Saturday, August 12, 2017

2000 Likes

Shee Yun showed me her submission to the Undertale Amino online community. It was a story. She had only written Part 1, and she stopped at a cliffhanger. She asked whether there were people interested in Part 2 onwards. That was rather cheeky of her. It was great story-writing. I didn't understand the background of the characters, since I have not played the game. Her writing was expressive and immersive. Her grammar was sloppy though. She had a mix of past and present tenses. I think this is a legacy of Morris Allen English. The teachers emphasise on being expressive and creative, and are less picky about spelling and grammar. I think this is good. Creativity is harder to cultivate than discipline with grammatical rules. Quite many readers left comments at Shee Yun's post asking for the story to be continued. Shee Yun was thrilled. She had more than 2000 Likes for the story. I think she has written the sequel, but I'm not sure whether she has posted it.

More recently there was some form of story-writing contest at the community, which she participated in. This time she wrote a complete story. Her story was featured by the community, and it was the only one being featured (as least as of when she told me about it). She was very excited. It is wonderful to see her enjoy writing, and to see her work being recognised by others.

Shee Yun has one favourite teaspoon. I never realised it until Michelle told me. She found out when she saw Shee Yun digging around our cutlery. She was looking for that particular teaspoon. It was the only one of that type. The bowl of the spoon is more round than oval. All our other teaspoons have bowls which are oval.

24 Jun 2017. Playing Lost Cities with Chen Rui.

Chen Rui can be still rather grumpy when I make her practise violin with me. We have stopped her violin lessons, but usually on weekends I still ask her to learn and practise jamming songs with me. She sometimes pulls a long face when practising, especially when I cut short her drawing time or smartphone time to practise and tell her to resume later. One thing I keep telling her is she must respect her instrument. She doesn't take good care of her violin. Sometimes during practice she toys with the fiddle and it gets entangled with the music sheet stand. Sometimes she uses her foot to stow away her violin. I tell her it is rude. It shows that she doesn't appreciate the money and effort we spend in having her learn violin. In general I think the children don't really appreciate their belongings, because we give them what they want most of the time. Things come too easily for them. They don't have to work hard for them, so they don't appreciate the value of these things. I guess one consolation is they are not obsessed with material / physical things. Still, I wish they will learn to value better the things they own.

Shee Yun spoke up for Chen Rui during one of the grumpy violin practice sessions. She suggested that we play songs which Chen Rui likes. At the time I just said the jamming songs were picked by Mr Lim. We have to play songs which everyone can manage. It might be hard for Mr Lim to learn the kind of songs Chen Rui likes. It is hard to imagine erhu playing the electronic songs from Undertale. However, I do see Shee Yun's point. Maybe I will suggest learning to jam a song Chen Rui picks. I will probably need to ask her to pick a few, and then I select one from among those which is suitable and manageable for all four of us - Mr Lim on erhu, Shyan Jiunn on drums, Chen Rui on violin and I on guitar.

When we had Peking duck at Village Duck recently, Chen Rui heard 甜蜜蜜 playing, and told us about it. This is one of the songs we jam.

Shee Yun and Chen Rui can be very close at times, but can also have unnecessary quarrels over the smallest things - 小事化大. They had such a fight recently and both of them ended up crying. Chen Rui had her rainbow loom toy all over the floor, and Shee Yun accidentally knocked some over. I'm not sure how exactly things escalated. I know Shee Yun did help to tidy up what she knocked over. Chen Rui was angry with her, and intentionally hid a phone cable which Shee Yun was trying to find. During their argument, Shee Yun shoved Chen Rui. I told them all these were wrong. They were both at fault. In the first place, Chen Rui should not be leaving her toys all over the place. Both Michelle and I had told her to tidy up. In that messy state, it was no surprise if anyone knocked her toy over or even stepped on it and broke it. Chen Rui definitely should not hide Shee Yun's cable just because she was angry. Anger was no justification for doing wrong. And resorting to violence was wrong on Shee Yun's part as well. Michelle scolded them. I scolded them. And then about an hour later we saw them playing together and giggling together while drying their hair at the fan. These girls are crazy.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Michelle's birthday

We celebrated early, on Sun 6 Aug. I booked this cake from Secret Recipe, and collected it Sunday afternoon. On Saturday we had lunch at Village Duck, which is famous for Peking Duck. We ordered too much, and had enough for dinner. The Peking Duck was nice. The fried rice, 叉烧 and 烧肉 too. On Sunday we had lunch at Chili's, KLCC.

