Friday, 27 September 2013


Scammers claim to be powerball winners Mark and Cindy Hill
The real Powerball winners

CAMDEN POINT, Mo., Feb 23 (Reuters) - Three months after winning half of the biggest Powerball lottery jackpot in U.S. history, Mark Hill still meets friends for morning coffee at a local convenience store.

And that Camaro sports car Hill considered buying with his winnings? He got a pick-up truck instead.

While some lottery winners fritter away their fortunes or meet tragic ends, not much has outwardly changed for Mark and Cindy Hill since they won half of a $587 million Powerball jackpot in November. They netted $136.5 million in a lump-sum payment after taxes.

"They are very conservative people," said Walt Stubbs, a friend and former high school classmate of the Hills. "They are doing some really nice things for the community and they've taken care of their family."

The Hills are giving money to civic projects in Mark Hill's hometown of Camden Point, Missouri, and still live in nearby Dearborn, Missouri, as they did before winning the jackpot.

The Hills will pay for a new Camden Point fire station and ball field and gave the town more than $50,000 to buy land for a new sewage treatment plant that will eventually allow residents to give up individual septic tanks, Mayor Kevin Boydston said . . . .

Full story: Huffington Post

Peter’s Piece

The Hills really did win a half share in the huge lottery and they have since been very generous with their local community. But today I received this email from someone claiming to be Cindy Hill:

I saw your email address during the course of my  research i Mark and my wife Cindy Hill, Missouri  won a Jackpot and we have solely decided to donate the sum of 850,000.00 USD to Five lucky individuals who will in turn use 50% of the total funds to assist the less privileged. If you are the intended receiver of this email fill the below details so that we can confirm your details  and send to the payout bank.
1.Name: 2.Address
3.Sex  4.Country

You can verify this by visiting the web pages below.

Mark and Cindy Hill

Here is my reply:

Hi Cindy and Mark,
Thank you for your most generous donation. This comes at a time when my charitable organization is in dire need of extra funding for helping the less fortunate in our country.
By sheer coincidence, I will be in Kansas City next week doing work on behalf of my charities and would like to thank you both in person for your wonderful gift, and to collect the payment in person. Please forward details of your street address in Dearborn, MO and a telephone number so that we can make a time to meet. 
Peter Blakeborough

I’m still waiting for a reply to my email, and I expect to be waiting rather a long time. I wish the real Hills well with their winnings and the good work that they are doing in their local community.

But, like many other lottery winners, they would have been well advised to consider not going public with their story. As much as that may have a negative outcome for the news media and future lottery sales, winners should do everything possible to remain private, for their own protection and others.

