Something for Christmas that we’re kinda proud of…

Due for release any time now:  Saving Bletchley Park by Dr Sue Black. 51gLwiNPbvL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_
And we promote this for two very good reasons!!

Firstly it’s a damn good and very down to earth read of a fascinating story of Sue Black’s efforts to successfully save the place that saved our entire nation and millions of lives worldwide told by the person who did it with the power of social media.

Secondly: As our RWiR site (link on the right) we didn’t design the book cover, but we did spend a long time preparing the images for it, many were phone taken photos we had to get to print quality.

Our input was minor compared the time and efforts put into this by Sue Black, but we’re very proud to have been a part of it.

The Book will be available on Unbound website first and on Amazon later in the New Year and once it’s available the Unbound website page will move from the crowd funded page to a sale page….
Here is Unbound’s present page and the Amazon link.
https://unbound.co.uk/books/saving-bletchley-park
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Saving-Bletchley-Park-…/…/1908717920 

Dr Sue Black : Saving Bletchley Park

One of Gabsatrucker and my coolest and greatest friends is Sue Black. I met her via the web years ago when talking about Bletchley Park. Bletchley Park wasn’t only the home of the Code Breakers, and the worlds first digital programmable computers – in fact it was one of British Telecoms most studious of technical training centres and a place where I first learned about technology, telecommunications and much more. But that was 1989 and at that time only a very few people knew of Bletchley Park’s real history. I certainly didn’t before I went there.

Today we all know about Bletchley Park; its impact and ultimately what freedoms together with the vast sacrifice of that time gave us in Europe, UK, the USA and in many countries around the world.

Yet it hasn’t been without a vast amount of work by the team at Bletchley Park and the unbelievable amount of input and some hard work by Sue Black.

Sue is a mom, is funny, zany and probably one of the most intelligent women you could meet. She runs to raise awareness and to raise money for things she believes in and has given herself completely to Saving Bletchley Park as well as supporting women in tech, and pioneering a new approach to teaching tech to children.

Sue has been approached to write about Saving Bletchley Park and Unbound.co.uk has asked her to do a full pitch of her forthcoming release.

Unbound is a unique new-ish system for publishing where you get to participate at various levels.

Please visit HERE or click on the image below to go to the page and video to give it a look. You can’t miss her – she is the one with the pink hair :-)  She’s growing it now – for charity i.e. I’ll give her £5 if she does ;-)

You can learn more about Sue here WikipediaLinkedInFacebookGoogle+Carpool Google Scholar and SueBlack.co.uk

Music: the theme tune to your life

I sometimes use a quote that I took from a TV show; I was sitting in my villa on Ranco Village compound, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in the summer of 2000, hiding in the comfort of air conditioning from the extreme heat outside and flicking through the channels as you do. I started watching something I’d term “brain mulch”, I find if you let yourself go with this stuff sometimes you can actually enjoy it (which explains why I don’t own a TV). Anyway, the quote was “If ain’t coming out of a thing called Marshall, then it ain’t music”. I smiled at this, looked over at a recently purchased cheap Epiphone Strat copy that I’d bought locally (for reason of its amazing setup – not the sh*te pickups).  I thought “true! – to a point…”

A year later and living in London I enrolled in the Guitar Institute, the reason was that while I love much about the guitar (albeit, I was more a drummer), I never ever understood it, nor did I ever understand the part when an individual crossed the line from being about to play every note or chord in any key and suddenly find the whole lot as an extension to the player’s emotional creativity. Sure, I did basic music in my first year of high school, they had weird acronyms and stuff, like “good boys don’t burn their toes in the morning”, (nah, that wasn’t actually a saying)  and I did retain the knowledge of what treble and bass clef was and what the tempo looked like. The music bit was about letters, but really the thing to “note” was that as the dots went up the ladder thing, so did the pitch… Then someone showed me piano music, I accused them of taking the piss and that was the end of that – go figure ;-)

The Guitar Institute course did my head in, and for the most part it killed my enjoyment of the guitar for a long while. But in that sentence is an answer to my overall question – if it’s a passion, just how passionate are you and where is your thirst for learning it? Or more over, how did I let someone else kill it…

This isn’t so easy to answer unless you’ve ever tried to play an instrument and spent many hours forcing your body, fingers and mind to keep going until you’ve made the sound or tune do as it should. In fact modern music styles, and even modern house music is constructed completely differently, by this I mean different instruments. I won’t belittle it, but some tunes have just come about by nothing more than just tapping a key repeatedly on a keyboard.

