Monday, April 20, 2015

Puzzling over logic problems

I'm sure by now, all of you have read about the problematic Cheryl who wouldn't just tell Albert and Bernard her birthday but made them guess in a roundabout way.

Later, it was revealed that it wasn't a p5 question as originally thought but a math olympiad question. To me, this isn't really a math problem - it's a logic puzzle. That's because I don't love maths that much but I love logic puzzles and I'd much rather do this sort of question than: "Prove why aw32p+b53xy divided by √7421h  = a gazillion".

I've been doing logic puzzles for about 20 years (at night, before I go to sleep) and I love them. Somehow, they satisfy this little part in my brain that likes to solve stuff without massive real-life consequences. So this post is for all the people out there like me who love logic puzzles.

Did you know there are actually magazines with loads of these puzzles? I posted about them many years ago on my blog but thought I'd write about it again, in case you're interested.

Where I get my fix: Dell and Penny Press Logic Puzzles. These are magazines which you can subscribe to (6 issues a year). Each issue is organised by level of difficulty, from 1 to 5 stars (well, the Dell ones. Penny Press is similar but they don't list the stars). If you're new to this, I recommend getting one of their value packs of back editions cos it's very good value for money. Cheaper than subscribing (partly because you only pay for international shipping once).

I thought I'd give you a glimpse into the type of puzzles that are in the magazines. Here's an example of a 2-star one, in a similar vein as the Cheryl type of problem:

There are also placement type puzzles, where you have to figure out where each item belongs:

Then you have the puzzles which are solved using an elimination grid. Personally, I don't like these and I usually skip them (there are a lot of them in each issue though):

And then towards the end of the magazines, you'll get the whopper 5-star puzzles which usually take me a few nights to complete (if at all). Often frustrating but when you solve them, you feel a sense of accomplishment!

So there you go. Logic puzzles have been around a long time so the Cheryl question isn't revolutionary in any way. I think it only made headlines because it appeared as a math question. More importantly, if you don't think of it as "maths", which instantly conjures up all the negative connotations of "school", "work" and "impossibly difficult exams", it can actually be *gasp* fun!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Colour my world

I always thought I knew Lesley-Anne inside out but the day before her 18th birthday, she shared with me something about herself that caused a little explosion in my head. She told me she had synesthesia.

You're probably thinking, "Syne-what??" I know, I said the same thing.

Background: since Lesley-Anne was very young (maybe about 6 or 7), she has told me that she sees letters and numbers in colour. Because it was always mentioned in passing, I'd never taken it seriously. I've even told her I feel the same as I do think that an 'A' looks better in red than in yellow, for example. However, I didn't know that in her case, it was almost literal - she sees specific letters in specific colours in her mind.

Just to clarify, it's not a case of mistaking colours. When she reads a book, she knows it's black print on white paper. However, she occasionally gets flashes of a word in colour and if she pictures a letter or word in her head, it's in colour. And the colours (with their specific shades) she associates with those letters are unchanging over time eg. 'A' and 'M' are always red, 'D' is green. I told her to type out for me the letters in the actual colours she sees in her head, and here they are:


Lower case letters are one shade lighter than their capitalised companions.

However, she sees the individual colours only for letters. Words work a little differently because when we read, we process words, not individual letters. So when she sees a word, the colour tends to be the one most prominent in the word or the first letter of the word, especially if it's capitalised. Eg Mummy has three 'M's so it appears red to her.

But what was astonishing to me (and Lesley-Anne) was that she never realised that it was an actual neurological condition with a name. She thought everyone else experienced the same thing, partly because I had been nonchalant about it. Trying to justify my reaction now, I told her, "well, would you have preferred growing up thinking you were abnormal?" Although throughout the conversation when she was explaining to me what she experienced, I told her she was weird several times. Making up for lost time.

