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My Grown Up Christmas List

It’s the time of the year when it’s the end of the year.

The usual things that occupy me would be squeezing time and space to do an area cleaning of my office as well as my home. The clean up of home is a less disruptive affair, since I actually do routine cleaning on a weekly basis. The end of the year clean up would merely be the 1st round cleaning up that precedes the Lunar New Year cleaning.

The clean up of the office is very much different. It necessitates dealing with a lot of dust which come from the old files. This course of cleaning precedes me coming down with some respiratory issue as a result and subsequently a full blown bout of flu. It has been the same over the past few years all the way from end 2006.

In some ways, things have never changed. Some things, in fact, never change.

Upon taking stock of the amount of cleaning required for the home, I come face to face with my extra audio components sitting around. Having extra components lying around is proof that I have found time for my hobby, which means I had time to myself. Having finally sold the car to stop the meaningless and wasteful depreciation of multiple vehicles, I almost immediately committed the monthly savings of a thousand dollars into another amplifier. The new kid was going for a song, I simply had to have it. The manufacturer intended it as a serious piece of engineering and not some mickey mouse amplifier but it’s a toy simply because to me it fulfilled a want and not a need as I am already well served by many others.

When another functional component is added to the stable but fails to serve any additional functional purpose, the desire of simply wanting the component (however seriously designed) classifies it as a toy. No wonder some women say is that “the difference between the men and the boys is the price of their toys”.

Toys are the perfect way to indulge the self when November comes followed by the festive mood and thereafter the new year. November this year was a milestone, it marked the beginning of my forties. Finally hitting the big “4” made me reflect that though I might be getting older but given these toys amongst other obsessions am I actually getting more mature?

Being somewhat fortunately relatively unencumbered 🙂 without worries about day-to-day needs can make one restless. The mind wanders towards other wants and desires. I was consciously aware of this and to distract myself, I had sought to move away from materialistic wants to update myself on the current affairs of the world. Things that had occurred over the past two and half years which I did not really pay much attention. I had to digest information on sad situations all over the world environmental and humanitarian disasters in various places Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, the intense hardship of the Arab people that led to the Arab Spring, the civil war in Libya and Syria and the recent Philippine Typhoon.

The problems these peoples and countries faced which would have justified active large-scale intervention from the international community. However, all military or humanitarian intervention is stuff left to the office bearers to decide. It is somewhat out of place for the common man to attempt solutions, however ingenious, to solve the world’s problems. 🙂 Similarly at home, where Singapore’s problems are, by comparison, tiny and insignificant, they should similarly be left to those in charge to deal with for it is their responsibility. With the power of office comes the responsibility. There are no two ways about it.

And then I pondered on the role of the common man in the midst of all this. I came to the conclusion that, inevitably, each of us carry a burden unique to our own circumstances, and universal truth and logic mandates that each of us fulfil the responsibility to the self before actually looking beyond. This corroborates with the saying that anyone seeking to do greater good must have settled his own basics, to be in the position to offer to the larger community. A failure to check all the boxes might result in the endeavour towards public office being be twisted by less altruistic motivations and thereby skewing the object, the process and the outcome of the original intent of involvement. And trust me, these will show. 🙂

It is then apt to conclude that all who seek public office should have proven their abilities in areas of their life, their family and their career so much so that when the calling for public office becomes the next logical extension of involvement in the community. This will result in making a conscious decision to use one’s energies towards the public good and not be skewed by self-interest considerations. Correspondingly, logic mandates that the reverse will also be true. When office bearers fail their higher calling and act in a manner to only serve their self-interest, they inevitably denigrate themselves to the degressed position of a common man serving one’s own self-interest.

This self-introspective criteria is only one part to the equation meant to achieve a distant and lofty ideal. Finding answers to the questions is only the first step and does not guarantee anything. For the level of comfort and security for different individuals differ, so would their degree of honesty and self-awareness.

A simplified approach to the conundrum would be for one to direct the simplified question to himself of how much is enough? When should a person start to consider service to the public as one of his objectives in his life? What should the ideal threshold of one’s achievements before looking at sacrificing to serve the greater good? I must admit that at age 40, I do not have answers to the above questions which I myself formulated. 🙂 Despite my having idealistically jumped the gun previously before reverting to take a more conventional and practical path. 🙂 It would therefore be right to conclude that I have regressed to being a common man 🙂

However, I must clarify that to focus on fulfilling the responsibility to oneself, one’s job and one’s family should never and must never cloud one’s sense of what is right and what is wrong. A decision to focus limited time and energies on what is basic, immediate and pressing is not a compromising of principles and beliefs.

For cleaning up one’s own backyard does not equate to a changed moral compass, values and principles. This is the only surefooted approach. What value can a person bring to the larger society in striving to clean up the neighbourhood when his own backyard ain’t in order? Similarly, what value can someone bring to the greater cause when in striving to clean up the neighbourhood, his sense of right and wrong gets perverted along the way? These reasons, read collectively, fully justify each and every person first focusing on one’s basic obligations as a person, a man and a son whilst preserving the innate sense of what is right and what is wrong and only upon surmounting the intermediate levels of achievement, should one take the step forward for the larger community.

But the questions remain, how much is enough? where do we draw the line? what then can be done in the meantime? These questions admittedly take on a deeper meaning and require deeper introspection during this time of the year. Every year. The birthday month (time for celebration and introspection) together with the proximity of Christmas (time for giving) and the new year (a time of reflection and resolutions) come together to form a potent mix. In fact, it is probably too much for me to bear. It is no wonder that I come down ill on every approach to the new year. During this seasonal forced rest and sleep, I reinterpret my thoughts while being confined to the bed. It was in this period of rest that I surfed the web to update myself and was taken aback by humanitarian disasters in various places of this planet that deserved far more assistance and active intervention from the more well endowed nations.

