Saturday, March 25, 2017


I recently noticed that Chen Rui had not been practising violin much at home. I do regularly remind the children to practise piano. When I realised that Chen Rui hadn't been playing the violin much, I made sure she practised that day. I was shocked to find that her violin was very obviously out of tune. That meant she had been playing with an out-of-tune violin for a long time, including when she had her weekly lessons. Why did her teacher not realise it? Has he been paying attention? I was quite upset about this, and this made me doubt the violin teacher's sincerity in teaching, and his professionalism. This young man is supposed to be a good violin player and performer. Michelle and I asked Chen Rui about her lessons. It seems the teacher doesn't put much effort into teaching her. When she makes a mistake, he just tells her to play again, instead of spending time to guide her and to help her correct her mistake. He seems to be looking at his phone frequently. He seems to teach other students better, and Chen Rui sounds like a case he has given up on. All these may not be fully true, but I think they are at least partially true. These are my conclusions from what Michelle had heard before from Chen Rui, and also from our more recent chat with her. I did say to Chen Rui she herself also bears part of the blame, because she also hadn't been practising. We cannot just blame the teacher. She has a part to play too as a student. We are considering finding a different violin teacher. If things are as I suspect, then we are wasting Chen Rui's time. Michelle had a chat with the piano teacher. I'm not sure whether she will be able to help. Michelle had spoken to her about this issue before. The piano teacher herself is very different. She is passionate about teaching and helping her students learn and improve. This is what I want in a teacher. I cannot accept an indifferent teacher.

I said to Chen Rui I would practise with her. Since I recently started jamming with two Shell friends, I picked one of the songs we played (周杰伦的《青花瓷》) to jam with her. I taught her the melody. I played the guitar. I don't know how to play the violin, but I try to teach her some ways of playing based on guesswork and how guitar is played. I may be completely wrong. It turned out to be quite fun. With me playing with her, I can prod her to focus and to play. Sometimes she complains about her fingers hurting, or the song being very hard, but I teach her the song bit by bit, verse by verse, repeating short passages over and over until she knows them well. Quite often her finger position is not accurate enough, and the notes she plays are a little out of tune. They are often at a slightly lower pitch. I need to keep reminding her to press higher.

I find it quite enjoyable to jam with her. I think she feels a sense of achievement too, being able to play a song smoothly. When Michelle asks her whether she enjoys the jamming, she just shrugs. I guess she doesn't actively enjoy it, but it is probably better than how her current lessons go. Now I plan to get her to join the jamming sessions with my Shell friends. We've only had one session so far, but moving forward we will try to do maybe every first Sunday of the month. I will need to teach Chen Rui to play some of the songs first. The next session will be next Sunday. When I told Chen Rui this morning during our practice session, she was anxious. She said she was afraid she would make mistakes and she wouldn't be able to play well. Then later I found out she had misunderstood. She thought we were going for the jamming session in the afternoon. I said no, it was next Sunday. She still had time to learn the songs. I am planning to get her to play the bass part of the songs, and some accompaniment. I taught her 《甜蜜蜜》 today. Some intro, mostly bass, and a little bit of ornamental parts. I'm not sure what to do with 《青花瓷》yet. I have taught her to play the melody, but if we are going to jam, Mr Lim will be playing melody too. Maybe I get them to duet.

My colleague 小猪 asked me to teach him piano. Yesterday Edwin brought his keyboard, and I spent some time teaching 小猪. He was interested to learn more, and asked whether I could find the children's piano books from when they first started piano. Today when I looked for the old books, instead of finding them, I found my own piano books from when I started, and some of Mei's too. That was decades ago! The sticky tapes used to fix one of the books had dried up, and I had to remove it and apply new sticky tapes. I had forgotten that I had brought the books to KL. So I'm going to continue teaching 小猪 using these books.

This morning when I was looking for the piano books, Chen Rui found her old ballet shoes. She put them on. She walked about the house with those shoes on. She sometimes does crazy things like this. Later in the day I saw her playing with her ballet skirt - the black one. When the girls stopped their ballet lessons, Michelle had told them they could wear the skirts like normal skirts, but neither of them listened. They felt the skirts were specifically meant for ballet. So the skirts were stored away and never used. I think Chen Rui took hers out today because she saw some Youtube video about removing creases.

