2005/08/01

Citeseer notes

uses apache rewrite to run cs script in bin/ directory.

Speedy checks and recompiles scripts in bin if necessary

cs just contacts queryd on backend host

need to kill queryd when change in query.pm is made and you want to force a new compile.

"details" query generates call to csd::GetDocument, which returns the metadata to be formatted by DocumentToHTML.

DocumentToHTML processes download information in DocumentDownloadBar(), which generates the right hand side of the blue title bar table. The cached document options are generated within this procedure by a call to CachedFileLink.

The URL metadata for the PDF file is generated by PSURL. The $url variable seems to hold the correct information.

$pdfurl and $psurl contain an extra "/$key.(ps|pdf)" for renaming the downloaded file with a new name.

These appear to be okay and should be used by the click on the "pdf" or "ps.gz" link to fetch a file directly from the archive; this action is invoked in bin/cs by the RedirectToURL function.

2005/07/14

Tagging resources with keywords

Tags associate a single keyword with a resource. However the interesting aspect is that you use collab filter to do grouping & sorting.
Seems to have been derived from WikiWords so that you only get one token. Seems a bit like NP agglomeration from German...

flickr.com - tags for images
del.icio.us - tags for general urls
citeulike.org - tags for papers

citeseer fixes - az from simone, coupled with citation type analysis (how much cited).
push alerts - based on phrases within papers, based on phrases in others papers.

Automatic profile creation. How? Based on papers, home page, collaborators pages?
how to do query / tag expansion -- based on collab filtering again?

searching for tags? does this make sense? certaintly doesn't scale. how would people search or browse? based on profile?

2005/06/11

JCDL 3: Hector Garcia-Molina

Query translation in infobus
gone with the wind -> (translation) gone and wind -> (post-filter) assure with and in in title
2 sol'n: standards (politic bottleneck), translation (hard)

crawler friendly web servers (web server generates digest)

2005/06/09

JCDL note 2 : Bud Tribble

I Life - 3 parts all multimedia, all products centered around this
look at http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/how-much-info/
- paper bytes printouts of hd bytes (0.1% of hd printed out on paper)
- 800 MB per capita in 2002 (2GB now?)
- 30% growth rate per year

digital natives - can't pause tv
maine video - laptop for all 7th graders, oh cool factor - maine learns

sharing issues : 1) ipr as bottleneck (again) - bittorent 2) open standards
http://www.research.ibm.com/journal/sj/422/grochowski.html
- itunes as sep app as d/l of mp3 ends up "somewhere" hard to find. target winamp
- every song purchased at least once (1.5M titles, 400M d/ls)
- music as example, both now look at ebooks and videos as next steps

searching issues:
metadata based - spotlight
annotation not done (really). need to rely on device or automatically generated metadata

issues:
- long term archiving
- legal framework for sharing
- open standards

2005/06/08

4-5 pm colorado h-j
l A generic alerting service for dls
george buchanan, annika hinze
- updating fraction of documents (fragment of web pages)
- rss feed
- consolidation of many a lerting services (that's hermes, at berlin ecdl 99)

s link prediction approach to collab filter
zan huang, xin li, hsinchun chen
- several different methods, why this pref attach works so well? can explain?
(get slides from zan)

s sentiment-based search in dls
jin-cheon na, christopher s.g.. khoo, syin chan, norraihan bte hamzah
- problem using just snippets? just using adjectives and negation phrases?
- what parts of auto genre classification?

JCDL notes

Keynote 1: Deanna B. Marcum, Associate Librarian for Library Services for LoC. DLI to a great whole. See Outsell, Inc. TrendAlert and Wade Roush, The Infinite Library. MIT Tech Rev.

LOC projects:
- American Memory, 3.4 B hits /y - visual materials for primarily targeted to schools.
- Global Gateways, for 60% of other collections - collab with other countries
- Veterans History Project
- Exhibitions: e.g. Lewis and Clark, Wright Bros.

