Sunday, July 30, 2006

Celebrity Blogger? No lah. But please feel free to come up and say Hi

Hot and humid Sunday morning. Walked the dog. Arrived home. Received two SMS in quick succession.

"Read the Sunday Times article*. Nice piece. But you look very serious."
"... Proud of you. Celebrity blogger."

To the first message, I replied, "Thanks. But that's me. Mr. Serious." To the second, I replied, "Celebrity? Ah, no. If more people use the library more often after reading the article they, I'd be contented".

Yesterday evening, I told my wife that my picture could appear in the paper (which I've yet to read). She said -- in what I think/ hope was mock horror -- that now people would know that we're that couple living in the block.

I think it's typical of city dwellers to be protective of their privacy (or should I say, anonymity). I'm no exception. Having my picture appear in the paper is a little discomforting, but the more I thought about it, I asked, "So what?"

I figured people will be quick to forget. Or they might just have a double-take, stare a little more out of recognition that anything else. In fact, it would be a good thing if people used the article as a conversation starter. I think that'll be nice.
"Hi, weren't you in the paper the other day?"
"Yes, I was."
"I didn't know you were a librarian."
"So now you know. And you can come look for me if you need any information on using the library. So, have you read anything good lately...?"

But wait, why can't I be the one to start a conversation, right? I know I could but it's not easy. In Singapore, people tend to think you're weird or up to no good if you suddenly start a conversation with a stranger. I do talk to my immediate neighbours but as a norm, most people are just strangers in the same block.

I'm also aware that I look intimidating. With my height, my close-cropped hair, the bland facial expression I always carry, basically I don't look approachable. Maybe that's why I blog -- to be approachable from that sense. What I find difficult to do face-to-face, I find it easy to do online.

So it's definitely not about fame and getting that celebrity status as a blogger. It's about the conversations and exchange of ideas.

If you've found your way to my blog from the 30 Jul 2006 Sunday Times article, feel free to leave a comment. Feel free to say "Hi", or email/ leave a comment if you have a question about the library and materials.

Oh, here's a plug for my employer -- check out these NLB blogs:

* The Straits Times, July 30, 2006. "I thought it was just verbal diarrhoea - THINKING MEN WHO BLOG"

Related post: The Straits Times interviews this liblogarian (26 Jul 06)

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Rambling Librarian's Podcast: "Take Me Away"

Uploaded this a few days ago: Take Me Away (4mins 30secs)

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If you've listened to the piece, you might be thinking:
#1 - "Who's sang the female part?"
#2 - "How come the lyrics aren't clear? I hear only mumblings"

Answer #1 = Me.
Answer #2 = They are mumblings!

I tried to write lyrics for this song but gave up. Simply no inspiration. So if you can't pick up the words clearly, it's not you. Apart from the beginning part where you probably can hear the words, "Take me away to another place", the rest of the vocals are really mumblings. I was interested in the melody than actual lyrics.

Details of how this piece was put together, over at MyRightBrain.

RamblingLibrarian's Podcasts:
My Odeo Podcast

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Learning my way around OS X: Read a book

I received an alert from the NLB email reminder service that this book was due in a few days time, so I decided to post details of the book over at RoughNotes before returning the book.

If you're a Mac newbie like I am (was?) to OS X, I'd recommend you scan through this book, particularly sections 1 to 4.

Mac OS X Tiger - Mark Chambers

Mac OS X Tiger (Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks)
by Mark Chambers
NLB Call No.: 005.4469 CHA -[COM]

ISBN: 0-7645-7699-2

Look for it at the Computer & IT in the Adult Lending section. Check the NLB Catalogue for item availability (keyword search "mac os x mark chambers").

When I switched on my Mac for the first time, I didn't quite know what I could do with it. Sure, I easily found the toolbar thingy (which I later learnt was called the "Dock") and got some apps running, but I wasn't quite sure what to do once the apps were open.

Having been weaned on Windows, I also instinctively looked for a place where I could "right-click" to get to the Windows Explorer, but I didn't know how to do that either. No right click on the scroll pad. Oh, there wasn't ALT-CTRL-DELETE. Hey, how come the "delete" button works like a "Backspace", and why wasn't there "Backspace" key? How do you close a... er... 'window' for a Mac?

I did find out that I was using the OS X operating system (otherwise known as OS X Tiger). So I went to the library to see if there was something on using OS X. I wasn't quite sure if we had any but aiyah, I should've had more faith -- we did lah. While browsing the shelves, I also discovered there were versions called Leopard and Panther... right, what big cat is after Tiger, I thought.

A Mac is pretty intuitive, I must say, but to a certain extent. Not quite Star Trek "Hello Computer"... (yet).

Eventually I would've figured out how to find my way around the Mac. Or I could've read blog posts for “switchers” like this, this and this (links via Siva). They are pretty good. But the book was more concise and purposefully written. Saved me lots of time (yeah, yeah, this is just a shameless ploy by a librarian to make you borrow a book right? Well don't take my word for it, heh.)

