my recent reads..

The New Yishun Library

Well, weekdays being weekdays, I didn't manage to get up to Yishun last Thursday in time to enjoy Issak's world-exclusive, personally-guided bloggers' tour of the new Yishun Public Library before the doors were thrown open to the masses on Friday 14th.

I did pop in on Sunday though ... along with the rest of the masses. I mean masses. Just collage a few hundred faces on this picture and you'll get the idea:

The new library stretches across the entire upper level of both the old and new extension of the Northpoint shopping centre (correction: it only seemed that way. Apparently it's just in the new extension). That's a pretty huge space, and aside from some scary cubes in the kids' area, it's pretty much all given over to the collection itself.

Kind of makes sense for a library in a mall: drop in; pick up and move on. Side thought: my cynical mind wonders if the centre management insist the library limit the study space and reading corners. Can't have people inside a mall being distracted from spending money for too long, can we?

Sunday was very busy, and it did show up a few "scalability" problems in the layout. With hindsight, NLB may regret jamming the kids area right up to the entrance, having the customer service queue cut across the walkway, and not making space for a few more checkout machines. There seemed to be a perpetual log jam of people trying to get through the kids area to the adult collection. I guess things will quieten down over the next few weeks, but the floor plan could do with a few tweaks before the library can comfortably handle crowds like this on a routine basis.

I didn't mind too much - this once! After all, there's something very reassuring and downright wholesomely right about a LIBRARY opening attracting so much interest.

mrsburdak did make the blogger preview and posted a great photo tour. Also didn't pass up the opportunity to campaign on a few of the hot issues for library users in Singapore;-)

  • The whole website confusion (and broken: go to and click on a menu. Doh!)

  • Messing with the Dewey system by thematically arranging the library. Yep, I also find myself having to check every aisle to find the right section (I dare you to guess which section a book about google maps hacks is in). DBAs call that a "table scan" and hate them like the devil's spawn:-/

OK, so nothing as important as Obama still failing my spell checker, but it's emotional and heady stuff for people who love their libraries.

As I do;-) And now with Yishun I have a fantastic, fully stocked library a door-to-door bus trip away (rather than walk and bus, or walk and train).

PS: thanks Ivan for putting out the call to bloggers about the new library. Hope you continue to get bloggers involved (can't get us to turn up? Make your own: teach the kids to blog at the library). Libraries and blogging are a perfect match in my book.
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When Good People Write Bad Sentences

uush .. I take a deep breath and prepare for the perilous task of blogging about a book that is all about writing well.

I know my writing can be lazy and prone to opacity (to all except me of course), but I do enjoy reading about writing.

However, too many books attempt to just lay down the law - albeit with a garnish of humorous anecdotes - and any 'learning' is short-lived.

Robert W. Harris' When Good People Write Bad Sentences doesn't make this mistake. He knows the problem is not that we don't know the rules. The root cause of our troubles is more fundamental.

(also available from the Singapore National Library)

Bad writing is an addiction; an -ism that is given to misdirect your pen. We are gripped by malescribism.

And just like any other condition, a cure is possible given the right intervention. Which is what this book provides (as you can probably guess, planting tongue firmly in cheek is the first prerequisite to recovery).

In 12 easy steps, we learn to overcome our denial, pride, and insecurity, then find the courage to begin the journey to enlightenment:
  • Accept the fact that bad writing happens.

  • Admit you've willingly made writing mistakes .

  • Believe that Standard English can heal you.

  • Stop writing weak sentences.

  • Stop writing formal sentences.

  • Stop writing overweight sentences.

  • Stop writing unclear sentences.

  • Stop writing careless sentences.

  • Stop writing unpersuasive sentences.

  • Stop writing incongruous sentences.

  • Stop writing unstructured sentences.

  • Stop writing unsightly sentences.

If I can only recommend one book on the craft of writing, this is it. Wherever you use English - school reports, blogs, business proposals, or novels - this book can help you do so more effectively, more efficiently and more enjoyably.

The Recovering Malescribe's Bill of Rights

  • I have the right to embrace Standard English.

  • I have the right to respect my inner child-writer.

  • I have the right to improve my writing skills without aiming for perfection.

  • I have the right to create sentences without being motivated by bad emotions.

  • I have the right to spell better than those around me.

  • I have the right to be grammatically correct.

  • I have the right to punctuate correctly without apology.

  • I have the right to edit my work.

  • I have the right to cooperate with my readers.

  • I have the right to give myself permission to be a healthy writer.

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Eleven Fire Crackers

OK, plugging in my iPod now to drown out the friggin jingle bells playing in the background. It's barely November, I'm in Singapore ... so who invited Bing Crosby and a troop of reindeer godammit??

Spinning thru albums at random I crank up the volume on Eleven Fire Crackers, and instantly remember why this was a 2 second buy decision back at some music store in Shinjuku.

I picked it up while working in Tokyo a few years back. I was going crazy over the local bands, and this album by ELLEGARDEN was kind of lost in all the great music at the time.

I think I just listened to it about 3 times today. This is wild, energetic J-Rock at its best, a little pop and heavy on the grunge. I guess what sets them apart from other bands in the genre - like Uplift Spice, another of my favourites - is that many songs are in English. Vocalist 細美武士 Takeshi Hosomi's accent is undefinable and intriguing. Could be Orange Country one moment, pure cockney the next. A little like Hyde in English.

Having just rediscovered ELLEGARDEN, it's sad to now discover I am just a month late - they officially suspend their activities indefinitely in September 2008 and go onto other things.

So no chance to see them live anymore (at least as ELLEGARDEN), only go back and checkout their other albums. I can't imagine anything better than Eleven Fire Crackers. But maybe I have some treasures to discover yet...

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Get Motivated

I hate motivation books; all that sickly rah-rah and exultations that you too can be like Donald Trump if you just repeat to yourself three times: "I am a success. I am a genius. People love me."

Justin Herald's book Get Motivated is refreshingly different, and a thought-provoking read. You may find it in the bookstore in the "Management Self-help Guru" section, but it is probably better classified under sociology.

This is about common sense philosophy for real people. Justin Herald tells it like it is, and sometimes you might not like it (ethics are important? you gotta actually work hard? Jeez!).

Here's a selection of chapter headings
  • Contender or pretender?
  • Victim of victor?
  • Stickability
  • You set your standards
  • The sad passing of common sense
  • Your future is not in your past
  • Don't just do something ... sit there! (my favourite quote)
He touches repeatedly on the idea of setting your own moral and professional standards and then not letting yourself be swayed or pushed into accepting less.
If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything.

This reminded me of another great quote from Anthony Bourdain on Chef's Story:
My best advice if you are starting out and want to be a success: set yourself high standards and stick to them.
(or words to that effect ...)

A refreshing read, and highly recommended. It may be just what you need to get a fresh perspective and work towards being a more positive life. Or not. I'll leave you with The Bitter Stick Girl's brilliant observation:

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