Friday, 25 July 2014


Happy National Tequila Day! Here’s how climate change is murdering your tequila
From The Daily Beast July 24, 2014

Finally, we can build a consensus of outrage over climate change. Forget sea levels. It is endangering tequila. Save the blue agave!
Today we celebrate America’s greatest holiday.

On July 24, a day better known as National Tequila Day, Americans can raise a glass (or an embarrassingly inexpensive plastic bottle) in honor of tequila, the blue-agave-derived alcoholic beverage that might actually help you conquer obesity.
To be clear, National Tequila Day is, unfortunately, not a federal holiday. Its origin is a mystery, but it was probably started by someone who sold tequila. Still, the “holiday” retains at least as much legitimacy as the sham of commercialized lust we’ve come to know as Valentine’s Day.
Anyway, before you start celebrating and making all kinds of terrible life choices, it’s important to remember that Tequila Day isn’t just a time for meaningless, sodden fun—it’s a time to call for climate action, too.
“Ecologies are delicate things, especially when you’re trying to achieve a predictable, high-quality product.”
Seriously. There is reason to believe that climate change is directly threatening your supply of tequila. So if you have not been giving a damn about (or have been actively denying) the devastating effects of man-made global warming, now is a good time to start . . . .

Peter’s Piece

This is a deadly serious situation. The world could not possibly be allowed to run out of tequila.

Distillers of the juice from the famed agave tequilana plant (or blue agave also known as tequila agave) should immediately consider relocating their crops and distilleries to a cooler climate, possibly somewhere close to the Antarctic ice shelf which is said to be melting like a tub of ice cream thrown from a car in Death Valley.
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I do hope that the city of Tequila in Mexico, which is only 1,200 metres above sea level, is not invaded by the sea before they can save this eighth wonder of the world from obliteration. What a tragedy that would be.

Without tequila, some Mexicans would be able to survive a drink/driving breath test for the first time since 1521 when Spanish colonizers first discovered the magic properties of blue agave.
Tequila must be protected at all cost and the United Nations should call an urgent meeting of the Security Council to move tequila to higher ground, or turn back the sea.

Granted, turning back the sea will be the toughest challenge ever faced by the United Nations. The sea has been rising steadily since the last Ice Age ended about 12,000 years ago. We are currently in the Holocene period which will probably continue, based on previous climate cycles, until Earth is completely free of ice, except for ice manufactured for drinking with tequila.

The Holocene should not be confused with the hell-of-a-scene that can be caused by drinking too much tequila.

Naturally, as the sea rises (and its rise is natural) there could be advantages for mankind. People wishing to relax at the seaside won’t have so far to drive (BP and Shell won’t like that), and real estate agents will be able advertise all properties as having a spectacular sea view.

With rising sea levels and temperatures, food production will increase as land previously too cold to grow anything will come into production. But anyone who thinks that bananas, pineapples and tequila are too expensive will be in for a shock when transport costs are added from Scott Base City in the Republic of Antarctica.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014


Second richest man has a radical opinion on work hours
Carlos Slim, the world’s second richest man wants you to work just three days a week. But don’t get carried away just yet. The 74 year-old, who is chairman of Telmax, didn’t say that he wants to hire you. Telmax is the dominant telecommunications provider in Latin America.
Carlos Slim
According to an article by Jenna Kagel in the Financial Times, Slim wants to slim down the working week to just three days to improve productivity by allowing people more rest and recreation. He says the downside would be that workers may have to work until they are 70 or even 75 years old. Carlos Slim is believed to have a net worth of about $80 billion USD and it can probably be safely assumed that he didn’t acquire his wealth without lots of radical ideas.
But is his suggestion really all that radical, or is he suggesting that progressive trends in working conditions over the centuries are simply due for the next step forward?
We’ve come a long way since the earliest agricultural workers worked in the fields until they fell asleep, where they worked, and when they awoke again they immediately started work again, seven days a week. We hear terrible things about working conditions during the industrial revolution when an 18 hour day was normal, six days a week, and the workers went home after work. That was a miserable existence, but it was an improvement on the earlier work conditions.