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

My wife's artwork - "Bavarian Landscape"

[Originally posted at MyRightBrain, 26th July 2006]
My wife rarely draws or paint. In fact, this is the first time I've seen her do it, and so I HAD to blog it!

This was done with watercolour pencils.
My Wife's Artwork 1

And this was after she applied water to it:
My Wife's Artwork 2

She drew the picture from memory, inspired from a trip to Germany quite some time back. I jokingly told her to first picture looked like what a five year-old produced... ok, that was mean of me, sorry!

Good or bad, I think adults should just experiment and put their pictures online since they already drew it.

In fact, I'm secretly proud of her for deciding to experiment with an art piece. : )

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The Straits Times interviews this liblogarian

A journalist with The Straits Times, Sandra, emailed me yesterday, requesting for an interview. Said she discovered my blog during her routine Internet surfing (it shouldn't surprise me that journalists do this too) and asked if I'm interested to be interviewed for a story she's writing, on Singaporean bloggers.

Her piece was partly in response to the latest blog-related report from the Pew Internet & American Life project (see also an earlier report, The State of Blogging). Sandra explained over the phone that her intent was also to show what other Singaporean bloggers are there, apart from the more well-known and high profile ones. She said she was particularly interested in the community of liblogarians!

Ah, that clinched it for me! I agreed to the interview, as I felt it was appropriate to show that librarians are also blogging.

However, even though the interview was about my personal blog(s), I informed Sandra the interview request ought to be cleared with my colleagues from Corporate Communications (Corp Comms). Afterall, a large part what I blog in RamblingLibrarian has to do with the public library services with the NLB.

You could say I was following the organisation's public communications policy but to me, it's all part of being transparent -- a simple act of keeping my Corp Comms folks informed, just in case they had any concerns that might not be apparent to me. Afterall, my agreeing to be interviewed was to publicise what a librarian in NLB does, and if NLB wasn't comfortable with that, I certainly should not go ahead.

In anycase, the green light was given.

At 5pm today, I met with Sandra and Desmond from The Straits Times -- journalist and photographer respectively. Nice folks, who put me at ease. After asking me a few questions, we then went around the library where I had to pose for pictures.

It then occurred to me that I ought to blog about the interview process. Besides, if I were to appear in their publication, it was only fair that they appeared in mine, eh? So they sportingly agreed to have their picture taken and posted here:

Sandra & Desmond(When I related this to my wife, she said, "Yah, journalists and photographers hardly get their own pictures or stories published". So kinda fitting, don't you think?)

Sandra and Desmond looked a lot more natural than me when posing for pictures. Aiyo, I had to smile (which was something that I know I need to do more often, on a daily basis) and then pose for pictures, which I felt really self-conscious. Ah well, I shall see how the picture turns out (if at all) and then decide if I need a paper bag to put over my head for the rest of the year.

We picked this book -- "Blogging For Dummies" -- for me to pose with. They appeared when I said I was borrowing it home. They must've thought I fibbed my way about being a blogger. Heh.

Blogging For DummiesNLB Call No.: 006.7 HIL -[COM]
by Brad Hill
(look for it in the "Computer & IT" section)

As to what was asked during the interview, you'll have to read about it when it comes out in this Sunday's issue. The story isn't entirely about me of course. Sandra said she interviewed two others before me. Also, I'm prefectly aware that sometimes, for various reasons, the story might not be printed at the last minute. So we shall see.

Oh, I learnt something new today -- apparently SPH photographers worked in shifts. Desmond said his shift just started for the day (at 5pm). I asked Desmond if he had a blog. He said no. I said if he had one, it would be quite interesting. I'm sure he would've captured many interesting pictures on a daily basis.

[update: Celebrity Blogger? No lah. But please feel free to come up and say Hi, 30 Jul 06]

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

New look to Watch the Screencast

Thanks to Kevin for the heads-up. Here's a screencast - Quicktime Movie - on the newly unveiled (Jul 2006) Technorati website. Includes an overview of the features and services.

I learnt a few new things myself, especially the "Favorited" feature. Try searching for your own blog, then click on it for information.

I'm also asking myself, "How did they make that video?"
Wonder if it's easy enough to do it myself. For simple online user-education clips like, "How to use the library OPAC" or "Introducing the new XXX Database" etc.

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Monday, July 24, 2006

It just got more real for me: Storms & Floods in Japan

I read and heard about the floods in Japan. But Japan is far away and frankly it didn't affect me. But after I just IMed with a friend who's there (and still there), well it changes perspectives. It just got more real for me (IM conversation posted with permission):

Me: oi, busy ah?

Friend in Japan: so-so. just survived a flood

Me: oh yah, i read. did you like almost drown or what?

Friend in Japan: only can joke now. camped out at fren's place for two days couldn't return home.

flooding was waist high next to my apt block n all around the area.
giant swimming pool
so i didn't/ couldn't get into my own apt lor
schools were closed n the kids had to stay home

the lake was at risk of overflowing
the city was in state of emergency
there's a little island in the middle of the lake n it looKed like it was sinking cos couldn't see the land for those few days.
only could see the pine tree tops

anyhow i was really lucky. my apt was miraculously not flooded.
[other apartments] all flooded inside.
just a step higher than the rest n saved by the step.
one of the neighbour's car was towed away after the flooding subsided.
think it was stuck in the floodwater for 2 days.
engine must be ruined

but now storm has moved to kyushu.
that's what's being reported now

Me: the floods are everywhere in japan?

