Stuff, some odd, some kewl…

Ok, over in the USA presently is this blogs buddy, cohort, founder of The <goto> Foundation, lady saving Bletchley Park and rocking friend of both myself and this other blogs torment ;)  (Gabsatrucker) – Dr Sue Black….

Sue has been on a whirlwind tech tour of Brazil, Mexico and is presently on the Orange Blog Bus travelling and tweeting her way from San Francisco to who knows where. While I’d be the first to rib her and say wherever she goes she’s no more than a stones throw from a beach or pool, I have to give credit to her perpetual long distance travels and all the hassle that they bring – recently; appalling food poisoning!

But with visits to just about every company in Silicon Valley and the entire San Francisco Bay area under her belt, I can’t help but think she’s found her true home and calling.

In other news

There is a load of frankly crap going on in the UK news about a senior minister giving a Police officer grief – which he in turn realised the error of his ways and apologised.. however! This has not stopped the police federation and other political parties demanding the resignation of the minister.

Well my point of view is (bearing in mind the police officers read this blog and are my friends) that he’s apologised – so if the day ever comes when you don’t get an attitude or even passive threat from a cop – then fine, have him resign… but until then “pot & kettle” (pun intended) . It’s certainly not something I accuse all officers of, but in certain forces it happens a lot.

Which brings me to more Policing news…

We often see videos on the news or You Tube of officers stepping over the mark… But what about a cop with an exemplary record and not one complaint?  Well look no further than a CBS News report in to L.A. Sheriff’s Deputy Elton Simmons… Over 20 years in the job and over 25,000 traffic stops – not one single complaint! This… is how policing should be, but… alas there are different types of policing by the nature of crime itself, but this guy is a great place to start. Click the pic to go to CBS News and watch the vid.

Finally:

I was pottering about the Land Rover Dallas website (because the Little Rock one isn’t very good) while searching for a vehicle for 3 months use and noticed their website page header. To be honest the company is also based in Austin and Frisco but nevertheless it made me smile and some way I concur… see what you think.

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Gibson Guitars Factory Tour

So the other day I finally went to Memphis… but more importantly for me, I went to Gibson Guitars for a tour of their factory. I had already phoned Gibson before Christmas and talked to them and decided to go when the factory restarted production in the New Year.

I’ve had a lot of questions for Gibson for a number of years, especially regarding build and play quality of the Les Paul guitars made in the early 2000’s. On arrival we entered the vast empty reception and then the shop. We looked about and then enquired about the factory tour. Moments later and $10 lighter for each of us and the tour was booked and would happen on the hour. So I spoke to a female assistant and asked her questions about the Gibson Dark Fire which is basically a robotic guitar that tunes itself in any pitch you like etc. She was amazingly informative, really, and thoroughly knew her stuff. In fact I asked her dozens of questions for which she answered all of them in depth. She also invited me to play anything they had and to feel free to try all I liked… (you don’t hear that every day) I was frankly starting to feel impressed… On the question of setup and overall quality she informed me they now use a thing called a “Plek” machine that traces the fret board and grinds the frets and the “nut” to the optimum height and “action” (the distance of the strings from the fret board). So the bottom line is: if you’re buying a new Gibson – make sure it has a “Plek’d” sticker on it. Before the tour we had to sign disclaimers to enter the factory floor, wear safety glasses and get told that absolutely no cameras are allowed and mobile phones etc. The mobile phones thing was because 90% of phones can take pics.. But this is where I started having a trouble with the tour!! We were then taken through to a long windowless corridor where, upon the wall hung loads of guitars, one of which was a hand signed version of BB King’s “Lucille”. It was here we stopped for our tour guide to explain the very basics of guitar types, their respective parts… Obviously we weren’t in any sensitive area, so why no pics of these great guitars? Now, don’t get me wrong here, you don’t want flash photography around moving machinery… but nothing of what we were about to see was anything near what you can actually see on YouTube!! In fact I’ll go further… there was only one person working in the factory putting on machine heads… So what in god’s name is so secret to prevent photography? Why do I say this? Well, I do understand when they’re working with new technology’s that they wouldn’t want others to see… And it’s kinda cool to hear over and over again “we invented (or) did this/that first”  – but how the hell would anyone know if you wont let them take a pic?? But the reason I will say it is this – I live 5000 miles away.. I got more information, images and background info watching YouTube!!! I didn’t see shit being made!! I didn’t get to touch, hold, have shown how or experience fk-ALL!! THEN while the guy showing us around kept holding up things and guitar parts and waving them slowly past us – he took time out to do the same with an 8” grounding wire!! And for $10 each we all stood there like frigging morons as he took his time to show each and every one of us an 8 inch bit of wire!! I just thought ”this has got to be the ‘in’ factory joke” I even mentioned this to others there… The guide’s “patter” was perfect… then he suddenly turned and said “that concludes the tour, any questions?” which is ok for a 30 minute stroll – but then said nothing. We all looked at him blankly… I eventually asked where the hard shell cases are made – the answer was simply “in Canada”… Then more silence.. it was actually uncomfortable..