Thursday, 26 September 2013


How I Hire, by Richard Branson
From a post on Twitter about hiring the right people
There is nothing more important for a business than hiring the right team. If you get the perfect mix of people working for your company, you have a far greater chance of success. However, the best person for the job doesn’t always walk right through your door.
Sir Richard Branson
The first thing to look for when searching for a great employee is somebody with a personality that fits with your company culture. Most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality. If you can find people who are fun, friendly, caring and love helping others, you are on to a winner.
Personality is the key. It is not something that always comes out in interview – people can be shy. But you have to trust your judgment. If you have got a slightly introverted person with a great personality, use your experience to pull it out of them. It is easier with an extrovert, but be wary of people becoming overexcited in the pressure of interviews.
You can learn most jobs extremely quickly once you are thrown in the deep end. Within three months you can usually know the ins and outs of a role. If you are satisfied with the personality, then look at experience and expertise. Find people with transferable skills – you need team players who can pitch in and try their hand at all sorts of different jobs. While specialists are sometimes necessary, versatility should not be underestimated.
Some managers get hung up on qualifications. I only look at them after everything else. If somebody has five degrees and more A grades than you can fit on one side of paper, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are the right person for the job. Great grades count for nothing if they aren’t partnered with broad-ranging experience and a winning personality.
A Virgin Australia B-777 at Sydney, Australia
That doesn’t mean you can’t take risks when building your team. Don’t be afraid of hiring mavericks. Somebody who thinks a little differently can help to see problems as opportunities and inspire creative energy within a group. Some of the best people we’ve ever hired didn’t seem to fit in at first, but proved to be indispensable over time.
If you hire the wrong person at the top of a company, they can destroy it in no time at all. Promoting from within is generally a good idea as the employee who is promoted will be inspired by the new role, already know the business inside out, and have the trust and respect of their team.
Equally, bringing in fresh blood can reinvigorate a company. Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia recently brought in CEOs from outside - John Borghetti at Virgin Australia and Craig Kreeger at Virgin Atlantic. They have brought a lot of fresh ideas into the company, as well as experience of what the competition is doing well and what they are doing badly.
When companies go through growth spurts, they often hire in bulk and company culture can suffer. While it may seem a desperate rush to get somebody through the door to help carry the load, it is worth being patient to find the right person, rather than hurrying and unbalancing your team. I heard a great line by Funding Circle CEO Samir Desai at the IoD Conference in London (quoting Apple's Dan Jacobs) about making sure you hire (and fire) the right people: “It’s better to have a hole in your team than an asshole in your team!”
Peter’s Piece
Richard Branson started in business at the age of 16, and at the suggestion of one of his early employees, he called his business Virgin because they were all new at business. He now has 400 companies in his Virgin Group and he is the fourth wealthiest Briton at US$4.5 billion net.
Forty-seven years after that first venture, Branson’s companies and employees still operate with the enthusiasm of the first day on the job. It is always a pleasure, even fun, to fly Virgin.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013


Something friendly, intelligent, humorous and complimentary
From Nathaniel’s Bloodline (Chapter 38) by Peter Blakeborough

Ten years after the Overlanders pioneered professional cattle droving in New South Wales and a year after their last visit the drovers were back in Sydney again. As always, Andrew Asker was with his closest friends Ben Rogers and Dan Martin. It was time to relax and renew their acquaintanceship with civilization.
They dumped their swags in their single rooms at Watson’s Hotel and, after each man had taken time to soak in the bath, they went to drink some beer with the other stockmen. With the arrival of Browne the four of them went to the dining room for dinner and an attractive young waitress took them to a table. Asker was smitten from the moment he first saw her but his taciturn nature stopped him from doing anything other than look.
Browne, with a mischievous smile on his face, leaned over the table and lowered his voice.
‘Do you like her, Andy?’
Asker’s face reddened with embarrassment as he wondered what he could say. Out in the bush with his men he could always join in the conversation on any subject, even conversations about women. But here in this grand dining room with gentlemen, their ladies and a lovely waitress present, it was all too intimidating for him.
‘She’s nice,’ he managed in a discreet whisper.
Browne leaned a few inches further forward with a sparkle in his eyes.
‘For the usual commission I could arrange an introduction.’
Asker immediately looked hurt.
‘You don’t mean she’s a…?’ He was too embarrassed to finish the question.
‘Oh, no. At least I don’t think she’s one of them… No. I’m certain she’s not. But I could still arrange an introduction for a small fee.’
‘Jesus, Browne! Yer get enough out o’ us as it is,’ Asker chuckled discreetly and then added, ‘She’d be far too nice fer a bloke like me.’
Ben Rogers studied the girl for a moment.
‘She’s nice but she’s probably got a man who could eat yer fer breakfast.’
Asker opened his mouth to speak again and quickly changed his mind as the waitress approached the table to take their orders. While they waited for their dinner the talk turned inevitably to droving, the places they had been and the affairs of men and the colony, with Asker holding back from most of the talk. His mind and eyes were elsewhere.
‘Do yer really know the waitress?’ Asker whispered to Browne.
‘No. But you know me, Andy. If I want something I just ask for it.’
Just then the waitress approached their table with plates of food and Browne cleared his throat.
‘Thank you, miss. What’s your name?’
‘Ruby, sir,’ she said as she looked quickly over her shoulder in case Watson was listening.
‘Nice to meet you, Ruby. I’m William and this is Andrew, Ben and Dan.’
Ruby’s face flushed and her eyes darted towards the door to the kitchen again. This was obviously Asker’s big opportunity and he knew he had to say something that was friendly, intelligent, humorous and complimentary. It had to be all of those things. He tried to think quickly. Close up she was stunningly beautiful.
‘Nice weather ain’t it?’ he blurted awkwardly.
‘Same as yesterday, sir,’ she said quickly and hurried away to the kitchen as her face reddened a little more. Asker cursed himself silently. What a stupid thing to say!