The one thing I took away from the Guitar Institute was a pro-session by a well-known guitarist who did an incredible demonstration of multiple finger tapping… they were a guest at another well-known (but now sadly deceased) performer’s concert later that day. They came on, the guest did their amazing finger tapping, the audience was stunned at the skill – then the person whose concert it was walked on and finished the segment with a single power chord… and the crowd went wild…(Yay!). The lesson (as pointed out by my tutor) was simple… Are you playing for your own benefit, or to teach? or for entertaining a cash paying crowd? and if for the crowd – which bit made them go wild? Because that bit was the entertainment!   Yup, the single “A” chord rocked out the crowd… but then I thought – the power of that single chord would not have had its effect without the finger-tapping before it.

This is what I think of as 2nd gen music theory or the true ballodial (think I just made that word up) effect of the overall music – whether in one piece of over the course of many pieces of music together. It’s like that great live concert opening that explodes in front of you – that can fall like a damp firework if the wrong song is chosen to follow it by.

But you see, main music theory is either the most obvious key to life to some, or it reads like an incomprehensible dark art to everyone else – albeit based in complete logic. Then there are the instruments, some consider the guitar as not a true instrument; I understand this, it has frets on the neck making it the equivalent of paint by numbers when compared to the violin and cello. If you don’t know what I mean, the moment I place my finger on the guitar string, it pulls it down and locks its movement against the fret before it. At the point of the fret is the location of the note – BUT what if that fret wasn’t there? The note would be exactly where my finger on the fret board is – so what note would that be? Damned if I know… but a cellist and violinist would know as they have to know where they’re at without references and get it right every time. Move the finger only a millimeter or two out and – boom! It’s a different note altogether. Heck, a cello is tuned in “5ths”(?!) and I eat with a spanner :-?

In fact, I know a bloke who can knock out a tune or two on a Cello, not only that – his wife can also knock out a fair old tune on a violin… Now, when a “youth” (pron. Yoof) and after my time at boarding school this guy was by far one my best mates, then one day, in amongst the long hair, rock playing in the background and the scent of joss-sticks courtesy of shops like Pippy’s or “Bringing it all back home”  he whips out (wait for it) a cello… at the time I thought “wtf you doing with that?!” (in fact knowing me, I might have actually said it thinking I’m about to be blown away by a classical Lemmy) right up until the point he did like Robin Hood and took a bow to it… Strangely the cello stayed in one place and what followed was (to me) stunning… At 15 I was at the point where I could only wish to make a coherent noise on a shocking guitar I had that had a neck on it that actually could have been put to good use by Robin Hood… heck he coulda hit Fr**ce from here with the arrows if he’d used it – and give them something back on behalf of our Harold!  But right there and then I saw a guy, who was as good and bad at everything as the rest of us were, completely change, the music, the indulgence of passion, the feedback of instant (to me) perfection was not only instant, but totally consuming to him.

I watched as well as listened to something that while today I understand, but have never experienced – true passion for the creation of music by feeling, still keeping it artful while I was trying to get me head around it by typically being annoying.

Now…. I’m an old-ish kinda bloke, heck Sue Black simply calls me pregnant (and that is on a good day) and I understand all sorts of technologies – my mind: a sponge… Yet no matter how young or old you are, you’re moved, excited and revitalized by a lot of music, yet we are ALL moved by classical… I’ve never been to a classical concert in my life and yet there isn’t a movie we watch that doesn’t have an element of classical that hits an audience with power… Heck even at my own mother’s funeral I was fine, except for the bit when they played Nimrod as they brought the coffin in and I totally lost it – mother, the music really didn’t help!! (vengeance huh?)