In the comfort of my bed, I could not help but compare the plight of the affected of having not enough food, water, medicine, sanitation and basic safety from physical harm to my own dilemmas of adding yet another redundant toy to the stable. But this then begets the question – what is a common man to do in the face of big and insurmountable problems that are undeniably way beyond his abilities? Do we stop living? Do we stop doing the things which we are supposed to do? Do we stop enjoying the things we have earned and are entitled to enjoy?

In the past, I have had little difficulty in making wishes for myself at the end of the year (hey its my birthday and its christmas). However, this year 2013, faced with this dilemma, as opposed to other years, I could not find it in me to ask for more. Nursing my bout of flu in bed, there were no celebrations. I was unwell with dip in my health and fitness, but by and large, I had to concede that I was not lacking in anything. I had a sense of fulfilment. But at the same time, I also had an equally strong sense of entitlement for it was Christmas and the New Year was coming. This was coupled with a sense of being at a loss of being entitled to make a wish, but not knowing what to wish for. I sought the internet for answers in the same manner that I sought information. The answer came to me when in my medication induced stupor, I “youtubed” ‘Christmas list’ as opposed to “googled” ‘Christmas wish’.

The song that came up was “My Grown Up Christmas List”. This was written by David Foster some time ago and though it is a great and meaningful song, it does not seem to have enjoyed much airplay. The beautiful lyrics went as follows:

Do you remember me I sat upon your knee
I wrote to you with childhood fantasies
Well, I’m all grown up now
And still need help somehow
I’m not a child But my heart still can dream

So here’s my lifelong wish
My grown up Christmas list
Not for myself But for a world in need

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown up Christmas list

As children we believed
The grandest sight to see
Was something lovely wrapped beneath our tree
Well heaven only knows
That packages and bows
Can never heal A hurting human soul

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown up Christmas list

What is this illusion called the innocence of youth
Maybe only in our blind belief can we ever find the truth
(there’d be) No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end, oh

This is my grown up Christmas list
This is my only life long wish
This is my grown up Christmas list

The lyrics of this song are amazingly powerful AND as it is obviously an old song, I must have heard it before. But somehow I have never noticed it. Until now. The revelation brought by this song was the answer to my dilemma. I have come to believe that God specially places angels to guide each and every one of us, to show us the way.

For me, He has generously given me several 🙂 He placed one notably in Korea, and yesterday morning, He spoke to me through her and made me grow up. This is the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oS3p4jv4Ov0 to the somewhat incomplete fancam recording but one that has the least audio distortion of angelic TaeYeon’s lovely rendition.

I have to admit that it was only after TaeYeon’s rendition, for the first time in my life, I made a wish for the world at large. AND at the risk of sounding like some beauty pageant contestant wishing ad nauseam for an abstract concept of world peace…..

(there’d be) No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And every one would have a friend
And right will always win
And love would never end

On this final day of the year 2013, I do hope, that with this wish and prayer, I have indeed changed and grown up. 🙂

December 31, 2013 Posted by | audiophilia, Life, Politics, So Nyuh Shi Dae - Girls' Generation | Leave a comment

Between Melancholia and Euphoria is a space called Mundane

I have had enough of shifting my speakers and it was time they had to go.

I was unable to convince myself to continue holding out for the ideal naim system when it was obvious that even if it materialised, I would not have much time to enjoy it.

Rather than work against the odds of getting the system into place, I took the easy way out – I sold my last remaining naim components to go for something simple.

It was a surrender. Non-resistance to the greater forces at hand.

Giving up the pursuit of perfection to embrace the ordinary and mundane.

Ordinary, normal and mundane does not equate to non-importance. There are ordinary things which we sometimes take for granted but are so essential that we cannot live without.

This frightening prospect was revealed in the movie “Melancholia”.

Terrified as I was by the prospect that our oft-taken-for-granted Earth might not be alone, and of the possibility of a sister planet, lurking in somewhere in space, appearing with little warning to collide into our Earth and subsume it and everything on it – including us, I sought to learn more about the celestial objects in outer space and started looking at telescopes.

My impulses were restrained only by the revelation that almost all sources had advised that a novice astronomer ought to stick to something simple and not too expensive.

I have since been torn between a medium and well-equiped power scope and the famed budget Galileoscope as I honestly do not know how long my latest fancy will last.

Whilst I hunted for the right telescope, my mind also wandered towards the possibility of marrying a camera onto the scope to do some serious astro-photography.

The telescope trail then led me towards the latest digital cameras and lenses. I have not touched photography for ages and I must say I am impressed by how much is available to the hobbyist for so little these days.

The Nikon D800E is a photographer’s dream. For me, it would make a fantastic fancam as well. 🙂

I have lived with multiple speakers for a long, long time.

Biking led to several hot machines sitting side by side in the garage.

Now a newfound interest in astronomy is threatening to unleash a resurrection of an old hobby with a vengeance.

Is there a simpler way to through all these desires and temptations?

That thought turned me towards my beloved Ipad which has accompanied me through a year of euphoria, boredom and melancholia and in doing so never made me feel the need to acquire anything.

And I began to think that I might be better off after all just by reading and learning about astronomy on my Ipad from the comfort of my couch rather than lugging and setting-up a telescope every now and then. 🙂

Must I pursue perfection when what’s mundane and at hand may be all that I need?

Indulging in the mundane avoids the complexities of life and the melancholia that comes with it.

Being mundane is about being ordinary and treading the simple path.