From Amazon or Smashwords

Sunday, 15 September 2013


Cunliffe elected leader of New Zealand Labour Party
New Zealand Labour Party Leader, David Cunliffe
The newly elected leader of the New Zealand Labour Party may have a battle on his hands to retain the loyalty of his caucus members.
The Labour Party has broken with tradition by extending leadership voting rights outside their caucus of elected members of parliament to include all party members and affiliated trade unions.
It is the trade union vote that is likely to be most harmful to party and caucus unity. Cunliffe scored 70% of the union vote, but in the first preference caucus vote he scored less than a third of the vote in a three candidate contest.
Mr Cunliffe is a talented and experienced Member of Parliament, but he has his own track record of attempting to topple incumbent leaders, and some are predicting his reputation may soon come back to haunt him.
In New Zealand, and many other countries using the Westminster parliamentary system, it is customary for party leaders to be elected only by the elected Members of Parliament of that party. That works well and leads to stable, effective and democratic government, counter-balanced by an effective and united opposition.
Proponents of Labour’s current system argued that it would be more democratic, but I’m sure the same people would recoil at any suggestion to allow The Business Round Table or Employers Association, to have voting powers in Labour’s nemesis  the National Party. In a democracy the elected members must stay in touch with the grass roots, but they must never be controlled by outside self-interest groups.
Now that the trade unions have a foot in the door, observers will not be surprised if the trade unions soon start demanding a return to compulsory union membership for all wage and salary earners. If they do it will be evidence that old lessons have been forgotten.
During the height of union power and membership (1938-1991), the Labour Party spend more time in opposition than in government. In short, many workers didn’t like being dictated to and chose to vote for parties other than Labour, and the National Party was the big winner.

Saturday, 7 September 2013


Yellowstone, Bryce Canyon and
Las Vegas
Bison in Yellowstone National Park

It’s barely daylight as I drive away from Silver Gate, Montana, and through the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park. It’s a great time to see the wildlife and the traffic is light at this hour.

Yellowstone, established in 1872 at the urging of geologist Ferdinand Hayden, was America’s first national park. The park is mostly in north-west Wyoming with small pieces in Montana and Idaho. It is a wildlife refuge, a huge geothermal region and a place of breathtaking alpine scenery. For a Kiwi the wildlife is the most fascinating aspect of the park. In New Zealand our wildlife is limited to deer and a few small introduced animals, but no bison, wolves, bears or squirrels.

The park includes 3,000 square miles of mountains, lakes, rivers, falls and forest. The Yellowstone Caldera is one of the world’s largest supervolcanos and contains many lava flows, geysers, hot pools, and geothermal terraces. Over three million people visit the park each year.

I don’t have to drive far to find bison herds grazing nearby and sometimes walking leisurely along the road. Deer or elk also graze at the roadside and occasional scamper across in front of cars. The 45 miles an hour speed limit makes good sense, and sometimes cars are obliged to stop and wait for the wildlife to cross.
Yellowstone River, Wyoming

Traveling south through the park toward Grand Teton National Park, I was advised to avoid the direct road and travel through the western part of the park because of road work. The road twists and turns along the Continental Divide and descends through deep canyons. The geothermal landmarks are huge, but the scenery is out of this world.

