Monday, February 13, 2012

Planes, Amps & Transfer Values

I touch on three things in this post: The Super Vacuum Tube (SVT) bass amp, Synthetic Vision Technology (SVT) avionics and the Single Transferable Vote (STV). These acronyms represent sophisticated systems that hold meaning in my life. And what the heck, I needed a theme for this week!

SVT Bass Amp Even though the name implies a vacuum tube, the SVT I mostly played was a solid-state rig -- the SVT 400T. This was altogether a different beast from the old-school SVT. My amp had a steady sound with the right kind of growl to punch through. I bought this amp brand new around 1990 and it made it through many crazy Nirvana shows. It survived to where I used it on the entire Nevermind recording. Today the amp is a museum piece at the EMP in Seattle. It was pretty worn out by the time we finished the album, and we wound up selling so many records, I bought a new amp! My 400T took many falls off the top of a speaker cabinet but kept right on playing. It could manage a two ohm load and put out enough wattage to power two 2 X 15 cabinets. I remember a show at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor that was so hot, sweaty and beer soaked the amp went thermal and shut off. A few minutes later it cooled off enough and restarted.

I don't know if the vacuum version of the SVT could have held up as much? I used them though, mostly when we were renting gear overseas. I played an old, tube SVT at the Nevermind 20 year benefit concert at the EMP last year. At sound check I knew how to dial it in - press the heavy bass button, dump the midrange then dial in the high end to get the punch. I like these amps as you can hear the tubes blossom.

SVT Synthetic Vision Technology
I have been a pilot for ten years now. I learned to fly on the old fashioned "steam gauges". Those were the analog days, but unlike the debate in music between the merits of analog v. digital, the issue is settled with the benefits of digital and avionics. I love my Garmin G1000 in my Cessna 182T. The craft practically will fly itself and all the pilot has to do most of the time is manage the information system. I recently splurged and upgraded the avionics to include the SVT system. (Here's a video of me flying with the upgrade.)
Perhaps it was a good experience to learn to fly Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) with the old gauges. This made me develop a good sense of situational awareness without a GPS practically holding your hand. The SVT uses GPS information to look like a video game that gives you precise information about terrain in Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC). In other words, when you're flying in a cloud, you know what the ground looks like. However, I can't image flying with the SVT alone. Why would you deviate from controller vectors or the published airways and altitude minimums on a chart? These old fashioned paper tools were created to make your IFR trip safe. Furthermore, determining which safe altitude to fly is central to pre-flight planing - you decide how high to fly over the mountains well before the plane wheels leave the ground.

One of my checklist items on final approach, when I have the field in actual sight, is to turn off the SVT. It shows the runway on short final, and it tends to pop up on the panel. Watching airspeed just before the flare / landing is crucial and it helps not to have a busy panel image flashing in your face.

I think the SVT would be priceless in a forced landing situation at night or in IMC. It could steer you away from hills and other obstacles.

At times the IFR environment can get busy, and anything that lightens the load can help safe flying. That said, nothing beats flying by the rules, along published procedures, or if the weather is so bad - don't fly at all.

STV Single Transferable Vote
This method of elections is at the center of my political work. It is the kind of proportional representation (PR) I want to see more of in the United States. (Check out the great YouTube demonstration of how it works.)

STV is one of the versions of PR that is used in the United States. European democracies tend to use party list PR systems, and there is no tradition of list systems in English speaking countries. STV was devised in England in the mid 19th Century as a candidate-based way to to give both the minority and majority a seat in government. It soon spread to Ireland and Australia where it has been used to this day in national elections. It is also used in Scotland for local elections.

STV was introduced in the US over one hundred years ago and gained traction in the progressive era. Like non-partisan ballots and open-primaries, STV was a reform that took on the problems of political machines and bossism in the single-member district or ward. It did so by offering voters the opportunity to choose multiple candidates that win seats in multi-member districts. Voters rank candidates in order of preference. Parties would nominate their candidates - but voters could choose the candidates they preferred regardless of party. You could choose candidates of various parties or even independents!

STV gained a lot of traction mostly in the major cites of Ohio. New York City used the system also. The Oregon State constitution was amended to explicitly accommodate it.

The system worked really well and the party bosses hated it. This meant there was a repeal on the ballot in these jurisdictions almost every year STV was in use. The insiders also tried to sue, but the courts have found it constitutional.

