@keith_in_tnt on Twitter.com


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Global Plastic Pollution - A problem facing us all...

My friend Gia sent this video to me with a message that said that the video describes the situation in the Pacific Ocean, but she bets that the situation is the same in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Paria as well.

I seen the floating clouds of debris in the Gulf of Paria. Just take a water taxi trip after a couple days of rain and you'll see for yourself, especially as the boats navigate around them to keep from clogging their jets.

After you look at the video though, make sure and think hard about the next sweetie paper that you look to toss absently in the drain.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Just one pothole from death...

...either their's or someone else's.  The video shows a driver demonstrating his car's ability to go from 0 to 190KM per hour, and then the camera pans to show that they are driving along our nation's highway with other cars on the road around them.  They go further to engage in the nasty practice of tailing a driver in the fast lane, an intimidation tactic used by inconsiderate drivers looking to overtake.

I hope that this is the last I see of these fools... and pray that I don't read about them or their victims in the paper in a story about another tragic accident on our roadways.

Thanks to @sanman_ish for sharing the video the wider community.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Today is World AIDS Day

Read this and this.  'Nuff said.

For those who can't see the links, the first above is to the National AIDS Hotline of Trinidad and Tobago page at http://www.aidsline.tt/hiv.htm where you'll find a wealth of information on HIV and AIDS all in one place.  The second is to the World AIDS Day page at http://www.worldaidsday.org/ where you'll find a site designed around this year's theme, "HIV: Reality".

Get tested.  It's free.  Respect.  Protect.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

So NaNoWriMo 2009 didn't go so well for me...

I don't think I can even say that I started hot and sweaty.  I did get a pretty good story started, a continuation of the tale that I've wanted for years to be the start of a book.  But then life happened.

I went out and sought tools to make the task easier - indeed, it was that tool that I used to write the second story.  And it worked really, really well.  Anyone that need to write on the fly and distraction free, I would suggest that they use an app like Q10.  There were some other things that I didn't get a chance to try, but then Q10 worked well for me right off the bat, down to the old manual typewriter sounds.

I built a spreadsheet and graph (above) to give me some impetus, to keep visual the work that I would need to do to make the challenge.  But for all the encouragement that I sought for it to give me, I was just never able to find the time or the head space to get what I wanted to get done done.

And so, after the third day, the daily average word count required climbed, and I'm forced to admit today, even before the end of the NaNoWriMo challenge, that it will be nigh impossible for me to churn out the remaining 47,132 words before the end of the month, November 30th, certainly not with work and other commitments.

I want to thank everybody though who quietly supported me in this effort, including my Canada-based editor and oldest friend.

There is still a book in me.  It just wasn't ready to be born this time.  Understanding a little better though, and just a little, what challenges exist in getting it out and onto paper, I think I'll be able to produce it a little bit at a time.

Maybe next year, because I am going to do this again, I'll drop that bad pulpy novel that the NaNoWriMo exercise encourages people to produce.

Then again, maybe that one will be the best seller...

Sunday, November 01, 2009

I'm participating in NaNoWriMo 2009

National Novel Writing Month 2009, November 1st to 30th, is billed as thirty days of writing abandon.

As a participant, I'll be required to write 50,000 words in 30 days, approximately 1,667 words a day, to "win".  That's about four pages of 1-1/2 spaced, 10-point Arial text, with 1-inch margins in Microsoft Word per day for the month of November... Crazy?  Maybe.

Maybe not so much.  They say that the focus is on quantity and not necessarily quality, but I'm going to push to finish the book that starts with the story that I wrote too many years ago.

I'll try to keep you all posted on my progress, and perhaps at the end of it will have a book for sale.

Encouragement will be greatly appreciated.  And yes, GirlBlue, we'll be there to support you through this too.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Eid Mubarak

Eid Mubarak Myspace Comments Graphics and Scraps
With warmest greetings
to the Muslim community.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Happy Independence...?

It was a busy Sunday morning at Pricesmart.  We'd parked closer to the highway than to the entrance and made the walk through the car park to use the ATM and size up what was definitely going to be a massive long-weekend-pre-Independence-two-days-before-school-opens crowd.

We got to the door and I went through my wallet looking for the membership card before my girlfriend beat me to it and flashed hers.  I'd already made up my mind though that we were probably not going to be doing any shopping today having noted that the lines at the register were into the aisles and peoples' carts looked like they'd shopped for the month.

While my lady moved toward the ATM, I stood to size up a Bravia 46-inch flat screen but only wistfully, and pulled myself a little closer to the shelves having been struck pretty hard by the front of a cart.  Getting hit again by the side of the same cart pulled me out of my reverie.  There was nothing for me to mind really though.  Clearly, I was in the way and someone was having some trouble pushing their cart.  On a day like this in a place as busy, I don't even bother to wait to hear the "sorry" anymore.  As a matter of fact, I was setting to extend my own apologies for being an obstruction.

"Are you a supervisor?!  I want to see a supervisor," a middle-aged woman with glasses blustered, continuing to shove the cart roughly.  Her child, a girl of maybe five or six was sitting in the cart, looking a little bit bewildered.
[In my head] Pretty little thing... Father must be Chinese or some extraction... 
"Are you a supervisor?!" she asked loudly again, pushing up her glasses roughly.  Out of the corner of my eye, I could see her fussing her handbag onto her shoulder and pushing back her brown shoulder length hair.
Talking to me...?  Oh!  Ok... The fella there in the waistcoat...
She asked more roughly again whether he was a supervisor, and he began to blubber something while pointing the clearly flummoxed woman to what I can only guess was someone more senior on the floor.

"I want keep my cart here.  I don't want to lose my cart," she said as she extricated the little one, and gave the cart one more rough shove to the side.

Full blown maccociousness on my part took over.  The Pricesmart staff continued to mutter some, apparently not sure how to deal with this very animated lady, his own seeming pleasant conversation with another young man standing next to him cut short.

"Where is the supervisor?!  A man outside prevented me from parking!  Prevented me from parking!  And then," she turns, glares at me, "let a negro man park in front of me!"  The greater emphasis is not mine.  She then looked back to the beleaguered staffer.
*Chuckle* But she ent know people does stand up in and hold spots for people when the car park busy... Wait nuh!  What she just watch me in mih eye and say?!  Is me she dey wid?!
I was well outside by the time the bile really started to rise though.  She had blustered off dragging her child behind her and with the Pricesmart staffer in tow to make loud somewhere else, and I in the mean time went ahead to take my turn at the machine.

