Monday, 27 April 2015


From Constitutional Monarchy to
Republic: Barbados and Jamaica
Posted By: Monique Spence. Thursday, April 02, 2015 (Edited)

Barbados, an island first settled by English colonists in 1605 and later called ‘Little England’ went independent in 1966. It is a country with a population of some three hundred thousand and a literacy rate of 99.7 %, one of the highest in the world.
The Barbados Parliament
Barbados is a small country with little or no natural resources, yet with a GDP per capita of $25, 100, the CIA Fact book says that ‘Barbados is the wealthiest and most developed country in the Eastern Caribbean and enjoys one of the highest per capita incomes in Latin America.’ Even though this does not as yet match up to those of the developed countries of the western world, it is still a significant achievement.
‘Historically’ the CIA commentary continues, ‘The Barbadian economy was dependent on sugarcane cultivation and related activities. However, in recent years the economy has diversified into light industry and tourism with about four-fifths of GDP and of exports being attributed to services. Offshore finance and information services are important foreign exchange earners and thrive from having the same time zone as eastern US financial centers and a relatively highly educated workforce.’
Barbados has historically been known as a society of strong shared values and networks of social connections which make social cooperation and the achievement of collective goals easier. This internal social cohesion and consensus is what is called social capital.
In addition to the fact that Barbados has invested heavily in the education of its citizens to the highest levels, it has also been known for the maturity in which it conducts its politics. It has also had favourable ratings in Transparency International’s corruption perception index  
As Professor Stephen Vasciannie, former Dean of the Norman Manley Law School said, “The British monarchy, arising as it did from the unique features of British constitutional history, was suitable for Britain: but, constitutional structures must emanate from their local circumstances, and so, as a matter of sovereign authority, Caribbean governments should work to cut the umbilical cord with the United Kingdom, as a matter of high importance,”.
The writer fully supports these sentiments. Independent Caribbean countries, as a matter of national dignity and self-respect, must move expeditiously to make their constitutional frameworks that of a Republic; that is one having no links to a monarch . . . .
Before resigning as Prime Minister, Golding in the 2011-2012 Budget Debate, expressed his view that as part of Jamaica’s 50th Anniversary celebration, the monarchical link to Buckingham Palace and the heirs and successors to Queen Elizabeth II should be terminated. This would allow for the establishment of a republic with its own Jamaican Head of State . . .
Republic of Jamaica: Ditching the British Queen
By Tim Padgett @TimPadgett2Jan. 19, 2012 in TIME

Jamaica's Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, center, smiles after being sworn in by Governor General Patrick Allen, right, at King's House in Kingston, Jamaica, Jan. 5, 2012.
Jamaicans don’t have a lot to celebrate as they mark their golden anniversary of independence this year. Their unemployment rate is almost twice that of the Caribbean region as a whole; their government is still reeling from a drug kingpin scandal that helped oust the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) from power last month; and many are still bummed out by last summer’s shocking false-start disqualification from the world championship’s 100-meter dash by their national hero, the god-like Olympic gold-medal sprinter Usain Bolt.

So for many Jamaicans it was a morale booster when new Prime Minster Portia Simpson Miller announced in her inaugural address on Jan. 6 that she would “initiate the process of detachment” from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II this year. Although Jamaica won its independence from British colonial rule in 1962, the Queen has remained the island’s head of state. Making Jamaica a republic would sever that relationship. “I love the Queen,” Simpson Miller declared. “She’s a beautiful lady…a wise lady and a wonderful lady. But I think the time has come . . . . “

Peter’s Piece
These two Caribbean Commonwealth countries are moving steadily and positively toward republic status. Both became self-governing in the 1960s but retained Queen Elizabeth as head of state, and there most of the similarities end.
Barbados lies in the Windward Islands in the far east of the Caribbean Sea while Jamaica lies 1,500 kilometres away to the west and just south of Cuba. Barbados has a population of just 280,000 compared with Jamaica’s almost 3,000,000. Jamaican citizens struggle to achieve a reasonable standard of living, satisfactory levels of employment and educational achievement. Jamaica also struggles with high rates of crime and violence. Jamaica has a homicide rate per 100,000 population of 39.3. Barbados does much better at just 7.4 per 100,000.
Continued below . . . . 