That on the left is Chen Rui's arm. So we had to take another photo.

This is better...

A normal family photo...

... and a crazy one.

Birthday girl.

The cake is nice. A little sweet. I forgot the name. Too bad the children don't eat cake. Michelle and I only finished it two days later, on her actual birthday.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

viola

Now Shee Yun has started learning viola, just when Chen Rui is stopping her violin lessons. Shee Yun expressed some interest in violin, and when she discussed with the violin teacher, he suggested learning viola instead, so that the two sisters would be playing different instruments. When Shee Yun tried the viola she liked it more than the violin. Chen Rui now says she has chosen the wrong instrument, that she should have chosen the viola. I don't believe her. I don't think it would have made any difference. It is just new toilet syndrome - (粤)新屎坑. I wonder whether Shee Yun learning viola will trigger Chen Rui to regain some interest in violin. If Chen Rui wants to learn viola, I certainly don't object to her playing Shee Yun's viola.

Michelle says Chen Rui is more diligent in practising piano now, often going straight to it after coming home from school. The reason is she wants to be allowed to use her phone. That's a questionable motive, but at least it gets the job done. 不管是黑猫还是白猫...

2 Aug 2017. The viola is only slightly bigger than the violin. The lowest string is a C below Middle C, compared to the violin where the lowest string is a G below Middle C. So the range is a fifth apart.

The case is much bigger than Chen Rui's violin case. Maybe it's because Chen Rui's violin is not a full sized one.

The children comparing their instruments.

Work has been very busy in the past two weeks, even more so than the preceding few weeks, but something has changed in me. The company was undergoing an acquisition, and I had many concerns. I realised I wasn't very happy with my job. I was downright grumpy at times. I needed a change in mindset. I discussed with Michelle. I discussed with a few colleagues. I had to rethink my priorities, and I needed to get more clarity on the situation. Only when I had a better understanding of the situation I could decide what needed to be done and how I should face the music. Ultimately, many issues can be addressed by communication, or at least their resolution must start with good communication.

Despite the past two weeks being horribly hectic and the long hours worked, I am going to work feeling light. That's a good thing. There will be changes at the office, in the organisation, in what the Malaysian team does, in our strategic direction and priorities. I am excited to see what comes next and what we can achieve. Times of change are times of growth and learning.

This is the panoramic view from my new desk. I used to sit in the middle of the room, but it was not appropriate because I often needed to view sensitive information on my screen. Anyone walking past could see my screen. I really should have moved to a corner cubicle much earlier. One recent day a colleague came to look for me, and when I switched my screen, I accidentally switched to a spreadsheet which contained sensitive information. I quickly switched away, and the colleague might not have seen anything, but it reminded me sitting there was a bad idea. So I decided to move. There was no suitable corner cubicle, so I moved an unused table to this spot, and made it my new desk. Now my back is to the wall. I didn't mean to position my desk to be a floor supervisor desk to allow me to see what everyone in the room is doing, but I inadvertently created that effect. My colleagues say I look like a teacher in a classroom.

This is just one of my three desks. I do have a room, which I rarely use, which was Kwe Long's old room, which he had stopped using too, except to keep his fish tank and fishes. I have another cubicle in the other office (we occupy two offices), and I split my time between the two offices sitting with my people. I don't like sitting alone in a room. It makes me out of touch. I only use my room when I need privacy or seclusion.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Undertale online community

The children joined an online community of Undertale players. It is in the form of a smartphone app - Frisk Amino. Chen Rui's good friend Yen Ying is there too. Yen Ying has submitted a drawing, and it was featured at the community. I think Chen Rui is drawing some to be submitted too. I'm not sure whether she has already done it. Shee Yun has submitted a story, and she excitedly told me that she had 180+ Likes. I find this all quite amazing. I don't discourage them. I think this builds their confidence. I just tell them to be careful of online scams and not to believe everything they read online.

