Monday, June 11, 2012

Day 1 of Summer Hols 2012

Brian left early morning for Day 1 of Habitat 4 Humanity, this time in Ayutthaya.  Sean and I had breakfast with Eddie before he went to work and then we pretty much lazed about till it was time to head out to the airport to pick Porpor up.

Sean is re-reading the Alex Rider series.  I tried getting him to read a DK book on History but he claimed it was boring.  When we got back from the airport and grocery-shopping, he played around with some strings and popsicle sticks, read some more, and then I saw an article about clouds and imagination so I called out to him to play a cloud-watching game with me.

I got to the balcony first and started looking up at the clouds. Before he even got near to the balcony, he jumped back and gasped, "I see a bird with a really long beak but its body is only a cone and the back of its head has a hole in it and there's smoke coming out of the hole."

I look up and see nothing.

He continues, "I see a fish with one eye and it's frowning."


"There's another fish with a big nose and it's looking at its nose."


"I can see a woman's head and the hair is really long and the head doesn't have any body."


"I can see a giant silkworm floating in the sky and it's curling up."

The entire time, I see nothing.  Sigh...

Brian got home earlier than expected, had dinner and went to bed early, tired from a day of drilling and hammering (which he said he wasn't very good at).  I managed to have a little chat with him before he snoozed off.  Then Sean practised some violin, and read some more.

And that's how Day 1 went.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Last day of school

Yesterday was the last day of school :( and Sean brought home a card from his teacher with this sweet note written behind it.


This morning Sean insulted me.

We were in bed playing an iPad game with he turned to me and said, "Maybe you should read more..."

I turned to him with a raised eyebrow, "Why?"

Sean: Cos whenever I tell you something, you always say 'Oh I didn't know that...".

Me: I know things that you don't!

Sean: Such as?

Me: Mmmmm, such as, how to bake a cake! You don't know how to bake a cake, do you?

Sean: I mean academic things!

Me: Wehhhhhh (pretending to bawl), you're saying a 10 year old knows more things than I do!!!

Sean: I'm 9.

Me: Wehhhhhh......

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Who are the Most Successful People?

Sean brought home an "Op-Ed" piece he did in school. The topic was his choice, his points are simplistic and I believe were pieced together from Brian's retelling in a nutshell of what he learnt about Mary & Elizabeth in Grade 9 World Civ. But the conclusion is apt for leaders to think about eh? Open-mindedness and tolerance; if everyone could practise these, the world would be a much better place. I told Brian he should now tell Sean about the Enlightenment thinkers he recently learnt about like Hobbes, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Locke, etc whose thoughts on government systems were so different from those already in place at the time and were such a revolution in political thinking. I believe learning about historical figures like these teach our kids to question status quos and not just accept everything we're told as fact, and that's always a good thing. Right? haha.

Who are the Most Successful People?: Sean (Grade 4)

Who are the most successful people? Smart people? Imaginative people? Courageous people? Personally, I think that the most successful people are people who can tolerate others' beliefs. Another way of saying it is that you need to be open-minded to be successful. There are many examples of this, like ones from the past.

In medieval England, there were two sisters (who were princesses) and two religions. The sisters were called Mary and Elizabeth. The religions were Catholics and Protestants, and the religions were against each other. Mary was the older one. Her father, King Henry VII died, so Mary took over the throne. Mary was a Catholic. Not just a Catholic though, she was a Catholic who couldn't tolerate Protestants. Since she couldn't tolerate them, she tried to burn all the Protestants. However, she failed. Politically, she was unsuccessful. After a few years of ruling, she died.

After that, England needed a new ruler. So they chose Queen Elizabeth, Mary's sister. Elizabeth was different from Mary. Firstly, she was a Protestant. Secondly, she could tolerate the Catholics, and she didn't burn them. Queen Elizabeth stayed on the throne for 45 successful years.

Now, if you had a ruler who wasn't open-minded and couldn't tolerate you, they would treat you unfairly, because they can't tolerate you. No one wants to be treated unfairly, right? So you get your rights back by rebelling. That makes that ruler politically unsuccessful. However, if you had a ruler who was open-minded and could tolerate you, they wouldn't treat you unfairly, which means you would have your rights. If you have your rights, there is no need to rebel. Therefore, you don't rebel. That obviously makes that ruler politically successful.

