Friday, 25 November 2011

A Working Mother's Worries

I am woken up by a troubled mind.

PSLE result was released yesterday. It disturbed me considerably when I read off my school students' scores on my 'work' facebook.

Those who unabashedly posted their aggregate score managed 139 to 194, with quite a number in the range of 170s. Such scores earn you Normal (Tech) or Normal (Acad) streams at secondary level.

Many rejoiced at merely passing PSLE, and not having to repeat their Primary Six year.

A heavy sense of worry came over me, and it troubles me over and over again.

Firstly, their attitude of 'just pass can already' was already salient even when I was teaching them at Primary Five. Many of them did not want to do their homework, and most of them were just waiting for you to give them answers. No matter how you pep-talked them, warned them, scolded them, they just wanted to get the work bit over and done with, so that they could play. When homework was given, half the class did not hand in.

They did not see reading as enjoyable. In fact, they hated reading. It was and continues to be worrying because the lack of love for reading would hamper them from progressing for as long as they are alive.

The new boss is doing away with an old system of putting all the sports-inclined children in one class as she feels that ultimately, the lessons are still academic in nature at the end of the day. And what she does is sound. Very sound in fact. I was surprised to even hear of such a system when I was first posted to the school. What is the point of being excellent in sports when you struggle to pass PSLE? A fine example was a boy who topped the cohort and the cluster (or was it nation?) in a sport but yet failed his PSLE twice. All doors were closed on him.

As stick-in-the-mud as it sounds, I still feel that academics are the most important foundation for a primary school student - because that is how the system works. And perhaps that is how it should be. Do we really want sports-excellent adults who cannot read or write in proper English, eventually?

Secondly, some students have posted malicious and vicious comments on their facebooks about the new boss, saying that she is 'ugly', 'stupid', 'nobody likes her' etc.

It tells me that such children generally do not know what is good for them. For all the good works that the new boss has done, they diss her for all her effort.

After sighing continuously over my school students, the reality dawned on me, that if these children's results are anything to go by, Coco would just be about 50 points better than their scores ie. 210 to 220 in one year's time if she continues to be so laxed.

It sends shudders down my spine.

Suddenly, I find myself thinking about if I really should stop work for 9 months and focus on preparing Coco for her ultimate examination.

Coco only has English enrichment to date because her marks for English are in the 80s range, and she loves to read. It is quite a lot of money to me but I feel that that is the only subject I can let go and not be so stressed over.

William claims to want to teach her Maths and Science, and I try to coach her in Chinese whenever I have the time.

But I feel that the pace needs to be set. I don't know how much good it can do her if I only take a break in Term 3 ie. June onward, and start gearing her up then. Would it have been too late? I am not talking about the academic preparation for PSLE, but the attitude towards PSLE. By then, would she have adopted a laid-back attitude, and if she had, then no matter how much I do for her, nothing would go into her skull. That is my greatest fear.

I need to make up my mind soon because I would need to inform my bosses about my decision, if there is any at all. On the other hand, I wish I don't have to stop working so that I don't experience any monetary loss. I know all the talk about 'all the money you earn can't make the time go back or make up for what your child has lost'. It's such a difficult decision for me I wish I have someone to discuss with. My family members would, for sure, ask me not to stop working. But they do not understand the gravity of the issue since they do not have children facing the PSLE monster. My friends would ask me to stop working and concentrate on my child's studies because they have husbands to support them and have no worries about their livelihood. I am so torn I wish there is an answer, soon.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

A Wedding Perfect

It was my youngest sister's wedding last Saturday.
The weather was beautiful, with an interim light shower in the late afternoon, befitting the English saying "The heavens have shed tears on behalf of the bride. She would be a happy bride for the rest of her life."
How perfect is that?


 The bride was viewing the gate-crashing via livestream from an iPhone
 Pictures with the beautiful bride
 Her intricate and stunning tea-serving kua-with-an-evening-gown twist

 A 'brother' taking picture for the bride and her 'sisters'
 With her six 'sisters'
 The friendly, cheery and tireless photographer
 The happy groom
 Table setting at the wedding dinner

Yum ... ... ... ...Seng!

