Travel

Scotland 2019 – Day 4

Only two stops today, and a much shorter coach ride.

The reference map.

I will admit that as of tonight, last night’s hotel was the worst. The room was hot. It may been 50°F outside, but the windows would barely open, there was no fan available, and the down filled duvet was so damn thick and heavy that sleeping was next to impossible.

But we are Scots so we put it behind us. Our first stop of the day would be the Culloden Battlefield. I will admit that I had some major trepidations visiting this battlefield. I had the same feelings when I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC some years ago.

I have always read that the Argyll Campbell’s were loyalists to the British crown. According to my sources the Argyleshire men were stationed on the left flank of the army. They’re mission was to pull down a wall and stop the Jacobite cavalry from entering the fray. And history tells us, they were successful. So I expected to find a marker of some sort that backed this up.

To the left of this point stood Cobham Fir Earra Ghaidheal – the Argyleshire Men.

So Campbell of Argyll was here. But what about the other Campbell houses? Argyll may have become the big house, but there are others. Loudon, Cawdor and Breadelbane. We’re they there? And if so, we’re they Jacobite or loyalists?

There were Campbell Jacobites as well. I am strong enough to admit that I was overcome with emotion when I found this memorial. I knelt down and poured a dram of single malt out over the ground to honor the men of the Clan on both sides of this conflict.

I also saw a restoration of part of the wall as well.

It’s a bit hard to see, but what’s left of the wall is just in front of the trees

Culloden has a very nice cairn commerating the battle.

There is also a now restored cottage on the field that was there in 1746.

But the day was not all doom and gloom. Our other stop for the day was at a working sheep farm for a demonstration of border collies. Wifey had been looking forward to this. We have seen sheepdog demonstrations before, but not of this size. This farm has about 3000 sheep on about 11000 acres. The shepard has 18 border collies working with him, and several puppies from 8 months or so, to a new litter only one week old!

Dog momma (wifey) and one of the bigger puppies.

Then it was a quick trip to the Atholl Palace Hotel. A Victorian Era “spa” hotel. We can only hope that tonight is more comfortable.

We are here for two days. Tomorrow is a visit to Blair Castle and the Blair Atholl Distillery. That will be interesting.

Peace,

B

Twitter Instagram FaceBook

Aye! We found a piper! In Scotland!

Scotland 2019 – Day 3

We had a long travel day today. Still stopped at some braw locations but we also spent long hours just riding through the Scottish countryside.

The reference map.

The day started as usual with a breakfast buffet. I now now that haggis is a wonderful dish! I do truly enjoy it. Wifey still hasn’t worked up the courage to try it.

Our hotel last night was on beautiful Loch Leven. Since I don’t sleep much anymore, I was up and took this shot of the Loch in the early morning mist.

Then it’s off to the races. Well, as much as a 48 passenger bus can race on narrow country roads. We passed through Fort William, but not slow enough for a picture. Actually, the only thing worth photographing was the ruins of the fort. But we went by it so fast I didn’t see anything to photograph!

An unexpected stop was at the Glenfinnian Viaduct. I’m sure most of you will recognize this from the Harry Potter movies. The train, The Jacobite Express, was not in the area when we stopped. But it didn’t matter to me as I’ve not seen any of the movies anyway.

Also in Glenfinnian is a monument to The Highlander. This monument is near the area where Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) is said to have landed in 1745 to rally the highlanders to his cause to remove George II from the throne. It ended badly for the Jacobite army. I’ll have more on that tomorrow when we visit the Culloden Battlefield.

Monument to the highlanders lost in battle.

Then it was north to Mallaig Harbour to board a ferry to the Isle of Skye.

In Memory Of Those Lost At Sea

Our Ferry, The Lord Of The Isles.

It was one of the smoothest boat rides I have been on. Sadly, our time on the Isle was too short. We had no stops at all. I was really hoping to be able to see The Old Man Of Stor, but we never got close.

As we left the Isle via the bridge, we came upon Eilean Donan Castle. I do believe that the castle was used in the Outlander series, but it may only been a reference not an actual location. I’m sure there’s someone who can set the record straight.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We did however stop at Loch Ness which was also unexpected.

And yes, we saw Nessie! (Think I need a Scots language pack – autocorrect keeps trying to change all the Scots terms.)

Then we finally made to our hotel in Nairn.

That has some coos adjacent.

And that was the day that was. Tomorrow is Culloden, some sheepdog demonstrations and a two night stay at the Atholl Palace Hotel in Pitlochry.

