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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Hyland, Solar Panels

We picked Hyland Solar to do our solar panels. Click HERE for their website. They have not completed their work yet. I hope all goes well. I will update here on the quality of their installation.

These solar panels allow us to sell electricity back to SingPower if we do not use. We can also consume our own solar energy. This would be great for the electricity bills.

Matronic Roofing & Builders Pte Ltd

Okay... I did not get paid to do this post. This blog does not generate revenue. I am not a professional blogger. I am a professional something else who blogs. All products and services reviewed on this blog are done because I want to... and like.

The company is run by 3 brothers. I got to know of Matronic Roofing & Builders Pte Ltd through my friend, Simon. Matronic had re-built his relative's house and done extensive Addition and Alterations for Simon's terrace house. It was a good sign that close relatives were all using the same contractor. Simon warned me that if I was big on design and on adventurous architectural detail, then these brothers would not click with me, BUT if I was interested in strong construction, then they would be wonderful.

I was fine to take care of the design elements myself later. I just needed a builder who would properly build a lasting construction.

At first, I was still quite sceptical. I don't trust easily. Most contractors pitch for jobs using photos of completed works so as to WOW potential customers with lots of bling-bling in the form of marble finishes and imported tiles. Matronic came with a portfolio of photos of concrete being poured, waterproofing being done and roofs half-constructed... etc... 

I looked through those photos and I liked what I saw.

To tell how pretty a woman is, you need to see her without make up. To tell how well built a house is, you need to see the insides of the house being built. Once the shoddy brickwork is covered up with plaster, it is like Cameron Diaz's pimples covered up with a thick layer of foundation. 

Anyway, I had a very good experience with Matronic. They explained everything in detail before starting on any work. I was given drawings and an exhaustive talk-through before any work started. They were very patient when explaining things to me. They also gave me practical advice (that impacted strength of construction) on the design features I wanted. They did a fair bit of forward planning, asking for decisions from me 1 to 2 weeks earlier even on minor details so that they had time to organise the work schedule and have the different trades transit smoothly in and out.

After the horrendous experience of building this house from scratch, I am just so glad to have someone take on the planning, the co-ordination and the supervision. I don't want to deal with workers anymore.

My original builders had done a rather mediocre job installing my roof. It had begun to rust badly in parts. Matronic reconstructed part of the roof. They took care to study the specifications of the existing insulating layer and to replicate it exactly. My roof colour is quite unusual but they made the effort to find the exact colour.

Good workmanship right? Big Brother William started off as a roofer. When my roof was being done, Big Brother William was here everyday. I was at home but none of his workers bothered me. Big Brother William supervised the works very closely. 

This is in contrast to a 2nd contractor that we had engaged to do something else, whose supervisor was never around, and whose workers kept asking me technical questions I had no answers for.

New wood floors! Actually, they are vinyl strips that look so much like wood, you cannot tell them apart. Easy to wash. No need to wax nor polish. Scratch resistant. No trees were harmed in the process. Matronic's subcontractors were serious and efficient. Again, no one came to bother me with unnecessary questions.

Close-up of the vinyl "wood" tile. We used Vinflor. If you google, many companies provide this material now.

Big Brother William: 9436 6396
Little Brother Joe:  9792 4974
Click HERE for their website. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

15 May 2015, Positive Teaching Seminar

We are running the Positive Teaching Seminar again after a hiatus of 1.5 years. If you had previously emailed me regarding this seminar, please register HERE.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

About ACS Fund Raising

I must confess to have been initially very uncharitable to the Mother who ratted out to STOMP about her unhappiness with ACS' attempts to raise funds for needy families living in Moulmein-Kallang and families supported by the Prison Fellowship.

My own experiences of fund-raising with ACS have been positive. Note the plural: experienceS. ACS does not do fund-raising once in a while. It does fund-raising all the time. Fund-raising is an ongoing activity woven into school life. To have a son in ACS means fund-raising and charity is a way of life.

You learn to make money. You learn to give it away.

Experience #1
The first time Smelly Boy was asked to fund-raise during a school trip to Malacca, he was sooooooo excited. He was given seed money to use, to buy goods from Malacca for re-sale in Singapore. Smelly Boy's little consortium of boys went one better. They bought cup noodles and sold it to the other ACS boys after lights out in the hotel.

In this manner, Smelly Boy's consortium doubled their seed money.

