Subscribe: Rambling Librarian :: Incidental Thoughts of a Singapore Liblogarian
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade A rated
Language: English
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: Rambling Librarian :: Incidental Thoughts of a Singapore Liblogarian

Rambling Librarian :: Incidental Thoughts of a Singapore Liblogarian

I'm a former librarian, from Singapore. The postings were library-related (mostly). I tended to ramble. As with things in life, my thoughts were incidental (i.e. insignificant). DISCLAIMER - Views expressed here were strictly my own and did not represent

Updated: 2018-03-06T03:49:43.481+08:00


Still rambling (probably) but no more a librarian


Hello World.Today's my last official day as a librarian. Today, 15 March 2014, is exactly 17 years and 5 months since I started work at the National Library Board. Slightly more than a year back, I reviewed where I was and where/ what I could be going/ doing. The conclusion was that the conditions (personal, external and so on) were right for me to pursue the creative side of things. Fulfilling a childhood ambition, perhaps. In August last year, I started a modest little media studio with a friend (email me and ask me about it). I've moved from being a librarian to being an entrepreneur. Behind the initial sense of excitement of starting something new, there's a quiet anxiousness of not knowing how things will turn out. I take heart in the support of friends, colleagues and family. I've considered possible success and failure, and concluded that the only real failure is to not try at all. You could say my Project 365 Sketches was a pre-cursor to my career change, though I've been making music and art for a long time now. The difference is that I hope to do it as paid work.I started as a Assistant Librarian and left as an Assistant Director. It's quite fitting, the "Assistant" designation. It's an oversimplification, but I'd sum up librarianship as a role that ultimately assists people in their search for connections -- connections to information, ideas and to some extent, people (authors, like-minded readers etc).In truth, I'm not particularly knowledgeable about library work, library technologies or library management. If anything, I was merely the first Singaporean librarian, who used my real name, and blogged a little about what went on in the library (but even that was largely public programming). For the folks who have left comments at this blog, or exchanged emails with me as as a librarian, I sincerely thank you all. Blogging has opened new vistas for me. We've largely forgotten why blogging was such a big deal then (leaving "comments" on a website was not the norm). Almost 10 years ago, Blogging had a bad name in Singapore (go search the newspaper archives). Later, people attended talks to understand what was a Blog. I remember a participant asking me (at the very first public talk I gave), after she said she understood what a Blog was, how one "crossed the line" to become a blogger. Those were pretty interesting times.Will I start another blog? Probably not. Or not yet anyway. I remember telling the journalist, in a 2006 interview, that I'll blog only if I have something meaningful to say.(Edit: I'll be posting at until I do start a new blog).So.All stories must come to an end, eventually.I'm still contactable via ramblinglibrarian [ at ] gmail.Keep Reading. Keep Learning.   Web [...]

A Creative Commons rights infringement case study (involving my work)


Last week, friends alerted me that one of my online artwork was used by a Facebook page owner without crediting me.The artwork was licensed under a Creative Commons ATTRIBUTION license. All the user had to do was credit me and he would be free to modify, repurchase, even sell the image. I did not specify any specific way for attribution. As long as the user made a reasonable attempt, it would have been fine.But the page owner didn't credit me. My name in the image had also been cropped out. I wrote the FB page owner a private FB message. In it, I identified myself as the image creator and I requested (not demanded) that he remove the image. I explained that my image was created as a subtle protest against the commercial harvesting/ exploitation of civet cats half-digested coffee beans. His Facebook page was, ironically, promoting the sale of "Kopi Luwak" coffee beans. There was no response after 2 days, so I left a public comment on the (modified) image he posted in his page album. I gave him the benefit of doubt that he might have missed my mail. My comment only asked if he had received my message. I did not want to embarrass him by publicly saying he had (inadvertently or otherwise) infringed on my rights. A day later the comment was deleted. Now, CC licenses cannot be revoked. If the fella had credited me in a reasonable way, all would have been dandy.Once you apply a CC license to your material, anyone who receives it may rely on that license for as long as the material is protected by copyright and similar rights, even if you later stop distributing it.Source: CC (or CC-BY, in my case), even if I was uncomfortable with my image used that way, he still had every right to reuse it. I respected that right. That said, it was also within my rights to ask that I am not credited with the image if I felt strongly about it. The CC-FAQ covers this issue quite clearly:What can I do if I offer my material under a Creative Commons license and I do not like the way someone uses it?As long as users abide by license terms and conditions, licensors cannot control how the material is used. However, CC licenses do provide several mechanisms that allow licensors to choose not to be associated with their material or to uses of their material with which they disagree.First, all CC licenses prohibit using the attribution requirement to suggest that the licensor endorses or supports a particular use. Second, licensors may waive the attribution requirement, choosing not to be identified as the licensor, if they wish. Third, if the licensor does not like how the material has been modified or used, CC licenses require that the licensee remove the attribution information upon request. (In 3.0 and earlier, this is only a requirement for adaptations and collections; in 4.0, this also applies to the unmodified work.) Finally, anyone modifying licensed material must indicate that the original has been modified. This ensures that changes made to the original material--whether or not the licensor approves of them--are not attributed back to the licensor.Source: he bothered to discuss with me, I would have explained CC to him, and what were his rights were as well. But his intentions was obvious by that time. I reported to Facebook with necessary details. Facebook took down the image fairly quickly.What happens if I offer my material under a Creative Commons license and someone misuses them?A CC license terminates automatically when its conditions are violated. For example, if a reuser of CC-licensed material does not provide the attribution required when sharing the work, then the user no longer has the right to continue using the material and may be liable for copyright infringement. The license is terminated for the user who violated the l[...]

Email interview with Singaporean hobbyist-musician, "Su the Bandit"


Another email interview with a musician (these days I'm into finding out what makes creative people tick). This time I interview a fellow Singaporean Carrie Chan, who goes by the online moniker "Su the Bandit".This interview comes five years later (an online longitudinal study of Singaporeans and their creative adventures? Heh). I've blogged about her in my art-blog here and here. My previous musician-interview somehow led me to wonder what my musical friend was doing lately in the creative space. I emailed Carrie to ask if she would be interested in an email interview. Here it is (maybe someday her kids would find this interesting):---[Rambling Librarian = RL][Carrie][RL] What were the five things that have happened, musically speaking, since this 2008 interview?[Carrie] I have:Performed in public for the first time with the songcraft circle in 2009Compiled a demo of 13 songs in 2010Submitted a song written on ukelele for an NEA song competition in 2011[RL] I noticed your last post on your blog was dated 9th Aug 2011 (over two years as of this interview). Have you abandoned your blog? :) Why did you stop blogging?[Carrie] Blogging, like songwriting, brings you back to that spot of vulnerability where you are saying something private, to healyourself, with no audience in mind or anyone who would like to read. If a post or song makes that connection or a reader or listener responds, that is a bonus.I guess it takes a lot to dig deep and search yourself for the things which really matter; enough for you to express something creativelyabout. Guess I've just been lazy about bringing myself to that spot of vulnerability and to dig deep to create an experience in words orsong. I used to blog or write songs late at night but lately, I crash out really early before 10 pm. Lao liao*!(*Dialect; meaning: "old already") [RL] Are you still making music? What are some of the new works you've done in the last two years?[Carrie] These are the recent works:Love song for a vegetarianHideGabriel Garcia Marquez3 words[RL] I've always wondered if your family knows you've a blog and post music online. If the don't know, do you plan to tell them at some point? And do you see those pages as a legacy you're leaving for them?[Carrie] Yes, they know. I've made friends through these pages, and know them in real life now. I keep it for sentimental reasons, to archive and for enabling connections - gosh, that's how I go to know you![RL] What keeps you busy these days?[Carrie] After work, which takes up most of my day, I try to squeeze in some exercise - run, swim or spinning. After that, I have an hour to run through homework with the kids. Then I crash out.[RL] What keeps you creative these days?[Carrie] I am hardly creative these days but if the inspiration hits me, I will pick up the guitar and sing about potatoes and climbing up a volcano.---Thanks for this interview, Carrie. Perhaps I'm biased but I really found it a fun interview to read. Love the potato song! For someone who was initially shy about letting the world know her real name, you sure have progressed and been prolific in your online appearances (I'm still chicken about performing in public).Incidentally, it would be awesome if Singapore TV programming had some documentary called "Singaporeans are Creative". I'm sure there are plenty of good reasons for creating such a series.   Web [...]

