Thursday, June 30, 2016

Letter to EV: Preparing Mummy for Primary School

Dear darling,

You’ve reached a significant milestone. Over the past few years in your kindergarten, you have blossomed so much, into a cheerful, bubbly little girl who is so endearing to everyone. And now, this month, mummy will be registering you into a primary school.

We’ve been trying to prepare you in little ways for your primary school journey; we know it will be very different and it’s a totally new experience that you will need to adapt to. In fact, you already had a gut feeling that something was different this year, the way your kindergarten teachers were giving you more regular homework, the way mummy and daddy were trying to get you to finish your homework as soon as you returned from school. I know you are unsure and confused and I see the uncertainty in your eyes. You also can’t help feeling excited for the new experience, because many of your friends will probably be going to the same school.

In fact, my dear, this experience is as new for me as it is for you. 

I still remember a tiny little you, holding you for the first time; you fit nicely into my arms. Now you’re so much bigger, it’s harder to carry you on my lap. I love your first smile, I love the way you danced in front of the mirror, I love the way you bravely went on to the school bus on the first day of pre-nursery when school ended, without mummy or daddy (though we were hiding behind the bushes).

Darling, the past years are precious. Time has flown by too fast; you have grown up too fast. 

As I await for the time to register you into primary school, I’m having mixed feelings. I’m happy to see you grow up, to see you move into the next milestone of your life. Yet, I wish time would stop. I wish you can always fit in my arms so I can hold you tight always and hug you. 

At the same time, I’m apprehensive, and scared. I’ve heard all these horror stories about primary school, the level of stress, the number of graded assignments and assessments, and so on and so forth. I want to prepare you for it, but yet I don’t want to over prepare you. I want you to have the spirit of learning, yet I’m worried that we will be overwhelmed by all the assessments and projects that will have to be done. I’m not sure how I can help you to adapt to a totally brand new environment, with longer hours and more academic demands.

Yet, I just know you have the strength in you to adapt to whatever you may face next year. I believe you can do it.

And you know what? Mummy will be on this journey with you. It’s an unknown path before us, but I’m sure, absolutely confident, that if we walk together and support each other, we can face this challenge together. 

You have me darling, and you always in my heart.

Love,
Mummy


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Friday, June 24, 2016

Review: 3 'MAX' reasons to like the Asus ZenFone MAX

I shared my first impressions of the Asus Zenfone MAX here. Like I said then, the phone looks like it’s got heaps of potential, and indeed it has.

Mammoth capability
Imagine, not having to bring an extra power bank to charge your phone once it runs out of juice in the middle of the day. After all, this is a common scenario, especially when we are such heavy users of mobiles these days.

That would be super convenient! Imagine again the lesser weight you have to carry! Ok, it may not be much compared to the kids’ bottles and jackets and wet tissues and so on, but every little bit counts, me thinks. 

And the Asus Zenfone MAX has got this built-in power bank with a 5000mAh power capacity. What this gigantic number means is that the MAX has enough energy to fully charge itself as well as other devices. It’s a fully operating power bank by itself, so no need to bring another extra.

So it’s got great battery power as a power bank. How is its power as a phone? Quite good, as we’ve discovered. We left the MAX on standby mode for just about two weeks, and when we woke it up again, the battery was still three quarters full. So the MAX has lived up to its claim of having up to 38 days of standby time. The 5000mAh lithium polymer battery is also responsible for giving over a day of talk time and web surfing. That means that if you’re an average user, then you’ll only need to charge the phone every two to three days or so, and your phone will seldom run out of juice. Especially useful when the kids keep you so engaged that you forget to charge the phone. Yup, it's happened to me before.

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The battery however, is not removable. One can find it just under the removable back panel, where the dual-SIM and microSD card slots are located. Internal storage stands at 16GB, though this can be increased up to 64GB with a microSD card.

Internally, the ZenFone MAX runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor with 2GB of RAM. This combination works decently day to day. However, graphic intensive applications like Angry Birds 2 might cause the phone to warm up a little after some play, resulting in some lag. Just turn off the apps and let the phone cool, and that should do the trick. The only problem with this is if the lag happens while the kids are playing with it (which is generally quite rare in my case, because I limit their screen time); it will be tough to get them to put down the phone without a fight (that's why I limit screen time in the first place).

Amazing camera
Previously, when we reviewed the Zenfone Selfie, its camera impressed us. The same goes for the Zenfone MAX. 

It has a 13 megapixel rear camera with 0.03 second laser auto-focus and a f/2.0 aperture. Its laser beam focuses extremely fast for quite detailed images, especially in settings where the light is more balanced. Now this is quite useful to capture focused pictures of energetic kids. Though there is some noise in images taken in low light, the images are rather satisfactory. There are heaps of shooting modes like manual, low light, HDR, slow motion, time lapse, panorama, and so on to make mobile photography really fun and creative. Hahaha.. I think it will be hilarious to see EV and AA in slow motion or time lapse.

