General Stuff

Well this last week I finally managed to publish my first book to Kindle :-) It’s the first of several volumes telling an adult story of life change and as such published under a pseudonym. There are several things I’m writing, some will be under the TWBrit name and a couple under my real name, one of which is a memoir of my time at St.George’s which is in full swing. The cool bit was that I sold two copies of the book on the first day!! So…. I iz an Orrrrrtherr :) However, its early days and it takes about 3 months to get paid from Kindle.

My dental infection is coming back and I really need to jump on this ASAP, so I need to call the dentist today before it fully takes hold (face already swelling). It’s not a surprise sadly, I found myself grinding the old teeth through the last three nights. Note: don’t grind yer teef ;-)

The annual interesting (if not crazy) TWBrit Christmas List to Santa is in the making and readers may recall that for the most part it’s a list of gratuitous boys toys, some of which I I’m sure could only be classed as either lethal or very fattening  – so far the fattening ones have worked. This Thursday should bring the list proper.

Wednesday I’m supposed to be in London, so I’m hoping I can get on top of the dental trouble asap.

I have also been watching the Leveson Inquiry… I’m not saint; I know how the world works and have some knowledge of methodologies of hacking and tapping. Yet I must say; even I have been left stunned by some of the evidence I have heard. It really isn’t for me to comment at the moment, but I would recommend watching some of this or previous evidence given HERE

Published in: on 28 November, 2011 at 12:01  Comments (2)  
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7000 and still building them…

Way back in the mid 1960’s, in fact a year before I was born, some chaps sat down and came up with the idea, then plan, for a short to medium haul jetliner… The original idea at Boeing was actually back in 1958 as they wanted to compete with aircraft like the DC9 and BAC 111. Back then, things were Spartan compared to these days, but for the most part they designed one of the greatest success stories in Aviation history.

Sure, most are still flying, and some dodgy outfits might be running some first generation ones well past the sell by date on the airframes (hence a few of the older ones make the news sadly every now and then), but this aircraft has been constantly updated, redesigned, they’ve even now fitted the 777 glass cockpit to it…

I am of course talking about the most widely sold, ordered, biggest selling civilian commercial aircraft of all time The Boeing 737… And yes, for somewhere between $30 – $40 million you to can enjoy your very own private one – in the form of the BBJ (Boeing Business Jet).

This month, in fact last week and even now sees the 7000th 737 on the production line…

Seriously, I don’t think you can beat that.

Well done Boeing!!

The Picture above is from Boeing’s Flickr and can been seen HERE

Published in: on 19 November, 2011 at 02:08  Comments (6)  
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For some, the Fat Lady is about to sing

I’m not online much this week, but I just popped by briefly to send an email and thought to write this..

Folks who pop by this blog know of this blogs hindrance and help Gabsatrucker.
If you’ve followed any of her exploits on her BLOG or even followed her on Twitter then you won’t be surprised at the news that she’s hanging up her keys.

If you didn’t know, Gabby (all 2ft  1 inch of her), someone I often berate on twitter as a ”Fk’in Leprechaun” ;-) is both a full and half marathon runner, mountain biker, a total geek, a discerning footwear addict and Big Rig trucker..
But for two years solid, she’s been through the ringer with her company, no – nothing she’s done. Basically it’s down to company operations.

She has been hit persistently with mechanical breakdowns, stranded for days in the middle of nowhere, endured temps over 105 f for days on end without a working AC unit, had her personal life totally screwed up, been diverted from her normal dedicated route and sent all over the USA without time to return home for anything and then, besides the grosse daily barrage of sexism, sexual harassment, innuendo and sometimes even fear for her own safety – she was hit with a 20% pay cut…
Yet throughout all this, she has remained professional, courteous and has taken pride in getting her job done and on time. Often to be left on the Mexican border for days waiting for a return load with nothing to do but be left sitting a sauna of a truck and her only security – her small dog Elsie.
Now just to explain to our Brit drivers; as you know, by law we are paid by the hour – a rule that came in with the Tachograph and now Digital Tachograph. The reason being is that to pay someone by the mile increases the likelihood of speeding and rule breaking. Well over in the US, they haven’t quite worked that out yet as they bring in what is widely termed as “E-Logs”.
As such, if you ain’t rolling – you ain’t getting paid…
Yeah, I know – that would cause out right rebellion here… but it’s the way they do things at the moment and that’s that.
So, while suffering the southern Texas heat with a persistently broken, repaired, broken air conditioning and having to simply sit in a truck and wait – it’s not rocket science that this has been detrimental to both her will, health and her stress level (not what you want truckers suffering really). Furthermore, it’s a situation that has been getting much, much worse.
New Dispatchers have made things worse too, trying to talk her out of medical appointments, races, time off – all to get their little (I go home at 5) work done.
Then add the loss of her father and various other personal actions these last few months and you get the picture.

