What a day to be an avgeek (Aviation Geek). Two big things happened today that both happened before I even got to work.

First thing to happen was the final launch of the Shuttle Discovery. Shuttle Discovery took off this morning (our time anyway) for its final flight into Space. Off to the ISS it goes to deliver its last payload of random stuff to help the station but I tell you what, it is an impressive site. STS 133 headed into the bright blue sky trailing a massive fireball behind it. Seeing that launch live on CNN this morning just made me want to see one in real life, but unfortunately that just won’t happen as I am pretty sure there are not enough shuttle launches left.

What I have done though is added to the bucket list. I wanna see a Space Launch of some kind. Be it rocket or the new replacement to the shuttle, I wanna see that plume of flame launch into the sky, see the smoke trail behind it as it reaches for the heavens. It would be a site I wanna see, just once in my life in real life.

The 2nd big thing today was the US Air Force finally deciding on a tanker to replace their ageing fleet of KC-135’s. These tankers have been flying since the 50s. I mean seriously there are planes their with more hours than some United Flight Attendants (inside Avgeek joke), but the journey to this day has been an epic feat of stupidity. Backwards and forwards, claims of corruption and mishandling. Stupid moves made by not only the companies involved but also the US Government. I mean seriously who takes a freaking decade to make a decision on an aircraft that is essentially an airliner (767/A330 in this case) with a hose out the back.

So Boeing won the contract (first time around it was EADS, then it got contested) with their Bid of a Tanker based on a 767. Only time will tell how long and if this contract ever goes ahead. Personally i give it a week before the problems start all over again and the claims of wrong doings start to fly left right and centre. If they finally do start to build these things, it will be fantastic to see something new flying around and the chances of seeing them in Brisbane are really good as we often get them escorting over here for exercises or stopping off on their way around the world. Cross my fingers we get to see one in the next decade or so.

Well it was only just about a week ago i posted another book review. This one i smashed through pretty quickly (its not that thick) because of late shifts and also getting totally engrossed in it.

Mission: Blacklist #1

The book is Mission: Blacklist #1 by Eric Maddox. To give a bit of explanation before i go into the review a bit, Blacklist #1 is Saddam Hussein. During the 2003 Iraq Invasion the “Blacklist” was set up with a list of people who the Allies (US, UK & Aus) wanted to capture. On top of that list was obviously going to be Saddam himself. It also included other family members etc.

This book covers the story of how Saddam was found just prior to his capture in Tikrit. It follows along with the 6 month deployment of Eric Maddox the US Army Interragator as he slowly but surely plotted his way through the town of Tikrit with how each person seemed to be involved with Saddam in some form or fashion. It looked at who were his body guards etc and slowly but surely looked into this picture as they formed a nice big flow chart essentially of who was in charge of who etc.

After 6 months of interrogating etc it was as though they were never going to find him, but in the off chance they actually seemed to catch him. He was hidden in a “spider hole” under the ground near a house in a town just outside Tikrit. Totally crazy. The book was just totally engrossing, following the process of going through all the people, following the body guard links.

I highly recommend it and it is a good insight into something that wasn’t to widely put out about the Iraq War (at least that i remember). This is the last of my Ekka books essentially and im stepping away from the War for the moment and going into something totally different, but that book will remain a mystery till the next review.

So finished off the latest book last night and in the new fashion, here is my 2nd review.

Extreme Risk

The book, Extreme Risk is written by Major Chris Hunter. An Ex British Army ATO (Ammunition Technical Officer), essentially what in other Countries is called an EOD technician or Explosive Ordinance Disposal or a crazy bastard who diffuses bombs for a living. This was a really interesting book to me. After hearing so much over the last few years about “IED this, IED that” (Improvised Explosive Device), it was good to read about some real life experiences with it. But the bit that really was interesting to me was Northern Ireland. I had really actually forgotten about that conflict and it was good to actually read some stuff and bring back some memories of when it wasn’t all about Al Queda but what you heard on the news was more about the IRA etc.