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The front camera also features a f/2.0 aperture but stands at 5 megapixel instead. There’s also the additional beautification shooting mode, that first appeared in the Zenfone Selfie. This mode allows you to instantly beautify oneself before taking a selfie, or if you are still not satisfied, then further post editing can be done after the photo is taken. This has been a hit with EV, who always asks for selfie and requests that I add colour (read: lipstick).

The 5.5-inch Zenfone MAX is protected by the Corning Gorilla Glass 4, so it is extremely scratch resistant and durable. This is quite standard these days, so it is good to know that Asus didn’t stinge on this despite the MAX’s affordable price. In fact, according to Asus, the Gorilla Glass is 2.5x stronger and 85% less likely to break in daily use. In other words, it is rather kid proof.

The phone’s screen itself is a 1280x720 HD display that has a 178-degree viewing angle, with a density of 267 pixels per inch that makes images appear clear and detailed.

EXquisite lightweight design
The Zenfone MAX only weighs 202g. That really light, considering that it’s got a monster battery in such a small, slim space that measures just 156mm by 77.5mm and between 5.2 and 10.55mm thick.

Overall, the Zenfone MAX’s design is similar to its other Asus siblings, with the metallic frame and control buttons. Up close, that’s where the differences reside. The power button and volume rocker is on the right side of the phone.

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Turn the phone around and the back panel is where the design gets exquisite. We like the embossed leather feel of the phone in Osmium Black. It gives good tactile touch, and makes the whole phone much easier to hold on to. We really do like how it feels and adds to the elegant look already achieved by the screen and the surrounding metal edge.

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The Asus Zenfone MAX, available at a price of $249, is a good all rounder. It looks good and performs satisfactorily well, and the key feature that may sway any buyer would be its massive battery. It means you don’t have to go searching for a charger mid-day, plus it comes at an economical price that won’t hurt the pocket.


Disclaimer: We were provided with a unit of Asus Zenfone MAX for review purposes. No monetary compensation was received. All images and opinions are our own.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Adventures at the Singapore History Gallery

Straight after our visit to the Treasures of the World exhibition, we headed to the Singapore History Gallery, as requested by EV. From the outside, the Gallery looks quite understated. Little did we expect that there is a wealth of displays that trace Singapore's history from the time it was a fishing village, to the colonial times, to World War 2 and the country's independence.

The whole gallery is free and easy, and visitors can roam from display to display, from room to room, in whichever way they like. What caught EV's attention at the entrance is a gigantic animation showing an ancient map of the Southeast Asian region. The animation showed Singapore's name at that time, and also the important trading posts nearby, such as Palembang and Aceh. Just next to this screen is a mock up of an old fishing village, complete with fishing nets. 

History 1

Just when you thought that was the end, a little doorway led to the next area of the gallery, which depicted how Sir Stamford Raffles founded Singapore. Here, EV had a close encounter with him, or rather, his portrait.

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A huge part of the gallery is devoted to the colonial times, which also featured the key personalities from those days, such as Tan Tock Seng and Eunos Abdullah. There are also mock ups of opium dens, displays of ceramic pots used during that time, and a feature on secret societies and the people responsible for controlling them. 

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EV met some colonial personalities as well, and had a portrait taken with them.

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There are lots of photos of Singapore during those days, and I took the opportunity to explain to her how life then was different from life today. 

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EV saw some items that were used then, but not now, such as the typewriter.

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After the colonial area, we were transported to the difficult times during the Japanese occupation.

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The actual teak table that was used during the British surrender in 1942 is on display, on loan from a museum in Australian War Memorial. EV was entranced with an animation showing how Japan first conquered Manchuria and then eventually, Malaysia and Singapore. We met our tour guide from the Treasures of the World exhibition, who was with a group of children, and we stole a moment to listen to her explaining about the Sook Ching massacre, when many males were executed by the Japanese.

Then, we moved ahead in time to the period after the world war, when Singapore was on the road to gaining independence. And after that, how the country developed to become the country it is today. EV saw some old technology, like an old TV.

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We entered a mock up of a Housing Board Flat, and it was so nostalgic for me. I had fun explaining to EV how the old stove worked, and how people had to physically carry gas cylinders and put them into the stove itself. 

History 9

One very nice feature is the huge tree with many screens, and a cosy platform underneath. As the screens play images of flowers, birds and animals, it is relaxing to lay back and watch, especially after an eye opening, time travelling adventure through Singapore’s history.

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The Singapore History Gallery is more than meets the eye, a hidden gem that you don’t expect when you first enter it. It is filled with interactive elements, such as animation, voice recordings and videos, effective in engaging with the younger crowd as they trace 700 years of history and who may tend to be more visual and aural inclined. Definitely worth a visit.

Singapore History Gallery
Permanent display
10am – 7pm
Free admission for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents.

Find out more here.

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Adventures at Treasures of the World by the British Museum

I have been thinking of visiting the Treasures of the World exhibition but haven't been able to do it. I was delighted to find out that it's been extended till 3 July, and in fact, was contemplating of visiting it myself.

