Archive for February, 2010

February 13, 2010

The Carnival Plan

( I look like a complete gimp but still…David Rudder…a talent like few other on the planet)

Carnival is upon us in Trinidad and I have come to resent it more and more. It used to be a display of  cultural exuberance but now I see it more and more as a display of emptiness. The music is all rhythm and no melody – and I am not just speaking as someone getting older – the average number of beats per minute is now over 150. The masquerade itself, with the exception of MacFarlane and Cobo ( protest but lovely) Mas is just beads and feathers. The average person not playing Mas ( masquerade) has to deal with silly traffic restrictions and being held up by gangs of itinerant youths looking to grab whatever they can. My new and well developed plan is to escape the stupidity and escape to Tobago.

My plan is a finely tuned one as many Trinidadians descend on Tobago after Carnival. The clever part of my escape is that I am getting out of Trinidad in the narrow space in between which Tobagonians plan to flee  and Trinis start descending like flies on an animal carcass. It helps having a friend with an ocean view home.

My biggest thrill this year ( as always)  was interviewing David Rudder for my chat show. If ever there was a more modest talent I would like to know about it. His songs make my pulse race and his live performances are simply brilliant. I am thankful that when I first came back to this island I was lucky enough to be at events that allowed me to see him performing in intimate settings. If you possibly can please download his music from itunes ( sadly only the older stuff..but still Hammer, Calypso music, Rally round the West Indies are worth listening to) and listen to his lyrics.

Here now is my plan:

–  work tomorrow…hope there is no serious traffic obstruction.

– Go to the grocery ( aka Hi Lo) and buy important things like decaf coffee and cigarettes.

– come home and do laundry.

– Go to work again ..  the  traffic will be awful despite the fact I have a police pass.

– Head to Tobago… if I can get through POS to the airport for which there is no guarantee because the police pass means squat in this ridiculously disorganized country.

– relax …contingent on me getting to the airport in the midst of thousands of idiots jumping up and down.

February 9, 2010

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Just found this and it reminded me of fun times when I was working at UN Radio in New York.

February 5, 2010

Choose your poison

Having just mucked around for the last two days reinstalling everything on my primary laptop for no really good reason and then replacing the power supply and guts on Sybil the PowerMac  myself ( 4th Apple machine to die on me in 4 years) I  have been led to think about the operating systems I use. I am sure I am not typical but in any given week I use OS X, Windows NT, Windows Vista, Ubuntu ( Linux), and Mac OS 9. Despite so many people haranguing on about how their OS is the best I really have to say they are all pretty good in their own unique ways. I might even say that I am fond of them all….though the degree of fondness varies greatly depending on how much they are annoying me.

The picture at the top of this entry is my desktop on my PowerMac Sybil which is an ancient machine ( 2001 I think) but, after a few upgrades, runs anything I throw at it in OS X. Apple’s latest OS is something I resisted getting until about 2 years into its development when the Jaguar edition came out.  As a purist I was fond of  OS 9 and, despite its many flaws loved it for the way it followed logic. Click on a folder and another folder popped out showing what was inside…just like the real metaphor on which it is based. Multitasking was a hit and miss affair and frequently resulted in system freezes from which the only recovery was a reboot. Still, every Mac user knew to save work regularly and a reboot of OS 9 was laughably quick compared to any other system  at the time and still is today. When I purchased a new iBook it came with OS X as well so I got used to it and appreciated its stability, lovely colours and plethora of eye candy. It is rock solid and I don’t recall it ever freezing for any reason. Having used Macs since 1984 the lack of viruses were not really a benefit since the old OS didn’t have any real viruses either. I still use OS X a fair amount at home as a lot of my photo editing and other programmes are  on it. That sort of thing happens when you spend so many years on one kind of machine…you build up a lot of very useful stuff.

A year and a half ago, as I mentioned in this blog, I was shopping for another laptop when a comely Toshiba caught my eye and I bought it. Sure it ran Windows and I had been sufficiently indoctrinated into the Mac world that I feared the Apple police would descend on me with hundreds of pitchfork toting Mac users right behind them…but such was my shallowness that I fell for the looks of the thing. As it tuns out I really don’t see what the hatred of Vista is all about. It is a lot more convoluted than OS X but everything works as it should. There were a few devices that I had to get special drivers for but I can’t hold Microsoft responsible for that since, unlike Apple, they don’t make computers and the sheer number of different PCs Windows has to be installed on is staggering. Most days I take my Vista laptop to work and I am able to accomplish as much as I could with my Apple machines. In fact, I use a proxy software called Identity Cloaker which lets me watch BBC’s iplayer shows even though I am not in the UK…and that is Windows only. Like my OS X machines I have been able to customize the laptop exactly the way I want it and, thanks to Kaspersky Internet Security I don’t have to think about viruses much at all. Speaking of which Microsoft should be commended ( I can’t believe I am writing this) for releasing their own free Antivirus tool called MSE…there is no excuse for anyone not to get it.

