Thursday, December 31, 2009

Stories for Primary 2 Children (4)


Some animals cannot protect themselves against their stronger, fiercer and faster predator. As these animals cannot move quickly, they have a special way of eating. Whenever they find somd food, they run away to hide after swallowing the food quickly without chewing it for fear of being attacked. Once safe in their hiding place, they will force the food out from their stomachs, biting it over and over again, chewing the food at their leisure. This is called chewing the cud and animals that do this are called ruminants.

One such ruminant is the cow. Its stomach has five parts. Each of these parts does something different to the food.

Another ruminant, the camel, has three parts in its stomach. It uses the first to store food while grazing in the field and to form the food into cud. In the second part is the digestive juice while the chewed cud is digested in the third.

Source: Adapted from "Tell Me How?" By Chanceller Press

A Shopping Trip

Mrs Lee wanted to buy new clothes for her children, Mei Mei and Tze Min, as they had outgrown their old ones. She wanted to go to the mall because there was a sale on. Mother knew that the mall was especially crowded on weekends so she wanted an early start.

Mrs Lee and her children had breakfast. Then, the children got dressed. The thought of open spaces to run around and the numerous toys to play with was too much for the children. The children jumped up and down in the car and squealed in delight when they reached the mall. Mrs Lee reminded them they would only get new clothes if they behaved.

The Lee family spent three hours in the mall. IT was a more worthwhile trip for the children than Mrs Lee. Tze Min had two new pair of pants and three shirts, while Mei Mei had two pretty dresses. Mrs Lee ended up with a dress. Before they left for home, Mrs Lee bought chocolate ice-cream to reward her children for their good behavior.

Tze Min and Mei Mei had a tiring but memorable trip.

Father and Son

Mr Chiam came home from work late, tired and irritated. He found his five-year old son, Calvin waiting for him at the door. Calvin asked him how much he earned an hour. He told Calvin that he earned twenty dollars an hour. Calvin lowered his head sadly. Looking up all of a sudden, he asked to borrow ten dollars from Mr Chiam.

Mr Chiam was furious. He scolded Calvin for being childish and sent him to bed. Calvin quietly went to his room and shut the door. After about an hour, Mr Chiam had calmed downa nd thought that he might have been too hard on his son. Mr Chiam went to Calvin's room and opened the door. He apologised to Calvin and gave him the ten dollars he had asked for.

Calvin sat straight up smiling. "Oh thank you, Daddy!" he yelled.

Reaching under his pillow, he pulled out some crumpled notes. Calvin slowly counted his money, then he looked up at his father.

Calvin said, "Daddy, I have twenty dollars now. Can I buy an hour of your time? Please come home early tomorrow. I would like to have dinner with you."

Friday, December 25, 2009

Stories for Primary 2 or Grade 2 Children (3)

An Old Man, A Donkey and A Dog

A long time ago, there lived a poor old man who had no wife or children. However, he had two good companions, a donkey and a dog. As the old man was very poor, the donkey and the dog often had to go without food.

The old man, the donkey and the dog would travel across the land and up into the hills, searching for gold in the ground.

One day, they arrived at the top of a hill. The dog stood still. It lifted its paw to pat a spot on the ground. The old man bent down and dug into the soft sand.

With a loud cry of joy, the old man threw his spade on the ground. What he found made him very happy. He loaded the gold onto the donkey's back. The three best friends walked down the hill and into the village. Never again did they have to go without food.


Butterfiles are insects. They are noted for their wings which are often colourful and bright. Butterfly wings are different from bird wings. Bird wings are made of feathers, but butterfly wings are made of tiny overlapping scales.

A butterfly has an interesting life cycle. It starts as an egg. When it is born, it is what we called a catepillar. Each caterpillar then moves into a cocoon and becomes a chrysalis. When the insect comes out of the cocoon, we call it a butterful.

Butterflies can be found almost all over the world. There may be as many as twenty thousand different species of butterflies. Butterflies usually feed on flower nectar.

Butterflies symbolise different things in different cultures. Some people say that when a butterfly lands on you, it means good luck. Other people may say that they have "butterflies in their stomach" when they have to sit for an examination that they are not prepared for.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Stories for Primary 2 or Grade 2 children (2)

A Bad Dream

Sometimes when I am very tired and fall asleep, I have frightening dreams of monsters and wild animals chasing me. I had one of the most frightening dreams recently that I thought it was reality.

I dreamt that I was in the school field with my classmates during recess. We were playing football and laughing happily together. Suddenly, all my friends disappeared and I was alone. The field was covered with thick fog and it became very dark and silent. I began to call for my friend in fear, but the strange thing was that no sound came out of my mouth.

Then, I saw a tall and dark shadow floating towards me. I tried to scream but again, no sound came out. I tried to run, but my legs became as heavy as a log and I could not lift them from the ground. The dark shadow began to drift closer towards me. It began to laugh at me. It was a loud, horrible laughter. I struggled again to escape from it. Suddenly, I felt a pair of cold hands, grabbing me.

Fortunately, I woke up at this point and saw my sister using fingers to splash water at my face.

The Star Llama

Once, there was a young boy. He had no family except for his animal, an old sheep. Each day, the boy and his sheep would walk many miles, looking for a home. Each night, they would curl up together and sleep.

Once starry evening, the old sheep died. The boy buried his friend next to an icy stream. Then he sat under a tree and cried. He had no family and no home. The boy cried for a long time. There was no one to comfort him.

Suddenly, the sky filled with bright light. The boy held his breath. He was afraid to move. One bright star fell to the ground. Slowly, the star took the shape of the old sheep. She bent her head and drank from the stream. She looked at the boy and smiled. As she jumped back into the sky, bits of wool fell. As the sun began to rise, the boy picked up the soft, warm wool. It glowed in his hands like starlight. He carried the wool to the city and sold it. With the money, he bought a house and two young sheep. He never forgot the star sheep. He was never lonely again.

Source: Adapted from 'The Star Llama and Other Stories"

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Chalking it up, Part 2

Under the Language Evaluation segment, John shared with us about his personal experience to scale the skyscraper of English pronunication.

He found that it was not King's English or Queen's English but Clear English which was the highest standard of English.

Do practise saying the following words. If you are in doubt, you can also check out the pronunciation at

Long/short "E"
Feet/Feat/Fit (note "Feet" and "Feat" have the same pronunication)
Food/Foot (* Special - food - long, foot - short)

Next, he shared with us that there was a difference between pronunciation and enunication. The first one referred to the sound of word, the latter was the syllabus stress.


"Th" sound. To say this sound correctly, your tongue has to be in between your teeth and you blow when you say the word. Some words for practise.

There/Their (can be the same or pronounce "Their" sounding like "Air" behind)

The "s" in the centre

Word Ending

chute ("sh" sound)
grasp (pronounce "grass" with "p" sound ending)
itinerary (remember this is a 5 syllabus word, there is one "r" sound in the middle. I-ti-ner-a-ry)
library (li-bra-ry)
liaise (it is leeyas, not liar)
tuition (tu'i'tion)
won/worn (first word is pronounced as "one")
regardless/ with regard (there is no irregardless)

John ended this segment by telling that "practice makes .... better". And for those who are interested to improve further look out for a course on phonetics conducted by Mr Norman Lim at CC. I have done a google his full name is Norman Lim Thye Kee. If he is conducting one near my place, I will definitely sign up.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Chalking it Up, Part 1

On 5 Dec 2009 (Saturday), there was an Achievers Day cum 3-in-1 Workshop on Language, General and Project Evaluation at Whampoa Community Centre. The workshop was faciliated by John Sih, a highly entertaining trainer and Patrick Chang, trainer and coach with more than 20 years of experience.

First of all, I liked the way the pamphlet was printed - double-sided on an A4 paper, folded into three main section and a perforated half-an-inch slip. Each bigger portion contained the program for each session. It looked something like this:

Session 1

2.00 pm Welcome by TMD Appointment Holder 1

2.05 pm Opening Address Appointment Holder 2
5-7 mins - Division U Governor

2.15 pm Workshop Session 1
> Language Evaluation Workshop Facilitor 1

Basic & Advanced Speeches

2.45 pm P8 - Get Comfortable with Speaker 1
5- 7 min Visual Aids
Project Title


*Voting for best prepared speaker - SAA's

For the last perforated half-inch portion, there were three small rectangles with words typed 90 degree to the three big sections. Each rectangle could be torn off easily as voting slips. First rectangle was the "COMMEND & CRITIQUE 1 AREA", second was for "BEST PREPARED SPEAKER" (with the instruction that went like this "Please vote based on objectives of the project and manner of presentation." and finally, the portion for "BEST PERFORMED APPOINTMENT OR ROLE" (the instruction was "Please vote based on the objectives of the appointment/role.")


Next, let me move on to the flyer for the programme. What a good choice of words "Chalking it up"

"Chalk up" means to score or earn.

There was a very clever use of trios as in "Be chalking, chuckling and cheering through his workshop".

Another was the good use of "U" in Division U in the tagline "Renew your Promise with the U Attitude.

That is all for Part 1 of this blog on the first impression. So far, I have touched on the bread of the burger, in my next post, I shall touch on the meat of the burger. Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

What is Your Mental Model?