Gibson, for what you charge for guitars etc, there are thousands of things you can do to improve this tour – heck I didn’t even know it was for hollow-bodies only until we started the tour…

The lady in the Shop was totally awesome, the tour was dire. I’m not taking anything from the fact Gibson make some of the finest guitars in the world, if it has the Gibson name on it, it’s exclusive made in the USA and over 60% of everything they make is exported globally and that is testament to their craftmanship, put another way – if you listen to or play music of any type, you’ve heard of and know who Gibson is. But there was an air of real disappointment with the tour  – so word up if you’re a Gibson fan, I’ll save you the time, air fare, patronization and disappointment… here is a video that will show you much, much more than anything a Gibson tour will show you. You won’t have to wear goggles, sign disclaimers, you can smoke, eat, drink and take all the pictures you like…

I think I’ll head to Taylor

World Famous and of Austin’s Modern Heritage

If I haven’t mentioned it before, Austin probably has the most diverse music history in the world… Yes, I will hear people cry “Oh what about New Orleans, London, Memphis etc… but frankly, some incredible people have emerged from this, the most diverse and cosmopolitan and capital city of Texas… It’s was after all the whole reason for the now globally famous South by South West (SXSW). But seriously though, no city I know of celebrates it’s musical origins as much as Austin.

So why do I mention this, I’m not talking about the bars, nightlife – so… what? Well Austin through the years and decades has not only had incredible artists and clubs where they cut their teeth, but it has some pretty amazing people behind the scenes too… But Austin is musically vast in its diversity, from hip-hop through to its popular and gritty Indie scene. There are just so many bands and individuals who come here to make their mark – and they do. And like with all bases of great live music, it has its own “in” scene of the time – yet Austin caters for nearly all scenes at once. Even today while many can talk about the explosive Blues scene of the 70’s and 80’s, you really don’t need to walk too far to hear those dulcet tones that are so familiar even to those do not follow it.

I have already mentioned Stevie Ray Vaughan, yet I didn’t mention his brother Jimmie Vaughan, an outstanding and highly accomplished blues player in his own right, with a very discerning style too, both of whom cut their teeth here. But you know “that” guitar… the one Fender spent a fortune on replicating for an initial rrp of $8000 and created a whole collectors dream guitar that you simply will not obtain for less than 10’s of thousands of dollars… Well Stevie Ray Vaughan bought the original guitar from a now very famous guitar shop in South Austin… Ray Hennig’s “Heart of Texas Music”… and today Ray Hennig and his family are still crucial suppliers to the entire music scene in Austin – irrespective of genre or taste. Even a Wikipedia quoted Ray on Stevie Ray Vaughan’s guitar purchase:

“ When he came in, like every other day, we had a long row of guitars and he wouldn’t take them off the hook. He’d simply walk down and feel them and look at them and move on to the next one. He stood there and looked at that old thing and I thought, oh no. Then he reached down and felt it, just like he did always. And then he took it off the hook, hitting some licks on it. He said, ‘Ray, where’d you get this?’ I said, ‘Stevie, you have got to have picked the biggest junker on the wall.’ ” —Ray Hennig,

Well today, before leaving Austin, I made my way to the “Heart of Texas” and met both Ray and Mary who are frankly the most outstanding, friendly and helpful people you could ever dream of meeting. Mary took time to talk to us and we talked about the UK and their own travels across the UK and Europe – and of course, had a great dig at the Fr**ch :-)

Now you only have to glance at the walls at this place to see the history enshrouded here, the place where the people we’ve all heard of go to get guitars, guitars setup and all manner of other things. Yet this isn’t a used up “has-been” place! Many of the pictures are new and some have surprising faces on them too. But the importance of this shop, the passion of the owners has been instrumental in quality and excellence of not only many famous artists, but the actual sound that has adorned all of our ears at some point.