My girlfriend had missed the entire display, and I started recounting what had happened as I was pushing my wallet back into my pocket.  By the time I'd gotten to the "negro" bit, we were back in the car and on our way out.  Hot in my mind were the following questions:
  1. What the France did race have to do with the situation?  Would it have been any different had someone of a "different kind" taken the park that she wanted?
  2. How far was she going to carry her ignorance?  Was she going to repeat what she said so emphatically, possibly emboldened by my own inability to respond?
  3. How many people were going to be silently agreeing with her as she ranted on Pricesmart's floor?
  4. How many people would she have incited to responding to her with equal and greater crudeness?
  5. What in heaven's name was she teaching her little child?
One would hope that this woman would have quickly realised what she said, felt some remorse and would have refrained from repeating it.  One would also hope that if that weren't the case then she was just a vocal minority and a patent embarrassment to everyone around.  On the drive, my girlfriend put forward that the woman was definitely just one person, and that there would be so many more in the country who were not that obtuse.  But the fact that the woman felt comfortable enough to behave thus and that brazenly is not a good sign, that she feels brave enough to say such things loudly without fear of reproach and rebuke.

Forty-seven years on and this shameful, stinking attitude still exists in a society that we have marketed as cosmopolitan and callaloo and beautiful... Forty-seven years after the same race-based nonsense is reputed to have threatened to divide the country, splitting it into two physical territories... Almost thirty years after the same mode of thinking called for a rehash of that separatist cry... Even more recently, we have people shouting loudly "Race!" instead of "Blasted criminal!" and "Incompetent!" and "Yuh wrong and have no foot to stand on!"
Perhaps I did miss my own opportunity to put her in her place, to explain to her that her utterance was more than just contemptible and bordered on obscene.  But why should I have to, in this day and age, upbraid a woman who looked to be a reasonably intelligent and otherwise respectable member of the country's upper middle class?  Certainly that kind of correction isn't necessary today in an enlightened populace where education and opportunity are at least in theory available to all...  One would hope, yes?

A local journalist sadly wrote the following in 2002 though:
I don't think anyone could truthfully describe Trinidad as a successful society. The gung-ho patriots always point to our harmonious race relations as a lesson we have to offer the world. But that success is relative only to worst-case scenarios of official racism (like the Indesh state once recommended by our more bigoted Indo-Trinidadians) or racial killings.
To besides, I'm not sure if we can take any real credit for having avoided these extremes. That would imply a moral and ethical sensibility which Trinidadians do not display in any other facet of national life. Rather, I think it is our small geographical area and oil wealth which account for the relatively peaceful co-existence of the races on this island.
(The small land space ensures that the two racial groups have been unable to retreat into hermetic enclaves where prejudices could harden, while the oil and gas dollars have prevented the economy from becoming so parlous that demagogues could appeal to racial violence as a method of solving social problems.)
But, given the natural resources of this country, and given the intellectual and creative abilities of a significant number of individuals born here, it is fair to say that our society is a definite failure. That is, it is a failure relative to the levels of prosperity and social stability which our wealth and native talent should have created.
Have we grown since those heady days of 1962?  Are we really and truly independent, or does that woman's brand of disappointing narrowness show that we are still not ready for self-determination?

Happy 47th, Trinidad and Tobago.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

How ATM card skimming and PIN capturing scams work

The following is a presentation prepared by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia on types of bank card fraud perpetrated at the ATM. It includes some good information on what kinds of things to look for as well as how to protect yourself. Even though to date we've seen some less sophisticated methods used in Trinidad and Tobago like the Lebanese Loop, that doesn't mean that some of these can't find themselves in use by determined fraudsters.

The slideshow advises that you contact your bank if you discover any of the skimming devices attached to their machines. Just about all of the major financial institutions in Trinidad and Tobago now offer ATM services, either at their own machines or via sharing arrangements, e.g. LINX and LinCU. For ease of reference, contact information for the country's major institutions has been culled from their websites:
RBTT BankTel: 625-RBTT (7288)
Fax: 625-3764
Online Inquiry Form: [Link]
Other Contact Information: [Link]
Republic BankTelephone: 625-3617 ext. 3071, 3072
Fax: 625-3617 ext. 3070
E-mail: customercare@republictt.com
First CitizensTel: 62-FIRST (623-4778)
Online Feedback Form: [Link]
ScotiabankCredit Card and Contact Centre
Serving you from Monday to Friday, from 7:30 am to 6:00 pm.
Corporate Area: (868) 627-2684
Toll free from the UK: (905) 587-2010
Visa International Service Centre: (800) 847-2911
Collect from anywhere in the World: (410) 581-9994
Other Contact Information: [Link]
Eastern Credit UnionCall Centre: 800-CALL(4328) or 800-LOAN(5626)
Email: ecu@easterncutt.com
Other Contact Information: [Link]
Unit Trust CorporationTel: 625-UNIT (8648)
Other Contact Information: [Link]
Intercommercial BankTBA

Monday, August 24, 2009

Raffique Shah: Executive President, yes...elected by the people

Raffique Shah in the Sunday Express of August 23rd on the notion of Executive Presidency... As always, an interesting read and view:
LISTENING to well-informed people, some of them respected intellectuals, argue against a system of government that allows for an executive president, intrigues me. They invariably pursue their arguments using fancy-words-work, but essentially they are little different to the barely-informed masses, who, on the eve of Trinidad and Tobago adopting a republican constitution in 1976, cried "bloody murder" over that minor change in our system of governance.

The ordinary man could have been excused then for thinking that a republican state allowed for whoever wielded power to summarily line up dissidents against a wall and have them shot.

They will have noted what transpired under military caudillo dictatorships, mainly in neighbouring Latin America, that disguised themselves as republican governments. They thought, egged on by irresponsible political leadership, that "sweet TnT" would be stripped of the rule of law, and that the Prime Minister would morph into a "prime monster" with the enactment of a republican form of government.

No such thing happened. In fact, after the new Constitution came into effect, and in the ensuing years it has remained in effect, nothing has changed. Which is where the real problem lies. If tomorrow the Patrick Manning Government were to use its majority in Parliament, and with a little help from dissidents in the opposition and independent senators, proclaim a new constitution that allows for an executive president, I guarantee you nothing will change. As CLR James once said of a particular trade unionist, "He is not reactionary, he is not revolutionary he is just stationary!"

What would be the major differences between the executive presidency system as advocated by the Manning "working paper", and what obtains under the existing system? First, President Max Richards will seal his place in history as the last ceremonial president. Good riddance, I say.

And here I'm not casting aspersions at President Max, but pointing out the uselessness of the office. What has any president of the country done, since Ellis Clarke's assumption of that role in 1976 that can be considered worthy of a palatial residence, a full staff, and these at great cost to taxpayers? Nothing!

So why should we be made to bear the costs of maintaining two-man-rats when we could easily settle for one? I mean, it's not even a case buy-one-get-one-free! For all intents, if not purposes, the Prime Minister is the supreme leader. And I'm not referring only to Mr Manning, whose supremacy in Cabinet is not even a case of first among equals, but first among lasts.