This small nation of Barbados has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, about 99.7%, compared with a world average of 84.1%. A comparison of unemployment rates between the two countries shows that 11.5% of Barbadians are unemployed, while 16.3% of Jamaicans are listed as unemployed. But these figures can be misleading due to differing methods of gathering statistics in different countries.

For Jamaica, going republic may instil a new sense of national pride and purpose, something Barbados already has. Barbadians already elect governments noted for transparency, excellent foreign policy, and respect in many international forums. For a nation of 280,000 people, Barbados punches well above its weight. Becoming a republic with an elected Barbadian president is a logical next step, but don’t expect them to leave the Commonwealth. Meanwhile, the constitutional process for change is well advanced.
In recent years there have been stirrings in Australia and New Zealand for electing a local head of state too. But in this part of the world the movement has a long struggle ahead to overcome apathy, misconceptions and misinformation. Kiwis and Aussies tend to have a much better understanding of rugby racing and beer, than they do of national and international politics.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015


Employment issue, or political issue? You decide

Wellington: New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key has publicly apologised to an Auckland waitress for persistently pulling her ponytail while visiting her cafe.
John and Bronagh Key
The embarrassing apology was prompted by the anonymous woman posting a contribution to the left-wing Daily Blog website on Wednesday, accusing the prime minister of harassing and bullying her.

The woman said the hair pulling started around last year's election and continued through until last month.
The victim

She wrote in the blog that Mr Key would approach her with his hands held high, and would make "scary, suspense sound effects, like the music from the movie Jaws that we all know so well". 
At first she believed it was playful and jolly, but when it continued she became angry . . . .

Peter’s Piece

Is this an employment issue? If so, it is serious. Workers everywhere are entitled to be able to go about their duties free from abuse and harassment, whether from employers, co-workers, or customers.

But could it be a political issue? Or more precisely, was it a political stunt perpetrated by an anonymous political activist against the leader of an opposing political party?

Consider this:


A female Auckland cafe worker, suspected of being a National Party supporter, has accused Labour Party Leader Andrew Little, of smiling at her in a manner that she considered highly suggestive and provocative. Labour Party officials say the claim is quite incredible. Little is simply never known to smile at anyone, they said.
Labour Leader Andrew Little

To make matters worse, the anonymous waitress claimed, he kept on doing it after she asked him to stop smiling at her. He even winked and patted her on the shoulder, she claimed.
The waitress was so offended by Little's actions that she considered taking a personal grievance case to the Employment Tribunal, or simply refusing him service, but instead she decided to write a post for a right-wing blog, timed to be published while Mr Little was heading overseas on a 12 hour flight.

When questioned by news media at Los Angeles, Mr Little admitted that he did smile at the waitress, and patted her on the shoulder. It was the most fun he had had since he was a little boy, he said. He then apologised to the waitress, agreed that it was out of character for him and promised never to smile, wink or pat anyone ever again.

On the subject of fiction . . . .

Sunday, 19 April 2015


Accidents caused by cruise control and aquaplaning

Even some authorities have been fooled by false claims about cruise control and how the system can cause accidents on wet roads.

A highway sign in Montana, courtesy of Highway Hank Good
Poorly researched alarmist emails and news reports about the dangers of cruise control have left many motorists confused about the system. I have personally met many drivers who are afraid to use cruise control under any circumstances. Convincing them that using cruise control can actually reduce both fatigue on a long journey, and fuel consumption, is something of an uphill battle.

Cruise control, starting with its most primitive forms, has been around for almost as long as motor vehicles. The modern version, setting the road speed instead of the engine speed has been available on many cars for almost 50 years. In the last ten years even greater advances have been made with the technology.

But rumour persists that cruise control is dangerous. A typical circulating email tells of the car that starts to aquaplane on a wet road while on cruise control.

It was raining, though not excessively, when her car started to hydroplane and literally flew through the air. When she explained to the policeman what had happened, he told her something that every driver should know – NEVER DRIVE IN RAIN WITH YOUR CRUISE CONTROL ON.
He said that under those conditions the car would actually leave the ground and fly, attaining a higher speed than when it was on the road and was probably doing 10 to 15 km/h faster.

