*Cover photo for illustration purposes only — not the actual robot at the outlet.
If you told me 20+ years ago that we’d be living the sci-fi dream today, I would probably have laughed in your face. After all, I grew up in the 1990s—the days of Web 1.0, when mobile phones were clunky behemoths the size of 1.5L water bottles, and giant, digital billboards selling capitalism only existed in dystopian landscapes ala Blade Runner.
But fast forward to 2022, and this ‘sci-fi’ tech is now an indispensable part of our lives, permeating almost every aspect of modern life. We communicate through screens with people who live thousands of miles away, we make calls through fancy little watches that also monitor our vitals, we scroll through online catalogues and make cashless payments to have things delivered right to our doorstep, and the very same ‘dystopian’ digital billboards in films are now ubiquitous in major cities.
Despite being a millennial, I am not particular tech savvy—so whenever I ‘discover’ cool new tech in the course of everyday life, I often display a degree of fascination that other people often find funny. Just earlier today, my husband told me about how to use Google Lens to search products up on the internet—and I was amazed because I had never used it before lol.
The same happened when we went for lunch at BBQ Plaza at IOI Mall Puchong recently. After placing our orders via QR code, what looked like a moving shelf with a smiling face on a screen approached our table. Cue exclamation of surprise and me trying to contain my excitement, “wow they have robot servers!” — to which patrons at the table next to ours noticeably stared at what they must have thought to be the village idiot.
Robot servers are, of course, nothing new. Popular restaurant chain Nam Heong made headlines for their robot servers in 2018 (complete with a humanoid design, wearing a red skirt), and Penang Kayu Nasi Kandar also implemented something similar to reduce contact during the pandemic.
But it was my first time seeing one in the flesh (pardon the pun) —and I have to say, it’s pretty darn cute. The smiley face gives it a human touch and a programmed voice thanks patrons when you take your food from the shelves. I also find it fascinating how the thing could make turns within the confined space, and detect objects/people in the way.
Of course, these robot servers are the most basic models — essentially just moving shelves with an AI programme — but with how fast tech is progressing these days, I wouldn’t be surprised if the cost of producing robots like the ones from Boston Dynamics (which has slicker dance moves than me, by the way!) will go low enough for them to be used in commercial services. (Of course, with a lot of things being automated these days, it could spell disaster for certain jobs — but that’s another conversation altogether).
With how tech is progressing, a future where humans become like those featured in Disney’s Wall-E — where they don’t even have to lift a finger and are fed by machines — may not be too far-fetched a possibility.
But it is not this day. We may be served by robots, but food cooked ourselves on the grill still tastes the best.
BAR B Q PLAZA
Lot FS09- FS11, 1st Floor, IOI Mall Puchong, Jalan Puchong, Bandar Puchong Jaya, 47100 Puchong, Selangor
Opening hours: 11AM – 10PM
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Chinese New Year is just around the corner (the first day falls on 12 February), but with the pandemic still raging in many parts of Southeast Asia, celebrations will definitely be more subdued. In Singapore, for example, gatherings will be limited to eight people, no CNY company dinners are allowed, and shouting during lo hei (the act of tossing yusheng, a ‘fish salad’ often served in Malaysia and Singapore during CNY) is also discouraged. Understandable, since no one wants Fourth Uncle’s spit flying all over the place (even before the pandemic, but I guess back then it was… tolerated). Here in Malaysia, the government has yet to announce an extension of our Movement Control Order, but it seems likely to be extended for another two weeks.
I wrote a piece recently about how certain traditions and practices might be observed differently this year, including e-hongbao and online shopping for clothes – and now we can add one more to the list: an app that calls out auspicious sayings like ‘HUAT AH’ (prosperity/good luck) and BU BU GAO XIN (steps to success). If you think about it, it’s actually quite a brilliant solution for lo hei – since saliva is more likely to fall into food what with all the shouting and yelling of auspicious phrases. Also, since many people won’t have the luxury of visiting their relatives, the app is a fun way to liven up the atmosphere – minus the worry of spreading COVID-19.