2013 workshop: Creating Digital Music 101: Using GarageBand


This is my "ECA"/ volunteer activity this year. From the GoLibrary programme blurb:This programme will focus on the use of Apple's GarageBand, covering the basics of the software and how it can be used to unleash your creativity. If you are a beginner with no formal musical training and have not used any Digital Audio Workstation or software, this session is perfect for you. You should bring your own MacBook (preferably with version 11 of GarageBand). Participants should be familiar with using Mac OS X and above. Please bring along your own earphones. At the end of the session, you would have gained knowledge of GarageBand and learned the rudiments of using the software to create a music track of your own composition using built-in instruments and loops. Limited to 20 participants. The workshop is free but registration is required. Should the programme be fully registered and you would like to be placed on the waiting list, please email your name and contact number to with the programme title as the subject. This programme is part of the technological arts quarter (Oct - Dec) and is brought to you by "Fill Yourself with the Arts". Look out for exciting programmes during this period on the use of technology in the arts! About the trainer: Mr Ivan Chew aka the “Rambling Librarian”, is a self-taught musician, amateur poet and artist, who has published five digital music albums together with his band Starfish Stories, all produced with GarageBand.Last year's workshop worked out quite well, judging from the feedback forms. That participants were totally serious about learning how to use GarageBand was something I appreciated a lot.I felt the only hitch was that most did not have their GarageBand loops installed before they came. We'll be informing registered users ahead of time (my colleague, Galvin, would be doing that actually -- he's the unsung hero behind the sessions). The decision to design the workshop for Mac users only was a practical one. There are several nice Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software out there, for Windows and Macs. Just that Macs already come pre-installed with GarageBand, and quite a few people started buying Macs. I'm looking forward to conducting the session again. One bonus is that I'll have Chinmay Pendharkar helping me at the workshop. I got to know Chinmay some years back and he's always been generous with his time in helping with Creative Commons Singapore meetups, among a lot of volunteer activities he's involved on top of his day job. I asked Chinmay if he'd like to help share his experience in producing his podcasts for Tech65. Plus, he's a trained Acoustician. Pictures from last year's session (courtesy of Galvin Soh):The course outline, the same as last year's, is re-posted here for ease of reference:SCHEDULEHour 1: Getting to know GB; learning the basics.Hour 2: Composing your own track/ Some ‘audio production’ tips.Hour 3: Continue + Showcase.The no-frills outline:Demo of a track composed in GB - 20minsMusical concepts - “Bars”, “patterns”, “Even counts”Layering concept - like photoshopPair up - check with a “musical buddy for the day”Opening a new GB project (file names, tempo) The GB environment and controlsFile menu, add tracks, LCD, Loops, InstrumentsShortcut Keys - Copy, Paste, Undo, Redo, Zoom in/ OutPreferences panelUsing loops to create music - 20minsChange tempoDrag loops into workspaceCopyExtend loopsEdit - Split/ cut/ copyLayersInstruments - 20minsExperiment with different instrumentsMusical TypingChanging MIDI notesIndividual Track controlsEffects (“i” Edit)Audio Production tweaksCompressorEQExportShare   Web [...]

Pre-release book review: Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy/ Robert Scoble & Shel Israel


It was a privilege to be able to review a pre-release copy of Scoble's and Israel's latest book, Age of Context (AoC).Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of PrivacyThis was what I posted at, leaving in an extra part that I edited out from the post:Reading this book was like reading about technological possibilities in Scifi stories. Except, the technologies are already here and in use. By millions of people like us. I reviewed a pre-release copy of the book, at a time where my mind was distacted by other stuff. Tackling over 270 pages of text wasn't at the top of my list. I was worried I wouldn't be able to read this carefully and give this a fair review. But I need not have worried. Scoble and Israel did not just write a book. They told stories. That's what I liked about this one. The opening chapter has a title "Storm's Coming". It sets the tone that this book unabashedly seeks to entertain and inform. A quote from their opening chapter: "Our perfect storm is composed not of three forces, but five, and they are technological rather than meteorological: mobile devices, social media, big data, sensors and location-based services."Smart homes and apartments, smart appliances; contextual, wearable systems that know our location, our current activities, our up-to-date preferences. Personal Contextual Assistants (PCAs) that, less than a decade ago, we would call it them the stuff of Scifi and Fantasy magazines. Google Glass - how it works (but it stopped short of describing why some people feel that it works). How one NFL football team/ stadium is progressively implementing tech & data to anticipate customer purchase behavior. Save time for customer, faster sales, superior customer experience. These tech combos work, because we are creatures of habit. How a company like VinTank harnesses and analyses data from social media conversations to identify high value consumers. Using data for its own target marketing.Data from not just buying or consuming but merely showing an interest it, like touching/ viewing something. The automobile as a AoC device.How some branches of government are utilizing data, computer simulations, visualization technologies/ 3D models to increase the level of engagement with citizens. A sand grain-sized sensor the works with a skin patch to monitor the patient's condition.That quote from the opening chapter made me wonder, at first, if I would learn anything new. None of those terms were new to me, since I read a fair bit of Science fact and fiction. Besides, we already have our Apples and Samsungs. We are no strangers to wearing computing devices on us. So what would be new to me?Quite a bit. For example, I now see Map apps with greater insights now. Specifically, the motivations behind companies like Google and Apple in developing map services. And what is needed to make such services and apps work. One chapter discussed what the convergence will mean in terms of business and marketing. It suggests that the real business application would be in information arbitrage; micro-commissions for making real-time, context-specific business referrals to customers. Like the Scifi stories that I enjoy, Scoble and Israel are able to make me relate to how individuals and society reacts to, or are being affected by technology, consciously or otherwise. For example, most people will choose to drive the car themselves, even when they know the machine can execute instructions with greater precision and efficiency. Or the discomfort some individuals feel after discovering how third-party services have decided, without their permissions, to share personal information -- even if that sharing appears to be benign. The book comes across as a result of "pragmatic field research", presenting information and facts not in empirical terms but as stories. There are real names of companies and individuals. Some chapters go deep into the subject, while some chapters profiled an overv[...]

Interview with Singapore Indie band, Pitch Feather (Part 2)


[From Part 1][RL] I don't know of any other SG musicians who've done any "how to" videos. Are there more tutorials like this that the band plan to release?[PF] We might, but no promises. =P allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" mozallowfullscreen="" src="//" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="390"> How To Write A Song from Pitch Feather on Vimeo*[RL] Says here you're a freelance recording artist since 2007 So you didn't just "pop out" on the music scene here, obviously. Have you always wanted to be a singer?[PF] Yes! Since young, I always fantasized about being the lead singer of a band. I think I have found my voice in singing, and I feel that I’m able to express myself fully through music. Singing is like an emotional outlet for me. I’m quite a reserved person by nature, but singing allows me to be anybody I want to be for that moment.*[RL] And you have a bakery. Is that your day job of sorts?[PF] You can say it’s my day job. I started Yoke Bakery about 4 years ago after I quitted my desk bound graphic design job. I didn't want to waste any of my youth. Being able to plan my own time gave me flexibility to pursue my dreams.*[RL] You're trained as a graphic designer? Will you be doing your album illustrations? Do you have your visual art portfolio where we can take a glimpse?[PF] Yup, I’ll be designing our album art. In fact, some of the photographs you will see in the album are actually taken from my travels with Chuan, which made it extra meaningful.I do not have an online design portfolio; I’ve been inactive in the design world for quite a while now. Maybe I should get back to painting or something.*[RL] This FB post was interesting (some one posted a fan art). What's the best thing any fan has said/ written to you? [PF] One of our very supportive fan shared on Facebook that “Each song is a treasure. Each song has its own charm and irresistible draw to listen again. Pitch Feather is a band of musical depth and talent that you don't find very often.” That made me cry.*[RL] Can you give your fans a glimpse of what songs the album would have? Please tell me Lonely Ivory Tower and Painter's Symphony will be in![PF] It will be a 12 track full length album. So most of the original songs we have soft-released on SoundCloud will be included (of course Lonely Ivory Tower and Painter’s Symphony will be in :)There will be 2 brand new songs in the album that you have not heard, so do stay tuned!*[RL] As I listened and read the blurb of Dear Jake, I thought, "Let's do a reverse and have Pitch Feather talk about your friends". Tell us about the friends/ family/ strangers -- anyone -- you'd like to share, memorable people whom you've encountered in your musical journey.[PF] Along our musical journey, we have collaborated with 4 guitarists in the making of this album. They have been really kind to offer their help and artistic input. It was great fun working with all of them. Each of them have a distinct style, so this album is really diverse - a mixture of different styles, and we’re really proud of it.*[RL] You issued a call for guitarists. How did that turn out? (I would have responded but my 'live' guitar skills are pretty sucky)[PF] The response was really good. We had a few guitarist recommendations and eventually had the opportunity to work with Daniel Sassoon (his wife referred him haha!).*[RL] You mentioned that "the ride was rather bumpy" in producing Pitch Feather's debut album. How bumpy exactly?[PF] As you might already know, Pitch Feather is mainly driven by Chuan and me. We both have to juggle running our small businesses and producing our debut album. Music is very important to the both of us, and self-producing our album is number 1 on my bucket list.It is hard work handling almost every aspect of the musical project ourselves, from composing to recording to mixing to designing the album art and website etc. Setbacks al[...]