Look at Basdeo Panday's conduct in opposition. Not a damn dog dares to bark in his party. If he or she does, she is pilloried, drawn-and-quartered, and ultimately consigned to a cemetery that exists in Panday's warped mind. The same holds true for most political parties we have known: you should read Patrick French's The World Is What It Is, the authorised biography of the ever-cynical Vidia Naipaul.

So what difference would it make if we move from an all-powerful prime minister to a similarly empowered president? It will make absolutely no difference-unless the person who holds the office is benevolent, is prepared to govern by consensus, not by imposing his will on his party or on the population. That is all, nothing more, nothing less. Well, we save expenditure on a toothless president.

Why, therefore, are people all wired-up over this change that seems inevitable?

What we can argue over is how the president is elected to office. Or how his supreme powers should be constrained by the legislative arm of government. I am all for a president directly elected by the people. Mr Manning is against that. He argues that the result could be a president without a majority in Parliament. He says that is a recipe for confusion, since our politicians are not mature enough to put country before self or partisan interests.

So what else is new? Isn't that the way it is now, and has been for as long as we have had adult franchise? True, Dr Williams, in his day, was able to conscript support from opposition members-the name Bhadase Maharaj comes to mind, as does Panday when, in 1978, Williams sought support for the un-implementable "Crossing the Floor" Bill. But those were conspiratorial alliances, not measures of maturity.

Any politician who does not want to put his future in the hands of his people should get the hell out of politics! Why say, "Let the people decide," and then run scared of the masses? Such attitude goes against the grain of democracy, a system all our politicians proclaim as their creed, even if the fail to practice it in their parties, in their Cabinets. In any event, it is difficult to see a president being elected by a decent majority, while, based on the same elections, he fails to secure a majority in the House of Representatives.

So bring on an executive president. Let's rid ourselves of the post-colonial shackles of an impotent president-and save the office holder from further humiliation. But let us avoid exchange, merely substituting Prime Minister for President. Change must mean something different, something better.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gully Lovely: Spoken Work Poetry Extravaganza - Aug 22 & 23

"GULLY LOVELY", the spoken word poetry extravaganza coming to the Cipriani Labor College’s CLR James Auditorium is a fantastic exploration of personal history, cricket, New York, Trinidad and Puerto Rico coming from the minds of two of the most exciting voices in the United States performance scene.

Trinidad & Tobago's own Roger Bonair-Agard, author of Tarnish and Masquerade (Cypher Books, 2006), GULLY (Cypher Books, 2009) and the critically acclaimed one-man show MASQUERADE: Calypso and Home, which played in the Little Carib Theatre in 2006, and Def Poetry alumnus is joined by Willie Perdomo, a Harlem native of Puerto Rican descent and author of Where a Nickel Costs a Dime (Norton, 1999) and Smoking Lovely (Rattapallax Press, 2003).

The poems of Bonair-Agard and Perdomoconcern themselves with blackness, post-colonial struggle, sport, love and the negotiation of their own manhoods. It is a powerful, engaging, funny and joyous celebration of what it is to be men of color in a completely new and often unforgiving world. It is not to be missed.

The show will also feature rising and phenomenal local poet Muhammad Muwakil, with guest appearances by jazz band Élan Parlé and rapso group 3Canal.

Two performances are carded for Saturday 22nd August starting at 7:00pm and Sunday 23rd August starting at 6:00pm

Tickets cost $150.00, and are available at the Box Office of the Cipriani Labour College Auditorium and the Queen's Royal College office, or call Larry at 486-0591.

ROGER BONAIR-AGARD is a native of Trinidad and Tobago, Queen's Royal College Old Boy, Hunter College alumnus and a Cave Canem fellow. He is the author of two collections of poetry, Tarnish and Masquerade (Cypher Books 2006) and GULLY (Cypher Books 2009). He is co-author of a third collection, Burning Down the House (Soft Skull Press 2000).

A two-time National Poetry Slam Champion, Roger is also co-founder and Artistic Director of the LouderARTS Project. He is poet-in-residence with VisionIntoArt, an inter-disciplinary performance ensemble, for whom his work is regularly commissioned. He is also writer and performer of the critically acclaimed one-man show MASQUERADE: calypso and home, produced by Terranova Collective.

Roger's work is widely anthologized and he has performed in festivals and Universities throughout the world, including the Geraldine R Dodge Poetry Festival (New Jersey), Bumbershoot Music Festival (Seattle, WA), Calabash Literary Festival (Jamaica, W.I.), Urban Voices Festival (South Africa), University of the West Indies (Trinidad and Tobago), Cape Town University (South Africa), University of Alaska (Anchorage, AK), Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH), Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL) to name a few; and festivals in Germany and Switzerland as well. He has taught with the teen poetry organization Urban Word NYC since 1999. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

SOURCE: Borders Media

Sunday, July 19, 2009

"Keith in Trinidad..." is now KeithFrancis.net

Persons visiting the site may have noted the change in the graphic banner a few weeks ago, some time before the final design was uploaded night before. Today, all of the background changes required to make KeithFrancis.net the address of the site were effected.

And now if you type "http://keithintrinidad.blogspot.com" into your browser's address bar, you're going to land on "http://www.keithfrancis.net", the new address for this site. Google's Blogger service indicates though that the original address will still direct persons to the blog, so no one will be left behind. All links and shortcuts remain valid. But the new address is what will be displayed.

Apart from the address change - my removing the veil as it were and taking declarative ownership of my opinions and editorials - there have been several other adjustments and additions over time.

Subscription Services via FeedBurner
FeedBurner provides the primary mechanism through which Keith in Trinidad... and now KeithFrancis.net delivers web feeds and email notifications of new posts to subscribed users. And while I do still send notifications to my email list - something that I may discontinue in future - FeedBurner allows new readers to make that connection to the site easily using a one of the web's most powerful feed management tools.

Just click on one of the two links in the subscription box on the top right of the sidebar to get yourself enrolled.

Comment System by IntenseDebate
Aptly named given a conversation which took place in response to an April 2009 post, the IntenseDebate system was added to provide enhancements over Blogger's default comment management function. With IntenseDebate, static comments on the site become conversations.

With features like comment threading which permits a reader to respond to a particular comment directly, response notification, and reply by email, the service enhances the ability of my readers to discuss posts in a more effective and manageable way.

And while persons can post comments anonymously, the system also allows users to comment using an IntenseDebate ID or their existing Facebook, Twitter and OpenID profiles. A reader can thus build a reputation around a consistent identity, further enhancing the conversation.

So if you have an opinion on a post, don't be shy and keep it to yourself.

Micro-blogging on Twitter
I took the plunge and got into the micro-blogging service as keith_in_tnt in December 2008. I'd experimented with it while doing live coverage of football matches at my alma mater with less than desired impact and reach.

It was the first of a series of tweets where I reported on the CL Financial bailout press briefing that confirmed its usefulness as a communication platform for me, and made the decision to formally attach it to the blog an easy one.