Finally, she found the straw that would break the camels back, and instead of her much needed weekend at home last week, she found herself in sub-zero temps, in snow storms in Rochdale, NY… on the Canadian border – where they have a “No Idle” law… so she wasn’t allowed to heat her truck up to stay warm.

When given the job down in the Laredo, she finally handed in her notice… They still sent her on the run and as this is written, Gabby is sitting on the Mexican border with a return load to home – but has to sit there one final time for 35 hours… as her working hours have run out.

After over 10 years loyal service to her company… this is their final note

It is however fair to say, that most trucking companies (no matter which country you’re in) are backward in standards that are seen as normal in any other industry – this is especially in treatment, support and duty of care to staff and Drivers… They most certainly never realise the people who make them look good.

As for Gabby’s future? Well, retraining and study in Business Management or E-Commerce Consultancy are well and truly on the cards. Whether she takes the certification route or a MBA degree route is to be seen… But she tells me she’d like to study this in the UK, failing this Austin or Toronto are high on the list.
Living proof that most drivers (contrary to popular belief) are a fairly bright bunch. Heck, with friends like Dr. Sue Black who is listed as the 5th most influential woman in the world of technology… I think she’ll do just fine. That said, the support for her actions across the net has been staggering, as too, the huge amount of people who follow her on twitter – whom by all accounts are a rock solid bunch of people!!

So in three days time, the Fat Lady, will most certainly be singing :-)

I would have contemplated a trip over to have a pint down the pub with my newly labelled “bloody lay-about” buddy – but I don’t think they have pubs :-(  Yer see, shoulda stayed British :p

Published in: on 14 November, 2011 at 17:45  Comments (2)  
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The TWBrit: UK Immigration – a Plan

Firstly I believe in the opting out of EU proposals is excellent. And some of the rules we have are archaic and none helpful to the UK national interest. As such, I believe there are some amendments to the rules that should be considered.

1. Via reciprocal arrangement, countries where movement of persons beneficial to UK trade should be relaxed considerably (for their native citizens initially).
2. That English-speaking nations should also fare better in this regards.
3. For nations that are both English-speaking and are of beneficial interest to the UK in trade etc, flight taxes should be lowered or removed to allow greater opportunity and freedom for trade and tourism. Less tax mean more revenue!!
4. Any person in the above category (in consultation and duplicate agreement with another nations, like USA, Canada, Australia and so on) should be allowed to move freely, and be allowed to stay and earn (paying taxes locally) under international visa/license for the countries participating.
5. This in no way negates security, all persons must be initially native citizens of a member nation.
6. In regards to the issues of paying for services like NHS etc, any person staying in the UK who is not paying taxes directly to the UK govt (basically earning here) must provide proof of medical insurance etc at border control points.
7. If we claim a “Special Relationship” with certain nations, it’s about time we showed it, and they in turn to us as well.

As part of our own immigration issues. The UK should not and does not bear any responsibility to any nation beyond the commonwealth and her protectorates. However, the UK has forged very close relationships with nations without making any part of the natural passage between nations any easier at all.
This must now stop, and while security for this nation and participating nations is always of the highest priority – we (at such a time of world trade issues) must free and ease the passage between vital nations to the best of our ability.

The opening of borders in a blanket fashion with the EU has caused massive problems, surely it would be far better to open our borders with nations we want and need to do trade with and for the most part speak the native language.
The UK has always helped citizens of repressive nations, yet is it not time for other countries to take a greater if not equal role in that respect?

These are straight forward ideas, they’re not racist, nor are they irresponsible – they simply open a path for a greater future for this nation and that of nations who are better at adapting to our culture and those interested in trade.

Now, we can faff about with this, or approach it with and can do will do attitude… and make for a far better, safer and economically more viable world – it’s up to you

M5…. Again and getting worse!!

For most people who come by the way of this blog, know that after many years of Comms and IT work, I took a few years out in Devon and for the most part drove a milk tanker for a living..
As such, taking 28,000 ltrs all over the country was the main task, to such places as Oakthorpe, Hanworth, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Taw Valley, Yeo Valley, Droitwich, Severnside, Wyke Farm, Davidstow, Westbury, Castle, Cotswold Dairy, Chadwell Heath, Cadbury’s Bridgwater and oh so many more…

As such I used the M5 a lot, it is after all the main artery to the South West of the UK.
The summer carnage on this road is what brought me to post the very badly written Motorway Driving Survival Guide over there on the right.