Being mundane would also mean being simple-minded and taking joy in the simple things.

It is about enjoying the stuff of life.

It is not about disconnectedness.

It is actually connectedness to the highest order.

It is about taking on life … and living it. 🙂

P.s. Taking pleasures in things simple and mundane is what i hope for and the Nikon D800E looks keen to help me do so but then again the Nikon D800E is anything but mundane. 🙂

April 3, 2012 Posted by | Amateur Astronomy, audiophilia, Life | Leave a comment

The Essence of Timing

I had the good fortune of having more time to spend on myself recently. This circumstance did not come about by chance. It was a product of deliberate action and good luck.

Consolidating one’s life can only do good. It takes time to learn that it is futile to spread oneself. And I was spreading myself too thin. My edges were fraying and something would have gone in a matter of time. I was fortunate to have that little voice persuade me to reduce the tension that was arising from stretching myself. As I slowed down and consciously set time for myself, I began to discover areas which had been neglected and which needed my time to deal with.

Time and tide waits for no man. Now that i am approaching my 40s 🙂 sometimes i do look back with a little regret and wish i had just a little more time. Time is important as it is needed to get things done, to make money, to heal the body, to rest the mind, to nourish the soul, to think about directions as well as simply to slow down to appreciate life.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

In spite of the setbacks, I had the good fortune to be blessed with good timing.

Sometimes things go awry because of some wrongly recorded appointment…. but the timing of which can make it a blessing instead 🙂 and it just happened that after i had decided to consolidate myself, I had the “misfortune” of being in a place. I was there “incorrectly” for a “wrong” matter but somehow at the “right” time.

And so when the golden opportunity presented itself. Something told me to take the step to find out more and I did. I could not have taken a more correct and timely decision and there it begins the story of a new chapter.

As this new chapter progressed. I found myself spending time more productively. Little pockets of time freed up allowed me clear the garage, clear the office, clear my bedroom. I even had time to clean up my stamp and coin collections so that things could be better managed. Whilst alot of the cleaning up meant that i had to let go of both my stamps and coins, it nevertheless was a right, timely and liberating thing to do.

As it is said, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under the sun.”

In lex (Legal) jargon in my area of work, the archetype clause which epitomises the importance of time is “Time is of the essence”.

After relinquishing things that no longer served me – in a sense that i had over time outgrown them, i managed to develop and re-combine my hobbies towards another direction and area of focus.

After dabbling into several deals of acquisition, i decided to give it my lot to build up the new collection. Though this meant refocusing, it was all for the better. My room looks better now with less stuff. Less things lie idle and unused in the garage. My possessions have all taken a smaller scale –  they could fit into my pocket. They are also more likely to hold their value as they have had since time immemorial. 🙂

Having more time in my hands, I also managed to trade and reduce the number of temperamental motorcycles down to just 2. My current 2 fuel-injected motorcycles finally give me a little bit more ease of mind about their reliablity. [come to think of it, fuel injected engines are touted to be superior because of the real-time live-feed from the sensors in the exhaust which measure the degree and completeness of the combustion which goes to the On Board computer which adjusts the fuel-air mixture and the TIMING of the ignition spark] And I did go a little overboard in my drive to downsize such that i contemplated even selling off another one of them so as to make myself a one-bike guy. This has, however, over time become more and more difficult.

The two bikes each have a character and feel of their own. They handle very differently even though they are in the same class. Though they were not my first choice, [My first choice being the storm coloured Yamaha FJR1300 which is no longer available – which means i will need to hunt for a good condition used sample. The current 2011 model is silver tone.] they have inevitably over these past 4 months become an inseparable part of my life.

The 2 bikes also sit very prettily side by side in the garage. Their Orange and White colours contrast starkly and brightly for a pair of motorbikes. Colours which i had also grown to love deeply.

The timing of how these 2 motorbikes came to be parked side by side was also very inspiring. Things would not have led to them being together if not for the events that have occurred in the first place, awaiting to bring the current state to fruition. Out of desperation and frustration, I had almost decided to sell my Orange bike without even riding it. If not for the fact that I had at the same time missed out on 5 consecutive attractive deals of used FJRs at the shop, I would not have seriously considered acquiring my White bike when it came to me and I first laid eyes on it. It was only after I had confirmed the deal for the White bike that I decided that it was ludicrous of me to be searching for a newer bike when i already had a brand new unused one sitting in the shop already registered under my name.

And so it has been truly a process of consolidating and clearing on all fronts.

The two bright coloured bikes now take turns ferrying me round the island. I have recently discovered that as they are my trusty steeds when it comes to transport, they also happen to help me in my acquisition trips for my recently re-focused hobby. Talk about good timing.

Having had time to think and talk also allowed me to get involved in some investment. As with all investments, I made some and lost some. And fortunately the experience has made me wiser than if i had not had the chance to dabble in it. As it is with all investments, the timing of your investment, more often than not, happens to determine whether or not your investment turns out to be good.

The importance of timing goes beyond deals and investments, it is so even with music.

As it is with Naim, timing of the music has always been its focus. Pace, rhythm, timing – are the bywords. Having time on my side, I deliberated enough and finally convinced myself to relinquish the spare equipment which was merely just spending time idling around.

Now for once in a very long time i can finally safely say, within each system, all components are being used at the same time, 🙂 though not all the systems are being put to use at the same time. 🙂 The redundant naims are at the present moment being converted to cash and hopefully, they will be in time reinvested into items that would be more useful.

The timing of their sale and the availability of spare cash would also determine how the remaining Naim components are going to be set up. Now that the space has improved and opportunities for change increased, the lost dream of  Naim’s Active six-pack DBL system is resurfacing once again.

