My Rambling Thoughts

From zero Covid to zero control

China has insisted on zero-Covid policy for almost 3 years. They insisted that Covid was a devstating virus. Did they know something we don't? (Hint: they do.)

It was kept well under control for 2+ years, but it began to spread after the Winter Olympics in Feb. In spite of tough lockdowns, it could not be eradicated.

Would China continue with its tough policies? All of a sudden, they announced no more mandatory PCR tests and no more movement restrictions (Dec 7). China switched from zero-Covid to zero control in a blink of an eye!

China now says Covid is akin to regular flu and claims that their Covid count is very low. They do this by playing word games. But it does not change the fact that people are "dropping like flies" and cremation services are overwhelmed.

China is lifting border restrictions totally too. People will be allowed to travel overseas. Incoming travelers will be allowed to enter without quarantine from Jan 8. No PCR test is needed.

A few countries are scared enough to require travelers from China have negative PCR test first. They don't want another round of infection. Their fears are not unfounded. It seems everyone in China is sick now.

It is rather suspicious that so many people fell sick right after Dec 7. Millions were sick in matter of days. It seemed to spread way too fast. How could everyone be infected at once? Was it through the water? Or sewage? And why does it seem like Covid kills Chinese rather easily?

The good thing about the current situation is that most people will recover and the population gains herd immunity in a short period of time. Every country has to go through this phase. None of the so-called vaccines work.

We just have to pray there are no new strains.

Hope to see these in 2023

I hope these figures will be released next year. Some of them were slated to be released this year, but I guess the pandemic delayed them.

KFC EAVI 10A+ Kingzilla (Snapdragon)

This is based on SR-71 Blackbird. The plane is very sleek looking. The animal mode, a "dragon", does not look as good.

KFC EAVI 10A Kingzilla

The original figure is greyish, that's one reason why I skipped it. It was unveiled and released in 2017.

KFC EAVI 9A+ Kingorilla (Apeface)

The companion figure. It looks okayish. It looks like a plane, but because it is fictional and original, it does not invoke any "emotion" due to lack of connection to real life/source. (This is the problem with most Season 3 designs.) The animal mode, a gorilla, looks good, but I'm not into animal modes.

I want this mainly because it is a set of two Headmasters Triplechangers, but now I'm thinking of skipping it.

KFC EAVI 9A Kingorilla

The original release is greyish, reducing its appeal. KFC/XTB has a history of creating good scuplts, but using the wrong colors!

KFC EAVI 7A Ditka (Bitzwing)

I would have gotten this if KFC did not change the light tan color (in prototypes) to an ugly shade of muddy tan. This was unveiled in 2015 and released in 2017. There were rumors of a re-issue in 2020 with correct colors, but nothing so far.

XTB MX-41 Ground Bite (Scrapper)

This will be a multi-year release. XTB has unveiled two of the six Constructicons so far. Hopefully, they will be released next year. This set looks like it will be very toon accurate.

Once XTB starts to release this set, it will be good bye Unite Warriors Devastator (UW-04)!

Pruning Blu-rays 2022

Previously, I wanted to build up a small blu-ray collection, but after getting the shows, I realized I didn't like some of them, so I got rid of some at great loss:

  • Cars 3
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • The Maze Runner
  • Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
  • Maze Runner: The Death Cure
  • The Princess Bride

On the chopping board:

  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
  • Wall-E

This leaves me with:


(Counting those on the chopping board.)

There are more shows that I can cut, but this will do for now.

I doubt I will get any more Blu-rays.

Retrospective on Pri 4 assessment books for 2022

I ended up using only 6 of the 9 books. These were not used:

  • Perfect Score in Math
  • Mathematics Tutor
  • Science Practice 1000+

For Math, 3 books were enough in conjunction to Koobits Math.

Not all books were equally useful. English Practice 1000+ and Math Practice 1000+ are effective.

English Practice 1000+ covers all aspects (Grammer, Vocab, Cloze, Spelling, Synthesis, Comprehension). The only downsides are that they are separated and there are only 20 exercises each. So will need another book to supplement it.

Daily Dose and Weekly Revision are good time-fillers (i.e. daily practice). They are a little on the simple side. I'll probably not get them for Pri 5.

Math Practice 1000+ has many questions per topic, making it good for daily exercises. However, the questions are too cramped together and there is not much space for working. I'm considering whether to get it for Pri 5.

On the other hand, I don't find Science Practice 1000+ as good. I found it too difficult to mark. :-P

After my son's disastrous mid-year Science performance, I signed up for Koobits Science and let him practise all the P3 and P4 past year papers. I realized it was important to practise questions in the actual test format and learn how to answer them.

