs and intend on doing it forever?

While it is a thought provoking question which requires some self reflection, many Singaporeans tend to lean towards the practicality of life's imposed needs and demands. Since birth, we have been surrounded by systems, made up of rules and regulations bounded by either authority, or by mental models shaped by our family values, culture, and perception. These very systems eventually govern our way of life, and ultimately dictate the career paths we choose. We grow up believing that having the best education is the only way to succeed in life, and become obsessed with results, rankings, and stature. Students, from the pre-school level to university under graduates, have been put under tremendous stress from parents and peers, in a bid to out do one another in the race towards better achievement. The same can be said when one reaches the work force. For the majority not born with a silver spoon in their mouth, work will initially be the source of income for materialistic and comfort items, eventually becoming a routine effort to pay off debts that have increased, due to added commitments such as having a car or starting a family.

And as a result, the majority of Singaporeans have their lives charted out and plotted on an arguably typical pre-determined route without even knowing it. The plan goes like this: To complete the highest level of education possible, find a well paying job to save up, apply for a HDB flat, get married and have kids, and even go for that annual overseas holiday while waiting for retirement. Sure, it does not apply to everyone, but many if not most would see through this Singaporean life cycle. Job satisfaction becomes non-existent, and is measured by the how high the salary and year end bonuses add up to.

On the other hand, there are the lucky ones who manage to land the job of their dreams. These people absolutely adore what they do for a living, and would not mind working extra hours or putting in more effort to meet their levels of expectation. Passion is the main driving force, and unsurprisingly they tend to succeed in their respective fields of work. The reasons are really quite simple. If you like your job, chances are that the motivational factors will be triggered internally rather than set by superiors or governing policies. Your working hours extend beyond your time in the office, as ideas and concepts can still inspire you no matter where you go. And most importantly, if you find meaning in your work, satisfaction comes naturally and it sustains you, especially in the long run. Indeed, the meaning of job satisfaction differs from person to person based on his own needs. To some, job satisfaction simply refers to how high up the corporate ladder you reach. The power and authority that accompanies the job might also serve as a form of fulfilment for people with more responsibilities. Others may find pride in having their work recognised, or having their efforts acknowledged by others. And lastly, it is heartening for some to know that they are contributing back to society, the less fortunate or the needy.

So, what is stopping people from looking for their dream job? Why are most people still unhappy about their jobs and are constantly complaining about their careers? Less than ideal work environments and bad bosses aside, there are two main reasons. Firstly, people are not getting the job satisfaction that they seek. The rewards do not justify the amount of effort invested, and hence the unhappiness or disappointment. It is not merely about dollars and cents here, but also the intangible value and worth of the work generated. Second and more importantly, we tend to be bounded by our own mental models and cannot accept taking risks beyond our self imposed limits. We are programmed to choose stability over adventure, and we tend to measure options by the return of investment, and how lucrative they are.

In short, we set our own limits and many a time, our wings can only take us so high before we hit the ceiling of the cage. Whenever our visionary self think about making change for the better, our realist selves slap us back into reality with negative thoughts of failure and the consequences of unsuccessful gambles. Acceptance of “fate” results in resigning to the fact that this is how life is meant to be, and that there is nothing you can do about it. For the majority of the working population, this is their biggest mental block preventing them from venturing into the unknown. To quote Neo from the Matrix trilogy, he did not believe in fate because it gave him the idea that he was not in control of his own life. And he's right. There is always a choice in whatever we do. We just need to convince ourselves that it is the right one.

If you find yourself unhappy about your job and hence the lack of passion in work, reflect on what you really want from it at the end of the day. Is it for the job satisfaction, the experience, the rewards, or for the status? Are you living up to your full potential, and is there room for more growth? The answers to these questions ultimately determines your passion and love for your job. From here, the choices are yours to make. Setting a personal vision statement and short term goals might help to re-discover your passion. Having new relevant skill sets through upgrading may provide a necessary burst of inspiration. On the other extreme end, career transitions usually ignites fear of uncertainty, but it is better to fail than not trying at all. Remember, the choice belongs to you.

Life is too short for regrets, and the last thing you would ever want is to ponder about the infinite career possibilities or wasted chances when you are too frail and old. The best inspiration for change comes from within, so be the change that you want to see. These changes can be as little as personal goal setting, or starting up a new business. As the saying goes, “The difference between a entrepreneur and a dreamer is action.” We make our own fate, and no one is there to say the sky isn't the limit.