Qui tangit frangatur.

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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Friday, March 30, 2007

Windows in the evening sun

They remind me of Japanese screens.

A mise en scene — never made shot, but eddies nonetheless, through lost hours, fumbled nouns, orphaned sighs, pooling darkly in unquiet twilight.

Red maple falls amidst long shadows,
sukiyaki bubbling,
your warmth still on the tatami.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Accelerated decompression

One fringe benefit which comes with technical diving is accelerated decompression. To minimize the time spent in the water decompressing, the practice entails switching gas mixes during the ascent phase of the dive. Of course, the greater complexity involved carries with it increased risk, but scuba diving, like many other sports, such as mountaineering, rock climbing, auto racing, is all about risk management. Properly managed, risk may be acceptable. With proper training, procedure, and technique, much of the additional risk can be reduced.

Listed below are 3 custom generated decompression tables for a theoretical dive to 55 meters seawater (msw) for a bottom time of 22 minutes.

Nota bene: These tables are for illustrative purposes only. Technical diving requires proper training, equipment, and experience. Actual use of these tables may result in candidacy for the 2007 Darwin Awards. To further discourage yahoos, the tables are deliberately left incomplete.


Backgas = the gas carried on your back (i.e. your main breathing gas).

Decogas = the gas used for decompression (which may or may not be the backgas).

msw = meters sea water. Depth in meters in sea water.

Min = minutes spent at each depth.

Run = run time. The cumulative time period between the descent phase (the beginning) and the end of the ascent phase (the completion) of the dive.

Mix = the gas breathed at each depth.

Dive A
Backgas: air (21% Oxygen / 79% Nitrogen)
Decogas: air (21% Oxygen / 79% Nitrogen)

       Bottom Time:        22 minutes
       Decompression:  73 minutes
       Total Run Time:   95 minutes

Dive B
Backgas: air (21% Oxygen / 79% Nitrogen)
Decogas: Enriched Air Nitrox EAN50 (50% Oxygen / 50% Nitrogen)

       Bottom Time:        22 minutes
       Decompression:  37 minutes
       Total Run Time:   59 minutes

Dive C
Backgas: Trimix 20/24 (20% Oxygen / 24% Helium, 56% Nitrogen)
Decogas: (1) Enriched Air Nitrox EAN50 (50% Oxygen / 50% Nitrogen)
                 (1) 100% O2 (100% Oxygen)

       Bottom Time:        22 minutes
       Decompression:  27 minutes
       Total Run Time:   49 minutes

All 3 dives have the same bottom time. I.e. 22 minutes at 55 m, but note the difference in decompression times. Using air (21% Oxygen), Diver A requires a lengthy 73 minutes of decompression before surfacing. On the other hand, Diver B, who uses EAN50 (50% Oxygen, 50% Nitrogen) to accelerate his decompression, only needs 37 minutes. Diver C does it even faster; employing a combination of EAN50 and 100% Oxygen, he only requires 27 minutes of decompression.

What do these figures translate to in the real world?

Diver B and C are out of the water after a total of 59 and 49 minutes respectively, have showered, eaten, and are shooting the breeze on deck while Diver A, who faces a run time of 95 minutes, is still underwater battling currents, passing jellyfish, thirst, hunger, the urge to pee in his wetsuit, etc.

Of course, there are additional risks in using accelerated decompression. There are no gas switches for Diver A to mess with, so it's a no-brainer — he only needs to keep breathing (something even comatose patients, retards, and cell phone users can do).

EAN50 has a Maximum Operating Depth (MOD) of 22 m, so if Diver B and C switch to breathing it too early, or have poor control of their buoyancy and sink below 22 m after switching, they may suffer a central nervous system Oxygen toxicity seizure (CNS OTox "hit"), convulse and drown.

Diver C faces an additional risk: as he carries two different decompression gases, he could mix up the two. I.e. breathing 100% Oxygen (which has an MOD of 6 m) at 21 m instead of EAN50. This is invariably fatal as a CNS OTox seizure swiftly follows, resulting in death by drowning.

Why do Dive profile C then, since the difference in decompression time between B and C is only 10 minutes?

By using Helium as a substitute for some of the Nitrogen in his backgas, Diver C suffers less nitrogen narcosis than Diver A or B. At 55 meters on compressed air (79% Nitrogen), Diver A or B will discover their skills and training severely compromised by nitrogen narcosis. (This one time, at band camp on an air dive to 57 m, I was too narced to remember which was clockwise and which was counterclockwise on my isolation manifold.) Correspondingly, Diver C also remembers more of his/ her dive than Diver A or B.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The road to hell... good intentions

Organisers of a children's performance have given the Three Little Pigs a reprieve after they were originally ditched from the show for fear they may offend Muslims.