But not a cohesive whole, but now initiatives going after unification:
e.g., The European Libraries (TEL) 9 libraries 11 M items. systematic unifications
DLF Aquifer for interop (using which techs?)
- 3 stages: 1 access, 2 special services, 3 modify and redeposit into local lib.

goal: universal access to all libs. how? 4 things:
1 update copyright (partially done by SPARC, Jstor and PLOS and now google)
2 long term preservation -
3 link library with dl - going beyond digitalization(?) - just the first stop of many
4 funding -

qs: what about personal collections? a: sure, will be framework for incorporation
q: funding, esp. wrt google's initiative a: mix of gov't and private sector and institution
q: linking portal an answer a: tech not a problem, collab a bottleneck
q: what's vision a: problem is common vision

2005/01/04

More notes - CGI execution for wing

use ~user/a.cgi

1. set script to rwxr-xr-x . No group writable.
2. use group users.


2004/12/28

Aye configuration notes

1. - Configure mailer to use mx-av.comp as relay host by setting SMART HOST in sendmail.mc.
Then use m4 to translate it to sendmail.cf
2. - Set /etc/aliases to have appropriate aliases for each mailing list. You can figure out what these are from the below section that you can paste:

## mailman mailing list
mailman: "/var/mailman/mail/mailman post mailman"
mailman-admin: "/var/mailman/mail/mailman admin mailman"
mailman-bounces: "/var/mailman/mail/mailman bounces mailman"
mailman-confirm: "/var/mailman/mail/mailman confirm mailman"
mailman-join: "/var/mailman/mail/mailman join mailman"
mailman-leave: "/var/mailman/mail/mailman leave mailman"
mailman-owner: "/var/mailman/mail/mailman owner mailman"
mailman-request: "/var/mailman/mail/mailman request mailman"
mailman-subscribe: "/var/mailman/mail/mailman subscribe mailman"
mailman-unsubscribe: "/var/mailman/mail/mailman unsubscribe mailman"

3. make sure to set the machine's firewall to allow incoming smtp connections. on linux, run system-config-securitylevel to do this.

2004/11/19

Google Scholar: personal reflections for the digital library

I've just finishing poking around the new Google service. Wow! I'm very excited and impressed. I agree with Free Range Librarian: Google Scholar that Google's new scholar service changes how the open access community, librarians, and publishing communities will have to interact with their customers.

For the record, indexing scientific publications is not new. Nor is using the citation count as a factor in ranking publications. Eugene Garfield pioneered the idea of using citation indexing in his seminal work in the 1970's and the field of bibliometrics that studies scholarly communities have been studying how scholars learn and adapt ideas from social networks. The idea of page rank is a natural extension of this work to the web and applying it to the visible medium of the web. NEC/IST Citeseer's has been the implementation of this notion for the CS scholarly community for the past five or six years, but it was only now that Google has casted its net out to deliver this service back to the community. I was wondering when Google was going to tackle this problem, and it is both not a surprise and a surprise that it is now here.

At a recent speech at WIDM, Lee Giles, one of the founders of Citeseer, argued for more topic-specific search engines. Google wasn't the way to go for niche search engines, and the existence and popularity of Citeseer was proof of that. Google's scholar incarnation will definitely put this statement to the test. Scholar is a niche search engine but from Google itself, with all its hallmarks: speed, clean user interface and relevant results. What remains to be seen is what auxiliary services are going to be provided. Work on Citeseer continues, with the release of its nascent API (I've gotten an API key, yet to have time to try it out).

How large is the collection? Les Carr in the http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/ forum suggests about 317 million articles have been indexed (by searching for the definite article "the"). Recall that currently Citeseer has about 700,000 articles indexed. Carr states that larger 317 million figure corresponds to about "13 years of the world's scientific and scholarly peer-reviewed research journal output". This figure will most certainly be revised downward as we get a better understanding of the types of items contained in Scholar.

A number of reference librarians have already done quite a bit of blogging on the Scholar and its deficiencies in terms of reference materials. They all have good points there. Things that are already on the wishlist: differentiating peer review from non-peer review articles, and access by controlled vocabularies, as pointed out by Kennedy and Price http://www.resourceshelf.com/2004/11/wow-its-google-scholar.html. This is a big one for most librarians. From the perspective of the digital library community, what else from can we wish for? There are so many things to push for here, I'll only add two to the wishlist now: differentiating author names (work from JCDL this year seems like a good bet here) and
integration with the OpenURL, DOI, CrossRef standards to let researchers seamlessly plug their institution's authorization to access publisher materials from their websites.