A cute and meaningful animation of how the couple met and fell in love, and eventually got married was played before the second march-in. What was uncanny was that we thought the couple was very well-drawn.
Really a beautiful wedding.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A Samsung 3D Experience

I went down to Takashimaya on Monday for a shopping trip for an evening dress for (lots of 'fors' there!) my youngest sister's upcoming wedding dinner.

And as luck would have it, there was a TV show at Taka Square!

I went to have a quick look at the two TVs I am eyeing and asked for their updated prices.

They dropped again by just a couple of weeks' difference!

Sony NX720 would go for $4017 if you took up the credit card promotion and bought it based on 24-month-interest-free instalment while Samsung would be about $4200 if you took up the same promotion.

Very attractive indeed!

I did a quick comparison of the 3D function between the two TVs. In fact, the comparison was between Sony NX925 (the highest-end model of Sony) and Samsung D8000 as NX720's 55-incher was not on display.

I tried the Samsung 3D first, thinking that it couldn't be more different than my Lava Girl experience* at LG's 2D-to-3D transformation, and I was (almost) entirely impressed!

* I had read a ton on the internet about how impressive LG's passive 3D was and that passive 3D was the way to go, and how LG has this incredible, state-of-the-art technology to transform 2D definition images into 3D, so you could watch Standard Definition Channels like Channel News Asia in 3D.

I had a go at the 2D-to-3D at a Gain City outlet and was sorely disappointed.

Eons ago, I had watched a 3D movie about a Lava Girl and Shark Boy in honour of Coco. We wore those cheap-looking, disposable 3D glasses at the movie. And the experience made me swear off 3D pictures. Colours were dull, 3D was not evident - the images were merely blops of bobbing and slow-popping selected parts of pictures. At some point, I was fed up with the so-called 3D effects and took the paper glasses down.

LG's 2D-to-3D transformation had the same effects. Perhaps I should have tried the passive 3D function but the transformation was so distasteful that I did not even bother to try the actual 3D.

So back to Samsung experience:

The images were exactly like what was advertised! The pictures were some aviation images and the jet was moving slowly towards us. It felt very real! A set of humongous wheels was moving in a circular motion and swinging slowly towards us - oh my gosh - it looked as though it was swinging out at me as the image loomed bigger and bigger! I got a little worried but the wheels were cut off by the bezel at the bottom as they were swinging towards me. I felt like a child again - believing that something in the gogglebox was emerging as live. Wow! An out-of-the-world experience for me there!

Perhaps the video played had a part in it too, but coming from someone who thinks little of the Science Centre's Omni Theatre effects, the deliverable was indeed impressive!

My sister got my little one to try viewing from the 3D goggles and after watching for a few seconds, she pushed the goggles away and covered her eyes like she was frightened by the huge aircraft coming towards her. So cute!

I quickly went to Sony NX925, in heightened anticipation, and tried out the 3D function as the salesguy said that NX720 enjoys exactly the same 3D technology as its higher-end counterpart.

Unfortunately, the test was a letdown.

The Sony was featuring underwater images with changing flow of water and medium-sized sea creatures swimming around.

But the effect did not stand out. In fact, compared to Samsung, the experience was forgettable - or rather, better to be forgotten. The goggles itself had different degrees on each side! It made the viewing for a few seconds dizzying.

I got Coco to try out 3D on Sony (first) and she was intrigued. Quoted from her,"They look like they are coming towards me!"

When I took her to Samsung and got her to try the same function, she said,"They look like they are coming towards me!" (again!)

When asked which one was better, without telling her our preference, she said without hesitation,"This one (Samsung) is better."

She could feel that Samsung images were sharper. I thought it amazing to have that coming from a non-techie child!

So I am quite set on Samsung.

But I am still waiting for the price to drop. SITEX is coming.

