The love for Pogo

It has been more than a year since Pokemon Go was launched, and I am still playing the game, better known as Pogo for Trainers. I have steadily rose through the levels, currently at level 34 (with the highest being 40).

If you are wondering, this is my pogo avatar, styled by Buddy, because this account is originally created for him.

Honestly, I have never stuck to a game this long, and in fact, you can even consider me being addicted to it. Last week, the game server was down for a few hours, and I started feeling jumpy, and kept checking the app if I could login. It’s like a drug addict ransacking the drawers for cocaine or even weed. (I can understand how a drug addict feels.) I remarked to a group of trainer friends that if the downtime was to take more than a day, I seriously had to check myself into rehab, otherwise I might turn crazy. One of them remarked, “we need Pogoholic Anonymous!” (But I doubt if any of us will sign up.)

Despite news reports on the contrary, the game has a lot of active Trainers, at least in Singapore. Sure there was some fatigue during the first half of this year despite the launch of generation 2 pokemons in February. But when Niantic (game developer) launched the reworked gym in June with the appearance of the raid bosses, that got Trainers excited again. (Raid boss is a powerful Pokemon which hatches from an egg that has taken over a gym or dojo for an hour and Trainers are encouraged to come together to battle it.) That also heralded the arrival of the legendaries in July, starting with the birds: Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres, mascots of the 3 teams of Mystic (blue), Instinct (yellow) and Valor (red) respectively.

The birds have since left when September came, and we are now facing off the beasts: Raikou, Entei and Suicune (L-R).

Legendaries, by their status, are extremely rare and are mostly powerful Pokemons. They do not spawn in the wild unlike the ordinary ones, and instead they only hatch from raid eggs, i.e appear as raid bosses. The only way to capture them is to participate in the raids, or battles. Once Trainers defeat the boss in battle, we get to go to the bonus challenge of capturing it using special premier balls. Basically the whole raid thing is a little like a martial art or boxing fight.

The legendary frenzy has caused a big surge in interest among Trainers who have to come together to defeat them, because it is just not possible for a trainer to do it alone. They are spawned from tier 5 eggs, the highest as well as most difficult level. You need at least 6 high level Trainers with the right powerful counter mons to battle them (and even then it may be a close shave). This is in line with how Niantic has envisioned Pogo to be – a cooperation-based game, and the various gym reworks were geared towards making Trainers work together, although some changes have the opposite effect.

Still the raids, especially those for the legendaries, did produce the desired behaviours. Even among reticent Singaporeans, more are stepping out of their comfort zones to start organizing team-based groups to battle raid bosses. This is because the number of premier balls given depend on the damage your Pokémons inflicted on the boss, the number of fellow team members in the battle, as well as which team controls the gym (during the battle.) So the more same team members in battle, the more balls given, and so best to form same team battle group.

Though organizjng on the ground can also be as simple as getting enough people to battle the boss regardless of teams. Each day, trainers are given a raid pass to participate in a battle. Once you throw in the pass to enter the gym lobby, you cannot get it back even if you decide not to battle. This had happened to me when I raided a Tyranitar (tier 4) boss and was dismayed to find only 3 Trainers, me included, standing by for battle. Despite trying numerous times, we just couldn’t defeat the boss and my pass was wasted.

Though Niantic has recently tweaked the gym systems to allow Trainers to check the number in the lobby before committing the pass, it is still flawed – the number is inaccurate. Many times, the number shows only one when in fact there are several waiting inside lobby. So, this forces trainers to be proactive in interacting with each other. But it’s actually a good thing because it gets the Trainers to socialize with each other which is the purpose of the game.

Like last week, I rushed to a gym near my home for the Raikou raid, but realized many were already battling when I arrived. By the time I entered the lobby, there were only 2 of us waiting, which is a sure defeat. I noticed there were a couple standing nearby and asked them if they were raiding. Together, we rounded up a few more and managed to get 8 pax. It was a close shave since Raikou is a pretty tough Pokemon to take down, but luckily everyone used the correct counters.

As expected, I am part of the Pokemon Go Singapore community in Facebook, and that is a big source of entertainment and information for me. Anyone can put up posts in the group as long as they don’t go against the guidelines (at least in theory). And so there are posts from people who keep asking questions which had been answered countless times before (like “when is this legendary appearing in Singapore”). Then there are those who wanted to show off their Pokemon catches, like the number of legendaries caught; as well as the expected complaint kings and queens (Singapore being a complaint nation).

