Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sleepless (& Sick) in Singapore

It's Christmas Eve right now, 600 am to be exact, and I'm wide awake, have not slept a wink yet. Yes, it's partly due to jet-lag, but I slept well enough last night. I shouldn't have made an appointment to meet someone in town at 1130am later! Whenever I worry about getting enough sleep so I can wake up fresh for an appointment, I end up not sleeping well at all. That's one reason I don't really like planning for meet-ups etc, I get somewhat stressed thinking about preparing for such meet-ups and being sure I'm on time, and end up not doing much the rest of the entire day. I really prefer things to be impromptu.

Have also been sick since arriving in Singapore a couple of days back. Sneezing like crazy and can feel the onset of full-blown flu, but am managing to fend it off. Brian was coughing really badly too, especially at night. We had to cancel a meeting with the Tans, our buddies from Frankfurt days, at the last minute, on Monday.

Then yesterday, I had a hair spa appointment. Brian seemed better and so I called up the Tans and they were headed for the city too. After lunch, I went to the hair salon, while my mum took the boys to Borders. The Tans then picked the boys up while my mum went back. After I was done some 1.5 hours later, we had tea and cakes at Borders Bistro. Funnily enough, we bumped into Bao and her hubby Vic, a couple from Frankfurt, who are also back on hols. We suddenly felt like we were hanging out at Frankfurt's Zeil having coffee again and generally lazing about doing nothing much (we did this for many an afternoon back in those good old days). Only difference was the darn muggy weather; being ill makes Singapore weather pretty unbearable (I'm usually okay with it).

At 5pm, we drove to Dempsey Place and walked around a bit but I wasn't really up for restaurant fare. Mr Decisive Daniel then kept asking me what I wanted to have for dinner. I said Newton Circus (although I went there on Sunday night but I couldn't think of what to eat!). I don't think he was keen on that and kept asking me what else I wanted to eat, so I said, maybe Teochew porridge. He insisted he knew a place at Balestier for great Teochew porridge and we went on futile hunt for this shop; meeting with multiple after-office traffic jams. We ended up at Newton Circus, some 1 hour plus later than if we had gone directly from Dempsey. As usual ordered and ate too much. That's what I mean by impromptu meet-ups, they are always so much fun, everything's unplanned and so go-with-the-flow, very much like...ME!

I have a baby's 1-month celebration to go to at around 5pm, I really need to get some sleep. Now I'm thinking if I should send out a text cancelling my 1130am appointment. I will, I will, I'll be deader than a walking zombie if I don't. Almost 630am now, arrrrgggghhhhh!!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The 13 1/2 lives of Captain Bluebear


My friend Slim bought this book for Brian and Sean (her kids love the book). Brian read it first; then when Sean was bored in Singapore, he started skimming through the pages. This was in July this year.

Now Sean's totally engrossed and reading every page of this 700-page tome, twice-over and more (closer to 6 times). He hogs the book 24/7, and Brian would peer over to read too, within minutes, an argument would break out as both want the book nearer to themselves. I'll probably get another copy on my coming trip to Singapore.

The book is actually translated from German, which makes me wonder how many more great, fun reads there are in other languages that we are missing. An excerpt from the Foreword of this book will give you an idea of why the boys are so enthralled by it, the author Walter Moer creates a whimsical tale filled with magical creatures and worlds that little boys can so easily get lost in:

I should be lying (and everyone knows I'm not a liar by nature) if I claimed my first thirteen-and-a-half lives were uneventful. What about the minipirates? What about the Hobgoblins, the Spiderwitch, the Babbling Billows, the Trogotroll, the Mountain Maggot? What about the Alpine Imp, the headless Bollogg, the Bolloggless head, the nomadic Muggs, the Captive Mirage, the Yetis and Bluddums, the Eternal Tornado, the Rickshaw Demons? What about the Venomous Vampires, the Gelatine Prince from the 2364th Dimension, the Professor with Seven Brains, the Demerara Desert, Knio the Barbaric Hog, the Wolperting Whelps, the Cogitating Quicksand, the Noontide Ghouls, the Infurno, the Ship with a Thousand Funnels? What about Gourmet Island, Tornado City, the Sewer Dragon, the Duel of Lies, dimensional hiatuses, Voltigorkian Vibrobassists, rampaging Mountain Dwarfs? What about the Invisibles, the Norselanders, the Venetian Midgets, the Midgard Serpent, the revolting Kackertrants, the Valley of Discarded Ideas, the Witthogs, the Big-Footed Bertts, the Humongous Mountains? What about Earspoonlets, Time-Snails, Diabolic Elves, Mandragors, Olfactils, the Upper Jurassic Current, the smell of Genff? Mine is a tale of mortal danger and eternal love, of hair's breadth, last-minute excapes...But I mustn't get ahead of myself!

