Archive for September, 2007

September 30, 2007

The mighty coconut

This is a little off topic but..Listen Apple! Do not offer an update to iWeb 2 that results in my entire blog site disappearing. This can result in me needing Depends™ and then searching my trusty notebook Tinkerbell  for my files. I ended up finding the domain file in my Documents folder for some inexplicable reason…so I managed to salvage my site. The thought of going online and trying to cut and paste my entire blog back into the programme was making me apoplectic. Now back to the greatly under-appreciated coconut.

Those of my friends who live in non-topical regions may not fully understand or care about the greatness of this amazing plant. The coconut tree is, quite possibly, the most amazing plant on the planet. I think it is safe to say that no plant exceeds our tropical friend for versatility. The tree itself is quite astounding even from a structural point of view. What architect could even design a structure that stands so high with only fibre holding it up and a splash of leaves and heavy fruit topping the whole affair? If you have ever seen a hurricane hit our region and watched the seemingly endless ability of the coconut tree to take punishment  and bend almost to the ground  you will appreciate the plant even more.

The leaves can be woven and used for roofing and even the trunk can be used to make useful household items. Our friend does not stop there. Strip the leaves and the spines are a commonly used broom in many parts of the world –  called a cocoyea broom in Trinidad & Tobago.If you happen to chop the whole tree down, get to the base of the leaves and you have the delicious palm heart.

Now we meet our friend the actual coconut. Most North Americans and Europeans think a coconut is a brown nut that appears in the supermarket…this is not the case..the coconut is a green or yellow creature. When dried the coconut turns brown and, if you strip off the husk, you have the nut you see in your local Tesco. But the husk is also useful. In days gone by it was used for stuffing cushions and even used in WW1 helmets for padding. And now we finally deal with my beloved coconut fruit.

I must first start by telling food writers worldwide that the liquid in a green coconut is not milk. It is coconut water. If you grate an older coconut and squeeze the grated pulp the result is milk. If you blend or just let the milk settle and skim off the stuff on the top it is coconut cream….very simple…try and learn it…you all sound stupid when you mix them up.

Coconut water is wonderful..especially when sloshed down fresh from the coconut. It is also, I learned many years ago, a good substitute for plasma and can be injected directly into your veins. A little research has also revealed that it HAS in fact been used IV for plasma in tricky situations. How can you not love a fruit that you can inject intravenously? If you are not in a climate that allows direct tasting I should also tell you that a greenish coconut also yields coconut jelly which is beyond delicious. Damn….power went again…ah well…have notebook will blog…just forgive any typos. I have ben told coconut water replenishes the system better than Gatorade™. If you are lucky enough to obtain a recently germinated coconut then you have a marshallowey treat that is indescribable. Did I mention I can’t see the keys right now? The dried coconut flesh is also the source of coconut oil and more sugar cakes than I can count.

Let us revere the coconut and fall on our knees before it. Perhaps if our electricity producers T&TEC and Powergen  had a supply of coconut oil I might not now be trying to see the keys and praying my PriceSmart™ bought UPS will send this blog. We live in hope.


September 28, 2007

The English language

I am at wits end. I love Trinidad and Tobago and we have our own version of the English language but in media it is getting out of hand. There is an apparent acceptance of bad pronunciation and bad grammar that is driving me crazy. The missing terminal “g” is a major problem as is the replacement of “the” with “dah”. I can’t deny ieTV is as guilty as most despite my best efforts. God help me. The insistence on using “would” as the general replacement for “will” is a major source of my blood pressure rise.

Why do we do this? I have no idea. There must be some linguistic reason for the constant forays into Vern annoying territory but I am lost. I run a newsroom and I spend most of my editing time correcting the basics. Please God ( who I don’t believe in) tell people that communication is important.  I love Trini English and the included list of gradations such as – it hot….it real hot…it more than hot…it ent play it hot. Those are cool…but “the party are” is not. I think most of the problem on the air is caused by the very richness of Trinidadian dialect and the fact some writers are unable to switch between it and standard English. It s not unusual to see some nattily attired anchor reading a script that informs us “the firemen outed the fire quickly” or “the pensioner was bounced by the car while crossing the highway”.

