Friday, July 27, 2007

10 days later...

No, we haven't fallen off the edge of the world... unless you count sleeping at 10.00 every night and waking up at 5.00 in the morning as falling off the edge of the world. I don't think I'll ever be able to suitably deal with jetlag... If anyone has a good formula for handling this beast, do let me know. The upside is though, I've been sleeping like a baby :) I was clocking many a late night over the past week finishing my paper, so I've appreciated the deep, satisfyingly dreamless sleep since we've been back.

So yes, what little action has transpired from my last post 10 days ago: we only just managed to endure the 18 hours flight over 3 continents and the Pacific Ocean; I finally submitted my second prelim exam yesterday after spending 10 hours just on citations and references (!!!); we've managed to already stuff our faces with a good variety of local food; and best of all, snuck in some good quality time with family :) The weather's humid as usual; I'm completely exhausted by 6pm; but we're home, and that's what's really matters :)

Monday, July 23, 2007

We caved in and bought a Wii ...

We caved in ...
Originally uploaded by jyew.
There are those of you in Ann Arbor who know that I've been lusting after the Wii for a while. In fact, a number of you have reproached me for actually picking up and then putting down a Wii that I found in Best Buy. So with Serene's help in tracking down Wii shipments, we finally caved in and got one ... but not for ourselves. Rather we got the Wii for my parents.

The rationalization process goes as follows:

- We have been playing with Rick and Emilee's Wii over the past couple of months, and have been really impressed with the games, the lack of "gamer specific" skills, and family friendly level of interaction afforded by the Wii.

- Besides, we've begun hearing about how the Wii is currently being used in hospitals to help patients with low impact physicality and also to burn a few calories. Also, there has been talk about the Wiis as a way to rehabilitate the stroke patient's brain activity. Trust me when I say this, the Wii sports games do help me break out into a healthy sweat.

- My dad is in his 70s and has never really taken to the computer yet. I am thinking of the Wii as a way to ease him into technology and the Internet. I think the he watches way too much TV now and the Wii might help him stay active (he used to bowl a lot, and the Wii Bowling interface is awesome). Also, he might like to be introduced to the Internet via the Wii www browser. For those of you who haven't tried surfing the web via the Wii, you should definitely try it. The Wiimote is a nice input device and the fact that you can get the Internet on the large TV screen are big pluses.

- My mom is in her late 60s and she's taken to the Internet like a duck to water. And she loves puzzle games, especially the online word games. But her eyes have been giving her trouble and the laptop screen might not be ideal for her.

- Lastly, if my parents don't use the device, I can always find a use for it myself ;)

What do people think about the benefits of using the Wii? Have I made a good case for it? Or have I overjustified the purchase to myself ;)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Pitchfork 2007 video captures :)

I know that Serene said I would be waxing lyrical on this blog about the various performances we caught at Pitchfork last week. However, my travel schedule has been really crazy. And also, I thought that I would let the performances speak for themselves. Below you'll find clips of my favorite performances at Pitchfork 2007 with a little blurb from me about them. Our Panasonic Lumix LX2 camera actually took very high quality wide-aspect ratio video captures of these performances. But in order to get them on youTube, I had to reduce the quality of the videos and trim some of them down.

"Teen Age Riot" - Sonic Youth

This was the opening to their ATP/Don't Look Back performance of the Daydream Nation album in its entirety. It was a real kickass opener I must say and got the capacity crowd on its feet as you can see. While I really liked the idea of watching a band performing its (seminal) entire album live, I have to admit to losing concentration about an hour into the show. Not because the performance was bad, but not all the tracks on Daydream Nation lend themselves to an outdoor live festival performance well. The band admitted as much towards the entire of their Daydream Nation set by saying "Ok, we're finally on Side 4 now. Home stretch..." Their encore set comprised of songs from their latest album, Rather Ripped and this was very well received by the crowd (the bulk of whom I am sure were only toddlers when Daydream Nation was released).

"Atlas" - Battles

I was not able to secure a good position in the audience for this show, as you can tell from the video above. And rightly so, because this was essentially the most anticipated act for a lot of people. The band was tight and extremely skilled at what they were doing. However, the performance was plagued by technical issues- wires were plugged into wrong sockets it seemed. And this somehow sapped the energy of the performance and the second half of the set was a little lackluster. However, I was really impressed with John Stanier's drumming - he looked like he was about to have a heart attack given his very physical style.

