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Showing posts from February, 2005

Does the iPod destroy the social fabric?

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Via Tym , I learnt that Andrew Sullivan wrote a recent column in the Times decrying the atomisation of society by iPod. Which may be true, but is hardly a revelation - Warren St. John in the New York Times already noted how some iPod users use it to shut out the world more than a year ago, and a few bloggers have said the same thing . Heck, even graffiti artists have grasped the iSolating effects. Not quite sure how the isolation effect is that different from what was achieved using Walkmen and Discmen previously, although perhaps the iPod seems even more ubiquitous than those products. I suppose the dimension Sullivan adds to the thinking is that he sees the ubiquity of iPod usage as a metaphor for the echo chamber effect: You get your news from your favourite blogs, the ones that won’t challenge your view of the world. You tune into a satellite radio service that also aims directly at a small market - for new age fanatics, liberal talk or Christian rock. Television is all cabl

Linksfest: Packed and Ready to Go

Here's the secret to getting your lift to go into express mode . Otis only, apparently. And here's a playlist of every free song in the iTunes music store. Okay, that just means songs below 30 seconds in length. (Via Jason Barrow .) Queer Eye for the Reporter Gal : how come Superman's super vision doesn't come with fashion sense? That red-and-blue outfit really doesn't work. Singaporean band Soul'D Out keeps a blog . Good to see blogs here expanding into different spaces - promotion, that sort of thing... speaking of soul power, here's Ultimate Christian Wrestling . How to tidy your kitchen and inflict pain on your enemies at the same time (lots of well-designed stuff to look at)... since I'm also jonesing for good type design, here's the f ree font blog , including Kontrapunkt , which I linked to before. And Halle Berry is a good sport .

Kidnap ad

Here's " Kidnap ", an ad for the Marriott from McCann-Erikson Singapore. Funny, albeit very wrong. (Eagle eyes - and ears - will note that although the AdForum page says the language spoken is Malay, it's clearly Mandarin.) Maybe the man can help out in World Jump Day .

World Jump Day

You too can stop global warming! Just jump at the right time. Of course, I don't know how to judge the physics - fact or farrago? In any case it only caters to those in timezones from the International Date Line to +2 GMT (Istanbul), so those of us in the opposite part of the world will just brace ourselves for the impact. Edit: welcome to all my Belgian visitors! Any chance of sending over mussels and beer?

Does God care if you win?

Here's an athletics-based theological question, but one that's perhaps relevant on Oscar night (although actors seem less wont to thank God in acceptance speeches than musicians): does God care who wins ? I think there's a level at which athletes who thank God after an athletic victory move beyond acknowledging their faith and towards showboating, almost as though they were saying "God has chosen me and not you", which, regardless of your religious inclination, would be a terrible theological message.

Observer blog

I just glanced through the Observer blog (via Ben Hammersley ). Talk about how to use corporate blogging - this one really lays out the guts of the process of taking a newspaper to press, and is quite open about the choices that have to be made, as well as how they respond to other newspapers : Not too much to follow, although the Mail on Sunday story about Prince Charles is interesting. We'll change our royal coverage to include the claims in Gavin Hewitt's book on his life as a BBC correspondent to include his transcripts of Charles saying that the British people are obsessed with his private life. It's really impressive what the Guardian and Observer are doing over from Farringdon, they're perhaps the most net-savvy of any major world newspaper. While the New York Times was up online early, they've made it really hard to access the archives, and they took forever to do something as basic as making URLs clickable. Whereas the Guardian and Observer have done s

Mega-megaclub

Today's Sunday Times (no online version of the article) has a piece on the planned conversion of the long-defunct St James Power Station, recently the site of such art exhibitions as Reconstruction of a City . The station will be turned into a huge club complex, about 10 times the size of the recently-defunct Embassy. The developer's website notes that in bringing in the funk, the space will hold 3 restaurants and 9 (9!) clubs. All that made me think of Berghain , a converted power station in Berlin that Geeta over at The Original Soundtrack described as "ten Fabrics stitched together - the most full-on place I've been to in my life, both vibe-wise and architecture-wise". If the new place is even half as good as that sounds, I'd be psyched. But then, power station conversions are always exciting, as Tamsin Blanchard noted a while back in the Guardian . It's like loft conversions writ on awesome scale. Heck, a good conversion can even win you a Pritzk

Linksfest

Spent part of Saturday night watching Everton run rings round Villa . They really are Champions League material this season, and I couldn't be happier. Funny thing about Cahill, Osman, and Arteta is that they kind of have a pretty-boy look, but they definitely play tough... Anyway, on to random things: via Indri , here's the Environmental Working Group Report on beauty / cosmetic products - find out which ones are dangerous for you... Edwyn Collins , frontman of Orange Juice and singer of "Girl Like You", had a severe brain haemorrhage . Get well soon... The New York Times has an article on Gary Brolsma , the random "Numa Numa" fat-dancing-guy ... the Gadget Guy talks about the Tweel , Michelin's quite revolutionary new non-pneumatic tyre/wheel. A tyre without air! No more checking tyre pressure or fixing flats, and lots of space in the boot/trunk.

