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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Washable Haze Mask!

I realise that I am repeating myself. I also swear that I am not paid by 3M to write this review. It really is fantastic for The Haze. It is, after all, an industrial quality mask used in the marine and auto industry.

I am so pleased with the performance of the 3M Half-Faced Respirator 3M 7501 Half Face Respirator that I think everyone should be wearing it.

I just discovered that I can wash it!

When I wear the mask for about an hour or more, moisture develops in the interior of the mask. The disposable N95 mask simply falls apart into a gooey mess. I peered into my Half Face Respirator with some distaste and made some attempt to swab the insides with disinfectant. Then I discovered that I could just dunk the whole thing into soapy water.

Oh joy! Clean air! Clean Mask! What more can a Perfectionist Clean Freak ask for!?

Detach the Filter Pads

Dunk the whole mask into soapy water and wash away!

Good For Pregnant Ladies and Old Folks
On a more serious note, if you have old folks or pregnant ladies, it is really good to invest in this mask. The filter pads can last between 30 to 40 hours of use. Moisture does not form inside the pads. The air you breathe out, is expelled through an outlet (which self-seals when you breathe in). It is super easy to breathe with this mask!

The pads (Advanced Particulate Filter 2291) cost USD7.90 and one pair lasts me the whole season. The plastic mask is durable too and can be squirrelled away for years.

Get Filters From The 2200 Series
The Advanced Particulate Filter 2291 (from the 2200 series) is new and improved over the 2091 model (from the 2000 series). The filter pads have been re-designed for easier breathing.

In the same 2200 series there are other filter types...
- 2296: Oil and non-oil based particles + nuisance level acid gas
- 2297: Oil and non-oil based particles + nuisance level organic gas vapours (and ozone)

I wish 3M made these in children's sizes. The little ones really need some protection.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Internet Bots

I am always amazed that there are blogs that get 5000 hits a day. I try so hard and the best I can manage is about 1100 a day. On a few occasions (very few), the blog counter went up to 16,000 hits but it is really very rare.

Whatever it is, even a blog with rather low traffic like mine gets badly spammed by Internet Bots. 

For about a year or two, I had to disable the Comments section and disallow commenting because Internet Bots were leaving comments on every post with dubious links to diverse services. It became such a chore to delete these spam comments that I simply decided to disallow Comments.

I've now allowed Comments again and watch with bated breath whether I will get Bot Spammed again.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Small Class Sizes In Primary School Please?

This post makes comment ONLY on Primary Education.

Cycle A: Symptomatic Solution Is To Test Thinking
This is the short cut to ensuring that our primary school children learn to think. Simply test thinking. If you test thinking, the primary school kids MUST learn to think in order to do well in the thinking tests. This way of developing thinking skills in primary school children does not require much resources. You only need a few intelligent people to design a new testing format.

However, its effects are powerful and immediate. When primary school children do poorly at exams, parents step in to help. Tutors and specialised enrichment centres step in to teach the primary school children to handle the thinking tasks tested by the primary schools and the PSLE.

Thanks to the lucrative rewards of being a private tutor or a private enrichment centre, the resources here are limitless. Where there are insufficient intellectual resources locally, overseas educators come here to set up shop. If you have money, you have the means to buy the kind of teaching that will help your child do extremely well in the Thinking Tests.

This cycle accelerates and gets worse over time because there is no limit on it.

Cycle B: Fundamental Solution Is To Teach Thinking
The fundamental solution to the stated problem - "Children must learn to think."... must surely be Teaching Children to Think.  If it is indeed a Ministry of Education and NOT a Ministry of Testing, then surely it must approach the problem by focusing on Teaching and NOT Testing.

However, that is easier said than done.

In Dr Pet's Enrichment centre, there are 12 in a class. There are TWO teachers. The Student:Teacher ratio is 1:6. We take pride in ENSURING that the kids think their way through the syllabus even if it means their learning has to slow down. At the ratio of 1:6, we find it just about manageable. Just. There is no way I and the co-facilitator can cope with even 1 more child in each class.

To teach the children  to think, we approach the syllabus using methods that requires small class sizes.

If you want to teach kids to regurgitate material then classes can be 40 strong. All you have to do is to chalk and talk. The children will listen and remember. However, if you wish to teach the children to think (i.e., analyse, evaluate and conclude/create) then you do need time to chat with each child and provide personal guidance to redirect their analysis, poke holes in their evaluation and critique their original creation. How will you do that for 40 primary school children in a class? 

Primary school children are not like secondary school children. They CANNOT work independently in groups. An adult must facilitate. How will you do that for 40 primary school children in a class? 

Yes, some classes are 30. That is still too big. 

