Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A mother discovers NLB's ebook portal for children's stories

My FIJ (Friend in Japan) alerted me to a blog post which was from a friend of hers. Her friend discovered something called TumbleBooks, part of the digital resources subscribed by NLB for offsite access. I submitted the post and it's Tomorrowed.

To access TumbleBooks, go to --> eBooks (scroll down to TumbleBook Library).
screenshot_NLB eBooks

You need to login to the website before access is granted. Or you'll be prompted to register (for free). Note: The TumbleBooks Library site will open in a new window and you might need to enable the popups.

Worth checking it out, 'cos you can hear stories being read online. Don't just take my word for it. At least one mother liked it.

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Perspectives (or, Role of the Library)

While checking my RSS feeds tonight, I read Lucian's post about "Relative Democracy": "We need only look a little northward to be thankful for what we have."

And there's this post by Alex Halavais on the War on Terror: "Let’s end—or at least reduce—terror. How do we do this? The answer is always the same: education." (Read what else he has to say on "education").

Kevin follows the post where he suggests that if "Terrorists manufacture fear, Let’s manufacture happiness."

Here's a Singaporean blogger's view on "Being deaf in Singapore". (Also posted at

FeetWhile waiting at the train platform in Seoul, I saw these stickers on the floor, presumably to remind commuters to keep an appropriate distance from the edge (maybe also as reminders to let other communters alight first).

The stickers were in blue, which reminded me of this poem:
I had the blues because I had no shoes until upon the street, I met a man who had no feet. ~ Denis Waitley

All those posts reminded me of one word -- Perspectives.

Which made me think about the role of the library.

Libraries could (or ought to be) institutions that allow users to explore perspectives. Of course the cynics would argue that libraries could be avenues for disseminating propaganda under the guise of offering perspectives. Sure, I think anything can be abused, but that's a line of thought for a different post.

I think the very act of setting up a public library, making books from various subjects available (providing Internet access is a bonus), is already a way of offering perspectives.

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Off to IFLA 2006: Opening & Closing Ceremonies (Part 3)

[From: Off to IFLA 2006: Thoughts and stuff (Part 2)]

Some pictures from the opening and closing ceremonies. The 2006 conference was held at this place called COEX in Seoul. It's a convention centre, like Singapore's Suntec Convention Centre).

Opening Ceremony on 20th Aug 2006:
IFLA 2006 Opening 1 IFLA 2006 Opening 5

The highlight (for me) was the keynote speech by former South Korean President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Dr. Kim Dae-jung. The theme of this year's IFLA conference was "Libraries as dynamic engines for the knowledge and information society", so it was most apt to have Dr. Kim present the keynote speech.
IFLA 2006 Opening 8 IFLA 2006 Opening7

In his speech (given in Korean, and simultaneously translated) he mentioned how, during his house arrest, he'd read numerous books and he'd also wrote a few. When a man like Dr. Kim said he truly believed that libraries were a force for social change, you'd sit up and take notice.

To be honest, I've forgotten the exact words in his speech. But I'm left with that... quiet sense of inspiration about the present and future roles of libraries (a bit more about this in an upcoming post).

Some seasoned IFLA participants told me the Seoul opening ceremony was one of the best, if not the most outstanding one so far (in terms of entertainment value and keynote speech). I can't agree or disgree. This is only my 2nd IFLA conference. I've only got Oslo's opening ceremony to compare with but I must agree the Seoul conference is very well planned and executed.

IFLA 2006 Opening 6 IFLA 2006 Opening 9 IFLA 2006 Opening 4 IFLA 2006 Opening IFLA 2006 Opening 2

Closing Ceremony, 24th Aug:
Here's a shot of the closing ceremony (there wasn't any major performance, in case you were wondering -- closing ceremonies were relatively subdued affairs compared to the opening).
IFLA 2006 Closing Ceremony 1

As per tradition, they'd announce the winner of the 2005/ 2006 Best Newsletter Award. As mentioned in the previous post, our section's newsletter got 2nd place. The 1st place for 2005/ 2006 went to the School Libraries and Resource Centers Section.
IFLA 2006 Closing Ceremony (Best Newsletter 2006)

Take a look at their May 2006 issue (PDF). I like their thematic issues. Content is informative as well. Nice.