Perhaps one day, if I am lucky and live long enough, I will get to read a newscast entirely in dialect . I can almost hear it now…”Hello Goodnight, de big news tonight. Patos say he go mash up de opposition in de election…Ah ole man get knock dong and dead in Sah Wah…and de Central bank say tings lookin bad and if dey get wuss den crapaud smoke we pipe”. To sleep perchance to dream.

More tomorrow.


September 28, 2007

Ring the bell.

Well our illustrious emperor..oops..Prime Minister has finally announced the election date…and it is…Guy Fawkes Day..November the fifth. I shall have to remember to leave my barrels of gunpowder at home that day as I am sure they will be checking trunks. I must say it seems rather an insensitive choice and not simply because of the historical reference to the events of 1605. The Hindu community celebrates Divali on November the ninth and this usually involves much in the way of preparations as well as fasting. Now, I realize Hindus are not likely to impact too much on Patrick’s political  bottom line and his personal beliefs are in quite another direction, but a bit more thoughtfulness might have been in order. When I was guessing the election date I was thinking the second week of November as I thought nobody would be so crass as to do it during the week of Divali…silly me…I forgot who I was dealing with. Ah well, at least it was a good day for news and the staff were happy.

I seem to have known instinctively about today’s announcement as I mentioned yesterday I might touch ( ever so lightly) on politics. I have to tread carefully here for obvious reasons. Let me preface my quick look at politics here by noting I generally regard T&T politicians as a life form just slightly higher than pond scum on the evolutionary scale. This view is based mainly on the national experience that many of them are thieving ne’er-do-wells. I will admit there are some bright spots on the blackened banana that is politics in this country and they give me some faint hope for the future. There are three main parties in Trinidad & Tobago..the rest of the parties could probably hold their national conferences together in a phone booth. There must be some tax concession for starting a party because I see no point in any of the smaller ones. Let’s look at the sorry mess that litters the landscape of this blessed land.

The People’s National Movement ( PNM) was founded by Dr. Eric Williams ( the actual father of the nation) and brought the country from colonialism to republic status. Most of modern T&T was created by the PNM by default because it held power for 30 years starting in 1956 and has only lost two elections to date. The PNM is largely, but  not exclusively, supported by people of African descent. Today the PNM is the ruling party and has come under the gun for several things most notably spending like a lottery winner on crystal meth. The other problem is its Political Leader and our current Prime Minister, Patrick Manning. he is frequently called…has developed some rather peculiar tendencies over the years not the least of which are his seeming delusions of grandeur. He has torn down the traditional PM’s residence and built a multi-million dollar pile ( discussed previously), he is pushing to be an executive president and he appointed his wife as Minister of Education. There is also the matter of several of his MPs being embroiled in legal matters that are still before the courts. He is also currently doing a bit of house cleaning and seems to be guiding the selection of candidates for the coming elections to omit many sitting MPs..who knows what lurks in the mind of Patos. His party is often seen in parliament railing against the UNC for their record of corruption…an irony that is seemingly lost on them. Oh..did I mention that Patos also has a personal seer and believes in that white-suited charlatan  Benny Hinn? I think that scares me the most. I wish I was making this up.

The UNC and their new bastard child the UNC Alliance is predominantly the party supported by those of East Indian descent. It comes out of a long history of opposition parties that includes the DLP and  the ULF and has its roots in the sugar unions. They held power 1.5 times. Once, in a coalition called the NAR and again on their own. Under their watchful eye we got a new and collapsing airport and more corruption trials than we can count. The party is still led by Basdeo Panday who is , at the very least, charismatic. He has no seat in parliament because of a little corruption trial problem but he now sports a red beret on the hustings which makes perfect sense…just not to me. The party is currently led by either an executive committee or a cabal depending on who you believe. As a result of the latter, many members left the UNC to form a new party – the COP. In response to this defection the UNC powers joined  with an alphabet soup of small parties ( with..I believe..a total of 60 members) to form the UNC Alliance. This new “force” is 99% controlled by the UNC but is, as far as I know, a separate organization.

