Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Returning to a simpler, practical life? This is it!

Without a doubt, I've embraced the Digital Life.

I'm reliant on the Internet, computers and other technological equipment for work and personal use. I've grown to depend on digital cameras, mobile phones and computers. Emails and blogs play a significant part in how I maintain personal contacts and relationships.

Then from time to time, I'd wonder where this Digital Life is taking me? A bit like what Greg (soundclasher/ surfer/ biker/ English teacher) was thinking:
For a long time I've daydreamed of returning to a simpler, more practical life. A life filled with more tangible things. I'm worried our generation will see a day when electronics become boat anchors; be it due to neutron bombs, energy exhaustion, global collapse, environmental rage... or Mr. Kim Il, my next door neighbor! If this happens, and even if it doesn't, what am I left with, both physically and mentally?

"A life filled with more tangible things" -- these seven words struck me.

Greg goes on to hyphothesise on what he might do with his computer, MIDI keyboard, MP3 player and cameras if thrown back to the stone age.

But I'm not thinking about the "What if technology fails" scenario (though my take on that is life will go on and that life will find a way).

What I've asked myself was whether there's any real use to all the hours I spend on making music and art on the computer, blogging, reading blogs, taking far more digital pictures than I have time to view, emailing and IMing with friends and contacts...

(At this point, some of my friends would say "get a kid" but let's not go there -- I don't want to start a debate on "having a life means having children" and all that).

But then the more I thought about it, the more I ask myself, "What's the tangible stuff anyway?"

And finally I figured, "This IS the simpler, practical life!"

I'm (in my own words) an "In-betweener" -- a generation conscious of a life that was pre-digital/ Internet, but have embraced a post-Internet one wholeheartedly. I prefer dabbling on the computer for music and art (as opposed to the non-computer way"), for various reasons. It's part of my regular routine to start up the computer (at home) to go online, check emails, read a couple of blogs, write one if I feel like it.

But I'm not born into the Digital Life. I still maintain a written journal which I write entries till this day (stuff that I don't blog about). I still draw, sketch and paint on paper. If there's a opportunity for a "live" band jam session, I'd still want to get together.

And there are things that the Digital Life can never fulfill, to which I've sought other means -- running, swimming (mostly procrastinating about them two but...), tai-chi, and recently, yoga. Most of all, the companionship of my wife and our dog, my families and close friends.

This blog post could very well be my self-justification for the life I have. I'd prefer to think of it as catharsis.

The things I do, the digital lifestyle that I lead -- they just make sense to me; I find them balanced and productive; they don't interfere with my job (and I try my darnest not to allow my job to interfere in them); I derive personal satisfaction from those activities.

We don't always have to do things to lead to somewhere specific (and this is the same principle as reading for pleasure -- as opposed to work -- isn't it?)

I've accepted that the Digital and the Non-digital aspects make up my life. It is as simple and practical a life as I know it.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The story behind the picture (go over and say hello)

Tinkertailor takes a break from griping about his cubicle and posts this thoughtful piece about what (in my view) could possibly the most important aspect in any artistic endeavor:
“Many times, when we take pictures of people, we just go over and start snapping. We’re only concerned about capturing nice pictures, capturing expressions for that moment, and then we go somewhere else to take other pictures...

But we forget that when we’re capturing the human emotion, we first need to understand it, to feel it, and before we can do that, we also need to understand and feel the environment… "

Something tells me that if you agree with what Tinkertailor says in his post, you probably have an affinity with libraries. It's just my gut feel.

I'd like to think that libraries are repositories of stories captured in words. I also think that libraries (of the near future) ought to be places where new stories are created. But more of that later.

For now, go get yourself a cuppa, take a few sips and let the message sink in.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Rambling Librarian's Podcast: "Electric Rain Dance 8"

I hope that you enjoy this. I had loads of fun making this -- bit by bit, track by track, layer by layer. Took me maybe 2 weeks. Not grammy material but I'm pretty darn pleased with it anyhow.

"Electric Rain Dance 8" - 4mins 32secs
Genre: Rock

powered by ODEO

The drum beats and sound effects were mixed and matched from generic loops from GarageBand. The guitar rhythm and melodies were played from a 'live' instrument -- specifically this baby here:
My guitarI had this guitar for more than 12 years. Mucking around with the Mac gave me a reason to give the good old guitar a good wipe down and a new set of strings.

The rhythmn and melody is based on the Em (E-minor), D, C and G chords. Pretty basic stuff.

Oh, don't ask me to play it again 'cos I didn't write down anything. Thinking about it now, I guess how I create music is a lot like how I paint -- each piece is an original and hard to duplicate. That's because I've never been formally trained in music theory. What I learnt about up about the playing the electric guitar has been from friends and from library books (in that order). I probably could learn music theory from library books but nah, I'll pass.