Overall, what impressed me the most for this conference was the meticulous planning and execution of the events-- from the availability of the many IFLA volunteers (LIS students from the Korean institutions), the ushering and organisation of the library tours, the fuss-free and super efficient security clearances, the cultural evening showcase (which bowled over many delegates from Europe). Support from the Korean government was evident.

I heard there were 5,000 delegates, so you can imagine the scale of planning and implementation. If Singapore were to organise an IFLA conference, the Seoul conference would be my benchmark thus far.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Off to IFLA 2006: Thoughts and stuff (Part 2)

[From: Off to IFLA 2006: Thoughts and stuff (Part 1)]

Ah, I've not blogged for more than a week and I'm happy to report I'm NOT suffering from any blog-withdrawal symptoms. :)

Between conference proceedings, meetings, library visits and then of course exploring the city of Seoul (which was truly an additional learning experience), there wasn't time to blog. I happened to catch Siva online and chatted over gmail, and he joked it was a good thing I didn't blog 'cos it would've meant I was being idle! LOL.

The closing ceremony of the IFLA conference ended a few hours ago. I'll blog more about this recent working trip when I'm back in Singapore. For one, I'm not able to resize and upload photos now (oh, how I miss my Mac);Two, I'll have to decide what and how much to post -- there's just so much to blog about.

I've kept abreast of news from home, thanks to RSS feeds and Singapore-based mailing lists. The most significant news was a series of Straits Times articles about Singapore government agencies going into blogging. Specifically, there was an article about the gahmenbloggers group that Vantan and I setup last year -- "We are public servants -- and we blog too", by Lynn Lee (The Straits Times, Aug 23, 2006). Read the article from AsiaMedia.

In fact, on the second day of my conference I received an email from ST reporter, Ms. Lynn Lee. She requested for an interview (together with Vanessa and some other people) relating to when and why we set up the group. As per my self-imposed usual practice, I advised Lynn to speak to my Corporate Communications colleagues before I granted the interview. The go-ahead was given and Lynn tried to interview me via email. However I wasn't able to respond to her in time since the article deadline was very very close. Anyway, Vanessa was interviewed.

Oh, Vanessa, now the Whole Wide World knows how old you are, 'cos your age was cited! I thought all women wanted to keep their exact age a secret? LOL!

I've also made a note to read these articles from the archived copy of The Straits Times when I'm back at the library (ah, thank goodness for libraries, right?):

  • Aug 23, 2006: "Blogging: Govt agencies getting into the act", by Goh Chin Lian
  • Aug 23, 2006: "Experts, MPs back Govt moves on new media", by Sue-ann Chia
  • Aug 20, 2006: "PM Lee maps vision for Singapore to thrive in changing world", by Bernice Bong (this piece cited our Prime Minister saying that the Singapore Government "must adapt to new media to get its message across to Singaporeans who have embraced the online world in the digital age").

My working trip isn't officially over until after tomorrow morning, after my Standing Committee final meeting.

Oh, I should mention that our Section's newsletter -- the Dec '05 and Jun' 06 issues (PDF files) -- was a contender for IFLA's Best Newsletter 2006. We didn't win this year (we got 2nd place) but I got a kick from hearing our nomination at the closing ceremony. Both issues were my first attempts at editing and producing the newsletter. The nomination made up for the frustrations of producing it. I'm contented that I was able to uphold the high standards set by the previous Information (see previous entry).

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Off to IFLA 2006: Thoughts and stuff (Part 1)

I used to think it odd when bloggers published a "I'll be posting less frequent 'cos I'm going off somewhere" post. Not anymore. I guess such a thing comes naturally when you have an affinity with certain some of your blog readers, no matter how many.

But I digress.

So I'll be off to 72nd IFLA General Conference and Council, held in Seoul this year. This year I'm better prepared for my section's Standing Committee meetings (Libraries for Children and Young Adults Section). It would be nice to meet up with colleagues from the committee. You probably won't be interested in our Standing Committee's meeting agenda so I won't bore you here (however, if you are interested, I'd be happy to share it with you -- or you can read about it when we post our meeting minutes in the newsletter and at the webpage, after the conference).