Our last contender is the one year old Congress of the People, the COP. It is all too complicated for me to express in a short piece but I will try. Winston Dookeran was a former governor of the Central Bank who is, I have been told, widely respected. He is famous for his creative pronunciation of English words, being regarded as squeaky clean, having white hair, bobbing his head for no apparent reason and believing in consultation on everything. He entered the UNC by invitation and was then treated like Sammy Davis Jr. at a KKK meeting. Peeved by his inability to get anywhere in the UNC he formed his own party and pulled quite a few UNC members in the process. I have no idea what constituency they hold but they are painting themselves as the “new politics” which means nothing to me..but seems to be their mantra. They seem to be pulling a mixed  membership – which is unusual in T&T politics – but I have no idea how deep their support goes. As a lover of the English language, however, the performance of their leader leaves me cold. The thought of him speaking on behalf of the country at the UN or elsewhere would be an embarrassment that would leave me hiding under a truckload of laundry. He may have integrity , as they claim, but having no track record under his belt it is easy to seem perfect. I just wish he could make a definitive statement on anything without checking with half of the population.

I know this was a rather long blog but I may not be able to blog I am making up.

Happy Guy Fawkes Day!!!!!


September 27, 2007

Talking about talk.

I have discovered with experience that interview guests fall into several categories. Generally speaking I classify them as follows:

  1. The Clams – these require the painful shucking knife approach.

  2. The Duds – they talk but either their subject is boring or they are. These are the worst.

  3. The Nervous Wrecks – These are the ones who stammer and stare at me and the camera as if they just came back from a dilation at the optometrist. These often only manifest symptoms after the cameraman says “action” so I must switch into calming and smiling mode.

  4. The Ok But not Greats – That pretty well explains itself.

  5. The Gems – These are the guests who I merely have to guide and who make sparks fly.

I was reminded of the last category today when Anand Ramlogan made an appearance. He is what the programme is all about – getting the viewers blood pressure to rise. When I have a guest like him on I like to fade into the background and let them take centre stage. Anand loves the camera and talks to it knowing he is speaking to the viewer. Most of my guests speak to me and  we both engage in a conversation in partial profile…not Anand. Whenever he is on he becomes less a guest than a guest commentator. That is the way it should be when a guest is engaging and is not on to give account of his or her  actions.

I have been accused of being soft on guests but I can assure you it is an illusion. There are many ways to conduct an interview just as there are many types of interviewers. I enjoy watching an attack interview as much as anyone. Tim Sebastian of the BBC is a master of the art. He badgers his subject to the point you feel sorry for tin pot dictators who volunteered for the interview. In many cases the guests are following their own plan of action and it is necessary for the interviewer to pul them back in line but quite often badgering just forces them to clam up and enter damage control mode. This type of interview is usually part of a highly structured interview with the interviewer following a strict set of questions with no detours allowed. There is, of course, merit to this approach but to the viewer it can result in rather a staccato feel to the interview. I have done many  interviews of this type but I have developed a theory that for most people it is not necessary and, in fact, not desirable. Not to say, given my personality, that I don’t enjoy going for the jugular.

My normal approach to interviewing is what I call the organic interview. Given that television is a part of the viewers living room, I feel an interview programme should correspond to the normal life experience of viewers. Sometimes we have confrontations with others and must demand answers but other times we have conversations that flow, like a stream, with one idea naturally leading to another as the incline of the landscape demands. In such interviews the viewer gets a genuine insight into the personality and thought processes of the subject – even if the process only reveals that the subject is. in fact. cagey and evasive. To me this allows the viewer to make their own decision about the character of the person being interviewed. Also, not surprisingly, a flowing interview makes the guest more comfortable and will frequently result in them divulging more than they intended. Generally, I walk into an interview having fully studied the topic but  with only 3 to 4 broad questions actually written down and then go with the flow. The unfortunate side result of this sort of interview is that I end up scribbling notes during the interview so i can refer to points made and run with them. There are a few exceptions to this rule and at those times I switch to doberman mode – or at least moderately irate mongrel mode. Some subjects, sadly, respond to neither conversation or aggression. I recall a recent interview with a government official who did not want to answer a question I posed and despite a less than gentle “that is interesting but can you answer the question” from me…insisted on meandering all over the place. Interview subjects are there at their discretion so at a certain point one can only hope the viewer makes deductions based on the evasion.

