Open for a surprise! — issue #20

Open for a surprise! — issue #20


Here at notes from the equator, we "see" each other more than once a year, but...have you noticed something different about us? 😗

That's right, we've had a facelift! 

Our newsletter has changed quite a bit since it began in September 2019
. We started by updating readers on our new stories, then decided on themed issues to add some fresh perspectives to your inbox each month. This is the third iteration of notes from the equator, and I'm proud that with each one, we've become clearer about what our readers are looking for.

We wanted the experience of receiving this monthly newsletter to be intimate, much like hearing from a penpal from Singapore. Hopefully this comes across in the new design, with its hand-drawn elements, thematic stickers, and picture frames for a scrapbook postcard feel.

As for content, we've introduced a new trivia section, based on archival records from Singapore, accompanied by a doodle of photo related to it. We're also playing around with our newsletter's format—the keen-eyed amongst you might notice we didn't include the data visualisation spotlight section this time, but it will still appear in future issues!

We're so happy to have you here, whether you've recently joined us or have been with us for some time now! As always, we'd love to hear from you, and are delighted whenever we receive feedback from you. You can reply to this email, or write to us at

See you in a month!

emoji of bella
featured story text
illustration of singapore's healthcare in 1920s
During the "Roaring Twenties", parts of the Singapore population were indulging in a dangerous vice—opium smoking. Read about how Singapore's healthcare overcame opium addiction and venereal diseases to become the world-class system it is today. 
illustration of singapore's friendly societies in 1920s
Civil societies played a cat-and-mouse game with the colonial government in the 1920s. While societies involved in illicit activities took advantage of the broad categorisation of "societies" and their purposes, the government responded by tightening the registration criteria. 
illustration of a gramophone playing music
What does the rise of mandopop (Mandarin popular music) have in common with Singapore's Speak Mandarin campaign in 1979? They're both products of linguistic engineering. Dialects such as Hokkein were scrubbed to make way for standard Chinese, which was considered more progressive. Still, regional styles from Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan managed to seep in, creating the genre we love till today.
banner for community section
📢 Calling for submissions! Are you someone who deals with data and does Asia-related content? We want to feature you and/or your organisation! Asia is a huge continent, and while we know some folks are doing great work in this field, there are many other incredible data people in the region who are less known to us—and to one another!

Please help us expand our horizons by forwarding this newsletter to your friends, or reach out to after reading the post :-). 
image of amanda teo
Happy news! Our former intern Amanda has returned as our UI Architect. Mick (a former intern turned full-timer) gets the scoop.

By the way, since both of them returned to Kontinentalist after interning...we must be a pretty cool place to work at, right? Please consider applying to our
full-stack web developer position! Remote positions will also be considered.
illustration of a trivia related to singapore banning the twist dance
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Every month we curate a bunch of content for you to check out. Holler at us if you think we missed out some!

↘︎ More data stories about music, Bollywood edition. Gurman Bhatia, the journalist who wrote the story, also updated her website recently, with plenty of useful information on data journalism.

↘︎  This has unintentionally turned into a music-themed newsletter, so let's roll with it! Here's a clip showing a virtual pianist playing notes that an AI extracted from raw audio.

↘︎  On that note, shoutout to our friends Duncan and Miriam—fellow Outlier speakers—on their upcoming podcast on data sonification. 

↘︎  Fancy some generative art? Check out Tabbied by Sy Hong and Ye Joo Park. If medieval design is more your jam, head over to Historic Tale Construction Kit, to create narratives out of the Bayeux Tapestry.

 Embark on a visual feast of 160 illustrations reproduced by Nicolas Rougeux, based on Elizabeth Twining's 1868 catalogue on the natural order of plants. A bonus floral fact about Singapore: we're the only country to have a hybrid flower—Vanda Miss Joaquim—as our national flower.