Archive for November, 2007

November 20, 2007

Heat and dust

Aruba is hot, a fact I had almost forgotten. To leave one’s room is to risk turning into a small puddle within seconds. To be honest the constant gale force winds, sorry, gentle breeze, helps quite a lot but the reflection off the sand and the general lack of clouds makes for an uncomfortable experience for such as me. I am not one to approve of sweating and even the slightest bead of perspiration generally sends me scuttling back into an air-conditioned corner. Here, however, it is unavoidable, and i am forced to make get my job done while mopping myself near constantly with a Garnier moist clarifying towelette. It makes me feel cooler and gosh doesn’t my skin look clarified!

Today I walked around town taking notes that may be of use to future Fodor’s readers such as new restaurants, specialty shops and the like. I must say I was rather shocked by the lack of available street espresso so i made up for it by smoking and telling everyone Bon Dia or Bon Tardi depending on what time it was.In my earnest zeal to help our dear readers I slogged through the hot dusty streets dodging the frequent phalanxes of cruise boat tourists pausing only briefly to buy a rather attractive knapsack that I put to immediate use. All was going well until I hit upon a little boteca or drugstore. I am a sucker for drugstores. Somehow, between the multi-vitamins I simply had to get, the visine, hair glue, a tube of apricot facial scrub and a bottle of painkillers I managed to blow $110US. Actually I bought two bottles of painkillers as they were most interesting. While looking for Excedrin I came upon little prescription bottles labeled “extra strength pain killer buffered with Motrin” and complete with the Doctor’s name and address on them. Somewhere in the distance I heard vaguely angelic voices and what i am certain were harps. Remembering that such things as Valium are over the counter in Kenya I wondered if such a civilized thought had reached the electric blue Caribbean Sea. I walked up to the Pharmacist and asked what exactly was the mysterious painkiller mentioned on the label…they had no answer…I now live in hope.

Speaking of this thankless work…he writes while sipping an Amstel Light in the courtyard with live latin music in the background, I had the misfortune to encounter the RIU Palace hotel this afternoon. The Aruba Tourist Authority lent me a guide to drive me around for a couple of hours this afternoon and all was going well until we entered that vile establishment. We had just left the beautiful Hyatt Regency and drove up to the huge RIU the architecture of which looks like the result of a theme park designer having a drunken tryst with a nouveau riche arriviste. As we walked across the miles of gleaming marble floors complete with baroque furniture. We passed numerous gigantic oil paintings of pastoral European scenes ( so perfectly appropriate in the Caribbean) and went to the reception desk where the young lady said she would send out the reservations manager. We stood around for a bit until dobby the house elf came out and introduced himself. Shortly after which he snapped that we couldn;t just walk in and take pictures we needed to arrange things at least three months in advance with their central marketing team.  I told him I wasn’t there to take pictures but to include the hotel in the guidebook as we had included the Aruba Grand before it was morphed into the present ice-cream cake. Mr. Attitude reiterated his view that such a cavalier approach could not be taken and written approval must be given. Apparently he is of the view that anyone has time to write to hundreds of hotels in advance of a visit. I told him I had a better idea …I would just leave their establishment out completely, turned on my heels and walked out. The ATA official told me, as we walked down to the car, that not only did he support my answer he would kill me if I did include them. Amen to that. May I also add he had really awful shoes.

I am writing this offline and will now walk around to see if I can get a signal to upload it. If I failed to return any emails or reply to any comments please forgive me. Early morning tomorrow as I have breakfast and a tour at the Bucuti .


November 19, 2007

Bon Bini a Aruba

Just a quick entry while i sit by the bar where there is an internet signal and I can quaff a few $5US beers. Aruba has changed little but in many ways that is good. Yes, it is a bit of a tourist trap and yes you go through money here faster than a starving cow in a hayfield but the people are unfailingly pleasant. Coming from Trinidad where scowls are the norm for both local and foreigners alike upon arrival to have so many welcomes and smiles all of which are genuine is almost stunning.

Amsterdam Manor, my residence for my trip and my favourite hotel on the island is greatly improved and I am quite happy thus far. Tomorrow will be a flurry of activity so I am just relaxing and enjoying the ambiance this evening. I opted not to go out to dinner and , instead, went to one of the local supermarkets to enjoy their bounty. If I may indulge in a quick listing of my purchases – bottled brussels sprouts from Holland, a baguette, instant coffee, anise flavoured sugar cubes ( who knew?), French buttter, gouda, cilantro ( I know…I am an addict) , habanero peppers from Suriname, Argentine beef ( no comparison to Kobe but still) , boiled peanuts in a tin and a mysterious substance that i am yet to identify that cost me 4 guilders. Oh..and 3 fresh limes in case of scurvy.