It takes a couple of hours to reach Old Faithful, the world’s most famous geyser. I press on again, east, then south at Yellowstone Lake and about an hour later I see the cloud-piercing Grand Tetons. What a sight! I pause for photos and continue on to Jackson where I turn west again and climb steeply to Teton Pass and descend into Idaho, my 47th state visited.
The Grand Teton Range, Wyoming
At Idaho Falls I join Interstate 15 South for the run down to Utah, Salt Lake City and an overnight stop at Lehi, Utah. I’m allowing myself another two days to reach Los Angeles.
The fine weather continues as I drive south again from Lehi on the I-15. At Scipio I turn onto US 50 East and drive through scenic country to connect with Interstate 70 at Aurora. Just after joining US 89 South I come to spectacularly colorful scenery at Big Rock Candy Mountain named after the song first recorded by Haywire Mac McLintock in 1928. All along US 89 it’s colorful and full of contrast.
The Big Rock Candy Mountain, Utah

I’m now in south-west Utah and I leave US 89 and climb south-east on Route 12 through Red Canyon and Bryce Canyon City. This is unforgettable scenery; 35,000 acres of huge natural amphitheaters in red, orange and white formed by the weathering of sedimentary rocks over millions of years. Most of the park is 8,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level and it became a national park in 1928. It attracts over a million visitors a year. The name came from Ebenezer Bryce who homesteaded here in 1874.

Leaving Bryce Canyon I continue south on US 89 to Route 14 West toward Cedar City. Again I’m surrounded by beautiful mountain and forest scenery as the road rises to 10,000 feet before descending through a rocky canyon to the plains of south-west Utah.
Route 12, Red Canyon, Utah

It’s late as I drive into North Las Vegas and book a motel for the night. I eat at a casino and have an early night after driving along The Strip for a look after ten years away from Sin City.

The next morning I have breakfast at a casino on the south side and have a few spins of the roulette wheel for a profit several times the value of the breakfast. I leave for Los Angeles, a meeting with some more Blakeboroughs and a leisurely drive through suburban streets to Los Angeles International Airport.

I return the rental with an extra 6,005 miles on the clock and wait for my Delta flight to Sydney, Australia and a Virgin flight to Auckland, New Zealand.

Bryce Canyon, Utah

As I wait to board, I’m thinking that it would be fun to visit AirVenture Oshkosh again in 2015 leading a group of aviation enthusiasts, motorhomers and bikers. The itinerary could include the Boeing plant, the Winnebago plant in Iowa and Harley Davidson in Milwaukee.

That would be fun.

Descending to Rapid City, Utah on Route 14

Read about my other travels in America

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Airbus A380 first landing at
San Francisco

The Airbus A380 is a double-deck, four engine jetliner that first flew on April 27, 2005 at Toulouse, France and entered service with Singapore Airlines on October 15, 2007.

106 Airbus A380 aircraft are now in service with nine airlines and a further 262 Superjumbos are on order for 20 operators. The aircraft seats 525 passengers in a three class configuration and 853 in an all economy arrangement.

In the video a Lufthansa A380 makes its first landing at San Francisco airport. Like all modern airliners, the A380 is fully automated, but the pilots fly the approach manually for the the final few minutes.

For best results go "FULL SCREEN" on your monitor. It will be like being right there in the cockpit.


Monday, 2 September 2013


Homeward bound through the Dakotas, Montana and Yellowstone
The endless landscape of North Dakota

With a strong feeling of wanting to stay longer, I leave Prior Lake and my new family and friends. But in the course of numerous visits I’ve been to 43 US states, and on the journey to Los Angeles I intend to add another four to the tally.

Traffic back-ups are expected on one of the Minneapolis interstates and a major bridge is closed. Jerry gives me a detour to take and I put that into the GPS in easy stages that even the GPS blonde lady can follow. It works. A short time later I call Jerry to say that I’ve cleared Minneapolis and I’m on the outskirts of St. Cloud on the I-94.
Southbound on US 85 in North Dakota

I continue along the interstate to Fergus Falls and wonder who Fergus was. According to Wikipedia, Fergus was the boss and his worker, a Scottish trapper, was Joe Whitford. Joe found the falls and named the place after his employer. It is not known if he got a pay rise as a result.

