Monday, January 29, 2007

a case of pattern recognition in the bathroom

Another pattern recognition example. A while ago, I had read on "How Magazine"'s blog about these design toilet papers, from Portuguese company Renova, and I filed it certain that I'd use it for something.
Now, one of my favorite bloggers, Lisa Katayama, who writes the interesting and incredibly funny Tokyo Mango, came up with these examples of printed toilet papers. She says that these printed toilet papers have existed in Japan for a very long time.
I can perfectly understand "doing your thing" with a black toilet paper, with "skulls", or with the "inflation dollar bill", but with the "Happy Birthday" one, I guess I totally missed the cultural manifestation here.

no more 'mystery photos'?

I once wrote about how technology will help us in creating more context and meaning in the photos we take. See post here.
Last week, I came across this article in The Guardian (reg. required) about a new company called Polar Rose, which promises to bring face recognition technology to the web. Basically it's a mix of social network tagging (e.g. and facial recognition software. Read the company's pitch below:
The Polar Rose plug-in for Firefox and Internet Explorer lets you discover who's in a picture on any public photo. The plug-in detects people in online photos and places our signature rose approximately where the pinhole of their shirt would be. A click on the rose will bring up a tooltip with relevant information, including name and other photos found of the same person. As a user, you help train our engine by tagging names or verifying the data generated by Polar Rose or by your fellow users.

jon steel at the apg

Beeker, a planner based in London, went to Jon Steel's talk, about his new book, "Perfect Pitch: The Art of Selling Ideas and Winning New Business". Here are her impressions.

life in the fast lane

"If everything's under control, you're going too slow" (Mario Andretti)

On my friend PL (a talented art director)'s website.

Friday, January 26, 2007

ninjas are cool

Planners are always on the lookout for some examples of pattern recognition. Writing the previous post about Pucca, it reminded me of some other cool ninja stuff I came across over the years.
The first one, of course, was Samurai Kid (Kaze no Fujimaru): I used to be a big fan as a young boy. Samurai Kid was a boy who was raised by a samurai who taught him the art of ninji-tsu, doing cool stuff such as controlling the wind (he could create a twister with a single raise of his finger), and multiplying himself to confound his opponents (thanks for softindigoeyes for pointing me to this).

But then Hollywood produced the infamous American Ninja series, and ninjas started to get a bad rap. Eventually, it got parodied by the late Chris Farley, in the hilarious comedy Beverly Hills Ninja.
But ninjas are resilient, they always appear from nowhere when you least expect. We couldn't forget, of course, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, for example.
More recently, some other productions are helping to revive the ninja legend.
One is the French cartoon (French??), Shuriken School (for those not fluent in ninja-speak, shuriken is that sharp, star-shaped ninja blade, which they throw with incomparable skill to kill their opponents). The Jetix webiste says that, "along with your usual Maths and English lessons, you can learn to be a Ninja and melt into walls, fly over rooftops, or disappear in a cloud of smoke". How cool is that?
Naruto, on the other hand, is for the more serious-minded ninja fan, definitely not the "cute ninja" type.
But a serious ninja fan will only be satisfied with a pilgrimage to the Ninja Museum, in Iga-Ueno, Japan, complete with secret passages and ninja paraphernalia.
You get to see ninja weapons...
...and some ninja demonstrations.
But the best part is that to get to the museum, you can take this charming ninja train.
Do you know any other cool ninja stuff?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

the new hello kitty?

I spent some time during the holidays watching TV with my son (ok, maybe it was more like 'a lot of time'). Mostly "Power Rangers" stuff, but in the middle of it all, we came across "Pucca Funny Love", and it couldn't be a more refreshing thing.
Pucca is a young girl who is in love with a ninja boy called Garu. Garu, like all ninja boys, is not much into this romance thing, he wants to fight the world. So, as much as he likes Pucca, he tries to avoid any excessive demonstration of affection. Which is exactly what Pucca is all about. Whenever she can, she tries to steal a kiss from Garu, much to his embarrassment.
It is produced by Vooz, a Korean company, all in Macromedia Flash, with very little or no dialogue, and it's impossibly cute. Now, most guys would yawn at the very mention of the word 'cute', as in 'Hello Kitty cute', and I confess I'm not a big fan either, but this is simply too cute. Even my son, who nowadays is very much into "heroes vs. monsters" thing, had fun watching it.
When Pucca and Garu run, tiny sweat drops appear on their foreheads, as if attached by Velcro (it happens all the time with Garu. When he is kissed by Pucca, he flushes with embarrassment and a tiny drop appears on his face). It's so funny, perhaps because it is so true.

Monday, January 22, 2007

v&a museum of childhood

We went to newly renovated V&A Museum of Childhood in East London. It's a nice place to spend a few hours with your little ones. Apart from traveling back in time as you get to see many of the old toys you played with, the museum carries an interesting message about creativity and it's truly inspirational as they show how kids all over the world make their toys using very simple materials.

Play with words and use your imagination
A bus toy made by a boy in Uganda, using wires and wooden wheels.
The donation machine

five things...

