Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Heavy metal me?



So what do we find in the New York Times Sunday Magazine after driving 3 hours to and from Ohio? This article sort of encapsulates why I was excited enough to make the trip to watch Boris perform at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus.

The performance was LOUD and there were a few surprises for me (to say that this was not Serene's cup of tea would be an understatement). Firstly, I have only recently been introduced to Boris' music and I was surprised at the make up of the audience for the show. There was equal representation from the black-t-shirt-with-jeans-and-optional-metal-piercing crowd and those from the button-down-oxfords-with-chinos camp, which I suppose tells you something about Boris' music- think Black Sabbath meets Phillip Glass, part metal, part ambient/ postmodern, all experimental. The second thing that surprised me was Wata, the band's petite female guitarist. Her demeanor and stage presence completely belied the extradordinary performance (see video below for a short snippet). And the third and biggest surprise for me was sunno)), the other act of the night. I was totally caught off guard by the what this band pulled off on stage that night. The NYT article paints a very accurate description of their performance. For me, my take on it is that they really spared no expense in using the fog machine that night.

All in all, it was a rather interesting evening for me. Serene stuck out for the Boris half of the show and then had to admit defeat when sunno)) came on. We travelled with Aiko who wanted to come along with us for the show. And we got to drive through Columbus, OH, which is an interesting experience. All I can say is that Ohio is really flat (and I mean two-dimensional-not-a-bump-in-sight flat), and the drivers, really slow. When it says 65mph, people there drive 65mph. Maybe my expectations of driving speed have been set by my stay in Michigan?...


[What we managed to capture of the concert on our camera...]

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The lost X-factor

[Spoiler warning: don't read on if you haven't watched the movie]

Alas, despite great expectations against the contrary, the inevitable sequel curse has befallen another beloved series. I'm disappointed. And a little sad, that the last installment of the franchise would end in a whimper rather than a bang. The couple of cliff-hangers the movie dangles at you in the end were pathetic attempts to make up for what amounted to just another cookie-cutter summer blockbuster, surely an ignoble end to what could have been a great series. Jude would say that I'm being unduly harsh, and that they did indeed stay true to the source material, but for me, X-Men III lacked the pathos, depth, and ironically, humanity of the first two films.

What made the first two X-Men, and my other favorite comic-to-film adaptation- Batmans I, II and Batman Begins- great, was that they weren't just about the heroic side of these people; it wasn't so much about what they could do but who they were, what they were inside- their souls. While it's always fun to see the different powers each mutant has and how they use it, honestly, when you've seen Storm conjure the elements once, you've pretty much seen it all. It's like, ok, I get it already... What I've always found more compelling was the whole issue of how mutants could or could not co-exist in society with human beings. It was about standing out, fitting in, and how you deal with things like discrimination and prejudice. Pacifism, choice, aggression, retaliation, forgiveness, acceptance, tolerance are universal themes, as resonant in reality as they are in the comic.

But alas, there was little of those sentiments in X-Men III, and regrettably so. The material was so rich in potential- the whole notion of a cure for mutanism was such a ripe opportunity to explore a whole myriad of existential issues. Instead, Brett Ratner merely clumsily used it as an excuse for a huge, unecessarily pyrotechnic showdown... And what's with those cheap laughs and even cheaper gimmicks? They felt like Ratner's Rush Hour 3 leftovers... I'm not asking for an intellectual tome of a movie where everyone just mopes about and questions the meaning of their existence; but if there's anything the first two films proved, is that you can have an intensely exciting and entertaining blockbuster movie without sacrificing depth and a compelling narrative.

And not like these guys didn't have the right material- the resurrection of Jean Grey alone could have made for an amazing storyline. But where was her struggle? The rage and anger at her duality? Instead, we see her prop-like, looking blankly out as if her mind and soul were as bereft of any emotion and feeling as her stare. And when she does emote, it is an indiscriminate, inexplicable rage with no hint of internal battle; sadly, it became all about how many cars she can lift and how many people she can vaporize into dust. What a pity...

With great powers come great responsibility, or so they say. Use it well, so it is also said. So why wasn't anyone listening?...