Some additional books:

The Phrases book was intended to expand my son's vocab. This requires one to be serious about learning by reading. It was not a suitable book for my son.

The Science Revision Guide was a recommended book by the school. As it is all reading and no practice, my son claimed to have read through it in minutes. It was a waste of money. I will skip it for Pri 5.

The Complete Math Essentials, Complete Science Essentials and Tests Xtra were bought by Missus just a couple of weeks before my son's final year exam.

Complete Math Essentials was completely untouched. There was just no time to use it. Complete Science Essentials consisted of reading, then practice. As usual, my son skipped the reading part and did just the practice. It was not very effective for him, but I let him finish book A anyway. After that, I let him do Tests Xtra. There was little time left, so I let him do one practice per topic. It was a good book for last-minute revision.

Top Lego sets 2020

Previously, I shortlisted only three sets from 2020.

Haunted House (#10273), 3,231 pcs, US$300, 2020

This is not bad, but I like the original Haunted House better.

Pirates of Barracuda Bay (#21322), 2,545 pcs, US$200, 2020

This is very nice. TLG made it a 2-in-1: it can be a shipwreck (as designed) or the original ship. Very creative. I got the KO set for this and the original submission.

Bookshop (#10270), 2,504 pcs, US$200, 2020

The 2020 Modular Building. This set feels like Pet Shop II, but is not enough to interest me. I didn't even get the KO set.

Pirate Ship (#31109), 1,264 pcs, US$120, 2020

I bought this in 2021. In the end, I decided the brick-built ship was too good to pass up.

Elf Club House (#10275), 1,197 pcs, US$100, 2020

Another nice Winter Village set, but I don't think I'll buy Winter Village sets anymore.

Mystery Castle (#70437), 1,035 pcs, US$100, 2020

A follow-up to 2012 Vampyre Castle (#9468). I thought it would be KO'ed just like Vampyre Castle, but it was not. Will buy if KO'ed.

Townhouse Toy Store (#31105), 554 pcs, US$40, 2020

Reminds me of Corner Deli. I might have gotten it if the colors were more muted. Corner Deli was KO'ed, perhaps this could be in the future?

Summing up

I got 2 out of 7 sets in this list.

Top Lego sets 2019

Previously, I shortlisted only two sets from 2019. Was I too critical?

Imperial Star Destroyer (#75252), 4,784 pcs, US$700, 2019

Very impressive. This is one of my Holy Grails, but ultimately it is too big for me.

Tree House (#21318), 3,036 pcs, US$250, 2019

One of the two shortlisted set last time. Very nice, but out of scale.

Corner Garage (#10264), 2,569 pcs, US$200, 2019

The 2019 Modular Building. I finally fell out of love with MB. I didn't even get the Lepin set. Modular Buildings, 2007 to 2018. It has been a good run.

Löwenstein Castle (BL19001), 2,015 pcs, US$200, 2019

Very nice set! I'm surprised there are so many pieces despite not in minifig scale.

Tantive IV (#75244), 1,768 pcs, US$200, 2019

Another iconic ship from Star Wars.

Wild West Saloon (BL19004), 1,496 pcs, US$150, 2019

Very nice.

Gingerbread House (#10267), 1,477 pcs, US$100, 2019

Finally, a Winter Village set that looks decent after several years. But I'm no longer interested in Winter Village sets.

Newbury Haunted High School (#70425), 1,474 pcs, US$130, 2019

Haunted houses have the old European look, that's why I like them.

Townhouse Pet Shop & Cafe (#31097), 969 pcs, US$80, 2019

A pretty good 3-in-1 set, but I didn't get it. The KO is still available. Still on the fence about it.

Fairground Carousel (#31095), 595 pcs, US$50, 2019

The other shortlisted set. In the end, I got 2 KO sets.

Summing up

I got only 1 out of 10 sets in this list. The 2019 sets don't fit my buying criteria.

Top Lego sets 2018

After going through 2021 and 2022 Lego sets, I went back to 2018 to see what I missed. Previously, I shortlisted only one set. Did I set my standards too high? No, at that time, that was the only set that I was interested to get.

Hogwarts Castle (#71043), 6,020 pcs, US$470, 2018

Very impressive display set, though only from this angle because the back is a play set:

Roller Coaster (#10261), 4,124 pcs, US$380, 2018

TLG started using the roller coaster tracks a few years before. People were speculating if it was possible to make a working roller coaster. Most people would say no, including me.

