August 28, 2003


As a green card holding permanent resident in the United States from Great Britain, my status denies me to right to vote in America.

I live in the ‘burbs of Philadelphia, Montgomery County, across a county line that would if I could vote, void my participation in the mayoral elections in early November.

Yet as I travel through Philadelphia twice each day, on-route to my office in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. I have an opinion on this “local” of elections that has been clawing inside my fingertips just waiting to be bashed onto London Chimes. Like a water pipe under pressure, I am only going to release the valve a little today with the following statement.

“Philadelphia has a problem with its street. Not the boulevard that majestically terminates at the palatial Museum of Art, not the Avenues or Roads, not even the streets that cross the city from north to south. Not Broad Street, the avenue of the arts. This street sits at the cross of Market Street and Broad Street, this street is John Street, the current mayoral incumbent”.

I have titled this post, Philadelphia and for my wider audience I want to offer my thoughts on one of the largest cities in America and its challenges for the future.

For too long, Philadelphia has considered itself the poor relation to New York and Washington DC, both not more than a two hour drive to the north and the south respectively. Both of these cities are very different in their identity and purpose to Philadelphia. Philadelphia was once the center for commerce and the home of government following independence in 1776. But that is a history lesson and the start of the long sulk.

Let us consider the following facts, Philadelphia still has a stock exchange building, active today, but will not replace the center of international commerce of Wall Street in New York. Philadelphia still retains Independence Hall, the original seat of government, yet will not replace the current political powerhouse that requires the Capitol Building and surrounding infrastructure provided by Washington DC.

I heard a great quote this week. When America celebrated its bicentennial in 1976, the celebration of a country 200 years, in comparison with others, suggested that it was about nine years old. Given this perspective, Philadelphia lost its “toys” from it pram and is still sulking over the loss. Is this a teenage sulk?

No. Philadelphia is a great Cinderella story, but this tale is far from over.

Riches to rags, some might describe the current fortune of Philadelphia, yet a city is just a point on a map of other cities. What makes Philadelphia different is the people. Philadelphia is a great multi-cultural mix that reputedly enjoys its sports and leisure time. There is a feeling of community, a sense of belonging and general pride in Philadelphia. A passion that has lacked in the corridors of city hall, where the pulse of the people is not felt as much as heard ringing from the constant protests for one cause or another beneath its windows.

Philadelphians seem like a bohemian bunch of New Yorkers. This is no insult; they are creative, flamboyant and know how to party. They also can be gritty and will hold out for a cause in a collective brotherhood in its original definition. United we stand, divided we fall, and currently Philadelphia is united in its mission to change the management in City Hall.

Philadelphia has a cancer that has spread within creating blight on the housing and industry and forcing many companies and residents to move out into the neighboring counties. City taxes, commercial and employment are not an incentive for commerce to invest in the city. The roads within a short drive of center city are deplorable and in need of repair while consecutive winters compound a problem on the side streets.

The challenge to Philadelphia is simple, it will take a reversal of the current beaucracy to create Philadelphia Inc. A city run on business principals, to review public spending, prioritize the short term needs for the city, develop a strategic plan to encourage commerce and residents back within the city limits. Create incentives to take personal responsibility for property owners to fully utilize the assets they own. Invest in the infrastructure of the city to provide easy access and public transportation including cross-city links.

Twenty years ago, Philadelphia was not a place to want to live in. Administrations in city hall, took charge and as an environment brought us to a better place where we are today. However to much papering over the cracks in the last four years has worn away and empty promises for more of the same from the current mayor and his administration fails to make the lowest of marks in what is good for the city.

Philadelphia is not a New York or Washington. It is Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. It is in essence a great city with a personality problem. A clear vision is needed and Sam Katz with “real world” business experience is the man to lead Philadelphia from the edge of an abyss that it has tumbled towards in recent years.

Certainly Mayor Street will point to his accomplishments; it is his right so to do. But if you have the power to vote in this election, do you want more of the same-old, or is a change of direction needed with a new man at the helm.

I started by saying that as a permanent resident in this great country I cannot vote, and living in Montgomery County I cannot vote Sam Katz as new mayor. In conclusion this is not a question of Democrat versus Republican, this is not an issue of personalities, this is an issue of what is important, and getting down to the brass tacks to mange the change that is necessary with the overwhelming support of the electorate. Sam Katz does not only deserve to win this election, but to ride into city hall on a landslide of votes that cries out a message across America that we will not allow politicians to place their own interests above that of the electorate, we will not tolerate abuse of privilege and we will not let a proud city fall into the abyss to which we currently teeter.

Today is the 40th Anniversary of the famous “I have a dream” speech by Dr. King. His legacy, the period of change and tolerance that has swept a nation in a blink of an eye in comparison with all of history has created a path that in some small way leads us to the elections in Philadelphia.

My final word today is that I lend my support to the campaign of Sam Katz for mayor of Philadelphia, and ask that you favorably consider this man as the right man on Election Day. You have a power that by status I personally faile by qualification, you have the right to vote, use it and make the right choice.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

August 26, 2003

A tribute to the crew of Columbia

This morning I watched lived coverage of the release of the final investigative report on the loss of Columbia. Link here for Fox News story and further links to the full report.

Unquestionably this loss of Columbia on a beautiful morning on February 1 this year, was the biggest news story since 9/11.

Watching the vapour trails as Columbia broke up high in the sky was unreal, until the arrival clock ticked on seconds and minutes past the due arrival time of the shuttle that rarely arrived off schedule. As the seconds ticked onward, it slowly dawned that not only was something terribly wrong, but millions had seen the breakup of the shuttle skim through a cloudless sunny morning.

Readers of London Chimes will know that I rarely post more than one blog on any one day. However this news story today, the finger pointing within the mangement of NASA, has shaken it to its very core demands through my interest in this subject to report my thoughts.

NASA once revered as a government agency that "worked" cannot following the publication of this report look back on its successes of the Apollo missions and the successful return of Apollo 13 despite the escalating risks.

Sadly the golden shine of NASA has lost its luster. But could this have been averted? Perhaps.