Global Marketing

An ad for the National University of Singapore Business School:



Gotta give them credit for inventiveness... :)

Friday, May 26, 2006

Curry Puffs

Yes, I made curry puffs today. And they were good! Very good if I should say so myself. Of all the things I miss from home that I've tried to recreate over here- Char Siew, Hokkien Mee, Beef Rendang- I'm honestly happiest with these curry puffs. They actually tasted really authentic. Granted, I didn't make my own pastry (Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheetS- I owe you so much...), but with that first bite, I genuinely felt a stab of homesickness. I should have been sitting at some coffeeshop sweltering in Singapore's insane heat and humidity and sipping a kopi-O with my curry puff... It was intensely comforting, but also a little sad...

But anyways, back to the curry puffs... They were relatively simple to make actually. The effort is in making the filling coz you want it to be slightly moist, but not wet or you'll get soggy puffs. I like my curry puffs with chicken and a piece of egg, even though the more traditional puffs have only potatoes. I might try sardines the next time- mmmm, yummm... With a thin egg-wash, my curry puffs came out all golden and perfect- flaky on the outside, moist and spicy inside. It was definitely so worth the effort!

So here's the recipe for those of you who want to try them for yourselves, even if you're in Singapore and an Old Chang Kee or a Polar Cafe is just round the corner (unless of course if you live in Clementi, in which case the one in Clementi Central kicks some serious a#$!...).

Filling:
1 piece of skinless, boneless chicken breast, cubed
3 medium potatoes, cubed
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon garam marsala powder
2 tablespoon soy sauce
Sambal Oelek (depending on how spicy you want your filling. I put about a tablespoon or so, conservatively)
1-half cups of water
3 eggs (You want to end up with a-sixth of an egg for each curry puff)
1 egg with a tablespoon of water for the egg-wash

Pastry:
Pastry sheets from the dessert section of the store (there should be 2 in each box). Thaw overnight in the fridge.
(Recipe makes 18 curry puffs)

1) Fry onions till soft and fragrant. Add chicken and stir-fry.
2) As chicken begins to cook, add potatoes.
3) Add the spices, soy sauce and sambal oelek.
4) For the next 20- 25 minutes, periodically add water to the mixture. The potatoes need the moisture to soften but you don't want to add all the water at the same time or you'll get curry stew. As it looks a little dry, add more water and fry.
5) After 25 minutes, you should have a slightly moist filling and the potatoes should be soft. It's important that the filling cannot be too wet.
6) Let the filling cool.
7) Lay out pastry sheet and cut into 9 squares. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center, add a piece of egg and brush edges of squares with egg wash.
8) Fold squares to form triangles. Press edges to seal. Brush the puffs with egg-wash. Repeat with other pastry sheet.
9) Bake at 400F for 20 minutes.
10) Serve warm (this is the hard part- I had to resist the urge to pop it straight into my mouth as it was piping hot. Let's just say I didn't quite succeed...)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Code

Yup, I've watched it, but nope, am not going to jump into the cauldron and give my two-cents worth about the controversy, the movie, or why I think Ron Howard should say a prayer of thanks for the delightful Ian McKellen; instead, here's an opinion of the film that has resonated most strongly with me to date, and an expression of the way in which my faith has been swayed by the issues it brought up:
A little more of this — a more acute sense of its own ridiculousness — would have given "The Da Vinci Code" some of the lightness of an old-fashioned, jet-setting Euro-thriller. But of course movies of that ilk rarely deal with issues like the divinity of Jesus or the search for the Holy Grail. In the cinema such matters are best left to Monty Python...
-A. O. Scott, New York Times

On a vague and tangentially related note, in view of what I believe comes after death, wouldn't you want your funeral to be a celebration too? So- with no hint of morbidity or any fear of impending mortality- here's a preview of how I envision my funeral- warm, genuine, and joyful, otherwise known as the cast of Monty Python at Graham Chapman's memorial service:

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Oh beautiful day!

