Saturday, October 04, 2008

Professional wrestling

It was a clash of professionals at our new place. Our laminate flooring guy boldly held his ground against the combined onslaught of my designer and my wife over a functionality vs design issue.

The issue: like all other forms of matter, Vohringer laminate flooring expands with heat, especially in sunny S'pore. As such, there has to be some allowance for heat expansion or there will be a risk of the snap-together units of flooring buckling and cracking in the months to come.

The problem: because of heat expansion, to lay laminate wall-to-wall is just inviting trouble, so there has to be gaps between the laminates to cater for that. These gaps are covered by a flattish plastic spacer roughly, but not exactly matching the laminate itself. Aesthetically, these strips of plastic ruin an otherwise clean surface and mar the overall finish of our designer's final product.

Big, tepid quarrel ensued between artisan and engineer, neither wanting to compromise on their professional integrity. June tended to support design over physics, while I went the oppopsite direction in support of the flooring guy, though my influence was more subtle. I'm more prepared to let the look of my floor be ruined than the floor iteslf. Guess I'm practical that way.

We eventually reached a compromise that involved both parties conceding a little. Where floor spacers were a direct affront to design, design won. We let the spacers be where they were not so obvious. Everybody happy.

My point is, I'm very proud of the two professionals' service. They both really look out for their customers' best interest and are willing to take a stand for what they know to be right. It would have been so easy for one or the other to just give in and assign the responsibility of risk to the customer ('the customer is always right' is nonsense), but they stuck to their guns and slugged it out to the end for our sakes.

So far in this move, I feel we've been well taken care of by the people and the services we've engaged. That's something to be thankful for.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Movers and shakers

I wonder if I'm crazy. With financial storms whipping around overhead as the shock waves from the financial meltdown in the US chase each other across the world, I'm converting every last cent I own into consumer goods.

Yes, we've sunk a huge proportion of our liquid resources on HDB real estate, but the renovations, and home furnishings? That'll wipe out our last-straw safety net, at least until we can slowly build it all back, as long as we can stay employed. Doubt either of us will be retiring any time soon, we have a lot to pay back after this move. Doubt we'll be able to afford to make another move, so I guess all this expense is supposed to create the most comfortable nest that we will never want to even think of moving house ever again.

While I'm busy rationalizing here, we still haven't finished shopping for our furnishings yet. Today we engaged 138 Professional Movers (the name of the company, not the number of professional movers) to help us "have a stress-free" move.

A survey of all that we possess was professionally estimated to fit a single truck load, costing a grand total of 300 simoleons nett. That price includes a fully refundable 100 for the return of 50 packing crates they supplied for us to compress our lives into, at least those bits we want to bring along with us on our Exodus. 138 even promised to deliver our clothes clean and wrinkle-free so that we can have a decent wardrobe of working togs for wearing the next day. 138 came highly recommended by June's colleague, so we're counting on their "stress-free" service to see us through a long and difficult day.

Going shopping for lighting tomorrow...

Btw, I'm keeping an almost daily photo-essay of the renovation process on a thread in the RenoTalk Forum. Feel free to drop in and get the inside story!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

500W of pure power

As work commences on the living room false ceiling tomorrow, William advised me to get the cables for the rear speakers of the home theatre system ASAP so he can get them installed and concealed overhead. Since Mega needs about a week's notice before delivery, I thought I'd save some time by driving down to the main outlet at Katong Mall and collect the set myself.

How difficult could that be right? Five small speakers, a sub-woofer and a little DVD console pumping out 500W of raw audio power: should be no problem getting it into M2, especially if it's all nicely packaged together.

What emerged from the stockroom was a crate that measured nearly the length of my entire armspan, and no-joke heavy. I wrestled it up two flights of escalators, and manhandled it partway down the street, finally stuffing through M2's passenger side door with the seat folded flat.

When I got to the new place, I dragged it into the elevator to my floor and dropped it off in the living room that still looks like a war zone. I dug into the box to find the required cables which I left in the storeroom for the electrician to install tomorrow. Then because it wasn't secure to leave the whole sound system alone in a vacant flat, I lugged the whole thing back down again and back into M2. Drove a short distance to M-i-L's place where I heaved it up into another elevator, and down another corridor and finally into temporary storage next to M-i-L's TV.

There was a little label on the packaging that I hadn't noticed earlier. It read "22kg: 2 person carry". Pengsan, I tell you!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Renovation works in progress (II)

New House WIP
Today went pretty much devoted to the new place. Our breakfast plan was to hit IKEA first thing it opened this morning, but to our horror the cafe opened half an hour earlier than the main store, 0930 instead of 1000. So when we arrived on the dot at 10, the cafe was already crowded out with snaking lines for food extending well beyond the cashier stations. Just a half hour late and the mee rebus ran out. We had to settle for the french toast set, which also wasn't bad.