When Chen Rui practised A Thousand Years on piano today, I saw she practised while listening to the original song on Youtube. Last week I had pointed out to her that the way she played was wrong. She played the intro at a normal speed, but the actual verse at half the speed, because the left hand part of the verse requires playing very quickly - lots of semi quavers. I said she could play the intro at a slower pace, so that when she reached the verse, it was more manageable. However I felt it was wrong to play the two sections of the song at different speeds. I'm not sure whether the teacher had explicitly asked her to play this way, in which case then I should not have interfered. I am glad that she took the initiative to listen to the original and to try to play along with it. It means she is taking is seriously and is trying to play the song well.

Shee Yun had a school camp yesterday and today, and stayed overnight at school. We had to buy a sleeping bag for her. Throughout the school holidays she had been waking up late, but yesterday she woke up very early, I think even before 6am, because she looked forward very much to go to the camp. She really is enthusiastic about school. After she came back from the camp today, she told us the topics of the talks during the camp made her feel uncomfortable. E.g. LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals), dating. Michelle and I said she shouldn't feel embarrassed about these topics and she shouldn't shy away, or feel ashamed, or think them awkward. In fact we are happy that the school takes seriously educating students about these topics. There are topics that parents often find difficulties discussing, especially not knowing how to start. The school, being a missionary school, is against LGBT. I said to Shee Yun that I have a different view. Ultimately it is up to her to decide what her view is. She can listen to different views, and try to understand them, before deciding what she wants to believe in.

Due to Shee Yun's camp, Chen Rui went to the office with me yesterday. She didn't want to be home alone. She brought an iPad (Shee Yun's, since hers is wonky) and her phone (well, Michelle's old Xiaomi Mi3). She brought pencil and paper to draw. She brought earphones to watch Youtube. Sometimes I heard her giggle softly. She was picky about food, so I told my usual Thursday & Friday lunch group that if they didn't mind let's have pan mee. They teased me saying that I was using Chen Rui as an excuse. I do often like to go to Jo Jo's Kitchen because I like the spicy pan mee there (麻辣板面), which I always have together with Michael Jackson (soya cincau). Chen Rui ordered a second bowl of pan mee because she felt the first bowl was not enough. I quickly pointed that out to my friends, that she really did like pan mee.

Today when I brought Chen Rui to the kopitiam for lunch, we found that the 干捞面 stall was closed. Usually she wants mee kosong with soup, using the 干捞面 noodles. I asked her whether pan mee kosong with soup was OK, and she said yes. I went to the other stall, only to find that it was closed too. So we left and went to Burger King instead. She had 10 pieces of nuggets. After going home, she told me she was still hungry. So in the afternoon I bought another 5 nuggets for her. She has good appetite. She is growing.

26 Feb 2017. Pancakes for breakfast. Hakka: Man Foon Taat.

This is how Chen Rui eats her pancake - with Nutella. She says it tastes like the wafer which she used to have from Mulia Supermarket.

I am not sure why the children suddenly started liking pancakes. They weren't particularly big fans before this. One day when Michelle made pancakes for lunch, she brought out a first batch while still making the second batch. I only had one piece from the first batch. By the time Michelle was done with the second (and final) batch, the children had finished the first batch, and it looked like the second batch was barely enough for them. So we let them have the rest of the pancakes, and Michelle and I went to Burger King instead. Next time when making pancakes Michelle will need to make many more.

Friday, March 17, 2017

When Marnie Was There

When Marnie Was There is a 2014 movie from Studio Ghibli, but it is not directed by Miyazaki Hayao. I watched it without knowing anything about it, other than having seen some pictures and knowing it's from Studio Ghibli. I like it a lot. It is about a 12-year-old girl, and some parts make me think of Shee Yun, who is also 12 now. It is a drama, and some parts feel slow, but I find it very meaningful and touching. Like My Neighbour Totoro, some aspects of the movie are mystifying and some details are not explained explicitly, leaving it up to you to interpret and to imagine. I find that among the more recent Studio Ghibli movies, I like those by directors other than Miyazaki Hayao more. I like When Marnie Was There and From Up On Poppy Hill a lot. I quite enjoyed The Secret World of Arrietty too. However The Wind Rises was good, yet did not move me as much as the others.