Cycle C: Large Class Sizes Prevent Teachers From Teaching Thinking
The traditional large class sizes of 40 (or even 30) are still double the class size of the GEP classes (at 15 paxes per class). Teachers know that they cannot teach what exams test. This can take away job satisfaction, pride and create stress because you know that you need to do the impossible. 

It is easy to underestimate how far seeing children improve because of YOU, can create pride and satisfaction. Our teachers do not have as much pride and satisfaction as they could have because they know that they are not alone in contributing to a child's learning. Unless they are in schools where the students hail from disadvantaged homes, teachers know that the children have access to tutors and parent coaching.

Teachers resign. Young people think twice about becoming Teachers.

As Teachers leave and others do not join, it is hard to get enough Teachers. With insufficient Teachers, classes remain large everywhere except in the GEP because Teachers are scarce and therefore only the brightest deserve the highest quality teaching.

This cycle also accelerates. The only thing that limits it is Higher and Higher Teacher Salaries.

Cycle C Resists Cycle B
Any efforts to teach thinking in Cycle B is neutralised by the momentum of Cycle C.

Burden of Teaching Thinking Shifts To Cycle A
As more and more private sector, parent and free tuition resources are poured into Cycle A, this cycle accelerates and carries more and more of the teaching burden.

Cycle B, The Fundamental Solution, Stops Turning
Capability and effort to teach thinking in Cycle B, entirely stops.

What Is The Right Thing To Do?
Very often, the right thing to do comes at a price. This situation where children need to attend school and go for tuition (ranging from free tuition by the CDAC, Mendaki and Sinda OR high end stuff like The Learning Lab) is child abuse on a national scale.

I am upset that in GE 2015, none of the politicians, whether PAP nor the opposition mentioned the well-being of our children. Singaporean children are not happy. Why should they attend school AND tuition? Why cannot classes be smaller so that Teachers can cope and be able to teach to the standards the schools and the PSLE tests to? 

It is normal for Singaporean children to work till 9pm every night AND all of Saturday and most of Sunday. There is school and there is tuition. Kids do half day in school and spend another half day at tuition. They do HW for 2 sets of teachers.

It isn't just child abuse. It is also the fact that kids from disadvantaged homes with no access to good teaching bought by good money from the tuition industry, cannot rise above their circumstances. That is a tragedy, no?

So, what is the right thing to do? It may be hard. It may be costly. But, is it the right thing to do?

Children do not vote and so they are politically expedient? How can an entire nation stand and look at the inhumane work-life imbalance of our children and not feel any heartbreak?

Can we please have smaller classes so that we can put the tuition industry out of business?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pimple/Boil/Cold Sore Gone!

It started with a stye in the eye. Styes are pimples that develop on the inner side of the eyelids. The doctor told me to use a hot compress whenever one started to develop. I was supposed to dip a clean cloth in hot water and then hold it to my eye.

I did not like that everything was wet and after a while, the cloth got cold real fast. Water seeped into my eye and dripped all over. So I decided to fill a bottle with boiling water, wrap it in layers of cloth and remove the cloths layer by layer as the water cooled.

Bottle with hot boiling water wrapped in layers of cloth to temper the heat.

As the water cooled, I unwrapped the bottle to access more heat.

The water bottle inside.

Since styes, pimples and boils are basically the same thing, I decided to use this method for pimples too. The tiny ones disappear without a blemish. The largish size ones go down overnight in 1 application. The boils need 2 or 3 applications (lasting 15 minutes each). I have been getting boils as part of my Healing Crisis from taking kefir.

The Husband was most impressed. His upper lip had started to tingle. It was the recognisable sign of a pimple that would develop into a cold sore. He applied the hot compress twice, for 30 minutes each time. The cold sore did not even see the light of day.

The hot water draws blood to the area, which then cleanses that area, carrying away germs (kill them too) and pus and whatnot.

I wish I had discovered this earlier. All those antibiotic creams were nowhere near as effective as this!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Such a Warm Note!

I received such a warm note from a customer today. I am so warmed by it. Thank you so much!! 

It is not just the praise. That which I like most about this note is that the parent was able to (with rigour and discipline) implement the strategies I suggested. There are times when people know what to do but have no time (nor perhaps, discipline) to carry through. It is very demoralising to keep explaining to people the motivation strategies, only to find that they don't bother to implement (and keep blaming their child). In such cases, I disengage. I cannot help parents who do not help themselves. The logical thing for me to do is to walk away from that parent without looking back. Else, I will burn out.

I can only advise. I cannot carry through for the parent. This parent was able to change her own behaviours and in changing herself, she automatically saw change in her child. 

I like this note because it reports results.

I have, at present, no intention to expand the enrichment centre and make a lot of money as a businesswoman in the education industry. I will leave business and entrepreneurship to Smelly Boy. He has a good head for business. 