So what do you think? How did Mary behave? Was she successful? How did Elizabeth behave? Was she successful? Think about these questions. I am not saying that open-mindedness is all you need to be successful, though it's an important start. Maybe you should think about that. Finally, remember what Dr Seuss said, "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."

Monday, June 04, 2012

Rare gathering in Bangkok

Photo: Authentic tapas party, great afternoon with wonderful food n company.
While I really love living in Bangkok, I have to say we actually gather less with other families here than in other postings.  In Frankfurt, the Singaporean/Malaysian community was small, there were more SQ colleagues and there wasn't much else to do except gather together and share meals.  We would meet up lots for meals or have cookouts at one another's houses.  Lots of fun and memories.  In London, there were also many families to hang out with, be it for mahjong or for meals.  Eddie also had a wonderful boss whose home was always a welcoming gathering place for mahjong, food and karaoke.  In Moscow, we didn't have many friends with kids, but they were all still good fun and gregarious folks to hang out with.  Restaurant fare wasn't enticing so we'd take turns hosting one another with all kinds of Malaysian/Singapore food which we missed a lot.

In Bangkok, I'm not sure why, but we don't socialise much as a family with other families.  I think it gets too easy to just hang out with certain groups of people and then not see them for months cos there isn't that need to forge close-knitted friendships.  Kind of sad really.  There is however 3 other couples whom we do hang out with occassionally (well, more than with any other families), but they're some years younger than us, with kids Sean's age and younger.  Brian is very left out when we have these gatherings.  It's always fun though when we do meet up.  Yesterday was one such gathering hosted by one couple Daphne and Ekk at their beautiful place in Sathorn.

These two lovebirds had gone on a 16-day Spanish tour (sans kids) and returned with lots of Spanish goodies.  They decided to hold a tapas party yesterday, complete with Sangria.  There was so much food considering the kids (except Brian) weren't partaking in the tapas and the food was delicious.

I love Spanish food and we had actually gone on a holiday to Barcelona earlier this year.  I might share our pictures here one of these days as our experience might prove useful to those planning a trip to that beautiful city.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to more tapas this week as the ladies plan to meet up again to finish up the rest of Daphne's and Ekk's Spanish loot.

Oh, Sean had a whale of a time and got all sweaty playing nerf guns with the other kids and 2 of the dads.  Brian brought his French book to study (exams are here) but he ended up sleeping, tipsy from having one glass of Sangria.  I later saw that mild drinking can be good for stimulating intellectual capacity so I'm expecting him to slay the papers he's doing today and tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Regarding fear of failure, I asked the kids, are you guys scared of failing and trying new things?

First, Brian: Nope.

Me: Really? You mean you would try out for High School drama next year?

Brian: Not really, cos that takes up too much time. Do you know during drama season, they practise every day till 7pm? The last bus leaves at 5.

Me: Oh, so if we lived in Nichada (housing compound where school is located), you'd join drama?

Brian: No...cos it's still too much time, and I have homework to do.

Me: But if we lived in Nichada, you get home by around 7pm and you can sleep at midnight, so there's plenty of time what.

Brian: Not really.

Me: So you're afraid to try?

Brian: Mummy....there's a difference between being afraid of failure and simply not wanting to do something.


Me: So Sean, are you scared of failing?

Sean: I'm not SCARED of failing, but I don't LIKE to fail.


Anyway, when it comes to good grades breeding fear of failure, what I've noticed about my two monkeys is that they don't get nervous at exams. Both are super duper cool, be it PSLE, or GEP tests or their school MAP tests and exams (no exams for Sean, just MAP). I've always told them not to let test results define them, that it doesn't matter what the outcome is, a test is just that, it depends on how you happen to fare that day, it depends on the type of questions asked, and if there's a bell curve involved, how other people do too. So just go in, enjoy the experience, and that's it. Often, the moment the exams/tests are over, they don't give another thought to it.