A very interesting read, each chapter started with a quote about life and this really had me wanting to scribble some down. Here are a few of my favourites:

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined” – Henry David Thoreau
“He who sedulously attends, pointedly asks, calmly speaks, coolly answers and ceseas when he has no more to say is in possession of some of the best requisites of man” – Johann Casper Lavater
“Patience is the companion of wisdom” – St Augustine
“The first step to knowledge is to know that we are ignorant” – Lord David Cecil
“Have a heart that never hardens, a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts” – Charles Dickens
“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood” – Marie Curie

I really liked this book and was captivated by it. Totally don’t regret this purchase at all, another one of those $5 books i came across. Turns out that he also wrote another book on his time in Iraq so that one goes into the Amazon wishlist, for future purchases. Definately recommend this book if you are after a bit of perspective on a different kind of aspect of some of the conflicts around the world. A look at the world of someone who spends his time being methodical and also very very logical. Who looks at problems and tries to work out what is wrong.

Something that is quoted a number of times in this book always seems to stick in my head. “Absence of the normal & presence of the abnormal.” If something doesn’t look right, it most likely isnt! Good words to live by.

I have been putting this post back now for a few weeks since I’ve been so busy doing other stuff but all of my trip is now good to go. I have finalised all the hotel plans (hell a last minute hotel change today) and you will see below a full itinerary now with links to hotels in each location.