Gardening green

I'm a BlogClicker member ( sign up here ), because I like the randomness of blogsurfing without the ridiculousness of Blogger's Navbar, which inevitably launches fake blogs selling pharmaceutical products and teens with thecursors that change into a crosshair. One thing that intrigued me was this guy's effort to turn his backyard into a "wildscape" - a good way to "go green", I think, and one that's not so often talked about. The "wildscape" idea made me think about the big difference between parks and gardens in England and those in France - English green spaces tend to be woodsier and wilder, French ones tend to be more manicured. (You could say you see the same pattern in London's irregular street patterns and Paris' Hausmann-designed geometric patterns.) I know nothing about landscape architecture, but presumably it would be a big philosophical split in the field, as (quick Googling here) this little article implies.

Collection agency

I thought I was fairly obsessive with my collecting (and attendant cataloguing). But this guy is the uber-pack rat - he's got everything from key rings to decanters.

Wichita serial killer caught

They've caught the alleged BTK . Finally.

Tech humour

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Fun links from slashdot : the first picture ever put up on the web was... a picture of four women . No, get your mind out of the gutter. And some random folks at Berkeley used Post-Its to recreate a scene from NES Super Mario Brothers in their building:

Rasher decisions

For us carnivores , Bacontarian is a bacon-eater's blog. Nothing like the sizzle of a rasher as you throw it smack onto the pan.

Pimp My Surf

Firefox domination grows, judging by the fact that Internet Explorer 7 is now divorced from Longhorn . I'm just hoping it has tabbed browsing and removes ActiveX. And clearly so do some of the commenters on the IE7 blog . Randomly, if you think Firefox's default look is too sedate, there's always PimpZilla , which adds the bling-bling.

(Our Love is Like a) Heatwave

Feeling too sparse to parse anything too long, so here's some itinerant thoughts, springing from the recent heat: When you take the MRT to work, it's quite clear that Singapore is under a dry spell . From the fleeting vantage point of the train, you can see fields of dried-up grass, bleached blonde, stripped clear of moisture. Rainforests, deprived of the thing from which they derive their name. Today, as I left the office, a fog of carbon particles greyed the world, an acrid smell hung in the air: blowback from yet another fire, presumably. And " bush fire " sidles its way into the common Singaporean lexicon. Words. I flipped through a copy of Asterix and the Magic Carpet in Popular bookstore this week. I suppose the random forces that pushed me to the book decided to go for something apposite: the story of an Eastern land, parched, awaiting Cacofonix, the ill-voiced bard, to bring upon rain by killing the clouds loudly with his song. Song: Martha and the Vandel

How to hack an heiress

Apparently Paris Hilton's cellphone was hacked because her "secret question" to reset the password was "what's your favourite pet's name?" Duh. Even non- Simple Life viewers could look Tinkerbell's name up. Heck, Ms Hilton even feuded with Britney Spears over whose dog was cuter not too long ago. (I don't watch the show, but a steady diet of Us and People magazines from ComicsMart - bias warning: relatives own the store - has kept me au courant with the monickers of pampered pooches.) What in the world was the use of the Sidekick phone storing all the phone numbers online anyway? I can't see that as a very useful feature.

EU-ASEAN anti-spam initiative

The EU and ASEAN recently signed an accord to clamp down on spam , according to EUbusiness: At an EU-ASEAN conference in London this week, the EU's 25 member states and 13 Asian partner countries agreed notably to boost legal tools to fight spam as well as constantly seek new technical means of blocking the unwanted mails. Buried in that article was this nugget: The EU commission cited experts' estimates that 20 percent of global spam - typically involving bulk marketing or pornographic offers - originates in in China and South Korea alone. It's times like this that I'm glad I don't have the Asian fonts installed on my computer - every so often I get an e-mail from an unknown person that's just goobledygook. From the few things I can make out I presume it's Chinese spam, but hey, I can't buy what I can't read, yeah?

Another quiz - 80s music

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Well, American 80s music - the Stock/Aiken/Waterman stable are clearly not represented... sorry Rick Astley and Kylie.

Writing blogs

Found a blog by Martha O'Connor , a writer who's getting a book published by SMP in May. Cool stuff. And I also just discovered this piece by Edward Nawotka on literary blogs in USA Today , which mentions blogs like MobyLives and Maud Newton . I know the market for reading about books isn't that big, which is why large-scale publications like the Boston Globe have cut back on their book coverage (although Salon Books and the New York Times Book Review both continue to do a good job). Those that do like to read about books, though, probably do so passionately, which means blogging seems to be to be just about the right medium to write about books.

Virtual girlfriends

Now I see where the money is in rolling out all these 3G mobile phones... virtual girlfriends ! I think it's funny that the virtual girlfriend sounds fairly high maintenance: Vivienne likes to be taken to movies and bars. She loves to be given virtual flowers and chocolates, and she can translate six languages if you travel overseas. She never undresses, although she has some skimpy outfits for the gym, and is a tease who draws the line at anything beyond blowing kisses. If you marry her in a virtual ceremony, you even end up with a virtual mother-in-law who really does call you in the middle of the night on your cellphone to ask where you are and whether you have been treating her daughter right. Are there really people who would go for this? I guess having "Vivienne" around as a translator might be useful, but otherwise, are people really into paying to get a haranguing mother-in-law? Somehow I don't think that's what most men fantasise about. Edit: the articl

Slash's top hat stolen

Oh man . What is Slash without his top hat ?