I listened to a conversation this afternoon by an engineer who was responsible for working on the guidance and navigation for Columbia. NASA always had a back up plan, and a back-up plan for that too. If lines of communication were as effective for this mission and decisive decision making was followed, although Columbia may have been lost, the crew would have been saved.

Consider this scenario:

1. Immediatley after launch, mission control realizes damage to the shuttle may have been caused to the structure of the shuttle that would cause difficulties on re-entry.

2. The mission would be aborted and the shuttle would be ordered to continue its main engine burn to a higher alttude and orbit to meet and dock with the International Space Station.

3. Once docked at the ISS, the crew could inspect the external damage of Columbia and report back to mission control.

4. The ISS together with mission supplies on Columbia would maintain the needs of both crews.

5. A russian launch was scheduled within days to service the ISS.

6. If repairs to Columbia could be made, the necessary parts could have been sent up with the russian rocket to the ISS.

7. If Columbia was damaged beyond immediate repair, the shuttle could be left until such times repairs could be completed and the Columbia crew would return to earth by one or more Russian craft.

8. Therefore Columbia would not necessarily be lost and the crew would be saved.

This gentleman affectionately refers to the shuttles as rocks with wings. They cannot as science-fiction would have you beleive be able to fly hither and dither but have a narrow margin to expand their defined mission, there and back.

Sadly a breakdown in communications and the mission placed ahead of lives compounded with no decisive decisions being made.

I will not forget that day five months and twenty six days ago. It was my 40th birthday. Nothing of any newsworth note had ever really taken place on that date in history. History now has a sad story to tell for February 1.

Personally, I do hope that the conquest of space continues. Every effort should be made for any astronaut of any nation to be safely launched into the stars and brought home safely. There will always be risks, it remains the personal responsibility of each and every project manager, engineer, accountant and contractor on the greater team to ensure that the risk of loss of life through space travel is minimized and adequate contingencies including a support craft to rescue astronauts stranded in space back to earth. Regardless of cost.

The conquest of space is more than the responsibility of one agency or one nation. The argument that NASA should be replaced with a new agency is folly, is not the BCIS the INS in another guise? JFK set the challenge to place a man on the moon in the early sixties, an incredible agency that "worked" was created and achieved a challenge that mankind has dreamt for centuries. Perhaps the challenge of Mars, would inspire the necessary team to rebuild NASA from the inside out. The challenge of Mars would attract the calibre of engineers that NASA truly deserves to have within its ranks, to return the golden shine to make a great agency from the beaucracy that it has so sadly slipped towards.

As a child who grew up fascinated with the space race, skylab, the shuttles, the hubble telescope and now the ISS. Mankind has come a long way in a short time. This is not star-trek, the ideals of a television show is something one day we may aspire to, but in the journey of the conquest of the space around us, there will be potholes along the way. Challenger and now Columbia are but two.

I hold to the ideal that NASA is a center of excellence for cutting edge technology that takes us towards the stars. The President today speaking in St. Pauls MN, is quoted that the space program is to continue.

Continue it must, continue it will. For one reason if not any other, to honor the memories and dedication of those who touched the stars and gave their lives last February. To abandon the program would be to dishonor them all and what they believed in.

Feedback always invited, please email me.
APPAULING - The Fifth Annual Family Friendly TV Awards.

I am disturbed from the airing of a program last night in primetime that promised potential and failed so terribly that I zapped around for something less popcorn to watch.

I was not bothered by an awards show in the middle of the summer, although a little unusual, it could my attention.

No, the problem that I had was that in the categories given there was only a winner and no other nominees. Given there were defined categories such as best reality show, that is family friendly (?) rules out all but American Idol, the winner last night. There were other unusual categories such as the TV family you would want to live next to (The George Lopez Show) and the Coolest Teen on TV, some young lady who co-stars with Kelly formerly of Beverley Hills 90210 as her big sister. – I cannot even remember the name of the show.

What bothers me is that given the total number of channels that are cabled, beamed and otherwise transmitted into our homes each day, there is precious little family friendly television that the whole family can sit and watch together.

George Lopez in accepting the award, somewhat tongue in cheek, questioned if America really wanted a Latino family living next door to them, as this would not have been the case a few short years ago.

After watching the popcorn and bubble gum presented on network television last night as the best of family friendly television, I personally could not stomach beyond the second commercial break.

WB broadcast it, I thought that it was ABC when I went to check all results on their web page, and I am confronted by a woman in a state of undress animated on their homepage promoting some other show. Ye-gods! Subsequently I found that the ABC Family is a different web page, and does not contain such images. Nevertheless, in the days of corporate web pages needing to be all things to all people, this particular image is frankly abhorrent given that some of their shows won awards at a family friendly television event the night before!

Something is seriously wrong, the networks are currently cashing in on reality television during primetime that draws the paying advertisers at small cost to the networks. We are not dealing with “stars” but John and Jane America who are being served up as entertainment as they accrue a little more than 15 minutes of fame.

However, most of this reality entertainment, Race to the Altar, Joe Millionaire, The Batchelor, The Batchelorette, and Survivor, Real World even Big Brother are at times inappropriate for family viewing. Fox in particular, ABC, MTV, NBC, WB, CBS in no particular order are to be blamed for this "dumbing down" to a greater or lesser degree

Turning to the George Lopez show, I am not sure if this is broadcast in the UK. A situation comedy looks at life situations within a family and extended environment given the cultural idiosyncrasies living in America.

It is well written and very, very funny. Nevertheless, sadly only one or two other current shows fall into this category. Why? With the new season approaching, we can look forward to an offering of new sub-standard family friendly shows that will be expected to fall short of the mark and be cancelled by the networks because of falling ratings and lower interest from the paying advertisers.

Who wins? Not the public.

Who is to blame? The public? We demand good quality programs and when they are served up like a half-baked microwaved offering, we switch off.

Sadly it is a vicious circle and I shudder to think we should be thankful that we have the little family friendly TV that does exist, there being enough of us who will sit and watch the small offering that do exists to provide the ratings that keep the advertisers and network executives interested.