Sitting on the rooftop above the pool now with a ferocious wind howling around me in the warm and dry tropical night ( Arubans refer to it as a gentle breeze…thank God for hair gel) I am reminded why so many people come to this island. Even though the majority of those who come are fat and generally destination challenged Americans it is still a lovely island. I like the taxi driver who drove me from the airport. He asked me if this was my first time on the island to which i replied I had been here at least 7 times before. His response? “Well then it is okay if i take the back roads then to avoid the traffic…and welcome back home”. Indeed.

Until tomorrow.


November 19, 2007

Another suitcase, another hall.

Well  here I am in Curacao waiting for my connecting flight to Aruba in an hour and a half. I am still dealing with waking up at 4am to get to the airport in time for my Insel Air flight at 7 this morning. Who picks these ridiculous departure times? Must be some sort of demented Amish people. And 3 hrs early for a one hour flight is passing ridiculous. Is it just me or wasn’t there a time when flying was a thrill and a pleasure? How I miss BOAC.

There is an eerie sameness about Caribbean ..and to a point World…airports. One cavernous lounge looks so much like all the others it would be easy to forget where one is exactly if it weren’t for the eerily similar voice saying “welcome to _____ airport, this is a no smoking environment please do not smoke except in designated areas”. As a smoker I can tell you nothing makes you crave a cig quite as much as a detached voice exhorting you to not smoke.  In fact the words “designated areas” got me momentarily excited and sent me scurrying off to find one only to discover the designated areas are, like honest politicians, mere creative fabrications. I am trying to subdue my cravings now by eating a 1/2 lb of 72% cacao chocolate but even with the espresso it is having only a limited effect. Flight should be calling soon…damn that no smoking woman’s voice! Damn her to an eternity of stultifying limbo.

Still, 3 megs wireless free download is not bad…every so handy for sending up a blog entry. More coming soon from Aruba.


November 17, 2007

Picture this

This will be another mini entry simply to ensure I don’t break my unblemished record. My head is spinning with the residual flu I have been suffering and I am still stressed out over my arrangements for Aruba so my brain isn’t really in the right space to ponder bigger thoughts. I will say, though, no matter what happens I am looking forward to seeing Bonaire again and I know I will be happy capturing even more of the sights on my Kodak Z612 which has proven to be a brilliant choice. I do not regret taking back that Canon S2 IS in any way especially given the fact mine weighs only half as much which makes a difference when traveling.

I have almost finished my usual pre-trip arrangements; done the laundry and preselected some clothes, put aside my ticket, money and passport and organized my files on my computer. Thus far I have made preliminary announcements to hotels and restaurants for site visits so they will, at least, not be surprised when i show up with my notebook in hand. For the record, travel book writing is a bit different from review writing in a newspaper as it is a combination of just the facts combined with interviews with other diners so as to get a complete picture of whether or not an establishment deserves to end up in the book. My favourite quote recently is from Bourdain when he ended up in a large and rather dull pastry establishment in Rio when he wanted to be on the beach. He looks at the camera criticizes the shows producers and says “ where did they find this place? Fodor’s?”

Off to bed now.



November 16, 2007

Race to the finish

Lots of running around today involving more banks. Went to my branch to get some US$ for Aruba and Bonaire though I plan to mainly use credit cards for any expenses there are always the troublesome taxis and departure taxes that involve cash. I tried to pay my light bill there as well ( and why is mine higher by far than anyone I know) but was told that an old bill wasn’t good enough as there was something that had to be torn off…oh..don’t ask me..I just sighed. Work was the usual though I may have a little staff drama tomorrow.

I was thinking about matters of race as i launched iWeb to blog this evening. Race is a matter that has never really troubled me too much in my life as my family resembles the UN General Assembly and my friends have always been a mixed bunch. My Mother ( whose birthday is on Monday ) was never one to tolerate any sort of racist talk from anyone and , though she is white, would immediately open her mouth should someone say anything the least off colour..or ..I suppose..ON colour. I never assumed any inherent difference naturally based on race though I think any right thinking person would agree there are stupid black people and smart Indian people in about the same proportion as there are smart black people and stupid Indian people or any ethnic or racial combination you may choose.