Naim’s Active Six-Pack DBL system is something which is to many people to be from a bygone era. More than 20 years have passed since its introduction, but the passage of time does not necessarily mean that if something is old, it is no longer good enough 🙂 More often than not, whether a thing or a person is considered good depends on what lies beneath the outer covering. 🙂

That is also not to say that as i grow older, i will almost definitely like older stuff. Well that is true for music, coins, stamps and maybe some hifi systems. But I have now conceded that i have outgrown my love for old bikes. In this regard, i think the automobile industry has certainly improved with time – newer bikes are indeed better.

But I am also similar to people in general in that i have a liking for new and young things. The girls in SNSD are a very good example. They are all very young. As it is their ages range from 20-22.

SNSD is the acronym for So Nyuh Shi Dae which is the original Korean name of the South Korean Girl k-pop band Girls’ Generation. They are to me the best girl band to have ever walked, danced and pranced the face of this earth. SNSD also comprises of 9 members, they are: TaeYeon, Jessica, Tiffany, Sunny, Soo Young, HyoYeon, SeoHyun, Yuri and Yoona.

The thing about SNSD is that the beauty of all their performances goes beyond pretty faces. It is actually found in the impeccable timing of their dance moves. Now having been involved in taekwondo performances and demonstrations before, i know very well that it is one thing to be able to perform a technique. It is totally another thing to be able to get the timing correct for an entire group of performers for a certain move. It is entirely another different level to be able to do it time and time again for an entire performance.

Of late, SNSD’s songs have taken a more mature note. Its about time though. But somehow or the other, my preference is still for the older stuff, from their debut year. Some of SNSD’s performances done pre-debut and during debut really exemplify precision timing.

I have to look for one of their exemplary performances and link it up here so that people can see what kind of effort went into creating the timing and synergy of their performance. 🙂 Found it. Here are 2 exemplary performances: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UmH2ik-pL94&feature=related and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rl_loDLP53w&feature=related

I must not forget to mention that it was also timing that finally allowed me to attend SNSD’s coming concert in Singapore. This sequence of events was very timely indeed. If i had not consolidated, i would not have had enough time. if i did not have enough time, i would not have cleared my work. If i had not cleared my work,  i would not have had the time and energy to think about attending. Further, if i had not had the time, i could not have talked my friends into going with me.

But this was not all smooth sailing. When their concert ticket sales was launched online at midnight, the several thousand tickets were gone in a matter of 40 plus minutes. Talk about selling out in record time. The number of people trying to get tickets at the same time caused the electronic booking system to jam up. Fortunately, the organisers had the wisdom to add another concert date, and even with that extra day of tickets, i had to try a number of times to book my tickets. That is in the nutshell, how i got my SNSD concert tickets. 🙂

At this moment, I am currently happily taking my time to work on the essentials of a career to nourish the bank account, spending time on my hobbies to nourish the soul. If the experience of the concert is good, i might just try to acquire and set up Naim’s Active Six-Pack DBL system as that is the one system which supposedly can produce music at real live concert levels 🙂

As to whether i will take my hobbies to the extreme, only time will tell – which is after the concert.

This post is rushed out today 4:51pm on 8th December 2011 very timely on the EVE of So Nyuh Shi Dae’s Concert in Singapore which happens on the 9th December 2011. My ticket is for the 10th :). I have just finished clearing the bulk of my backlog, finished a meeting with a client and about to rush off to have a haircut, collect my concert tickets and be back home in time for a family dinner.

Under such trying circumstances, I am quite sure nobody will fault me on the content or timing of this post. 🙂

December 8, 2011 Posted by | audiophilia, Life, So Nyuh Shi Dae - Girls' Generation | Leave a comment

The cost [cause] and effect of taking up positions :)

Previously, I gave up all my extremely exotic and capable Krell amplifiers, Onkyo and Sony CD players in my switch to Naim Electronics. I chose Naim because it made music and its designs suited my lifestyle. I declared Naim to be the world’s finest and I dived headlong into Naimophilia.

I have a 700-CD collection which I thought I would listen to till i grow old and with that I allowed my Naim obsession to get out of hand – ending up with a stable of 3 Naim CD Players, a myriad of Naim amplifiers, 2 pairs [at one stage i had 4 pairs] of Naim speakers amongst others. 🙂

Then something happened recently which led me to conclude that my dream system of Active Six-Pack Naim Nap135s into DBLs would never materialise, I then was forced to decide what to do with an electronic crossover and 6 amplifiers and other surplus equipment of varying value and purposes lying idle and gathering dust.

As the elections were drawing nearer, I toyed with the idea of selling my surplus and idle equipment for spare cash. I started first with my Naim CD Players. They were chosen to go first because I knew that they were sought after and were likely to find quick buyers. Indeed, the buyers came and went very quickly before i realised, i had committed to sell all my 3 players. I had kept my CD players without expecting to sell them. however, strangely when I had committed to sell them, I began to think of selling almost everything else.

This was because Naim equipment uses proprietary connectors and cables and I took positions when I acquired them. Things were markedly different when i decided to sell off my front end which was akin to cutting off the rose at the bud or taking one wheel out of a 2 wheel cart. Though I could have substituted a replacement, the situation would not have been ideal.

I then realised that when things are so intimately connected, any decision made would have a certain domino effect. As I take make changes with my equipment front end, the limitations of a new combination forces further consequential changes and I am forced to relinquishing of equipment and find a new position and balance. The positions and steps which i took earlier led me to have to take the current positions now. 🙂 Alot poorer in fact.

