Wednesday, December 15, 2004

X & not X

Blogging has slowed down and will probably continue to be slow because I've just started work. Well, that is to say, I have started going to the office, which is a very different thing from "working". When I get into a groove I'll try to start posting more regularly.

On our way back from my office yesterday, I spotted a sign saying "Vegetarian & Non-Vegetarian Restaurant". You can guess my reaction: "Why don't they just say 'Restaurant'???" My dad had a similar reaction when he saw the sign a couple of days earlier, I hear. Makes logical sense, don't it? After all, "X & not X" potentially includes everything in the world and doesn't give you any information, right?

My mum begged to differ, though: she pointed out that vegetarians might be attracted to that restaurant, because they would be sure to find something that suited them. Similarly, carnivores would be sure that they could find something to eat, too. So to both these groups, the sign gave significant amount of information, ridiculous as it first appeared to my dad and me.

Second thing: I've just noticed that Singaporeans have a way of substituting "in" for "at", myself included. I would say "I'm in C. University" and find that perfectly natural, until someone who shall remain nameless reacted badly to the in and said, "You're at C. University, not in it!" Then yesterday, my sister said, "When I was in the San Diego Zoo", which drew a snort from me (not to mention a significant amount of teasing afterwards) because she seemed to be referring to herself as one of the long-term residents.

So there seems to be a tendency among Singaporeans to refer to being in a wide, open-space area (though with clearly delineated boundaries) although most other people would say at. It reminds me of a mistake I made when learning Hungarian: you're supposed to say, more or less, "on the university" rather than "in the university". It's considered a surface rather than an enclosed space when choosing the appropriate locational suffix. I think for Americans it might be a toss-up which one they'd choose. For me, "in" was the most natural choice, and I was pretty startled when it turned out not to be the right one.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Are these really the sorts of students a college would want anyway?:

Vmag, a desktop video magazine that shows DVD-quality video clips alongside Web-like linking functionality, allows potential students to experience what the college has to offer before planning a visit to the school -- a tool that some of St. Mary's students have said was a key influencer in their choice of college to attend.
"People don't read anymore, and kids in particular don't read," she said. "This gives them content in a 5- to 7-minute package that matches their attention span."

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Collectors vs. librarians

I've just finished a book about book collecting, A Pound of Paper by John Baxter. It's a good read, especially for bibliophiles, but I found that I simply couldn't identify with the ethos of the book collector. Now, people who know me will think it strange, given that I've filled up every single shelf in the house with books (double-shelved, moreover, in many cases - something that I hate but can't help) and that every place I go, first things I look for are the bookshops. Plus, my university mounted book collection competitions in the last two years I was there and I was a finalist in the first and took first place in the second. Everything adds up to me being a collector, right?

But the difference between a collector's view of books and my view of books is how we view the books themselves. Collectors think of books as objects, while I think of books as - well, things to be read. When I read things like:

"...every time one opened a first edition, its value dropped $5."

"Collectors abominate lending libraries. They are graveyards of good books. Everything a librarian does to prepare a book for lending disqualifies it as a collectable."

It just doesn't make sense to me. What's important to me are the words within the books. I couldn't care less if the corners were frayed and the endpaper missing (it doesn't have words on it after all) so long as the pages that matter, the ones with the text, are all there. I think the saddest fate for a book is to end up like those glorified first editions, never opened, never read, never used for their intended purpose, just put up on a pedestal and worshipped. Come to think of it, it's a bit like the toys from Toy Story 2.

P.S. I'd forgotten where the quotes were in the book; I only found them by searching within the book at Amazon. Great resource - wish it could do a little more semantic mapping, for when one can only remember the gist and not the words.