Monday, October 30, 2006

Piers Anthony - on ‘Life’

I've sometimes been described as "philosophical". Must have been something to do with early influences in life, like this one.

BTW, I've started a new category called "Philosophical Musings" over at MyRightBrain. I wanted to name it "Meaning Of Life" but that might be a bit too restrictive, and even a tad depressing (as if the meaning of life is in question).

I have always pondered over the meaning of life. In fact, when I was 10 years old, I even developed my own 'theory' about Life, Religion, and "Why We're Here". I won't share it for now. Maybe privately, but not in a blog (give me another 30 years, maybe, if I'm still blogging).

So... if you written, or have read, interesting "Philosophical Musings" type of posts, I'd love to hear from you.

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

I was on almost

Yesterday, I noticed several visits to my blog from so I clicked back on the link to learn why. Apparently, my blog was cited on, under "Extras" (i.e. "Bits you didn't get to see on air. We've got so much great stuff we can't cram into our half-hour programme, so we've put up the extras here just for you"):
Lin's favorite -
A boring librarian no more. Ivan Chew, a music lover (who posts tips on composing tracks no less!), poetry writer and book reviewer all rolled into one. - Cited (1)

Here's what the Xue Ling, the lady host, said:
"I like someone a little more philosophical. Rambling Librarian. He's based in Singapore. He doesn't just talk about library systems. He actually talks about books, what he thinks about society... a nice philosophical read. He makes me feel calm and gentle after reading his blog.

[She brings up the blog] - Cited (2)

So if you want a good read that makes you feel happy, try Rambling Librarian."

Calm and gentle? I hope it isn't a prelude to "boring" and "ZZZzzz"... LOL! Heh, thanks for the compliment! It's gratifying to know someone feels happy from reading my ramblings.

But hor, why is it that doesn't have RSS feed ah?

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Podcast: Carry Me Over (Rock Instrumental)

The monsoon winds have finally come, dissipating the hazy shroud over Singapore skies. With that, my haze-induced illness has also been lifted. During that time, with the persistent runny nose and depressed mood, I tried to lift my spirits by attempting another GarageBand composition. But initial attempts turned out to be rather uninspired. My mood sunk further.

By chance, I caught this rock guitar tune on radio. I do not know its title nor its artiste. But the main guitar riff strucked a chord, lifting my spirits if only momentarily.

Normally I would have enjoyed the moment and then let it go, but perhaps I had an unconscious urgency to lift myself out of the haze/ drug-induced depression. I grabbed my guitar and tried to find the notes. Turned out the riff was a simple Scale progression. I played that one riff over and over, long after the song stopped playing on radio, finally stopping when I was sure I had committed it to memory.

It took me around three days to record, edit, and sound-engineer the tracks. The public holiday on Tuesday helped, in that I had more time. Then it came to giving the song a name. I thought about it for maybe five seconds. I decided to title it "Carry Me Over" :)

Rock guitar instrumentals might not be your cup of tea. I hope you enjoy it anyway.

powered by ODEO

You can choose to download the MP3 file at More details & Tablature of the opening riff, over at MyRightBrain.

RamblingLibrarian's Podcasts:
My Odeo Podcast

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How to access the NLB Web Archive Singapore (WAS)

I thought this might be useful for those who aren't quite sure how to search for archived websites in the NLB Web Archive Singapore (WAS), mentioned at this earlier post.

At the NLB website, choose eArchive under the "eResources" option:
NLB - Web Archive

At the eArchive (i.e. W.A.S.) page, the search box is at the left margin:
Web Archive Search Page

For some reason, the search box didn't seem to work so I tried Advanced Search. In this example, I've typed in "ang mo kio" (one of the HDB estates):
NLB web archive - Advanced search page

The search results page looks like this. A cursory check seems to indicate that there are more school websites archived in W.A.S. but I am not really that certain. Anyway, turns out that the websites of the Ang Mo Kio (AMK) Primary School and AMK Secondary School archived (yeah, I attended both schools):
NLB web archive - Search results

Clicking on the individual link will bring you to the Item Detail page, where it shows, among other things, when that particular website was archived (btw, you need to allow for pop-ups to view the archived site):
NLB web archive - Item Details

If you click through, you'll see the archived website. For the above example, I noticed something strange though. The archive date in the Item Detail page says "31st May 2006", but looking at the archived page, it says "27th Oct 2006".
AMK Primary School archived page

Looking at some other archived pages, the archive date indicated in the item detail page shows an earlier date than what' shown in the actual archived page. I'll have to check with my colleague to find out what's up with that.

Anyway, that's how you can search for archived items in the NLB eArchive. Hopes this helps.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Life Long Learning in Second Life - Building my first guitar

I ventured into Second Life (SL) to learn more about the SL Library, and lately I've been learning more about the social interactions, it's 'economy' and also about myself, heh. I'll elaborate on all that in future posts. For now, just to share this 13 minute video recorded and edited by Kevin on my attempt at building a guitar.

Gotta give it to Kevin -- video editing is already not easy, not to mention having to grapple with the mouse-controls in SL in the first place. He's also incorporated this song I posted earlier. The documentary looks great! How's that for an online tutorial, eh? So many possibilities for education and learning...