Since then, my Twitter ID keith_in_tnt has been feeding the blog, the last few tweets below the banner. It's used to share news that I think worth following and interesting links, and fills the gap between my more extensive blog posts.

Readers can follow me on Twitter itself at http://www.twitter.com/keith_in_tnt, or they can follow the filtered feed displayed on the blog and Facebook via web feed at [Link].

Cosmetic Changes
Minor changes include some formatting tweaks were designed to make the blog easier on the eye. It should also load a little more quickly, fewer historical posts now being displayed on the home page. And of course, the site name is now more consistent with it's address.

Welcome all to the new KeithFrancis.net

Friday, July 10, 2009

Peter Minshall: Mas Man

Mas is a powerful, communicative expression of the spiritual and physical energy of human beings. And that is as good a definition of art as you will get anywhere. - Peter Minshall, the greatest band leader in modern Carnival.  Ever.

 MasMan.  A Dalton Narine Film.  Visit http://www.masmanthemovie.com/
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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Moo Jewelry

On the web at

On Facebook at
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Moo/40121602859 and

Via email at
moojewelry [at] gmail [dot] com

On the phone at

Image Gallery at

This is a tremendously shameless plug for my sister's jewellery business featured in the Trinidad Express Woman magazine today. I make absolutely no apologies for being proud of her, or for wishing her and her extremely supportive and loving husband continued success.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Local Boys shine at the Estadio Azteca and at Lord's

Happy moments must be remembered, and local heroes regaled.

On a night where the air was literally rare, where veteran keeper Clayton Ince seemed at times an impenetrable wall in between the uprights, where hope for victory was not even slim, Trinidad and Tobago's senior team notched their first goal ever against hosts Mexico at the Estadio Azteca.

At the Stadium where we faced our worst defeat in Trinbago football history (7-0 versus Mexico on October 8th, 2000), where the legendary Diego Maradona scored both his "Hand of God" goal and "Goal of the Century", young Trinidad and Tobago player Hayden Tinto, on only his second start for the national senior team, wrote himself into local legend with his solo effort at altitude.

The video embedded below records that moment in Trinidad and Tobago sporting history for posterity - June 10th, 2009 at the end of the first half. And no better commentator to cover the goal than one speaking Spanish. My thanks to fellow Twitterer @Sanman_ish for the find.

And at the Lord's Cricket Ground yesterday, local boys Dwayne Bravo and Lendl Simmons, contributed ably to the West Indies' victory over defending World Twenty20 champions India. Both gents performed ably with bat and ball, Simmons taking three catches and scoring a steady 44 runs. The elder cricketing Bravo for his part ended the day with bowling figures of 4 for 38, and added a blistering 66 runs off 36 deliveries, including the emphatic six that sealed the West Indies' victory.

Highlights of the game, West Indies winning by 7 wickets with 8 balls remaining, follow.

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Water Taxi Service: Need-To-Know and Should-Know Info

Everything that one *needs* to know about the Water Taxi Service can be found on its web page. Any new information on the service, especially schedule information, is uploaded regularly and in timely fashion.

As one of the service's regulars, I have nothing but praise for the teams on shore - customer service staff and security officers, and the teams on deck - the captains and their crews. They are friendly and polite and, apart from the very rare mechanical failure, they ensure that the service runs on time all the time.

For my readers, the following is the need-to-know information on the service, culled from the Water Taxi Service page:
  1. Terminals - There are two terminals supporting the service at present
    1. No. 1 Wrightson Road, Port of Spain (next to Femmes du Chalet a.k.a. The Breakfast Shed)
    2. Flat Rock, Lady Hailes Avenue, San Fernando (between WASA and the Fish Market)
  2. Shuttle Service - As part of the service, the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) offers a bus shuttle service from the Port of Spain terminal on two routes through the city. This is at a cost of TT$3.00, and service must be purchased at time of ticket purchase for the ferry. (I'll get the routes and update this post with them later...)
  3. Ticketing - One-way tickets between the two ports in any direction cost TT$15.00. Optional shuttle service in Port of Spain is an add-on cost for a total of TT$18.00. Tickets may be purchased at both terminals on the day of travel or in advance. Ticket purchase is subject to availability of seats on each scheduled sailing.
  4. Safety and Security - There are security officers stationed in the car parks, at both terminal facilities, and there is a security officer assigned to travel on each sailing. Travellers are all scanned and searched at point of entry. To ensure the safety of all passengers, no weapons are allowed on board the boats. Passengers carrying knives or sharp tools are asked to turn them over to the security officer who travels on the boat, and the items will be returned when they disembark. The Management further, in its sole discretion, will refuse to allow on board intoxicated or unruly persons.
  5. Contact Information - Phone contact for the offices at the two terminals is as follows:
    1. San Fernando --- 657- 5434 or 652- 9980
    2. Port of Spain --- 624- 3281 or 624- 6563
  6. Sailing Schedule - The sailing schedule as at last week is as follows. The current schedule is always available at the NIDCO site where any changes to the schedule, including the addition of special sailings, will also be posted. The schedule can be confirmed at the numbers above.

    • Departure from San Fernando:
      • Morning: 5:45, 6:30, 6:50, 8:00, 9:45
      • Evening: 1:15, 2:15, 3:15, 4:15, 4:45, 6:00
    • Departure from Port of Spain:
      • Morning: 6:50, 7:35, 8:00, 9:05, 10:50
      • Evening: 2:30, 3:30, 4:45, 5:30, 6:00, 7:05

After observing some warahoon behaviour while waiting for the boat at both terminals (and I make all apologies here to the Warahoon Amerindian Tribe... these Trinis really give you all a bad name...), the following is added as should-know information about the service.

One. There is no such thing as a "Stand By Ticket"
Tickets are sold for a particular sailing. Period. There is nothing like buying a ticket in the hope that a boat will have seats at time of sailing. If the 140-something seats are sold in advance of the sailing, then that's it. The boat is considered full. They're gone. There are no more tickets.

Two. You can't miss the 3:30 boat and expect to use your 3:30 ticket for the 4:45 sailing
If you paid for a seat for the 3:30 and you missed the sailing, it's your loss. The staff of the Water Taxi Service are not beholden to let you on the next sailing for free, which is what you're basically telling them to do.

Three. The boat is not going to wait for you
The posted sailing time is the sailing time, not a minute before or after. Once the ramp is off the boat, that's it. It's gone. And so is your ticket's usefulness. So time your business to make sure that you arrive at the terminal ahead of sail time.

Four. There is an order to seating and boarding in the terminal
It is not a free-for-all. Persons board the boat row by row from the Terminal's waiting area. If you want on the boat earlier than everyone else then you need to get to the terminal early and sit as close to the front as seats are available. You cannot expect to sit somewhere off to the back and then think that you can board earlier than the people who arrived later. If they're sitting ahead of you, they board before you. It's that simple. Further, if a member of the service staff comes and asks you kindly to move forward and fill out the seats ahead of you and you choose not to move, don't be an idiot and think that you can badger your way on board before your time. Indeed, I wish sometimes that they would invoke the Unruly Passenger Rule so that I don't have to hear you grumble for the entire hour about how piggish the security officers are.