Friend in Japan: western japan
Screenshot - (24 Jul 06).jpg
these are all the prefectures in japan.
the red ones are on high alert for the rains.
the pale orange ones mean caution.
red means really serious
pale orange still in storm zone
cos kagoShima is still experiencing landslides/mudslides n it's pale orange
in my cities there are still many pple in the refuge centers
their houses had been flooded or damaged so they can't go home yet
this chart tracked the alerts in my city
e.g. red alert for flooding from night of 19-20
Screenshot - Keihou (24 Jul 2006).jpg

Friend in Japan: just so much info on weather on the internet.
i remember looking at the earthquake page n it's scary how many went on without being reported

r u going to blog about it. weather chart n all?

Yes, my Friend in Japan, I'm blogging this. So that I don't take things for granted.

Technorati Tag:
Flickr Search Results: "Japan Flood"

"Live" online book chat - Kite Runner (25th July 2006)

If you are online tomorrow evening at 8pm (Singapore time) and you're interested in a discussion on Khaled Hosseini's Kite Runner, I hope you can join us for a "live" book discussion over IM. Details of tomorrow's chat event at this page.

Here's the chat transcript of the session on Tuesdays with Morrie, 13 June 2006.

Technorati Tag: readsingapore

Mr Lim Kim San (1916-2006)

As posted at the National Library Board (Singapore) Newsflash webpage (Last accessed July 2006):
Lim Kim San (b. 30 November 1916, Singapore - d. 20 July 2006, Singapore), the first Chairman of Housing and Development Board (HDB), best known for his contributions in housing the population of Singapore in the 1960s. He held ministerial positions in various ministries from finance, education, defence to environment. He was Chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisors and had also chaired various boards such as Port of Singapore Authority (PSA), Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) and Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

For a biographical profile, please read the full Infopedia article.

To get a list of published articles about the man, please consult the resource guide (PDF 165k) prepared by our Reference Librarians.

Finally, to get a succinct online overview of the man, please try the ASK! blog.

So, another of post-independence Singapore's founding pioneers has passed on. Here's a piece of random thought clumsily captured in words and disguised as poetry:
It is only natural that
Are thanked in life,
And celebrated in Memory.

More related posts from (search term "lim kim san").

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

A long term solution for how the library collection is organised?

Just read Connecting Librarian's post on "Dewey and its future in Public Libraries" and was compelled to leave a comment:
Perhaps the day will come when it doesn't matter how we label the books. Like, our customers would pick up a pair of hi-tech lens and switch on to whatever Display Mode they choose -- by DDC, by Subjects, by Themes.
Let me elaborate on the above:
  • Imagine a wearable device, where the user would input some search terms. The user walks along the shelves and would pick out items by sight.
  • The device acts as a filter, graying-out the less relevant items while the most relevant ones would appear brighter.
  • Extend this feature one step up -- in addition to a wearable device, the user could see on a screen, in plan-view (i.e. top down), the various items marked out on the entire floor of the collection area.
Discussions on how the library should organise its collections isn't new. Typically, public libraries use the DDC with the Cutter system combined (for fictional works) while academic libraries adopt the Library of Congress Classification System , or LCC (see also LCC outline).

To non-librarians, you might wonder why this discussion about classification systems. Well, if you've used the libraries and ever muttered, "Why can't libraries classify items that makes sense to ME?" then perhaps that's one reason (because ultimately, libraries want to make their collection accessible to you).

In simple terms, the "problem" is that the way libraries organise its collection isn't the most intuitive for ALL customers. I feel the root cause to this "problem" is that we all perceive things differently and/or our preception shift according to whatever context at that particular time.

Example: I might see a title "Computers in Business Applications" as "Computers" while another time I might see it as "Business". I might see Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code as "Fiction" while I might also see it as "Controversial Religious Fact-ion". You can't say it's "right" or "wrong" because that's what makes sense to me.

In my view, classification systems were never meant to be well understood by library customers. The systems were meant for librarians to organise materials so that librarians can efficiently retrieve them on behalf of the customer. It was only after computers got into the act that customers are able to routinely help themselves search for items within the collection. However, how customers search is very much dictated by how the items are organised (i.e. the classification systems used).

With improvements in technology, there's a greater awareness, and perhaps urgency, for libraries to improve the way materials are organised within the library so that more customers can help themselves. It's not that librarian are lazy. It's about improving convenience to customers.

I think a long term solution should tackle the root cause. Rather than tackle how items are organised, why not tackle the fluid nature of how preceptions about how they are organised. Hence, the idea of the "Contextual Lens/ Device".

