Showing posts from 2009

Oh Open House

Went to the Oh! Open House on Friday. Great to tour Niven Road shophouses. But to be honest the works that caught my eye were in the companion exhibition at Wilkie Edge - "Blink" by George Wong and a couple of works by Marissa Keller.

On SMSs and spelling

Scientific American's 60-Second Psych podcast points out an interesting study from the academic journal Reading and Writing that shows that texting / SMSing does not have any impact on spelling ability . Indeed, apparently those who spell well in standard English spell well in "textese". When I posted this link on Facebook, I got a couple of queries on whether the results worked for those for whom English is not a first language. I don't know, but it seems that the same complaint on "textese" apparently affecting spelling is common in environments where English is the primary language, which is probably why there was even interest in the experiment. So I would certainly not rule out the idea that something other than "textese" is affecting standards of spelling, and that there is some confusion of correlation and causation. Another possible cause, for example, could be a general reduction in the value that society as a whole places on spelling, pe

Same old show

Tessa Wong's piece on how every mall in Singapore tends to have the same shops these days is right on the money. Although it leads to questions about whether malls should be the sites of diversity, versus individual shops that extend out onto the street. Even the festival markets of the US - Quincy Market etc. - seem to have lots of chains in my experience. As an aside in this Jane Jacobs vein: I do like that the ground-level shops of Ion and Orchard Central have doors that actually open out onto the street, rather than just a window display that forces you to enter the mall first. I'm not sold on the luxury goods being sold at Ion, but this is a good trend. The most interesting shopping centres in Singapore to me are the old ones - Peninsula Plaza and Shopping Centre, Far East Plaza (and Far East Shopping Centre, come to think of it), Tanglin Shopping Centre. All these old shops, selling niche products and services.

District 10

Saw that District 10, the restaurant, was reviewed in the Sunday Times today. Agree that their ribs could do with a touch less mustard. But my pressing question is: why is it called District 10 when its postal sector is 22 and thus it is very much in District 9?

Top 10 of the 2000s

Yeah, it's a bit early and opinions may change by December, but this is my current round up of the decade, largely on artistic merit, with the inevitable dollop of the personal: Albums: The Postal Service - Give Up Feist - Let It Die Arcade Fire - Funeral Jose Gonzalez - Veneer Sufjan Stevens - Illinois Ryan Adams - Gold The New Pornographers - Mass Romantic The Streets - Original Pirate Material The Avalanches - Since I Left You Outkast - Stankonia Singles: The Postal Service - "Such Great Heights" Ryan Adams - "Answering Bell" The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Bang" Outkast - "Hey Ya!" Gnarls Barkley - "Crazy" Eminem - "Stan" Kanye West - "Gold Digger" Arcade Fire - "Rebellion (Lies)" Sufjan Stevens - "Casimir Pulaski Day" Death Cab for Cutie - "I Will Follow You into the Dark"

Are we there yet?

There's another Final Destination? Each sequel makes a lie out of the title of its predecessor.

Swell Season

I've heard/seen the Swell Season's Tiny Desk Concert so many times the songs feel like old favourites. Songs from their upcoming Strict Joy album (I like "Back Broke", in particular), plus an encore version of "When Your Mind's Made Up". Lovely stuff, as always.

iPhone, data roaming, and maps

An iPhone tip: When I was travelling last month I needed handy maps of places but didn't want to pay international data roaming costs on my iPhone. My quick and dirty solution was to load up the maps needed pretrip or when I had a wifi connection, press the power/home button combo to take screenshots of the maps, and essentially use the Photos page as a maps page when I was walking around. Not elegant, but certainly money saving.

Marley and Me

Watched Marley and Me yesterday. Embarrassing how soppy it made me but I suppose it was made for dog lovers. Marley and Me, as summarised by the Human League: Don't chew on me baby. Don't chew on me oh oh.

Ticket swap

I have Saturday 1 Aug tickets for the Reduced Shakespeare Company , looking to swap for Sunday 2 Aug. Any takers? Leave a comment.

The Burger King Super Seven Incher

I see the US news has picked up on the Burger King ad campaign in Singapore. Didn't know it was a Singapore-only thing, thought it was part of the weirdness that is Crispin Porter & Bogusky's BK ad campaign.