Five. It's not a joy ride
For the majority of the people who use the service, it's a means to get into Port of Spain for work in the morning and back home from work on an afternoon. Consequently, the sailings that are heaviest subscribed are the ones highlighted in bold and red text above. These are the services most likely to be sold out because persons tend to buy their tickets well in advance. It guarantees that they get to work on time, and back home in a similarly timely fashion. This brings me to another point...

Six. It's not you and your friends alone on the boat
The Water Taxi is a commuter service, not an amusement park ride. Be mindful of that when you're chatting loudly and laughing like a howler monkey (you know who you are!) over the low drone of the engines. You have people around you who might be trying to catch a snooze or wind down after a long day at work. Bear that in mind too while you let your children rock excitedly on the seat in front of them as they try to peer out the windows at... well... the Gulf of Paria. Please try to have some consideration for your fellow passengers. It's nice to be nice.

(So I'm being a little bit unkind with the howler monkey bit...Sorry, howler monkeys of the world...)

Seven. It's not Movietowne
Yes, there are monitors and a large flat screen TV on the boats. Right now they're used to show the safety message and life jacket demonstration at the start of the journey. But don't think that you're going to be watching the latest movies released in cinemas nationwide. Walk with an iPod (or similar device), book, magazine or the papers to entertain yourself with.

Now the above are not hard and fast rules. Regulars (read: people who use the service every day) may enjoy a little leeway from time to time, but for the most part know not to take advantage of the staff's good nature.

And finally, for the naysayers...

Eight. The Water Taxi Service works
  • It's not a waste of tax payers' money.
  • In spite of what the naysayers have to say, it's a popular transportation option for which sailings had to be added in order to keep up with demand.
  • There is no way that more buses on the highway could have produced a service that guarantees an hour long trip at regularly scheduled times between Port of Spain and San Fernando, especially during rush hour.
  • In spite of Trini mauvais langue in some quarters, the boats do not break down all the time.
  • Nobody gets stranded in the Gulf of Paria.
  • The ride isn't rough and you're not going to be throwing up all over yourself.
  • The trip usually takes less than the scheduled hour. Some of the captains have been able to cut as much as 15 minutes off the trip on occasion.
  • The service makes a difference in the lives of as many as 140 persons per trip in terms of time, energy and frustration, with a 400-seater still to come into service.
  • It's not a waste of tax payers' money.

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Lost Generation

Something uplifting today...

The God in whom I believe agreed with Abraham to leave Sodom be if there were just 10 good men to be found in the city [Genesis 18:16-33].  I know at least nine other conscious and conscientious people myself, so I don't think that we're lost or failed or damned here in Trinidad and Tobago either.

Fixing us is easy though.  We just need to do what's necessary to reverse our current path.  Make sure that as you click "Play" on the video below that you don't just listen intently, but you also read the text displayed.

Now go out there this week and do what you can in your own space to turn things around.

(Thanks Tamara for sharing this with me...)
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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Staying Safe on Social Network Sites

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 25: In this photo illu...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
It has been a dark day, and also one of incredible enlightenment. I've been hearing all day from people who have friends that use popular social networking sites for hook-ups, in a number of cases leading to grave disappointment.

We will probably never know though how many persons have come to shame, loss or injury as a result of their links in these spaces. But we heard today about an alleged murder, possibly linked to a lapse in judgment in the use of one of these sites.

The thing is though that like any other tool, a social networking site can be of benefit, but it can also prove dangerous if used improperly or recklessly.

I could sit and write a treatise myself on how to stay safe in Cyberspace. Essentially, all it takes is a modicum of common sense. However, several persons and bodies have already written at length on the measures that persons should take to avoid danger.

Among the most comprehensive sets of recommendations I've seen so far is that issued by the United Stated Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT). Their Cyber Security Tip ST06-003 titled, "Staying Safe on Social Network Sites" reads as follows, providing a comprehensive overview of what social networking is, and how to stay safe online. In the same way that we can warn each other about the dangers of just walking the road, let's warn each other about the dangers that lurk in Cyberspace and keep each other safe.

What are social networking sites?

Social networking sites, sometimes referred to as "friend-of-a-friend" sites, build upon the concept of traditional social networks where you are connected to new people through people you already know. The purpose of some networking sites may be purely social, allowing users to establish friendships or romantic relationships, while others may focus on establishing business connections.
Although the features of social networking sites differ, they all allow you to provide information about yourself and offer some type of communication mechanism (forums, chat rooms, email, instant messenger) that enables you to connect with other users. On some sites, you can browse for people based on certain criteria, while other sites require that you be "introduced" to new people through a connection you share. Many of the sites have communities or subgroups that may be based on a particular interest.

What security implications do these sites present?

Social networking sites rely on connections and communication, so they encourage you to provide a certain amount of personal information. When deciding how much information to reveal, people may not exercise the same amount of caution as they would when meeting someone in person because
  • the internet provides a sense of anonymity
  • the lack of physical interaction provides a false sense of security
  • they tailor the information for their friends to read, forgetting that others may see it
  • they want to offer insights to impress potential friends or associates
While the majority of people using these sites do not pose a threat, malicious people may be drawn to them because of the accessibility and amount of personal information that's available. The more information malicious people have about you, the easier it is for them to take advantage of you. Predators may form relationships online and then convince unsuspecting individuals to meet them in person. That could lead to a dangerous situation. The personal information can also be used to conduct a social engineering attack (see Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks for more information). Using information that you provide about your location, hobbies, interests, and friends, a malicious person could impersonate a trusted friend or convince you that they have the authority to access other personal or financial data.
Additionally, because of the popularity of these sites, attackers may use them to distribute malicious code. Sites that offer applications developed by third parties are particularly susceptible. Attackers may be able to create customized applications that appear to be innocent while infecting your computer without your knowledge.

How can you protect yourself?