It would be wonderful if the networks would take a chance with their investment on new shows, given them a decent airing to allow the viewing public to embrace the new characters and plots, before getting cold feet and pulling the plug just at the point the public are establishing their viewing routines for the new season. What a waste by the executives. I suggest they commission less new shows, double the writing and acting resources on those they do move ahead with and who knows, the next Family Friendly Awards show might actually have a little competition in each category.

But when have network executives being anything other than spineless peddlars? Well there was Lord Grade his like I doubt we will EVER see again.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

August 23, 2003

Philadelphia Bloggers Make the Inquirer.

Many months ago when the hours of night were far longer than those under a sun with little heat and that a popular pastime was shoveling snow on the drive, I was involved in an email discussion with fellow blogger James Capozzola author of the Rittenhouse Review, James a fellow Philadelphian blogger and I discussed among other things that there were a great many bloggers in our area who deserved some mainstream media coverage although this had never happened.

Well it may have taken until the days were longer and hotter than hades with nights of restless sleep from the heat. But the local nemesis, The Philadelphia Inquirer printed a feature on the blogging phenomon. Why nemesis? There is a running battle between bloggers and journalists who claim that confirmation of the facts of a story are more through in the media than they are for a blogger. I would take issue with that as how many times have the media in its widest context never let the full facts get in the way of a juicy story, and they call themselves professionals!

London Chimes is not included in the Inquirer report, written by Beth Gillin. Listed among the austere company of Throwing Things, Suburban Guerilla, Go Fish and Eschaton and my personal favorite The Rittenhouse Review. Neither is Glenn Frazier included in this report who compared with the lighter side offerings of London Chimes included in this printed item.

Link here for the Philadelphia Inquirer Story.

Yes, I invest personal time in creating and posting to London Chimes, some of a personal nature, some newsworthy locally, nationally, and internationally, I continue to be surprised at the number of visitors, some of whom take the time to email me with their thoughts and opinions.

The following is a posting from the Rittenhouse Review, I thank James for being specifically named, among a number of other great Philadelphia bloggers with copied with respectful reference to the copyright laws.

The Mainstreaming of the Rough Edges

Remember, way back when, when the inestimable TBogg, who writes from the cultural and intellectual wasteland known as “San Diego,” expressed just a tinge of jealousy over the multitude of intelligent, interesting, and fun Philadelphia bloggers? (No? Well, he did. And well he did.)

As if to give evidence to TBogg’s not-so-latent envy, Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer Beth Gillin today has a brief feature article in the daily magazine section of the Inquirer about local bloggers, “Booming Blogs.”

Gillin rounds up most of the usual suspects, including Adam Bonin of Throwing Things, Susan Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla, “Nicole” of Go Fish, and “Atrios” of Eschaton, among others. Yeah, I’m in there, too, mentioned in passing.

It’s a shame the Inquirer didn’t give Gillin more space for her article. She might have been able to mention my Philo-centric second blog, TRR: The Lighter Side of Rittenhouse, and perhaps something beyond my interest in my dog, Mildred, and my dying bonsai -- both, truth be told, minor subjects at Rittenhouse and TRR -- and on the way have had time to direct readers to all of the other interesting, provocative, thoughtful, even quirky, Philadelphia bloggers who deserve the attention not only of local readers, but of web surfers everywhere.

Gosh, now of whom could I be thinking? Well, there are, in no particular order:

Jesse Taylor of Pandagon

Timothy R. Gray of Pennsylvania Gazette

Jennifer Weiner of SnarkSpot

Karl Martino of Paradox1x

Fred Clark of Slacktivist

“Mr. Poon” of Sugar, Mr. Poon?

“LilBuchner” of With Karate…

Malcolm Friend of London Chimes

And many, many others.

TBogg’s hypothesis about Philly blogging, as expressed at his site in April, in a post entitled, “Two Bloggers Walk Into [sic] a Bar,” was this: “Apparently there is an impressive number of Philadelphia-based bloggers, caused, no doubt, by the high concentration of smart people combined with truly [expletive deleted] weather that keeps them inside, thinking and seething.”

He was right then, about the “high concentration of smart people,” of course, and about the weather, too. And in light of the horrible winter we had in Philadelphia, the fact we missed spring entirely, and this our miserable summer, he’s correct now, too.

So here we are, we Philadelphia bloggers, individually and collectively, still “inside,” still “thinking and seething,” and still blogging.

I trust and hope you are enjoying our efforts.

So this evening as I sit and create this entry and look at some of my fellow Philadelphian blogger web pages for for the first time, I am just thankful that my small contribution to blogsphere is valued enough for mention. Thank you James.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

August 21, 2003

The best place for your cell phone is in the mayonnaise jar

Have I gone completely bonkers? Perhaps, or I could just be missing Salad Cream.

There is I assure you a serious point to this blog posting. I have “unplugged” myself from the world news beyond the thirty second segments on the radio in the morning and my drive-time afternoon fix of talk radio on the hosts chosen topic as inane or hilarious as it may be.

I have heard of the UN blast in Iraq and the capture of the fifth most wanted man in Iraq, briefly this week and offer no opinion at this time as I know few real facts. What I am aware of is the cyber attacks and viruses that have created dozens of emails in my colleagues email in box, I did not receive one on either of my regular email accounts.

Given that so many of us use email as part of daily communication, between family, friends and business associates, the question was recently raised, what did we do before email? Internal memos and handwritten letters were used to communicate, and unlike the instant action of pressing the send button, we would wait for a day or more to receive the mail in through the letterbox in the front door or in the internal mail. The art of writing has been placed onto the back burner that email language has developed to reduce the number of keystrokes and use a character set that would be grammatically incorrect.

Not that many years ago, you would be warned to keep away from those who talk to themselves on the street. Now we all do it, with cell phones so small, earpieces, and microphones so frequently used, it is a challenge not to hear one side of a cell phone conversation in any environment. Yet, to the observer this can be a form of entertainment and offer little privacy to the caller or the called.

Regular readers will know that I often refer to the Independent in the UK for news stories. There is an Independent in Nebraska and to that I heartily congratulate Karren Boehr of Henderson who has written he following feature under the title of this post and reinforces that real life stories are hilarious.

In the middle of irrigation season, Wild Woollies folk sometimes do unpredictable things. With less than a quarter of an inch of rain since the middle of June, it's called sanity. (This year currently holds the record for being one of the driest summers since records began.)