Interview with Singapore Indie band, Pitch Feather (Part 1)


I've been following a Singapore Indie band, Pitch Feather, on SoundCloud and FaceBook soon after they made their presence known in the Internet in late 2012. You might have heard of them too, when their remix of the 2013 NDP song went viral and busted their soundcloud download limit.A few weeks ago, I got in touch with them (their lead singer, specifically) on Twitter. They were game to do an email interview. All Rights Reserved. Pitch Feather.I looked around the Internet to see what I can find about the band. It was soon obvious to me the band had been busy experimenting and planting themselves online (some of the social sharing platforms were new to me).Here's what I found: MySpace | SoundClick | SoundCloud | FreeMusicArchive | Undergroundmusic | Reverbnation | Twitter | BandCamp | HeartthrobProject | LastFM | Beat100 | | BandSoup | YouTubeGet them a Wikipedia page to complete the list!These earlier interviews have already covered their origins: | | SEAindie | Rather than cover old ground, I thought to find out more of the personalities behind the band. I had more than 20 questions. Their lead singer, Alberta, was nice enough to answer almost all.Here's Part 1:[Rambling Librarian = RL][Pitch Feather = PF, answered by Alberta]*[RL] Let me state what I found from your Facebook Page and published interviews:You are a 3-person band: Alberta, Chuan, Hongliang.Pitch Feather was formed in Nov 2011.“Pitch” represents your music while “Feather” symbolises freedom. Pitch Feather is the search of freedom through your musical journey.In the 2000s, before you were Pitch Feather, you were a band that played covers and called yourself "The Eggheads".Question: why The Eggheads?[PF] That was ages ago and I can’t exactly recall why we chose that name then. But I do vaguely remember having a requirement of having “The” in the band name because we wanted a name in that vein – we loved bands like The Beatles, The Cardigans, The Eagles, The Smashing Pumpkins. It was cool. As for “Eggheads”, I think maybe we were trying to be comical. Haha!*[RL] Looking at past interviews, relatively little was mentioned about the band's origin, way back to The Eggheads. So how did the three of you meet? And how did you end up forming The Eggheads?[PF] Chuan and I met about 7 years ago through a casual jam session with mutual friends. One day, the both of us decided to form a cover band for fun, so we pulled in our guitarist friend, Roy Soh (whom we also collaborated with for two of our current original tracks - “Usual Day” and “Lonely Ivory Tower") and Hongliang on drums, who was Chuan’s friend from their teenage school days. For a short period of time, Hongliang’s then and now girlfriend, Ccube, stood in as our keyboardist.*[RL] How the three of you got into the music scene back then, i.e. a band playing covers. Could you do a little reminiscing about the good old days?[PF] We were not very active in playing gigs. We wouldn't consider ourselves to be deep in the local music scene, although we did perform at random events when opportunities came. They were mostly school organised events (Hongliang was from NTU’s hall band community, so he had quite a lot of lobangs).I remember we had the chance to perform at The Army Half Marathon. Performing in front of marathon runners was quite refreshing.The most memorial gig we had as The Eggheads was probably at Home Club -– the legendary Joe Ng invited us over. The main highlight of that gig was a closing Metal Medley we put together, and the crowd loved it. Sweet memories.*[RL] What's the musical background, including mixing and sound engineering, for Pitch Feather? Any formal musical training etc.?[PF] I’m mainly a self taught singer-songwriter. I have close to zero formal music training. At 15 I bought myself an acoustic guitar and attended a brief begi[...]

IFLA 2013: "Hello, may I help you?" #wlic2013


"Where can I get spare printer cartridges?""It's very busy out there... I need more people.""I'm tasked to assist the IFLA Secretary General... Nooo don't take my picture!""A taxi uncle brought this back. Somebody left it in his taxi" (referring to a IFLA bag)"Where's the technician? I finally got someone to unlock the room!" "What's your role as a volunteer?""I'm a maid.""A maid?""I look after (an VIP delegate).""I'm sleepy. The delegate is sleepy...""Waaaah! Uuuugh!"(Exclamations and lamentations by some volunteers when told that the opening ceremony venue looked grand; their realisation that they have to man their posts.)Volunteers are the lifeline of IFLA conferences. I dropped by the secret location of the IFLA volunteer HQ (just kidding about the secret location). It's normally out of bounds for delegates but my NLB colleagues let me in. I wanted to share a peek of what goes on behind the scenes. Obviously I'm barely scratching the surface. The official opening ceremony was about to start when I wrote this.3,500 delegates from 120 countries.I'm not sure how many volunteers were involved. Thank you to each one of you.   Web [...]

IFLA 2013: My Day-One #wlic2013


Registration was a breeze. I'm wasn't sure if that was a setup particular to the conference venue (Suntec Convention & Exhibition Centre). After registering, I just had one more step to do, which was to collect... ...the official conference bag. Didn't look like the typical conference bag, did it? The only outward sign was a luggage tag with the conference logo. That was removable. The bag was sponsored by a home-grown fashion company, Charles & Keith.  I tweeted that it was probably the most talked-about conference bag in IFLA's history. I felt rather metrosexual carrying the bag around. Not complaining though.The conference venue was a large one. Had to be. We were later told there were 3,500 delegates from 120 countries attending the conference.The opening ceremony opened with a Dragon Dance, featuring a souped up dragon in neon electric lights. I've seen plenty of Dragon Dances but never one with a jazzed up dragon like this. Two thumbs up.    Next came a Malay-Chinese-Indian drums routine, ending with a short Lion Dance. If I was told of such a routine without having watched it, I would have thought it a cliche. But it didn't feel that way. In the context of an event involving participants from all parts of the world, such a symbolic display of racial integration was quite appropriate (it's more than mere symbolism though; go read Bertha Henson's brilliant piece on what it means to be "in Singapore").  The speeches began next. I had to step out of the for a while. Saw a group of children preparing for the next routine. There's something special about a gathering of like-minded people. You just had to be there.I thought the conference was off to a great start.   Web [...]

IFLA 2013: Some links to help the first-time visitor to Singapore #wlic2013


The last time I blogged about IFLA 2013 was almost two years ago.So it's finally here.If you're like me, attending an event in an unfamiliar country, you would have questions like "How do I get around?", "Where to buy food?", "How much should I budget on a daily basis?", or "What to wear?"And, if you also procrastinate like me, you might not bother to find out about local information until the very last minute. But then you might not do so because because your presentation is still not fully done and you're deep into panic mode LOL.So I thought to share quick links to practical information, for the last minute prep.General practical informationThe LonelyPlanet site has practical information. I like Frommer's better, as it has more details. I didn't verify all information on prices but the amounts wouldn't change that drastically. At the very least, you should know there's a cost.Power socket and supplySingapore uses the 'Type G' British design. A universal adaptor socket would usually do the trick. The voltage is 220-240 volts, so you might want to check your equipment specs. Although I've never heard of any overseas visitors having their gadgets being fried by plugging in.Internet AccessMost hotels should have WIFI. I'm not too sure if it's all free. There's always Starbucks and MacDonalds. Maps: websites and appsI recommend As a local, I use it myself. The site loads fast. I've found the information reliable. You can find out how to walk to places, in addition to taking the MRT system, public buses, taxis and private cars.If you have an iPhone, you can consider the free Singapore Maps app from Apple Store.This is the map of the MRT, i.e. public train system.WeatherI refer to this site (from the National Environment Agency) all the time. You'll probably be staying in a hotel near the conference venue, so look for the square box that says "city".Public toiletsVast majority are free to use. You can find them in shopping malls. Plenty of public toilets, in reasonably clean condition, within walking distance.CustomsI'm pretty sure librarians and information professionals will find they aren't going worry about the prohibited stuff (scroll to the bottom of this page). Information on this page, from the Singapore Customs, would also be useful.-----Singapore is a tourist-friendly place. I dare say most delegates can get by for the duration of the conference without too much planning. If you have your plane tickets, passport, credit card and some cash, you're good to go. Oh, don't forget to bring a copy of your IFLA conference confirmation email. You would also have checked out the official IFLA WILC 2013 site.The last time I attended a IFLA conference (more accurately, the IFLA World Library and Information Congress) was five years ago, in 2008. Had the privilege of attending IFLA in the years I served as the Information Officer for the Libraries for Children and Young Adults Section.Preparing for a conference trip can often have anxiety-filled moments. I hope this post would be of some help.See you at the conference.   Web [...]