I know there are places in the world where racism ( not sure about the word “racialism” as it seems  archaic to me) is a real problem and where political correctness in terminology simply hides a great undercurrent of hatred. Here in Trinidad racial terms are hurled around frequently. At work, on the road, or in any rum shop in the land listening in to a group of friends will inevitably result in hearing such things as “you stupid black fool” ,“ allyuh coolies ent play yuh like money nah” or even “ white boy dey ent tell yuh massa day done?”. The thing is here these are friendly acknowledgements of respect for the multicultural society we live in and no one takes offense. Unlike other parts of the world we speak incorrectly yet beneath the surface lurks nothing more than a tacit acceptance of the fact we are part of one society and damned if any politician or foreigner can change that fact. There is no deep discussion of race here. The few times I have tried in various settings it has invariably resulted in something to the effect of “Vern..chill..we is all Trinis…it don’t matter”. I love this reality of life in Trinidad. The government might be incompetent and squandering taxpayers dollars, things simply don’t work but how can anyone trade such insouciance about race or appearance for anything? It is one of the many reasons I love life in this part of the world. It is life on a human level where everything else takes a back seat.

I remember reading an article in either Harpers or Atlantic Monthly a while back that pointed out a fact for DNA Ethnographers. Many African’s have European blood in their DNA but 100% of Europeans have African blood in their DNA. We are all descendants of the original humans that migrated from East Africa and the sooner we realize that the better.


November 15, 2007

Blog rolling.

Not feeling especially well this evening so I will keep it short. Over 70 blog entries ago I typed my first words on this site and expressed the hope that I would be able to make the occasional entry. Looking back I am shocked at myself for making the effort to keep posting daily even though I know this will not always be possible. Even though I added the “Welcome” page a bit later in the game and it is bypassed by readers who go straight to the blog it has still recorded about 600 hits which surprises even me.

I have been using iWeb to create this site because it is easy to use and creates an elegant looking end product but i am now wondering is it was the best choice as it creates a convoluted master file that looks as though it could collapse under too heavy a blog load. We shall see what the future holds though I shudder to think how I would reenter all this data in a new programme..if it is at all possible…but perhaps iWeb can handle the jamming. I seem to be having a problem with the comments element as they seem to be added into my on-computer file automatically and appear to be slowing down the programme…we shall see what happens with that.

Until the next entry thanks for reading and Bonne nuit.


November 15, 2007

Back to my Mac

Not a terribly exciting day today as I decided to stay home, relax a bit and clean like a crazy person. I am sufficiently anal that every now and then I become concerned that little germs are invisibly covering every surface in my home and and I get on my hand and knees and wipe every surface with disinfectant wipes. Suffice to say after several hours of that my back is killing me but i am absolutely certain any germ left in here is of the superbug variety and deserves to survive. Just to annoy any natural solution lovers I can happily report the products used in my exercise: Lysol Spray, Lysol bathroom disinfecting cleaner, Lysol 3 in 1 cleaner, Baygon, Windex, Carpet Fresh cleaner, Clorox Disinfecting Wipes and Clorox Bleach.

After this exhaustive exercise I remembered Robin had suggested he would be coming over for dinner so a trip to HiLo was in order. I had an hour so I whipped together a clam cocktail, a caesar salad with artichoke hearts, pork medallions cooked in prunes and culantro served with black pasta   mixed with balsamic tomatoes and parmesan and a side of broccoli and olive oil and a lazy dessert of Hagen Dazs Belgian Chocolate ice cream.

Robbie came at 7:30 and we enjoyed dinner and chatting then watched a bit of TV with frequent comments as close friends are wont to make during TV viewing. As Robin is on his second Mac after an unfortunate power surge killed his last one I was anxious to show him Leopard. His reaction was similar to someone reading a treatise on quantum physics to a 7 year old child – complete disinterest and frequent glances at the exit door. I somehow forgot that Robin’s understanding of computers extends to clicking a button to get his email and searching in Google…other than that it is just a device sitting on his ( decidedly lovely 19th C ) desk. Why can’t everyone be as excitable as me when it comes to technology?