Like all of us, we have our musical heroes, they could be great blues players, drummers – pop artists with astounding voices, but artists with a blind passion completely draw me, whether it is Stevie Ray Vaughan, Alison Goldfrapp or yes, my old buddy… These people truly have something few others have and I certainly admire someone who truly follows that passion throughout their whole life. They’re consumed by it, it is to them as common as the air they breathe and yet they know they’re nothing without supreme excellence – heck, they don’t demand it of others, but they work hard persistently to hear the right note at the right time with the right accent reverberate through their entire bodies. In this I know I’m not a musician in any classical sense, nor will I ever be, but we need music’s classical heritage to keep alive the passion and all musical styles thrive on those who will experiment, improvise and have a go at crossing the divide of classical and modern styles and my old buddy does this in the most staggering way.

Also, as I mentioned before; after leaving the hell hole that was my boarding school which is becoming more and more well documented, this guy was the first kid to even try to talk to me. As an adult and with the recent processes regarding the school I have come to realise just how important he was in my adjustment to life after. I won’t mention it all here – as it can go in the book. What I will say is this; He gave me something that even today 32 years on and while during this time it has taken him on to  perform in over 50 countries, with him and his wife playing with just about every Orchestra in the world of note at some point – his way still holds true as he showed me that not only thinking differently was ok – but was the way to go.

Nevertheless, while I have a passion, I accept I’m simply not gifted with the passion that others have. To my old buddy, all I can say is “dude, what’s with the hair?” ;-) and to everyone else, wherever you are in the world, if you ever want to hear true passion in musical form, to see and feel it, and like me, not fully understand but really see a person whose life truly does have a theme tune running all the way through it – then do look up the name Matthew Barley and his awesome wife Viktoria Mullova as they will be coming to a country or town near you at some point… and let’s be honest here, if you come to my read my blog – then you could probably do with the culcha! ;-)

Matthew Barley.com

To Matthew, you’ll probably never know why, but thankyou!

Summer Heat and the Google UK Big Tent Event 2012

Firstly I must say I enjoyed this event… This is the 2nd year Google UK has run this event and it really is a place where great conversations can happen and awkward topics broached. It can also help people in the industry realise where everyday people are with tech in their lives – because that really is the information the industry seeks without assumption. The event itself was also accompanied by the Channel 4 news team and a posse of people from the Guardian newspaper that showed some interesting things later on, not to mention various journalists from a wide range of other publications.

First up Peter Barron from Google welcomed everyone as usual and kicked off the proceeding with – Porn: how do we keep our children safe online? Well this is an age old discussion, but one that is always sidelined through complete and total ignorance…  This is either because of the prudish nature of one or more of the participants, or simple discomfort.

Porn for all its sins is different in the eyes of each individual person, in cultures where people are generally covered up; the simple act of showing a bare arm can be enough to create a response, so while in western society we’re used to seeing semi naked bodies it often comes down to why should someone else’s beliefs impact you and how you should or should not dress and so on.  For this very reason there is no defined definition of what porn truly is. But the main question was raised by Daily Mail journalist Amanda Platell. Her point was that as a responsible parent wanting to make sure that her child doesn’t come across anything they should not online – what does she do? Especially as she’s not computer savvy and doesn’t know how to do things like block sites etc. She went on to say that government or the ISP’s should offer a service to make sure things are blocked. She then continued saying that the night before she’d gone to the site “pornhub.com” and described the sexual acts she watched being carried out… She did this in great detail. So before I finish this, on her recommendation we tried to find the said video… Nope, couldn’t find it anywhere!! Something similar, but not the one she described (so it was probably a good job I refrained from heckling “How many times did you have to watch it before you got off?”). Infact the subject covered was seriously “niche”, so we’ll leave you to your own thoughts to why she had to stand on a stage and describe all this in such detail. So, in response to what should a responsible parent who isn’t computer savvy do…. the answer is simple – LEARN!!

On to the totally awesome Dr. Aleks Krotoski  who showed off her Serendipity Engine which was interesting, insightful and frankly if the results of what could end up being a lifetime of research bear fruit – the very same system/algorithm etc will very probably prove the key to Chaos Theory.

