Archive for January, 2006

4 Down, 48 Left (52 Weeks, 52 Books)


The Binewskis are unique. A carnival family running the “Carnival Fabulon”, they breed their freaks instead of merely hiring them. Owner Al Binewski has his wife Lil ingest all manner of drugs and chemicals in order to produce their “special” babies – Arturo the charismatic Aqua Boy, Iphigenia and Electra, beautiful twins conjoined from the waist down, Olympia the not-freaky-enough albino dwarf and the extremely gifted but doomed Chick.

From cult worship to incest to charity by mutilation, Geek Love is a world where being a “norm” is to be a failure and to be a fabulous freak, is to be worshipped. Intercutting between the heydays of the “Fabulon” and Olympia as an adult, author Katherine Dunn takes her time showing us the Binewski children growing up, living fantastic, warped lives – remaining steadfastly human to the core – while gradually revealing the Binewskis’ inexorable dissolution into tragedy.

The book abounds with freaks, not just the Binewskis, but a whole range of characters who’ve been self-mutilated or surgically ‘corrected’. I guess the point Dunn is trying to make is how her heartbreakingly human characters (and the rest of us) have always been freaks inside, with or without looking “special”, that theirs’ is the human condition – twisted and tragic but always looking for love wherever they can find it.

Geek Love
(ISBN No: 0446391301) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

My next book will be Bibliophilia: A Novella And Stories by Michael Griffith.

random bursts #2

Now that Google has opened up their Google Talk servers for federation with other Jabber servers, you can use Google Talk to connect to your friends on AIM, MSN, Yahoo or ICQ.
I’ll try it out when I get a chance this weekend.

LJ finds new Green Lantern meme, goes ‘meh’
I’m a way bigger fan of GL (Hal Jordan, mind) but its too close to the Batgirl meme and kinda smacks of being a wannabe.

NASA Stardust canister opens to reveal “wonderful samples”.
Is this the point which history books in the future will refer to as First Contact with our future alien spore overlords? Tom Cruise is too busy being trapped in the closet to save our asses though.

Nations will continue to launch new satellites into Earth orbit, meaning the total amount of space junk will start increasing much sooner. This is of concern to space-faring countries because even a centimetre-sized speck of debris, speeding along at thousands of kilometres per hour, could damage an operational satellite.
Great. So my grandkid’s first view in space will be the remains of some cosmonaut’s used gas tank instead of aurora borealis from above.
Is there anything we won’t pollute?!

A Milanese publishing house that had issued an anthology containing 30 lines from Pope Benedict’s speech to the conclave that elected him and an extract from his enthronement speech is reported to have been sent a bill for €15,000 (£10,000). This was made up of 15 per cent of the cover price of each copy sold plus “legal expenses? of €3,500.
I may be wrong, but isn’t it counter-intuitive to charge money when the idea is to spread the word of God?

William Gibson tells us how he started on science fiction.
Haven’t read this yet, I’m sure it’ll be illuminating. He’s William Gibson, dammit!

Ubiquity interviews Ray Kurzweil on the Singularity
I think he’s got a new book out, must go find at library. I remember a guy asking Bruce Sterling about the Singularity at the Singapore Writer’s Festival even though he was talking about something else. It felt like he was shoehorning the concept into the discussion just so people could hear that he understood the Singularity. Could tell Bruce wasn’t amused at kinda brushed the question aside quickly. Still, it’s an intriguing idea, and Kurzweil makes a logical argument.

Stereogum has the link to a kiddy cover of the now-classic Lazy Sunday skit, with video remix to boot!
The Lonely Island are comedy geniuses, as I’ve been trying to tell the blogosphere for months. Don’t worry, guys, I think ninjas are totally crazy delicious…

Finally, a tutorial on how to make a cat helmet.
Now you can put those mandarin oranges to good use.

3 Down, 49 Left (52 Weeks, 52 Books)

Road to Perdition
(ISBN No: 0743442245) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

I read a truckload of comic tradepaperbacks and graphic novels — mostly borrowed from the nearby Central Lending Library — but I’ve just somehow missed out on reading Road to Perdition despite all the movie hype a few years ago. However, I was looking for something light last week, and just happened across this on the shelf.
I took quick enough to finish it, but to call this light reading would be a grave mistake.

Richly laced with themes of tragedy, betrayal and innocence lost, the book is heavily influenced by the classic manga Lone Wolf and Cub; a father and son on a long, bloody road of revenge, albeit with a strong bent of prohibition-era Americana and 40s crime noir. Author Max Allan Collins is the pioneer of historical crime fiction, deftly writing in encounters with Eliot Ness and Al Capone and weaving entirely plausible explanations for actual unsolved crimes.

Historical accuracy aside, I especially enjoyed the emotional ride, as father and son get to know each other better, ironically while leading a life of crime and violence – hardly a family-friendly environment. It’s an archetypal coming of age story, with inevitably tragic consequences.

