Author Archives: miner49er

Getting Back to Vinyl

For Christmas 2017, my kids teamed up and bought me a decent Audio-Technica turntable. It was a thoughtful gift –one they knew I’d take an interest in. A turntable. Man, I hadn’t owned one since I was young.

It just wasn’t a priority. I left home young, got married young, and started having kids young. A quality listening experience was not really the thing. Jethro Tull gave way to a Disney song cassette, and then to All Saints and Backstreet Boys, and always in the car, it seemed.

What changes happened to the audio world over the kid decades! Everything got smaller and more mobile. Kids carried boom boxes around. Then the Sony Walkman became the rage. Then the Discman. Antiskip (anti-shake) technology came in, which buffered the audio output to eliminate jump backs in the song if the disc player was bumped.

The new medium, the CD had powerful boasts. It was smaller, more durable, and it virtually eliminated the noise associated with a needle on a vinyl disk. Kids were wearing headphones. We went digital with MP3 format, and then we compressed and compressed. It seemed that the warm air of impure sound gave way to a cold antiseptic perfection.

I don’t know. It was a world I couldn’t completely enjoy. I kept getting older, and I couldn’t find a way into the music any more.

My kids helped. They had their own musical tastes, all sophisticated and earnest in their ways. They showed me things I could appreciate. They performed music live. They got it. But it wasn’t the same. I didn’t sit down to listen to music for the pure pleasure of it.

And then I got the turntable.

It was a year before I could figure out exactly what I wanted to do. I tried to use my Sony AV Receiver with cheap bookshelfs, and then gave that up for the Bose Bluetooth system that my wife got as a purchase incentive with her new car.

It took me until next Chistmas to select real speakers. I figured really good speakers hooked up to the aforementioned Sony receiver would give me something good. But what speakers? Clearly what was already in the house was a far cry from quality audio. I went shopping. I listened to Klipsch at London Drugs, and I read article after article online. I was going to buy Klipsch. They seemed to be a well-respected brand, but to be honest, I couldn’t seem to find the right bass response in them –at least not at a price below $1000. I even tried pairing some of their nice bookshelfs with a sub. Nope. It seemed all out of phase. Not great. Maybe it was the audio room in the store, and the amp they had them hooked to, and the quality of the recording. I don’t know, but I never got hooked.

One day I stepped into a Visions Electronics store, and had them switch around to their speakers. I heard a set of Kef LS-50s and couldn’t believe it. Here was some good sound in a bookshelf speaker. Good enough, anyhow. At $1000 for the pair, they would fit the bill. I took them home and hooked them up. Not bad.

But I kept on looking online, and found a killer sale price at Best Buy on some Polk Audio LSiM 703’s. A quick look at the specs told me that they exceeded the Kefs at least on paper. So I ran down and bought them too. I had given up on the idea of massive towers, which really take up a lot of space in the home.

Long story short, I settled on Polk Audio bookshelf speakers. Well, they aren’t exactly bookshelfs. They’re pretty big, and they’re about 35 lbs. each. But by comparison, in a side-by-side test, switching from the Kefs to the Polks sounded like opening a window to let the sound out.

I played music. Christmas 2019 (a year after my turntable) saw me the recipient of some nice vinyl. I tried to enjoy it for about a week. And I appreciated the new setup. I really did, but an uncomfortable truth kept pestering me. The sound, as decent as it was, just wasn’t great.

A friend came over and told me I needed to get a better receiver. So I started looking online at specs on receivers, including the one that I owned. I started taking an interest in vintage. I really had no appetite to drop another $500 or so on a new receiver.

Another friend told me about how he picked up a vintage Marantz (the ones from the 70s with the flat wheel radio dial). I started looking even more closely at vintage, and I started to fall in love with the look of some of those old receivers, and dreaming of the sound of them. They were the ones my friends had in the 70s and 80s. They have a beautiful glow, faux wood casings, and anodized aluminum faces. They were gorgeous.

I started combing Craigslist. And I found it: a 40 watt-per-channel Technics SA-303. A quick look at the specs and I went for it. $50 to carry it away. I should have known that it wouldn’t work, but I figured for $50 I would have something that could probably be fixed. From what I had read, the chances of success were good. I got it home and took it apart. It was filthy. Not knowing much about electronics, I decided to risk another $35 to have a real technician at Hart’s TV Repair in Maple Ridge do an estimate. In the end, all it needed was a good cleaning and some Deoxite sprayed into the contacts. The total labour to clean it and run it through tests was $150 including the estimate –a lot maybe, and that didn’t include replacing the burned out radio dial lamps, which would have been another $50. I decided to do without the lamps*.

As I left the shop, I told the technician that I was in it for $216 total. He said that I’d never find the same quality for anywhere near that price in a modern amp. Okay. Good to hear.