OK, with a device like that, does this spell the end for librarians? I don't think so, because I'd like to make two assumptions:
  1. On one hand, while we reduce the reliance on librarians to retrieve information, the rate at which information is made available far exceeds the time that customers have to search for information themselves.
  2. Information needs of individual customers will become more complex and customers will become more discerning. While there is google -- which most times is "good enough" -- there will be times they will want far more than what they can find off google on their own.
It's like this -- I can already buy investment products online, and I know where to seek information. At times I'd buy direct. However, there are times I feel it's faster more comprehensive to speak to a sales representative or advisor. For instance, I want to know what's the best returns on investment based on my personal income and consumption patterns (which would differ from others, and even for myself it differs from year to year as my needs change).

Anyway, if you're really really interested in the exciting world of library classification systems, then you might want to read up more on things like Enumerative, Hierarchical, and Faceted classification systems (see this Wikipedia entry for an overview)... ... OK, I'm just cheating here and plucked the terms off Wikipedia. Frankly, my knowledge of Library Classification Systems isn't deep.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Rambling Librarian's Podcast: "March Upon The Black"

My first attempt at an "orchestrated" piece. I was inspired by Pachelbel's Canon and wanted to try something like that, but key word is "try". In the end, I'm not sure if this is a 'Canon' but heck, it's good enough for me. This was about a week's worth of spare time. Let me know what you think of it:

powered by ODEO

RamblingLibrarian's Podcast:
My Odeo Podcast

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Post-course reflection: Blogging course for Library Association of Singapore (Session 1)

I made a mental note of the following from this afternoon's session:
  1. It's no joke lugging around over 2Kg worth of computer hardware (i.e. Macbook Pro)
  2. Especially when you carry the darn bag for the entire day, only to find that you can't use it at the training venue
  3. I owe Siva coffee
  4. I need to inject more hands-on activity for the next session on 4th August

NLB Academy - LAS Blog Course 19 Jul 06Regarding 1 & 2, I saw Siva using his Macbook Pro at the WRL talk last Saturday and I thought, "Hey, I should try that today too!"

Alas, overconfidence got the better of me. Normally I make a point to do a site recce but this time I thought I could skip that part as I was familiar with the training venue. I thought there should not be a problem with connecting the Mac to the projector. Afterall, I saw how Siva did it.

But for some reason, it didn't work. In desperation, I called Siva on the mobile. After I explained why I called him, I half expected him to say, "Look man, I'm busy now. I ain't tech support", but he didn't. He patiently advised me on the settings (which I did correctly), and maybe I should try rebooting (still didn't work). The "tech support" session lasted maybe 2minutes, but still I owe him coffee.

I was happy with how the session went. As I learnt from my stint with the blog course in South Africa early this year, each participant would come with different expectations of what they wanted from the session, and different comfort levels wrt understanding IT concepts. Still, judging from the feedback forms that the LAS organising committee showed me at the end of the day, majority of participants were happy with how things went.

Half the class managed to sign up for Bloglines and learnt how to subscribe and unsubscribe feeds. We spent an hour going through the basics of creating and managing a blog with Then last hour we covered Flickr, Technorati, and a quick overview podcasting (some of them enjoyed this podcast - the one on "Customer Service").

I can certainly improve quite a few things in delivering the training. Which was why I made a mental note for item 4 -- to give the participants more meaningful activities to do.

Would've preferred to do this as a full-day course rather than a 3-hour session. I think at one point I might have droned on too long... I tend to do that when I'm enthused about a point I'm making. Ok, on second thought, I think they are better off with a 3-hour session! LOL

Need to think of how to do even better for the 2nd run on 4th August. Even though I'm doing this course for free, I feel pressured to do a good an excellent job. Maybe because I'm a perfectionist. Or I feel bad when people make time to attend a course and they don't get the most from it. I don't know.

Anyway, I'll certainly take the advice of this participant (we tried registering for and those who used their office email addresses weren't able to access the confirmation email sent to their office accounts).

Will also employ the Post-It notes idea from Kevin (thanks buddy, it was an excellent way to explain concept of tagging and relating it to what librarians are familiar with).

This time the course happened, unlike the last time. In fact, 100% signup I was told, for this run (25 people) and LAS asked for a second session. This interest is all good for the library scene here, in my opinion.

(p.s. Discovered another Singapore Liblogarian! Thanks, Dexterine, for your impromptu assistance this afternoon.)

Technorati Tags: Blog Workshop, Blog Course

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Post-workshop reflection: MICA Innovation Fiesta 2006 - Basics of Podcasting Workshop

They saw, they did, they heard. Heh heh.

The "See, Do, Hear" podcasting workshop this afternoon went well, thanks to the active participation from the 30 to 40 people who attended (didn't have time to count).
MICA Innovation Fiesta - Podcasting Workshop

We did the group activity as planned, and even managed to get one recorded and uploaded. Here's what Mr. Philip Lim so sportingly recorded and gave permission to feature as a podcast: Philip's First Podcast - On "Customer Service" (script by Ms. C. Yip):

powered by ODEO

The participants broke up into groups, drafted and rehearsed their scripts (within 30mins). Then each group presented their "show" and the audience voted for what they thought was the best one. Philip's group was selected and he very sportingly came up the the terminal, did the recording in one take. Edited out some awkward pauses, showed them how to upload to, topped off with discussion session.