The lakes, trees and dairy country make it a pleasant drive northwest to Fargo (named after William Fargo, founder of Wells Fargo) and I cross into North Dakota. For a time the lakes and trees are still in evidence and the state is not as flat as is commonly believed. I leave the big sky and come to a good size downhill stretch to Valley City which could have just as easily been called Subhorizontown.  No doubt if the British had got here first it would have been called Hamlet-under-the-Hill.
Deadwood in the Black Hills of South Dakota

I drive into Jamestown for an overnight and I’m now ahead of the schedule by about 80 miles. If I keep this up I may have some leeway to locate some Blakeboroughs in California.

The next day I continue west to Bismarck, the state capital, situated mid-state on the upper reaches of the Missouri River. Just west of the city the world’s largest Holstein cow surveys the patchwork landscape from a small hill. Salem Sue is 38 feet high, 50 feet long and made from fiberglass.

At Belfield on the edge of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, I leave the I-94 and turn south on US 85. It’s shown as a scenic route in the road atlas. The Yaris breezes along at 75 miles an hour beneath a big blue sky and I’m making good time in the state where less than one per cent of Americans choose to live. This is an ancient land with eroded buttes and evidence of volcanic activity many millions of years ago.
Waiting for the road to clear in the Black Hills

At Bowman I make a lunch stop and do the fluid exchange again (pump and pee) and then it’s over the state line and into South Dakota. I observe increasing numbers of Harley Davidsons on the road heading south toward Rapid City. At Spearfish the bikers are like a swarm of bees on the move. I leave the I-90 on the edge of the Black Hills and head for Deadwood.

Deadwood got its name from the dead trees that litter the slopes of the Black Hills, and Deadwood got its start in the 1870s when Colonel George Custer came this way and announced the discovery of gold. A shanty town sprang up on the land reserved for the Latoka Indian people, and the dispute remains unresolved. But meanwhile many famous people made their mark, and often met their end, in Deadwood. They included Wild Bill Hickok, Dora DuFran, and Calamity Jane.
Bikers at Hill City, South Dakota

I drive right on through Deadwood and join a throng of bikers bound for Mount Rushmore. The traffic slows, then stops. Up ahead a biker has been thrown from his bike. A chopper has landed on the road to airlift him to a hospital. I ask about the bikes. They tell me it’s the annual Sturgis Rally and half a million bikers are in and around the Black Hills for a week. They are a friendly bunch and ask about my trip and about New Zealand.

At Hill City it’s still a long way to Mount Rushmore. Part of the town is closed to cars. It’s getting too late in the day to visit the famous faces of Mount Rushmore and the accommodation is booked out. I must leave the Black Hills if I’m to find a bed for the night. At Custer City I turn west into Wyoming and get the last room at a down-at-heel dive in Newcastle. There’s not a lot to Newcastle where taking a tour of the Greenwood Cemetery is the most exciting thing a visitor can do.
On the way to Bear Tooth Pass, Montana

Wednesday dawns with a clear blue sky and I have my sights set on Montana and then Yellowstone National Park. As I approach Moorcroft and the I-90, the Devil’s Tower, thirty miles to the north, stands crisp and clear against the sky. Even at the distance it’s an impressive sight and a geological wonder.

It’s the middle of the day as I cruise into Billings and take a lunch break at a truck stop near Laurel, Montana. Then I turn south on US 212 and start a slow climb up the Continental Divide. This scenic route will be a challenge for many drivers when the weather is unkind, but today it’s perfect and I enjoy the beauty of the mountains.

At 10,947 feet above sea level I reach Bear Tooth Pass and start down the other side into Wyoming again, but the road twists and turns, climbs and descends, and eventually takes me back into Montana again.

I reach the north entrance to Yellowstone late in the day and take a room at Silver Gate, a lovely alpine village.

The Grizzly Lodge at Silver Gate, Montana