One hot evening, a few weeks ago, this desperate gopher surfed the web until she found some cheapish airline tickets. (That means they weren't expensive, but they also weren't exactly a steal.) Our youngest was finishing up her summer internship with Sen. Ben Nelson's office in Washington, D.C., and was begging us to come. We turned the irrigating over to our son, never looked back, and headed east. The instructions were very simple: "If a pivot gets stuck, shut it off, and we'll deal with it when we get back".

The two of us hit the Omaha airport with a lot of enthusiasm -- almost like a jail break. It was here, only two hours into our trip, that I realized how long it has been since I've been out among civilized folk. Virtually everyone around me was mouthing words into a bite-sized rectangle -- their cell phones. We frequently use cell phones in the Wild Woollies, but nothing like this.

We were waiting for American Airlines to find a third flight attendant for our airplane...
"And then what did he say...? You're kidding! Did you tell him I never want to speak to him again?" (I'm sitting next to the young woman and couldn't have missed a word if I'd have tried.) "No, I'm on the way to St. Louis right now!... Of course, I can see the airplanes out the window!" (Da! I know a brilliant statement when I hear one.)

The young lady went on in great detail about this absolutely irresistible hunk of a young man who did something awful -- and she dumped him. It was like listening to a cheap soap opera. Sorry, but I never did find out exactly what Mr. Hunk was guilty of, but after listening to 20 minutes of moaning on the phone, I was ready to lynch him myself.
And to the back of me...

"Now calm down, the dog's got to be somewhere... No, I can't come home right now. I'm on my way to Dallas for a meeting...You packed my suitcase, remember? Trixie is probably under the bed. Did you look by the pool... She likes to sit in that blue deck chair... Take a deep breath... (I did.) I'll call mother to come help you look. OK, so my mother's no help... Yes, I know the two of you don't get along, but Trixie likes mother." (Now this conversation was showing some potential.) The gentleman sighed a few times and boarded his plane still talking.

Only my farmer and I sat in the Omaha airport without a cell phone. We decided when a man-of-the-land leaves a host of running pivots and wells for a son to oversee, it's best to put the cell phone in a mayonnaise jar in the refrigerator, shove a package of hot dogs in front of it, and slam the door.
If we hadn't...

Ring....! "No, we're still on the ground...have to replace a flight attendant. How's it going? Oh, I forgot to tell you, the dog food is in the garage -- one scoop." (Silence)

"You're serious. The west pivot motor blew up? It's new! Well...OK...can't be fixed, obviously. I don't suppose you have time to go find a new one... Yes, I know, this trip wasn't the greatest idea during irrigation season, but who knew it would be the second driest July and August on record.

Our tickets are bought and as soon as they come up with a flight attendant, we're off. Hang in there..."

Ring...! "Hello... Yes, great to hear from you... One of the bulls, the younger one, is getting out? And you've tired of putting him back in? Ah...yes... (choke), I really would like to come get him, but I'm sitting in the Omaha airport waiting to take off for Washington, D.C... You say he's raising cane in the corral...tearing it apart board by board... Do you have a sale barn close by...? Sell him... You're willing to do that? Thanks. Thanks a lot. We'll settle up later."

Ring... "Hello? Oh, hello, sheriff. One of my pivots is sprinkling the road and I need to shut it off...? It's never done that before. Yes, I know, sprinkling the road can be very dangerous. Except I'm in Omaha waiting for a flight to D.C.... It has to be turned off... I'll see if I can get a hold of my son... Yes, I'll take care of it right away."

Ring... "Dad, the brakes went out on my pickup."

"You need to go turn off the south east pivot."

"I have no way of getting there."

"The sheriff is waiting for you."

"Ah...guess I'll find a way...."

The preceding conversations are all fictitious, though every one of them could have easily taken place. For this reason, when my man-of-the-land and I left home, our cell phone stayed behind, tucked in tight. If you don't believe me, check out the mayonnaise jar. It's a no-brainer, my friends. It's an absolute no- brainer.

London Chimes question to my reader : Please explain what is a pivot? I doubt it has little to do with the pivots I learned about in my physics and geometry lessons.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

August 15, 2003

Weekend Posting

I have the luxury of sitting at home this evening, listening to the Swing music on Radio AOL, with a warm summer evening breeze blowing into my home office like a hair dryer. But hey, I refuse to complain after the continual wet weather that has hampered the summer for sixteen straight days, while my family in the UK baked in record temps. But I don't care its Friday!

Over the last few weeks I have had the pleasure of meeting a good friend of one of my in-laws from Australia. A really nice guy it has been a pleasure to spend a little time in his company and hear his views on America.

"America has a PR problem", explained Luke to me last Friday evening. The media in its broadest sense did not prepare Luke for that slice of Americana that I happily call home. The burbs, is as far removed from the big bad cities as you can get, and scratching the cine film to beyond the gloss to the facts reveals a very different America from that which he expected. So lets sack whoever controls the America Marketing International Agency and find a group that is up to the job.

We need not look far, there are over three hundred million willing candidates living here already.

Then there are the rare occassions that America is shown in its true colors, a realistic unbiased, warts and all view that defines the American dream. One of those rare occassions was yesterday, the place or places were the major cities in the North and North East of America, blacked out with no electric power in one of the hottest days of the year.

I can only repeat myself, like a parrot that America is not the same country to the one I arrived in three years ago. One day not quite two years ago steeled Americans, especially those in New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania.

So when the power cut and plunged Manhattan into chaos, the orderly Manhattan workers cleared buildings, followed advise to abandon subway cars beneath the surface and helped each other.

Manhattan was only one of the cities caught in the power out, but solidified in union against adversity, the New Yorkers pulled together in what the Brits would refer to as Bulldog spirit. Make the best of a bad deal. From helping one another, helping strangers, the less rushed hour afternoon turned to dusk and to night, as for the first time with no ambient light in the city the stars shone brightly overhead. Street parties started up, commuters realizing they had no chance of finding an operational train home to points north, south and west, headed to parkland and the streets themselves to settle down and sleep for the night. The hundreds of hotels could not function and for safety would not let people in without a reservation. For one night New York had the greatest population of rough sleepers without a soup kitchen in sight.