As you can see I have chosen a serene Irish countryside scene for my Vista desktop most likely because whereas I am always relaxed on a Mac  I tend to be a bit edgier on Windows out of habit – and the peacefulness helps. Still, no complaints so far and I may even get Windows 7 one day though I don’t find it that different from Vista.

Ubuntu fascinates me. It is a freely downloadable operating system that comes with all the programmes one would most likely need included. Whatever isn’t included can also be downloaded for free with just a  click. I love the concept  and also find it to be a remarkably good OS.  Like the others it is very stable and even better it runs amazingly fast even on quite old machines. It is based on Linux which is , in turn, is based on UNIX,  so it is, in fact , a cousin of Apple’s OS X but without the price. The basic look of Ubuntu is fairly simple but a few tweaks and it has eye candy to rival even Apple’s best effort – I especially like being able to work on multiple desktops and then turn the whole desktop into a rotating cylinder in order to choose which one I want to use.

I an not sure which Ubuntu committee ( and it is Open Source so there are many heads involved) thought that brown was all the rage but thankfully it is easily changed. The screenshot above is what it looks like when it first starts up. It is still a remarkable and very easy to use Operating system though…even for non geeks.

I have already written my ode to OS 9 in an earlier entry but I still boot into it at least once a week to appreciate its simple beauty.

Time to get off  Vista now and work on my plan to escape to Tobago during Carnival so I can flee the annoying noise  and even more annoying brain dead people it seems to bring out.

February 3, 2010

Songs of Innocence and of experience.

( my Mii on the Wii- why do I feel silly as an adult even typing that?)

Hard to believe this is my first blog entry of the new year. I seem to have an easy time writing about anything but things of substance. Sometimes I am able to extemporize on the most arcane subjects but given the number of major events in the world that have happened since my last update over a month ago I have been singularly uninspired to type anything. Human nature I suppose.

I am back in Trinidad now after my all too brief sojourn in Toronto and I have been toddling along for the past few weeks pretending I am somewhere else. If one is in a drunken stupor Trinidad can seem like a land of wonder but to anything approaching sober eyes ( such as my own) it can see like a car crash in slow motion.  I have my periods of self-delusion when I manage alright but at times, such as now, the proverbial scales fall from my eyes and I am left to wonder why I am here.

Since  my return I have seen the usual half-baked T&T and Caribbean response to the Haitian disaster. This normally consists of government officials announcing that they must have meetings to determine a correct course of action and general musings that “something must be done” while the rest of the known ( and, in this case, several parts of the unknown) world send help immediately. There has also been a UNC internal election to determine the fate of  this country’s main opposition party. The result of it was that a woman and her slate beat the incumbents by a ten to one landslide. Within a matter of hours the losers announced a press conference to say that they had discovered a huge cache of party cards hidden in the executive offices that had not been distributed to members – an intimation that some nefarious undertaking had been perpetrated. The fact that the cards were found in the offices that the losers had occupied for the last many years did not enter into their argument. “Look we found these membership cards hidden in our own offices!”  Sometimes things here are so silly that they are not even worth thinking about.

I find myself worrying more and more about my folks back in Toronto. Aging is far better than the only other option available but it still sucks. I have steeled myself to the certainty that my days here are numbered and sooner rather than later I will have to be there to help them in whatever way I can. Actually, given that my life here consists of work, the supermarket and home that really isn’t exactly a huge change.

It has not escaped my notice that Trinidad continues to be one of the noisiest places imaginable. Noise is the great bane of my life. It seems to me that anything worth doing is worth doing quietly. It is no exaggeration that even if my life were in danger I would want to ensure that I didn’t make a scene. I can say this with confidence because even when someone once attacked me with a knife I dealt with it quietly. But here, if it is not barking dogs it is people having conversations at the top of their lungs even when the other person is seated right in front of them. Now Carnival is once again rearing its ugly head. For the uninitiated this means an additional cacophony of people holding outdoor steel pan concerts, blaring party music at home for the entertainment of their 6 guests and generally conducting themselves in a manner designed to rouse any relatives of theirs that may have gone to join the celestial choir.

Speaking of which Trinis are fond of pointing out that the steel pan is Trinidad’s “National Instrument.” Now, perhaps it is just me, but what exactly does that mean? Canada and the UK don’t seem to have a national instrument and they seem to be carrying on just fine. I guess it is about as meaningful as saying that the leek is the national vegetable of Wales…except in the case of an instrument you can’t chop it up and toss it into a stock pot – pity.