Showing posts from April, 2006

Scrapbook for Firefox

I ncidentally, for those of you using Firefox, I'm in love with the Scrapbook extension . It's sort of the polar opposite of the social bookmarking of - this lets you save pages to your computer, and make notes and annotations, as well as other nifty things such as capturing all the linked files from a page. Perfect - especially in a day and age where a week or a month later, you find that your nicely-bookmarked links have all expired.

John Kenneth Galbraith

A nother great thinker with connections to both America and Canada passes: as Screwy informs me, J. K. Galbraith just passed away. Gosh - that was a man you thought could go on forever. I remember seeing (I think) that imposing 6' 8" figure in Harvard Yard - still looking remarkable for a man over 80. The New York Times' obit is extremely comprehensive, and I can't say much more, except that I thought Amartya Sen's words on The Affluent Society were apposite: "It's like reading 'Hamlet' and deciding it's full of quotations. You realise where they came from." I still have my copy of the book, an edition that dates back to the 60s or so - picked it up from an obscure bookstore about ten years or so ago. I'd forgotten that line quoted in the obit: "Is the added production or the added efficiency in production worth its effect on ambient air, water and space - the countryside?" - in the context of the relentless drive to produ

The Death and Life of a Great American Thinker

J ane Jacobs, great urban thinker, passed away this week in Toronto. Some of you who know me know that I'm an urban economist by training. Well, a lot of my modes of thinking about cities are influenced by Jacobs - things such as the joys of neighbourhoods, messiness, seeming inefficiencies such as small enterprises that are vital and crucial for economic growth, and more than just growth, life. Her effort to save Greenwich Village is well celebrated - the Village Voice , obviously, paid its tribute - but there's an entire body of work that she produced, well-written and fundamentally insightful, starting from The Death and Life of Great American Cities , that, thankfully, became highly influential. I remember being very struck by The Economy of Cities first time I read it: its first chapter noting how despite the popular imagination of people first learning to farm before organising into cities, urban life has always preceded agricultural life in civilisations, and its poin

Here and Now Monopoly

Hasbro has announced that it is revamping the original American version of Monopoly , and moving the streets out of Atlantic City: Hasbro has announced plans to update the game to a "here and now" version, raising rents and letting the public vote on streets, neighborhoods and national monuments to fill the 22 properties on the board. And Atlantic City is not among the choices. I'm not as attached to the Atlantic City streets - I grew up playing the London edition, so I think of Mayfair as the $400 slot, and Old Kent Road/Whitechapel Road as the cheap properties - but personally, I've always liked the one-city versions, instead of these weird patched-together collection of locations (or the Star Wars and other 'special' editions). Anyway, this is a good occasion for one of my favourite Simpsons quotes: Burns: [menacing] I want that oil well. I've got a monopoly to maintain! I own the electric company, and the water works - plus the hotel on Baltic Avenue

Linksfest: Light and Water

Hawai'i re-honours the humuhumunukunukuapuaa as the state fish. I suppose the humum ... humuh ... rectangular triggerfish forgot to pay its state-fish-license-renewal-fee. I've said it before, I think, but I want a solar cellphone charger . Especially for nights in the jungle when the phone's running out of batteries. "Hotel California": not a song about Satanism .

On Chanteuses

T he Girlfriend and I were playing songs for each other over the phone, which led to her playing me an earworm of a French ditty. And that reminded me - at the idiosyncratic Other Music , which I used to occasionally shop at, they sometimes filed French music under the heading "Decadence", and there's something about those alternately little-girl / breathy voices of female French singers that makes that appropriate, methinks... There's probably a reason English felt the need to borrow the word "chanteuse" from the French. I have no idea what she's singing, for instance, but my France Gall album is still pretty compelling. (One of those things that's most appropriately played on a turntable - unfortunately, I don't have it on vinyl.) Actually, the Girlfriend's probably right on this one - knowing what the lyrics mean might pluck out the heart of the mystery. Anyway, on a slightly different track, here's a video of "Spacer" , a