While gushing about how impressive Samsung's 3D was, my elder sister said,"I read that in the near future, we will be able to watch 3D without glasses."

Intrigued, I asked,"How soon?"

She quipped,"How should I know?"

Sunday, 6 November 2011

My Dream TV

Ever since I bought a new creamy-beige sofa, and ditched the old, used, dark sofa, I have been contemplating buying a new TV.

As shocking as it sounds, I am still using an old, Toshiba CRT. I call it a 'dinosaur TV'. We got it when we first got married and were too broke to afford an LCD or Plasma when they were all the rage then. Even then, it cost us more than $800 which by now would be the cost of a 42-inch Smart TV. A quick reminiscence of the past recalls how pricey LCD and Plasma TVs cost: $2000 to $5000 and up.

A quick googling on the Net or a flip through the papers would show that the prices of TVs have plummeted. Now they go by hundreds for the 42-inch, $2000 plus for the 46-inch, and $3000 to $5000 for the 55-inch.

My viewing distance, meaning the distance between where I sit on my sofa and the TV, is about 10 feet or 3m. As it is, I do find the CRT I have rather small. 

I am eyeing two 55-inch TVs:
 Sony 55' NX720

Samsung 55' D8000

Prices between the two are comparable. Samsung was above $5000 a few months ago while Sony stagnates at $4799 to $4999 for the same time period.

It's a lot of money to spend on a TV for me.

I lust after the Smart functions. I could imagine myself showing my mother the pictures I have posted on Facebook via the TV.

I can do without the 3D though. No matter how 3D the images are, I don't see the need for it. Firstly, 3D gives me headaches after watching it for prolonged hours. Secondly, it would only be a novelty soon passed.

But unfortunately, most Smart TVs come with 3D.

I am primarily more concerned about the image quality. I read that Sony has better, smoother pictures - a no-brainer, but D8000 is the top-of-the-range model in Samsung, and it enjoys 800Hz compared to 200Hz of Sony.

Isn't it strange that a 200Hz TV outshines its higher-Hz counterpart where it matters most? A Harvey Norman salesman told me that when we watch SD (Standard Definition) Channels eg. Channel 5, 8 and U, the TV would only go up to a certain Hz and not beyond as it is limited by the Channels themselves. He did mention that we could buy something else to go with the TV to enjoy the full number of Hz the TV has to offer. I assume that would break another few hundreds in my pocket so I didn't enquire further.

I like Sony also because of the cool feature of presence sensor ie. the screen would black out with its sound intact, thus saving energy, when you leave the TV alone for a few consecutive minutes and resume itself immediately the moment you return. I thought that very, very cool.

I also like the matte screen versus Samsung's glossy screen.

A Gain City salesman has told me that Sony uses glossy screen for its higher-end models like NX925 and up, so glossy screen is apparently something better - for brighter and clearer images.

Although I enjoy vibrant colours on 2D, I prefer muted or natural colours on moving pictures so that it is not too stressful or tiring for the eyes.

So in sum, Sony versus Samsung:

Sony's plus points:

1. Better, smoother picture quality
What I read on the Net, but not verifiable as these two TVs are never placed side-by-side and I NEVER get to see how real TV SD Channels are like on them. But I do trust the review that Sony has smoother images.

2. Matte screen
I like glossy laminates for a cabinets, but not glossy TV screen. I worry that there would be reflection in the TV that interferes with my TV-watching. I can imagine how irritated I would be. It's like hearing echoes of your own voice when speaking with others on a phone - like what I experience on iPhone.

3. Natural colours

4. Face detection and motion sensor for user's presence

5. Comes with a buching stand which acts as a sound bar and tilts the TV at 6 degrees for comfortable viewing.


1. Its incredibly thin bezel (frame).
Although I don't fancy the acrylic-like material, the thinness of it does look very appealing and attractive

2. The supposedly better and more Smart functions than NX720.
How better and more, I really don't know. But that was what the salesmen said.