I have been avoiding the subject for fear of actually giving my unvarnished views but I fear the time for a blog entry on politics is coming soon. As Dave Allen used to say to close his show…May your God be with you.


September 25, 2007

Where the man with the hammer gone?

Those who know me are more than aware I regard David Michael Rudder as a cultural god. Loved in his own country and known to the Caribbean diaspora, he is sadly under-appreciated in much of the world. Simple and unassuming, David has written lyrics that, to my mind, surpass many of the greatest works of Lord Kitchener and Sparrow. Coupled with an infectious beat and his own incredible voice David makes magic. I have been to many of his performances over the years, some at big shows and some in more intimate settings they are always great. Happily, I am also proud to say I have met him many times over the years and even interviewed him last year. Though he no longer lives most of the year in Trinidad he is here often ( as is the case with most Trinis) and loves this country with a passion. For my part, I think it is is impossible not to love a country that could have spawned a creative genius of David’s calibre. If you have never heard of him and he is performing near you I say run..don’t walk for tickets and take your friends along too.

Tomorrow I am once again interviewing one of our local rising legal stars; Anand Ramlogan. He is one of those guys who is at once smart, aggressive, full of passion, articulate, self-promoting and more than a little bit abrasive. In short, Anand is the best sort of lawyer. He has led several very high profile cases – won many and also lost a few. The losses are actually to his credit as he is not the sort to take on only easy-win cases and seems to like the challenge of fighting for seemingly hopeless cases. when I have interviewed him in the past it is his passion that comes through to me the most. He genuinely seems to think the East Indian community in Trinidad is being marginalized and he is also obsessed with righting wrongs done to downtrodden citizens. Like him or hate him it is impossible to ignore him. We need more people like Anand in our society. Too many of us are simply complacent and let government get away with all manner of stupid decisions . We let ourselves and others get victimized in any number of ways and we sit quietly. People like Anand are the ones who make wrongdoers , whether in high position or not, take pause and think about their actions. We, as a society, need people like him to shout out of our television screens “this is wrong and you are not getting away with it!”.

I can tell you one thing, if I ever commit some heinous crime like..ooh say..hacking a certain chirpy food maven into small pieces…there are only two lawyers I would want to defend me from a life that might involve unwanted passionate moments with someone called Hoss…one would be the brilliant and honest Gillian Lucky ( happily my cousin) and the other would be Anand Ramlogan. Actually, with a legal team consisting of both of them I might even be tempted to invest in a new set of knives.

That brings to mind an old joke: What do you call 50 lawyers at the bottom of the Gulf of Paria? A start ( with at least two exceptions).



September 24, 2007

Moving day

It was a hectic day today at work. It started out in the normal way…chaos..but then things became wonky. We all knew it was coming, the day we had to move into the main building,  but it sort of crept up on us and today was the day. Until today we were housed in what seems to have been a renovated storage shed or garage behind the main building containing the studios and administrative offices. It wasn’t much but we had lots of room and we made it home. A newsroom is the people in it and that buzz that only happens when a bunch of newshounds gather in one place. In the good old days ( and I remember them well) it also involved a lot of cigarette smoke but, sadly, this essential ingredient of all great newsrooms and jazz clubs has been snatched from us by the Health Stasi. Besides, a lot of great things were created in garages including the first Apple™ computer and Google™. It seems now the “outside child” has been made legitimate and ieNews has been welcomed into the bosom of ieTV.

Starting around 5pm our own version of the Geek Squad – Harry and Jesse led by the company workaholic ,Robin ( who I have known longer than I care to mention) ,descended on the newsroom. It was the calm before the storm. They lurked like sedated Tasmanian devils waiting for their moment to wreak havoc. I chatted with them and proceeded to nibble on my blue cheese, caviar, smoked oysters and Carr’s cracked pepper crackers I had cleverly purchased earlier. After Vash went off to get ready to read the news they asked, in that innocent voice that all IT people employ “is it ok to start moving a few computers now?”. I assented and suddenly they turned into the beasts they always were. They tore through wiring like a bunch of demented rabbits and monitors and CPUs started flying out the door like drunken patrons at a speakeasy raid. It wasn’t long before our desks followed and every piece of video editing and capture equipment behind them. I followed our precious possessions to their new place of abode and explained, as best I could, where things should go. Apparently my assistant and I now have our own little office area just off the main newsroom…that should be interesting. Moving is a stressful experience so I was glad when Alvin called and invited me to dinner at Tamnak Thai around the Savannah and I fled the scene at around 8:15pm.

