Saturday, April 29, 2006

Me, a Radical Librarian?

Stumbled upon these slides titled:
Revolting Librarians Redux Review
A Short and Inexact History
of Progressive Librarianship
With some thoughts
about its future
by Jessamyn "I have a Masters degree in Librarianship" West (i.e. Total 14 slides for a TLA presentation (she adds at the end "there was no PowerPoint involved in this presentation except as a nagging bad example"). Heh.

The slides were quite interesting in themselves. I could roughly make out the context of the presentation though not the entire context without listening the the actual presentation. Then I came to slide 11, where under "what other radical librarians are up to", I've been listed as the example point from Singapore (see point 5 "outreach").

Me, a Radical Librarian? Heh. Thanks for the compliment.

I'm not quite sure what Jessamyn had to say about the "thoughts for the future". Would have loved to be there. I popped over to her blog to see if she'd blogged about this talk (she did) and whether there was a podcast (there wasn't... pity). The presentation went well for her, so that's great.

Wonder if any librarians at her presentation asked, "Where's Singapore?"

Oh, TLA = Texas Library Association.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Starting a mailing list for Library Disability Services

For someone who professes to have a professional interest in Library Disability Services, I realise don't post much about the topic. I think about it alot but I don't write about it. I'm not sure why... anyway, this might change.

Yesterday, just before the Paul Theroux session, I had an informal discussion with a few colleagues who shared a certain like-mindedness about the provision of library services to people with disabilities. At the end of our discussion, I decided to start a mailing list for librarians and just about everybody else interested in the topic of Library Disability Services in Singapore.

Specifically, the list would be for people who are interested in doing something -- or already doing, or getting something done -- for, or with People with Disabilties.

To put it in point form:
  • A librarian-facilitated network
  • For those in the library and information profession, as well any other people;
  • Who have a shared interest;
  • About the provision of library/ information services;
  • To people with disabilities

This would be a personal initiative, i.e. not affliated with my employer or any other organisation. I just want to get something going rather than try and raise it through formal channels. Faster that way.

I hope to have some library professionals in Singapore join me in getting this list started or contributing to the list. I don't know how many would be keen... Maybe it will be a list with a membership of one. Maybe it'll turn out to be a mailing list for Ivan's Monologues.

Ah, heck -- what have I got to lose? Just do it : )

Thinking aloud:
  • There can be no action without awareness;
  • There can be no awareness without dialogue;
  • There can be no dialogue without some starting point

Hence, this mailing list would be a starting point for dialogue, that hopefully gets translated into action.

Right now, I'm trying to think of a name for this list:
  1. Singapore Librarians For Library Disability Services (SLFLDS)
  2. Librarians For Disability Services, Singapore (LFDSS)
  3. Volunteer Librarians For Library Disability Services
  4. Singapore Librarians Disability Services Support Network (SLDSSN)
  5. Singapore Librarians Disability Services Support Group (SLDSSG)
  6. Singapore Librarians Disability Services Network (SLDSN)
I'm kinda leaning towards #4.

It's a mouthful but it conveys the scope and intent of the list, it's more inclusive for non-librarians, yet still conveys that it's a librarian-facilitated network.

Suggestions from the Blogosphere for names would be most welcome.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Paul Theroux was at Central Lending Library (or, Why I love working for the library)

"Tell the truth."

That's how Paul Theroux ended his hour-long talk. And prior to that, he also quipped:
"If you tell the truth and you live long enough, you will be vindicated"

"If you want to be a writer, leave home. Don't stay with your parents"

Paul Theroux could sure give a talk. I saw how the 170 strong audience lapped up his words. No fancy-schmancy powerpoint slides. He was basically a good storyteller. But I have to admit I wasn't paying much attention to what he was saying (hence I only picked up those lines). In truth, I was paying greater attention to how the audience was reacting, and how the supporting staff & librarians on duty were holding up.

This post isn't about Paul Theroux's talk. I apologise for misleading you. What I really wanted to blog was the great teamwork and support that when into making this programme happen.

First, it was made possible with the active support of partners like subTEXT and Penguin Books Singapore.

Then the other unsung heroes (or heroines, rather) were the librarians who worked behind the scenes to make this programme happen (of 'cos there were others who contributed but this post is about the colleagues in my team). Without naming names, there was ST (picture-taker/ usher), JL (videographer/ extra courteous lift attendant) and WL (programme co-host/ networker/ overall in-charged).

I wish I could take pictures and blog in details about the days and hours leading to the event -- how the librarians reacted to maximise on the given opportunity (the library visit wasn't in Theroux's initial itinerary); the ideas and last minute discussions; last minute upgrade of venue because of overwhelming response; preparations for publicity; working beyond typical hours to see the programme through... Well I can't blog in details, but you get the picture I think.

This committment to the job is not unique to just that programme only. More often than not, it's repeated across the many programmes and events held at the other public libraries. It does not matter if the events were high-profile ones like Paul Theroux's (most programmes aren't).

Tonight, someone I knew (from working on a collaborative event previously) remarked on how impressed she was on the professionalism and passion demonstrated by the librarians who provided supported for her activities across the branches involved. Her compliments was a reminder to me, of why I love working for the library (it's the people whom you work with, isn't it?)