But last night, at around 8.25pm and the north bound section of Jnc 25, a 34 vehicle pile-up, a minimum of 7 people died along with over 51 injured…

Why oh why is this not a great surprise to me, or anyone whom actually drives this section of motorway…

Jnc 25 is a place that has always needed a half mile two lane nth bound exit slip.. and a far, far longer entry ramp…

People do for the most part cut in at the very last minute, the roads from the junction are impeded on the Taunton side and single lane into a village on the east side. It is, frankly, at certain times of day and even year, a tough section to drive – even for the most experienced. Add to this, weather, events, short entry ramp on the northbound and an inexperienced driver and you have a continuing catalyst that brings traffic to a grinding halt several times a year in this area due to accidents.

I’ve actually had several near misses there and at the southern turn off for Western Super Mare… is a case where drivers have raced up the 3rd lane and cut across right at the last minute to try and exit onto a stationary and congested ramp… Thus effectively half stopping in the 1st lane… trust me – it’s heart in the mouth stuff…

And for some reason, people joining the motorway believe that they can just come out into the traffic – it’s a Bloody GIVE WAY….

So, while I don’t know what caused this crash, I can say that Taunton, Weston Super Mare and Clevedon Hill have always been places waiting for such carnage to happen.. They are huge fog traps and are highly prone to black ice which I believe I mentioned before, that in the early hours of Christmas morning two years ago, I fought off jack knifing 5 times between Jnc 25 and 26 sth bound.
It’s why I came to hate driving so much and yes, for someone who has driven in most environments in the world, a qualified Land Rover instructor, a class one (CDL) holder and has always enjoyed driving – that’s a bit of a deal.

So, no matter how sad this event is, how much loss and heart ache will be felt over the coming days and weeks because of it…. I’m sadly not surprised at all  :-(

Published in: on 5 November, 2011 at 16:22  Comments (8)  
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The Eagle City and watching the generation of Pain

(do click on pics to expand – most pics taken with a Motorola Atrix 2 phone)

So… after my face finally tried to explode then got better, I jumped on a 747 for DC, thanks to finally having a decent Dentist and his assistant. Into Dulles and transport into DC was straight forward: for the exact fare of $6 (no change given) the 5A bus on the far right of the upper level gets you to the Rosslyn Metro Station… for the Blue and Orange Metro lines..In my case, I was heading to Foggy Bottom and where my first frustration of DC took place. My sense of direction is good in the very worse case… so how did I end up outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy? :(

Well DC Metro could better their “You are here” directional maps and maybe even put a North, East, South, West mosaic on the pavement outside the stations – because it seemed every one was getting lost lol….

Kit dumped, and off in search of food, beer and delights that this city had in… which yielded results in the form of Marshalls Bar and Grill – wonder why I chose that place lol.
The Following day, sunshine was gone and in its place sleet and snow and the presence of the one I’d come to trip up – @gabsatrucker on the 36th USMC Marathon… Then on to apparently pick up what they call “The Packet” in Marathon circles – aka sign in, get your t-shirt and loads of freebies. This took place right across the other side of town at the Stadium Armory.

And what a Marathon…. 30,000 people willing to suffer, including a load of guys from 3 Rifles and 16 Air Assualt..
The 16 Air Assault guys were staying at the same hotel and the locals were bemused to see 12 guys getting ready to run 26 miles with beers and cigarettes… I pointed out that it was just the way things are in the British Army, if you can’t run a marathon drunk – where’s the fun of running a marathon at all  ;)

Washington DC is a bland city in many respects, there aren’t shops obviously located, Malls are so hidden, you walk right by. If it wasn’t for the amazing monuments and its historical and political heart, I fear it’d be boring…

But amongst the bland grey limestone, DC is incredibly colourful… with autumn kicking in fast, the sun rising and illuminating the features of a city known throughout the world… it was a majestic sight and a place of real presence.

The Marathon was getting underway, and the sheer numbers were impressive if not retarding by the sheer mass. In fact I would say that because of it, no one could seriously consider making a good time. The amount of people out cheering was stunning and the support, totally outstanding.

I headed from Arlington Cemetery across the Arlington Memorial Bridge to the Lincoln Memorial…

Cheering crowds behind me I started to come across memorials which for some reason I thought were elsewhere.

First was the Korean War memorial… the statues here tell their own story, and while fantastic to see in this light, I kinda wish there had been a ground mist or mild fog to enhance the atmosphere of it… Awesome…

So I walked on and came across the one memorial you can’t not have heard of… The Vietnam War Memorial.
With so few people around I took my time, looking at the simplicity of this slit in the ground, bearing witness to a hard fought fight for what many believe was a bullshit war… So much so, the veterans had to fight tooth and nail for this memorial and the fact that this place exists at all. It is witness to the determination of those whom witnessed this war first hand and knew it must not be forgotten.