Peace,

B

Twitter Instagram FaceBook

Scotland 2019 -Day 2

Reference Map

Today we left Glasgow and headed north to Loch Lomond and Inverary. The weather exactly what we expected. Chilly (right around 52° F) and damp. We overheard someone that they needed an umbrella because it was “pouring”. It was barely drizzling. Guess this person has ever been out in a #Floriduh summer shower.

First up was a stop and boat ride on Loch Lomond. Loch Lomand is the largest fresh body of water in Britain. The water was very quiet today.

Our boat was the Lomond Queen.

Then just a short trip to the town of Inveraray, a quaint town on the shores of Loch Fyne. We spent about two hours in town shopping and having lunch.

Wifey standing on Main Street in Inveraray. Several shops and restaurants line both sides.

Our lunch source.

After lunch it was time for Inveraray Castle. As I’ve mentioned before, this is not actually a castle, it is a manor house. Why? Because the Duke of Argyll has this as his family home. We were hoping that His Grace would be home, but he wasn’t. He has a batten (Maybe a baton? Our tour guide has a very thick brogue) of office in his role of Master of the Royal Household in Scotland. And it was “missing”. Our guide in the castle ensured us it was not stolen, but His Grace will take it without notice if he needs it in the performance of his duties.

Then the absolute highlight of the day, maybe the year, maybe even of my life occurred. Our tour guide Ian had a bit of surprise in store. You see, the route from Inveraray to our nexr stop, Glen Coe, passes right by a very special place for me.

I’ve mentioned this castle before and I’ve posted some other folks pictures. But today I got see it with my own eyes. We didn’t get to go up to the castle, just see it from a wayside stop. But here is my picture (one of several) of Kilchurn, one of the ancestral homes of Clan Campbell. Oh, and it’s pronounced Kill-kern. Not like it looks, Kill-churn. I’ve been saying it wrong for years sadly. Now I know better. Thank you, Ian for teaching me this.

From there we continued north into the highlands and (drum roll please) Glen Coe. The Campbell’s have a history with this Glen. I won’t go through it here, as it’s very complicated. If you don’t know the story, here is a Wikipedia link.

On the way to our hotel we got to see the Three Sisters of Glen Coe. II took a panoramic shot to get all three of the sisters in the shot. I hope it works for this format.

Finally we made it our hotel. This little place is way much better than the Hilton we stayed in last night.

They even have a small circle of standing stones on the property.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So that’s it for tonight. As long as the MacDonald ghosts don’t come after this lone Campbell, I will be back with more tomorrow. And when you add that they find Argyll’s batten missing today, AND I’m deep into Glen Coe, I can’t help thinking I’m being set up!

Our itinerary for tomorrow is the Isle of Skye.

Peace,

B

Twitter Instagram FaceBook

Oh yeah, I had haggis at breakfast – and I liked it!

What’s Stuck In My Head – 16 May

(A. K. A. What’s Stuck In Wifey’s Head)

This should not be a surprise as we are indeed flying away in just a few hours time.

Peace,
B

Twitter Instagram FaceBook

P. S. This is my first test with the Android app.. It sucked! I hope you can see the video!

You Take The High Road..

I’m taking a airplane, and I’ll be in Scotland way afore ye!

We will soon be somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean flying to first London, and then on to Glasgow, Scotland. Yes that’s SCOTLAND folks! Home of my ancestors, Wifey’s ancestors. Can the island support yet another Campbell family (even if it’s just for a little while)? Well, we’re gonna find out.

On Saturday we will be visiting Inveraray Castle. Not only was this historic castle featured in the TV show Downton Abbey but it is home to Torquhil Ian Campbell, (born 29 May 1968) Chief of Clan Campbell, the 13th (S) and 6th (UK) Duke of Argyll. This makes him my clan chief. But I wonder, is it appropriate to ask him for a “wee dram” should we cross paths that day? Probably not.

The Duke is only one of five of British peers to hold more than one Dukedom. The Clan Campbell, N.A. web page has much more on His Grace.

Some other highlights we expect to see are Loch Ness, Culloden Battlefield, St. Andrews, The Isle of Skye, and Castle Eilean Donan. I don’t think we stop at Loch Ness, so if we do get a glimpse of “Nessie”, it will be fleeting. If we do get to stop at the loch, I want to bring a whole salmon as bait! “Here Nessie, Nessie!” Eilean Donan is a location used in the filming of Outlander. I’ve not watched any of the show, but Wifey has.