Finally, sunshine! After almost ten days of overcast skies and dreary rain, Ann Arbor finally got a blast of good strong Vitamin D today, and Ann Arborites reciprocated the gesture by crawling out of the woodwork and having a jolly good time. It was a day of outdoor adventures- Jude and I started the day by finally clearing our little garden patches in front and behind our house that had been so overgrown with weeds, it isn't even funny (yes, in our household, gardening is an adventure in and of itself...). One of my lavender plants is on the verge of being choked to death, but we have hope that it will prevail. With the help of our neighbor Audrey (who pragmatically declared to me, "I'll do anything if you have candy."), we basically obliterated all visible weed life and its roots, and turned the soil to prepare it for flowers and plants we're probably going to get next week. Well actually, I couldn't bear to put Audrey to work- she helped me pick out the rocks and stomp on the soil; after that, I plonked her in front of the TV where Cartoon Network and half a bag of Hershey Kisses promptly took over...

That was when the real adventure began- Jude and I went canoeing! We just had to do as much as we could in the sun today- it's going to be in the 40s tomorrow and there is no way we were going to squander today's gorgeous weather by staying indoors. We met our friend Rachel at Gallup Park and rented a canoe to ride up and down the river. Ok, FYI, this was Serene Koh's FIRST ever paddling experience. I'll definitely do it again, but not until my arms can feel anything again. I'm not sure which hurt more- my arm muscles or my self-esteem. We were doing great rowing with the current; coming back up against the current, another story altogether. At one point, we were paddling our guts out, but which direction were we moving? Backwards! Trust me, it was infinitely more distressing than I can make it sound...

But we survived and decided that after all that exertion, only one thing could salve our aching bodies and bruised egos. Food of course! And not just anywhere- Rachel needed a drink, and we wanted it outdoors. Decision: Cafe Felix, where we had drinks and tapas while sitting along Main Street. It was puurfect... I could almost imagine how life should always be: me sitting on the sidewalk on a beautiful Spring day, nursing a pretty drink, a bowl of strawberries in front of me, writing a novel on love, life and loss; then someone would come up to me and say, "I love your prose.", and I would smile and thank them graciously before hopping onto my Vespa parked nearby with a French baguette and a bouquet of fresh flowers...

[Serene ends reverie.]

*Sigh*... see what happens when you've been deprived of sunshine too long? The first sunny day will do strange things to your mind... :)

Friday, May 19, 2006

The passing of Grant McLennan


The Go-Betweens: Bachelor Kisses

I just found out today that Grant McLennan of the Go-Betweens passed away on the 6th of this month. This is just terrible news. The Go-Betweens was on heavy rotation in my house in Perth, Australia back in 1996. I can remember many a late night humming along to "Streets of Your Town". I can also remember driving 2 hours from Boston to Rhode Island in 2001 to catch McLennan and Robert Forster playing on their reunion tour at some dingy club in Providence. Their music was always poppish but yet had a bittersweet tinge to the lyrics that McLennan was largely responsible for.

The Go-Betweens were a well-loved band in Australia and the songwriting duo of Forster and McLennan has been described as the antipodean version of Lennon and McCartney. As a testament to their popularity down under, the Australian senate moved a motion to recognise "the contribution made to music by McLennan as a songwriter and performer over nearly three decades" But despite their popularity back home, international chart success for the band was elusive. My impression of the Go-Betweens was that they were forever one of the unsung champions of lyrical pop gems that not many people seem to know about. Although I have been only peripherally aware of their recent work, it seems tragic to me that McLennan has passed on when his recent work with Forster, "Oceans Apart", has started to get critical attention again.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

What's in a name?

So I came across this article in today's NYT about how Nevaeh has become a really popular name for girls in recent years. It's "Heaven" spelt backward and has apparently overthrown names like Sarah and Vanessa from top spots. I don't know, it seems pretty, but how do you really say it? Somehow giving my kid a name that people might have trouble pronouncing doesn't seem like the kindest thing in the word to do. That and maybe really long names. When Sam was in kindergarten, she would get really upset that her name had eight letters and so many "a"s; her best friend then was a girl named Gail, and Sam always came home complaining that she was taking too long to write/ spell her name, plus getting the "a"s in the wrong places...