Let’s now talk about when okay restaurants go bad. Thamnak Thai was never a great restaurant, I included it in Fodor’s guide but only because it was the only “Thai” choice. The building is nice ,the decor is pleasant and the food was generally passable. The one problem they always had was their otherwise lovely dining deck ( complete with wrap-around koi pond) is located mere feet away from the Queen’s Park Savannah. How lovely you say…a park! But no, my dear friends, the QPS includes a surrounding road that is, they say, the largest roundabout in the world and one of the busiest thoroughfares in Port of Spain. I arrived at the restaurant to discover Alvie had chosen the deck…and not just the deck…the part of the deck closest to the road. I settled in and figured at least the meal would be better than the noise. I was wrong. In retrospect I would have been happier sucking on a car exhaust for several minutes.

Thai food at its best, and this includes street food, is a play on the senses. It is light, elemental and complex at the same time. It mixes tanginess, sweetness, saltiness and sourness in a masterful interplay. It is the culinary equivalent of a Magritte. A million points that come together into a work that grabs your soul and says “let’s dance”. Not this time. My meal was  the worst sort of poseur. It was like those supermarket jars labeled “mayonnaise” that have no connection to the reality of mayonnaise that lovely unctuous blend of egg yolk, lemon juice and olive oil that has no resemblance to the horrendous concoction of whipped vinegar, whole egg, soya oil and numberless additives in the jar. All I can say is the squid ( complete with unremoved quill) should have had Goodyear™ stamped on the side, the pork was overwhelmed by ginger, and the duck was inedible. Thai food is not about smothering things in overly reduced coconut milk and tossing in some ginger. It is about balance. If you can’t achieve balance you need to close the place down and open a burger joint. And presentation should not consist of shredded cabbage, a bit of curly  parsley ( very Thai) , two cucumber slices and a tomato rose on every plate. That is not Thai. It is decidedly family diner of the worst sort. The meal was an insult to my palate, Alvin’s palate, any person who loves food and quite frankly, the people of Thailand.

Thinking about it..maybe we were only supposed to eat the tomato rose and the cabbage. Perhaps the other stuff was meant to be the decoration. If that is the case then the meal was passable.



September 23, 2007

The Digital Divide

I was off today and worked really hard not to pop into the office because that always results in me spending the rest of the day there. I will admit I called..but only once. ieTV is completely addictive when I am there I love it but I yearn for a day off sometimes, and yet, when I am not there I want to be in the thick of things and I usually wander in just to check. Today I ended up sleeping in and having wonderful dreams, including several about work, and doing a lot of chores I don’t normally have time to do like cleaning. I fired my maid several months ago after realizing she wasn’t cleaning to my satisfaction and was spending most of her time hiding my most used things in strange places. I reached my nadir with her when she decided my razor was best placed under the kitchen sink.

Anyhow, to the topic at hand, I am frequently amazed that most of the world is so dim when it comes to the technology that runs their lives. When I say most of the world I mean people I know..but then again…perhaps I only know people of a certain age. It seems all of my friends and family are technology challenged. I seem to be the help desk for most of the hemisphere. I know I have been accused of being less than empathetic but I truly don’t understand why people I know don’t understand the basics of technology. Many, many. many years ago I got my first computer ( an Apple IIc) and saw the future unfold in front of my eyes. I fell on my knees in front of the Gods of Wozniak and Jobs ( more Woz). I remember, with a few tears, my first BBS experiences and the realization I could chat with other people from my computer. I was, at the time, at the University of Toronto and learning the many intricacies of this new concept. I learnt PL1, FORTRAN, BASIC, COBOL and APL and probably a few other programming languages. In those days there were punch cards involved which is a bit disturbing. I kept up and have never stopped learning languages that help me understand computers and what they can do. My hardware experience is much more limited but I make the effort.