BTW, my role in making the programme happen was negligible. Mostly I tried to stay out of my colleague's way, heh : )

I shall end this post with a badly taken shot of the audience and Paul Theroux. You just have to take my word for it that Paul is the guy with the red shirt, centre of picture. Better pictures would be posted at High Browse Online soon.
Paul Theroux 270406


High Browse Online featured in Apr 06 issue of Challenge Magazine

Minor victory of sorts... the High Browse Online book blog and the NL Programmes blog were both plugged at the April 2006 issue of Challenge Magazine.

The magazine is a monthly publication from the PS21 Office, Prime Minister's Office (Public Service Division). Printed and online versions are circulated to various statutory boards and ministries.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Music Sunday: "Brand New Day" piano composition

Took me about 7 hours to do this:
Original piano composition: "Brand New Day", 23 Apr 2006. Length of recording: 2min 24sec. MP3 file (565KB).

Archived at

NOTE: Audio output is rather soft. The recording sounds better with headphones or via an amp. The volume for this piece increases progressively, so watch your ear-drums or speakers! :)

Home Music StudioThis is what my "home music studio" looks like. Basically you need (1) a musical instrument, (2) a microphone, and (3) a computer/ software to record and mix.

No expensive equipment required (the piano and computer hardware notwithstanding). The microphone was part of a headset. The software used for recording and mixing was freeware from

Details of the creative and learning process over at My Right Brain.


Tag: creative learning, music

Friday, April 21, 2006

Being a Librarian Vs. Job title = "Librarian"

Last post before I hit the sack:
Read Billy's post about him landing a job as a teacher. He decided he's "fought the good fight" for a library job but time to move on and try something else. Heh, Billy, always be wary of what you wish for, 'cos you just might get it! LOL

I'm just kidding. I've high regards for Billy (hats off to anyone who sets a target of reading a book a week for 52 weeks AND making it happen!)

What I really want to write is the part where he says he couldn't be a librarian. I feel there's a difference between "being called a 'Librarian' based on job title" and "Being a Librarian" per se.

The former is just a Word while the latter is An Attitude.

Good luck, Billy. You might still find yourself a teacher and placed in charged of the school library. If you set your mind to that, I'm sure you'll make that happen. It could be the best of both worlds.

Selected References:


My group boss has a post in our book blog

My divisional boss was sporting enough to contribute this post to the book blog.

At the onset, she asked what we were looking for in a High Browse Online post. We said it could be anything and everything so long it was related to libraries and/ or books. We suggested she write about what she read recently or something she'd like to recommend to others. Said anything between 300 to 500 words would be fine.

She said OK.

When she reverted, I was blown away! She practically submitted a term paper! LOL
Nothing beats having a boss who leads by example, eh? (ooo, brown-nosing!)

: )


Thursday, April 20, 2006

Paul Theroux - In Person, Up Close & Personal

A little bird told me that Paul Theroux wanted to tour Singapore incognito, but apparently a minor coup was pulled off to invite him to CLL for a very informal book reading session. This would certainly be of interest to Paul Theroux fans like this guy and this guy.

Check out the details of the event (Thursday , 27 Apr 2006) at High Browse Online.


Monday, April 17, 2006

Celebrating Libraries: Last call for submissions

celebrating libraries 2006Message from my colleague involved in the NLB Celebrating Libraries initiative:

The deadline for submitting stories for Celebrating Libraries will be closing at the end of this month. So far, the committee has received more than 400 entries from the open category, more than 300 entries for the school category and nearly 50 entries for the Librarian award nominations.
The organising committee would appreciate if you help spread the word (where appropriate) to your friends and colleagues to encourage more entries before the closing date. Here's the mail that you could forward. NOTE: The story you share could be for ANY library, not necessarily an NLB library:
  • Did a book from the library give you the idea for your first business venture?
  • Did a collection of music inspire you to learn an instrument?
  • Did attending a library programme enhance your understanding of a subject?
  • Did a librarian provide invaluable advice that led you to discover new insights?

How has the library transformed YOUR life?

Share your story of how the library has made a positive difference in your life and stand to win attractive prizes, including an iPod Nano, a 3G mobile phone and hotel stays. What's more, your story could be among the selected stories to be published into a book.

To submit your story, visit or any participating library to pick up an entry form.

Closing date for entries is 30 April 2006.

The library (public library in particular) has meant different things to me at different stages in my life. It's certainly transformed my life. If not "transformation", then at least "shaped" my life in very positive and influential ways, though this recognition comes as an afterthought.

During Secondary School days, it was a place to hang out with my neighbourhood friends. For some reason, we liked to meet at the Young Adult section half an hour before the library closed (around 8.30pm). We weren't rowdy or anything. We'd meet there, chat (softly) and browse (sometimes we'd borrow, but more often than not it was a meeting place) afterwhich we'd adjourn to the nearby coffeeshop to have supper before heading home. We did this at least once a week. It was part of our teenage lifestyle even before the concept of a "lifestyle library" was conceived then.

And also during that time up till National Service, the public library represented a place where I could spend my time constructively and save money during the school term breaks.

My first full-time job was with the public library. It's still my only job as of this post. I also got to know my wife at the library. Fwah, romantic right? Not really, my wife would attest... : )

The authors whose ideas and information have been encrypted in the materials I use so often from the public library have been -- at various times -- my teachers, counselors, therapists, and companions (on long trips).