So here it is… the final itinerary…

5th July 2011 – Last Day at Work
6th July 2011 – Prep, pack, get ready to leave
7th July 2011 – Goodbye Australia.
Brisbane to Auckland to Los Angeles to Vancouver (yes thats all in one day. Leaving at 12pm arriving into vancouver same day at 9pm… hello JETLAG!)
Brisbane to Auckland – Air New Zealand – NZ136 – 1225/1725 – Boeing 777-200ER – Business Premier
Auckland to Los Angeles – Air New Zealand – NZ2 2130/1445 – Boeing 777-300ER – Business Premier (New Aircraft for airline, new type for me)
Los Angeles to Vancouver – Air Canada – AC557 1855/2136 – Embraer 190 – Executive Class (New Type, New Airline, New Airport)
8th July 2011 – Vancouver – Meet Up with Brad – Vancouver Hotel – Sandman Hotel Vancouver City Centre
9th July 2011 – Tour Begins – Contiki Canada & The Rockies with Calgary Stampede – Link to tour here
21st July 2011 – Tour Finishes – Vancouver – Vancouver Hotel – Sandman Hotel Vancouver City Centre
22nd July 2011 – Vancouver
23rd July 2011 – Amtrak Cascades – Vancouver to Seattle – 0640/1105 – Seattle Hotel – Holiday Inn Express Seattle City Centre
24th July 2011 – Seattle
25th July 2011 – Seattle
26th July 2011 – Seattle
27th July 2011 – Pick Up Car start driving south – Overnight Portland Oregon – Portland Hotel – La Quinta Inn & Suites Portland NW
28th July 2011 – Portland to Roseburg – Roseburg Hotel – Holiday Inn Express Roseburg
29th July 2011 – Roseburg to San Francisco – San Francisco Hotel – Holiday Inn Golden Gateway
30th July 2011 – San Francisco
31st July 2011 – San Francisco
1st August 2011 – San Francisco
2nd August 2011 – San Fransisco – Plane Spotting Day – SFO Airport Hotel – Millwood Inn & Suites
3rd August 2011 – San Fransisco to New York City – Farewell to Brad this morning
San Fransisco to Chicago O’Hare – United Airlines – UA972 1010/1625 -Boeing 767-300 – Business Class – (International Configuration Aircraft, 2 New Airports)
Chicago O’Hare to New York City La Guardia – UA692 1730/2046 – Airbus A319 – First Class – (New Airports)
New York City Hotel – Element New York Time Square West
4th August 2011 – New York City
5th August 2011 – Morning New York City – Birthday – Evening Flight – New York City to Zurich
New York City John F Kennedy – Zurich – Swiss Airlines – LX17 1800/0805+1 – Airbus A330-300 – Business Class (New Airline, New Airport)
6th August 2011 – Zurich to Paris
Zurich – Paris Charles De Gaulle – Swiss Airlines – LX634 0905/1020 – Airbus A320 – Business Class (New Airports)
Meet up with Yena – Explore Paris – Paris Hotel – Paris Marriott Hotel Champs-Elysees
7th August 2011 – Paris to Bayeux – Train – Explore Bayeux – Bayeux Hotel – Château Hôtel de Bellefontaine
8th August to 10th August 2011 – Explore Normandy Region – WW2 Invasion Tours – Overlord Tours – Neptune Tour (2 Days), 101st Airborne Tour (1 Day)
11th August 2011 – Bayeux to Paris – Train – Explore Paris – Paris Hotel – Paris Marriott Hotel Champs-Elysees
12th August 2011 – Explore Paris
13th August 2011 – Farewell to Yena – Paris to Berlin
Paris Charles De Gaulle to Berlin Tegel – Lufthansa – LH3241 0930/1105 – Boeing 737-500 – Business Class (New Airline, New Aircraft, New Airport)
Berlin Hotel – Hotel Pullman Berlin Schweizerhof
14th August 2011 – Berlin
15th August 2011 – Berlin
16th August 2011 – Berlin to London
Berlin Tegel – London Heathrow – BMI – BD842 1105/1200 – Airbus A319 – Business Premium – (New Airline, New Airports)
London Hotel – Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London
17th August 2011 – London
18th August 2011 – London
19th August 2011 – London
20th August 2011 – Explore London Morning – Evening Flight – London to Tokyo
London Heathrow – Tokyo Narita – ANA – NH202 1935/1520+1 – Boeing 777-300ER – Business Class (New Product, New Airline)
21st August 2011 – Arrive Tokyo – Narita Express to Shinjiku – Tokyo Hotel – Hyatt Regency Tokyo
22nd August 2011 – Tokyo
23rd August 2011 – Tokyo
24th August 2011 – Tokyo
25th August 2011 – Tokyo to Yokohama to Kyoto
Morning Shinkansen to Yokohama, explore city, Late Afternoon Shinkansen to Kyoto – Kyoto Hotel – Citadines Kyoto Karasuma Gojo
26th August 2011 – Kyoto
27th August 2011 – Kyoto to Osaka – Morning Shinkansen from Kyoto to Osaka – Osaka Hotel – Comfort Hotel Osaka Shinsaibashi
28th August 2011 – Osaka
29th August 2011 – Osaka to Hiroshima – Morning Shinkansen from Osaka to Hiroshima – Hiroshima Hotel – ANA Crowne Plaza Hiroshima
30th August 2011 – Hiroshima
31st August 2011 – Hiroshima to Narita – Morning Shinkansen from Hiroshima back to Tokyo (pretty sure ill need to change trains along the way), then NEX from Tokyo to Narita. Explore Narita, Plane Spotting, Exploring the Temple – Narita Hotel – Hilton Tokyo Narita Airport hotel
1st September 2011 – Tokyo to Hong Kong
Tokyo Narita to Seoul Incheon – Asiana Airlines – OZ103 1530/1810 – Boeing 777-200 – Business Class (New Airline, New Airport, New Aircraft)
Seoul Incheon to Hong Kong Chep Lap Kok – Asiana Airlines – OZ723 1945/2230 – Airbus A330-300 – Business Class (New Airport)
Hong Kong Hotel – Novotel Hong Kong Nathan Road
2nd September 2011 – Hong Kong
3rd September 2011 – Hong Kong
4th September 2011 – Hong Kong
5th September 2011 – Hong Kong
6th September 2011 – Hong Kong to Singapore
Hong Kong Chep Lap Kok to Singapore Changi – Singapore Airlines – SQ861 1540/1920 – Airbus A380-800 – Business Class (New Airport, New Airline, New Aircraft, Bucket List)
Meet Up with Cat – Singapore Hotel – Royal Plaza on Scots Singapore Hotel
7th September 2011 – Singapore
8th September 2011 – Singapore
9th September 2011 – Singapore
10th September 2011 – Singapore to Brisbane (Home) – Fly Home with Cat
Singapore Changi to Brisbane – Singapore Airlines – SQ245 0955/1930 – Airbus A330-300 – Business Class (New Product)
11th September 2011 – Rest
12th September 2011 – Back to Work