Links of the sites and resources featured in the workshop have been updated to BlogCourseDemo.

Now I need to get to work and touch up on tomorrow's workshop for Library Association of Singapore.

Tag: podcasting

Monday, July 17, 2006

"See, Do, Hear" Podcasting workshop: MICA Innovation Fiesta

Doing last minute work for the podcasting workshop I'm conducting tomorrow, as part of the MICA Innovation Fiesta 2006 series of courses (open to MICA employees). This is my second year involved in the Innovation Fiesta. Last year I did a blogging course with my colleague, Rajen. This year, Rajen asked if I could conduct a workshop and I agreed (eventually... heh).

This being a podcasting workshop, I thought it'll be nice to do the introduction using an actual podcast. Here it is:

powered by ODEO
(Basic course details, and script of the podcast, here).

Essentially the workshop will be split into 3 main parts:
Part 1: Listening to Podcasts
- Where to find them
- How to listen to them
- Subscribing to RSS feeds

Part 2: Producing podcasts [Group-activity]
- Planning & scripting
- Recording & editing the audio
- Uploading & sharing

Part 3: Discussion/ wrap-up
- Applications for work & play (i.e. why do it?)
- Tips on producing a podcast

The critical of the workshop would be the hands-on portion. I intend to break up the 45 confirmed participants (I expect at least 30 to turn up) into smaller groups of 5 to 8, and then get them to do Part 2. The challenge is to manage this portion within 45mins (it's not a computer lab, but a lecture room with only one Internet terminal). I'm assuming at least one group will be game enough to do a 'live' recording and I hope to upload the file to

I'll certainly have to play by ear w.r.t. actually conducting the workshop. Will see how it goes.

(And then the following day, I'll be conducting a blog-related course for members of the Library Association of Singapore. Will blog about that one later... much later).


Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Otterman speaks at the library: Tales of the Thunder Crab and other secret stories of Singapore's wildlife

Saturday afternoon. 15 July 2006. Woodlands Regional Library. About 25 people or more (excluding myself) -- majority adults -- turned up for an hour's talk by Mr. Otterman, Siva. He's a researcher with the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, NUS.

BTW, that's not the title of his talk (more about that at the end of the blog post).

That's Siva, in his office attire -- polo-shirt and bermudas.
Siva Otterman giving a talk

Just a sampling of what I learnt from his session:
  • The mangrove is a dangerous place if you are a crab
  • Our very own Bukit Timah has more species than Africa (plant? animal?)
  • There's a fish called a Cowfish in Singapore (a boy exclaimed "cowfish?" out loud, heh)
  • Asia has 4 species of otters, whereas there's only 1 specie in the west (I learnt how to tell apart at least 2 different species. Also, while I've never asked Siva why he's called the Otterman, I think I know now -- he knows his otters!)
  • Siva's a smooth presenter. Jokes at appropriate intervals. I particularly enjoyed his stories about the crabs -- leaf-eating crabs, crabs that eat algae, crabs that eat termites, crabs with spines, tree-climbing ones, crabs in Teochew cuisine... If you do meet Siva, do ask him about the story of the researcher who got bitten by a Thunder Crab
At one point, his Macbook Pro ran out of battery power. "You are now running on reserve battery power." I bet he thought, "I miss my ibook".
Siva's Macbook Pro running out of battery juice

Next picture shows Siva (left) and colleague, submerged in the Sungei Buloh mangrove reserve at high tide, with what he called (tongue-in-cheek) their high-tech tools of the trade -- $2 fish net and ordinary stick with a hook (the kind used for taking down clothes/ bamboo poles). Boy asked, "Excuse me, if your friend is in the water, won't the fish bite her?" (photo not shown here).

The slide caption says "Mangrove are safe"...
Mangroves are safe

... and then the next slide Siva chooses to show crocodiles. Siva was quick to add that he's a living and breathing example that the crocodiles do not pose a danger to humans at the wetland reserve (otherwise, he won't be standing there giving a talk after wading around in the mangrove).
Crocodiles spotted at Sungei Buloh
According to Siva, the crocs at Sungei Buloh are well-fed on fish, so they leave humans alone pretty much. But still, don't try to pet them. (Boy asked again, "Excuse me, how did you take the photo?" Ans: A colleague took the picture, from a distance with a telephoto lens.)

Then he surprised the audience and thrilled the kids with a movie clip of monitor lizards wrestling.
Videoclip of monitor lizards fighting

He showed more photos than I had time to take. The 1 hour just went by. He informed the audience that more information and references to pictures can be found at his website -

His talk was publicised as "Dolphins, Turtles, Otters and other Secrets of Singapore". I suggested to Siva it might have been called "Tales of the Thunder Crab, and other Secret Stories of Singapore" but he said that might not have made sense to people. Besides, the keywords that brought in the audience were Dolphins, Turtles, Otters... he does have a point.

Nonetheless, I have a suggestion for the title of his next talk on crabs -- call it "What if crabs were superheroes?" (perhaps this would make more sense if you'd heard his presentation).