They don't fret about how they did, they don't worry about the results. Of course I do think about the results and I do want them to do well, but I mean it when I say it really is the effort and not the outcome that matters. If they do well, then great, if they don't, that doesn't diminish them in my eyes one bit. I know they are bright, intelligent kids, and no standardised testing is gonna convince me otherwise. I believe most kids do want to do well, do put in the best effort that they can, so why fault them if the results aren't what we are hoping for.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sarcasm Dr Cooper's style

Sean's daily blogpost yesterday was about human extinction. The post is reproduced below.

I laughed at how he started point 3 - Finally, we come to the small matter of global warming - and said, "Small matter?"

He replied, "That was sarcasm." 

He learnt sarcasm from all those episodes of The Big Bang Theory (specifically from Dr Sheldon Cooper) that we watched last month.


Sean's post:

88 Years Later…

…Will we still be here? By the way, 88 years later means the year 2100. Some scientists think that the human race will have been wiped off the earth by then. Why?

First there’s the problem of overpopulation. Scientists have measured the exponential increase in population, and they have predicted that there will be 9 billion people by the time it is 2500, maybe even more. By that time, there will be less resources and not enough for all the 9 billion people. Most of them will die. The remaining people will fight over the rest of the resources, thus bombing the resources and killing each other. That should kill the rest of them.

Also, there’s this supervolcano in Toba, Yellowstone. It’s supposed to erupt every few million years, but it’s late this time. If it erupts, most people will be killed by the poisonous chemicals and heat and lava and debris. The rest of them will eventually starve. Why? They will starve because the smoke cloud will block the sunlight, and plants have no nourishment, and they will die. Next herbivores will die, and so on and so on. This will eventually reach the the Homo Sapiens species(humans) and they will have no food and they will starve.

Finally, we come to the small matter of global warming. Over the past century, the temperature has increased by more than 0.74 degrees. This may not seem much but remember that there will be an exponential increase in the temperature as the population increases. If the temperature gets 6 degrees hotter… Well, the exact same thing happened a long time ago. 9 tenths of sea life and 2 thirds of land life were wiped out.

Of course, scientists could be wrong. So be positive! (That is, unless you find out that wars about resources are starting, or that the supervolcano just erupted, or that the global temperature has increased by 6 degrees.)

I hope you learned something!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What do your kids wanna do when they grow up?

Brian's 14 and a half now and is at the tail-end of his Freshman year in High School.  He doesn't quite know exactly what he wants to do and I suppose he doesn't need to yet at this stage.  His ambition when he was much younger changed frequently from being a chess grandmaster to a teacher to I can't remember what else, it depended on who he was influenced by at the time.  In kindergarten, he said he wanted to be a doctor and he'd charge all the patients $1 per visit (alamak! bankrupt lah).

In recent years, he has said he wants to be a doctor, then this changed to lawyer and now it might be engineer.  I think he's in a pretty good position to do anything he sets his mind and heart to.  Academically, he's doing well in all his subjects, be they humanities or sciences (he has to work harder on some subjects than others of course).  So it depends on his interest at the time or the opportunities that come.  But whatever it is, I really just do want my kids to find something they love doing every day and not live to anyone's or society's expectations of them.

Sean, on the other hand, couldn't be more specific about what he wants to do.  Last night, I asked him what he wants to do when he grows up.  His immediate answer, "I want to be a scientist at the large hadron collider."

I said, "Oh, is that in outer space?"

He replied, "No, it's in Switzerland."

"Oh, really."

He explained, "It's where they smash particles together and try to make new particles."

Go read more about the large hadron collider here.


Oh, the other day Brian said, "Sean should be a doctor.  He doesn't need a social life.  He can work all day and night and there'll be no one waiting for him at home."  LOL.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Who is Jane Eyre?

Sean comes out from the shower and tells me he learnt a new word in school today - Prejudice - what it meant and what some of the reasons for people being prejudiced were.  After a short chat about this, he said, "I also know there's a book called Pride and Prejudice written by Jane Eyre."

"Jane Eyre??!!", I laughed, "Nolah, it's Jane Austen! hahaha, Jane Eyre!!".

A minute or so later, he asked, "So who's Jane Eyre?"