However, I will share this -- my section's colleague from Denmark, Mr. Lars Aagaard, will be proposing that our section set up a blog! I'll certainly second his proposal, though I'm not quite sure how we could effectively explain the relevance of a blog to the section. In fact, the issue of blogs for IFLA was mentioned at the Information Coordinators' meeting last year. I'm curious if this would be mentioned again at the meeting.

If we don't get to start a blog for the section, I would be proposing that we start a mailing list. Currently, there are 52 IFLA mailing lists. The main issue about starting a mailing list is how to maintain it. IFLA committee members serve on a voluntary basis. Whatever posts and assignments we have, it's in addition to our regular work at home. I've since learnt that one really needs the passion in the section's work, or less you won't find it meaningful.

Incidentally, IFLA requires has proposed that each section maintains at least 100 50 members (or else that section faces closure). And within that section, the Standing Committee must be made up of at least 10 members -- any less, IFLA fears there might not be enough volunteer members to sustain the section's activities, or it might regress to a "personal fiefdom"! Hence, I feel the blog, combined with a mailing list, would enable the section to keep its members (and other interested parties) better informed. OK, let's see how the meeting goes.

This year, our section has combined forces with the Reading Section for a joint conference programme (organising the conference programme is also part of the section's work). See item 81 at this page.

I'll see if I can blog about the conference like the last time. It won't be 'live' though. For one, it's not easy to 'live' blog and still concentrate on the speaker. I'm just not a multi-tasker. Second, it's going to be a hassle bringing a laptop due to the increased airport security measures on cabin baggage -- no thanks to the recent terrorist threat.

Here's a new norm for travellers -- it's practically a must to check the airline's security advisory information. Like this one from SIA (you need to scroll down the page if you don't see the information at first). One never knows when tighter controls would be in place, so it helps to keep up to date.

This line in the SIA General Advice to passengers got my attention : "... don't take out your frustrations on check-in or security staff or air crews."

Yeah, why blame the crew? We should be blaming the terrorists for the inconvenience! (I don't buy the argument that terrorism is a response to a certain country's foreign policy etc... killing is killing).

Might be useful to share this here, from Singapore Airlines (note: advisory information differs from airlines to airlines, so check with your specific one):
12 August 2006

Governments around the world are imposing restrictions on the contents of cabin baggage in response to specific security threats and intelligence.

For the most part, these restrictions ban the carriage of any liquids, fluids and/or gels in cabin baggage. This includes drinks of any type, toiletries (toothpaste, shower gels, shampoos and perfumes), pre-purchased duty free liquid products (alcohol and perfume) and contact lens solution.

In addition, security screening procedures are being tightened at airports around the world.

Singapore Airlines provides the following GENERAL ADVICE to customers:

  • Be alert to developments. Stay in touch with the news and check our website – - and other official sources for changes.
  • Pack hand luggage as lightly as possible. Keep it simple.
  • Do not pack any fluids, gels or toiletries in hand luggage on flights to countries where they are prohibited, especially if you have an onward connection.
  • Try to pack toiletries, contact lens solutions and other liquids or gels in your checked baggage, wherever you are traveling, as more countries may extend the restrictions with little or no notice.
  • Get to the airport early.
  • When returning from your destination, know the new hand luggage restrictions and pack anything else not essential: especially fluids and gels.
  • If traveling with medicines (especially in gel, cream or liquid form), make sure they are properly labeled and you are carrying copies of your prescriptions or certifications.
  • Wear light, comfortable shoes that can be easily removed for security checks. You can expect to be asked to remove your shoes, belt and any jewelry while proceeding through the security screening point.
  • Be patient and co-operate with instructions from security staff. Understand everyone is in the same position, and these checks are being done for a real reason. It will make the travel experience a lot more comfortable if you relax and be patient during the screening process.
  • Do not joke with security staff about the contents of your baggage and don't take out your frustrations on check-in or security staff or air crews.
  • Do not buy duty free alcohol or perfumes prior to departure, or in flight, to countries where cabin baggage restrictions now apply - buy at shops on arrival. Major airports have duty free retailers for arriving customers.

We apologize in advance if flights are delayed because of the implementation of these new security requirements. We seek your understanding and co-operation that these procedures are being implemented for your protection and safety.

