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Skunk Works by Ben Rich
Way back during World War 2 an elite team of engineers, designers and craftsmen was assembled by the Lockheed aircraft corporation under the leadership of a certain Kelly Johnson. Ben Rich became Kelly's 2nd in command. Within the organization this new venture soon became known as the Skunk Works, where state of the art 'planes were conceived, designed, built and put into service with amazing speed and efficiency, greatly enhancing the reputations of Lockheed, Kelly and of course, Ben Rich. Upon Kelly's retirement, through ill health, Rich took over the reigns, partly due to Johnson's endorsement but also to his proven brilliance as an engineer and his undoubted skills at man-management.
Skunk Works produced a staggering array of planes, the like of which had never been seen before. The U2 spy plane was so light and fast and flew so high that although the Russians knew it was there they were powerless to stop its spy missions. The infamous Francis Gary Powers incident only occured due to a malfunction of his plane which forced him down below his usual 85000 feet operating level. As a matter of interest, check out James May of Top Gear fame, having an almost out of world experience in a U2, "Life changing". I think he described it.
Then they invented the Stealth. Can you imagine an 80ft plane with the radar image of a peanut? Parked in it's hangar at night, so invisible that nature's very own "radar"experts, the bats, would crash into it and be killed. By modern standards Stealth is very slow at 600 mph, but then The Invisible Man doesn't need to be as quick as Usain Bolt. I was visiting relatives in L.A. in 2003 which happened to coincide with the centenary of the Wright brothers' 1st flight and was fortunate enough to attend a great air show at Van Nuys Airport. One of the stars was , without doubt, the Stealth, which flew slowly and silently past at 50feet, looking totally sinister and menacing.
The team at Skunk Works also developed, in an incredibly short time, the technology which enabled pin point accuracy during bombing raids. It was no longer neccessary to obliterate whole cities, killing thousands of innocent civilians. Given the right intelligence it now became possible to take out military targets with minimum collateral damage. This system was fitted to Stealth and was used to great effect in Operation Desert Storm during the 1st Gulf Warand subsequent conflicts throughout the region.
The Blackbird was another product of this remarkable outfit. Designed and built in an age when the most sophisticated computers were about as powerful as a calculator which you can buy today for a fiver in W H Smith's, the team worked mainly with slide rules. "What's that?" I hear you ask. Well, rather like a cross between a set of log tables and an abacus. If you'd like one, forget Amazon, try The Antiques Road Show.
Blackbird was and is just about unstopable. At 40% faster than Concorde, it could fly from London to Dover in 2 MINUTES! Can you imagine that? That's faster than a high velocity bullet. Mind you, the comparison with Concorde is unreasonable. Blackbird was designed to be flown by fit young athletes, cocooned in space-suits and surounded by life support systems. Concorde on the other hand, fullfilled the dream of many civil aviation fantasists. She was designed to transport, in resonable comfort, a hundred or so overweight , middle-aged businessmen (or women), dressed in nothing more protective than a Saville Row suit, ignoring their high blood pressure and angina, at mach 2, whilst sipping their Bollingers. Quite different criteria and just as great a challenge and achievement.
This book is not merely a glorification of weapons but much much more. The role that the armaments industry plays in the major economies of the world, the development of civil application of the technology, the funding of civil aircraft development and the employment of hundreds of thousands of workers in avionics and their supply industries is well documented. The intense rivalry between the major U S aircraft manufacturers, resulting in the huge gambles taken by the board of Lockheed in committing many millions of dollars to such futuristic and untried avionic endeavour suggests an almost blind faith in Kelly Johnson, Ben Rich, and the Skunk Works. Not a trait normally associated with hard-nosed businessmen.
Throughout this book numerous contributions in the form of mini chapters have added flesh to the bones. The authors of these cameos are varied, from the pilots of these incredible machines, designers, military hierarchy and even high-flying politicians whose names will be familiar to many. Successive Presidents and their administrations, Democrat and Republican alike, all had an influence on the progression of events, sometimes good, somtimes not so..
It is perhaps sad that such a talented and exclusive collection of talents and skills could not have been harnessed to more peacefull activity.
An absolutely absorbing read, I couldn't put it down, but neither did I wish to reach the end.
For, A very unusual and informative book, never too technical to follow.
Against, I shall just have to read it again.
At present, available from Amazon UK from £00.01 for used paperback,or £4.91 new.
Must admit, this is not the stuff I'd normally write about but why not? The packaging has changed from the pic. above and now nicely illustrates the product
We are told there are no artificial preservatives, flavour or colours and all credit to Tesco for supplying such a tasty dessert . As you might hope it is also suitable for vegetarians so we must assume that no animal fats were used in the recipe.