I'm personally partial to shorter names- Kate, Seth, Emma, Liam, although I'm sure Liam will just get massacred in Singapore. I figure older folks are just going to pronounce it "leeaam" [monosyllabic, drawn-out], which means "sticky" in Hokkien. If we name our son Liam, he will no doubt wither, shrivel up and endure a mortifying, excruciating existence in a Singaporean school, especially if he has a Chinese teacher as his form teacher...

I've actually had an interesting experience with my name here in the States. Apparently, Americans categorically don't name their daughters Serene; it's always Serena. Which could be a good or a bad thing: on the plus side, I always get compliments on how pretty my name is; on the minus, no one at Starbucks has called my name correctly yet. And when I say my name to strangers, they always think I'm a complete moron who doesn't know how to pronounce her name properly. These days, to save myself the grief, everytime I say my name to someone new, I always go, "Serene, as in the word." (and try not to roll my eyes in frustration...)

This is a completely novel phenomenon for me; back home in Singapore, Serenes are everywhere. When I was secondary school, there were 5 Serenes in my cohort alone, and another Serene Koh at that! Apparently it was a unique name when my parents named me, but I guess every other parent of daughters born in 1976 felt that same way. The funniest thing anyone has ever said about my name was my secondary school teacher who once asked me whether in light of my effervescence, it was a mere prayer when my parents gave me my name. It took me a while to understand what she meant (and to also figure out what the heck "effervescence" meant- I was a 14-year-old with an under-developed vocabulary...). When it dawned upon me, I was not amused...

I actually love Jude's name. Simple, short, and interesting enough without being obtuse. If you look at this interactive graph of baby names (it's a time-suck I'm warning you...), you'll find that his name was really popular in the '70s, no thanks to John Lennon I'm sure. For Jude, his thing when people ask him for his name is always, "Jude, as in the song." The most interesting thing anyone has said about his name was when my professor said, "When I think of Jude, I think of Thomas Hardy, not the Beatles." I think Jude would rather be associated with a song than with a character who gets pig entrails flung at him as a love token. Predictably, he was not amused either...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

What's up?

Nothing much except that I've been sick for the past three days and the weather's turning crummy again... A manifestation of the inner turmoil of my digestive system no doubt. Basically, two words, bad shellfish.

Wednesday night:
- Weather starts to turn cold and rainy. Here we go...
- Celebrated Libby's birthday with happy hour $2.50 mussels at The Earle and dinner at Grizzly Peak after. It was good while it lasted but tummy became queasy just as we got home.
-Knew something wasn't right, took some medication and went to bed early.

Thursday:
-Definitely something wrong. Couldn't sleep all night, tossed and turned in bed, all woozy and weak. Tummy was hurting like someone kicked me in the gut. Thankfully, no constant bathroom action, just aches and profuse cold sweat.
- Had half a bowl of chicken soup for lunch. Couldn't take much else.
- Dying for a cup of coffee, wrongdiagnosis.com says no. I always listen to the Internet of course...
- Had homemade pho for dinner. Actually felt slightly better. Then tummy started aching again after watching The Dave Chappelle Show. No connection I hope.

Friday
- Didn't sleep much better. Doses of Alka Seltzer didn't seem to be helping.
- Realized only other thing I can keep down apart from pho is nutella toast, and more nutella toast.
- Acquired new appreciation for sweetened milk tea. Infuse fruit or floral tea in half-cup of heated milk (microwave), top with hot water. Sweeten with honey. So soothing and comforting. Reminded me of how we used to take our tea at home.
- Whole body still feeling like jello. Spent the day watching the Food Network. Do you know that only onions grown in 22 counties in Georgia can be called Vidalia onions? Thanks Alton Brown!
- Discovered the miracle of Bismag. Popped two tablets and slept like a baby through the night. Tummy felt way better.

Saturday
- Maintained dosage of Bismag through the day. Felt better enough to help Jude massively clean the house. As in under-the-couch-between-the-window-sills-and-behind-the-shelves clean.
- Successfully drained my system enough to warrant an afternoon nap.
- Rewarded ourselves with Art School Confidential. Not much of a reward. Ghost World was much better.
- Weather just turned even more cold and wet. Darn...