Today, as we entered we were greeted by the frankly stunning Mary Hennig who took time to talk to us and explained much while towards the rear of the shop Ray was working hard on an acoustic guitar and doing what he does best.

It was a breath of fresh air to finally meet these two wonderful people who had a lifetimes experience and knowledge of the true Austin music scene, unlike rumour, reading stuff on the web etc. and to talk guitar tech in the form of the next generation of Hennig’s – Shane.

Sadly the site the shop presently occupies and has become famous because of it – is to be bulldozed and rebuilt by the owners of the land where it now stands. While this maybe a new beginning opportunity for the Heart of Texas Music – it is frankly the most wrongful destruction of a significantly historical landmark that has served, supported not only the musicians, live music scene and artists that have become household names – but has made a real impact the overall history of Austin and US wide music history… Hey put it another way, I live 5000 miles away and I know of this place and I normally haunt Denmark Street (UK’s Tin Pan Alley) in London.

It’s also strange that as a teenager I had my idols, but ever since becoming a musician of sorts (not a very good one I hasten to add) and even from the early days of working in a studio in Sheffield, I rarely consider the term “fan”, in fact I tend to look at other musicians as peers of the passion I guess, if they make something of it for themselves, then good for them – it’s often only in their demise we truly acknowledge their greatness! Yet without The Heart of Texas – where would they have been…

I hope to spend more time in Austin in 2012 and the coming years, and I would love to one day hear the stories of these wonderful people.

But if you have time to visit – DO!! Yes, tell them of TWBrit, and please – thank them for what they bring to the industry and to Austin (and buy something of course)

To Ray and Mary, thank you for your time and I hope I see you all again sometime in the future… Oh and the reason I had my back to the 60th Anniversary Telecaster – because I wanted it of course and I’d have looked at it any longer I’d have bought it :-)

The Heart of Texas Music website

HERE 

The Road Trip

So, onwards to the present day and yes, it’s obvious from previous posts that I’ve jumped the gun a little. After a saunter down from Roswell and having a fleeting look at Holloman AFB, we headed to Las Cruces to crash for the night. Sadly the actual Trinity Site is only accessible twice a year, but that’s not to say I didn’t get to play with some interesting hardware before we headed south. So at first light we headed back over the mountain range and headed towards the White Sands Missile Range…

Initially we were told that the Museum was shut and only the Missile Park was open, but it was soon obvious that the whole site was open. First stop was the dubious origins of the Space Program and the tech that made modern missiles technology a reality – the Nazi V2 rocket!! Indeed, at the end of the war both British and US military’s took many of the V1 and V2 rockets home to play with, not to mention the scientist teams that built them.

Then it was onto the Trinity equipment… that’s when I noticed strange things happening to the camera screen, as though slightly darkened bars were on it – It’s fair to say that some of this equipment still glows a bit.

Outside in the missile park there was everything from a TOW missile, Patriot and this sucker… Yes, that is me – stood leaning against the bottom of this Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile…

Back on the road and with all the other driving done already, we headed south for Austin – around 700+ miles for the whole day. At El Paso I had no idea that the Mexican border ran along the freeway and the thousands of huts on the right was indeed a Mexican shanty city. But we did take time out to soak up the 80f sunshine outside a Starbucks..

Moving on through some stunning countryside (and Tarantula habitat) we pulled off at a mainly dead town of Fort(shitsville)Stockton for food which was frankly a mistake. Stopping at a Sonic we went to the restrooms which are behind the kitchens and had to navigate past two piles of vomit to enter – only to see the state of the kitchens… we left in favour of a DQ – which was only mildly better.

Passing miles and miles of wind farms which Texas has lots of and are vast!! We finally pulled off the i10 and headed towards Fredericksburg which turned out to be totally stunning and probably the quaintest town I’ve seen yet in the USA. As we rolled into town it was already dark, but nothing prepared us for the Christmas lights and oldie worldly feel of Main Street.

