Friday, 18 July 2014

Water to the Rescue

This is pretty good timing. It's summer. In a few weeks, the temps will start falling - sharply. Over the years, I've noticed that whenever the temperatures move sharply in either direction, I develop those horrible, horrible facial appliques: cold sores/fever blisters/night fever. Yeeaaah.

Most people who get these cold sores get them on their upper lip. In my case? On. My. Nose. You heard me. And, it's not like I get to stay home while this thing manifests itself all over my face. (Which is what it feels like.) Nooo. I still gotta go outside; talk to people; go to work and attend meetings.

Apart from the fact that those things are painful and annoying, they are terribly unsightly. You walk around thinking everyone is looking at that...that thing on your face!

So, imagine my relief when I heard about Abreva. All that was required was to apply a bit to the area at the first tingle. As a matter of fact, they made it sound like we should kinda anticipate when it was gonna turn up, and apply it preemptively. But, first tingle was a good gauge. I bought it - almost $20 for a 2g tube! - and tried it for few seasons. It didn't remove it overnight, but, through frequent application (I'm almost sure I applied more often than instructed), it didn't last as long. The thing stayed put and started drying up after about four days instead of six or...fifteen. Again, how it felt.

Then, one day, I happened to be talking to my mom about something or other. She mentioned that she always keeps a glass of water by her bedside to have some during the night. I started doing that. It wasn't until some time after a change from one season to another, that I realised I had not been afflicted with a cold sore! If what I had felt after using the Abreva was relief, what I felt after "using" the water was sheer joy!

It's been almost two years and I have not had another cold sore since starting my nightly water regimen. I have a glass of water before bed and another when I get back from the loo in the middle of the night. It's like clockwork, now. There are a few other health benefits, too. And, not to mention, as a friend of mine said once when I was letting some thoughts get the better of me, "Oh, have some water. I know it relaxes you." It does. And, I still smile at that.

"Talk to your doctor to see if water is right for you." Yeeaaah. That's not an ad we're gonna see anytime soon, is it?


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Train Wrecks Are Hard to Watch

Ask me what I'm doing.

Glad you asked. Apart from writing this post, I'm watching highlights of the Brazil vs Germany World Cup match I watched in its entirety earlier this afternoon. Now, I don't know what has happened to me of late. I tune in during the day. (My work gets done. Led the Annual Report project this year and was told that it was the first time it was submitted up the ladder by the deadline. But I digress.) I watch the matches and get home and tune in to watch the Adidas Prime Time highlights on CBC. Who is this? And what has happened to her?...Me?

I'm not a huge fan of any sport. Cricket, football, wrestling (yes, it's real - enough) and track and field were part of my childhood. These days, I don't find myself in "I gotta see this game!" mode, ordinarily. But, I do get into the spirit of things once I start following a game. It was like that with Canada and hockey during the winter Olympics. It's contagious, man!  This year, I decided - well, @MizDurie and I decided - we'd root for Argentina. The decision was made rather quickly and without fanfare. We thought we should carry a team and we went with Argentina. In making our announcement, we tweeted/RT'd asking folks to scoot over on the wagon. (Funny. People say "wagonist" as though it were a bad thing.)

The first couple of games they played had us wondering. I noticed a few people asking whether other teams' wagons had room! Lol! But, as I said to one person, I stick. Well, so far, so good. Argentina has made it to the semi finals and they play the Netherlands tomorrow.

But today. Today was not Brazil's best day. The rate of my tweets about the unfolding massacre could hardly keep up: In minutes 11, 23, 24, 26, 29, 69 and 79 Germany fired off those goals like they'd brought tanks onto the field and were executing with precision. It was one of the most devastating onslaughts I have ever witnessed in the sport. And, to think, at this level! In Brazil's own office! Those Germans were scoring in poetry and celebrating in prose.

