Monday, 31 October 2005

The Long Day Wanes

Mental note: must borrow Anthony Burgess's The Long Day Wanes from the library. It's in the other campus branch's library, though. I hope I don't to travel there just to check out one book.

More mental note: must exploit library staff for this (they're paid to help us in this sort of things, right?). Resort to Jedi (or Sith) mindtricks if they refuse. And thank Sharon for the info on Burgess being a former MCKK teacher.

Sunday, 30 October 2005

There's psychology in everyday things

I read about Donald A. Norman's book, The Design of Everyday Things, in an article a few years ago. Being the design-freak that I am, I made a self mental note that I would read it one day.

And my mental note reminder alarm didn't go off until recently. I don't remember what triggered it, but once it went off I immediately scoured my campus library for the book. To my disappointment, the library does not have any copy of it in its collection. However, they do have the next best thing: an earlier book the same author called The Psychology of Everyday Things (POET).

I'm quite sceptical about books that are written academicians because they tend make you flip through the dictionary every few sentences and consequently make the books less accessible to the ordinary readers.

This book is also written by an academic, but one who's a storyteller as well as a keen observer of the relationship between cognitive science and everyday life. POET is a noteworthy read for all designers and the ordinary, non-designer folk. In his book, Norman takes his readers on a breezy and entertaining guided tour on how design can either make or break a product and cites examples ranging from doors to nuclear plants.

I'm still reading the early chapters and I'm certainly looking forward to the later ones.

UPDATE I just learned from Norman's official website that both The Design of Everyday Things and The Psychology of Everyday Things are the same book, where the latter is harcover version while the former is the paperback version with new preface, introduction and, of course, title. Just my rezeki!

Wednesday, 26 October 2005

Read any good e-books lately?

(This post has been sitting quietly in my Drafts section for quite some time. Due to lack of time and ideas, I've decided to finally publish it and share with you some of my views. The information contained in it may not the latest and for that I apologise. I hope you will gain something useful from it.)

I love paper. The sight, the touch and even the smell of it. There's nothing like the sight of rows and rows of neatly shelved books in a library or a bookstore. Or the feeling of flipping through a thick paperback book with your thumb. Or the smell of a book that has just been taken out of its plastic wrap (but that's mostly the chemicals used to make the plastic wrap and the book I guess).

Thank you, God, for the gift of paper.

In this day of 'e-this' and 'e-that', e-books are fast becoming common. Aside from the physical, paper-based books, readers now have the option of reading books and other text material in a virtual, 'electronic' form. A convenience for those with computers or electronics devices like a PDA, but not so much for the rest of the people.

I used to have a brilliant, soft-spoken but highly engaging researcher as a lecturer. At the end of a chapter that he finished covering, he would upload two sets of PDF (portable document format) files containing his lecture slides. One would contain one slide per page and the other six per page. He told us that the first one is meant to make it easier for our eyes, and the other one is meant to make it easier on the trees.

I think, in the beginning, e-books was meant to reduce the use of paper and chopping down of trees. A noble intention, but people like me are a stubborn bunch. We still want our paper. We want to see it, touch it, hold it, feel it and smell it. Especially those free perfume samples in magazines.

But we're not an entirely closed-minded crowd. E-books are a good way to spread the written word. Some books, especially the ones on programming, often come with a CD that also carries the entire book's content in PDF. We love e-books too. But not as much since we can't actually get sample perfume from e-magazines.

Just a few pickings

Over the last several months, I've amassed a small collection of e-books that are of interest to me. It started with an article I read about Project Guttenberg, an online reservior of literature classics that are now part of the public domain. I downloaded Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, but its length is the reason why I haven't started reading it yet.

I don't know if you'd be interested in reading them or not but I'm sharing them in case you anybody who would be. Some of these books are downloable for free and some of them are licensed under the Creative Commons deed, just like this blog. Without further ado, here they are, in no particular order:

Depression : A Primer
by Ellen
A light-hearted and humorous look at depression, and ways to beat off the blues. From the author of The Reign of Ellen.
[ Get it!/Read it! ]

How To Manage Smart People
by Scott Berkun
After spending nine years at Microsoft managing some of the smartest people in the world, Scott has a few tips to share on the art of managing the best.
[ Get it!/Read it! ]

Free Software for Busy People
by Mohammad Al-Ubaydli
Can free software work for you? Yes it can, according to this Bahraini doctor, who believes in the untapped potential of affordable technology. Even if you're not a busy person.
[ Get it!/Read it! ]

Down and Out the Magic Kingdom
by Cory Doctorow
Life, death, immortality...and Disneyland?!! Cory Doctorow is one of the rising stars of sci-fi as well as the European Affairs Coordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who not only sells the books he wrote but also gives them away for free in electronic form. He was in Singapore not long ago to give a talk on "Copyright and the future of media".
[ Get it!/Read it! ]

Palin's Travels
by Micheal Palin
In the land of celebrity hosted travel shows go, Micheal Palin is the king. No celebrity is more enthusiastic about setting foot in strange, foreign lands like he is. As a former cast member of Monty Phyton, Palin mixes humour, wanderlust and genuine curiosity to bring the world some of the best shows and books on exotic travel ever made. Some of his books are available for you to read on his website, or better yet, grab a copy from the local bookstore.
[ Get it!/Read it! ]

Friday, 21 October 2005

A trayful of posts

First of all, I would like to thank everyone who came here to read, leave comments or just checking to see whether I've deleted this blog or not. I've been busy lately with some personal and family matters so naturally this blog is left not updated until I'm able to muster up enough sanity to be able to write something. Anyway, thanks again everyone.