Interestingly, inasmuch as I thought I would have loved to hold on to my beloved equipment, I felt a certain liberation from being relieved of their ownership and possession. This itself also proves that taking positions itself is not a bad thing. 🙂 even though sometimes I may sound as if I am coerced to do so and losing money in the process  –  it is actually part of growth. 🙂

When we take a position in politics, it means that we take a stand. Doing so connotes the idea that you wish to communicate a message. This must not be confused with the idea of being principled [which is also good] with regards to one’s position, which stems more from having an ideological standpoint.

In short, taking a position is taking a stand as a matter of choice at a certain point of time irregardless of circumstances, conditions and beliefs.

Taking positions allows others to know my stand and whom I am supportive of. 🙂

There are two schools of thought here.

Some believe that fence-sitting in life and politics may be the way to go – of being here and also being there, of not being here and also not being there.

Some others believe that standpoints and positions cannot be compromised and therefore simply they choose to make their stand.

To the first group, the second group may seem opinionated but the latter’s position is clear and good because at least it helps others know where they stand.

The only drawback of taking positions will be that it forces your opponents to react, and from the reaction of your opponents, there would be consequences (which is neither good or bad) flowing from the position that one is taking.

Position taking also has a place in military jargon. Taking positions mean assuming tactical, strategic, logistical or geographical and even political positions. The concept of taking a position militarily connotes determination and will. Since young, I have always been drawn and inspired by the displays of military determination [as opposed to military strength] to take/hold a position the images conjured by the call to “dig in” and “fix bayonets” or “charge”. The steely determination conveyed by such jargon perfectly epitomises the concept of taking up positions.

Back to my own life, another reason for the disappearance of fixation on equipment is due to SNSD. For the benefit of the readers who did not follow my earlier posts, SNSD is the acronym for So Nyuh Shi Dae / Girls’ Generation. In my view, they are the best girl band to have ever walked the face of this earth. SNSD is also made up of nine members: TaeYeon, Jessica, Tiffany, SeoHyun, HyoYeon, Yuri, Sunny, SooYoung and Yoona.

My SNSD obsession started when i seriously simplified my life recently. Inherent in simplification is actually letting go. Letting go of many things allowed me to better appreciate life and things in life for what they are.

For the first time in many many years, SNSD allowed me to take my attention away from the details of the reproduction. I stopped wondering whether the kickdrum sounded real and whether the trumpet sounded natural. I simply found myself sitting down to enjoy the music.

It was also around this time that I also took another stand. I managed to conclude that the equipment should help you enjoy and not detract you from the music.

This occurred around the time of my birthday. It was also coincidental that during this time, tensions on the Korean Peninsula were raised. With the sinking of the corvette Cheonan still fresh in people’s minds, North Korean artillery shelled YeonPyeong Island in yet another unprovoked attack. South Korean artillery returned fire in an exchange that would likely go down in history to be the 3rd battle of YeonPyeong. [Anyone can Wiki the 1st and 2nd Battles of YeonPyeong]

From various reports, both military and civilians in South Korea seem united in their determination to have their government show a firmer response to the North. Retired / Veteran special forces personnel demonstrated asking for firmer action. The ROK’s generals have also expressed support for firm action. Public sentiment seems to be supportive of war with the North if required. It is clear that the South Korean people want their government to take a firm stand against North Korea.

South Korea was forced to take a stand in 1950. The Americans sided them and even went to war. I recall watching one movie depicting the lives of pilots in a USAF fighter Wing serving in Korea flying F-86 Sabres battling Soviet / North Korean Mig-15s over the skies of Korea in a tale of courage and sacrifice.

This time round, though the United States deployed CVN-73 USS George Washington for joint military drills with the South Korea, it remains to be seen whether the USA with all its internal problems would take a firm position in the possible impending Korean conflict or did it merely rattle its sabre.

South Korea, after completing the joint exercises with US, continued with its own military exercises and deployments to the front line. South Korean President Lee Myung Bak has warned of serious consequences for the North Koreans and that reunification is near. This hints of South Korea’s intention to go the war alone if need be.

Pundits differ on whether or not an all out war will break out on the Korean Peninsula. My evaluation is that an all out war started by the North is unlikely. I would even go to say that an all out war is unlikely but if it occurs would be started by the South [by massive retaliation for further provocations] and this would only happen when certain indications appear.

Firstly, North Korea’s intent in the unprovoked shelling is obviously intended to raise tensions and rhetoric aimed at propping up a collapsing regime in the run up to the Father to Son succession.

Secondly, North Korea does not have the ability to mount a full scale invasion across the DMZ. North Korea does not have potent air power. Unless a surprise attack is made via succesful tunneling under the demilitarized zone, North Korean infantry crossing the DMZ will be cut down like grass before a grass-cutter’s blade and if they do get to the South Korean side of the DMZ they have to face and overcome elite South Korean Border Guards, each a black belter in Taekwondo.

Thirdly, South Korea is peace loving and tends towards restraint and would certainly not be the one to fire the first shot.

Therefore, the scenario likely cause for war would be when the North, sensing the South’s reluctance to foot the heavy cost of human lives of an all out war, might choose to push its luck with further provocations. An all out war will only come when the South decides to punish the North in retaliation for such further provocations.

However, South Korea will not go to war as yet because certain elements which indicate galvanising of national resolve to fight are not apparent yet. This is because despite all the rhetoric there has not yet been any clear call for war.

To me, the clear sign for imminent war would be when SNSD’s concerts are cancelled [for no apparent reason whatsover as opposed to reasons like Tiffany’s ligament injury or Taiwan’s spat with Korea over the Taekwondo refereeing] and SNSD begins to make appearances in ROK’s military bases to cheer and encourage their servicemen.  🙂 If and when that happens, Kim Jong Il will have reason to be afraid, be very afraid. 🙂 🙂

In the event a Korean conflict breaks out. My stand is firmly for South Korea, ROK.