Chen Rui has passed the entrance exam to Wesley Methodist School. She was quite happy about it. Michelle was a little nervous those few days when we were expecting the results. A few friends had received the results for their children for a few days, but there was no email notifying us of Chen Rui's result. It was a relief when we finally got the news. So next year Chen Rui will be entering secondary school. She may be the youngest in her form.

Chen Rui said she wanted to go jogging, because she thought she was fat. I don't think she is fat, but I certainly support her if she wants to go jogging. Both she and Shee Yun do lack exercise.

I caught her using her smartphone while lying down. This is a bad habit. Both Michelle and I have caught her before and also warned her. This time I put my foot down and did what I promised. No smartphone for the rest of the day. In the evening when she asked whether she could have it to use as an alarm clock for getting up for jogging the next day, we said no. We said we would wake her in the morning. I hope she learns her lesson.

Shee Yun is doing music arrangement for her music class project. Her team is to perform an acapella piece, and the song they will sing is Fireflies. I taught her to use Cakewalk, so that she can print neatly formatted musical scores. I gave some suggestions about how to arrange the song too. I don't think she is done yet. She was planning to arrange four parts - soprano, alto, tenor and bass.

15 Jul 2017. We made pizza at home. Well, mostly Michelle and Shee Yun made the pizza. This one was made by Michelle, and this was before it was baked.

This was made by Shee Yun, before baking. She wanted each slice to have exactly one piece of mushroom. Michelle thought there were too few toppings.

Shee Yun often likes to wear the Wesley T-shirts on weekends.

The end product. It tasted great. This was the one Michelle made.

This was the one Shee Yun made.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

the stubborn child

We had a Chen Rui crisis this week. Again, it is about piano lessons. This has been coming up over and over. I hope it doesn't happen again any time soon. Her argument has always been that she is not interested in it, so she is unhappy that we are forcing her to do something she doesn't like. We have agreed to stopping the violin lessons, partly because of this argument, and also partly because we were dissatisfied with the violin teacher. However she still needs to learn the jamming songs and join me at the monthly jamming sessions playing violin. At the piano lessons, she continues to be defiant. The teacher tries hard to make it fun for her. One day she simply asked Chen Rui what she wanted to do, theory or piano, and when Chen Rui said she didn't feel like playing piano, the teacher let her do only theory work that day. Chen Rui seemed to be happy that day. The teacher also plays many songs for her to choose which one she wants to learn. However Chen Rui just says no to everything. I feel apologetic to the teacher. What is the world coming to. Normally students never get this kind of VIP treatment. Usually it is the teacher who dictates the syllabus and students don't get a choice. Michelle has also been searching the internet to find piano sheets for songs Chen Rui likes. In fact she has printed many of them. However Chen Rui never bothers to remember to bring them to her piano lessons. She even needs to be reminded again and again to bring her piano books to school on the day of her piano lesson, because she goes to her piano lesson directly after school. It is very frustrating when the teacher, Michelle and I put in so much effort for her sake, and she just flatly says no, or I don't know.

Michelle found this article, and we feel what it says is very true. It is a perspective we have not thought about:

♩.♪ 學琴不是有了興趣才能學好,而是學好了才會有興趣 ♩.♪

現在學鋼琴的人不少,小孩子在學,大人也在學,經常有學生向我訴說,學鋼琴學到現在已經對鋼琴一點興趣都沒有了,他真正感興趣的是小提琴,是畫畫,是跆拳道,等等……

正如我們經常看到的那樣,這些學琴的同學不快樂。因為他們(覺得)自己正在做自己不喜歡做的事情。

然而,真的是他們以為的那樣麼?我想明確地告訴大家,99%的情況下並不是。

首先,這些同學並不是對正在學的東西沒有興趣,而是沒能把目前正在學的東西學好。一定要問清楚自己這個問題:我不喜歡做這件事情有沒有可能僅僅是因為這件事兒我並沒有做好?要是因為自己沒有做好而不喜歡,就要分辨另外一件事兒了:

做好這件事情究竟對自己有沒有什麼具體的意義呢?如果有,那就要努力做,直到做好為止——沒有其他選擇。

反過來,自己做的挺好,但就是不喜歡,純粹因為那事兒對自己確實沒有什麼具體的意義——事實上這種情況少之又少——那就直接換一件事情做就完了。事實上,誰有能力逼你去做一件你確實不喜歡做的事情呢?如果真的被逼去做了,去做自己能做好的事情,能有多討厭呢?

現在去說另外一個方面。人們總說他們真正感興趣的是別的事情。可事實上,那應該僅僅是因為他們還沒開始做那件事情,所以還沒有在那件事情上挫折而已。因為還沒有遇到過挫折,還沒有證明那件事情他們做不好,所以,那件事兒與他們來講確實具備很大的吸引力。

事實上,很多同學真的放棄原來自己做的事情,然後去做新的、所謂真正感興趣的事情的時候,他們最終會發現,這件事想要做好同樣困難重重,挫折不斷。沒有多久,這些人就會因為做不好而事情興趣,然後開始幻想做另外的事情,並且“合理化”(rationalization)之後的說法是:我真正感興趣的不是這個……

所以,我覺得興趣並不是最重要。只要一件事兒你能做好,並且做到比誰都好,或者至少比大多數人好,你沒辦法對那件事情沒興趣。

培養學琴的興趣,不是買架鋼琴,找個老師,報個課程就可以了。事實上,要根據孩子的情況,想出來怎樣才能讓孩子學會並做到學好、能做到長久的進步——然後興趣就自然出現了。

My stance has been that learning music is a basic curriculum, just like maths, or English, or science. It is an important component for a fulfilling life. It is a key to a rich world of beauty and joy. So I keep insisting the children must learn music. Michelle doesn't see it the exact same way, but she does feel the children should learn a form of art. It can be music. It can be drawing. It can be dancing (like how it was for her). The children should not be spending all spare time playing with the smart phone. Their job is to learn and improve themselves.

This week has been a tiring one at work, and I lost my resolve to insist Chen Rui continue piano lessons. I wanted to give up, even though I felt I would regret it. However it was Michelle who insisted this time. She was frustrated with Chen Rui's I-don't-care attitude. Chen Rui had said that she is interested in digital art. Michelle is not keen on that, because that means spending a lot of time on electronic devices. Chen Rui hasn't even properly learned many basic art skills and concepts. Michelle searched for art lessons and suggested them to Chen Rui. All Chen Rui did was say not interested. I said to Chen Rui that the equipment and software for digital art cost thousands of ringgit. She was the one who had said she wanted to learn violin, but after we had spent so much to buy her a violin and to pay for her lessons, she now says she is no longer interested. As the article above says, I think it is a matter of her not being able to face the hardship of learning. Mastering something usually requires effort and commitment. Michelle and I did seriously consider letting her learn digital art, but given that she can't demonstrate that she can carry out her basic responsibilities well, we decided no. She is always on her phone or drawing. She needs to be reminded to wash her shoes. She often forgets to complete her homework and needs to rush in the morning before school starts. She needs to be nagged to practise piano. She often pulls a long face.

We confiscated Chen Rui's mobile phone. In hindsight it was probably a bad idea to have given it to her and to have given her so much freedom with it in the first place. She has poor self-discipline. She often says she needs to use it to ask her classmates about homework details, but I am not sure what she ends up doing with the phone. Maybe a lot of chatting which distracts her from completing her homework quickly. We have a rule about using smart phones (and iPads)- you can play with it only after you're done with all your homework, music practice and other responsibilities. We have been lax about it, and I think we and the children are paying the price now. It is becoming a bad habit.