This is more than a business. I do it to make some pocket money but I also do it because I find it fascinating to build a pedagogical approach from research base  (and first principles) upwards, if only to prove to myself that the GEP method of teaching kids CAN work with normal children. It allows me to prove to myself and others that there is another way to achieve results than what is conventionally done. 

Frankly, even I myself did not know the limits and possibilities of the methods I use when I started. I made mistakes. I refined my approaches. I learnt and I improved. Now, I know that even if what I do, looks like it won't work (from the viewpoint of the conventional Singaporean educator) or the parent who is expecting a conventional/traditional approach... it does work for me and those parents who gel with me. For those who do not gel with me, that is fine. Mine is not the only way. 

There are some parents who really hate me (and either they withdraw their kids or I request a withdrawal) but there are parents who also gel with me perfectly, and together, we can achieve a lot with their kids. That is enough for me. My cup runneth full with that already. 


Today, reading this note and seeing that a Mommy has successfully motivated her child to love to read. My cup runneth over.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Clean Floors & Air Conditioners

I must say that The Haze 2015 has been a blessing in disguise. If not for The Haze 2015, I would not have gone on an air purifier shopping spree. We now have 3 ozone generators and 5 air purifiers with ioniser function.

These were necessary business expenses because little children come to the house for classes every week and some of them have breathing difficulties. I need to provide a clean and healthy environment for the children to learn in. It did not help that the ceilings in the house are very high so there is a lot of air to filter. Anyway, I bit the bullet and bought what I needed to clean the air and keep the little ones safe.

The air in the house is now even cleaner than normal.

In fact, the air in the house now smells like mountain air. This is largely thanks to the ioniser function which pumps negative ions into the air that do horrible things (I dunno what) with dust, mould spores and bacteria... which are then promptly sucked into the HEPA filters (and whatever other filters inside the machines). The magic in all these mysterious goings-on are that the floors and table tops don't gather dust overnight!


Our floors are cleaned every day and every morning we sweep up a good pile of dust. After sweeping, we mop. The water is always a dark murky grey. Every day. Singapore is so dusty. With all the millions of people living in close proximity, there must be lots of dead skin cells being shed and floating around, which blow through the windows and settle on my floors and table tops.

These days, however, I wake up in the mornings to clean floors and dust-less table tops. It really feels great.

Clean inside and out!

The negative ions and True HEPA filter  remove the mould spores that normally get sucked into the air conditioner and grow there into sheets of grey jelly. These grey sheets of jelly-like fungal growth inside the air conditioner need to be flushed out with my Karcher steamer (see HERE). My Karcher steamer jets high pressure steam into the innards of the air conditioner. I do not exaggerate when I say that on occasion, I find sheets of jelly-like fungal growth as large as my hand come slithering out of the air conditioner drainage pipe. I have to use a wet vacuum to remove the jelly stuck inside the drainage pipe. Yucks! Think of all the spores you are breathing in when a dirty air conditioner is cooling your room. Yucks again!

With fewer mould spores in the air, there seems to be less jelly growth in the air conditioners.

Additionally, with 3 ozone generators, it takes just 2 hours to generate enough ozone to disinfect the air conditioners (even in the largest room in the house). That one room is so large (and the ceilings so high) that it needs 2 air conditioners to keep it cool.

This means that I can ozone-disinfect those 2 air conditioners even more frequently than before. The fungal growth that I fail to get with my trusty Karcher, I can now nuke with my 3 Novita ozone generators. Ozone is poisonous so I need to make sure I breathe none of it into my lungs.

Thanks to The Haze 2015, we have made process improvements within the household for even cleaner living than before. Last, but not least, the negative ions are supposed to repel insects. There are right now 2 houseflies in the room with me. I am observing what happens to them. Update: nothing happened to the flies. They buzzed around the window and flew out when I opened it. I guess it is just as well because if the negative ions could hurt the flies, they could hurt me too, no?

Nonetheless, I already I LOVE the crisp and clean "mountain air" inside the house!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Cinderella Sparkly Shoes

I found a lovely pair of shoes in a dark and cramped HDB shop a few months ago. It cost all of $10. It is made entirely of moulded plastic with glitter inside so it sparkles like Cinderella's shoes. They're pretty!

There are tiny holes worked into the design that let the feet breathe. The shoes are soft and kind to my feet. They have now replaced flip flops as my favourite footwear.

Only $10 too!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Water Wars

The little P3s just joined the centre. I always have a blast with the P3s. They still look like toddlers and still possess that childish sense of humour that Petunia has never lost. The P3s and I get along. We all laugh at silly things.

We did vocab work last weekend in every silly way I could think of. The vocab included phrases such as "Ferrari on steroids" and words such as "liberty" and "scavenge".