The rest here.

Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley, said it best,

My view is that the people responsible for this are completely bonkers. It is the type of political correctness which makes people's blood boil. As usual it is done in the name of ethnic minorities but it is perpetrated by white, middle class, do-gooders with a guilt complex and far too much time on their hands.

I couldn't agree more.

What a bunch of tossers.

Say, "No," to dhimmitude. (Hat tip: Bat Ye'or.)

Two individuals who refuse to bend over:

Danish newspaper editor, Flemming Rose, who chose to publish controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005, was awarded the international Sappho Prize, by the Danish-based Free Press Society.

Dr. Daniel Pipes, for his "unwavering defense of free speech," was awarded the Danish Free Speech Prize.

Unfortunately, not all people are possessed of principles and courage.

One year later, Diana West's article, "Submission is all in your dhimmitude," continues to augur ill.

Race to the bottom

crufty's post, To win, everyone else must lose, got me thinking about my stint in the recreational scuba diving industry.

What is it about Chinese business mentality, where everyone else must fail so that one is able to succeed? Winner by default... that's the way Sam described it. He gave an example where he went to several Parisian souvenir shops selling mini Eiffel Towers for 20 Euros. And he was startled to see one store selling the same souvenir for just 5 Euros. Run by none other than a Chinese.

How did this practice come about? Can we trace it to some apocryphal tale where ancient Chinese got ahead by lowballing the competition to their bankruptcy?

Beats me. The same thing has been going on in the scuba diving industry. When I did my Open Water Diver Course at the beginning of 1995, it cost me SGD$750. The student-to-instructor ratio in the pool was 4:1. We had 8 pool sessions. In the sea, the student-to-instructor ratio was 2:1. We had 5 dives. For my technical dive courses, my pool and open water student-to-instructor ratios were 1:1. But I digress.

Fast forward to today, Open Water Dive Courses are offered at ridiculous prices of SGD$250, and in one case, even SGD$190. Student-to-instructor ratio in the sea is 10:1, sometimes even 12:1. Don't even bother to ask about the ratio for the pool sessions.

In the race to the bottom — by low-balling — customers end up the ultimate losers. Safety corners are cut; standards are diluted; equipment infrequently (and/or improperly) serviced; and personnel inadequately trained.

The operators blame the situation on the customers; claiming that most customers do not see the entire picture — they just look at the price. Hence, we continue to see overloaded speed boats ferrying bus loads of Singapore divers to Pulau Tioman; so-called dive boats with no GPS, no radio, no supplemental oxygen for decompression illness "hits"; and to make life more exciting, no life jackets.

It takes a dedicated dive operator to hold his ground when Customer X goes, "You are charging $750 for a basic dive course? But Shop Y is charging $250!" How often do divers think about what that tank of supplemental oxygen is worth to them? If it is revealed to them that it can make the difference between having a nasty ride in the decompression chamber for 6 hours, or never being able to walk again, will the monetary difference be that significant?

I am not advocating price-fixing, but rather that in a race to the bottom, something must give, and in the recreational scuba diving industry (I shall leave comments about the local auto enthusiast industry to crufty), it is often the safety standards that are compromised.

This is why we have legions of what the old timers denigrate as "dive bomber" divers. They are overweighted, packing an average of 8 pounds of lead each (in tropical waters???); inadequately trained; overly-dependent on their buddies; easily given to panic; their buoyancy control have only two modes: shoot to the surface like a Polaris missile, or crash to the seabed like the Titanic. These divers are incapable of diving without a dive master or instructor around. The destruction of the coral around Pulau Aur is largely attributed to these divers.

At the end of the day, you get what you pay for. While there is no exact formula between safety standards and price, value and price, to dismiss the positive correlation between them is pure folly.

And, inevitably, to indulge in a little scatalogy, when the proverbial crap hits the fan, and a customer is maimed or dies, fact-finders are chastised to "respect the privacy of the family in their time of grief," and told that "now is not the time to attempt a review of standards." The coroner or doctor reveals the death or injury to be drowning or near-drowning (What do they expect? He/she got hit by a meteor underwater?). A few months pass, the "dive bomber" divers are back bargain hunting, and everything remains the same.

To male Singaporean divers out there, think about your National Service days: do you really want to trust the lowest bidder for the provision (and maintenance) of your life-support equipment in a physiologically hostile environment?

Scorpion Trail Ride

Where "pitter-patter" has another meaning.

For the ride report, click on the image or here.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Prangster's wedding dinner

       My favorite cousin is married!

       Congratulations to Yeou Wei & cuzzx2!!!

Riding in the backyard

Flora, fauna, water, and thorns.