It is through the library (my job, that is) that I was exposed to the Internet. It's through my job with the library that I've had so many opportunities to meet people, Singaporeans as well as guests from overseas. It was an overseas visitor who introduced me to blogs...

I could go on and on... well, not really. My personal story would end here. Not that it would END here, just that my conscious awareness of the influence of libraries in my life is really up to this point. I'm sure in 10 year's time, I'd be able to write a whole lot more when I do the same reflection.

So, how have libraries influenced your life?


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Philosophical discussion on "Reading"

I'm blogging my response to Alice's (It's All Good) question, "What's considered Reading anymore?":
A few examples:

I find it quite an important question -- one that may impact on the role of libraries. Libraries and librarians often pride ourselves as champions of the reading habit. How libraries and librarians define and understand "reading" would determine what we do and how we see the profession developing.

Personally, in the context of today's Information Society, I think of "reading" as: The act of an individual transferring ideas and concepts [1], encrypted in some commonly understandable code [2], and which is contained in Information Containers [3], via their eyes to their conscious brain [4].

Just to clarify:
[1] - Ideas and concepts: This would mean more than text. It includes images, audio, or a combination

[2] - Commonly understandable code: Just my complicated way of saying a common language or common context (i.e. images, sounds)

[3] - Information Containers: This could be a printed book, an audio tape, a DVD, a webpage etc. Whatever materials, tools and technologies used to store and render the "ideas and concepts" in useable form.

[4] - Eyes to conscious brain: What I mean is that the "reading" is a conscious behaviour. The individual has to be an active participant. E.g. I sit down to watch a TV show, or listen to a CD, or read a book, or surf the net.

Of course realistically speaking, this is too broad a definition for libraries to adopt. Or is it?

Libraries in developed countries today are already providing their users access to more than just books (which is just one type of "Information Container"). They are helping customers get access to the Internet, to audio-visual materials. Just that right now, the "ideas and concepts" or information that the library chooses to acquire (for various reasons) use the printed book as the predominant format.

Alice also asks, "Can we still call our information consumers 'readers'". Well, I for one tend to use the term "Library Customer".

I think the real issue is one of "measurement" if we adopt a wider definition of "reading", but that's for another post.


Art Sunday: Green Plant

MyRightBrain.wordpress.comActually I did this on a Saturday. Here's the "How it was done" post, if you care to read it. Surprisingly, I found writing the "How to" post just as fun as the actual sketching and painting.

Come to think of it, what I like about art is the process of achieving the finished work. Documenting the step-by-step process was a way of refreshing that memory, as well as an archive of the process rather than just the finished product. It's part of the individual's learning journey (which includes the sharing component).

Thinking aloud...

  • Is there any value in libraries helping people create such personal archives/ documentation of their learning journeys?
  • Or the library doesn't have a role at all, since there's already the Internet and blogs and other social software?
  • If the library has a role, what would it be?

Tag: ,

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Late-breaking news: Unlimited Wordpress blogs

[Found out about this via LazyDrive] - Ah, so now offers Unlimited Blogs:
Ever wanted to start a new blog on and had to register a new account even though you already had one and just wanted another blog, not another login? That was pretty annoying, huh?

No longer! Now when you go to as a logged in user, it lets you simply add another blog to your stable. As many as you want, need, or desire — no limits. You may also notice that when you're logged in the homepage gives you a link to the admin section of all blogs that you have access to.

One more reason to use Will react to this? If they do, I can think of a few suggestions.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Directory of Australian blogs (

Learnt about this via ConnectingLibrarian:
" is a free community resource to bookmark your favourite Australian blogs. Similar to (but less invasive - we don't need you to register or login), you can add your bookmarks or just browse to see what's popular."

More from the About Page:
:: It MUST BE about an Australian subject or topic; OR by an Australian; OR have a .au domain name.
:: It MUST BE a blog.
:: *** NO ADULT CONTENT OR SPAM PLEASE! *** (a zero-tolerance approach will be taken) is staffed by a small but dedicated team of volunteers who believe that the Australian blogosphere produces high quality blogs that are just as good, if not better than those available offshore. Local content for local readers.

ConnectingLibrarian wrote at the beginning of her post:
We here in Australia are still pretty new to blogs, especially in libraries and especially compared to the US, but we are catching up. However, there is a new tool available to Australian bloggers and to those seeking Australian blogs, which will hopefully help our local blogs to become more a part of mainstream internet access and use here in Australia.

Yes, I'm sure with a "meta-blog", there will be greater awareness of blogs and bloggers. As I reflect on similar efforts like and, I see two clear trends:
  • Such efforts are almost always volunteer initiated
  • There may be some organisational involvement (as in the case of but it's sustained by a small team of passionate volunteers

Thinking aloud:

I'm convinced that as the Internet/ Blogosphere grows, rather than finding the need for libraries and librarians being diminished, there's actually an increase in the need for information/ information sources to be organised/ categorised and perhaps filtered (depending on the need).

However, this won't happen if libraries and librarians aren't proactive about it. What seems to be the case is that libraries and librarians (as a whole) are being reactive and late adopters to such developments. I mean, ideally it should be a bunch of librarians volunteering to setup such meta-blogs. Principle of First-mover advantage (not in the competitive sense, but more of establishing a need).