Paris Hilton's T-Mobile hacked

So ugliest-celebrity-around Paris Hilton had her cellphone hacked . I just thought some of the list of contacts that she kept on the phone was funny: Ashley but not Mary-Kate? Hmm. Southwest Airlines? Does she need to fly budget? Um, not that I've seen the list. Anyway, they've arrested the guy who did it . And are the numbers real? Let's just put it this way, if they were fake numbers you'd think you'd have heard from at least one irate person who was being prank called by mistake...

Quarter life crisis

I turn 27 today, and it feels like there's so much I haven't done that I should have by this point in my life... time to make some resolutions.

Kottke goes full-time

One of my favourite bloggers, Kottke , has decided to quit his job and become a full-time blogger . I like Kottke because kottke.org remains one of the few major "personal" blogs i.e. he just blogs about and links to anything he finds interesting - as he puts it, "I'm interested in too many things to settle on design or programming or writing or a particular topic" - which is what I'm interested in maintaining for dsng.net (although my baseball thoughts will remain in another realm ). I was actually thinking about this as I walked home today, actually, before I read the news about Kottke: there are so few blogs with an all-inclusive (polymathic?) slant. I guess it's like the New Yorker vs most other magazines - the general trend is to be specialised, but once in a while something comes along that's so interesting to read it can cover anything across a whole spectrum. Edit: Wired weighs in on the topic.

Closer to Fine

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Got my eyes checked on Thursday - the Neuro-Vision thing that I blogged about seems to have worked. I'm down to 6/5 vision in the left eye and 6/9 in the right, which means effectively with both my eyes open I'm at 6/5. Good stuff. Who'd imagine that staring at a computer screen could improve vision? And the concept of being better than 6/6 (that's 20/20 for those Americans among you) is weird but cool. Just call me Hawkeye.

Moshe Safdie

Got to see Moshe Safdie today giving a talk at a HDB -organised conference on community bonding. Moshe Safdie! Man, I love his buildings, like Habitat '67 . Back in the day, I wrote a paper on his Class of 1959 Chapel at the Harvard Business School (pictured above), comparing it with Eero Saarinen's Kresge Chapel at MIT. Class of 1959 Chapel photos .

Wolfe, meet Hunter

Wow, Tom Wolfe writes a HST obit : Hunter's life, like his work, was one long barbaric yawp, to use Whitman's term, of the drug-fueled freedom from and mockery of all conventional proprieties that began in the 1960s. In that enterprise Hunter was something entirely new, something unique in our literary history. When I included an excerpt from "The Hell's Angels" in a 1973 anthology called "The New Journalism," he said he wasn't part of anybody's group. He wrote "gonzo." He was sui generis. And that he was. In the Wall Street Journal , of all places.

It was Mr Brown with the candlestick in the conservatory

A warm welcome to anyone who's stumbled onto this site via Mr Brown (thanks mb!). This here blog is where I publish random thoughts about anything under the sun, although I do maintain separate blogs for film/music/book reviews and baseball . And you don't have to be a registered user to post comments. However, contrary to Mr Brown's description, I'm not an "all round nice guy". Sure, I'm not as skinny as I used to be, but I'm hardly "all round". Heh....

Fare thee well, HST

For my final year of JC (aka high school for Americans or sixth form for Brits), I took a class where you could design your own reading list and basically set the syllabus. So I decided to do "American novels of the mid-20th century", and these were my books: Saul Bellow, Henderson the Rain King William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch Richard Farina, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me Jack Kerouac, On the Road Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 Thomas Pynchon, V Hubert Selby Jr., Last Exit to Brooklyn Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and with a list like that of course I'd have: Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas So goodbye to a man whose writing said a lot to at least one kid growing up in Singapore. (Incidentally, it's great to see a Paul Krassner quote in that obit: "He may have died re

Hunter S. Thompson suicide

Awful news , especially since it was his son that had to find the body. Farewell to the gonzo pioneer.

Wishing tree tired of granting wishes

Sometimes, even trees need a Lunar New Year break. People from across Hong Kong and nearby mainland China, as well as tourists from around the world, have long come to light incense and make wishes beneath the spreading limbs of a huge Chinese banyan here in Lam Tsuen, a bustling village near the mainland border. Respect for the banyan, which is hundreds of years old, is based partly on feng shui, a Chinese system of philosophy that emphasizes harmony with nature, and partly on centuries-old local beliefs about the mystical value of trees. The tree is so popular that it shows up on highway signs and has its own expressway exit. But the tree's main limb suddenly broke over the weekend with a loud crack during Chinese New Year festivities. The entire limb fell to the ground, breaking the left leg of a 62-year-old man. ( NY Times ) The article also quotes Victor Li, a feng shui guy over here in Singapore. Weird - doesn't Hong Kong have enough feng shui experts to interview?

Best in Show

Speaking of dogs, I've just been watching the videos of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show judging . Funny that even Championship-level dogs get all excitable and just want to play. Why dog-show dogs have such pompous names .

Dogs playing poker

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If " The Gates " wasn't your kind of art, maybe this might be: But only if you pony up 590 grand at auctions ! Ouch. Why not buy a nice reproduction?

