Sunday, 29 May 2016

STUCK TRUCKS

Smugglers Notch, Vermont, catches many unwary truckers

Perhaps it is the beautiful Vermont scenery that takes truckers’ attention, or perhaps it is misleading or obscure signage, but every year dozens of tractor-trailer drivers get caught out. Some are able to extricate themselves before emergency services arrive.

The Green Mountains near Smugglers
Notch in Vermont
But many get stuck literally between a rock and a hard place on one of Smugglers Notch’s numerous tight switch-backs. Just to make the crisis more critical, the Notch has some exceptionally steep pinches along the way. Only a minority of experienced truckers have made it through, usually with some damage.

Smugglers Notch lies on Vermont Route 108 between Jeffersonville and Stowe, a distance of 15 miles. The road climbs onto the shoulder of Mount Mansfield, which at 4,900 feet is Vermont’s highest peak. The Notch, a series of tight S bends with rocky outcrops, is at about the half-way point.

The name Smugglers Notch came from it being a route for supplying the British Army in Canada during the war of 1812. President Thomas Jefferson imposed a trade embargo with Canada and Britain, something that didn’t sit well with Vermonters. In 1894, the old smugglers route became a formed road and underwent several later improvements. Smugglers Notch reinforced its reputation and name during the Prohibition period as a supply route south for illicit liquor.

This sign is too late for a 70-foot rig
to turn around
Route 108 in Vermont is a scenic area that is popular with skiers, and tourists wanting the catch the fall colours. It passes through Smugglers Notch State Park and snakes around several rugged peaks. Perhaps some drivers have been distracted by the scenery.

Both ends of Route 108 are well-formed and give no hint of the trap that lies ahead for drivers of vehicles over 46 feet in length, the maximum size permitted. Standard US semi-trailers are 53 feet long, not including the tractor unit. A few minutes on Google Street View failed to locate the warning signs for truckers at the southern Stowe end. No doubt they are there – somewhere – among the plethora of business signs.

It is not as though Vermont’s Route 108 is nationally known and every trucker should know about it. On a map it is just one of many thousands of secondary routes nationwide, with nothing to forewarn of its potential for disaster.

Now it's a job for a crane
There can be many reasons why drivers may fail to see warning signs, or fail to correctly interpret signs. The positioning of signs can be critical. Often, as I have driven in unfamiliar areas, it has been hard to know which particular road a sign applies to. Sometimes signs can be difficult to see due to lighting or glare, or obstructions. Some signs are ambiguous. However, the most common signage fault that keeps cropping up is that the sign is located in a position where the driver cannot see it until it is too late. Many has been the time I have turned a corner to be confronted by an obstruction or a sign, and then have had to reverse out against the traffic.

For some drivers, even after they realise their mistake, it can be tempting to continue on a little further, expecting to find somewhere to turn around. Backing a 53-foot semi-trailer around multiple hair-pin bends is not an easy option, even for old hands.

Vermont 108 from
Jeffersonville to Stowe
True, most of the drivers that have found themselves trapped in Smugglers Notch, have been inexperienced, and some will say that that is no excuse. Well, it is also no excuse for old hands to criticize the newbies. Everyone has to start somewhere, and they should remember that. Friendly advice and a helping hand is always better than harsh criticism.

But even some of the old hands have been caught out in Smugglers Notch. The authorities and people who know the area will claim that the signage is adequate and there is no excuse for getting stuck. But still it happens and so obviously something is not right and someone is passing the buck. The authorities need to revisit Smugglers Notch with an open mind. They need to understand that some of these drivers may be 3,000 miles from home and making their first ever visit to Vermont.

Meanwhile, trapped truck drivers can expect a $2,000 fine and a bill from Polar Bear Towing’s Jim Grover running to thousands more. Other drivers wanting to use the route can expect delays of at least two or three hours while the cranes move in.
 