Stopping to grab McD’s coffee we headed out of town… only for @Gabsatrucker (the Driva) to happen upon a speed exceeding the local speed limit of 50mph… As we approached a speed to allow us to cover 2 miles per minute – a car on the opposite side of the road lit up it’s roof and the pursuit started… all 300 yards of it ;-)

The officer was frankly a decent personable guy and asked for the licence and registration and asked where we were coming from and going to etc. This provoked a little natter and moments later he returned, wished us a Happy New Year and left… That’s it.. :-)

With that I relaxed in the full knowledge that @Gabsatrucker is a full blooded, hellraising, lawbreaking, get away with anything – Criminal ;-)

All in all I was in Austin and settled in for 23:50 just in time to watch the New Year in and enjoy the fireworks that erupted in just about every direction you could see…

Next time….. Austin!!

Ahhhh the interesting things in New Mexico

This will be brief so I will come back to it all – anyway… so there I was on the accompanied road trip of sorts, when last night we crossed the border of Texas into New Mexico… and promptly saw the lights on the horizon 44 miles prior to reaching this town everyone has heard of. 30 minutes later and we roll into town with mysterious green glows that seem to emanate from everywhere on Main Street…

This is Roswell, home of a reported UFO crash in 1947 and has welcomed every tourist, nut job, geek, hippy and serious researcher ever since. While formal signs will point out that Roswell is the Dairy Capitol of New Mexico, little in the way of lactacious teat pulling is evident… but what is – is this amazing amount of “buy anything with an alien on it”…

It’s fair to say that while it’s fairly obvious something did happen near Roswell, the whole thing has been fairly well lost in the whole touristic quirkiness of the place… This however did not stop me buying a couple of t’shirts and a mug for Fenny – a blue mug strangely.

Onwards and into outlaw country… and the home of Billy The Kid… Driving down Highway 70 (Billy The Kid Byway) aka it’s not hard to see why this landscape favoured the outlaws of the day. Access to the Mexican border and a landscape so easy to hide in it’s kinda obvious. After stopping to read several Historic Markers we pulled over in Ruidoso Downs and the Billy the Kid Byway Visitors Centre to broaden our knowledge considerably.

Then on, on to Tularosa and a food stop of @Gabsatrucker’s (the Driver)  choice and one where only locals stop… to all intents and purposes the place was a shack and I (the Navi-gatorrr and road trip resident legendary bloke) indulged in @Eric_McWhirter’s  food of choice i.e. anything with a Green Chilli in it…  I swear, that man is trying to kill me!! So I did as the locals do – gained a sweaty tan real quick :-/

On again and a slow drive past Holloman AFB, home of the F22 Raptor and F117a  and then to the place I will visit tomorrow….

 Hmmm………….. A Gift Shop…. :-)

Published in: on 31 December, 2011 at 07:11  Comments Off  
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As the Sun Go Down

Yep, as the sun started to give up on the day, slightly later than a week ago as we have now past Winter Solstice and I head west bound for Dallas… I’ve been somewhat bemused at how people effectively “don’t” over take here, they just sit there doing the same speed as the cars in other lanes. This I would find exceptionally irritating as both a car driver and former trucker… But for my US trucking friends, they live with this all the time and I take my hat off to their endurance ;-) Finally the sun dropped off the horizon and the miles dragged slowly by at 90. The thing about this road trip is that it’s a fast hit on key or interesting places, it’s not a full road trip in so much we’re not taking the old highways like Route 66 etc… I’ll come back later for that.

Dallas looks awesome at night and frankly while there is some thing I wish to see here tomorrow and will post about that later, there was one place I has grab a quick look at – even in the dark and at night… I’ll let you work it out – but a lot of lurking was done on my part ;-)

Published in: on 29 December, 2011 at 08:14  Comments Off  
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A road less travelled, disaster and road trip

I’m writing today from as Fenny calls it “Left Pondia”… Getting here was interesting on account that I lost my wallet, complete with cash, bank cards and Driving licence :-/

The realisation of the wallet missing happened about half way over the Atlantic, and while I do have the balls to ask them to turn the plane around – the 10+ hour flight was an endurance in itself. Firstly, walking to the gate I end up talking to our Captain, and yes… there was a lot of 777 talk. The take off was actually awesome, the smoothest climb to altitude I’ve ever experienced. This was of course after they were able to get the food services truck off the side of the aircraft – I’m not joking :-) For 30 minutes guys with tools, hi-viz and wrenches ran back and forth until eventually they did something I thought they should have done in the beginning – towed it back and out of the way. This added adventure left many too late to get connecting flights in Houston sadly. Onboard I was served many drinks by a hostess who appeared sadly to be suffering the onset of Parkinson’s Disease, either that or she was suffering from being a former contestant on dancing with stars as Michael J Fox’s partner. That said, I felt sorry for her, she was older, far more glamorous than the younger hostesses, yet if she had one single accident – her career would be over. After arriving in a rain soaked Houston (Texas… and it was raining!) I left the flight thinking that out pilots were first rate and that people wishing to travel with babies should really think about it, seriously!!