And so it goes

Billy Joel is separating from his wife . Egregious violation of the "half-his-age-plus-7" rule, methinks.

iPhone 3.0 OS

Yes, I downloaded the new iPhone OS last night in a fit of insomnia. The big changes - Voice Memo, cut/copy/paste, tethering - are great: much needed, and much-talked about. But I also like the small touches. Stocks in landscape mode looks great, and actually gives the full name of the company. And then there are those nice small touches that weren't announced. When you play podcasts, for example, there's the option to listen to them at double-speed, which is helpful for getting through more information, and there's a button to simply rewind 30 seconds, so you can catch what you missed. (Still wish podcasts don't go to Cover Flow in landscape mode - that makes no sense to me.) And now MLB At Bat for the iPhone has live video. Not a part of the OS, of course, but perhaps the best App ever - really shows off the iPhone's powers.

iPhone 3.0

Can't wait for the iPhone software update . Cut/copy/paste is a must-have, while Voice memos, tethering, Stereo bluetooth, and sync notes all look like great features.

On attention

I sat down last night to read a book (David Rothkopf's Superclass , if you must know) and realised, for all my endless reading of magazines and listening to audio I hadn't actually soaked in the pleasure of pure unadulterated reading of books for a while. And then today I read Sam Anderson's piece in New York , "In Defense of Distraction" , on attention and the poverty thereof in the modern world, what with Twittering and Facebook. Which coincided with my belated reading of the Obama interview in Newsweek and in particular the part about how he manages his time . All of which made me wonder: having grown up very comfortable with distraction - reading while eating at dinner, that sort of thing - am I the sort of "digital native" Anderson talks about in the last page of his article, the person who can switch attention really well? Or is that really just fooling myself? I suppose it's a hard question to answer. I'd like to think I'm the former

Off the books

Megan McArdle at the Atlantic has some interesting follow-up on what was not in Edmund Andrews' (fascinating) book/ NYT piece ("My Personal Credit Crisis"), specifically on his wife's bankruptcies.

Wolfram Alpha and time spans

Tried out the much-hyped Wolfram Alpha and wasn't too impressed with the simple results of a date search. Maybe it's just me, but the difference between today (May 21) and Feb 24 should be 2 months and 27 days (i.e. counting from April 24), not 2 months and 25 days as Wolfram states. As someone pointed out, the algorithm seems to be counting March and April as the 2 months. the 4 days at the end of Feb and the 21 days of May, but that doesn't seem intuitively the way people count time spans. Otherwise the difference between May 25 and Feb 24 would be "2 months and 29 days", rather than "3 months and a day".

American Idol

Hey, they did what I thought they'd do on American Idol and have duets. Great idea. Although I have no idea why the judges were that harsh on Allison and not harsh enough on Danny. Hope she's not in trouble for "talking back". Funny that voters punish that. It ain't homeroom.

The solace of baseball

The last six months have been the most gut-wrenching ones of my life. Watching my mother go in and out of hospital; watching various tubes inserted to help her eat, breathe, all the common functions we take for granted; gaining the false hope of a discharge only to have her return to the hospital; and finally, the traumatic last 2 weeks, where the infection finally got the better of her. I haven't been able to update this blog or Singapore Sox Fan as much as I'd like under the circumstances. Nor was my mother the greatest of baseball fans; indeed, she didn't know much about the game besides the general idea of going around the bases. But baseball and the Sox were a form of solace in a terrible world. The controlled drama of the World Baseball Classic, where agony and suffering were confined to the field. The rhythms of spring training, signifying renewal and hope. The spell of the daily game, and the comfort of a world where the great fear is that David Ortiz has truly los

The Waste Land

April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain. I. The Burial of the Dead.

Funeral Blues

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one, Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun, Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods; For nothing now can ever come to any good.

The 100 books from the BBC meme

I want to kill the stupid Facebook meme that claims the BBC has made a list of 100 books that it thinks you should read, since I hate misattribution with a passion, and urban legends make my blood boil. So here goes: 1. The list is almost certainly based on an online poll from, in which 2000 people nominated their top 10 titles that they could not live without. See the Guardian report and the complete list . 2. I'm guessing the average of 6 is some nonsensical urban legend added to make those sending this on feel superior, since (and again I'm guessing here) most people who like books (and thus sending on this meme) would have read more than 6. 3. Stop being so bloody credulous.