Interview with a Contemporary Fusion musician: Tze


Some years back, I got to know a Singaporean musician and composer from a songwriting meetup. Back then, I didn't really know what he did. But he seemed to know a lot about music. Then I gradually found out that Tze Toh (or Tze, as he likes people to call him), was an award-winning composer (first prize in the 2011 UK Songwriting contest, Instrumental category). In one of our occasional online conversation, he shared a long term vision of forming his own orchestra. Pretty grand goals and it sounded immensely difficult.It wasn't all talk and no action.Last year, he put up a concert. With an ensemble! I bought a ticket and spent an enjoyable evening, at a musical show that was thoughtfully put together. Tze's music is a blend of jazz, with the piano and/ or asian-based instruments as centrepieces. That's my interpretation anyway. Tze calls his music "contemporary fusion" with a blend of "film score, jazz, Indian, Chinese and European classical music". If you've not heard his music before, here's a taster from his 2012 "Tze n Looking Glass: Return to wonderland" trailer video: width="395" height="222" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>Since his ensemble concert last year, Tze has put up one more show in early 2013. He's pretty prolific, for his third show is coming up just a few weeks from now, in September 2013. He agreed to an email interview, so here it is:Q: Fusion Jazz isn't entirely new. So what's unique about your music? The orchestra improvises as well. So each musician infuses their own vision and ideas. I feel that is the one truly unique thing about our orchestra - an ensemble where everyone has a his/her own voice. [Ivan here: Folks, I'll let that sink in -- an ensemble that improvises. Not easy!]Q: What sort of audience would you like to have at your concert?I think our music have a broad appeal - from fans of jazz, classical, film music, world music (even some Jay-chou fans and people who don't usually listen to music!). We would like to have people who want to truly experience a journey, and listen to our stories. We always hope that the audience takes something home with them after the concert, hopefully a bit of inspiration, a smile, or a positive feeling that life is beautiful and will get betterQ: For someone new to your work, can you give them a flavour of what to expect at your show?Here's a 28min recording of highlights from the "Wonderland 2012" Concert [Ivan here: One of my favourite songs from Tze's 2012 concert were the ones with the Indian Raga flavour, like this one that starts from 4min 17sec] width="395" height="222" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>Q: What would you say to someone who ask, "Why should I attend?"Haha. Because you may hear something not often heard. Different musical languages -- be it Jazz, Classical or Asian traditional sounds -- coming together to create new tapestries and soundscapes. Like how the Indian violin blends with bebop jazz saxophone like the coming of rain; the entire orchestra improvising collectively to sound like a forest coming alive; the acoustic bass sounding like a growling mythical giant that grows and pushes Heaven and Earth apart.Q: What goes on in your mind each time you prepare for a concert.There's a lot of thought that goes into the conceptualization of each concert. I think the big question is always, "Why?". Why are we doing this concert, and why are we writing and creating this new music? Then comes the questions of "What do we want to explore and say with this music"? And "How do we say it?"; how to express what we want to using the instruments, melodies, harmonies, scales, sounds etc. There's many aspects to concert preparation, whether it's the technical, or the mental. Technical issues a[...]

The launch of "Hands: Gift of a Generation" exhibition, 6 Aug 2013


Several of my colleagues at the National Library have been hard at work for the past few months, working towards this exhibition. The appointed exhibition vendor started the onsite set up slightly more than a week ago. It all came together for today's official launch (6 Aug 2013) of the "Hands: Gift of a Generation" exhibition. The two old couple were guests. I was told each was over 100 years old. The woman was featured in the exhibition's Gallery. More about her later.The GalleryThere were 30 Singaporeans specially interviewed for the Gallery. Having lived through the nation-building years (generally taken as 1965 to 1970s), their individual memories had the touch of familiarity and distance all combined. My colleagues did a nice job shortlisting the interviewees. A few interviewees have achieved national fame at some point. But most are ordinary folks, in the sense they could have been our parents or grandparents. Or you and I.  Here's the old couple I mentioned at the start of the post. The old woman was Madam Lim Beak. With her was her husband. I was told both were Centenarians. They looked amazingly fit for their age. Reading her story, I learned that both Madam Lim and her husband were natives of Fujian, China. Madam Lim was born in 1908 and came to Singapore when she was 34 years old (around 1942). Her husband had come to Singapore years earlier, in 1939, to escape conscription (into the Nationalist army, I suppose). It was fascinating to read how she and her husband went about making a living in those early days in Singapore. Sounded like tough times. More of her story will appear in the papers soon, I think. She was interviewed by journalists who were at  the launch.The Remembering RoomThis was the central structure of the whole exhibit. If you have contributed your stories to SingaporeMemory.Sg, you might find yours being projected on the wall. Visitors could tap on the lightbox interfaces to search and browse memories, drawn from what has been contributed to the Singapore Memory Project so far. The Memory Table That was the area where you write your memories down (on a sheet provided), then walk over to the scanner to digitise the sheet. The scanner was activated by placing your hand over the surface. The Memory RecorderFor those who wish to contribute their memories via video or audio, check out the Memory Recorder. It's an enclosed space where you can record yourself or interview a friend. The Memory PoolThis part was designed with the kids in mind. On the walls were mobile phone-sized touchscreens, where visitors could digitally pen or sketch something. Submitting the memory was a matter of covering up the touchscreen with your hand. Then the 'memories' will appear in the 'light pool'. You could try scooping up whatever that has been submitted with your hands to take a closer look. Mementos for guests Guests received a programme brochure and also a special edition Kalkitos game. The exhibition, organised by the Singapore Memory Project, would be open to the public on 7 Aug. It would be on till 13 Aug 2013 at The Plaza, National Library building. There would also be programmes organised in conjunction with the exhibition.   Web [...]

Book review: Love! Live Dangerously! And Have Fun!: a mother's lessons on love, hope, loss and the gifts of life


This one came in the mail for me to review. The book, targeted at young female readers, was easy to read. The tone and style was very personable.Cover from: All Rights Reserved.My take-away from the book:Crap will happen to anyone and everyone, at some point. No one is immune. The difference is how we choose to carry on.Taking risks doesn't always mean we will come up tops. But it also doesn't mean we will always fail.Exercise compassion. Life is not just about 'me'.Not entirely the way the author described, but I think not too far from it. The author shared selective episodes from her life, explaining how she realised that one should love and take risks in life.Right off the start, I sensed this was a woman who did not conform to conventional thinking, even as a teenager. Her mother had forbidden her to go on dates, and that the young Catherine should only focus on her studies. But she dated the boy anyway, even initiating the courtship rather than wait for him to act. The consequence was that her studies were affected, and so did the boy's.Before you wonder what sort of message the author is imposing on young impressionable minds, the truth is that many of our friends (perhaps you and I) went through the same, in different degrees. There may be more 'teen rebels' among us than we care to acknowledge.The key difference, I thought, was that a person like Catherine Khoo consistently applied her optimistic outlook towards life.She wrote in another of her blog:... I’ve lived this maxim since I was a teenager … and strange enough, it applies so much more as I grow older. Sure, sometimes I jump in without thinking of the consequences, and I fail, but how many times have I brushed off the blood and dust and moved on? Think of it this way, at least I figured out another way not to do it! Truth be told, though...I love this journeyCan we truly have a happy life just by living our dreams? Cynics may say that there are those who have tried to do just that, and they end up being decrepit and miserable. Perhaps in anticipation of that, the author peppers her anecdotes about seeing life optimistically.Part of her credibility arose from her managing and growing her own business. I think it takes a feisty no-nonsense approach to do that, in addition to being a mother, a wife, and a daughter-in-law. If that's not enough, try starting a writing scheme for teens.I did not think the author suggests that one should one up-end our lives and gallivant halfway around the world. You get a sense that risk-taking has to be tempered with an underlying sense of responsibility first.Still, I would not have done some of the things she did, no matter what you tell me. For example, her episode with the illegal taxi ride in a foreign country, where she almost became a victim of a robbery. If I learnt my wife/ mother/ sister did just that (accept rides from strangers), I would be very, very angry. It seemed reckless. For the most part, I empathised with her stories. Like how she walked out on her husband one time, feeling that she was being unfairly put down by her spouse. As a husband myself, it made me reflect on my words and deeds towards my wife.One thing I felt the book fell short was that flow of the chapters can appear to be disjointed at times -- though this could be said to be the online-diary writing style. Also, I was left with the impression that there could have been a lot more interesting stuff to be told, but weren't. I would have wanted to read more was her trials and tribulations in starting and sustaining the Young Authors Club, for one. What went through her mind when she was asked to set up the club? Did she see a business opportunity first, or the social cause?So, here are a few[...]