1. Do you have to actually fly with a baby?

2. Why aren’t your family flying to you at Christmas?

3. Just how much discomfort is this causing all the other 300 passengers?

If you have a problem with what I just wrote – I’ll be pleased to correct you at ANY level you like ;-) Back in Houston and I was once again joined by my jovial Captain as we joked about the food services truck and I mentioned the good news of losing my wallet.

Now, here is another nugget… TSA at Houston was very slow, especially compared with DC, but at least the chap was a regular comedian which helped considerably. However, on going back through security for my connecting flight – what a complete and utter disaster… You see, there is a limit to just how much security there is versus  how much security becomes detrimental to safety itself – if lets say; so many hundreds of people are queuing up that the place deadlocked… then isn’t it better for a terrorist just to detonate themselves there and then? What I witnessed was an extremity of a  failed ad-hoc system and the showing off to the world just how this great nation was now a victim and it’s frankly not a pretty sight.

An hour later and I’m awoken on the connecting turbo-prop plane, not by the English captain’s announcement, but by screaming women, serious turbulence and a guy wearing a Vietnam Veteran hat saying “we’re going in hot”!! I’d just like to add that this was the most surreal moment in my flying experience.

I’m sitting here now planning a road trip after watching the Simon Pegg & Nick Frost’s movie “Paul”… As for the wallet and bank cards.. Barclays are happy to NOT send me a replacement card to me here, they’ll only send it to my home address… I enquired to the fact I’m in another country without cash, and they said it’s alright VISA will send me some cash.. He put me through (apparently) but after 30 minutes of nothing… I hung up. Thankyou Barclay’s for being totally bloody useless… and yet – so, well, unhelpful.

So Roswell? White Sands? Route 66? Grand Canyon? Vegas? Memphis? – OR South Dakota, NYC and Chicago?…

You know what – you tell me…

PS I would have added an American flag here as Gabsatrucker said the UK had more Union Jacks up than Stars and Stripes in the US… well I’m here to say she is wrong.. very wrong – so wrong that I wondered if people knew where they were lol lol

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 ;-)

Say What? The US Dept. of Justice has got Wood…. :-/

So, right on the heels of the dumbfounded activities of the United States ATF who thought it would be a great idea to supply Mexican drug cartels automatic and military weaponry (just see where it went you understand), leading to same weapons being used against the ATF with the unfortunate result in one of them being killed…

It turns out that the Dept of Justice is sooo bored, they’re almost making up reasons to do a bust…. But who or what could they raid and torment??

It turns out that there are some in the DOJ who spend more time looking at other countries laws than their own… Worse? They act on obscure laws without request!!
Soo, who to raid….
Oh, oh here’s one… Gibson Guitars of Nashville and Memphis..

Gibson, renowned for their illegal activities of course (none of which spring to mind) and a global brand and along with others, are the face of the US guitar industry with a fairly spotless history when it comes to being an ambassador of the USA and US manufacturing…
Anyone who knows anything about the modern history of the guitar – knows the name Gibson… a household name!

As this plot thickens, we must ask ourselves “Oh aye, what have this lot been up to, to have dozens of armed agents storming their factories in both Memphis and or course Nashville?
Well, as any person with a newly acquired Gibson guitar may wish to know as they go about barricading their homes (start now please)… Is that there is an obscure law in the country of India (yes, India) that states that if wood from India isn’t ‘finished’ by Indian workers… then the wood is illegal!!
The thing is, in India the wood passed this requirement and was signed off by the Indian Govt.