Perhaps that policeman missed his calling and should be advising aircraft designers and pilots on how to get the best performance from real flying machines.

Another persistent myth is that sometimes cruise control cannot be switch off. That one is totally without foundation. A quick check of the foot should tell the driver that the foot should be on the brake pedal rather than the accelerator.
Continued below . . . .

But the truth is that cruise control cannot cause an aquaplaning vehicle to fly or go faster. That proposition defies all the laws of motion, dynamics and aerodynamics. It is just impossible for it to happen while aquaplaning. However, basic cruise control systems do not control speed absolutely and host vehicles will decelerate or accelerate, while climbing or descending hills. It is also important for drivers to remember that cruise control cannot see ahead to corners or backed-up traffic. That is still up to the driver. A sound piece of advice here would be – NEVER DRIVE INTO A CORNER THAT YOU DON’T KNOW WITH YOUR CRUISE CONTROL ENGAGED.
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Typically, an experienced driver will disengage the cruise control approaching a corner and engage it again as the vehicles straightens up again. It is not a major operation, and it is safer that way.

On all vehicles, disengaging the cruise control offers a choice. There is an ON/OFF switch, but for most situations that is not the preferred way. The brake pedal, or the clutch pedal on manual transmission vehicles, is usually the preferred means and a light touch of the foot will instantly disengage the system. On most vehicles it is not necessary to push the pedal down far enough to apply the brakes or to disengage the clutch. Just a light touch on the pedal is usually sufficient to put the vehicle into slowing mode. Braking can be applied after that as necessary.

Once safely around the corner the RESUME 

switch can be clicked and the vehicle will then accelerate again to its pre-set speed. If the ON/OFF switch is used, the driver will then have to select ON and re-set the chosen speed again.

The most modern cruise control systems are highly sophisticated, allowing the driver to select the degree of speed fluctuation for descending steep hills. For example if the driver selects +5 km/h, then the auxiliary braking system will take over at 5 km/h over the pre-set speed to stop the vehicle running away, and this may include changing automatically to lower gears. Automatic gear changes may also be possible while climbing with cruise control. Using cruise control with automatic gear changing guarantees gear changes timed for optimum efficiency, and the cruise control can do that better than the driver and save fuel, and wear and tear.

Finally, a driver who uses cruise control is less likely to inadvertently exceed speed limits and have fines to pay.

Happy cruising.

Saturday, 18 April 2015


From borrowed bicycle to commercial pilot

A sample read from The Scapegoat (previously published as Murder at Wairere) by Peter Blakeborough and now available as an Ebook from Smashwords.

Within a few days of the Napier earthquake the government appointed a two-man commission, a judge and an engineer, to oversee the rebuilding of the city. They started by ordering the construction of a temporary shopping center, which became known as Tin Town. Then they ordered the construction of new housing and later a permanent shopping center was constructed in the fashionable art-deco style. Laborers and tradesmen were needed and hundreds were employed from other parts of New Zealand.
As the summer drew to a close and the aftershocks diminished in frequency and magnitude more people moved indoors, but often into overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. Clarrie moved in with older brother, Gordon, and wife, Phyllis. He worked long hours as a builder’s laborer, earning a good income.