This is an article on Learning Organisation written a few years ago. While the article is dated, the ideas are still valid and perhaps even evergreen. Enjoy!

Ever wonder why it is so difficult to persuade others using on reasons? This is because "action is driven by passions, not reasons”. Remember, logic tells, emotion sells.

Basically, people won’t act because they know, but only because they believe. To rally and move people forward, one must appeal to their passions and beliefs. In Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, Brutus tried to explain the reason for assassinating Caesar to calm the crowd. Mark Anthony on the other hand appealed to the passion and emotion of the crowd. No points for guessing who manage to won the crowd over. One can try to explain the reasons for doing something over and over again but will not win over the people.

Often, when we think we are being rational, we are simply basing our decisions on an assorted collection of beliefs, myths, assumptions and prejudices. While this is true, the question is how can one avoid it. Given that most Singaporeans, are brought up in an education system skewed towards science and engineering, we are brought up in an environment that emphasizes a lot on rational reasoning and deduction.

A person cannot see beyond what he knows. He may be aware that his reasoning may not be all there is to the situation but he, alone will not be able to do much about it, even if he has all the passion. He will need mirrors to help him see blind spots that are not apparent to him before. This means he will have to seek out new approaches, perspectives and views to the issue by possibly talking to others. As the changes that affect a body of knowledge most profoundly do not, as a rule, come out of its own domain, he may have to ask someone outside his knowledge domain for new perspectives.

As he seeks out new approaches, perspectives and views, the number of possibilities increases, thereby raising chance of him getting the right approach. Even Moulder, in The X-File, also need Scully to challenge and offer alternative views and perspectives. A key takeaway here is to seek out new approaches, perspectives and views on a particular issue before making a decision. This may take times but the result will often be worthwhile.

Another is the speculative nature of inductive thinking. Another way to put it is jumping to conclusion. A change agent needs to be aware that the conclusions drawn may not be the truth. We live in a world of self-generating beliefs which remain largely untested. We adopt those beliefs because they are based on conclusions, which are inferred from what we observe, plus our past experience. Our ability to see the truth may be masked by our feelings that:

Our beliefs are the truth.
The truth is obvious.
Our beliefs are based on real data.
The data we select are the real data.

This problem can be overcome by a passion for understanding that exceeds our rational need to draw conclusion. Realistically, life will become inefficient and tedious if we stop adding meaning or drawing conclusions on data we observe. The issue is therefore to become aware of the speculative nature of inductive thinking. Once we are aware of this, we can then slow down our mental processes and start inquiring into whether we miss any other observable data or information and how we arrive at the conclusion. As this process is likely to be tedious and not intuitive (imagine asking ourselves why we think like the way we think), it will take a great deal of passion for understanding for someone to constantly do it. The process is however worthwhile as it will help a change agent better understand the situation and therefore arrive at the truth.

We must also be aware that there is very little truth that is self-evident. This means if something presents itself as self-evident, be very cautious and start inquiring about it. A great deal of passion will be needed to drive us to the core of our individual or organizational being, to ask the worthwhile questions, to get at meaning and not just facts. This is so because as one tries to unravel the truth, he will have to ask very deep questions and challenge the obvious. This may get some people upset. However, if he stops digging when he encounters difficulties, he will not get to the truth. This means don’t just accept what is obvious but inquire into it to achieve a greater understanding to get nearer to the truth. Otherwise, a change agent may end up addressing the superficial issues without getting to the real issues.

On the paradoxical nature of reality, it is not a one or the other situation. Instead, it is possible to have a situation where one can have the cake and eat it. A decade ago, quality and costs are thought off as incompatible. A firm can only choose quality or low cost but not both. Today, quality leads to lower costs. It is all a matter of the mind. Of course, the correct time and space also play a part. A change agent will often face issues that are paradoxical in nature. While it may appear impossible to resolve the issue, it is but a perception. As one gets nearer to the truth, it may become clearer that the issue may not be paradoxical after all.
Change will always bring pain. If there is no pain, then it is not real change. People will however have a strong desire to avoid pain. It is sometimes necessary to incur pain early or the damage will be too great to heal. A few years ago, it was reported that a mountain climber had to amputate his own hand to free himself from under a rock and then hike some distance before he is found and send for treatment. A true leader will need passion to make difficult personal and organizational choices, especially when these choices will incur pain.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Improve Your Relationship with Language

Good writing is about the readers. In writing, our primary goal is to make it as simple as it is for the readers to see our points.

Words are a set of tools. They have the power to improve our circumstances by improving our interaction with other people. Good choice of words helps us to express our meaning clearly and insightfully. We don't have to carry around a dictionary wherever we go. However, we can all expand our vocabulary on a regular basis.

If we commit to learning just one new word a day and using that word each day for a week, we will be expanding our relationship to language. In time to come, writing and expressing ourselves will be a cinch.

For the coming Toastmasters' meeting, I will be doing speech evaluation. Below are some words which my fellow toastmasters have shared with me. Hmm, maybe I will just select one new word to use in my evaluation.


Stretch your evaluation vocabulary

Try substituting the words in bold for the examples given:
able, absolute, aces, adept, admirable, adroit, bad, best, brutal, cold, complete, consummate, crack, downright, dynamite, egregious, exceptional, excellent, expert, fantastic, fine, first-rate, heavy, marvelous, masterly, number one, out-and-out, perfect, positive, proficient, skilled, skillful, super dupa, surpassing, terrific, total, tough, transcendent, tremendous, unmitigated, unqualified, utter, wonderful

accomplished, admirable, attractive, capital, certified, champion, choice, choicest, desirable, distinctive, distinguished, estimable, exceptional, exemplary, exquisite, fine, finest, first, first-class, first-rate, high, incomparable, invaluable, magnificent, meritorious, notable, noted, outstanding, peerless, premium, priceless, prime, select, skillful, sterling, striking, superb, superior, superlative, superlative, supreme, tiptop, top-notch, transcendent, wonderful

acceptable, ace, admirable, agreeable, bad, bully, capital, choice, commendable, congenial, crack, deluxe, excellent, exceptional, favorable, first-class, first-rate, gnarly, gratifying, great, honorable, marvelous, nice, pleasing, pleasant, positive, precious, prime, reputable, satisfactory, satisfying, select, shipshape, sound, spanking, splendid, sterling, stupendous, super, superb, supereminent, superexcellent, superior, tip-top, valuable, welcome, wonderful, worthy

able, active, adequate, capable, cogent, compelling, competent, convincing, direct, effectual, efficacious, efficient, emphatic, energetic, forceful, forcible, impressive, live, moving, operative, persuasive, play hardball, potent, powerful, powerhouse, practical, producing, productive, resultant, serviceable, serving, sound, striking, sufficient, telling, trenchant, useful, valid, virtuous, wicked, yielding

adept, adequate, adroit, alert, bright, capable, cleft, competent, cunning, dexterous, easy, effortless, endowed, equipped, facile, fitted, intelligent, knowing, powerful, ready, smart, strong, worthy, qualified

A-OK, adequate, all right, ample, average, cogent, comfortable, competent, cool, decent, enough, fair, fulfilling, gratifying, groovy, hunky-dory, passable, peachy, pleasing, satisfying, solid, sound, sufficient, suitable, tolerable, unexceptional, valid

accomplished, acute, astute, brainy, bright, celebrated, clever, discerning, egghead, eminent, excellent, exceptional, expert, genius, gifted, glorious, illustrious, ingenious, intellectual, inventive, knowing, knowledgeable, magnificent, masterly, outstanding, penetrating, profound, quick, quick-witted, sharp, smart, splendid, superb, talented, whiz

advance, ameliorate, amend, augment, better, boost, civilize, convalesce, correct, cultivate, develop, doctor up, edit, elevate, emend, enhance, gain ground, gain strength, grow better, help, increase, lift, look up, make strides, meliorate, mend, perk up, pick up, polish, progress, promote, purify, raise, rally, recover, rectify, recuperate, refine, reform, revamp, revise, shape up, sharpen, straighten out, take off, touch up, update, upgrade

abominable, amiss, atrocious, awful, bad news, beastly, blah, bottom out, bummer, careless, cheap, cheesy, crappy, cruddy, crummy, defective, deficient, diddly, dissatisfactory, downer, dreadful, erroneous, fallacious, faulty, garbage, godawful, gross, grungy, icky, imperfect, inadequate, inadequate, incorrect, inferior, junky, lousy, not good, off, poor, raunchy, rough, sad, scuzzy, sleazeball, sleazy, slipshod, stinking, substandard, synthetic, the pits, unacceptable, unsatisfactory

base, below par, common, contemptible, crude, diminutive, dwarfed, exiguous, faulty, feeble, humble, imperfect, inadequate, incomplete, inferior, insignificant, insufficient, lacking, low-grade, lowly, meager, mean, mediocre, miserable, modest, niggardly, ordinary, paltry, paltry, pitiable, pitiful, plain, reduced, rotten, scanty, second-rate, shabby, shoddy, skimpy, slight, sorry, sparse, subnormal, subpar, substandard, trifling, trivial, unsatisfactory, valueless, weak, worth

actualize, advance, amplify, augment, beautify, broaden, build up, cultivate, deepen, dilate, elaborate, enlarge, enrich, evolve, exploit, extend, finish, heighten, improve, intensify, lengthen, magnify, materialize, perfect, polish, promote, realize, refine, spread, strengthen, stretch, unfold, widen, work out

add detail, amplify, bedeck, clarify, comment, complicate, decorate, develop, devise, discuss, embellish, enhance, enlarge, evolve, expatiate, explain, expound, flesh out, garnish, interpret, ornament, particularize, polish, produce, refine, specify, work out

alter, amend, better, change, clean up, cure, debug, do over, doctor, edit, fiddle with, fix up, go over, help, improve, launder, make over, make right, make right, mend, pay dues, pick up, polish, reclaim, reconstruct, rectify, redress, reform, regulate, remedy, remodel, reorganize, repair, retouch, review, revise, right, scrub, set right, set straight, shape up, shape up, straighten out, touch up, turn around, upgrade

accommodate, adapt, adjust, alter, alternate, commute, convert, diminish, diverge, diversify, evolve, fluctuate, make innovations, make over, merge, metamorphose, moderate, modify, modulate, mutate, naturalize, recondition, redo, reduce, reform, regenerate, remake, remodel, renovate, reorganize, replace, resolve, restyle, revolutionize, shape, shift, substitute, tamper with, temper, transfigure, transform, translate, transmute, transpose, turn, vacillate, vary, veer, warp