Band names

T he San Francisco Chronicle has a fun article on band names (thanks to Michelle for the link). It's true, not everyone can play guitar, but everyone has some random ideas for band names. Imaginary band names are, I think, our tenuous way of clinging on to the adolescent dream that we, too, could be rock stars. In the article, Peter Hartlaub comments on the dearth of originality in band names: Among the most popular musical groups are the spelling-challenged (Linkin Park; Ludacris), the painfully unimaginative (Usher; Creed) and various combinations of the two (Lil' Jon & the Eastside Boyz). There are also inside jokes that everyone forgot a decade ago (Green Day) and metaphysical nonsense that will make your head hurt even before you listen to the music (Destiny's Child). Good Charlotte? Bad name. As he notes though, creative band names are a "harbinger of doom" - well, not necessarily doom, but bands with seriously creative names don't often make it

Woo hoo! Struck Toto!

Yes, I am a Toto winner. I matched the numbers in the Chinese New Year draw. I am Luck personified. ... Okay, so I only got 4 out of the 6 numbers and won $30, putting me with 96897 other schlubs, but it was still nice to make a profit.

The American remake of "The Office"

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Having just watched the clips on NBC's website, I would say the American remake of "The Office" looks like an awful idea. For one, it's too shiny . By this I mean - the clips have a certain overly polished sheen, whereas the original version had that brilliantly awkward mockumentary feel to it. And for another, it just seems to be trying too hard to hammer in the "office life is terrible" theme. Of course, you can't judge a show by a few clips, but this does not look promising for a show whose original incarnation I love . I'm no Britcom snob - anyone who knows comedic history can see the American antecedents in "The Office" ( This is Spinal Tap , clearly). But the American remakes of "Coupling" and "Men Behaving Badly" were terrible. And they were on NBC too, if I recall correctly... So Google gets it right: Hell yeah, I meant "the office" BBC.

Trends in baby names

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I've always loved the names application on the US Social Security website , which lets you see the relative popularity of names over the years, at least in America - it's an interesting sociological exercise. Well, the Baby Name Wizard lets you track the info visually - so for example, my name peaked as a baby name in the 60s at #179, and didn't do too shabbily in the 70s at #207 (and I am, indeed, a 70s kid who knows a fair number of fellow Daryls), but has been declining in popularity ever since. The alternative spelling, Darryl, seems to have peaked and fallen similarly. The graphs sometimes show sociological and demographic trends: for instance, the growth of the Hispanic population in the US is mirrored in the increasing popularity of baby names such as Alejandra or Jesus. You can also use the app to see what names have fallen in and out of fashion... clearly Gertrude, Hilda, and Ethel are names of the past, while people nowadays seem to really like names that sug

Damien Hirst

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Since I'm pottering around the New York Times website, here's their review of Damien Hirst at the Boston MFA . Unfortunately, they don't have the cows, man - the pic's from an exhibition at the Tate Britain last year. I'm kind of torn on what to think of Hirst, whose work I first saw at the Tate , back in the days when the Tate was in Pimlico. Sometimes I feel he's just too obvious about modernity and soullessness, other times I really like the clinical nature of his work.

50 Cent's crib

This New York Times article on 50 Cent's life in the sleepy suburb of Farmington, Conn. , is quite wry - But a cook at China Palace said Mr. Jackson could save 10 percent on any order over $30... Ah, the privileges of fame... 10% off Chinese takeout! For the party, Mr. Jackson ordered more than $5,000 worth of liquor, including "a lot of Baccardi," according to the owner of a Farmington liquor store who spoke on the condition of anonymity "to protect his privacy." Sipping Bacardi (ooh, caught a Times misspelling) like it's his birthday. How anonymous could a liquor store owner in a suburban town be? It's not like there're hundreds of liquor stores in the town, I'm guessing. I like how they keep referring to him as Mr. Jackson...

King Burger

Anyone who knows me knows I love my burgers. Best burger I've had in Singapore? Brewerkz 's King Brew Burger (two patties (480 grams) of beef with cheese, bacon, sautéed mushrooms and beer chili). Best burger in Boston, at least while I was studying there? Dead heat between Bartley's , my favourite burger joint, and the poshness of the Harvest . Which is why I was all excited when I read about the "Hamdog" : a hot dog wrapped by a beef patty that's deep fried, covered with chili, cheese and onions, topped with a fried egg and two fistfuls of fries, and served on a hoagie bun. Mmm. Be still my beating heart. (Okay, not that still.) Fortunately, one of the blogs I dip into from time to time, Texas Burger Guy , has a great pic of said Hamdog. Mmm. Arteries hardening... hardening...

Life in plastic, it's fantastic

You know the thing about Barbie creating an anatomically impossible standard to live up to? No guy finds Barbie attractive. Not that women have to do things to please men, but just thought that should be mentioned. Anyway, that random thought allows me to segue into this news report that Lindsay Lohan is having a Barbie doll of herself made. First the foray into becoming a teen pop star, now this. The plasticisation of Lindsay Lohan continues. And she was such a good actress in Freaky Friday .

Heart

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Since lately this blog has been quite academic-sounding, what with art and linguistics talk, I thought I'd point out something lighthearted: the Candy Heart maker . They even let you see what other people have recently printed on their faux candy hearts (usually something bitter).

Firefox issues

Does anyone else have the same Firefox problem where if a link goes to "javascript:void(0);" it becomes a dead link? Edit: I guess this is similar to what I'm talking about. Edit: turns out it was an issue with Tabbrowser Extensions. Fortunately Tab Mix seems to have most of the TBE features I need in one handy extension instead of the kludgey multiple-extensions solution .