We will be near, but I don’t think we’ll get to see Kilchurn Castle. Kilchurn is considered the ancestoral home of Clan Campbell. At least one branch of the clan. As I’ve posted before, my DNA does not seem to link to any of the distinct branches of Clan Campbell. But that doesn’t mean I don’t claim the name. I very much want to see this ruin, but it may have to wait until the next trip.

As well as The Kelpies. Wifey and I both are eager to see The Kelpie statues. We *may* have a chance to find way to see them on our last night in Scotland.

Any trip to Scotland, or Ireland for that matter, isn’t complete without visiting at least one distillery. Our official stop will be the Blair Atholl distillery in Pitlochry, Perthshire. This is a new distillery for me, and I look forward to tasting a dram or three (wifey doesn’t like whisky, so I get hers too!). Along with all the other brands of scotch (and beer too), we can find along the way. The closest we get to Islay is our stop in Inveraray. So I’m not sure if we will have many chances to sample that style of whisky. Nor will we be near the Speyside area, so we may miss that style as well. I’m sure I will be able to find all the styles at the duty free shop at the airport. I just may need a second mortgage just to pay the taxes!

There will be very little chance to do any genealogy on this trip. Although during our visit to Perthshire we will be in basic area that I can trace my Campbell line to in the mid 1740’s. One day, I will come back to do some research. Or maybe we’ll just move here. That is an option!

I will do my best to post while we are in country. We have a portable Wi-Fi hotspot we’re taking with us. Our tour bus is supposed to Wi-Fi enabled, but I’m not sure how fast that connection will be. Likewise, hotel Wi-Fi can be spotty, and anything but secure.

The biggest problem as far as posting will be that I will only have my Android tablet. It will take some practice using the WordPress app for posting! So I ask forgiveness in adavanced for all the typos.

Here’s to sleepless nights and many “wee drams”! Slàinte!

Peace,
B

Twitter Instagram FaceBook

Genealogy & Travel Plans

We are at T minus 30 days for our long overdue trip to Scotland! I say it’s overdue because we’ve been trying to get there for about five years. Well, it’s finally happening.

That’s all for the travel plans, I’ll have more, hopefully when we’re there. The two issues that will make it difficult will be lack of internet connection and that I’m only bringing my tablet, not my laptop, so I may need Wifey’s help in transcribing stuff. You think my regular typing is bad, wait until you see if from a virtual keyboard!

Genealogy – specifically DNA. (Disclaimer: I am very new to this whole DNA stuff. My conclusions may be way off. Please correct anything in the comments.) I have posted about genealogy and DNA before, but this time I have some specifics.

Most of my testing has been done through Family Tree DNA (FTDNA from here on out). The main reason I used them instead of Ancestry (which I have also used), is that FTDNA does Y – DNA testing. For those that don’t know the difference, Y-DNA is a male only test. The Y (and X) chromosome are sex chromosomes. Men have one Y chromosome and one X chromosome, women have two X chromosomes. Each father passes an almost exact copy of his Y-DNA to his sons.

The other types of DNA testing that are common are Mitochondrial (mtDNA) and Autosomal (atDNA). I won’t go into specifics of each test, but everyone can do these types of tests. Ancestry does atDNA, and FTDNA calls their atDNA “Family Finder”. These kinds of tests look at genetically stored data that give you a greater sense of where your origins are. They can help you find cousins, half siblings (that maybe you didn’t about), and also help adoptees find birth parents. But are accurate to only five to seven generations back. Y-DNA and mtDNA can go back (generally) thousands of years.

But I’m interested in finding where my male line comes from. I have several goals in this endeavor;

  • Find the “Immigrant Ancestor”. Who, and maybe why, did they leave wherever they called home? And when?
  • Where did the ancestor come from? Family stories indicated Scotland. According to my dad, specifically Argyll. Of course, Argyll is a large area in the southeast part of Scotland. Not exactly a simple place.
  • Do we have any connection to older peoples living in whatever area I find?
  • Can we go beyond that time? Was it even possible since there wouldn’t be any written records.

I did my first Y-DNA test with FTDNA way back in 2008. More than 11 years ago now. The first test gave me a very generic Y-DNA Haplogroup of R-M269. Think of a haplogroup as a branch on a tree.

The R-M269 haplogroup is the most common group in Europe for males. It is estimated to have arisen about 11,000 BCE. And makes up a large part of the R1b main branch of the haplotree. The image below may help.