So then this legally purchased timber/lumber has fallen under the gaze of the DOJ acting on obscure laws of another country – without request!! Yeah, it’s like they’re trying to re-write the “Law unto ourselves” and probably throwing out the constitution at the same time…
In fact… the DOJ claim it wasn’t finished ENOUGH by the Indian workers – an area where they have NO jurisdiction or right so say as such. They now (in violation of law in every known free country) demand that Gibson prove the timber is legal or it will be deemed illegal.. when Gibson have ALL the legal documentation to say it is.
So much for them having to prove it’s not… (oh freedom, I knew you so well)

This is all very strange stuff… especially as it was without the request or support of the Indian Govt..

But here is a radio interview with Henry Juszkiewicz… it begs belief


On behalf of Guitar players and lovers everywhere, On behalf of and in support of Henry Juszkiewicz and the workers at Gibson and to everyone who ever owned more than one brain cell of commonsense…

To the US Department of Justice… for actions that run contrary to the Constitution of the United States of America, in total contradiction to both US and Indian Law : You are duly awarded the HUA
For violations to individuals Human and Commercial rights in the national and international interest of the United States, Indian and all persons who enjoy these products (globally) and of those whom feed their families by working in the construction of them.

The US Dept. Of Justice

Seriously though…  Have a word with yourselves!!

Published in: on 27 August, 2011 at 18:02  Comments Off  
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Obama and The Falkland’s

I do understand why Argentina claims the Falklands… but it is a completely flawed argument.. Now oil has been found half of South America wants a slice of the action too… But then, on an issue that actually led to a war to protect the rights of freedom of the Falkland Islanders (just prior to the US invading British protectorate of Grenada); for Mr Obama to side with the Argie’s against the UK is pretty much the same if we said give Hawaii to Japan… In fact you did give something to Japan – but it wasn’t Hawaii… it’s been glowing on and off ever since… SEE HERE
Indeed, as history has shown, if the inhabitants truly want independence – then as history proves out, they’d get it. After all, while our ancestors were quick to reach for arms, the war of Independence of the US wasn’t a war won or lost – just stopped and the might of the then empire never brought to bear… and the declaration left to stand as greater benefits were found in trade etc. (in the process of dumping the Fr**ch of course).

The Falklands was a war of significance… where Argentine officers shot shivering conscripts in the feet “just in case” they tried to run away.. This was a war where to win British troops carried their equipment and supplies well over 70 miles on foot over mountainous terrain in sub zero temperatures to rescue and save the freedom of the islands inhabitants from the invading Argentine forces. We lost ships – and they did too when we started torpedoing theirs, and the British troops were, for the most part, significantly out numbered
It was also the first war in modern history where both sides used almost identical weaponry on the field of battle.

Anyway, when protection of others come into play and where a threat to sovereignty rears it’s head, British history is absolute – it’s the same to us as when this country declared war on Adolf Hitler!! It may bankrupt us, it may make us ration our food so troops can eat and yes, it’s the same thing that drives the back bone or rigidity that withstood the destruction of our cities in the so called Blitz.
So… When Mr Obama wants to understand who we are, come along and make his speeches – he should understand that we do not gather under a flag in search of unity – yet live our lives in contradiction, we don’t need to indoctrinate ourselves or our children with it every day by forcing them to pledge oaths and seeing half Brit flag on everything…. Or claim that women are equally respected and feel safe in the work place when they’re not and don’t, that the right to work is protected when frankly there are no real rights protecting workers that are effective in any way and then keep the whole lie going with a healthy gloss coating of flag talk… It’s just that “We Are” and some things actually run very deep indeed without any indoctrination what so ever, and to Mr Obama – you’re just about to tread on it!!
No, I’m not insulting an entire nation on the words of one man – but do you see how easy it is and how it comes across?
The people of Argentina have been welcome to visit the graves of fallen loved ones, we have indeed honoured the lost of Argentina. But Argentina have not really come to the table “EVER” with anything less than the wish for total sovereignty over the people of the Islands whom do not wish to be anything but British…

I have nothing against any Argentinian, they have an awesome country and culture, likewise while easy to take the earlier dig at the US, I probably have just as many buddies who are American as I have British…. I’m not having a go at the countries as a whole – but someone may wish to take a closer look at foreign policy.

To Mr Obama – just to be clear :

The Falkland Islands are NOT part of “Great Britain” they belong to the Falkland Islanders themselves!! They raise the flag they wish, in part it our’s (as is yours) so we provide nothing more than defence for them – they are an entity to themselves whom choose by their own freedom and democracy to be subjects of HM Queen Elizabeth II

so basically..