I’m glad I read the book first before watching the movie, I’d hate to have Tom Hank’s face superimposed on Michael O’Sullivan’s stoic, craggy face. Maybe Gabriel Byrne. Rendered realistically in black and white, artist Richard Piers Rayner manages to convey an almost stark aspect to the art while penciling in an enormous amount of detail. Keep your eye peeled for the John Woo balletic violence in this, comes off really well when executed by Irish gangsters in 1940s Chicago.

Now I’m definitely going to get my hands on the movie.

Road to Perdition
(ISBN No: 0743442245) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

My next book will be Geek Love, many thanks to Don for yet another loan.

note: I’ve given up on using elibraryhub, not only does it not support Firefox, the database is always down! I hope its a temporary thing, but I’m going to link straight from the NLB Catalogue for now. Sorry, but registration is required for both.

tagged: meme of 4

4 Jobs You’ve Had In Your Life
Yeo Hiap Seng Delivery dude
Toy Salesman
Soundman
TV Producer
4 Movies You Could Watch Over And Over Again
The Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (actually share this with Aaron, hmm.)
Scarface (the Pacino one lah)
The Empire Strikes Back
The Royal Tenenbaums
4 TV Shows You Love(d) To Watch
Project Runway
Gray’s Anatomy
Scrubs
MacGyver!
4 Places You’ve Lived
Clementi (rocks!)
Jurong East
Clementi (rocks again!)
Lim Chu Kang Cemetery
4 Places You’ve Been On Vacation To
Batam
KL
Bangkok
Taipei (actually for army exercise, but the R&R was shiok!)
4 Places You Would Rather Be At Now
at a Mogwai concert
reading on a beach
at work at the NLB (ha!)
unconscious on me bed
4 Of Your Favourite Foods
Mutton Murtabak
My mum’s potato stew
Fish Keropok (no prawns, thankuverymuch)
Ferrero Rocher
4 Websites You Visit Daily
Bloglines
Digg
Fark
Pink is the new Blog
4 Tagged
moby
jess
big fuzz
S.L.B.

random bursts #1

The LJ community (all of em!! well, almost) draws Batgirl!
I’m sure everyone’s seen this but nobody’s made it to the end of the list yet.
Laur, join in leh!

Ultraviolet stars the delectable Milla Jovovich as a Aeon Flux-type badass chick.
Ooh yes. This excites me verily as director Kurt Wimmer directed the incredibly underrated dystopian sci-fi flick, Equilibrium.
Milla Jovovich excites me also. Willy, I know you likes it too.

Daring Fireball posts his sequel to the Brushed Metal series.
Here’s
the first one.

Che Guevara meets Stormtroopers with scratchy hip-hop goodness.
Dunno bout you but TIE fighter squeals always make me feel all nice and warm inside.

Monster Island author Dave Wellington starts a new horror novel, Thirteen Bullets.
Spent an inordinate amount of time reading the Monster trilogy last year. Initial installment, Monster Island was a cracking, ripping read. Monster Nation started expanding the scope a fair bit, before becoming freaking epic, but weirdly D&D-esque in the final Monster Planet. Still, I stayed up for hours reading this.
Of course, having zombies always helps. Brains, blargh.

Lego finally cracks and releases mecha kits.
With spiky manga-inspired minifig hair, no less!
For you non-geeks out there, mecha are big-ass robots with people sitting in their heads or stomachs.
Courtesy of NextBrick.

2 Down, 50 Left (52 Weeks 52 Books)


I’ve been having a really looong week, so I’ve been putting off writing this review. The good thing is it’s been an extremely illuminating read. Although it’s published in 1998, 2 whole years (14 years in Internet-time) before the dot-com bubble finally burst, Unleashing the Killer App is full of ideas that interestingly enough seem to be reaching fruition today.

The authors outline some key principles of designing the killer app, of which I won’t go into that much detail. Some stood out in particular though, I could immediately identify online commerce sites today that’ve put them into good use, for example – Threadless.com which allows users to design their own tee-shirts, lets other users vote for the best designs every week, print in limited runs, while awarding credit to the winning designers.
Basically, Threadless is outsourcing to the customer, treating each customer as a marker segment of one, and creating communities of value. The cool idea here is the idea of people paying you to let them work for you, yet everybody gets what they want. Only because of the advent of digital commodity is this possible.

Another principle that I liked with me is give away as much information as you can. If that doesn’t scream open source, I don’t what does. And we’re now really seeing the effects of this, with Firefox breathing down IE’s throat, and the now de-rigueur practice of making API documentation available. Coolest thing is the author’s have put their money where their mouths are and put the entire book online.

The dot-com bubble might be over, but right now is also an exciting time for web technology, long-time goliaths (read: Microsoft) are faltering, open source is making a massive comeback, and AJAX is the newest breakthrough in creating rich, powerful interfaces. The book might be ancient by Internet standards, but the ideas are still very applicable by today’s standards. All in all, a great text to read if you’ve ever had a flash of inspiration for an online idea.

Unleashing the Killer App
(ISBN No: 1578512611) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

update: The coming month is going to be pretty bad, so I’m opting for some light reading till I can come up for some air. So my next book will be Road To Perdition. Didn’t catch the movie, so I’ll be experiencing the source material as it was meant to be.

yum

hack attack! #1 – procrastination hack, ZohoWriter, Gmail filters

One of the purposes for this blog is also to document my implementation of GTD in my daily work and home life, so I’ve been reading up quite a bit on lifehacks – little tips and tracks to make life just that little bit easier.