My SL guitar-contruction skill is no where near the sophistication as this one, but I'm aiming to get there. As to WHY I'm building a guitar in SL... well, it's a combination of many reasons. I think the simplest is "Why Not?" :)

Seriously though, the signs are there, at least to me. Real Life (RL) organisations and companies are establishing their presence in SL. Two days ago, I heard the 938LIVE radio DJ mention Susanne Vega's "Live" performance in Second Life. Recently I discovered this Second Life Researcher's mailing list.

Oh, just to give you a teaser -- I've even started selling stuff in SL (or at least attempt to, thanks to another SLifer). Let me check with my "SL Business Partner" how much she's willing to reveal about her store. Thanks to Kevin for this picture of my SL Avatar doing a yoga pose, floating above the guitars I made. Oh, you might find the paintings in the background familiar too.

P.S. Oh yeah, in SL, Kevin can be taller than me, LOL.

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iChat discussion: Mainstream media WITH blogs

If the criteria for being invited on TV is based on looks, I'll never make it anytime soon. My nose looks huge! Glad I didn't pick my nose : )
[Approx. 45mins. Click the above image to watch. Or watch/ download Quicktime version]

About a week ago, Kevin emailed me and Brennan asking if we'd like to have a 3-way iChat discussion session. He was interested in our views about "Mainstream media Vs. blogs/ bloggers". The session was to be at 12 midnight, Singapore Time (Kevin being in the US and if it was during the day, I'd be at work). I agreed to the invitation, since I wanted to try out a 3-way video conference using the Mac, plus I've never met Brennan before. I thought it would probably be a 15 to 20 minutes affair but it went to about an hour (no, I didn't fall sick because of that one late night!)

I didn't know Kevin would be recording the meeting until after the iChat discussion. He did seek our agreement before posting it up. Just as well he asked only after recording it, 'cos I'd probably have more reservations if I had prior knowledge, and would be less natural during the chat.

Incidentally, our first attempt to connect via iChat failed, due to some technical problems, Kevin and Brennan managed to obtain a solution and the chat went without a hitch the next night.

The iChat discussion was free-flowing and we didn't have any fixed points of discussion, other than the main theme of "(Singapore) Mainstream Media & Bloggers". While the discussion was not necessarily confined to Singapore only, we tended to refer to examples from Singapore. Some points covered in the chat:
  • Our views about
  • Our responses to mainstream media entering the blogosphere
  • How bloggers are "treated" by Singapore mainstream media, and vice versa
  • Are bloggers "powerless" where copyright enforcement is concerned?
  • Will there still be "Mainstream media"

Kevin and Brennan's audio was clear, while mine was muffled. It must be the man and not the machine then (darn it). I need to enunciate better, and I spoke too close to the built-in mic. Will have to use a headphone/ mic the next time.

"Live" TV or Video or "Live" anything is scary. You're afraid of how you look, how others perceive you... I'm more comfortable with articulating my thoughts on paper/ screen and editing them. Live debate or discussion is not my forte. But I'm glad this was done cos I forced myself to look at what could be done better. And after the initial goosebumps from watching myself (and THE NOSE), it was quite OK. One could get used to this.

And yeah, if you were expecting the Rambling Librarian to be this 50 year old guy, you won't be the first. I remember when Von saw me in person for the first time when he was here for a conference, he was speechless for about three seconds. Then he said, "I expected you to be older, based on your writings". OK, that's a compliment, I think.

Kevin titled the post "Mainstream Media Vs Bloggers?" (with a question-mark). My view is that it's about Mainstream Media With Bloggers. It may seem like we have a "Us Vs Them" situation but in reality, we're all part of the Information Landscape. We're all in this together, serving different audiences, wants and needs.

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

So NLB is archiving Singapore websites...

The day after The Straits Times carried an article on the NLB's web archive project, I received this email from mr brown (quoted here with permission):
And and haven't met the "deeply cultural to Singapore" criteria yet? Hahahaha! Do listen to today's mrbrown show! We try to be more deeply cultural to qualify, haha!

It was his tongue-in-cheek response to the ST article (Oct 19, 2006, "Library board to archive local websites"). In particular mr brown and friends were poking fun at the fact that sites like the Irritable Bowel Syndrome Support Group and the Singapore Magicians Network have been included in the archives while, in response to the question about including local satirical websites and, the appointed NLB spokesperson was quoted as saying they were "not ruled out" and would be archived "if they are deemed 'deeply cultural' to Singapore".

In their highly entertaining 30minute podcast, mr brown has called for an emergency meeting. He's concerned about not being considered "deeply-cultured" for inclusion to the NLB's Web Archive project. They make the inevitable comparision with the and sites with the Irritable Bowel Syndrome support group and the Singapore Magicians Network.

They also asked, "Who archives the Archivers?"; even the email address for the public to recommend websites for archival, '' wasn't spared:
- Hello, may I know what is the email address to recommend a website?
- Was at NLB dot GOV dot SG
- OK, then was what is the email address now?
- I told you -- Was at NLB dot GOV dot SG...

Nothing is safe from these guys -- nothing!

The cast of the show later share some insights into their views about the library service in general. 'mr brown' reveals a "secret confession" about using a particular part of the library premise...