As mentioned earlier, certain gym reworks had caused the ire of Trainers. Previously, the gym system allows trainers to level up or train up their own gyms, from level 1 to 10, as well as attack opponent gyms. The higher the level, the more mons are placed in it. Every time you place a mon in gym, you get 10 pokecoins in the bag. The current system has done away with levelling and there are only 6 slots for Pokemon placement. So once the slots are taken by your own team, you cannot add in any and will have to look for opponent gyms. And when a trainer takes down an opponent gym, his/her selected mon is the first defender, which means an opponent will take down this mon first. Every 10 minutes spend in gym entitles to 10 pokecoins, but trainers can only get them in the bag when the mon is kicked out of the gym, and there are maximum of 50 coins a day. So there are a number of trainers who found ways around this. They create multiple pogo accounts of different teams, and use an opponent team account to battle first mon inside the gym, basically targeting only the first one. Once it is kicked out, there is an empty slot available and the trainer then log into the account of the team (that controls the gym) to place his or her mon into the gym. This is called “shaving”, and it has pissed off a lot of Trainers. It takes a lot of effort to take down the entire opponent gym, and yet the first defender is also the first to get shaved out, which is rather unfair. (Easier to target one than all 6 mons.)

Anyway, I have learned to live and let live, and not get worked up over things like this despite being addicted to pogo. It is important to enjoy the game as it is, and I have had lots of fun, and make new friends too. In fact it was because of the wasted raid pass from the Tyranitar raid that I came together with a couple of trainers, whom I got to know through FB, to form a WhatsApp group to battle the raid boss together. Within a few months, it has grown to a sizeable group, comprising of a mix of genders and teams, where most of us work in the CBD areas. Whoever can make it during lunch time or after work will meet up to raid Tyranitar boss or the legendary mons. I’m a little embarrassed to say I have been socializing with them more so than with other friends. Initially the chat was about game info and tips, and as we got comfortable with each other, we start sharing and venting about work, family, and health. There is no rivalry among the different team members and instead there are lots of encouragement.

Now, you may still wonder what’s the big deal about Pogo and why do I love the game so much? Well, my behavior has certainly changed because of it. After I had Buddy, I didn’t get to exercise as much as before, but because of Pogo I walk a lot more now, especially during lunch time. I have slowly learned to get out of my comfort zone and to interact with strangers. But, I do admit, because of Pogo, I’ve also neglected my passion in cheongsams, which I know I should get back to. I have to learn to balance my interest in both.

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Being a child

Buddy celebrated his 5th birthday more about 2 weeks ago, and the celebration reinforced the feeling in me that time really flies! It didn’t seem so long ago when he was a wee baby. Soon, he’ll be six and has to get ready for primary/elementary school. It’s a good thing he’s in daycare because  I think it makes it easier for him to adapt to the new environment. At least he’s used to the long hours away from home, compared to kids who attend regular preschools.

The other night, I happened to watch a program on Channel News Asia “Being A Child”, which features the pressure faced by preschoolers in Singapore. Yes, pressure, because their parents put them through various enrichment classes: ballet, music, Maths, English, Chinese, you name it. 

For Buddy, we didn’t rush to do that. In fact, the only class, outside of daycare, he is attending is Chinese at Berries. He started on it when he was 3 years old and it was because we have to make sure he has a good grasp of the language before entering primary school. But most importantly, it’s for him to feel comfortable with the language and not hate it, which is a bane for many kids and their parents. And I think we have succeeded, because Buddy is very comfortable speaking in Chinese to me. In fact he automatically speaks English to papa and switches to Chinese with me.
My husband and I had many discussions about other enrichment classes for buddy. We don’t want to over burden him, but we are also mindful that we should prepare him for the competitive primary school environment. Just because we want him to have a happy childhood doesn’t mean we should not do anything to prepare him, since we would be irresponsible if we start panicking when he has difficulty coping later. And crying over spilt milk and blaming the school system then is a waste of time. 

My husband had initially looked at some Maths classes but none were conducted in a manner entirely to his satisfaction. What he wanted for buddy is to possess an appreciation and understanding of Maths concepts (a feel for numbers) and not just memorization. Sure there are some stuff that requires the latter, but memorize only when necessary. In fact we don’t want a case where buddy memorizes the stuff for exam and forgets after, which is what happened to me. Till now I still have a phobia of Maths and have not been able to appreciate its beauty. 

So I asked around friends and colleagues for recommendations, and we ended up with an unusual one from my boss. It was an online program for Maths and English developed by the Stanford University: https://giftedandtalented.com/. My husband likes it because the program is structured such that the child has to understand each topic before moving on to the next. There are also interesting projects and general knowledge info for the kids. Though the website states it can be done independently or with the help of a tutor, the truth is the kid needs guidance and instant feedback. So an adult has to be around to work on the problems with the child, and if that is not possible, you will have to pay extra for an online tutor. My husband has been guiding Buddy since he started last September and he’s making good progress. 

However my  husband also realized that the Stanford program (like the general American curriculum) covers breadth but not depth, as compared to the Singapore Maths. So he has to plug the gaps with separate coaching. From this experience , we realized the importance of understanding Buddy’s development. It is not wise to outsource everything to the external providers.