Source: Singapore Airlines - "General Advice to customers on Cabin Baggage", last accessed 15 Aug 2006

There might be unexpected flight delays... Well I'd better pack a book to go with my hand-luggage (if even books are banned, then I really don't know what to say). Delays are OK. So long as everyone on the plane makes it to their destination safely.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

What 4 men, 8 treadmills, and creative minds can produce

Since I'm posting about interesting vid-related stuff, here's another one, this time from YouTube:

It's a music video titled "Here it goes again" by the band, "OK Go". Music is nice. Video is brilliant. Goes to show what four men, eight treadmill, and who knows how many creative minds can produce. Thumbs up for the choreographer. The most amazing thing is that the video was done in one take.

(Discovered via Fugufish frog)

Animusic - Pipe Dream

You have got to give the creators of this credit for sheer imagination!

Learnt about this via JOHO the Blog. Went over the Google Video, watched 10 secs of it and the smile on my face remained till the end of the video. Here's the blurb from Google Video itself:
From the fist Animusic DVD. Pipe Dream has been voted one of the best 3D animation projects ever (by 3D World magazine).

Metal balls fly out of PVC pipes, land on percussion and string instruments, and sound out an instrumental piece of music.

[Click on the 'Play' button above, or watch at Google Video]

There's also another video titled "Starship Groove" but I not as amazing as "Pipe Dream".

[Click on the 'Play' button above, or watch at Google Video]

Lots of people blogging about it already -- see Technorati Tag:

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Of Romance and Flowers

This was an illustration I did sometime ago. My colleagues were producing a new series of Fiction Genre Guides and we needed illustrations for the covers. There was no time to hire a vendor to do the illustrations, so I volunteered. This one was for the "Historical Romance" genre guide (you might have seen it in the public library).
Historical Romance
[Details on how it was done, here]

For some reason, my wife had this urge to try out watercolour-pencils. This is her second piece (here's her first one):
Orchids 4 - by Mrs RamblingLibrarian
[More details, here]

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

One satisfied customer

PY says the library is a good place to be in:
On the side note, I must thank the National Library Board for making our libraries such a conducive place for learning. Thank you.

I didn't played a direct part in making her recent experience a pleasant one. Nonetheless, it always feels good when you know there's one more satisfied customer.

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Blog-Poetry: "The Flag" by Kenneth (acroamatic)

I believe I've just come across a new form of poetry -- Blog-Poetry. That's "Blog-Poetry" (with a hyphen). It's not just poetry published in a blog. I define it as:
  • Poetry
  • Expressed in a blog; AND
  • Where its meaning is dependent on the hyperlinks, included in the poem, to more blogs (i.e. you take away the hyperlinks to blogs, and you lose much of its contextual essence)
The third point is most important.

Ok, read this post from Kenneth and you might understand why. I've taken the liberty to repost it here. I've also re-aligned (centralised) the words (Kenneth, if you don't mind; please let me know otherwise):
The Flag
by Kenneth (

Yesterday, I took part in a National Day Observance Ceremony. It was simple and solemn.

The flag was raised. The pledge was repeat-after-me. The anthem was played, but not few sang.

Most people don’t know the words, let alone the meaning.

At least I was spared the agony of hearing “ya-yat Singapura”. For goodness sake, it’s rakyat.

The flag. The red and white. The crescent moon and five stars.

Universal brotherhood. Equality of man. Purity. Virtue. A young nation rises. Democracy, Peace, Progress, Justice and Equality.

High ideals.

A nation of paradox, born out of paradox.

We were ejected from Malaysia. They say we forced our way out.

Diverse yet United.

First World, yet Unhappy.

A nation of immigrants, pondering about quitters.

Encouraged to express national fervour but told exactly how to do so.

Hentam someone, not criminal offence. Breach copyright law, criminal offence.

Smile! ‘Cos we’re on the world stage.

But still. I believe, in my heart.


I am a Singaporean.

It’s as simple as that. I can’t imagine being otherwise.

Love truly is blind.