At this stage in my life I am puzzled by the fact most of the people I know have no clue about computers or software or, for that matter, the difference between them.Am I the only person over 30 in my group that understands the basics of computing and the internet? Apparently so. I spent this evening installing a new printer on my dear friend Robin’s iBook. Robin has never, ever ,seen an electrically powered device he understands. I convinced him to buy a Mac after his previous Dell that confused him too much and he was happy until his printer died. The concept of adding hardware is alien to Rob and thus Vern must come in.I also had to explain to him that 7 years is a ripe old age for a printer and he should not be cursing the good people at HP. I should mention his first Mac died as a result of a power surge but God bless him he said he wanted another we got him an (ick ick ick..vomit) Intel MacBook. Rob does not know the difference between a CPU and a screen and I fear he is typical of my friends.

To end this tiring discussion I present my list of things not to ask in your questions to Vern:

  1. If you are looking at my iMac and I ask you to turn it not reach under the desk….the screen is the computer. There is no block under the desk.

  2. Telling me “It is freaking out” is not a helpful statement.

  3. I don’t do Windoze so don’t ask me why you are getting an error message.

  4. Macs can surf the internet, open MS Word documents ( Office was on Macs before Windows), and not blow up doing normal things so don’t ask me stupid questions about this.

  5. The “Finder” I  agree is a stupid idea. The “start” button is clever…even for MS.

  6. If your computer is smoking I can’t help you.

And my secret to a great Thai mussel soup: Kaffir lime leaves, sea salt, Thai fish sauce, grated ginger, fresh habanero pepper, chopped culantro, coconut milk and lime juice squeezed as it is served. Obviously the mussels must be tossed in after the stuff comes to a boil and it also helps to toss in some chopped culantro ( or cilantro) when you are ready to serve it.

More tomorrow.


September 23, 2007

Mondo Mondeo

Another Sunday in the newsroom today but a fair selection of stories so that was a relief. I would almost say thank God for politics and the imminent elections…but that would be disingenuous.

I am not ashamed to admit I drive a Ford Mondeo Ghia estate wagon  – that car universally recognized as the very epitome of middle class dullness. I have christened her Beulah and she serves me admirably even though she is invariably referred to by my friends and colleagues as “The Hearse”.It is true my car is long and dark blue but I always thought the reference was rather unkind. I hardly ever carry cadavers in the back though they do fit rather nicely. I am very happy with the car as it possesses a few qualities I value highly in a vehicle; It is unfailing reliable, very stable on the road, has poise when moving and is big enough that I am not afraid of having an SUV drive over me. My satisfaction with my Mondeo seems to have altered my tastes because, even though I have no intention of changing it anytime soon, I was admiring another car I saw recently until I realized it actually was a hearse.

People say all kinds of things about Fords ( the local favourite being Fix Or Repair Daily) but I sense this may be based on Ford years ago or on American or British made models. Mine was made in Belgium ( that bastion of blandness) and the engine is German ( need I say more) and to say it is reliable is an understatement. I am no mechanic so when it was taking a bit longer to start than usual I had it checked by a colleague who asked me “when was the last time you put water in it?” to which my only response was “is it thirsty?”. Who knew batteries, like geraniums or chia pets™ needed water? It turns out there was none in the battery and rather a miracle it was starting at all.  I recently sent her out for a bit of a touch-up and two days later found that she had a terrible bucking problem and was losing power but she still got me home and back to work the next day. I called Ford and my guy there told me he would pass a bit later and check on the problem. In the meantime one of my colleagues ( God bless them for being so clever with things mechanical) opened up the bonnet peered inside and called me over. I peered into the little hole things and asked if everything was normal? To which he replied that it really wasn’t usual to have two inches of water in the place where the spark plugs are located and that it was as astoundingly amazing as the Virgin Mary descending at a cocktail party in Ealing or G.W.B saying something intelligent that the car had moved at all. It seems my body shop guy had decided to try his hand at engine washing. But as you see, like me, she keeps plodding on regardless of all logic.