One Sunday Clarrie borrowed Gordon’s bicycle, peddled to the Hastings airfield, met Tiny White and told him he wanted to learn to fly. When he told White about meeting Bolt and Knight the day before the crash, White gave him some advice.
‘Knight’s accident was a tragic lesson about low flying. When you start flying, never turn close to the ground at low speed. If you accidentally stall, you’ll hit the ground before you have a chance to recover.’
‘I’ll remember that, sir.’
‘Leave low flying to the experts, son.’
‘Yes, sir.’
‘When you think you’ve become an expert, think about what an expert is.’
‘If you separate the word into two parts, you get ‘ex’ and ‘spurt.’ Ex is an unknown quantity and a spurt is a drip under pressure. Do you want to be an expert?’
‘No, sir.’
White led the way to a silver de Havilland Moth biplane with two open cockpits. Clarrie had never seen an airplane close up before. It seemed a complicated structure of wood, wires, struts and a fabric covering. He peered into the small rear cockpit and his nostrils caught the distinctive smell of painted fabric. White explained how the controls worked, as he took him around the airplane, giving it a pre-flight inspection.
‘Well, are you ready to fly now, Clarrie?’
‘You bet!’
‘Let’s see if we can find some gear to fit you.’
White led the way to the small clubhouse with Clarrie following close behind like a faithful puppy. A few minutes later, feeling awkward in a huge leather jacket, flying helmet and goggles, he followed White back to the Moth. White showed him how to fasten the safety harness while a mechanic waited to swing the wooden propeller. Then Tiny White climbed into the front cockpit.
‘Throttle closed!’ the mechanic called from the front of the airplane.
‘Throttle closed!’ White repeated.
‘Throttle set!’ the mechanic called.
‘Throttle set!’
White flicked a switch on the side of the fuselage.
The author in a Boeing simulator
The mechanic pulled the propeller over the first compression and deftly stepped out of its reach as the engine kicked and rattled into life. It ran roughly for a few seconds, shaking the airframe, until White flicked the second magneto switch on. Then it settled down to a steady idle.
As they taxied to the end of the grass runway, White’s voice came through the voice tube connected to Clarrie’s helmet.
‘We always taxi zigzag, like this, so we can see where we’re going. We don’t want to run into another airplane, or a ditch, do we?’
‘No, sir,’ Clarrie shouted into the Gosport tube.
‘These things have a big blind area up front and they are nose heavy. They’ll go arse up, like a duck gone fishing, before you can say Jack Robinson. We don’t want that to happen, do we?’
‘No, sir.’
With a burst of power and a jab from his foot on the rudder bar, White turned the Moth into the wind. A moment later they accelerated across the grass with the tail rising and the rumble of the wheels gradually gave way to the roar of the slipstream passed the open cockpit. The wheels lifted clear of the grass and the transfer from earthly existence to natural airborne environment was complete. Clarrie felt instantly at home in his new surroundings. He was flying at last and it was wonderful.
He recognized landmarks he had seen from the ground. Most prominent was Te Mata Peak. Then he saw the sprawl of Hastings slipping beneath the lower wing. To the north Napier stood out near Ahuriri Hill and the wide curve of Hawkes Bay. White’s voice, muffled by the noise of the engine and slipstream, came through the voice tube.
‘Okay, Clarrie. Put your feet on the rudder bar, right hand on the stick and left hand on the throttle. Put your head out the left side and your eyes on the horizon straight ahead. You’ve got it.’
After a few minutes Clarrie was able to hold the airplane on a more or less straight and level course. A few minutes more and, with a bit of help from White, he was able to make some shaky turns.
‘You’ve got the idea, Clarrie. Some more practice will help.’
Clarrie practiced for another 30 minutes.
‘I’ve got it again,’ White said at last. ‘How’s your stomach?’
‘Okay,’ Clarrie replied, mystified by the question.
‘In that case, I’ll introduce you to some aerobatic flying so you can see if flying is really for you. Is your harness good and tight?’
‘Yes, sir.’
The nose of the Moth dipped toward the patchwork of paddocks below and the wind whistle increased to a scream. Clarrie watched the airspeed indicator needle race passed a hundred miles an hour. Then it settled for a moment at 120 miles per hour, more than three times faster than Clarrie had ever travelled before. A strange force pressed him down firmly in his seat. He seemed to weigh a ton as he felt the gravity pulling at his limbs. Even his cheeks and jaw seemed to sag under the pressure as the biplane curved upwards into an ever tightening loop. It arced over the top, curved down again with the mystery force still pressing him into the seat, as the paddocks filled his vision again.
‘How was that?’ White called through the Gosport tube.
‘Jesus! That was fantastic!’
‘Can you see Te Mata Peak? It’s about forty-five degrees to the left of the nose. Can you see it?’
‘Yes, sir.’