Then, they took their already doubled seed money and bought goods in Malacca. At this point, Smelly Boy's consortium decided to buy goods that would appeal specifically to nostalgic adults. They came back with a store of rabbit sweets, haw flakes and other things that form part of MY childhood. Needless to say, they sold out in no time because Teachers and Parents bought up their stocks, not in piecemeal, but in bulk.

In this manner, Smelly Boy and his friends doubled their already doubled seed money. Yes, I am deliberately mis-using the word "consortium". It is a hyperbolic use.

All the money that Smelly Boy's consortium made, was turned over to the school for use to send NEXT YEAR's boys to Malacca.

I mulled about that for a while.

Why did not the school tell the boys to raise funds for THEIR OWN trip? Why were the funds to be given to next year's boys? If the trips are always funded by last year's boys, then who funded the very very very first trip to Malacca?

Surely the school had to commit funds for the very first trip in order to start this cycle of ...
(1) ... boys making money
(2) ... boys giving money away to someone else
Why not get that first batch of boys going to Malacca, to raise funds for themselves? Why did the school even have to fund that first trip to Malacca?

It then struck me that there was method behind the madness. The school was ensuring that my son was learning very important life lessons.
(1) How to make money.
(2) How to give it away.

Experience #2
Smelly Boy and I made 75 crèmes brûlées for sale. They sold out quickly. Smelly Boy decided to branch out into selling bacon strips using his own money. The boys pooled some funds. They crossed the road to the provision shop and bought some packets of bacon. Soon, the inveigling smells of bacon filled the air of the ACS canteen. The boys did a 2nd roaring business in bacon strips.

At the end of it all, they gave to the school all the crèmes brûlées profits and kept the bacon profits for themselves. When I learnt about it, I made Smelly Boy surrender the bacon profits too. You see, Smelly Boy had not considered that the bacon was
(1) sold within the context of a fund-raiser and
(2) that it did not matter who had come up with the seed money and
(3) that all the customers had bought bacon under the assumption that the profits would go to charity.

Again, I was grateful to the school for giving my son the opportunity to learn some business ethics. It may be stressful for Smelly Boy to go around with a donation card but I see that as good training for the day when my son may have to...
(1) go around asking for a job
(2) go around selling stuff
(3) go around engaging customers
(4) go around getting abused by customers

It made me laugh to imagine this boy so stressed by having to sell carnival tickets that his Momma cannot sleep. Like that, how will the boy learn later to generate wealth? Or is a job supposed to miraculously appear that banks a salary into his bank account without him having to ask?

Experience #3
Smelly Boy's class teacher called up and asked me to buy a table at a gala dinner. At first, I thought she was a particular teacher from Smelly Boy's detestable/abhorrent/hateful primary school. So, I coldly said, "I don't think your school did very much for my son. I refuse to donate."

You know what? The teacher was very very gracious about it. She did not make me feel at all bad for refusing to donate. It took me a while to realise that it was ACS on the phone, and not the other worthless school. Unfortunately, by that time, I had said a few very very ungracious things to the poor Teacher! Get Stingy Petunia's money?! Not so easy!!

ACS(I) has taught my son well. I see values education. I see social development. I see top notch materials and teaching. Over lunch last weekend, Smelly Boy commented that tuition in ACS(I) is not a norm, and it is very important to attend classes because you really learn something. I don't have to state that despite the fact that tuition is NOT a norm in ACS(I), the school still pulls in stellar results. Clearly the school is doing its job very well.

Inasmuch as I hated/detested/abhorred Smelly Boy's primary school, I am DEEPLY grateful to ACS(I). Deeply. So, I apologised till red in the face and wrote my cheque contritely/happily/joyfully. I did what I was happy to do (even though it was not a whole table at the gala dinner). It was the least I could do to show my appreciation for the invaluable education my son is receiving.

Those who complain that ACS is elitist and materialistic in outlook do not understand ACS. As a community, ACS sees itself blessed. This arises from the rock solid belief that God provides and will always provide for ACS in the same way He provided the Israelites with food, water and good counsel deep inside the wilderness. Come on, God has provided since 1886, so He has had a fabulous track record of providing, no?

No matter how little or much ACS has, ACS will always be fund-raising for charity because it always feels it has enough since it KNOWS that God will always provide for it.