3. A more popular consumer choice even when it was more expensive.

4. It IS a higher-end model than NX720. It is often compared to NX925, a higher-end model for Sony.

However, I have read that Samsung TVs spoil fairly easily. Conked out on its own actually. If it spoils within the first 3 years of warranty, you are fine and you get a replacement or refund. But many users have complained that their Samsungs died right after the 3-year warranty. It's as if there is a timer set within the TVs to spoil at a particular time. Paying for another 2 years of warranty would mean another few hundred bucks.

It's a tough fight between the two.

But overall, I am waiting for the price to drop. Spending over $4k on a TV sounds and seems sinful to me. In fact, I hope to get it at maximum $3k. If not, I keep thinking of how this $4k can be better spent on renovating my study, my toilet, getting an in-built shoe cabinet ... yeah, I know. I am dreaming. In any case, my CRT is probably going to last me another decade, so I will continue to dream till the day the prices of these TVs drop.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Lone City

I was on childcare leave last Friday as my mother left for Malacca on a devotional trip.

I decided to spend the day (before Coco came home from school) at Orchard. As usual, the indecisive me tried planning for an ambitious trip: perhaps I should go to the Botanical Gardens for an outdoor photography trip for Baby? Or maybe I should go to Tampines for its two malls? Yes! That's it! Tampines One and Century Square! I haven't been there for a long while!

Then when I examined the MRT route, I gave up the idea. Too many switching of routes and the journey's too long.

I reeled myself in and decided to be unambitious for once: let's just go to Orchard Road.

Had the company of my elder sister though.

This was what we saw at Somerset MRT Station at 11.15am:
Desolate, people-less!

Wow! It felt so great to be 'alone' at Orchard!

Beautiful Blue for Beautiful Days

One recent sunny afternoon when I left school to come home at 3pm (Can you beat that? We used to go home at earliest 5.30pm!), I saw that the sky was a beautiful blue.
Unedited, straight from an iPhone

Life is so much better when we are not kept back at work for meaningless tasks.

In fact, as I walked past the playground below my flat, I suddenly thought about my students and their struggle with English, and thought,"How can I get them interested in English?"

How long have I not have the luxury of time to think about my teaching?

With the new Bosses, we are not required to fill up ring files of detailed lesson plans which no one follows anyway, powerpoint slides and worksheets with hard copies and soft copies of those crap into computer folders.

The most ridiculous thing about the lesson plans is: we even have to do the same thing for remedial and supplementary lessons!

We are not required to stay back for another hour just to brainstorm on what to fill up on the minutes for the lesson plan meetings, and filing them accordingly - into ring files and computer folders, every week - and go home with more work to do up the lesson plans and the ra-ras.


The absence of all these meaningless, mundane yet occupying tasks take the bulk of the pressure and work away! It's amazing how much lesser we have to do when we don't have to do all those crap! How great and relieving is that!

I really really like the new Bosses. I really do.

Boon Tong Kee Chicken Rice 文东记(Ang Mo Kio Branch)

Last week, we - or rather, I - wanted to eat Mellben crabs.

When we reached Mellben, we were horrified to see a long queue that would probably remain status quo for a long time. We were hungry and decided to walk over to the opposite block to Boon Tong Kee.

We didn't know what Boon Tong Kee was about. The signboard was huge and neon-lighted. Very eye-catching and was shouting at us to enter.

I did a quick googling on my iPhone to find out that it was famous for its chicken rice.

It was a restaurant under the void deck - similar to Mellben.

 We ordered Steamed Grouper Fillet with black fungus ($20)
Tasted fresh and tender.
Even the black fungus was tender and not chewy or hard like what I have tasted in some desserts
 The chicken rice was good, tasted like how good chicken rice should - slightly fragrant and not oily at all!
 The chicken did not let us down. Tender, juicy, not oily, tasty - yum!

I am a chicken rice-lover - I could have the same chicken rice on a daily basis if it tastes good to me. And I certainly would return for Boon Tong Kee if Mellben's queue is ridiculous again!