After procrastinating for yonks, I decided to finally try out the procrastination (hah!) hack, or also handily called the (10+2)*5. Obviously for the time-wasters and wishy-washers like yours truly, who’d rather keep refreshing his Bloglines feeds then hunker down to actual work.

How it works is like so –
10 mins –
Do what work you have to do, you don’t have to complete it, just make progress, all you’re looking to do in the space of time is to get things out of the way.
2 mins –
Relax, do whatever you want. Take a pee break, stay at your machine and surf, check your illegal downloads… Here’s the thing, You HAVE to take the break. No working of any kind at all, uh uh.
times 5 –
Or rather, do this 4 more times, which means you’ll finish a full cycle in exactly 1 hour. Snap! You’ve just worked consistently for 50 minutes! Woot! I got like an adrenaline high for like the entire hour. Having my head focused on a task for sustained periods is quite the achievement, believe you me. Head over to 43folders for a better explanation if you can’t get past my over-exclamating.
Anyway, I got so high that I started other hacks! OK, I’m a big fan of Ajax applications; I use Gmail and Backpack religiously, I’m totally into Web 2.0 and browser-located applications.
I started transferring my notes to ZohoWriter, which is an Ajax online word processor, which pretty much has most of the basic Microsoft Word functions – bullets, indents, whatnot.

but it also has:

  • sharing (for collaborative editing)
  • importing of documents from your computer
  • exporting to doc, sxw or pdf!! (even Word can’t do this without a plug-in!)
  • emailing as doc, sxw or pdf
  • tagging (still a little buggy though, have to create every tag from scratch instead of picking from a cloud)
  • tables (also buggy, couldn’t edit once I created it)
  • auto-save with history and roll-back options
  • posting to blog, making public or doc roll (dunno what that last one is)

After I finished, I emailed the lot to myself, so I can print it all out at work tomorrow. Damn powerful for an online app lor. I’m gonna try working on this instead of Word for awhile and see how. If you want, there’s also Writely, which apparently is also quite cool.
So my adrenaline high lasts long enough that I go on to create a Gmail filter for my Zoho documents. I’m sure most of you have fiddled with them, but basically I’ve been using the filters to automatically label and archive incoming mail from specific addresses so I don’t clog up my inbox. Can’t remember where I got this hack from though.
Here’s what to do:

  • Just click create a filter (near the top of your Gmail page) and fill in the corresponding emails.
  • For example, I already get mail from WordPress whenever I get comments in my blog, so From is ‘zerotwoheroatgxxx.com’, and To is also ‘zerotwoheroatgxxx.com’
  • type in ‘comments’ in the Has the words box and click Next step.
  • check the boxes – Skip the Inbox and Apply the label (create your own, I just use ‘blog’)
  • click Update Filter and you’re done! No more clogging your inbox with mail and tag it all automatically!

Try it out, hope you find it as useful as I do.
I intend to post hacks more regularly, hopefully some original ones, so stay tuned to more hack attacks!!
(ok, last exclamation marks for the day)

ooh la la

I’m sure it’s all over the blogosphere today, but here’s the glorious if awkwardly named MacBook Pro (methinks the iBook update will be merely MacBook). Here’s a flickr set of MacWorld 2006 with more MacBook pr0n.

4 times the processor speed (at least on paper), iLife ’06, nifty (but not really that fantastic) MagSafe feature, the MacBook Pro is certainly the hot bollocks. For a better idea of what $3688 can get you, Tristan Louis has made a comparison chart for you here.

Where’s that bonus when you really need it then?

update:

Forgot to mention cross-compatibility with previous apps written for PowerPC is enabled using the emulator, Rosetta. Performance is probably going to be kinda slow until software publishers catch up. Until then, this seems to be the best place to check for version compatibility.

 

1 Down, 51 Left (52 Weeks 52 Books)

Nice to see JK Rowling not writing down to kids and keeping Harry all noble and perfect as per the usual Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew teen-hero template. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has lots of teary teenage outbursts, and the story is still pretty much as compelling as ever. Of course, I have to say its gone all dark, what with important characters dying and insights into the boy’s psychic link with Voldemort. I doubt Rowling will do a George Lucas and go all super dark and evil to keep some bizarre fantasy/scifi cred at the end of the series, so things are just probably getting worse before they get better (as they often do). I know the next book is out already, but I’ll just wait for the paperback to be available, thanks very much.

Ok, my next book is Unleashing the Killer App by Larry Downes and Chunka Mui, kindly donated by Doctor Don himself. Reading a tech book published in 1998 seems kind of counter-intuitive, but wat the hell, he’s my sifu lor.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
(ISBN No: 074756941X) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

update:
changed to links to go to NLB’s elibraryhub instead, which I’ve been having trouble access to from Firefox. Why, o magnificent librarian dudes? Bit backward to exclude Firefox and Safari users, innit?


broadcast

del.icio.us