My husband also guides Buddy in puzzle games, and I work with him on English and Chinese languages. We go to the library regularly to get books for his nightly reading. (There are so much resources in the library that I am surprised not more parents make use of them.) So you see, we DIY for much of Buddy’s enrichment. We work with his pace and provide instant feedback.

During Buddy’s recent parent teacher meeting, one of the teachers remarked that Buddy is quiet in class and is not very participative in large group though he does speak up in small group setting. We know Buddy, and don’t see anything wrong with that. In fact, being quiet is not a developmental problem as long as the child is happy. Buddy is a reserved kid with people he is not close to. He will observe the situation quietly before taking any action. (He inherited that from both my husband and me.) Most time he will keep quiet when talked to because he is very selective of people. (The good thing is he is unlikely to fall for temptations from strangers.)  

But when Buddys is with us, he talks so much that it is very difficult to stop him, whether it’s during meal times, watching the TV, movies, or even during bed time.  He keeps asking us questions that sometimes I am tempted to tell him to give me a break. In order to get him to respect our wishes to have a conversation between my husband and me, I drew a picture of an ear and one of a mouth on flash cards. When we want him to stop talking, we show the ear picture and tell him, “lend me yours ears.” I have even resorted to telling him, “silence is golden!” and his reply, “silence is NOT golden!” (Not with us it seems.)

My husband and I don’t think we are helicopter parents as defined in this Big Think article. We certainly don’t spoil him. We see ourselves as coaches and mentors to Buddy. Most importantly we believed that our  gift to him is to build a strong foundation in morals, physical and intellectual in him. 

The new cheongsams from Lai Chan (updated)

(Note: added the A-line cheongsam that I missed out earlier.)

I was at Raffles City mall a couple of days ago and decided to pay a visit to Laichan boutique. I was happy to spot some new designs, like this light grey modern cheongsam with a knot at the center waist. A classy dress that looks absolutely presentable for work and important meetings. A great modern interpretation of the traditional.


Of course Lai Chan’s classic cheongsams are the staple, and we have a number of new prints available. You can expect a burst of floral blooms in this collection. For those who like to have a little flair to their dresses, here’s one with a splash of flowers.

I love the bright poppy flower print of this dress below, which pairs beautifully with the contrasting blue stone buttons. I’m a sucker for vibrant colors!

If you prefer something a little more feminine and subtle, here is an option. The print reminds me of an English garden. 

Another dress that caught my eyes! Yes, I was taken in by the combination of the azure blue flowers and the aquamarine leaves. That blue color is gorgeous! 

For something a little different, this is a retro floral print which is pretty in its own right.


If you are looking for a more earthy tone, you can opt for this elegant purple cheongsam that looks amazing in any formal setting.


Laichan also launched a loose fit cheongsam for women who wants a more casual look. I really like the modern floral print of this sporty dress.

Late last year, Lai Chan added the A-line cheongsam to his collection, and it has been a hit since because of the presence of pockets. We women love the convenience of pockets don’t we? (At leash for Singaporean women.) This time, Laichan used the retro geometric print for the dress, which gives it a rather youthful look. 


There is a wide selection of cheongsam tops available as well, though I am only showcasing a few here. Down here, we have one  with small floral print, and the other in block color complemented with floral appliqués.

I spotted this interesting modern top with a pretty floral print on the front and a purple back panel. Instead of the usual side buttons, there is a hidden zip at the back. However, I’m not sure if there’s a problem with the purple fabric or that this is a difficult material to handle because there is puckering along the zipper. And I only realized, upon looking closely at the picture, that even the bottom seam looks jagged.  If this is what happened when a zip is used instead of buttons, then I rather go for the latter. Perhaps I am being picky, but  I find puckering unsightly.


All in all, I would still say the collection is rather eye-catching, and many of the classic cheongsams are drool-worthy. 

Public Service Announcement: Internet Scam Alert!

Recently, I found myself a victim of a security scam that took me off guard. It was similar to those that you read about in the media, of victims being duped by scammers or fraudsters and you thought you wouldn’t fall for them, because you are more cautious or smarter. Well, I thought I was until I was a victim myself. 

I went to this website that offers free animated movies because I wanted to show the Hayao Miyazaki’s film ” Nausicaa of the Valley Of The Wind” to buddy.  It was not the first time I had accessed this site, and, admittedly, there are ads of young women in skimpy bikinis. But I figured it was a way for the site to make money, since it is offering free cartoons and animated movies. Besides, it is almost impossible to find streaming of Miyazaki’s movies online, and anyway I have McAfee Internet Security app installed on the PC.