Siva should try volunteering at the library to tell stories (to kids or adults, doesn't matter). He's good with pictures and words. I liked how he regaled the "saga of the turtle hatchlings that swam back". Again, that's something you have to ask him about if you have a chance to meet him.


Saturday, July 15, 2006

5th and Final draft: "The Girl, the Imp, and the Memory Tree"

Here's my 5th and final draft of the story that I'm submitting to my colleague. The draft is due tomorrow today. My colleague called for stories to be selected for this year's Asian Children's Festival (hey, discovered wikipedia entry!)

Not sure if my submission will be accepted though. Last year, two of my stories made it. We shall see.

Anyway, I had fun collaborating on the story blog with Saigon Tai-Tai (who, incidentally, has now come out into the open!)

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Friday, July 14, 2006

What is "Courage"?

For some reason, I asked this question to three different people over IM tonight: "What is courage?"

They all gave (equally valid) responses, by their own definitions. My response was something I'd either read or heard somewhere:
Courage is not about the absence of fear.
It is about doing something in spite of our fear.

I just felt like sharing this with you.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Damien the liblogarian's "I Am Singaporean" post

Here's my colleague Damien's "I Am Singaporean" blog post (not podcast though), where he focuses on being a Rat (er, read his post to get what I meant, heh).

Incidentally, Damien ("I have been a Librarian since 2000 A.D. and I am proud to be one") wrote that he started on the meme not because of the "Mr Brown incident" -- hmm... neither did I. Never did see the "I Am Singaporean" meme as part of that episode, and personally I don't think anyone should.

Anyway... maybe after this, Damien and I could continue with the "I Am A Librarian" meme. But I don't think I'm prepared to do a video like what Filipino Librarian did!

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Rambling Librarian's Podcast: "I Am Singaporean"

The guys at The Mr. Brown Show (a local podcasting that probably has the most local audience) were inspired by the Molson beer "I am Canadian" commercial (see Youtube video) and they came up with this "I am Singaporean" podcast/ blog meme to tie in with our upcoming National Day.

Three year old, MeAny excuse for me to much around GarageBand, I'm interested. And so I tried to try my hand at it. Before I uploaded it, I tested it on my wife. She laughed at some parts but overall it was OK (she did add a few more Cs but I won't mention them here -- go guess).

Total duration for my recording is 3mins 32 secs. Apparently there's no time specification for this podcast meme, so what the heck. Anyway if it bores you, there's always the 'Stop' button:

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I've also uploaded the Soundtrack (minus narration) - original composition. It has some added "incidental" sounds like Triangle and flute and drum. Approx. 3mins 32 secs:

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The script as follows:
My name is Ivan Chew. People call me Ivan. I am a Singaporean.

It's been said that Singaporeans are concerned about the 5 Cs. I have 8 'Cs' that I want to talk about.

'C' is for 'car' - I have never owned one and don't see a need to. I get around in Singapore just fine. I've also never driven a car. The only vehicle I've attempted to drive was an Amoured Personnel Carrier during my full-time National Service.

'C' is for 'Condominium' - I don't live in one and don't aspire to. Perhaps I'm too used to HDB apartments. Growing up, I stayed in a flat (2 rooms, 1 hall) living with my parents and 2 other siblings. I slept in a hall for over 20 years and never had a room to call my own till I moved out after marriage. Now my wife and I (and our dog) live in a 4-room HDB flat. It will be fully paid in 25 years or so. I'm perfectly fine with that.

'C' is for Credit Card - I choose to have only one. I use it for convenience because I don't like to carry cash.

'Cash' is the 4th 'C', of which I have some but not a lot. Enough for me to look beyond tomorrow but not so much that I take things for granted today. *I make an effort to save because I know what "money no enough" is like. Sometimes my wife complains I am too stingy and sometimes she is right. Sometimes.

'C' is for 'Career' - I would like to think I have one in librarianship. My current employer is a government agency but I don't consider myself working for the government. I tell myself I work for Singaporeans through the government.

That's 5 Cs so far and I have 3 more:

'C' is for Chew - my surname. 'Chew' as in 'Chewing gum', which by the way, isn't illegal to buy or consume in s'pore. You just can't sell it.

My surname 'Chew' is a pronunciation in the Hokkien dialect. It is my heritage, which brings me to my next 'C' -- for 'Chinese'. I am Chinese by race but I'm not from China. Singapore isn't a province of China. I am 3rd or 4th generation Singaporean.

Finally my last 'C' -- for 'Choice'. A friend once emailed me this saying: "Choices are like belly buttons - we all have one". I believe in that saying most of the time although I accept that sometimes we just have no choice. Of those times I've learnt to accept rather than fight. Maybe acceptance in itself is a choice. I guess my friend is right after all.

Singapore is tiny in size but I think we are big in dreams and ideas.

My name is Ivan. My Chinese name is "文良". I, am a Singaporean.

"And so say we all".

And so say we all.

Ivan Chew, July 2006.