Perhaps libraries and librarians are too institutionalised, and therefore unable to react as fast. Maybe there isn't a need for libraries to be proactive about the development and adoption of social software and online user behaviours, because we have other priorities? Or is it due to a mentality of "let's stick to what's tried and tested, and let others do the experimenting first"?

Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. : )

Highlights from NLB Blogs

Selected posts from NLB's Public Libraries book blog, High Browse Online, and the National Library (NL) programmes blog:

The World Cup fever is already upon us and not even the National Library is spared! In the month of May, the theme is going to be Sports and Games and the National Library will be running a variety of related programmes, talks and events with the focus on "The Beautiful Game". In particular, there is going to be a panel discussion where prominent local football personalities would be invited to share their thoughts on issues and events leading up to Germany.

  • NLB Librarian publishes book - "What A Stupid Question" (Congratulations to my colleague, Sharmini, on the launch of her book):
Written by an NLB librarian, it is about many of the great ideas and inventions that probably started off as a stupid question. Easy to read and filled with short stories about 35 inventions and ideas, it is a book that should appeal to teenagers right up to seniors. Read one story a day and you can be inspired to think of a stupid question that could change your life!

What is interesting is their 'The Entrepreneur's Bookshelf', where they feature recommendations on what the good reads are for the aspiring, as well as the seasoned entrepreneur!

The School of Communication & Information, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is conducting a research study and would like to talk to Singaporean women about watching Korean TV dramas. If you are a female Singaporean above 25 years old, loooove Korean dramas and have been regularly watching it for at least one year or longer, you might just be the one they're looking for! [Details here]

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Updates on Yesterday.SG

Some updates relating to the Yesterday.SG blog (via Siva's blog):
  • Recording of Walter's radio interview on The Breakfast Show, NewsRadio 93.8FM
  • Meetup No. 2 (great summary by Siva on significant developments since the 1st meeting)

Also spotted NoelbyNature's update. So who else blogged about it? Did I miss anyone?

An account about Nothing: Yesterday.SG meetup, NYDC Holland Village, 7 Apr

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

NLB launches an SMS Reference Service

Read the story from CNA (11 Apr 2006):
From wherever they are, users can now SMS the library their information needs.

Questions can range from specific ones, such as "What is date of birth of George Washington?", to something more general like "Where do I find information on Singapore and Malaysia mass media?"

And depending on how elaborate it is, replies can be received within a few minutes to a day.

The number to send your SMS is 9178 7792. Your usual SMS charges apply of course. Yet another example of how technology is making possibilities for library services into reality.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

On Board The September Project

It's official -- I'm on the 2006 advisory board of The September Project (TSP).

David and Sarah emailed me with a very sincere invitation. I checked with my bosses. I had to explain what TSP was about, how my involvement was relevant, and the extent of my involvement. The green-light was given. I also understand that TSP will be including more people outside the US as advisors. TSP has truly gone international (which they have in practice two years back).

I'm fond of telling people that TSP is NOT about the USA, or about the tragic attack, or about espousing Western values. Here's what TSP about page says (emphasis mine):
"The September Project is a grassroots effort to get people together on September 11th to talk about issues that matter. September Project events take place in libraries, where all people are welcomed, and where the exchange of information and ideas flourish. The September Project encourages individual communities — neighbors — to make sense of the world together."

My interpretation:
  • TSP is about Libraries playing a central role in facilitating conversations. The topics discussed vary from countries to countries. What's important is dialogue.
  • "It's about community, not geography". Good intents have no borders.
  • Dialogue precedes action.
  • "Change the world, one friend at a time". Understanding precedes acceptance.

You say the "Rambling Librarian" should be called the "Naive Librarian"? Maybe.

But at least I believe in something. : )


Conversations about the SG Blogosphere with a non-blogger

#1 - Word-of-Mouth Effect in the SG Blogosphere
This afternoon, I opined to a friend (who's not a blogger) that the Word-of-Mouth effect in the Singapore Blogosphere doesn't seem to be very prevalent -- at least to me. My sense was that SG bloggers tend to just visit a blog, or read the RSS feed, and that's it. They may leave a comment, but they don't really blog about it even if they like what they read (I'm referring to blogging about what they've read, rather than starting new blog topics).

That being said, here's one recent example of the word-of-mouth effect, where Preetam plugs the library's Heartlands Bookclub. Since the launch of High Browse Online, I've tracked about 12 citations by bloggers in the SG Blogosphere (16, if I include overseas bloggers and citations at

I guess it depends on what one expects by "word-of-mouth", i.e. how many blog posts does it take to be considered to be sufficiently talked about? Maybe your observations are different (you can prove me wrong by blogging about it, heh).

#2 - To blog or not to blog?
Oh, and the friend I had lunch with -- he's not a blogger... yet.

He sees the value of blogs as a communication and social tool. I sensed his interest in writing (which he confirmed). He's an articulate chap, a thinker and voracious reader (he says he borrows and buys more books than he can finish). He could probably make time to blog (disciplined guy). All things considered, his concern was whether he'd end up just writing frivolous stuff.

I suggested he blog about being a new father. He might end up getting connected to other fathers who blog. He might even be leaving a web-documentary for his son. Nothing frivolous about that.

"The short-term impact of any new technology tends to be overestimated, while its long-term impact is underestimated" ~ Arthur C. Clarke

#3 - Impact of blogs on the Next Generation
One thing that's unclear though, is how the blog archives would affect those who are being blogged about.