There are a few problems with the Vernmobile however. It isn’t her fault but she is something of a dent magnet. I park in a lot and it seems people have a compulsion to open their door into it or rap it gently with their bumper. The rear bumper was crushed in the car park at work in January and not too long afterwards someone smashed into the tailgate while I was at a complete stop.  I have been driving her with her new paint job for a week now and I think this is a record for not getting dinged, dented or rammed. This annoys me. What annoys me even more is the fact that any part for the Mondeo seems to have a price normally reserved for complex medical procedures. Being unabashedly anal I must, of course, only buy original Ford parts including windshield wipers ( a tidy $350 TT or $50 US). Her other problem is she doesn’t shut up. When I apply brakes she beeps, when I indicate she beeps, when I reverse she beeps, when I leave the lights on she beeps and my least favourite thing – when traction control engages – she talks. It is all a bit much when I simply want quiet solitude. The final thing is, and Ford –  I am talking to you, why would a car that is the most expensive car ever designed ( $6 billion US) not have proper cup holders in the front and a light for passengers in the back? Are back passengers relegated to forever sitting in stygian gloom because  of your thoughtlessness? Also, I must admit getting the old girl into a parking spot is a bit like negotiating the Queen Mary into a small berth in Pago Pago.Still, for all her miscellaneous foibles, she is a good car and has earned my trust.

I toyed with the idea of upgrading to the new Mondeo ( as seen in James Bond for 2 seconds) but it lacks the look of mine; the curving bonnet, the elongated oval grille. It also looks far too much like a bigger and fancier Focus and that simply will not do. I will stick with my Mondeo and her paltry 60,000 km ( I was going to say mileage but should that now be kilometerage?). As they say in Trinidad ,when referring to relationships, “ a good wukking ole ting better den a new ting” meaning, of course, “ a good working old thing is better than a new thing”.

And adding to an earlier blog that referred to bizarre drug warnings I can now add one I heard for a new non-addictive sleeping pill “ side effects may include drowsiness”. I would certainly hope so.

Happy Sunday!



September 22, 2007

The lives of the Aints – Binky

My friends mean a lot to me and, while their lives have been full and well lived, I feel it is time to add my own fictionalized accounts of their lives. To wit – I present you Binky aka Vesh…aka Jason.

The rakish character we all know and love as Binky was actually born Binkel Firgenflop in the quiet village of Urgelpfeffer. It is said on the night he was born skies were partly cloudy with a low of 27 and 60% humidity. Though elfin in his appearance, Binky is, in fact, the product of the mixed marriage of the fair maiden elf Margot Tiddlewaddle and the village haberdasher Fergus Firgenflop. Though a tolerant village, Urgelpfeffer residents found the notion of marrying a haberdasher too much for their sensibilities and the couple with their swaddled infant were forced to move to the town of Eldorado in the foothills of the Northern Range of Trinidad.

It was in Eldorado that Binky flourished and developed many of his signature traits. His childhood days were spent making macrame plant holders, rearranging furniture, examining the pulmonary tolerances of local rodents and raising dust bunnies. School appealed to Binky’s natural curiosity and he excelled in Guyanese mythology, the history and culture of Benin and hairdressing. Many a lunch hour would see Binky sitting under a mango tree leading his classmates in a rousing chorus or two of “My manicou lies under the wood pile”. All was not rosy during this time, however, as Binks was found by school authorities to be complicit in what has now been labeled “the great guava cheese uprising” and was subject to disciplinary action. The first attempt at penalizing him by the use of physical force was met with shouts of “More! More! Bring it on!” and the authorities soon cottoned on that a more creative approach would be needed. He was eventually banished to the forest of Nizwop for a year and left to wander in solitude with nothing more than the clothes on his back, a small hamper of assorted cheeses, a copy of Cosmo and an outdated iPod loaded with early Britney. The indomitable Binky made the best of the situation and spent his days developing survival skills, working on his tan and making friends with the forest creatures – one of which he dated briefly.The skills he learned  during this trying period have served him well in his life and his ability to speak Quenk has saved his skin on more than one occasion.

Upon his return to Eldorado Binky elicited the help of Gibbous the Elder and set up the business he is now famous for – Binky’s School of Hand on the Hip Cake Design. Over the years he has frosted and marzipanned his way to the top of his field and has changed our society forever.