For me, each musical piece is like an original painting -- once I finish it, it's done. I enjoy it for what it is, and for the learning process, and start over.

My Odeo Podcast

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

I've got a verbYL t-shirt

Now isn't this nice! I've got a verbYL t-shirt:
verbYL 2verbYL 1

Thanks very much to Aussie liblogarian, Deb (aka Real Public Librarian). If you want to know what is verbYL (very cool name, btw) read this post. I think T-shirts are a very simple yet effective way to publicise a teens library service.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Japanese Royalty visits Singapore National Library

OLKGAL flickr picture
Emperor and Empress of Japan drops by National Library, Singapore on 9th June 2006 - via Singapore Liblogarian olkgal.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Some values are timeless (i.e. "R.I.P. Diana")

I'll tell you why I'm blogging this later. But first, a brief summary of what the Otterman (Siva) has been up to regarding a Dugong carcass that washed up on Singapore's shore recently:

  • 6 Jun 06: He gets notified of a discovery of a Dugong carcass. Stands-by for permission to retrieve and dissect carcass for biological study

  • 6 Jun 06: Emails the folks at Yesterday.SG on what knives to buy. Buys the knives (for dissecting the carcass)

  • 7 Jun 06: Dissects carcass in the field (WARNING: graphic picture ahead). Adds a reference to a text on Procedures for the Salvage and Necropsy of the Dugong

  • 10 Jun 06:
  • Gave name to dugong and dedicates a message

Here's why I'm blogging about this:

I've been following the whole Dugong Carcass episode since Siva alerted the bunch of us at Yesterday.sg. But up till Siva's last post on 10 Jun, I viewed the entire episode as just one more incident in the whole business of science. Nothing wrong with it, just that it's all so very... clinical and detached. Almost routine.

This evening, reading his dedication to the Dugong, whom they've named Diana, I felt compelled to left Siva a comment -- that his post "reminds me of stories of hunters who, after killing the prey, thank the gods and also the animal spirit that provided food. It's not so much superstition but respect for life."

In this day and age of technological gadgetry, I find comfort that some values are universal and timeless. Personally I need this reminder, particularly on Sunday nights before the weekly headlong rush into the routines and pursuits of day-to-day living begins.

Respect -- for all life and life-forms on earth, dead or alive.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

How to convert MP4 audio files to MP3 using iTunes

Here's something I learnt -- how to convert MP4 audio files to MP3 using iTunes version 7.x on a Mac (if you're using iTunes 8.x, the Import option has been moved to: General-> Preferences-> Import Settings-> Import Using):


Background: I'd created my Saturday In May in GarageBand and it was saved as an MP4 audio file. Apparently some of my friends were unable to play in that format so I searched for a way to make the conversion. Kevin described broadly how it could be done via iTunes.

I'd also found this freeware called Switch (www.nch.com.au/switch), which worked quite well but I realised iTunes, while a bit cumbersome compared to using a software convertor, allowed more control over the conversion (e.g. setting the bit rate and overall sound quality). So here's a step-by-step process of how a conversion could be done using iTunes (click on the images for larger sizes):

#1 - Open iTunes:
Convert MP4 audio to MP3 - step 1

#2 - At iTunes, select the song you want to convert. In this case, I've selected "Saturday In May" among my other song titles:
Convert MP4 audio to MP3 - step 2

#3 - Go to your iTunes menu bar, select Preferences (or you can press 'Command' and 'comma' keys, i.e. "⌘,"):
Convert MP4 audio to MP3 - step 3

#4 - At the Preferences window, select the 'Advanced' option:
Convert MP4 audio to MP3 - step 4

#5 - At the 'Advanced' section, click on the button that says 'Importing' and then for the part on 'Import Using', choose 'MP3 Encoder':
Convert MP4 audio to MP3 - step 5

#6 - Under Settings, choose 'Custom' (you can choose any of the options there, but 'Custom' settings ensures you set the right bit rate as you will see in step #7):
Convert MP4 audio to MP3 - step 6

#7 - If you've selected 'Custom', you'll see this window; just check that your Stereo Bit Rate and Sample Rate are to your desired settings (sorry, I can't give through explanation on audio settings. I just know that it's safest to set the Sample Rate at 44.1 khz or else the audio file you upload might playback with a Sped-up High-pitched Chipmunk effect)
Convert MP4 audio to MP3 - step 7

#8 - Close the Preferences window; here I'll just double check that I've selected the right song
Convert MP4 audio to MP3 - step 8

#9 - At the iTunes menu, select Advanced -> Convert Selection to MP3 and the conversion would start (note: If you've selected something else in Step #5, you'll see that respective option. E.g. if you've selected 'AAC Encoder' under 'Importing' at Preferences earlier, you'll see Convert Selection to AAC instead)
Convert MP4 audio to MP3 - step 9