Friday, November 20, 2009

Playing the Piano

It is a dream comes true! Gosh, I am now able to read music score and play the piano, albeit simple songs. Not only that, my whole family of four have to take turns for our daily practice session.

And I forget to mention that sitting on the bench and playing the ebony and ivory keys can be so therapetic. It is such a wonderful feeling as the body moves with the tempo of the music which is produced instantaneously at the strike of the finger.

It is also an interesting reversal of role as my elder boy becomes our music tutor in the family. Proudly, he will point out to us that instead of crochet, we have played a minim, or a dotted minim instead of semibreve. At the same time, he also generously dishes out advice on how to remember the music notes. For example, the little tip that for bass cleft, "F" note is in between the two dots of the bass cleft symbol. Another tip is that the position of the "C" note for bass cleft and treble cleft being mirror image with the third line as the reference line.

Ha, he has forgotten how much agony he has gone through when he was the first in our family to be schooled in music. That is one main reason why he has taken three long years and not taken his practical examination yet, though he has managed a merit for his Grade 1 theory. Now that the whole family has joined the fray, there is so much fun in learning.

Hey, don't jump queue, it's my turn to play now!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sharks in Your Life

From a friend:

The Japanese have always loved fresh fish. But the waters close to Japan have not held many fish for decades.

So to feed the Japanese population, fishing boats got bigger and went farther than ever. The farther the fishermen went, the longer it took to bring in the fish. If the return trip took more than a few days, the fish were not fresh. The Japanese did not like the taste.

To solve this problem, fishing companies installed freezers on their boats. They would catch the fish and freeze them at sea. Freezers allowed the boats to go farther and stay longer. However, the Japanese could taste the difference between fresh and frozen and they did not like frozen fish. The frozen fish brought a lower price.

So fishing companies installed fish tanks. They would catch the fish and stuff them in the tanks. After a little thrashing around, the fish stopped moving. They were tired and dull, but alive. Unfortunately, the Japanese could still taste the difference. Because the fish did not move for days, they lost their fresh-fish taste.

The Japanese preferred the lively taste of fresh fish, not sluggish fish. So how did Japanese fishing companies solve this problem? How do they get fresh-tasting fish to Japan ? If you were consulting the fish industry, what would you recommend?

How Japanese Fish Stay Fresh:
To keep the fish tasting fresh, the Japanese fishing companies still put the fish in the tanks. But now they add a small shark to each tank. The shark eats a few fish, but most of the fish arrive in a very lively state. The fish are challenged.

Have you realized that some of us are also living in a pond but most of the time tired & dull, so we need a shark in our life to keep us awake and moving?

Basically in our lives sharks are new challenges to keep us active and taste better..... The more intelligent, persistent and competent you are, the more you enjoy a challenge.

If your challenges are the correct size, and if you are steadily conquering those challenges, you are a conqueror. You think of your challenges and get energized. You are excited to try new solutions. You have fun. You are alive!

Recommendations for us:
1. Instead of avoiding challenges, jump into them. Beat the heck out of them. Enjoy the game. If your challenges are too large or too numerous, do not give up. Failing makes you tired. Instead, reorganize. Find more determination, more knowledge, more help.
2. God didn't promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, sun without rain, but he did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears and light for the way.
3. Disappointments are like road bumps, they slow you down a bit but you enjoy the smooth road afterwards. Don't stay on the bumps too long. Move on!
4. When you feel down because you didn't get what you want, just sit tight and be happy, because God has thought of something better to give you. When something happens to you, good or bad, consider what it means. There's a purpose to life's events, to teach you how to laugh more or not to cry too hard.
5. No one can go back and make a brand new start. But anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

My Weekly Ritual

I am told that if we can just set aside a little bit of our time each day, we are on the journey to great things.

It sounds simple and easy enough. Afterall, what's so difficult to squeeze half an hour each day. However, the problem comes with one has so much interests that one will get pretty stressed out by allocating a small amount of time each day.

Allow me to list down my weekly ritual:

(1) In order to have home-cooked dinner every night after work, I have to wake up even earlier on Saturday to do marketing and the preparations for the week ahead. Thereafter, I have to forego an hour of lazying on the bed and instead trying real hard to find my way in my bleary eyes.

(2) By the time, I am fully awakened after the cooking of the meal, I set aside about half an hour each morning to read the daily newspaper. Weekend is reserved for reading with an eye for creative writing techniques and new words. That is the best way to build up one's language skills.

(3) To have a regular exercise routine, I do it during my lunch hour. So while my colleagues are having a leisure one hour catching up session, I am too but catching up on the treadmill.

(4) Once home after work, besides the mundane housework that accompanied having a home-cooked dinner, there is homework supervision to be done for my two boys. Then I need to teach my younger boy phonics.

(5)Being a toastmaster also means setting aside time each month to craft out a speech and rehearse before the monthly club meeting.

(6)To have quality time with my husband, I need to hit out at the golf course. It is not that I love to play golf but that's almost the only time I can have a good talk with him.

(7) I also need to set aside some time each week, to collect my thoughts and to post in my blog.

Hmm, I can see that I have already a number of items on my plate.

It is no wonder that I was struggling to maintain a new routine of exercising my vocal cords and learning piano by squeezing half an hour each day. By the end of two weeks, I am very exhausted. Slowly, I drop the first item off my to-do list. For the second, instead of a daily event, it becomes every other day. Time to sit down and plan realistically....

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tee-off and High Tea

We love to drive up north to Malaysia. As we come through the Causeway from Singapore, Johor Bahru opens like a stage curtain with its old towers and magnificent view of the Malaysian shoreline.


We venture a little further to Tanjong Puteri Golf resort and the scenery changes from one of old world charm to nature's bounty.

Set in a beautiful backdrop with lush landscape that blends with natural and waterways, the Tanjong Puteri golf course provides an ambience of calmness of being so close to nature. It is difficult to lose one's cool in such a serene surroundings. The breeze that comes ever so often play with our hair and also keep the heat at check.

Source: Above picture is taken at Tanjong Puteri Golf Resort

High Tea

After sweating out for the 18-hole, it is time for high tea. In our trustworthy car, we drive into a remote road leading to a ramshackle Chinese restaurant on stilts. As we tame our grumbling, rumbling tummies, we take in the fabulous view from the restaurant. We immense in the rustic charms that are reminiscent of a bygone era. It feel nostagic and relaxing. Ha, this is life....

Source: Above picture is from the Chinese Restaurant on stilts. The faraway island is one of Singapore's northern islands - Pulau Ubin.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Stories for Primary 2 or Grade 2 Students 1

Examination is over. Now is the time to interest your child in reading. I have some stories re-written as well as some journals which I have written together with my boy. These little stories are suitable for Primary 2 or Grade 2 children.

As you read with your child, I will like to suggest that your child to have a little jotterbook to jot down the phrases which interest him or her. The jotterbook will serve as a phrase/ word bank which your child could read in leisure. This will help your child build up his or her vocabulary and improve his or her language skills.

For words that are unfamiliar, he or she could then check up the meaning and pronunciation later. Such an approach will not diminish the joy of reading, yet at the same time capitalise on the opportunity to learn and expand the mastery of the language.

You can further double the fun by drawing the characters or scenes as described in the story. This will make learning more memorable and exciting.


The Magic Kettle

Once, there was a monk who bought a beautiful tea kettle. He filled it with water. He was abut to set it on the flames when the kettle cried out, "Too hot! Too hot!"

The monk was frightened out of his wits. He quickly gave the kettle away to a poor man.

That night, the poor man was awakened from his slumber. He heard a scratching noise. The kettle had grown a head, four legs and a tail! It said, "I am called the Tea Kettle of Good Luck. I am actually a squirrel in disguise."

The tea kettle performed acrobatics for the people. The news of the amazing kettle spread far and wide. The shows were always packed.

The poor man had become wealthy. He said to the kettle, "You have certainly earned your name 'Tea Kettle of Good Luck'."