??? - Grizzly Bear

This band easily gets my vote for the best performance on Saturday. I wasn't expecting much from this Brooklyn band's performance because I thought their sound would be hard to translate to a live outdoor festival venue. However, they really blew me away with their set. I'm not sure what the title of this song is as it isn't on their album, Yellow House- the only album of theirs that I own. If anyone can help me with the title, it would be much appreciated. Also, I have two more video clips of their performance that I captured. You can get them here and here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Until next time...

Taking a break from what is going to be some of the most harrowing days of my life as yet, a.k.a. trying to finish my second pre-candidacy paper. Technically, it's not due till the middle of August, but I'm hoping to finish it before we leave for Singapore so I'll have one less thing to think about. I don't think it's undo-able, but it'll just mean a lot of discipline and focus, of which I'm not sure I have enough. That and unplugging the TV and resisting the urge to go online for no rhyme or reason...

And so, I suspect this blogpost will be a placeholder of sorts for the next week or so. Unless something profoundly incredible happens that we absolutely have to blog about, I think we're going to give ghetto of our mind a modest reprieve. Nothing extended, don't worry (and who knows? my self-restraint might cave in and I'll blog about something completely inane tomorrow), but I really need to finish this paper, and Jude's busy at his conference in New Jersey. We'll probably check in again after we've settled down a little at home.

And the prospect of that is sweet sweet comfort to me right now... :)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Pitchfork 2007 (non-music) recap

Our loot from the weekend
Originally uploaded by jyew.
Cities smell and sound different. And I'm not just talking about the pollution; on a hot summer day, you can virtually smell the heat emanating from the concrete, the asphalt of the roads, the palpable scent of the energy of people jostling about, the rings and grinds of public transportation, and just all the sounds of a city doing what it does best- bustle. It's the same in Singapore too- not better or worse than a little town like Ann Arbor, just different. And it's always quite exhilarating...

Jude's going to tap into his music-journalist mojo and blog about the festival itself, while I just do the usual what-we-saw-ate-bought-ate-shopped-bought-and-ate-some-more recap ;)

Some highlights:
1) Virtually delaying one Pink Line "El" train from moving on when the driver kept talking to us about the concert line-up as we were exiting the station. His utter derision at the prospect of Yoko Ono performing was particularly hysterical... :)
2) Thanks to Ms. Libby Hemphill, discovering the BEST EVER! burrito and tacos we have ever consumed. People, don't mess around with beans, rice and sour cream in your burritos- La Pasadita dresses their carne asada burritos and tacos simply with just cilantro and queso, and you get the most amazing $5 you will ever put in your mouth. We weren't even halfway through our first order before Jude just had to put in an order for two more tacos. Yes, they are THAT goooooood...
3) Being reminded once again about how enlightened the whole notion of public transportation is. Just being able to hop on and off without worries about parking and payment was actually very liberating.
4) Managing to get a swanky hotel room at the Hilton on S. Michigan Ave. for a steal on Priceline (I swear my husband's an Internet deal genius...). Although it was a little disconcerting to think that we were (in)directly fueling the partying foibles of the Hilton sisters...
5) Feeling profoundly old at Pitchfork as we stood among teens and tweens who all seem to either shop at the same thrift/ vintage/ retro/ second-hand store, or hand-make each others clothes from their grandmother's 1950's dress patterns.
6) Scoring a deal for a year's subscription of ReadyMade for only $5!
7) Having hush puppies for the first time at Harold's Chicken Shack #62. I don't know what I was expecting, but these ones didn't really blow me away. Now the fried chicken on the other hand, is another story altogether...
8) Hearing Ace of Base's "I Saw the Sign" on the radio as we were driving through Indiana. Nothing like a '90s flashback and the defining song of my first year in junior college to perk me up while driving at 12.30 in the morning...

Our two-day trip in all its 76-photos glory here.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Pitchfork 2007

So we're off tomorrow on our annual pilgrimage to Union Park, Chicago for the Pitchfork Music Festival. We actually have tickets to the entire weekend, but with Jude's crazy travel schedule, we're only going to stay till Saturday. Which means we're sadly going to miss the New Pornographers, the Sea and Cake, and Of Montreal, BUT we will see Iron and Wine, Voxtrot, Yoko Ono, and one of the main reasons we bought tickets in the first place, Sonic Youth playing Daydream Nation in its full glory. Jude can't wait to revisit the guys who he so unceremoniously thrust a karaoke mike under those many years ago (and for those of you who faithfully follow our blog, you'd know that his anticipation has been growing for the past four months).