That turnes out to be the first of a series of mistakes. Despite knowing there is no free lunch in this world, I was fallible like the next guy to think I would be the lucky one. Besides, I didn’t have any issues with this site during previous visits. So I clicked “play” when I found the movie. 

The next thing I knew, a Microsoft page appeared follows by another smaller window. The smaller window stated that Microsoft had detected that my computer was infiltrated by a malicious spyware and that an error response had been generated and a number was assigned to this problem. To add to the tension, an audio recording started playing repeatedly “please call the number on the page for technical support, otherwise we will shut down your computer for security reason”.  Ok, I know you might find this pretty dramatic and maybe even comical. But I panicked! Seriously, when you are in a situation where you know the site might not be entirely secure and something like this happened, you would freak out! (Or most people would.) So, without thinking, I called the number and was connected to a customer service center or what seemed to be judging from the chattering in the background. 

I asked the lady on the other line if this was Microsoft customer support, and she said she was from 3rd party technical support. I just went ahead to give her the error number, and she then explained that she would guide me through a scanning of my PC to detect the malware. But in order to do that I would need to give her control of the PC. I should have stopped there and think before acting. But again I didn’t, and this was the biggest mistake I made. I actually swallowed the story hook, line and sinker,  and stupidly ceded control to her! 

The woman went through the drive programs, while making comments about the problems the computer faced and that the McAfee was not useful because it could only detect viruses. All the while, I was nodding along, as if hynotized by the Alien light. Just then, my husband appeared, wondering what the commotion was about. He stared at the PC and asked, “what’s going on?” I gave him the story, and as I was at it, we were aghast to see a list of my husband ‘s accounts and corresponding passwords being displayed on the screen. That was when my husband flipped!

He took over the phone and demanded,”who are you? Why do you have control of our computer?” The woman gave the same line of being some technical support provider and I was the one who ceded control, but my Husband wasn’t gullible like me. He demanded to know where exactly she was calling from, and that was when she start threatening us. She said she had our number and address and would report us to the police. That pissed off my husband further, and he slammed the phone shut and turned off the computer. 

I was ordered to report to the police immediately, who instructed me to turn off the wireless connection or just not turn on the PC. And, needless to say, I received a fierce tongue lashing from my husband. We spent the next hour changing passwords for those major online accounts. But the biggest concern was whether that scammer had put in a spyware into our computer, and how could we get rid of it. 

I sought advice from my IT colleagues the next day, and was told the best thing I could do was to reset the PC to factory setting. However that requires the CD rom provided by the manufacturer. Considering that ours is at least 7 years old, we were not sure what happened to it since we had moved house during this period. 

My husband decided to do a PC reset, which I was told by the IT colleague, would only be 70-80% clean. But we couldn’t find the required CD rom, and this is the next best option. He also ran the McAfee scan, and did another PC reset the next day for assurance. This clean up turns out to be a blessing in disguise because the PC is We have decided not to use the computer for any sensitive transactions, and it’s now basically an educational tool for Buddy. The silver lining is that the computer is now working much better after the reset. I guess it had accumulated a lot of junk over the years.

So, the lesson from this moral story is that Microsoft doesn’t monitor our PCs and  will never proactively reach out to us to provide technical support. In fact the company is well aware of such scams and has provided advice on how to avoid them.  If any of you encounter something similar, don’t panic like me. If you have any slightest doubt, stop and seek advice from family members or trusted friends.

Enrichment or not to, that is the question 

If you are wondering what I am referring to in my topic, it’s enrichment/supplementary classes for kids, like speech and drama, languages, arts, or even reading, etc. In Singapore, it’s quite the norm to send kids for enrichment lessons, starting at the pre-school level. Most parents focus on language development for preschoolers, and we are no different. Buddy has been attending Berries Chinese enrichment class for more than a year.

Due to various factors, including the use of English as the main language for communication, mandarin is relegated to the sideline for many Singaporean Chinese. Though most can still speak it (albeit not as fluent as those from China), very few are able to write well. To be honest, the fault doesn’t lie with us because the opportunity of writing in Chinese is almost non-existence. (And my Husband will attest that there is no logic to the Chinese characters, especially for the simplified version.) 

You can say that most Chinese parents are in no position to teach their own kids the language. So we have a strange situation here whereby almost every Chinese kids have to go for either enrichment class or tuition for their Mother tongue. It has even come to a point when Mandarin is the bane of many parents and kids, because it is a required subject until junior college (senior high). Anyway, for now, it is not the bane of Buddy and I (my husband excluded), and I think Buddy will continue to accept his Mother tongue as long as I continue to use it with him. Currently this is the only enrichment lesson he is having. 

