Rediscovering Bits Of Memories

We spend the day taking trains and visiting our old haunts at Holland Village. When we were fresh expats here we were instructed to go to Holland Village to get our necessary electronics gadgets etc. at a place called Paris Silk. I was not only amazed to see it still there after all these years, but instantly recognized the guy behind the counter from all those years ago…. still flogging cameras, cables and (now in a different store|) appliances. In fact he was selling this crazy contraption…

The Beer Machine….. one wonders what horrors await the unwary with this contrivance

It hadn’t changed all that much. The ram shackle little wooden moasque was still in the parking lot

The Unchanges Mosque

Singapore back in the day was a place where the grocery store was largely where you would find westerners. Locals either did no cooking at home and ate at the plethora of hawker stalls and restaurants peppered about the place, or shopped at the “wet market” These wet markets were truly amazing places for the new comer to these Asian climes. Much like a farmers market at home they sold all manner of fresh veg. fruits, meat and fish. The variety of comestibles at these places was mind boggling. For example, you could buy black chickens. Literally black as the ace of spades. At the Holland village wet market there was often a guy selling beef lung. he had a big butcher block, and on it would be the lung from a cow, all wet and glistening. He would blow it up every now and then to keep it fresh and in view, and you could would just chop off some into a bag if you were hell bent on a feed of lung for dinner.

Sadly, the wet market, while not entirely gone in Holland Village, is now a antiseptic and truncated version of it’s former self. It now sells mostly fish, is a quarter of the size and smells like bleach. The most astounding thing about the wet market, st least for me, was the smell…. especially late in the day. You can imagine having all that meat and fish out in the 90+ degree heat all day…. by late afternoon the air was ripe… Anyway, now its a fish market with stainless steel stalls, and a food court.

We got down there by taking the very superb Singapore mas transit trains. Largely underground, this system is clean, cheap and extremely efficient. These guys know how to move people around. They run the best airline in the world, and as far as my limited experience with such things extends…. a pretty darn good subway.

Subway Cars – Clean Roomy and Freakishly On Time

We took the train from the Orchard SMRT station and with one change of lines found ourselves seamlessly to the very edge of our target.

They sure do like the buildings in this town. Given half a chance they will erect the sort of buildings you might read about, but rarely see…. for example this one – executed in stainless to resemble a giant tree:

The mail in Singapore still comes the easy way, hand delivered by an army of loyal servants on a Vesa

Getting around in Singapore is an easy bit of business. You can take the subway as I have described above, or take a bus, taxi (cheap and plentiful) or buy a car. If you buy a car get ready for serious sticker shock. The government of Singapore decides each year how many cars will be allowed on the road. It is a brilliant scheme designed to control traffic congestion. They control this by limiting the number of vehicle registrations that can be purchased, and by auctioning off those that are. Thus the price can be frightening. See the photo form today’s paper for the prices for a Certificate Of Entitlement that will let you then go buy a car. This price is for 10 years of registration for the car. after ten years the car MUST come off the road. They mostly go to Malaysia for Indonesia, but they cannot go back on the road in Singapore. Add this to the price of a car (take the price in Canada and multiply by three if you are lucky) and driving gets expensive in a hurry.

Shirley has come down with plague, so our travels today may be restricted until she feels up to the task.

A New Day

We are about to head out to explore some of our old haunts. After struggling to find out the necessary info for a transit pass, we are going to brave the mass transit system. For those of you who know me…. this is NEVER something I look forward to. The Great Unwashed and I have never been coffee buddies….. pray for me…

The Journey Begins

Well…. after a lengthy ass hauling half way around the world, I find myself, unable to sleep, in the Coffee Bean and Tea leaf on Orchard Road watching the night unfold. The trip across the Pacific was, in a word, fabulous. While Shirley and I flew in goat class, we were smart enough to select Singapore airlines for the trip, and it went swimmingly.

The 13:22 from San Francisco to Hong Kong had filled me with some serious trepidation given my lack of tolerance for long periods sitting on my ass, however, it was a great flight and we arrived in Singapore ready to rock.