A chart from the Economist showing the relationship between work hours and productivity

During the 20th Century the 40 hour/five day working week became normal for many workers, and nearing the end of the century some workers were allowed to go home for the weekend after only 35 hours. Annual leave not only became normal during the 20th Century, but the amount of leave increased from two weeks to four weeks a year. Other entitlements that became acceptable during the 20th Century included sick leave, bereavement leave, maternity leave and long service leave.
Shorter working hours can have many benefits for society other than increased productivity. Not the least of these is work place safety. Take the case of long distance truck drivers in places like the USA, Russia and Australia with vast distances to drive with primitive conditions and laws, compared with Europe. These drivers sleep in their trucks and drive each day until they are ready to fall asleep and there is always pressure to deliver on time. The most common cause of single vehicle truck accidents is drivers falling asleep at the wheel. These drivers are stuck in a time warp somewhere between the first agricultural workers and the factory workers of the industrial revolution.

Another Economist chart showing average working hours for OECD countries
But there are other important benefits to be gained by society from shorter working weeks and work days. Family life is one of the first things to spring to mind. The children of long hours workers often grow up poorly adjusted for life and may embark on a life of crime or anti-social behavior. Long hours workers are more likely to divorce than shorter hours workers, and they are also more likely to have health issues. It is common to hear from people who live to an exceptionally old age, that they achieved their old age with hard work. But the reality is that people who work hard and long generally have shorter lives.
Life expectancy has improved with better working conditions, shorter hours and better wages.
There is one more important benefit of shorter working hours that is often overlooked. In the days when workers slogged from daylight to dark every day for poor wages (or in slavery), they had no discretionary spending power to buy the products that they produced, or any non-essential items.
Starting in the 20th Century and continuing into the 21st Century, workers have had discretionary spending power, and the reduced working hours give them the time to spend their surplus wages. This is good for the well-being of the individual and it is good for the national economy.
As workers spend their wages they help keep others in work, and the more a particular product is purchased the cheaper it can be produced and sold. As they used to say about money: It’s made round to go round.

Read about the hard times in colonial Australia
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However, the suggestion by Carlos Slim that the retirement age may have to go up to 70 or 75 must be challenged. To prove his assumption wrong, we must go back again to the slaves and workers in primitive agriculture. For them there was no retirement. They worked until they died. It was the same during the industrial revolution and it wasn’t until the 20th Century that workers started receiving a meagre retirement pension. As the century progressed more people qualified for the pension and the qualifying age moved steadily downward.
Retirement itself became an industry, taking from and giving to the national economy. Without pensioners the economy would revert back to the hard times prior to the introduction of pensions. Baby boomers joining the ranks of the retired is no reason to raise the retirement age. In fact most WWII baby boomers are now receiving a pension and the economic effect has been zero.
In summary, shorter working hours leads to improved safety and productivity, better home life, increased industrial creativity or a wider range of products for workers to buy and enjoy. It is better for everyone including governments, businesses and workers. Bring it on!

Monday, 21 July 2014


Remembering the fear of the approaching cashless society

Back in the 1970s and 80s people feared the demise of cold, hard cash and its replacement with credit and debit cards. Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Diners were dirty words.
It was said that George Orwell’s novel Nineteen-Eighty-four was not a novel at all but a dire prediction of what life would be like in the year 1984. The approaching cashless society where everyone had a plastic card would give governments total control and surveillance of every individual 24/7. Not only that, but the infamous (but mysterious) eleven people who were said to control all of the world’s major business and political decisions, would then have absolute power over every individual.