  • Limit the amount of personal information you post - Do not post information that would make you vulnerable, such as your address or information about your schedule or routine. If your connections post information about you, make sure the combined information is not more than you would be comfortable with strangers knowing. Also be considerate when posting information, including photos, about your connections.
  • Remember that the internet is a public resource - Only post information you are comfortable with anyone seeing. This includes information and photos in your profile and in blogs and other forums. Also, once you post information online, you can't retract it. Even if you remove the information from a site, saved or cached versions may still exist on other people's machines (see Guidelines for Publishing Information Online for more information).
  • Be wary of strangers - The internet makes it easy for people to misrepresent their identities and motives (see Using Instant Messaging and Chat Rooms Safely for more information). Consider limiting the people who are allowed to contact you on these sites. If you interact with people you do not know, be cautious about the amount of information you reveal or agreeing to meet them in person.
  • Be skeptical - Don't believe everything you read online. People may post false or misleading information about various topics, including their own identities. This is not necessarily done with malicious intent; it could be unintentional, an exaggeration, or a joke. Take appropriate precautions, though, and try to verify the authenticity of any information before taking any action.
  • Evaluate your settings - Take advantage of a site's privacy settings. The default settings for some sites may allow anyone to see your profile. You can customize your settings to restrict access to only certain people. However, there is a risk that even this private information could be exposed, so don't post anything that you wouldn't want the public to see. Also, be cautious when deciding which applications to enable, and check your settings to see what information the applications will be able to access.
  • Use strong passwords - Protect your account with passwords that cannot easily be guessed (see Choosing and Protecting Passwords for more information). If your password is compromised, someone else may be able to access your account and pretend to be you.
  • Check privacy policies - Some sites may share information such as email addresses or user preferences with other companies. This may lead to an increase in spam (see Reducing Spam for more information). Also, try to locate the policy for handling referrals to make sure that you do not unintentionally sign your friends up for spam. Some sites will continue to send email messages to anyone you refer until they join.
  • Use and maintain anti-virus software - Anti-virus software recognizes most known viruses and protects your computer against them, so you may be able to detect and remove the virus before it can do any damage (see Understanding Anti-Virus Software for more information). Because attackers are continually writing new viruses, it is important to keep your definitions up to date.
Children are especially susceptible to the threats that social networking sites present. Although many of these sites have age restrictions, children may misrepresent their ages so that they can join. By teaching children about internet safety, being aware of their online habits, and guiding them to appropriate sites, parents can make sure that the children become safe and responsible users (see Keeping Children Safe Online for more information).
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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Open Post to Mr. Lennox Grant as follow-up to our previous discussion...

Concerning our prior discussion and Trinidad Express article at http://www.trinidadexpress.com/index.pl/article_news?id=161474253...


And just in case you need a definition:
  1. Trini slang, used to describe sucking teeth, usually used as a gesture of disapproval or annoyance. The longer and louder the "steups" is denotes the severity of annoyance and frustration
  2. An action of utter disgust; also referred to as sucking your teeth
SOURCE: Urban Dictionary, http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=steups

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The 5th Summit of the Americas - Ego vs Cuba vs Rhetoric

By Anthony Maillard
I’ve received several ‘egging / probing’ questions from people abroad trying to elicit my reaction on the just completed 5th Summit of the Americas. As an expatriate having returned to Trinidad and Tobago 7 years ago, I suppose they feel I may have a different perspective on the weekend.
So, you got me! I guess the best place to start would be to say that the new Waterfront in Port of Spain looks spectacular. It’s great to see that we can finally afford to build a beautiful place where we can enjoy the ocean while we are ‘downtown.’ Reminiscent of Toronto, Chicago; et al, the new Waterfront is really tranquil; the water-fountain – spectacular.
The clean-up around the city from Arima to Chaguramas has been mammoth and excellent. The pre-Summit security exercises were exaggerated and served their purpose of ‘putting the fear of God’ into the population so that we would stay home (at least away from Port of Spain and off the highways) on the weekend of the Summit.  This was great psychology on the part of the government causing the public to initiate a self-imposed ‘public holiday.’ The businesses that insisted on opening on the Friday and Saturday were forced to eventually close their doors as there were no shoppers anywhere to be found and staying open was probably costing them more…
Then the children, sorry, the Leaders arrived and started to ruin everything.  At least ruin our vision and expectations of just how Leaders should behave and opening our eyes to the ‘non-expectations’ of
the Summit.
Embarrassment from the Start
Mr. Barack Obama’s plane landed 20 minutes early and rather than wait in the extreme comfort of his Air Force One, Mr. Nice Guy (The Man) decided that everyone else should wait on him while he disembarked, leaving other Leaders in their planes or in the airport while everything within 2 miles of his presence was locked down. No ego there….
Never mind that the Prime Minister of the host country, Mr. Patrick Manning, was already in transit to the airport, albeit, on time, to greet you.
I guess waiting inside Air Force One was out of the question. No, no ego there…
Then there was the failure of the security team at the Hyatt Hotel to control the delegates and press corps (notice I didn’t say angry mob) – delegates and press corps – from mobbing Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez when he exited his limousine. This was immediate notification to the US Secret Service and The Man that they would be entering the Hyatt via the loading dock. No photographs, no handshakes just disappointed fans.
The indiscipline of the press corps seemed to continue throughout the weekend as they were locked out of several Summit sessions.
The Opening Ceremony - Cultural
People keep telling me that Brian McFarlane is a genius. Okay! Pretty mas’, pretty mas’ everywhere. 

Not a piece of ‘Traditional Mas’ represented or even representation by calypsonian Lord Relator to sing a witty but ‘canned’ Extempo verse or two and bring some humour to the function. Pretty mas’, pretty mas’ everywhere.
Even my five-year old asked why there were no blue devils. And he hates the devil mas.’ Pretty mas’, pretty mas’ everywhere.
David Rudder was allotted his two verses and had to leave.  Pretty mas’, pretty mas’ everywhere.
The East Indian Dancers and Parang singers seemed inserted – as an after-thought. Pretty mas’, pretty mas’ everywhere.
Arrow’s Hot Hot Hot was too long and no cameraman could find him among the pretty mas’, pretty mas’ everywhere.
Machel Montano’s We Not Giving Up is a poignant song with lyrics that run out after a minute and fifteen seconds so his five-minute plus rendition of the song was certainly – repetitive. He was surrounded with pretty mas’, pretty mas’ everywhere so I suppose that made everything okay.
All I have to say is – “Where’s Peter Minshall when you need him?”
Who’s Who
Let me get this out of the way – asking why Puerto Rico is not at the Summit is the same as asking why the USVI is not also attending and if you have to ask, please don’t read any further.
We didn’t start cleaning-up the country last week, so I know they didn’t write the invitations three weeks ago.   The Leaders must have known for over a year now that Cuba was NOT invited to the Summit so why make it the hottest issue 2 weeks before the meeting. Smoke and mirrors and rhetoric! Pure rhetoric!
During the Opening Ceremonies, Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua) speaks for 55 minutes and blames the US for everything but the kitchen sink. He clearly states his position as representing the Latin American countries (ALMA) and announces at the end of his marathon diatribe that they will not be supporting the Declaration of Port of Spain.  (At this point, I’m thinking to myself – ‘okay, so why are we here again?’)
Cuba, Tourism, Cuba, Poverty, Cuba, Economy, Cuba
As far as the issue of Cuba is concerned, the Leaders at the Summit are to be chastised for their 'b***s*** flinging rhetoric.'  They mentioned Cuba... The Man responded.  (Look at the major strides he has made within the 90 days of being in office regarding Cuba – significantly more than the Bush Administrations have
accomplished in 16 years of power.)  He certainly cannot be expected to wave a magic wand and have the Cuban situation suddenly change overnight.  He has stated emphatically that he is heading in the same positive direction and the changes will take time. So, we’re here for three days – let’s drink some Carib, enjoy Brian McFarlane’s show and move on….   
Even Prime Minister Manning tried pleading with the Leaders and the Press to not allow any one issue to dominate the Summit. HA! Good luck! 

