Archive for August, 2006

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Sunday, August 27th, 2006

Well, there was nothing so memorable about last week, but the weekend has been pretty good so far. Yesterday Zen and Naoko and I took the 77 bus heading downtown. Naoko was going to work, but Zen and I got out at the post office to check out a package that we got from Naoko’s mum. It had a bunch of clothes in it for Naoko and Zen, including a cute summer outfit for Zen. Of course, in Singapore he can wear summer outfits all year round… Then we went off to the nearby soccer field (i.e. football pitch) to see the kids practice. Found the local kids league dude and gave him my email address, hopefully we can get Zen involved in that sport. Then we took the bus back home and went for a swim. Zen tried swimming without an inflatable jacket for the first time, so he went with a board for a lot, but seemed to have trouble managing that. I got him to try swimming one or two metres on his own, which was fun – he did it without fear and had a big smile on his face, but he can’t do it without going under. Still, he’s trying. I find his kicks are not very good, so I’ve been working on that. I can swim armless, just using my legs to kick and holding my arms behind my back, or legless by keeping my lungs filled with air and just using my arms to propel myself, but he struggles with all four limbs. But he’ll figure it out some day – soon, probably. He still has fear of jumping into even shallow water by himself, but we’ll work on that too. After that we were exhausted, so we went home for a nap. I took care of a bunch of chores, mosly on the computer, and when Zen woke up we watched a bit of TV. Naoko came home by taxi at around 6:15 and we all jumped in and kept going on to the Singapore Zoo, where Naoko had tickets to see the sneak preview of a new kid’s film called “Barnyard.” It was our first outdoor film viewing, so it was pretty fun. They had some grassy pavilion on the reservoir, and there were hundreds of families gathered. They brought out a pony and a collie for petting, and then they had some games. We munched on sandwiches that Naoko had brought with her, and then the movie started. The film, which is about a happy barnyard full of animals on a farm owned by a vegan farmer, was thoroughly bizarre (see review below), but it was a fun experience nonetheless, especially since the night was cool and breezy and the weather next to the reservoir was so nice. After the film, we wandered off to the Night Safari, where we hung out in the restaurant/shops area drinking beer and wine and orange juice (to be precise – Naoko had the wine, I had the beer, Zen had the orange juice), and when the fire dancers of Borneo show started we had prime seats. Zen took my digital camera and began wandering around snapping shots, very funny. He got a few good ones! Took a cab home, fully satisfied that we’d had a great day.

Sunday we woke up not-so-early, had a banana, then headed off to the bus stop for a foray to see the new Botanical Garden. The weather was cool and breezy, but the sky was dark and borebidding, we wondered if we should stay home. Sure enough, when we got to the bus stop it was raining heavily, but when we got to the Botanical Garden itself there was barely any rain at all, hooray. Went to the hawker centre there for food, then wandered around the botanical garden checking things out. The new visitor centre there is really classy – big, airy space with gorgeous wooden benches that are cut out of huge slabs of wood, huge cieling fans keep it nice. Great, better than any air conditioned place I know of in Singapore for spaciousness and airiness. Saw a few new huge trees around the area. It isn’t very big, but it was exciting for us because we’ve never seen the Tanglin Gate open since we first came to Singapore nearly four years ago. After that, we took a bus to Ngee Ann City and checked out shoes. One shop sold Asics and another sold Mizuno, but I went for a pair of Asics and Naoko bought some New Balance. Great, we can feel better about doing sports now. Went home, munched on some bread that we had bought from Takashimaya and then took naps. I slept for 15 minutes, Zen slept for over 2 hours, Naoko slept for maybe 90 minutes. Great Sunday afternoon, although I ran into a SNAFU when I tried renaming my picture files… and they would no longer display. I shouldn’t have been so surprised, but it took a while to fix. Bummer. Zen woke up and after a while we went to the pool for his swimming lessons. This time he was swimming powerfully, and would go for swims in the shallow pool where he could either dogpaddle along or walk if he got tired after 10 seconds of dogpaddling. Not great, but a great improvement, and he didn’t want to leave the pool, even to go see the Malaysia train. But away we went regardless. Found out that the regular 6:40 couldn’t come because it had been cancelled due to a derailment (?!?) in Malaysia. But we still waited for the 7:10 and saw that one pass. Said bon voyage to the station master, who goes off to Mecca for his pilgrimage soon. Nice guy, I hope everything is fine for him. Saw the nice new crescent moon on the way home, the start of a holy month I guess. Got home, ate dinner, did some work, Zen slept, and here we are.