Confiscating the phone triggered a cold war. Chen Rui was grumpy. We were grumpy. We gave each other cold treatments. I planned to sit down to have a serious talk with her on the weekend. I wanted to explain to her that she has been very unreasonable and self-centred. She is only thinking about what she is happy doing and what she doesn't want to do. I wanted to tell her that she doesn't need to love piano, or violin. I just needed her to take learning them seriously. It is no different from learning any basic skill, like maths, or tying shoelaces, or folding clothes. She can't be telling her maths teacher that she doesn't like maths so she will go to the canteen to draw pictures. In the end, I didn't need to have that talk to diffuse the situation. On Saturday when Chen Rui asked for her phone, Michelle just counted out all the normal criteria like completing homework, practising piano and washing shoes. Asking classmates about homework details is no longer an excuse. She should have asked them at school, or she should be paying attention at school. If need be, she can call them. No more using Whatsapp messaging for this. Michelle put her foot down, and Chen Rui had to complete the checklist before she was granted access to her phone. Once she had the phone, she cheered up tremendously.

We did talk about the matter over dinner. She has accepted (at least that's what I think) that she will continue her piano lessons. We are clear with her we will properly enforce the rules on mobile phone usage. I hope she understands, or at least accepts the rationales we explained to her. She is still very much a child, 还不懂事.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Shee Yun is quite proud about a composition she did. In class she had volunteered to read hers aloud, and the teacher was impressed. I do find it very well done. Not that she uses fanciful words. She uses common words to make rich descriptions.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The weekend has been a tiring one, a working weekend. The company is preparing to launch a major game, and this weekend we are having an internal competition, or rather a major test exercise executed in the form of a fun competition. We had to play from scratch from Friday 6pm, and we had until Monday to try to reach as high a level as we could. The game is in the style of a role-playing game, and is mainly about forming parties to slay monsters. The cycle is slaying monsters, obtaining items to upgrade equipment, so that you can then slay stronger monsters, and get even better items to further upgrade your equipment, and so on. It is not a type of game I normally play, and I don't foresee I will be playing games of this genre in my spare time. However spurring on my colleagues in Malaysia to participate and joining them to play has been fun. There is a strong sense of fellowship and camaraderie.

One of the prizes of the company event is the best dressed award. This costume may win the Worse Dressed Award. I got this body suit from killing a giant mushroom monster.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

tidying Chen Rui's table

The overcrowding at Chen Rui's desk was very much out of hand. Michelle couldn't stand it anymore and last weekend decided to tidy it up. Chen Rui's desk was so full, with all surfaces covered, that she couldn't do her homework. She did her homework on her bed, sitting on the floor and using the bed as her writing surface. After Michelle was done, Chen Rui returned to her desk, and she quite enjoyed it. She should have done the tidying up herself a long time ago.

This photo of Chen Rui's table was taken in Sep 2016. Before Michelle started tidying it up last weekend, it probably looked more or less like this. There was no space for Chen Rui to do her homework.

9 Jul 2017. The tidying was already in progress when Michelle took this photo.

This was the final result. Amazing.

Today I went for the parent teacher conference at Wesley, to pick up Shee Yun's report card and to meet her homeroom teacher. We went early, arriving around 8am. One thing that impressed me was how polite the students were. Many of them greeted me good morning sir. This must be something being cultivated consistently. It is natural to them. Most of Shee Yun's friends when seeing me greeted me hello uncle. Shee Yun did well, most subjects scoring A. Her GP was 4.0 (highest GP score) for ICT (computer related studies) and music. What surprised me was she got a C in English. Her English has always been strong. Looks like the English standard at Wesley is quite high. That is good. She will be challenged. Her other weak subject was Physical Education. This includes both physical test and paper test. I think it's the physical fitness part she is weak in. She has never been the sporty type, just like me.

Her homeroom teacher is most impressed with how expressive she is. She says Shee Yun is not shy to speak up, and she speaks very expressively. She finds this a very rare quality, and thinks it is something we should encourage. She is not too worried about her English grades. She seems quite pleased with Shee Yun. She mentioned that in the mornings she often finds Shee Yun studying, when her classmates who arrive early are usually on their phones or chatting.