My husband is now thinking of adding Mathematics next year, and I have some reservations about it because I want Buddy to have a happy childhood, instead of one where he spends time at enrichment classes. My husband insists that he is not being a helicopter parent, since the plan is to add on only a Maths class.  He has always emphasized the importance of building a strong foundation early, so that Buddy doesn’t struggle later in school. This involves developing the skill to think or reason, to enable buddy  to understand math concepts instead of memorising formulae. In fact, it goes to the extend of knowing how to derive the formulae. 

I argued for the importance of play for kids, especially at such young age. He countered that there is a time for play and a time for work. Just like there cannot be work all the time, there cannot be all play as well. And work is a way to ease buddy into the discipline of delayed gratification. When he puts in the work first to build the foundation, he will be rewarded with the time to play. This will be more apparent in formal school when he has developed the ability to grasp concepts quicker.

I asked around friends with young kids if they put them through enrichment lessons. Though it’s a small sample size, most children only went for the language class. Only one did go through Maths enrichment but not for very long. The consensus is that language development is more important at preschool age than Maths. And I also found out that many kids start Maths tuition when they are at primary school, particularly at certain levels when the curriculum gets tough. 

My husband disagrees that languages should be a priority over Maths at the preschool level. The other day, he went to a bookstore and bought a primary 6 Maths assessment book to check out the type of questions that students face. As suspected, he found that some have a heuristic bent to them, and he believes that these are the differentiating questions. They are not solved by memorising methods or formulae, and instead through logical thinking. 

My husband is convinced that the goal of the PSLE (primary school leaving exam) is to test kids on their mathematical reasoning. When buddy learns how to solve heuristic problems at an early age, it will become second nature to him. Whereas the notion of starting the development this skill at the primary school level is a little late because there is the time pressure of handling four subjects then, and this makes it tempting to resort to memorising. Sure, taking shortcut by memorising the formulae or methodology can get you quite far initially, but when eventually the kid faces with the situation or environment of having to figure things out quickly, the shortcoming is exposed. Besides, thinking is a rather difficult skill to develop, and requires a lot of effort and time.

“Tiger Woods started playing golf when he was very young, and the same for Joseph Schooling. He didn’t start learning swimming only when he was in primary school! It’s the same for mathematical reasoning skill. It has to start from kindergarten when the kid has the time to develop it and able to stay ahead when he goes to primary school.” So said my husband. He also feels that sending kids to tuition when they hit a brick wall in his or her study is being reactive. He hopes that if buddy has to attend tuition, it’s because he is going to a masterclass to have an edge. 

I guess my husband does have a point, though I hope that buddy would only have to attend at most 2 classes a week. I want to plan the lessons for him in such a way that he does have sufficient time to play and enjoy. So now, we have to evaluate the different Maths enrichment classes. 

Chasing after Eevee, Pikachu and Bulbasaur

If you are wondering what are those mentioned in the title, then you are clearly not playing Pokemon Go. I have mentioned in my last post that I have joined in the PG craze, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I have played many game apps before, but I have not experienced one that is this fun and captivating. In fact it’s not only me, but Buddy enjoys it too. He loves the cute critters like Pikachu, Eevee, and Bulbasaur. He even named his doggy pillow lovey as “Eevee”, and “turned” his little dino models into the Pokemon creatures.

Buddy remembers the names of many critters, and how they evolve. And after each catch, without fail, he wil announce, “Gotcha! Eevee (or whatever the Pokemon) was caught.” Not only do we have fun catching them, but we also get a kick out of battling in the gyms. In fact, he has a fascination with the latter, and always wants to check out the creatures defending them.

But Buddy doesn’t just sit around and get glued to the cellphone. He incorporates the game into his physical play. He acts out as Eevee and wants us to throw Pokeballs at him while he dodges them. He also  does gym battles with me, when he acts out as a Vaporeon (because it is super duper Eevee), stamping his foot on the ground while I am a Pidgeot (flapping my hands like a crazy person), and we will end up pushing against each other like Sumo wrestlers. 


I know there are people who regard the game as stupid, and some religious leaders even branded PG as unholy and called on the followers not to play the game. The rationale given is that it is addictive and turns people against God, and some even insinuate that it is of the devil’s making. Well, I didn’t know that the Divine Entity is so sensitive to an app, that it would threaten his status. Or is it really the egoistic attitude of men, who think they speak for God? As far as I can see, there are a lot of other addictions around us, like power, being in control, money, material goods, fame, and the list goes on. In fact, with so much atrocity, injustices and heinous behaviors going on every minute, you would think there are much more serious and legitimate issues to tackle instead of criticizing PG. I guess it’s easy to attack an app since it is passive, instead of standing up against child abuse, exploitation of labor, inciting hate or violence in the name of religion, or even exploitation of environment.

Sure, I know some PG trainers (or players in layman term) can be rather idiotic and inconsiderate, like dashing across the road to chase after a Pokémon, getting into a fight, and even leaving behind trash after congregating at an area. Unfortunately, there’re always bad apples in any society. But people don’t seem to realize that it has nothing to do with the app, but everything to do with the person using it.