I got it home and carefully hooked it up, I turned it on. And there it was again –Pink Floyd 70s style: warm, bassy and full. It really was like a religious experience. It sounded so good!

Since then, I listen to  music every day –down in the living room on the couch. The radio sounds fantastic; the phonograph sounds fantastic, and maybe best of all, I’ve hooked my old 5 CD carousel up to it, and it sounds fantastic too (As a family we have accumulated well over 100 CDs over the years). There have been moments listening to some tunes, where I’ve touched the feeling of being 17 again. If I just sit back and let go, it takes me there.

Right on, Man. Right on.

*I bought the lamps online. I’m going to see if I can solder them in myself.




In which I defend (not really) Legislature Clerk, Craig James.

There’s something happenin’ here (with BC Legislature Clerk, Craig James), and what it  is ain’t exactly clear.

A lot of speculation abounds, though, that the recent dismissal of Craig James has something to do with his spending proclivities. Speculators point to a history. For example, in 2012, he got into it with then-Auditor General, John Doyle. One spending item that the press reported was his 40-grand-in-4-months expenditure on travel.

And of course, we average wage earners gasped. HE SPENT $40,000 IN 4 MONTHS?!! NO WONDER OUR GEE-DEE TAXES ARE SO HIGH!

Taxes. That’s what we abhor.

So many solutions are obvious to us. “How about don’t make unnecessary trips? Maybe don’t fly business class –stay in cheaper hotels and eat cheaper food like we do when we manage a trip out of the country that we have saved up for, for months or years.”

Yup it’s spending our tax money that infuriates us.

But here’s where our anger misses the mark. From C-suite business types, the amount of spending Craig engages in doesn’t get a second look; it’s the cost of doing business. If your business requires you to be away from home, of course it must fly you business class, book you into a five-star hotel, and find you court-side seats.

And because they work for private corporations, it’s none of our business -Right?


Ever wonder why your banking fees are so high? How about the price of anything that has metal in it –or the price of anything that has anything in it, for that matter.

Do you think that the CEOs of the companies you buy your tv or computer or car from are flying coach? Do you think they’d give a second thought to hopping on a plane and heading to New York for a business lunch and a Yankees game?

Think again. And yes. You pay for it.

So while you’re howling about tax expenditures, maybe give a yelp or two about the private sector decadence that is funded by your hard-earned dollars –the dollars you pay for your groceries. And remember: government service is still service you need just like you need your bus pass, toilet paper, and Tylenol.

I have no interest in defending Craig James. (Hell, I doubt he needs me. I’ll be very surprised if he is even arrested.) My point is that in his world of white linen lunches with business executives, James’ expenditures wouldn’t raise an eyebrow.

And that is the problem.

What Government Corruption Is and Is NOT (examples provided)

One often hears talk how corrupt the government is. Much of the time, what people mean by “corrupt” is “creating-policy-I-don’t-like”.

This is not corruption.

“Policy-I-don’t-like” is bound to happen in a democracy in which the elected party may have different priorities than you do. That’s why you are allowed to get involved politically by writing to your representatives, by rallying people, and by voting. It’s also the reason to consider other electoral forms than first-past-the-post (but I digress).

While it’s quite possible that a provincial government following its ideology can lead its people down a pretty deep rabbit hole, such incompetence can not be considered “corrupt.”

Consider, for example, the past BC government, whose policy amounted to serious mismanagement of BC Hydro and the Insurance Corporation of BC., burdening citizens with enormous public debt that will take years to repay.

The mismanagement of these crown corporations was NOT corruption; it was political decision-making that people may or may not agree with. (For the record, you can put me in the “not” camp.)

What corruption actually is, is deceiving the public, or violating procedural laws that are written to prevent conflicts of interest.

So while it was not corrupt to manage the crown corporations the way the Liberals did, it was corrupt of them to hide said debt from the public –a subtle difference, but an important one.

To provide clarity, what follows are examples of actual government corruption. Note that they all involve some kind of deception or violation of law –not bad policymaking alone:

I suppose it’s a technical distinction. Governments have a moral responsibility to carefully look after the needs of its citizens. In doing so, there will be losers and winners. For example, while the BC Liberals were in power, child poverty increased (so… losers), while corporations got huge tax breaks –not exactly moral governance, though I would hesitate to call it corrupt.

LNG and Unicorns

Tuesday’s announcement by Petronas that it will no longer pursue liquified natural gas interests in BC represents a failure.

The failure was foreseen by many analysts as far back as 2013. It is not a failure of the newly elected NDP government. Rather, it is a failure the NDP warned the Liberals about long ago.
Liberal leader, Christy Clark had built her whole 2013 election campaign on a promise of LNG prosperity. She came up with a feasibility report that promised the moon: a trillion dollars and a prosperity fund!