Click on this link for all the "I am Singaporean" posts at There was about 15 - 20 posts (excluding duplicates) when I last checked. Here are the ones by Brown and Miyagi that kicked started it all.

It's simple: You can either record your version (or just blog if you prefer not to do a sound recording), title it "I am Singaporean" and tag it .

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Artistic process demystified - "Black Cockatoo, Flowering Gum" illustration tutorial by Heidi Willis

I'd recently discovered the works of Heidi Willis, a self-taught watercolourist. I liked this particular series of "art tutorial by images" so much that I've decided to mention it here as well:

Nice, right? If you want to learn more about the creative process, I've blogged about at MyRightBrain.

Heidi later wrote to me that she left a comment in that blog post because she wanted to explain the process so that I could can get the most out of the images. She also wrote that she would like to understand how other people read her work (hmm.. is this "Web 2.0" in action?)

Well I certainly did learn more (thanks!) and perhaps you might want to leave a comment over at MyRightBrain for Heidi.


Monday, July 10, 2006

My first video - Tuesdays With Morrie book discussion, with Faridah Ibrahim

I never did mention this in my blog, so here it is -- my very first video. And posted to the Internet. And the first video ever featured in High Browse Online... ok, that's all the firsts:
The links to the video (in three versions):
- Windows Media Player WMV file (2.26MB)
- QuickTime MOV file (2.17MB)
- MP4 file (2.03MB)

It's amateur stuff, pieced together with whatever I had on the PC (yeah, PC, not Mac). Read about it, here.

There's definitely potential for librarians to create their own amateur videos/ multimedia works for collection promotion/ publicity purposes -- without spending loads of money beyond the intial investment for the basic equipment like digital cameras and computers.

Tag: read singapore

Sunday, July 09, 2006

"Yes lah, Librarians got degrees"

Here's a post from QQLibrarian on how three "young trendy" school girls were brought up to speed that librarians do have degrees:
What am I talking about? I’m talking about library users who talk condescendingly because they think I sit at the counter therefore I am a receptionist, and then suddenly change their attitudes when they realized I am better educated than them. I really don’t know if this happens to me more often because I look like a bimbo or what. :-)
Rest of her post, here.

She suggests librarians should display name plates while serving at the Advisory/ Information counters, to indicate the professional qualifications (like what you see on the desk of doctors etc). I think no harm trying out that idea.

I don't see the idea as showing off, or that librarians are insecure about how they are perceived. It's about ultimately serviing our customers better.

If our customers perceive that we are unable to help them (for whatever reasons -- perceived educational qualifications being one of them), then it's their loss as well as ours as well. They don't receive the assistance that otherwise could be provided to them, and librarians lose potential customers.

Granted, librarians can approach our customers as what QQLibrarian has, but it's not such an efficient way after all. Besides, judging from her blog post, the students might have thought she was a bother.

I also see QQLibrarian's post alluding to other two other ssues -- Graciousness and Humility. Specifically, on how to better inculcate in young people (like the students mentioned in the post) that one does not judge a person's 'worth' by educational qualifications alone.

I'm not saying the students should seek help from anyone for their science question. Certainly it's logical to consult a professional or someone they think is most likely to be able to assist. But to assume that "I know better than you do because I am beter educated" -- that's foolish and dangerous thinking.

It could be a science question now. But then they could very well adopt that same attitude into their adult lives.

Well, for those "three trendy young girls" that QQLibrarian assisted, it's not important if they remember the librarians. I hope they remember the lesson in humility.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

What's the value of a book discussion? (Friends of Yesterday.SG reads "Mid Autumn")

Just came back from the 3rd meetup. Unlike the previous meetups, where I blogged about the meetup itself, this time I'm blogging about a book discussion. This particular book discussion:

The idea of a "book discussion" needs some lots of getting used to for Singaporeans. The concept is not intuitive to a lot of our library customers. It's definitely a learnt behaviour.

It's 1.35am as I blog this. I really should be sleeping now but having read Siva's post on the 3rd Yesterday.SG meetup, I'm pretty psyched up. Here's a guy who, by his own admission, would not have read the "Mid Autumn" story on his own and in addition he's never attended a book discussion.

By his account, he got it!

I suspect many of the Friends of Yesterday.SG (FOYers) attending our 3rd meetup wouldn't have given two hoots a "Book Discussion" had it not been for the meetup itself. No offence folks, but I think that was the reality, wasn't it? : )

On our way to the MRT station, Siva asked me about the group dynamics of book discussions. He said during the first part of the discussion, the comments weren't forthcoming. It was only later that the group opened up and shared some really personal stories (in relation to the story).

I told him I'm not the best book discussion facilitator. That was one primary reason why (I sensed) some awkwardness at the initial part of the discussion. Other factors were the environment (it was rather warm and noisy at the basement garden), the choice of the story, and the comfort level of the participants in sharing their thoughts (that's three main reasons that I can think of).

Interestingly, while in a train carriage, Kenneth shared that he didn't identify with the characters in the story (said his parents didn't bring him up the way the mother in the story did). I asked why he didn't share that particular insight. He wasn't sure why he didn't. But hey, there you go -- the dialogue continues long after the event itself!