Of course, Twitter was doing what Twitter does - being hilarious and, occasionally irreverent. There was simply shock and awe and disbelief all around. After the...match - and I use that term loosely - newspapers the world over screamed similar headlines, all underscoring the horror we had all just witnessed. Here's a report on FIFA's website for Brazil coach Scolari's response. The cameras picked up Brazil's supporters in tears. Correction. Supporters were bawling. Players, too. There is crying in football. It was hard to watch. Correction. It was really excruciating to watch. Finally, in the 90th minute, Brazil got one in. Summed up quite aptly by the commentator, "I've never seen a less celebrated goal in all my life. The Brazilian supporters don't know whether to laugh or to cry or to cheer or to ...groan." I imagined by then, for the Germans, the thrill of victory had waned a bit. Brazil's agony from the sheer terror of defeat? Not so much.

The catastrophe was like a train wreck - hard to watch but we couldn't look away.


Saturday, 28 June 2014

Could I Make It In Kindergarten?

Most schools have, by now, let out for the summer break. My almost Two year-old nephew's care...early (I really gotta brush up on this for future reference) is no exception. I got wind of his report card and the little fellow mastered all areas. Cool.

The areas under evaluation, however, got me thinking. Koko, so affectionately called, is almost Two. He has mastered the motor skill of scribbling spontaneously. Uh-huh! Question is, have I mastered the skill of scribbling spontaneously? Intrigued as to where this evaluation of my motor, cognitive and social/language skills would lead, I decided to take the plunge and consider a few areas in each category. Could I make it in kindergarten? Hey, don't knock it 'til you've tried it. Try it.

Motor Skills

Can feed self with spoon: For the most part, yes. I have a pretty good idea how wide I've opened my mouth to receive self-fed food.

Able to drink from a cup with lid/without lid: Well, which is it?! And, have they never heard of straws?

Walks up/down stairs with help: Did I mention that I fell up the stairs the other day? No? I fell up the stairs the other day.

Begins to run: Happy to say, yes. But, what is a respectable, face-saving distance at which to stop?

Scribbles spontaneously: Ace this! Catch me in a meeting. Any meeting.

Cognitive Skills

Begins to participate in make believe play: Around here I call it dreaming. So, yes. It is integral to writing.

Enjoys taking things apart: Have we met?

Wants to explore surroundings: That I do. A.k.a., travel more of the world.

Can/will follow directions: Can't promise outright. It depends.

Points to 3 or 4 body parts when asked: Can't promise outright. It depends.

Enjoys looking at the same books: Yes. And, occasionally, reads them!

Social Skills/Language

Exhibits mature jabbering: But a wha dis Faada? What the heck?

Responds to yes/no questions regarding wants and needs: Yes. Sometimes. Okay, for the most part.

Refers to self by name: Get out!! I used to do that?

Gets angry and has mastered temper tantrums: This one's a trap! A classic "Have you stopped beating your wife?"

Acts shy around strangers: Define "shy".

Engages in parallel play (alongside other children): Never! Okay. Kidding. I've been known to play.

Your turn.


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Loyalty Schmoyalty: Which Team's Winning?

My sis, Durie, called to find out how Kiki, our 5yo niece, was coping with the fact that Greece was losing the match last Saturday. See, they had both decided to root for Greece. (I don't know why. Let's move on.) Colombia, though, was leading by two goals on that third day of World Cup 2014. Her mother - our sis - kindly informed her that Kiki had switched over to root for Colombia. She said Kiki had asked her, "Mommy? Where are all the blue people? I'm only seeing yellow!"

When Durie got her on the phone, Kiki quickly explained, "Well, I did start out cheering for Greece, but then Colombia was winning, so I started cheering for Colombia."

I cracked up when I heard that. What made it funnier was the thought that Durie, nestled in her neck of the woods, was thinking she had company in the misery of Greece's predicament. Only to find out after that fateful call that she was "compwetely and utterly awone." (Moulin Rouge)

But, it also got me thinking. The child was innocent and direct in her decision to go with the winning team! After all, who wants to be on the losing side? And, at what age or phase, or under what circumstance, does a sense of loyalty kick in? Sure she could stick with the losing team but...whyyy? In a later conversation with Durie, she said she imagined Kiki thinking, "What's in it for me?" Lol!!! The child had no ties whatsoever - and no qualms about going with the winner.

It was, undeniably, a fascinating thing to behold - a sense of duty and obligation (even if it meant enduring the misery of losing) vs. I'm-switching-to-the-winning-team. And for what? As sis asked, why do we feel so duty bound to stick? Perhaps it is to answer that call to belong; perhaps it is to be regarded as someone who can be relied upon.