F*CK OFF…. IT AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN

Guess what you win on this subject

If you hear an echo, do not be concerned……. it’s because you’re a tall fella

Published in: on 15 June, 2011 at 18:43  Comments (7)  
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I’ve something to say about “Spies R Us”… aka Bletchley Park, home of the Hackers, Crackers and Code Breakers

In 1989 I worked for British Telecom (BT)… the role I was initially recruited for was as an underground heavy cabler… As such we had to learn about various skills and dangers and bits and pieces of how to winch, pull, rod, rope and turn cables over huge distances through underground ducting, across bridges, in lakes, dams, coal mines, remote hill top locations and down your street.
As such there were only a few places in the entire world where you could learn this skill and one of them was British Telecom’s Technical College Bletchley Park…

What happened at Bletchley apart from learning a new set of skills of hauling optical fibre and copper cables up to 4800 pair, meeting trainees from the USA, Canada, Asia etc – was finding a fascination with the place…
There wasn’t anything really there to tell you of its history, but for the most part the ornate gardens, grounds and buildings were all operational and well looked after.

Yesterday I stepped foot back on the grounds of Bletchley Park.. once home Mi:1 (later Mi:8) and the true birth place of GCHQ and what ultimately lead to the start of the NSA…

So… What is Bletchley really?
Yes it’s where the code breakers worked… yes, later the code breakers for the US worked there and then began a much deeper US/UK relationship which has continued to at a similar level ever since.

But the most significant thing is what you’re looking at to read this article!! The Computer.. (I say that because you may be from a country that was not involved in WWII)

This issue knows no patriotism, it, while once a technology of utmost secrecy, is now a technology where you and I, the end users, roam about the ether without a visa, at the speed of light and in the realms of the internet are all most members of a reasonably governmentless new world…
Whether we use the computer for work, shopping or simply for communication, it does not take long to understand its pitfalls, gain friends globally and learn it’s abilities and more importantly its strengths…

Now add this to the following information:

Bletchley Park was the home of the world’s first programmable computer (Colossus).
The work carried out there by the Code Breakers, by intellect and by computer is known to have shortened WWII by a minimum of 2 yrs, most likely 6 yrs.
There is actual reason to assume now that without the work of Bletchley, the war would have ended in a stalemate!!
While initially a British only thing, the information was soon shared with our Allies and very quickly the USA came on board and later expanded the work considerably with over 300 US intelligence staff working at Bletchley Park at one point.

What does that mean in real terms…
Well if WWII lasted 6 yrs at the loss of around 84,000,000 lives – shortening the war by any length of time saved a hell of a lot of lives… So many lives in fact that had it have not done its work, some of you reading this would have simply never existed in the first place!!
So in real terms on a pro-rata basis in saving lives =

2 yrs = 28,000,000
3 yrs = 42,000,000
4 yrs = 56,000,000
5 yrs = 70,000,000
6 yrs = 84,000,000

Staggering isn’t it…. Of course we’ll never actually know….

But what we do know about Bletchley Park and only more recently seem to realize is that while its work on the war effort was one thing, huge infact – the relevance to our lives today is immense…
You see, the old cliché of “The first casualty of war is the truth” is very real… and with every single industrial revolution of modern history – we forget the true roots of it all..
Yes, from the work that has become legend of modern pioneers like Steve Jobs, Paul Allen, Bill Gates and so many others – little homage has been paid to where it all truly started.

And Bletchley Park isn’t the only site to have made a significant break through in history – and these places need preserving also. But what of Bletchley today and more over – what are the multi billion dollar companies doing to preserve this level of modern history?

Bletchley today is open to the public, its assets decimated by BT when it relinquished control of the site with the shameful selling off of assets in the most disgusting example of cut-n-run you’re likely to ever see and something they should be made to do something about or at least be held accountable for.

It is run mainly by volunteers with an affinity with the place, but in order to keep its doors open it has almost reached the point of soul selling – and that isn’t pretty!!
The displays are based on what they can afford and that isn’t much.  Even the gift shop is a sad cry for sell anything if people will buy it!!
To me it is not in anyway a family site, it is historic geekdom… Infact talk to several people who have been, other than the odd item to do with the code breaking and the worlds first programmable computer – the rest can strike boredom even in the most intellectual of minds!  Frankly, while that remark pains me to even hear it – it is nonetheless a point of view given to me… However, talk to someone else and they said their entire family went and loved it to bits… So it really is up to you to make your mind up.