The Leaders and the Press Corp refuse to leave the Cuba issue alone - so Obama decides to ignore them because they are obviously 'playing politics for the world stage.'
President Hugo Chavez's behaviour was at first friendly to Obama but then it turned disrespectful.  I mean, The Man had already shaken your hand and was very cordial with you – especially after all the 'unnecessary' names you called him when he was running for the Presidency. 
Obama turned the other cheek.
You made it a point to try and upstage him.  He turned the other cheek.
Then you further insulted him by publically presenting him with a book on Latin America when you, Chavez could have just as easily sent the book privately via one of your aides...
Then you force The Man to stand up to receive the book and 'another handshake' for the press as if this was a formal presentation and photo-op. Obama takes it all in stride. He obliged and turned the other cheek.
Let's see if I get this right:

Message from Leaders to Obama
  1. Please fix the economic crisis – now!
  1. Please make sure that your tourists come to our shores so my (not our) economy could thrive...
  1. Recognize and remove all sanctions from Cuba... NOW!   Oh, I forgot to stress -- ALL!!
  1. We like the money the IMF gives us but could you make it Interest Free?  And could you stop monitoring what we do with the money, we just want to spend it and not be accountable. As a matter of fact, 'jus' gi we di money and forget about it. We hear dat you have plenty money.’
  1. What are you doing about Haiti?  Whatever it is, it's not enough.
  1. Apparently, you just dropped from a tree and nobody told you about the Contras; the CIA in South America; the killings and kidnappings; the collapse of the Venezuelan economy many years ago; the Venezuelan army encroaching into Guyana; etc; etc; etc.
  1. Did we happen to mention the DRUGS from Latin America?   The puppet dictatorships and the governments that are funded/controlled by the drug lords?
  1. Just in case, they missed anything during your 5 months of Presidential briefings; here's a book to read on what a wonderful place Latin America is.... No, I didn't write it!  It was written by some other 'educated' guy using big words.
Message from Obama to Leaders
  1. Anybody else willing to stand up and take some blame here….??
  2. I’ll ask again: “Anybody else willing to stand up and take some blame? How about accepting some responsibility? No?
  1. Then ‘Bite Me!’ Manning, nice show, I’m off…I’ll see ya’ when I see ya’.
The Declaration of Port of Spain.
What is that....? Exactly?
The last time six of my siblings were at my sister's home, we couldn't agree on any three consecutive things.  We couldn’t agree on where to go for dinner. How in Heaven's name is 34 American Leaders going to magically agree on 63 different issues?   They don't even speak the same language.  (Coming to think of it neither does some of my siblings or maybe I just wasn't listening.)
Have you read the Declaration of Port of Spain?  It's 22 pages of "we pledge to intensify our fight against poverty, hunger, social exclusion, discrimination and inequality...."etc etc etc.
Here are some interesting highlights:
Point #74:    We recognise that violence is preventable and as such, we will formulate or strengthen policies that take an integrated approach to its prevention. (Condensed)
Point #75:    We are convinced that illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, ammunition, explosives and other related materials are a threat to security, breed violence, exacerbate conflicts and adversely affect the rule of law. (Condensed.)
Point #77:    We also emphasise our decision to address the criminal gang problem, its related aspects and its effects on the social environment, which challenge the progress made by our societies in... (Condensed.)
Point #80:    We will strengthen our fight against all forms of corruption, fraudulent practices and unethical behaviour by increasing transparency, integrity, accountability and efficiency in the public and private sectors. (Condensed.)
Point #81:    Alarmed by the corrupt, illegal and fraudulent practices in the management of some national and transnational private enterprises, which have a negative impact on the economies of our countries and could present a threat to their political and democratic stability, we will continue to enhance legal mechanisms for information sharing, and we will develop and implement policies that foster a culture of integrity and transparency within public and private offices and institutions. (Condensed.)
And My Personal Favourite:
Point #82:    We reaffirm the principles contained in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, which recognises that all human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated. We recognise that the universal promotion and protection of human rights, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as respect for international law, including international humanitarian law, international human rights law and international refugee law, are essential to the functioning of democratic societies. We further recognise that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action reaffirms, inter alia, the importance of ensuring the universality and objectivity of the consideration of human rights issues.
I think you get my drift.  Anybody else feel like grabbing a Carib and heading to the beach.  I mean, where do I sign up?  This stuff is great!   They actually pay people to write this stuff!!??   Anybody with medium-level experience in writing a press release could have written this document.

Embarrassment to the end
I think that by Sunday afternoon, when Obama politely bid farewell to Prime Minister Manning on the steps of the Diplomatic Centre and rushed off to give the US Press Corp and CNN his live press conference, it was obvious that he had had enough of the 'everything is your fault -- US bashing' rhetoric.
Have you ever tried taking a group photo at a family gathering? With ALL the family members? Just imagine the challenge of getting these 31 Leaders, who just forced you to sign your own Declaration of Port of Spain as the sole signatory, to pose and take a group photograph. HA! Good luck!

My Final Thoughts
The Leaders admit that their record of accomplishment for implementing any of the previous Summit Declarations is not good.  (Now they tell us.) Knowing this and a whole lot more, a team of sub-SUMMIT-ites sat in a hotel for several months writing the Declaration of Port of Spain.
Did you notice that there was no review of the Action Items from the last Summit Declaration and no mention as to any accountability on any items that were defined in that document?  All we know is that, 'people in this region have a poor track record of implementation.' (Now I’ve learnt that this lackadaisical attitude extends to the people in Latin America and not just the Caribbean, I feel a whole lot better….  I thought it was just us in Trinidad and Tobago.)
So, let me go back to the 34 Leaders who cannot agree on 63 points versus my six siblings who cannot agree on three... And I totally understand.  Like totally!! Did I mention the waterfront?
Let’s do this again in 4 years, shall we?
All photos by A. Maillard; © Jet Video

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Chuckling at the Mainstream Press on a Sunday Morning

People who know me know are aware of my views on the media, among my pet peeves being the wanton use of the word "alleged" to publish and broadcast scandal.  Indeed, in a number of cases, "responsible journalism" appears to have joined the ranks of "Police intelligence" and "Honourable Member of Parliament".

One would think that in the face of fairly regular media criticism that editorial staff would try to do what was necessary to make sure that media houses didn't end up in further disrepute or, at worst, sued.