I'm not a regular listener to mr brown's podcast show. I'm sure they are all entertaining but I think this must be one the more hilarious ones. But the wry Singaporean humour aside, I think he and his cast have asked some valid points about the nature of web archival projects.

Basically their questions centred on the archival policy of the service. They asked how a website is considered for archival; what is considered "Cultural" and what is "local". Perhaps this is something the NLB might want to clarify for the public's benefit -- the selection policy and criteria for the Web Archive.

In his show, mr brown also said something like "wanting to be archived so badly" for prosperity's sake. He imagined having his children discover this site in the archives. He has probably articulated what most Singaporeans might want -- and that is for their work (any work) to be deemed as worthy for being preserved and accessed by future generations. That, to me, says alot about the value of the web archival project.

According to the project Copyright/ Disclaimer statement (as of Oct 2006):
National Library Board (NLB) is traditionally known to collect published materials for preservation as the nation's published heritage. This includes online and electronic publications of lasting national, historical, research and cultural value.

Therein lies the challenge -- what is "historical" and of "research/ cultural value" is subjective. And there are finite resources (time being a resource as well). That being said, I would think that websites and blogs are more easily archived than print materials.

Maybe as awareness and the need for the Singapore Web Archive grows, we might see a symbiotic partnership develop between Singaporeans (particularly those active in the Singapore Blogosphere) and the NLB . For instance, in addition to the Web Archive managed by the NLB, we might also see private efforts for another one. The difference for the latter is that it is primarily managed by interested Singaporeans, who will set and execute its own web archival policy (e.g. for sites not included in NLB's archives). NLB's support in the latter could be in terms of partial funding and/ or web hosting.

In other words, there could be a two-pronged approach towards web archival of Singaporean online resources. Maybe a registered society initiated, managed and funded by Singaporeans, working hand-in-hand with the NLB... hmm, something to think about.

OK, in case you missed the link to the podcast episode in question, here's the link (the trackback URL here).

And mr brown wants to let the NLB know that they still love them. In my follow-up correspondence with him, he assured me that they are "deeply cultural and transparent one!" so I'm confident I think he wouldn't mind sharing this part of his reply:
Eh, you must appreciate the fact that I rolled Colin Goh and wife out of bed (they is be now big-time award-winning movie directors leh) to come to the studio to record this little unscheduled podcast, ok?

We read the column in the morning, got Colin on the phone, he came down to record in the evening, and I stayed up to 12 midnight in the office editing that show and yanking a show that was already scheduled to go live, all just for the NLB leh! Hahahahaha!

Well I'm not sure if the NLB would start archiving or, but I sure would like to have that particularly podcast episode included, for effort and entertainment value! LOL.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

The cost of "The Haze"

(No) Thanks to 'The Haze', I am now resting at home with a drippy nose, tearing eyes, and a headache. Well, I suppose it is a break from work but then loading these medicines with labels like "Poison - Not to be dispensed physician's prescription" into my body can't be a good thing...

Indonesia's fires and the resulting haze strike with such regularity on an annual basis that when we say "The Haze", practically every Singaporean, and those in affected countries, would know what the term refers to.

From IDRC Books (, "INDONESIA'S FIRES AND HAZE - The Cost of Catastrophe (with a 2006 update)":
From September to November of 1997, raging fires in Indonesia pumped enough smoke into the air to blanket the entire region in haze, reaching as far north as southern Thailand and the Philippines, with Malaysia and Singapore being particularly affected. An area the size of Costa Rica was completely devastated. The lives and health of 70 million people were jeopardized and species already endangered, such as orangutans, rhinos, and tigers, were pushed closer to extinction. The fires — deliberately set for the most part — were certainly one of the century's worst environmental disasters.

The Haze started as far back as 1994, but it was not until 1997 when things got particularly bad:
The haze is not a new phenomenon for Southeast Asia or for Singapore. It has been a yearly occurrence since 1994, though it has varied in severity and duration. During that time, most people saw the haze as an inconvenience, and a "passing event", lasting for about a fortnight at the most. The 1997 haze, however, changed these perceptions. The haze stayed for more than two months, and occupied the headlines with both government and public attention.
This CNA article (12 Oct 2006) reports an estimated US$50m economic loss incurred by Singapore since the start of the haze this year. I cannot visualise US$50b, but I can appreciate the impact. The economic loss is very real. Past few weekends, my wife and I were forced to remain at home when we would've gone out for dim-sum at a restuarant. At work, I have colleagues being laid up by symptoms resulting from The Haze. The loss of productivity is very real, not just for those laid up from work but also for staff who have to cover the duties. Opportunity costs do translate to real dollars.

I wonder how many people would be deterred from visiting the library because it's too polluted to leave their homes. Having fewer library visitors and loans is not a good thing when library employees' performance bonuses are tied to indicators like Loans and Visits.

I remember encountering The Haze while in my early 20s. Even when it was at its worse in 1997, it remained merely an inconvenience to me. I didn't suffer from any resulting health problems. I was younger and fitter. Like everyone in their early 20s, you think you're invincible, and it felt like it was so.

But as they say, "Age catches up with you". Almost a decade later, The Haze has become more than just mere inconvenience. It's become 'A Problem' for me. Physically I'm not coping as well. I'm sure this would be true for others.