Meanwhile, I think I will go have a nice spot of tea. That's enough excitement for one day.

2004/09/10

LDAP Authentication

LDAP configuration notes

/etc/openldap/resync_passwd.pl
script to run after each passwd update

- need to worry about passwd syncing (on remote as well as on server)
- ldap security (stunnel, "linux home networking")
- IPchains (firewall) with NFS / LDAP

LDAP Authentication

- passwd problem was due to slapd.conf not having the correct permissions for users to change their own entries.

2004/07/30

Just visited the site Escher in the Classroom. Wow! Escher sites don't get any better than this. Great for those of you who are mathematically inclined. Animations finally put to a good and educational use!

2004/07/29

What's Gnu?: Favorite Book Group Choices of 2003

This is an interesting link. I guess if you're going with the popular press you know what to go read. I just recently finished the Da Vinci Code and read The Red Tent over a year ago. Everyone's gotta read other stuff besides research journals and things, after all.

I recently got a gmail invitation through blogger, and decided after 1 1/2 days to switch over to gmail for the time being.  I am keeping a copy of my email in a separate place for now but gmail's interface is good enough for me and for searching for the time being.

I also wrote up a short guide to gmail keyboard shortcuts into a quick reference guide.  I've posted it on my home page under http://www.comp.nus.edu.sg/~kanmy/gmail/gmailKeys.pdf.  I think it will be helpful to many gmail users.  That's it for now.

2004/01/02

Hey all! It's a new year, and a brand new start.
What's new? Well, let's see. Was in HK to visit relatives and family for a couple days over X-mas. It was Alicia's first time in HK and we got to do some visiting relatives as well as shopping. My grandfather went over old photos with both of us showing how my family looked in the past.

I managed to forget to bring back my digital camera back in HK, so I just bought a new one, an Olympus mju300 from Mustafa's in the past couple of days. Alicia's nephew will be testing it out during his trip in Australia next week.

Hope all is well for everyone in the new year!

2003/08/08

Sorry that I haven't posted in a while. My ISP went bankrupt, and I was able to finally find another solid provider.
I've got to say that having archives of your data is especially important, given the empheralness of ISP providers...

But the new semester at NUS has started now so its a bit of a reachy time for me. Hope the graduate course that I'm teaching turns out well.

2003/04/22

Today we had our final exams for the course. There were 550 students, all taking their exams in a giant multi-purpose sports hall. Students were assigned a desk by number and roster and the some TAs and the lecturing staff were walking around during the exam to answer questions, etc. It was quite something. I haven't had a class of that size before, so it was quite an experience. Furthermore because of SARS, all of the students were screened by volunteer medical students for sickness and high fever before they were allowed to take the exam.

SARS is a fact of life here that is a constant headline and is making people go a bit nuts. I think we are all sick of hearing it. Two days ago, a person at the produce wholesaler that distributes vegetables to 70% of the market got hit with SARS, and the govít closed down the market. That means 70% less vegetables in Singapore. So itís affecting many people directly now, especially vegetarians!

2003/04/06

SARS, Part II

At the University, school is going on as normal but there are more contingency cases to worry about than usual. That's actually okay as with our class size of 500+ students, there are going to be contingency cases anyways, just more of them. There are some students that are using the media panic to go the health clinic and getting the doctors to give them medical absence to get out of exams. The doctors are wary of spreading any small probability of SARS, so that the medical leave is quite easy to get. In fact, as I said, I had visited HK at the end of March. The SIA 777 was quite empty both going there and back, easily less than a third full either way due to the scare. Coming back, I passed through customs with not the slightest of anything or inspection, and went straight to work the next day. However towards the middle of my second week back, the SARS scare in Singapore reached a new level with school closings, and the head of the department asked me to check with the university health clinic to see whether I was ok.

I was fine, no fever, no dry cough, no itchiness. But as a precautionary measure I was sent home for mandatory leave for two days. Since I have no access to a networked computer at home (that's on purpose, in case you don't know) I just took the two days to catch up on sleep and readings that I had meant to do for a while.