Me, I'm looking forward to the entire heady atmosphere of an outdoor, weekend-long music festival, and to DEPART-ment, the on-site bazaar for all things handcrafted, from jewelery to clothes to book covers. Then there's the Flatstock 13 Poster Convention where Jude & I are hoping to find just one more silkscreen poster to fill that gap on our wall. We got a couple of great finds last year- let's hope we'll be just as lucky this year :)

Watch this space- I predict (no, guarantee!) a euphoric Sonic Youth-induced Jude post coming up in a couple of days!...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Oh how they have grown...

We have tickets to the absolute first showing of the Order of the Phoenix tonight (although Libby will argue that the 12.05 IMAX 3-D showing is technically the first show while the 12.10 non-fancy one is a mere close second...). We're definitely going to be bringing our camera- if there were people in Spiderman pajamas on the movie's opening night, you can be sure we'll be seeing wizards and witches tonight... :)

And check out this awesome class photo if there ever were one- you should definitely see it large. There's something about the composition and lighting that's most befitting of the narrative.

[click for large size]

Down below

I'm typing this as I sit in our basement on a makeshift work-table, previously incarnated as the patio table, picnic table and all-round multi-use furniture. The house is just too hot to be working anywhere else. Our bedroom was just about bearable till lunchtime, when all the leftover cool air from the air-con dissipated. Don't even get me started on the rest of the house...

Yup, that's Ann Arbor for you- blistering frost in January/February, oppressive heat in July/August. We've taken to making sure all the blinds are drawn in the day to keep the sun out; that and eating copious amounts of ice-cream. But a dark house and consuming decadent calories only help somewhat, and in the latter case, while easing my sweat glands now, will only hurt my arteries in the long run... I told myself to work in school or anywhere outside whenever I can so I don't feel tempted to switch on our air-conditioning but I had to be home today so it's the basement for me till tonight. We're trying not to use the air-con except when we're sleeping- our little bit to save the frog :) Besides, the basement really is nice and cool, plus the wireless works here so it's no problem at all.

And on that topic, here's a nice article about Al Gore's Live Earth event on Saturday. It was gooood!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Damn good party idea - Powerpoint Karaoke!!!

I came across this simple and fun idea from heathervescent's blog. Apparently it was something they did at BarcampLA. The idea behind it is simply ingenious - to have someone present for 5 minutes with powerpoint slides that they have never seen before. Check out the little excerpt from BarCampLA below:

heathervescent details, step-by-step, how to put together your own powerpoint karaoke event in this blogpost. However, in her event they had someone program a powerpoint randomizer. An interesting side-project that miht require too much programming overhead. A nice workaround may be to use Slideshare and select from one of their existing categories - "Latest", "Most viewed", "most zinged" (???) etc.

A fun night may be had for all with Powerpoint karaoke ;)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Cross atlantic introductions

While meeting up with Ed Vielmetti at the Communities and Technologies 2007 conference, I was reminded by Ed about the confluences that he has with some of the folks back home in Singapore. This has been a post that has been waiting in the wings for far too long. And I thought that it might be appropriate to use this blog to introduce the various individuals to each other. What I will do is write a brief bio for each person and some contact details. You are all free to use the comment section on this post to communicate with each other or better yet see if more direct connections can be made.

Ed Vielmetti:

I have known Ed since 2005 when I contacted him to work on a project for Peter Morville's Information Architecture class. Back then Ed was working with Social Text and I had wanted to think about Information Architecture for social software like wikis. I have kept in touch with Ed since and have come to realize what a tremendous asset Ed is to the Ann Arbor community. Ed currently works with Pure Visibility - an Internet marketing company that specializes in Google analytics and Ad Words. Like some of the "Media socialists", Ed occupies a position within a ad/marketing/PR but is experimenting with social media and web 2.0 technologies.

However, Ed also has many other facets that may be of interest to the folks in Singapore. He's very famous for his work on his blog Superpatron where he likes to experiment and mash-up the services provided by the Ann Arbor District Library. One of his latest ideas - put the local library catalogue on facebook :) I am sure there are a couple of Singaporeans (a.k.a Rambling Librarian) who would be interested to get in touch with Ed.

Lastly, Ed also maintains a personal blog called "Vacuum" where he farms links from his delicious account and also aggregates his other 'spaces' on the Internet.

Ben Koe:

I have only recently made contact with Ben through Kevin Lim. Most of what I know about Ben comes from his blog and this is how he describes himself:
"I work at Hill & Knowlton in Singapore as a PR consultant in the technology practice as well as the company's new media specialist where I experiment marrying PR and the social media. I also co-founded and built, a free web resource for the PR and marketing industry in Asia."