The economic and even social fallout will worsen in coming years if the haze continues to appear with regularity. It has already been acknowledged that Singapore has the "fastest ageing population in Asia" and that "the effects of this demographic transition will be pervasive". It's logical to assume the older one gets, the tougher if would be to cope with physical stress.

According to this 1998 GSETA report (see Part c), 99% of the Indonesian forest fires were man-made for the 1997 haze. I'm sure that statistic still applies today. If it's man-made, then something can be done about it. But that's largely up to the Indonesian government. There would not (and should not) be direct intervention by the other affected nations. Even indirect punitive measures would at most penalise Indonesia but not eradicate the haze.

Perhaps what Singapore can control is our ability to adapt to the haze when it strikes. I, for one, would certainly welcome the ability and leeway to just stay home to work if the haze strikes and air quality reaches an unhealthy level. If a meeting with colleague is required, we could Instant Message or conduct it via Video Conference. All the more reason for employees employers to redesign work and work hours.

As I look out my window, the sky is a grey pallor. There's flecks of rain now. Hopefully the downpour will intensify and wash away the dust particles.

At the clinic, I asked the doctor if there was anything else I could do to avoid being affected by The Haze, or to reduce the resulting symptoms. He said he could only precribe me more medicine (about a week more) to deal with the runny nose and discomfort in the eyes. More poison in my body. If the haze doesn't kill me, maybe the medicine will.

It just sucks.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

British Library to store 'blog' of lives of Britons

Thanks to GPP (you know who you are!) for alerting me to this -- British Library to store 'blog' of lives of Britons: report (via CNA):
Anyone who participates is asked to submit between 100 and 1,000 words about their day on Tuesday, in either English or Welsh -- the project was inspired by mass observation exercises conducted by sociologists through and since World War II to record the details of daily life.

I thought the headline was misleading though, at least to me. This UK initiative isn't about storing blogs per se. More like record of a single day's event by anyone who signs up. You don't really need a blog to participate in the project. I suppose one could consider the entire digital time-capsule as "A Blog", as suggested by The BritBlog Blog when it referred to the project as "The Biggest Blog in History (so far)".

Funny thing though -- when I tried to access the URL mentioned in the article, the site just displays a message "This domain name has been registered by: National Business Register Plc".

Anyway, the project is an intriguing idea. I think its value would be more apparent when sociologists exam the records decades from now. The assumption is that Technology will not fail, or else the digital records would not be accessible.

I'm also reminded of the Today In History (otherwise referred to as "tih") project organised by the Singapore Ministry of Education:
To commemorate Singapore’s 40th National Day in 2005, MOE has produced a book on students’ research and reflections on past events in Singapore’s history, especially those that coincide with their birthdays. It is a gift by our students to Singapore as students from all schools in Singapore from primary to pre-University level were invited to send in their entries covering each day from January to December.

The book is unique in presenting students’ perspectives on both well-known and less well-known events in Singapore’s history. For the Singaporean adult, the book will bring to mind events in the recent and distant past that many would have lived through, yielding enriching recollections of Singapore’s past. As the book covers every day in the year, it is hoped that it will have some significance for everyone.

I guess the UK project was to capture the present so that it can be reviewed in future, whereas the Singapore MOE project was to review the past as for the present generation.

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

To give the fish, or to teach people how to fish

I wanted to blog about this separately. Also from Feral Library Tales (on the future of libraries):
A major theme is the ‘service’ part of information. Do we instantly gratify to help the client get what they need or do we teach to enable them to learn how to get more. (You know the old “give someone a fish and he eats for a day, teach him how to fish and he will eat forever....or something like that.) Increasingly we are faced with clients that want the piece of information they want and nothing else.

This dilemia is usually faced by Public Libraries and arguably less by of Special Libraries.

Special Libraries serve a very specific clientele, whose clients specifically pay for the library's service so that they don't have to search on their own in the first place. Public libraries, on the other hand, serve a wide range in terms of customer segments as well as functions (handling enquiries is just one aspect). As a result, we (in public libraries) are not able to fully anticipate the information requests of customers. Hence, much of the advisory and enquiry questions are acted on the fly. Obviously, the stress comes when you have to handle indepth enquiries that take up about two hours to fulfill (because customers expect answers and not merely citations), and you don't have time for other tasks.

My views are that:
  • We ALL live in an age of "instant gratification" and will continue to do so. Unless Internet Technology collapses, and/ or Google closes down, people will tend to want 'answers now';
  • Even if the customer knows how to fish, they will still want to find cheaper, faster and "good enough" ways because they'd rather be doing something else.

So to TB's question:
"Do we instantly gratify to help the client get what they need or do we teach to enable them to learn how to get more."
I think we have to do both. We still need to "teach people how to fish", but in order to have them want to stay and listen, we must "give them the fish". We may have to give lots of fishes before they'd be willing to hear what we have to say next.

Most library customers these days will search for information on the Internet, and then ask friends or colleagues before they ask librarians (if they do at all). Suppose they approach librarians after that. Instead of getting direct information or answers, they get more instructions, which in their minds could be just more of the same of what they have tried to do earlier.