The next day, the poor man went to the monk. He gave him half of his money and the kettle. He said, "It is to you that I owe this fortune. Thank you."

The monk placed the kettle on a special shelf. It was his treasure.


The Singing Donkey

Long ago, there was a small town called Devpur. A donkey named Dhola and a fox named Fiji lived there. They were very good friends and met every night to look for food.

One night, they came upon a cucumber farm. Dhola ate the juicy cucumbers while Fiji gobbled up chicks at an animal farm nearby. At the break of dawn, they returned to their homes. Since then, they did this every night. The thin and weak Dhola soon looked bigger and stronger, thanks to the cumcumbers.

One particular night, Dhola was in a cheerful mood after his dinner.

"I'm in the mood for singing," he told Fiji.

Fiji smiled and said, "My friend, don't start singing now or we would wake the watchmen up. We are stealing their cumcumbers and we would be inviting trouble by singing."

Dhola was furious.

"You are plain jealous! You do not think I can sing, do you? Well, listen to this!" Dhola exclaimed.

Upon saying this, Dhola started to sing at the top of his voice. The silence of the night was broken by Dhola's loud braying sounds. The watchmen who were fast asleep were awoken by them. Armed with their sticks, they ran after the donkey.

Source: "Singing Donkey" at Pitara Kids Network@


Caught Redhanded

John turned the door knob as quietly as he could. He had been playing basketball with his friends at the basketball court and had totally forgotten about the time. He only knew it was late when it became dark. John was worried and he hoped that his mother would not reprimand him for coming hom late. He moved stealthily into his room but the lights came on in the living room.

"You are late again!" a familiar voice said furiously.

John knew that his mother, Mrs Lim, had been waiting for him. He lowered his head and froze. He knew that he was in trouble.

"Why are you late for dinner again? This is the fourth time this week that you are late for dinner."

John tried to find excuses but he knew he could not escape this time.


Friday, October 30, 2009

I was the Best Speaker in Oct 09!

It is said that practice, practice, practice is everything when it comes to delivering a good speech. In fact, this mantra is true for everything that one wants to exceed in.

After more than one and a half year of learning to speak well by doing, I am beginning to see some results of my hardwork. Notwithstanding that it is the process of learning that is the most important, the ribbon is like a pat on one's back.

And yes, the Toastmasters experience has made the learning process to be a better speaker and leader, such a wonderful one. The meeting has a special place in my heart. I am always raring to attend my club meeting as I know that I will enjoy good fellowship with other toastmasters, friends and guests who are all there to learn and give encouragement. Not only do I never fail to have a fun and fulfilling time, I always return home inspired to put in more time to prepare for my next speech, next role and to do even better the next time round.

Things I learnt in Oct 09's Meeting

In my Oct club meeting, I have also taken on the role of Toastmaster of the Day (TMD). The key role of TMD is to be the genial host and to provide a structure to the meeting. It is definitely not a walk in the park to be the chief control officer of the meeting. This is the format which I have followed in my last meeting:

- Greetings, it is indeed my pleasure and privileged to be the TMD.
- There are __ parts to our meeting. Part 1 comprises the opening speech by our Club President followed by the prepared speech section. There are __ speeches today. (Elaborate on who is doing what.) Thereafter, we will go for a short refreshment break. After the break, we will proceed to Part 2 which is the evaluation section. Followed by the Table topics section.
- Without further ado, let us put our hands together to welcome our Club President for the opening address.
- Thank you, Club President.
- Now, we will proceed to the prepared speech section. The first speaker is xxx. He or she is doing XXX, speech title. To request for the speech evaluator to read out the objectives of the speech. Thereafter explain the timing sequence.
- Move on to Part 2, 3. To use similar format.

Next time round, I will try to inject some humor when doing the transition. And that will call for some quick thinking on the feet. Fret not, I could polish up this skill by volunteering to speak at the Table Topics Section which I have done so this time round :) I could not have done it without the encouragement of fellow toastmasters.

Some beautiful phrases which I have picked up:
- full of oneself
- unnerving experience
- brutality of life that lent a vivid insight to ...
- nurturing the fighting spirit
- defacto leader
- DNA - Discipline and Attitude
- sharp ears, large eyes, meticulous mind
- a rattle and a click
- what ills my car has

Some table topics questions for thought:
- Power of love is ...
- My dreams are ...
- If I were the President of Singapore, I will ....
- Laughter is the best medicine. Do you agree?
- What is your favorite vacation.
- The side fo me, nobody knows.
- Time is like a river. [This is how ATMS/CL M Chandran tackled this topic. I only managed to jot down the key points but I liked it and thought that he has handled the topic very well. Here it goes:
Time is like a river which flows. So we should not dwell on our mistake. Instead, we should let the past die a natural death. Before time kills us, we must kill time. ... Actors in the stage of time as what Shakespeare once said."]

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Happy Tongue Twisting

Tongue Twisters are a great way to work on one's enunciation because they are so challenging to do. When we work on something hard, the easier stuff because so much easier!

First say them slowly. Second, increase the speed. Do so in an iterative manner increasing the speed until you can't keep up:

She sells seashells by the seashore.

The thirty three thieves thought that they thrilled the throne throughout Thursday.

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
A peck of pickled peppers did Peter Piper the pickled pepper picker pick.
If Peter Piper the pickled pepper picker picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where is the peck of pickled peppers that Peter Piper the pickled pepper picker picked?

Have fun!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Speech Writing, Part 3

Tips to Consider

Moving on, I have also learnt certain techniques to consider in speech writing. Some of them, I have used in my Toastmasters projects - in project 4 "How to Say it" of our Competent Communitor module - about words.

Many of the examples in the following tips are culled from John F Kennedy's Inauguration Speech, delivered on January 20, 1961.


1. Alliteration [e.g. as different as chalk and cheese, friend and foe, break the bond of mass misery. Readers will have noticed that I loved alliteration. In my previous post, I taught my boy to use "It was wild, it was wet. We were wowed by Wild, Wild Wet." This is a combinition of alliteration and set of three.]

2. Anecdotes [basically a short story.]

3. Antithesis [Opposition and contrast. It is a nice balance and play on words. E.g. "ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country." "united, there is little we cannot do, divided, there is little we can do.]

4. Call to action [- usually it is position towards the end of a speech "Let us go forth" ]

5. Contrasts [light and darkness, symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning]

6. Conversation English

7. Definitions [ not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom. ... not because ... but because it is right/]

8. Humor with care

9. Quotations

10. Repetition

11. Rhetorical question [questions which you do not expect an answer. E.g. "Will you join in that historic effort?"]

12. Rounded-off figures

13. Short sentences

14. Set of three

15. Similes (similar in one way) and metaphors (similar in all aspects - more powerful than similes) (E.g. "Now the trumpet summons us again - not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need - not as a call to battle, though embattled we are - but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle..."]

16. Simple words

17. Sound bites [e.g."Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate."]

18. Statistics [use them sparringly]

19. Transitions

20. Vivid imagery [e.g. "that torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans..."


- Cliches (expressions that are no longer fresh. E.g. at this moment in time, without further ado, last but no least - just us "finally". We work 24/7, on that note) and platitudes (Sentences that say something that is true but people have heard it so many times. E.g. "Change is the only constant.")

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Lessons from Mount Everest, I

I was sieving through my piles of notes and I chanced upon a postcard size flyer from Everest Motivation Team Pte Ltd, I attended a seminar by its founder, David Lim, Chief Motivation Officer, Author, coach and mountaineer.

I found the materials in the postcard uplifting and useful. Tonight, I will like to share with my readers the lessons from Mount Everest - key skills and mindsets in succeeding in anything that you do.

1. Create Crystal Clear Outcomes:what can YOU do to create an exciting future reality that you can imagine, live and breathe right now in terms of your goals.

Having a goal in life is very importance. Yet how many of you dare say that you have one. I was drifting my life aimlessly until I read the book "Think and Grow Rich" by Napolean Hill. My dear readers, think hard today of what you want to be in life.

2. Find What You Need
In many cases YOU have all that you need in terms of determination and stamina to achieve if it is the right goal for you. For more complex tasks your best assets are the RIGHT people: Those with the five C's: Commitment, Competence, Compatibility, Communcations, and Courage.

While I agree with David that we all have what we need in terms of determination and stamina to achieve. The definition of the right goal here is rather fuzzy. I believe that one should know what is the driving force behind his or her ultimate goal in life. For me, my children are my driving force. My goal in life is intricately linked to proving to them that determination is the key to success. We can achieve great dreams as long as we put our heart and soul into it. For readers who are animafans, Naruto is my hero. He represents the type of person whom I aspire to be. He is who he is today because of the hardwork and his sheer refusal to give up.

3. Failure is Never Final
Instead, failure gives lessons to succeed more convincingly the next time.

I will like to add that failure is never final as long as we keep on trying.


I will share with you more in part 2 of this blogpost. For now, think of what is your ultimate goal in life.

The Heavier the Responsibilities, The More Unreal It Feels

You must have experienced this feeling before. Work is piling fast. The children's examination are round the corner. There is so much to do but so little time. Yet instead of trying to make the best out of the situation, you feel that it is akin to clucking around like a headless chicken. There is a strange sense of beguiling calm. In your head, the background music of "whatever will be, will be" was playing.