In my view, the South Koreans deserve a pat on the back and support for punching well above their weight as a nation, be it in sports, economically, technologically, socially, politically and culturally they have excelled against many other countries in stark contrast with the North simply on the very reason that theirs is a society that thrives because it is a democracy. AND Democracy did not come to South Koreans simply served on a platter, they as a society and a nation paid a price for it [An example was the Kwangju Uprising – wiki this].

Inasmuch as democracy should be sought despite the costs involved, democracy when achieved must be defended at all costs.

In fact, if I had any say, I would even despatch our F-15s to South Korea to see action if need be. Interestingly, this is also a politically correct position since our current ruling party is friendly with the North Koreans and I am in the opposition so I have to be friendly with the South. 🙂

Taking up clear positions is in line with being transparent and on top of being true to yourself. I will take positions when the situation calls for it irrespective of the costs and consequences of doing so as the satisfaction, growth and lessons learnt will in any event be priceless.

However, war mongering and belligerence aside, despite the positions I have communicated, I would venture to suggest a more intelligent way to break up North Korea.

North Korea despite its reclusion, has its cracks and weaknesses. A recent report revealed that North Korea has imprisoned more than a thousand of its own people for possessing or imitating South Korean pop culture.

South Korean pop culture is the fruit of a free society which is a by-product of a true democracy.

The actions of the Kim Jong Il regime in imprisoning their people for admiring the South betray their fears that South Korean pop culture is indeed an undesireable influence and a threat to their continued hold on power.

To break the Kim Jong Il regime from within, you need to bring democracy to North Korea.

To bring democracy to North Korea, you need to bring a thirst for democracy to the North Koreans.

To bring a thirst for democracy to North Koreans, the best weapon to do so is not with bullets and shells.

What the South needs to deliver to the North is to show to the North Koreans that their political and economic set up and their ruling party will never be able to facilitate or produce i.e. a culture worth being proud of.

If i were Lee Myung Bak, I would make the following orders for the counterstrike:

1. Request American assistance in the form of adequate Patriot Missile Defence Systems to be deployed;

2. Request American assistance in the form of a Tomahawk cruise missile strike package to be deployed;

3. Take out North Korean long range artillery, air power, air defences, nuclear facilities and sites in conjunction with several rounds of precision air strikes by Tomahawks, Stealth fighters and bombers;

4. Air drop Korean Pop culture [especially SNSD] vcds all over North Korea.

5. Beef up defences all around but Broadcast Korean Pop culture [especially SNSD] songs over to the North Korean border guards at the demilitarised zone. 🙂 🙂

How the North Koreans will react to the invasion by South Korean pop culture is anybody’s guess but what I am certain is that the delivery of a glimpse of what a free society may bring will precipitate very quickly the cause and effect of the actions of a regime that has closed off a society for decades with their warped ideas.

Seeding North Korea on such a scale would cost millions of dollars or billions of won. This, however, pales in comparison with the cost of human lives and infrastructure damage should an all out war occur. Therefore, the cost [cause] and effect of such a move will definitely be promising. 🙂 🙂

December 12, 2010 Posted by | audiophilia, Life, Politics, So Nyuh Shi Dae - Girls' Generation | Leave a comment

A gentle reminder to smell the flowers

It did not occur to me to touch that disc which had been sitting on my various racks for 20 years or so. The various CD racks have come and gone. AND The disc travelled with me as i moved house over the island but i have never since once opened it to truly sit down to listen to what the artiste and producer had wanted to convey.

It is this present bout of gastric flu / food poisoning (till now i am not to sure what it is) brought me to this – with tons of work left undone in the office. including Gopalan Nair’s appeal requiring my attention soon.

I am face to face with the system in an empty room. My favourite IMF Reference Standard Professional Monitors, my naim CD player and amplifier on a rack in between.

Taking a pick at random out of a number of 600 or so sitting in the dust, I decided to give that disc, bought on an impulse due to strong recommendations in audiophile magazines,  a chance after 20 long years.

Reference Recordings RR-31CD, Jim Brock’s Tropic Affair – a 1989 Reference Recordings audiophile issue was my pick.

The choice did not disappoint. It is filled with a number of sonically powerful tunes. But sonically powerful tunes are not what you would be keen if you had been running to the toilet for the past 8 hours.

I was in search of something soothing, something enchanting. Enchanting tunes being what i was looking for, straight out of the jewel case, track 4 “Anya” is Enchanting. So haunting, so sensual and so melancholic.

It reminded me of the melancholic theme in “Bitter Moon” by Vangelis. Haunting is the word to describe it.

I remember a time, after my grandmother’s death. No one wanted to really occupy the room. Then one day in the midst of some life upheaval, something prompted me to clear the room of its clutter and dust, spending an entire day scrubbing the room, i finally made it a tiny sanctuary with the relevant and necessary additions.

There it was, i had a little back room all to myself, small but carpeted (now that’s important for audio). With this pair of speakers, a different set of amps, a shot glass of coffee liquor, a different companion. Tunes from this pair of speakers are nonetheless just as satisfying.

Subsequently in the hustle and bustle of life following as i was then a newly qualified lawyer, the room fell into neglect, misuse and disrepair. I probably recall clearing out the speakers finally in march of 2004 – luckily the termites did not get to them.

I also recall that being less than fully satisfied with the sounds it was producing, i had in the years thereafter in my long and unfruitful chase of audio perfection completely neglected the most important essence of it all – enjoying the music.