For the ride report, click on the image or here.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Flying Squirrels

Hi, my name is -ben, and I do not approve of this :-P

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Blame it on the moon

       The moon has posed BAE Systems an unusual problem during the final assembly of the Typhoon jet fighter.
       On the Lancashire coast, at Warton, where the aircraft is assembled, the movements of the tides and the moon's gravitational pull have resulted in the tight tolerances being thrown out of alignment.
       Martin Topping, final assembly operations manager, explained: "Every time the moon pulls the tide in and out, the ground moves by between one and two millimeters."
       So BAE has spent £2.5 million putting in alignment facilities which use laser trackers and computer-automated jacks to cope with the distortion. In addition, each airframe is built on giant floating concrete rafts on which the measuring equipment sits.
       Topping said: "Each concrete raft is over 3m deep and 18m long. All nine automated jacks and both laser trackers are positioned on one surface, ensuring all movement is relative, achieving a near-perfect alignment whatever the moon may be doing."
       BAE said it had resulted in one of the most perfectly aligned fast jet airframes in the world. Although 15m long from tip to tip, the variation of each Typhoon assembled is minute.
       This in turn helps the fly-by-wire computer system to accurately control the aircraft, designed to be unstable in flight to allow superior agility.

("Typhoon stays still while the earth moves."   Professional Engineering 20.5 (2007): 12.)

So, there you have it, HONDA (Hotrods Of No Dramatic Acceleration) Rice Boys have another excuse when they lose a race and/or crash and burn — the gravitational pull of the moon and the resulting tide caused the ground to move by one to two millimeters, resulting in an out-of-control vehicle due to massive understeer. Those (ludicrously) over-cambered wheels are mighty sensitive, you know?


Monday, March 12, 2007


Malagmyr: This linguistics professor was lecturing the class.
Malagmyr: "In English," he explained, "a double negative forms a positive. In some languages, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative."
Malagmyr: "However," the professor continued, "there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative."
Malagmyr: Immediately, a voice from the back of the room piped up: "Yeah..... right...."

Beer challenge

My dad and I have been quietly engaging in a beer challenge: who can come up with a stronger beer. Guinness Foreign Extra Stout at 6% alcohol by volume (ABV) was his opening salvo. I responded with Amsterdam Navigator, which trounced it at 8.4% ABV. He edged me out with Carlsberg Special Brew, at 9% ABV.

I flattened him with the Amsterdam Maximator, at a mighty 11.6% ABV.

He ambushed me with the Damburger Extra Strong Lager, with a stupefying 12.2% ABV.

Damn! At this stage, as we are practically dealing with field artillery, I tried to rope in Saint Nick, with his little howitzer, the Samichlaus, a liver-incinerating 14% ABV, but the jolly saint was adamant that his Christmas brew be used only for peaceful purposes. Hmm... So I pondered on joining the unofficial nuclear club of Iran, Israel, and North Korea by acquiring the Sam Adams Utopia, a near-lethal 25% ABV, but it's a limited edition brew. It's expensive too, at US$100 a bottle. A trifle expensive for a silly game, IMHO.

So, I think I am going to go for broke and source for the Bavarian brewer Harald Schneider's ultra-strong beer. It's a cirrhosis-inducing 25.4% ABV, and it's in regular production too (i.e. probably cheaper than Sam Adam's Utopia). "It is so strong, that the brewer suggests consumption by a shot glass rather than a cold mug. [ . . . ] 'People will only be able to drink two or three glasses, otherwise they'll drop like flies,' he adds."

This, I believe, will make me the king of the hill :-P

By the way, I no longer drink (and I don't mean that in the Dean Martin sense*). Win or lose, my Dad has the (enviable) task of emptying the cans :-)

Ain't it a Kick in the Head!

[ * = "I don't drink anymore... I don't drink any less either." (Dean Martin)]

Friday, March 09, 2007

Signal to Noise

We live in a world in which the only utopian visions arrive in commercial breaks: magical visions of an impossibly hospitable world, peopled by bright-eyed attractive men, women, children...

Where nobody dies...

Where all it takes is a cheap, easily available product — a packet of salted peanuts, or a new type of carpet cleaner — to bring immediate, undiluted joy...
         (Neil Gaiman)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Short man's syndrome

'Just got back from a long pool session. Details in another post. 'Am too tired after washing tons of equipment (wet suit, hood, mask x2, booties, gloves, fins, BCD, SMB x2, tanks x4, regulators x4, scooter, et cetera) to write about it now. I only have enough energy for a rant before hitting the sack.

What is it with short males?

At 1.87 m myself, although I cannot empathize what it is like to be 1.53 m, I can tell you this for a fact: being a jerk doesn't make you any taller — it just makes you come across as an obnoxious dwarf, that's all.

So there.