Things Zen does: Zen is getting better at reading. His English is best, but his Chinese is OK too. He doesn’t do too well in Japanese, but for the words that he’s learned to read in Chinese, he’ll recognize them in Japanese (for example, the Chinese teacher teaches him “yue,” the word for moon, but when he sees it in a Japanese context he’ll know it’s “o-tsuki-sama). He also really loves drawing now, and will ask me to draw something he likes, like airplaines or air control towers or airports or bullet trains, and then he’ll colour them, or he’ll draw the same things and ask me to colour them. He loves swimming now, and wants me to buy him a rubber raft or pool toy to tool around in. He likes singing, and has recently been singing songs that he’s learned for Singapore national day. I think some of them are in Malay. He’ll come out with a Chinese sentence from time to time. He’s been watching the Mandarin version of Doraemon recently and is learning a lot from that. He doesn’t watch so many Japanese cartoons these days so I wonder if his Japanese language ability will go down, but probably not. At least his Chinese ability will go up, and he’ll learn the Chinese names of the Doraemon characters, for example Gian is called Ji-Shang in Chinese, etc. Ha ha…

Zen in the bath
Zen tub

Crap parking – at a 45 degree angle just before a bus stop area
crap parking

Zen wearing his new summer kimono. Check out the handsign he’s flashing…
Zen jinbe

Borneo fire dancers. Zen took this pic. Check out the other photographer squeezing in on the left side. It was that kind of a performance…
Zen Borneo guys good pic

The Borneo fire dancers climb a pole. Picture by Zen.
Zen Borneo guys climbing

Peter and Naoko by Zen
Peter Naoko
Peter and Naoko by Zen

Zen and Naoko chilled out at the botanic gardens
Naoko Zen bench

Meet you at the botanic gates
Naoko Zen gate

Peter Naoko and Zen at the botanic garden gates
Peter Naoko Zen gate

Peter and Zen in front of a cool tree/wall
Peter Zen tree

Recent purchases: Zen is wearing his new baseball cap as he fingers his new F-16 toy while sitting on my new chair in front of our new bookshelf.
recent purchases

Peter’s new Asics shoe, Naoko’s new New Balance show
two shoes

Zen sitting on the back of my bicycle
Zen on bike

Movie Review: Barnyard. This is a computer animated film about zany barnyard animals on the farm of a kindly vegan farmer (which is why the cows don’t get turned into steaks and the pigs don’t become salamis). The premise is that when humans aren’t looking, animals go wild and have crazy parties. Kind of like Toy Story, Chicken Story, and the new Flushed Away film. The plot of the film is that crazy twenty-something Otis (voiced by Ben Affleck) shirks the responsibility that his dad Ben (voiced by Sam Elliot!) wants him to live up to. Oddly, both Ben and Otis have udders, so they’re male milk cows. Weird. They use words like “the barnyard needs a strong man to lead it.” So cows are men? Otis falls for a pregnant cow who teaches him to take life seriously, and not spend each night drinking and singing. Oddly, this children’s film has many mature themes, such as parenting and responsibility, and death and dying, so it clearly doesn’t know what audience it wants to have. It’s also incredibly bizarre as they pull out some sort of prehistoric wild thing that looks like Captain Caveman, and the local slack-jawed yokels are also strange indeed. Sure, there’s a funny scene about how the cows get their revenge on a weasly cow-tipping teen, by doing some tit-for-tat “boy tipping”, but it really isn’t like any kid’s film I can think of. The cows on bikes scene was good, but I missed “Born To Be Wild.” Very very very strange, but still not weird enough to fall into the category of unintentionally humorous bad, or even campy cult.

If this review doesn’t make sense to you, check out the trailer…


Sunday, August 20th, 2006

Today was a great day – I woke up at 8:00 (Zen woke us up at 7:00, but we let him watch Doraemon as we caught some more sleep), got breakfast ready, Naoko went off to work and Zen and I did some chores, went to the playground, went the pool, had lunch, and Zen wrote the numbers from 1 to 100. He did a great job, and is much improved from the other day. We are so proud of our little man. The teachers have given him the basics, we just cleared up a few problems and gave him more confidence in himself and showed him that with some effort he can improve. Zen took a nap from 2:00 to 4:30, then he woke up and we went off to the poolside so that he could swim some more where the Bermingham family had gathered a bunch of kids and parents for a birthday party for their son Kai, who turned five years old today. Zen went swimming with the other kids, and this time he’s really doing great in the water, and kept going for an hour on his own with his floater jacket and also a foam board to keep him going. He came out of the water, grabbed some food, and then went right back in. He was in the pool for 90 minutes in total. Then at 7:00 the kids came out of the water, and everybody had birthday cake. We kept talking, the kids ran around the pool and we were home by 9:00. Zen and Naoko are so sleepy, so they are crashed out and here I am, awake and alone again…

a day

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

Not too much interesting this week – just lots of work, including puttting an issue to bed and also rushing through two last-minute pieces that turned out really well. Lots of emails. Monday night I went to a party – one bank gave away a Lamborghini, so they had drinks and canapes at a local boutique hotel, which was pretty nice actually. Thursday was another party – I got an invite to see INXS play live. Although I’m not that keen on the band or its new singer (although “New Sensation” is a world-class tune), they put on a good show, and the hospitality was fanatastic and I met some cool people. Unfortuantely, Fort Canning Park, where the event was held, is a lot of trouble to get to and to get away from as well. I had a lot of beer in me when I went home (early, to beat the crowds), and stumbled because of the construction happening, but eventually got on the bus. Nice.