The use of credit and debit cards would also, it was claimed, lead to increased crime because criminals would have easier access to money. And when the internet and internet banking came along, the protests got even louder. Stealing money would be just too easy and most people vowed never to have a card, a computer, or do internet banking.
But were the fears based on sound logic, or irrational nonsense?
Well, first of all we need to understand that our memories often trick us when it comes to the frequency of many things from the past. Here are just two examples of this self trickery:
1.    We are told, and we tend to believe, that major weather events happen more frequently these days. But the truth is that we don’t remember all of the major weather events from a decade or two ago. It’s often difficult to remember last week’s weather. However, weather statistics gathered over the last hundred years reveal virtually the same patterns being repeated again and again.
2.    We are also told, and again tend to believe, that crime is getting worse. You will frequently hear older people say, “It wasn’t like that in my day.” But older people have probably been saying the same thing for hundreds of years. What they should be saying is, “I don’t remember it being like that in my day.” History is blurred by human memory and there is often a tendency to remember only some of the good times, and almost none of the not so good times. So it is easy to think that crime wasn’t a problem when we were young. But crime is linked to economic prosperity and ever since Homo sapiens emerged from caves thousands of years ago prosperity has been on the rise while crime rates have been lowering.
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There are many more examples that could be used to illustrate historical memory fade and how we are tricked by it. But let’s look at the questions of sound logic, or irrational nonsense, as it applies to plastic cards and the absence of folding, jingling cash.
An article in the Economist on July 12, 2014 explains how and why crime is decreasing. For example crime in the United States has been a problem since the beginning of colonization, but has generally trended downwards for centuries, with a rise during the prohibition period of the 1920s. Crime rose again sharply after WWII and continued to rise through to the 1970s before levelling off until 1990. But for the last 24 years crime has been trending downwards at a very pleasing rate for all except the criminals.
Statistics have always shown a trend upwards during economic hard times and a trend downwards during better times with fuller employment. It follows that as standards of living improve over the centuries, crime rates trend downwards over the same centuries.
In colonial America people may have felt justified in carrying arms for protection in what was doubtless a dangerous country, but as safety has improved people have started to question the right to carry arms.
Crimes of opportunity have been a feature of life since the earliest times and from the criminals point of view the best thing to steal is cash. Cash can be grabbed quickly as the opportunity arises, can be disposed of or concealed quickly, can be used to buy goods and services quickly and anonymously. With cash there is no need for identification, passwords or PIN numbers, and there is no delay while awaiting approval.
As renowned American criminologist Dr Marcus Felson wrote, “Cash is the mother’s milk of crime.”
The reduction of crime in the developed words, of which the US statistics are indicative, corresponds almost exactly with the gradual withdrawal of cash from circulation and the introduction of plastic cards and internet banking.
Researchers in the US state of Missouri found that some predatory crimes (burglary, assault and larceny) between 1990 and 2011 dropped by 9.8%. The drop in the crime rate did not result from increased hardline policing because the arrest rate during the same period also declined. Criminals were decidedly less active because there were fewer opportunities.
Many people will have difficulty accepting the new reality of crime rates and the cause, but then some cardless people still hide their cash under the bed or bury it in the garden. But the reality is that crime has reduced over the last 24 years and the reduced availability of banknotes and coins must take a large part of the credit for that.
So if you don’t carry plastic, or do internet banking, it’s time to get with it. Join the cashless society and start working toward a crimeless society. Well, as near to it as feasible. We don’t want to put the police and lawyers out of work.

Sunday, 20 July 2014


Is Malaysia an airline to avoid?

Two total aircraft losses, along with all on board, within four months are frightening to say the least. Airline passengers are avoiding Malaysia Airlines like the plague, but is that a reasonable and logical response?

Let’s look at some facts about Malaysia’s national carrier.

The seeds for a national airline in Malaysia were sown in 1937 when two Australian brothers, the Wearnes, started an air service between Singapore and Penang using an eight-seat de Havilland Dragon Rapide aircraft. Within a short time they were using a second Rapide to operate other routes. However, WWII and the Japanese occupation meant that WAS, as it was known, was forced to cease operations.
A Malaya Airways Airspeed Consul

Along with the rest of the world, Malaysia was gaining experience in airline operations, and at the same time that Wearnes Air Service was operating bigger things were in the making. The Ocean Steamship Company, Straits Steamship Company and Imperial Airways registered Malaya Airways on October 12, 1937, but again due to the war, the first Malaya passengers could not be carried until 1947.

The first flight was from the British Straits Settlement (now Singapore) to Kuala Lumpur in Malaya using an Airspeed Consul twin engine aircraft.

The airline continued to grow throughout the 1940s and 1950s with co-operation and assistance from BOAC and Qantas. The airline joined IATA and went public in 1957. They operated DC-3s, DC-4s, Vickers Viscounts, Bristol Britannias, Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellations and de Havilland Comet 4s. This was no fly-by-night (pardon the pun) operator. Malaya was a serious airline. The route network included domestic and short haul international flights.