Irrational investors

I've been following Henry Blodget's financial column in Slate with interest, including this one where he makes quite a comprehensive list of all the reasons from behavioural finance why investors might behave irrationally. The underlying ideas in Blodget's work make sense in a lot of other fields of life too - I would say conservatism bias and confirmatory bias (respectively, the idea that we tend to overvalue information that reinforces our opinions and undervalue information that undermines them, and the idea that that we seek out information that supports our opinions) helps perpetuate stereotypes, for instance. One thing that I thought about after reading the article: if prospect theory is right and we value losses way more than gains (i.e. expected returns have to be much higher than expected losses), why do people buy lottery tickets? Either people have a really hard time fathoming minuscule odds and overweight their odds of winning (the Kahneman and Tversky ar

The Gates, or, I'm Just Mad About Saffron

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I really, really wish I were in New York to see " The Gates ", by Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude. Not that I consider Christo among the upper echelon of modern or postmodern artists (hey, the Artfacts rankings back me up here), but his works are always fun to see and experience. And they do make you reconsider the environment. Central Park in February has probably never been this crowded. Over here in Singapore, the Straits Times put the opening of the Gates on its front page, but reported the story slightly oddly I thought: New York fired the latest salvo over the weekend when it unveiled a US$20 million (S$33 million) art project by renowned artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude in its famous Central Park. ( Link ) I think that para made it sound like the city paid for it, while I thought one interesting thing about "The Gates" is that the project is totally self-funded through the Christos' own sales of photos/films. (Random question: is Jeanne-Claude s

Paws for a moment

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Coconut and Mummy say hi!

Stopping spam

The New York Times has a pretty good summary of the efforts to stop spam , boiling it down to a simple analogy with the British postal system c. 1840: the sender should pay. That's the basis of the Penny Black Project anyway - making the sender "pay", either in micropayments or, more likely, through taking up a few seconds of the sender's time.

English words that are borrowed from Malay

I really like studying etymology and the origins of words, and I'm interested in the fairly omnivorous nature of English, which has a huge "borrowed" vocabulary. (Random fact: "bugger" is related to "Bulgaria".) So I thought every now and then I'd put up random lists of words English borrows from various languages - well, besides French, German, and Spanish, or I'll exhaust myself from typing. I thought I'd start with Malay, national language of Singapore. Wikipedia already has a partial list , but I thought I'd come up with a list that also included a few other loan words. The obvious ones are words for things that are indigenous to the region - plants (durian, rambutan, bamboo, sago, camphor ), animals (orang-utan, pangolin, cassowary), and cloth ( gingham , sarong). But there's a whole bunch that're less obvious, even to native English speakers from this region: amok . If you asked me to name one English loan word that

VD for Everyone!

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Happy Valentine's Day one and all! Remember, as Osama Bin Laden says, "The teddy bear that holds the 'I love you' heart does not love you at all. It is an unliving, unholy thing filled only with stuffing." ( The Onion - how I love it.)

Dog blogs, plus the I look like my dog "contest"

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I've just discovered Puptastic , another dog blog, and learnt the following disturbing facts: 1. The dog most likely to eat you when you're dead is the Dachshund. Beware the hot dog! 2. Some people look a lot like their dogs . A lot. But only if they own pedigrees . Actually, I've heard about this study for a long time - it made its rounds on the Net a while back. It's a selection thing. Anyway, the post had a link to pictures of what they claimed was a "I Look Like My Dog" contest (urban legend alert - I think it's more likely to be just a series of regular Cesar ads), including this one: Update: some quick Googling shows that the idea that this is a dog-resemblance contest is almost certainly not true. Presumably the "winners of the 'I Look Like My Dog' contest line was meant to be facetious, but people have taken it seriously. In reality, these were ads done by ALMAP/BBDO Sao Paulo that won some Gold awards at the 2000 Cannes Lions

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

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The Hitchhiker's Guide "trilogy" are the funniest books I've ever read, hands down. Even with my hands in the usual position, they're the funniest things I've ever read - between me and my brother, the books have been dog-eared to the point where my dog would probably disclaim any sort of resemblance. And so it was with trembling H2G2-geek-pleasure that I learnt that the trailer for the movie is coming out next week. And production stills from the movie are already available . Here's Ford Prefect (Mos Def) and Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) having Vogon poetry read to them: Now if they do a good version of the talking cow in Milliways , I will be a very happy man. The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy movie site , including the teaser trailer. Must say that the Guide logo that they devised reminds me of the old Let's Go logo .

Rising from the ashes

This is a fantastic story: a huge mountain of works of Roman literature, thought to have been lost to an eruption of Vesuvius, might turn out to be readable . It includes half of Epicurus' entire opus and works of Philodemus. Apparently the eruption also caused the freak circumstance of papyrus being preserved, and modern technology has made it possible to read the carbonised books. As the article notes: Even in our age of hyperbole, it would be hard to exaggerate the significance of what is at stake here: nothing less than the lost intellectual inheritance of western civilisation. (Via Weekend Stubble )

Superachieving slacker

Oh - looking at my referral logs I've learnt that for some reason this site is the #1 hit in Google for "Internet Timewasters" , at least as of 12 Feb 2005. Woohoo! Slackness abounds. Welcome all lollygagging timewasters! Proud-father moment: my shameless praising of Coconut means this site is also the #1 hit in Google for "cutest Westie" . Natürlich.

Death of a playwright

RIP, Arthur Miller . The modern tragedy wouldn't be what it is without you.