Hollywood would have you believe that New York is a dangerous place to be in the dark at night, yet with this change of attitude among the people there were very, very few people arrested for looting. In a night that truly would be a looters paradise, but Hollywood, the people proved how wrong you are. The people showed the world through the TV news pictures that America is not as bad as you would believe through the media machine. Sorry, but this is how it really is.

Restaurants downtown, provided drinks to keep those on the streets with liquid to prevent dehydration.

A couple that had recently arrived in New York from Europe, one was pregnant, the other was confined to a wheelchair. Were out shopping when the power cut. With no idea of how to get back to their hotel across town unable to walk in the heat and the crowds in their respective conditions, they asked a policeman on duty what was the best way to return to their hotel? The officer said "Here is how you get back" and duly drove them back in his police car. God bless NYPD blue!

Salons, hit the streets with their massusse chairs and manacure tables to offer a service to ease the nerves and
calm the commuters wandering with little place to go.

Mention must be made of the NY Fire Departments. There were a small number of fires caused by candles all were put out with no injuries.

Amy, a friend of ours that works in NY reported that those hoofing it across town to the bridges witnessed those with battery powered radios were pumping up the volume for all to hear the latest news. The good natured humor let to a party atmosphere with communal singing and shouts reminding each other to be careful with candles.

After 9/11 this was truly a cakewalk!

As the news broke yesterday at 4pm EST, I was on the road in central New Jersey, listening as I do to talk radio. The host was relaying the bites of news from the wires as it was available. I don't mind admiting that given the scope of the problem the number of cities affected at the same time that this could possibly be something sinister. A few years ago the first thought would be to point fingers at the power companies, blame the locals for one too many air conditioners being used and not be too concerned about American and Canadians in these other cities. Yet that has changed. The first thought for many yesterday was could this be a terror attack? Reports of plumes of black smoke seen in New York within minutes of the first reports only fueled the imagination of a major breaking story.

Was this news radio host adding to the problem? Subsequent callers suggested both sides of the argument. Personally, the guy had a responsibility to report the news as it was breaking, in the absence of any supporting information, he fell back on his personal thoughts. In the Delaware valley, it is not hard to consider what those thoughts might be, another terror attack?

Everyone has their opinions, more than twenty four hours onward, the public have no idea where the problem started, maybe in Canada, maybe Ohio. It could have been lightning, it could be cyber-terrorism. Given the virus warnings that are supposed to hit Microsoft software this weekend, it is still not difficult in the absence of hard facts and no real answers to speculate. There are still some without power, and in some areas without power to be without water from pumping stations.

Despite the best planning and implementation of a disaster recovery plan by the power companies, there is a fundemental failure. What happened yesterday, should not have happened. Ironically, in the last couple of days the industry agreed to measures to combat cyber-terrorist threats as time after time the systems adopted by the power companies can be hacked into.

Meanwhile, there are many voices airing the opinion that if this is of our own making, groups that wish to exact terror on the United States have seen first hand the fraility of a soft target as the power grid. Especially on a day that power is needed, the dark and cold of winter, the heat of summer. I can only think that there is someone watching taking note and planning.

To lighten things up it has bee a GREAT WEEK, heck, I even got my lawn cut today and some serious weeding completed.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

August 13, 2003

British Arms Dealer arrested in Newark New Jersey.

Mr Lakhani is alleged to be an established arms dealer and is believed to be a middle-aged, married man of Indian origin, who lives in London. He was arrested on suspicion of arranging the purchase at a Russian arms factory, then organising for it to be shipped to Baltimore, disguised as medical equipment. On Sunday, the man flew to New York with his wife on a BA flight from Heathrow Airport in London, two days before his arrest. Secret services from the US, Russia and Britain were involved in the operation, which began five months ago in St Petersburg. A spokesman for Russia's FSB said it was the first operation of its kind since the Cold War.

When the news broke last night my stomach turned that it was a Brit selling arms that could bring down an airliner out of the skies over America. Hollywood often portrayed arms dealers as shadowy characters from Africa, the Middle East or Russia. But Britain somehow fiction was more palatable than fact.

The appearance of Mr. Lakhani is a top story in the US today, in reading the information available about him his Indian origins and connections to illegal trafficking seem to edge closer to my fictional reality than true reality.

In the last couple of weeks I have taken to watching a BBC program MI5 currently airing on the A&E channel on Tuesday evenings. These fictional spy-versus-spy stories and the American “24” are starting to wane when reading the new relationship between the security services in the west and east.

With Iran holding it is believed Bin Laden’s son and other “Queada fish”, the term used. In doing so preventing Americans to question them seems to put a target onto the President of Iran. With the cooperation of the security forces worldwide, partners working with each other for the first time, the whole scenario is playing out in Tom Clancy fashion.

With the anniversary of 9/11 approaching, and increased chatter being heard through the intellengence community, the President of Iran really should hope that nothing happens in the west that may be avoided if the “fish” are not questioned.

On a local level the number of flags flying have reduced in recent months I am certain will start to appear once again in September. Nobody here in America has forgotten, least of all those personally touched by the events two years ago.

I have but one question. The arms that entered Baltimore as part of the sting operation was not actually functional, a special order that looked like the real thing but would not work. Smuggled in to the states as medical equipment, was it given the all clear through the agencies involved, or is their a hole in Homeland Security and that this could have been the real deal?

Feedback always invited, please email me.

August 11, 2003

100F +

Its official! London Airport was the first to post a reading above 100F since records began, with Gravesend in Kent topping off at 100.6F

For the full story link here.

The weather channel last night in ther USA even covered scenes from Brighton on the south coast reporting the record setting day in the UK. While in the US humidity is unpleasantly high despite the lower than normal temps.

It would seem the jet stream has stalled to the south east of my current location, instead of being well to the north, with the stream picking up the warm weather from the atlantic and dumping it all over western europe further to the north than normal.

Rainfall in New York is over four times that which fell last year, as monsoon storms with thunder, lightning and frequent heavy downpours deluge the north eastern seaboard of the States.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

August 08, 2003

In honor of my wife Taney.

