More excursions off the Motorway of life.......
Further to my discourse on Portugal last month, I have been blackmailed into pointing the following sordid truth out (it is better than having my grubby past exposed, believe me). Whilst my colleague Mr. Moriarty was attempting to teach the world to sing ( but not in perfect harmony) on the bridge in Oporto, I was busily engaged trying to scrummage down against them all. Apparently the Police (armed to the gunwales) were not very impressed. So much for the Anglo-Portugese love affair.....
Anyway, onwards and downwards:-
This month is a rather diverse bag of goodies from all over, but first a re-visit to BT Broadband.
Apparently BT will only consider hooking "rural" areas up to broadband internet services if enough people register an interest on the website I gave you last month.
If you are at all interested in getting broadband then please register on the site.
Would you like to come and see some puppies? Well you can now and, yes, they have both got pink noses. Our whippet "Bloody" Tess gave birth to two little gems last week - a boy and a girl. Names have not been formalised yet because we don't know if they are going to be part of the tribe or if they will go and live in parts foreign (i.e. Surrey). here are some photographs for any prospective owners to have a butchers at.
Liberty & Livelihood March & Beacons.
3,000 beacons were lit across Britain on Monday 16th September to mark the final countdown to possibly the biggest civil rights march in British history. I saw Dave Toye and Douggie Ray (Loaders to HM King Edward VII in May) having a ball at the top of Highden opposite Chanctonbury Hill.
A contingent from the Horsham area will be attending the March on Sunday in London. I am reliably informed that thousands from our area alone will be going. I have managed to score a small coup by persuading an "anti" to attend the march on the grounds that legislation is inappropriate for activities such as hunting, shooting and fishing. Result!
If you are concerned by what the Government is up to then please take the time to look at the March Info website to see what will be occurring on the day. If you would like to attend the March then please contact me and I will find you space on one of the many coaches travelling up from around Sussex. If you would like to show support for what is at stake but are unable to attend the March due to prior commitments or infirmity then please go to the site and register as "Marching in Spirit" - your presence on foot or in cyberspace counts for a great deal.
I am going up early for the March and I look forward to seeing you there.
Dave Toye has volunteered to be a Steward so well done to him!
Apologies to those of you who were kept awake by the rockets on Monday - Janie has clocked up several hundreds of miles ensuring that everyone who wanted one in Sussex got it.
Whilst ambling around the internet over the course of the last month I found some interesting websites. I am proud to present them for your edification here:-
If you need a cost-effective solution to pumping water then check out the manufacturers and patentees of Britains leading (and possibly only) Ram Pump manufacturer, Messrs. Green and Carter of Somerset. I intend to pay them a visit next time Janie and I go down to Dunster to see her mother, Pat Skelton.
Also, a friend of mine sent me details of the following two websites - very good if you want to know which piece of music is the backing track to an advert on television. look at Song of the salesman or Commercial breaks .
A colleague of mine came across the Despair website (NB its nothing to do with The Samaritans , not even I would take a dig at them! ). If any of you have come across the Amway "Multi-level Marketing" (yeah, right) franchises that do the rounds from time to time you will probably be quite familiar with the "motivational literature" that seems to follow the marketers around.
I won't bore the non-initiates with a lengthy discourse here, suffice to say that if you are the sort of person who responds to a poster exhorting you to "Climb Success Mountain" then you ought to get along to an Amway meeting and be prepared to climb that mountain. remember to bring a packed lunch with you because I gather "Success" Mountain is pretty damn high if you choose the Amway path!.
Anyway take a look at the website and prepare to chuckle - this is Commonwealth standard sarcasm. Just my cup of tea.
Electricity supply interruption
those of us who live in Maplehurst suffered several days of power cuts last week. One expects this on the odd occasion, living in a rural area but five cuts in six days is stretching things a bit far. I spoke with SEEBOARD several times over the course of the weekend. Most of the time I heard a disembodied voice re-assuring me that power would be restored within two hours. This continued for fifteen hours one day. Great Corporate incident management in practice I think. The excuses continued unabated for several days after that.
The lowlight of the weekend was having half power restored. Apparently this is a very bad thing because it causes motors and other electrical appliances to burn out. I wonder what SEEBOARD would propose to do if this had caused a serious fire in the house of someone who was away at the time?
Anyway, my feelings of antipathy towards SEEBOARD were lessened when they promised to send me a cheque for £50 to cover any "inconvenience" caused by the power cuts.
At least I had a generator to maintain power to the house during the days!