So I guess I should thank the media and the MOE for giving me two days off from email. :-)

SARS!

So many of my friends back in the US have been asking about the craziness about SARS. I thought I'd post a couple thoughts on it, given the concern.

I went to Hong Kong in the later half of March for a week. My cousin was getting married (first of my first cousins to do so) and since I was relatively close by, it made sense to go. Anyways, for reasons beyond much control, my parents could not attend the wedding even though they definitely wanted to. So, it winds up that I was in HK to meet my relatives for the wedding. During my 1 week stay in HK, I managed to visit CUHK to visit Wai Lam and Ee Peng and later to HKUST to visit Dekai Wu, Pascale Fung and Grace Ngai.

But I digress, the topic today is SARS.. During that week, the war broke out, and SARS became more of an epidemic in HK. I did see some people on the subways (especially the subways, come to think of it) that had face masks on. But the general populace was relatively unconcerned. I guess the ones that were stayed at home (and may still be staying home). It's odd because the relative probability of getting SARS is so much less than winning lotto, it seems silly to condition so much on it, at least the individual level. I think we should all enjoy cheaper travel in SE Asia in the next couple of months due to it. It will be the only advantage of the current media event.

SARS has caused Singapore to close down its elementary, primary and secondary, as well as its junior colleges (grades 12 and 13) for an entire week and a half, after some cases of suspected and confirmed illnesses were found in a couple of schools. Because of the high density and the highly infectious nature of the disease, the ministry of education (MOE) issued a school closing. It's not yet clear whether the school holidays are going to be shortened as a result (which is a great concern to the students, naturally). But the university and other government branches are opened as usual.

2003/04/05

Wow, so its been a long time since I've wrote anything. Been busy :-) It's already nearing the end of the semester and things are starting to wind towards the conclusion. We've finalized the final exam and given the course's practical exam, which is basically a two hour exam on a data structures topic. Seem to go remarkably well given the size of the class. Having 550 students sit for an exam with a computer and network connection isn't very easy.

Anyways, more later. Have to meet for Saturday night out. Going to try to find a climbing guide to Dairy Farm.

Gosh, have to get more research done too. Boy, falling behind.!

2003/02/20

We had our first orientation yesterday. The funny thing is that it didn't help me much at all. I had been adequately briefed about the tenure and promotion process at a workshop held by the CRA and learning about teaching I had learnt a bit while attending teaching workshops at Columbia. It's a bit odd to see that I was adequately prepared for teaching after all of my experiences in the states, and in spite of that, thwarted at teaching well by some small parameters here. I won't go much into detail about it.

2003/02/15

It's the day after Valentine's day. A long night at work interspersed with some play. I have to start getting used to calling taxis here. I have gotten a bit more familiar with public transport but somehow the idea of using taxis still hasn't really set in my head. At this point, it is more economical for me to try to book taxis ahead of time but it doesn't register most of the time.

Anyways, finally caught up with lecture. Didn't sleep very well, was a bit worried that I would continue to fall behind with lecture. Fortunately that has caught up but other course admin things are starting to get me worried. Paper deadlines are coming and going, a blur of time and deadlines and meetings and research and lecturing. Hard to stay focused and chase down a thread to finish it. Very tired.

2003/02/04

Sooo, I finally got around to going to the Dairy Farm. It is where local Singaporeans go for real rock climbing. It's much much closer to me than the Gunks were in NYC, about 45 minutes away by mass transit rather than 2 hrs by private car. It's in the Bukit Timah (Bukit means mountain, I think, in Malay) Park. It is actually the site of an old rock quarry. The cliffs that remain are the unmined part of the quarry. Quite nice I think. I am going to post pictures of it. You'll have to check out the pictures on the site to get an idea.

