about surviving in the Information Age

I wrote to the Gleaner and they published it as an article:


Spark Youth Interest

Published: Tuesday | March 19, 20130 Comments

Kelly McIntosh, Contributor
The evidence of poor problem-solving skills and the lack of ability to think critically is all too evident in the state of Jamaica today. Sure enough, corruption is at the root of many of the issues that beset our nation, but we cannot downplay our collective ability (or lack thereof) to make sound decisions and to tackle complex issues.
We need to start now, as early as possible in the education system, to teach our young how to analyse problems, how to approach solutions, and how to think critically.
When I was younger, the challenge was ferreting out information to do projects and complete assignments for school. Many of us can remember having to go to an actual library and being guided by the index cards housed in the wooden catalogue drawers.
Fast-forward to 2013: the challenge now is to decide what information to discard! Students simply Google the question or the topic. I have had to teach my own children basic research skills like cross-referencing and fact- and source-checking as they wade through the plethora of available information.
I do not think it is possible to critically analyse any issue without a sound grasp of language. Again, we are at the mercy of this new information age. Children write in shorthand, use creative acronyms, and learn to express themselves in 140 characters or less (think Twitter!). And while creativity is good, and the ability to summarise useful, this must be balanced by other opportunities where ideas can be fleshed out and opinions challenged and defended.
Here are my proposals for equipping our young for success in the information age:
1 Encourage reading from early. This is best done by giving children access to information about what interests them. Your son who is interested in animals, for example, will not read that book that you thrust into his hands with the best intentions in the world about toys coming to life after dark.
2 From as early as kindergarten and basic school, emphasise compre-hension. Have the children do more than merely answer questions based on facts contained in the passage. They must be encouraged to criticise and imagine. This can be done individually, by writing, and collectively, in the form of class discussions.
3 Treat maths as a language describing a situation, yet providing the way to a solution through the application of basic steps one after another. Emphasise the understanding of the fundamentals over mechanical replication. The children need to be taught to determine what the particular maths problem is asking them to do and what information is provided. Once they understand the fundamental operations, application in search of a solution becomes intuitive, rooted in common sense, and not necessarily the purview of the ‘math genius’ in the class.
4 Relate everything taught to everyday life, so applicability is always at the forefront.
5 Simply have conversations with your children. When driving, turn off the radio and, most definitely, put down the cell phone. Ask them about their day. Talk about something you read in the papers or saw on the news. Ask them their opinions. Have them defend their point of view.
Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and kkmac218@gmail.com.

my children: A Mother’s Reflections

We’ve been compiling a list of “Interesting People we’d like to have at a Dinner Party”. To qualify, you have to be an original thinker. You have to be articulate.  If you have a personality quirk or two, all the better!  No, I’m not going to release that list here and now, but I’d like to talk about 2 people who have already qualified.  One is Little Master and the other is Miss World.
After a lie-in, I got up refreshed this morning and ready to enjoy Sunday.  Only Little Master and I were up.  Our body clocks are in synch in a kind of “early to bed, early to rise” kinda way.  The other inhabitants are the exact opposite.  So still in our PJs, we jumped into my car.  Destination: Red Hills for the Sunday papers.  En route I had a most fascinating convo with this 9 yr old.  Essentially he lectured me on the importance of brand in gaining market share.  He spoke at length (and oh so eloquently and knowledgeably too!) about Nintendo, Sega, Sony and the like and the fact that Nintendo has managed to remain the preeminent gaming system because of their “lovable mascots”. 
I couldn’t refute him as I am oh so ignorant of all things gaming.  But he cited facts, history, trivia about home consoles, arcade consoles, lawsuits and Atari, 16 bits, 64 bits, target audiences and the like.  Amazing how our children have their own personalities and thoughts.  Who would’ve known that Little Master would become/is becoming an authority on all things gaming.  And Nintendo has an avid fan and admirer right here in Coopers Hill, St. Andrew, Jamaica.
Miss World now does not wear her heart on her sleeve like Little Master.  She is our go-to person for all things tech.  She taught me Blogging 101, Twitter 101, how to rip audio from video, where to get great MP3 files, how to create a playlist, what a meme is and on and on.  She still keeps me clued in to the norms and rules of social media, rolling her eyes and sighing when I’ve violated one of the many in my tweets or when I’ve used a current term inappropriately.  I find out what’s going on in her world through her tweets and blog.  Man!!!  I am laughing here just reflecting on how my almost 17 year old is her own person.  Yes, sometimes her tweets border on PG13.  Yes her blog posts are peppered with choice language.  But if you know me well enough, you know that I have a pretty liberal stance on language: there is no such thing as indecent, only inappropriate, and at the same time I try to challenge her on being articulate in Standard English.  Without apology. 
  But back to Miss World’s mind.  She is her own person.  She is expressive. Funny as all hell in a dry, irreverent, disrespectful kinda way.  I crack up at her running commentary on twitter, while trying to be Serious Responsible Mummy as I admonish her: “remember that what you put into cyberspace remains there forever, Missy!  And be kind!!!”.  She is nearing the stage to decide what she wants to do with the rest of her life.  And not unlike me when I was her age (shhh…nuh tell her, do!) she doesn’t know what she wants to do.  I have to confess, these days my chest tightens when I think about the future where she is concerned.  I worry about if I’ve done enough to prepare her for life “on the outside”.  I worry about mistakes she will make.  I think about what I’ll do to the perpetrator of her first heartbreak.  I want with all my heart for her to be able to use her God-given talents to contribute to the world and to make a living and to be happy all at the same time.  Ah boi….
My two are wonderful people.  I just hope I am doing enough as their steward right now, preparing them and equipping them.