I felt this strange sensation a few days ago. I just wanted to drift through what was going to unfold. In a bid to beat pressure, I made friend with escapee. Escapee was cruel and yet so tempting. It was cruel because it was it lured us into not taking action and hence led to the self-fulfilling prophecy. And it was tempting to not try and believe that things were beyond our control. Not to add that it was also theraptic to put the blame on anyone else except ourself.

Before the denial turned demented, I yanked myself back from the abyss of inertia. I sat down and planned my leave, charted out my work and delegated certain work functions. I was glad that the knowledge that I gained from my postgraduate program, voluminous reading, writing and my toastmasters' training come in handy at this crucial moment.

Of course, I wished that there weren't so much responsibilities. Yet, I took comfort in the fact that I was doing the best I could to balance both work and family. It was at such trying time that the thought of having a maid crossed my mind. But by so doing, one day I would also have outsourced not just the cleaning, but also the love and care of my children. I also needed to be good role model for my two boys.

The love for my children drowned out the song of "whatever will be, will be". Instead, the wise words of Lance Armstrong took its place. His words "Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever." is now resonating in my head.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Phonics and Perservance

Two years passed since I started coaching my younger boy phonics. It was tough to juggle a full-time job and family. It was time-consuming as I needed to do the cooking, the bulk of the housework and ferrying of the two children. Most of all, it was tiring - both physically and mentally.

At first, my boy was keen to learn or rather to try his hands on the computer. Later, the daily session became once a week. Once a week gradually turned once a month and then no more. I was tempted to seek external help. Which I did but the progress was slow and painful.

A few weeks ago, I decided to try again. I started from ground zero. I decided that a shorter but regular session will reinforce the sound and concepts that my boy will pick up.

I re-strategised the approach. The same approach which I used on my elder boy did not work with my younger one as they were so different. My elder boy is quiet but imaginative. He could visualise what I tell him. My younger boy learns better through movement. I need to act out to interest him.

This is just week one of my second attempt. To offer a glimpse of what I teach, the following sounds are taught over a period of five days. Each time over a period of about 15 minutes.

Day 1: Introduce the sound "S" and "EE". Teach the children to listen carefully.
Day 2: Introduce the sound "V" and "AN". Again a listening lesson.
Day 3: Time for the child to practise saying and blending the sounds.
Day 4: Revision time. Make flash cards for this purpose
Day 5: Again revision time. Make the lesson fun by using story and drawing.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Speech Writing, Part 2

Transition Markers

Clear writing requires that communications to be understandable in a single rapid reading.

One way to ensure your writing meets this standard is to make your material coherent. That is, ensure your ideas flow together logically.

Coherence means more than just connecting your sentences mechanically. It means that the way your connect your ideas reflects the relationship between them. Words and phrases called transitional markers establish this relationship.

To make your writing effective, you must choose the transitional marker that reflects the relationship you want to establish. Listed below are words or phrases you can use to help you transit from one idea to another grouped by the relationship they establish between ideas.

You can use these transition markers within sentences, between sentences, and between paragraphs. The result will be that your reader will be able to follow your ideas as they flow from one to another.

To Show


again / also / and then /besides
/finally / first, second, third, etc. / further /equally important
/further / furthermore / in addition /last
/likewise / moreover / next /too

Cause and Effect

hence / consequently / accordingly / in short
/therefore / then / thus / truly


likewise / in a like manner / similarly


after all / although this may be true / I admit / even though
/naturally / at the same time / of course


after all / at the same time / and yet / although true
/but / on the other hand / for all that / in spite of
/still yet / in contrast nevertheless / notwithstanding
/however / on the contrary/

Time Relationships

after a short time / afterwards / as long as / as soon as / at last
/at length / at that time / before / earlier / at the same time
/immediately / lately / meanwhile / of late / in the meantime
/later presently / shortly / since / soon
/temporarily / thereafter / thereupon until / when / while

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Kowloon-Singapore Toastmasters Club - 105th Chapter Meeting

Tonight, I have attended my club's 105th Chapter Meeting and commenced on my first Advanced Project 1 - The Briefing. The time was well-spent. In the words of our Club President, David, he shared with us his motto in the Toastmasters' Journey is "to join and enjoy".

The Education

My evaluator had been very encouraging and generous with his feedback. He was spot-on when he advised me not to have my nerve get the better of me. The topic which I presented was something which I knew at my fingertips. Yet, I felt uncomfortable without my script. One area of improvement was to personalising the topic. This technique would be useful to get the speaker closer to the audience.

On the Q&A portion, things that I had done well included repeating the question which allowed for other audience to listen to the question again. At the same time, it gave me some time to think about how to answer. One good way to answer a difficult answer was to use the following sentence structure "Yes, .... but ..." instead of challenging it head on.

Language Skills

The beautiful phrases which I have learnt tonight included:

- eyes gazing at
- anger turned into rage
- found many hands around her
- disillusioned and devastated
- disappointment and dissatifaction
- beautiful and hostile
- sober and serious

Thinking on Your Feet

I used to think that some people were naturally good speakers who could speak off the cuff. After I joined the Toastmasters Club, I realise that everyone can do that with practise. Starting from now, I will also be focusing on my speech evaluation skills and table topics.

I have done a silent evaluation on a speech entitled CPR which is on project 5 based on the technique using acronymn.

C - onfident, the speaker has spoken without using any notes.
P - oise. This was a Project 5 which was on body language. A story-telling mode instead of a narrative-mode will help to give more opportunity for the use of body language.
R - elating to the audience. The speaker told us that 7 minutes meant a lot to the person receiving the cardiopulmonary resuscitation. I will like to suggest the speaker linked to his speech - a 5 to 7 minute speech which can impart so much knowledge to the listeners.

Moving on to table topics. Below were a list of questions which our Table Topic master, Gary had used.

1. My family - For such a question, I could perhaps handle it with relation to the toastmasters family. In a club setting, our club president takes on the role of our father setting the direction for our club and our toastmasters journey. VP of education is like our mother who is the nurturing character, guiding us to do our projects. Finally, fellow toastmasters are our brothers and sisters - giving us support and encouragement when we do our projects.

2. The person I love most - have many persons whom I loved. Two years ago when I just learnt golf, I idolized Tiger Woods. He is the best golf player in the world. I love to watch him play. His eyes would be gazing over the fairway. His mind busily calibrating that perfect shot and like a skilled technician, he executed the perfect swing. He is simply fantastic. Then last year when Mr Obama campaigned for US Presidency. I was inspired by his speech, especially his slogan "Yes, we can." Encapsulated in these two great men were some of the qualities which I also see in my husband. Though he may not be a great golfer like Tiger Woods or a charismatic leader like Mr Obama, he always aims for the stars. And this is the man I love most.

3. My hobbies - sleep, eat and do nothing. Sleeping is very important as it allows our body to rest and get re-charged to face the new challenges that await us. Eating may sound easy but it is not easy to eat correctly. Many people do not eat, they swallow their food. The correct way to eat is to slowly mince the food in your mouth and savour the taste. This way, you will not need to eat so much. Finally, doing nothing is one effective way to relax our mind. Imagine if we keep stirring a pool of murky water, it will continue to be murky. Once a while, we need to let the mud settle down and clear water will emerge.

4. My career - From a very experienced toastmaster, Mr Bruno, I learnt the use of acronymn. C-areer in toastmasters, A-pplied the knowledge that we acquired, R-esources. E-ntertain the audience. E-ducate ourselves and R-ejoice.

Beyond Education

Besides language skills,I knew another great and inspirational athlete by the name of Julie Moss. I have always been enthralled by the sheer determination of athletes to break the shackles of limitation.

I have done a Google and this is one inspiring read.

Julie Moss

Do I need to give you another reason to join a Toastmasters Club? It is cost-effective, inexpensive and most important of all, it works wonders.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Speech Writing, Part 1

I have just attended a course on speech writing last Friday. The facilitator is as experienced in speech writing as he is generous with his sharing.

I find the 1-day course to be very useful in helping me both with speech writing as well as writing. Below are the notes which I have made so that I could refer to them as and when I need it.

Objectives of a Speech
1. Inspire thinking
2. Stir feelings
3. Motivate action
4. Provide information

I will like to suggest using the acronym "SAID" to remember the 4 objectives of a speech. S - tir feeling, A - action or call to action, I - nspire thinking, D - ata or information.

Qualities of a Good Speech
1. Easy to follow and understand
2. Achieve its objectives
3. Be memorable, if possible

Probably, a good acronym for the qualities will be
A - achieve its objectives,
B - e memorable
C - as easy to follow and understand as ABC

10 Steps in Drafting the Speech - The Process
1. Determine the message

2. Consider the audience

3. Think about the person making the speech

4. Collect information and organize it into about 5 points. Rank them.

5. Start with point 1, then 5, then 3, then 4 and finally 2. [For this step, the facilitator is trying to "ride the wave", with the momentum generated by the most important point 1 to weave in 5. The second most important point is deliberately placed at the end to capture the last wave of interest from the audience at the end of the speech.]

6. Link points with smoooth transitions. E.g. meanwhile, 1st, 2nd and 3rd

7. Write conclusion, then introduction [These two parts are the most important part of the speech. Because it is so important, it will be good to start with a standard opening first. Work on the body before one comes back to polish the opening and ending.]