Created by a kind soul going by the pseudonym DJ Beng, the ‘app’ (they’re calling it an app but it’s really more of a web page, since it only works on Google Chrome) contains 15 auspicious sayings, which you can tap on for the desired phrase. Some of these include the customary “Nian Nian You Yu” (Luck every year) and Huat Ah. There’s also a separate tab for toasting, ie Yamseng. What I find really cute is that the longer you press the “yamm” button, the longer the audio plays: the effect is really reminiscent of actual toasting during Chinese gatherings, where everyone tries to shout yammmmm as long as possible. The audio even includes the typical ‘out-of-breath’ effect you get from people trying to sustain their shouts, so it sounds very realistic!
Best of all? There are both Mandarin and Cantonese options for the lohei. For Cantonese speakers like myself, this is a joy. Canto is being eroded these days in favour of Mandarin, and it’s always nice to see your own language being celebrated.
You can have a go for yourself at djbeng.com/lohei.html. Note: It only works on the Google Chrome browser on your phone.
Chinese New Year, also called the Lunar New Year, is set to fall on 12 February this year. It marks the beginning of a new year according to the traditional lunar calendar, and heralds the arrival of spring.
Here in Malaysia, Chinese New Year is a pretty big thing, since people of Chinese descent make up more than 20% of the population (about 6 million people). If this was any other year, CNY decor in malls would have already been up right after Christmas. There’d be cookie displays flooding bakery shelves; Padini/Uniqlo would be packed with shoppers buying new clothes on sale, and we’d all be subjected to the torture of loud, repetitive dong dong chiang music 24 hours a day, 7 days a week across all TV and radio channels.
Unfortunately, we are in the middle of a pandemic – and like all the other people who made sacrifices last year for Christmas, Deepavali and Hari Raya, it is now our turn to give up the freedom that we often take for granted: the ability to travel home to see our loved ones.
On 13 January 2021, the Malaysian government implemented a second targeted Movement Control Order (MCO), restricting travel to and from red zone states. Workers in non-essential services are required to work from home, travel is restricted to a 10 kilometre radius to buy groceries and essentials, and eateries are only allowed to run on a take-away/delivery basis. Of course, celebrations of any kind are no longer allowed, as are things like weddings and other events. (Adding to the whole hullabaloo is the national Emergency which was declared by our King because of political in-fighting, but that’s for another entry lol.)
The last time we had an MCO was back in March 2020, and it lasted for two months. Although the current MCO has only been announced for the next two weeks, many people are foreseeing an extension, at least for a further two weeks. With thousands of cases daily in Malaysia (at the time of this writing, there have been over 100 deaths in the last two weeks), most (sane) people understand that this is necessary to break the infection chain and ensure public health and safety.
Since no events are allowed and travel is restricted, many of us will have to make do with a quiet celebration at home this year. While we won’t be able to observe certain traditions, I think that technology has allowed us to adapt (and innovate) in ways that would not have been possible 20 or 30 years ago – and we can use that to make CNY 2021 a memorable one.
The reunion dinner on the eve of CNY is an integral part of CNY celebrations – some even consider it to be even more important than New Year’s Day.Traditionally, it’s when everyone gathers to feast and wish for a prosperous year ahead, whilst enjoying dishes with auspicious meanings (usually fish, pork, prawn and chicken – since back in the days meat was difficult to come by and would only be eaten on special occasions).
The food for reunion dinners used to be prepared at home by the women folk. More than just preparing a meal, it was a way for people to bond. When my grandparents were still alive, the kitchen on CNY eve was a battlefield, and my grandma commandeered it like a general: slicing, dicing and supervising her helpers (my aunties). I kind of missed that after she passed away. In the last few years, eating out has become a trend, since nobody wants to go through the hassle of cooking and washing up for 20 people. Now that there are once again dine-in restrictions at restaurants, perhaps it’s time we went back to the drawing board and rediscover what it means to cook, and eat, together.
For those who aren’t able to attend the reunion dinner night, I think it would be a good idea to set up some sort of Skype or Zoom call with family, so that you’d still be able to ‘eat’ together – sort of like what I did with the hubs for our anniversary last year. It won’t replace being there in person, but in these unprecedented times, we have to make do with what we can – and it will hopefully stave off some of the loneliness that people who live away from home will undoubtedly feel during the festive season.