I'm speculating that Kenneth is like many of us -- we often think we've got nothing insightful to share. We think what we have is too minor and a waste of time to say out loud.

If that true for you, then I say let others make that judgement (of what's useful or significant). Besides, so what if it's not "useful"? So long we don't get all longwinded and blab on and on, it's really no harm just sharing a few thoughts out loud.

I like book discussions for several reasons. For one, it's a platform for me to consciously listen to what others have to say -- to develop my listening skills. Two, it's an opportunity for purposeful discussions (or you can say the book is a good excuse to start conversations). Book discussions are one of the plaftforms where librarians are central in generating dialogues and engaging our customers intellectually.

It's not the book per se -- it's the conversations.

Most library customers are used to attending "sessions" in order to listen to others. Most find it strange to attend a session in order to share what they know.

It need not be that way at all. Not if libraries and librarians can help it.

Plug for NLB: Here's a list of reading groups.

Tag: read singapore,

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Librarians interviewed in TodayOnline - "Hands on the Pulse of the Reading Public"

My librarian colleagues Kim Lock and Lee Ping talk about what their job entails:
Kim Lock: Sourcing for books is interesting but also laborious. Selectors — we have a team of 15 — rely largely on book vendors, publishers' guides and reviews, international library journals and readers' feedback.

Lee Ping: We deal with counter enquiries, customer relations, book reviews, among other duties. I find reference counter enquiry interesting work because readers' questions are all different.

Read the TODAYonline article here ("Hands on the pulse of the reading public". Voices, Tuesday, July 4, 2006).

Kim Lock works as a selector while Lee Ping is librarian with the public library services. In NLB, we have a division doing the selection, acquisitions and cataloguing. Librarians in the public libraries do not handle this function.

Lee Ping is one of the editors of High Browse Online. Don't get the impression that she and the rest of the team only review six books a year only. They left out the words "at least"!

A friend sent me an SMS after he read the article: "That's what I want to do for a job" (he meant the book reviews). Well friend, read between the lines -- especially the "among other duties" portion! : )

Incidentally, I was IMing with someone (a non-librarian) and we talked about work and career-related matters. At one point I wrote: "It's the 20% of what we do that makes us want to continue with the remaining 80%" (following the Pareto Principle).

Someone asked me recently, "What do you like about your job?" I happened to have this picture in my camera (I was covering a READ! Singapore 2006 event):

And I said, "imagine the boy is also a teenager or an adult. A library user."

That's my "20%".

Monday, July 03, 2006

Memories of Arthur Yap (1943-2006)

Here are two tributes to the late Arthur Yap -- a well known poet in Singapore's literary circles.
  • The first one was posted by my colleague, mere hours after she received an email request to put something up. She searched the library catalogue and as other relevant articles from online databases, retrieved the relevant citations and published the post.
  • The second one was originally a post in the Singapore Heritage mailing list. I sought permission from the author to publish it in High Browse Online.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Rambling Librarian's Podcast: "Run (Our Feet Will Follow)"

If you jog or run, maybe you'll like this one:

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In this particular track, I've experimented with vocals. You'd hear these lines being repeated:
We do not always have to know
Where we're running to
So long as our heart is in motion
Our feet will follow

My diction isn't too good and the third line tends to sound like "so long as our heart is an ocean" rather than "in motion". I figured it was me rather than the microphone, heh.

That's my voice you hear (tweaked it a little with the Equaliser settings) and when you hear the Child's voice, that's me too! There's a Vocal effect in GarageBand that allows you to manipulate your voice inputs to sound like a child, woman or man (up to a certain extent of course).

This track has a relatively slow and steady beat, ideal for jogging or working out (according to my preferred running pace, that is). Initially I titled it "Run Like the Wind" but my wife said it sounded like a cliche. I agreed. She then suggested just calling it "Run" and I liked it (BTW, up till now, she hasn't heard the song or most of the songs I've posted, and that's not something you can force on someone, LOL).

Next I decided the track needed vocals for variety. I listened to the track, and with the microphone plugged in, I uttered some words. Slowly but surely, the words were formed. A case of discovering words through music?

I didn't deliberately set out to create a track for jogging or running. Like most of the GarageBand pieces I've created so far, I would listen to the loops and when my brain tells me, "This could be something", that loop (it could be a beat or a instrument melody) will serve as the basis for laying on more loops.

Writing this, I realised that's why I like creating music, the way I've done it.

I start off with a general goal in mind (i.e. "Publish and share a piece of music") but that goal is just to make things tangible. The real aim is to engage myself in the process of creating that track. I use the word "engage" 'cos it's about engaging oneself thought experimenting, thinking, creating new understandings etc. I suppose you could call it "Serendipitious Music Making", i.e. "making fortunate discoveries by accident".

In truth, the serendipity in doing things is what we know as "play", isn't it?

And this serendipitious way, when applied to reading, is what makes reading enjoyable. If you're the kind of reader who enjoys browsing and discovering books by accident, then you'd know what I mean -- but more of this later.

Enjoy this track.

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