We all had a blast because I made them race around the class like Ferraris on steroids, and creep around the class like trishaws on sleeping pills. Then, I made them stand like the Statue of Liberty, which was really quite harmless... but, when I asked them to stand like a Sexy Statue of Liberty, the whole class melted into puddles of giggles. They just couldn't bear to make such an embarrassing pose until one boy did a weightlifter pose like herein below. He somehow managed to make that pose whilst holding the Liberty torch.

At that point, a few children were rolling on the floor, laughing. Really... they were on the floor. The classroom was a happy, roiling mess!

After that, we did the word "scavenge" which required 1 rabbit (that little girl really did look like a rabbit), 1 eagle (the most giggly eagle I have ever seen... he could not even flap properly because he was laughing so much) and a whole volt of vultures (who all looked very embarrassed at having to scavenge off the "dead" rabbit... they weren't very good vultures either because they used their hands to pluck pieces off the rabbit. Whoever heard of a vulture with hands?!).

After that, despite the haze, I let them out for Water Wars. It is really nothing more than giving them water balloons and paper cups so that they can go and attack their friends.

I intend to enjoy the P3s because they will be P4 soon, and as we progress towards PSLE, Dr Pet cannot afford to be so carefree. Learning may not always be this fun (because Dr Pet can be scary, fierce and demanding) but where it is useful and applicable, we can really have a blast.

I had a real BLAST. At my age too!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Brown Rice That Tastes Like White

Brown rice has phytic acid which, when eaten, prevents the absorption of important nutrients.

Phytic acid is the principal storage form of phosphorus in many plant tissues, especially the bran portion of grains and other seeds (e.g., rice). Humans have not enough of the enzyme phytase to break down phytic acid into phosphorus. In addition, the phytic acid molecule tends to bind with minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc, to become phytate. This renders calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc unavailable for the human stomach to absorb, as well. Lastly, phytic acid inhibits enzymes (such as pepsin, amylase and trypsin) that we need to digest our food. Pepsin is needed for the breakdown of proteins in the stomach. Amylase is needed for the breakdown of starch into sugar. Trypsin is needed for protein digestion. Read more HERE

If you eat too much brown rice (without adequate preparation) you will basically starve yourself into ill health because you cannot absorb much of what you eat. 

Phytase is the digestive enzyme required to break down brown rice. Humans do not produce enough phytase to consume large quantities of high-phytate foods without risk. However, probiotic lactobacilli, and other species of digestive microflora can produce phytase.

With the making of kefir cream cheese, I collect plenty of whey (the liquid left over after straining the cheese). This liquid is full of lactobacilli. I decided to soak my brown rice for 24 hours in a mixture of whey and unchlorinated water. After 12 hours, you can see tiny bubbles as it begins to ferment, breaking down the phytic acid into phosphorus. After 24 hours, there is very little phytic acid left.

12 hours: fermenting brown rice. See the bubbles of fermenting gas? Hmmmm... I wonder if I can make sake!

It has now become a daily ritual to soak new brown rice using 10% of the previous day's soaking liquid. After the first 2 soaks, there is no need to add whey. Just take 10% of the previous day's soaking liquid and add more unchlorinated water. Chlorinated water will simply kill the lactobacilli and then, not only does it defeat the purpose of soaking, but other organisms (harmful to the human body) may grow. It has become very convenient to get unchlorinated water since I bought my Big Berkey.

Pre-soaked for 24 hours, the cooked rice actually is very very fluffy. My family had no idea that they were eating brown rice.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Haze: Air Cleaners and Masks

I produce phlegm at the slightest hint of The Haze. The phlegm traps the pollutants and I am able to cough much of it out. The Daughter, Smelly Boy and The Husband inhale it all!!

Me: I am wearing this mask. It is the best there is. It filters out 99% of all the haze particulates.
The Husband: If you wear that, I refuse to walk with you.

I don't understand these people. It isn't as if we are a very good looking family whose looks would be irremediably damaged by an alien mask. If you're kinda ugly anyway then what is wrong with getting just a little bit uglier?

I wear this mask out everyday now. I walk into the mall with it. No one even bothers to stare. They know that some people can get asthmatic in The Haze. 

Health and comfort before looks! That is the pragmatic Singapore spirit, right?

Love my mask. Of all the masks I tried, this provides the most thorough seal for the nose and mouth area. It is also very easy to breathe through it. Buy it HERE. The disposable filter can be ordered HERE.

Since I cannot force my family to wear the masks, the best I can do is to ensure that the air is clean at home. This is Novita's 3-in-1 Puriclean Air Purifier NAP 002H. It filters the air and produces negative ions that are supposed to kill spores and such. I switch off the ioniser function (called the Anion Function in the brochure). When the Anion Function is on, I get phlegm. It must be quite good at assassinating spores because it seems to affect my lung cells too. 