Think I'm close to recovering completely. Sitting here with a steaming mug of milky sweet tea (I haven't had coffee in three days!!!), way past mignight (which I also haven't done in three days), and rushing a report for my professor. Yup, life's about back to normal again...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Five

What would you do with...

Five minutes to yourself: Catch up on one of the half-read books or magazines that we always seem to leave all over the house.

Five bucks to spend right now: how would you spend it? Fresh flowers to celebrate the arrival of spring!

Five items in your house you could part with, right now, that you hadn't thought of already: 1) the dust that has settled in areas of the house I haven't dared look at, like behind the stove, in the corner of the basement..., 2) one of my indoor rose plants that isn't going to survive no matter how much water I give it, 3) the "dead" cell phones that have been lying in the drawer for ages that we haven't brought ourselves to throw out, 4) the clothes which have ink stains on them from the time Jude's pen "exploded" in the dryer, and 5) an old computer monitor that Jude insists on keeping for reasons he has yet to suitably convince me of.

Five items you absolutely, positively could not part with in your house: first things first, does a husband count as an item? If not, then it'll have to be our sturdy scarlet couch, our espresso pot, the table/bench we inherited from Dave and Jen, the brocade patchwork sheets my parents got for us for Christmas and our Tivoli table radio.

Five words you love: serendipity, cadence, hodgepodge (I love the symmetry of the word), desideratum and tangerine (try pronouncing it- you can't say it without ending in a smile).

Five people you're tagging: Any five people who read this, especially Terri who I know is surely going to wreck her brains to limit her favorite words to only five :)

Monday, May 08, 2006

What you don't see on the news


What you never see on the news
Originally uploaded by Yun-shan.
So, Singapore just completed its general elections. And as usual the incumbent (and omnipotent?) ruling party, the People's Action Party, was ushered back into power. This is nothing new. What is new though is the rising public interest in the opposition parties that have contested in this elections. I have not seen such large crowds (see pic) at political rallies in Singapore before. Perhaps it is because we were encouraged to be apolitical when growing up and that getting involved in politics meant 'rocking the boat". I am rather surprised at my fellow countrymen's willingness to be present and make apparent their intentions to get involved in this year's elections. It was heartening to hear that, despite the brusque dismissiveness of the citizenry by the powers that be, the opposition parties made a strong showing. This diversity in politics, I believe, is something that will stand the country in good stead in the years to come.

On a work-related note, I have been using various blogs and discussion sites to keep track of what's happening during the elections. The mainstream media(MSM) back home is completely useless for any sort of objective reporting. Take a look at the following comment that I came across on the blog of a fellow singaporean in the US:

A friend, Ivy League graduate and scholar, and now a journalist with the national tabloid, wrote an email to her friends a few days ago. She signed off with the following words:

"…help spread the word that a lot of us in the Straits Times are sorry that we can’t do the job we want to. It may not mean a lot to you, but it sucks for us that with every day that passes, and with every pro-PAP election story that we write, people’s opinions of the Straits Times are falling. Many of us in the election team are putting our names on stories that we don’t want to write, on views that we don’t believe in, and on headlines that make us want to throw up.”

The government back in Singapore has traditionally been very insecure about the media and has sought to stringently control the various outlets for expression and opinions. In fact, during the elections there was a blanket ban on podcasts of a political nature. However, despite the ban, the great number of individuals have resorted to using the internet to disseminate news, pictures and opinions that you will not see in the MSM. And I think that this alternative source of information on the internet is making its effect felt during the elections. You know that this is the case when the ruling party is calling for a review of new media like blogs and podcasts and their effects on the views of the citizens. Channelnewsasia reports the following:

Impact of Internet on General Election likely to be studied after polls

SINGAPORE : The impact of the Internet at this General Election is likely to be looked at by the relevant ministry after the polls.

Information Communications and the Arts Minister Dr Lee Boon Yang said this is to assess the scale at which the new media, like blogs and podcasts, were used to influence views and shape opinions.

Dr Lee said this after his Jalan Besar Group Representation Constituency (GRC) team toured Queen's Street market as part of their campaigning on Friday.

