Let’s decide all future presidential contests via the World Series. Every fourth year, the winning manager gets the keys to the White House. The entire campaign is condensed to two weeks or less. We get a proven leader of men as President. Less money. Better outcome.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve been a committed journal keeper for some time now (daily, since July 2012). I didn’t note there a paired set of related experiences, both on this trip…
With a few days of loosely organized time available to me upon arrival in Singapore, I decided to catch up on some missed entries for the prior week or two. (Usually, I record my thoughts on the day they occur; on occasion, if I’ve missed a day or two, I’ll reach back and fill in those gaps — using my email and calendar to help my memory pull up events and thoughts from those recent days.)
I use Day One as my journal software. Simple, clean, elegant, and with excellent cloud-based sync facilities across devices (Mac, iOS) — it’s a great app.
When I opened it in Singapore, and clicked over to its calendar view, I found that not only were the expected recent gaps present… but a large number of days from earlier periods. Panic. Syncing glitch? Drop Box problem? Operator error?
After a hour or so confirming that the gaps were in fact there (not just on my MacBook Air, but on my iPad and iPhone as well)… and settling on a rational hypothesis as to root cause (my erasure of a number of “duplicate” entries reported in a Drop Box warning message a few months ago), I committed myself to the task of, using email, calendar, and fuzzy memory, filling in all of those missing entries — over the past three years.
Several hours later, on a Sunday morning — mission accomplished. No more gaps. (Yes, a few of the back-filled entries were little more than fillers — but no more gaps.)
Fast forward a few days. Now in Thailand. Opened Day One. Gaps. GAPS!!!
Somehow, just then, rational thought pushed its way past my rapidly gathering panic though… with just enough strength for an “Aha” moment…
I was in Thailand, half a world, and as many ticks of the clock, away from California. Day One uses system time on its host to assign posts to days in its database, and its Calendar. When I changed system time on my devices to reflect my locale, all entries that would have been recorded in an adjacent day if, at the time I wrote them I was then in Thailand — were now showing as if I had. A whole bunch of “Thursday” entries, made within 12 hours of midnight, became “Friday” entries.
If there were no other Thursday entries — gap. Switch system time back to home time — no gap.
I’ve kept a journal, more or less faithfully, for years now. Here are my entries for the past two days. First…
Tuesday, 17 March George Town, Malaysia
Ellie tried her best to kill me this day, arranging a walking tour, led by an unknown distant Malay relative of the Marquis de Sade. Tiny little thing. Seemed friendly enough. Wrong. Vicious to the core.
The day started with a breathless, interminable, climb of at least 900 feet vertical (seemed double that) in 90 degree, 90% humidity to a temple, Kek Lok Si (which, I think, translates to “house of the smiling new widow”), in the central highlands of George Town…
… then proceeded to two museums, each converted from the homes of their last residents, both Chinese, both owing their wealth to an admixture of speakable and unspeakable ventures in the last century.
Both patriarchs are certainly smiling now, each enjoying their respective glorious and final rewards, at the sight of busloads of tourists sweating in the unrelenting tropical climate, as tales of their business acumen and spectacular accomplishments are related… at… great… never ending… length.
Wednesday,18 March Phuket, Thailand
Having been unsuccessful in arranging for my demise yesterday in George Town Malaysia, Ellie redoubled her efforts today.
Response to a weather report, optimistically pegged at 94 degrees, 90% relative humidity?
Says Ellie, “Great, let’s take an open-to-the-elements boat trip, bound for sights that would have been spectacular, but for the unfavorable tides… and then go walkabout” on a couple of islands whose most memorable features may just have been the souvenir vendors, all in row (at “James Bond Island”) or in a rabbit warren of stalls (in the floating “Muslim Village”), who, in their torpor, did not even mount an honest effort at peddling their wares.
Next most memorable thing? The tour director emphasizing each opportunity to use a toilet.
A closing observation: it’s interesting how, as one advances beyond the flowering of youth, just how much effort you expend, given hours on a small craft crammed with near contemporaries clad in shorts and tees, trying to find favorable points of comparison between one’s physique and those of shipmates.
Post Post Confession: the history was actually rather interesting on day one, and the scenery spectacular on day two, and I enjoyed both in the end, (much as aficionados of S&M must enjoy their special pleasures).
Finally, I was able to confirm to my great relief that, despite suspicions to the contrary, Ellie has NOT taken out a large life insurance policy on me.
This is a place with a great deal of turbulent history. It sits at a strategic crossroads of the overlapping and competing trade routes of many empires, as they’ve surged and receded over the millennia.
After a founding period where indigenous peoples, comprising hunter gatherers from the north, who arrived forty some odd thousand years ago, and agrarian cultures from Indonesia, or perhaps Taiwan (by the latest theory), coalesced into the Malay people here… the game was afoot.
Arabs, then Indians, first pushed into the area, attracted by the prospect of a seabourn alternative to the land-based Spice Road (and its Mongol overlords). They were followed by the Portuguese, around the peak of their maritime empire, then by the Dutch, and finally the English — the latter two each with their own East Indian Trading Companies.
Straits of Malacca
All of that economic value passed through these waters, a natural chokepoint in the configuration of land around the confluence of the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. Those who controlled them had the opportunity to establish a lucrative maritime toll booth… and that’s just what they did… typically in some form of power and revenue-sharing partnership with the local Malay sultanates.
Kuala Lampur (“KL”) was born of the wealth thrown off by this process.
Today’s shore excursion involved a 90 minute bus ride, each way, to visit this most modern make-over of the city with that history behind it. Until recently, it was the home to the world’s tallest buildings, the “other” twin towers.
I decided instead, quite strategically I thought, to defend the port, the ship, and its liquid possesions (in particular), from any possible attack.
I took a high ground position (Deck 9), and prepared to mount a stout defense against all comers. Alas, as of this writing my good friends, they have not arrived. Must have gotten word of my superior position and resolve.
I can now retire to the evening’s festivities, proud in the knowledge that I kept the Straits of Malacca safe, at least for now, for thirsty travelers from all corners of the globe.
They start arriving an hour or so after sunrise, to a place where fisherman gather well earlier still. But their interest lies not in boats and tackle. They are car people, drawn to this place by the love of fast, exotic, beautiful or otherwise interesting machines, and by the others who share their passion.
Some roll up in Porsches, others in Ferraris, many in vintage examples of American muscle. Some of their rides are fresh from a showroom, others lovingly restored. Some stock, some customized. Some old, others new. All reflect the pride of their owners as clearly as they do the bright morning light on this Sunday in April.
I've been to more than a few motor sports events, on both coasts. (I'm a car guy too.) While the spoken accents and event incidentals vary, it's a fact that car people are, well, car people.
At The Quail in Carmel Valley, the dress runs from California upscale casual to dead-on period costume, food is served by a half dozen area gourmet restaurants accompanied by champagne and martinis (before noon — very civilized). Vintage fighter planes do flyovers and music from a quartet of bands plays throughout the day.
Here, in the parking lot at Captree State Park, on Long Island's south shore, the dress tends toward leather jackets and wind-breakers, the bagels and bialeys from the facility's cafeteria style restaurant are washed down by coffee appreciated as much for its hand warming properties as its taste, and the side show is of late-starting fishing boats leaving to try their luck on today's catch.
But, whether holding flutes of bubbly or carrying their "cawfee," car folks at these meets do pretty much the same thing.
First, they arrange for a suitable spot to display their toy. In The Quail, that's all set in advance, and events personnel guide the way. Here, it's first come, first serve for the best spots (although one imagines that the regulars may have the benefit of an understanding on certain of those — and groups of friends will stake out adjacent slots for their later-to-arrive buddies.)
Then, folding chairs are deployed. Even those are the subject of mutual interest and individual pride. "Look, it comes with this attachment for your stuff, and folds into the size of a laptop," explained the fellow three slots to the west, upon erecting a particulary impressive model, just withdrawn from the front compartment of his maroon Ferrari 460.
Polishing comes next, always polishing. On this day I was a bit self-concious at this stage, since my friend Tim's suggestion to participate arrived too late the evening before, by txt, to allow for the washing away of the effects of last week's rain. Photoshop, in this record of events, serves as a handy alternative:
Strolling about, by participants and visitors grouping and re-grouping into small circles to talk cars and equipment, then commences and continues for the two hours of the event, a sort of unofficial duration here. A longer, more officially delimited period exists at the decidedly professionally produced event in California. Among the regulars, there's an easy camaraderie. Newcomers, like me, are accepted warmly.
On this particular day, a less welcome element was added to the routine. Presumably driven by a desire to do their regiment's bit in reducing New York State's impressive deficit, four or five state troopers, deployed in a phalanx near the entrance to the facility, busied themselves pulling over arriving participants who failed to have mounted the front license plate mandatory here. Easy pickings, since very few of us like to see the frontal aspect of our babies defaced with government signage.
"Want one? They're giving them away for free," explained another Ferrari owner, unfolding the white rectangular summons for examination.
"Hot car tax," commented a Porsche owner, another beneficiary of state attention.
The best social commentary award, actually said with a smile and genuine good humor in an accent fresh from Brooklyn, went to another, who added definitively, "They found the bodies of four young women buried in the sand a few miles up the road. Case still not solved…. and they're here, doing this?" (True story, sadly.)
It proved to be that comments on priorities were best kept to among friends. One unlucky fellow, apparently upon opining to "his" officer directly, found his prize vehicle being readied for flat-bed transport to a state lock-up shortly after.
But the best response of all, one in keeping with the "boys and their toys" spirit of the event, went to the owner of a brand new red Porsche Boxter Spyder, who proudly spent the morning showing off his remote-controlled front license place retractor. Driving around town or at the meet? Keep the plate tucked away out of sight, neatly folded in below the air dam. At risk of official attention? Press the button on your key fob, and the plate slides up into place. Nice, a bit reminiscent of Bond:
Since I wasn't 100% sure of the legal situation as would relate to my California-registered and rear-only plated car, I decided to take advantage of a peak in enforcement activity occupying the entire local contingent in upholding the laws of the land, to make my exit. The morning was getting late, and I had to get the car washed anyway…
Later that afternoon, at an upscale shopping area on Long Island's north shore, about to get into my car to retrieve Ellie from the other end of the complex, I was interrupted (pleasantly) by an older couple, who wanted to know about it, how I thought it handled compared to related models, and to let me know that there is a concours at the center in October. As I said, car people are car people…
Fact One: I'm on the Incubation Board at my company, and chair the subcommittee responsible for raising the internal profile and encouraging the use of our "OpenIdea Portal," a tool to allow all of our employees to post, comment on and rate ideas for innovation.