I switch on the Anion Function only when I am not in the room to kill mould and bacteria. This machine comes with a humidifying function which I don't ever use. It also has a convenient colour indicator for air quality so I know when the air is clean enough for the machine to be switched off. It retails at SGD699. It has a True HEPA Filter.

This is Novita's Puriclean Air Purifier NAP 611-i. This machine is $100 cheaper (SGD599). It does not have a humidifier function. It does have a colour indicator for air quality that lets me know when the air is clean enough for me to switch off the machine. It has a True HEPA filter.

This is Novita's Air Steriliser AirCare NAS6000. It has an ozone function which I find very useful for disinfecting the air in my store room. I also use it to disinfect my air conditioners. I leave the air conditioners on, in a room filled with ozone. The ozone gets into the aircon and kills the bejesus out of every mould and bacteria lurking about within.

It only has a HEPA type filter, which is less able to remove particulates than the True HEPA filter. This one has no air quality colour indicator. This one retails at SGD899.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

No More Fighting. Can?

The elections are over. We have a winner. No more fighting, can?

The PAP won. Kudos to the PAP and surely part of the reason (part only ok?!) was that they deserved to win because...
(1) they kept (most of) their promises and made many changes
(2) they purged themselves of their Snooty Poots
(3) they worked really hard within their neighbourhoods

In addition, I also think the PAP deserves to win because the entire Cabinet really suffered a great deal of emotional and verbal abuse in the past 5 years. Kudos to them for sticking it out.

The Sore Loser Narrative Hides Many Broken Hearts
Of course, the PAP-ers are gloating and pointing to opposition supporters as "sore losers" and "refusing to take responsibility for their own incompetence". Of course, the opposition supporters are hurting (very deeply too) and very afraid. They are casting about trying to make sense of this loss and finding reasons. Perhaps, these reasons look laughable to the PAP-ers but they do bring some comfort to the opposition supporters.

At the end of the day, we are all Singaporeans. Since the competition is over and a winner has been decided, can we perhaps ...

(1) ... stop telling people they are sore losers (if you have won, you are on top already... why stomp on the loser?)

(2) ... start responding to the hurt behind some of these reasons opposition supporters have found to explain their loss?

The Strong Should Heal The Weak
In both 2011 and 2015, the PAP was never in danger of losing the government. In 2015, however, we came this close to losing ALL opposition in Parliament for the next 5 years. Do Singaporeans want REALLY want one party rule again?

So who is stronger right now? The PAP or the WP?

The strong (PAP supporters) should reach out to heal the weak (opposition supporters), no? If not, who will make that crucial first move? After all, we are all Singaporeans are we not? We all want the best for this country, no? We all want a future in which we can prosper in, no? So, can we stop with the Sore Losers narrative? Can we stop pointing fingers and saying that opposition supporters are all sorts of things except... VERY BROKEN-HEARTED?

Picture credited to The Straits Times.

I tell you, I got a really good scolding by my beautician. She scolded me upside down for voting white (I had to vote white. WP did not stand in my GRC). I just kept quiet lohhhh... then I commiserated with her, and asked her humbly to give PAP a chance in the next 5 years.

Gee whiz... and I am not even a PAP cadre!

However, I am Singaporean and it is in my interest to see this country unite and not divide. I am thankful to Tan Chuan Jin, Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Ong Ye Kung for thrumming the very first chords of this narrative of Unity not Strife.

The Opposition (WP) Is Precious
WP came into existence because high calibre men and women were fed up with the snooty pooty PAP whose snooty pootiness reached a veritable zenith in 2011, a time which also corresponded to the growth in WP's appeal and calibre.

Like it or not, if WP had not won and shocked the PAP out of their complacency, would the PAP have scrambled so hard to make changes in policy and work hard in their neighbourhoods?

Yes, yes, yes... we can quibble till the cows come home about...
(1) whether the PAP (all by its own high calibre self) would have moved slightly left of centre in their policies, and
(2) in that same breath deny the WP all credit for pushing the PAP slightly left of centre in their policies.

To ascertain this, all one needs to do is to dig out (in the period 2006 to 2011)
(1) copies of the Straits Times
(2) speeches and press statements made by PAP politicians (in Parliament and elsewhere)
(3) apply Grounded Theory Analytics to surface frequent themes and ideas found in those speeches and press statements circa 2006 to 2011
(4) compare the analyses with texts drawn from 2012 to 2015.

I guarantee you that many of those
-   ideas/notions/themes/concepts (comprising right of centre policy thinking) pushed by the PAP in their public discourse from (circa 2006-2011)
-   disappeared from their public discourse (circa 2012-2015).
-   to be replaced by ideas/notions/themes/concepts (comprising left of centre policy thinking)

Would the PAP have changed if they had not lost an entire GRC in 2011, plus some? I doubt it. If you are a PAP cadre/MP/Minister, and you look deep into your heart, can you honestly say that the WP did, in no way, motivate the PAP to change?