The People's Action Party (PAP) team said it was looking forward to good support from voters, because of its track record over the past five years.

It's going to be interesting to see what the conclusions of this review will be. Maybe there'll be a job for me back home after all...

Notable blogs to read about the elections:
Mr Wang Bakes Good Karma
Talk Rock
Air-conditioned Nation
SG Rally

Sunday, May 07, 2006

It's camping season again...

I wake up this morning to an empty bed, Jude's side of the bed cold and unslept in. The house is all quiet and I don't hear him anywhere. I go downstairs to check since he sometimes falls asleep on our couch after working late into the night, and what do I find? Not only is he sleeping on the couch, he's sleeping on the couch in our new sleeping bag from REI.

I think this is his idea of breaking in the new equipment. It's a really comfy goose-down sleeping bag too so it's not like its a chore or anything. Testimony to that? He's still asleep as we speak... :) We spent the most of yesterday shopping for camping stuff- an extra sleeping bag, inflatable sleeping pads, lantern, gas stove, etc... We haven't really decided where we're going yet, but it's a toss-up between the Red River Gorge in Kentucky or the Sleeping Bear Dunes up north here. We were in RRG with Adrien, Pam & Olivier last summer to rock-climb but this time it'll be more hiking and we're going with Rick, Emilee and their new puppy Kumo! Jude's been to the dunes and he says it's gorgeous and so much like Australia. I'm actually really looking forward to that. Considering how much we're investing in the camping equipment and how much time we have, I think we'd like to do both places, one in early June after New York, and another later in August just before term begins.

Those who know me and love me dearly know too that I've never been an outdoorsy person (I'm sorry, the most outdoorsy things I used to do in Singapore were picnics, which were perfect- out in the sunshine and involving food. Anything that requires me to give up a real bed and a warm shower everyday... not so much...) But here, the natural landscape can be truly breathtaking. Just the shrubs and trees lining our streets have been turning these insane rosy spring colors, and the different shades of verdant green everywhere. Can you imagine the cliffs and dunes in a less cultivated environment? Crazy gorgeous!! Definitely worth sacrificing my bed and personal comfort for. Besides, that's what the comfy down sleeping bag is for!... :)

CHI2006 Social Tagging panel


CHI2006: Social Tagging panel
Originally uploaded by jyew.
I realized that I have not posted anything from CHI2006 and thought that putting some of the notes that I took during the conference may be useful to a number of people. Plese feel free to add to my notes as I may have missed out on something or have misrepresented what was said. Also please excuse the notetaking skills as I found it rather difficult to keep track of the conversation during panels) In general, I thought that the tagging panel was interesting and raised the fact that much more thought and work needs to go into Social Tagging. To echo what Eric said about the panels, I thought that they may have dwelt too much on the fundamentals of tagging resulting in too little time for the meaty issues of the subtle differences that resul from making minor tweaks Social Tagging systems. But all in all it was good to have heard from the people whose articles I have spent the last couple of months reading. I have followed up the session with writing email questions to both George Furnas and Rashmi Sinha. There were a number of issues that I needed to investigate further about the cognitive aspects of tagging. What I learn from them will be posted here as well ... so stay tuned.

Panelists:
- George Furnas (U. of Michigan)
- Caterina Fake (Yahoo) absent
- Luis von Ahn (CMU) absent
- Joshua Schacter (del.icio.us)
- Kevin Fox (Google)
- Scott Golder (HP Labs)
- Marc Davis, Cameron Marlow, Mor Naaman (Yahoo)

The panel sessiong began with a discussion of the question "What is a tag?"
- no agreement with regular folk
- is it too technical a term?
(Shinha)
- tags are loose associations of words and objects
- could be culture based
- some kind of association comes to mind
(Fox)
- a rich way of describing something
(Furnas)
- history of tags = library of alexanndria could marked collections with metadata
- 1980s text based interfaces = looking at what is essentially taging
- tagging as creating new handles to get at something
- how much are those new handles helping?
- but people come with an unintuitive broad variety of words
(Schacter)
- distinction between tags and metadata = additional layer of attention
- more attention
- different proposition for recall
(Davis)
- why didn't tagging take off in the early days of the internet
- tags have always been around
- but community sharing aspect is the new thing
- different from tagging with the intent of recall

- by definition flickr is not tagging = for other people and not for yourself
- there's a spectrum of behavior in the system
- who the intended receipient of the tags in flickr?