The report card includes comments from every subject teacher. I find that amazing. It must be a lot of work for the teachers to have to give comments for every student they teach. Shee Yun is most happy with the piano teacher's comment. He wrote that she is his star student. Shee Yun really enjoys music after going to Wesley. She has even mentioned possibly studying music at university. I would support her if she decides so.

Last weekend there was one night I didn't sleep well. I woke at the middle of the night and couldn't go back to sleep. Eventually I decided to get up at 4:30am, after tossing and turning for some time. I went to the children's room to collect the laundry, and was shocked to see Shee Yun already up. I wonder how often the children wake up at such ungodly hours. I don't do spot checks on them. I don't think this was just a one-time coincidence. We tell the children they should sleep when it is time to sleep, else they will feel tired throughout the day. Sometimes Shee Yun goes to bed rather early, before 9pm. I wonder whether waking very early in the morning is the reason for it, or the result of it, or both.

Chen Rui loves spaghetti carbonara. Michelle cooked some today, and we reserved the extra portion for her. She normally eats the slowest, but today she ate at the same speed as us, which means it was a quick pace for her. She is still rather particular about not eating the onion pieces and the mushrooms in the carbonara sauce. She picks them out and gives them to Michelle.

I continue to read the Sherlock Holmes stories, having finished reading The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Valley of Fear. Now I'm reading Volume 1 of the complete series. Michelle had bought this volume for Shee Yun, but she is not reading it now. She only got partway through The Hound of the Baskervilles before losing interest and setting it aside.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

watermelon charger

The old iPhone and iPad chargers at home were really worn out. A newer one which came free with an iPhone cover Michelle purchased didn't work. Another newer one I bought went missing. The older one we still had was a little wonky. It had to be in a very specific position to work. So I decided to buy two chargers. The Mr DIY shop I went to only had one type left, since this was quite an old type of charger. The colour scheme was rather ugly, but I was OK as long as it worked. Chen Rui named this the watermelon charger, because the colour did make it look like a slice of watermelon.

28 May 2017. I taught the children to play Cottage Garden, a game Allen lent me. He often lends me games suggesting that I play with my children. His children are too young at the moment. This thing that Chen Rui is doing is called "the dab". It's part of pop culture now, and I don't know exactly what it means. Shee Yun's school teachers know this too. Chen Rui is often the troublemaker when I want to take a photo. Maybe it is partly because she is shy about her photo being taken.

Shee Yun needed to go to a classmate's home to work on a group project. The place is in Damansara Jaya, so it is quite far. I planned to look for a nearby cafe to wait for her, as opposed to coming home and then going out again to fetch her. The back and forth trip would take me about an hour. Michelle had work, so I planned to bring Chen Rui along. She could do homework at the cafe, while I worked on the music sheet for 《凉凉》 which Michelle wants to learn to play on the piano. I was a little surprised when Chen Rui asked to stay at home. She said she would eat cereal for lunch so I didn't need to worry about her lunch. Normally I would expect her to say she was afraid to be alone at home. So I guess this is an improvement.

Chen Rui took the entrance exam to Wesley on Thursday. She said the English exam was not easy. It was harder than the maths exam. There were words she was unsure of, because she seldom came across them. In the end, she didn't really do much preparation for the exam. I am not sure whether she could have anyway. Shee Yun told us those IQ tests she did as preparation last year weren't really relevant.

We had an ad hoc dinner at Kok Man and Ai Shiang's place on the day of the exam. Chee Ying also took the exam that day so Michelle and Chen Rui went together to Wesley with them in one car. Chen Rui was quite active and dramatic when with Chee Ying's family, much like how she is when with her good friend Yen Ying. She is comfortable being herself around them. Shee Yun, Chen Rui and Chee Ying were close. Chee Chee was keen to be part of their group, but seemed a little shy at the same time. She didn't say much and just joined them to watch the Youtube videos they were watching.