Interview with the artist/ writer: "Jack Doe: Anonymous"


[Earlier post: Graphic novel review - Jack Doe: Anonymous]This post is two years late.In 2011, after I blogged about the graphic novel, the author/ artist, Shawn Yap, found my post and left this comment: Hi Ivan! Shawn Yap here! Thanks for the review and feedback! My team and I appreciate it alot! I do have a second book out though – “Closets” (unrelated to Jack Doe though), if you happen to read that, let me know what you think.That led to an email correspondence, where Shawn agreed to an email interview. The interview took a while because Shawn was busy at that time. And then I got busy and procrastination took over. I never published the interview. I kept his emails in my inbox as a reminder. This week I finally got off my procrastinating behind, went to Shawn's website to find out what he's been up to (he's got a Facebook page now), then got in touch with him again to ask if he had any updates.He did. And here's the interview with 2013 updates:[In 2011]Q: How did 'Jack Doe' get started? I'm aware that it was part of the MDA First Time Publisher initiative. And that you had other collaborators like Gabriel Chua, Nathan Peng, Daniel Barrett Lee, Xander Lee, Regina Lee, Amanda Yap, Beryl Kwok.It's quite a funny story actually. I had absolutely no idea of the First Time Publisher Initiative until my mother told me about it, after reading about it on the newspapers. I was still serving my NS in the Navy at the time, and the deadline were about less than a week away, if I remember. It was quite a rush to come up with a story for the pitch, so there was many stories I penned down and came up with while in camp. I ran the ideas through Daniel, who was my close friend from my BMT, and there was a lot of back and forth and eventually it led to "Jack Doe". I sent the draft out and we got the pitch. From there I got a team to work on the project together with me: Daniel, of course; Gabe - who wrote most of the great script in the book; Nathan - who was a major blessing, script-wise, in the later chapters; Xander - who came up with the amazing cover concept; Regina, Beryl and my younger sister, Amanda, who provided help in the coloring/toning department for the covers and the main story.2) Could you share some insights into the process of making "Jack Doe"? As a reader looking at the final product, I'm curious as to some of the thought processes and physical work involved.Oh, it was a really long process! But thankfully I wrote out most of the story before approaching Gabe, Nathan and Daniel with it, from there we had quite a lot of ideas and stuff thrown around to really spice up the story. The story evolved a little here and there while we were releasing it in issues, and that, while scary, was actually quite exciting because it still had room to grow and breathe. The team hardly had time to meet altogether though, so it was always only 1 or 2 of us at a time. The work itself, art-wise, was really one of the more taxing aspects of the book, due to deadlines and schedules. I was really thankful for the help I got from the colorists! I was really thankful for the prompt work on the script from the writers. Really helped to speed stuff up! :) I was also really grateful for the additional time given to improve on the trade paperback, there were quite a few improvements made from the story published in M.U.G.E.N.3) I read from the blurb that Jack Doe contains six chapters published in M.U.G.E.N. I've to profess my ignorance about M.U.G.E.N. Isn't M.U.G.E.N a game? is! Well...I mean it is both the name of a game and a comic anthology (and a car modification company as well if i'm not wrong). I think the publishers didnt realise that w[...]

Graphic novel review - Jack Doe: Anonymous


[Next: Author interview]I discovered this work in 2011, when browsing the graphic novel section at Central Public Library."Jack Doe: Anonymous"ISBN: 9789812769343Shawn Yap (creator & artist), Gabriel Chua, Nathan Peng, Daniel Barrett Lee, Xander Lee, Regina Lee, Amanda Yap, Beryl Kwok. The work was published under the Media Development Authority's First Time Writers and Illustrators Publishing Initiative (scheme has ended, it seems). Its creators were a group of young people, with half of them as co-writers and the other half as colourists. Most of them seem to be between 25 to 30 years old at the time of publication. According to the blurb, the work collects all six chapters published in M.U.G.E.N. and includes extra pages and revamped artwork.The story takes place in a fictional city called Central City. The protagonist is a detective who comes from a mysterious anti-crime family/ clan. The clan leadership is a hereditary title passed from fathers to sons. Upon taking over as leader, he loses all personal identity and assumes the anonymous title of Jack Doe. He exists to "protect the city from the shadows" by solving cases that "no one else can". Jack Doe has no powers, other than possessing a pack of tarot cards as part of his crime-solving arsenal.The graphic novel starts with a murder of Jack's friend, the police commissioner. The mystery deepens when Jack is pursued by people intent on killing him. There's a sub-plot that attempts to delve into Jack's psyche, his past, and his recurring dream where he sees himself murdered.Interesting premise. Their work attempted to weave a mixed genre of plup-mystery and hardboiled detective story, presented in an almost film noir style.[Images courtesy of Shawn Yap (All Rights Reserved)]The art work is good. What could be improved was the storyline, which had a few elements that were slightly distracting to the flow.For instance, being a detective with an office isn't quite anonymous. And with no apparent powers or abilities, the protagonist was pitched against super-powered beings. A bit of a tilt there for me. The hero never quite fights with any of the villains either, save one. Made me wonder what happened to the villains. A pleasant surprise for me was the twist at the end. They adapted a the "world within worlds" concept to set up for a clash between unexpected parties. I suppose they were working with tight deadlines, developing the story along the way. Which might have made the 'Reveal' a bit abrupt.Overall, the art and graphic flow was good enough for me to read to the last page.[Images courtesy of Shawn Yap (All Rights Reserved)]The artistic style used throughout the work was one of the more polished ones I've come across (kudos to the main artist is Shawn Yap, and not forgetting the team that did the inking/ colouring). The panel designs came together very nicely. You know something is professionally done when you don't notice the 'technical' aspects of the graphic novel and can focus on the story. For what my opinion is worth, I thought the work was good enough to be placed against the work from international titles. As a first time work, I'll give them a second thumbs up. More important, I am keen to read more of what they have to produce.---[2001 draft of this post, here]   Web [...]

Part 2 - Physical Prep & Post-Mortem: Pengarang to Desaru, and Back Again: Cycling Adventure 29 - 30 Mar 2013


Super long rambly post. You should skip if you're not interested in cycling related information. This is a self-learning/ reflection post. Might be useful for other cyclists planning similar rides. Or experiencing similar pains.Part 1 - Tripping on Two WheelsPart 2 - Physical Prep & Post-Mortem [this post]Part 3 - Post-ride Bike UpgradesThe sweetest part of the trip was, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most painful part. Sweet, because I made it back from Desaru to Tanjung Pengelih in spite of inflamed tendons on both knees. It wasn't a debilitating injury, because I recovered in a few hours time when I made it home. But the inflammation threatened to stop my ride. I had no idea how serious it might develop and it became more painful as the ride wore on.The inflamed tendons was least expected. Whether it was 100% preventable, I'm not sure. Apart from that, I was quite pleased my preparation worked out.WATERStaying adequately hydrated was top of my list. I brought my 3-litre hydration pack, with 2 spare bottles of water on the bike. From past longer distance rides, I knew that it was far better for me to take small sips continually than to rehydrate a lot at intervals. Hydration salts also helped to get the body rehydrated (though taking too much at one go may cause loose bowels!)On Day-1, I finished all 4 litres just before we reached the resort. On Day-2, surprisingly I ended up with about 1 litre water to spare, even though the weather was hotter. When we stopped for lunch on both days, I ordered Coconut if it was available (best energy drink, imo) and isotonic drinks. SUNThe sun will burn skin and sap energy. I brought my arm sleeves (UV rated), had a scarf that covered my head under my helmet, and I applied sunblock on my neck and face. I still felt heat radiating from my skin at the end of the ride, but I wasn't burnt. WEIGHTKeeping the packed weight to the minimum was part of the strategy. My 3 Litre pack could fit in the spare clothes, first spare inner tube, torchlight and batteries, bike pump (remember the pump, folks; no point having a spare inner tube when you can't pump up your tire), toothbrush and toothpaste, and that was about it. The resort would have other amenities. The other stuff, I carried on my bike. Like the spare bottles, hydration salts, some pre-packed almond powder mix (for "instant" sugar fix if I needed it) and deep-heat rub (kept on a small bag for easy access from the bike), another set of spare inner tube and bike tools.I realised the 3 Litre hydration pack added about 3 kilogrammes to my own body weight. It was like instant weight gain. Unless the laws of physics change, I'll have to deal with that (or lose 3 kg before I start?)FOODBreakfast was essential. I would be asking for trouble if I were to skip this on the day of the ride (I learned the hard way once). During our bike trip, I made sure I ate rather than try to "lose weight". Not stuffed till I couldn't walk, but to make sure I listened to my stomach. After Day-1, for dinner I opted for the buffet spread at the resort. My body seemed to crave for carbohydrates. I took two servings of pasta, made sure I included proteins and vegetables. I tried to avoid sugar when I can, but gave in to temptation that night by eating up a spare bowl of coconut milk dessert with Gula Melaka (in the land where Gula Melaka was made, if not invented, I could not pass that up).SLEEPThe day before the trip, I consciously avoided caffeine in case I could not sleep. I made sure I had at least 6 hours of sleep. I was quite excited about the trip and knew I would have trouble sleeping. So the past 2 days, I woke earlier than my usual and that ensured [...]