Then last week when we visited Masak Masak 2016, EV expressed interest to see the Treasures, which was a surprise. I was even more delighted to know that they have tours every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday for families and kids aged 6 years and above. I enquired more and find out that kids are allowed, but they should avoid running between the exhibits. This means that AA would not be able to go.

So on Tuesday, EV and I headed to the National Museum of Singapore again and attended the 1030am tour. We were a little early, so we wandered inside the exhibition for a bit first. The tour was hosted by a very knowledgeable volunteer from Friends of the Museum, who brought everyone on a time traveling adventure around the world to see the various myths, legends and and beliefs of the many different cultures. There are other themes that the tours focus on, such as Technology and Innovation, Faces and Masks and Fashion and Adornment, and participants will only know on the day itself. 

British 1

Our tour started with a explanation of the centrepiece of the exhibition, which occupied it's very own space in the exhibition. It is a stone axe, which dates back to 800,000 years ago and was found in a particular part of Africa (if I remember correctly). The fact that this axe, which had to be crafted by using other tools to give it its shape and sharpness, existed so many years ago, and in a single area shows that the human brain then was already much developed. It's an artifact that's older than any of the others on display and represents human development and culture, before all the other artifacts were made.

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From the bright hall, we made our way into the dark exhibition hall and it's understandable why it is not suitable for younger kids. The place is quite dark, with spotlights strategically shining on the artifacts. The dark environment makes one speak in whispers instinctively, and the gloomy mood can be a little frightening to kids at first. No wonder EV was a bit apprehensive, but soon got over it once she saw the mummy. She had earlier read a book about Egypt at home, and had a little idea of what it is.

I think EV found the mummy rather interesting, especially when it is that of an adolescent boy. She asked how old he was and how he died, but she was most intrigued by the shading counter nearby. There are small tiles with engravings of various artifacts on the counter, which can be shaded on to a paper using pencil. 

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The nice thing about this exhibition is the inclusion of activities such as this and big notice boards that make the exhibition more hands-on and interesting for kids. Sometimes, I think, even adults would have fun doing all these.

What I personally found interesting is a ‘unlucky’ painted wooden mummy board, or coffin lid, of a woman. Apparently, it is cursed and caused much death and disasters, such as the sinking of the Titanic. According to the guide, there is no basis to all these myths, but definitely, the reputation surrounding the board has intrigued many, including me, such that I returned home, and read whatever I could about this interesting board.

So we continued with our tour, which lasted about an hour. EV followed eagerly, always making sure that she was up front, paying attention to the guide. She saw this huge welcoming figure...

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a little round device that can do over 500 things, such as maths calculations and tell the time...

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a war warrior from Hawaii.

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and a huge tapestry made of recycled materials such as bottle caps.

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However, I could see that she was starting to lose focus as the tour progressed. Still, she persevered till the very end, and even said a very sweet ‘thank you’ to the guide.

My little girl was famished after the tour, so we made a little detour for lunch at Food For Thought. Along the way up, we saw the Toysaurse display which is part of the Masak Masak exhibition and was under construction on the day we visited. EV took one purple recycled toy and added it to the display, contributing to the ever-changing display that is constantly under construction.

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After lunch, we returned to Treasures of the World to look at other exhibits that were not covered by the tour, and also for me to clarify any doubts EV may have after the tour. This time, she was intrigued by a clock that was made during the time of Elizabeth I, and also of an engraving bearing a likeness of the queen.

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and tried to measure how big one of the huge figurine is...

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At the area about China, she recognized the name Qin Shi Huang when I mentioned it during my explanations about artifacts from that period. Her kindergarten was doing a theme about China and had learnt about the emperor and other related historical facts, such as the Great Wall and terracotta warriors.

There was one thing that the tour guide mentioned, which I felt was quite significant, and which I repeated to EV. The difference between a thing and a treasure is that a treasure carries with it a story, a story about the people who created it, their culture and their history. In explaining to EV, I used things that she was familiar with, such as her journal and my mobile phone. I wanted her to realise that there are stories all around us, every day and everywhere, and by using daily items that she can relate to, I think she got the idea.

I think that the Treasures of the World exhibition was quite well put together, presenting the history around the world in a nutshell. It’s a good introduction, and for those who want to explore more, they can find the opportunity to head to the British Museum in London. Hopefully, I do get the chance to someday to see the other 10,000 artifacts there, maybe when the kids are older.

Leaving the Treasures of the World exhibition, we headed to the Singapore History Gallery one level up. Stay tuned for our sharing.

If you haven’t visited the Treasures of the World exhibition, do so soon, before it ends on 3 July Sunday

Treasures of the World from the British Museum
Now till 3 July
10am – 7pm

For citizens & permanent residents
Adults $14 
Free for children under the age of 6, students & senior citizens

For non-citizens & non-permanent residents
Adults $20
Children $16
Senior Citizens $16

Find out more here.
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