8. Work on a sound bite. [A sound bite could be a short sentence - at most 2 lines, important and written in a nice and stylised way. It will refer to the text box or quotation that we see in the newspaper.]

9. Review conclusion and introduction

10. Have someone deliver it and assess how it flows. [I will like to suggest that we can also make use of tape recorder - we read and tape it down and review it ourselves.]

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wild, Wild Wet

My boy's journal:

It was wild. It was wet. We were wowed by Wild, Wild Wet.

On a sweltering hot Saturday, my parents brought us to Singapore's famous water theme park, Wild, Wild Wet. I knew we were there when I spotted a giant Ferris wheel attached to a building.

Once there, my brother and I quickly dashed to the entrance and changed into our swimming trunks while my parents were trailing our fading backs. Our first stop was the water playground. This was not the usual run-out-of-mill payground. There was water sloshing around as we loved it.

Next, we enjoyed gazing at the passing clouds on our floats in the gliding river. Though our bottoms were on the float and our body curled up like a flower, it was actually a pretty comfortable position.

After a cool relaxing drift in the river, we went to another station. It felt as if the storm was brewing. The waves were big and strong. No, the weather was beautiful. It was just that we were at the wave pool. My brother loved the wave pool as he could fight the waves. We donned on the colourful life jackets before jumping into the pool.

We knew that it was time to bid goodbye to Wild, Wild Wet when he heard our tummies grumbling and rumbling. We headed to the nearby restaurant to have our dinner. It was really a very enjoyable day!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Improving Your Articulation

When I was young, I encountered difficulties in having a clear diction when I pronounced my words. It was only recently that I realised that it was a result of bad speech habits after reading the Toastmasters' handbook entitled "Your Speaking Voice".

A thin book, it is surprising thick in content. There are many aspects to our speaking voice. Just to name a few, the book teaches us methods for voice relaxation, breathing exercises to improve volume, extending and controlling your pitch, projecting your voice, improving your articulation and others.

I have decided to work on improving my articulation as a start.

The preliminaries:

1: Decide that you are going to be careful with your speech.

2: Open your mouth fully when you talk. Otherwise, it is akin to talking with your hand in front of your mouth.

3: Loosen lazy lips. Talk as if your lips are wrapping around your words as if each word were a tasty morsel.

4. Teach your tongue to keep its place. This is less difficult as the tongue usually acts without your conscious direction. But it it gets in the way, you must consciously make it respond to your demand.

5. Practice. Every time you speak, remind yourself to speak each word well.

Your speech muscles must be trained and exercise just as you would train your body's other muscles for athletic activity. The booklet gives a set of lip, tongue and jaw exercises to help one obtain the greatest possible flexibility.

If fellow toastmasters are interested, go and suss out this fabulous book. It comes with the Competent Communicator and Competent Leadership manuals when we first join the Toastmasters' Club.

Non-toastmasters who are interested to improve your public speaking skills, what are you waiting for? Go and check out the nearest Toastmasters' Club around. The club is one of the best organisation around and it is very cost-effective to improve your public speaking and leadership skills.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

This is Maths! Part 2

There are only three things you need to remember in order to prove a theory. I have not met a lecturer who told me this. Maybe they think that this is trival. But it never failed to draw a blank look from my school mates when I told them about my great discovery.

1st, proof by induction. E.g. the statement "I can only give birth to boys." For n=1, well, my first child is a boy. So the statement is true. Let's take any n. Assume n is true. I use n = 1, I next prove if n+1 is true. In my case, n+1=2, the statement is true. By induction, the statement is true for all n.

2nd, proof by contradiction. I remember the lightning sign or two opposite arrows, my lecturer will draw when this is done. This is the easiest proof. E.g. the statement "All lady bosses are mean." Now, if you can find a lady boss who is not mean. The statement is false.

3rd, proof by first principle. This is the most difficult to prove 'cos you need to prove for all cases. You try to build mini-statements that support the first statement. E.g. "Lady bosses are a mix of mean and nice people." You will first need to split lady bosses into several different baskets - something similar to market segmentation. Then for each basket, you prove either the basket is mean or nice.

Did I not tell you that I will make a good maths teacher? For pre-university level, I will teach my children that a number by itself has no meaning, unless you attach a meaning to it. At university level and beyond, logic tells but story sells.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Music and My Mother

My boy's journal:

I do not understand why my mother always insists that I continue to learn piano during the few occasions where I lost interest. Today, I know why.

My mother always wants to learn music. However, she was not able to do so as her parents were poor. At that time, Ah Gong and Ah Ma told my mother to study hard and reach for the stars. Education was the way out of poverty.

Nevertheless, she remains passionate about music. Twenty years ago, she brought a guitar using the money she earnt from giving tuition. The guitar was a second-hand one and cost a paltry sum of twenty dollars which must be a princely amount for my mother then. Today, the guitar still sits in our storeroom. Maybe, someday she will be able to play.

Now I understand why my mother is so happy when I and now, my brother indicates that we will want to learn piano. I realise that I am so fortunate. I will practise hard to make my mother proud.

Movie Premiere 9 on 9.09.09

My parents brought my brother and I to watch the movie premiere 9 on 9.09.09. Before the movie started, we had our dinner near Lido Cineplex. My brother who usually eats like a bird, ate like a pig this time. My favorite was chicken drumlets and I too stuffed myself silly.

The show "9" is a story which begins when the human world comes to an end. This is because an eminent scientist created super machines using his intellect, which destroy human world. The scientist then used his soul to create nine little creatures made of rice sack.

9 is one of the rice-sacked creature, who finds himself in a post apocalyptic world whre humans are extinct. He subsequently discovers a community of others like him taking refuge from the fearsome machines.

Despite being the neophyte of the group, 9 convinces the others that hiding will do them no good. They must take the offensive if they are to survice. Finally, they succeed to destroy the machines but lose five of their comrades.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

This is Maths! Part 1

I dunno why my mind always stray and wander.

Today, I want to clear the misconception about those who major in Mathematics.

Many people thought that those who major in Maths, are number crunchers. That is actually a misconception. Maths in university level is about logical thinking.

Eg. A is B's relative, B is C's relative so A is C's relative. [Recall: A => B, B => C then A=> C]

A dog has four legs. But a four-legged creature is not necessarily a dog. [Recall A => B doesn't necessarily mean B => A]

Gosh, I think I will make a damn good Maths teacher, ahem :P

Then I remembered my Maths professor once told me that in the past, mathematicans were employed by your majesty to entertain the king in an intellectual way. now, I know why my mind always stray - 'cos if I dun the king may slay me....

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Living Frugally in New York City

A short story on Living Frugally in New York City

The year was 2001. A twenty-some young man stepped out of the airplane at Newark International Airport. His black waxy hair was neatly styled to look preem and proper. Together with his new suit and black-kiwi business shoes, he was ready to step out to greet the street-smart businessmen and financial-savvy stockbrokers at one of the world's busiest financial hub - New York City.

Tim was sent on a 2-month work assignment to the city. This was one of the biggest breakthrough in his 5-year career with the company. Succeeding in this assignment would herald a bright and promising future for more years to come. Tim was determined to prove his mettle. He was also grateful to his supportive wife who shouldered the new responsibilities to take care of their newborn at home.

As he stepped out of the airport, the late-autumn chill air greeted Tim. His brown eyes were then treated the granduer sight of the gold, red and rust amongst the trees from afar. "Welcome to New York City." Tim mumbled to himself as he gripped tight the air ticket on his hand.

Tim hailed the yellow taxi to the financial district of the city. His eyes widened like a little boy when he saw suspending traffic lights. His heart would skip a beat whenever the taxi driver tried to overtake another car and he could feel a lump in his throat whenever another vehicle steered dangerously into the lane. Notwithstanding, he arrived to his hotel safe and sound except for his dishevelled hair.

As it was too earlier to check into the hotel room, Tim parked his belongings before going out to the nearby department, Macy to buy a decent-looking jacket to keep him warmth and see him through the business world in New York City which he was adamant. Tim did have a jacket for winter but it was too informal for such an important assignment. At least, getting a business jacket would provide him the much-needed armour to brave through the warfare of business, he reasoned.

When he returned to the hotel, he was ill-prepared for what was to come. While he earnt enough to qualify for a credit card, his little pay did not qualify him for a big credit line. He did not know that the hotel would hold a certain sum of his credit limit and would only release it upon checking-out. It was it, he had got a credit card which he could not use. He had no friends to turn to in this big city. Perhaps, a consolation would be that he did bring around cash - a meagre US $1,400 to see him through 2 months in one of the most expensive in the world!

Tim was used to hard life. A orphan at a young and creative age of 16, he would carefully apportion how he would spend S$300 each month on food and transport. Fortunately for him, he did not need to worry about accomodation as his parents' insurance covered the 3-room flat that they bought. This time round, he had the added experience of penny-pinching and stretching his money.

Breakfast was taken at the hotel's premise. A good intercontinential spread of roti was better than what he used to have. After a hearty breakfast with free-flow of coffee, Tim was energised and ready to head for work. Lunch was again in the hotel but in the room where Tim would pour hot water into his cup noodle. So much for his calories intake. Tim got his protein-fix in the evening where he would spend 40 minutes walking to-and-fro to Chinatown where he would take-away Chinese fried rice with egg and stock-up on his cup noodles.