The strudel is actually two seperate 300 gram strudels which is rather unusual and also very convenient. Each is designed as three servings but as there are only two of us at home we generally pig out, or at least, I do.
The pastry is lovely light puff, generously sprinkled with sugar. the filling is a tasty mixture of berries and apple and there's plenty of it, so each spoonful is a good combination of fruit and pastry.
The cooking instructions are spot on, though as seems normal with strudels, a little of the filling tends to cook out at the ends, so I always place it on baking paper, problem solved.
I won't scare you with the nutritional details, suffice it to say that this is not within Weight-Watchers territory, especially as you're sure to serve it with sinfull creamy custard, but hey, who's counting!
Normal price is £1.50 but it's on offer at times, in fact, it's on special at the moment my wife informs me, just £1. Must buy a couple this week.
Aramis After Shave
This is a classy, totally masculine aroma of spices, citrus and a hint of muskiness which makes this my favourite fragrance of all time. Used sparingly it is subtle and never overpowering, fading after a few minutes to a beguileing background presence which remains for several hours.
I must confess that I'm too much of a wimp to splash on after shave immediately after drying my face [in order to close the pores I'm told], prefering to use my Aramis as the final touch when I'm all dried and dressed. Having carried out extensive research into this, my mates Dave and Dave are equally wimpish, it seems to be the normal procedure.
The Aramis packaging is distinctive, the box itself resembling a rosewood veneer, probably to give the impression of quality. The bottle is of clear glass with the Aramis logo picked out in gold against a maroon background and topped with a golden cap. The bottle that I'm using at present however, is plastic, having being purchased duty-free on a flight and the pack is therefore lighter. Be careful with this container as it's a bit easy to spill, very expensive air freshener. It is also available in spray form which is always economical as it goes on the face not the hands.
Aramis is widely available at good department stores and at most duty-free outlets, though the best price I've seen is online at £22-47 for 120ml from eXtrascents.
The World According to Clarkson. Penguin /non fiction
Now I'm not normally a jealous type of guy but allow me to give you a little background on Mr. Clarkson. Born in Yorkshire in 1960, when I recently saw him on his flagship TV programme, Top Gear, he was still 19 coming on 20. He regularly thrashes around an empty airfield in monstrous, exotic trillion pound supercars at barely sub-sonic speeds, smoking the tyres to destruction and red-lining the tacho with total abandon. In fact, you could be excused for thinking the lad had just nicked an old fiesta from the car park at Tesco. And he gets paid handsomely for this loutish behaviour. Not only that, he was educated at two 'posh' schools whose fees would pay for my house, replace my ageing Astra with a DB9 and leave enough for a world cruise, 1st class of course. So yes, I'm ashamed to say envy rears it's head from time to time.
The book is a superb compilation of about 80 articles first published in Jeremy's column in The Sunday Times between 2001 and 2003. Without much editorial intreference he is revealed as a gifted and articulate commentator on a vast spectrum of topics, expressing his frequently controversial views with with both candour and wit. I often totally disagreed with his opinions,[not that he'd give a stuff about that], while I love the manner in which he attacks the pompous and the plain stupid with a contemptuous and dismissive eloquence.
As the chapters range from a trip to Buck House to a confrontation with an Austrian border guard, there is much scope for JC's famed irreverence and non -negotiable opinions, something that I found somehow quite endearing. Although some of the topics are now obviously dated they remain nevertheless amusing, such as his disparaging remarks about our political leaders, whatever your persuation. Currenly £5 from Amazon, this is huge entertainment for your money with it's bite-sized chunks of home-spun philosophy, so go on, have a nibble.
This product exceeded all of my expectations; it's a joy to use, if that can be said of any shaving product.
The gel is practically odourless, which I like as it doesn't compete with my favourite aftershave.
I found that to achieve the best results I moisten the face and apply a very small blob of gel onto a barely damp brush. This produces masses of silky smooth foam that allows the razor to simply glide through the stubble, with plenty of foam remaining on the brush to go again on any bits missed first time around.
So far the 200ml can has provided me with more than sixty great shaves, (and I'm a Bruce Forsyth lookalike). Priced at around £1.50, this is great value for money.
Although the appearance has recently been revised and I think, improved, those of you worried about your street-cred might wish to conceal the can at the back of the cabinet, away from prying eyes, leaving an empty of something more exotic on view.
Since coming across this product I've not been tempted to try anything different, which is testimony to my satisfaction.