The oddest part of the whole experience was not being able to talk to customer services about the outages. Apparently they are based in East Grinstead and their telephone number is not given to members of the public or, Heaven forbid, actual customers of the company.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine alerted me to the cyber presence of the Urban Alliance . The link wasn't working last time I looked but I live in hope. If you want to see the level that the "anti" hunt argument has descended (or should it be ascended) to, pay a short visit to the website. How these people haven't been prosecuted for inciting anarchy escapes me.
Perhaps if they are allowed out of school early one day, they could e-mail me and let me know what motivates them.
Apart from the huge number of factual errors, there doesn't actually seem to be much about the fox because the pages of the site are given over to the most spiteful envy and class hatred I have read in ages.
I reckon a good hot bath and a square protein-based meal would make a world of difference to their attitude.
What George Bush didn't say recently
Every so often (very often, actually) I like to share something amusing with my e-friends (I don't have any real ones). I read the following article in The Grauniad recently. Its quite an eye opener:-
Friday September 6, 2002
At the height of the summer, as talk of invading Iraq built in Washington like a dark, billowing storm, the US armed forces staged a rehearsal using over 13,000 troops, countless computers and $250m. Officially, America won and a rogue state was liberated from an evil dictator.
What really happened is quite another story, one that has set alarm bells ringing throughout America's defence establishment and raised questions over the US military's readiness for an Iraqi invasion. In fact, this war game was won by Saddam Hussein, or at least by the retired marine playing the Iraqi dictator's part, Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper.
In the first few days of the exercise, using surprise and unorthodox tactics, the wily 64-year-old Vietnam veteran sank most of the US expeditionary fleet in the Persian Gulf, bringing the US assault to a halt.
What happened next will be familiar to anyone who ever played soldiers in the playground. Faced with an abrupt and embarrassing end to the most expensive and sophisticated military exercise in US history, the Pentagon top brass simply pretended the whole thing had not happened. They ordered their dead troops back to life and "refloated" the sunken fleet. Then they instructed the enemy forces to look the other way as their marines performed amphibious landings. Eventually, Van Riper got so fed up with all this cheating that he refused to play any more. Instead, he sat on the sidelines making abrasive remarks until the three-week war game - grandiosely entitled Millennium Challenge - staggered to a star-spangled conclusion on August 15, with a US "victory".
If the Pentagon thought it could keep its mishap quiet, it underestimated Van Riper. A classic marine - straight-talking and fearless, with a purple heart from Vietnam to prove it - his retirement means he no longer has to put up with the bureaucratic niceties of the defence department. So he blew the whistle.
His driving concern, he tells the Guardian, is that when the real fighting starts, American troops will be sent into battle with a set of half-baked tactics that have not been put to the test.
"Nothing was learned from this," he says. "A culture not willing to think hard and test itself does not augur well for the future." The exercise, he says, was rigged almost from the outset.
Millennium Challenge was the biggest war game of all time. It had been planned for two years and involved integrated operations by the army, navy, air force and marines. The exercises were part real, with 13,000 troops spread across the United States, supported by actual planes and warships; and part virtual, generated by sophisticated computer models. It was the same technique used in Hollywood blockbusters such as Gladiator. The soldiers in the foreground were real, the legions behind entirely digital.
The game was theoretically set in 2007 and pitted Blue forces (the US) against a country called Red. Red was a militarily powerful Middle Eastern nation on the Persian Gulf that was home to a crazed but cunning megalomaniac (Van Riper). Arguably, when the exercises were first planned back in 2000, Red could have been Iran. But by July this year, when the game kicked off, it is unlikely that anyone involved had any doubts as to which country beginning with "I" Blue was up against.
"The game was described as free play. In other words, there were two sides trying to win," Van Riper says.
Even when playing an evil dictator, the marine veteran clearly takes winning very seriously. He reckoned Blue would try to launch a surprise strike, in line with the administration's new pre-emptive doctrine, "so I decided I would attack first."
Van Riper had at his disposal a computer-generated flotilla of small boats and planes, many of them civilian, which he kept buzzing around the virtual Persian Gulf in circles as the game was about to get under way. As the US fleet entered the Gulf, Van Riper gave a signal - not in a radio transmission that might have been intercepted, but in a coded message broadcast from the minarets of mosques at the call to prayer. The seemingly harmless pleasure craft and propeller planes suddenly turned deadly, ramming into Blue boats and airfields along the Gulf in scores of al-Qaida-style suicide attacks. Meanwhile, Chinese Silkworm-type cruise missiles fired from some of the small boats sank the US fleet's only aircraft carrier and two marine helicopter carriers. The tactics were reminiscent of the al-Qaida attack on the USS Cole in Yemen two years ago, but the Blue fleet did not seem prepared. Sixteen ships were sunk altogether, along with thousands of marines. If it had really happened, it would have been the worst naval disaster since Pearl Harbor.