Singapura, oh Singapura. Pretty flowers bloom for you and me.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Flying the Singapore Flag: Happy 41st Birthday, Singapore (Part 2)

[From: Flying the Singapore Flag: Happy 41st Birthday, Singapore (Part 1)]

I was in a taxi cab. It had a decal at the front windscreen: "Join the celebration. Fly our flag."

The cab passed by several housing estates. Considerably less flags hanging out of the windows this year, I thought.

During the interview the other day, Serene asked me if I considered myself patriotic. I looked up the word later. This definition says: "Feeling, expressing, or inspired by love for one's country." Another one says: "Love and devotion for one's country."

I asked myself if one had to hang a flag (on National Day) to show one's patriotism (i.e. support for the country).

I don't know. I have to tell you I didn't hang a flag this year, so if my answer was "No", it could be a self-justifying remark.

To be honest, I was lazy. The flag from previous years was faded and I was too lazy to get a replacement. I also found it hassle to take out the flag and attach/ detach it later (go ahead, critise me -- but still doesn't change the fact that I'm still a lazy bum).

But you know what? I will "fly" two flags.

One in my blog. You cannot have missed it. It's at the start of this post.

This blog is my home in the Blogosphere. It would be most appropriate to display the flag in my home. I won't need to wash this flag, and it wouldn't fade. Besides, I checked the guidelines on displaying the Singapore National Flag (via ASK! blog), and the guide doesn't specifically prohibit displaying a flag in a blog (I just have to ensure all other conditions are met).

Oh yes, the second flag... ...This one, it's always worn. You can't see it. Not overtly anyway.

I fly it in my heart.

Happy birthday, Singapore.
Happy 41st birthday, Singaporeans.

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[Related post: Happy Birthday SG: We are 40 today]

Flying the Singapore Flag: Happy 41st Birthday, Singapore (Part 1)

Just read this mail from Siva, who alerted the folks at Yesterday.SG about the Straits Times article published yesterday: "Flying the Flag Online" (Digital Life, 8 Aug 2006). It was written by the journalist, Serene, who interviewed me (it was more like a conversation, rather) among other Singaporean Bloggers.

The article was about the "I Am Singaporean" meme started by Brown and Miyagi, as a lead in to National Day (which is today!):
Surely cynical Singapore netizens would not be caught dead in a red I Love Singapore T-shirt, singing Count On Me Singapore and decorating their homes with the Singapore flag?

In the run up to National Day, however, they are flying the national flag in a different way, celebrating what it means to be Singaporean - both good and bad - online.

An 'I Am Singaporean' meme (say 'meem'), a chain letter of sorts, is making the rounds on the Internet, with netizens writing, podcasting and vodcasting about what makes them Singaporean.

Here's the part where I was quoted:
One particularly philosophical take came from Mr Ivan Chew.

The 34-year-old, who works at the National Library Board managing adult and young people's services, argued at that the cynicism wears itself 'like a disguise'.

'I think it is our brand of dry and wry humour. Perhaps people would rather be cynical than be caught dead saying 'I love Singapore'.

'But by participating [in the meme], they are showing they appreciate Singapore.'

Ah, Serene -- you made me appear more clever that I really am. :)

I thought the article ended off very nicely with the following comments by AP Cenite:
Assistant professor Mark Cenite, told Digital Life that 'there's no question that many of these podcasts reflect love of country even though they include criticism'.

Said Dr Cenite, who teaches at the Nanyang Techno- logical University's School of Com- munication and Information: 'The message is, 'I love Sin- gapore but sometimes it drives me crazy', which is compar- able with 'I love my parents but sometimes they drive me crazy'.'

He added: 'Feelings for something as complex as a nation are always going to be complicated.'

Blogging about this reminded me of something I was thinking about while in a taxi cab a few days ago... I'll blog about it next, since it's National Day and all.

[Next: Part 2]

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

More on Wikipedia (citing specific versions, Edit History feeds)

Thanks to Kevin, who shared more about Wikipedia in his earlier comments, I learnt something new -- specifically the ability to cite specific versions of the wikipedia entry. Thought it might be useful to point it out here.

Click on the images to see additional notes in Flickr.