Locks of Love is a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children across the U.S. under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss.
They meet a unique need for children throughout the United States by using donated hair to create the highest quality hair prosthetics. Most of the children helped by Locks of Love have lost their hair due to a medical condition called alopecia areata, which has no known cause or cure. The prostheses we provide help to restore their self-esteem and their confidence, enabling them to face the world and their peers.

When I left for work this morning, my wife had hair that cascaded down her back a good eighteen inches. The next time I see Taney it will be substantially shorter as the appointment to her favored salon was made earlier this week to make a very personal contribution to Locks for Love.

This is not an on the moment decision for Taney to donate her hair. For a very long time Taney decided to grow it out so that it may be donated to the Locks for Love organization so that a child who is challenged with alopecia areata would help restore their self esteem and their confidence.

There are a number of different methods to donate to your chosen charity, through a gift, bequest, legacy, vehicle donation, or volunteering time. To make a very personal donation of hair grown out and looked after for an extended period of time for a child is a selfless act and I wanted to simply report that I am very proud of my wife today.

There is no weekend posting this week.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

August 07, 2003

Whether the weather is hot!
Or whether the weather is not!
Whatever the weather, you will always find Brits talking about it a lot.

It is not classic poetry, but it does strike a chord. Brits the world over, take delight in talking about the weather. It is a British institution. “Hello vicar, nice spot of weather we are having don’t you think?”

We have a watching brief on the soaring heat in the UK this week. It is interesting that for years everyone has familiarized themselves with the Celsius measurement, yet as soon as the equivalent of ninety degrees plus is reached, it seems so much more dramatic to have the temperatures reported in farenheight! I cannot wait to see the directives from Brussels on this matter about how Britain should only use the Celsius measurement.

I do not believe that the three-figure temperature of one hundred is expected, but given the conditions; it is possible that this record will be set this week.

The Independent writes, from camel racing at a Derbyshire town fête to emergency deliveries of snow to over-heated otters in Birmingham, it soon became apparent yesterday that Britain was officially in the grip of a heat wave. As record after record was broken, the nation promptly set about acclimatizing itself to a heat more suited to the tropics, In cities, tourists sought relief by diving into fountains while residents and workers flocked to parks and lidos. Resorts and beaches were packed with those desperate to escape from the inner-city humidity. However, from cities to the coast, there was one common aim: to find the most effective way to cool down.

In London, temperatures hit an uncomfortable 35.4C (95F) yesterday, making it the hottest day on record to date. However, the sun brought nothing more than misery yesterday for many of the three million commuters traveling to work in London. Trains were delayed for a third successive day as the heat wave led to further speed restrictions on the rail network. Delays were caused mostly by fears that the heat would cause steel rails to buckle.

LC Comment, London above 80F is unpleasant. With fair few days of heat each year, air conditioned offices are rare, air conditioning on public transport is unheard of. The stress of commuting on the Underground network this week in this type of heat must be beyond human acceptability. Despite being underground, the ventilation system just cooks and heats the tunnels and trains below the surface. Add the rush hour sardine packed trains and there is a combination effect of heat related illness below the surface.

The tourism industry was also affected, as the London Eye, one of the capital's most popular attractions, took the unprecedented decision of closing in order to protect the "comfort of the guests".

LC Comment, I recall when the Eye was built that each bubble was air conditioned for comfort. Obviously, the units installed were not designed for this level of unusual heat.

Meanwhile, the heat wave caused considerable disruption to the legal system yesterday, as two trials were adjourned at Leicester Crown Court. In one case, Judge John Burgess told the jury that the indecent assault trial would have to be adjourned because temperatures were creeping up to 25C."I understand the air conditioning system cannot cope with the temperatures endured today," he told the panel. "It would be far more humane to send you home and start again tomorrow."

LC Comment, no comment!

Keep up those fluids in the UK, enjoy the summer. I do not believe that there are drought restrictions in place in much of the country for the first summer in years. Please email me if I am wrong.

And Finally: I am pleased to report and offer a link that Glenn Frazier is back blogging again even more regually than I am. Unquestionably his posting cover subject matter and narrative that has a gravitas that London Chimes could only aspire to, but Glenn Frazier's blog is a great read and frequently covers topics on subjects that have international attention, his perspective and links from others in the blogging community offer a different insight.

If you scroll down a little he offers an invitation to his readers that happen to live, work or just be passing through Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Pleased to see you back Mac.

With all these links my readers must think I think of him very highly and respect his opinion. You bet I do.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

August 06, 2003

An issue of responsibility, - more information.

A nerve has been struck, my reader was prompted to send me an email on the subject and as promised here is some facts on the matter as reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer, a broadsheet newspaper for the area in size alone!

The wire from Associated Press on July 27, reports the following facts:
370,000 residents nationally will have to perform eight hours of community service each month to stay in their apartments, under rules revived by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Local public housing agencies have been given a deadline that has already expired to notify residents of this rule that will be enforced by October 31.

Of the two million in housing, the following groups are exempt:
those in school,
those working,
people in job-training programs
elderly people
disabled people.

It is the responsibility of the local housing agencies to decide what amounts to community service. An inconsistent measure.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development gives examples such as volunteering in an after-school program or homeless shelter.

Gregory Meeks a Democrat from New York, has sounded off to echo my comments that although I am not against community service, you cannot pick one group and make it mandatory for them but not make it mandatory for across the board.

A London Chimes watching brief is in effect on this story. The "HUD" are next to be investigated.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

August 04, 2003

An issue of responsibility?

Talk-radio in Philadelphia, during the “silly” summer season with the build up and conflict in Iraq behind us, is on their early evening shows having difficult steering away from the frivolity and considering serious issues, the mayoral race in Philadelphia for one.

Today was the exception for a number of days brought up the question of legally binding Section 8 tenants in Philadelphia to undertake eight hours of volunteer work each month.

Section 8, is in British terms, council housing for those who are considered long-term unemployed needing state assistance for the basic human needs of food and shelter.