Ivan Chew a.k.a Rambling Librarian:

Ivan is a librarian in the Singapore National Library board system. I am not exactly sure what his exact designation/position is, but I do know that he is one of the first librarians to maintiain a blog that explicitly details the joys and travails of his profession. I've met Ivan once, but our online paths cross each other regularly. Ivan is an avocate for expanding the traditional role of the library and enabling individuals with disabilities to access library services. There's a nice interview with Ivan that can be found on the LitMinds blog.

Kevin Lim

Kevin is a doctoral student at SUNY, Buffalo but he's more than just academics. Kevin's a real dynamo at experimenting with new technologies, evangelising about them and networking with people to spread the gospel (so to speak ;) ). Check out Kevin's blog, Theory is the reason, for the latest in his exploits with technologies, events, venues or individuals.

Apologies if I have left anyone out. But feel free to ping me if you would like to know more about the folks that I have mentioned in this post or if you would like to get in touch with anyone here.

Introducing ... Gustafer Yellowgold!!!

We bought the Gustafer Yellowgold's Wide Wild World DVD/CD on a whim and we've been since totally bowled over by the imagination and songwriting sensibilities of Morgan Taylor. The NYT review described it as "Dr. Seuss meets Yellow Submarine". I, however, liken it to the sensibilities of Shel Silverstein who also wrote both music and whimsical stories for children. It has a whole hippie aesthetic to it that makes Serene feel like she needs to be wearing flowers in her hair while singing along... I suspect that Morgan Taylor's music is going to be on heavy rotation on our home stereo :)

While watching the DVD, I remarked how a live performance of the songs with the animation projected LARGE would be awesome. And guess what?... Morgan's doing just that. At the New York Public Libraries... and the performances are FREE!!! I'm going to be in New Jersey for a conference and will see if I can sneak out for a day and catch a performance :)

The video above is for the song "Mint Green Bee", one of our favorites already. YouTube has excerpts of a few other tracks as well. Another delightful one in particular is "New Blue Star".

Link to Gustafer Yellowgold Official Site.

Friday, July 06, 2007

La La La La... Linoleum

The highlight of my otherwise excruciatingly stressful day...

As always, it takes a children's show to remind you of the beauty of words and smile :)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Saturn

I really, really like this photo. It captures a mood and aesthetic that I only wished I could replicate in my photos. Additionally, the photo's artfully staged, impeccably timed, interestingly lighted and beautifully shot. It sort of reminds me of an Edward Hopper painting somehow ... except that this is Hopper in celluloid film (I am assuming here, you never know everything's digitally shot now.)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

What are 640 photos worth to you?

So as some of you may know, Yahoo! Photos will be shutting down for good come September. Before we finally decided to go Flickr Pro a couple of years back, we had been using Yahoo! for all our photos and little did we know, that amounted to almost 640 pics over the course of 2 years. Thankfully, Yahoo! has just completed moving all those photos over to our Flickr account, and everything's finally in one place! :)

Although all the sets, titles and descriptions were retained in the move, I went through a bunch of them just to make sure. And we never tagged them in Yahoo! so I did a whole lot of tagging too. Going through the photos was a little surreal though... These were all taken in 2004 and 2005, so most of them captured us during our Masters program. Those were fun times :) Not that the last two years haven't been fun, but it was just a different kind, with a different group of friends who are now scattered all over the country- well, mostly in the West Coast (actually mostly in a very specific part of the West Coast...) I thought I already had very distinct memories of things that happened in those two years, but these photos just made them even more vivid.

First, there was the time when everyone (literally, I think everyone we invited turned up...) came to celebrate us moving into our apartment (where a grand total of 45 people squeezed and jostled in our little nook), then the many, many, many, many, many, many birthdays that were celebrated over the course of those 24 months; there was Spring Break in New York, rock climbing in Kentucky; and who can forget the utterly indulgent and debauched weekend, otherwise known as Jude's MSI graduation where we had no less than four parties over a span of three days (see here, here and here)? :)

Just thinking about how many memories are captured in photos, and how tenuous online archiving of photos can be, I'm now seriously thinking of 1) getting them all backed-up on discs; and 2) printing some of our favorite ones out and then putting them in albums, like it used to be done in the old days... ;) Ultimately, scrolling through web-pages of photos will never be the same as flipping through a photo album. Ten or twenty years down the road, I want to be able to pull out a dusty old album from the shelf and say to my kid, "Look, at one time, your dad and I survived on only $1500 a month, and we were happy." :)