And anyone, ANYONE, who dared question this very expensive vision, was howled at: mocked and derided. In fact, the Liberal strategy for the following 2017 election was to frame the NDP as “the party of No”.

As predicted, the Liberals’ LNG vision and strategy failed. It was a case of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. Opposition parties kept pointing out that the emperor is naked (LNG hopes were delusional), but the emperor blithely went on.

And now, realizing that she is exposed publicly, the emperor is lashing out: projecting her fury on her detractors with unprecedented vitriol, although in typical fashion Christy Clark has disappeared, leaving the lashing out to her royal guard, Rich Coleman, Jon Yap, and others.
There are people, many people, who were very concerned about the harmful process of LNG fracking. Those concerns are legitimate, and a simple internet search can lead you to understand why (Google “fracking”).

But the issue of the day is NOT those concerns; it is how the BC Liberals, cynically denied all scientific and economic prognostication and sold BC voters on an LNG-funded utopia. Turns out they might as well have been promising unicorns.

The Christy Clark Liberals: a malicious conspiracy

In 2012, eight British Columbia Ministry of Health researchers who were enthusiastically going about their jobs, were suddenly fired with no explanation, and threatened with criminal charges relating to the misappropriation of confidential patient data.

It’s no exaggeration that their lives were suddenly turned upside down. Their income was taken away, they were escorted off the premises of their jobs, and they were discredited as scientists.

One poor young man died.  The research he was conducting was to be part of his doctoral dissertation. It was his whole world. God only knows how many thousands of hours he had poured into his work, only to be completely mortified. He took his own life. The computer where he most likely wrote his suicide note was confiscated and erased before anyone could see it.

After they went through months of stress and anxiety being kept in the dark about their dismissal, the researchers learned an even worse reality. They had been victims of a conspiracy. The charges against them were lies made up by government –their own employer. The charges had been trumped up for what reason? Well… it’s not public knowledge, but the affair stinks.

It is well known that some of the science produced by the discredited researchers threatened to affect the bottom line of a very large pharmaceutical company, and that said pharmaceutical company makes large political contributions to the Liberal party.

What we now need in BC is leadership. Lives have been turned upside down deliberately by a conspiracy of malicious, cynical people, who live in the Machiavellian delusion that power is more important than truth.

The very idea that Christy Clark was not somehow involved in this is preposterous. She must not be allowed to be premier again.


BC Liberals: a History of Bullying

It’s easy to put on a pink shirt and say you’re not a bully, but actions speak louder than words. The BC Liberals have been bullies right since their first mandate, and since Christy Clark’s ascension to leader, they’re worse than ever, pink shirts notwithstanding.

(Before I get started, I encourage you to add your own stories of bullying by BC Liberals in the comment section. There are so many incidents that it’s hard to keep track of them).

Bullies like to kick you when you’re down. When they first got elected in a landslide victory over the NDP, the Liberals followed to the letter the parliamentary rule that said parties without 3 seats or more need not be given opposition status.

The could have given that status to the two sitting NDP MLAs, but a bully doesn’t like to be second guessed, so instead of doing the democratic thing, and providing the people with a critical voice, they made sure that the NDP would not receive any agendas ahead of parliament. They’d be sitting blindfolded.

Bullies are cliquey. Almost right away after the Liberals got elected, Christy Clark was involved in scandal. She made sure that her special friends got priority on BC Rail contracts. This was illegal, of course, and things had to be done to cover it up. Christy Clark got off Scott free, while her associates, Basi and Virk were thrown under the bus.

When you’re down, bullies point and laugh. The outgoing government was ruthlessly attacked for mismanagement of a contract to build fast ferries for the BC coast. Compared to the Liberal’s  mismanagement (for example, the renovation of BC Place and subsequent bungling of an endorsement contract with Telus), it was a drop in the bucket, but the ferries issue was something that they were able to point fingers and howl at. It became one of the major election issues that resulted in the decimation of the NDP government.

After the election,  being the bullies that they are, the Liberals had to rub the NDP’s nose in it. They sold the completed ferries at a fraction of their worth, and purchased new ferries abroad, ensuring that there could be no reminder of NDP industry. Incidentally, the fast ferries missteps were really the learning curve for what surely would have been a vibrant ship building industry in BC, but the Liberals have never been about farsightedness, just about preserving power.

Bullies don’t care about anyone else’s needs. They just do what they want, even if it’s illegal. Not long into their first mandate, they illegally tore up public sector contracts in both the education and health care sectors. They kicked down a lot of good people, decreasing wages, cutting services.

In both cases they were sued and they lost, costing taxpayers billions of dollars in restitution and legal costs, and worse, demeaning a lot of good people (mostly women) in the process.