So there you have it ladies & gents. My epic trip… i cant wait!

Ok well most people i know, know that I don’t know how to ride a bike. As shown in the ACA interview, its something I want to conquer. Well It has begun. The big challenge for me this year. Learning to ride a bike.

Last sunday I bought my first ever helmet. It was a bit daunting as I had no idea what to do, for something so simple to. I mean its just a bike helmet. Thousands are sold world wide every day. But I had no idea what I was doing and just decided to grab what looked like a good colour, had the right standards things, and also was pretty cheap. You may now probably think “why buy something cheap to protect your head” well my thoughts at the moment are. I may not enjoy riding a bike, if I am not going to buy one, why would i need a decent expensive helmet when the plain cheap ones do the same thing. Because if I do enjoy it, then I will buy a bike and a decent helmet worth every cent. But till that time, I will just use what I have.

On Tuesday I had my first lesson with Andy. Yeah i’m back doing PT but this time only 30 mins a week and I am paying for this time. But it was good. I am slowly getting used to it. I have not yet started to pedal or anything, just slowly getting my balance on the bike, one little step at a time! I did a bit more this morning and some more tomorrow morning after i do some weights. The more I do the longer I spend, the better it will be!


So as you can see… its completed! After only a few weeks worth of work by both me & my dad (he liked to do stuff without telling me like the painting etc).. Its all done 😀 We spent today and yesterday finishing it off. Getting the last little pieces done. I am sure that if we had of worked solidly it could of been done in one weekend but would not look as good as it would not of had time to dry etc.

But its all done now. It sits proudly in the corner flicking photo to photo. Its exceptionally clear and of such a decent size that it looks good. And what is good is that if my parents want to put on a dvd, they can. The frame was and has been for them the whole time. If i make one for myself I intend on trying the laptop variant I have seen so much of on the internet.

But to be honest. I am really happy with this thing. Total cost of parts was only about $70. Considering brand new 15″ models cost about $200 or more and this is 24″ that can’t be beat!

For all the photos check out the below gallery.

What is my next project… well that one starts in a few weeks time!


So i thought since I am reading so much, I might as well do some book reviews. So each time I finish a book now. I am going to share my thoughts on it to the world.

Spoken from the Front

First up is the book i finished Thursday night. It is “Spoken from the Front” It is a collection of letters, diary entries, emails and interviews from British Soldiers stationed in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. It has been edited by Andy McNab but its written pretty much by the Soldiers themselves. It is a very wide range of soldiers, including medics, doctors, pilots, military police and of course general infantry soldiers.

It was a good collection of really heartfelt stories in my opinion. some good laughs as well with some very twisted emails from a Defence Press agent sending emails home. I really did like it as it gave a good insight into the way the soldiers etc really think in the war zone. The book is more about the people than about the war itself and that to me is a good way of looking at things. Reading about the people who make the sacrifices to go over there and do it, rather than about the war itself and have the book become and almost political nature as some of them do these days.

I picked this one up at the Ekka on the cheap so it only cost me $5 but i think it was good value. Not sure what else to say about this one, a good read if you want a more light hearted, personal read about the war in Afghanistan from a very varied perspective.