Sunday, 29 November 2015

Plans for December

With December only a few days away, I feel I ought to share what our plans are for the month.  I am going to call ours a 'December plan' rather than an Advent plan because we are not Christians, so I don't feel right about using the term 'advent' when we don't actually celebrate the days leading up to Christmas Day in a religious way.

In our own secular way, we honour Christmas Day as a major festival with our own family traditions, which include setting aside time each December to do something special.  To me, the significance of Christmas Day to the English side of our family is on par with that of Chinese New Year to the Chinese side of the family.

Since we are not calling our December activities 'advent' activities anymore, I feel a sense of relief that I don't have to come up with 24 different activities for us to complete in order to earn our place at the Christmas table.  I have come up with fewer than 24 activities because I would like to spend some time this year to observe the Dongzhi Festival (冬至), which is another important Chinese festival that takes place near Christmas Day.

Below are our Christmas-related activities for December, in no particular order:
  • make Christmas cards
  • make lanterns
  • watch Christmas-related movies
  • listen to Christmas music
  • see Christmas lights
  • learn to sing three Christmas carols
  • learn to recite one Christmas poem
  • decorate the house
  • decorate the tree
  • watch a Christmas-related documentary
  • go for two nature walks
  • make mince pies
  • read Christmas-related stories
  • draw Christmas-related drawings

I aim to be more diligent with blogging in December, so having a planned list of activities for the month will give me a good reason to do so.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Wizard and Wand

After all these years of dressing up, Tiger is still fond of doing so (although I suspect not for much longer).  At Halloween, he often dresses up as a wizard, this year being no exception.

He has been fascinated by magic and wizardry so has been practising magic tricks using a few books and a "Magic Tricks Box" that I picked up from the charity shop.

While this is all just fun to a very imaginative boy, I have a strong aversion to conjurors and magicians as I find the idea of deception, a principle on which most 'magic' we are shown is based on, rather objectional.  Therefore, I tried to redirect Tiger's fascination with wizardry to more 'useful' outlets, such as studying the entire Harry Potter series using the related issue of The Arrow for discussion and other English-related work.

We were at King's Cross station the other day, so we went to look for platform where Harry Potter boarded the Hogwarts Express for the first time in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

The station was refurbished a few years ago so it is now very bright and spacious, nothing like the dark and slightly dingy King's Cross station that I knew and missed from more than a decade ago.  The station is now almost too modern, cheerful and well-managed for the setting of the story.  While back in the dark and dingy days anyone could walk up and down the platforms freely and tried one's luck at running into a wall without bothering anyone else, there is absolutely no chance of doing that now without looking like a total fool to everyone in the station since there are now no dark corners in the station where one can hide in shame or embarrassment.  Moreoever, new and shiny electronic barriers are now up in front of all the barriers so there is no way to even walk between the actual platorms 9 and 10 to look for platform unless you buy a train ticket beforehand.  In short, more progress but less spontaneous fun.

The station authorities have no doubt thought about the station's significance in the Harry Potter story, so a few feet away from platforms 9 to 11 is a wall dedicated to being the famous platform , where tourists and fans can pose for photos and visit the shop.

As a result of our dislike for the commercialised aspect of the story, Tiger is adamant that he would not watch any of the Harry Potter movies despite my repeated encouragement.  I thought he might enjoy the movie's special effects so I started watching the first movie.

Tiger watched for 10 minutes and decided that, "The movie has left out too many details.  The book is better."  So that put an end to movie-watching.  Consequently, we need not go to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour too, which saves me a small fortune.

We used the time and money saved from not watching the Harry Potter movies and not going to the studio tour on some real magic, where Tiger made an electronic wand by soldering bits and pieces of resistors and other electronics bits to create a programmable wand using binary codes.

I have not captured the video very well, but the wand was programmed to display the word "bye".  Apparently the wand is able to be programmed to display different six-character words by changing the codes, but I don't really know how the wand works or how to programme the codes to change the word display.  Luckily Tiger paid attention in class and knows how to work it.


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