Al-Fatihah, Datin Seri Endon Mahmood

This may not be breaking news, but it's a sad one. The wife of our Prime Minister, Datin Seri Endon Mahmood, passed away yesterday morning.

Our Pak Lah is a national leader going through a personal loss, and as fellow Muslims, we should give him our best support as brothers and sisters of the same faith. As for Datin Seri, she is in a place beyond our senses, but indeed a place where we shall be in the future, indefinitely. May Allah grant both of them, their family and all of us strength and divine help to get through the testing times.

Innalillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.

Ramadhan: the last few laps

In terms of making the best of the holiest month in Islam, I sincerely hope all of you are doing better than me. Clearly this is (one of) the most testing Ramadhan I have ever faced and I'm not too proud with the way I handled things lately. May Allah have mercy upon me.

The best thing to do now is to make the best out of the situation. Amend the bad and aim for the better. I'm not an ustaz or a person of strong faith. I get derailed easily for the smallest reasons. Take a lesson from me, people, and do your best this Ramadhan. May Allah give us all strength and will to please Him the rest of this holy month, and the rest of our lives.

Print your own calender

In an unrelated topic, I would like to point your attention to a very nifty, methinks, service by The site offers free printable custom calendars for everyone to specify, download and print easily.

The calendar can be displayed by week, month or year. There are options for us to specify the start date, add images for a touch of d├ęcor and quotes to inspire us throughout the days.

My friend Ishe used to make calendars like these manually using Microsoft Word, and now he can do the same with this service using just a few clicks.

This service requires a browser with Adobe Acrobat plug-in installed. 2.0


Now this one is breaking news. Yesterday, fresh out the oven, comes version 2.0 of the multiplatform, multilingual and open source office productivity suite, is just like the Microsoft Office suite, except it's free. Well, not exactly. The 'free' part is true, the 'just like' part is not. I won't jazz over all the details and put you to sleep in the process, this article covers most of what's important for everyone to know.

All I can add to the subject is this: OpenOffice is just as good as Office, if not better. Sure, it may need some getting used to, but it's free, stable and open source.

Let's face it, most of us use the pirated version of Office in order to get our job done on our PCs. Even the so-called Student and Teacher version (possibly the most 'affordable' Office version Miscrosoft is offering) costs more than five hundred ringgits. Most people just ignore that version and buy the pirated version that comes everything Office has to offer with no restrictions for under RM 10.

Why feed the pirates? Get OpenOffice instead and give it a test drive.

Bubur lambuk

bubur lambuk

Yesterday, we had some homemade bubur lambuk for iftar. It seems there are many versions of this dish that it's hard to say which version is the authentic one. Ours as featured above is slightly peppery and without seafood (because someone in the house can't take any). Don't ask me for the recipe. I just eat it.

Saturday, 15 October 2005

The Trump Blog

It's only a matter of time if you ask me, before The Don starts a blog of his own.

Way out of the jungle? (Long pause)

My project partner and I ran into this problem during our final year. We got ourselves signed up to do a project that sounded fairly simple but later turned out to be a rather complex problem that has algorithm experts racking their brains in search for answers for years. Lucky us.

Assuming that the whole project is simplified into a 5-step process:
  • Milestone A - where we started, obviously
  • Milestone B
  • Milestone C
  • Milestone D
  • Milestone E - the project's goals
In finer details, this was how things actually looked like:
  • Milestone A
  • Milestone B - we have some ideas on what to do here
  • Milestone C - we sort of have some ideas on what to do here
  • Milestone D - we have no idea on what to do here
  • Milestone E - (how on earth are we going to get to here?)

Compass and bridges

We've both actually stumbled upon a common obstacle in the planning phase: the inability to identify and define what is the next step needed to accomplish a goal. Much like being in unfamiliar jungle with no idea of where to head next.

This is most common when we are faced with a task that we are not familiar with. Although the goals are specified beforehand, reaching them is another story altogether.

The important thing to note here is to know where we are suppose to go in terms of accomplishing the goals. An idea of what the goals are serves as a guiding compass.

We may not be sure which path to take, but we can feel confident that we're moving on the right track. We need to stay focus on the goal, visualise it and feel passionate about achieving it. If we can do these things, we're already well on our way to getting ourselves out of the confusion jungle.

Having a sense of direction isn't enough. We still need to get to know and see where we are and what we need to do. This is where figuring out the next suitable course of action is vital. Obstacles in our way to the goals are ravines that need to be crossed, and we know that the there are bridges that can get us across. But can we cross the ravines when we can't see or find the bridges?