What's the difference between tags and categories?
why do tags get adopted by so many people?
- because we've put more information on the internet
- more social usage of the web
- tagging has been adopted because the cognitive cost is low
- digital categorization is inherently difficult
- simpler way of storing digital information

Discounting decision making during tagging?
- large amount of decision making
- fundamentally categorizing

What are tags used for? And do they work?
- works well for personal recall
- ok for distribution
- works better with more people
- both for personal and social purposes
* that's why you have the long tail
* ref to wisdom of crowds
* when do things in front of others = not presenting true self
* but with delicious = initial decision is made alone

motivation to tag something that other people will find = digg spam
human component to creating the tags
personal aspect is very important = self-referential aspect (newcar, jobsearch)
these tags weren't for other people
task oriented nature of tagging

there is not communication within delicious, it mostly happens outside of the system = personal and small group

Schacter originally built delicious because he had thousands of links in a fun file
can have a small minority who are bulding roads for other users on the system

tagging is a fundamental part of the UI now
allows pivot browsing'
- the way tagging relates to search needs to examined more
- tagging something with the tags in the text is very different from tagging something that doesn't have the tags in the text

furnas: what is the ultimate value of tagging?
- access subsequently
- graphic = probability of recalling
- even when you have up to 20 tags, there will still be failures of recall
- want to work to diversity of tags for recall instead of consensus tagging
- Coases's penguin paper
-- analysis of common space peer production
-- theory: when human endeavours organize themselves into markets or firms
-- large number of people need to be organized
-- various aspects of information goods allows a diversity of motivations

is tagging going to make it outside of the community of computer users?

what are some of the incentives for people to use flickr or delicious?
- done around sharing = to get people looking at your photos (flickr)
- delicious is different = social function of tagging:
-- distribution
-- does the social network affect the linguistic effort
-- if you are connected to other people your terms are more common

looking for a specific item or a genre of items

localized dialects = for leveraing small groups with a specialized vocabularies
- no present tool to map between local and more generalized vocabulary
- tools and systems that help mediate between vocabularies

furnas = can imagine tags as collaborative filtering devices
- need to regress to the norm at the beginning before you can get specific information about particular issues

perceptual differene between calling it tags, keywords or labels

sinha
tagging is self-expression and social expression

when myspace has tagging = it's going to be commoditized
tags are going to be very differently used
tagging people is very differnt from tagging objects = difference between self presentation and real self
- going to be a lot more opportunity for tension

does tagging work for certain applications only?
- sinha thinks that its an interface and design issue
- it was too busy
what are the design choices to make to facilitate participation
too egalitarian?
it wasn't personal
tagging that is done through the normal task that someone has done

does tagging scale to more than one group?
schacter thinks that this is more about community making rather than ...
things like delicious needs to put in ways for groups with in the system to occur
too many users in the system
nature of humans = doesn't scale
need to put in some mechanism for social proximity
- motivation for introducing pools or sets
- people in close social or ideological proximity are in that group


- there is a fundamental tension between the individual and the social uses of tags
- for eg. photos on flickr tagged as tokyo = difficult to comprehend outside of the individual context

flat tagging space and that of architecture
get a very rich set of social relationships
question of scale
what determines the tagging terrain such that it is no longer flat

does anyone have data on the length of tags?
can media be used to tag other objects?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Oh happy day!

So we get a call from our friend Nathan yesterday and he tells us to cancel whatever plans we have today. Because why? The man's getting married! We just got back from the dinner reception and I have to say, there is absolutely everything to love about a small, intimate wedding with just a handful of friends. So what if it only took two days to plan and prepare? It was a sweet and lovely Spring ceremony at Gallup Park just at the cusp of sunset. Nathan's a professional photographer and his eye for lighting was impeccable (well, you would think so, especially for his own wedding), so he picked the exact spot where the setting sun would cast the most gorgeous rays as he and Anna exchanged their vows. Our photos don't do it justice; we'll have to wait for the ones Sadanori took with Nathan's professional camera.