In the 1960s Singapore became a part of the Malaysian Federation and Malaya Airways became Malaysia Singapore Airlines (MSA) and established a strong international brand and continued to grow, adding new jet aircraft and long haul destinations.

When Singapore left the federation in 1972 the national airline was divided up with Singapore taking the international assets and Malaysia taking the domestic assets. That made sense at the time because all flights from Singapore would be international while Malaysia had a large number of domestic flights. But Malaysia quickly expanded with the introduction of international flights.

Over the years Malaysia faced strong competition from neighboring airlines including their former partner Singapore as well as Qantas, Thai and British Airways, which all had strong brands. Malaysian became a poor cousin to these other airlines, but only in terms of marketing and route network strategies. Operationally, it was a sound airline with an excellent safety record.

Along with most airlines, Malaysian has had its good and bad years economically over the years including the most recent recession. But it continued to grow from the 1970s to the present day and the aircraft types have included B-707s, B-737s, DC-10-30s, B-747s, B-777s, Airbus A-330s, and A-380s. The current fleet size is 93 jets.
A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 taking-off

To return to the two flights that were lost this year, I can understand how most people would feel about flying with an airline in the situation that Malaysia finds itself in today. I had that same feeling in September 2001 when I flew from London to Los Angeles with American Airlines on their first trans Atlantic flight on the day that international flights resumed after 9/11. Constantly on my mind was the fact that this airline, five days earlier (yesterday, if you discount the days they were grounded) had lost two aircraft to terrorists. And terrorism was almost certainly on the minds of many passengers when I was asked to leave the aircraft at Heathrow so that my checked luggage could be examined. As I walked from the back of the aircraft to the front I could feel hundreds of eyeballs piercing the back of my skull. But it was all a false alarm and I was allowed to board the aircraft again for an uneventful flight. (I have told this story in more detail in my book Highway America)
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Several years ago I had six flights with Malaysia Airlines on six different aircraft with six different crews and I became a Malaysia supporter. All the aircraft, inside and out, were immaculate, the crews utterly professional and the service equal to the best.

But what about safety, you ask. Well, let’s look at the record. Prior to 2014 Malaysia had had just two flights that ended fatally. In 1977 a Malaysia Boeing 737 was hijacked and later crashed with loss of 100 lives. That can happen with any airline. In 1995 a Malaysia Fokker 50 overshot a runway and 33 people died. That was pilot error and travelers should remember that all airlines employ pilots.

Until 2014 that was the record of fatal flights for this airline – just two. From small beginnings in 1947 and later with millions of miles flown every day that is an outstanding record of safety.
2014 Makes all the difference of course, but is the airline to blame for the two most recent tragedies? Well, the jury is still out on the March loss, but so far there is no evidence that pins anything on the airline. With the Ukraine tragedy, I think we can safely assume that the airline did not fire the missile.

Would I fly again with Malaysia? I would probably take Malaysia in preference to any other operator, because I think it would be a great shame to see such a good airline disappear from the skies and Malaysia cannot survive without passengers.


Publicity advice for first time authors
By Paula Margulies

First published here on August 31, 2012 and still relevant in 2014.

I receive a lot of calls from first-time authors with questions about how they should promote their books. Here are a few of the questions I hear most often, along with my responses:

1) Do I really need a website and a blogsite to market my book?
Yes, you really do need both. When I contact media producers and editors on your behalf, they will be looking to see what kind of presence you have on the web and whether or not you’re starting to develop any kind of following among readers. And readers interested in your work will want to visit your web and blog sites to learn more about you.

2) I edited my book carefully myself, and my wife/husband edited it, as well. Isn’t that enough?
Sorry, but self-editing (or editing via friends or family who are not professionals) doesn’t cut it. Whether you plan to self-publish or go the traditional route, you should have your work edited by a professional.

Your book is your product – it can have the greatest storyline or nonfiction content in the world, but if it’s poorly written and/or contains errors, readers will notice and say so in reviews. And it will be more difficult to obtain that all-important word-of-mouth promotion that helps some first-time books breakout. There are always exceptions to these guidelines (some might list Fifty Shades of Grey as an example), but in most instances, if you want to sell well, you must have a product that is polished and well-written, and the best way to do that is to have a professional editor review your work.