In growing up, you definitely win and lose. For, how many of us, truth be told, would like to simply ditch a choice we made - not necessarily re World Cup - and go with a (more) winning option? But, we're all grown up now. Ours is not the luxury to change choices at the drop of a hat because, well, we understand that there may be ripple effects or consequences. There are people's feelings to consider; the job you want to keep; the mortgage to be paid; relationships you want to hold on to; the peace with which you want to go to bed, and so on. People are drawn to - and hold in higher regard - those who can be relied on; those who are there for you not only in the good times. These loyal folks are the ones, who, when you've given your best and haven't quite made the mark, are with you to support you and tell you all is not lost; better days are ahead; the light at the end of the tunnel is not the train coming - and whatever other cliché they can think of. I do see that coming out in my niece. She already has a well-developed kind and supportive way about her.

Our loyalty journey may very well start in our affection for our loved ones. We start with family - our first social group - and show our support as an expression of love. We want those we love to do well. If our little sister enters a 100m race, even if she places second, we don't suddenly start supporting the neighbour's child who placed first, do we? I said, "Do we?" I'm cracking up here because when I suggested that our niece might've continued her support if she'd had had a relative on the team, Durie said she wasn't so sure!

Where the football was concerned, however, Kiki hadn't budged an inch by the Argentina vs Bosnia-Herzegovina match the following day. I sat next to her as the teams played on and casually asked, "Which team are you rooting for?" Without missing a beat, "Which team's winning?" Lol!!!

Can hardly blame her. The lesson on loyalty can wait until after the World Cup. After all, she doesn't have a mortgage.



Sunday, 8 June 2014

A Frame of Reference

As I sat surrounded by members of my immediate family, aunts, uncles, and cousins, I couldn't help but think how things have changed over the years. Much has changed. And yet, so little has.

There's a line in the "Sunscreen Song" as it's popularly called, that says, "The older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young." I've loved that "song" (speech set to music, really) since it was released in the late nineties. That line, as so many others in it, rings wise.

Amidst the older folk, I thought back to my early years. Who would've thunk it? A little girl growing up in the hills of upper Clarendon in Jamaica; life taking the curves and turns it has; situations and circumstances playing out as they have, would be where she is today! The Lord has ordered my - our - steps to the present moment. So far, what a ride!

Life now is far different from those early years. But, the principles and legacy of values from those who've gone before, still stand. Whenever we get together, there are bound to be comparisons between generations as to features that bear a striking likeness - whether they be physical features or mannerisms or the way we walk or the inflections in talk. It's usually fun. They make it entertaining.

I realize I'm being vague. It's on purpose. I don't want to make this post about a series of family events. That'd be TMI. :-) Simply wanted to share that it's nice to stop and think, now and then, about where we're coming from and appreciate how far we have come. Sometimes we beat ourselves up because we haven't yet achieved this or done that. The truth is, every day is a struggle. And we're all - well, most of us, I'm wont to think - trying to make the best of it. Pretty sure we'd nod in agreement that we've come a long way and we're doing well. The late Professor Rex Nettleford once said, "We must have a frame of reference upon which to plot the new things that are upon us." How true. Those moments when we pause to reflect on our early years will help give us perspective.

The past few weeks have also given me an opportunity to serve. It's a blessing to be called upon to perform in a care-giving role; to be needed in that way and to carry out that function well. God has given me that strength and ability and it is an honour to be used in that way. As one aunt said today, "I get the feeling she enjoys doing it, you know!" I nodded in agreement, "Yes, I do, actually!" Someone once prayed for me that every thing I put my hands to will be blessed. His prayer continues to be answered in the affirmative.

What's that Bob Marley quote? "If my life a fi mi alone, mi nuh want it."


Wednesday, 28 May 2014

"We Shape Our Tools And Then Our Tools Shape Us."

"We shape our tools and then our tools shape us."
- Marshall McLuhan

Funny thing, how humans are. I like watching how the tools people shape, in turn shape them. The how and how fast they...we...are reshaped by the trappings, incisions and sculptings of our own instruments and devices. It's organic. It's fascinating. Correction: I love watching it.

Sometimes the reshaping unfolds with such organic poetry in motion, drawing us in with stealth and charm, we don't see it coming and, too soon, we can't look away. It's not always poetic, however. And, I imagine, that'd depend on the kind of poetry you're into. It's not always in motion - I'm thinking rhythmic. But, it is always organic.

Our new tools shape us and compel us to take on new norms. And, especially when these tools are tools of communication, and space abounds to interact with other humans, the new norms and unwritten rules grow quickly.

The premise upon which these norms and rules are built is simple - simple and strong and timeless. They are borne of, and rely on, the distinctiveness and predictability of the human condition. We need to belong; to be a part of something or someone. We need to feel we matter. We need to know that what we do has value - and so on.

Enter, Social Media. Specifically, those spaces that give users opportunities to vote/like/fav others' posts/images and what not. I imagine that's, like, all of them, right? I'm here, and on Twitter. Two platforms. That's about as much input from folks in cyberspace I choose to allow in my sphere. I've popped over to Instagram to check out pics when a few tweeps share an IG link - and I care. I'm no longer on FB - too psychologically demanding. (We've talked about that, yes?) Even comment sections in online newspapers allow readers to rate the quality/value of their fellow readers' thoughts. At every turn, if you wish to express an opinion or share a thought, you may expect to be rated/judged/marked.

Some rely on this. Some - it would seem - live for the sort of adulation showered upon them in these open spaces. The struggle for validation is real. It is such a waste of the person one is, but, it does happen.

What fascinates me, though, is that the rules are made up and applied as we go along - and how. We start using the tool and we institute our own rules - unknown to anyone else - regarding how we're going to "do this thing." Soon, as interactions and fans/friends/followers multiply; as we note their own rules and interact accordingly, something begins to happen. A general consensus and understanding begins to take shape about how we interact and why we now interact the way we do. A quick example is the fav/star button on Twitter. In the beginning, it was used primarily for that. You hit the star if the tweet was a favorite. Over time, people began to fav tweets for many reasons. I now do it for three reasons: I want to read it later. (It's easier to find in your favs than to go hunting it down in your tweep's, or, worse, some stranger's timeline.) I want to acknowledge someone who's mentioned/tagged me, but I don't want to have a convo. I want to end a convo with a tweep but without words. So, again with the acknowledgement bit. Oh, four. I actually like the tweet. Heh heh.

Look, there's no Twitter commandment that says thou shalt not steal tweets. Yet, people copy others' tweets and tweet them as if they were their own all the time. And if someone repeatedly does that, persons will not like it and they are likely to unfollow or block that user. Why? For the same reason you'd not want to associate with a thief, or someone who plagiarizes, in real life. It may be an online space, but associations and interactions are real and moving - for the most part. The bots and spammers get no love whatsoever. We get in. We pick up on little cues and norms. We figure out what's what, perhaps with some guidance along the way. Pretty soon, we find our comfort zone in how we want to "do this thing." Who people are in real life is what they come to the online space with if they are genuine in their interactions. Just give 'em time. It'll all come out in the wash. That's why the norms are so easily established. And the new norms - unique to that particular online space - arise partly because "the medium is the message" (McLuhan) and also because...humans.

What's also interesting is how some folks, over time, move away from their, well, their "original persona" as followers and such, grow. After all, one is now popular and has influence. Some go the route of commenting in a more, 'ow you saay, responsible manner. Others, not so much. It is true that these spaces can and do entice us to assume a different persona from the one we started out with, especially when we're chasing popularity. Who's to say which are the true colors?

I just recalled a lil quote by President George "Dubya" Bush during an interview after he'd left the presidency: "If you chase popularity, you're chasing a moment. You're chasing a poof of air." Thought I'd share it. You're welcome. :-)

The Quiet Zone
Several months ago, GO Transit introduced the Quiet Zone on the top floor of every coach of all their trains during rush hour. Now, prior to this designated Quiet Zone, any car of most GO trains were near deathly quiet. Well, I understand there was one line that had folks talking loudly in the evenings. Looks like people complained. GO did a pilot project with that particular line. And the rest is what we have here.

Before the Quiet Zone, on the Lakeshore West in the mornings - and evenings, come to think of it - you could hear a pin drop. There was the occasional conversation but these were few and far between and in hushed tones. The majority of commuters were plugged in or reading or catching a snooze.

Then came the Quiet Zone. Signs went up. The Customer Service Ambassadors (CSA) included it in their welcome announcements. All was mostly well with the world. That is, until a newbie or two, oblivious to the signs and announcements, would start talking. I'd sit in amusement as I watched other passengers squirm or give the person the look. As a matter of fact, I've even seen folks who could no longer contain their angst triggered by someone having a quiet phone conversation, get up from their seat, or turn around in their seat, and direct the talker's attention to the sign. Or, say to the transgressor, "This is the Quiet Zone, you can't be talking on the phone." Yeah. That happened.

Fact is, the sign in the QZ says short telephone conversations are okay; use your ear piece to listen to music and make sure it's not loud enough for anyone else to hear. That sort of thing. But, you know, now we have become accustomed to the Zone being deathly quiet. The least bit of interruption of the silence, and folks will get up and leave the Zone. I kid you not. I have seen that happen, too.

GO Transit created the Quiet Zone tool for the comfort of passengers, when most of the passengers were already comfortable and accommodating of a bit of ambient noise. Now, passengers have been programmed to expect Bose headphones quiet and many are now easily irritated when they hear a pin drop.



Friday, 23 May 2014

Inside the Mind of an Island

Inside the Mind of an Island

Battles are fought
And won
Or lost
In the mind.

In my mind
And for my people
The struggle is real.
The epic battle within 
Good vs. The Greater Good
Manifested daily
Demonstrated mainly
In the choices we make.
The actions we do 
And do not take.

Here is the environment
In which I must exist
In whose surroundings I must
Live and breathe
If at all I can.
Encumbered by fumes of waste

Here is my environment
That component of
My and my people's element 
With which we must be content
Before we even talk about Development.

Some days we take one step forward
The next, three steps back
And back to the drawing board
Or some other board
Chaired by one of two or three.
Apparently, the pool is limited
But always big enough to form
A committee.

Some days we go around in circles
Dancing to the beat of
A different kettle of fish
Nothing but red herrings
It is futile to simply wish
It all away.
To reboot
Unbreak my island heart.

My past.
My future.
My present.
This present is no gift
This present is well tense.
No recompense is near 
For those who work hard
And grin and bear

The birth of a nation
What a lovely idea.
Forefathers and foremothers
And foresisters and forebrothers
Had my interest at heart.
For the most part.
Now my people scheme 
To live the American dream.

Can I blame them?
I see them leaving
Left, right and centre
Let them go.
I cannot contain them
Little hope in the Vision.
Reality is a nightmare
On every street.

Years of mismanagement
I keep giving my leaders a bly.
I tell myself it's not easy
And they do try.
Over time, it gets easier
To believe the lie.

When they take my name to foreign
In North America and Europe
I'm presented as a lady 
Assuring all who will hear
Of my paradisiacal climes and beaches and wares.
Really, Massa, we just need a gift or two
When we get back, we'll know what to do.

They try to win the confidence
Of lenders and investors who
In their right minds would agree
That something's awry
And the people aren't free.

They're enslaved in a thinking
That handouts are better
And the love of a leader
Is the thing that matters
That goods from foreign
And such accouterments
Are indisputable signs of development.

How can they not make a killing
From people who are willing
To take loans for entertainment?
Either a cruel joke or
Human experiment.
Who is sitting aside to track it?
Caviar taste
Tin mackerel pocket.

So, foreign lenders lend
Foreign investors invest
And bet.
But they ensure theirs is a winning hand
No way will they lose
And my people must understand
That promises made must be promises kept
So, investors get two or more islands for the price of one.

Back at home 
In the not so comfortable zone
The bed that has been years in the making
Is there, ready and waiting.
I know what to do
Lie prostrate and spread 'em
There's no fight left to fight 'em.
Politicians come and go
Room for rent they apply within
When one set runs out
The other runs in.

This environment is a mess
Leaders – some thirty years in – still clueless
Where are the leaders, we ask
Who are willing to walk the talk?
To usher us into the 2030 space
At a more efficient pace?

Do we have to make a choice
Between a welcome environment and
It’s food for thought
But let me get past
Today’s headline horror
I’ll think about that question...