Starting near the top of the image, you’ll see the M269 subclade, just left of center in the red. Follow that straight down and near the bottom of the red go left to the big P312 in dark green with yellow letters. From there continue left to the light green with yellow letters L21. Now it gets a little harder. From L21, you go down and slightly right to DF13, then a little more right you’ll find Z39589. Almost there, don’t give up, as we zig just a tad right to Z251 and stop there, for now. My line continues down from here, but this tree doesn’t go that far.

About eight branches further down the tree you will, hopefully, find BY69143, just not on that image above. That’s as far as my DNA can be traced at the moment. It’s referred to a “Terminal SNP”. But it’s anything but terminal. In the less than 6 weeks since my last test has been completed, I have moved “downstream” two branches. It’s a constantly changing environment.

So, lets jump back up to my lists of goals. How does this DNA test help me? I was hoping to find a cousin with the Campbell surname that had some more of a paper trail than I have. The biggest problem that I have encountered in this genealogy quest, which I started back in 1999 before DNA tests were commercially available, is the fact that my father was an only child. That means I had no Campbell uncles. I knew his father’s name, but that was about all.

I was lucky that my dad’s mother had many pictures and notes from her late husband. And then just by chance I found my oldest sister’s baby book in a long-forgotten box at our mom’s house. In those pages I found my great-grandfather’s name. That allowed me to find him, and my grandfather and his siblings in census records in the correct area of Pennsylvania. But not the next generation. I had several leads on that generation, but I couldn’t nail it down. Basically, I was looking at two men, a James R. Campbell and a Richard Campbell. Each of those men had different fathers.

Enter DNA. My hope was that one of my grandfather’s siblings’ son’s (my great uncle’s) had done a DNA test, AND that we would match enough to be sure of our findings. That cousin hopefully also had a good paper trail to help me along. Yeah, it was pretty one sided at this point.

However, I do believe that any one named “Campbell” is deathly afraid of taking a DNA test! I had absolutely no matches with a Campbell surname. Nothing, not even a fourth or fifth cousin. I guess they were afraid of being charged with cattle theft or some such thing from medieval Scotland. Only thing left for me to do was to order a more advance test. And wait… Lots of waiting with this DNA stuff.

Out of nowhere I received an email one day. I did have a Campbell cousin that had completed a Y-DNA test. Not from a sibling of my grandfather not even my great-grandfather. But from a sibling of my great-great-grandfather. Just like that the problem of which man was my 2x great-grandfather was solved. James Richard Campbell was my line, and a different Richard Campbell (not the one I was also researching) was this cousin’s line.

This cousin had records too! He had lived in Pennsylvania before retiring here to Florida. He could back everything up with history! Needless to say, I commenced to doing the genealogy happy-dance (you don’t want to see that). Oh, this newly discovered 2x great was a junior. At least that takes some of the guess work out of his father’s name. But my cousin also had his information as well. James Richard Campbell, Sr. was quickly entered as 3x great-grandfather. Now, how to get that next generation?

Another great DNA site is GEDMatch. They don’t offer any DNA testing, you just upload your DNA data to the site. They have so many free and paid tools that will allow you to search their database of uploads for matches. You can do a wide one-to-many search or even compare two kits on a one-to-one basis. GEDMatch takes uploads of DNA data from several different DNA testing companies. You’re still limited by only being able to compare kits from folks that uploaded, and agreed to allow their kits to be searched, you can match folks that have tested at different companies. Ancestry and 23 and Me, do not allow the uploading of DNA to their databases. GEDMatch takes both of those company’s results and several others. By using my DNA, my older brother’s DNA, and this cousin’s DNA, we were able to find another cousin. This time way down in South Africa.

This cousin had the next generation. Once again, the unusual name and the senior/junior come into play. John Campbell. Really? Now there are two John Campbell’s to look for. A father and son. Out of what, maybe 10,000,000 listed in archives strewn all over the internet? Most old records don’t list things such as a senior or junior. Just the names. This new cousin claims to have a passenger list of when this Campbell family came over, but looking at the reference, I’m not positive about this claim. But that’s another job, and another post.

This gave me a partial answer to the first question. I now have two possibilities of the “Immigrant Ancestor”. It was either my newly discovered 3x great, or his father. The “two John’s”. If this is making your head spin, you can imagine how I was feeling. I put all this away for a bit to just look at DNA to see if I could get any answers to my goals.

All these Campbell’s do come from Scotland. The lead we have on John Sr., states he was born in 1745 in Perth, Scotland. Well, that’s not in Argyll on any map, in any time frame. Not a big deal, as the Campbell Clan is quite large, and has several branches. Maybe I am a descendant from one of the cadet branches.