Some Gratitude Is Owing
So now what... now that the PAP has changed for the better, we Singaporeans forget the debt we owe the men and women of the WP? Those people dedicated their lives and just because they have outlived some part of their usefulness, we now make fun of them as Sore Losers?

The people of Singapore owe the WP. The people of Singapore owe the PAP.

If we vote out the WP entirely, these men and women will disband their party, retire from public life and IF the PAP breaks faith with the people again, the men and women of WP will not be there for us.

If we vote out the PAP, our country will go to pot.

Post Script: Can we please have classes of 20 in every class of every school in mainstream?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Dun Shy Shy! Just Say It Was the WP!

Don't be so coy leh... Mr Tharman?

I read the papers this morning and let out a giggle, followed by a chortle, followed by a laugh. Of course, I spilled tea all over myself! I laughed because I was sooooooo happy.

Kiss and Make Up
When I read that Tharman Shanmugaratnam had said last night that the opposition should "keep playing a constructive role in Singapore politics" and "the opposition plays a critical role in advancing the country", I rejoiced with a giggle, a chortle and a laugh.

In the past 5 years, only PAP and WP sat in Parliament together. Hence, Tharman Shanmugaratnam's reference to the opposition who can "keep playing a constructive role in Singapore politics" must mean the only opposition party who has been playing ANY sort of role in Parliament in the past 5 years - the WP.

As far as I see, it is clear that Tharman Shanmugaratnam respects the WP. I am so happy for that!

On their end, the WP have lost with dignity. There was no petty anger. No one from WP said, "Singaporeans get the parliament they deserve."

To grow our country, we must have love. God is love. Hopefully, the PAP and the WP will love each other as much as we love them.

Not Used To Adversarial Politics
I grew up in an era of the one party rule. I am not used to adversarial politics. I got through the 2015 elections like a bewildered child watching her parents slug it out and draw blood from each other. One commentator living in Australia said that what had happened in Singapore was mild compared to what he sees daily in Australia. On the intellectual plane, I understand that.

Emotionally, I do not.

Whose Side To Take?
The 2015 elections sent me to bed twice to hide under my pillow. It was like witnessing parents fight dirty. All that mudslinging! There were all manner of boats from Sampans to Titanic to Cruisers! Then there was something about Patterns. And, people even fought over orh luak! Wah piang!

Then there were WP supporters who jeered at the PAP politicians. Aiyo! D*** stressful! I felt for those hapless PAP politicians who had to face that down and live to see another day. I also felt bad for those jeering WP supporters (so different from the gentlemanly WP politicians) because their anger must have come from having suffered too much under the stupido PAP policies from 1990 to 2011.

I tell you, the cognitive dissonance I experienced (when I saw the suffering people jeering and Ng Eng Hen's dignified courage in the face of those jeers) just about sent me to the Loony House. I had NO idea whose side to take!!

So, I consoled myself by making fermented vegetables.

Fermented asparagus, garlic and cherry tomatoes... nutritious probiotic food!

Heal the Hurt
In my immediate circle, there are WP supporters who are heartbroken. Really, they are devastated. My beautician gave me a good scolding on WhatsApp because she needed to take her pain out on someone, and I happened to be there at the wrong time.

These people suffered greatly under the idiotic PAP policies of the past. Generally, these are people from the lower socio-economic spectrum... beauticians and other blue collar workers.

There is GREAT emotional anguish. It would be good if WP can move beyond its own hurt to tend to the broken hearts of their supporters. WP still has a voice and they can increase their online voice, and out of Parliament presence.

PAP can also look beyond its own triumph and see these people's broken hearts, and ask these broken hearts for a 2nd chance to mend their hearts.

White ermine... picture from HERE.

Plutot La Mort Que La Souillure
Translated, this phrase means "Better to die than to be sullied". Legend has it that Queen Anne of Brittany came across a white ermine one day, during a hunt. Chased into a corner by the Queen's hunting dogs, the white ermine had 2 choices (1) to die (2) to take the only route of escape through a puddle of mud.

Instead of escaping by running through mud, the white ermine chose to face the dogs and die.Queen Anne was moved to recall her dogs and take the emblem of the white ermine for her coat of arms, along with the motto "Better to die, than to be sullied."  It is clear to the electorate which individual politicians got through the fight with ermine fur still white.

The demeanour of some of our campaigning politicians (notably, Gerald Giam, Daniel Goh, He Ting Ru, Leon Perera, Yee Jenn Jong, Sylvia Lim, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Ng Eng Hen, Ong Ye Kung and Tan Chuan Jin) demonstrated that spirit of honour. They were prepared to die a political death than descend into the mud and start slinging it about, whilst bathing themselves in it.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

PAP Needs to Love the WP

In my limited worldview, the 2 parties that count in Singapore are the WP and the PAP. In my view, both WP and PAP deserve political space in Singapore. I certainly do not want WP to form the government. Think of all the instability and the flight of capital.