It was at this point that the generals and admirals monitoring the war game called time out.
"A phrase I heard over and over was: 'That would never have happened,'" Van Riper recalls. "And I said: nobody would have thought that anyone would fly an airliner into the World Trade Centre... but nobody seemed interested."
In the end, it was ruled that the Blue forces had had the $250m equivalent of their fingers crossed and were not really dead, while the ships were similarly raised from watery graves.
Van Riper was pretty fed up by this point, but things were about to get worse. The "control group", the officers refereeing the exercise, informed him that US electronic warfare planes had zapped his expensive microwave communications systems.
"You're going to have to use cellphones and satellite phones now, they told me. I said no, no, no - we're going to use motorcycle messengers and make announcements from the mosques," he says. "But they refused to accept that we'd do anything they wouldn't do in the west."
Then Van Riper was told to turn his air defences off at certain times and places where Blue forces were about to stage an attack, and to move his forces away from beaches where the marines were scheduled to land. "The whole thing was being scripted," he says.
Within his ever narrowing constraints, Van Riper continued to make a nuisance of himself, harrying Blue forces with an arsenal of unorthodox tactics, until one day, on July 29, he thinks, he found his orders to his subordinate officers were not being listened to any more. They were being countermanded by the control group. So Van Riper quit. "I stayed on to give advice, but I stopped giving orders. There was no real point any more," he says.
Van Riper's account of Millennium Challenge is not disputed by the Pentagon. It does not deny "refloating" the Blue navy, for example. But that, it argues, is the whole point of a war game.
Vice-Admiral Cutler Dawson, the commander of the ill-fated fleet, and commander, in real life, of the US 2nd Fleet, says: "When you push the envelope, some things work, some things don't. That's how you learn from the experiment."
The whole issue rapidly became a cause celebre at the Pentagon press briefing, where the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, got the vice-chairman of the joint chiefs-of-staff, General Peter Pace, to explain why the mighty US forces had needed two lives in order to win.
"You kill me in the first day and I sit there for the next 13 days doing nothing, or you put me back to life and you get 13 more days' worth of experiment out of me. Which is a better way to do it?" General Pace asked.
Van Riper agrees with Pace in principle, but says the argument is beside the point.
"Scripting is not a problem because you're trying to learn something," he says. "The difference with this one was that it was advertised up front as free play in order to validate the concepts they were trying to test, to see if they were robust enough to put into doctrine."
It is these "concepts" that are at the core of a serious debate that underlies what would otherwise be a silly row about who was playing fair and who wasn't. The US armed forces are in the throes of what used to be called a "Revolution in Military Affairs", and is now usually referred to simply as "transformation". The general idea is to make the US military more flexible, more mobile and more imaginative. It was this transformation that Rumsfeld was obsessed with during his first nine months in office, until September 11 created other priorities.
The advocates of transformation argue that it requires a whole new mindset, from the generals down to the ordinary infantryman. So military planners, instead of drawing up new tactics, formulate more amorphous "concepts" intended to change fundamentally the American soldier's view of the battlefield.
The principal concept on trial in Millennium Challenge was called "rapid, decisive operation" (RDO), and as far as Van Riper and many veteran officers are concerned, it is gobbledegook. "As if anyone would want slow, indecisive operations! These are just slogans," he snorts.
The question of transformation and the usefulness of concepts such as RDO are the subject of an intense battle within the Pentagon, in which the uniformed old guard are frequently at odds with radical civilian strategists of the kind Rumsfeld brought into the Pentagon.
John Pike, the head of GlobalSecurity.org, a military thinktank in Washington, believes the splits over transformation and the whole Van Riper affair reflect fundamental differences of opinion on how to pursue the war on Iraq.
"One way is to march straight to Baghdad, blowing up everything in your way and then by shock and awe you cause the regime to collapse," Pike says. "That is what Rumsfeld is complaining about when he talks about unimaginative plodding. The alternative is to bypass the Iraqi forces and deliver a decisive blow."
Van Riper denies being opposed to new military thinking. He just thinks it should be written in plain English and put to the test. "My main concern was that we'd see future forces trying to use these things when they've never been properly grounded in an experiment," he says.
The name Van Riper draws either scowls or rolling eyes at the Pentagon these days, but there are anecdotal signs that he has the quiet support of the uniformed military, who, after all, will be the first to discover whether the Iraq invasion plans work in real life.
"He can be a real pain in the ass, but that's good," a fellow retired officer told the Army Times. "He's a great guy, and he's a great patriot, and he's doing all those things for the right reasons."
Its a good job Blair knows what he's up to, isn't it?