Going back to FTDNA and the Campbell discussion group, I ask if there is a way via DNA to see if one belongs to the right haplogoup that indicates which, if any, Campbell one can trace back to. Sadly, it appears that I do not belong to the Argyll subclade (R-FGC10125), my path branches off right after the Z39589 subclade a couple of thousand years ago. Hey – not a problem. This just means that some ancestor in the way back past either swore an oath of loyalty to the clan chief, was absorbed into the clan (either peacefully or…), or maybe married into the clan and took the name. If I can go back to the mid 1700’s and still find Campbell in my direct line. I’m good with that.

So, if not Argyll, where does my line come from? I do have a DNA marker, S145/M529/L21. This marker, usually just listed as L21, is highly correlated with the geography of ancient Celts. In the words of Bill Murray “I’ve got that going for me.” Just where is the L21 most prevalent? Seems to be in area of Stirling and Falkirk, Scotland. Which is just southwest of Perth! Hey! I may be on to something here. It would appear to my untrained eye that my line stayed in the lowlands area and those with the Argyll marker continued westward across the island. But I’m just guessing here. Could be the other way around for all I know.

All in all, it means my Y-DNA Haplogroup is R1b1a1a2a1a2. At least that’s the last one I can find. I believe that stops at subclade R-P312, and there are 13 further mutations I have listed to get me to the R-BY69143 SNP.

It does appear that I am a Scot, as the top image says. I don’t have to go back 100 generations to find Scots roots. But I can, my DNA points to a Copper or Iron Age Scots ancestry. Wifey too has Scots heritage. Of course, I can’t test her Y-DNA (she doesn’t have any). Her brother has done the Ancestry test, but Ancestry doesn’t give raw data, only their visuals and estimates. Which leaves me unsure of their Y-DNA Haplogroup. Maybe one day I can afford to have him to the Big Y-700 at FTDNA. We’ll probably find out our tribes fought each other all the time!

In a way, this trip to Scotland will be a homecoming.

If you are using any of the DNA resources I’ve mentioned and wish to contact me about those sites, please use the links below to contact me on social media (Twitter works best), or leave a comment. I would be very happy to see if there is anything we can do to help each other!

Resources I used for this:

Books: (All links go to Amazon – I am not an affiliate. I get nothing if you buy from these links.
Genetic Genealogy In Practice
The Scots: A Genetic Journey
Celts: The History and Legacy of One of the Oldest Cultures in Europe
The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry
Saxons, Vikings and Celts: The Genetic Roots of Britian and Ireland
A History of Scotland

Websites other than already mentioned:
Genetic Homeland
Clan Campbell Society (North America)
Eupedia
International Society of Genetic Genealogy

Software:
Family Tree Maker
Legacy Family Tree
Roots Magic

Peace,
B

Twitter Instagram FaceBook

A Little Of This, A Little Of That

tweet

Well, I’ve had these blog posts sitting here not being posted for quite some time now. All of these have been assigned to “I’ll finish this later”, or “Nobody wants to read about that”, or my fav, “Do I really want to post that?” categories.

———————————————————————————

An Anniversary (Of Sorts)

Today is the 30th anniversary of my vasectomy! I realize you don’t really care. But it’s important to Wifey® and me.  The funny part was later.

We were stationed at Ft. Greely, Alaska.  Four days after my getting fixed was son-the-elder’s birthday. Needless to say, we had a party. And as with most kids birthday parties, the adults consumed massive quantities of alcohol. The big toy that year was laser tag. I don’t remember how many we purchased, but we had several pistols, rifles, vests, and helmets. Many hours and batteries were spent running around in the playground and parking lot shooting at each other. Naturally, I was extremely sore for several days after. The beer kept me from hurting that day but did nothing after that.

Pro tip: Don’t go running around right after having your nuts cut!

———————————————————————————

Still Not The Song I Want To Hear

tweet2

The posts I’m referring to are here and here. After dinner Sunday the family was sitting at our little bar in the kitchen (where we usually eat dinner) and within 10 minutes or so I had to change the station at least 5 times. Nothing but Skynyrd, Zepplin, Springsteen, U2, etc. Even son-the-elder noticed and said I was having a bad night.

———————————————————————————

Genealogy Still Sucks

If you missed the original post go here.  Since everything I find on my Campbell side either has too many questions to lay claim to or goes back to King Arthur, I have decided to work on some other lines for now. Besides, I can’t get anyone to answer any requests on Ancestry.

