Notes on e-reading

My Kobo reader (a lovely Clara HD) died some months ago, having spent about a year with me. It could not be revived (probably the battery) and I was out of the warranty period. [In any case, I purchased this from Rakuten Kobo over Lazada, and the customer service was slow, but I took it as a sign and moved on.]

I have had Kindles but I got the Kobo because I wanted a device that could load titles from my local library via Overdrive. I was beginning my weaning off from physical books. It is safe to say that since I was a child, books were a significant portion of my spending. When I first started working, I spent Friday evenings buying books, and hoping I would have time to read them during the weekends. As all devout readers know, book-buying and reading are separate hobbies. Anyway, at the peak, I was buying around 50 books a year (the last time this happened was in 2018), and while I do manage to read most of them, book-owning was getting to me. The housemate also loves books, and we had piles too formidable for our relatively smaller home. So we started on our path towards e-books.

(Statistics: I bought 20 books in 2019, 14 in 2020, and 6 in 2021. I am at 9 for 2022. I read around 30 books a year.)

The Kobo was great – it had a warm lighting option, and worked well in bright daylight and also in bed. It was the size of a book but I could make the font bigger for my aging eyes. You could load fonts you like and/or geek out about which fonts are more suitable for e-readers (vs print). And so, the Kobo was great until it wasn’t and I was wondering if I would buy another e-reader. I wasn’t convinced that I needed one, and so I continued reading on my phone (as I have, using the Libby app).

Very happily (and belatedly), I realised that highlights made on the phone Libby app could be extracted easily. This suits me very well, because for non-fiction books, I usually have many highlights and this is a good way to keep them. [I tried hand-writing notes but it is either too disruptive to be switching to taking notes while reading, or too tiring to have to seek out and write notes after you are done with a book.] This merriment offset the mild gloom of realising I had no way of extracting the highlights I made on my now-dead Kobo.

So far, I am fine staying on this path of reading on my phone. Sometimes it annoys me that the screen is relatively small and I have to remember to take eye-care breaks. Sometimes, I wonder whether there is a better setup for myself, and I chuckled at this post on reading books on the iPhone. Sometimes, I wonder how much authors earn from e-copies lent out by the library. Because I worry about the bookshop closing down, I still buy books, which means I’d still need to dispose of some books from time to time. For that, I leave them at the book exchange corners of our public libraries.

Links from the past weeks

  • I have been spending time on crosswords and the Spelling Bee on NYT.
    I was reading The Puzzler (which I really enjoyed but it opened with crosswords, which sent me down a rabbit hole, ending with my subscribing to NYT Games).

  • As might be apparent from a previous post, I am the sort who would enjoy a video titled 15 reasons why I still buy CDs.

  • I stumbled upon this vast and deeply lived resource on thinking called Less Wrong.

    It is amazing and I don’t know how I’ve never seen it before. It is “an online forum and community dedicated to improving human reasoning and decision-making. We seek to hold true beliefs and to be effective at accomplishing our goals. Each day, we aim to be less wrong about the world than the day before.”

  • This article that mentioned that employees who are motivated to be kind and helpful tend to have higher well-being at work piqued my interest.

    Workplaces are generally competitive place; an abstract idea of teamwork is generally acceptable as a positive trait in a year-end appraisal, but kindness, helpfulness and compassion are not. I don’t know whether such traits / behaviour make a difference to your renumeration, but I fall on the side of believing in the benefits of being helpful because the time spent at work is long, and even if you are incompetent, I hope you are not unhappily incompetent.

  • This is a really good video showing a slice of life in Singapore: Where Have Singapore’s Karung Gunis Gone?

    Karung gunis are in essence scrap dealers. They used to be prominent in society, roving round blocks, soliciting your trash. But the worldwide reduction in demand for the scrap they collect means lower earnings, and there seem to be fewer of them around these days. If you are interested in this topic, you can read Junkyard Planet by Adam Minter.

  • There is a tool for you to figure out the proper distance your TV ought to be placed at.