Anyway, I think PG is a better game app than others out there because it actually gets trainers to get out of the house. I was also told by a friend, who had been to a hot pokestop (where hundreds of  trainers gather), that it was really fun interacting with fellow aficionados who are pretty friendly as well. I haven’t been to any of such hotspots, but I have been sharing tips with another friend who has attained a higher level.

I read a news report today that the game is losing popularity, but the crappy article doesn’t even provide reasons for it. I can guess what it might be, but still, I am going to enjoy it while I can, since it provides another chance for buddy and I to bond together. 

 

Grabbing a sight of the cherry blossom!

Last Sunday, we went to Gardens By The Bay for the floral exhibition display in the Flower Dome. It was a showcase of various species of the cherry blossoms or sakura, and peach tree. The sakura is known for its fleeting beauty, blooming for a short period of time when the weather starts to get warm. In case you are not aware, in Japan, watching out for the blossoms is a national event, and the practice of hanami, or pinicking under a blossomed cherry tree, is highly popular. Many companies, especially the large ones, will organize hanami as a staff outing.

According to Wikipedia, the first bloom in Japan occurs in Okinawa in January, and the blossoming wave will travel northward to Tokyo in end March, before proceeding to Hokkaido. Here in Singapore, we are lucky that the Gardens have brought in so many Sakura species for public viewing. Within these two weeks, from 11-27 March, we get to admire the flowers without having to travel to various regions of Japan.

The sakura is a temperate flora and cannot survive in our hot and humid weather, particular now when we are experiencing really warm temperature because of the El Niño and Equinox phenomena. The flower will wilt in one nanosecond! Even the residents are screaming, “it’s freaking hot!” Instead, the flowers bloom in the air-conditioned Flower Dome, which also brings a big relief for the crowd escaping from the outside heat. So, here are the pictures taken by my husband. 

Upon entering the Dome, there is a huge bonsai tree greeting the visitors, and behind it are a few white cherry blossom trees.

The view from the upper gallery. You can tell that there were a lot of people down there.

There were lines to get into the display, and my husband patiently waited for the photo shots.


The Sakura flowers were in full bloom when we were there, and I am not sure if they can last till this Sunday. To be honest,  we find that though the flowers are pretty at first glance, they look rather boring after a while. There is little to distinguish them, unlike the multi-hue daisy, the varied exoticism of the orchid or the elegant lily. I might get whacked by the Japanese for our views since it’s their national flower, but I am interested to know what are their distinguishing features.




And here are the pictures taken by me, which are basically the non-Sakura flowers. I couldn’t get any close up photos because the place was packed! I was in line to enter the display when I took the below picture. The visitors were only allowed to enter in batches.



I am not sure if it was because the sakura flowers were in full bloom last weekend or what, but it was like a mad house inside the Flower Dome. Many were jostling to take pictures of the flowers. I had to keep an eye on Buddy in case he got lost so that my husband could focus on the photo taking.

In fact, when we arrived at GBTB at 10.30AM that day, there were only 2 lots in the Visitor Center carpark, and so my husband decided to park at Meadow, the open air carpark. That turned out to be a mistake. Firstly it was a bit of walk to the Flower Dome, and secondly, the car was like an oven when we returned to it in the mid afternoon. This carpark is only good for the early evening when the temperature is cooler.

The other problem with going to GBTB in the morning is the limited dining options for breakfast. There are only a few restaurants opened, like cafe Crema and McDonald’s (which, unfortunately, took over from Verandah which served very good chicken curry) located at the Visitor Center, and the Hill Street Coffee shop and Peach Garden Noodle House at Supertree Grove. If you want to splurge, there is Pollen located within the Flower Dome. 

We went to Hill Street since we wanted some local breakfast; and besides both McD and Cafe Crema serve mainly wheat products. We skipped Peach Garden because the food sucks big time and it’s a tourist trap. At least Hill Street has some decent grubs, but the management must be ignorant of the Sakura display as well as the children’s festival held last week. There was a shortage of staff to handle the constant stream of customers, and the eatery ran out of bread and dessert at 11.00AM! It does smack of incompetence. 

Anyway, if you are interested to check out the floral display, try to go in the weekday. Considering that there is the long Good Friday weekend this week, the Dome is expected to be packed to the hilt. 

 

 

About death

I know that many regard death as a taboo subject, either because it is considered inauspicious or that the topic has never crossed their mind, or it is a morbid subject that one doesn’t talk about. I think we should get over this psychological barrier because we will all die eventually. It could be tomorrow, a year from now or maybe a decade later. I feel we should accept it and be mentally prepared for it.