3) I want publicity for my book, but I don’t want to blog/travel/appear publicly/give interviews. What can you do for me?
If you are a first-time author, you need to find methods to reach your target audience. The best way to do that is to put yourself out there; if you’re unwilling to do so, then hiring a publicist is probably not going to help you.

And, yes, there are methods of reaching out that don’t require personal appearances or blogging. You can pay for advertising, for example, or hire a blog tour company to get bloggers to post about you and your book on their sites.

But remember, there are over 32 million books on the market right now, and experts predict that number will continue to grow. How will you make your book stand out from all the others? If you want readers to know about you and your book, you’re going to have to get yourself in front of them in as many ways as possible, be it online, on paper, via traditional media and advertising, or through in-person appearances. The more of these activities you do, the better chance you have of reaching readers.

4) How can I promote my book if I don’t have a platform?
Having a platform means that you, the author, have a strong background or some kind of expertise that is newsworthy and will make you a good potential interview candidate for the media. Promoting a book without a strong author platform is difficult, so if your platform is weak or nonexistent, you’ll need to build one.

The best way to build a platform is to establish yourself as an expert in your book’s content area (this is true for fiction, as well as nonfiction). Many authors mistakenly believe this means that they should try to position themselves as experts on writing. That’s true if your book is about writing, but if it isn’t, you’ll want to position yourself as an expert in the genre or subject area that your readers buy. The best way to do this is to create blogs on topics that interest your readers, become a guest blogger on other sites in your genre or specialty area, teach classes, write articles, and do whatever you can to be seen as someone with expertise in the realm in which your book (and its potential readers) reside. Again, this means putting some effort into developing a following on social media sites, writing blogs, making public appearances, writing articles for online and print publications, etc. (Those who are uncomfortable with doing these things, please reread my answer to question #3).

5) I have a good book, but no platform, or I have a great platform, but my book isn’t quite there yet. Will you represent me?
When I read a book by a potential client (and I always read potential clients’ books before I agree to take them on), I ask myself three questions: Is the book well-written and professionally edited? Does the author have a good platform? And can I successfully promote this book and author to my contacts? I will only represent an author if I can answer yes to all three questions.

6) Some pundits are saying that I should have at least three books published before I start any promotion. Is this true?
Many established authors have discovered that if they are successful in a certain genre, they can generate more sales by creating sequels for those books that sell well. And readers are proving loyal to characters and storylines that they love. So, if you write a book that lends itself to creating a series, particularly if it’s genre fiction, it can be a good idea to do so. 

Continued below . . . .

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But, if you’re self-publishing your work, it’s sometimes hard to know if you have a potential success (or a potential successful series) until you get that first book out there. Even if you plan to write follow-on books, I believe it’s still a good idea to spend some time promoting the first book. And if you have a second book in the wings, you can often build on the publicity for the first book to successfully promote the second.

7) From a publicity standpoint, what general advice do you have for me as a first-time author?
Great question – here’s what I recommend:
● Make sure your book has been heavily workshopped, ruthlessly revised, and polished to perfection by a professional editor before submitting it to agents, editors, or publicists, and certainly before publishing it online or in print.
● Educate yourself on promotion and marketing. Read everything you can by experts and successful authors who publish in your genre. Some of the advice will be tremendously helpful, while some of it may not fit you or your goals for your book; adopt what is useful, and commit yourself to doing what those experts recommend to help your book sell.
● Decide how much in the way of time, effort, and money you’re willing to spend on promoting your book and develop a schedule and budget you can live with.
● Plan to promote your first book full-bore for a set amount time (6-8 months after release is a good rule-of-thumb) and then consider creating a self-sustaining/long-term strategy, so you can focus on writing the next book. 

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Friday, 18 July 2014


Newspaper publishes transcript of war crime conversation

The English language newspaper Kylv Post in Ukraine has published a transcript of an intercepted conversation between a Russian military intelligence officer in Donetsk and a colonel at the Russian armed forces headquarters.
Here is their conversation:
Igor Bezler: We have just shot down a plane. Group Minera. It fell down beyond Yenakievo (Donetsk Oblast).
Vasili Geranin: Pilots. Where are the pilots?