I went on Sunday, the day after New Year's. Quite quiet. I only bumped into two cyclists, both expats judging from their Western accents and European descent. I guess all the locals were doing their holiday visits.
The dairy farm quarry is quite spectacular, really. It was very impressive being there completely alone, with the low rainclouds overhead as well as the shifting of the uncut grass blowing in the wind. So quiet, unlike the rest of Singapore. I felt so comfortable. I would have sat down and rested, but the ground was so wet (I guess you just get used to that in Singapore).
So those of you who rock climb and are thinking of coming out to visit, please do. See the pictures. I will have to ask around for local routes and grade ratings for the climbs and do up a list as others have down for the Gunks as well the Potomac Great Falls climbing parks in NY and MD in the States....


Well, Chinese new year has come and gone. Something that occurs to me while thinking of *Chinese* new year is that in the States we use the term "Lunar New Year" to be more encompassing and general as other cultures also celebrate the new year. This is of course probably too PC-ish as I would guess Chinese New Year behaves more like a unified term in Singaporean English rather than "Chinese" as a modifier to New Year.

Okay, I'll stop ranting about it. The bottom line is it's just a different system here. Funny that you can only see these things when faced with differences. But I guess that happens to all ex-pats (especially those of you one who got to come to live and work in the US). Oh, it's so funny to have this happen to me this way.

Smiles,

Min

2003/01/31

Water damage is always worse than it initially looks. Which means that the noise, renovation and construction is going to take even longer than previously schedule. Not particularly surprised. I hope they can find adequate compensation for the university (maybe me too).

Yikes, the ceiling in the office is leaking.
Today happens to be
a) not a good day
b) Chinese (Lunar) new year eve
c) the SIGIR deadline
d) a day which I have not yet slept, or
e) all of the above.

6:00 am The ceiling starts leaking.
6:05 am I email the NUS SoC support staff. Hmm, I wonder if anyone is awake yet...
6:30 am I go outside my office and notice that the hallway door is also leaking, worse than in my office.
6:35 am So I go downstairs to talk to the security guards. He comes up and calls the NUS staff, which may take some time to arrive.
6:20 am I notice another water stain patch on the ceiling
6.45 am There are another two water stains on my ceiling. Only the big one is leaking so far.

2003/01/23

Wandering around Singapore is fun and easy to do. You just have to be willing to walk. Locals here don't seem to be into walking much. They prefer the easy way of doing things. They will ignore staircases and head straight for the escalator. But then they will go to the gym to work out. I see this in the States too and have to wonder whether this makes much sense.

Here's a game you can play in Singapore. The only requirement is an EZ-link card, which allows you travel on city buses and subways. Optional is getting lost, asking strangers for directions and the Travellink guide, which gives you some limited access to bus stops and directions.

1) Do a random walk away from your starting point.
2) When you get tired, get on a bus. Look around, ignore the TV on the bus, and get acquainted with your surroundings.
3) Repeat as necessary.

4) When you are ready to go home, look up appropriate buses by asking around or using the Travellink guide to find a bus that comes close to your starting place.
5) Travel home.

I have played this game a couple times in order to find places here but it's always preferrable to have some local help. Alicia, a friend of mine who's local Singaporean, has helped me find over 200% more that I would have found on my own. That's not to say that going out to explore is irrelevant. It keeps me learning about where the myriad (200+ routes) go in their ways across the island-nation.

2003/01/21

Climbing time.. Well, I've been to the NUS climbing center at the university three times now. I guess it's about time that I write something about it. Many of you have been victims of my wall-climbing hobbies in New York city, and have been subjected to climb with me. So you know what it is like in New York. There are some pictures in my picture logs if you haven't seen them.
Here's a sample.

Whereas the walls in New York are really more for climbing, the climbing wall at the University (well they use the term "uni" like Australians do) is really more for bouldering here. There doesn't seem to be many people who climb. In fact yesterday was the third time I've been to the climbing gym and the first time I saw someone who wanted to climb. But still very interesting. Lots of people, and a higher proportion of exchange students there, in comparison to the rest of the campus. The best climbers here are the local Singaporean men; who are pretty thin but muscular. Although they are more into just trying strength moves, the women here seem to be better at actually sticking to the wall... Will have to take pictures one of these days.