So I decided to document my issues with respect to service reliability of my cable TV providers.  I emailed the owner/manager and then hand delivered a hard copy to her office.  Within one hour of my dropping off the hard copy, I received an email from her.  I’ve decided to post my letter to Logic One Ltd. and their response.  Here you go:


Dear  Mrs. Francis:

On Friday November 9 2012, I lost service at my residence.  It resumed sometime on Monday November 12.  I reported the loss of service via telephone on the evening of the 9th to a Customer Service agent named Trudy-Ann.  I felt as if I was a bother to Trudy-Ann.  She sighed at my questions and was unable to give a clear answer as to what was happening in the area.  She suggested that it was perhaps due to a power cut.  I spoke with Mrs.Levy on Saturday the 10th.  Mrs. Levy was extremely polite and apologetic.  To this day I am still not clear what caused the loss of service.  I was told that the lines were cut.  Then I got a voice mail on my mobile phone confirming this.  Then I was told by Mrs. Levy that Hurricane Sandy damaged the fibre optic cables.
On Saturday November 17 2012 I once again lost service at my residence at about 1:00pm.  I reported the incident by telephone immediately to Mrs. Levy.  She suggested that it was perhaps due to a power cut on the line.  She promised to call me back at 3:00pm that afternoon to confirm if service had been restored.  I did not get this call.  Today is Monday November 19 and I still have no cable TV.  I spoke with a Customer Service agent, Zoe, who acknowledged that a team was just sent to the area.  This is disturbing to me: 48 hours after loss of service, a technical team is just being dispatched. 
Please advise/confirm the following:
1.       My bill for November will not include the days that I was unable to enjoy the service that I pay for: this stands at 5 days as at time of writing.
2.       What is the procedure for reporting emergencies outside of regular working hours?  I am not always able to get the mailbox having dialed the Logic One number.
3.       How do I know for sure that my complaint has been noted outside of regular office hours?
4.       What is Logic 1’s agreement with its customers in terms of response time and resolution time when complaints are lodged?
5.       What was the real reason for loss of service Nov 9-12 and for Nov 17 until now?
I await your feedback.
Kelly McIntosh
Afternoon Ms. McIntosh,
Let me first apologise for the numerous interruptions in service due to damage sustained to our external plant as a result of Hurricane Sandy.  Although the damage was not devastating, down trees caused breaks and stress fractures to our wires some of which were easily repairable whilst others were not.

As it relates to Nov 9-12th, we assumed it was a power outage after we discovered there was not power at our device, only to discover that our main wires ( both fiber and coax) had been cut, this took us the better part of all day of the 12th to locate and repair the damage. The Nov. 17th complaint was due to someone cutting trees and chopping our main wire again and repairs were once again effected on the 19th.  Mrs Levy advised me that a call was placed to you last night, at which time you confirmed service had been restored.

Emergency calls are received by our in house voice-mail. Once a complaint is made in the week it will be addressed the following day and a call must be returned to the subscriber acknowledging complaint.  On the weekends, the voicemail is checked remotely and calls returned to subscribers to either try and assist or if it is an area problem a team will be dispatched; however it is very important that you leave you name address and phone number in order for us to contact you, as this is normally omitted.

Complaints are normally repaired within 3-5 days depending on the nature of the complaint and subscribers availability.