IB: Gone to search for and photograph the plane. It's smoking.
VG: How many minutes ago?
IB: About 30 minutes ago.
SBU comment: After examining the site of the plane the terrorists come to the conclusion that they have shot down a civilian plane. The next part of the conversation took place about 40 minutes later.
"Major": These are Chernukhin folks who shot down the plane. From the Chernukhin check point. Those cossacks who are based in Chernukhino.
"Greek": Yes, Major.
"Major": The plane fell apart in the air. In the area of Petropavlovskaya mine. The first "200" (code word for dead person). We have found the first "200". A Civilian.
"Greek": Well, what do you have there?
"Major": In short, it was 100 per cent a passenger (civilian) aircraft.
"Greek": Are many people there?
"Major": Holy sh----t! The debris fell right into the yards (of homes).
"Greek": What kind of aircraft?
"Major": I haven't ascertained this. I haven't been to the main sight. I am only surveying the scene where the first bodies fell. There are the remains of internal brackets, seats and bodies.
"Greek": Is there anything left of the weapon?
"Major": Absolutely nothing. Civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper.
"Greek": Are there documents?
"Major": Yes, of one Indonesian student. From a university in Thompson.
Militant: Regarding the plane shot down in the area of Snizhne-Torez. It's a civilian one. Fell down near Grabove. There are lots of corpses of women and children. The Cossacks are out there looking at all this.
They say on TV it's AN-26 transport plane, but they say it's written Malaysia Airlines on the plane. What was it doing on Ukraine's territory?
Nikolay Kozitsin: That means they were carrying spies. They shouldn't be f***ing flying. There is a war going on.
Source: Kyiv Post

How shocking is that?
These military criminals feel nothing for their victims. They even try to make victims of themselves as they justify their horrific actions.
To them, nothing is more important than their precious war and this is obvious from their assertion that the airliner had no right to be where it was. Well, get this, you murderous criminals. You have no right to be having a war, in Ukraine, Russia, or anywhere else.
It has been reported that they have found a Black Box and have sent it to Moscow, and now the fox will investigate the demise of the chickens. The site should have been protected to make sure nothing was moved until a properly constituted air accident investigation team arrived.
Russia has no authority to interfere in the investigation. The aircraft was not Russian owned or registered, was not flying in Russian territory, and probably had no Russians on board. There was nothing Russian about this tragedy, except for the 298 murders committed by Pro-Russian criminals, using Russian supplied arms.
Finally, will the sleeping giant that is the United Nations, be aroused now and take control in Ukraine?


Declaring war on the state of Michigan

Here is a free sample read from Highway America – the adventures of a Kiwi truck driver by Peter Blakeborough. Enjoy.

