Spot the homophone (plus a lesson in contest statistics)

This advertisement (which was designed to be hung on a horizontal pole on a bus or a train) says:

West My Golden Ticket?

The idea for this jokey name is that the word “west” in Singlish has the exact same three sounds as the word “where’s” in Singlish.

Yep. They’re both pronounced “wes”.

Below is some explanation of what the advertisement wants you to do (spend money, duh) and how the math works.

Continue reading Spot the homophone (plus a lesson in contest statistics)

NUS E-Resource Discovery Day Book Sale 2017

I bought 16 books at the annual NUS E-Resource Discovery Day Book Sale today. The paperbacks were SG$1 and the hardcovers were SG$2. There were eight or ten tables, including some Chinese books and Japanese manga.

The book I’m most excited about in this batch is the one about Singlish (top left), called New Englishes: The Case of Singapore, published by NUS Press in 1988.

The runner up is the vintage hardcover titled An Introduction to the Study of Education, published in the US in 1951. The binding, the weight of the paper and the oddly familiar, comforting typography make it a distinctly pleasing physical object regardless of whatever it happens to say.

  • New Englishes, by Joseph Foley
  • An Introduction to the Study of Education, by George Willard Frasier
  • A Parent’s Guide to Children’s Reading, by Nancy Larrick
  • Tell Me Why?, by Octopus Publishing Group
  • Organization Development (6th Edition), by Wendell L. French and Cecil H. Bell, Jr.
  • Talking with Kids, by Alison Mulvaney
  • Megacreativity, by Andrei G. Aleinikov
  • The Chinese, by David Bonavia
  • The Pagemaster, by Jordan Horowitz
  • Arthurian Romances, by Chretien de Troyes
  • The Language Web, by Jean Aitchison
  • Vocabulary: Description, Acquisition and Pedagogy, by Edited by Norbert Schmitt and Michael McCarthy
  • Getting the Best from People, by Martha I. Finney
  • Hiring the Best, by Cathy Fyock
  • Syntax of Scientific English, by Lee Kok Cheong
  • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th Edition)

Lehigh mug is lihai.

The Mandarin expression 厉害 (lìhài) means ‘awesome’ or ‘powerful’, among other things.

I heard the expression several times while watching Kung Fu Yoga, so when I next looked at this mug, I saw it in a whole new light, even though I’ve had it for years.

I toured the New Jersey plant belonging to Lehigh Press (a Von Hoffmann company) at some point when I was working in the production department of Princeton University Press (2005–2008).

The place was full of huge, expensive German printing machines and stacks and stacks of different kinds of paper.

The company printed the book cover (but I think not the pages) for some of our titles. They also printed Harry Potter book covers!

Before we left, they gave us some company-brand swag stuff like this mug, plus samples of things they’d printed with fancy techniques.

Lehigh Press closed down in 2008.

It was home to the country’s largest vacuum collator, an assembly-line machine that uses suction force to stack sheets of printed paper or plastic film in order.

That was awesome.

Euros from Malta

You can spend any country’s Euros anywhere in the Eurozone, which means the coins spread around a bit. Still, in Spain, mostly you see Spanish Euro coins, and in Italy, mostly you see Italian ones, and so on.

Thus, if you were trying to collect all the different coins in circulation in the Eurozone countries, you’d have little hope of running across all the coins from the small Mediterranean island country of Malta, unless you or someone you knew actually went there.

Challenge accepted.

My husband Aquinas brought back a set of eight Maltese Euro coins for each of us when he went to Malta for a conference this month.

Maltese for Foreigners

My husband Aquinas brought back this set of learning materials for me from Malta, where he went for a conference.

It’s not that I have any serious intention of studying the language, it’s that I collect language-learning materials. I suspect the fact that Maltese is written using the Latin script would make it easier than other Semitic languages for an English speaker to learn, though.

Semitic? As in, related to Hebrew? Yep! Maltese is not just a popular breed of dog or an infamous falcon statuette, it’s an amazing hybrid of Arabic and Italian, two languages which, frankly, I didn’t know had a non-empty intersection.

Popular atrium sale at United Square

I bought the 20 books shown above and listed below for S$2 each at a sale hosted by the United Square branch of the Singapore bookstore chain Popular. Two Singapore dollars is a tough price to beat, even for used books in the US! These books were new but remaindered or noticeably shopworn in some cases.

I think the one I was most excited about finding was China in Ten Words, which was on my Amazon wishlist. If I’d bought it new on Amazon, it would have cost what ten of these books cost me.

Windhaven by George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle
I already have an old mass-market paperback but I wanted a trade paperback version.

Find Your Strongest Life by Marcus Buckingham
I wanted a trade paperback version to replace the bulky hardcover I already have.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
I wanted this 50th anniversary edition for the cover. I have lots of different editions with different covers.

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
I have already read it, but I didn’t own a copy.

Literary Singapore by The Literary Arts Team of the National Arts Council
As a member of the Singapore Writers’ Group, I wanted to learn more about other Singapore Writers.

Things That Suck by Jason Kaplan
So funny!

10,000 Extraordinary and Puzzling Words by Robert H. Hill
When I saw the word ‘coelacanth’ on the back cover, I had to have it.