I’m just happy that I haven’t found a “tree” that links back to Adam & Eve! Although I have to think that the Campbell’s would have sprung from Adam & Lillith, Eve was too prissy.

I have many DNA links on my paternal grandmother’s side, and my mother’s side (both her mother and father’s sides). I’m also going to start on Wifey’s® tree even though she has cousins with a lot of the family already there. But I have doubts about a lot of the historical family members.

For reference follow this link for my Campbell tree and this one for Wifey’s tree.

———————————————————————————

It’s Almost That Time Of Year!

Samhain is right around the corner! Even though we don’t participate much in Halloween (unless we have the girls), I still enjoy this time of year.  The Celt in me loves the traditions and once this day passes the next holiday is my absolute favorite of all holidays, Thanksgiving.

We have always enjoyed carving Jack O’Lanterns. But since this year Halloween falls on a Wednesday I think we’ll cut it back this year.

jack

———————————————————————————

To Gym Or Not To Gym

gym

BEARS

Yeah… This post didn’t get very far…

———————————————————————————

Mental Health Day (Or Lack Thereof)

I’ve mentioned before that I am bipolar type II. I don’t post about it much because I really can’t. When those days hit the last thing I want to do is talk. Not that talking about it doesn’t help, it does. But, I am not one to talk about what’s going on in my messed up head. And to spit it out only relieves the pain for a very short time.  And the roller coaster emotions that this causes is even worse than just dealing with it in my own way.

Then this meme came across my Facebook the other day and I think it may have some merit.

dies

I can understand this. The universe has a finite amount of energy (E=mc^2 tells us this). And since we are all made of stardust (and to stardust, we’ll return) we are all connected. Maybe days when you are sad and can’t place a reason why the universe is signaling that someone needs mourning. I’m down with that.

———————————————————————————

So those are all the leftovers that have been ignored. And to continue the Still Not The Song I Want To Hear post, this morning on the way to work, it was either Starship, Aerosmith, or Rocket Man, easily Elton’s worse song. And while putting this post together, Michael Martin Murphy’s Wildfire just came on. There is nothing that will make me change the station faster than that “song”. Has to be the absolute worst thing ever written.

But fear not dear reader (both of you), the music world is still kicking! Saturday night driving home from dinner with granddaughter-the-younger I had the Beatles channel blaring in the truck. Both of my girls love the Beatles. As this song came on, and I was singing it to her, she was laughing the entire time. When we made it home we watched Beatles videos on YouTube. It was wonderful.

Hey, you there! Leave a comment why don’t ya!

Peace,
B

Twitter  FaceBook

Scotland Or Bust!!

Ah, Scotland! The land of bagpipes, majestic highlands, Nessie, wonderful single malt scotches (the nectar of the Gods), and haggis.  Well, the jury is still out on haggis. I will give it a taste while we’re there, but I’m not really expecting much.

Wifey® and I have booked an 8 day, 7 night bus tour for May 2019. This has been a long drawn out process fraught with perils. We started looking at a Scotland trip several years ago but just could not get the time and funds to match. Seems when we had the money saved up, something came up (like the clutch in my truck blowing up), or when we had time off from work we didn’t have the money.

So fast forward to July of this year. Wifey’s® father had passed away and she and her brothers and finally closed on selling his house. And that would be a whole ‘nother post. What a fiasco that was! We had been vacillating between buying an RV and finally making a trip to Scotland since both of our families are of Scots descent. After several visits to various RV places in and around our home, we were just about set on the RV.  When one Friday evening it all changed. We really didn’t want to spend all the money Wifey® received from her share of the house “all in one place”. So that made the decision much easier.

I immediately contacted the agency we’ve been talking to over that last couple of years to get updated tour dates and prices. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, we decided on which tour we wanted.

The agency we were using is Exploring Vacations, based out of Ireland. They have a New Jersey phone number, but I think it routes back to Ireland as everyone we’ve ever talked to has a most beautiful accent.

On July 31st we made our deposit. It’s really happening! This began the process of getting everything together. We had to renew our passports (a surprisingly easy process), start buying all the “little things”, like a power converter, RFID blocking passport wallets, pillows and eye masks for the overnight flight. OH! Wait! We need airline tickets too. That means days and days of watching Priceline, Kayak, Booking, Orbitz etc…

Then on August 28th, we made the decision to pay off the tour completely.  That proved to be a very wise move. Because on September 14th, I received this email;

email1

Suddenly, we were not sure our trip would happen. Needless to say, my heart just about jumped out of my chest. That RV was looking better and better. I told Wifey® to call the credit card company we used to see if there was anything we needed to do so we wouldn’t lose all of what we paid.  But when she looked at the website for the card, she saw that we didn’t pay Exploring Vacations, we paid directly to the actual tour company, CIE Tours International! A glimmer of hope appeared. And sure enough, when I open the PAID IN FULL invoice, it’s from CIE Tours! CIE is also based out of Ireland, and also has a New Jersey phone number. You know I’m calling as quick as my shaking hands can dial.