Here the names mean nothing to me at all… (other than the names of the 7th Cavalry) here, a monument that had nothing to do with my own nation and a war that has seen the inside of Hollywood and the butt of much sarcasm… but I can’t help but say that when I drew close to the centre of this place, I became choked…

It’s powerful to stand in the shadow of monolithic black slabs bearing the names that few truly care about.
It’s a message as well as a remembrance… and one we today are so ready to ignore…

The Nam memorial to me – was indeed a moving experience and something a nation should be and is proud of… for every name, there is deep suffering, and you start to feel it standing there. As many of my regular readers may have noted, I have immense respect for the retired Lt General Hal Moore… It is through his experiences and the testimony of his men that I have come to learn so much more about this war and what it was truly about. Yet I cannot, not even for one minute, imagine what these men went through, or how the living must feel when standing here.

On then… and walking east I noticed that in the sun it was warm and in the shade – bloody freezing.. And if I stayed in the sun in any one place too long, I suddenly got cold again… the reason was this…

I never really thought about how big this sucker was – but it’s Bloody HUGE!!!!!

Also with the help of a park ranger we managed to hold my new phone steady enough to zoom in half a mile to grab a pic of the White House – so I didn’t have to walk the mile there and back to get it ;-)

Back to the Marathon and noticing that the USMC really like to fly their helicopters low – at tree top level (especially when it’s a Huey)…
The stream of colour and encouragement that was the marathon, was broken intermittently by the hard punching sound of rock in the form of live bands and on this occasion – the School of Rock itself.. In other areas, there was Blue Grass and just about every style of music being performed live!

Another pic I only just got was of two marines running, one was blind and being chaperoned by his buddy – that to me is dedication and the force of will to carry on, be a part of society and something I just felt moved by.

Gabby stopped by for a photo opportunity (show off) and I headed towards the Metro…
Seriously… The DC Metro, dark, dingy and VERY badly sign posted and probably the worse ticket machines on the planet – lol… If you go, here’s the trick – shove your cash in first ;-)

Off to the finish line where I met loads of amazing people, most looking salty and crusty… I spoke to one guy who was trying to stretch his muscles out. He had come in from Nashville for the race and the night before had proposed to his GF, who also came over – now having a “Just Engaged” label covering her back… Of course as a guy I do know to ask to see her ring ;-) and frankly I can honestly say I really don’t think I’ve seen a rock that large that wasn’t fitted to a royal crown… I can only assume that guy owns a carrot farm ;-)

With @Gabsatrucker finishing I couldn’t help notice the sheer number of US Marines limping…. But being fair, they were accompanied by 30,000 others whom all seemed to have learned the same dance – this is apparently called the MCM Shuffle :-)

One thing I will also add, the Medal for this Marathon was stunning!! Seriously!! even the little blue globe thing spins around – other marathon organisers should take note!!

Well the numbers were large, the organisation was good, the long walk around the Pentagon to the start line yielded some things of interest… a couple of Osprey’s flew over and everyone took pics. It was all very Sci-Fi really with a thought of – that’s the future of modern policing right there..
Another thing was, they apparently don’t like you taking pictures of the Pentagon.. except from the memorial side… But the thing is, no one went past that side and we were far enough from the building to honestly state that all sides look exactly the same – but apparently it’s ok to to take pics of the prime area of where terrorists prefer to attack…
Basically, in Washington I became all too aware (as did some of the 16 Air Assault guys) that they are paranoid about security and frankly know fk-all about it… I would elaborate, but that would be just wrong.

But in no way is this a whinge, DC is great… the people are fantastic and true to fine American hospitality at its very best; Gabsatrucker got booted and suited after the Marathon and took me to dinner and showed me around and got me to see and do all I wanted.

A great weekend, good to catch up with Gabby again (after all, she bought the food – yet…. no cake) and the one thing i’ll remember is DC is a city of bright colours :-)

Back to Dulles for me, sit staring at the BA 777 until such time to board… It turned out we had a helluva following wind and hit London in 5.5hrs!! doing 760 mph only to sit in a stack for what seemed like an eternity…

I was brought to the attention of this when I heard someone state “but a 777 can’t go this fast”  We soon reduced speed – but it left me wondering what the structural limit of the 777 truly is.

Hey ho, life’s like that lol…

Especially after Gabby posted this picture of me looking bewildered around Rosslyn when I really try to stay anonymous ;-)


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