The author illustrates the book himself, and Sean loves poring over his drawings as much as he loves reading his writing. Highly recommended for kids (and adults) with quirky tastes in books.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire



Saw this trailer on Youtube a few weeks back and knew this is one movie I really want to watch, even more than Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Probably huge on sentimentality, but that's me, nothing like a feel-good movie with parts that make me bawl. It just got nominated for Golden Globe's Best Motion Picture - Drama.

Anyone knows if it's showing in Singapore?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Random things about me

So much housework to do and now kena do MEME, tagged by Petit Fleur and Monica. Six trivial/random stuff about myself. Here goes nothing:

1. I don't like anything potentially pokey anywhere near my bellybutton. Don't even talk about that potentially pokey thing being near my bellybutton. I cringe. I rub my tummy in an effort to banish those thoughts. Sometimes when I lie in bed on my stomach, this stupid thought will appear in my head, that of a sword pushing up from under the bed into my bellybutton. Immediately, I'll shift my position or even turn around, rubbing my tummy again.

2. I love smelling babies' armpits. Only babies' and maybe tots'. Related to this, I can smell a rubbish dump or a rubbish truck well before they are anywhere in sight. Friends know I smelt something nasty by the way tears start welling in my eyes as I retch and try to get the smell out of my mouth.

3. I am a tabloid junkie. London was heaven for me in at least one regard, tabloids were loads cheaper than in Singapore. As a teenager, I spent my allowance on magazines like Galaxie, Saturday Weekly, Movie News; we didn't get expensive magazines like Tiger Beat in Malacca. The magazines I read had English news about Hongkong stars and synopses on HKTVB dramas. These days, it's magazines with stories on the Jolie-Pitts. If I see Angelina Jolie on the cover of tabloids, my hands immediately reach out for the magazines. At one time, the draw was Nicole Kidman, but not anymore.

4. I have an overactive imagination. I tend to think ridiculous thoughts and have to stifle myself lest I blurt them out loud amongst less familiar people. I enjoy humour like this. At home, many times, I'm the one talking rubbish and laughing hysterically at my own rubbish while Brian just looks on and smiles. Times like that, he just seems so much more mature than I am. I think he takes after his dad, though thankfully he's less serious. Sean appears to have taken after me, and loves indulging in toilet humour. He can't outdo me though, I give him more than he can take (and give), so he'll beg to stop after a while.

5. I had my entire pre-NUS education in Malaysia, went to a convent school till O levels (the Malaysian equivalent) and then a Lasallian boys school for Form 6. Looking back, I had a fantastic schooling experience. When I was 11 or 12, me and my classmates would hang out near the school before band-practice. Our school is located next to A Famosa, a 500-year old historical site, in fact, now a World Heritage site. We'd make our way up St Paul's Hills, and then back down, visiting the Malacca museum, at the time located in a smallish building near Stadthuys. I don't remember feeling stressed about exams or having too much homework. We joined lots of after school activities, just for the fun of it. I was pretty active as a girlguide in secondary school, so lots of memories of campfires and camping. Form 6 was a blast, the subjects I took finally made sense, NO MORE SCIENCE, yipppeee. I was the only girl from my school to go to the Lasallian boys school, the rest who opted for Arts stream had to go to CHIJ; where I was for a month, HATED every minute of that awful school. So glad I got the transfer (through a family friend), cos some of my Form 6 mates have become life-long friends. Been 20 years since we left school and we're now scattered all over the world, me in Moscow, two are in Dubai, one in Ho Chi Minh City, one in Guangzhou, one in Shanghai, a couple in Kuala Lumpur and a couple in Singapore.

6. I have to mop the floor now. Okay okay, the last random stuff about myself, which most will know, is that I HATE HOUSEWORK. I can live with a pretty messy place. I always feel that if someone can't stand the mess, that someone should be the one doing something about it. Since I can live with the mess, I shouldn't be tasked with cleaning up. Isn't that more equitable? But duty beckons...so I'm off to mop the floor now...groannnn. Well, at least that's my intention. So often, the spirit is willing but...

Who to tag? Aiyoh, okaylah, Wendy, Adeline and Cindy.

Okay DONE!

Flight of the bumble-bee @ rocket speed



Gosh, he's crazy goooood. Mind you, at competitions, he has to learn to play not just 1 or 2 difficult pieces, but 5 at a time!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Well done Kant!



My friend May's 11-year old son Kant performing for the first time at Small Hall Tchaikovsky Conservatory, Moscow. Piece played: Scherzo No 2 Op 31. This was the winners' concert held over the weekend; he had won first prize at a competition earlier in the week. Fantastic talent!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Almost prime numbers

Sean has been entertaining himself all afternoon, writing little stories, drawing 3-dimensional shapes, imagined 4-D and other-D shapes; while Brian and I worked on some Singapore Math. Oh, he also watched Sound of Music alone. Eddie flew off to Athens for a meeting this morning, that's why I could get Brian to do some work on a weekend. Otherwise, we'd be vegetating in front of the tv watching dvds.





Right before bedtime, I found a piece of paper with the scribblings above. It's a mathematical term concocted by Sean called "Almost Prime Number".

Just to refresh, remember the definition of Prime Numbers? ie Numbers that have only 2 factors; 1 and itself.

Well, Almost Prime Numbers are numbers with only 3 factors, Sean says. He squares prime numbers, and discovers they only have 3 factors.

He goes on to explain:
"As you can see here, a prime number times itself equals an almost prime number. And there's also something special about it. Every almost prime number always has 3 factors. 1, itself, and its square root. The square root is the thing that makes the number not prime."

*****************************
When I tucked him into bed just now, he asked this, "Mummy, are square roots of prime numbers always irrational numbers?"

Brian says, "Of course."

I said, "I'm not sure."

Brian goes, "Look Mummy, prime numbers only have two factors, 1 and itself, so obviously it cannot have any square roots that are rational numbers or that number would be be its factor."

I then wondered if all square roots of integers have to be either integers or irrational numbers. Brian says that is so and when I googled, Wikipedia says, "Square roots of integers that are not perfect squares are always irrational numbers."

Interesting stuff.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Ice-skating on Red Square




Friday was Parent-teacher conference so the boys didn't have to go to school. After my morning meetings with their teachers, we headed for the city. The ice-skating rink on Red Square had just been erected, and this year's rink is bigger than last year's.

From last week's Moscow Times, "The crowning glory of Moscow's ice rinks is the rink on Red Square. Occupying a quarter of the square, the rink's temperature-controlled surface is surrounded by blue walls bedecked with 1960s and 1970s illustrations of Father Christmas and children on rocket ships welcoming the new year. Music plays over speakers, colored Christmas lights hang above gliding skaters below, a giant Christmas tree adorned with shiny ornaments and GUM signs and topped with a red Kremlin-style star stand in the way of Lenin's mausoleum."

The boys had a great time even though Sean spent most of his time falling on his butt and picking himself up. I watched from the sides as I can't skate to save my life. They both insist I have to join them in the rink on our next visit...and since I'm always saying to them: JUST TRY, DON'T SAY YOU CAN'T!, guess I'll have to practise what I preach...yikes! Sore bum alert!

Bored in McDonalds



Photos of Sean taken in McD one evening. Yes, I was that bored. So were Brian and Sean. We were in Old Arbat's McD waiting for Eddie to come by and pick us up after work. A meeting he had took longer than expected and we ended up waiting for 2 hours. During that time, the three of us finished 21 pieces of chicken mcnuggets, 2 vanilla icecream, 1 large fries, 1 regular fries, 1 large coke, and 1 regular coke. And this while waiting to go for dinner! Of course Sean didn't take a bite of dinner after that.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Weathering the winter blues

When I lived in Frankfurt, a friend of mine, Ade, would warn me about being hit by depression during winter. I didn't get depressed, winter came by and went and I didn't feel any different. The same in London, life pretty much remained the same, we still went out and had our makans, I still made my daily school runs. So I thought it was just her, that it was all psychological, and I was above all that.

But last winter in Moscow, I definitely felt pretty down. I didn't realise this till winter was over, but for some time, I just didn't feel like talking to anyone, or even replying emails, just felt very hermit-like. It doesn't help that winter in Moscow lasts as long as 7 months!

"Symptoms of the winter blues may include lethargy, lowered mood, problems sleeping, carbohydrate cravings and weight gain." I've definitely got all the symptoms now. While snow came later this year than last (around 3rd week of November), the days are already really short now. It doesn't get bright till past 9am and it starts to get dark by 3pm. By 4.30pm, it's almost like night.

I find myself climbing back to bed after seeing the boys off in the morning. And still feel pretty lethargic all day. There are of course ways to combat the winter blues, eg force yourself to go out, talk to friends, even UV light therapy. But when you're in the mood for hibernating, that's all you wanna do. You kind of start enjoying the blues, it's a really strange feeling.