Let's say my friend does blog about his son well into this son's school going years. One day, his son comes home and complains that his friends read the father's blog and made fun of him by citing embarassing moments mentioned in the blog. The blog might be deleted but copies might exist in cache or archives.

It could happen. Or not.

Perhaps the generation that grew up with blogs might accept it as a way of life and have different notions of personal privacy. Or not.

I guess bloggers need to have what I'd call "Future-Situational Awareness". I came across the term "Situational Awareness" most often in the context of law enforcement or the military to mean (in a simple sense) "knowing what's going on around you". In the blog context, Future-Situational Awareness just means knowing what might happen in the future if we blog about it.

Rule of thunb: "If I blog about this, how would the person being blogged about feel today, tomorrow, or 10 years later?"

Anyway, I don't want to scare this friend of mine, if he's reading this. I trust he'll weigh the pros and cons and decide what he wants to do. If I were in his shoes, I'd blog about his experience as a father.

I know that as a son, if I'd read what my father wrote when he was bringing me and my siblings up, I'd have a better appreciation of what he and my mother had gone through. Even reading about seemingly frivolous stuff would give me a sense of what life was like when I was too young to know what was going on.

Blogs are just tools. What's more important is how we conduct ourselves through life. The same principle applies no matter if we blog or not.

Tag: ,

Instructables: Social Innovation site

Learnt about this via Jeremiah's blog:
Instructables is a social innovation website that enables users to upload and share processes for items and projects that may not be documented elsewhere. Lots of creativity, collaboration, and engineering within this community.
We have sites that allow photo-sharing, and then video, text, audio... and now, a site for sharing "processes". The way I see it, it's about sharing ideas and tacit knowledge, and making them public. Nothing spectacular. All quite simple. But often, it's the simple ideas that are brilliant.

I like it.

The Instructables site offer a few feeds, it seems. I've subscribed to this one.

This is also something close to a project that I've been tasked to do, something to do with changing mindsets and preceptions about "Learning". I should be able to blog about it soon, 'cos it's something related to NLB's Library 2010.

Tag: ,

Monday, April 10, 2006

Mr. Miyagi on "Secret Histories" (or, "Why we have Yesterday.SG")

In a recent Sunday Times column, Janadas Devan wrote the following in his article, "Why all the fuss over blogs?" (02 April 2006)*:
The science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke said once that the short-term impact of any new technology tends to be overestimated, while its long-term impact is underestimated. Blogging is still in its infancy, and its impact is probably being exaggerated, chiefly by alarmists in the traditional media. And we cannot predict as yet what its long-term impact might be, for we lack the imagination to do so.

I remembered that when I wrote this for Yesterday.SG, which was published today:
Mr. Miyagi on "Secret Histories" (or, "Why we have Yesterday.SG")
April 10, 2006

I must qualify that I don’t know Mr. Miyagi very well, at least not like how the editors know him. I’ve only conversed with him face-to-face one time thus far, and a brief exchange at that. So it was a pleasant surprise for me when he emailed me this message:

Stumbled on an entry in my own archives. Dunno why, but I think you might like to read it.

I read it and I liked it. Mr. Miyagi got his hunch right.

But it’s a hard post to classify though. Not because it’s unclear but because it’s a weave of many things—about Heritage (his excerpt of his childhood in Pasir Panjang Road), about Relationships (something to do with a love letter)... Maybe I liked that particular post because there’s a subtle message that articulates the reason for Yesterday.SG (at least as how I understand it). It’s about leaving a record of our personal histories (i.e. Secret Histories), no matter how trivial.

I suspect there are many out there who visit Yesterday.SG but hesitate to contribute stories. Perhaps you hesitate because you think your stories are trivial. Someone told me not everyone’s father plays basketball and posed with the late Chiang Kai-shek (I shan’t mention names) : )

For the record, while I read Mr. Miyagi’s blog from time to time, I don’t necessarily agree with everything he writes (just in case you think I’m sucking up to a A-list blogger). What I do agree strongly is this: “... we should document, narrate and journalise other things.

I feel that what is trivial is not for us to judge. Let’s leave that to time, shall we?

* You ought to read Janadas Devan's article. It's a refreshing and lucid piece that doesn't go into blog-bashing, but points out objectively what it's really about.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Follow-up: Art Sunday: Batgirl Chinese-style (Batgirl Meme)

I hope Billy Tan's not blog-stalking me (I'm kidding), 'cos minutes after I posted my entry on my Chinese-style Batgirl, he left this comment:
all thats missing is a name for her sword. wats a wuxia character without a kickass special weapon with a dumbass name?

My reply: "Elsie".

Not exactly a *ahem* kickass-special-weapon-with-dumbass-name in the tradition of Wu-xia (Sword-fighting novels) like "Blade-That-Slays-Dragons" or "Heavenly-Sword".

But let me elaborate why "Elsie". It's a joke I remember from some library-related mailing list. I can't remember the joke verbatim so I've provided my own version as I remembered it. I don't think I tell it as well as when I first read it but here goes:
A new administrator (let's call him Joe) joins a regularly scheduled library meeting for the first time. The librarians are cordial and friendly, but they soon launch into acroymn-filled library-related discussions on collection development and management, cataloguing, services etc. Finally, after a few meetings, Joe couldn't take it anymore and he asks, "You know, I finally figured out who Dewey was. But for the life of me, I still don't know who's this Elsie that you all keep referring to. She seems to be a very important person."