Well, this has been going on for some time and I was secretly hoping I would get away without being tagged. But I was tagged last week by Michell, so here are the 5 things most people don't know about me (hope I won't cringe when I read this in the future):
1. Once, in my early teens, I flipped through the entire 30-plus volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, page by page. Didn't read all the subjects, but read at least the titles. It took me a long time, can't remember how many days, but it was a (very) long enterprise (maybe I had too much time in my hands).
2. I used to run the 100m in 10.9s. Not exactly fast, but fast enough to win some school races.
3. When I ride my bike nowadays, I pretend I'm Kevin Bacon in "Quicksilver"(oh, how we like to fool ourselves!)
4. I once worked as a swimming instructor. The only caveat was that I never was a great swimmer (I'm a track guy, remember?). But I managed to keep my part-time job for a couple of years. People actually learned to swim with my guidance (and I considerably improved my swimming skills along the way).
5. I once had the pleasure to meet Bob Beamon (my claim to fame?), the 1968 Long Jump Olympic Champion and world record holder with a jump of 8.90m, in Sao Paulo, around 1984. Years later, in 2000, walking by in San Francisco, I ran across the man who beat his mark, Mike Powell, who jumped 8.95 m in the Tokyo World Championships in 1991. Not exactly exciting for most people but I guess you have to be a track nut to fully grasp the enormity of these feats. Just go somewhere with enough space and measure the distance. It's humanly impossible for someone to jump that distance (or at least, that's what you'll think, believe me).
Well, that's it. I won't tag anyone but if you feel like, please consider yourself tagged. Have fun.

top news in london

These were the main events taking places during our short stay in London:
1. The row in Big Brother involving Shilpa Shetty, a Bollywood star, and Jade Goody, a local "celebrity". Ms. Goody was accused of bullying Ms. Shetty with racial slurs. The incident made headlines when more than 20,000 people called the TV station to complain. It reached global proportion when crowds in India angrily protested against the treatment their star was receiving. It didn't help that Gordon Brown was visiting India at the time. The discussion reached the Parliament and it was front page news in every single newspaper. Ms. Goody was later evicted from the house with a record 82% of the votes and is now considered one of the most hated people in the UK.
2. The worst storms to reach the island in more than 10 years, with gusty winds up to 100mph. The Hyde Park was closed for the public (to protect them from the falling trees), many roads and subway stations were closed, and most local flights were cancelled.

back in singapore

I'm back in Singapore. Well, sort of, still jet-lagged. Traveling across so many time zones (11) is just damn hard. I try to sleep during the night but my body simply refuses to accept the darkness as a clue to sleep. At the same time, during the day, I have to battle an irresistible urge to doze off.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"hello, where are you?" - a question of the past?

It seems that the Tokyo Police has listened to my friend Michell.
A while ago he had expressed his wish that mobile phones showed the caller's location (in addition to the ID they currently show). Well, that's an information that the Tokyoites won't need to provide anymore (at least when calling the police). According to the Japan Times, calls to the emergency number will be tracked automatically. The report says that "...the system will shorten the time it takes for officers to reach the scene. Callers often do not know their exact locations and, if they are panicking, cannot give clear descriptions of their surroundings for police to find them."
This will indeed be far more efficient, but at least in one aspect this technology will not be welcomed. I guess most movie buffs will agree that police thrillers are going to lose a little bit of drama. No more scenes of victims desperately
trying to tell the operator their whereabouts.
PS: speaking about location, I'm blogging from myhotel in London on my way to Singapore.

Friday, January 12, 2007

tokyo ubiquitous network project

A long, complicated name, which represents the latest marketing effort to be launched this month in Tokyo's glitzy Ginza district.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, "stores in central Tokyo are set to beam news of special offers, menus and coupons to passers-by in a trial run of a radio-tagging system (RFIT). The Tokyo Ubiquitous Network Project...sends shoppers information from nearby shops via a network of radio-frequency identification tags, infrared and wireless transmitters... Shoppers can either rent a prototype reader or get messages on their cell phones. The tags and transmitters identify a reader or phone's location and match it to information provided by shops."
See below a diagram that explains how this will work (still in experimental stage).
The project's website is recruiting participants for the experiment, which will last from January until March 10th.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

apple's stock

Apple's stock price rose more than 7% after the announcements made yesterday at MacWorld Conference, adding roughly US$ 5 billion to its market cap (closed at US$ 79.5 billion). Not bad for a two-hour presentation. See below the summary of yesterday's trading activities.
Macminute has an interesting report about the effect of Jobs' presentation on Apple's shares (from bottom up):
- Apple changes name to Apple Inc., dropping "Computer"
- Apple shares up 8% at $92.42
- iPhone to be available in June, 4GB version priced at US$499, 8GB $599
- Apple partners with Cingular Wireless for iPhone
- Apple shares up 5.5% at US$90.22
- iPhone features Wi-Fi, Bluetooth capabilities
- iPhone will have a 3.5-inch diagonal screen and be 11.6 millimeters thick
- iPhone includes two-megapixel camera
- iPhone to connect with iTunes
- Apple expects to sell 100 millionth iPod in 2007
- Apple iPhone features "revolutionary" touch-screen -- to use new "Multi-Touch" technology, which Apple has patented
- Apple stock up 3.5% at US$88.48
- Apple calls new product "iPhone"
- Jobs: "Apple is going to reinvent the phone"
- Jobs unveils mobile phone
- Apple TV shipping in February for US$299. Pre-orders available today.
- Apple TV can stream content from up to five computers
- Apple TV device holds movies, TV shows, music, photos
- Apple shares up 40 cents at US$85.85
- Apple changes iTV name to Apple TV -- 40GB hard drive, stores 50 hrs vide

In the meantime, shares of Blackberry maker Research in Motion dropped 11%, losing about US$ 2 billion in market value.

heavy traffic

This is what I got when trying to access Steve Jobs' keynote address yesterday at the launch of the iPhone.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

iPod-inspired architecture

Dubai, which already has a collection of the world's most daring constructions, has announced the plans to build the iPad, an iPod-inspired, 23-storey building, designed by Hong Kong-based consultancy James Law Cybertecture. "The tower will sit atop a docking station angled at six degrees to give the exact look" (via See picture below (via
Yet another "i-something" brand, but this at least makes sense.