Living frugally in New York City also shed new light for Tim who felt more like a native than a foreigner. The 40 minutes walking each evening, not only helped Tim to save some transportation cost, but also enriched him with the New York City experience. He knew every nook and corner in the city.

During the two months stay, Tim had also managed to spare some money to explore Vermont, hold a fat orange pumpkin in his arms, visit the Ben and Jerry ice-cream factory, and even bought souvenirs for his wife and their new-born.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Stay in the United States of America - Prelude

Sweltering Summer Sweating Sweating
Awesome Autumn Falling Foliage
White Winter Wishing Wishing
Splendid Spring Blooming Blooming

The above is a little poem that I have written at the end of my one-year stay in the states. It encapsulates what I have experienced.

On a personal level, it is amazing to realise that I can write. I used to think that I am no good with the words and only with numbers. I thought that I am hopeless when it comes to public speaking but I have recently proved myself wrong. Now, I know that human is capable of infinite abilities if we give ourselves space and time to discover our hidden potential.

Singapore is a very fast-paced country. In the pursuit of success, wealth and work take precedence. No one has the time to take stock of when he or she is. Everyone is busy to get another piece of paper to emerge as the victor in the rat race. Sometimes, someone will occassionally drop out of the race to look for the right way to lead his or her life.

I was that someone a few years ago. The decision to pack my bags and leave for a foreign land with my family, was not an easy one. Given the focus on wealth and work in this little island, one year could result in a gulf of difference when one compares the progression that a fellow co-worker has made. Now I realise that to measure progression using career as a single dimension is so limited. Life is more than work, it is about your family, your friends and more importantly, yourself.

I am in awe of how much I have progressed by simply allowing time to come to a standstill. Just like a water in a mud, if we were to constantly stir it, it will remain murky. On the other hand, if we were to allow it time for the mud to settle, crystal-clear water will surface. I realise that I was not able to write well in the past as I did not allow myself to focus on writing. In the same manner. if I want to be a better speaker, I just need to practise more. There is no two way about this.

I will like to chronicle my unforgetable experience in my next few blogposts using each season as my lamp post.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Practice Makes Perfect

To win a trophy is an affirmation of one's hardwork, an achievement of sorts, and most importantly of all, to spur one to greater heights.

Readers would have read in my earlier post that I have taken more challenge in my journey to improve to be a better public speaker. I found that the shortest time to do so is to take part in competition. And this I did at my club's humorous speech and evaluation contest held just yesterday. It was a lot of work, a lot of stress and a lot of unexpected. I was busy with my work. I was stressed as I was juggling so many things. There were unexpected work that came along the way. But this was life and this was reality. While I could jolly well raise a white flag, I refused to do so without a fight.

I was glad I did as along the way, my mentor chipped in and sent me so much information on how to prepare and deliver a humorous speech, how to do a good evalution. Yetti, if you are reading this, a very BIG thank you.

It was in my wildest dream that I could do a presentation without my quavering voice. Now the unthinkable has become a pleasant reality. To add icing onto the cake, I was actually the first-runner up for the humorous speech and lo and behold, the champion for speech evaluation. Being the champion for speech evaluation also means that I am in the coveted position to represent my club and compete at the next level in Sep 09. I will be spending more time reading and doing how to evaluate a speech.

No words can adequately express my gratitude. But I shall try. Thank you Toastmasters' Clubs and the many friends whom I have made, you are such superb people that make such a stupendous change in me. As action speaks louder than words, I shall work hard to prepare for the contest next month. Wish me luck :)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Babies are wonderful, but...

I can still fondly remember what a bundle of joy my first born was. My mother was excited to be grandmother for the first time. My husband and I were overjoyed as we finally had an offspring after 5 long years of marriage. But slowly but surely, the initial euphoria waned as the reality of taking care of a newborn baby hit home and hard.

Gone was the carefree days of a lovey-dovey couple who could decide on a romantic night out on a whim. "Ring, ring." My handphone would buzz when the clock struck 6 pm. There was no need for caller-ID for I knew on the other side of the line was my mother, weary from taking care of the baby and reminded me to pick up my boy on time. As my husband was usually busy at work - at times, I marvelled at my own efficiacy at work - I ended up being the nanny on graveyard shift.

When my second pregnancy came, my mother raised a white flag. "Get a confinement nanny and a maid." she advised. And a confinement nanny stayed for not just a month but two months, I would want her to stay on longer if not for the high charges - it was around $1,700 per month - enough to pay my maid for half a year, and that was not inclusive of the maid levy.

But unfortunately, the maid only stayed for not a day longer than half a year. I would call that emotional blackmail - be it psychological or not. The first thing, we told her was that taking care of my two children was to be her top priority. Housework and the rest was to take a backseat. Little did I know that she followed the instructions a little to zealous. In the end, she carried my baby while I struggled with the shopping bags outside. When I spotted a coat of dust on my window grille, she told nonchalently that my mother told her not to do so - which my mother denied. I supposed in a way my mother and I suffered from a severe form of middle-income guilt. Being just so-so in economic status, we did not have the supercilious ease of the filthy rich. What made it worst was that the memories of being poor remained vivid in our minds. My mother used to be a part-time home cleaner and both of us empathised with the maid having to do the strenuous housework so much so that we were taken for a ride. Then there was my husband who decidedly steered clear from domestic affair from Day 1, loudly advocating that the reports in the papers on errant maids were just the tip of an iceberg.

In the end, we decided that home affairs - as in housework - was easily to manage than human affairs. Having a first hand taste of having a maid, my mother also relented and agreed to be the main caregiver of my second baby while my elder boy was put in the full-day childcare. However, this was not after my valiant attempt to stay home as a full-time mother failed. I was constantly calling her for advice on what to do next with my wailing baby. I must admit that I was then silently revering in joy.

It was with these rich experiences that I coined the term "burden of joy" in place of "bundle of joy" when I wrote a congratulatory note to a friend. I had to apologise that it was not intentionally but my subsciousness getting the better of me. Hey, did Malcolm Gladwell not say in his book "Blink" that our instinct was often true then not?

Having written all these, I must admit that my two boys are such joy to be with especially during my one-year stay in the United States. They have taught me so much to ask questions again and not to be set in my mould of thinking. Being a full-time mother away from home made me stronger. As I knew that my mother would not be able to rush here - she was illiterate and there was no way she could fly to the States alone - I just learnt to be independent.

There was so much family bonding especially when my husband was then a full-time student again, he would be home early - not the usual long after dinner in his working life. He could also help out on a more consistent basis with the floor vacuuming, laundry and grocery shopping. Long weekends meant a short getaway in the nearby states. The longer termbreaks were spent in well-planned driving holidays - the most memorable one was when we drove all the way from Pennsylvannia to California.

I am not surprised that our baby bonus has little impact so far. For one, I value my freedom more than the perks that come with the baby. What I am looking for is my husband to help out more. But he is always so busy with his work. For me, I have made the choice to balance both my family and work. In the case of my husband, his work. Even with my balancing stance, work still spills over to after office hours and into the weekends.

That guilt of not being to spend enough time with my boys especially in the case of my younger son is constantly haunting me. I know I can make a difference after I coach my elder boy in phonics during our one-year in the States. He is a much better English speaker and learner compared to my younger boy.

Yes, babies are wonderful but the demands of being a good parent entail a lot of short-term sleepless nights, long-term sacrifice. And hopefully, also long-term love and care from my children when my husband and I grow old.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Love-and-Hate Relationship with Golf

I believe that you will agree with me that for ordinary working folks like us, we look forward to non-working day. A day that we are free to decide when to wake up and not at the command of the alarm clock. A day for us to catch up on sleep. In short, a wonderful day on the snuggily comfortable bed in an air-conditioned room.

Alas, this is usually not the case for me. Allow me to do a re-play of what happened a few months ago where Singapore's skyline was often shrouded by haze.

At the break of dawn, I was rudely awaken from my slumber by my husband's deep voice. As I sluggishly dragged myself out of bed, my nose caught a whiff of the burnt smell of the haze from the Indonesia fire. My not-fully-functioning head miraculously stirred to life to find an excuse not to go to the golf course. Next, my suddenly newfound keen sense of hearing attested to the grumbling and rumbling sound of thunder. But my single-minded husband would not tolerate any of my excuses. A promise was a promise, he reminded me. Yes, I had agreed to accompany him to a game of bent sticks. Sigh, in an instance, I was whisked out of the home and off to the golf course.

This is my typical response whenever my husband suggests for us to go for a golfing trip together. I want my beauty sleep. The thought of lugging the few kilograms golf bag into the car boot and 5 to 6 hours under the harsh tropical sun is another deterrent. But it is also almost the only time when my husband is most relaxed and able to hold a decent conversation with me. So this is the reason, I play golf.

I love golf for it allows me timeout with my husband. Yet, it is such a difficult game to pick up. Sigh, I wish life could be easier....