Ang Pau Mali
Another tradition synonymous with CNY is the giving of red packets (ang pau) containing money to unmarried members of the family. As a kid, I was always super excited to receive ang paus (RM100 was a lot of money for a kid in the 90s). Funny thing though: at the end of each visit, the money would go to my mom, who’d keep it for ‘investment’…. And I’d never see it again lol. (Just kidding, I love you mom.)
Now that I’m married, I’ll no longer be on the receiving end, sadly. Under normal circumstances, it’s understandable not to give an angpau if you’re not visiting a particular relative. Unfortunately for married folk, the emergence of e-wallet apps and e-angpaus means that some of us won’t be able to wriggle out of it with the in absentia excuse: your nephews and nieces will probably say, “Aiya auntie, send it through e-angpau lah!”
In With The New
People usually buy new things for CNY (especially clothes), as it signifies a fresh start. Many clothing retailers are not able to open their brick and mortar shops, so more have gone online to provide for their customers. You can also find nice clothes on platforms like Shopee and Lazada for super cheap.
There are pros and cons to shopping online. While it’s certainly more convenient and safer (no hour-long queue to get into the changing room, no fighting with another auntie for the same shirt you both have your eyes on at the sale rack), it can also be challenging for people with unusual body shapes/sizes, since they can’t see or feel the material/ cutting prior to their purchase. (Like yours truly. I have huge… shoulders. winkwink.) If you’re going to buy stuff online, best do it early to avoid disappointment, in case your item comes late in the mail.
Buying gift hampers for associates, or cookies / treats for friends and family is another long standing CNY practice, and again, online shopping makes it convenient to have your items shipped directly to the doorstep of your recipient. As for treats for personal consumption, if you have the time, it might be a good idea to try your hand at baking/making your own. If you’re enterprising, you can even make a larger batch to sell and earn some extra money on the side.
Cleaning / Decorating the House
People often underestimate the importance of decorating one’s personal space to elevate the mood. I believe it’s crucial; not to show off, but to re-centre yourself and your frame of mind. It’s one of the reasons why I wear office clothes even while working from home, because it kicks my mind into ‘work mode’. Lounging in pyjamas all day is comfy, but it also makes me more inclined to go roll around on the bed every 10 minutes. Similarly, just because no one is visiting for CNY doesn’t mean your house shouldn’t be clean and tidy.
Unfortunately, technology has not yet evolved to the point where I’m able to kick back with a nice cup of coffee and a book, while my robot assistant does everything for me. So, manual labour it is.
CNY in 2021 will certainly be different, but if you put it into perspective, it’s not all doom and gloom. Traditions are meant to be kept and preserved, but if that isn’t possible due to circumstances beyond our control, then perhaps it’s time to innovate some new traditions.
That being said, McD’s Prosperity Burger is back on the menu.
Some things just never change.
If you enjoyed reading this post, consider giving me a figurative angpau. Contrary to popular belief, I do not make big moolah from writing – and this will go towards hosting fees and ensuring that I can continue to deliver authentic content for your reading pleasure. Thanks for stopping by!
Back when I was a student in the UK (this was in 2012 – feels like a lifetime ago, lol), I remember walking into a Sainsbury and seeing self-checkout counters for the first time. I was absolutely mindblown. “Whoever invented this is a freaking genius,” I thought in glee, as I scanned my items, bagged them, paid with my debit and left the store, without so much as a hello to another human. This, my introverted self thought, was the pinnacle of technology.
Fast forward eight years later, and this tech is finally picking up in Malaysia, as people opt for cashless, contactless transactions (accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic). Digitalisation has been on the country’s agenda for some time now, and while we’ve been slower to adopt it compared to countries in the West, or places like Singapore and China things are slowly but surely changing. Menus at restaurants are digital: you scan a QR code on your mobile, and order through the intranet. Delivery apps make it convenient to have food delivered right to your doorstep. You go to the movies, you order your tickets through a touch screen and pay through cards or mobile wallets. At airports, you check-in on a machine, get your baggage tags printed out and attach them on your own before sending them to the conveyor, without having to deal with the airport staff.