Allegedly, there have been instances of families placed in Section 8 housing, who have stripped the house of any valuable resource, including plumbing only to demand that the state repairs the home only to live in a state that would be considered totally unacceptable to majority of citizens in the US and subjects in the UK.

Before coming to America, I was always impressed by the general attitude of the silent majority, children, adults and seniors to give some of their time in some small way to volunteer to help a good cause. Help those who had difficulty with words to read and write. Help kids with their homework after school. Drive the meals on wheels van. Offer household and yard help. The list is endless.

The time and motivation given by each of these individuals, a selfless act, is considered a responsible act, personally believed to give something back to the wider community, to be a good citizen. Individuals do this, companies do this and certainly the larger companies encourage their employees to do their bit during working hours with the blessing of “corporate America”.

Court appointed community service, (another subject for another time), is different.

How you can force someone to volunteer 8 hours a month, under a legal ruling for reaping the benefits of the majority of law-abiding, hard working citizens and taxpayers is constitutionally questionable. Yet a law has been drawn up.

The response from those who would have to volunteer under this new law is pathetically expected. “Why? I pay my rent, why should I have to do this as well?” Their rent, perhaps $200 a month for a property that would easily be rented at five times that rate in the private sector, is of course not actually paid by them, but paid for them in the benefits received from the state.

But is this not a question of responsibility?

It would seem there is exceptions to this new law, if you are employed for instance more that 35 hours a week. But then, if you are employed chances are you do not quality for Section 8 housing anyhow.

Hypothetically, an individual, not working, receiving free accommodation, amenities and a small benefit check is asked to give something back for 8 hours a month. Is this wrong to ask this?

It is a question of civic responsibility, to thank the taxpayer for the benefits they receive and to in some small way, give something back to the wider community. Or is it?

Just how motivated are these volunteers going to be in their assigned tasks? How effective will they be and will they have the necessary skills required by the agency they have volunteered with?

It would seem that there are a great many questions, and few answers.

The existing volunteer force who use such resources as www.volunteermatch.org or contact the good cause of their choice directly and offer to volunteer are a valuable resource to the organization that they help. They are motivated, apply themselves to volunteer tasks that they are qualified either by skill set or experience and are just glad to contribute.

Section 8 volunteers will not be motivated, will consider this a course of action imposed upon them and will be difficult for the agencies to manage. They are unlikely to have the necessary skill set or experiences that a good cause could benefit from and the system will require some additional form of monitoring for the hard-pressed good cause agencies to have to resource.

In conclusion, this is NOT a good idea. What the catalyst of this thought process was I need to investigate further. It may be as simple as community service is not working and this is the boo-boo strip to cover the crack. Personally, I cannot see a law benefiting anyone, other that a beaucrats resume who considers that through the implementation of this law and this program they have benefited a wider community.

There are I am certain Section 8 tenants, that will with the right motivation volunteer and indeed do volunteer – sadly the majority do not and this law is not only unenforceable but of no benefit.

Responsible citizens and subjects already do the right thing willingly.

Phew what a scorcher!

A British tabloid headline, many years ago, in 1976 the famous heat wave summer announced the high temperatures as Britain land of the air-conditioning free offices and public underground system baked.

I have memories of cooking on the tube in London and of having fans running and windows open for the handful of days that the English summer hit out at brute force.

The summer of 2003 is heading to make records and creating headlines of global warming!

From the Independent…

“If it isn't proof of global warming at last, it certainly looks like it. As much of Europe burns like a furnace and rivers run dry across the continent, Britain is bracing itself for its own record temperature.
Sometime tomorrow, in southern England or the Midlands, the mercury in the thermometer may pass 37.1C, which became the national record when registered in Cheltenham on 3 August 1990. That centigrade peak translates as 98.8 Fahrenheit, so the remarkable figure for Britain of 99 or even 100F- is on the cards.
"We reckon there's a 20 per cent chance it will happen, but in any case it's going to get very very close," said Andy Yeatman of the Met Office.
A record would be hugely significant - a three-figure Fahrenheit temperature for the UK would be breaking psychological as well as new meteorological ground as it would give many people for the first time the perception that global warning is a real, not a theoretical phenomenon - and that it is happening to them.
If we do see a record, and possibly 100F, meteorological scientists will not directly attribute it to climate change - natural climate variability is too great for a single heat episode to be put down to global warming. But they will certainly say it is in line with what global warming is predicted to produce by complex mathematical models of the Earth's climate run on supercomputers.
And even if the record is not quite breached, Britain's weather services are agreed that tomorrow temperatures will be in the upper 30s Centigrade (or the high 90s Fahrenheit), certainly hitting 35-36C (95-97F). These are temperatures that, in the past, have been reached only a few times per century, and in anticipation, temporary speed restrictions were imposed yesterday on some of Britain's busiest rail routes for fear of rails buckling in the heat. Long-distance Virgin routes from London to the Midlands and the North will be most affected, with a 60mph limit imposed by Network Rail along the west coast main line from Euston to Crewe and the cross-country network.
Individuals should be equally careful. Don't plan anything strenuous, put sun cream on the children and keep your bottled water handy. Britain will bake”.

I am not sure that this is the effect of global warming, after all it is summer but the advice to keep up your fluids and watch sunburn is helpful advise.

Sports News – The German F1 Grand Prix.

As a former motorsports writer, competitor and fan of F1, I have unplugged and taken myself out of the loop for a while going “cold turkey” on motoring matters. I did sit and watch the German F1 race yesterday and was surprised to see the new look Hockenheim circuit. Gone are the fast stretches out into the forest, and an Arial shot showed the track destroyed in the woodland. Instead a scaletrix style autodrome has been built that looks far less challenging and very expensive.
While the F1 circus has a closely fought championship and constructors battle this year, for those reading this, Michael Schumacher is not blazing away and only managed to finish 7th at his home race yesterday.
Over the years the Austrian track has lost its charm, Monaco has had serious work to the first corner, Brands Hatch probably has no chance of ever hosting another GP as drivers fall down Paddock Hill Bends to Druids Hairpin, one of the best combinations outside of Spa in Belgium.
What next?