#1 - Let's say we are at the Wikipedia Singapore entry. Typically, when we want to send someone the URL, we would copy the URL from our browser and send that link off, i.e.
Wiki - Singapore Entry

#2 - However, if our intent is to let the other person see the information as we've read it, we should send them the specific URL of that particular version of the wiki entry. Click on the link (at the left sidebar; bottom left of the image) that says "Permanent Link" to get the specific URL. That way, whoever receives the URL at a later date will see what we've seen (rather than updated versions). Near the top of the entry, there's a link to see the Edit History of the wiki entry.
Wikipedia entry - Singapore 1

#3 - Clicking on the Permanent Link will bring us to another page. Notice that the URL in our browser now shows a different URL (there is an ID number attached) -
We can also navigate to earlier or older versions from this page.
Wikipedia entry - Singapore 2

#4 - At the (Edit) History page, we can navigate to specific versions (newer or older). The Edit History page also shows who edited what. There's also an RSS feed for the wiki History page. The RSS feed is useful if you are interested in tracking (via Feeds) on the changes made to the entry.
Wikipedia entry - Singapore 3

#5 - This is how the RSS feed looks like, for the "History" of edits for the Singapore Wikipedia entry, in my bloglines account.
Screenshot - Wiki Edit history RSS

While writing this blog post, I wondered if (Singaporean) librarians ought to playing an equally active role together with the other volunteers who are maintaining this Singapore Wikipedia entry.

Whether we like it or not, the information (about Singapore) is in Wikipedia. Rather than fight it -- or worse, ignore it -- we might as well "join forces" with the community updating the information about Singapore. A professional responsibility, if you will.

We (librarians) need not be the ones maintaining the information. We could just subscribe to the Edit History feed and check the entry from time to time. If we spot any inaccurate information (or if we have better leads), we could find a way to get in touch with those actively maintaining the entry.

For starters, I've subscribed to the Edit History feed.

BTW, here's a thought-provoking article from The Alantic Online, by Marshall Poe: "Can thousands of Wikipedians be wrong? How an attempt to build an online encyclopedia touched off history’s biggest experiment in collaborative knowledge"

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Friday, August 04, 2006

Guest blogger - F.I.J.: "Nibble on this - Instant Noodles"

I was IMing with my Friend in Japan (F.I.J.) to get an update on the flooding. Good thing it's subsided, at least in the area where my friend lives. At one point, I asked FIJ why won't she blog about it. FIJ says too lazy to start a blog. Somehow, I ended up offering F.I.J. to guest blog.

Maybe I'm trying to ease F.I.J. into this blogging thing. Maybe not. In anycase, I felt F.I.J. had interesting things to say, and so why not "guest blog" here? This space is for learning, and there's some learning elements in FIJ's contribution on Instant Noodles. For me, it was an insight into a person's information search behaviour (in F.I.J.'s case, on how Wikipedia information was used).

Friend in Japan wrote:
My favourite instant noodles back home is Mi-Goreng (no, it's not Indomie Mi-goreng, but another brand that I cannot remember. Can't ID it as I've ran out of it. Mental note to self: stock up the next time I'm home).

I also like Mama Brand's Shrimp Tom Yam Flavoured Instant Noodles. Alas, I can't find these two types of instant noodles in the land that invented instant noodles.

Even Nissin Curry Cup Noodles wasn't what I had expected. It was Japanese curry, not hot curry, what was I thinking about? When I need my spicy instant noodles kick, the best that I can find is Korean Instant Noodles, which by the way is what many eateries in Korea use. I saw boxes of them in many eateries in Korea.

Instant NoodlesBack to Japan: Cup Noodles are a type of instant-noodle/ ramen snack in a styrofoam or hard plastic cup. According to Wikipedia, cup noodles were invented in 1971 by a Japanese food company, Nissin (more about the man who invented cup noodles).

Cooking time varies but is usually around 3 minutes. Better results are yielded when boiling water is added to the Cup Noodle instead of adding cold water to the Cup Noodle followed by cooking in the microwave. I tried the latter just to check the validity of information on Wikipedia. In this instance, I should have trusted Wikipedia. My Cheese-Curry Cup Noodles were not chewy and the cheese bits were spongy.

Anyhow, in this homeland of cup noodles, my favourite Mi-Goreng comes in the form of Japanese Fried Noodles (Yakisoba). Although it is not spicy, it is as tasty as Mi-Goreng and best of all, I love the easy and fuss-free "cooking". Also, it's really tasty for a cheap meal.