In any case, if I haven;t lost you by now, my newest discovery is the new “Back to my Mac” feature in Leopard. I finally bit the bullet and installed Leopard on Tinkerbell this afternoon even though this is my primary machine for work and play and holds this web site in its lovely hard drive. Everything went completely perfectly and even my little hacks seem to have stayed in place. Now I use Apple’s .Mac service ( called dot Mac) for which i pay $100 USD a year. Some complain that it isn’t worth it compared with the many free services out there for email but I also count on it as it synchronizes my various machines. If I change a password, bookmark or contact on one machine the other machine is automatically updated. It also allows me such things as my online photo albums and even this site is published using iWeb and then hosted with one click on my .Mac account. Back to my Mac is even more amazing as I discovered by accident this evening when clicking through the new Leopard system preferences. There in front of me was a pane called “Back to my Mac” so I clicked it and it said it was activated and I should look in any Finder ( like a windows explorer window)  for the “shared” area. I looked and saw my desktop listed which led me to clicking and before I knew it the screen of my iMac was on my desktop as seen above and I had full control of it. I was able to copy files, play music ( that I heard playing in my bedroom as I was sitting in the living room at the time and basically do anything I could do while sitting in front of the iMac. I know remote access has been around for some time but Apple has finally made it accessible by one click…I swear no other company simplifies things the way they do.

I was quite annoyed today to note that the Aruba PR company seems unable to arrange anything for my visit….and why should they? …Fodor’s Caribbean is only the best selling guidebook in the world…silly me for thinking they could arrange something for my 3 scant days on the island. Adams PR representing Bonaire has, as usual, been completely accommodating and already sent me my hotel info. In past years they have even accommodated me on my Aruba leg in the Divi properties. I shall plod on regardless and have already organized my accommodation at my favourite hotel in Aruba ( Amsterdam Manor) by a simple which they happily and immediately responded. Maybe in future I will decline the Aruba assignments and just keep Bonaire as it is my preferred destination and always more helpful with arrangements.

Off to a disinfected bedroom to sleep now.


November 13, 2007

The silver fox.


I am still basking in the post-Leopard installation glow. So far this seems like the first new version of OS X I have installed with seemingly zero things broken. I just have to restrain myself from activating Time Machine every 5 minutes so I can marvel at its slightly over the top beauty. I swear i must have deliberately deleted at least 20 files just so i can go back in time and retrieve them. The guys at work must be right I should really get a life.

In preparation for my lightning tour of Aruba/Bonaire/Curacao starting Monday I had to do a lot of running around this morning and it wore me to the nub. It started badly enough when power went meaning I was a bit wrinkled and I had to leave the house without mean achievement given my hatred of the pre-noon period.

The Canadian HC was the first stop to drop my passport off to have it renewed as I am sure they told me it took 2 days. The wonderful woman there corrected me and said it actually took 15 days but “seeing it is you” she would have it ready for me. Total pleasant time elapsed – 15 minutes. Then back in the car to get stuck in mind boggling traffic for the 2 km drive to Republic Bank on Independence Square  to pick up my renewed VISA card. Got parking…so far so good…went to the information desk and was directed to the last kiosk where I should take a seat. There were 5 people sitting with me..not too bad. That was until I realized the person at the desk was a Chinese labourer opening an account or something  and his compatriot was seemingly waiting to follow him to the desk. Between his lack of English skills and the clerk’s apparent need to chat with him using hand signals, walk about gratuitously, check on her friend’s weekend activities and stare blankly into space he was still at the table 20 minutes later. When he finally got up she called his friend over and the whole cycle started again. As I sat there with steam coming out of my ears a manager eventually noticed the scenario and came and asked who was there to pick up their credit cards – which turned out to be all of us. So an hour later I got my card, rode into the traffic again, to park at work and hop over to Republic Bank on Tragarete Rd. to pay my VISA bill ( don’t ask) that consumed another 40 minutes in line by which time I had a splitting headache and had to compose myself for my Panday interview.

Mr Panday arrived on time as always and was his usual interesting self. I asked him if, in retrospect ,he regretted his decidedly bitter election night comments that when the country falls apart and families are affected by rape and murder, those who voted for the COP should know they brought it on themselves. His very Panday reply was “No, why should I? In fact I will repeat them now..”. And he did. The biggest surprise was at the end of the interview when i asked him about Machiavelli’s “The Prince” and whether it had any relevance to politics in this country. His eyes lit up and he happily confessed that he remembered reading that book again after he started in politics and suddenly saw the light. He went on to say the ultimate goal of the book  – to strengthen the state – was a good goal though the means may be questioned. It was startling to see him light up like that – all of a sudden a 73 year old man had the burning light of a 20 year old in his eyes.