But technology is changing at such a rapid pace that it can be intimidating, even for millennials like me who are quite comfortable around machines and the digital space. I was at an autopay machine today and spent a good minute looking for an opening to insert my parking card – before realising that the instructions were to ‘scan the barcode’, and to pay via debit card. In time, I’m sure all of the machines will be replaced with this new mode of payment, and cash will be obsolete.
When I go out with my parents, they usually rely on me (because my brother is an airhead) to figure out anything to do with tech. My dad is good with gadgets, but my mom isn’t very literate in technology. She uses her phone to surf the net but does not know the difference between a Facebook account and a Facebook page. We were chatting earlier about Youtube, and I was explaining to her about subscriptions and the concept of ‘going live’. “Oooh,” she said, nodding after my third explanation. “I see. But I’ll probably forget it in a couple of hours.”
When we went to Yogyakarta a couple of years ago, AirAsia had just implemented a new contactless check-in system at KLIA2, and my mom was absolutely lost. She simply could not wrap her head around the fact that she now had to deal with a machine rather than a human. “You do it,” she said. “I’m not good with these things”. Leaving me to lug our suitcases alone to the self-check-in counter, tag them and send them on their merry way to the conveyor belt.
“What would you do if you’re travelling without me?” I asked half-jokingly, to which she replied in the utmost seriousness, “I wouldn’t be travelling. I’d be lost.”
It’s a little sad whenever I hear these things as it conveys a sense of helplessness; not just from my mom, but from some people from the older generation (this does not include aunties who spread gossip and unverified info via Whatsapp – those people are experts) when it comes to adapting to the rapid technological changes that are being implemented in our everyday lives. It feels as if rather than providing convenience, tech limits some people from doing things, like the aforementioned travel. With my mom, there is also a certain degree of resistance – like how she still refuses to open an online bank account lol.
But then again, there’s one thing she has taken to like a fish to water: Online shopping. I currently have five or six orders pending on the Lazada account, from water bottles to cutlery and home decor items.
So our Prime Minister just announced yesterday night that the entire Malaysia is under a restricted movement order for 14 days. Businesses and government agencies (excluding the essential ones like communication, electricity, supermarkets and groceries) have been ordered to close, while travel for Malaysian citizens out of the country is banned, and foreign tourists are also banned from entering the country. This comes after a huge spike in COVID cases were traced back to a major religious event which saw over 15,000 people congregating. Why people still organised such a big event at this time is beyond me.
Many thick-headed Malaysians also have no self discipline, still going on holidays and carrying on like no one’s business. I’m not talking about people who actually have to go out and make a living, because that’s unavoidable. I’m talking about those aunties and uncles who still want to travel because they’ve booked flights and don’t want to cancel them.
So congratulations, now the rest of us have to suffer because of your selfishness. I bet you’re the same people that are now currently hoarding toilet paper and panic buying and leaving none for people who can’t afford to buy groceries in bulk, like those in the B40 group. Congratulations again on showing how ugly human beings can be.
That was a ranty intro lol.
Anyway, the good news is that while restaurants and cafes are closed for dine-in, you can still do takeaway and order food from Grab, Food Panda and other food delivery apps. Before this whole shit storm (I was actually going to blog about it anyway, so this is timely) I tried out a local food delivery service called DahMakan, which has been around since 2015. Unlike apps like GrabFood and FoodPanda, which collaborate with local restaurants and cafes for the food, Dah Makan has its own fleet of chefs, promising to deliver ‘fresh and healthy, chef made meals’. They used to be much more expensive, but prices now average about RM15 – RM25.
DahMakan offers a selection of international and local dishes, neatly categorised according to the type of cuisine, such as Western, Chinese, Malay, etc. For example, a Nasi Kerabu with Ayam Berempah costs about RM14.99 (excluding delivery charges)
Once you’ve made your choice, the app will allow you to select an estimated delivery time for you to get your food. You can also order in advance for several days. For those who order regularly, there is a Prime 5 package (last time I checked it was RM99) which allows you to save up to 20% on meals, with free delivery and priority fast track with a 30 minute delivery window.