Finding and crossing the bridges is a matter of understanding what we should do and actually doing it. If we have no idea on how to proceed with an unfamiliar task, we need to consult people who are experienced or perform our own research. But before that, the compass must be readable and working properly. In order to ask people or start researching, we need to know what to ask first. This could save us from being distracted with other things or feeling frustrated with unsatisfactory findings or feedbacks.

With compass in hand and bridges in sight, we should now be able to find our way out of the jungle. And with that too, I wish all the best in your life, work and other endeavours.

Sunday, 9 October 2005

First lesson in photography

Vivex colour photo instantaneus camera. Source: NYPL Digital Gallery

For the longest time, I wanted to give photography a try. The main hurdle was: no camera.

Now, alhamdulillah, I'm able to borrow a digital camera that belongs to a relative of mine. The camera ends up being more used by me than him.

Unfortunately, my knowledge of photography is next to zero. The pictures I took are less than impressive. Some are too dark, some have backgrounds that are too bright and most appear to be grainy (due to shaky hands). I felt very discouraged about the whole photography thing.

I wondered if I had used an expensive camera (the one I use is of the budget range and costs less than RM 800), the pictures might look better. My neighbour came to visit me several weeks ago and showed me the shots he took using his dad's expensive, RM 1000+ Canon digital camera. I drooled all over the carpet looking at them.

In the following days, the camera was left alone in its pouch. I dared not to touch it and I was thinking that maybe I should convince my relative to trade-in his camera for a more expensive and feature extensive one. But I know for sure that he's going absolutely hate the idea (he's less critical about photo taking than me, and it was his money after all).

I started looking online for ways to improve my camera. I was so focused on my camera's limitations that I thought that I should forget about taking any good pictures altogether and specialise myself in taking truly awful pictures. That should be easy since I'm already an expert at it.

It's not the camera, mate, it's you

While scanning through the various articles online, I stumbled upon a gem of an advice that's worth noting. It's the first, most basic thing that everybody must learn and understand before he or she starts snapping away pictures using his or her camera.

"It's the photographer who takes beautiful pictures, not the camera."

It took me awhile to digest this simple truth, and over time every single word started to make sense.

Any expert or experienced photographer will tell you that even the most expensive cameras can't guarantee that the pictures taken will turn out awesome. And there are numerous people who are able to capture breathtaking shots using a simple point-and-shoot budget range camera.

A camera can only take a photographer to a certain distance, the rest is up to the photographer to work with camera's advantages and disadvantages.

Working with what we have

I guess in other areas as well, we are often presented with limited amounted of resources. Aspiring cooks like some of my aunts would love a state-of-the-art kitchen of their own. A friend of mine owns a car that would go from 0-100 km/hour in 300 seconds (an estimated figure), keeping him from overtaking and using the fast lane most of the time. And let's not forget about those who impaired either visually, verbally or physically.

We all have our own set of limitations. As humans we that's what define us as individuals. But we must also look for the strengths that God has bestowed us with. No one is made of entirely limitations and devoid of any strengths or advantages.

Our daily challenge is work with what we have. History is full of accounts of people who overcame the odds and emerged triumphant. And success without struggle isn't as valuable as success that comes after many trials and tribulations.

Suddenly my camera doesn't seem all that bad. It may lack certain fancy features but overall it performs rather well once I'm familiar with its workings.

Two chefs

All this talk about using limited resource amount reminds me of story that I read during my school days. Once there were two chefs who were masters at food decoration and sculpture. They both entered a food sculpting competition that pitted them against one another. When the judges came to look at both their works, they were astonished to see that both of them displayed an equally high level of skill.

The judges were stumped. They did not know whom the best sculptor award should go to. After much thought, the judges decided to the ask both the chefs personally a simple question. The chefs answered the question and the judges smiled in delight. They finally found the competition's winner, and it was the first chef.

How did the judge found their winner? The judges asked the chefs how many tools were used in their sculpting. The second chef answered a few, while the first chef answered only one. That one question solved the dispute of who between the two is more skillful in food sculpting.

Perhaps we could learn a thing or two from entreprenuer E. Joseph Cossman's words on overcoming the odds.

Obstacles are things a person sees when he takes his eyes off his goal.

Wednesday, 5 October 2005

Ramadhan is here

To my fellow Muslims,

May Allah grant us taufiq and hidayah for us to fully reap the benefits of this blessed and holy month. Amin.

Sunday, 2 October 2005

"Tak nak!", the Japanese way

My stomach aches incredibly from laughter after looking at these anti-smoking campaign posters from Japan.

Humour, in some ways, is the universal language. If you smoke and you look that these posters, do you feel offended or do you laugh instead? Either way, the message has been successfully conveyed to you.

Meanwhile, I still can't look at these posters without cracking up. That's Japanese humour for ya'.

[ Source: Presentation Zen ]
Related Posts with Thumbnails
Copyright 2009 introspector. Powered by Blogger Blogger Templates create by Deluxe Templates. WP by Masterplan