Philly hosts Man U.
Soccer, (like I truly care) came to Philadelphia this weekend, Manchester United beat Barcelona 3-1 at the new Eagles stadium, the first ball event to take place on the turf, opening to a capacity crowd. One might say that there is a huge fan base for footie in the US, many were simply curious and wanted to see the new stadium.

Doubtless “Lincoln Financial” who has sponsored the ground for millions are less than happy for the name of the ground to already is shortened to The Linc! Then there is the whole Hoagie-Gate story, but for another time.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

August 01, 2003

The Real World!

Perhaps just another weekend posting under a different name, - perhaps?

Like the bloggs of my beltway brother-in-law, theological-bil, and theological-bil 2, London Chimes has suffered from lack of volume in recent weeks indeed months. The "real world" takes over, priorities change and somehow blogging has taken a second place to "real world responsibilities".

Yet, tonight as I sit and type this out for the first time in a long time it I am spending a quiet evening at my computer with a defined list of items to write about, real world items, items that collide with my daily tasks, in one instance as you will read on, literally.

I have made little fanfare about my third anniversary in the States. My parents sent me a great e-card congratualting me on this anniversary, but apart from that it was a typical Monday in the office. Not that any day is a typical day in the office. The standard answer by millions of candidates to the stock interview question, what is your ideal job? When answered "I want a job that provides fresh challenges every day," were all evidently after the job I am so lucky to have today. As I recall this was one question that I was not asked during my interview process.

My third anniversary also unsurprising identified my latest visit to the INS, now BCIS, US federal immigration office in Philadelphia. Since my last visit they have been reorganized and now come under the arm of the Homeland Security. A positive move although from my immediate perspective cosmetic shuffling. All the officers still wore INS credentials around their necks, and apart from a couple of posters on the walls, very little change was evident.

This pilgrimage to the offices was but a mere formality as my passport was stamped providing the necessary authority for me to be a legal permenant resident with employment rights for another twelve months. I am told to expect to be called for an interview perhaps in six months for fingerprinting and processing for a ten-year green card. If I don't hear anything I am to come back again in twelve months to be stamped "approved" again.

I feel less of a foreigner and more of a local after three years. To see how far I have emersed myself into American culture and the daily way-of-life, I only need to read back over all these postings. This last week my situation has been further focused by the arrival of a friend of my youngest sister in law from Australia. Luke has never been to the States before and I can see relate to his immediate experience and remember how overwhelmed my first trip to America was many years ago.

Then, I would never have imagined that I would be living here, but here I am and this anniversary has given me pause for reflection. Have I changed? for better? or for worse? Yes, I have changed, my lifestyle has changed. My priorities are very different to those when I lived in the UK. But my life too has moved into a new phase. My wife and I are committed to adopting, the drugs I have taken for epilepsy although have kept me seizure free for many years, have made me effectively sterile. To personally come to terms with such a blow has not been as difficult for me as it would for others. I "fell of my horse" around ten years ago a month before turning 30. After being seizure free for several years I had convinced myself that it was just one of those things, I had another grand-mal seizure alone in my apartment. It was truly frightening, the shock that it was not just one of those things, hit me like a bus running me over and for those who remember me at the time, really shook my confidence and my health for many months after, totalling ruining my 30 birthday plans to boot.

I digress.

Professionaly, I am on a career path that my accrued experience and responsibilities truly fits, with room to grow and develop further. Personally, I am happily married, Taney is my perfect match and we are truly happy together. As challenges are placed at our feet we step over them together and are stronger for that, adoption is one more challenge, one that only the stongest in character we are told can take in measured strides. Looking down the river at the water long since passed under the bridge, this is not so much a hurdle as a pleasure. We look forward to the day when our family grows and is nutured and develops with the love that we both want to and can offer as parents.

But first we need to move home.

The equity in our home will cover the costs for our adoption. Our game plan has always to move into my wifes home town, the town that many of her siblings call home. Yet with a limited number of affordable housing, we must sit and wait until the right property presents itself on offer to us.

Three years in the US, at least another two or more since I "unofficially" retired from motorsport activities. Last weekend I was invited by Chris, my customer service guru brother in law, to a C-Spot Party in Englishtown New Jersey. This was a drag strip, and the venue of a very nice event hosted by Mercedes Benz. I had the opportunity to drive a Mercedes 320 Coupe over a test track and was reasonably impressed. But not as impressed as the hot laps in an AMG sedan driven by NASCAR and Stock-Car drivers at speed around a twisting road circuit. It was unquestionably great fun and I had a huge smile on my face from the hot laps. A first was that we had to wear crash helmets, nothing new there. I even remembered my size and how to strap up. The amusing thing was having to wear a hair net gizmo, a ped for the head, under the helmet. Those who know me as folically challenged can only imagine what I looked liked with a ped on the head. It was a great day and brought back some happy memories of other motoring events long since passed. Thanks Chris for a great day.

Reality hurts, so the saying goes. Well put a visit to the INS together with motorsport, and you get what happened to me on the way home from the INS office this week. Hit up the rear by an Oldsmobile. No damage to either my car or either of the drivers. As apologetic the young lad who rear ended me was, and he openly admitted it was his fault, he had borrowed his fathers new car that now has two chunks out the front bumper and probably an earful from his Dad. Accidents happen.

Last Saturday night was just one other occassion, our quiet neighbourhood at midnight last Saturday was noisly interupted by the sound of a speeding car running the stop sign at the end of the street, squeeling tyres and the inevitable sound of a car crumpling against the splitting sound of a wooden telegraph pole. The two occupants tried to make a run for it, I dialled 911 and the police appeared within thirty seconds catching the two individuals who had returned to the car to try and recover the car and drive off, complete with flat tyres, a badly staved in front end and inflated airbags. The driver at least appeared to be drunk and driving, DUI, driving under the influence and attempted to compete the tests to the officers satisfaction that he was not drunk. It was a pitiful sight to watch, and a lesson for anyone who had ever considered drinking and driving. The telegraph pole has during the week slowly started to keel over under the weight of the electric cables suspended at the top. A new pole has appeared in the street as a replacement, yet I simply wait for the old pole to collapse from the winds with the violent storms that are passing through this week, only to plunge this house and our neighbourhood into darkeness for hours.

Have a good weekend.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

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