I made my order around 11.30AM, and scheduled for it to arrive around 12.30PM. Once the order is confirmed, a counter with the image of a chef will pop up on the map, stating Chef so-and-so is preparing the food, along with an estimated time for cooking. DahMakan has these ‘kitchens’ in areas all around the Klang Valley, so the nearest kitchen to my workplace is about 10 minutes away. Even so, it got delayed by over an hour, and the rider couldn’t find my office building even after I gave him directions. If I was an entitled customer, I guess I would have asked him to come up to my block by hook or by crook, but in the end, I went downstairs to the lobby to meet him there and pay (I paid in cash but you can also pay through debit/credit).
As a first-time customer, I had an RM8 discount. The app also offers a discount code for your friends. The Cheezy Chicken Rice looked enticing, so I got that. It was originally priced at RM15.89 with a delivery charge of RM0.99, so with the discount it was RM7.89.
Nice paper packaging.
… a far cry from the photo though lol.
To be fair, the flavour of the chicken chop was decent. The portion, though, was pretty small. I wouldn’t say I’m an extremely big eater, but it left me still feeling hungry and unsatisfied, especially since I had waited for over two hours for the food to arrive. The sauce in the plastic tub was bad – watery and tasteless – I’m not even sure what it was supposed to be. I definitely would not have felt it worth if I had paid the full price of RM15. But then again, it might just have been a case of ordering the wrong item, as I have yet to try their other dishes.
App – fairly easy to use, although the location thing is a bit wonky. It had difficulty detecting my exact location when I tried keying in my office suite’s unit number and building.
Rider – I understand riders are busy people and they would rather not layan kerenah customer2 yang gila demanding and unreasonable, but I felt that my rider was not being very helpful despite me patiently explaining to him where my office was. He actually asked me if I could go to his location (he had gone to another building at the back, which was a 5 minute walk away. I’m not trying to sound like a whiny entitled millennial, but isn’t the point of a food delivery app to deliver it to the customer’s doorstep? I ended up meeting him downstairs anyway.)
Promos – They give you an RM8 discount for first time users, and discount coupon codes for your friends to try it out.
Food – Was not especially impressed. It was okay, just not “wow!” For chef made food backed by investor funding numbering in six figures, I actually enjoyed food from other small, local delivery servicesmore. Portion was not big either.
Pricing – Without the discount, a bit on the hefty side. RM15 can buy me a nice set meal in a chic cafe.
I would probably not order from DahMakan again. I know I’ve only tried it once, but weighing the pros and cons, perhaps I’m better off trying out other food delivery apps, or just eating out (once this whole COVID thing tides over). If you would like to try it though, do utilise the code and get your discount – perhaps you’ll have a better experience! 🙂
The last time N was here, we didn’t have enough time to visit Petrosains @ KLCC, but we finally managed to go on his most recent visit. My last visit was four years ago and I remember complaining that most of the exhibits were the same as they were since 1999. This time around they’ve updated / added some sections – so kudos to the management for keeping things fresh and relevant!
It was a public holiday and it took us more than an hour just to get inside. Once in there though N was like an excited kid, running to each exhibit and wanting to try them all out.
The wind tunnel where you can experience wind speeds of up to 128kp/h
Heat sensing thermo camera.
At 70,000 sq ft, the science center is pretty large so allocate at least two hours to explore everything.
3D Hologram Projection of an astronaut, which looked as if the figure was floating in space.
For an additional fee, visitors can go on this rotating contraption to experience G-Force. N bravely decided to try it – and was spun in all directions – right side up, upside down – for a good minute or two as I cheered from the sidelines ha
The section dedicated to geology and how fossil fuels came to be features a life-sized T-Rex. It used to be able to sing.
They added a hanging bridge which connects one end of the circular hallway to the other.
PetroSains gets points for interactivity. Lots of science-related experiments and games to try your hand at!
How to connect the tunnels and gears to get a ping pong ball to drop to the bottom.
A liquid that reacts to force to form these odd crystal-like shapes.
Another section made to look like an oil platform. You can even try wearing the safety suits that the oil rig staff have to wear for a picture.
Attempting to align a pipe
Petronas was a major sponsor in Formula 1 until it ended its run here in MY two years ago – so there is still a section in Petrosains dedicated to it, which includes virtual racing car games and a life-sized replica of a Formula 1 racing car.