The Minister of State for Science and Universities came on and proclaimed new things at universities yet missed the points completely. Even Eric Schmidt mentioned the UK has disregarded what made it good – leadership with flair and our skills. It almost seems to me that every country wants to have its own Silicon Valley – but they shouldn’t and can’t… We should do what we’re good at and in the global age it makes us stand out. The UK is the hands on engineering country… that’s it, pure and simple. However, we’re seriously lacking in training and education in schools, not just in Computer Science, but the far bigger and more vast areas that make up the rest that knowledgeable people talk about and the “App crowd” (there is a phrase I just invented and is now copyright TWBrit lol) don’t even know about – embarrassing stuff in front of engineers and people who build the infrastructure for the “App-Crowd” to use their toys on.

The next session was “Copyright in the Digital Age “This is one of the biggest subjects on and about the internet now. Some fascinating things were talked about here. Firstly the media industries as a whole need to re-address how they work out their losses and stop being so blinkered in their overall approach. Bottom line is that it created a rod for its own back, we’ve been recording music etc ever since it was possible to do so, whether music off the radio in the 70’s and of course hooking video machines together at home in the 80’s.

After lunch Eric Schmidt gave a fascinating talk about Globalisation and mentioned a few things like how in some schools in Africa they don’t have textbooks – they simply use Google and YouTube to teach from these. And then there was the obvious yet simple observation as to why educational and help software or information doesn’t come pre-installed on mobile phones; pointing out it’d cost very little or nothing to do so. He talked about the next billion users of Google and then got the whole thing kyboshed when some journalist kept pushing questions about stuff regarding Google and the EU Govt. which he answered that they’re waiting to hear exactly what the complaint is about so they can take a proper look at it. Yet the journo kept pushing… That’s not called great journalism – it’s called f’king everyones day up inside a tent with a room temp of around 130f (thanks moron!!) The result was that we didn’t get to hear good questions and become informed more. After all, we really wanted to hear what Eric had to so say – not listen questions on conjecture. But because of the nature of these questions Eric had to answer them clearly and properly.

Someone from the Guardian Newspaper then came on and did a bit about how they tracked the London Riots last year. They showed how little information the Police gave them, so they went to get court documents of who had been charged etc. Then they turned to Twitter and gained information of who tweeted what, the terminology used, the “#-tag” information and suddenly came up with some frankly amazing information, statistics and a mountain of other things. This simply and finally proved that our want and need for tech, apps and the latest thing – is the very thing that is creating a 100% guaranteed “Big Brother” future for all of us… remember : put any info out there – and it’s there forever!!

With the breaks becoming more and more needed due to the heat inside the main tented hall, it was refreshing to see and have a sit down with Dr Sue Black: not to be confused with the Curry Queen of Camden Town (I also just made that up). As soon as myself, Sue and this blogs editor Gabsatrucker sat down – the ladies went straight to geek mode in their phones and reminiscing of their road-trip between Little Rock and Austin, Texas a few weeks ago.  After briefly meeting Sue’s son, [hold it, I gotta add something] Sue Black has the most amazing kids, most of whom are grown up. But one has to wonder just what an amazing mom she is because every time I meet one of them – they are truly the nicest of energetic, confident and charismatic individuals. This of course doesn’t stop me yanking Sue’s chain a little, but as I’ve said before; Sue gives as good as she gets and is a straight arrow. If you ever get chance to meet Sue, your life will be better for it.

Anyway… Back into the sweat box for the final session mediated by the awesome Sarah Smith. This final session covered something that is becoming what I believe is a serious blight of the web; the true “Big Brother” issues surrounding the Web 2.0 and social media.

Ever since the dawn of the ability to write a letter, social media has grown and grown. Now that information is for sale, that information is all about you, me and everyone. Privacy is getting seriously trampled on, so in light of this two authors “Andrew Keen” and “Nick Harkaway” who have differing opinions on this subject took to the stage. In my own personal view, I feel both of them were 75% correct, but were offering no middle ground; they seemed to be at one extreme or the other.  Thankfully signed copies of their books were given out at the end of the day, so I’ll be sure to take my time and read both.

Typically I have been a little scathing at some things. While it was hot, we can’t blame Google for weather Gabsatrucker brought from the US, but in all things these were discussions. Insightful and highly educational – but simply discussions… who knows what they will amount to. I thoroughly enjoyed the day, enjoyed meeting the people I did, enjoyed Aleks Krotoski’s work and left in fear of what the surface media will make of it all.

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