There is a 3 storied textured wall that is actually used for climbing (it has anchors for fixed lines and belaying) whereas the rest of the gym is mostly for traverses and roof climbs. There seems to be a fairly easy 5.8-5.9-ish route that goes around the entire climbing room (yes, all four walls of the room have climbing holds). That isn't to say that I have been able to do it. There is a section that is all roof (about 10 to 60 degrees from vertical) and that is pretty difficult. The rest of it can't be that bad. I'll have to let you know.

That said, the boudering problems lend themselves to strength training rather than balance and practicing on crimpy holds. There are more surfaces in the gym that are inclined as roofs (inverted) rather than inclined as a mountain. Later in the month I hope to go visit the Dairy Farm, one of the few places in Singapore that you can climb outside. This place I understand is frequented quite often, I guess somewhat like Rat Rock and Cat Rock in Central Park in New York.

More Later...



2003/01/10

The next (well, rather the last) couple of messages are excerpts from email replies that I sent out. Enjoy.

Another friend I met here by accident asked me whether I had been to Sentosa yet, the island resort on the south side of Singapore.

I Yes, I did wind up going to Sentosa, as two of my friends from the U.S. came to visit about two weeks after we met in Newton Circus. So finally we got there. Yes, lots of walking and some swimming but too bad there was a bit of rain too.

Anyways, the school term has started and finally I get a chance to teach. I'm not nervous yet. I'm sharing lecture responsibilities with three other professors and there are two sections. I'm teaching the later section on Saturday mornings, the other one is on Wednesday. So, I get to see what the other more senior lecturer does as a clue. Very helpful.



Anyways, things here are starting to calm down and am starting to think about actually doing work. My weekly routine is starting to form so I will have started to block time off for enjoyment as well as teaching and research duties.

With my friend Chi-Wah from NY and her friends we have visited many of the places that I remembered from the first time I was in Singapore. I'm slowly getting familiar with the roads here and the bus transit system. It makes me feel more at home when I don't feel like I can be easily lost.


A certain friend here asked about the 'shock' of moving here from the U.S. and what I felt about it.

So here is part of the answer.

Yes, I agree with your points about moving to Asia... I will tell you that I have always had a bit of an identity crisis and I guess this happens to everyone who is multicultural or multiracial. Being in the U.S. as a minority, you feel a bit more unique and proud to have a different heritage than others around you. But I can understand now why so many people here dye their hair and change their appearance because they want to differentiate themselves from the masses (at least that is my impression) and thus why this is less popular in the States. Here, I feel less comfortable conversing in Chinese, whether it be Mandarin or Cantonese, because I find my skills at both are lacking. I think this type of uneasiness is important to experience because it forces one to grow to fit a new mould; to adapt into a new environment. It's more dynamic than a peaceful and relaxing experience, but for me, that is the choice that is right for me.

2003/01/05

Ann and Chi-Wah stayed with Shirley during their stay here. Shirley, or Shir, as Ann calls her, is probably one of the most adept people I have seen at making her guests seem especially welcome. Despite the fact that Singapore is a pretty tiny country, she managed to carve out a whole week's worth of activities for Ann, Chi-Wah and myself to try out. She invited all of us to a number of the end-of-the-year activities, including the regular tourists sights such as Sentosa (a historic island/fort turned into tourist beach land) and the downtown quay area but also a friend's BBQ and clubbing.

I had almost managed to thwart enjoying myself as I had managed to get a couple things wrong during Chi-Wah's and Ann's stay here. On the first night, I didn't receive her email (yep, it really never came), and didn't relize that we were all supposed to go to a club. Well, I had to go home to change and quickly come back to the club. In the following days, I (again) forgot to bring my long pants, lost my keys and managed to misplace the bug spray (for the night zoo tour, that's actually quite fun, although a bit pitiful for the animals I'm sure). In spite of that, it was a tremendously busy busy and social social week which made me feel very good to be around such a nice group of people.


2003/01/03

Chi-Wah and Ann have already arrived and left and as such these entries are actually a bit post-dated, but not expired. Anyways, the first day after they arrived I had an exciting day not only hanging out with them and their Sing friends (who I will talk more about later) but also because I managed to lose my keys on New Year's day. A funny way to start the new year.