Hugo Boss Dark Blue after shave.
I aquired this fragrance , as with most of my smellies, as a gift, is there something my friends are'nt telling me?
Attractively packaged in a shapely dark blue, [what else?] bottle with a silver cap, it looks rather like a miniature cocktail shaker, quite appealing. My bottle contains 75ml which is lasting very well, probably because the spray dispenses a carefully metered quantity each time.
The product itself I've found to be not too heavy, a mixture of orangey citrus and spices, which I won't even try to identify. Suffice it to say that it's certainly very pleasant but somewhat sweeter and lighter than might be suggested by such a macho name. If you are off out clubbing you may need to spray it on rather liberally as it fades away and may have all but diappeared when you most need it, at the end of the evening.
Dark Blue is reasonably priced at around £18 for 75ml, probably cheap enough for every-day use. It is perhaps best suited to a less demanding environment, such as the office and maybe it's not exclusive enough for that Special Date.
Have just found this available from Amazon uk priced at £20.99 for the 125ml size, sounds good value. Also heard that this product is dicontinued, don't know if that's correct. Anyway, perhaps you should get in quickly if you fancy trying it!
This is a new fragrance to me so I've had no previous knowledge or experience of the product.
The packaging is quite smart and individual being presented in a flat bottle of very dark olive glass moulded into a six faceted shape. The stopper is maroon and gold and is merely pushed onto the bottle, the seal being made by a small rubber plunger entering the tiny opening in the neck of the container. It is much more secure than it sounds as the cap requires a slight rotation to release it. No danger of accidental removal when packed in your luggage. I've just had my bottle upturned for 30 minutes with no sign of leakage at all.
I'm not too good at identifying the various aromas but this fragrance is really quite strong and potent and as the scent graduallly fades you are left with a rather overpowering aroma of musk and leather. Used sparingly it might be acceptable, splash it on liberallly and you will certainly stand out in a crowd but perhaps not for the right reasons.
If you are a full-blown gym and excercise fan this could be one for you as I'm sure it will mask copious amounts of perspiration.
Priced at around £10 it is definitely at the lower end of the market but frankly I'd rather rely on good old soap and water and put the tenner towards something half-decent.
Over the years I've tried most of the leading brands of paint, all the famous household names, but the best from my experience is johnstone's.
Usuallly sold in the smaller retail outlets, if you decide to try the johnstone's products you may have to seek them out. their web site does have an excellent map-based stockists list for all areas, just type in your postcode and away you go.
The paint itself is reasonably priced at around £15 for 2.5 litres and considering the great results I've had with it, it's a bargain.
This is a spirit based paint which not only covers well but applies so easily and smoothly that time taken for the job in hand is reduced. Durability is excellent and discolouration and flaking have'nt been a problem, even on very exposed external surfaces, quite exceptional in fact. The paint is touch dry in 4 to 6 hours and ready for a second coat in 16 hours, though I doubt if you will need it.
I always use this gloss in conjunction with Johnstone's Joncryl Water-based Primer/Undercoat. Two coats of this covers just about anything and provides a great base for the gloss, the paint odour is minimal, considerably less than the gloss, and brush cleaning is not much of a chore, just washout thoroughly with water. Absolutely beautiful paint to use, so smooth, so therapeutic.
The Isle of Jura is a samll island in the Hebrides off the West coast of Scotland separated from its much better known neighbour, the Isle of Islay, by a narrow straight, barely half a mile across, known as the Sound of Islay. Both islands have a long history of producing great scotches, this being the bi-centenial year for the Jura Distillery.
Jura boasts just one distillery but boy, does it deliver. The Jura 10 year old single malt which I have just had the pleasure and privilege of sampling is however very different from any I have tasted from Islay.
The Jura is an exceptionally smooth, light whisky with a delicate, subtle flavour but with a powerful enough aroma and just a sufficient hint of smokiness to titillate one's nose and palate. From the first sip the excellent quality captivated me and it required a not inconsiderable degree of self control to avoid demolishing the contents of the bottle at one sitting.
Fortunately common sense prevailed and I was able to savour this nectar over a period of a couple of weeks, sharing some with the donor, this bottle being a birthday gift. I can't wait for next year to come round if the treat is likely to be repeated.
Finally, please don't spoil this beautiful scotch, add nothing bar a splash of water, if you must.
You would probably expect to pay around £30 for this 40 per cent quality single malt in a supermarket but if you shop on line it can be much cheaper.
I've just read that this delectable tipple is available for less than £20, but the report failed to say from where! PLEASE let me know.