H ad lunch at Überburger at Millen(n)ia Walk today in the continuation of my quest to find Singapore's best burgers. (Aside: it aggravates me no end that "millennia" is spelt wrongly in that building's name.) And it did live up to the hype - the sirloin burger I had was appropriately juicy, with judicious use of sea salt and hints of garlic. I suppose we're 3 years behind the New York trend of gourmet burger places , but I'm just happy for more quality burger options. All in all, good stuff (and the side of mushrooms I had was delicious), but I'm still waiting for burgers as good (and as cheap for their quality) as those at Bartley's to hit these shores. I was kind of surprised, though, that the only choices they gave me were medium and well-done. I know burgers are mincemeat and one thus has to be appropriately circumspect about how to prepare them, but I do like a bit of pink/red in my burger. And no, I didn't have the $101 burger. Not that I&#

Linksfest: Unfiltered Debris of My Mind

Clive Thompson writes in the NY Times Magazine about Google and China . The 100 Unsexiest Men in the World A Gnarls Barkley interview in the Grauniad (okay, the Observer). Good to see them get the publicity.

Earth Day 2006

F or this year's Earth Day, I attended the launch of the "Everyday Superhero" climate change awareness programme today at the Atrium. I thought the comic-book theme was fun, but then, I've always grown up with comics.

Say Cheese

C ompare and contrast time - at the left, a pic from a strange National Geographic article about a huge monster rabbit in a British village . That rabbit looks ridiculous! And apparently not an April Fool's gag. It does seem very Wallace and Gromit , non?

A Hat Spat

Gawker posted an amusing e-mail list spat over some poor soul in Park Slope, Brooklyn, who made the mistake of gendering a found hat: Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2006 12:25:27 -0500 (EST) Subject: Found: boy’s hat Hi: Friday, at the corner of 11th street and 8th ave, adorable navy blue or maybe black fleece hat with triangles jutting out ofit of all different colors. Sorry did not post right away. For older child. -Helene =============================== Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2006 17:34:48 -0500 Subject: RE: Found: boy’s hat Helene, I’m sorry, I know that you are just trying to be helpful, but what makes this a “boy’s hat”? Did you see the boy himself loose it? Or does the hat in question possess an unmistakable scent of testosterone? It’s innocent little comments like this that I find the most hurtful… What does this comment imply about the girl who chooses to wear just such a hat (or something like it)? Is she doing something wrong? Is there something wrong with her? Lisa The ensuing war of words

Wooden laptop and iPod cases

How cool - this guy makes custom laptop and iPod cases out of wood and other materials. Check out the PowerBook above. Pity the laptop cases are on hiatus. (From a Barbelith discussion of a post-fossil fuel world .)

Linksfest: Links, Recht

Emmanuelle Béart wants to be known as more than just a pin-up . But then, when casual mentions of you are written in gushing style it's hard to avoid, I guess "you have only to see La Belle Noiseuse to realise that painting for him can be a threshold to pure form, while whatever words we can summon to describe the awesome impact of a naked Emmanuelle Béart, we still need to bear witness - to look" (in this article on Jacques Rivette ) Why there are no Kenyans in Latvia . The tyranny of the alphabet . The UK National Archives has put up a whole trove of old public information films . Serge Gainsbourg as lush rather than louche .

Drawing Restraint 9

W e were discussing that fine border between film and visual art the other day - does La Jetée count as film? What about Warhol's Empire ? (yes, no... and yes, it's a sort of arbitrary line, and yes, I know a work can be both art and film, but you know, taxonomy can be a stern taskmaster.) Which brings me to the point - Matthew Barney's new work (ah, careful sidestepping of the nomenclature there) Drawing Restraint 9 is out. Apparently, it's set on the Nisshin Maru , a whaling vessel (boo!) and it involves the transformation of two guests aboard the ship (Barney and Björk) into whales swimming to Antarctica. Um, yeah. Trying to explain what a Barney film is "about" always sounds a bit silly. Anyway, the trailer , clearly, shows Barney's lush aestheticism, which invariably made me think of his Cremaster cycle . And I suppose the fact that Barney creates huge sculptures for the work (using Vaseline, no less, among other materials) does make one think more

Linksfest: I Eat Mushrooms

Super Mario Bros in 5 minutes . I don't know why it's just fun to watch. (Hums Super Mario theme to self. Does anyone remember that terrible live-action kids' TV show with Mario and Luigi? They put words to the theme! "Swing your arms / from side to side...") Socrates - the football player, not the hemlock-drinker - predicts an anti-Brazil conspiracy in the World Cup. Why Chappelle left . Meanwhile, I'm glad to see the High Line is finally open in New York.