Turned out, Joe was referring to the Library of Congress Subject Headings -- LCSH, which is frequently verbalised as "Al-See-As-Hage" ("L-C-S-H"), or "LC" in short.

Get it?

Ok, if you have suggestions for kick-ass names for the sword for my Batgirl, please go ahead and leave your comments. No need to be restrained on my account. Just keep it clean, eh? :)

Art Sunday: Batgirl Chinese-style (Batgirl Meme)

In my previous Batgirl meme post, I wrote that I might draw my version of Batgirl after I completed some "homework". And here's my Batgirl, Chinese-style!

BatGirl Chinese Style (Apr 2006)I took about a month to do this, from research to completion, working on it bits and pieces at a time (basically, whenever I felt like continuing with it).

So, why Chinese-style?

Looking at the samples posted at the originating meme post (which is still going strong!), I noticed the Batgirls were done Western style -- basically variants of the original Batgirl.

I thought it would be a refreshing change to do one Chinese-style, starting with the Bat motif.

BatGirl ChineseStyle_0I used Google image search for "Chinese Bat" for references on the Chinese Bat motif (which tended to be rounder than the late Bob Kane's version.

I decided that my Batgirl would be a Chinese Swords-woman, relying on her martial arts skills rather than technical gadgets.

Her mask was inspired by my vague memory of some black-and-white Chinese movie in the 60s, featuring a masked woman who did good (kinda like Batgirl).

The image search for a Chinese Swords-woman was a lot harder. I tried keywords like "Chinese Swordswoman", "Chinese woman sword", which led me to search for "wushu". I even tried "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon". I realised I had better results if I turned the Google Safe-filter off.

As a final touch, I added the Chinese character for "Woman" -- "" in the background.

All in all, it was an interesting exercise and I'm glad I did it. For one, it was good practice on Photoshop (the picture was done entirely in Photoshop, from sketching to painting). But more important, the creative process itself made me feel good.

I've blogged more about the Photoshop process over at

Tag: ,

Art Sunday: Cat-n-Mouse

Cat-N-Mouse (Apr 2006)
"Cat 'N' Mouse". Pencil & Ink on plain paper. 9 Apr 2006

I was reading Siva's post, "Mr Bats keeps me company", and decided to practice drawing Mr. Bats (his cat). And then I noticed the computer mouse, and looked as if Mr. Bats was trying to touch it. Which inspired me to draw the above picture.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

You can measure the ROI of blogging when...

For those considering Corporate Blogging or setting up blogs using organisation resources, you might have been asked, "What's the Return On Investment [ROI] if I set up one?" -- which is just corporate-speak for, "How do I know what I'm getting in return and that I'm not wasting my money?"

Jeremiah has an elegant way of providing a response. Brilliant.

Friday, April 07, 2006

An account about Nothing: Yesterday.SG meetup, NYDC Holland Village, 7 Apr

Me, to Siva, via SMS: "hi, is NYDC within walking distance from buona vista mrt?"

Siva: "Yes"

Me (30mins later): "hi, if i'm now at the CC, am I in the right direction?"

That's me, the sua-ku trying to find my way to Holland Village after work, probably the only person in Singapore unsure of how to get to that popular hangout place. I reached the cafe eventually, only because I'd bumped into Preetam. Turned out I'd reached Holland Village alright but walked past the cafe first time round. I'd totally missed the NYDC sign, which in my opinion, wasn't prominent enough, so it ain't my fault right?

Even before food was served to our party of 13, I found myself surrounded by three Macs, which somehow led to a demo of the Mac's video screening/ sharing capabilities, and an impressive demo of Google Earth by Siva (he's got a new Macbook Pro... show-off!)

In fact, look at what Siva had for dessert...

... as opposed to mine:

I noticed a quiet lady sitting opposite me. Must be one of the Yesterday.SG friends/ editors that I've not met in person.

"Hi, I'm Ivan. I don't believe we've met... "

She told me her name.

"I'm sorry?"

She told me again.

I gave her the blur sotong look.

"I'm OceanSkies."



And throughout the evening, if I didn't have her namecard on hand, I'd have only remembered her by her blog name.

I asked what Oceanskies did. She told me. I became more interested. We were practically shouting over the din of other diners, not to mention the streams of cross-conversations that took place left-right of us among the other Yesterday.SG guest editors who turned up. Oceanskies and I ended with an agreement to follow-up about collaborative opportunities, work-wise.

At one point, I turned to Siva and asked if he had achieved whatever he wanted to achieve by organising the first meetup after the launch of He looked at me (all so serious) and said, "The objective was just to meetup. There's no agenda. See, you met Oceanskies and you've networked with her."

Writing this blog post, I appreciate even more how online social tools & software serve to enhance physical interactions, rather than alienate people. Far from finding my social skills diluted, the opposite was true.

I can't say I know the bloggers very well as individuals but what I do know (from reading what they choose to blog) gave me a better sense of how to ask and where to start the conversation. It certainly makes it easier to say things I normally wouldn't say to total strangers whom I'm meeting for the first time.