#10 - Once iTunes has completed the conversion, you should now see TWO songs of the same title, like so:
Convert MP4 audio to MP3 - step 10

#11 - To confirm, select that song title and press the '⌘' and 'i' keys to view the file information, and you should see a new window with the file details:
Convert MP4 audio to MP3 - step 11

[Also posted at MyRightBrain]
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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Thoughts on Entrepreneurs & Librarianship

Read this post at SG Entrepreneurs titled "Thoughts on What Singapore Lacks" in the context of Entrepreneurship. Seemed like a pretty good round-up of related discussions on the topic. What caught my eye was this paragraph:
What Singapore Lacks? Discussion Spaces? by Justin Lee. Justin adopts a specific example of using our new National Library and suggested that we should create Void Decks 2.0.

Naturally I went over to Justin's post, where he said he agreed with Woonzai who wrote about what the National Library (LKCRL) lacks, as well as the shortcomings of several other venues (btw, Justin did not elaborate on Void Decks 2.0 though -- maybe he'll write more next time).

Anyway, this post isn't a defence against the critisms about the library (the library was only one of the institutions/ venues being discussed). I'm responding to the larger premise that "Singapore lacks meeting spaces for interaction".


I humbly disagree that Singapore lacks spaces for interaction.

While Singapore is only a tiny red dot compared to other nations (697.1 sq km), there's plenty of public spaces to meet and discuss. I think the criticisms -- about the library, cafes and community centres -- are really about the lack of "airconditioned and furnished venues, with free WIFI", isn't it?

Now the airconditioned part, I tend to agree. I think our tropical climate makes it hard to just pop by the parks or open public areas and hold discussions in the day time. I find it hard to maintain my self-confidence and train of thought when I'm sitting on wet grass or hot benches, conscious of my sweaty armpits and damp undergarments.

But to expect institutions like libraries, community centres and cafes to be purely used as meeting places -- it just doesn't make sense in terms of why these instutitions/ businesses were set up to do.

Cafes need paying customers, preferably those who eat and scoot so that there's more room for more customers. Ever been to a crowded eating place and deciding to go somewhere else 'cos there's no space? You get the point.

If we have libraries whose function is just an airconditioned meeting place, then Singapore won't need a NLB to run the libraries (property management can be subcontacted out); there won't be a need for librarians 'cos there won't be readers; if I'm still employed with this new service provider I'd have to rename my blog to be Rambling Property Executive.

As I've heard the NLB Chief Exec respond on air one time, "We welcome people to discuss in the libraries, but not to just use the furniture only" (or something to that effect). Discussion and meetings are encouraged but within the context, purpose, form and function of the institution.

I don't deny there are issues and challenges for "Entrepreneurs" but therein lies the crux of what Entrepreneurship is about.

Isn't Entrepreneurship about Enterprise? The very concept of Enterprise involves "complication and risk" and overcoming obstacles. If everything were that easy, it wouldn't be entrepreneurship then.

Re-reading the points made by Woonzai and Justin, I can't help but feel the root of the matter isn't about spaces, but about an entrepreneur's self-discipline, attitudes and mental-tenacity; the person's ability to see the glass half-full in a practical and pragmatic manner.

Maybe for a change, we should start asking ourselves "What Singapore Has" rather than what is lacking to support entrepreneurship. I think we have a lot if we really start to look -- our schools, our libraries, our people.

Ok, wait a second here -- what's a librarian writing about entrepreneurship? What makes this rambling librarian qualified to comment on this topic?

Certainly not if you associate "Entrepreneur" with startups and self-employment. But I'd argue Entrepreneurship is not about montary gain. It's about taking risks. Librarians takes risks too. In the books that have to be acquired (the risk is that they don't get borrowed); the outreach activities librarians conduct (the target audience might not respond); the plans and strategies formulated (they could steer the institution totally off tangent).

Whereas the Entrepreneur stands to lose his/ her capital, librarians stand to lose the support of tax payers. The risk of becoming irrelevant is real. If we're not successful in achieving what we've set out to do, basically we'll lose our jobs. Might not be right away but the rot will set in.

Whether a person is an entrepreneur in the business or social sense, I just feel that a successful entrepreneur is one who achieves success (not necessarily monetary) inspite of the obstacles rather than having certain pre-requisits in place.

Even if all he or she has are hot humid parks for sweaty discussions in damp undergarments.

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Two new GarageBand music experiments: "TechnoJungle" & "I Am A Werewolf"

I am really tempted to start another blog called "Mucking Around With My Mac"... but nah, too many blogs already. Have uploaded two new tracks, all the outcomes of further experiments with GarageBand (they should rename this as "One-Person Studio" but that distinctly lacks the oomph).