Our main purpose was to get sheving for our bomb-shelter/store room.  Between Tong's Hyundai and M2, we managed to ferry all the wooden planking back to the new place. Tong has also offered his assistance to assemble the shelves for us once the renovations are complete. Thanks, Tong!

Well, the pix above is what the new place looks like as of today. All the floor tiles in the kitchen and the two bathrooms are hacked and ready for a fresh layer of tiles. The existing wall tiles are being plastered over, hence the nasty blackish colour of the kitchen and bathroom walls.

I've always wondered what goes on in a coocoon as the worm undergoes metamorphosis. Now I know.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Feathering the nest

Continuing to exchange real simoleons for home furnishings. We bought a TV with a home theatre sound system thrown in for cheap and the refrigerator.

I usually let June nose around for good deals, and she found Mega Discount Store, United Square, where we met Clarence who took the trouble to explain the minute differences between modern TV features and demo'ed different TV models for us to compare. Because Mega isn't part of a larger chain, it offered us a customized discount package that was somewhat more competitive than those advertised by the big players in the Saturday papers.

Still in search of a sofa and a dining room set. We have yet to see any designs we like at a price we can stomach.

Monday, September 29, 2008

F1 weekend

Edit 01:
Oops... someone's not happy with our F1 after all. But then again, Ferrari didn't have a particularly good race, so I'm not surprised.

Considering all the concerns I have over PW as a subject, it looks like in real-life we S'poreans can bring big, ambitious, even audacious projects to life, and make the world gawk and pay attention after all. I'm referring to last night's F1 race through our city streets glammed up with the beautifully-lit skyline backdrop of the finncial district. I've never seen our city look so gorgeous before, and I guess it's because I've been taking it for granted.

Or perhaps the TV functions as a pair of Emerald City glasses, making things appear more glorious than in reality? I was watching the race on my living room set, just an ordinary one mind you, and already the visuals were just stunning. The Supreme Court, Fullerton Hotal and the sight of those legendary supercars growling through the intricate lattice of Anderson Bridge just blew me away. What a grand first impression to leave viewers around the world, especially if they'd been watching it all on HD. That would have been unreal!

Regardless, many people seem to be giving ecstatic reviews of this weekend's excitement. Granted the Americans and Canadians were only interested in the results, but at least Alan Henry of UK's Guardian gave us a glowing report in his reporter's blog.

It was nice to be described as fast, efficient, and systematic, but it was also excellent to hear other words describing how innovative, gutsy, and even "magic" our ability to pull this one off was. These aren't words we would commonly associate with ourselves, knowing we (and other people) tend to view ourselves as rather staid and conservative. But there you are, concluding the first-ever F1 night race in spectacular fashion, when we S'poreans want something, we'll go all out to make it happen and a half.

PW kids, are you paying attention?

Sunday, September 28, 2008


We certainly do have dilligent kids. From the essays I've been grading, it's quite obvious that they've been studying. Oddly enough, it looks like masses of them have been studying the same things. I've encountered the same facts, the same examples, even the same stock phrases faithfully reproduced in essay after essay. So there's no question that they are a truly hardworking bunch. But, sigh, if only GP rewarded hard work alone, each of them would get a stellar grade.

As I've said before, having knowledge is a good thing, but the more important thing is the ability to select the relevant bits of knowledge and use them to solve the chosen problem. Simply providing a list of facts that have some relationship to an identified topic isn't going to get anybody top grades.

One problem is that many of the other subjects the kids are taking push the idea that if they would just memorise, they will pass score. Their track record shows that they're right, and we in GP get drowned out; the lone voice in the desert crying, "Think! Apply judgement! Argue your case!" But in the end, it's still easier for the kids to deliver a bunch of facts, and wonder why they are just barely passing. Or not.

It must be scary living as a teenager today, though. I get the impression that they are actually living vicariously through their textbooks. 'Cos even when the information from their notes and textbooks are outdated or even goes against what should be common daily observations, the notes and textbook 'facts' -- in an occasionally warped and twisted form -- still come out in their essays. If it's in the textbook, it must be right. Can't argue with that logic.

So I'm not all that surprised that our kids know squat about contraception, a real-life issue. It doesn't come up an any subject that they're preparing to take an examination in, so it isn't important. It isn't in the textbook either, so, y'know, like, whatever. As for 'experimentation' there's enough info in the old sec 4 bio textbook to figure out what goes where, but it kinda' ends there. Hence, the few teenage pregnancies a year. The other teens are probably too busy studying. Probably.