And if you think cooking noodles in 3 minutes undermines your abilities, watch this video (6mins 30secs).

If you are crazy about ramen and want to know more, check out the ramen links on Mari's blog.

I assured F.I.J. this was not a "bo-liao" (i.e. useless) post. It's an individual's perspective on Instant Noodles. What might be "noise" could be the equivalent of gold to someone else (information-wise). We never know.

In fact, I discovered this post by ManMeng on "How to prepare an instant noodle cup". Some of us might think there's little value in posting something as simple as making cup noodles (it's supposed to be simple to make cup noodles so why would you need instructions?)

But suppose 10 or 20 years from now, cup noodles become a "thing of the past". Then posts like those from F.I.J. and MenMeng will become gold indeed.

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Is there really a "problem" with using Wikis as information resources?

Just read this post by David Weinberger, on "Why believe Wikipedia?":
Simply by appearing in the Britannica, an article has credibility. But that's not true for Wikipedia because you might hit an article a moment after a loon has altered it. Yet, Wikipedia has (and deserves) credibility, in part because of its willingness to acknowledge its fallibility.

To understand the controversy surrounding Wikis, read this post by Ram Mohan on "The problem with Wikis" (I found the explanation clear and concise, and previously cited it at this Yesterday.SG post).

Some librarians feel that a resource like Wikipedia should not be cited as part of an answer to a customer (in response to their information enquiry). I'm not saying their concerns have no basis. I'm just saying that to discount a wiki entirely without first accessing the value of its content would be foolish. Unprofessional, even.

Sometimes, the wiki entry is even more comprehensive and better articulated that so-called "authorative sites". Sometimes it could be the only resource you can find on the Internet.

I think the unsaid worry among some librarians in citing a wiki entry is that the between the time you verify the content and the time the customer views it, the entry might be changed.

My view is that when librarians respond to an advisory or reference question, it is Okay to cite a Wikipedia entry -- provided we have done our due diligence in the usual verification and crosschecking of information.

We should not cite the wikipedia entry as the only information source. Our response should also be supplemented by other resources and references -- books and other published articles.

Most important, we should alert the customer to some known issues with wikis (i.e. a kind of advisory in itself), and let the user make their final informed choice with regards to the information available.

The Wikipedia today is a slightly different animal from its first incarnation. I suspect that as its popularity grows, its administrators also recognise an increased social responsiblity to maintain some form of standards. If you've read David Weinberger's post and seen the various "warning lables", you'd understand what I mean.

Also, there are these strange creatures known as "Wikipedia Administrators", to keep Wikipedia "safe", like this one (thanks to Kevin for a very interesting interview).

So to answer my own question: No, I don't see a problem with using information from Wikis as part of our response to users. It's only a problem if librarians/ users cite it without due diligence and professional judgement.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

I interviewed a Journalist

A few days ago, I received an interview request from yet another Straits Times journalist (first one's here). The email subject went "Hello fellow Singaporean" and turned out that journalist had some questions about my "I Am Singaporean" podcast. With the blessings of my Corp Comm folks, I agreed to do the interview.

Funny thing was I ended up interviewing her -- this second journalist -- as much as she interviewed me. Even before asked me questions, I was shooting her questions left-right-centre.

For instance, how they decide on an article or story (apparently it could be assigned, or they have an idea which their editor feels is worth pursuing, or they brainstorm for story ideas); what's their working hours like; how to they get assessed (in terms of performance) by their bosses.

Over the years, I've interacted with a handful of journalists/ reporters (print and broadcast). In all honesty, this young lady is the most chatty of them all. I mean it in a nice way. I'm not trying to get into her good books so that she writes something nice. Just telling it as it is.

I told her what I thought as well (about her being chatty). And she said:
"It's a two-way thing. I cannot keep asking questions only... ... That's what information exchange is about. I can't keep asking about your father and mother etc. don't know anything about me."

She said I could blog those remarks (in fact, she was apprehensive about me blogging her comments as she spoke to me, but I assured her I always ask for permission first). She's Serene Luo, btw. See if you can spot her in the Digital Life section of The Straits Times.