Neither do I want a parliament of nothing but the PAP.

2 Singapore Sons
The best analogy I can find to convey my thinking, is that of siblings. I know it is not a perfect analogy but please bear with me. If voters are Parents, then these 2 parties are siblings. We love them BOTH equally. We need them BOTH equally. It pains a parent to see a more accomplished, more gifted and more wealthy sibling push towards obliteration, the weaker and younger one.

I have an older daughter and a younger son. I love them both. I was not blind to how my daughter competed with my son and made him feel small and incompetent. I was not blind to how those feelings made my son leery of challenge and made him want to give up.

Proud of the PAP
So, I was so very proud of the PAP when I saw Tan Chuan Jin's gentlemanly and gracious attitude to winning. A FB post dated 12th Sept 2015, 2.31am (which means PAP's clear win was already known), read thus...

So, I was even more proud of the PAP when I listened to Ong Ye Kung's rally speech, which expressed hopes and desires that resonated with voters. Bertha Henson wrote a lovely review of that speech.

Beyond that, the PAP poured a massive amount of diligent work into changing education (I am very blinkered... I am only interested in education policy). I am sure a similar effort went into all other areas too. This said, I still have a thing or 2 to say in this space on class sizes of 20 right across all classes and all schools (not just for GEP [15] nor only for weak students).

Not Proud of the PAP
I was less proud to see K. Shanmugam bring the brutal election fight into his victory celebration, with the following words...

Can you imagine, after a rugby game between ACS(I) and St Andrew's that a boy from the winning school gloats similarly over the mistakes made by the team that lost?

Respect Your Opponent
As a voter, I would really like to see the PAP respect the WP, even as it celebrates. As a voter, I would really like to see the PAP give space to its younger and weaker sibling. The future of Singapore needs BOTH parties. LKY entrusted the country to LHL. Both men are incorrupt. LHL will entrust the country to another man/woman who too may be incorrupt. However, if only one PM down that PAP chain turns out to be a Najib of sorts, then this country needs an alternative party, able and ready to counter that possibility.

Take a helicopter perspective and see Singapore's future from above party interests.

If you love Singapore, respect the WP as it deserves because if you look deeply and honestly within yourselves, you can see that men and women of WP are people of good character too. After all, inasmuch as the PAP would not hesitate to surface the their opponents' sleaze (think Chee Soon Juan... and frankly, I am grateful that Chee Soon Juan's poor character was laid out for all to see), it was not able to get any dirt on Gerald Giam, Sylvia Lim, Yee Jenn Jong, Daniel Goh etc...

Hence, if the PAP looked deep into themselves to assess the men and women who comprise the WP, they will know that these are good people. Some WP MPs were paid $2000 as NCMPs. Yet, they attended Parliament diligently and tried their best to make a difference. They aren't rich people. They really stepped up so that Singapore would have a gentlemanly and viable opposition.

If we are ONE Singapore and the PAP cares about this country's future, it would take steps to protect the country from the PAP itself. Please love the only sibling you have, because voters love both of you.

Preposterous Request
I know that what I am asking sounds preposterous. A reviewer commented that political parties are enemies, NOT siblings. However, Singapore has never been like any other country. We had LKY. We invented hawker centres. We invented coupon parking. We were a democracy with ONE party in Parliament for years and years. It made sense because we were who we were. We were Singapore, a country like no other.

Today, we are who we are. It makes perfect sense to me that PAP takes steps to protect the future of Singapore by giving political space and respect to the WP.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Vote Wisely

I find this whole notion of "Vote Wisely" very cute.

Depending on where you stand, Vote Wisely can mean Vote WP or Vote PAP. Thankfully, thus far, no one (in my immediate circle) has used Vote Wisely to mean voting for all the other kacang putih parties that are NOT WP, nor PAP.

The WP-er intones "Vote Wisely" and means that one's decision should be based on...
(1) Growing a serious opposition Just-In-Case the PAP fails in future
(2) Growing a critical mass of opposition in Parliament so that issues are more thoroughly debated
(3) Giving some sensible alternative policies a chance to see the light

The WP-er is telling you to vote with your head and not allow PAP to frighten you into voting for it, for fear that the whole country will go to pot.

The PAP-er intones "Vote Wisely and means that one's decision should be based on...
(1) workable policies (e.g., small businesses are pressing for MORE foreign talent, not less and reducing reliance on foreign labour means that there are Singaporeans who suffer)
(2) a government that has deep and wide international and governing experience
(3) a government with good mastery of economics
(4) a government that does not take under table money

The PAP-er is telling you to vote with your head also and not allow the WP (or the other oppo teams) to stir you to hate the PAP for no good reason.