Like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I am thankful I hadn't read anything about the movie beforehand. The Wikipedia entry contains a lot of spoilers. The trailer doesn't reveal much, but I would prefer knowing even less. So it's a good thing I avoided them.

Michelle and I also watched Logan, a Marvel superhero movie that is very unlike any other Marvel superhero movie. It is about Wolverine when he is old. It has action but also feels like a drama. Michelle likes it a lot, as do many of my colleagues. However I would have enjoyed it even more if it were more drama and less superhero. I feel many aspects could have been fleshed out more. The story is certainly not shallow, just that I wished it were deeper.

My colleague said I might cry at a certain scene. After watching the movie, I knew which scene he was referring to, but I hadn't felt like crying. Throughout the movie there hadn't been enough build up. I had not been pulled in to feel deeply for the characters.

Last weekend three of Chen Rui's classmates came. They were teammates for a science project. Originally they arranged to come this Saturday to work on their project together, 3pm - 5pm. They arranged using their Wechat group. Then at 2:50pm last Saturday Chen Rui told me they were coming now. All the parents scrambled to arrange. It all started when one of the teammates said the project was due this week. It was actually not. It is due after the school holidays. The children were a mess in arranging logistics. All the parents had difficulties finding our home. Chen Rui didn't give good directions. She didn't tell them the road sign is still using the old name of our street. The children arrived quite late, and to my dismay, most of them were not focused on their project. I realised they were all just like Chen Rui - no focus at all! One of them kept going upstairs to watch Shee Yun play Undertale. One was playing with her phone. They ate snacks. They chatted. They stayed later than planned, since they arrived very late. That day we needed to have dinner early because Michelle and I was going for a movie (Logan) and we had bought tickets. The children could not finish the project, so Michelle told them they needed to make other arrangements to complete it. Chen Rui and Yen Ying were to work on it after school, and if they couldn't finish it, they would pass the project to the other two, so that everyone took turns to complete it.

No wonder Chen Rui is close to Yen Ying. Yen Ying also prefers to speak English. The other two teammates speak Mandarin. Yen Ying is coming again tomorrow, to do other homework. I actually do welcome Chen Rui's friends. I find it interesting to see how she interacts with her friends, and I want to know her friends too. It is just that seeing them so unfocused on their work, and so irresponsible, I get annoyed. I had said to Chen Rui that if she and her friends could finish their work quickly, they could spend the remaining time playing. I guess Chen Rui is not the only one who needs discipline.

One thing funny was one conversation I had with one of Chen Rui's classmates. I said that they could not stay longer because we needed to have dinner early, and that I had made plans. She asked me what plans. I said I was going to watch a movie. She responded saying, "oh that is so leisurely" (酱悠闲啊?) What the hell?! I hope I'm not being egoistic. I would hope Shee Yun and Chen Rui are not children who speak so casually to adults whom they have just met. I find that impolite. But maybe that's just a child's innocence. I was certainly 扎到 by that "酱悠闲啊".

Saturday, March 11, 2017

二胡 kap band

上个礼拜和 Mr. Lim 还有 Shyan Jiunn kap band。是Shell老同事的新年聚餐时 Mr. Lim 提出的。以前讲过几次,一直没有实行,这一次总算做到了。他知道我和 Shyan Jiunn 以前有 kap 过 band。我们是有讲过可以试试看二胡 kap guitar 和鼓的。我们去 Shyan Jiunn 的家玩,他的鼓已经全 set 好了,是真鼓电子化,接去电子仪器。选曲是 Mr. Lim 做,我们将就他。选了四首:《甜蜜蜜》(邓丽君)、《心太软》(任贤齐)、《千里之外》(周杰伦)、《青花瓷》(周杰伦)。我和 Shyan Jiunn 都需要事先准备一下。我们是 kap 到很爽下的,尤其是 Mr. Lim,因为他是第一次这样玩。他没那么熟,因为他玩音乐没我们久,不过我们慢慢来,还是很好玩。我们打算以后大概一个月来一次。二胡加上电子 guitar 和西式的鼓,是有趣的组合。我这几天时常在哼《青花瓷》,是不错的歌。