After unloading in Montoursville a restful evening was had at the Petro Stopping Center at Milton, Pennsylvania, near a junction with the I-80, the main freeway connecting New York, Chicago and San Francisco.
Early next morning the on board computer (in my International truck Old Bluey) beeped again with the next dispatch which sent me 500 miles south through the Appalachian Mountains and the unforgettable Shenandoah Valley to Charlotte, North Carolina.
The rugged Alleghany Mountains formed the western skyline where Daniel Boone pioneered the fur-trapper route westward into Kentucky 250 years earlier and as the sun descended in the west Interstate 77 guided me south across the famous Blue Ridge Mountains and into North Carolina.
On Sunday morning I followed the directions and landmarks to Westinghouse Commons (passed Jacobsen’s Tractors and seven flags to West Lake Dr to a big black mailbox) where I had to reverse down a long narrow driveway into a yard that barely had room to swing a cat let alone turn a big rig. There I found trailer number 53766 and after some rather delicate maneuvering in the confined space managed to drop one trailer and pick up the other without adding to the deeply tire-rutted soft grass bordering the concrete apron.
The new destination was Kirkland, Illinois, 803 miles northwest. But as I reached the I-77 a few minutes later the OBC beeped once more. With one hand on the wheel and one on the OBC I read the message; Go to Kannapolis Xt 58 on I-85N. Meet James Quinn at Amoco near Blockbuster Video.
Peter Blakeborough at the controls
of a Boeing simulator
What’s all this? I asked myself as I dropped the OBC on the floor and reached for the Rand McNally Road Atlas. I had just passed the I-85 and so continued on to the next exit before doubling back. Twenty-five miles up the I-85 Exit 58 appeared ahead and James was waiting with his car at the Amoco.
He explained that we were to swap trailers at his house because his truck had broken down with an urgent load for Michigan.
For ten minutes he led the way through the suburbs before his truck appeared conveniently at the side of the road in the only parking place for a truck for miles around. Instead of Illinois the destination was now RTS Transportation System, Flint X-Dock (whatever that was supposed to mean), 1469 Davison Road, Burton, Michigan, 671 miles from Kannapolis. There was one more helpful piece of information in the OBC message; Next to Brian’s Restaurant. Yeah, thanks. Following Interstate 77 all the way to Cleveland, Ohio, and then taking the I-80 west and I-75 north looked like a pretty straight run. However James suggested that the I-40 west over the Great Smokey Mountains and then north on the I-75 would be quicker.
The Great Smokey’s were a big climb with lots of down-changing of the road-ranger gear box to get the 79,000 lbs. load over the 3,000 foot summit. Going down the western side into Tennessee was equally challenging with mile after mile of low gears and engine braking.
Another night at the Richwood, Kentucky, truckstop put me back into familiar territory for a time and later in the day I made another visit to Bowling Green, Ohio, and the Wal-Mart and Foodtown supermarket and the Laundromat. Then the I-75 took me north again to Dexter, Michigan, just west of Detroit, and another TA truckstop for the night. It was only an hour’s drive in the morning to the destination.
In Burton, Michigan, I found Brian’s Restaurant and RTS Transportation and waited to be unloaded. A bank was very conveniently located right across the street and I needed a bank to send money to New Zealand to keep the home fires burning. But banking in America seems to be a rather backward, fragmented business compared with New Zealand and Australia. Wiring money to a place no-one in the bank had ever heard of was akin to putting a pound of runny butter up a kangaroo’s backside with a red-hot poker and the fee was going to cost almost as much as the money. There had to be another way. I already had a bank account at Otter Creek in Arkansas but that bank like the one in Michigan didn’t have a branch outside their own state.
Finally it was necessary to open a new account at the Burton bank, using my Otter Creek cash card to make a deposit, then wire the money to New Zealand and close the account again. That’s when the paper war started – almost a semi-trailer load of paper, and that was just to open an account. Part way through the exercise I looked across the street to discover that it was my turn to back into the dock.
When I got back to the bank again the young lady that I had been dealing with had gone to lunch and it was necessary to start explaining what I wanted to someone else. Finally we got to the part where the new account holder gives his/her business or employment address and residential address which must be separate places. The business address was easy but because I lived in the truck I had a problem. It had to be a proper residential address.
‘You have to have one,’ the lady said.
‘But I simply don’t have one,’ I replied.
Then she looked me straight in the eye.
‘Make one up,’ she whispered.
‘Okay. Old Bluey, Anytown, All States, USA.’
The address was entered and finally the account was opened and the money transferred.
Then I faced an even greater load of paper to close the account again. In Michigan they don’t like people closing bank accounts. It’s almost as difficult as getting a Presidential pardon without a kickback. Months later the bank was still sending statements to me at CalArk with horrendous account maintenance fees added to what had once been a zero balance. In response I scribbled a note on the statement and sent it back to them without a stamp.
The statements kept on coming.
So I phoned them to say that I would call my friend George W. Bush at the White House and ask him to declare war on the state of Michigan.
‘He’d never know where Michigan is?’ the man at the bank sneered.
‘Yes, he does,’ I countered. ‘I’ve told him Michigan is in the Midwest which is right next to the Middle East where his daddy already had a war that never got finished.’
‘We’ll close the account without you having to come into the bank,’ he said soberly.

