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.

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

Delusions of Competence

I have been troubled for a long time by the lack of objective media available to people who want to make their own decisions about issues and events. The CBC, has, as long as I have been listening or watching, acted as self appointed guardian of the “truth” and attacking those who held opposite views. Their views have always been urban, metro sexual and extremely left leaning. I have done a lot of driving in my time, and as I don’t (for reasons I am not entirely sure I understand) like listening to music during the windshield time, I like to listen to people talk. Talk radio. Good talk radio is very hard to find in my neck of the woods. Most, if not all commercial talk radio is right wing neocon claptrap, characterized by loose use of the facts and a tiresome lack of intellect and education. I listened to the CBC largely because it was the only talking you could find where there was at least a chance of some amusement or knowledge. Slowly over the years, the quality has steadily diminished to the point where now it is largely a mouthpiece for Toronto based ultra left dimwits. Sucking deeply from the public teat, they feel endlessly empowered to interpret the facts of the world around us through a lense that shares little view with the majority that actually pays the bill.

I had a chance to spend some time this past week with some serious listeners of what passes for radio at the CBC these days. What I learned was a double edged sword – both helping me me understand the problems, and at the me time despair over the reasons. One correspondent was older…. at least as old as I, and a former employee. She shared my chagrin and disappointment over the general collapse of this Canadian institution over the years, and felt there was little hope for the future given the dim lights they have charged with running Canada’ public broadcaster.

The other was a younger man, probably in his thirties, who thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. Just goes to show, that if you don’t remember greatness, you will never spire to achieve it.

Sinister Attack – In 5 Easy Steps

You may know, from experience, that I am not much of a conspiracy theorist at the best of times. When reviewing the usual suspects – 911, international banking, the Apollo moon landings, the Kennedy assasination…. I am of a view that governments are far too disorganized to organize something like this, let alone keep a lid on it for more than a few days. I have reviewed the “compelling” evidence of a few of these pot boilers, and one can easily see that the only Reaperrequisite to jump on that passing bandwagon and take all the “evidence” as truth – is an overarching need to want to believe.

But…. I was ruminating on my morning constitutional just yesterday on this very subject, against the backdrop of this apparent pandemic of H1N1. I had a number of thoughts about not just the impending health disaster of this vile disease, but some dark thoughts on how this process could be used to accomplish God only knows what nefaris purpose. One can imagine a well dressed bald man with a vaugely eastern European accent in some well furnished penthouse office suite, planning on taking over the world.

Imagine, if you will, a government or NGO or evil society (whatever, just pick one) that manages to develop a drug or a gene therapy that can make a person…. well, pick anything you like: convert into a superman, immune to disease, more docile and more easily controlled, the ultimate warrior, murderous assassin….. whatever. You decide, as leader of this evil cabal, that you need to get this drug into the target market. How to do it….. how to do it… A few simple steps:

1) The 80/20 Rule – Know the market
2) Cultivate Fear – Develop the proposition of doom
3) Develop Hope – Show just a glimmer of salvation
4) Restrict Access – Decide who lives and dies
5) No Time For Anarchy – Punish the non believers

THE 80/20
It struck me, as I wandered along by the river, that this would be the easiest thing to do in the whole world. You start with the 80/20 rule. Populations are no different from just about any complex stable system. You can always count on 80% of the population to be pretty much homogenous – (that is they think the same, act the same, and can be relied upon, given the same data, to come to the same conclusions), and 20% will present varying degrees of difficulty (criminals, early adoptors, unconventional thinkers, anarchists etc). It is precisely the social evolutionary tool that has permitted more than two humans to cooperate and live productively in ever increasingly more complex societies.
You must only define a plan that can be easily sold to the 80% – we will call them the sheep. The 20%, we will call them the anarchists, will be dealt with later and pose no immediate threat to the plan.

CULTIVATE FEAR
The sheep are very easily manipulated in this world of mass media and instant information. Rumors that used to take a lifetime to crawl around the globe, now flash about this mortal coil with the speed of light. The sheep can be gently massaged with “data” to believe almost anything. There is no requirement to burden this data with the ballast of truth. No one really cares, and as soon as you get a talking head on the case from your local news outlet, then it becomes the “truth” anyway. No doubt you can think of examples you have seen around you where this happens almost every day to people you know.

