Unwarranted distraction by slim, shiny thing

I wanted to write about the little episode concerning Ursula Le Guin’s little outburst on the internet over her little piece in Ansible. Unfortunately, a little jaunt to an Apple store after dinner brought my attention to a tiny little thing called iPod Touch.
If you don’t really follow the endless rollouts of consumer electronics and geeky gadgets, you may not have heard that Apple released a phone called iPhone. This little thing has been greeted by the general gadget/techy public as the best thing since someone dared to split open and tasted durians However, due to partner deals and other business shenanigans, this baby is not available outside of the US (for now).
However, Apple has seen fit to revamp its generation of iPods, and have introduced what is really the iPhone without the phone – called the iPod Touch. And this had no trouble reaching our shores.
And I got to play with it today.
Initial impression: breathtaking! I won’t show you any pictures (I didn’t take any, and I didn’t feel like pissing people off by image linking them here), but I will direct you to Apple’s home page and the pictures in Engadget here to see for yourself what I’m talking about.
Slimmer than a catwalk model who eats once a week, more stylish than Gwen Stefani ever could be, sexier than [insert whatever turns you on], it’s a lovely lovely piece of technology.
However, I’ve always stated that I will not buy iPods, and this guy does nothing to sway me (although it came pretty damn close). It’s still too expensive. We can’t use iTunes here, which takes away a lot of the functionality that it otherwise will give to iPod owners. I can get similarly spec’ed media players for a much lesser price. There are more than a couple of things that I can nitpick about this device – it’s not perfect!
However, there is nothing out there like its user interface, which is beautiful. it is more than the sum of its parts. I suppose for a fellow with loads of cash to spare, and is looking for something that will literally turn people’s heads, you cannot go wrong with the iPod Touch.

Retrospective Book Purchases

Many a day has passed since I recorded my book purchases. Unfortunately for me, it doesn’t mean that I’ve gotten a rein in my spending habits, alas! It simply means I’ve been lazier than normal in actually putting it up. Here then are my hauls on two separate occasions last month.
I’ve got some spectacular stuff, as follows:

I bought this set more than a month ago, when I wandered into Atria by mistake. I was driving, and the car was moving on its own accord, and [mutter mutter mutter]….
Anyway, the haul was satisfying:

  • Rabbit, Run – John Updike
    My third Updike, and a pleasant find.
  • Guns, Germs and Steel – Jared Diamond
    Ooo, I wanted this one a looong time ago. Very highly recommended. Dr Diamond is an acknowledged expert in the field, and his take on mankind’s journey throughout history is an interesting proposition. It is also a book where the typeface was very obviously irritating to me. It’s printed in a old style serif font, which reminded me of an old novel, and it lacks the smooth easy reading of typefaces used in more recently published books. This book isn’t new, granted, but I’ve never had a book’s font bother me before, and I’ve read my fair share of old books.
  • Seeing – Jose Saramago
    I frightened nearby shoppers when I saw this, as I started violently and let out a bloodcurdling yell. No, not really. But my eyes did open a little wider when I found it. Saramago’s sequel to the enjoyable Blindness has been on my list for sometime, but I didn’t want to get it at its current price on the bookshelves. Here in the warehouse sale bookstore, it cost me only RM8.
  • Confessions of an Economic Hit Man – John Perkins
    Devious machinations of rich countries as they manipulate economic, political and social events in third world countries to make even more money? I love to read about the realities of business and politics. It’s stuff like these that make me feel that sometimes all the goodwill crap you get in the media is all spin.
  • The Subtle Knife – Philip Pullman
    Finally! The missing book in the trilogy! The thrill of the hunt, this one. Check out my previous book haul blog post for some context here.
  • The Accidental – Ali Smith
    There were so many Ali Smiths laying around! I have given this book a miss every single time I was in Atria. And now I bought it. Have the book stare at your face long enough and the buyers will cave. To be fair, I know Ali Smith and the general acclaim surrounding her work, so I didn’t necessarily think I was wasting cash. And it sounded vaguely futuristic (but not scifi – oh no, someone like Smith would never commit something as sacrilegious as writing genre!), so what the heck.

Next, a watercolour extravaganza! A separate trip to MPH a week after I bought the above haul.

  • Kuala Lumpur: A Sketchbook
    I like looking at art. I don’t necessary enjoy them on a scholarly level, for sure, but I like to simply look at them, admire the workmanship of the piece, and appreciate the beauty and the feeling it evokes. Of all the types of paintings, I’m partial to oil, and strangely, watercolour. There is something calming about watercolours. So anyway, this book is by a local artist on my hometown of Kuala Lumpur. The Sketchbook series has done many cities, and the interesting places in each of these cities are given the same treatment – watercolour sketches and a brief description of the place. This particular book brings back a lot of memories for me, as a lot of the places depicted were places that were close to my heart.
  • The Innocent Mage, Karen Miller
    An almost impulse buy. I loved the cover – a watercolour drawing of a mage, not Gandalf-y. Struck me as how a mage should be drawn. I’ll talk a little about this book in another post.