Bletchley Park IS NOT and should not be a WWII theme park, it is and should be only about Code Breaking, its impact, what was achieved there, what was innovated and where the world is today because of computers and how they came into being.

Can it be improved – YES!!! But that’d take cash and a lot of it – and a real road map to what should be there…
It should on the outside look just like it did in the days it was operational… but underneath it should be an advanced learning centre… yes the introduction to the Enigma, yes, learn about the code-breakers and what they did…
But then it needs to turn uber geek and have a tech centre built in a secluded spot whereby the entire history of computing can be shown – but NOT as a set of static displays… unused computer equipment is simply static junk – it all needs to work and have a degree of “hands-on” ability. But when you drive up to the gate, you should see guards dressed and armed as they were back in the day, and the windows should be taped etc. The public should feel as they’ve genuinely walked into another world, the world of the Code Breakers themselves.

It is here where real networking started, where the computer made it’s first leap forward and it’s here where there should be the greatest collection of this industrial revolution!!
Not piles of old junk, not modernising a site to modern health and safety laws – but a real living breathing reproduction of its heyday.

So what has our multi billion dollar “do anything to make a buck” computer, IT, and software companies done to help (other than the odd one like Google)?

NOTHING!!!

Don’t get me wrong here, I back anyone who did it for themselves, I respect their innovation and guts to do all they have achieved… But when is enough money enough??
Yup, all these CEO’s can enjoy their earned lifestyles etc – but to not honour in any way the thing that ultimately made them their money??? It’s a bit like the baby who has just been born jumping up and head butting it’s mother in the face.

Bletchley Park should to all intents and purposes be made a UN World Heritage Site, it has to be restored, protected and also become the ultimate learning resource… the site needs innovation, conceptual design that is hidden away. It needs to be hands on and have enough money to pay its staff.
It needs the greater industry to donate 50% of one day’s bank interest from their fortunes so that this site can be honoured developed and set its history in stone..

No, there are no national and BS patriotic issues here, it needs its greedy fat assed off spring to stand up and be counted, to stand with some level of courage, commitment and more over – the self respect to step up to the plate.

It needs physical help too!! Yes from the companies who have staff who worked or developed modern super computers to be on-site to show the world what they did, how they took and industry forward through their own innovation.
IBM, Apple, Dell, Microsoft, Adobe, Samsung, Texas Instruments – and this list could go on and on…. But Bletchley should be the home of not only the Code Breakers – but the site of a global industry show case and meeting point.
A place of collaboration, innovation and a place the entire world can see where it came from and marvel at the concepts of where it’ll go.

I’m ashamed of the lack of investment, the lack of enterprise and more over the complete and utter lack of organization and imagination of industry into the place, a place I actually like! The people at Bletchley Park, well they’re working hard, but with hands tied behind there backs. As for the overall real vision, cutting the wheat from the chaff and remaining focussed, I don’t know – it’s hard to achieve as much that needs to be done with little more than a shoe string.
I will say that NOTHING makes me more appalled than the gutless  blind eye turned to an industries roots and birthplace  – by the very industry itself and one I’ve worked in most of my life.
So, if the industry has ANY level of self-respect, has ANY balls…. Feel free to apply yourselves, offer 50% of – or better still, a whole days company bank interest, – use this as an opportunity of show casing yourselves…

The hard work and dedication of the team at Bletchley and Dr Sue Black is a testament to how important this work truly is… these people have my respect and their hard work, enthusiasm is, while outstanding,  an immense wake up call of people striving to do something, to work against impossible odds for the benefit of us all.

So… is there anything “we” can do? Yes be there for the weekend of the 21-22 May to show your support…

One final note:

Contrary to the Bletchley Park website  image below…. the cost of an adult visit is NOT 10 pounds – it is 12… and while I have now scrolled about to find the parking fee – there is one and it’s 3 pounds

To be clear about this, this is the first Bletchley Park Google result link… the Site has been updated and you should (until previous cache’s have been cleared) go through the website main portal to gain the latest information in order to prevent confusion and possible frustration:  http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/. Clicking HERE or on the image below will take you to the present prices page and the most accurate information at the time of writing.

 

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