Yakult bonding

W ent downstairs to grab some Yakult from the fridge and took the occasion to shoot the breeze with Mum. Turns out Mum is the only person I know who likes the orange Yakult. Last week at the supermarket, I noticed that they had 5-packs of the original, the grape, and the apple flavours - but no orange.

Yahoo Mail Beta

I just got the invite to the beta upgrade of Yahoo and boy - it's really looking great. I've always preferred Yahoo to Gmail - for one, Gmail's spam filters are atrocious, and I think I work better using folders anyway. And now Yahoo has the standard three-pane look of desktop-based programs. Plus - drag-and-drop, right-click menus, keyboard shortcuts. Gush. I'm still sticking with Eudora for my regular needs - but for webmail, this looks great.

more e.e. cummings

here is the deepest secret nobody knows (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide) and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart) - from " i carry your heart with me "

Coca-Cola Blak

M eanwhile, Coke has released Coca-Cola Blak, its coffee-flavoured extra-caffeine less-sugar cola . I'm always intrigued by variants of Pepsi and Coke - have been since I first drank Crystal Pepsi. Part of that is, of course, we don't get that much variety here in Singapore. (Let the Americans be the guinea pigs - or, in this case, the French .) So I wonder what it tastes like... I'm more intrigued by the nomenclature, actually. Why drop the "c" in "black"? I understand the "oh dropping letters is trendy" idea - but why drop the letter most distinctly associated with Coca-Cola? This faux-trendy name thing has got the stop, in any case. Good Lord, next thing you know, we'll have "Coca-Cola OMG LOL!!".

USA Travel Guides

From the Borders bookshelves. Somehow, I don't think Fidel would be too pleased at seeing the Cuba guide in the middle of the USA guides.


M an, I'm so exhausted - even fell asleep in a talk a few days back. Sometimes life's like sleepwalking. Although at various points the emphasis switches between the automatism and the exhaustion encapsulated within that metaphor. Speaking of sleep, here's a few lines from Randall Jarrell 's "Woman": Let me sleep beside you, each night, like a spoon; When, starting from my sleep, I groan to you, May your "I love you" send me back to sleep. At morning bring me, grayer for its mirroring, The heavens' sun perfected in your eyes. It's been quite a while since I read any Jarrell, but it was good to be reminded of these lines - there's a certain earthy beauty in them.

Save the whales

You know, in times of ecological doom and gloom, it's nice to read news on the revival of the Aral Sea and food firms' withdrawal of support for whaling .


Mum's home.

My sweet old etcetera

I 'm reading two very different books at present. The first is something I read back in secondary school and am now revisiting, John Gribbin's In Search of Schrodinger's Cat , about the history of quantum physics. Which made me remember how the whole idea of atoms being little solar systems with electrons whizzing about in orbits wasn't necessarily accurate. And, by contrast, I picked up a copy of Etcetera , an anthology of unpublished e.e. cummings poems. Got a call late Tuesday night, and she asked "what are you doing now?" And I had to answer, truthfully, "reading poetry". Which is possibly a preposterously pretentious-sounding response. But there's some beauty there.

Linksfest: Flotsam and jetsam of the mind

What is the difference between flotsam and jetsam ? I asked myself. Ah, apparently jetsam is jettisoned stuff; flotsam is stuff involuntarily made wreckage. Anyway, mentally clearing out random things I've looked at lately: How to make CSS Dropcaps - clearly I've been using the technique intermittently Is Lost a Repeat? I was amused at the " It's Hard Out Here For a Blimp " title for a NY Times column.

Dad's birthday

'T was Dad's birthday today. We were hoping that Mum would be out by today as a birthday gift but unfortunately there're still some issues that have to be resolved, so I walked down to My Mum's Cuisine at the Paragon, picked up a couple of dishes (staff were very friendly - big plus), and brought them to the hospital. Simple, but it was a good meal. Speaking of simple - in doing some design work I've come to the conclusion that was cluttered with lines. So I'm decluttering the space, bringing back more white space. Plus I shifted the whole sidebar to the left. One thing good about using CSS stylesheets is the ease with which that was achieved - I remember the last time I did a column shift I was still using tables for this blog, and it was a pretty tortuous process. Work in progress.