Now that is not to say that the present state of the system is not what i wanted. I do want it this way and in this manner. But it is certainly not what i envisioned. When i first laid my hands won this pair of speakers in 1997, kindly sold to me by a late audiophile Uncle Yong, i have never imagined that i would be cavorting with naim amplifiers with it.

Now that i have made the discovery of a lifetime. Track 4 “Anya”, i am probably going to put it on repeat until my family begs me for mercy. Like my younger borther would put it, i would really know how to spoil a song by overplaying it.

Well its not everyday that you discover a gem in your belongings do you?

And besides, we only live once – don’t we?

September 9, 2008 Posted by | audiophilia, Life | Leave a comment

Scaling Everest – My mind needs distractions

Change seems to be the constant thing that is needed.

I always thought that i thrived on stability and predictability.

After settling down some accommodation, domestic and audiophilic issues recently i realised that my mind is turning to wards the audio department again. My eyes are currently set on a  behemoth of a speaker – 2.4m tall and 200kg in weight per side. I have heard the sweetness and the immediacy in the show room. I had since been wondering what sort of sounds it would produce in my room.

That speaker will again throw things into a little disarray. Yes the amps would have to be changed. And yes the cables as well. AND of course my unused speakers would have to find some place to sit. Or they would have to be shipped out.

I have a penchant for BIG speakers. I mean really BIG speakers. I have made breakthroughs in the past. The 70kg mark, then the 100kg mark. Noiw i am at the 150kg mark. The speakers are nice but i am in need of a change. 🙂

I understand that BIG speakers are difficult to get rid of, difficult to sell. How many sane persons would have sane spouses to accommodate BIG speakers? That probably explains the difficult of marketing of BIG speakers. BUT many audiophiles miss out one thing, BIG speakers provide the soundstage, the extension and the impact that no small teeny weeny transducer boxes can. BUT then again to each his own.

There are physical and financial constraints to this. I would need to sell the 150kg Genesis APM-1 and the 80kg ESS AMT-6 and until then i will not be able to find enough space or reason to accomodate my latest fling – the big and heavy lady.

Floor pressure loading is one thing. 200kg on a 1/2 square meter would mean 400kg on 1square meter. That means 4000 Newton force, now i would need to check the floor loading specifications.

This is something that i want. And yes, it is something which i clearly do not need.

June 15, 2008 Posted by | audiophilia, Life | Leave a comment

Sony, Onkyo, Krell, and Naim

Today is 23rd May 2008.

I have been roughly 14 years in the audiophile community. 14 years is a long time to spend in a hobby. It is probably the longest hobby i ever had. Don’t talk about sports, sports are not hobbies. Other than Taekwondo which is a lifelong affair which i have taken a break from for a couple of years, audio has been the centrestage of my leisure life.

These 14 years was a period of discovery and growth. Especially the last 5 years.

I woke up at 5am this morning. As a matter of routine, i pressed the play button on my Naim CD2. The disc that remained was the one which i fell asleep listening to. I quite relished the lively sound of this player – flawed though as it may be, it communicated a certain sense of life into me.

Now a bit of explanation for non-Naim users. Naim Systems operate in Class B – class b circuitry they call it. It runs cool and ever slightly warm only after heavy passage of drums and rock etc. Naim Systems are designed to be left on all the time. They are in standby mode perpetually when no signal passes through them. They are perfect for the busy man who has not enough energy or time to switch on the system, letting it warm up and sitting down to listen after that.

Something this morning made me recollect the past. I recall that there was a period where i had a total of 5 high-end sony CD players: the CDP-338Esd, the CD-557Esd, the CDP-X7Esd, the CDP-XA7ES, the DP-R1, DP-S1. I also had a rare never to be seen before 27kg behemoth of a CD player which i dubbed the “King Onkyo” – the Onkyo Grand Integra DX-G10.

The final sales of the beloved Sony CDP-XA7ES and DP-R1, DP-S1 and King Onkyo went all the way to Kuala Lumpur. The buyer was an accomplised architect, an audiophile and a collector. I was sad that i had to let go of the lovely players but i was happy that i found them a new owner and a new home. I was sure that the buyer would take good care of them since he was fastidious about their physical condition and appearance. That made letting go a little bit easier.

That was the time that I also had the Krell MD-1 CD Turntable and the SBP-32X DAC combo both of which I sold pretty soon after i moved out of my home. There was simply no reason to be hanging on to such stuff anymore when space was no longer a luxury. Come to think of it i did not let go of them because i was short of space, the krell components were slim and broad, but they could be stacked one on top of the other. I only sold them because i had come into contact with Naim. It was also the same reason that all the rest were sold 🙂

I had come into contact with Miss Naim only in year 2006. In the past i dabbled with many a CD player and amplifiers as i was searching. Searching for the life that is supposed to come with the music. I found an inkling of that when i heard the first Naim Combo i bought: CD3, Nac92, Nap90, Epos ES14s. The sound had more groove and swing than my Krell MD-1 SBP32, KSL, KRS 200s, Legacy Audio Signature IIIs. That had started my defection from the established names to Miss Naim.

Since then i have been living with Naim CD players: the CDI, CD2, CD3, CD3.5 and CD5. I let go of the CD3 and CD3.5 with much regret. I am now very happy with my CD2 and CD5.

The Sony players were dependable and never failed me. They had their own shortcomings – a slightly less than perfect artificial glare when it comes to vocals. The lack of the swing in some forms of music. The Naim CD Players came at price – with shortcomings. Sometimes they are tizzy on the ears, some days they sound downright harsh and bright. But most of the time they breathe the life back into music. They make me feel alive.