An EBook by Peter Blakeborough
 
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Saturday, 28 May 2016

TRUMP ON THE WORLD STAGE

Donald J Trump appears determined to govern America and the world

A controlling interest in business investments around the world may provide funding for his tilt at the American presidency, but Donald J Trump may well turn out to be America’s greatest ever political disaster and fiasco – if he is elected.


Trump campaigning
The Trump name has long been associated with unbridled greed, ambition, failure and clashes with authority.

It goes all the way back to Frederick Christ Trump, Donald’s father. Yes, Frederick Christ Trump, whose mother’s maiden name was Christ. Trump Senior was a New York property developer and wrack-rent landlord who repeatedly refused to rent to black people and was a supporter of the racist KKK organisation. But he famously denied his German ancestry to avoid losing his Jewish tenants. It was claimed, but possibly never proven, that Trump Senior was also a brothel keeper. When Fred Trump died his net worth was estimated at about $200 million.

Donald J Trump, unlike Fred, had no Christ in his name and it is widely accepted that he is in fact a John rather than a Jesus. He joined the Trump empire in 1968 after an entertainment business failure on his own account. He took control of the business in 1971, renaming it the Trump Organisation. He was soon in court for violations of the Fair Housing Act, but the matter was settled out of court, only to be resurrected later for failing to honour the settlement.

Peter Blakeborough
Like his father, Donald Trump has denied his German ancestry while claiming to be Swedish. Again, like his father, he has frequently overstated his personal fortune by as much as ten times its estimated value. In 1968 he claimed to have a personal fortune of $200,000 (over $1 million today) even though his first enterprise was about to fall over.

Donald J Trump was educated at Kew-Forest New York Military Academy, but he suddenly developed feet trouble when it was time to go to Vietnam. Later, he couldn’t remember if it was the left foot, the right foot, or both. Behaviour problems had seen Trump thrown out of an earlier school at age 13.

The period from the mid-1980s to late-1990s saw numerous failures for Trump investments, mostly due to excessive borrowing and inability to meet repayments. In 2005, Trump sued a reporter for $5 billion after the reporter had claimed Trump’s fortune was just $150-250 million, instead of the $5-6 million Trump was claiming. Trump lost the case. Trump continues to withhold publication of his tax returns and evidence to support his personal wealth claims.

Now to Trump the politician. Donald Trump has been a member of both the Democrat and Republican parties, as well as several other minor parties that appear to have fallen by the wayside. He was a possible contender for the New York governorship in 2006 and 2014. He eyed the US presidency in 1988, 2004 and 2012, and was in the running to be George H W Bush’s deputy in the White House.

A Twist of Fate
But people insist that Trump is not a politician and therefore he has appeal for them. This raises an important question. Would the same people submit to brain surgery from a surgeon who claims not to be a surgeon? But when this suggestion is put to Trump supporters they insist that they want someone who is not ‘tainted’ by the ‘system.’ They also say that they want someone who says it the way it is, instead of pussyfooting around.

Trump will build a wall along the Mexican border at Mexican expense. Trump will apply blanket racial and religious bias to immigration and visitor arrivals. Trump will not kowtow to foreign leaders and governments. Trump will run the country like a business, and so it goes. Trump’s political machine is gathering speed as it races towards the Republican Party convention and the White House.

From the usual 10% redneck vote, Trump has cranked up the rhetoric and reckless promises and exploded the redneck vote to an almost majority. He is a great campaigner and manipulator. But he is not a politician? Oh, yeah. Tell me another one.

There is now every chance that Trump will make the White House. If that happens, the very people who are most under his spell, will ultimately be the most disappointed with his record as President. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Donald J Trump has the track record and the personality to destroy the American Dream for a generation. When this writer thinks about the Trump steam-roller running downhill, he thinks about other times and other places where dictators ran riot – Germany, North Korea, Uganda, Libya, Myanmar, to mention a few.

It's time for Americans to wake up to Donald John Trump. He has nothing to offer America and the world, other than disappointment, misery and chaos.

Footnote: If this post should disappear from the blog, it could be because Trump’s lawyers have been active.

