March 4, 2020

An iOS Shortcut for your library’s Overdrive search

Some public libraries now offer digital books via a service called Overdrive. Often when I am reading an article, I want to search for the name of the book or author to see if there is anything in the Overdrive collection related to the text. I made an iOS shortcut that lets me search for a book from a highlighted text on a web page.

Select the text that you want to search Search Overdrive

Select Share to open the Share menu. Select the shortcut to run. Search Overdrive

The Shortcut searches for the selected text on Overdrive search engine. Search Overdrive If the book is available, then you can borrow it.

The shortcut does not store any data from the resulting website. It just runs a search using the public search URL from your library. I have a mailed Overdrive to see if they can enable call to their app, so that search and borrowing can be more fluid.

On the topic of Overdrive, I got a new Kobo.

I like e-Ink readers. I have used a couple of Kindles over the years. Kindle is economical for me as I buy e-books from the Indian Kindle store, which has perhaps the cheapest ebooks anywhere. But Kindle does not work with Overdrive based library digital book systems (outside of the US). Hence, Kobo. Another positive is the integration with Pocket, a read-later app.

Trying Kobo reader with Overdrive

March 2, 2020

The Insight: Genetics and (pre)history of Southeast Asia

Razib and Spencer talk all things genetic and prehistorical Southeast Asia!

Link: The Insight: Genetics and (pre)history of Southeast Asia

February 22, 2020

More sleep and better learning

I have been arguing this for a long time.

Later school start times are associated with more sleep and better performance in high school students.

February 18, 2020

Tibetan stuff in Saigon

We were exploring some alleys and stumbled upon a shop run by a Vietnamese-Tibetan couple. They sell Incense and other religious goods from Tibet and Nepal. The kind owners offered us Tibetan tea. It reminded me of my time in Sichuan when I used to stay next to a Tibetan restaurant.

Tibetan shop in Saigon

Tibetan shop in Saigon

Travel Vietnam
February 2, 2020

Travel in the time of SARS

In early 2003, I spend some time in China travelling by trains in Guangdong and Hunan provinces. Trains were where you met interesting people - students, business folks, retired people with interesting stories from the 1960s and 70s, bored train security officers. Almost everyone was learning English, and they were keen to talk to me. Often people alighting at a station before mine would leave their fruits and snacks for me as a farewell gift.

In Changsha, I visited the school where Mao studied. The students, mostly teacher trainees, showed me around the campus. Almost every corner had a commemorative plaque that celebrated Mao. One talked about how Mao organised discussions on current affairs. Another one, near a well, praised the stoicism of Mao by informing us how he took cold water baths. The students were proud that they studied in such a prestigious school. I asked them I am sure Chairman Mao was a naughty kid. Is there a notice somewhere here that says - Chairman Mao was punished here?”. The students replied in unison Chairman Mao was a good boy”.

I only realised something was wrong in China when I flew from Guangzhou back to Bangkok. Our plane was made to wait for a long time before connecting to the embarkation gate. Once we alighted, they started checking everyone’s temperature. In Thailand, the papers were talking about SARS. Slowly news started trickling out of China. One of the students I met in the train messaged me that her roommates had thrown her out as she was from a town that had a high number of infections. There were a few months of chaos. But by the time I went to China in September that year, everything had turned normal. It was back to happy people waiting for me to share their stories.

In Guangzhou in 2003

February 1, 2020

The union


Something I learnt early on in my life was never to trust people who promise to do good to our” people” by doing bad to them people.”