Moving Back to Jamaica

A blog about my Move Back to Jamaica after 20+ years of living in the US. Most of the articles focus on the period from 2005-2009 when the transition was new, and at it's most challenging.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Post-Christianity Christian

Moving Back to Jamaica, as I have mentioned before, entails dealing with spiritual matters – or at least, in my case it does.

One thing I am fairly sure of is that a Christian who has lived abroad and moves back will find it at least a little challenging to fit back into the mould from which they came. For me, a born-again Christian who was baptized at 12, and one who willingly evangelized from door-to-door as a teenager, that change could not be more dramatic.

I no longer fit the mould of a Jamaican Baptist (JBU) type of Christian. In fact, I am not sure that I fit any mould.

In another post, I shared the details of how I went from one point to another, but what I can say now is that what originally drew me to respond affirmatively to an altar call as a pre-teen, is the same force that makes my particular and peculiar brand of Christianity unrecognizable to most people.

For example, I no longer believe in many of the basic tenets: Jesus did not die to pay for anyone’s sins, and he is not to be worshipped any more than any other man is to be. I could go on, but… you get the point. When I gave up believing these basics, I disqualified myself from most Christian denominations.

However, I think the apostle Paul was right on the money when he said “When I was a child, I thought as a child, I spoke as a child… but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

Well, those beliefs went the way of Santa Clause in my case, but in a good way.

When anyone makes a mature choice to follow a religion, be converted or accept a new way of living there is a process of thinking that they undergo. They weigh the argument in their minds, they examine the evidence, look at the facts, perhaps study some pros and cons.

That certainly is the process that I went through when I was 12.

However, I remember vividly a later turning point when I was about 15: my father told me that he believed in evolution.

I was appalled.

How could he? I had thought he was “one of us!” Christians did not believe in evolution – how could we?

To his credit, and to my lifetime benefit, he explained to me why he, as a scientist, had examined the evidence and made a decision. One his own, with his own mind.

I thought about it for months.

Little did I know, it was a seminal moment, because I realized that he was doing his own thinking… just as I had done at the moment when I was first converted. In fact, I had asked my friends (and my ride home) to wait for me while I responded to the altar call, so I was not just thinking, but I was even willing to create a bit of a problem in order to respond to the urgings of my heart and mind.

When I moved to the U.S. I was again forced to do my own thinking, because the religious landscape was so very different. All the churches were …different from what I knew and none of them were doing things the right way.

When I started working at AT&T the same thing happened again. I started reading self-help books to try to figure out which way my life would go (and how to get back to Jamaica in once piece) and I discovered Marianne Williamson, A Course in Miracles, Louise Hay and Wayne Dyer, among others.

They made sense, and my questions took me deeper and deeper into other thought-systems that made even more sense than the one I happened to grow up in. I kept asking questions, and answering them, which only led to more questions – few of which could be answered in the bible.

In other words, I have been lucky to maintain the original process that started with my decision to accept Christ as saviour at 12. What I have been able to do (with plenty, plenty hiccups) is to keep that original process alive. The only difference is that the data, evidence and facts are different, as are the final decisions.

Recently a saw a movie called “Luther,” chronicling the life of Martin Luther, leader of the reformation. He, and others, are the reason why Protestant religions exist today – they questioned the Catholic Church and, under penalty of ex-communication, founded their own churches that embraced the radical idea that the bible could be read and understood by the common man.

Luther, Calvin, Galileo and others clearly followed a process of thinking for themselves, and were willing to go against the grain and live their lives accordingly.

Today, as in the Catholic Church of old, many Christian churches are unwilling to have their members ask too many questions, especially about the central tenets of the faith. Anyone who stops believing them is doomed to hell, according to most.

That would include me.

So, if you are reading this and thinking that I am “playing with fire”… I would make that “hell-fire…”

You also may not think this is a joking matter, and that I have condemned myself for all eternity.

Whether I have or not is not all that important to me, but what is important is keeping the spirit of that original conversion alive. When I look back, I see that what was important was not the particular decision I made, but the fact that I was able to do my own thinking, deciding and acting... for myself, and on my own.

Hopefully, that will never go away.

Today, I joke and say that I am a post-Christianity Christian, because I think that anyone who follows the process of thinking, deciding and acting ends up in the same place – being a Christian who does not fit into any recognized church’s beliefs and a misfit with respect to mainstream Christianity. In other words, being a post-Christianity Christian.

I truly thought that I was alone.

While we were dating, my wife invited me to a church in Miami called the Universal Center of Truth for Better Living.

I was shocked to find that almost all of my (non) beliefs were accepted by the members, and delighted to discover that a branch existed in Jamaica. It is a VERY non-traditional church… but a good home for now for this particular post-Christianity Christian.

It is a wonderful gift to have in the life of this Jamaican who has only recently Moved Back.

The church meets on Sundays at 10:30am at The Little Theatre in Kingston. It is a member of a group of New Thought Christian churches.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Ooops -- That Should Have Been in J$

Oops, it happened again.

A simple credit card transaction in Jamaican dollars was accidentally rendered in US$.

In this case, the second time since Moving Back to Jamaica, a vendor put through a charge of US$3600 instead of J$3600 -- at an exchange rate or 66 to 1, the mistake was a considerable one.

Here is a bit of advice for returnees (or anyone doing business here.)

1) Check the transaction dollar amount and currency before signing credit card transactions
2) If a mistake happens, call the vendor immediately and return to the vendor to have the charge reversed

In neither of the two cases in which it happened to me did I detect a malicious intent, but it is a bit frightening.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Trini Carnival Prices

After a month away in South Africa, my wife and I decided not to attend Trini Carnival this year. After 20+ hour flights, 3 different airlines, and 2 weeks of lost luggage we decided that we were just not up to living out of a suitcase for another set of long days.

Part of what helped change our mind is the inflation in Carnival prices.

When I started attending Carnival back in 1996, the prices were as follows, approximately, in $US:

Male costumes: $125
Female costumes: $180
Fetes: $30-60

Nowaways, the cost of Carnival has skyrocketed, so much so that a place in Tribe's all-inclusive band is costing $500 and fete tickets are approaching $300 (for Brian Lara's fete, which I remember gasping at when it hit $100.)

It is getting harder and harder to justify how the increase in prices could be accompanied by that much new value -- is lobster being served at fetes, and massages being given away to masqueraders?

Or have the security costs gone up by that much?

I'm honestly stumped here...

and the price of playing mas for 2 days in Tribe is now seriously competing with :
-- a round trip ticket to New York or London from Jamaica
-- 3-4 days at Sandals
-- a low priced laptop
-- a custom made sofa
-- 4 tickets to Frenchman's New Years' Day fete
-- 12 days at DisneyWorld

At $250 per day, it's hard to jump, eat, drink and lime enough to derive that much value, in my opinion. If I lived in Trinidad (which would make it cheaper, yet) I think that I would find a band that offered the minimum of all the high-priced items, but could possibly offer just as much fun.

Last year, I played with Tribe and it was nowhere as much fun as playing with Poison.

I guess it depends on what you want from the experience, but all of a sudden, visiting another island's carnival is looking like a real possibility.

Surely, there must be room in Trinidad for a band that is willing to cut their prices to gain some market share?

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Thursday, January 25, 2007


I have found something good!

As an increasingly frequent writer, my concern about putting out well written material has given me pause for thought. Some recently read, self-published books that I found to be horrific literary adventures, have only added to my concern. Given that I write a blog, I can't very well blame my editor, publisher or proof-reader.

I imagine that I could blame my wife (my unpaid editor)... but doing so would only confirm suspicions that my jackass writings are indeed written by... a jackass.

Well, the good thing I have found will at least let people know that I can, more frequently than not, put together the basics of grammar, punctuation and spelling.

The tool is called TextAloud, and it simply converts written words into words spoken aloud by my computer.

How has this helped?

In the course of my recent writing, I found that the very best way to edit my own writing was to read it out aloud to "hear" how it sounds to the ear. An even better technique was ask my wife to read it.

Both methods, but especially the first, were kinda goofy. I seemed quite capable, with enough effort, to overlook crappy spelling and turn paragraphs of garbage into prose worthy of Rex Nettleford.

Plus, for some strange reason, she tired of it (calling her a monkey once didn't help.)

Now, I have "Anne." She has a mid-West U.S. accent that sounds bizarre when reading bad writing. My bad writing.

When I get tired of her, there is "David," who sounds a bit Southern U.S.

I can purchase others, and may spring for an English voice that may help my writing sound even better!

Of, course, that is not the point. The point here is that Anne and David help me to write with more fluency, greater cohesion, and with a rhythm that is pleasing to the ear. The fact that I can achieve all this with such a simple tool is something good, that might help this jackass get his points across.

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No pics

Once again, blogger is mashing up my business... I can't post pics.

Once again, I am considering a move to Typepad -- except that I would have to reload all my pictures manually.


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My Favourite Bike Ride

As a cyclist in Jamaica starting in Kingston there are a number of superb rides to take, ranging widely in variety.

There are mountains to tackle, seaside routes to explore, a long, traffic-free peninsula to speed along and city neighborhoods to check out.

But my favorite is a ride that starts at Manor Park in Norbrook and heads up to Peter’s Rock. It is a mountain bike ride that last anywhere from ninety minutes to 2 hours. It consists of s steep climb followed by a scenic descent.

And what a climb it is. By my count there are 6.5 steep climbs – 5 tough ones and three halfs.

This morning, I took the ride at daybreak… and it was superb.

It was cool, and got cooler as I climbed. The air was quite crisp, and although it took everything from me to climb those hills, as usual I loved the sense of accomplishment that comes doing such a tough climb before breakfast.

Along the way, the views of Kingston alternate with the view of the hills, and the sun coming over the hill just makes the effort worthwhile. I came back down slowly so that I could appreciate the sight of the sun hitting Portmore, Red Hills, Port Royal and the stretch from Constant Spring to Downtown.

Luckily, the road is still being fixed after the rains of 2005, so there are still very few cars on the road. When it is done, I believe that it might return to being as busy as it could be, but for now it remains a pleasure… one of the many that are there for the taking for those of us who live here.

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Alez, Allez, Allez....

Allez, Allez, Allez…

Fans of the Tour de France are familiar with the cries that Frenchmen give to the participants in the Tour de France… Allez, Allez, Allez!

Well, here in Jamaica, a regular, everyday ride also elicits quite the reaction, much to the surprise of my wife and I, in our Move Back to Jamaica.

We are used to the polite and distant glances that cyclists get in the U.S., for the most part. People don’t really care to do much more than look… even when the pack of 150 cyclists is tearing around the corner of Flamingo and Sheridan at 25 mph. We have ridden from DC to Mount Vernon and back along bike-trails trail with runners, roller-bladers and walkers without as much as a hello.

In true North American style, people are pretty much intent on leaving you alone.

(Although there was the one time that a few drunk women in a car asked me if they could “smack my ass” while I was riding by the intersection of Stirling and 441… the outcome of that interaction I will leave for another post.)

Here in Jamaica, neither liquor nor anything stronger is needed to incite the passions of a Jamaican walking by on foot when it comes to cyclists, as early as 4am in the morning.

I have no idea what it is about – but on just about every ride I take, there are numerous comments shouted out from strangers, and not all of them are as encouraging or as savoury as those in France.

There are Exhortations: “Ride on– Rider – Ride on!” (heard from some school-children this morning.)

Coaching: “Not fast enough!! Pedal quicker! Yuh slacking off!”

Helpful: “Him a leave de whole of you behind – try harder!” and “Mek sure dem nuh lef you!”

Funny: “Dadda… yuh buss!” (transl. exhausted)

Racial: “Black man – nuh mek de white man/Chiney man/ Indian man lef’ you!”

Curses: “Move oonu bombo-claat off de road!”

Disturbing: “Get up -- you f**king sons of a sodomite!”

Sexual: “I will tek dat one – him look strong” and “Come ride _dis_ nuh?” (from suggestive women pedestrians to male cyclists)

Lately, our groups have included women…. Their presence alone is enough to stop traffic, and get long stares…

Disbelief: “Rass, is woman dat?!?!?” Is woman time now! Show Dem!”

Mildly Threatening: “Mi will kill off de man dem and tek de women!”

And there is a consistent comment that most women cyclists would expect to hear from their doctor.


From a certain perspective, they are enough to scare anyone off the road. In the U.S. it would be called harassment, and there would be lawsuits, protests and more.

A Jamaican Moving Back must get used to the fact that we Jamaicans really do operate as if we are all in each other’s lives, and when a group cycles by they are each seen as one of us.

In the North American sense, there are no “strangers.” There are us Jamaicans, and then there are foreigners.

That’s it.

When a cyclist is told “You are riding too slow!” the person making the comment is saying it to someone they assume they have a relationship with, even though never have never met.

The bad part of this kind of close social involvement is that lots of our crime that is personal. 90% of our crimes are not random, but have to do with retribution or revenge directed at particular offending individuals.

The good part is that a cyclist falling on the road would never be ignored by people rushing to meetings at their office, or on their way to get their cup of coffee at Starbucks. Instead, the concern would be genuine, and based on this kind of close involvement that all Jamaicans assume is automatically there.

The never-ending comments, the assistance on the road, and even the personal crimes are indications that people care, and care deeply. Moving Back to Jamaica from North American or the U.K. means getting used to that all over again.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Shock and Awe

From an email from a friend of mine:

"I met some ladies in Miami last weekend who say they read your blog religiously and want to meet you and hug you for the great job you are doing.

They are huge fans of yours."

The other night a friend of mine "confessed" that she had been reading my blog, as some are tempted to do from time to time.

As usual, my first feeling was one of amazement -- she knows that it exists?

Then I wondered if I had mentioned her by name... and cautiously asked if I had said anything bad...

She said no, and I asked "what did I say again?" -- my mind was truly blank as I thought about what nonsense I had stayed up late to (as my wife generously puts it) "pull out of my a** to put in that blog."

She told me that she had read my business blog (written by my tamer, saner self) and listed a couple of things that would not get me in so much trouble. I relaxed a bit.

Then came the email my friend sent above, and all the mad thoughts came back.

After all, I started writing this blog to entertain myself... thinking that someone else might want to move back to Jamaica and needed to figure out how to order, pack and ship their container.

Now it has a life of its own. And women who I don't know want to hug me.

Not that I have a problem with that.

I mean, they really don't know how many whiskers I leave on the bathroom sink when I have "cleaned up" after shaving my beard and head. They don't know what I smell like after a 3 hour ride -- all they know are the words I write in my blog. Heavily edited. Spell-checked. Screened by my wife.

But do they know me?

Sometime back when I wrote about, I shared that long emails were the best way to "date" someone _before_ meeting them in person. In effect, they give the brain and spirit a head-start in getting to know someone... long before the physical bells and whistles start going off in that first face to face meeting.

I think I mentioned that it was much, much better than meeting someone in person first... feeling the physical attraction... falling under its sway... only for the brain and spirit to ask, belatedly, months later "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"

So, I do appreciate the fact that words can help you to know someone.. in part anyway.

All that to say... thanks to any and everyone who reads this blog.

I accept the hugs warmly and send them back.

But I warn all readers... at least until I get the whisker and smell thing handled, I show up much better online than in person, so I recommend virtual contact for your safety.

Thanks to those readers who actually know me for being able to read the blog without tying it too much to the guy whose picture appears on the site.

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Nasty Jamaicans Abroad

In my prior post about the lies that we Jamaicans tell about how sweet "foreign" is, I forgot to mention that particular breed of Jamaican who has nothing good to say about their own country.

Many of them were middle-class Jamaicans who left in the 1970's.

They left to escape a communist threat that never materialized. Talk of Castro, Cubans everywhere and socialism turned out to be a whole lot of ... talk. Without the help of those who left, Jamaica did not come close to becoming a communist state, and our democracy is as vibrant as ever.

However, the 1970's were the days when one's neighbours were here today, and gone tomorrow. Jamaicans migrated without telling parents, children brothers and sisters what they were doing. Companies were abandoned, US dollars were smuggled out and an entire middle-management class left like thieves in the night. They sold their houses for a song (enabling many to upgrade), and companies struggled to fill the void -- some say Jamaica is still suffering from that sudden migration.

As a youngster in school, it was an invasion of the body-snatchers as classmates were literally here today and gone tomorrow, on one of those "five flights a day to Miami" that Manley foolishly urged them to take.

Lawyers left Kingston to become janitors in Toronto. Doctors left Montego Bay to become nurses in Miami.

It was a sad, stupid time, and many who left did so bitterly.

Now, it is clear to all that they made a mistake.

Yet, even while Americans and Canadians ask migrated Jamaicans how they could ever leave such a beautiful place, there are some whose response is poison... they have absolutely nothing good to say about Jamaica.

They find fault with everything and everyone from their homeland. They follow the news carefully... only to use it to justify their need to be living in a one bedroom apartment in the South Bronx, rather than in their 4 bedroom home in Norbook. This week I heard a couple of people call into local talk-shows from New York and Toronto -- complaining from thousands of miles away about what is happening in the country they left almost thirty years ago.

Who is to blame?

No clue.

But the continuation of that anger is very, very costly for us all.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Lying About Foreign

Moving Back to Jamaica occasionally means confronting the fact that we Jamaicans living abroad frequently present a false picture of what life is like in foreign.

We come back home, eager to show that we have "made it," doing our best to prove to ourselves and others that we have NOT just taken up ourselves to Toronto, New York or London only to find that life there is now what we expected.

The truth is, that the vast majority of us are struggling to achieve the American dream, that we have saved for months to afford the ticket, that we have maxed out credit cards to buy new clothes and gifts, and that we have taken a third part-time job to have some spending money. We are very proud of the fact that we now live in a better place... or at least this is what we must convince ourselves is true.

The problem with all this boasting and posturing is that it masks the truth of what many experience:
-- racism
-- being "mistaken" for Black Americans
-- not being qualified to do the jobs we used to do
-- having to pay US$10k to marry someone for a green card
-- borrowing a cousin's social security card, driver's license and identity
-- cold (most frequently)
-- ugly surroundings
-- the unhappy realization that we are never moving back home
-- having to moderate our accent to be understood
-- bringing up children that ARE Black American

This is not to say that many Jamaicans who migrate do not find a better life. But I have met few Jamaicans who wanted to leave, and did not feel that they were at their wits end and HAD to leave.

The sad thing is that we Jamaicans at home want to believe that a better place exists ,and that there is some light at the end of the tunnel, even if the tunnel means begging for a visa in Liguanea's US Embassy. We listen carefully, and if it sounds as good as it looks on television, we are sold.

Often, I hear parents in my own parents' generation talk about where their children are, and what they are doing. They talk about their children being abroad as a badge of honour... "Michael is in New York with his wife and 3 kids!" It is said as if his being in New York is some kind of unique accomplishment.

When I share that I have returned home to live from the U.S. I usually get two reactions from these parents.

The first reaction is, "you must be mad!"

The second comes after some reflection, and is usually wistful... how they wish that Michael were here with them living at home, instead of taking the subway to work each morning... "How happy your parents must be!"

I don't know where to point the finger here -- we all seemed to have created this situation, breaking up our families for what we think are the right reasons, believing that migration is the answer and convincing ourselves and others that it is easier to make it in New York than it is in Barbican.

Andrea Levy's book, which I recently finished, brilliantly describes one young woman's heartache when she arrives in England and is shocked by what she finds. This piece of truth-telling was revealing -- we need a lot more of it.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

The Dogs of Kingston

After my recent visit to South African townships, I returned to Kingston to find the city overrun with dogs.

That might be a bit over-dramatic, as I doubt that our canine population had increased by much in the month I was away. But I returned to find myself looking at our stray dogs and wondering, "how come we have so much?"

Brown dogs… black dogs…. And white dogs - the ones with the brown spots. They all seem to be about the same size, and have interbred enough to produce a stray dog that seems resilient, if not plain.

And they are abundant in Kingston. I have not been to another Caribbean island that has anywhere near the same number of dogs running about, and in Trinidad and Barbados I can't recall seeing a single stray-looking dog… that is, having a combination of extreme wariness, mangy coat and permanent hunger.

I don't know where we developed this tolerance for strays, because we are not know for being particularly fond of dogs, as far as I know.

It just seems like we have accommodated ourselves to them - unpleasant, but not unbearable. I imagine that our dog problem would be costly to fix also, and the thought that we should spend that much money on "so-so dog" just sounds too crazy to mention.

That is, until something like rabies breaks out… and man's best friend turns into an enemy.

But, I guess that until then, we have enough enemies, so why make another one?

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Coming Home -- from South Africa

I am normally a huge advocate of travelling to foreign countries, but I came back from a recent Christmas trip to Johannesburg, South Africa, convinced that it can, by itself, be transformative.

My wife and I visited my sister over the recent Christmas holidays, staying for about three weeks. During that time we stayed with friends of my sisters, and mostly spent time with my family -- my parents were also there from Jamaica for a long stay themselves.

We stayed in an exclusive suburb that is one of the most affluent in Africa-- Sandton -- that is growing quickly, and holds the distinction as the fastest growing suburb in the continent. While there we also visited Soweto and Alexandria, two townships that Blacks were forced to live in up until the early 1990's when the dreaded Pass Laws and Group Areas acts were repealed. To help put things into context, we also visited the Apartheid Museum, which helped us understand all that we found so very confusing.

The bottom line was that we were happy to return home from what was an enlightening trip to a country that we barely began to understand before we left.

For us, waking up each morning in Sandton meant to wake up to alarm systems, 10ft+ high, electrified fences, a security company and a preoccupation with security at every turn. The streets of Sandton are lined with high concrete walls, which hide everything except the roofs of the houses inside, electrified wire atop the walls, security cameras, private security vans shuttling guards back and forth and an eerie dead feeling that would only be broken by one or two black people here or there, going to their jobs as gardeners and household helpers.

While this bears a certain resemblance to upperclass neighborhoods such as Norbrook or Jacks Hill,the scale of it was astounding. Sandton's population is some 200,000+, and I could not find a single area where Blacks existed in more than trace numbers.

On the other hand, Soweto has 3-4 million people, and Alexandria another million (although I am not too sure about the latter figure.) I did not see a single white person in either township.

This is a country marked by extreme differences, and also extreme crime -- the country's murder rate is the highest in the world, per capita.

(I just hope that Jamaica does not evolve in that direction, and hope that the 25% fall in our murder rate in 2006 is sustained.)

Like every other travel experience I have ever had, it helped me to appreciate what we take for granted here in Jamaica, and the great things that we have here that we don't even bother to talk about.

Not the least of these is the spirit of our people. This year, we celebrate the two hundred year anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in 1807. I imagine that we will be proudly "bigging up" the slaves who contributed to its demise through various revolts, escapes and other actions.

This contrasts with the average black South African I met on the street, who would rarely look me in the eye, never say Good Morning, and generally not act as if this were _their_ country... yet. At the museum, we learned about the Bantu "education" that lead to the Soweto Uprising. We also saw a clip of a white government official from the 1960's and 1970's explaining that this education was specifically to help Blacks in their role as servants... to whites, and that was all it was for.
I am sorry to say that he and his evil kind were successful in oppressing the blacks of South Africa. Unfortunately it looks like it will take at least a generation for the country to fully create the "New South Africa" in which each person can be proud, and act proud.

P.S. I like the idea of a travel agency with the name "Transformative Travel."

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Dell Makes Good... I hope

Back in November 2005 I posted a blog that described the failure of my DELL 5150, and how I discovered that I was one of thousands who had experienced the same problem.

Well, there is actually good news.

Dell has decide (in the face of stinging criticism and a class-action lawsuit) to extend the warranty for everyone who owns a Dell 5150.

Well, there is a Santa Claus, I guess.

The joke is that there are thousands of us who have just moved on to buy new machines and written off the company, so even when the laptop is repaired, I'm not sure what in the world I am going to do with it. It is significantly slower than my new machine, but it seems as if it should be reliable now that they have worked the kinks out of it after some 3 years.

Donate it? Keep it for future projects?

The problem at hand is to figure out how to get it from here in Kingston to someplace in the US. One of the challenges I have realized about living in Jamaica is that it is not easy to send packages back to the U.S., due to many custom restrictions. More on this as it unfolds.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Great article on blogging

I subscribe to a newsletter called MarketingProfs and this article about what they learned after a year of blogging is a great one.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Trouble with Islam ... Today

I just read an amazing book on the religion of Islam that reminded me of the state of religion here in Jamaica.

The book is called The Trouble with Islam Today and the author is Irshad Manji -- her website is

Basically, according to Irshad, the trouble with Islam is that it has been captured by fundamentalists who are convinced that their interpretation is the only correct one, and furthermore that it should not be questioned. She connects this development with the Islamic terrorism that we see today in the world.

She has received numerous death-threats, in her personal attempt to bring a spirit of iftjihad back to Islam -- honest and open debate on the basic belief of the religion. If nothing else, she has balls -- AND she is a 39 year-old lesbian, which I suspect does not help her message much.

How does this relate to Jamaica?

Well, like many people in Third World countries, we Jamaicans have embraced religions that also insist on a similar kind of fundamentalism, and insistence that their way is the only way. From the largest Christian denominations: Church of God and Seventh Day Adventism to Rastafarianism to Jehovah's Witnesses, the link that connects each of our major religions is that their unique interpretation is True, and anyone who strays too far from the espoused dogma is Condemned.

I can relate, because as a Baptist teenager, I also had my fundamentalism. Baptised at 12, I grew up to spread the gospel by helping classmates and friends pray to accept Jesus as their personal saviour, as I had done. I also participated in door-to-door evangelism a couple of times, bringing the souls of lost strangers "to The Lord" by helping them to complete a simple 5 step process outlined in a small blue booklet that I carried around.

When I went away to university at age 18, to upstate New York (Cornell,) I went looking for a church home and I discovered I did not fit into any of the kinds of Baptist denominations that they had locally. I did not know American Baptist from Southern Baptist from National Baptist to Independent Baptist.

After visiting a few Black, white, liberal, conservative, small and large churches I discovered that the religion I found security in did not exist outside Jamaica. I was a "Jamaican Baptist" -- and that label had no meaning outside my island.

The more I realized that the set of beliefs I held were small, and startlingly local, it was the beginning of some very tough questions about what the heck I had believed in the first place.

The more questions I asked, the more ridiculous the answers seemed. There were American answers and Jamaican answers. Black and white. Rich and poor. Modern and Old-time.

I had to think for myself, and that in essence was what brought me to the end of my belief that I had the right answer, and my reluctance to trust those who believed that they did.

Today, I am not even convinced that I am asking the right questions, and I am convinced that as early as tomorrow I could not only have new questions, but new answers.

So, I have come to characterize my belief-free religion as a series of improving approximations -- something only an engineer could dream up, I guess. In other words, at any given time I have in mind soem approximations of truth, which at any time can be improved by new approximations, brought about by new questions. Uncertainty is the standard operating state, and inquiry is the only constant activity.

Not too different from what Irshad writes and talks about, in fact.

P.S. I get asked sometimes here in Jamaica: "Are you a Christian?" The only truthful reply I can muster is "It depends on your definition." That's where things get interesting, because most people have not defined for themselves clear criteria for judgement.

Plus, isn't there something in the Bible about judging?

P.P.S. To be perfectly honest, if someone asks me if I am a Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist or Martian my reply is the same... "It depends on your definition."

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Blogger is Killing Me

Blogspot / blogger is causing me now end of problems in this particular blog -- I am unable to upload pictures for some reason, although now and again it lets me in.

Time to change providers?

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