We arrived around 11:30 AM and went for a walk down Orchard Road to see how much it had changed. The heat and humidity took some getting used to given where we came from. After a couple of hours of this Shirley had to repair to the hotel to rest a bit. I, on the other hand wandered over to one of my old haunts for a frosty Tiger. Don’t get me wrong, I think Tiger is a God awful beer, but thought it appropriate for my return engagement – given it is the national beer. A frosty pint was only $12.

A glass half full….

I found this surprising as 12 years ago a pint was $10…. so in 12 years the price of beer has risen only 20%. For a country like this, I found that heart warming news.

We made a cursory inspection of the sights and sounds of Orchard Road, and with a few notable exceptions, it looks pretty much as it always did. The Borders bookstore and coffee shop is gone, sadly. My mother and father and Shirley and I used to sit there of an evening over Christmas in ’99 and watch the world go by. Now it’s some other cafe, without the bookstore.

Staying at the orchard parade, which is the first hotel we stayed at in Singapore when we first moved here. It hasn’t changed much, and in some ways has that down at the mouth look of any older structure trying to weather the not inconsiderable challenges of the tropical jungle.

Tomorrow once we get some sleep, we are going to take the train to Holland Village and see what has changed down there.

The one thing that really surprised me was the hookers. when I lived here and right up until my last visit in 2003, you never saw a prostitute on the streets, or at least not that you would recognize unless you were looking for same. Tonight I came out of my hotel to go to the local cafe to call my banker in Canada, and once out the doors I was assailed by a group of trashily dressed hooting hookers looking for some trade. Right outside the door of the hotel! Now I have traveled a fair amount in my life, and have seen something of the sex trade in a variety of places around the globe – as an observer you understand – and while this sort of public sex trading doesn’t surprise anyone in Jakarta, or even Amsterdam, however I was not prepared for it in Singapore where it used to be a shock to see a bra ad in the national newspaper.

Even as I strolled along the street I was assailed by professionals. I will say this, however, in defense of the Lion City…. the hookers are stunning. I can remember heading down to the red light district in Amsterdam with a co worker to see the famed prossies in windows… These were the scariest heroin track laden skanks I have ever had the misfortune to lay eyes upon. I couldn’t imagine boinking one of them with Hitlers dick…… I can tell you that the fare in Singapore is, on the surface at least, surprisingly good looking.

A last word for Singapore airlines if I may. after all these years these guys continue to own the airline business. They are organized, often in very subtle ways, always on time, never lose your luggage, are never rude, and have comfortable seats, decent food, and at least some sort of entertainment. Air Canada is like a joke airline next to these guys. Their sullen, indifferent drones who populate it’s awful flights could learn just about everything from this paragon of the airline trade. My wife wanted to use air Canada to fly to Shanghai, then to Singapore via SIA. I kibboshed this insane notion knowing full well Air Canada would fuck this up in every possible way from losing the luggage to having to endure their dim witted drone air waitresses tell you what they just couldn’t be bothered doing for you. Singapore airlines has the horsepower, motivated employees, and a customer service bend you can’t buy. Kudos to them and their awesome airline!

Well, that’s it for this evening. I may plunge out there and see what goes on, although I am more likely to hit the hay and get a little shut eye for the trip ahead. I am sure Shirley will shop me stupid tomorrow. I will need my beauty sleep.

Gambolling About In Guelph

For obscure reasons I am adrift in the leafy confines of Guelph Ontario. While you couldn’t pay me enough to live here, the people seem nice and I just had some duck pate that was well within the realm of awesome. Tomorrow some plant schmoozing, and thence to Toronto for an even bigger dose of Upper Canadian Enema….. Pray for me, till the prairie takes me back.

The Great Canoe Speakers Adventure

The Great Canoe Speaker Adventure project began with a simple idea…. I had purchased this old canoe at a garage sale, and thought I wight be able to rejuve it’s tired timbers. It was by all appearances a 17′ cedar strip Old Town from fairly long ago. It had been converted, quite skilfully I might add, to a sailing canoe – complete with mast and dagger boards, as well as a nifty rudder and a suit of sails. I thought I would reman the old girl and do some canoe sailing. Well, despite a fairly energetic effort, as a result of some serious canoe rebuilders I found on the web, who were most helpful, the old girl just had too much of her cedar in dim repair. I used some skookum linseed oil concoction these guys sent, and the effect on the wood was nothing short of stunning. However, the missing strips were in difficult places, and, truth be told, I was tired of looking at he prospect of a years work to get it sorted.

