Month: March 2009

Is it the little things that count?

Awhile ago, a friend working overseas who I don’t get a chance to meet very often told me that he checks in on this blog every now and then when he wants to know what I’m up to, and usually comes away disappointed. I think he specifically said that he doesn’t care about what gadgets I’m after, what I thought about films I’ve seen, or what I find interesting, etc. Now, this is not the kind of talk many friends get away with, but because I only have to be insulted once every 18 months or so, I let it go. But the thought that someone might be more interested in reading narratives on the minutiae of everyday lives – months after the fact! – rather than the critical choices that express our personalities, continues to strike me as strange even now, several weeks on, in the middle of the night. There’s always Twitter and Facebook if one wants status updates, but that can’t be what he meant. Who would want to trawl through half a …

Comments on HDR Camera vs iFlashReady [iPhoneography]

I just posted a comment on another site that ended up being too long, so I thought I’d reprint it here for my own records. Last week, Glyn Evans from iPhoneography.com put up a review of HDR Camera [iTunes link], a US$1.99 iPhone app that promised to magically turn single-exposure photos from a crappy 2-megapixel camera into HDR masterpieces. For that review, Glyn used one of his usual sample photos (a close-up of a bolt on a wooden gate) to demonstrate the app’s effects, but being the smartass that I am, I wrote in to essential say that I thought it wasn’t suited for the purpose at hand (scenes with potential for HDR photography are usually marked by a wide variance between their light and dark areas [hence the name, High Dynamic Range], such as landscape shots with lots of sky. Properly done, HDR photos show the world in ways that our eyes cannot perceive, with everything evenly lit despite an overpowering light source). I recommended looking at another application that I use regularly, iFlashReady [iTunes link], which …

Karaoke midget*

Karaoke midget*, originally uploaded by sangsara. I was having lunch at a hawker centre and heard some (pretty awful, I’m sorry to say) Chinese singing, but couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. A little while later, this guy comes from around the corner pushing a karaoke machine on a trolley and singing into a microphone. The fact that he was a midget just made the whole thing more surreal. He was also rocking a single rolled-up pant leg, which disappointed me greatly because real gangstas don’t sing Chinese love songs. *I don’t know if midget is an acceptable word, although it’s the one I was brought up with. Someone suggested dwarf, which to me sounds even more derogatory.

Mad about our English

Sign in photo reads: This Way to “Bus Stop” Sorry I didn’t get a photo of the bus stop in question, but it was a really awesome “massage parlor”. ~ In the 2008 Singapore-produced documentary, Mad About English, well-meaning residents of Beijing are shown preparing for the arrival of Olympic Games tourists by learning English phrases, often unsuccessfully, which is where most of the somewhat mean-spirited comedy comes from. Seen uncynically, the film has its merits, but it is hard to shake the idea that its producers believed the earnest efforts of the Chinese would ever amount to more than very awkward (mis)communication. I could be wrong, basing this on a single viewing, but the repeated images of fervency followed by failure, as well as the film’s title itself, sets off some alarms. The film features no voice-over narration, which is a problem in two possible ways. By explicitly saying nothing (with words) in a documentary format, a director invokes the powerful semiotics of neutrality; it’s a dumbshow of backing off with upheld hands and …

Mosaic music festival 2009

The Esplanade’s annual music festival is back again, and although I’ve never been the sort to go down every day of the week that it’s on, we somehow ended up there two nights in a row over the past weekend. In keeping with my tradition of only seeing one paid act each year (Maceo Parker and Rachael Yamagata were the last two), we attended George Duke’s concert* on Friday, but sadly did not hear “I Love You More”, the song with the intro everybody knows from Daft Punk’s “Digital Love”. It’s a very strange song, with that funky electro opening riff tacked onto a bland early-80s sort of ballad. The free performances are what I enjoy most, as they have the atmosphere of a real music festival, with people milling about and wandering from one performance to the next. On the first night, I managed to get some Qik video of a Taiwanese hip-hop collaboration between one MC Hot Dog and 3P. And then a couple more of a Malaysian group called Funk Mob, and …

Watching Leo

I meant to be in bed by three tonight, but got caught up watching Leo Laporte do his weekly The Tech Guy radio show. For those who don’t know, Leo is an ex-TV presenter and old radio hand who dispenses IT advice and covers trends and news in a very accessible way. I’m personally enamored of his easygoing presentation style and vocal impersonations, tuning in to his This Week In Tech podcast almost as much to hear his voice as for the content. The most interesting thing he does now is broadcast live video during the taping of all his podcasts and radio shows (in a new studio he built from scratch near his home in California), so fans can watch the process. It comes up to be about 30 hours on camera each week, and that chatroom has something like 3 to 5 thousand participants per show. I love having it on in my screen while I read or do other things, just a pity about the time difference. If you’re up past midnight, …

What’s the best place to host a blog?

In the past few days, I’ve had a couple of conversations with people about what the “best” hosted blogging platform is (pure coincidence, my life isn’t that geeky). I’ve been using Google Blogger for this here outlet since 2002, with a short WordPress dalliance in-between that cost me a few weeks’ worth of posts when my hosting company suffered a database outage. Blogger isn’t really so bad, but it IS bland and boring. In exchange for solid, Google-level stability, you have to put up with a small selection of dated templates and no easy way to customize your blog without some knowledge of HTML and CSS. But at least you can. Everything about the page can be changed, provided you know how. I’m quite familiar with the ways of the internet, but I can’t make this page look good to save my life. Adding widgets is quite easy, though, which gives it an advantage over the next service. WordPress.com – a hosted blogging service, not to be confused with the WordPress.org blogging software for installing …

On the prediction of weather in Singapore

Feeling rather tired in the afternoon and with no work to do, I thought I’d hit up Starbucks for the usual triple venti low-fat iced latte and an hour with William Gibson’s so-far-enthralling Neuromancer. I’ve gotten into the habit of relying on the local NEA (National Environmental Agency) website for weather forecasts, despite having been burnt – perhaps ‘soaked’ is the more appropriate word – on a number of occasions. Still, I checked the website before leaving and was guaranteed by a minutes-old analysis that the good weather would last the rest of the evening. It takes less than half an hour to get to the nearest Starbucks. Barely a minute after making it here, it started coming down; a fact I could not have anticipated with any of my bodily senses, but perhaps should have with some basic pattern recognition and Murphy’s Law. Photographic proof is enclosed. The question I’m leading up to is this: what does it take to be a government-employed meteorologist in Singapore? Do our tropical conditions make the job more …

Coming back, and Blip.FM

If you’re reading this on the website and not through my RSS feed, you’ll notice a new widget above the main blog text, under the Flickr photos, for a new service I discovered this morning via Leo Laporte’s Twitter. The intention is not to make this look like a MySpace page, but it’s nice having someplace to show off all the things I’m doing online. Qik video, the new multi-author Haiku Log, and all that. About a year ago, I split up my blog into this one and blast!, which is reserved for links to things I find, with little additional writing and no original content such as photos I’ve taken, movie reviews, or whatever. Of course, it’s exceedingly easy to post to a tumblelog like blast!, and the idea of being “productive” on a daily basis can be very gratifying. This main blog has only suffered as a result; consigned exclusively to “long form writing” and Matters of Great Import – I almost never felt inclined to start a post. I suppose I intimidated …