Ninjago City Docks (#70657), 3,553 pcs, US$230, 2018

A nice follow-up to Ninjago City (#70620) [2017]. I got the Lepin set.

Downtown Diner (#10260), 2,480 pcs, US$170, 2018

The 2018 Modular Building. This has a 50s look, very nice. I got the Lepin set.

Pirate Roller Coaster (#31084), 923 pcs, US$90, 2018

A 3-in-1 fairground set! All 3 builds are nice. In the end, I got 3 Lepin sets of it.

City Hospital (#60204), 861 pcs, US$100, 2018

The first hospital set in a long long time, though TLG went on to release more in the future. I ended up getting the Lepin set after it was raided for the last time. In that chaotic time, it was shipped in bubble-wrap!

Hogwarts Express (#75955), 801 pcs, US$80, 2018

A pretty good Hogwarts Express. I feel this is as good as it gets — in Lego train scale. This is better than the last one (Hogwarts Express, #4841, 646 pcs, US$80, 2010), but to be fair, that was a long time ago.

I decided to get the Lepin set after it was raided.

Summing up

I got 5 out of 7 sets in this list, though all of them were KO sets.

No ETA, no go

Someone posted on his social media that he found that he needed ETA to go Australia when he was checking in at the airport counter. Three of his party members could not get an immediate approval — they must be non-Singaporeans. They wasted around $8k as a result.

He's not the only one who didn't manage to go Australia this holiday. :-D

I applied for ETA using the Australian ETA app one week before my trip. It costed A$20 per ETA. It was a Friday. I got an email almost immediately. I glanced through it briefly (it didn't say much) and I didn't think too much of it cos I thought it would take several days to process. Missus applied the next day and also didn't read the email carefully.

On Monday, all of a sudden, Missus told me that ETA approval was supposed to be instant and the email was asking for additional information! She quickly filled in hers and submitted on the ImmiAccount website.

I googled, and still somewhat in shock, found Malaysian-based websites that claimed they could approve ETAs from 15-mins to a day, depending how much you pay. I opted for the 6-hours one, costing RM60+ per ETA. I then waited. Would it actually work?

The next day, I got an email from them saying additional info was needed. My heart sank. It was then that I read the forums more carefully. The days of instant approval were over for Malaysians ever since Covid started. Additional info was always needed. And it would take 7 to 30 days.

Undaunted, I filled in every bit of info on the website — there were a lot to fill in — and I needed to do it thrice. It took me around two hours.

On Wednesday, Missus canceled the flight, car and hotel bookings. There were some she could not cancel.

On Thursday noon, I received an email. My ETA was approved! Wow, that was fast. I then checked with Missus. Unfortunately, she filled in hers wrongly, so they asked for clarification.

(Did you ever commit a crime? The answer is N, not Y. :lol:)

She did not want to re-submit. It would never make it in time. I told her to keep her options open. Perhaps we could go in June? But she was too sour to consider visitng Australia in the future.

The takeaway:

  • Australia needs ETA
  • Non-Singaporeans should apply for ETA a few weeks in advance of the trip
  • Those ETA websites don't work (*), use the official app
  • The ETA email should be more explicit ("Attention: more information needed") instead of expecting us to read the attachment; I thought it was the receipt

(*) They charge RM20+ per ETA for 24-hours waiting time. That's the only benefit to using them. What they really do is that they submit the application after 24 hours. The actual ETA application is almost instantaneous.

In the end, we lost quite a bit of money, should be in the region of $3k+.

Last minute Malaysia trip

S - Food14.40
1 Paid using TnG card. It is the "CashCard" of Malaysia.
2 Estimated.
3 SS86 Arcee.
4 Including two story books for Ji Ji.
5 Missus bought a camera for 2nd Ji.

Unfortunately, missed the high of 1 SGD to RM 3.38 and converted at 1:3.22.

I got YouTrip card and I must say it is very helpful. It works like a debit card. You can even top it up just before you use it — as long as you are able to access your bank a/c over Internet. The exchange rate is very close to spot rate. There is no need to carry so much cash.

Even in KL, there are some places that have gone cashless and can only make payment using CC.

Most of the expenses were on accommodations and meals. A meal in a restaurant in KLCC costs the same as in Singapore! It was shocking to pay over RM250 for a meal, but that's "just" S$80 and is normal in Singapore. When we went out for meals, it costed "just" RM85.

Another lean Modular Building, Pet Shop (10218)

I was not able to make it leaner because the wall bricks were all pretty long. Will need to get 1x2 and 1x3 reddish brown bricks.