The devil in me is tempted to show up early for the next session and relocate everything to that 2-meter high shelf or wayyyyy back, on top of the lockers (and hiding all the chairs and stools). It will be a riot watching you beg the other guys to retrieve things for you.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Al Gore's inconvenient truth

       Before going any further, let me first state that I am one who keeps an open mind to the phenomenon of global warming. In fact, I am partial to the belief that global warming is taking place.

       That said, hypocrites and liberals (which often are one and the same) are not people I suffer gladly. Case in point, Al Gore's inconvenient truth.

       It is old news that Al Gore starred in the documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," which touts the specter of global warming, its devastating consequences, and the need to reduce carbon emissions, reliance on energy, and energy consumption. That's all fine and dandy.

       Where I currently reside, the national average energy consumption per household is 739 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month. At Santa Clara, the energy consumption of my household, with 3 students, 3 laptops, 2 desktops, was 504 kWh per month.

       For 2005, the Gore household consumed a whopping 16,200 kWh per month. This astounding figure increased 13.67% for the year of 2006: a jaw-dropping 18,414 kWh per month. In 1 month, the Gores burn through almost as much energy as an average American household does in 2 years. What's he building in there?    A Death Star?

Numbers (Average Power Consumption per month)

Condominium in Singapore                     739 kWh
3 bedroom house in Santa Clara             504 kWh
Gore household in 2005                      16,200 kWh
Gore household in 2006                      18,414 kWh

Average Power Consumption per year

National Average Power Consumption in America:   10,656 kWh
Al Gore's household power consumption for 2006: 221,000 kWh

       Public records reveal that as Gore lectures Americans on excessive consumption, he and his wife Tipper live in two properties: a 10,000-square-foot, 20-room, eight-bathroom home in Nashville, and a 4,000-square-foot home in Arlington, Va. (He also has a third home in Carthage, Tenn.) For someone rallying the planet to pursue a path of extreme personal sacrifice, Gore requires little from himself.
       (Clarice Feldman, American Thinker)

       Gore has held these apocalyptic views about the environment for some time. So why, then, didn't Gore dump his family's large stock holdings in Occidental (Oxy) Petroleum? As executor of his family's trust, over the years Gore has controlled hundreds of thousands of dollars in Oxy stock. Oxy has been mired in controversy over oil drilling in ecologically sensitive areas.
       (Peter Schweizer, USA Today)

       Writing in The Atlantic Monthly in 2004, liberal writer Eric Alterman criticized producer Laurie David for her use of private Gulfstream jets. David, he wrote "reviles the owners of SUVs as terrorist enablers, yet gives herself a pass when it comes to chartering one of the most wasteful uses of fossil-based fuels imaginable." New Republic writer Gregg Easterbrook followed up, computing that "one cross-country flight in a Gulfstream is the same, in terms of Persian-Gulf dependence and greenhouse-gas emissions, as if she drove a Hummer for an entire year."
       (Jake Tapper, ABC News)

Maybe Laurie David should change her activist website title from to

       There's also Norman Lear, who insists that we, peons, cut down our driving, but has a 26-car garage to store all the vehicles he owns. And Barbra Streisand, with her fully-staffed mansion overlooking the Pacific Ocean, who advises her loyal fans to air dry their laundry outside. And Teresa Heinz and John Kerry, who warns us of dire environmental consequences if we do not cut back on our energy use, all while driving SUVs to their private planes to travel to their 5 mansions.

       There's Michael Moore, who, while filming "Fahrenheit 911," a so-called documentary that trashes defense and oil companies, also bought, held on, and traded in their stock. He once said that major defense contractor Halliburton was run by a bunch of "thugs," and suggested that for every American killed in the Iraq war, "I would like Halliburton to slay one mid-level executive." Publicly, Moore has claimed he wants no part of these companies and won't own stock. However, his IRS filings tell another story — Moore holds a portfolio which, among others, includes energy firms such as Sunoco, Noble Energy, Schlumberger, Williams Companies, Transocean Sedco Fore, and Anadarko; defense contractors such as Halliburton, General Electric, Honeywell, Boeing, and Loral. In fact, Moore sold off Halliburton for a 15 percent profit. Part of the profit was used to increase his stake in another defense company.

       Anyone remember the blatant hypocrisy of Rosie O'Donald?

She's against private gun ownership but hires a gun-toting security guard to protect her and her household. Why? Because she's different — she's a celebrity.

       "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."  (Animal Farm, George Orwell)

What is the liberal's creed, boys and girls?

Yes, that's right!

"Do as I say, and not as I do!"

"An Inconvenient Truth," indeed.
I'd much rather watch "Manbearpig."

Check out some of the Left's reactions here.

Compare Al Gore's home with another prominent politician's house.