This one's my longest composition yet -- 6mins over, titled "TechnoJungle":

powered by ODEO

screenshot GarageBand
Details on the piece, here.

This one's titled "So I Am A Werewolf" (2mins 21 Secs):

powered by ODEO

screenshot Odeo.com
Details on how this was created, here.

I shared an earlier piece with contacts at Hong Kong Universities Libraries, and was tickled when they said they wanted to use it for the library closing announcement! LOL. Maybe they want to use the Werewolf piece to chase people out.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

What is Web 2.0.?

"Is this Web 2.0?"

Here's a post by australian liblogarian, Real Public Librarian (i.e Deb), where she describes how she met Doug at the conference, and then I got mentioned somehow (which isn't surprising to bloggers, 'cos you talk about bloggers whom you've connected with).

Deb also mentioned my colleague, Veronica, in the same post. My colleague doesn't have a blog but I dare say she's clued into the blogging thing to understand what it's about. I just sent Deb's post to my colleague. When I have a chance, I'll speak with my colleague about what she and Deb discussed...

... hang on, Kevin (who's currently in the US of A) just IMed me... he says "today I'm going to the dental school to help doctors there get the hang on web 2.0... getting my powerpoint in order".

Ah, more talk about Web 2.0.

I asked Kevin "Web 2.0. = IT as tools for engagment/ dialogue?" and he says not quite. I've reproduced this part of our conversation, with his permission:
Kevin: "web 2.0 is more like a platform, IT is a little passe"

Ivan: "isn't a platform = IT? 'cos the web depends on IT as platform?"

Kevin: "no, a platform can exist on a philosophical plane as well. Core to web 2.0 is less tech and more people. Web 1.0 was more tech and less people. It isn't so much about the technology, but more on the social parts of it."
As I asked earlier, "Is this Web 2.0?"

Also, how does all this Web 2.0. stuff relate to librarianship? Do librarians need to know it? Maybe answer is "Yes" because we need to recognise and tap on its relevance (if any). Or perhaps answer is "No" because maybe we are already in it, or it will come to us, so all this discussion about Web 2.0/ Library 2.0 is academic.

I wonder what Kenneth has to say about all this, in relation to Web 2.0 (he does presentations on what Web 2.0 as part of his work).


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

READ! Singapore 2006 Round Up #1

Here's the READ! Singapore 2006 round up at High Browse Online, since the launch on 25 May:

1) Print-to-screen: Collaboration with Canon Digital Video Fest ‘06
READ! Singapore is collaborating for the first time with Canon Digital Video Fest ’06 in setting up a new category of 'Print-to-Screen', which will allow participants to adapt the 4 selected local short stories into short films. [Read more]

2) What these librarians thought of "Tuesdays With Morrie"
"What made you choose this book?"

Kai Yin: "Enlightening and thought provoking; you will re-examine your priorities in life!"

Mardiana: "I wanted to find out what the book was about. I heard that it made a colleague cry after reading the book."
[Read more]

3) Librarians discuss "Mid-Autumn" at WRL
My colleague, Mr. Peter Chan (Adult & Young People's Services librarian), facilitated the session. He got us to draw our thoughts and impressions about the story, and then used the illustrations as a focal point in the discussions. I've posted these four photos to flickr.com, so that you can view the larger images with additional notes (click on these four images)

What you need (librarian not included):
READ! Singapore - Discussion via Pictures/ Drawings

To get these "book discussion notes":
Group A - Reflections from Group B - Reflections from Group C - Reflections from
[Read more]

4) READ! Singapore 2006 Reading Fiesta: Blogging "Live" from The Plaza
Beats Society.jpgCLL booth1.jpgCLL booth2.jpg
[Read more]


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sound Clash

I don't know much about the Web 2.0 stuff, apart from the fact that it has to do with the social collaborative nature of the web. But here's a Web 2.0 example, as it happened to me:

After I posted my "Saturday In May" music piece done with GarageBand, a blogger from the other side of the world (real name, Greg Samborski) left this comment. Apparently he found me via a Blogger search and clued me to a project he and his buddies started, called Sound Clash.

The rules are simple: The amount of time you can spend on creating the track, the application to be used etc.

I emailed Greg to say that Sound Clash is a great idea. I asked where he and his buddies find time to create the tracks -- which I realised afterwards that it was a dumb question, 'cos if your heart is in it, you'll find the time... anyway, Greg replied to say that time is a constraint but they limit the Clash to an hour or so.

So far, I've participated in two web/ blog-based Art Challenges (Illustration Friday and Inspire Me Thursday). Sound Clash represents yet another blog-based "challenge" concept.

Come to think of it, the "challenge" element in Web 2.0's context isn't so much the competition but the interactive/ social/ conversational elements, i.e the facilitation of dialogues via art/ music, with web-based tools as enablers.