Everyone at the ceremony were close friends (each armed with their own camera no less, so on more than one occasion, it looked like the two of them was being attacked by a really well-dressed mob of papparazzi...); I think that makes a whole lot of difference. It shouldn't matter how many people are in attendance, what matters is who they are...

Anna cried from the moment the minister starting reading the blessings right till we were taking photos later- it was really really sweet... People who were exercising at the park all stopped to offer their congratulations and some even asked if they could take pictures with Nathan and Anna, so that was very cute.

This got me thinking about wedding ceremonies and the fuss that goes into the planning of it. Jude & I planned our wedding in 7 weeks- extremely modest by Singaporean standards (modest might not even be the most appropriate word...). We didn't have a huge Chinese banquet, we got to invite everyone we wanted to invite, and we could say with some amount of certainty that we knew 99.5% of the 200 people who came to our church ceremony (a miraculous statistic considering how people sometimes end up having to invite long-lost twice-removed cousins and other fleeting acquaintances...). Ultimately, does it matter if you plan your wedding in 2 days, 7 weeks or 2 years? What difference does it make whether it takes place in a church, a country club or by the beach? My uncle wisely told me this just before he got married years ago, that at the end of the day, it's not the wedding that counts, it's the marriage.

Congratulations Nathan and Anna!

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
- Shakespeare, Sonnet 116

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Dancersize

Guess who did the chicken dance and the hokey pokey today?

I was doing a school visit and it was part of Governor Granholm's All Children Exercising Simultaneously (ACES) initiative, an attempt to get children to stay fit and enjoy exercise. Between 1pm and 1.15pm today, every school-going child in Michigan was exercising at the same time.

It was fun for about 5 minutes; after that, I felt like I was stuck in some alternate dimension between a 1980s wedding and a retirement home...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

À la maison

We've been home almost 24 hours and I still feel exhausted. There's just something about a 10-hour drive that's really not for the faint-hearted. The journey took us 4 large strong coffees (thank god for Tim Horton's), 2 generously luscious buttery pastries from Premiere Moisson (this was my third visit there this trip alone, but there was one just at the border of Montreal- I couldn't resist...), a large bottle of water, 4 driving shifts, 2 fuel stops, Jude's iPod on shuffle (Cocteau Twins is the perfect driving music my friends), a whole ton of patience surviving the horrendous traffic outside Toronto, and thankfully, each other. I think I would go insane if I had to do the drive on my own...

Anyways, the pics are up on Flickr. They're really a pastiche of photos from a bunch of people. We took some pictures of our own, but there are also some I hijacked from Eric, Amy, Andy Peterson and Brian (who amazingly took tons of pictures at the SV party while managing to dance groovily at the same time...) Speaking of dancing, that party was awesome! As someone astutely observed, from a usability perspective, all the music the DJ played that night was effectively 20-years worth of successfully user-tested music guaranteed to make anyone and everyone dance (Jude needs to so upload the video of Gary Olson dancing to "Holla Back Girl"). C'mon, New Order, the Grease soundtrack, and Toni Basil's "Hey Mickey"? Talk about being a great usability engineer- the guy definitely knew how to design the ultimate user experience... :)

All the travelling this year has been great so far D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, Montreal- and we have a few more to do in the next few months: Kentucky in mid-May to camp and hike (I know, me, camping? Stop the presses!!), New York at the end of the month (I'm still debating if I'm looking forward to 8-hours straight of Sesame Street- if I come out of it speaking in the third-person like Elmo, kill me. Please.), Indiana in June (Jude has another conference, this time in a place I know nothing about so that'll be interesting), and Chicago again in July for the Pitchfork Music Festival. I'm not complaining of course; I just wish travelling didn't cost so much, and make me so tired...

And sleepy...

What would you do for a job at Yahoo?

To those of you HCI people who want a job at Yahoo, I wonder if you want it as badly as this Japanese dude...



Watch out for the bit in the massage room- it's hysterical!

Ya-HOO!