Today Binky is working on his forthcoming autobiography tentatively titled “Where did I put my comb? Dammit!” and plans a cross town tour to promote it. In his spare time he enjoys looking upwards, collecting fungus, hair gel, and making colourful splashes on the side of mid-sized Fords using nothing but his stomach contents.

We salute you Binky!

And Happy One Web Day to all !


September 21, 2007

The search engine that changed our lives

Has there ever been or will there ever be anything like Google™? I don’t think so. Like millions and probably billions of people , Google™ has infiltrated every aspect of my life. When I go online it is my home page a clean and welcoming beacon to the worldwide web. I use a Mac so I can actually search from a window on my browser ( Safari) but I still keep Google™ as my main page.  Hard to believe there was a time before our favourite search engine. I remember those times well and they were not pleasant by any means.

Darkness moved across the face of the earth (despite Bill Clinton being in power in the USA)  and finding any form of information involved digging through reams of paper or dealing with the meaningless results from Yahoo™ ,the Evil Empire’s god-awful attempt and Altavista™ ( my favourite of the sorry bunch). And then one day a business contact asked me if I had tried the new search engine called Google™? I sighed and wrote down the url while rolling my eyes. It was late 1998 or early 1999 and when I finally typed in the address ( including the then required “www.”) the scales fell from my eyes as I saw the quick loading page come up…just oozing class and clean design. No scrolling marquees, no page full of frames, moving pictures and truckloads of text in a multitude of fonts. I typed in a search on something radio related ( I was Programme Manager for the TBC radio network then) and the results came back in a neat and sensible order. I fell in love. Madly, totally and with a heart full of commitment in love. I have not looked back since.

At work we don’t even bother digging through papers to find background to a story we just click on the “news” button and type in our subject. Google™ never fails us ;we always get what we want and can gauge the veracity of the source before even wasting a click by looking at the search results and judging the source. It has reached the point where, sitting in a newsroom in Trinidad, if we need to find a local phone number..we google ( now an english verb) and we get it faster than diving on the phone book and donning our reading glasses. I dare you. Call a friend and ask then to grab a phone book and then ask them to find the nearest Tesco/KFC/Safeway/HiLo while you google. You will always win. We have, at our fingertips, the most powerful way of accessing information ever on the planet. Google™ ( proper name) used to post the number of pages they have indexed on their main page ( like McDonald’s burger sales) now they have stopped because the number is so huge.

The web is a vast Wild West sort of place and scary to even contemplate but Google™ simplifies it to the point that it is accessible and pleasant. I have been doing a bit of research ( using Google™..what else?) and see that according to Wikipedia over 50% of people use Google™ as their main search engine. I can only imagine that the others are not tech savvy and don’t know what a search engine is and just stick with their computer’s initial startpage. My dear Mother ,who makes long distance calls  to me for tech help with the internet, actually says “OK I have the Goog-Ley now”. To her Google™ is the internet. It is the only way she can access and, to some extent, understand it. All Mum knows is that she turns on her indigo blue 400Mhz iMac ( she views it like a  fridge…use it till it dies) – Google™ equals Internet. It is as simple as that.

I normally hate large corporations but Google™ is a generally benign and jolly giant. Small wonder a company that ( like Apple™ ) was started by two students in a garage has now become a company whose market capitalization exceeds $175 billion US dollars and whose motto is still “Don’t be Evil”. And what other large..ok..HUGE…company tells its workers to spend 20% of their work week on a project that interests them – resulting in such things as Gmail™.

Tim Berners Lee may have invented the internet but the Google™ team made it useful to the majority of us and for this they deserve credit. I fell in love with my first Apple™ computer  in the mid-eighties and since that time the only other company that has changed my life through technology is Google™.

In the interest of avoiding a lawsuit for using their logo as the pic on this entry and trying to be nice ( and heck….if any company could find a misuse of their logo…Google™ could) I asked for permission to use their logo this morning. Amazingly, for a major corporation, I got a quick response and permission to use the logo this evening for this blog. Thanks Emily and thanks Google™. Thank god I can stop clicking “Option-2” to add the trademark symbol.

More tomorrow.