At long last the LPG is done and dusted. - In the photographs below you can see the result. The fuel economy is nearly as good as petrol, the engine burns very cleanly (Carbon dioxide and Water are the only by-products) and I can't discern any drop in performance. Definitely recommended for those who do lots of miles a year . The only downside to LPG is that you are not allowed through the Channel Tunnel with a car that is fitted with an LPG tank, but that seems a small price to pay.
Basically the system works as follows.
LPG in liquid form is pumped into the tank - see the attached photos for where I have located my filler and tank.
I have a fuel level meter that shows me how much gas is in the tank
There is an electronic management device in the engine that determines when the engine is sufficiently warm to allow the gas to take over as fuel from petrol.
When this state has been reached, the electronics cause gas to flow in liquid form down the inlet hose, through the vapourisers and into the injectors. (Simon sent me a series of photos which are marginally less interesting than the one I have shown. I also had instructions of how the cursor was to be held over a picture to reveal a pop-up close up of the relevant item. Ho Ho! Beware of dinner party invites from this man if LPG is mentioned. I believe he may have a video as well. DT)
Are you one of those conspiracy theory cranks who believes that aliens are sending us a message via our arable crops? If so, then you could do a lot worse that going to see the film Signs with Mel Gibson. Those, like me, who are tired of the Antipodean midget can take solace from the myriad of crop circle websites that litter the internet.
A few in particular are worth spending some time on:-
The first is a website run by a lady called Lucy Pringle. She is some sort of "expert" that appears in the media quite a lot and expounds various theories about how crop circles are formed and what message they are sending us.
There is another site that looks slightly more scientific is the crop circle research one.
Regardless of your beliefs about the origins of these circles, you have to agree that they make for some pretty spectacular artwork.
I don't actually believe that these circles are anything but a man-made hoax for a number of reasons that I won't burden you with here. The two most obvious pieces of evidence are as follows:-
Firstly all crop circles have tractor tyre marks running through them, thus providing a convenient entry and exit line for any budding hoaxer.
The second reason is slightly more subtle - the overwhelming number of these circles are composed of what seems to be exceedingly intricate patterns. Not so. Take a closer look and you will see that the majority of the patterns are based on cyclical hexagons (hexagons where all corners touch the circumference of a circle) and equilateral triangles (hexagon components). The cyclical hexagon is one of the simplest trigonometrical structures to draw and needs only a compass and pencil. On a grand scale, you need only a long piece of string and a stick of wood to bat the corn or wheat down to make the pattern.
There have also been a number of documentaries on the National Geographic channel on sky recently. These showed two sides of the argument. On the one hand we had the "believers", one of whom has actually claimed on air that crop circles are due to a plasma vortex in the space-time continuum! I reckon he's overdosed on doctor Who. These guys are amazing, one of their number reckons he has seen a plasma vortex coming down a hill towards him!
On the "skeptics" side the show interviewed a couple of septuagenarian rogues who (surprise, surprise) go around building crop circles. The documentary even showed them building such a circle in a field of wheat. The chief engineer of the project wears a flat cap that must be as old as him. He is able to walk in completely straight lines thanks to what he calls his "heads up" device. This is actually a wire coat hanger taped to his head with a "sight" fixed on an arm about 8" in front of his master eye.
Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the circles built in the programme are based on the simple hexagon geometry I mentioned above.
One word of warning, though. Please don't go and attempt to recreate any crop circles in the Sussex countryside. The farmer won't thank you for trampling his crops with commodity prices as low as they are at the moment. Worse than that, you could be trampling down cover crops that are used for game. Perhaps the best reason for not trespassing (even in the name of art) is that someone might actually be shooting in the field you go to! (There was an interesting crop circle off Sedgwick Lane a couple of years ago. It was spotted by some guy in a micro light. DT)
Last word about conkers
The entries for the Corney and Barrow conker challenge are on the low side this year. The firm recently made the following press announcement in The Times:
CORNEY & Barrow is appealing for City firms to enter the 2002 Fonseca Conker Challenge, in which the Commerzbank Conkerers will attempt to defend the title they won last year. The winners of the event, which takes place at Corney & Barrow's Lloyd's of London wine bar on October 1, will receive a trip to the Portuguese city of Oporto courtesy of Fonseca Port, though for some reason they will also have to take part in Oporto's annual boat race.
To enter a team of three call 0207 448-3700.
If you want to enter, give them a call. The return on capital is astounding!
Next month, don't miss the following items:-
Report on The March
Tuna fishing in The Atlantic
Restoration of a Punt Gun and much, much more.
Simon McClean 20th September 2002 last months MR's
PS Apologies to Simon for not adding this earlier but I have been busy and ill. DT
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