How she found out was that she casually mentioned it to a classmate. Her classmate told her, "You see what? Oh, it's called synesthesia!" (She was stunned that her friend knew this and her friend was equally stunned that Lesley-Anne didn't.) So apparently, there are many kinds of synesthesia, which is a neurological phenomenon where the stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to an involuntary experience in another pathway. Some people see colours when they hear certain sounds, others associate them with specific tastes. You can read some of the theories of how synesthesia develops here. Lesley-Anne has grapheme-colour synesthesia, which is one of the more common forms of synesthesia - associating colours with letters and numbers. I found an interesting first person account of how synesthesia helped him with spelling here.

Incidentally, the colour she associates with each letter would be different from someone else with synesthesia. That's why when she sees signs where each letter in a word is coloured differently, that bugs her because the shades would not be the same colours she associates the letters with. It's kinda like imposing your synesthesia on others. If you suspect you might have synesthesia, here's a free online test you can take.

Anyway, that's how I discovered something completely new about my daughter, just before her 18th birthday. And coincidentally, since we're on the topic of colours, this was one of the gifts Kenneth and I got her this year:

Adult colouring books are all the rage now and we thought it would be a great gift for her to de-stress, since she's under so much pressure this year. There are many such books in the market, we chose this one - Color Me Happy. It's really great value. You get 100 intricate pictures to colour in and the pages are made from thick, quality paper to minimise bleeding if you use markers.

Lesley-Anne tried out a page and she loved it. She said it was very therapeutic. It does make me happy just looking at the vibrant shades. (Tip: you can get a set of 30 markers for just $2 at Daiso!)

So my baby girl is now 18. She can now legally drink and drive (separately, not together), not that she's inclined to do either. "I got EZ-link card, no need to drive!" she declared. When Kenneth offered her a sip of shandy ("only 0.5% alcohol!"), she made a face and declined. She really is a guai kia.

Happy birthday, Lesley-Anne! May God release rainbow hues of blessings on you and may your life always be colourful

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Kids and mums share their thoughts on my books!

Haven't had much time to blog lately, partly because my helper is on home leave and that's when we realise just how much we've come to depend on her. There are dirty clothes to wash, uniforms to iron, meals to prepare, dishes to wash, floors to mop and vacuum, yadda yadda. On top of that, Lesley-Anne has fallen ill, which means I not only have one fewer minion to help out around the house, I've got to take care of said minion. Bah!

Anyway, over the past few weeks, I've received some really nice reviews of my books, which I'm sharing here. First up, The Good, the Bad and the PSLE: I accidentally chanced upon this lovely review by an NLB librarian. She says, "If you’re interested to read about the experience of a parent with school-going children in Singapore, do pick this up. It is a light read with not-so-light underlying issues."

And all the way in Hong Kong, a reader Alice Chan, shared on Instagram that she enjoyed the book. So happy to hear that the issues raised resonate with parents even outside of Singapore!

Next, Danger Dan. Some kiddos have been enjoying the books and their mummies have made the effort to share both theirs and their kids' views in this very informative and lively blog post.

Our favourite part was when one of the mums said her daughter was so engrossed she wouldn't put the books down even at mealtimes or bedtime. Wah, you made our day! Thank you, Mummy Angie! You can also check out the mums' Instagram posts here and here.

Finally, Lesley-Anne and I were interviewed for a Singapore Motherhood article on 15 Singapore Authors (and Celebs) and their Favourite Childhood Books.

To find out what we read as kids, click on the link. (I know, I know, technically Lesley-Anne is still a kid...doesn't feel like it though!)

Speaking of books, for those who are curious as to what Lesley-Anne is reading now, her reading list is influenced by the topic she has chosen for her H3 Literature (a research paper for 'A' levels equivalent to the S paper in our time.) Over the past few months, she has read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (which I'm reading now, based on her recommendation), Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey and Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.

If you're into dystopian novels, some of these titles are worth checking out (although be warned, they could get you pretty depressed). In the meantime, keep reading!

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