Naim CD players have one idiosyncracy, their connection cables and points are proprietary, necessitating use of their cables, their amps. Its like when you get Miss Naim, you have to accept her children in tow 🙂 This is how a Naim system falls into place.

Yes Miss Naim croons me to sleep at night and serenades me awake in the wee hours of the morning. And no, I am not complaining. 🙂

May 23, 2008 Posted by | audiophilia, Life | Leave a comment

The Apple Ipod :)

I must say that i undersestimated this little piece of equipment. The Apple Ipod.

I bought mine a 60Gb version for roughly SGD700 almost 2 years back. Being a crazed audiophile then, i basically thought of this hand held harddisk as a fad which might prove a little useful to me to catalogue my songs.

I was getting old. 8 years as a lawyer has gotten into my life energy, i no longer had the kind of zest to dig through and choose from 700 CDs to listen on a weekend or at times when i could be free to squeeze in 1/2 an hour of listening, this made sure that my CD collection was undisturbed, gathering dust, dirt. clogging up the room.

 When i finally opened the Ipod packaging when the 1-year warranty was almost over, i was thinking to myself “shit. have I repeated the same mistake with my audio equipment here?” As i unwrapped the packaging, I realised that i was staring at 60 thousand dollars of idle audio equipment, and i had spend another 700 bucks on a latest fad only to let it lie idle for almost a year and letting it sit through almost its entire warranty.

 i finally completed loading 700 CDs over a period of 5 months. the 60GB capacity was more than enough twice over. 7552 songs occupied only 29Gb plus of space. I have realised that this little contraption has become my constant companion. In the gym, in the train, in bed even. I have never used a portable stereo to such an extent before, not even my previous 3 walkmans.

Times have changed, i have begun to use my cheapest piece of self-sufficient audio equipment most! More than the usage of all the rest of the equipment combined. It looks like i could do with the letting go of some stuff and creating a healthier balance in my bank account. 🙂 I could look at downsizing to something newer and more exciting which i like. Clear a little space, free up cash all at one go. Is it not great?

This little contraption – a portable harddisk – is nothing less than life-changing 🙂 Kudos to the guys at apple who came up with this.

December 2, 2007 Posted by | audiophilia, Life | 1 Comment

Jordan Watts

The Swan behemoths were traded away for a small Naim set up.

I the decided to pull out a pair of my mothballed speakers. Mothballed by the recent moves from my parents home in early 2006. The Jordan Watts – Jupiter Modular Speaker System. These babies are easily 30 years old.

Unpacking them was quite a hassle since they were all wrapped up and stacked up. It took considerable mental strength to decide that, its time to bring them into action.

Furthermore, as i have since discovered that none of my brothers were going to indulge my speaker repositioning exercises any further, I realised that an audiophile has to do his own moving once in a while.

Going through spatial manoeuvres on in close quarters with our equipment allows an audiophile to connect with what a piece of equipment needs to overcome before it can take the position of the mantelpiece of the audiophile’s home.

Some waiting time, patience, arduous movement and an opportunity provided by an equipment vacuum in the main system.

And so, after some huffing and puffing, i managed to ease the Jupiters into a corner and set them up with the Copland CTA501 tube integrated. Being a regular at the gym helped!

The system was then wired up with patch cords on the 8 ohm output, the Jupiters could not take any other form of speaker cable anyway.

The source was a Sony CDP-557Esd CD player switched over at times with a Marantz CD-53 and a Musical Fidelity A3-24 dac.  The sound was a little murky. But it cleared up pretty fast. Fast and punchy. Made the Copland sound a wee little bit like my Naim NAC112 and NAP90 combination.

 As before, the sound takes time to get better. Running them hard on loud thumping music helps. The sound is improving and our electrical meter is running. The Watts are adding up pretty fine.

Once again i am back to a vintage speaker set up.

January 4, 2007 Posted by | audiophilia | Leave a comment

Wires & Cables!

Its Christmas Time!

Every Christmas brings about festive cheer, the holidays, a nice cool breeze and yes rain, and lots of it.

The rain kept me indoors over the last few days. i decided to sort out my cable and wire box. I found a total of 4 soldering irons. How on earth did i end up with 4  soldering irons? I must have been mad? As i recollected, each time it was bought it was thrown into the box. As i got busy i forgot about it and the next time i needed a soldering iron i went out and bought one. This happened 3 times!

I must be getting old!

And in the box was scraps of used wire, recycled capacitors, two reels of unused solder, a total of fifteen stock IEC power cords salvaged from disused kettles and computers over the years, a half completed audiophile power cord project plus enough wire to make 8 power cords?, same number of connectors, countless screws and nuts, several connectors, an old photo, a manual for a McCormack DNA-1 Amplifier (boy was this nostalgic!), a multimeter (digital one), plastic bags and lots of dust!

It took some time to sort out the mess.

Eventually i managed to pack them into one box for the sorting out to be done another day. There is simply too much to be done in 1/2 an hour to clear the junk accumulated over… erm… 3 years? 🙂 i am better off enjoying music!

The swan speakers which i am currently unable (and don’t think i will ever be able) to identify mated well with my 30W Copland CTA-501 power amp and connected with patch cords!

The source was a trusty 13 year old Sony CDP-557ES. The sound was not perfect but it was something i could live with… given the fact that it took me a measely 8 mins in crouching position to set the system up.

This led me to thinking, i have some better wire lying around somewhere…. and that wire stripper…..  And  it may be in the storeroom…..  Sigh! I may well just have to search 🙂

What better way to spend time! 🙂

December 22, 2006 Posted by | audiophilia | Leave a comment