Feedback on the Khatib Bongsu Park Connector


Over the weekend, a few of my friends were discussing about Singapore's National Cycling Plan via email. One of our friends offered to collate our ideas and suggestions to relay to the right government agency folks.I love our Park Connectors. I ride on the Khatib Bongsu park connector most often (sometimes connecting all the way to Woodlands Waterfront, through the Admiralty connector). I've noticed minor improvements to the Khatib Bongsu connector in the last two years. There's still room for a better/ safer experience for cyclists and pedestrians.There was a suggestion that I should blog about my suggestions. It's fresh off my mind anyway, since my wife and I just completed an early evening 16km ride today, to the end of Simpang Kiri.Ideally I should include actual images of the parts I've described. But I didn't really plan to give a comprehensive list until after the ride. Hope the map screenshots, with the descriptions, would help. Well, I'd love to show the URA or NParks people first hand. Like a Ride & Review session. Wouldn't mind taking my vacation time on a weekday to meet them (wouldn't want them to work on a weekend). Ride along the path, point out actual situations. Also I'd like to be educated on why things were designed in certain ways or perhaps the constraints they faced.Feedback on the Khatib Bongsu Park Connector1) From the junction at Yishun Ave 1 & Yishun Ave 2, there's a stretch of asphalt that seemed worn out. The painted speed stripes seemed particularly high. It appeared as if the asphalt on parts unpainted were badly eroded (I've seen newer paved bike paths and they are definitely smoother). Going over the stripes slowly, as designed, was extremely jarring. I suspect most cyclists will choose to ride on the smoother pedestrian path. Which defeated the purpose of having the cycling path.2) Along Yishun Ave 2, there's a side road for traffic to enter the carpark of Blocks 788/ 785. It splits the cycling path, though that's not the issue. The problem is that the sloped gradient (for a smooth transition from the path to the road, and then back on the path again) was only made for the pedestrian path. The sloped edge is for wheelchairs to easily transfer from pedestrain path to road, to make the crossing. The cyclist has to make a 90-degree turn to get to that sloped edge. Once I cross the road with my bike it's another 90-degree turn to get back to the cycling path and its a narrow turn. I consider myself quite OK on a bike but I don't feel confident making such a tight turn all the time. Cyclists don't want to get off and push the bike (be realistic!) so I noticed most cyclists go on the pedestrian path, which is more direct.3) There's also more examples of 90-degree tight turns along Block 602. Then at the end of it (see the part marked 3.2) it's a dead-end for the bike path. You actually have to go on the pedestrian path to make the crossing to the PCN on Mandai. I find that part poorly-designed and inconvenient. I end up cycling on the pedestrian path leading to the traffic lights. 4.1) At the stretch after the canal bridge (from Block 323) to the SAFRA Clubhouse: When the path was first constructed, I remember the asphalt part was designated as the bike path. But one day, the asphalt path became re-designated as a footpath while the concrete path (with iron grills for rain runoff) became a bike path. Pedestrians and cyclists get confused. Plus, the iron grills are not ideal when riding conditions are wet.4.2) According to the map, it looks like a continuous PCN. But in reality, that stretch is a pedestrian footpath. Not a problem sharing the path, though it is rathe[...]

Part 1 - Tripping on Two Wheels: Pengarang to Desaru, and Back Again:Cycling Adventure 29 - 30 Mar 2013


Total time on the bicycle: 10 hours, thereabouts.Total distance covered: about 112km over 2 days (51km each way).Total energy burned: pretty sure it's 1,800 calories at least (extrapolating from my own 40 km rides in Singapore).Total energy consumed: Won't be surprised if it's more than what I burned, so I don't really want to know.[Image credit: Kenneth Pinto, CC-BY-NC)My first post for 2013 would be a post about my first real ride for the year. Quite apt.This post is a recap of the 1.5 day ride.The "Good Friday" some two weeks ago was literally great for me, as 10 of us embarked on a day-and-a-half, Out-of-Singapore cycling adventure. From Tanjung Pengelih to this resort in Desaru, and back. We were a motley mix comprising of 20 year-olds to mid-40s, on Foldies and mountain bikes.The day's adventure started at Changi Village. The jetty was packed, given it was a holiday. While we waited for our turn to get a boat and to clear customs, Kevin's super-sized Pugsley earned easy conversations from strangers. He's the original Aunty-Killer. "Got motor or not?" must be the most frequently asked question about his Fatbike. [Image credit: sivasothi, CC-BY-NC-SA]When my friends first planned for the trip, I thought Pengarang sounded familiar. Then I remembered it was in the news in late 2011 over the Malaysian government's plans to build petrochemical projects there.On our way to Tanjung Pengelih, we saw Singapore's attempt to create more land. Our bumboat chugged past silent monster rigs, some in the process of turning sea into land. We passed stretches of massive sand banks on both sides, stable enough to support several heavy vehicles on them.[image credit: Kevin Lim, CC-BY-NC-SA][image credit: Kevin Lim, CC-BY-NC-SA][image credit: Kenneth Pinto, CC-BY-NC]When we reached Tanjung Pengelih, things felt slower and more idyllic. Probably the absence of human traffic at the jetty. We were the only ones clearing customs.As we geared up to start our ride, Dinesh provided timely advice on general safety. He also prepared a set of walkie-talkies for the lead rider (him) and last Outrider (Kevin). I was quietly impressed. Talk about being professional.Being a naturally cautious (i.e. overly pessimistic) person, I kinda surprised myself by feeling rather calm when we set off. I'm chicken-crap when it comes to new places. But this group had plenty of experienced and steady riders. Plus, I trusted my bike and that helped a lot. I'd stopped cycling for about three months, and only put in maybe 5 km worth of riding time a few days before the trip. It was enough to assure me of the ride-worthiness of my foldable bike though. Would have wanted to put in more kilometres for physical fitness (but maybe that turned out to be a blessing -- more of this in Part 2). We rode through quiet paths with uncut grass waving on either sides; past houses at one stretch, and then hitting open roads with relatively few cars. [image credit: Kevin Lim, CC-BY-NC-SA][image credit: Kevin Lim, CC-BY-NC-SA][image credit: sivasothi, CC-BY-NC-SA][image credit: Kevin Lim, CC-BY-NC-SA][image credit: Kevin Lim, CC-BY-NC-SA]There's a certain zen when one rides under one's own power: hearing the hum and whirs of the bicycle, our own breathing, the wind in our faces.This was a leisurely ride. The 20-somethings in our group had the benefit of youth. They easily kept up on their bikes. Actually the second (maybe third) oldest guy in our group used to run triathlons.The Pengarang highways, perhaps being such long stretches, had the inevitable potholes. A few of us had bottles pop out of their bottle cages when they went [...]