While I’m waiting for someone to answer I tweet this;

tweet1

A lovely sounding lass “Alli” is the representative I get to talk to (with an amazing accent too!).  I explain the situation to Alli, but she doesn’t know about Exploring Vacations going out of business. Heart rate is starting to go up again. She sends me to a supervisor, Ernesto. Ernesto is either in New Jersey or is from there, he has an entirely different accent than Alli. But right now I really don’t care where I’m calling as long as someone can tell me what’s going on.

Turns out Ernesto is on the ball. He can find our tour and yes, we are PAID IN FULL! Ernesto takes care of the transfers to and from the airport and hotels since that was one step we didn’t get to finish (at no cost!). The only issue he sees it that our tour is reserved under the Exploring Vacations name and not ours. He says that is a minor issue as the receipt has our names.

One thing that amazes me about this entire deal is that Exploring Vacations has been in contact throughout. As much heartburn and stress this situation has caused us, the fact that they emailed me to tell me what’s going on and have answered every email I have sent with questions says that this was a solid company. It also says a lot about corporate America. If this had been an American company we would only find out that they went bankrupt when a letter showed up, or we tried to call and found the phone disconnected.

email2

The email that allowed me to sleep again

We still have lots of stuff to procure for this trip. We need real raincoats (or should I say a “mac”?), more clothes, luggage, and exchange currency.  But we have time.  I’ll post more about the trip as things get settled. The itinerary is not finalized yet but should be by the end of the month.

Tell me your travel horror stories!!

Peace,
B

Twitter  FaceBook

P.S. Samhain is getting close!!

Catching Up

So it’s been a while since I posted anything. So let’s catch up, shall we?

The reasons I haven’t posted are several. I had a killer head cold for about 2 weeks, that I couldn’t shake (same one I mentioned in my Celebrate Good Times (Come On)! post).  My work issued laptop died on me, and I’ve been so busy at work that when I get home and I feel like crap due to the cold, I had no desire to sit in front of any PC. When you consider how much computer time I log at work, it’s rather surprising how much I use one at home.

But not everything was bad. I bought a new SiriusXM radio for my aging truck. It’s an external device that plugs in through the aux port on the existing radio. I also stream, mostly the “Classic” (oh, how I hate that term. Can we go back to AOR please?) stations. I like SiriusXM over the local radio because the DJs don’t think they have to be funny so they can get hired and go to a larger market. SiriusXM’s market is North America. Quite a bit bigger than any terrestrial market. Plus these DJs know what they’re talking about.  I also like SiriusXM over most streaming services (Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, etc.) because they play the music the way it was recorded. One thing that always pissed me off with the various streaming services is they tend to cut apart songs the segue into each other. A classic example is Jackson Browne’s “The Load Out/Stay”. Streaming radio turns those into two separate songs. It increases the total number of songs in their library, but it totally screws up the listening experience.

My office replaced my very small Micro$oft Surface Book with a beautiful 17″ HP laptop.  This thing is a beast! An i7 CPU, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD, and this wonderful huge screen! These tired old eyes can see again!

Wifey® and I have planned, and made the deposit on, something that is on both of our bucket lists. A trip to Scotland, the land of our heritage. We’ve both did the Ancestry DNA tests. I’ve posted about this before.  Turns out both of our DNA points directly to Scotland/Ireland/Land of the Vikings. I’d like to try to find the ancestor that made the trip over the pond to settle in America before we go. But that costs money, and right now we’re trying to save, not spend so we can blow the whole wad while in Scotland.  I’m hoping the duty-free shop in the Edinburgh airport has a good selection of native scotches.  I will have a separate post(s) about the trip as things get closer, and when we are in country.

We had a wonderful dinner the other night with my brother and his wife here at my house.  I smoked three whole chickens. Not that I expected we would eat them all that night, I planned on leftovers so we (as in Wifey® and son-the-younger and myself) could make pot pies from the leftover chicken and other veggies we made that day.

wp-1533321237490..jpg

Yup, there are 3 whole chickens in there!

wp-1533321237469..jpg

We ended up with 10 pot pies of varying sizes

I confirmed something I learned the last time I smoked chicken. From now on I’m only buying leg quarters. There were 4 and a half breast quarters left, but only one leg quarter. Seem we prefer the dark meat!