The pieces have yellowed with age, the front more so than the sides. It is most obvious with white and gray, but other colors are affected too.

This is a genuine Lego set. It was the first Modular Building that I bought. For some reason, I didn't buy the previous set, Grand Emporium, even though that was the one that caught my attention.

In addition to making Modular Buildings leaner, I also want to make them shorter. Basically, to make them more "City".

My first bino!

I have always wanted a binocular, but I have not bought one because I have no use for it. :lol:

Since I was buying the Celestron 5mm Cel-LX eyepiece, which I had no immediate use for, I thought of buying a binocular too. I intend to use it for stargazing.

(Stargazing in light-polluted Singapore? There are few visible stars to the naked eyes, but a lot more can be seen through a telescope — if you know where to point. A telescope not just magnifies, but also gathers light.)

Previously, I had narrowed my choices down to either 8x40 or 10x40. For Astronomy, 8x50 would be better — but bigger and heavier.

Celestron Outland X 8x42 binocular


  • 8x42 (8x magnification, 42mm aperture)
  • Bak-4 prism
  • Apparent FoV: 6.8°
  • Eye relief: 17.8mm
  • Weight: 670g
  • Waterproof: yes

I bought a 10x40 binocular from Toys R Us a few years back. It gave poor results, as expected. Comparing against this, it looks like it is actually a 8x25!

Using a ruler, I measured the exit pupil of the Outland X to be 5mm (it is supposed to be 5.25mm). The TRU one? A mere 3mm.

Trying the bino for Astronomy

Just nice, Jupiter was at zenith at around 10pm and the sky was clear, so I tried using the bino to observe it. What a disaster! It was too shaky. I definitely need a tripod (and a tripod adapter).

But then, I wonder if I can see any details at all. Can I see the four Galilean moons? From online discussions, it looks doable. However, I will need around 15x to see the rings of Saturn.

Next, I tried observing the crescent Moon early in the morning. It was also too shaky to do proper observation.

An over-powered eyepiece

The Celestron 5mm Cel-LX eyepiece was "suggested" to me on for a price of $85+ (w/ shipping). It was 40% off! It caught my attention. Even so, I did not get it as it was over-powered for my scope.

It went back to regular price after a few days. After that, I had a twinge of regret and I wondered, was it cheaper than TaoBao?

To my surprise, I found a shop selling it for 399 yuan. After using TaoBao coins, it was 387 yuan (S$75). Shipping was S$4. I decided to buy it — it is for a future less-powered scope. :-D

This is my shortest F.L. eyepiece. The next smallest are:

  • Meade 5.5mm 82d eyepiece, also way over-powered on my scope
  • OEM "Gold-line" 6mm 66d ultra-wide eyepiece
  • Explorer Scientific 6.7mm 82d eyepiece

This should complete my Celestron Cel-LX eyepieces. If I had known what I know now, I would own only these eyepieces.:lol:

For my scope (NexStar 127SLT), two eyepieces would suffice: Cel-LX 9mm and the Celestron 23/62 Asp kit eyepiece.

Crypto-currency house of cards

Crypto-currency is really a house of cards. It is really the wild west without any regulation. Whether it is currency or exchange, whatever they promised or stated are simply false, e.g. backed by USD, segregated client funds.

FTX is supposed to be a big and reputable Exchange. A tweet caused a loss in confidence, resulted in a bank run and they were down.

To be fair, Alameda Research, whom FTX loaned most of its money to, was insolvent in May after Luna meltdown. It's just that no one called their bluff until now.

Top Lego sets 2022

Hogwarts Express - Collectors' Edition (#76405), 5,129 pcs, US$500, 2022

Very detailed, but the train is 7-stud wide and not the usual 6-studs, so it does not run on Lego train tracks. This is a display piece. If you want something more Lego-y, get the 2018 Hogwarts Express (#75955). That has only 801 pieces and has an even bigger train platform — apparently you don't need so many parts for the train.

Lion Knights' Castle (#10305), 4,514 pcs, US$400, 2022

The pinnacle of Castle sets. When I saw this, whatever nostalgia I had for Classic Castle sets went away. This is way better than any of them!

This set is too expensive for me, but if it is KO'ed, I can't say no to it. :-)

Other "recent" castles:

  • King's Castle #70404 (996 pcs, US$100, 2013)
  • King's Castle #7946 (933 pcs, US$100, 2010)
  • King's Castle Siege #7094 (973 pcs, US$100, 2007)

Classic Space fans should not miss Galaxy Explorer #10497 (1,254 pcs, US$100, 2022). It is a modern take of the original set (#497) [same name] released in 1979. Classic Space has never looked better!