I've had my own issues with one daily paper which I wrote about in 2006.  In those days, I'd written a commentary on the Keith Noel 136 Committee's death march.  Some goodly individual sent my piece to the Trinidad Express and managed to get published in the letter's section under their own name.  When I went to Express House myself - not to complain, but simply to ask questions about the press in general, the letters to the editor process, and editorial policy - I was turned around at the Security desk.  The officer spoke to "one of the editors" he'd said, and told me that they had said that the paper picks a few letters at random for publication, that they are not responsible for their content, and that there was no question of retraction.

At the time, I didn't have a leg to stand on but I knew it before I went to Express House.  I'd sent the piece to a few friends via email and it went viral.  In fact, it ended up in my own inbox seven or eight times over the course of the following forty-eight hours.  And it was another friend who advised that it had been published, but under another name.  If someone took my piece to the paper and said that it was theirs, there was nothing that I could really do about it.  I'd never published it myself.

However, I can chuckle when I see the same Trinidad Express print a letter to the editor whose content is almost a wholesale copy of a commentary published by one of their competitors nearly three weeks earlier.

Somehow, I doubt that Paolo Kernahan is using the pseudonym "Imran Daniel" to get his work printed in both newspapers.  And truth be told, if the editor who passed the letter had done as little as a Google search for "summitification", they would have picked up on a clear case of plagiarism; as of today, Paolo's piece is still the first item in the search results.

A case of rushing to press at the expense of quality?  It might be said that the Opinion section of the paper is one of the least critical, but I wonder what else might have been overlooked over time...

That said, may all have a blessed and holy Easter and a relaxing long weekend.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Keira Knightley's Anti-Domestic Violence Public Service Announcement

London-born actress Keira Knightley has been cast in several tough girl roles, from bounty hunter Domino Harvey, a re-imagining of Queen Guinevere in Antoine Fuqua's King Arthur, to pirate captain Elizabeth Swann in the Pirates of the Caribbean series.  But none of those can really prepare you for the gut wrench that you will feel watching this public service announcement bringing light to the issue of domestic violence against women.

According to the friend who sent me the link to this video, it's not for the faint of heart.  And I agree with the blogger on whose site I viewed it when they say that they cringe every time Knightley says, "Sorry we didn't agree to that. It wasn't in the script..."

The video is chilling and far too real, and has apparently stirred some controversy.  But it seems apt in these times where shock value seems to provide the most weight in getting a message out.

Domestic violence is not a problem in the United Kingdom only though, and its prevalence right here at home is "alarming", as admitted by the Minister of Social Development Amery Browne recently.  But there is help.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-SAVE (800-7283) provides 24-hour telephone counselling, support and access to safe accommodation.  There is more information to be found on additional services available, including community-based drop-in centres, at the GoTT's TTconnect site.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Transport Commissioner speaks on "PH" cars...

From an article by Gyasi Gonzales in the Trinidad Express:
Police certificate of good character: $50.
Inspection of car: $150.
Four passport size photos: $40.
New number plates: $50 - $70.
Medical exam: $200.
Plying one's own car for hire on the roads of Trinidad and Tobago without getting a ticket ... Priceless!

The above figures, which total between $490 and $510, are approximately how much it would cost the "PH" driver to "fall within the ambit of the law" and convert their cars into a legitimate public transportation option.

There are 35,350 cars on the roads of Trinidad and Tobago registered to ply as taxis.

Both Acting Police Commissioner James Philbert and Works and Transport Minister Colm Imbert have signalled that strong action would be taken against PH drivers, following several high profile crimes allegedly done by some in their midst.

In a brief interview yesterday, Transport Commissioner Rueben Cato said he had been contacted by groups representing the interests of "PH" drivers who wanted to discuss the intended crackdown against them by the police. They wanted to know if some sort of arrangement could be hammered out with respect to them continuing their trade.

His response to them was "in no uncertain terms" could he entertain them, adding that "PH is illegal and I am not speaking to anyone". He noted that "it is not that difficult at all" to make both car and driver into a legal business entity.

Cato first outlined the steps and the costs involved in getting a taxi-driver's badge. He said the driver would first have to obtain a police certificate of good character.

"You must have a clean police record but depending on the nature of the record (if there is one) we will still consider you," he said.

He explained that "If a man was charged with weed 15 to 20 years ago" he would be considered. He said, however, that for serious crimes, the chances of getting a taxi-driver's badge would be difficult. Cato added that it was a two to three week process in terms of getting the police certificate and the candidate must be driving for more than one year and be over the age of 21.

The driver's medical condition has to be considered as well. A medical certificate with respect to the condition of the candidate's eyesight, hearing and limbs has to be tendered along with the police record during the application process. Four passport sized photos have to be submitted as well. This takes care of the driver.

There is another process for the car. At a cost of $150, the car has to be inspected if it is over five years old. In fact, as a hired vehicle, it has to be inspected every year. Seatbelts, brakes, lights, engine, tyres and body of the car will be checked. If the car proves to be in good working condition, the car can then be converted into a hired vehicle. Cato estimated that new plates would cost between $50 and $70.

"I am cautioning all owners of private cars who allow these vehicles to work as PH to comply with the laws and have their vehicles changed to H to fall within the ambits of the law and protect the travelling public," he said.

"To those who say they are providing a service, if you care about these people you will turn your car to H to protect them so that in case of an accident they will be covered by insurance."

Monday, March 16, 2009

What is a Recession?

I can't take credit for the following text. A friend of mine shared it with a group I belong to today, and I felt it was worth sharing as well.
This story is about a man who once upon a time was selling Hotdogs by the roadside. He was illiterate, so he never read newspapers. He was hard of hearing, so he never listened to the radio. His eyes were weak, so he never watched television. But enthusiastically, he sold lots of hotdogs.

He was smart enough to offer some attractive schemes to increase his sales. His sales and profit went up. He ordered more a more raw material and buns and sold more. He recruited more supporting staff to serve more customers. He started offering home deliveries. Eventually he got himself a bigger and better stove. As his business was growing, the son, who had recently graduated from college, joined his father.

Then something strange happened.

The son asked, "Dad, aren't you aware of the great recession that is coming our way?" The father replied, "No, but tell me about it." The son said, "The international situation is terrible. The domestic situation is even worse. We should be prepared for the coming bad times."

The man thought that since his son had been to college, read the papers, listened to the radio and watched TV. He ought to know and his advice should not be taken lightly. So the next day onwards, the father cut down the his raw material order and buns, took down the colorful signboard, removed all the special schemes he was offering to the customers and was no longer as enthusiastic. He reduced his staff strength by giving layoffs. Very soon, fewer and fewer people bothered to stop at his Hotdog stand. And his sales started coming down rapidly and so did the profit. The father said to his son, "Son, you were right". "We are in the middle of a recession and crisis. I am glad you warned me ahead of time."

Moral of the Story: It's all in your MIND! And we actually FUEL this recession much more than we think.

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