‘Okay. Keep your eyes on it. We’re going to do a barrel roll. It’s a combination of loop and roll and it will seem that we are rolling around Te Mata Peak. Here we go.’
Again the Moth dived to 120 miles per hour before pulling up almost vertically then starting to roll and turn through a full circle. Again the gravitational forces were strong enough to force Clarrie down in his seat throughout the maneuver.
‘Fantastic, Mr. White!’
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‘Okay. Now a stall turn.’
White pulled the nose up until the Moth was climbing almost vertically on full throttle. He held the attitude until they seemed poised to slide backward. He gave it full rudder and closed the throttle. The Moth did a slow cartwheel, through 180 degrees and into a vertical dive, from which White raised the nose and brought it back to level flight.
‘The next maneuver is a bit more drastic than the others. It’s a slow roll. You’ll need to check your harness again. Make sure the pin is securely in place. If it’s not, there’ll be nothing to stop you falling out of the airplane.’
‘Looks okay, sir.’
White raised the nose just a little above the horizon and started what appeared to be a normal banking turn. Nothing unusual so far, Clarrie told himself. The bank continued until the wings went passed vertical and Clarrie was thrown against the side of the cockpit. The engine, starved of gravity-fed fuel, spluttered and died. He noticed the full top rudder that kept the nose from dropping as the roll continued. Then they were completely upside down and Clarrie dropped like a ton weight into the shoulder harness. The paddocks appeared at a bizarre angle. He had to push his arms upward to stop them flailing in the slipstream and likewise to stop his legs from being skinned under the instrument panel. It was a weird sensation. The Moth seemed to be still pointing slightly upwards, but the rush of air and the unwinding altimeter needle told him they were descending quite rapidly. For an instant Clarrie visualized his body splattered over some farmer’s pasture far below, or impaled on a fence post or church steeple. The roll continued with the stick hard over to one side of the cockpit and full top rudder to stop the machine from plunging into a terminal velocity dive. Finally, gravity and the visual world returned to normal, the engine coughed into life, and they were flying straight and level again.
‘How do you feel now?’ White asked.
‘Shit! Flabbergasted!’
‘That’s one of the difficult maneuvers. It can also be a dangerous maneuver. If it goes wrong close to the ground it will mean certain death.’
‘I’ll wait a long time before I try it.’
‘You certainly will, my boy,’ White said as the Moth climbed to regain lost altitude. ‘The next maneuver is easy to do. It’s so easy it can be done accidentally by any fool. If you let it happen close to the ground it will kill you. It’s a spin.’
White closed the throttle and eased the nose up high. The noise level dropped to a whisper and just when Clarrie thought they were about to slide backward, one wing dropped and the nose quickly dropped toward the low wing. The airplane shuddered and in the next instant it pointed almost straight down, rolling, turning and skidding all in one continuous tight, corkscrew motion. Clarrie looked at the altimeter needle. Two thousand feet, fifteen hundred, one thousand. The rotation stopped abruptly and the Moth plunged towards the paddocks at a steep angle. Once again the familiar gravitational force pushed Clarrie down in his seat as White pulled out of the dive and climbed for height again.
‘Not much wind down there today, Clarrie,’ White said as he looked down at the windsock from a steep turn. ‘Ideal for showing you what to do when the engine gives up the ghost.’
He pulled the throttle back to idle and started a wide turn around the airfield. The rush of air was easier on Clarrie’s face as they glided down, and it gradually got warmer. As they crossed the airfield boundary with height to spare, White pushed one wing down into a steep sideslip and the ground raced up to meet them. At the last moment he straightened the Moth up so that the wheels and tail-skid could make gentle contact with the grass runway. Fifty yards from the aircraft hanger he flicked the magneto switches off and allowed the momentum to carry the machine right to the hanger door.
‘You can put an hour in your new logbook, give me two pounds for the lesson, and a shilling for the logbook,’ White said as they stepped down from the wing. ‘Over the next thirty hours I’ll teach you each of those exercises, one at a time, until you’re competent enough to go on to the next stage. Then you’ll be tested for an A license. When you’ve got 150 hours you’ll be able to take another test for a B license which will entitle you to fly as a commercial pilot. Are you still interested?’
‘You bet!’
‘Good on you, lad.’
Clarrie peddled away from Hastings airfield with his head full of airplanes and aerobatics. He couldn’t wait for the day when he would the proud holder of B license. But first he had to get through to an A license and then gain the extra hours somehow. How could he do it? His wages were quite good, but only because he worked long hours and, when the town was rebuilt, the slump would set in again. An idea came to him.