Nutcase

Wow. They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but this is pretty scary. (Warning: not for the squeamish.) I can't believe they put up her picture - not sure any guy will dare go near her after that...

Blogger comments

Hey, I've noticed that Blogger quietly changed its comments function so that you can see previous comments and respond to them - yay. And no, you don't have to be a Blogger user to comment on my blog. Still on my wishlist: trackback and categories. Edit: annoyingly, though, they changed the input system so that you can't just leave a blank line at the end of a post - which means I've had to screw with my template.

Moog

The Guardian has a good interview with Robert Moog , inventor of the synthesiser that bears his name, and now subject of a documentary. He talks about the early reaction to the synth: Oh, gosh, it freaked people out. One of the many things you could do was imitate vocal sounds - make it go 'Weeoooooww'. That really upset. The reaction was a bit like that of primitive cultures believing cameras could catch your soul. Moog's contribution to dance music is immense, even if similarly he must take the rap for enabling those interminable prog-rock synth solos...

Baby bonuses worldwide

Now it's not just Singapore where couples who have babies get paid (here, we call it a "baby bonus") - it's happening in Italy too , according to the LA Times . Indeed, this quote from the article could have fit very well into the Straits Times last year, when there was the national debate over how to make conditions better for parenthood: "It has to be made less difficult to balance work and family," [demographer Rossella Palomba] said. "Women should not be marginalized for taking maternity leave. The work environment must be made more friendly for workers with children. A man who takes paternity leave shouldn't be seen as a crazy man." The interesting difference is that the Italian variation seems to be done on a town-by-town basis - the story focuses on a small Italian town that is essentially paying out the baby bonus to avoid being hollowed out.

Virtual economy

The New York Times has an article on how big the World of Warcraft has become . It's interesting how the virtual world has become somewhat self-policing, and how much the lines between the virtual and real worlds have intersected: World of Warcraft encompasses two huge continents, eight playable races, hundreds of monsters and thousands of quests. And the game's hundreds of thousands of players have questions, concerns, gripes and outright complaints about just about all of them. The players want answers now, and when they don't like the answers, the community managers are the ones who hear about it, loudly. Just thought here I should also point out the work of Edward Castronova, who studied the economy of EverQuest . Clearly all the gold you get for killing monsters causes inflation... (Me, I've always been a Nethack player.)

Train reading

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One thing about taking the subway to work - you get a lot of reading done on the way there and back. Lately, I've finished two very different books, each stunning in its own right. The first was Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (click on link for a full review), which starts off with a missing cat and turns into a tour de force of a novel, spanning philosophy, Japanese history, and mysticism. Highly recommended. The other is Malcolm Gladwell's Blink , which I've talked about elsewhere . It's like an epistemological guide to first impressions. The amount we can glean in a short span of time is quite vast - but how can we create the best conditions to extract the most value of that impression? Blink made me think about situations such as this one described in John & Belle Have a Blog, where there's a discussion of why there are so few female comedians. I wonder if there's a parallel here to another situation: there used to be few female c

Chinese New Year, Day 2

Used to be, Day 2 was Day 1 redux: the family would gather at one of the relatives' houses. I have a big family - 40 cousins or so when you add up both sides - and so day 2 normally lets you meet some of those you missed on day 1. These days, though, we just putz around at home. Inertia has won. Yesterday, the young'uns in the family offered oranges to the parents. That's three "kids": me, my brother, and Rerun the family dog. Cute to see Rerun looking like he was getting in the spirit, although really he was just trying to get at the oranges. (Big no-no, really: dogs shouldn't eat citrus fruit.) Random thought: If you're Catholic and Chinese, how hard is it to give up good food for Lent? Random thought the second: We call it "Chinese" New Year here in Singapore, but of course it's the Lunar New Year, which is celebrated by many of the cultures dotting this region. So, in the words of Krusty the Klown on the Simpsons, I wish any Vietnamese

Uri Geller at the Oxford Union

According to the BBC, Uri Geller, the man who claims to be able to bend spoons and the like, will address the Oxford Union in March. Funny how the article makes it sound like only political leaders and great people address the Union, when really even Michael Jackson and OJ Simpson have done so . I thought this line was also funny: Mr Geller, of Sonning, Berkshire, intends to prove his psychic abilities by offering to fix any broken watches members of the Union have. Seems quite underwhelming. I think it would be funny if people gave him their broken watches, and he just took out a set of watchmaker's tools and just started twiddling around fixing them.

This is Just to Say

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I have eaten the iPod Shuffle that was on the counter and which you were probably saving for later Forgive me it was delicious so thin and so cold Inspired by another I-ate-the-shuffle poem at erasing.org . Apologies to William Carlos Williams . Apologies.

Gong Xi Fa Cai and all that

Happy Lunar New Year to all readers of this blog! Two days off work to go see all the relatives. And in the spirit of weird holiday TV programming, look at Einstein the parrot go !

Photologs

Looking through the 2005 Bloggies finalists, I found Satan's Laundromat , "a photolog of New York, with an emphasis on urban decay, strange signage, and general weirdness". Great stuff - the photos make me think of Luc Sante's writing sometimes, and these shots of Alphabet City brought back memories. They also make me think of the times I walked around NYC and all the moments I wish I could've captured on film: there was this point when I was walking on some side street off Boston Road in the Bronx and it was a sweltering summer day, with waves of heat rising up from the asphalt, and then I came by this group of boys cooling off in the jet spray of an open fire hydrant. SL also points to this set of pics of giant pandas roaming Times Square , which I found amusing. Panda suits. Heh.