 

 

Saturday, 7 May 2016

THE TELEVISION SALESMAN

Bob Asker’s life is in danger as he hunts a murderer

A short read from A Twist of Fate, a crime novel by Peter Blakeborough and available as an EBook from Smashwords


After three months at the Brisbane office Bob Asker’s income from his own sales had declined slightly because of the demands that management made on his time. But the volume of sales from the large sales force guaranteed that his combined income from commission and overrides had tripled. The longer established Sydney office serving a population four times greater than Brisbane was only a third higher in sales volume and Asker was the driving force behind the success. Tyler asked him to transfer to Melbourne to start a new branch there.
A Twist of Fate
‘I’m reluctant, Tony,’ he replied.
‘Why? It would be like a step up for you. You’ve done well in Brisbane but you could never expect Brisbane to be bigger than Melbourne or Sydney.’
‘I agree. But until the new branch gets established I’d be on a reduced income and it could take a year to catch up to where I could have been by staying in Brisbane. I’m not saying no. I’m simply asking for your best offer.’
Tyler eyed him quietly for a moment.
‘Okay. So you want to keep your Brisbane level of income in the interim. Is that it?’
‘Something like that.’
‘In that case I’ll have to look at bringing forward a plan that I had in mind for further down the track.’
‘What’s that?’
‘I was planning to appoint a national sales manager in about six months and I had you penciled in as the front-runner. The successful applicant would receive overriding commission on all branches – Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and other branches as they are opened. It would be a license to print money.’
‘If I’m the front-runner, who is the runner-up?’
‘Well, I can think of several names that could be ready soon.’
‘But they’re not ready yet?’
Peter Blakeborough
‘Not quite.’
‘In that case let’s talk specifically about the money, Tony. What are you offering?’
‘Let’s talk about it over some lunch.’
Two weeks later with Roy Hardie appointed as Brisbane manager, Asker put his few personal possessions into the Bedford and drove to Melbourne with stops at Lismore, Wagga Wagga and Griffith on the way.
He liked Melbourne from the start and the new sales office was soon opened. As usual it was close to the storage building of the trucking company that delivered the television sets from the factory. Asker handled everything including administration, recruiting, training and sales until the new team gained experience and new leaders emerged. After that he had time to visit the other branches and leave selling to the salesmen. He sold the Bedford van to a new recruit and purchased a new Holden.
As he drove the car to his flat he thought about the refinements that had been added since the earlier model. It had a more modern appearance and handled better too. He stopped at a traffic light and waited while a young woman and two small children crossed over in front of him.
He got a shock.
The young woman looked almost exactly like Heather, like the girl he had seen at Beechworth. She was attractive with blonde hair and a beautiful figure. The children, a boy and a girl, were aged about four or five but their ages appeared so close he could not tell which was the older. They had their mother’s features and blonde hair. The little boy saw that Asker was watching them and he stared back as the woman tried to coax him over the crossing. She had the same face, the same walk and she appeared as he would have expected Heather to look five years after he had last seen her alive. But Heather had been dead five years. For a moment he froze and when the light changed it took a blast from the driver behind to get him moving. His imagination had once again played a cruel trick on him.
After three months in Melbourne Asker drove to Adelaide to launch another new branch, leaving Antony Martini in charge of Brisbane while Roy Hardie took over in Melbourne. In Adelaide he had help from an experienced man from the Sydney office and he was soon able to move on to Perth, Newcastle, Hobart and Townsville. It was a busy and challenging life, frequently flying across the continent one day and shooting off somewhere else the next day. He gave up having a flat after Melbourne and lived permanently in hotels. After a year as national sales manager the business seemed to reach a plateau and Asker found the challenge less exciting. His share portfolio had grown dramatically and diversified and his private businesses and the Foundation were flourishing too. But too late he had realized that some opportunities had slipped by while his attention was taken up by the television sales business. It was time to return to his own businesses, and the business of catching Bryce Russell.