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Thursday, 17 July 2014


Long life claims can be real but many are suspect

The world’s current longest living person Misao Okawa of Japan has been verified at 116 years and three months old. But the greatest verified age ever attained belonged to Jeanne Louise Calment who was born in Arles, France on February 21, 1875, rode a bicycle until she was 100, and took her leave on August 4, 1997, aged 122 years and 164 days. She was very close to the absolute genetic limit for humans.
Mohammed Ayub who claimed to be 179 years old

Misao and Jeanne belong to a select club of ten people who have attained the age of at least 116 years with official documentation to back up their claims. All other claimants have either been confused, mistaken, or simply unable to count. A large number of claimants, including some famous ones, were frauds.

Let’s look at some of the more spectacular claims.

Methuselah, we are told, lived for 969 years. He was a Hebrew patriarch and the grandfather of Noah, who himself supposedly lived for 950 years. Methuselah’s father was Enoch who lasted only 365 years, but whose real claim to fame should be that he fathered Methuselah when he was 65 years old and went on to have other sons and daughters, and all before the advent of Viagra. But perhaps Enoch invented Viagra and kept it secret, except that he may have given the secret to Methuselah who fathered a son at the age of 187. That son fathered Noah the boatman who put to sea the same year that Methuselah died.
Continued below . . . .

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So if Enoch, Methuselah and Noah were given a please explain today would they (a) admit to a calculation error, (b) admit they used lunar years, (c) claim that people really did live longer when times were harder than today, (d) claim that their birth certificates were washed overboard from the Ark, or (e) claim diplomatic immunity?

The next longest living claimant was Li Ching Yuen of China who died in 1933. He claimed he was born in 1736 while other accounts gave his birth year as 1677. In some kind of years he was either 197 or 256.
Li Ching Yuen could have been 197 or 256

Mohammed Ayub from Ayub, Persia grew up, got married, stayed married for 140 years and was widowed for 78 years, but only claimed to have lived for 180 years instead of at least 235.
More unverified numbers are found in the case of Mahashta Murasi from India. Born in 1835, retired in 1957 aged 122, and was reportedly still living at the age of 179 in 2014.

Next we go to Uganda for Ezekeli Srenze 170 or 180 years old, who claimed that his fifth and final wife had been dead 80 years, but of his ten children only the youngest was still living aged 71.

Hadj Mohammed ben Mbark of Morocco died in 1966 at the alleged age of 165. His oldest son was still living at the time aged 110.

Dhaqabo Ebba seems to have been the odd man out in Ethiopia. He lived to 160 in a country that until recently had a life expectancy at birth of less than 40 years.

In 2009 Talib Samejo, of Umerkot, Pakistan claimed to be the world’s oldest living person at 148 years old. He had 402 family members, including sons, daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren – all still living!

But the next year another claim to be the oldest living person was reported when Katemi of Indonesia was claimed by family members to be 145.

Then we come to Katherine Fitzgerald, Countess of Desmond, who grew a second set of teeth in old age but fell out of a cherry tree and died aged 140.

Supporters of Attila the Hun claimed after his death at 47 in 453 AD that he was 121 years old. He probably slaughtered enough people to satisfy most blood-thirsty thugs for a thousand years.

Downunder in New Zealand in 1970 Rawini Taitimu died at the claimed age of 120. She claimed that she could remember the first white settlers in 1862. But the first white settlers landed at least 60 years earlier than that.

And so it goes. The oldest living person story is always good fodder for fledgling journalists, while some underdeveloped countries like to promote the “longevity” of their citizens to improve their international image. A tell-tale sign in the above claims is the frequency with which claimants have rounded up the age to a 5 or 10. Don’t be fooled by statements from some claimants that can remember certain historic events. They probably heard about those events from their parents or grandparents. And don’t give too much credit to “discoveries” in remote poverty-stricken villages. People living in poverty mostly have short lives rather than long.

The facts are that Japan has the highest life expectancy from birth at 82.6 years, followed by Hong Kong at 82.2 and Iceland at 81.8 years. The lowest life expectancy from birth is found in Swaziland at 39.6 years, followed by Mozambique at 42.1 and Zambia at 42.2 years.

Isolated localities in other countries can be found where the locals live longer, or shorter, lives than the country average, but nowhere will anyone find a locality that permits a human being to survive for more than 125 years, the absolute genetic limit.