Thinking of Updike

Twitter is a drug. I feel like everything I post now wants to be shortened into pithy 140 (why not the full 160 of SMS ?) character pieces. But a welcome palliative was listening to the late John Updike's "Playing With Dynamite" (read by Roger Angell) on the bus. Suddenly I felt like writing again - full, proper writing. Or at least seeing the world better. I looked outside the bus window and wondered about the lives upon lives stacked in the apartment blocks, true human contact playing out behind the glass facade of the Newton Road apartments.

Orchids at the National Orchid Garden

Trying out a DSLR...

If the aliens speak Hokkien, NASA is ready

Randomly stumbled upon a recording in Amoy (Hokkien, really) that's part of the NASA Voyager spacecraft's golden phonograph . I love that the idea that the first thing you would ask an alien is exactly the same thing you might ask a distant relative over Chinese New Year - lin chia pa buey?


Dang if Twitter isn't addictive. While on the plethora of buses (77, 124, 132, 145, 147) today, podcasts & twittering amply helped me while away my time...

On the mutability of melody

Random things I learned today: "America the Beautiful" can be sung to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne", and vice versa. (I suppose this is something like how the "Star-Spangled Banner" is set to the Anacreontic song .)

The Susan Sontag Diaries

Read a review of Susan Sontag's diaries in Time , which obviously is not quite the same as reading the diaries themselves. But inspired by the tone. Against Interpretation was one of the lodestars of my younger teenage self, at least in writing style. Perhaps better to write out thoughts to self in blog, Twitter-style. The Sontag-Annie Leibovitz relationship has always intrigued me. That much talent in one relationship!

The Pu er market collapse

Pu er is the main Chinese tea I drink - seems to be just the thing to sop up the oil in Chinese restaurant food. But I had no idea there had been a boom and bust in the pu er market .

A new iPhone

My iPhone's external speaker died on me a few days ago - quite annoying, as it meant I couldn't hear the ringer or listen to podcasts while I was doing something else that didn't allow me to use headphones. So after much fiddling around with solutions such as repeatedly plugging / unplugging headphones, I took it down to Singtel to get it fixed. Now, I had gone down the previous week and was told that there was a 90-minute wait, and was asked nicely to come back. So imagine how happy I was to be told that there were only 2 customers ahead of me in the queue... ... and imagine my frustration when, 40 minutes later, I was still waiting. When I went to the counter and asked how long more, I was very brusquely told "I'm sorry, but there are only two of us". Which got me frustrated - there had to be a better way for service staff to empathise, instead of making what sounded like excuses. Anyway, after waiting for them to try to restore the phone entirely, a guy com

Brad DeLong on The Financial Crisis

Went to a talk on " The Financial Crisis of 2007-2009: Understanding Its Causes, Consequences—and Its Possible Cures " by Brad DeLong, whose blog I've followed for a while, and was duly impressed by DeLong's broad historical reach and scope in delineating what made this recession different from many previous recessions, and on the huge magnitude of the impact of a sudden change in people's preferences for risky assets (which DeLong estimates led to about $17 trillion of the total decline in asset values) - as opposed to the actual increase in the default discount for mortgage payments (which are relatively small). Prof DeLong has kindly put his entire script on his blog (see the link above), so I won't go into the contents of the actual speech, but I thought it useful to note his answer to the question I posed, which was on a question of political economy and why the Austrian school of thought had gained so much currency among those on the right. (If he or any

The Days of Christmas

Happy New Year one and all. I suppose with my brother's piece in Today , it's not actually news that my mother's in the hospital, and has been so for the past few weeks. You will forgive me if it's not something I particularly wish to talk about in public at this point in time (whether on this blog, on Facebook, or Twitter), but thank you to all friends who've offered comfort, or even unknowing distraction. And I'll echo my brother's comments about doing little things to help others - besides giving blood , you can help all manner of animals , or do your part for the environment . Here's to 2009.