H1N1So… you define a plan that can be sold to the sheep. You start by creating the appearance of danger, fostering fear – which is probably the most powerful and unrestrained human emotion. You develop, carefully and slowly, an atmosphere of suspended doom (as I like to call it). You convince the sheep there is an epidemic coming that could depopulate the earth were it not for the heroic efforts of the scientific few, and your government, who have developed a cure. The more alpha sheep will scour the news looking for evidence that this urge to hysteria can be validated. Where are the deaths? I can’t find the piles of bodies on my Facebook feed…. what’s with that? But the government tells you that yes, people are dying all over the place, not many yet, as the disease is just getting into first gear. The numbers are ridulously low, as any higher numbers would be hard to validate as you would have to show the smoking burial pits and bring out yur dead wagons etc. No one you know is sick. No one you know has died. You don’t know anyone who knows anyone who is sick or dead. Conventional flu kills 10 times more people, but you float the notion that the black hat virus is just that evil. It will decide when the time is right and through some vile perversion of evolutionary effort it will overnight burst upon the earth with an energy for death not seen since the Black Plague swept Europe in the 14 century. You use the word “mutation” a lot as an excuse for the apparent lack of virility of this black hat virus…. it hasn’t killed anyone yet, but oooooh boy – you just wait until it MUTATES. Everyone is terrified of mutants, especially now that they have been getting a dose of micro biology every evenng on the news. There is something vaguely disturbing about attempting to develop a sense of understanding of the mysteries of viral micro biology in a population that can’t even read a book….. disturbing indeed. They are plenty sure, however, that this dipshit virus could pretty much go postal any time it wished, and – in fact, that was probably what it would do.
You keep this entire framework in front of the sheep for about a year. Not too flashy, not too strident. Your drug isn’t ready in sufficient quantity yet so you let the sheep stew on this subject for some time.

DEVELOP HOPE
But…. the cure is elusive. It never seems to be ready, it is always a “few weeks” away. You keep dribbling sound bytes and video clips of foreign “specialists” in aweful diseases who start using the world pandemic for the first time. Start reminders are sifted on our heads daily of the 1918 flu and it’s devastation. You let the weaknesses of our society work in your favor. Our litigious relationship between governments and each other keeps those in power edgy about their culpability should this vile plague devastate the land. They don’t want to be blamed or vilified, so they get on board real quick, reinforcing the sound bites from the talking heads. They quickly give the drug companies liability waivers so that the HOPE can be distributed quickly and not mired in the byzantine review process the politician have devised for every other drug.
Throughout this growing hysteria remains the glimmering in the distance of the vaccine. Everyone says the vaccine is the suit of armor, and if you could just get the shot you could stop laying awake at night wondering if little Timmy will have a mother tomorrow.

RESTRICT ACCESS
Soon there bigins a lot of talk in the media and over the dinner table about who should get it, or more correctly, who really deserves it. At the head of the list is the government, the rich and the powerful, health care workers etc…. a higherarchy is developing. This gets reported unceasingly in the news, and many begin to feel disenfranchised and “at the end of the line” and begin to feed off their own indignation as a driver to get that damn shot. But you are cautioned that there might not be enough to get to “everybody” and you get this sinking feeling that you have probably joined that group. This makes you want this shot all the more. When the vaccination centres finally open up you are down there, pissed as hell, but willing to wait for 10 hours if you have to in order to get THE SHOT.
Before you know it, you have managed to deliver your evil plan to the bloodstreams of 80% of the population.

NO TIME FOR ANARCHY
Now you have to deal with those who haven’t bought the story. These are the sceptics who tend to believe what they can see, and they don’t see this disease anywhere. These are the people that don’t accept the world at face value. They don’t tend to grip other people opinions like they were the very words of God, just because they sound pretty special. You bring the state media to bear on these people – intimating that failure to take the virus is not ony Geniusirresponsible, but possibly illegal. You make all sorts of dubious connections between reckless endangerment and these unvaccinated people walking among us. Soon you begin to restrict the lives of those who still won’t get on board. They can’t go out wthout proof they have joined the sheep. They can’t work, can’t shop, can’t go to the movies etc. Eventually those miscreants will sign up as a means of getting this nonsense to stop. Soon you have about 90% of the population injected. The last 10% don’t amount to a hill of beans, and with a little more effort you can isolate them as cranks and clealry unbalanced.

And then…. your plan is complete and you have the army of whatever the bald guy in the penthouse office with the vaugely eastern European accent wants….

Good thing I don’t believe in conspiracy.

The Blog Begineth

Good bye George... we hardly knew you...

Good bye George... we hardly knew you...

I have, for many years, been an avid reader of blogs. For nearly as many I have pined for the opportunity to  have my own…. and make my way in the ether of the internet. Behold: Rogue State Of Mind (RSOM). On these pages I invite you to visit and comment as you see fit. As long as you have something worthwhile to say….. regardless of your political / genomic stripe. Here we will look at issues, opinion and, often, useless information. If you don’t care to express yours, then be prepared to review mine. Either way, if your skin is thin – then seek a mommy blog where they will hold you hand and smooth your hair and tell you everything will be just peachy….

Begin.