Loop Coaster (#10303), 3,756 pcs, US$400, 2022

This is a masterpiece in engineering. A single crank controls all the movements. The tracks actually forms the word L-O-O-P!

It looks better than the 2018 Roller Coaster (#10261). In that set, the white supporting pillars are too prominent.

Boutique Hotel (#10297), 3,066 pcs, US$230, 2022

The 2022 Modular Building. It looks like an updated Grand Emporium (GE). The creative part this time is that the corner building is triangluar in shape.

The City of Lanterns (#80036), 2,187 pcs, US$160, 2022

Reminds me of Ninjago City sets. It seems I like busy dense city sets. This set is very versatile. It is made up of smaller modular buildings that can be re-arranged. It comes with an extra straight track so that two sets can be combined easily (using one from each set):

Straight from the designer

It has even been re-built into a Modular Building gas station (some extra parts needed)!

Express Passenger Train (#60337), 764 pcs, US$190, 2022

TLG has been trying to make sleek passenger trains. Sometimes they use molded parts (looks good, but people complain it is not very Lego-like), sometimes they brick-build it (does not look good cos not slope-y enough).

This looks pretty good, but the front is way too long and the rounded front looks like a bumper. And finally, the carriages have working doors! (Most train MOCs try to incorporate this.)

Of the passenger trains with brick-built fronts, I like Passenger Train #7938 (669 pcs, US$130, 2010) the most.

Downtown Noodle Shop (#31131), 569 pcs, US$45, 2022

This has vibes of Corner Deli #31050 (467 pcs, US$40, 2016), no wonder I like it. The alternate builds are also good.

The list price is S$75. I'll get it if I can find it under S$60.

Forest Hideout (#40567), 258 pcs, gift, 2022

Forestman, how can I say no? It is a free gift if you buy above a certain amount at Lego store, but it is resold on other shopping platforms. I got it for S$47 on Lazada. It is quite expensive, but is cheap compared to classic Forestman sets.

Top Lego sets 2021

Unlike 2019 and 2020, there were many sets that caught my eye in 2021. Spoiler alert: I didn't get any of them.

Ninjago City Gardens (#71741), 5,685 pcs, US$350, 2021

This is a good follow-up to City (#70620) [2017] and City Docks (#70657) [2018].

Police Station (#10278), 2,923 pcs, US$200, 2021

The 2021 Modular Building. People had been asking for many years for a Modular police station — ever since Fire Brigade in 2009! Well, they finally got their wish, except it does not look like a police station. It looks like a bank.

The creative part this year is the two quarter-width buildings! I can foresee many people "restoring" them to half-width.

Medieval Blacksmith (#21325), 2,164 pcs, US$180, 2021

This is a gorgeous standalone set, but it is a little too large and detaileod compared to other medieval sets.

Castle in the Forest (#910001), 1,957 pcs, US$180, 2021

This is a really nice set, reminiscent of Forestmen sub-theme. It was to be limited to 5,000, but system misconfiguration allowed 10,000 to be sold. The cheapest available from USA costs US$435 on Bricklink today.

The Legendary Flower Fruit Mountain (#80024), 1,949 pcs, US$170, 2021

I'm not interested in Fantasy, but take away the fantasy elements and this becomes a very nice landscape scene.

Medieval Castle (#31120), 1,426 pcs, US$100, 2021

This looks more like an entrance into a fortified town than a castle. I thought this was good until I saw what came in 2022... I had this in my cart for a long time, but ultimately decided not to get it as it did not look very castle-like. I bought Pirate Ship (#31109) a few months earlier. That was a nice brick-built ship.

Ferris Wheel (#31119), 1,002 pcs, US$80, 2021

As usual, am interested in 3-in-1 fairground sets, but not enough to get this. Fairground Carousel, the set from 2019, was KO'ed, but this one was not. I was hoping it would be, but looks not.

A Lean Market Street (10190)

A keen-eye reader will notice this is from Lepin. :-)

The bricks have yellowed quite badly after several years of being in indirect sunlight. It is obvious on light-color bricks, but even dark-blue bricks have yellowed. The window panes are still white because they are newly added.

The railings have broken off, adding to the unkempt look.

I realized (long ago) that what attracted me to Modular Buildings were their facade. I only want the front of the buildings. 2 – 4 studs are enough, but I'll use 6 – 8 studs for now. The main reason is that I want to reuse the bricks within the set. Most of the wall bricks are long as the original wall is 16-studs long.