Ideas on how the Library can reach out to people who find it physically inconvenient to get to the library

My colleague over at High Browse Online just blogged this:
Perhaps secretly, I'm hoping that there is someone who has been reading our blog, who wants to visit the library more often, but finds it really challenging to do so. Someone who can give us ideas that are feasible... [Read More]

Incidentally, the first comment was an anonymous one that said: "you guys are wasting for time soliciting for feedback, just provide free delivery service to them."

Soliciting feedback considered a waste of time? I bet you anonymous there ain't cut out to be a librarian : )

Seriously though, it's not a matter of just providing free delivery. One has to plan the entire service from a holistic point of view (e.g. type of collection, access within the library, access to the library, alternative modes, and so on). As Elf subsequently replied, enabling independent access would be a better idea and that's the ultimate goal if you ask me.

As I've learnt from my MSc dissertation, the needs of people with disabilities are no different from you and I. In the concluding paragraph, I wrote: "Ccompared to developed countries, Singapore lags behind in the provision of public library services to the disabled."

That study was completed in 1999/ 2000. I'm glad to say since early part of 2000, there's increased emphasis by the NLB management on services to the "Disadvantaged" (a very broad category that includes people with disabilities). I wish I could say that was brought about by my groundbreaking dissertation but alas, my study was neither groundbreaking and I doubt if they read my thesis. : )

I doubt if Singapore will see any specific legislation for the provision of services to people with disabilities (apart from legislation on building codes). I'm still half-hearted whether legislation is a good thing.

What I'm convinced is that individuals in NLB has the heart for reaching out the people with disabilities (and those in lower social strata). Things are happening, and maybe I'll get permission to blog about it.

But I'm also convinced that NLB cannot do this alone if we want to sustain the service. It's easy to start a service, but difficult to maintain one. Biggest problem is the seemingly lack of demand, if you ask me. The recipients of services that we are trying deliver to should also play a part (either by coming forth with constructive views, or making time and effort to utilise whatever we are trying to provide, or just advocacy).

As they say, it takes two to tango.

Let me just cite the concluding paragraph of my 1999/2000 study:
The information needs and reading habits of wheelchair-bound young people seemed no different from those of any young person. Gender, age, interests, involvement in school projects (or lack of) are factors that determine the kind of information they require. Being wheelchair-bound is not a major determinant of their information needs but is a crucial factor in how they go about obtaining information.

The main problem in using libraries is getting to the library in the first place. Within the library premises, there are problems relating to stairs, curbs, furniture, computer equipment, and other physical obstructions.

The findings of this study suggest that the wheelchair-bound young person wants to make use of public libraries. At present, however, the need for better means of transportation takes precedence over the demand for any other services.

Since its formation in September 1995, the National Library Board has prototyped and introduced new and improved services to make libraries more convenient and accessible. One might venture to say, however, that most of the public library facilities have not been designed with the disabled in mind. Implicit in the implementation of the services has been the assumption that the users are able-bodied. There have been no significant initiatives for the disabled after the formation of the National Library Board in 1995. As priorities have shifted towards fulfilling the goals outlined in the Library 2000 report, it would seem that the needs of the disabled population have been neglected. Compared to developed countries, Singapore lags behind in the provision of public library services to the disabled.

Montgomery (1990) wrote that society and its institutions will be judged by their success in preparing the majority of young people to make an effective and valued contribution to the community as a whole. Thus, enhancing opportunities for this contribution rests on the ability of the National Library Board to enable both able-bodied and disabled persons to make full use of their public libraries.

OK, what's your view or experience? I'd love to hear from you.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

The case for P2P music sharing & downloads

I re-read the post twice. Yup, here's a musician who says it's OK to share music online:
No doubt some people will feel the same way about my new record, Ocky Milk, and that's fine too. These "unconvinced" listeners will at least listen, even if they don't buy. That may not matter to the RIAA, but it matters to me as an artist. And even if these people don't buy this record, they may buy another one, or they may come to a live show, or they may pay for a track off iTunes or E Music.

Or, you know, one of these downloaders may have sex with me, or give me a column in a magazine, or ask me to come and give a talk at an art school, or collaborate on a project, and that will lead to, you know, marriage, or a surprise twist in the career path, or something equally amazing. "Peer-to-peer" can mean much more than just sharing music.

Full post can be read here (alerted by Myrtle Peacock).

Job alert: National Heritage Board (NHB) is looking for...

Posting on behalf of a friend:
NHB is looking for someone to fill their Assistant Director (AD) or Senior Manager (SM) position for audience development or industry promotion. Required work experience about 6 - 8 years for SM and more for AD position. Ideally somebody with experience in marketing communications, events management and lifestyle/ tourism industries.
Details are over here.

Interested? Position is on contract basis.

Monday, April 03, 2006

My father, Basketball, and the late President Chiang Kai-shek

[Abridged version published at], 4 April 2006]

Over the years, I've told people that my father used to play for the Singapore national basketball team in the 1960s. But when pressed for details, I wasn't able to give any, simply because I had none.

My earliest awareness about my father's basketball days stemmed from one particular photo, with a particular man in it. When I was old enough to learn who was that man in the centre of the photo (which you'll soon see if you read on), I started to pay a little more interest but still not a lot.

Growing up, there were times my father would relate some memorable events but again, I didn't attempt to find out more (let's just say that in my growing-up years, my relationship with my father was typical of most Asian families of our generation then -- where the father was the disciplinarian and heart-to-heart conversations between fathers and sons existed only in American TV shows).