Post-workshop notes: Creating Digital Music 101: GarageBand


[Sat, 10 Nov 2012]Nine people turned up (there was a cap of 12; heard it rained heavily so maybe some opted to stay home?)Nine was a nice number. I sensed the average age was around late 20s to early thirties. Heh, it's nice to know as an 'uncle' in my 40s, I'm teaching the young'uns something.What the session covered:Hour 1: Getting to know GB; learning the basicsHour 2: Composing your own track/ Some ‘audio production’ tipsHour 3: Continue + ShowcaseDemo of a track composed in GB. Musical concepts - “Bars”, “patterns”, “Even counts”Layering concept - like photoshop Pair up - check with a “musical buddy for the day” Opening a new GB project (file names, tempo) The GB environment and controlsFile menu, add tracks, LCD, Loops, InstrumentsShortcut Keys - Copy, Paste, Undo, Redo, Zoom in/ Out Preferences panel Using loops to create music - 20minsChange tempoDrag loops into workspaceCopyExtend loopsEdit - Split/ cut/ copyLayers Instruments - 20minsExperiment with different instrumentsMusical TypingChanging MIDI notes Individual Track controls Effects (“i” Edit) Audio Production tweaksCompressorEQ Export ShareBefore we started, I asked what were they wanted to take away from this session. Most had their Macs for a while but never quite learned how to use GarageBand.About a third played some form of instruments. Most were piano players (interesting!)Going round I saw everyone actively building their tracks. What I tried not to do was overwhelm them by whacking all I knew from the past seven years and seven albums, since I picked up a Mac (woah, seven already?)I let each participant copy a GarageBand sampler (composed the day earlier) and let them attempt a remix. The sampler (aptly titled TenElevenTwelve) sounds like this: style="border: 0; width: 100%; height: 42px;" src="" seamless>TenElevenTwelve by ArtistIvanChewThey didn't seem overwhelmed. Plenty of time to play around. Nice arranges tracks too; these folks have good musical timing. Three hours was a good duration. Class size of ten was excellent; probably 20 would be fine with an assistant. One tech problems: The rental MacBook didnt have the latest GarageBand version. Wasnt able to drag and drop loops. Luckily while the software update was in progress, one participant readily volunteered his Mac until the update was completed.Planned for everything (extra power extensions, making sure we nailed down the screen resolution; a 'live' dry run with my colleagues before this public session) except that one. Must make mental note.When I was mulling over the session on the train, I asked myself why I liked to share and teach.On one hand, it means putting myself in the firing line, where participants have a range of expectations. Even of the session is a free one, I don't believe it's an excuse to waste people's time. On the other, there's something immensely satisfying in seeing people give that nod of understanding, or outwardly thanking for having gained insights.I wonder if it's an affirmation of my own self worth. Maybe, though I can find other ways to satisfy my ego.Oh, I ended up conducting this workshop because the Public Library was running a series of Arts related programmes. Mooted the idea of a digital music workshop to a colleague, she liked it, and I volunteered to run it.Coincidentally it was held on a 10.11.12Hmm, if nine people turned up, that meant   Web myrightbrain.[...]

Soon-to-be-released: My 2012 Creative Commons project: post-rock themed digital music album


My band mates, with a guest collaborator, started working on a few tracks around Jan this year. Through the usual (for us) way of passing ideas and MP3 files over email.Last month, when it sunk in that 2012 would be the 10th global birthday celebrations for Creative Commons, we wanted our album to be a gift to the movement.Our DIY digital album will be published over this weekend. This evening, we completed the final piece of the musical project: the album cover. Here are the designs I developed over two evenings: 1. "deca"2. "TEN"3. "DEKA"A few hours ago, the band -- with our guest collaborator, urmymuse, who is from halfway around the globe -- have agreed on a majority vote on design No. 3, "DEKA".The album has 10 tracks, for CC's 10th birthday this year, slated for October.A 10-10-10 combo.So what's with the title and "tens"?The BackstoryMy first album design looked like this (created two nights ago):It was passable as a symbol or logo. But somehow it didn't quite cut it as an album cover. Looked too cold; too detached. The opposite of what our music represented.So I wondered about the etymology for "decade". That led to my discovering the term "deca", which was Latin for "the combining form for 'Ten'": "decapod", "decasyllabic", "decathlon", "decametre"...Multiples of ten. Bingo!But I wondered if it might be too subtle or indirect for people to catch on. No harm in posting the question in Facebook. Kind of expecting zero comments, so I was really surprised to get plenty of good ideas and useful comments from my Facebook contacts. Thanks folks!All things considered, "deca" was quite appropriate. I used Keynote on my iPad to piece together a few ideas. Ended up using Keynote as my "photoshop"! Within hours of the Facebook comments and doodling in the iPad, I managed to churn out design No. 1. Emailed that off to Adrian, I-Ling and urmymuse. Explained the concept to them. And hoped they would agree. Or at least, no violent objections from them. Adrian was first to give "deca" his approval. Next was urmymuse, who added that the Greek spelling (deka) was preferred but it wouldn't be something to "die in a ditch" for (LOL).By that time, I also preferred DEKA over DECA. Particularly after considering the Facebook comments. For one, "deca" might lead to some people subconsciously associating it with "decay" or "decadence" -- unrelated words, no doubt but still might prove distracting rather than adding to the album's intrigued.I churned out designs no.s 2 and 3, and emailed to the band. Promised this would be the last iteration (any more options and it would be counterproductive).Our vocalist, I-Ling, liked DEKA too.So that was that.All ten tracks have been mastered, bounced; the uncompressed files sitting in my hard disk (backed up, for sure) waiting to be prepped with metadata (I use iTunes for that).It'll be a public holiday this Friday. That would give me time to publish the album this weekend.Musical MusingsThe album will be pretty niche. Limited audience etc.It's perhaps best described as "almost progressive meditative pop post-rock". Whatever it might be called, it's our labour of love. A musician friend once asked me if I composed music for others or for myself. I guessed as much that it was his polite way of saying my musical compositions didn't quite fit a certain accepted standard or norm. It was an excellent question that he'd asked. Made me reflect. It reinforced in my mind that I choose to create music for myself. That's not to say I'll refuse to learn and improve or accept constructive criticisms. For[...]

What would be the 50 objects that represent Singapore to you?


Back in September, a friend pointed me to this NYT article about a project in New York City that asked historians and museum curators to name 50 objects that could "embody the narrative of New York".Top of the New York list was a Mastodon tusk. The 50th item was something called a "Meng Political Sign, 2012".The former referred to the first recorded discovery of mastodon remains in 1858, in a borough in New York city.The latter turned out to be a political campaign poster of a Ms Grace Meng. She won the Democratic Congressional nomination in Queens borough. That tidbit was a segway to how the city's residents of Asian origin exceeded one million for the first time, as recorded in the 2010 Census.Inspired by the British Museum's 100 ObjectsThat project in New York was inspired by the British Museum’s BBC radio series and book, “A History of the World in 100 Objects". Item One on the British Museum's list was the Mummy of Hornedjitef. The 100th item was a Solar Powered Lamp and Charger.Detractors might say that was rather presumptuous of any institution to claim that their collections definitively represented "The World's" history. Equally arguable would be that the 100th item should have been a MP3 player or Xbox (dare I say, iPhone?) rather than a solar-powered lamp and charger.BUT...I found the concept of a "100 objects" listing -- one that symbolically represent a certain perspective of the world -- a refreshing one. Got to give it to the Brits for such a simple and innovative way to curate and present items from their Museum's collection (notwithstanding the joke about Colonial British plundering and shipping back treasures from all around the globe).The British Museum has also created an interactive visual browse page (Flash-based), based on time and filtering by other facets.People's HistoryThe New York example wanted to make their's "a people’s history", to allow for individual perspectives rather than form a definitive list (as implied by the British example):The “History of the World” was limited to objects in the British Museum’s collection. Like that list, ours “can only be a history” and “not the history.” And because it is a people’s history, we are inviting participation. Tell us what objects represent New York City to you in the comments section.The New Yorkers invited public comments after an initial list from historians and museum curators. The British Museum didn't solicit public contributions it seemed.I think to truly make it a "people's list", everyone should be given a chance to create their own right from the start. A Singapore "100 objects" list?The article instantly captured my imagination, since the Singapore Memory Project occupied a large part of my work time (and maybe off work too). I wondered what a "50 objects that represent Singapore's History" would look like. I posted this on Facebook, inviting FB contacts to also name 50 objects they consider to be representative of Singapore's history.Didn't get very far with that. For what it's worth here's the list, thanks to the contributions from some FB friends (objects are not in any order of importance):Ivan Chew - Rubber seed (I'm thinking of Sir Henry Nicholas Ridley)Walter Lim - A pair of spectacles since we're the most bespectacled nation in the world.Chon Hsing Ng - Air conditioner to symbolise how SG has had to artificially creates my things eg beach, jungle, water, etcLow Hei Chin - Four stones.Hikaru Teo - the rediffusion tabletop radioDex Khor - A rotan.Bernadette Daly-Swanson -[...]