Much to the chagrin of my wife and my neighbors, I keep this vast pile of junk in the back of my yard most of the time. This pile gets cleared by a dump run every now and then, but I use it as a way to consign that which is superfluous to my existence to the dung heap of history, instead of crowding my living spaces. finally unable to regard it’s sad countenance any longer, I tossed it on the heap, where it moldered for a winter. The following spring I was getting ready to clear the pile with a spring dump run, and I fell into a sort of trance in the soft spring sunshine. I pondered that canoe for quite a while, wondering how it might be pressed into service. Ideas banged around in there like a coffee can full of marbles until I decided to just start fluxing and the right idea would doubtless pour forth.

I did some measuring, and built an embarrassingly podunk jig with some tape and a straight edge:

Trying to figure out the WAY

Then came the big moment – cut it in half with the recip saw. Those old oak gunwalls were like IRON!

Canoe Interrupted!

It took a surprisingly long time to get it sliced in half, and design a base on which the halves could stand. Eventually I came up with this:

An early design of the base

Once you cut a canoe, it’s structural integrity goes downhill pretty fast, so I have to get the base into it, and secure it to all the key elements… thus:

Screwing the individual cedar strips into the new (but as yet uncompleted) base

Once I had that in place I started to work on some shelving, because at this stage I still saw this as more of a rustic bookshelf project. I had only just made a shelf when I decided that this needed to be something much more entertaining, and I decided to build some speakers for my home theatre.

I did a little research, and discussed this with some audiophiles I know, but they poo poo’d the idea as the vile machinations of a rank amatuer, unschooled in the science of listening to $50,000 stereo systems…. The truth be told, I am of an age where the capacity to define the fine frequency distinction in human speech was enough of a challenge, let along the delicate business of speaker design. I resolved to read about, and build them with all the technical proficiency my limited attention span could muster.

So the parts began to form in my head, and I began to fabricate them:

The first pieces

They started as drawers, but eventually became mid range enclosures

I couldn’t remove the thwarts as the shell was not stable enough until I had some internals installed. Once they were in, I stripped out all the remaining canoe equipment, and it ceased to be a thing for the water.

I then had to design and fabricate the upper baffles that would hold the woofer and the tweeter. I decided after some reading to try a 10″ woofer and a 3″ tweeter. Later I would add a pair of 5″ mids per tower – which turned out to be a great idea.

The parts were fabricated and installed. They fit very well, but were very labor intensive in fabricating all the parts to make it so:

Built, and installed using an ingenious two piece method

The basic parts installed

I had it all assembled, but just didn’t like the esthetic. The design seemed…. unfinished to me. So I took it apart, threw away the shelves (well not really because I NEVER throw away 3/4″ plywood scraps unless they are microscopic…. but I did start all over right from the base plate on up. I opted for a larger more rounded foot print where each shelf was a slightly decreasing arc moving upward. I suspect this is one of those moments your high school math teacher was mumbling about where you wondered if there would ever be a use for some of that algebra…. I am sure these shelves and their complex curves would have been easier had I only known more skookum math.

The hand made nature of a canoe makes its shape hard to duplicate when fabricating the shelves and baffles. I used spray foam to seal the speaker enclosure so it would be air tight

Spray foam to seal the cracks and make the enclosure air tight

I had to also seal the edge of the canoe as well:

Making that baby air tight

The Canoe That Never Was

I have recently finished a set of home theatre speakers made from an old canoe. I tried to reman this God knows how old 17′ Old Town, but it was just too far gone for my woodworking skills. It was either the junk heap, or being remanufactured into something else. And here it is:

When I have a little more time, I will add the entire construction photo stream, in the off chance anyone is insane enough to try this at home….