This is of course a simplistic case but I feel it's the way things increasingly are. That's why I say libraries have to do both -- we "give the fish" (within reasonable means as defined by charter and mission) and then they might be more open to us showing them "how to fish".

Before we tell customers how to access XYZ database, we ought to first show them what is in the database by giving them not the citation, but the full-text or a relevant extract. Only then can will they be more receptive to instructions on how to access the database. They may not even try it for themselves the next time they have a request. They may choose to ask a librarian instead of attempting a search on their own. Well, is that necessarily a bad thing if they find that librarians are more efficient and effective in using the database? : )

Even when citing book titles, we should do more than just cite title, author and Call Number. Where we can, we ought to extract relevant passages with page numbers, or a synopsis, or list the content page. That way, they will have more reasons to make a trip to the library to borrow the physical item. If we merely cite book titles, we are making an assumption that they can infer the relevance of the book content from the title alone. That is often not the case. I believe customers will ask in their minds, "How do I know the information I seek is in the book, and what if it's a wasted trip to the library?"

I'd like to think that it's about showing our goodwill and also expertise, and subtly, showing them how and why libraries and librarians are still relevant. It's also about customer service. Our competition is Google and The Age of Instant Gratification.

If we can't make a better cheese, then we have to find better ways to move the cheese (while juggling with other taks) to customers -- in the manner in which require.

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If libraries are still around in 2025

TB (of Feral Library Tales) posted some thoughts on libraries in 2025. The post title suggests that it's not clear if (public) libraries will be around in 20 years. I feel libraries will still be around, just that its form and function might be very different from today. I mean, Horse Carriages may be obsolete but we still see horses used for other things, and "carriages" have become motorised.

Of course if the question is, "How many of us will still continue to be employed by the library?"

That is anyone's guess. I suppose the only way to go is to keep our eyes peeled to the future, while serving the present and reflect (but not obsess) on the past.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Second Life Library opens

Second Life Library grand opening 1I managed to log-in this morning and caught about 10mins of the SL Library opening event. Lorelei was speaking (i.e typed out and those in SL were reading as she typed it). This was what I caught before I had to log-off and leave home for work:
"Why are we involved? Previous speakers have addressed this. It is the way of the future. We need to be there. Most of our librarians are not gamers. Students can sit do wn and do this with no problem whatsoever. A bit harder of us who have not done gaming. I did not want us to be a year down the road.

We have a bit more difficulty doing some things, struggling to figure out what we can do and how we can do it... there are so many possibilities. There is a profesor who teaches a Japanese religion course... He could teach in an authentic Shinto temple... What better way for librarians to be there and to help them.

These are the kind of synergies we can see happening. We also want to be able to help develop some of this.

Second Life Library opening 2
My first experience attending a talk in the Second Life environment. What's interesting was how we tend to carry over some habits and customs from Real Life (RL) into Second Life (SL). For instance, I was careful not to bump into the participants already there, or stand up and block the view of the avatar behind me (but my mastery over the avatar controls are still weak so I might have bumped or blocked some 'people').

I suspect from the presenter's point of view, when you are delivering a speech remotely, it helps when you can see -- by the number of avatars present -- how many people are logged in and listening to you.

Oh, I bumped into Kevin there as well. Chatted briefly by using the IM mode so that our conversation wouldn't be picked up by others in the proximity (i.e. disturb their "reading" of the talk).

I am beginning to see glimpses of the possibilities that Lorelei mentioned. A few days ago, there was a discussion held at Info Island, where Henry VIII (yeah, that English king) or rather, an Avatar representing Henry VIII talked, about his life and how biographers have villified him. I didn't attend that session but I'm sure it would have been a lot more interesting to see a simulation of Henry VIII and listen to the presentation, than to hear it from a lecturer talk about the king.

At this point, SL certainly will not be able to replace RL presentations. That being said, it is one heck of a tool to enhance learning experiences. I'm not surprised then, that the Singapore Ministry of Education mentioned this when they announced that they will co-develop high tech schools:
THE Ministry of Education (MOE) will be working with an international research team to develop 15 "Schools of the Future" by 2015.

This list will consist of existing schools that have used teaching approaches involving Interactive Digital Media to develop an innovative learning environment.

In the School of the Future, science experiments may be conducted through online simulations, while students may learn about the laws physics by racing virtual cars and interacting with their classmates and teachers through immersive virtual environments, such as those found in popular computer game Second Life.

Source: Thursday October 12, 2006. FUTURE SMART: MOE TO CO-DEVELOP HIGH-TECH SCHOOLS. International team to help produce visionary institutions by 2015. Channel NewsAsia (see also

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Grand opening: Second Life Library, October 12-14, 2006 (SL Time)

I learnt one thing about Second Life (SL) today, and that is how to tell the day and time -- Second Life Time, or SLT:
SLT stands for Second Life Time, which the inworld clock displays near the top-right corner of the screen. Second Life Time is the same as Pacific Time (PDT or PST depending), because San Francisco is where the main offices of Linden Lab, makers of Second Life, are situated. Time zones can be confusing, so here's a great page called The World Clock to help you figure out how to convert between them.

If you are logged into Second Life, look at the top-right of your SL window -- there should be a time display. If it says "8.55am PDT", it means it's 8.55am, Pacific Date Daylight Time (see this comment - thanks, Walt).