So I left my keys somewhere in Clarke Quay and managed to return to NUS after the day's activities. I slipped into the faculty lounge and worked for a tiny bit before deciding it was just too hard to stay awake for another day doing work. So I looked up the nearest hotel (btw, most of the hotels in the yellow pages were in Geylang, just statistically speaking... which was funny because I only learned the day before it is the red-light district of Singapore), which is a small inn off of the NUS campus. My friend Yi had stayed there when she came to visit Singapore when I was interviewing here at the end of March last year.
Anyways, I took the taxi there, and found out that they needed proper ID to let me stay in the hotel. This is quite different than in the US, where they will take anyone, regardless of their background, if their credit is ok. So, I walked the thirty minutes back to the NUS campus to sleep in the faculty lounge (which was pretty okay, actually, because the lounge is air-conditioned and has a small sofa with removeable cushions.

I woke up the next morning to the alarm clock built in to the handphone and started working for a while. Our administration officer, Theresa, came in and found me here bright and early, working from the faculty lounge. She was actually the right person to ask about getting a spare set of keys for the office and so I was able to go back into my office and pick up the second set of keys for the apartment. So I'm okay for now.


2002/12/28

So finally I got the letter sent out. Whew. That was a lot of work. It turned out migrating the address book from my old mailer was a little bit more troublesome than expected. Anyways it is good to have it finished. Still have to get some errands done for the house, it seems it never finishes. oh well.

I was supposed to spend some time today looking into the course work but I think I'll leave that for later. Going to have to do some shopping instead. Was supposed to run today, maybe I can try to get that done in the evening sometime.

Well, here's hoping my bank account holds up okay. Should be okay. I do have to figure out how to wire money back to pay bills on the Amex and Discover cards. I wonder when my reimbursements for moving and airfare are going to come in. That cash would really help.

2002/12/26

So another thing that I figured out once my A/C units were installed
last week. They have a "dry mode" which I guess means that their
primary focus is to dehumify the room. That works quite well for the
three bedrooms but the main den (which I have also installed my study
doesn't have an air conditioning unit, and it is also way too large to
efficiently cool or dry down using the air-con units. So I'm doing
with the standing fans that are provided with the flat, and it works
out quite well, actually. I usually run the A/C in the bedroom for
about an hour before sleeping, and for another two hours while I'm
trying to sleep (there's a timer on the air/con units, they all have
remote controls -- I think this is pretty common in Asia but you
rarely see this in the States as we usually have central A/C and
heating via a thermostat. Well, there's no use for a heater here, and
A/C makes more sense to do on a room by room basis, so that's that.


There was a story in the English newspaper, the Straits Times, the
other day that discussed a man who lived on 200 a month. I don't
remember the details but it was as you can imagine, quite frugal,
since it included room and board. Rent here is probably a little
cheaper than in NYC but certainly more than in MD, a 3 BR flat similar
to the one I have will run you about 3 K per month. It costs me about
600 a month so it is quite well subsidized all things considered.
That's about 2 K to 2.5 K more per month or so that I save so it can
go back towards paying off the loan in a faster time. Yes, the total
time to pay back the loan is quite fast, so I can't complain at all,
given the number of you who are probably still paying back loans and
will continue to do so for a long time. I guess the profession that I
have right now earns the money, so I will take advantage of it as much
as possible.

25 Dec (Christmas Day)

I sort of haven't figured out yet what things that I will try to put
into this blog and what things I'm going to attach to the letter. I
guess the idea was to firm up an idea of what are the daily things
that I figure out, these will go into the blog and the more regular
topics would be formalized in the letter.

Anyways, I was reading some of the entries from last time and already
in the 11 days that have intervened a couple of things became more
clear. I talked with a taxi driver the other day and it was clear
that he thought that a family needed about 3000 dollars a month to
survive. Thus the normal living arrangement of two parents earning
around 3000 a month gives you enough clearance to generate a
moderately convenient living style. That's I guess 72K per year. If
you take out the exchange difference between USD and SGD, the
difference isn't that much. I mean 1 Sing Dollar here buys more or
less what 1 US dollar buys back home in the US. And as such, those of
you who do get a chance to visit Singapore while the exchange rate is
still this similar will net quite a nice bargain in return. My salary
goes quite far here, but as I have a number of US loans to pay off,
the pay doesn't go as far in terms of paying back the loan.