We Love Toa Payoh by Urban Sketchers Singapore
I’ve admired these sketchbooks for a while but been unwilling to fork over the full price.

H Plus by Edward de Bono
As stated previously, this guy is a master of the short-but-expensive book, so I grab cheap copies when I can.

China in Ten Words by Yu Hua
I have wanted to read this for a while!

Stylized by Mark Garvey
This is a book about that much praised and maligned touchstone of writing manuals, Elements of Style by Strunk and White.

Tiger Babies Strike Back by Kim Wong Keltner
This book is an answer to Tiger Mother Amy Chua.

A Good Talk by Daniel Menaker
This is a book on an intriguing pop-psychology self-improvement topic.

How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
I have one of their other books.

The One Thing You Need to Know by Marcus Buckingham
This is another strengths-based management book.

The Truth about You by Marcus Buckingham
This is another strengths-based management book.

Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn by John C. Maxwell
Learning from mistakes is perhaps not just the best way to learn; maybe it’s really the only way to learn.

Bright Side Up by Amy Spencer
Positive psychology strikes again.

Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
I have his other books.

Bounce by Matthew Syed
This is an attractive green hardcover about competition, success, the importance of practice, or the myth of talent. Or something. Could be a rehash of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers but with even less science.

Junior Page book sale at Novena

I bought these four books at Velocity in the hallway, where Junior Page had set up a bunch of tables offering discounted books for both children and adults.

When the price is “3 for $20 (or 1 for $10)”, buying four books is not optimal. Nevertheless, I wanted these four books, and only these four books.

Chinese Whispers by Ben Chu
I know a lot more about China than I used to, but in a lot of ways it’s still a black box. This book (which when I first saw it I thought was a novel) is devoted to busting some common myths that circulate in the way that the message does in the game of ‘telephone’—or, as the game is sometimes known, ‘Chinese whispers’.

No One Understands You and What to Do about It by Heidi Grant Halvorson
Reading First, Break All the Rules might make you think that people are so unique that we’re all somehow fundamentally unknowable. But according to this book, there are ways to mitigate this feeling of isolation.

Six Frames by Edward de Bono
I read and loved Six Thinking Hats. This is another of the many, many “creative thinking” books by a true master of the short-but-expensive book, Edward de Bono.

Born Liars by Ian Leslie
I was worried I’d already bought and read this book because it looked familiar. That was just because it has been on my wishlist, however. Glad to have bumped into it at a good price!

Ruth Chew books from Japan

Below are photos of the three Ruth Chew books translated into Japanese and published in Japan in 2016, which I just ordered by mail from Amazon.jp.

The Amazon Japan website is easy to use (there’s a button to switch the site to English), and you can check out with USD, but now I keep getting emails (marketing emails, presumably) from Amazon in Japanese!

See below for more photos of these exotic books.

Continue reading Ruth Chew books from Japan

Two More Little Princes

While I returned from Vietnam to Singapore, my husband went on to Bangkok. After seeing how pleased I was to find The Little Prince in Vietnamese, he wanted to surprise me by bringing back The Little Prince in Thai. I spoiled his plan by asking him to look for it when I checked in with him online during his stay. Then he felt it was incumbent upon him to come up with an even surprisier surprise.

The result: The Little Prince deluxe pop-up book! Since I had The Little Prince in English and six other languages (not counting Thai), clearly I needed to have the book in 3D.

It’s pretty spectacular! I was indeed surprised.

tlp-title

tlp-interior

After a bit of Googling, I realized: nine versions is just a drop in the bucket. There are more than 250!

For comparison, the sensationally successful Harry Potter books are “only” available in about 70 different languages (someone’s got them all); I have copies in about 30 of them.

What about the The Bible? It’s available in over a thousand languages.

Still, The Little Prince is one of the most translated works ever. It’s up there with Pinocchio, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and stories by Andersen.

Given how many versions of The Little Prince there are, owning just one version for English (well, two, counting the pop-up) is paltry. I should figure out which English translation I have, because apparently there are several, and some are more well-regarded than others—or perhaps it would be fairer to say the different versions well-regarded for different reasons.

More on the subtleties and pitfalls of translation and publication across language barriers, with specific reference to The Little Prince, at the link below.

On Translation and The Little Prince

Vietnamese banknotes

Whenever I visit a foreign country, I try to collect one each of all the bills and coins in use; my husband also likes to have a set of his own, so I assembled one for him this time too. Nine different bills! Six polymer and three paper.

Since the coins aren’t worth much, I didn’t run across any in use. I did see some at a stall selling postcards, stamps, and other items of interest to tourists, but they were glued on to a dirty old cardboard “collector’s album” with some undoubtedly fake/replica ancient coins and some random, beat-up coins from other countries (including an American penny next to a label that said it was a nickel). No thanks.

Since the Wikipedia article on Vietnamese banknotes doesn’t let you see the images of the banknotes (you have to click a bunch of links to another site), I’ve scanned mine and posted them below.

The 200k note shows Ha Long Bay, and the 100k note shows a gate at the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, two locations I’ve now seen in person.

Continue reading Vietnamese banknotes