But I also understand that many times, death does not come at the right time, if ever there is a censensus on what is. I guess we would regard death as inevitable for an old person. When that time comes, hopefully, death is quick and painless. However, when someone younger passes away, we typically feel that life has been robbed from this person. But life is never certain, though death is.

For many, there is an innate need to cling on to life. As for me, it really depends. As long as Buddy is not independent of age, I feel I should have the will to continue living in order to care for him. But once he becomes independent, I will accept death when it comes, regardless of how I die. My loved ones will probably grieve, but like what my Husband’s always said, “we should learn from the Irish. They hold a party at the funeral!” Well, it’s not exactly a party in its true sense, but there are lots of food, drinks (especially alcohol), funny stories, some dancing and even games. The Irish believe in making the passing more bearable for the deceased’s family during the wake.

For those who believe in God, in death the deceased is united with the almighty and it should be a joyful occasion for him/her. This is especially so for the old folks. We should celebrate the divine reunion instead of mourning the departure. 

Buddhist teachings also advocate that death is nothing to be afraid of. If you have accumulated good karma during your current life, you will have a better rebirth. Buddhism even advocates that a believer should not have any attachment to this earthly world. It is only when one let go of any attachment, the person will be able to break the cycle of life and death. 

I like the idea of detachment, though I can probably do it at the end of my life. (Yes, I know I can’t be selective about this because it’s supposed to be a lifelong attitude.) Anyway I guess if we remind ourselves that if we have led a fulfilled life, we should have no regrets about leaving this world. Even if there are regrets, these are situations which cannot be reversed, and we should accept them as they are. 

I know it is very hard to transcend our emotions when death is near or when our loved ones are at their death beds, or have passed away. However, when we truly accept  the respective religious philosophies, it does make the departure less painful. Using one of my husband’s favorite quotes, taken from the Dalai Lama XIV (which also applies for the atheist):

“If there is no solution to the problem then don’t waste time worrying about it. If there is a solution to the problem then don’t waste time worrying about it.”

What kind of society do we have?

What kind of society do we have? That is the question that popped into my mind a few days ago. It was trigged by this news report of a man who lodged a complaint against an officer at the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), for making insensitive remarks to him during a conversation on delayed financial assistance payment from the Ministry to him. The Minister for MSF, Tan Chuan Jin, also weighed in on the issue in a FB post which defended the officer and also included an article on horror stories of welfare recipients from MSF.

The summary of the issue is that the man in question, Mr Ravi, was expected to receive assistance of S$600 every month on 4 December, but he had applied for an increase in aids as he and his wife were expecting their second child this month (his wife had since given birth to a pre-matured baby). Due to bureaucratic process, the revised amount of S $800 would only be credited to his bank account on 9 December. But this information was only relayed to him on 3 December, a day before he thought he would get the money. So he and wife went to the MSF office for a discussion with the officer.

During the conversation, the officer mentioned he would give the couple shopping vouchers from NTUC supermarkets to tie over the period before they get the money. But Mr Ravi told him they needed money for his wife’s medical conditions, and to visit their premie baby who is in neonatal ICU. He questioned why they were not notified earlier so that he could seek money elsewhere. He said claimed that he was so desperate for money that he even sought out loansharks.

The office then blurted out that the financial aids were not a form of pay and MSF didn’t owe them the money. Incensed, Mr Ravi and his wife left the office without taking the vouchers.

During the exchange, Mr Ravi’s wife had recorded the conversation using her phone. Mr Ravi then sent the recording to the activist, Gilbert Goh of transitioning.org, who uploaded it on his FB book. The video can be viewed on the Red Wire Times website.

Since then, Mr Ravi had received heavy criticisms online, much of it implied he was a moocher, and a significant number of people even questioned why he has a second child. The prevailing mindset is that if anyone is poor, he or she should not have any kids. There was also outrage that Mr Ravi dared to have the conversation recorded and posted online, and questioned his motive for doing so.

There was very little criticisms of the MSF officer’s comments or how the Ministry handled the matter. In fact, none of the mainstream media asked Mr Ravi for his side of the story, or even asked any aids recipients for their experiences with the Ministry. Much was publicized about the good works of MSF and the sufferings they had to go through with the recipients. Instead, only alternative media reported on Mr Ravi’s views , such as the above-mentioned article from Red Wire Times and this Q&A conducted by The Online Citizen with him.