It was in the civil rights era and the Red Scare which created the conditions that brought down STV. Since it gave a voice to minorities, more blacks were getting elected. This caused "whisper" campaigns about the need to dump STV. In NYC, a couple of communists were elected and that gave opponents an opening. Like throwing boiled spaghetti against a wall, opponents lobbed anything they could against this reform to see what would stick. It was called Mussolini voting, or Stalin voting. The criticisms mounted in the ugly environment of racial tensions and nationalistic paranoia. STV ultimately fell in most places in the US except Cambridge Massachusetts, where it's still used today. Minneapolis just started using it for some elections though!

There's a derivative of STV called Ranked Choice Voting (among other titles). Those who are interested in promoting this reform, need to be aware of the history of preferential ballots in the USA and how over the top some critics can be.

No election system is perfect but the Single Transferable Vote is a sophisticated vote counting method that provides voters wide open choices. STV accommodates political association at no expense to independent minded voters. It takes the power away from the partisan gerrymanders aligned with the new political party / super PAC machines to put it where it belongs - in the hands of voters.

So there you have it! Three areas of my life with similar initials. Thanks for reading my blog. 

For more information on history of the Single Transferable Vote, check out the source I used in this post --- Proportional Representation & Election Reform in Ohio K. L. Barber, Ohio State University Press ISBN 0-8142-0660-3


  1. hey tu! puedes traer de vuelta al viejo krist ??? no se si te recuerdas de este chico: si ese mismo el del video que con su banda me hizo tener esperanza.. de creer que uno puede ser lo que sea por favor si lo si viste el video y te recordo algo contestame :DD saludos desde paraguay tu amigo :PP cristian :)

  2. Soy mismo persona, pero mucho mejor.

    1. me alegro por usted ! mis respetos es de las pocas personas ala que puedo decir que respeto nunca lo pude ver en vivo por que tengo 16 años pero solamente queria decirle que es una gran persona y se merece todo lo mejor saludos y gracias por contestar! perdon que escriba en español mi ingles es muy malo :PP

    2. Im unfamiliar with how blogs or replies work, never even been on one before this, can i give you a way to pm each other, id like to send you an album to listen to would mean the world to me, on a thread related topic, have you heard of, heard live, played, know anything about verellen (i think thats the brand) amps? I saw one clip on tv and they tout themselves as different, id never heard of them, thanks, kc

  3. Emmanuel Hidalgo:

    Hey krist, really good blog, i am a great fan of your career, and also I really love your music, here in Costa Rica we admire you!!

    A big hug from Costa Rica!!!!

  4. Awesome, awesome video of the SVT controller. Nice to see you having so much fun. Great blog post and thanks for sharing.


    You explained the background of the STV method very well. Now I am probably being paranoid and over the top, plus I did not know that Cambridge uses this method. But...

    What happens in STV if I think only one person is qualified to hold the office that is up for a vote? I would only vote for one person, once, or the same person three times? Do the rules "force" me to pick two other names or can I write in names and "waste" a proportion of my vote?

    Considering it took two minutes to count 36 votes. How long does it take to count 10 million? I assume that is when technology kicks in and no one will be able to figure out how anyone got elected when 1/16 of their vote went to the winner.

    In spite of the previous success the method enjoyed many years ago I need to see more evidence how this can be mixed with internet technology on a larger scale in todays very partisan news media.

  5. Hi Krist
    Am Nirvana's biggest fan I love Kurt and your Music..

  6. And you're a pilot? You seriously keep getting cooler and cooler by the second. I love visiting WA, and I can tell you right now if by the 1 in a billion chance I see you up there (I'm from yehaw Texas) you can expect a hug for being so awesome.

    My Dad is a pilot so I've been flying in 172/182s with him for some time now, I've always wanted to learn/get my license. Or learn to fly helicopters because that seems super badass.

    Rock on Krist, love your blog!

    PS, please make sure the EMP never ever takes down the Nirvana exhibit.

  7. When I was taking classes at my community college I gave a speech on Instant Runoff Voting in my public speaking class. provided me with a lot of the info that I needed. I even printed off brochures that people could take with them. I got an A on that speech and people seemed to be generally interested in the idea. I think for the most part people are interested but when it comes to fighting the big guys enthusiasm can deflate quickly.

  8. Nirvana is my favourite band and I'm a pilot,so this was a great read! Thanks Krist!

  9. Can you email me if i leave a song page for you to go then u can email me, i dont want to disrepect your page too badly by posting my email without consent, google my name if you have time, i am my own pet virus,

    kwin cymons

    its become sort of a ghost in the industry,

  10. Hola Krist!! que significa C.H.A.K.A? en el bombo(bass drumm) de dave..=P