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Humorous Speech Contest - Style, Substance and Sourness

Whenever I saw pretty girls on stage giving a good speech, my inner voice could not but screamed "got style, no substance". Afterall, I believe that our creator is fair and just. Since the girls are pretty, they cannot be smart. And if they are smart, they are not pretty. Just like me. But strangely, I do not have that vernemous thought when it comes to guys.

A very good afternoon, Contest chair, district officers, fellow toastmasters, friends and guests. For more than a decade, I was never called upon to do a briefing to management or to my fellow colleagues. The reason is simple, I am not pretty enough. Then suddenly, my boss asked me to do a short presentation. Surely, he must be nuts. But of course, I would lose my job if I were to say that.

So carefully, I treaded, trying to "siam" ("Siam" is Singlish, meaning trying to avoid doing more work.) "Boss, boss, you, you do not expect a smart alec like me to address to commoners, right? I mean they would not be able to understand me."

"You either go for it or go for the door. You understand?" My boss's stern voice reverberated in the four walls of the office and also in my head. I looked at him sheepishly. Of course, I understood. I was a smart alec.

I dropped my head and shoulder and resigned - not resigned from my work - I am still need to eat, you know, what I meant was to resign to my fate.

I was to research on how to speak in public and share my findings to a group of senior staff who have been speaking to well, the public. Mind you, I was not a toastmaster then. I guess my not-so-pretty face somehow found its way to my boss's stack of bad books. Alright, a bookworm I was so doing research was a piece of cake for me and this was what I have shared with my colleagues on that fateful day.

Hello, everyone, today I am indeed very honored to share with you my experience in public speaking. Thump!!!

[Narrator's mode] No it was not my heart beating. Though it was thumping fast and furious. I was so nervous that I missed a step and fell.

"Hello, any questions from the floor?" I grimaced as I tried to salvage the situation. "Thinking on our feet is very important as a speaker." I continued.

One very effective way to brush up our public speaking skills so is to be a toastmaster. Toastmaster is not a master in making toast bread. It is more like a ghostbuster, we get rid of the ghosts in public speaking.

Just like when we buy a property, analysts will tell you that it is all about "location, location and location." In being a good public speaker, it is all about "preparation, preparation and preparation."

So what are the things which we should look out for when we are giving a speech. Organise your speech, and practise. Also have a script in hand. A script is like a plank for not just for beginner swimmers but also for all. Whenever we feel insecure in front of an auditorium full of audience, we could quickly refer to our script. But please, do not be over-reliant on the script. No one likes to feel neglected, especially when you only have style.

[Narrator's mode]: I could feel tension mounting in the room as forty pairs of eyes stared at me when I said that. A smart alec I was, I moved quickly to defuse the tension. So I used my script and fanned myself and the audience of course. Phew, that was a close one.

Erm, I mean when you not only have style but also substance. Next I will move on to what to look out for when we prepare our script. Words are our good friends and we need to know our audience and use their language. When we do public speaking, we are not merely reading from our script. Otherwise, you will lose them halfway in your presentation. According to research, most people will be able to remember the most information in the beginning and slowly this attention span declines. I believe that the attention span will remain high if we can keep entertaining them.

We do so by making use of our gesture, body language and vocal variety. RAISE YOUR VOICE, whenever we need to.

"Thump!!!" Another loud thump thundered again.

[Narrator's mode] Gosh, my louder than usual voice must have shaken someone from his or her slumber land. Not waiting to miss this opportunity to get my vengence, I suggested the audience to demonstrate what he or she would do after hearing my presentation.

"Angie, can you kindly come here to share with us what you have learnt." I ventured, trying to sound as kind as possible, while sniggering secretly in my heart.

"Sure." she replied. "I learnt what not to do in a presentation. Do not read from script as what you have been doing. And I also figure out that your children must be very well behaved."

"Oh, really?" I was pleasantly surprised and was unexpected at such a compliment. "How do you know?"

"'Cos whenever they make any mistake, you probably gave them a two-hour lecture."

The whole class burst out laughing. Gosh, I guess they do have style and substance. It was just me who was without style but with sourness. After that incident, I decided to walk my talk and join the Toastmasters Club.

And I discover that style and substance does mix. Our contest chair is a beautiful and articulate lady. Of course, our judges are also gorgeous and gregarious bunch. How can I forget our audience? You too are fantastic. All we need to do is just to scoop away the sourness.

Back to you Toastmaster of the Day.

New Challenges Coming Forth

The last few weeks have been a busy, hectic but fulfilling period. I was busy on work front. I needed to do presentation on a back-to-back basis. Work life has been geared towards doing briefing since I returned from the States about three years ago.

I must say that the Toastmasters Program has given me tremendous help to conquer the fear of public speaking. Through the 10 projects in the Competent Communicator module and volunteering in the club activities, I have become more confident and comfortable in speech delivery. Strangely, busy as I was, I actually looked forward to standing in the lectern and speak! It is an opportunity to give all that I have. There is also a great sense of achievement.

Just a few days ago, I agreed to take part in my club's coming humorous speech and evaluation contest. Today, I shall be scratching my head to think of what to talk and to prepare for both segments - humorous speech and evaluation. To those who want to conquer the fear of public speaking, look around for a nearby toastmaster club. It's the best gift that you can give to yourself! And wish me luck for my new challenges ahead :)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Secrets of a Working Mother, Part 3

Now, the ingredients to prepare a week's dinner are all set. The next step is the implementation. And as the saying goes, the devil lies in the implementation.

Everyone has 24 hours a day. In addition, this is a zero-sum game - one hour spent in cooking will mean one hour less for sleep. And trust me, a working mother needs adequate rest and her beauty sleep.

So how can we find time to cook? The answer lies in delegation. That's why most working mothers have maids. But what if you are like me, with no maid. Well, the party to delegate the task to does not necessarily need to be a person. Read: a human being. It can be a machine.

Automation is the key

In fact, we are very blessed to be living in the 21st century surrounded by the many smart gadgets. My best friends in the kitchen include the smart microwave ocean which also doubles up as a conventional oven, the latest rice cooker with the timer and my washing machine also with timer function.

Every morning, I will wake up half an hour earlier. Yes, half an hour is all I need to fix a nutricious dinner. I will use the defrost function in my microwave oven to thraw a pack of minced meat and fish. In the meantime, I will be washing the rice, setting the rice cooker on automatic mode and I am assured of piping hot rice in the evening.

In a few quick minutes, the minced meat and fish are ready for seasoning. Here, my previously fried golden garlic bits will make their presence felt in the meal. Instead of cornstarch which is supposed to make the minced meat stick together, I beat an egg together with some soy sauce and pepper. After mixing them with the minced meat, I will lay the fish fillet to one side. A slice tomato will be laid on to lend a piquant taste in the dish.

Next, I just put the dish into my multi-purpose microwave oven, this time round setting it to the conventional oven mode and set the timer to cook the food. For my oven, it will take about 25 minutes.

In the meantime, I wake my children up and have our breakfast. Once breakfast is done, the food is done too. I will just leave it in the oven for consumption in the evening. To have a "different" dish each evening, I will vary the fish fillet and at times, the sauce for the baking.

Of course, Aileen's Kitchen is closed during the weekend.

Time Management

So, this much is for the dinner fixing part. There are so many other things which a working mother has to see to. One of which is doing the laundry, ironing clothes, tidying up the house, sweeping and mopping chores and the list goes on.

For me, I have a priority list on what is the most important and try to find pockets of time to do so. Remember in my first post on this subject, I have written that a little planning goes a long way. Same here, if we want to save time, we have to work smart. For example, I will try to stock easy care and maintenance working attires. As far as possible, they should go into the washing machine. Hand-wash pieces are frowned upon. For my boy's uniform which I have no control over the type and make, I will carefully roll up them together with clothes which crease easily and stuff them in the laundry bag. And if possible, I will also try to iron them when they are slightly damp - i.e. after their spin in the washing machine.

For my less critical chore such as cleaning the house, I will usually do it during the weekend. At times, I may even skip doing it due to time constraint.

So this is it.

My secrets are simple. I shall use the acromyn PAT to sum it up.

P-lan in advance. For example, I will buy a weeks' worth of meat and fish one week earlier. Where possible, I will also prepare in advance as in the case of frying garlic bits and saving it up for future use.

A- utomation is the key. The modern technology is our best friends.

T- ime management and have a priority list on what to do first.

I know it is not easy being a working mother but as what Friedrich Nietzsche said "That which does not kill us makes us stronger". I think it also makes us smarter. Let us give ourselves a pat on our back on a job well done.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Primary 2 - English Composition

An Accident from Pretence

It was early on Sunday morning, Jason was watching a tlevision programe, "Superman". Mesmerised by the show, he wanted very much to be like the hero. So he drapped a red old cloth as his cape and pretended to be "Superman".

Next, he climbed up the chair and attempted to fly, but "Superman" he was not and he ended up hitting his head on the floor.

"PAIN! PAIN!" he wailed as he burst into tears. Upon hearing his cries, his sister, Jane came to comfort him. Blood was oozing down his head as he had a deep cut on his forehead.

After cleaning his wond and applying a plaster, Jane showed Jason a newspaper article about a boy who pretended to be "Superman". The boy was wearing a piece of cloth as cape. He opened and jumped out of the window. Instead of flying, he fell and crashed onto the groundfloor to his death. Jason promised that he would not do it again.