Bullies blame victims. In health care, especially when it comes to vulnerable people, the BC Liberals have been heartless. Children with special needs in schools have lost services. The mentally ill have lost services. The poor and the homeless (often mentally ill themselves) have lost services. But the bullies don’t care. They don’t have much sympathy for the losers in the learning support room, or the druggies on the street.

If you cross a bully, you’d better watch out. The bullies will ruin your reputation. I’ve never seen a worse example of mean-girl cruelty than the time the BC Liberals had contracted scientists to study the effects of certain pharmaceuticals. The researchers found evidence that stood to harm the bottom line of a pharmaceutical company that just happened to be a huge Liberal donor.

The Liberals had the researchers fired, but not being satisfied with having them gone, they wanted to hurt them. They engaged in a smear campaign, accusing the researchers of falsifying their results. The researchers sued, and received huge settlements, of course. All  except for one of them, a PhD candidate, who, having had his reputation destroyed, killed himself.

And of course, like the bullies they are, they stood there shrugging. They pretended to involve the police, and refused to discuss the issue lest doing so prejudice the police investigation. It turned out they were lying (Bullies lie.) and that there had never been any police investigation. Roderick MacIsaac’s suicide note mysteriously disappeared. And they refused to open a public inquiry, instead preferring to have an ombudsperson look into things, against the wishes of the victims.

Bullies buy friends if they can’t win them through intimidation and fear mongering. I have never seen such a plethora of pre-election promises from an incumbent government. It’s as if they’ve secretly agreed with their opposition the whole time.

The only way to beat bullies is to stand up to them. This spring we have an opportunity for a fair fight. We need to take their power away on election night.

The Goldner Report on VSB – biased and myopic.

The investigation by Roslyn Goldner on allegations of a toxic work environment is not at all conclusive, and is itself controversial. The report is flawed on several bases.

First of all, it was prepared by a lawyer, when the issues really should have been investigated by a workplace psychologist: someone who has better credentials for understanding workplace dynamics.

Second, the report is written from a biased point of view. Most of the incidents that it cites as evidence of a toxic work environment relate to activism by Vision trustees on behalf of citizens. In emphasizing these incidents as negative impacts, the report takes a position on the role of a school board, preferring a “stewardship model” to an advocacy model of board responsibility.

Although the report doesn’t detail what is meant by stewardship, one can only assume the definition to include fiduciary responsibility to Ministry of Education policy –in other words, a sycophantic obedience to superiors rather than a bold representation of the desires of the electorate. To that end, Goldner failed to investigate the financial pressures imposed by the Ministry of Education that were the toxin that saturated the whole process.

Furthermore, the report accepts the findings of an audit by Earnst and Young ipso facto rather than considering audit itself as a likely stressor in the work environment. As the Earnst and Young audit was the second audit in as many years inflicted by the Ministry of Education, it is itself a form of bullying that was not addressed at all in Goldner.

The report finds that unlike past school boards, the current board was particularly problematic, but then it fails to describe how the board had changed in composition.

Board trustee Patti Bacchus’ behaviour is repeatedly mentioned in the report as an example of the “bullying” inflicted on the District employees, but Bacchus has been a constant on past boards. The report fails to delve into this issue.

Bullying breeds bullying. If one wants to truly understand the source of bullying, one must investigate far more thoroughly. The report’s failure to provide a context for the alleged bullying must be at least in part attributable to Goldner’s lack of expertise in psychology.

Another problem with the report is its constant negative reference to political agendas of board members. It’s understandable that respondents to the investigation pointed out how board governance was mired in political agendas, but the report fails to disambiguate these agendas.

Agendas are based on belief systems and therefore, they are necessarily political. Agendas are at the heart of policymaking. The trustees were elected based on their stated beliefs, and were required, therefore, to try and influence policy according to those beliefs.

The Vision candidates, who are presented negatively in this report, had an agenda that was at odds with the policy of the current Ministry of Education. Therefore, their mandate was necessarily activist. It was easy for the NPA trustees to present themselves with more equanimity in such a climate. They enjoyed the privilege of being in agreement with the Ministry.

The report connotes democratic activism and disagreement as a negative force. Certainly the political situation was heated. Certainly the School Board employees were placed in a difficult if not impossible position. But this investigation, while being able to point to the symptoms of a toxic work environment, fails to get to the underlying cause.

To get to the cause, Goldner needed to go deeper. She needed to identify the realpolitik that was infecting the education system. She needed to consider the pressure brought to trustees by parents angry at the imminent closures of their children’s schools. She needed acknowledge the anger of teachers, and the frustration of the electorate engendered by the unconstitutional behaviour of government, both of which were stressors on senior staff as well as trustees.

Instead, her report is myopic. It points fingers at well-meaning people who were jealously trying to protect the school system from further decimation by a government bent on privatizing education.