As a really weird aside, I have recently gotten confused over two very similar words, retroactive and retrospective. Both at first glance allude to events past, but when does one use the former, and when the latter? I’ve always used retrospective, but apparently it isn’t appropriate when it comes to contractual legalese. I might be wrong here, but it certainly is in my experience. I don’t even use the word retroactive – it sounds like expired radioactivity, and anything to do with radioactivity, especially in innocent blog posts like this, is bad.

Badminton: Make no mistake, being No. 1 is a journey, not a destination

So Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong are at the pinnacle of their sport. Wonderful. I hope they remember the legacy of being World No. 1 in Malaysia. The legacy of underachievement. I hope they realize it, and aim to break the rot.

Rashid was for a short time World No. 1. So was Roslin. Lee Chong Wei. None of them held onto the top spot for very long. It’s as though they thought that achieving the No. 1 position was a goal, like someone passing the tape at a marathon finish line. Their standard of badminton at the point of reaching No. 1 took a dive, and none of them made it back up. It was also telling that none of them held to the No. 1 spot for very long either.
Will KKK-TBH follow in their footsteps? Malaysian badminton players have notoriously weak mental strength. Can they take the heat of being the pair everyone wants to scalp?
Not reading the newspapers regularly does have its disadvantages. I didn’t know about the rift between the pair when the story broke – someone mentioned it to me. I was surprised, but it was not unexpected. When you get poor results.
I’m a very vocal critic of our badminton team. But I believe that KKK is probably the world’s most potent doubles player at present, second only to the incomparable Tony Gunawan. KKK is a better player than TBH. But so what? The pair is only as good as the pairing forged, not on the individual player. KKK has to be matured about the nature of their pairing, and put in the work required to make it work, just like anyone would have to put in the work to make any relationship work.
That’s not to say TBH has nothing to do. KKK has a right to expect a higher standard of play from him, and the way to show he is serious is to improve his game. He’s not that shabby, but to be demanded to be even better speaks volumes about their ability.
It’s good they got over the supposed ‘rift’ quickly, and won the Macau Open (though I must say they won it by the skin of their teeth).
So. World No. 1. What next? They have to stay there.
Here’s what they have to do. Remember their hunger when they first came onto the scene. Hungry and with a point to prove. To play without pressure and with the intense desire to win, and the willingness to work together to do it.
They’ve proven it and now risen to the top. Remember that they have another point to prove now – that they are here to stay. Perched at the summit.

Goodness, is that all there is to Facebook?

I’m very seldom at these social-networking sites. I love Web 2.0, but who really has time for sites that requires you to get friends to add you to their lists?
I have a Friendster page setup some years back, but I barely used it. I have less than 10 friends, and most of them aren’t even friends – they are family. Admittedly it was fun – for a couple of days. Then I left it to fester.
A couple of days ago I joined Facebook – a good pal of mine dropped me an invite. Having heard so many good things about it on TWiT, and reading so much news lately on it in the tech world (its rich API and supposed ‘openness’), I decided to take the plunge and add yet another login-password combo to remember.
The interface – fabulous. Then I got bitten. And dropped-kicked. And had things thrown at me. And werewolves and slayers came to get me. And there suddenly there was a room for me to decorate. There were walls and mini-feeds and notifications and pokes and stuff.
Interesting. A platform for custom applications, with an emphasis on spreading like viruses in a packed disco hall. I installed this and that, and added and found friends.
Three days now, and I realize that I’ve been doing the same thing for different people. Now hang on a minute. That’s it?
Isn’t there a way for you to say something about yourself? Some form of self-expression? Is it all just fighting and beer-drinking?
I must be missing something. I’m pretty new to these social sites, but at this point I’m still wondering about what the fuss is about.
I’m going to stick to Facebook until I figure it out. Otherwise, all these reading of notifications and requests is beginning to remind me of unread email at work, and that’s bad.

Musings – House meets Robert Jordan

I caught about a half-hour of House a couple of days ago, and in this particular episode, the patient of the week was diagnosed with amyloidosis.
You know already where this is going, don’t you?
Normally we watch CSI or House or any of these myriad medical/pseudo-scientific dramas on TV, half the time we don’t have a clue what those cryptic terminologies being used on the shows are. “Oh, it’s a case of hyposysterdemic asphyxiation, coupled with a severe case of lymphomic soupupoludis psychosis.” “You must be kidding me! The killer used a potent mixture of dihydrogen monoxide with durian juice, topped with a sprinkling of salt?”
But this time the term used in House (Season 3 I think it is) I am familiar with. And so close to occasion of RJ’s death as well.
Again, just one of those things that are inexplicable.