I said, "Jane Eyre is this woman who was born blind and deaf."

Sean said, "Wasn't that Helen Keller?"

"Oh ya hor," I sheepishly replied, "Jane Eyre is a book then."

:P  all the ignoramuses in this house!

How should spelling be taught?

I was talking to a friend who was complaining about having to drill her 11-year old boy on spelling.  The boy goes to a different international school here and in that school, he's actually taught many rules of spelling.  As many as 16 rules, which I find kind of absurd.  Something like if a word ends with a vowel, say, Hope, then you don't add a p before -ing, so it's Hoping, but if it ends with a consonant, say Hop, then you add a p, it becomes Hopping.  I may be wrong with my examples, but this is the gist of it.  Even for words ending with -sion or -tion, apparently there's a rule for that, if it's someone's job/profession, then it ends with -sion.  Really??

On the other hand, at Sean's elementary school, I don't think spelling is even taught.  They don't even correct misspelt words, as far as I know.  Sean is generally fine with spelling and this is from reading lots.  I've never had to give him lists of spelling to learn from, and no, no drilling ever.  I believe kids who read a lot will find spelling relatively easy, recalling from memory words they've seen in print and noticing patterns in different words.

And then there's this, where teachers 'correct' spellings which aren't even wrong in the first place!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Sean and Philosophy

For the past few week, Sean has been engrossed in this book on Philosophy whenever he is at home.  I bought this book from Kinokuniya here some time ago but no one bit.  The way things work here is if I buy a book and tell my kids to read, they will immediately be turned off from that book.  Never fails.  According to Sean, somehow whatever it is I offer him and say is interesting will be boring to him.  So what I do is I'll buy books which I think they will like and leave it around.  Months later, one of them usually bites, and these days 99% that would be Sean, since Brian is always on Facebook or too busy with schoolwork and activities :(

Anyway, Sean was really into this book and would do his school daily blog post about information he gleaned from the book.  Now that he's moved on to his current favourite book, I'll collate his thoughts on Philosophy here (his school blog will be defunct when he leaves).
22 Apr 2012 

A Philosophical Thought

Hello!  Recently I’ve been reading a book called The Philosophy Book.  It doesn’t say the name of the author.  It talks about philosophers in history, their lives, and their thoughts.  One of the philosophers it talks about is Confucius.  Confucius lived in China at around 500 BCE.  BCE stands for Before Common Era.  So Confucius lived around 500 years before AD 0.  Now Confucius had many ideas.  One of them was that faithfulness and sincerity hold the power of transformation.  His thinking was like this: When you are performing a ritual or ceremony, obviously you will show faithfulness and sincerity.  Those settings express faithfulness and sincerity extremely well, which allows virtue to be seen.  I think virtue means goodness.  These rituals and ceremonies are public, so everyone will see them, so they will see virtue.  Some of those people will be transformed by that and become good.  Therefore, faithfulness and sincerity hold the power of transformation.  Another of Confucius’ ideas was about relationships.  For a ruler and a subject, rulers should be benvolent and subjects should be loyal.  If you are benevolent that means you are kind.  For a parent and a child, a child should be obedient and a parent should be loving.  For a husband and a wife, the husband should be good and fair, and the wives should be understanding.  For an elder sibling and a younger sibling, the elder sibling should be gentle, and the younger sibling should be respectful.  For 2 friends, the older friend should be considerate, and the younger friend should be reverential.  I think reverential means respectful because It has the word revere in it and I know what that means.
So that’s some of Confucius’ ideas.  I hope you learned something!

23 Apr 2012 

Thales and Monism

Hello!  This is another blog post about philosophy because I’m still reading The Philosophy Book.  The first person to think rationally about why things happen was Thales.  Of course he was absolutely wrong but thinking about why things happen without saying, “Oh, it’s the gods who did this” made him the first proper philosopher.

His main thought was Monism, which means that you believe that the universe is made of one substance.  Thales thought that the universe was made of water in different forms.  He believed that…

The substance of the universe has to be able to transform easily and it must be essential to life.  Water fits both of these properties, even though Thales was absolutely wrong.  So that’s what the first proper philosopher thought.

I hope you learned something!