Book review: "Praying to the goddess of mercy: A memoir of mood swings"


There is power in knowing a name.When it comes to an illness, knowing what it is called allows for some measure of rationality. We can start making sense of it and adopt ways to cope.Praying to the goddess of mercy: A memoir of mood swings/ Mahita VasISBN: 9789814358910Cover image - All Rights Reserved: Monsoon BooksThe term "Bipolar Disorder" (or the cruder term, "Manic Depressive Psychosis") has always been merely words to me. I mean, I understand what it is from reading definitions and articles. But I think nothing becomes real until we associate it with someone or something that we can relate.If I come across the term again, I would think of this 200-plus page story, and a woman named Mahita Vas.About a month ago, a representative of Monsoon Books Publishing emailed me to ask if I would like to review a copy of "Praying To The Goddess Of Mercy". The mail briefly described what the book was about:"Diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of forty-two, Mahita survived suicidal mood swings, flourished in her career and raised a family while battling the mental disorder.Throughout her career as a flight attendant with SIA, then as a high-flying advertising industry executive with companies such as BMW, Ogilvy, Four Seasons and L’Oreal, the author led a volatile life: sometimes blissfully and enviably contented, at other times screaming like a lunatic.Set in Singapore, Praying To The Goddess Of Mercy charts Mahita’s journey from chaos to stability. Ultimately, the memoir is about being true to oneself and having the courage to take charge in the pursuit of happiness."I was intrigued and said OK to the book review request. The book came in the mail. I took about three days to read it from cover to cover.The short-take: It's pretty good stuff. As a memoir, the author came across as credible and honest, without being self-indulgent. As a book about Bipolar Disorder, it's insightful with specific and personal examples of discovering and coping (or at times, not being able to) with the illness. The writing is crisp. The flow was good, such that I was easily led from page to page all the way till the end.Here's a longer take:From reading similar works about people living with mental illness (biographical or otherwise), there seems a rough pattern to their experiences: Normalcy, Uncertainty (of what is plaguing them), Diagnosis/ Discovery, Rejection/ Fear, Acceptance. In a way, I expected this book to be no different. So what could be new or insightful, I wondered.After the first few pages, it was clear there is always something new, something different and insightful when it comes to reading about another person's journey in living with an illness.It also occurred to me that most of us would ONLY bother to find out more about a medical condition when it directly affects us, or a close family member or friend.In a way, this book has personified Bipolar Disorder for me.It came across as a coming-of-age personal story about discovering and living with that medical condition.As the author writes: “It was a life changing revelation to learn there was an explanation and a name for my unusual behaviour.” (Chapter 13, p232)In some ways, I thought her story was also of how others in her life -- particularly her husband and her children -- have had to deal with her illness, before she was diagnosed.By the end of the book, I had the impression this was someone who had come to terms with her situation and herself. Bipolar Disorder, as explained in the book, is not so[...]

Remixing Romeo & Juliet


Came across this graphic-novel adaptation of Shakespeare’s famous play.Romeo & Juliet (No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novels), by Matt Wiegle.ISBN: 9781411498747I’ve never read Romeo & Juliet because it was not one of my literature text in school. Well... how many of us would voluntarily read Shakespeare?What I knew about Romeo and Juliet (other than them being the most famous couple in human lore) was that both lovers killed themselves in the end. One tends to get bits and pieces -- most likely the death scene -- from movie adaptions and mentions.This adaption was a fun read. Part of the fun was discovering different interpretative layers to this Shakespearean play. This play seem ripe for re-makes, remixes and adaptions (as Shakespeare no doubt did the same).The popular mental model of Romeo and Juliet is that they are star-crossed lovers, innocent in their affections and simply caught up in a family feud. However, a 'dark' version might go like this: Romeo could have been a fickle knave and not that innocent a guy. He was simply fooling around with Juliet. His suicide was more of a self-inflicted accident, due to misinformation and bad timing. In a similar vein, Juliet might could have been a manipulative girl who hooked up with Romeo as a way to get back at her father, for forcing her on whom she could marry. Let's not forget Friar Lawrence, who are the lover's go-between in the play. Maybe he was being blackmailed into helping them. Romeo has a hold on him because of a certain scandalous matter, perhaps.Here's my slightly unorthodox look at the Romeo and Juliet story, with possible variations of a possible 'dark' backstory thrown in:***The Montagues (Romeo’s family) and the Capulets (Juliet’s) were two rich and powerful families in the city of Verona in Renaissance Italy. Basically, the two households cannot stand each other and fights would be started in the streets.The first hint of Romeo possessing that wishy-washy fickleness was his pandering over an unrequited love -- a Rosaline, who never quite appeared in person. Romeo professed how his life was a misery since he wasn't able to obtain Rosaline's favour. But he dropped Rosalind like she never existed, after he saw Juliet. Romeo and his friends had disguised themselves and gate-crashed a Capulet dinner party. That was how he met Juliet and she instantly became The One for him. Lust at first sight, or so it seemed to me.Romeo then started to woo Juliet by sneaking into the Capulet family home grounds at night, making his way to under Juliet’s balcony. What a charmer, that Romeo! Or perhaps Juliet was bored and sought a way to amuse herself. Just stringing Romeo along.Oh yes, there seemed to be a lot of sneaking around thereafter. Romeo and Juliet then got themselves married secretly, with the help of Romeo’s friend Friar Lawrence.But on that same day when they got married in secret, Tybalt (Juliet’s cousin) ends up being killed by Romeo in a revenge-fight. All because Tybalt picked a fight and sneakily killed Mercuto (Romeo’s friend). That very day, Romeo was banished by the Prince of Verona. Punishment for the clan duel and murder. Juliet was heartbroken to learn of the death of her cousin and the banishment of her still-secret husband.Prior to Romeo’s leaving his city, he managed to sneak into Juliet’s room and spent the night there. All with the help of Juliet’s nurse. After that, Romeo leaves for his place of banishment.The plot thickens when Juliet[...]

Have you ever had the office go silent on you?


It happened to me a few weeks ago.I was in meeting at an open area within the office floor. At first there was ambient noise with other colleagues in their cubicles speaking, typing. My meeting got heated. A few colleagues, including myself, got pretty loud in saying how a recent internal work process was making things less productive rather than more (details aren't important; I can't share them anyway).Moments later, I realised the office went quiet.I had mixed feelings of righteous anger and embarrassment. I guess it was the realisation that we had called attention to ourselves.The problem with verbal outbursts is that people around me won't grasp the full context. They are likely to remember that I was the one who got angry. Not good for my image, I thought.I once read that only passionate workers get angry. If they don't it means they don't care. When other colleagues have been rather exuberant in expressing their resentment (either at me or not) I take it in stride. In some case, I assure them it's OK to have that outburst, in private was preferred. The rationale is that it's a privilege, generally speaking, that co-workers are comfortable with me to speak or express emotions truthfully.But personally I try not to show outbursts at work (btw, I fail miserably at home as my wife would point out). Some colleagues thankfully remind me on those occasions, diplomatically. Justified or not, I prefer to play the 'emotion-less' administrator. Still, sometimes I forget.Have you ever been in this situation?   Web [...]

Crowd-funding to buy a Creative Commons license for a book:


You might be thinking what a chockfull of concepts behind this statement: "Crowd-funding to buy a Creative Commons license for an ebook".Let me break it down for you:Crowd-funding: "Funding a project by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people" (source:, i.e. owner is paid in return for granting a perpetual license for others to use the workCreative Commons as the licensing modelThe work is subsequently released in a digital form (the source just needs to be 'already published' and may not be an ebook, if I understood it correctly)Sounds really innovative.From the FAQ section:What is is a a place for individuals and institutions to join together to give their favorite ebooks to the world. We work with rights holders to decide on fair compensation for releasing a free, legal edition of their already-published books, under Creative Commons licensing. Then everyone pledges toward that sum. When the threshold is reached (and not before), we collect the pledged funds and we pay the rights holders. They issue an unglued digital edition; you're free to read and share it, with everyone, on the device of your choice, worldwide.As explained at Library Journal (17 May 2012):" works by allowing the rights holders of an already-published book to set a funding threshold—generally between $5,000 to $25,000—and a deadline for a funding campaign. If supporters pledge sufficient funding prior to the campaign deadline, the book will be released as an “unglued” ebook edition, free of digital rights management (DRM) software, and free to copy and share under a Creative Commons license.Gluejar Inc., the company that developed, explained the motivation behind the concept in a release today, noting that “proprietary formats and [DRM] technology lock ebooks to specific devices and make it hard for people to keep reading their books as technology changes. Many ebooks cannot even be lent by libraries. Unglued ebooks solve these problems.”I found this YouTube video, where the president of Gluejar (the company behind was interviewed about its platform and business model for eBook distribution: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="219" src="" width="390">Why Creative Commons rather than Public Domain?With CC, the owner retains copyright while still giving a "free-to-use" license. This means the owner still has the ability to set other conditions, which could involve payment to the owner.Here's an example:Suppose I license my eBook under a "CC Attribution Non-Commercial" license. A movie producer wants to turn my work into a for-profit movie. He has to seek permission from me (or pay me) because I've only given permission for non-commercial use. Separately, I'm able to enter a contract with this movie producer (because he's commercialising it, I also ask for a fee) At the same time, this contract does not affect my earlier CC licensed work, even if it's the same work.Or, at the very least, I allow the movie producer to use my work without a fee but with very specific conditions on how I should be credited (hmm... I want my name to be at the start of the movie, and as a stand-alone mention at the end. Plus, it has to be on all publicity materials etc.)See how I would have retained control of my choice of licensing model in that se[...]