There are many bad things that can be said about Mr. Panday and he still faces several court cases despite the fact he is about to be sworn in as Leader of the Opposition on Thursday but he sure has something about him. It has been said that Steve Jobs of Apple™ has an RFD ( Reality Distortion Field) which causes anyone hearing and seeing him to want to buy whatever he is selling. I think Basdeo Panday has a MRCF ( Mistrust Removing Charisma Field) surrounding him. As soon as he walks into a room with that well honed smile you can’t help but want to shake his hand and chat. I have seen him saying the most mean-spirited things about people and never losing the smile. It is a bit freaky and possibly scary but he is able to disarm most with his charm.  I give him credit. If, at 73 years of age, I have that kind of charm even when bitter…I would be a happy guy.


November 13, 2007

Leaping to Leopard

I am upgrading to Apple’s OS X 10.5 better known as Leopard so I am out of commission for a bit tonight as my computers get upgraded. Sure, it is best to wait till 10.5.1 for better stability and compatibility but I am a daredevil at heart. Thanks to Rob for getting it for me in NYC ( and amazingly he was so attracted to the Apple Store there he went back 4 times in one weekend) although I must admit my past experience with upgrades for OS X is usually headache inducing as I like my system just so. I am hoping my 300 applications I use fairly regularly will continue to function after the upgrade but I am sure at least a dozen or so will be difficult.

My main reason for buying Leopard is Time Machine which is Apple’s groovy take on backing up your files ( as featured in my pic above). Computers are temperamental creatures and hard drives fail over time and yet we trust our most precious memories to my two major Macs. I backup my entire drive on the big Mac but only every month or so and it is an annoying process besides being decidedly unglamorous. With Apple’s Time Machine you click an icon and the desktop falls away and reveals a moving star field with finder windows( like Windoze explorer windows) stacking backwards endlessly into space. One need only scroll back into time to find the lost or deleted file and then restore it to the present time. What could be groovier?

I have just installed it on the big Mac and also discovered the CoverFlow incorporation into the OS means I can scroll through a folder and see actual mini versions of my documents flying in front of me…visuals can be quite helpful. And for older eyes I can just click on the mini versions and see a full preview. I think it is time to throw caution to the wind and upgrade Tinkerbell too. The added benefit is with the new “Back to my Mac” feature I can now access my files on my big Mac at home  from anywhere in the world.

Today I interviewed Dr. Kerry Sumesar-Rai the political scientist who was part of our panel for election night and tomorrow I have Basdeo Panday for the first time since the elections. I also have to renew my Canadian Passport and pay a few bills but do I care about those things? Nope. I just want to see more of Time Machine.



November 11, 2007

Climate of Change

Pretty ordinary day today at work though our newscast should have been sponsored by Serta with the amount of padding we had to do to fill half hour. It is always a shock going from election season to the immediate post election period with no rallies to cover, no mudslinging, and the entire cabinet now on retreat in Salybia.

I was looking at the BBC this morning and a programme on climate change with the woman in charge of the EU environmental commission ( I think) taking calls and talking to viewers. I also note that another US network is devoting the entire week to things green…very heartening. I am too tired to give my take on the climate change situation in this entry but I take it all rather seriously. While I realize the planet naturally goes through transitions and fluctuations there can be little doubt the pace has accelerated in recent years. Who can fail to take seriously the fact we have had record temperatures around the globe in the last 12 years? Well..maybe the US President …but rational people have cause to sit up and worry.

To me the scenario is patently obvious. We cannot consume and create usable energy in the way we are doing and pumping massive quantities of effluent into the air and sea without it having consequences. Our planet is a delicate balancing act that for the last blip in cosmic history has reached an equilibrium point that allows our type of life to be sustained. If we throw that balance off kilter we risk changing the conditions that make life possible.

In the shorter term rises in sea level are bound to affect populations living in low coastal areas, many of which are in the developing world. I find it sad that poorer people who live in these developing countries have little say in correcting the situation since it has been imposed on them by larger energy consuming countries. On the face if it the solution is simple we must reduce consumption and look for other, less destructive ways to create power but the reality is very different. People in the better off economies and those that are aspiring to improve their lot have grown used to a level of consumption that they find impossible to wean themselves away from. The challenges of slowing or reversing climate change involves a complex mix of societal, governmental and economic interactions that may take decades to get right. Do we have that time available? I don’t think so. While we argue and discuss the scope of climate change we are dragging an entire planetary ecosystem down with us.

Can I live without the niceties of modern life? I am not sure but I am certainly sure if it comes to a choice between them and the future of the planet I would be willing to give it a try.

And on a lesser note…I am really happy Robin is back…I like having my close friends …umm…well…close.