Thursday, 16 April 2015


The next big thing in cars
A blog post from April 2012 revisited

   I’ve just been looking through some old emails and take a look at what I found . . .

   Tata Motors of India has scheduled the Air Car to hit Indian streets by August 2011. . .  Hold on, 2011, wasn’t that last year?

   According to the email the Air Car, developed by ex-Formula One engineer Guy N. For Luxembourg-based MDI, uses compressed air to push its engine's pistons and make the car go.
An MDI prototype air-car

   The Air Car, called the "Mini CAT" could cost around 365,757 rupees in India or $8,177 US.

   The Mini CAT which is a simple, light urban car, with a tubular chassis, a body of fiberglass that is glued not welded and powered by compressed air.  A Microprocessor is used to control all electrical functions of the car.  One tiny radio transmitter sends instructions to the lights, turn signals and every other electrical device on the car.  Which are not many.
   The temperature of the clean air expelled by the exhaust pipe is between 0-15 degrees below zero, which makes it suitable for use by the internal air conditioning system with no need for gases or loss of power. There are no keys, just an access card which can be read by the car from your pocket. 

   According to the designers, it costs less than 50 rupees per 100 KM, that's about a tenth the cost of a car running on gas. Its mileage is about double that of the most advanced electric car, a factor which makes it a perfect choice for city motorists.  The car has a top speed of 105 KM per hour or 60 mph and a range of around 300 km or 185 miles between refuels.  Refilling the car will take place at adapted gas stations with special air compressors...  A fill up will only take two to three minutes and costs approximately 100 rupees and the car will be ready to go another 300 kilometers. This car can also be filled at home with it's on board compressor...  It will take 3-4 hours to refill the tank but it can be done while you sleep. 

   Because there is no combustion engine, changing the 1 liter of vegetable oil is only necessary every 50,000 KM or 30,000 miles.  Due to its simplicity, there is very little maintenance to be done on this Car.
   The Air Car almost sounds too good to be true.  Well, we'll see in August.

Peter’s Piece






But there is more  . . . .

Tata Motors' Air Car - Airpod - Might Launch in 2015

By: Vikas Yogi | Updated: February 04, 2015 16:39 IST
I am not sure if you still remember that Tata was once working on cars that would run on compressed air. For those who did not know, the Indian auto giant had partnered with Motor Development International (MDI) - a French firm - to work on this project about 7 years ago. The company's silence on the project led us to believe that the project had been shelved. However, a latest report published in Business Standard claims that Tata's compressed air-powered car is in final stage of production, and might launch in the second half of 2015.
Though the car running on compressed air is not a new idea, it was always considered futile because it involved several issues, including low engine temperatures. Despite that, Tata Motors has been developing engines that will run on compressed air and throw out air from exhaust pipes.
"This is a long-term project and a tricky and challenging one. But these are areas we need to invest in to make sure that we can innovate and manufacture disruptive products in the future," said Timothy Leverton, President and Head, Advanced and Product Engineering, Tata Motors.
The agreement between the two companies has already covered two phases of activity; first, enclosing technology transfer and the proof of technical concept. Second involves completing the development of compressed air engine into specific vehicle and stationary applications.
The report further says that the debut of the air car aka Airpod is most likely to take place in the second half of 2015 through Zero Pollution Motors - a US franchisee. Its estimated time of arrival in India, however, is still unknown.
Just so you know, the air car will come equipped with a joystick instead of a steering wheel, and will be able to accommodate three adults and a baby. The car's tank can be filled at any compressed air station. The car will offer a range of 200 Kms and probably a top-speed of 80Km/h.
(Source: Business Standard)
Peter’s Footnote
The idea of compressed-air engines has been around for almost 200 years and have been tried in mining and railways operations and found wanting. Some early torpedoes were also air-powered.

Meanwhile the best hope for a successful air-powered car would be for Tata to concentrate on driver research and development. For example, the driver of an air-powered car could start his day with a hearty breakfast of green grass and onions. Tata could then market their revolutionary design as the Tata Flatulent, or just the plain Tata Farta.