这周末煦芸的功课很早做完,今天早上已经做完,钢琴也练了、鞋子也洗了。她来一一向我报告,我就说可以玩 iPad 了。她还有玩 Piano Tiles。最近有听孩子们讲电脑游戏《Undertale》的事,煦芸也有听它的 soundtrack。我的一个同事有向我介绍过。今天我走去问煦芸,要不要玩《Undertale》,她的反应很大,很大声地说要。我想孩子们有一种自动的想法,就是如果有需要用钱买的游戏,我们是不会买的,因为现在一大堆不用钱就可以玩的游戏。所以煦芸从来没有问过我可不可以买《Undertale》。我看她那么兴奋,就上 Steam 买了,install 了给她玩。这是 RPG 式游戏(角色扮演),但是特点是遇到的怪兽不一定要杀死。杀或不杀,或怎样应对这些怪兽,往后是会影响故事和游戏的玩法的。我自己本来就对 RPG 没很大兴趣,但是既然同事介绍说好玩、特别,孩子们也有兴趣,就买给她们试试看吧。RM23。

2017年2月19日。晨睿就是喜欢作怪。我们在玩《Machi Koro》。

前一阵子我有时候可以一整天都看不见煦芸。Michelle 早上载她上学的时候,我才刚刚起身还没下楼下。我放工回到家,她已经跑去睡觉。后来 Michelle 发现她是特别早起身,handphone alarm set 到凌晨三点四点,我们就不准她那么 set。该睡觉的时候就要睡觉,那么早起身干嘛。难怪晚上那么早眼睡。所以这几天她就没有晚上那么早睡觉了。

晨睿还是不大有 discipline。开始有手机后,时常会一面做功课一面听歌或看 Youtube,搞到自己分心。有时候甚至在和朋友用 Whatsapp 或 Wechat 聊天。结果是有时功课做到礼拜天晚上还做不完。我们要管制她怎样用手机。不管的话,她现在还没那种自律。幸好煦芸会好一点。

Saturday, March 04, 2017


The Mulia Supermarket near home is closing down. We have been long-time customers, since it's so convenient. The staff there witnessed Shee Yun and Chen Rui grow up. I think they are closing down due to business becoming harder and harder. They have quite a few competitors now. One or two years ago a convenience store, KK, opened, in the same row of shops. Then a few months ago a 99 Speedmart minimarket opened in the newly completed shoplot in front of it. 99's stock isn't as comprehensive, but they do have most of the stuff we need, and the prices are good. It is hard for a single family owned minimarket to compete with these minimarket chains. Today I saw lorries coming to carry away metal racks.

The one thing that Chen Rui misses about Mulia Supermarket is the wafer. They had a wafer stall in a corner which did good business. Chen Rui likes the wafer and often asks for it. Sometimes when we decide to have a light meal, she asks for two sets of wafer. She just wants kosong wafer, because she wants to use the Nutella spread at home.

Today when we celebrated Shee Yun's 12th birthday at Sweet Hut, Chen Rui ordered wafer for dessert. The place is mostly a dessert place and has many types of desserts. Chen Rui's wafer dessert comes with a scoop of mango ice-cream. She didn't want it and I ended up having it. We picked this place because they have a lot of desserts containing mango, which Shee Yun likes. Shee Yun picked a mango cake. Michelle had 花生糊汤圆, I had chocolate lava cake. Michelle bought books for Shee Yun's birthday, one of them being a book from the Harry Potter universe - Fantastic Beasts.

Michelle has bought a new phone, also a Xiaomi, and Chen Rui is getting Michelle's old phone. So now Chen Rui has her own phone and is no longer sharing with Shee Yun. She is quite happy about it.

5 Feb 2017. Chen Rui wanted to keep this paper cup on the MAS flight.

Chen Rui listing to music and drawing Pokemons, during the flight.