Uplifting language

Watched a documentary on some of the largest houses in Singapore, including a few with private elevators. Which inspired this random thought: whether it's called an "elevator" or a "lift", why do we only give the device credit for bringing people upwards? After all, it not only elevates people, it also brings them downwards. And one of my favourite etymological facts: the verb "escalate" is derived from "escalator" , and not the other way around.

Shophouses

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Just to break up the text, here's a pic I took of shophouses on Club Street. Uploaded it using Hello, which is okay but suffers from not letting you put in post titles (you have to add them in manually by going back to Blogger).

Twisted humour

Stealing a link from the baseball forum I'm on, here's a fun twisted comic from Nicholas Gurewitch's Perry Bible Fellowship comic strip (note: clearly, despite its name, the strip has nothing to do with religion - it's not a Jack Chick thing). Man I love alternative comics. Tangential link: Full PBF archive

Who's your daddy?

This may be only interesting to those of us interested in the California scene of the 60s, but here goes: A Gag Reflex is the blog of a woman trying to find out who her real dad is - and trying to piece together what she can of her mother's wild youth. I'd heard stories from my Mom about Altamont. She said the Hell's Angels were minding their own business and were falsely accused in the stabbing death of Meredith Hunter. She said she was there, she knew. She said her cousin Sonny wouldn't allow something like that to happen. Hell's Angels were always getting blamed for trouble.

Super Bowl Monday

Yeah! Pats win the Super Bowl!! If you don't care much for American football, you can always check out the Super Bowl ads ... I quite liked the FedEx one this year. Hey, it had a dancing bear and Burt Reynolds. What's not to like?

Women's pay

Fast Company , one of my favourite business magazines, has an article on the jobs in which women earn more than men . Among them were aerospace engineer, sales engineer, and statistician, which I thought a nice trio to counter stereotypes. The article also links to another FC article on how to improve your income , based on Warren Farrell's research. Apparently, a good part of the gender gap in pay favouring men is that men are more likely to put in ridiculous hours and move to terrible locations for work, rather than discrimination at the workplace: Farrell's point is that men's actions lead to their having more income. Conversely, what women do leads to more balanced lives. But anyone who's willing can up their earnings by engaging in these tactics. On the other hand, if you're seeking a life with more sanity, these are the behaviors to avoid.

Meth addiction

As usual, my Sunday afternoon was spent perusing the New York Times Magazine - this week it has a feature by David Sheff on his struggle with his son Nick's meth addiction (registration required). Most striking was how much meth just took over Nick's life: At the University of California at Berkeley, Nick almost immediately began dealing to pay for his escalating meth habit. After three months, he dropped out, claiming that he had to pull himself together. I encouraged him to check into a drug-rehabilitation facility, but he refused. (He was over 18, and I could not commit him.) He disappeared. When he finally called after a week, his voice trembled. It nonetheless brought a wave of relief - he was alive. I drove to meet him in a weedy and garbage-strewn alleyway in San Rafael. My son, the svelte and muscular swimmer, water-polo player and surfer with an ebullient smile, was bruised, sallow, skin and bone, and his eyes were vacant black holes. Ill and rambling, he spent the

Talking to Ikea

In the puerile spirit of this post over at Lindsayism , I decided to annoy the Ikea ChatBot (bottom left corner of this page ). Here's a transcript of the "chat", which has a sort of surreal sound to it: Me: "Do you like my meatballs?" ChatBot: "To which IKEA store are you referring to when asking about the restaurant?" Me: "The restaurant of my pants." ChatBot: "Here you will find Swedish food." Me: "But I'm not Swedish." What I think is funny is that the animated figure seems really smiley and chirpy, but if you tell her "don't smile", she switches to a more staid face.

Clever plays on words

I was amused by this tabloid headline: the New York Daily News proclaiming " Leona's small dog now a medium? " Leona Helmsley's dog Trouble is a fluffy Maltese small enough to fit into her purse. But when Trouble barks, Leona listens. That's because the 84-year-old hotel queen is said to believe that her late husband, real-estate tycoon Harry Helmsley, communicates to her through the pooch. Must be the world's most powerful Maltese. If I recall correctly, I saw the Helmsley crypt that the article refers to when I was writing about the Woodlawn Cemetery for Let's Go . Impressive stuff. Contrary to stereotypes, the Bronx is surprisingly lush, what with Woodlawn and the Botanical Gardens. Still, my favourite New York cemetery to stroll in was definitely Green-Wood .

How to become poker-faced

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I'm currently reading Malcolm Gladwell's Blink , and the chapter I'm on refers to Silvan Tomkins and Paul Ekman, pioneers in the field of reading faces. Ekman and his collaborator Wallace Friesen, drawing on the work of Tomkins, developed the Facial Action Coding System (that's a good link if you're reading the book too - it has photos of the various facial actions). The FACS in essence says that everything you're thinking, all your emotions, can be deciphered from reading and interpreting your facail expression. Fascinating stuff. So here's a thought I had: at some level, we all have an innate ability to read facial expressions, although Gladwell does make the point that that ability can be clouded by a lot of extraneous information. Given how important reading facial expressions are in the burgeoning sport of poker (well, burgeoning in the US at least), and given that Botox seems to deaden facial expressions (see the bottom half of this discussion on

Reviews: The Office, The Last Waltz

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By the way, my reviews of "The Office" and The Last Waltz are up on Delta Sierra Arts , my reviews blog.