25 Apr 2012
The Soul Is Distinct From The Body
Hello!  I know that the title sounds like it has been said by a wise person who lived a long time ago.  In fact, it was!  The wise person was a philosopher called Avicenna who lived in Arabia.  He drew this conclusion like this:

If I had just started existing, and I was suspended in the air, blindfolded and touching nothing but air, I would not be able to sense anything, and I would not know that I exist in the physical sense.  However, I am existing, and the moment I think I am existing I know that my soul, or mind, exists because I know that I am thinking.  Therefore, if I am in this position, I know that my soul exists but I do not know that my body exists.  Therefore, the soul must be distinct from the body.

26 Apr 2012
Hello!  This blog post will be about Plato.  Do any of you know who he is?  Probably not.  Well, Plato was both a philosopher and a mathematician.  Plato thought that this world was the world of the senses, and everything here was an imperfect copy of something else that existed in a higher dimension, which he called the world of ideas.  For example, he thought that the world of ideas contained a perfect horse, and the world of the senses contained many different imperfect copies of that horse.  Of course, this idea came from nowhere with absolutely no logic to back it.  However, Plato was smart as a mathematician and he discovered the Platonic Solids.

So do you think he was crazy or smart or both?  Click on the link before you decide.

27 Apr 2012
What is a human being?
Hello!  What’s a human being?  There are many different definitions, actually.  A story goes that one day, in the ancient city of Athens long long ago, all of Plato’s followers came to meet.  They were all working on this problem: What is a human being?  They all agreed that a human was a featherless creature with two legs.

Suddenly one philosopher who did not agree brought a live chicken with no feathers to the meeting and said, “This is a human being!”  This story shows us that ancient people actually could not define a human being properly.  In 1927, however, there was a philosopher called Martin Heidegger and he defined a human being quite differently from other people.  Instead of looking at physical attributes, he looked at the characteristics that all human beings share, and he says that that is ontology.  Ontology is the study of existence-related things.  Martin Heidegger says that ontology is what distinguishes us from animals, like cats.  Do cats think about questions like, “What does it mean if you are existing?”  No.

What else do you think distinguishes us from animals?

30 Apr 2012
A Post about Philosophizing about Progress
Hello!  This blog post is about the thoughts of George Santayana.  He thought that those who don’t remember the past have to repeat it.  Now this may seem a little strange at first, but actually it isn’t.  Let’s say that there’s a nuclear war because of disagreements.  The nuclear war ends.  After a few years the same disagreements come again.  The people involved in this problem forget the horrible things that happened and so…

…the nuclear war is repeated.  That’s what George means when he says that those who don’t remember the past repeat it.

Do you think is right or wrong?

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Minimalist Posters of Children's Classics

I love the minimalist posters of Children's Classics from this site.  Sean was with me when we were scrolling through the site and we decided to guess what each pictures was (without looking at the title).  We started guessing after Rapunzel.

I guessed this right.  Sean asked where's the princess? :P

Sean guessed The Ugly Duckling before I did.  The first thing that came to my mind was the song/rhyme that goes 5 little ducks went out one day, over the hills and far away :D

The is pretty obvious.  Not my favourite. 

I got this one before Sean did. It's genius!

I guessed wrongly that this was Jack and the Beanstalk :P

We both couldn't get this one and I wondered aloud why this was Wizard of Oz.  Sean went ohhh, the heart is what the tin man wants, the bulb is the brain that the scarecrow wants, and I said ahhh, the third is the lion's nose :D  Cute.  

Sean guessed Rumplestiltskin! and he was right.  I asked why is this Rumplestiltskin and he said it's the golden thread which the girl had to spin. 

Another obvious one.

We couldn't get this and even after seeing the answer, I went huh?  I don't get it.  Sean said ohhh, that's the bad person and these are the bread crumbs.  Hmmm, looked more like Pacman to me.

Sean's never heard of Rip Van Winkle, I just said the Z is for sleeping, it's someone who slept a very long time.

I guessed this correctly.

We both didn't get this.

Another obvious one.

I didn't get why there was a crescent moon for Alice in Wonderland.  Then Sean said it's the Cheshire Cat's grin :D

These posters are great, my favourites are Alice in Wonderland, Rapunzel, Three Little Pigs and Wizard of Oz.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Pyrex and Thunder

While I've been missing from Blogger, I've been fairly active on Facebook.  When Facebook moved into Timeline, I was hoping it would make searches of past posts easier, instead, I'm finding scrolling through past post more cumbersome than ever. It's pretty useless as a journal of what we've been up to. I plan to dig up my old statuses and post them here; the boys sometimes go through this blog and chuckle about the stuff they said and did in the past

Posted on Facebook 20 March 2012

About 2 months ago, I was heating up a Pyrex measuring jug over my stove, intending to use it to melt some butter, but I think I heated it up too much so when I dumped in the cold butter, the jug immediately split into a few pieces with a very loud pop. If you've seen a Pyrex jug, you'll know the glass is very thick. The pop was so loud (I wouldn't even describe it as a pop, more like PRAWWWWWPPPPP!!!!), the boys ran to the kitchen to see what happened. I was shocked too, worried that my stove's glass top had cracked too cos the sound was that loud.

Here's the science connection.

Just now, Sean looked up from his book and asked, "Mummy, do you know how thunder is made?"
"Do you remember when you heated up the bowl very quickly, and then you put the cold butter in which cooled the bowl very quickly, and it broke?"
"That's what's happening when thunder is being made. The lightning heats up the air very quickly and the air gets cooled down very quickly. This creates shockwaves which are vibrations which are heard by our ears as thunder."

Kitchen accidents can also be unwittingly turned into science lessons :P Who says I'm not a good teacher?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Bangkok life the past year

It's hard to believe that just about half a year ago, we were living in anxiety, worried about the 2011 floods in Bangkok.  I call that the Big Flood That Never Was*, cos I never saw any waters anywhere near where I was.  Of course I count my blessings but what an experience that was.  We were storing water, filtering water, hoarding food, imagining waters approaching from the next soi, worried about our kids' 45 min bus journey to school.  School was closed for a while too and much to Brian and his friends' annoyance, they had to do e-learning from home.  Unlike many others, we decided to stay put in Bangkok, as it turned out, that was a really good decision.

Again, blessings...the boys' school wasn't affected either.  Just east of where the school was located, another international school, Harrows, was flooded badly.  So much so that lessons eventually had to be conducted at a school (NIST) in the city, with lessons starting after 3pm (after lessons for NIST kids were done).  I'm not sure how long that arrangement lasted, but it wasn't a short time.

Other than that, the year went by pretty uneventfully.  School continues to be wonderful for both the kids, well, all of us love Bangkok a lot.  Even when it's crazy hot like it's been this week, 40deg!  But here's a video of a flood relief trip we made during those trying times.  Here's wishing only good things for this beautiful country.

*Okay, the Big Flood that Never Was is probably insensitive to the tens of thousands who suffered terribly during the floods.  What I mean was the flood never came to most of inner city Bangkok yet the media portrayed it as if all of Bangkok was submerged.  My mum was calling me often asking me to leave Bangkok and warning me to keep the boys home from school.  In fact, at the time, there was more chance of seeing a flood in inner Singapore than it was in Bangkok.  

Checking out the new Blogger

Oooh Blogger has a new interface.  When did this happen?  I'm testing it out now, was really fed up with the old Blogger.

So how's everyone been?  I see from my stats that there are still visits to this blog, who's actually visiting?  Been almost a year since my last post.  I've posted some old comments, sorry for not doing it any earlier, I just couldn't be bothered for a time to even go on Blogger, it's just how it is, go google "How Facebook killed the Blogger" to understand this phenomenon.  There was someone who asked me about my Seoul ski trip, which provider I used, sorry, I don't have that information anymore.

Okay, so far this is going real smoothly.  I'm liking the new Blogger, haven't uploaded any photos yet so we'll see.

Let's get this started, I've got tonnes to update.  Maybe...:D


Okay, the verdict's in, I just posted a video (next post) and the process was FAST!  This is the blogging experience I've been waiting for.  It's a good thing I was too lazy to move to Wordpress, thanks Tsulin for discouraging me.