People happily donate ONLY when they are contented and grateful for God's provisions. It is not a question of how objectively rich or poor one is. There are ACS mothers living in HDB flats who spend hours making dumplings for an ACS fund-raising effort. The feelings of contentment and blessedness come from faith in God, NOT from what money is in the bank account. If you don't believe me - click HERE (a 98 year old homeless man donates thousands to build churches... now, I really doubt any ACS parent is homeless).

People donate only when they are contented with the blessings God has given to them. How much is enough differs for everyone. ACS lives its values. These values are...
(1) contentment in God's blessings
(2) charity

Sorry to Have Been Uncharitable
I was initially quite angry at that Stomp-y mother. In a flurry of Whatsapps flying around, I wrote very unkind things. Now, I am sorry.

It occurred to me that not everyone within the ACS community feels blessed. That too, is understandable. It may take time for some to come to the realisation that God provides. It may take never. These are the people who need our charity... and yes, charity does begin at home, with people in our own community. We should treat this mother, part of the ACS community, with love and forgiveness. Perhaps one day, God will touch her heart and she will feel blessed and contented too.

Then again, I am no angel either. I do not always feel contented. I do not always feel blessed. There are times (and many) when I behave like a stiff-necked Israelite, looking past God's manna, pure water gushing from the rock, quails dropping from heaven... and I complain. It is hardly a good example for my son to see.

Hence, I am very glad that ACS (in all its forms) has institutionalised these habits of...
- raising money
- giving it away
... thereby teaching my son what it means to be truly content with what he already has.

It is truly Values-In-Action. ACS lives and breathes these values in an idealistic way that is beyond the ability of normal human beings like me and that Stomp-y mother. I hope that ACS never ever changes this part of itself.

And then, very selfishly, I note that the school is equipping my boy with skills to ensure that he will always earn enough to be able in a position to give money away. For more on this... click HERE.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sarajevo, Bosnia

Lake Town, near the mountains of Erebor... **wink**

There are days when I view my phone with trepidation and disgust. This is especially so when Whatsapp came into being and people could send an infinite number of messages anytime.

Every so often, a message comes in that sends my cortisol levels through the roof. I already don't produce enough cortisol and when a shock like that blinks into my phone, all I want to do is crawl into bed and sleep (because when my cortisol is all used up I cannot stay awake).

The Daughter announced today that she was in Sarajevo. As I drove home, some vague memory of a Sarajevo being in Bosnia stirred. It was followed by a misty recollection of war in Bosnia. Heart in mouth, I asked Smelly Boy to Whatsapp into my phone... "You are in Bosnia?"

For those of you parents whose children are in primary school and you think your life is filled with worry and frustration, let me tell you that IT DOES NOT GET BETTER! 

It gets worse. 

These days, I wake up to daily Whatsapps announcing to me, names of places that I have never even heard of! And when I do recognise the name, it is associated with images of rape and pillage sent out by Reuters to the world's newspapers.

It doesn't feel better when she writes, "But, it's over already. See?". Yah right! Manage your mom like that! I did something naughty Mommy, but it's done already. See!

See what! No, I don't see!

First, it was Israel... then it was Jordan, and now, it is Sarajevo. I completely understand what Rapunzel's mother was thinking when she locked Rapunzel up in the tower. Of course, nowadays, towers are not much use because some smart aleck called Elisha Otis went and invented the elevator.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Urban Farm and Barn

I had visited Urban Farm and Barn sometime at the end of last year but did not get around to blogging about it till now. The concept is quite interesting. They rent you trays and will look after your plants for you in a greenhouse environment. Every now and then, you harvest your trays, bring the veggies home and eat them.

You're supposed to grow micro-greens but I noted that there were trays and trays of HUGE luscious salads in one corner of the green house. A customer had improvised a system that allowed him/her to grow pretty big salads.

Kids love it. They get to sow seeds and come back the weekend after to harvest and eat. The trays come with a base layer of fertiliser. You buy soil and seeds... and you're set to go. 

The owner's thriving garden.

Huge heads of sunflowers from the owner's garden.

Kiddos at work.

Micro-greens in trays.


Harvest time!

These don't look like micro-greens to me!

Huge salads!

Huger salads.

I think these still look like micro-greens but they are PRETTY big micro-greens.

Is this an advertorial? Yes, it is. I did not get paid for it, though. The owner just happens to be someone I am quite fond of, you see. Besides, it IS really quite a cool concept if you stay in a small apartment and wanna grow your own organic veggies.