Know what? I didn't just have a conversation with a journalist.

I had an exchange of ideas with a fellow Singaporean.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Who says learning can't be fun? (or, "Do You Like Crisps?")

Discovered this via Euan Semple:

Click on the image to view the comments at the Flickr page.

I suspect the Flickr post started off as an innocent illustration of the "Add Note" feature in Flickr, but the comments just took off on a different tangent.

Luckily I was reading this at home, or else my office colleagues might think I'm mad for random bursts of laughter. Scroll down the comments and each one is funnier than the previous one.

It's also a great example of how witty conversations naturally unfold, given the right mix of people and context. Those folks are obviously intelligent and humourous (the dry/ wry kind). There are subtle (maybe not so subtle) references to usability design issues, but put across with humour.

NOTE: "Crips" = "Chips" = Potato Chips

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Product recall: 15-inch MacBook Pro Battery Exchange Program

Thanks to Isaak who alerted me to this info: Excerpts from Apple Support webpage ("15-inch MacBook Pro Battery Exchange Program" - last accessed 31 Jul 2006):
Apple has initiated a worldwide battery exchange program for certain rechargeable batteries that were sold for use with 15-inch MacBook Pro computer systems from February 2006 through May 2006.

We recently discovered that some 15-inch MacBook Pro batteries supplied to Apple do not meet our high standards for battery performance. To give our users the best experience possible, we will replace these batteries for customers free of charge.

Note: The affected batteries do not pose a safety risk. You may continue to use your current battery until a replacement arrives.

The affected batteries have model number A1175 and a 12-digit serial number that ends with U7SA, U7SB or U7SC. To view the model and serial numbers located on the bottom of the battery, you must remove the battery from the computer. The battery serial number is located above the barcode. [
Photo at webpage]. Only batteries within the noted serial number ranges need to be exchanged.

No other MacBook Pro or MacBook batteries are part of this program.

Mine qualifies.

So I fill up the required information at the Support Page. I'm brought to a page that confirms my Macbook Pro and battery serial number qualifies for the exchange. I provide my address and contact information for the free delivery.

Finally I'm brought to a page that says:
Thank you

Your request will be processed shortly. If you provided an email address, a confirmation email will be sent to you.

Apple will ship you a replacement battery (or batteries) as soon as possible after processing your replacement order. Shipping time may vary due to product availability. Once you receive the replacement battery, please return the old battery to Apple with the pre-paid shipping label and packaging provided.

Almost immediately, I receive the confirmation email:
Dear Apple Customer,

Thank you for ordering a replacement battery. Your request is currently being processed.

It will take approximately 3 to 5 business days for your replacement battery to arrive. Please note that shipping times may vary due to availability.

We appreciate your cooperation with this exchange program.


Now that's customer service. Very professional.

While going through the steps, I can't help but recall this statement I wrote in an earlier post, about my modem trouble, (see item 5 in the post):
Inform the customer what you (the librarian) are going to do, and how you are going to do it. Letting the customer know what is being done helps alleviate some anxiety.

Out of curiosity, I searched for "macbook pro battery exchange" in Technorati to see what people are blogging about this episode.

It didn't surprise me that things are pretty calm, i.e. many people are blogging about this but there's no hysteria or "Darn you, Apple" type of posts. I think the affected users were probably early adopters of the Macbook Pro, so something like this was within expectations. Also, the recall and exchange process is quite hassle free (the battery is delivered to the customer, rather than the customer going to the store to get a replacement).

Some Macbook Pro owners are pretty analytical about the whole thing, like this blogger (who would be testing the new battery to compare performance before sending the old one back).

This blog post was useful to me -- where this blogger's replacement battery sported the serial number range that was being replaced (he shipped it back). I've made a mental note to check the serial number of my replacement.

(Two examples of how blogs are legitimate sources of information, which I will cite at my 2nd run of the LAS blog course later this week).

So far I'm satisfied with the customer service from Apple. Another plus point for them. I've come to expect no less from Apple. Notice that I wrote "satisfied" rather than "pleased" or "happy". This is a fact for service industries like librarianship too -- customers go from delighted to happy to satisfied because they are used to the service level. But hey, better to have satisfied customers than no customers (and no job) at all.

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