Today was a pretty good day. After a pretty busy and tough week, I enjoyed a nice day with Zen. We started the day off with Naoko and breakfast, we went off on the bus to Bukit Batok, then the MRT to Chua Chu Kang to check out the moview – the Ant Bully. Got there early, the first ones buying tickets for the day and two of four people watching the movie – the theatre was ours!!! The movie was enjoyable, but of course thoroughly predictable, especially if you’d seen the trailer. Zen enjoyed it, afterwards we went to buy presents for the birthday party Zen is going to tomorrow – Zen fell in love with a cheap F-16 model plane that makes sounds and has flashing lights, I bought one for him and one for tomorrow’s birthday boy. Zen needs a baseball cap – he doesn’t have anything for the sun – so I bought him a cap… and one for tomorrow’s birthday boy as well, just for good measure. So they’re close in age and getting the same gifts. Funny way to do it, but what the heck. Let Zen ride in the Batman ride once, then off home by train and bus, had lunch, Zen napped, then Ikea delivered our chair and bookshelf. I put the chair together, very comfortable, and the bookshelf got started when Zen woke up and I could start putting the bookshelf together, then we went swimming. Zen did really well, in fact he did his first real solo swimming in the deep water of the pool today, so I was very proud of him. After that we went to see the Malaysia train. When we got back, ate dinner and I helped Zen work on writing the numbers from 1 to 50. He has a problem of writing numbers backwards (9 looks like “e”), or in reverse order (twenty-one becomes “12″), or both (19 becomes “el”). But he’s starting to get the hang of it and recognize when something’s not right. We read “Lili’s Breakfast” when he went to sleep, that was fun too. It was a great day, and hopefully tomorrow will be as well.

Here’s a trailer for the Ant Bully:

And here’s something extra:

Here’s an interesting live video from Blonde Redhead “Misery is a Butterfly.” Odd, unique, and strangely captivating.


Sunday, August 6th, 2006

Woke up, went right away off to eat breakfast outside. Found a cool new coffee shop a short walking distance away on Jalan Jurong Ketchil, which is nice. Went off to Ikea, let Zen play with the ball room a little bit, then went wandering through looking for a nice book shelf. Found a few cool things to get ideas, might go back for something within a week after we’ve looked at IMM and Holland Village. Maybe Courts too, who knows. Got home, napped, then woke Zen and Naoko up so that Zen and I could go off to swimming lessons. Today Zen had a bit of flotation and he did much better – he was smiling and relatively confident from the beginning, which was fun, and he didn’t get too cold by the end and even wanted to swim more and more. He jumped in the water, albeit holding the coach’s hand, and was swimming with the flutterboard. I had a chance to swim around and enjoy things. Went off to see the Malaysia train, which was nice, and then back to eat a nice dinner. Now Zen is playing with neighbour Xavier.

Zen at Ikea.
Ikea balls 1

Zen at Ikea
Ikea balls 2

Peter acting sleepy…
sleepy Pete

Zen acting sleepy…
sleepy Zen

hanging out at the Bukit Timah train station…
at the station

weekend again…

Saturday, August 5th, 2006

Hey, another few weeks have gone by, not much new to report. Last weekend we took the Duck Tour, played badminton, we went swimming, another week passed. Today I took Zen shopping – bought him a toy bus and a superman set – red and white which he should wear for the Singapore national day celebration on Tuesday at school (before the real holiday) – and then we went to see the Malaysia train. National day is a big deal, but for us it’s just nice to have a holiday again after a long time without – the last national holiday was in May, that was… one, two, three… THREE MONTHS AGO!!

This was taken at Suntec City just before we rode on the Duck tour.
aquarium Peter and Zen

Cool shot of Zen and the carp.
Zen Koi

This is Suntec City’s “fountain of wealth” picture taken from the bottom. In the early morning, “the world’s largest fountain” is not on, so you can wander into the area and touch the “lucky waters.” According to geomancy (“feng shui”), the centre of Sunted City – which is shaped like a hand with the five towers representing four fingers and a thumb… of a left hand – is lucky. This fountain, where the water is pumped up in air and falls downward (instead of being shot up and then falling down) is luckier than your typical fountain. Why? Because the water flows towards the epicentre of Suntec City, and flowing water represents flowing wealth/luck/fortune. So, if the fountain were on, luck and fortune and wealth would be flowing into Zen’s brain…
circle Suntec Zen

Zen at the front of the Duck tour amphibious vehicle, a relic from the American war in Vietnam.
at helm 1

at helm 2

I’ve seen the Merlion a million times, but this seems like a particularly good shot of it…

A rare public display of affection between Peter and Naoko…
Peter Naoko bus kiss

Zen bought a bus today. He also got cool new red and white Superman clothes. He’ll wear it on Tuesday for the pre-National Day celebration at school.
Zen and bus

Funny face Zen.
funny face Zen

Funny face Naoko.
funny face Naoko

Peter and Zen with bus.
Peter and Zen with bus

Peter and Naoko, pic taken by Zen.
peter and naoko by Zen