Another section which was new was done in a comics/art pop style, dedicated to educating youngsters about cyber bullying and the dangers of the Internet such as sexual predators – which I thought was extremely thoughtful and educational.
Bought a squishy from the store which I promptly destroyed within a day because I was constantly squishing it in my hand lol.
Entry to Petrosains is RM18.50 for Malaysians and RM28 for non-Malaysians.
Opening hours: 930AM – 5PM (last entry 4PM – weekdays) and 930AM – 630PM (weekends). Closed Mondays except on public holidays.
Nagoya is an interesting blend of old and new. On one hand, the city has a rich history that dates back to the founding of Nagoya Castle, once the Tokugawa Shogunate’s stronghold. On the other, you have the city’s current status as the fourth largest city in Japan and a major maritime port.
After the war, which reduced many old parts of Japan to rubble, the country was in shambles – but from the ashes, a new Japan arose – through its manufacturing sector, especially in the field of technology and robotics. A fitting last stop to our visit, then, was to the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology.
Nagoya is the birthplace of Toyota, but did you know that the brand did not start as an automotive manufacturer, but rather a textile factory? (I didn’t). Also, they were first called Toyoda, after Kiichiro Toyoda, its founder. The museum, which pays tributes to its early roots, can be found in an old red brick warehouse built in the 1910s.
The first section of the museum is dedicated to its early days as a textile manufacturer. As such, visitors will find looms, threads and textile-related machines on display.
Spacious exhibition hall filled with old models.
The 1930s saw the company breaking into the automotive sector, taking its first step into becoming the automotive giant we know of today. A large section of the museum is dedicated to showcasing the technology used in the manufacture of its cars, from the casting of the body to the components. Some machines on display are operational, so that visitors can see how everything is put together!
A giant press (?), which roared to life at the push of a button and filled the hall with clanking.
How the outer shell is fitted together.
At the end of the day, there is a violin performance by the museum’s resident robot – the company’s foray into advanced robotics. The robot played Canon in D and another classical song. While it lacked the oomph that is human emotion, it certainly had technical prowess!
TOYOTA COMMEMORATIVE MUSEUM OF INDUSTRY AND TECHNOLOGY
4 Chome-1-35 Noritakeshinmachi, Nishi-ku, Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture 451-0051, Japan
Opening hours: 9.30AM – 5PM (closed on Mondays, last entry 4PM)
Guess what I won from a lucky draw at an event yesterday.
…. it’s an iPod Shuffle!
People say I have good luck at lucky draws, and I think so too. I’ve gotten an iPad Mini from a gala dinner, a Lip watch worth RM1,500, and now this.
Let’s hope I don’t jinx myself by blogging about it. 😛
It’s funny because each time I’ve won something, I always get that feeling beforehand… like they’re going to announce my name. And it happens. Maybe I’m a witch.
I should learn how to use this ‘Secret’ at lotteries. Or casinos lol.
Coming back to my new toy, I’m loving it so far. I’ve been thinking of getting a new mp3 player ever since my old one slipped and fell into the cracks of doom (that space in the car between the handbrake which I’m unable to reach), so winning this is timely! 🙂 The iPod shuffle is sleek, simple to use and portable. Kinda wish they had a different colour but hey.. if its free, I can’t be choosy.
The thing about i-anything is that they tend to be so ‘exclusive’.
Everything has to be done through the Apple app store, or iTunes. With my old mp3 player, I could just transfer my files by copying and pasting directly into the device – whereas for the Shuffle, I had to download iTunes, copy files into the iTunes library on the computer, and then sync it to the device. Loads of work.
I’ve got about 90+ songs in it now, which barely made a dent in the 2GB space. Bet it can easily store up to 300 songs. Since I was going through a list of artists and bands I’ve liked on FB, the songs I downloaded are a mix.
What are some nice songs you think I should include in my playlist? Suggest them to me in the comments! 🙂
iPod Shuffle (2GB) retails for RM186 on lazada.com.my and comes in silver, gold, space grey, blue, pink and red.
**PS: I’ve given myself a week’s ‘rest’ from working out. I hit a plateau some time ago and just haven’t been losing weight for months now. Next week, it’s time to refocus and really go the extra mile if I’m going to shed those last few pounds. Gambate!