All that I knew thus far were that: (1) the 1960s were the heady days of basketball in Singapore, and (2) my father had represented Singapore to play in the Asian games and overseas tournaments.

My father's story was made all the more credible by my mother. She usually stayed out of his other stories but she'd add a brief word or two about his days as a national player.

Recently, when I emailed my brother about my (immensely small) part in, I suggested that we interview my father for a basketball story. My brother liked the idea about posting in but he'd rather that I do the interview.

"You know how Pa is like. Once he starts with his story, he will never stop", wrote my brother. That was that.

So yesterday, when my wife and I dropped by my parent's place for one of our weekend dinners, I took the chance to ask my father about the photo.

“Pa, 你还有没有你以前打篮球的 photo?”
[Pa, do you still have those photos from your basketball days?"]

“有! 很多.你要哪一个?”
[Yes. Plenty. Which one do you want?]

“那张有 Chiang Kai-shek 在里面的.”
[The one with Chiang Kai-shek in it.]

He brought out a photo album. This was what I was referring to:
1955 Malayan Basketball Team in Formosa (front)

I asked more questions (it wasn't that hard, now that I had a specific purpose -- which was to write a post for And this was what I learnt:
My father played for the National Squad (if it could be called that) from around 1954 to 1976 1966. He was around 21 when he joined and remained the only left-hander during those years. He finally retired from the squad at the age of 33, after 22 12 years.

According to my father, basketball clubs existed in the pre-war years (i.e. pre-1942) and continued well into the post-war, post-colonial, and post-independence years (Singapore gained Independence in 1965).

The above photo was taken in 1955. It's particularly significant because it was taken with the late leader of Taiwan ROC, Chiang Kai-shek and his wife, Soong May-ling (click on image to see larger version). Don't believe me? Cross reference with this photo and this one.

My father is/ was the young man at the front row, second from left.

I asked how the picture came to be. My father said a basketball tournament had been organised in Taiwan as part of the celebrations for Chiang Kai-shek's birthday. Various teams had been invited to play (I forgot to ask from which countries). The team my father was in comprised of players from Malaya and Singapore (this was in 1955, before Merger, Separation and Independence).

The team was known as 马华 (Ma- Hua), taking the first Chinese character for “Malaya” (马来亚) and Chinese (华, to mean Singapore). The players in the photo were the selected few from Malaya and Singapore.

I asked my father if he and his team mates shook hands with the late President Chiang. He said no. There was heavy security and teams were simply ushered in and out of the palace like a production line.

I play basketball, in case you were wondering, but I doubt if I'm as good as my father ever was. Certainly not National Team material. So I'm doing what I can do slightly better, which is to write about it.

Last year, a Chinese newspaper reporter took this picture. My father's the taller guy on the left of the picture, with Mr Ho (also an ex-national player who played with my father) on the right.
2005 He Liansiu and Zhou Anjin

Both men are now in their early 70s.

As I write this, my father is still in relatively good health for his age. From the way he works the garden at the Community Centre, you'd never tell he has a Defibrillator in his chest. He can out-lift some youngsters more than half his age (flower pots filled with soil aren't light at all). Benefits of a sporting lifestyle, eh?

He and his basketball buddies are also working as part-time basketball coaches for students in some primary and secondary schools. I doubt if his students know of their backgrounds and glory days. Perhaps one day they'll read and say, "Hey, that was my basketball coach... and I had no idea."

It's funny... while I'd seen that 1955 photo with Chiang Kai-shek as a child, it was only yesterday, 2 Apr, 2006 (writing for that I've learnt a story behind it. And as I write this now, I realised I almost my father's age when he retired from playing basketball.

Perhaps I should come clean.

Writing for is just a catalyst, almost an excuse (albeit a very good one) for me to tell the world, "That's my father."

Oh, and he used to play for Singapore.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Art Sunday: My version of Halo

I was attracted to this picture from Kevin's blogpost on the upcoming Halo Graphic Novel:
The Halo Graphic Novel (by Marvel & Bungie Studio)

Which reminded me of this drawing I did way back in 1989:
1989 (May) Armour

Mmm... some similarities there. I guess body armour design doesn't really vary much over the years, does it? And there's the Japanese Anime (ala Gundam) element as well. Here's the gist of how my picture came about (hint: Star Wars Imperial Tie-fighter pilot).

I've not played Halo before (although I almost wanted to buy the game once). Maybe I'll stick to drawing a few more sketches. See if I can come up with an updated body armour design. Shall go check out these books in the library (suggested keywords: "armour", "armour technology", "armour warfare"):

coverModern weapons and warfare: The technology of war from 1700 to the present day
by Will Fowler.
NLB Call No.: Y q355.809 FOW (Young People's Collection)

coverTwentieth-century arms & armour
by Stephen Bull.
NLB Call No.: R 355.820904 BUL (LKCRL collection, reference only)
This book charts the development of modern weaponry from 1900 through to the present day, discussing both close combat and high-tech warfare. In addition other types of arms, such as those used in sport and civil defence, are fully explored.

coverWarfare in Ancient Greece: Arms and armour from the heroes of Homer to Alexander the Great
by Tim Everson.
NLB Call No.: q355.00938 EVE