You would need to know this you are making appointments with people (from other time zones) in SL. Or if you are interested in attending the grand opening of the Second Life Library:
The Alliance Library System and the Second Life Library/Info Island collaborative group of librarians are pleased to announce the grand opening and a host of activities planned for Second Life residents scheduled October 12-14, 2006. All events will be held in Second Life and are free to residents.
For further details of events on specific dates/ times, click here (it's Friday, 13th Oct 7am, Singapore time).

I've wandered around Info Island thrice so far. Twice I was alone (not many people from this part of the world logging in, or maybe they aren't aware of SL Library) -- until tonight, where I "met" another Singaporean. As in Real Life, I asked for his permission to post his picture (of his Avatar) here:
Alvin Korvin, Singapore
Folks, meet Alvin from Singapore. He's also started a SL Singapore Group. To join, just login to SL, click on your Search button and type "SL Singapore", click on the "Join" button. Alvin says there's only he and I in the group so far. It's funny, but just like travelling to a foreign country, when you meet a fellow Singaporean, you lapse into Singlish (via IM) and tend to band together, heh.

Incidentally, Alvin asked if I knew "Kevin, a Singaporean blogger". I confirmed that it was this Kevin (fwah, I wonder if people ask of me in SL like that too, Kevin, LOL!)

Yesterday I emailed Lorelei (Lori), one of the collaborators on SL Library. I offered to blog about the SL opening (which I'm doing) and also asked if SL Library could offer things like music licensed under Creative Commons. We could start a music collection where SLifers either listen or download from SL Library, visit the actual webpage.

And I wondered out loud how many SL librarians create their own works -- writings, music, movies etc. Those could easiy find their way into SL libraries maybe under a particular section. In Real Life, I don't know of any library in the world where they have a section devote to works produced by librarians, so what's to stop us SL Librarians? : )

Lori replied that they are working on a catalog and adds: "librarians are learning to make things. We are also hoping to highlight works of SL authors and artists."

She asked if I'd like to work on the CC music collection idea. I'll reply to her yes (right after this post). My spirit is definitely willing but my knowledge (of SL Library) is weak, so I'll need to take guidance from her and other SL Library colleagues. Any RL Singapore Liblogarians or Bloggers want to join me in this? :)

SL Library is still being "renovated". I took a shot of this building (World Bridges HQ) that's under construction. That same plot of land was empty 2 days ago. Things move fast in SL:
Second Life Library - 9 Oct 2006
BTW, the sign in blue, near the bottom-right, says: "No Weapons. No exceptions on Info Island. Use of them and you will be banned for a time."

I spent the last few minutes flying around Info Island (yes, you can fly in SL). It was 9am over there. It looked as if the sun was rising beyond the horizon. Even though I know it's not real, it still had that Real Life quality to it.

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Podcast: Ray Of Light (2006)

Started this at midnight and completed it on Sunday morning, 6am. I hope you like it (4min 16secs; Rock Genre):

powered by ODEO

Details of how it was done, over at MyRightBrain. All "live" guitar tracks played with my Epiphone Les Paul Standard.

RamblingLibrarian's Podcasts:
My Odeo Podcast

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Discovering Second Life Library 2.0.

One nice thing about blogging is that your post gets found/ people find you, and that leads to other things... like this comment the other day, at my Introduction to Second Life post:
We already have a Second Life Library and Info island with lots going on and we are growing. Please come join us. You can spend as little or as much time as you want. IM Abbey Zenith or Lorelei Junot to get involved.

A few hours ago, I logged into Second Life and searched for "Abbey Zenith" and "Lorelei Junot". Sent them an Instant Message to say hi, and asked how i could get to the library. I received the address and teleported myself to Info Island, where I found myself "talking" to Lorelei for a while.

Told her I'd found my way there because of the comment in my blog (she confirmed that she was the one who left the comment). Lorelei seemed really busy. In Second Life (SL), she was talking to someone (about a construction project on Info Island) and in real life, she had to log off to attend a meeting in five minutes. We didn't have time to chat much but I would be contacting her soon to meet her in Second Life for the tour (would be though because of the 12-hour time difference). Incidentally, during our chat, I caught a cross-chat and realised there was another user from Singapore on Info Island. Unfortunately I didn't manage to spot that person.

Next, I found myself inside a building, which turned out to be a library. It was obviously a library as there was an information desk which said something like, "Please ask a question or email a librarian". There was someone behind the counter so I walked up to that person (whose name was 'StoryAbout Ping') and asked some questions, just like in real life. Turned out 'StoryAbout Ping' (or Story, for short) was a librarian in real life, who happened to be on voluntary duty in Second Life, manning the desk and serving customers like myself.

Then a few more library customers showed up, and I stood aside absorbing the scene and conversation (my avatar is the one in the black/ red suit). In the following image, you can see Story greeting them by messaging, "Welcome to the library" (bottom left of the image).
screenshot_Info Island - Second Life Library 2.0.

Once Story was done, I asked a few more questions. Story tried to explain how I could 'read' a book but it wasn't so intuitive so I said maybe some other time. I spent a few more minutes chatting with Story. I asked how Story ended up volunteering as a reference librarian in Second Life Library (Story read about it from blogs and decided to come and volunteer), and whether there was a roster to follow (there is!) and would anyone get into trouble if they didn't show up (not exactly, but your credibility is reduced).