Personally, I feel many comments smacked of self-righteousness bordering on underlying sociapathic tendencies. First and foremost, I am not sure if most understand Mr Ravi’s circumstances, that he is suffering from Muscular Dystrophy, a disease that causes his muscles to weaken and waste away, and this caused him to be certified permanently unfit for work by a doctor at a public hospital. Just because he can walk around doesn’t mean he’s a lazy bum who is only looking for handouts. Secondly, he and his family are living from hands to mouths. He has a toddler son as well as a baby daughter who is, unfortunately, born pre-matured, and his wife is not exactly in the pink of health. They’re not having the days of their lives lazing by the pool, having meals at Michelin-starred restaurants, or shopping at LV. Seriously, they’re surviving on S$600 a month, which only increased by S$200 starting in December. Thirdly, NTUC vouchers can only be spent at the supermarkets. You cannot use the vouchers to pay for transport fares and prescribed medicines etc. Hell, not every NTUC supermarket has a pharmacy where you can get OTC medicines either. Fourthly, what did the MSF officer mean when he said MSF didn’t owe Mr Ravi anything? When the Ministry has ascertained that he is in need of financial aids and agreed to provide monthly payments, it owes him the money!

Why should social safety net be regarded as a goodwill gesture from the government?  Working adults pay taxes to the government, and the taxes are used to fund infrastructure development and social services, among other things. So social welfare is  a right of the people. And please don’t just see it as money for the needy, welfare is also the subsidies the government provides for housing, education, healthcare, childcare and even the quasi-monopoly status of government-linked companies, and list goes on.

I find it puzzling that MSF didn’t bother to consider if its SOP is effective. Has it not wonder what the aids recipients  to do when there is a delay of payment?  Does the Ministry think that NTUC vouchers are good enough, and that the recipients should be grateful to be provided instead of complaining? Why is it not possible to provide interim petty cash to the recipients?

In fact I also wonder how the MSF officers regard the recipients, that they are beggars? Are they behaving in a condescending manner disguised behind a polite demeanor? I have been told that the initial screening process of a potential aids recipient is very stringent to weed out the undeserved. But as a result, the questions become very intrusive and humiliating. So for those who went through it, they are facing real desperation. In fact I would venture that they are undergoing great stress, and some might even be suffering from depression. Even though a few of these recipients might be in the pits because of their own doings, I’m sure most are there because of events beyond their control. And even for those who were responsible for their dire states,  they also deserve a chance to rehabilitate and start anew.

For those of us who are living a comparatively stable and comfortable lives, please remember that we are damn lucky that we are not struck by bad luck, and we should spare a thought for those who were unfortunate. In fact, whatever happened to them might happen to us, because life can be a bitch when shit happens.  Even those who did ride through tough times, think of the help, the opportunity and the encouragement given to you. We don’t live in silos here. When we are down on our luck we need help and empathy from society, and as part of this community, we should also extend the same to our fellow men. Welfare recipients are not moochers or lazy bums. Even if some politician or civil servant throws us a case, ask ourselves if that is the exception or the rule, and if that applies to our context. If we regard the needy as moochers, we might as well also lump the old folks and the disabled in this category too, and consider dumping them into some island.

The Singapore government keeps urging its people to be entrepreneurial in various niche areas. But how do we expect them to take risks if there is no safety net? Would anybody quit school to start FB here? If you fail and have to look for a job, will the HR look at you with disdain, and hire a foreigner instead?

Lastly, why are people making nasty remarks about Mr Ravi having a second child? Who are these people that are so mean-spirited and filled with spite? Are we practicing eugenics here? Singapore is facing a silver tsunami in the next couple of decades. We don’t have enough children, period. So any able child will grow up to be a working adult who will pay taxes to fund your social welfare. Even the children from poor families!

 

 

 

 

The cheongsams are back!

Sorry for the long gap in between posts as I have been running dry of ideas for my blog. Luckily I have some recent news on the cheongsam. In fact the title refers to those from The Happy Cheongsam, which made a return after a long hiatus when designer/founder, Ming, was on maternity leave earlier this year. The latest collection 11 was launched last Friday (9 October) with the theme “The Playground”. This was a smaller than usual collection comprising of four dresses and two tops, though there are actually only three designs.

First, we have the shift dress which comes in either black or white.
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Then there are the pleated skirt cheongsams: black or pastel blue.
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Finally, the two tops.
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I guess May is trying to get back into the design groove, and hopefully she will do so soon. Because, to be honest, I am indifferent to this range other than the tops. But I wish the prints are more interesting or sophisticated instead of the vehicle motif.

Our Bitsy Prints is launching it’s 26th collection after a hiatus too. (Oh my, has it been so many since?) The theme is “Cool Blue”, and I have noticed there is a change in the model. Anyway you can get your hands on the dresses tomorrow (13 October) at12 noon. (In fact OBP has also changed it launch time to daytime.)

I don’t have the closed-up pictures, but looking at the collection, the collars seem a little low. I feel that some of the dresses seems less like cheongsams and more like typical frocks. The collection is just not exciting enough for me to stand by at launch time to rush out an order email.

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I hoping that we’ll see more interesting designs as Christmas and subsequently Chinese New Year draw closer.