By the way, the last couple of entries are actually dated 14 Dec 2002, but I didn't get blogger working before then, so lots of luck... grr. The next are from Christmas day 25 Dec 2002.

Anyways, the Gillman unit is very large; over a thousand square feet
(this is one of the few things that they measure in English units,
unfortunately; A/C power in BTUs is another) and has a nice floor
plan. I live on the sixth floor (hence the 06 as the leading number
in the address), facing south. It works out quite well as the balcony
gets some sunlight but it doesn't make it into the living room
(less direct sunlight, less heat, less A/C needed. The unit has a
sunken living room and a through counter kitchen that is very nice.
It's really a unit meant for a whole family but oh well, I will
have to make do. :)

Food here is very cheap. The canteen here is really your only option
to eat but the food is quite good by my standards. The canteen is
organized like an American food court, with several different stalls
set up and run by local families. In the canteen closest to the
department (it's really just underneath the department) there's
a Japanese food stand, two noodle stands, a Muslim food stand, bakery,
fruit juice and other beverage stand, and a bubble tea stand. Average
lunch runs about 3 Sing dollars or about 1.80 US. Food stands
(sometimes called hawker stands, as sometimes there are family members
outside trying to get you to order food) in this configuration are
pretty common and found all over the island, although at the
university the prices are about half of what you'd expect in other
places.

This last entry points out some things which I have yet to really
understand here. There is a marked disparity between providers of
services and their consumers. I don't think a family that runs a
hawker stand at the university actually makes that much money to net
much of a living.


NUS has three different apartment complexes for faculty apartments.
The newest set of buildings is Kent Vale, which is about 15 minutes
walk from the School of Computing, where I work. I first looked at
the apartments there. They were partially furnished with sofa and
dining tables, desks, built in dressers and bedframes. On top of
that, a refrigerator, washer, stove and A/C units were already
installed. This was different than my visit to Gillman Heights, the
other option for housing, which is about 10 minutes by car (not very
walkable). Once I entered the unit for Gillman, I was sold. First,
the unit is larger; a 3 bedroom rather than a 2. Actually the number
of rooms in the KV and GH apartments are identical, as the Kent Vale
ones have a small study instead of the extra bedroom. But the
floorplan and materials in the Gillman units were much nicer. And
thus it was an easy choice to make. You can see the pictures of the
Gillman unit, and its floorplan. The Gillman unit doesn't come
with electrical appliances of any sort, which is a big problem. So I
am currently in the process of buying A/C units, water heater, oven,
washer and refrigerator. This disparity was explained to me by a
number of senior faculty who were surprised at my choice of Gillman
(given the convenience). Originally, all units came without
appliances and bedding but as visitors complained that they would have
to front these startup costs (and note that much of these things
don't often get sold secondhand here). As such, the housing office
made an adjustment recently to provide appliances, starting with the
Kent Vale units. They haven't gotten around to doing the newly
renovated Gillman units.

Drying Pins on the ceiling. Nobody buys dryers, I wonder why.
Especially because it just so darn humid here. I was chatting with
David Hsu, another new faculty member, and he mentioned that he saw a
humidifier in Best Denki (one equivalent of Circuit City here in
Singapore). We thought that was extremely hilarious. What I
couldn't find was a dehumidifier. Which I think would be much more
useful here. I wonder whether people just run their A/C units all
day.

So it took some work to open a mobile phone account here. They're
called handphones rather than cells or mobiles. Makes sense if you
think about the Chinese characters for it. I had to go back and forth
between downtown and the conference hotel twice in my attempts to get
the necessary paperwork done. They needed proof of billing address
but I had only recently established a bank account and residential
address (about 2 days ago) so it was hard to produce proof. I ended
up going to another shopping center about 15 minutes west of the
school to do bedding shopping before seeing another mobile shop in the
mall (the IMM mall for those who may know) and getting service there.
This other store accepted some my account opening paperwork to open
the service account.


2002/12/13

So this will be my blog on migrating to singapore. It's weird because I should have started writing this as soon as I got off the plane (or rather, on it) but better later than never. It's just so busy.

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