Cuteness overdose

Now, some of you may already know that Cute Overload! is one of the most dangerous web sites in the world, a sneaky corrupter of hard-hearted normal humans and a proponent of world domination through disproportionate heads and baby-speak.

This proof of cetacean collusion means that there is now, more than ever, no hope of escaping this dastardly movement!

(Seriously, the baby beluga – from its slightly dopey smile to its yet-to-be-filled-out body – is too cute!)

37 days to Christmas

I count down to Christmas every year. It’s a ritual that’s persisted, probably in part because, every few years has seen a special Christmas. There were a couple of early ones, when I was a teen: my brother and I would stay over at an aunt’s flat for a few days before Christmas, preparing for the party, wrapping gag gifts and thinking of forfeits for the games, playing wild games that made us laugh like loons deep into the night. There was the year in junior college, when I exchanged gifts with this girl. Then there was that year, my first at my current job, when my boss set up a department outing – part work, part celebration – that made me feel so much I belonged.

A couple of non sequitor things I came across:

RSS-ing

I use Google Reader to subscribe to many blogs.  I’m still amazed that there exists this technology to essentially get sent new articles from so many different sources. 

Recently, I came across PC Magazine‘s article on its writers’ 100 favourite blogs, and added more than a few of them to my list of subscriptions.  You may want to take a look at the PC Magazine list too – lots of good stuff there.  I especially liked these two:

Aurgasm – A “music discovery blog” that introduces readers to musicians and their music, with free MP3 downloads for sampling.  I’ve subscribed to the web site for only a few days, and already, I’ve been introduced to my new favourite instrumentalist – Julia Kent, a cellist.  “Dorval”, one of her pieces, reminds me of a whale song, with a sense of whimsy, in a vast echo-y space ripe for exploration.

Drawn! – This bills itself as “the illustration & cartooning blog”.  Again, I’ve been a subscriber for only a few days, and already it’s been worth it: A reference to a recent graphic short story competition organised by the Observer led me to this blog entry with links to many of the competition entries. 

Social networking

Am now on both Facebook and LinkedIn. Got to get with the times, I guess. Plus I got curious when, on last Friday, two good pals regaled me with stories about stuff one could do on Facebook, one during work and one afterwards, during dinner.

Am of course only a newbie, but Facebook seems fun already. And it’s easy to find folks you know on both networks – I found my uncle (who’s living in Boston) in LinkedIn! (For those who may not know: When you register for Facebook or LinkedIn, you use your email address. And both can grab your email contacts from your web-based email account (Gmail in my case), and check whether folks with whom you’ve exchanged emails are already Facebook/LinkedIn members or not.)

I already like Facebook a lot, not least because one can play an asynchronous game of Scrabble on it with fellow Facebook members. Cool beans.

No, I’m not a stalker… yet :p

Here are a few things I am currently a fan of:

George Yeo’s speech to Raffles Institution students on 16 Aug 2007 – When your Minister for Foreign Affairs can weave Harry Potter, Darth Vader and the way of the Jedi into a meaningful and inspiring speech, I think it’s a nice indication that your politicians remain in touch with what is commonly called the ground.

Roy Baumeister’s “Is there anything good about men?” speech – There were many points, all well made, in the speech, and I’ve tried to paraphrase/summarise some of them, but I think it’s best you head to it directly and read it. An example of lucid thinking and expression.

The People’s Action Figures Party (a long but good read) – A demonstration that is essentially a photo shoot of action figures holding tiny placards protesting against ODEX’s actions against file-sharing. I think it’s sheer genius.

Wikimindmap – Click on the link. Choose a language you’re comfortable with. Type “Harry_Potter”. See the Harry Potter Wikipedia entry, mindmapped.

It’s Paul, a mobile phone salesman from South Wales…

Was shown this clip today. It’s Paul Potts – some of you may know who he is; if you don’t, you probably soon will – at his televised audition at an episode of Britain’s Got Talent, the British version of American Idol.

I was blown away. It’s not just that he is good – it’s also the way one of the judges showed his obvious (good-natured but obvious) doubt about Paul’s ability before he sang; the audience’s reaction (a spontaneous standing ovation, and an all-round gleeful delight that they were witnessing something this extraordinary); the facial expression of the famously sharp-tongued Simon Cowell, from incredulous to stunned to appreciative (he’s literally open-mouthed stunned at one point).

P/S. And it’s clear Paul Potts didn’t know he was good – there was a point at the end of his performance when one of the judges smiled at Paul to let him know it’s okay, relax, he did well, and then laughed a little bit in disbelief that Paul did not know he was good. He’s a classic likeable underdog, and we can all identify with those folks :)

PP/S. The Aerosmith song at the end of the clip has no place there.

Jaw, meet floor.

Here are a couple of jaw-dropping videos, courtesy of TED.com. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, an annual conference that brings together thinkers and doers from these three realms to give the presentations of their lives.

Two things before we go to the videos. One, there are many more videos, freely available for viewing and for download, at TED.com. However, the videos below are not in the format found on TED.com, since WordPress does not support that format. Two, I think all of these great presentations share at least one thing: passionate presenters who know their stuff and who are keen on sharing their ideas. It’s a powerful combo.

This first one is a stunning demo of how Photosynth can piece together photos of a certain location (Notre Dame is used in the demo) to create a 3D object that one can navigate spatially (e.g. one can move from one spot of the Notre Dame to another), visually (the amazing thing about this to me is how one can zoom in to a seemingly infinite depth) and even via hyperlinks (tags to other related photos, pictures etc.). This is a fresh and potent way of synthesizing user-created content (the disparate photos) to create something more than the sum of its parts. Again, stunning! (You can see the video at TED.com at this link.)

This second video was as visually captivating to me as the first one. Those of us who struggle to present statistics in an arresting and informational way will be inspired by the way Hans Rosling (the presenter) was able to make trends come alive. Here, among many many many other things, you will see how child health correlates with GDP, over time – for example, how Mao Zedong’s time as leader of China corresponded with an improvement in health, and how Deng Xiaoping led China to economic growth, and therefore how, over time, China joined the world’s mainstream in these two areas. (You can see the video at TED.com at this link.)