Shee Yun's school had their cross-country run today. The event only started at 7:30am, Shee Yun said she wanted to be there by 7am, and she suggested we leave the house at 6am. I thought that was crazy. I wanted to leave the house at 6:30am. Eventually Michelle said 6:15am, just to be safe. We arrived around 6:30am. Many students were already arriving, so I didn't feel it was unsafe to drop Shee Yun off.

Shee Yun finished the 6km run in about an hour. She said she mostly walked in the early stages, and only ran at the later stages. I told her when I was in secondary school in Melbourne, I joined the cross-country club (it was mandatory to join a sports club), and I always came last.

Michelle has started her Saturday classes. I will be taking care of the children on Saturdays during this period. That means reminding them wash their shoes, reminding them to practise piano and violin, reminding them to focus and complete their homework, and settling their lunch. We went to the kopitiam today.

This morning when Chen Rui saw me folding clothes, she came to help without being asked. That's good.

Saturday, February 25, 2017


Sometimes on weekends Chen Rui doesn't change clothes in the morning, and ends up wearing her pyjamas for the whole day. Like today. Michelle reminds her to take a shower. It is very possible that she will forget, since she is wearing pyjamas. She may think that she has already taken a shower today and is thus wearing pyjamas.

Shee Yun has a school activity today. All Year 7 students need to go to school. One of the activities today was playing a boardgame called Praxis (not exactly sure of spelling), which is about money management. I find this interesting. Shee Yun enjoys going to school. This morning she got up very early. The activity started at 7:30am, and yesterday she told us she wanted to leave for school at 6am. She can wake up very early when it is a school day, but on weekends she sometimes sleep in late. I am happy that she is enthusiastic about going to school.

Next week she will be having a cross country event.

Michelle is going to take weekend classes for the next few months, and she will be taking two tax certification exams mid year. It will be interesting - going back to school. It is good that she continues to learn and upgrade herself.

31 Jan 2017. When we were in KK I asked the children to practise touch typing, and they did it on my laptop.

Chen Rui brought a few dolls and many of her hajimat back to KK. She had so many hajimat that she could use them to build a little house for the dolls. She stacked the hajimat to form walls, and then spread out one of them to be the roof. What this photo shows is not the house though. It's just one hajimat being a sack to store all the other hajimat and her dolls.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


The period right after Chinese New Year was quite bad for us. All four of us fell sick at some point. I think most of us had bacterial infections (possibly the same bacteria), since the doctors gave us antibiotics. I could not work for four days. The fever was bad. I had a bad cough too. Shee Yun was adamant about going to school, even though she was a little sick. Chen Rui had minor diarrhea when we were in KK, and after coming back to KL, she had a mild fever too. Thankfully she recovered quickly and wasn't too ill. After recovering, I had much work to catch up on. The whole saga was depressing and put me off my tempo. I lost appetite for many of my regular entertainments and hobbies - Clash Royale (mobile game), reading boardgame articles, blogging. What I did enjoy these two weeks was reading - two books of older short stories by George R R Martin. I realised I had read one of them before but I had mostly forgotten the stories. Having returned to work for about one week now, I'm on the way to return to my routine. Next step will be restarting my exercise routine in the mornings.

At school, Shee Yun has a few good friends now, and also a rival. Her new good friends are Charisse and Elyssa (not sure of spelling), both girls, and her rival is a boy Julian who sits opposite her. The way they are rivals is that when their personal belongings cross the border between their desks, the other party will push it back to where it came from. That sounds rather petty and primary school.

Our daily routine has changed. Since Shee Yun was still a little ill when we just returned from KK, in the mornings Michelle sent her to school instead of letting her take the LRT. To Michelle's surprise, traffic was good. So now she has decided she will be sending Shee Yun to school in the mornings, while I send Chen Rui to school.