In essence, the term "Vote Wisely" says nothing and but means everything to the person who exhorts it of you. Cute, right?

Useful for Secondary School

To Dr Pet's enrolled parents...

These whatsapp screenshots below come from a parent whose child is now in Sec 1. 

The best test of higher order thinking skills is Unseen Prose (literature). One is given a literary text that one has never seen and one is expected to analyse, evaluate and conclude upon it. The training we give the children via our distinctive Teaching Methods (and parent facilitation) will build a strong foundation for all the Humanities subjects in secondary school.

These Teaching Methods are not often extended to normal children in mainstream schools, but I stubbornly maintain that mainstream children can benefit. They do require patience, parent involvement and never learning just for marks. We have to look beyond the marks to real skills and a real education.

See below.

To help their children do well in this programme, it is necessary to...

- prioritise quality (mindfulness, focus) above high quantity scheduled work completion. It does not help to fill your child's day with a structured timetable of work to be done.

- rest and relax must be a priority. Note how the Mommy reports that the child "still does not study the day before exams".

Monday, September 7, 2015

Pesky Mom

Smelly Boy has 2 personas. He is Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. When Smelly Boy has no deadlines nor exams, he is an absolute sweetie pie who will put up with all of my bothersome requests for hugs and kisses and time together.

This only happens from mid-November to end-December.

From January through to mid-November, Smelly Boy is in high performance mode. The pace is unrelenting. If there are no competitions to train for, there are projects to deliver. If there are no projects to deliver, there are exams to study for. With work on his mind, Smelly Boy is in no mood for cuddles and hugs.

Sigh! He is such a different boy from when he was in Primary school. Back then, he was the one asking for cuddles and hugs. These days, he flinches when I hug him.

Back then, he fully appreciated my childish sense of humour. We would melt into puddles of giggles when cooking up pranks to play on The Husband and on the hapless Security Guards at our condo. These days, he gives me a look that lets me know that it ain't amusing.

Back then, he hung on my every opinion. What I thought, mattered. These days, if he says that Literature, History and Geography are a waste of time, he brooks no disagreement from me. "Rubbish!" he exclaims. "These are useless subjects!" he maintains, after my lengthy exposition on how these subjects hone critical thinking about social issues, and that no man is an island (thus making these subjects crucial to community and individual well-being).

Back then, he was always game when I proposed to go out and eat something nice, no matter how far away. These days, Smelly Boy refuses to travel more than 10 minutes away from home when we eat out on weekends. He is chained to his List of Things to Do.

Petunia's playmate grew up. Petunia did not. Sigh! I know exactly how those toys in Toy Story felt when Andy grew up.

I really should not complain. Many Mothers would give much to have a boy who self-chains himself to a List of Things to Do. Nonetheless, I still sorely miss my little playmate. It is my especial curse to always possess the sense of humour of a two year old.

And never more so than yesterday when we had a small tiff.

It was Sunday. Smelly Boy was up bright and early, practising on a past year paper. Exams are in 2 weeks. Sunday Petunia went into his room in her best Sunday lazy mood, and requested a Sunday hug and a Sunday kiss. Smelly Boy was furious at being interrupted in the middle of his timed trial. He frowned at me and gave a growl.

Then, he stared resolutely at his paper, determined to concentrate.

Do you remember how it felt, when as a little girl or boy, your older siblings just would not let you touch or play with their stuff? Well.... I felt like that. I sat on his bed and toyed with the idea of leaving him to his Sunday Bad Mood or making a Sunday nuisance of myself.

In the end, I decided to be a nuisance.

I reached out my toe and touched the base of his chair. With a peeved "Tsk!", he moved his chair away. I looked him in the eye with the same look as that he used to give me after I had told him NOT to throw the bowl on the floor from his baby high chair.

Then, I reached out my foot defiantly and touched the base of his chair again.

He gave another peeved "Tsk!" and moved further away. It went on for another 3 times before I took pity on my poor son.

What a pesky mom I am!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Cream Cheese Balls with Herbs

Culture the milk kefir. See recipe HERE.

Strain the milk kefir culture to remove the milk kefir grains.

Pour the resultant liquid into a cheese cloth laid atop a dimsum basket.

Cover the basket with a lid.

Fold the cheese cloth neatly over the lid.

Place the dimsum basket in a large bowl to catch the whey that will drip out. 
Leave for 24 hours.

This clear liquid with a yellow tinge is whey. I use it to exfoliate my face. 
It is also effective against dandruff.

The curds will dry out nicely on the cheese cloth.

Spoon the curds into a bowl. Add Herbes de Provence. Mix well.

Oil a sheet of cling wrap.

Use the oiled cling wrap to shape the balls of cheese.

Drop the balls into extra virgin olive oil.