Story had to get back to duty so I continued exploring the library for a little while more. Here's a screenshot of a sample of the their reference collection (clicking on some of them brought you to a URL):
screenshot_Info Island - library

I'll be exploring more of Second Life Library 2.0. and I'm keen to see how I can "volunteer" my services. In one Note I found, it says:
Thank you so much for stopping by. Feel free to look around and don't hesitate to ask any questions.

We're just getting started here, but we anticipate offering reference services, educational programs, a collection of RL and SL-created materials, meeting room spaces and a variety of other services in the near future.

We invite your suggestions. Please IM Lorelei Junot with your ideas.

For more information, visit our RL blog at

I will certainly go back and explore. In fact, this little trip to Second Life library reinforced how new library customers might percieve a library for the first time, if my experience is anything to go by.

You roughly know what the library is for, but you're not quite sure where things are located, and access to materials might be an issue if you're not familiar with how they are offered. And the most important learning point was that the library staff made all the difference -- their friendliness and willingness to help -- those were key in ensuring my return to the library to find out more.

BTW, thanks to Kevin for these links:

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Friday, October 06, 2006

The "youtube" of Powerpoint: (or, "The Impact of the 'Why Not' culture"

Learnt about Slideshare from Ross Mayfield, who called it "the YouTube of Powerpoint" (a most apt analogy). Registration is currently by invitation only.

My initial thoughts about Slideshare:
  1. Slideshare would be a great tool for giving a renewed life to those non-confidential powerpoint slides I've done in my lifetime;
  2. You don't need to have Microsoft Office to run the slides (great for situations where you have Internet connectivity and the right browser plug-ins, but you don't have the right client software to run the slides);
  3. There still isn't any adequate explanation (to certain people) why there are those who upload and share their stuff on services like Youtube and Flickr.
Point 3 also reminds me of the question that some have asked me, "Why do people blog/ share stuff online?"

Often implied in that question is, "Why do they do it, when there's no apparent returns?"

I think the answers are that:
  • There are those who will first ask "Why should I do this", and those who ask, "Why not?" -- it's the latter who simply take on to social software platforms;
  • It's not so much about "Why" but simply "Because I Can".

I guess there are two train of thoughts here:
  1. That maybe society will comprise more and more of those who will act on the basis of "Why Not?" and a "Because I Can" attitudes. My sense is that it's not so much reckless behaviour but about an intuitive sense of what's "safe" and what's not, and a willingness to just try things out. Maybe I can call this the "Why Not?" culture;
  2. That the act of sharing for the sharing's sake might become the norm (i.e. those who don't might be seen as the mavericks instead)

If (1) is true (i.e. where more people adopt the "Why Not?" attitude towards life in general), I wonder how that will that shape society, economies and nations. How will that shape the provision of public goods like public libraries? That libraries have to provide spaces for experimentation? That to remain relevant, libraries and librarians have to adopt that "Why Not?" attitude in designing and offering services -- less of the "I'm not sure what this means for Loans and Visitorship" thinking and more of the "I'm offering this service Because I Can" thinking.

For (2), at first I thought maybe libraries have to be the Youtube-equivalent, where people can upload/ share/ show-off/ showcase their "content". But that idea struck out 'cos services like Youtube and Slideshare can probably do it better than libraries can. Or how about libraries sticking to what is likely to be our core collection -- print -- and offer something like Printshare (book-sharing, or original content).

You know, I'm not entirely sure what I'm alluding to (yeah, not only do I ramble, I'm incoherent). Maybe I'll re-discover this post a few years later, and then it'll make sense then. :)

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

High Browse Online's first podcast: Sam - A mother's journey of faith

This is significant for three reasons, in my opinion:
1) It's NLB first foray into podcasting (not quite a podcast yet, 'cos it doesn't have its dedicated RSS feed, but it's a first step);
2) It's a book written by the Chairman of NLB, Ms. Lim Soo Hoon;
3) Her poignant reading of an excerpt.

My colleague made an audio recording of Ms. Lim reading an excerpt from her book. Listen to the audio here. Here's the interview.

NLB doesn't have the equipment for editing, so I used my Mac to do some minor editing and added a background piano track (using GarageBand factory loops).

Ms. Lim Soo Hoon is the Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Public Service Division but that's just incidental, if you ask me. What's significant is her book -- which is an account of her experience as a mother, as she accompanied her 14 year-old son throughout his battle with Hodgkin’s disease.

When I first heard the raw audio, I could hear the emotion in her voice. I thought to myself, this wasn't NLB's Chairman or the Perm Sec of PSD. This was a mother's voice, pure and simple.

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Rock 'N' Read at Library@Orchard

It's pretty neat to have rock bands perform in libraries. But bands with rockers babes who read -- Rock On! (via High Browse Online)

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Thoughts on Singapore Members of Parliament (MPs) blogging

Well, not all of them are. The "Post-Sixty-Fivers" (p65) Members of Parliament (, to be exact.

The launch of the blog follows news like MPs performing Hip Hop dance moves. Which made me curious how the Singapore blogosphere would react.