A note on walking

I started jogging in 2019. When the Covid pandemic hit, I jogged a lot more. Exercise allowed me to go out of the home; if life is put on hold, the least I could do was – running to stand still (my life motto, it seems).

In 2022, between a hectic period at work and contracting Covid (which meant a recovery period), my running volume dropped. Perhaps it was just waning interest making the time/ effort seem more onerous. And so, I looked for different places to jog, and found that I really enjoyed being amidst big trees. This small city-state does not have much of forests or trails, but I began checking out more places.

I love running at Gardens By the Bay, but it is more of a garden and the routes around it does not offer much shade. I tried Changi Bay, Tampines Eco Green, Punggol Park, Botanic Gardens, Labrador Park, Hort Park, Fort Canning… and finally, I decided to give Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and MacRitchie Reservoir a try. I quickly realised that they were not suited for jogging (for me). I am the sort who worries too much when it is a slippery downslope. They became places to walk for me.

These places are a little further for me, and I worry about it being crowded and so I went during weekdays on my days off.

And those days off were almost magical. I love hearing the crunch of my feet on the trail; I love how once you enter the shade under the big trees, it is a different world. There was so much to pay attention and yet, nothing to really pay attention to. You have to be careful of boars and monkeys, and put on a lot of insect repellant but being in nature, and walking yourself among big trees, this activity pleases me so. I don’t think of anything in particular, and I end up smiling to myself. I perhaps check my route to see I am still headed the correct way but well, I am fine if I end up slightly off-course. I take walks that are around 5 to 8 km, and average around 15 min/km. At this speed, a 8 km route takes around 2 hours. It seems like a big chunk of time to spend (because you also have to add travelling time to/from the park) but I can only say that I don’t regret the time spent.

Currently, I think the MacRitchie Reservoir area (see images below), starting from Windsor Nature Park is quite a pleasant route for me. It is not too difficult and is interesting. I do see (relatively fit) elderly people on the trails. Of course, I also see very fit people running within the trails and I am always full of admiration when they run past.

Notes on personal tech

  • Deleted my Twitter account. Read up on Mastodon but I was not convinced that we need to carry on down this path. I miss the days of the blog. I have not stopped using RSS and while Twitter allowed me to catch up on news and happenings in a certain way, I guess there is enough chatter in this world. So far, I’ve add some news outlets to RSS (after I got annoyed trying to read headlines via their Telegram channels).

    I feel mildly bad for the makers of Tweetbot.

  • I don’t know why but I managed to agitate myself into a fit of annoyance with the state of my bookmarks. I use with the Pushpin app. It is a morass, but it is my morass and I am not ready to let go of them. (I am not one of those who get so stressed by their bookmarks that they end up deleting all of them.) I saw a review of Goodlinks and decided to try the app. (There is a one-time charge.) It is fast, and looks good, and its uses iCloud for syncing. I can add a bookmark on my phone and quite quickly see it on the Mac OS app.

    But I got annoyed that I could not see the date that the bookmark was added in Goodlinks, and so, after a few weeks, I’ve decided to say goodbye to Goodlinks. I could try Anybox next. But there is a nagging question – why do I want a repository of bookmarks?

  • Trying to listen to podcasts again. After so many years, the experience of downloading podcasts to the Apple Watch (whether via Apple Podcasts, Overcast or Spotify) is still annoying. You need the watch to be put back on the charger while on the same wifi network as the phone. I typically start thinking about what to listen shortly before my run, and there have been several times where I delayed my run by 15 to 20 minutes because I was trying to have the podcasts downloaded onto the watch (and the attempt may not be successful).

    Having made attempts using the above 3 apps in the past month, it appears Apple Podcasts is currently the winner. Overcast did not sync, and downloads via Spotify started but eventually failed. Somewhat relatedly, we are now listening to podcasts to put ourselves to sleep. I lean towards news coming out from Britain for this, because the American accent (yes there is such a thing) is mostly a tad too hyper.

  • I have begun to find the iPhone 13 mini too small. Maybe it is my presbyopia progressing, or the way websites are made (who would care for this segment of the market?). But perhaps it is good for me anyway, reducing the time I spend looking down at a small screen.