Chen Rui recently started playing Pokemon battles online using Michelle's PC. She often plays against her schoolmate Yen Ying, and sometimes she plays with random strangers. She is really into Pokemons. She has watched many Pokemon anime episodes on Youtube. Sometimes the children still borrow my phone so that they can play Pokemon Go. I have stopped playing for a long time. A new batch of Pokemons was released recently. This morning I accompanied Shee Yun to a nearby Pokestop so that she could catch a new Pokemon. We are running very low on Pokeballs (which are needed for catching Pokemons), so maybe tomorrow morning I will bring the children to the park to collect Pokeballs. Let's see if all three of us can wake up early.

Shee Yun's school sports day was Friday. Her house's marching team were shared champions with another house, and she was quite happy. It is a good experience to have worked hard together with friends and to have achieved results from the hard work.

Michelle too had completed a good job recently. One of her clients was audited by the tax department, and the department wanted to impose a very heavy fine. So the client engaged her to raise an appeal. She had to work with the client to address all the questions raised by the tax officers. Eventually many of the questions were answered satisfactorily, and the fine was greatly reduced. The tax officer said to the client, in front of Michelle, that they had a good auditor. This is good reason to celebrate - a job well done. Maybe we will have a small celebration tomorrow.

28 Jan 2017. It is now a custom that during Chinese New Year we visit Uncle Oh and Mrs Tan's mother. This year we met Mrs Tan there.

We also visited Michelle's aunt and uncle (阿姨、姨丈). Her other uncle and aunt also happened to visit at the same time (舅舅、舅母).

29 Feb 2017. Yao Yao came to play. She spent an afternoon with the children.

30 Jan 2017. It is also customary that we visit 舅母 during Chinese New Year. There will always be 芋头糕.

This is Michelle's annual gathering with her All Saints girlfriends. We have been doing this for years.

It would be interesting to compile the group photos across the years, to see how much our children have grown.

Ma likes this chicken character which was part of the lion dance troupe at 叔叔's open house. The crowd was much smaller at the open house this year. There was much surplus food.

This troupe was quite good. The performance was impressive. Many dangerous and difficult moves.

Sunday, February 05, 2017



我们这一次每一个人都病了,全军覆没。是初三开始的。Michelle从阿珮家回来后就不舒服,后来有去看医生。有发烧、咳嗽、全身酸痛、发冷、呕吐、作闷、头痛。接下来是煦芸和晨睿。煦芸有发烧、肚子痛。晨睿是泻肚子和肚子痛。后来两个都去看 Dr. Raj。我在回亚庇前就有因为热气而喉咙不舒服。后来是比赛当天(星期六)白天有点发烧。多睡觉,就好一点了,没有看医生。自己吃 panadol。下个礼拜工作会很忙,不能病。


我们玩 Fiasco 现在换了新方式。她们对 Fiasco 的模式不太感兴趣,我就干脆舍弃了游戏机制,变成直接是写故事,不必要用游戏的架构。有一天我们是三个人一起讨论整个故事的大纲,打算是主线铺好了,就按照它去写,也把煦芸得到角色 Novelia 变成主角。我们后来是写了一点点,但又断了。不知道几时会继续。我后来叫孩子们直接练习打 The quick brown fox 那句话。那是包含了英文字母里的每一个字母的一句话。我叫她们打九次,然后我给她们听写。听写我是即兴的,有叫晨睿打 Clash Royale 里的人物名字、 Pokemon 名字,也有叫煦芸打 Harry Potter 故事里人物名字。


孩子们还是喜欢玩《Love Letter》。这一次我有带一些游戏回来,多数都有玩到。有拉孩子和妈一起玩《Bottle Imp》。她们都是第一次玩。也有和Michelle玩了几次《Race for the Galaxy》,这是我们曾经玩很多很多的游戏。

晨睿的旧 iPad 开始有问题(妈传给她的),时常接不到 Wi-Fi。她说走去电脑室用会比较好。Router 在那里。

晨睿画 Pokemon 已经画满了一本簿子,有五十个 Pokemon左右。我都服了她那么有心机画,还那么感兴趣画。

我们初三晚上去叔叔家的时候有舞狮,可是两个孩子都不大感兴趣,只是对着 iPad。晨睿有去看一下,不过看看下就走开。这狮团舞得不错,有好几个很惊险的动作。真可惜。