While waiting for the Technorati page to load for my search for "p65 MPs", I half expected the results to show the Singapore blogosphere erupt in a frenzy of bash-the-politicians/ government tirade. I mean, Hip-hopping MPs? That's just asking for it, isn't it?

Surprisingly, the results were pretty tame. I've found only four references to the p65 blog: this blogger feels it's "an interesting experiment"; this one didn't comment much but the title (probably pun-intended) hinted at some skepticism; this was a comparatively muted post by Singabloodypore (when compared to previous posts on the Singapore political scene).

I thought maybe those were the early posts and the cynical ones have yet to come. However, I began to question myself, particularly the assumptions I seem to have made. Without saying as much, my initial reaction was, "Aren't they (the p65 MPs) trying a little too hard?". I'd expected others to be skeptical. Turned out I was the one with preconceived notions of how others would react, based on my unconscious gut reaction.

I've softened my stand now. In fact, I should say I was wrong in my initial view.

Let them (the p65 MPs) try. It's really their perogative to try. Is there such thing as trying too hard? Even if they are "trying too hard", that is also a sign.

Whether these MPs will be successful in connecting with their constituents -- their voters -- is entirely a separate issue. Do I think they are credible politicians because they are now Hip-hoppin' and bloggin'? No. My assessment of the MP comes from what they've done with, and for, the constituent.

But for now, I would simply credit them for trying. At least they recognise they have to do something to connect with post-65s like myself (and those even younger).

Maybe my empathy comes from having experienced the horrors of learning and performing Hip-hop dance moves when I cannot dance to save myself (a story for another time). I take my hat off to those who feel they don't have a dancing bone in them but they do it anyway. That takes some gumption, if nothing else.

Also, as a public service librarian, I should know about trying. Just ask any public librarian who've tried getting teens to participate in a reading programme; or who've gone on stage to conduct booktalks in a bid to convince adults why that book is worth reading. Many times, we don't even know if we've succeeded in connecting with the customer -- let's just say if you were a pessimist, you probably won't survive very long as a public librarian.

I'm a post-65 Singaporean, i.e. born after 1965 . I am of the generation who've only known Singapore after Independence. I do not know, first hand, what life was like during the Japanese Occupation, the Racial Riots, Merger and Separation.

What I do know is that each generation have their particular challenges. I know as post-65 MPs serving post-65 voters, they don't have an easy task. The post-65 voters will be increasingly an opinionated lot.

So let these post-65 MPs try. I wish them luck, in all sincerity. Especially those without a dancing bone in their post-65 body.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Podcast: Ray Of Light (Enhanced Version Zero)

I had fun composing this. It's quite a simple song with the basic 4/4 rock tune with stanza + chorus + break + chorus etc. It's titled "Ray Of Light":

powered by ODEO

I decided to keep track of how much time I spent on this song. Turned out to be around 12 hours. I've posted a detailed "How It Was Done" over at MyRightBrain. It's a "Version Zero" because I didn't consider it completed yet, as I have not recorded the melody and lead guitar. But turned out my trial recording of the solo was useable (for an iMovie project I have in mind), so I added that in and called it an Enhanced Version Zero.

"Ray Of Light" is supposed to be a "feel-good" song, conveying a sense of optimism (not that there's necessarily anything wrong to begin with). Enjoy!

RamblingLibrarian's Podcasts:
My Odeo Podcast

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Google Video offers Closed Caption playback

[UPDATE 31 Dec 06: I've since learned that "Hearing Impaired" is not a preferred term. I should use "Deaf" or "Hard of Hearing". Thanks.]

[Also posted at]

Learnt via the Official Google Video Blog about this new feature:
By now, you may have noticed that we've just introduced a small but significant new feature that many of us have long awaited: playback of captions and subtitles! If you haven't tried it yet, you can go to this page, select a captioned video, and while playing it you can click on the [CC] symbol to turn captions on and off.

What's Closed Captioning? Try this page for an explanation.

The Closed Captioning feature in Google Video will be a boon to those who are Deaf or Hearing Impaired Hard of Hearing, especially when services like Google Video and other similar video-sharing platforms are gaining popularity. To appreciate why features like Closed Captioning are important to a person with hearing-impairment who is deaf, try this experiment:

0) IMPORTANT - First, set your computer volume to zero.

1) OK, let's say you are hearing impaired Deaf. You are interested in learning about Fractals. You've found this video (30secs). Go ahead and play the video. Suppose there was a narrative in the video. You wouldn't have known, would you? (Incidentally, that particular video doesn't have any narrative or music. I'm using it for illustrative purposes only).

2) Next, view a similar video on Fractals, this time with Closed Captions (continue to keep your computer volume at zero). NOTE: Click the "CC" button if you do not see subtitles in the video. Did you get more out of this video that the first one?

3) Finally, you can turn your computer volume control up to view the second video again. I think the Closed Caption is useful for people who can hear, don't you think?

Ken Harrenstien (who authored that Google Video post) says their Closed Captioning feature is still far from perfected. I feel it's a start, so it's all good. Ken concludes his post:
And you, too, can help! Please do send us your comments, bug reports, or suggestions; whether or not you think they're new, your collective feedback will be invaluable in helping us promote these capabilities and guide our decisions on which features need to be done next.

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