Singaporean English - Up-riding

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I'm always interested in Singaporean English neologisms that are used in formal settings, for example the use of "handphone" where others might use "mobile phone" or "cellphone". In this case, "up-riding escalator" means pretty much "this escalator goes up" (i.e. the sign's saying don't be stupid and step on the escalator from this end). Another example of the use of "up-riding" can be seen in this Google cache of a Today newspaper article ("Although there is an up-riding escalator, users have to descend by the stairs at the SGH end.").

Conan on Carson

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Inspired by Slate 's Surfergirl TV blog, I looked up Conan O'Brien talking about Johnny Carson on Google Video . Here's a partial transcription , with some copyediting amendments: Ladies and gentlemen, this is our first show back since Johnny Carson passed away last week - news that I think stunned everybody. It's taken a while to process. It's been a week. And it is still pretty huge news to absorb. You know, last week, so much has been said about Johnny Carson, very eloquently and very well, by a lot of people who knew Johnny personally, who were good friends with Johnny, people whose careers were changed - Leno, Letterman - when Johnny Carson took those people under his wing and single handedly made them the performers we know today. So, thinking about it, and because I think we're the last show because of our schedule to be on and probably to comment on this event, it's been hard for me to imagine anything that I could say tonight to people that woul

Music Plasma

Just discovered Music Plasma (via Geeky Kewl ), and it seems a pretty cool tool... just type in the name of any musician and it'll spit out a graphic showing related / similar artists. I tried "Aretha Franklin", which naturally created a universe of soul superpowers.

No oil? No problem.

Why we won't ever run out of energy , even if we run out of oil. As any reader of the Economist will tell you, any prediction that a commodity is going to become increasingly scarce in the past has usually doomed to failure. What the article doesn't deal with, though, is that although the world is likely to become more electricity rather than oil dependent, that doesn't necessarily change the question of carbon dioxide and its impact on global warming.

Gizoogle, aight?

Why is it that talking like Snoop never fails to amuse me? Here's Gizoogle , like Google except it transizzolates the results into street talk. I particularly like the way they turned the "oo" into sweet rims. Holla! (Via Google Blogoscoped .)

Secrets and lies

Looking through an old New York Times article (reprinted in the Ledger ) on the delicate balance between the human need to have secrets and the difficulty of maintaining duplicity: The ability to hold a secret is fundamental to healthy social development, [psychologists] say, and the desire to sample other identities - to reinvent oneself, to pretend - can last well into adulthood... "In a very deep sense, you don't have a self unless you have a secret, and we all have moments throughout our lives when we feel we're losing ourselves in our social group, or work or marriage, and it feels good to grab for a secret, or some subterfuge, to reassert our identity as somebody apart," said Dr. Daniel M. Wegner, a professor of psychology at Harvard. He added, "And we are now learning that some people are better at doing this than others." Wonder what bloggers will make of this? Personally, my online persona isn't necessarily one and the same as my real person

World on a string

Had a dinner with fellow Singaporean bloggers yesterday, a veritable festival of geekage, with topics ranging from early 1990s Net usage to new blogging tools to enterprise blogging. The dinner reminded me, one thing I love about blogging is what it gives me something similar to what being in university gave me - a voice, a chance to speak or write about the obscure things that I love but that my community of friends here in Singapore don't necessarily care much for - things like language use or baseball. And I know it's been said many times, many ways (to completely misquote Nat King Cole), but I still think that's one of the wonders of the Internet - the ability to aggregate very specific preferences.

Blogging and Journalism

An old piece: What bloggers can learn from journalists . And vice versa . (From Poynter Online.)

DVD sales

The Guardian had a piece a while back on how DVD sales have overtaken receipts from the box office. That's quite interesting - I know many people have souped-up home systems now, but many still watch DVDs on a regular 20-inch TV, and I'd imagine that would create a market for those more intimate, personal films. That piece on DVD sales, incidentally, illustrates Chris Anderson's principle of the Long Tail . Now just because you can't get 1000 people who want to watch your movie at a time doesn't mean you can't make a profit from the movie. So documentary buffs and arthouse cinema denizens should probably rejoice. It seems, though, that if the Long Tail principle holds, the traditional distinction between movies and TV might be increasingly blurred. If more and more films get made with the explicit intent of recouping costs / making profits via DVD or some other personal-distribution method, directors will know that films are primarily going to be viewed o

Letterman and Carson

In his first episode back after Johnny Carson's death, David Letterman did a tribute show to Carson comprised entirely of jokes written by Carson . So Carson was sending jokes to Letterman and not Leno? I guess even though NBC chose Leno, Carson had his own private preference.

Circus Mentality

I've never understood why people use the phrase " circus mentality ". What's wrong with circuses? Well, okay, the animal cruelty bit. But I like the Cirque du Soleil. And that's a circus. All spectacle and wonder. Um, sorry, I've lost it. But all this circus talk lets me say one of my favourite words, for no reason at all: calliope.

More chances to see

Via Blog Explosion , I found Another Chance to See , a blog that looks at the endangered animals written about in Last Chance to See , the book by the late Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine.