$4M in Cocaine Found in Bean Cans

The Canada Border Services Agency, in Halifax, says its officers seized 32 kilograms of cocaine, after finding the drugs hidden in a shipment of beans, from Cartagena, Colombia. Two men from the Montreal area face charges. Border officials say they found the drugs in 122 cans, with false bottoms, during a routine container search on 01 Oct. Dominic Mallette, the agency's chief of operations in Nova Scotia, said, according to News Bite press release, though Colombia is known for drug exporting, it wasn't the reason for the search. "We do, often, target for those countries, but in this case, we were not, necessarily, targeting for the fact it was coming from there," Mallette said. "It just happened to be a good, random examination". 

He said thanks to state-of-the-art equipment, officials were able to see the contents of some of the cans were more dense than they should've been, had they been carrying beans alone. "They put in the cocaine in there, put a false bottom to close it, then added sand". The cans were in a shipment destined for a legitimate food importer in Saint-Jerome, Quebec. Border officials called RCMP, and an investigation was launched. Federal officials estimate the drugs are worth $4 million, on the street, which Mallette said is about average for the size of seizures the Port of Halifax sees. He estimated the seizures happen four to five times a year. "I wish it was every day, but it's not," he said. The names of the men charged have not been released.

Mr. Robert Barron, Esq.

This is another example of my weird / eccentric, possibly mental illness-spawned sense of humor. One of the hallmarks of my sense of humor is the creation of characters. Like a television sketch comedy show, i have recurring characters that i bring up for certain situations, turns of conversation, political debates, etc. Whenever some discussion arises regarding a seemingly obvious solution to an endemic problem, say for instance single payer healthcare, i tend to trot out this character called Mr. Robert Barron, esq. He’s a fat and balding 19th century Robber Baron (hence the name) dressed in a 3 piece worsted wool suit with a gold pocket chain watch and a monacle, who at the mention of absolutely any form of government intervention in remedy of a social ill, pipes up in a stentorian, patrician baritone: “but... that would be so-see-all-izzum!“ Inevitably when Mr. Robert Barron, esq. speaks out, there are one of three reactions: (1) nervous laughter, (2) sighs of resignation, or (3) enthusiastic nodding. I wonder if any of you have recurring characters, like billy crystal’s “paprikosh” man in “when harry met sally”, or Jerry Seinfeld’s obnoxious “hel-looo!” guy. I have several of these characters that i allow to express themselves from time to time. this may in fact be a coping mechanism of some sort, but i doubt that it is a sign of real mpd because they do not “take over” my consciousness, leaving me with periods of blackout. As far as i know.

It Is More than Just Subsidy

In the past 2 weeks, all that has filled our airwaves, media and social networks has been the raging issue of fuel subsidy withdrawal. The debates for and against are ever on-going, with those against unarguably being the larger numbers. Personally, I started by being vehemently against its removal as indicated in in this October blog post of mine. After reading endless articles and engaging in debates about it, offline and online, I somewhat shifted ground a bit in my next article about it. I gradually shifted to being somewhat for it, this article by Sanusi Lamido finally got me convinced about supporting the withdrawal. The article answered for me all my questions and reservations. My main bone of contention is the timing of the withdrawal, as January is the worst month to do so. Families are coming from Christmas spending, and thinking about paying for school fees, and now, they have to face price hikes almost across board. The earlier agreed date would have been much better. This is not to say that this removal would not have brought about such opposition, because any tampering with fuel price is always unpopular. The concerns of those against it are very legitimate: 

Widespread poverty, endemic corruption in the system, it being the only welfare people receive from their wealth. This is also because NLC as a body is opposed to any price hike from an ideological perspective. Fast forward to today, and after endless negotiations, the Federal Government has shifted ground and has pegged the price at N97/litre. Not only that, the Ministry of Petroleum has also announced moves to probe the importations and allegations of corruption, as well as pressure the National Assembly to pass the long-awaited Petroleum Industry Bill. Not only that, the President and cabinet is now making cuts in their pay, starting from a 25% cut in salaries, though tiny considering that allowances are the bulk of the pay, it is a start nonetheless. This represents a victory. From day one, I realized that 65/litre as an official price is gone forever. Not only that, it takes someone who is either very sure of what he is doing or totally devoid of wisdom and leadership skills to look at the strong opposition to such policy move and still go on with it. I would like to give the President the benefit of doubt that he belongs to the first group, knowing the catastrophic effect this would have on Nigeria should this fail.

The Orchardist

The Orchardist is a book that is at peace with violence as a fact of life closely seated near beauty. The characters face horrific tragedy and the plot revolves around it. The prose is not over-emotional, yet it is pregnant with emotion through the personages, who are like cartoon characters reactions to what they face and the descriptive nature of certain passages. (I sighed over certain passages for the sheer beauty). The plot is strong but it isn’t the sole focus. The focus instead is the people, their inner worlds, their regrets, their private hopes, the truths they face about themselves and one another. Present within the text is a recognition that life is ugly, and that within that horrific lack of beauty is a potential for love that is bounded in the things we face, and the truths we reveal to one another, and what we can withstand. Secrets begin the tale, but it is within those secrets that love is planted. Yet the author maintains distance throughout. Quotation marks are left off all dialogue, creating the sensation that we are remembering the book rather than reading it. Violence, and joy too, is smoothed by the aloofness created by this muffing out of speech. It’s difficult at times to be certain if the characters are speaking now.

Or if we are listening in on their story a hundred years later. This distance from the action creates a faraway texture that intrigues me: violence is refined, buffered. We are made to receive the tale through the characters' memories, through each of their jaded and all-too-human perspectives. In contrast, the descriptive moments are as close as a leaf dripping with dew filling an entire canvas. Life is in the little moments, this says to me. Life is in the beautiful. Contrast is created by the placement of scenes, as well. At one point a joyful campside scene at twilight is contrasted with a scene of violence and a hollowing out of hope that shatters the prior sweetness. It's in those quick contrasts that the author creates her tension and speaks her point: that it’s the butting up of violence against love that births memories, and it’s the memories, the emotions, the love that makes a life. Especially in the middle of the book, chapters come by so quickly the author risks losing her audience as she flicks between characters, perspectives and memories. But she never lost me. Euphoric hope collides with loss which melts into the rebirth of hope. Cathartic.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I’ve just moments ago finished Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban! So very good! I have piles and piles of books I need to read, so I hadn’t planned to pick up the next in the series for a few months at least. When I finished tonight, I felt this sad “Aw, I want the next installment” feeling and remembered that most people read this book for the first time with the amazing knowledge that the next installment didn't exist yet, which makes me want to wait just to have to suffer along with the rest of the world, a few years into the future. This is definitely my favorite in the series so far. I love how Rowling opens and closes each book in Muggle world, almost like a theater curtain rising and falling. She’s reminding us that Harry lives in a fanciful world, and that his next experience at Hogwarts there will wait for his readers. When I finish one of the books, I feel like the house lights have gone on and I’m reminded it’s 2012 and I’m a Muggle! I love all the contrast of innocence versus evil, and emotion and depth versus magic and action in this book. I love the intrigue throughout, and the intricate “I didn’t see that coming” finishes! The plot had me hooked pretty quickly (though I do feel restless when a book starts at the Dursleys’ house; I want to get back to Hogwarts). This book felt less funny to me than the first two, which I confess I was dreading a bit. People told me Books 3 and 4 veer away from the “children’s literature” feel, but I love children’s literature. So I sort of worried the books would become dull. The humor in the first two books really made me laugh. Earwax and vomit jellybeans!

The humor is comparatively minimal in this book. (Although the talking mirror made me laugh!) There’s much more tension among Harry, Ron and Hermione. I noticed some hormones in Harry at one of the quidditch matches when he looked at a girl, so I assume that element of his story will build as the books go forward. I haven’t felt much like reading for a few weeks (preferring to write), so this book has sat on my bookcase gingerly loved for nearly a month, half read. I finished the bulk of it today, under an afghan and a cat, racing through the pages. I cried at the big quidditch game, and at some of what happens at the end of the book. Not sobs or anything, but I got misty-eyed! Rowling really, really knows how to sweep up a reader in story! I’m never disappointed by how she wraps up all the loose strings. She’s a keen story-teller! And Hogwarts, amidst all of the terrible villains, is a cozy place filled with friends of valor and honor. My goodness, no wonder so many people like these books. It’s like... reliving your school days in a castle with heroic friends and a magic wand and intrigue every two steps, and this overpowering sense that you are a hero unrealized. To grow up on these books would have been amazing. I would have read them and wondered out the window during history class if there was ever really a Hogwarts under London, and if one day I might turn out to be a great wizard that a whole other half of the world believes saved fate.

The 555-Timer Circuit

In a previous post I’ve talked about my new found hobby, that being electronic engineering. Been reading some really interesting literature about electronics lately and recently I came across the majestic 555-timer integrated circuit or the IC. What’s so cool about it it’s that his popularity makes it really cheap to purchase and easy to use. On the market there is also a dual version of this! It’s called the 556 and includes two independent 555’s. So! That being boring enough, let’s talk about what it does and what you can build using it! You’ll notice that the pins of the 555 are not dispersed in the same order as the actual electronic chip, so that you can easily recognize what function each one of them has and also majestically simplifying the drawing of an actual diagram, if you choose or need to create one! For the 555 to function properly it needs both electronic techniques: analog and digital, but you’ll find that it is actually categorized as a digital device circuit because of its output. At any given time, the output can be at “low state”, which is at 0v, or at “high state” which usually means the maximum that your power switch can provide, that being around 18v! There are a few common types of 555 outputs and their names will give you some hints about what they actually do! These are: outputs in the monostable mode (the 555 works as a “one-shot” circuit, for example :timers, bouncefree switches, touch switches, frequency dividers, pulse-width modulation or PWM etc.), astable mode outputs (or also called the free running mode, the timer works as an oscillator so think LEDs, flashing lamps, security alarms and pulse position modulation.), and last but not least the Schmitt trigger mode (the timer operates as a flip-flop, usually light switches and such), more information about this you can find on www.electroschematics.com/555-circuits/.

Kevin Dubrow

Quiet Riot singer Kevin DuBrow died, drummer Frankie Banali confirmed in a post on his Web site. DuBrow was 52 years old and the official cause of his death has yet to be determined. "I can't even find words to say," Banali wrote. "Please respect my privacy as I mourn the passing and honor the memory of my dearest friend Kevin DuBrow." DuBrow's body was discovered on Sunday inside the rocker's Las Vegas home. According to those close to the singer, DuBrow celebrated his birthday last month in New Orleans and seemed to be in good health. Quiet Riot bassist Kelly Garni has asked fans to be patient for details on the singer's death. "I ask this to all of you not only for myself but for other friends and family," Garni wrote, in a message posted to a Web site honoring the memory of Quiet Riot founding member Randy Rhoads. "I ask that no one here offer any speculation or opinions, theories or other things that could be construed as negative or, and I'm sorry for this, even sympathetic, right at this immediate time. I am already, within hours of this, having to deal with untrue rumors and speculation. 

And that only adds fuel to that. There is a tendency for the subject of Kevin to incite flames on every board, and now is not the time for that. I will explain to everyone here the facts and the truth in the next 24 to 48 hours as I realize this will affect us all. So please, until then, be patient. All details and other pertinent info will be passed on to you here when it becomes available to me." Bill Chavis, owner of Chavis Records, the label that issued Quiet Riot's last LP, 2006's Rehab, also confirmed the news. "DuBrow's body was found by friends on Sunday, November 25, in his Las Vegas home," reads the label's site. "As I mourn his death with a heavy heart, I will remember hearing his voice and the music for the very first time on the radio back in 1983. I will remember all the great music Kevin and Quiet Riot gave to so many of us over the years and I will say, 'Thank you, Kevin. May you rest in peace." Credited with helping to launch the 1980s glam-metal scene, Quiet Riot are perhaps best known for their cover of Slade's "Cum on Feel the Noize," which appeared on 1983's Metal Health and eventually peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album was the first by a metal band to reach the chart's #1 position. 

Facts About Chanel

Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel (born August 19, 1883 - died January 10, 1971) is considered to be one of the greatest fashion designers of the twentieth century. While men were dividing the world through wars, Coco Chanel invented and gave us the weapons with which we may be able to conquer them all: the short black dress and a drop of No. 5. She was the one who changed completely and irreversibly the image of the modern woman, causing a real revolution in fashion and attitude. According to her biographers, Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel was born in 1883 in Saumur. When she was only six years old, Gabrielle lost her mother. Her father, left alone with five children, abandons them soon in the care of relatives. Gabrielle was raised by two aunts on a secluded area in the province of Auvergne. Affected by the early death of her mother and the abandon of her father, she always maintained that Auvergne is her real birth place. Gabrielle received here a traditional education, her aunts teaching her that a young woman should know how to sew, have a nice conduct and behave politely.

When she turned 17, the state takes guardianship over her and sends her to an orphanage at a monastery in Moulins. The simplicity of the nuns clothing influences Gabrielle in her future career, one of her main purposes being the creation of simple, comfortable, stylish clothes. Gabrielle changes her name into Coco during a brief career as a cabaret singer between 1905 and 1908. In this period she becomes the mistress of a military officer and after that the one of an English industrialist. In 1912 she meets Arthur "Boy" Capel, who helps her to open a clothing store in Paris. But the real blow comes in the late 1920’s, during the Great Depression, when, with the help of Capel, she opens her first famous boutique on 31 Rue Cambon. She extends her business shortly after that to Deauville and Biarritz. From 1912 until 1920, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel rises step by step through the Parisian designers. Her relaxed fashion style, with simple dresses and suits, stockings, jewelry, perfume and textiles slowly conquers the market.

Chanel’s fashion style is characterized by simple elegance, sophistication and convenience. Inspired by men clothing, that are casual and easy to wear, and by the uniforms and the equipment of athletes, Chanel brought in women fashion the neck sweaters, the sailors printings and molded knit or jersey dresses, jersey being used until then only as a material for masculine underwear. In 1922, Chanel launches her famous perfume "Chanel No. 5", which remains until now the company's most profitable product. In 1929, she made a collection of accessories, which include shoes, jewelry, handbags, scarves and belts. Of particular importance is the striking jewelry, which is meant to contrast with the minimalist dress clothing. In 1931, Chanel is employed by Samuel Goldwin, which offers her a million dollars to dress Hollywood stars including Katherine Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor and Gloria Swanson. In his book, "Coco Chanel, Innovator and Icon", Joseph Aime described her as the most influential and innovative fashion designer. About Coco, Christian Dior said: "With a black sweater and a few strings of pearls she managed to revolutionize fashion". More strange and interesting history facts you can read from www.strange-facts.info.

New Year, New Toy

It's been a while, but I'm still around. The holidays are over and life is returning to something of a regular pace. I have yet to get back to painting on a regular basis. It's been difficult for me to concentrate on it due to life (and death) happening. I'm brimming with ideas and ready to move on, though. One thing that made the past couple of months good was the purchase of a digital camera. I'm having a good time figuring out the settings and just taking photos. I've begun a series of sorts recently, using a room at work as my subject. The series is called, "White Room", there are about 13 so far. I'll be posting them here once a day, I guess. They are numbered, but they'll be out of order.