And I’ve read a couple of good books too. I won’t write any reviews.  If you want book reviews, there are plenty of sites that have them (I recommend Once Upon A Spine).

I’ll leave you with a video. Has nothing to do with this post, but the opening line “Been away, haven’t seen you in a while”, fits with the theme. Plus it’s Dave Mason.  I’ve been a fan of his since his days with Traffic.

So what have you been up to?

Peace,
B

Twitter  FaceBook

Conference Time

Last week I had the great pleasure of attending the KnowBe4 conference in Orlando. (Official hashtag: #KB4Con18). This was without a doubt the best tech conference I have ever attended. Not only were there absolutely dynamic speakers, all attendees were treated to the best food!  I’m talking some of the healthiest stuff I have ever seen at any conference.

I’ve mentioned KnowBe4 before. This is the vendor we use at the city to train, test and generally harass our end-users (OK, maybe not harass). (KnowBe4 website) With just a small part of their product, I can train my co-workers on the latest ways the “bad guys” try to use social engineering to do well, bad stuff. I will admit that I enjoy sending out simulated phish emails. Why? Because it shows me where are weak links are. And this gives me the means to do targeted training to make our city network, and by association everyone’s home PC/Network, that much more secure. I don’t do it to shame someone or hold it over anyone’s head. Since I have been an instructor of some sort for very many years, I use this primarily as a training tool. But on to the conference itself.

Other than the hour plus, each way, drive on I4 (A.K.A. the devil’s highway), and being in Orlando (way too big and crazy for me), everything else went beautifully. The folks at KnowBe4 went above and beyond in this, their first ever conference.

The opening keynote speaker was Kevin Mitnick, or as he likes to call himself “The World’s Most Famous Hacker”, a title he lives up to. If you don’t know who he is, take a moment to read his Wikipedia page, even if it a bit light on his history. Kevin gave us many demonstrations of current hacks, all of which arrive via an inconspicuous email. And all of which are very nasty. But the one hack that scared me the most was when he showed how Google’s two-factor authentication (2FA) could be hacked. Google has always been one of the toughest to crack since they stay on the cutting edge of all technologies. As a big user of many Google services, this is troublesome.

MVIMG_20180517_182225.jpg

Me and Kevin Mitnick

The keynote speaker for the next day was Frank Abangale. I have to admit that I did not recognize his name. But once I heard his story I knew how he was. Here is his Wikipedia page for you to educate yourself. Frank is considered one of the foremost experts on imposters and forgery. Steven Spielberg made a movie “Catch Me If You Can” starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank and Tom Hanks as FBI Agent Carl Hanratty. I have not seen this movie, but I see it available on Amazon Prime so I will correct that error very soon. And if I caught his reference, he was also the inspiration for the TV show “White Collar”.  His family story and subsequent talk on how to keep safe with online financial sources was very eye-opening.

IMG_20180518_104922.jpg

Myself and Frank Abangale

Another fantastic speaker was Roger A. Grimes (he wants you to know he is not related to the Canadian political figure with the same name), the best-selling author of several tech books. KnowBe4 even included a copy of his “A Data-Driven Computer Security Defense” in the big ol’ backpack they gave every attendee. The big takeaway from his two talks was the point that you have to determine what your biggest exploitable problem is, and fix that first. Common sense, which as we all know, is always in short supply.

One thing that I really was happy to see was the inclusion of women speakers. KnowBe4 has several women in executive roles throughout the company, and that makes me very happy. Since I have two granddaughters, one of which is very interested in the sciences, I fully support women (and really anybody) in STEM (Science – Technology – Engineering – Mathematics). One of the first questions Wifey® asked me was if there were women presenters. I was so very happy to say yes!

There was one thing missing though. No vendor room. Every other conference I’ve been to there is always a room for vendors. Not only can one make some great contacts with products and services that one doesn’t know about, vendors always have cool swag (freebie gifts). I’ll have to check with my manager, but I think a conference is how we found out about KnowBe4. It may not have been in the vendor area, it may have been word of mouth from another attendee (word of mouth is ALWAYS the best advertisement).

Sorry, this is such a broad overview, but I could write about ten pages if I covered the entire 3 days. All I can say is “I’m ready for KB4Con19!”

Peace,
B

Twitter  FaceBook