Based on the number of days lost in October and now November we have decided to waive November fees, based on the fact you already paid for October and $2 towards November, this would easier than to re-calculating.

Whilst preparing my response a copy of your email was hand delivered.

If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me or Mrs Levy.

Paula Francis

Dear Mrs. Francis:
I appreciate your reply.  Thanks for the explanations and the apology.
Re: your SLA of repairs to be effected within 3-5 days, I am humbly requesting that you revisit the lower limit and challenge your operation to respond within at least 36 hours.  Track it too, and use this metric to challenge your team to be the very best providers to your Customer base.
Best regards,
Kelly McIntosh

about living in Jamaica today.

I may just have used up all my sulking points for 2012 today…I may even have a jump-start on 2013.  Here’s the thing: I work hard.  I consider myself to be a good mother.  I give of myself to these two endeavors.  When I’m at home my wants are simple: electricity, water, Internet and cable TV.  What?  Am I crazy?  Aren’t these “amenities” a given?  After all, it is the year 2012…
The main road near my house
Hurricane Sandy passed through about 3 weeks ago and we were left without electricity for 8 nights.  This in and of itself was uncomfortable enough, but it was the lack of responsiveness and dearth of credible information from the Jamaica Public Service Co. (JPS) that really, really got my goat. So I went to battle.  I called them…every day…multiple times per day.  I stalked their Twitter feed and their Face book page, making myself known at every opportunity.  I wrote to the press.  I wrote to one well known reporter.  I bitched using every medium I knew.  Service was restored on night 9, and on day 11, the Daily Gleaner published my submission on this issue to them.  I heard from the CEO and now I am on a first name basis with my Parish manager and I have a direct line to her should I have any issues in the future.  I am tired.

Then 2 weeks after the passage of Sandy, our water in storage got dangerously low.  So I put on my boxing  gloves again, but this time the opponent was the National Water Commission (NWC).  I was already on a first name basis with the gentleman who trucks water in my area in times of shortage.  And I already had the mobile number for the Operations manager who is responsible for service delivery in my area. When your water supply depends on your being on a first name basis with “Ruddy”, you know you’re in trouble! After hounding them for 2 days straight, we got our tanks filled from a truck and pumping from the NWC source resumed the day after.  I am tired.
I live 15 minutes from the outskirts of what we call the corporate area.  It’s blissfully cool, green and very quiet.  I enjoy decompressing on my veranda.  
My Veranda
But there are moments when I feel as if I really live behind God’s back.  We are definitely NOT a priority when it comes to utility companies.  At least it feels that way.  We’ve been living here for 12 years and it feels increasingly difficult to survive here.  The (public) road leading down to my house is like a river bed.  The feeder that provides electricity to this area is totally unreliable and at the first smell of rain, the first roll of thunder, the first flash of lightening, there goes the electricity.  So we decided a few years ago to make ourselves independent of JPS.  Over the years, we have increased our capacity, and I have to admit, that our response this time around post storm was decidedly better than in previous years.  We were able to keep the ‘fridge running and we could iron and read and watch local TV.  But because we are still not where we plan to be, we still had to rationalize our use of power during the period we were without service from JPS and so comfort levels were not at all optimized.   As for water, we have capacity to store 1650 gal of water, but this is depleted after 2 weeks with no re-supply. 
Me in front of the water tank: Water is Life!
Post Sandy, it took two weeks for the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) to resume garbage collection.  Garbage receptacles from the bottom of the hill all the way up were overflowing.  I simply waited and hoped for the garbage truck to come.  I didn’t have the energy to do battle with that lot.
That’s to give you some context.  Let me continue my rant now. 

Then last week Friday evening, cable TV suddenly went.  Service was restored Monday evening.  I called.  I called again.  And still I called.  A whole weekend with only TVJ as entertainment comes as close as I can imagine to what hell must be like.  It is the lack of responsiveness and clear, credible info in the absence of product/service that really ticks me off!  I was told that the storm damaged their lines.  I was told that vandals had cut their lines.  Still don’t know what the real story is.  I am tired.

Then this Thursday night, we lost Internet service.  And land-line service.  We reported it to Lime.  They could not proffer a reason but diligently recorded the complaint.  And while watching news last night, my initial fears were confirmed: vandals had yet again stolen $5M worth of Lime cables from the area.  They aim to replace said cables and restore service by the end of next week.  This has happened twice in the past to the best of my knowledge, and the last time it happened, service was restored after 6 long weeks… and this only after I pressed a colleague of mine who had a direct line to the then president of C&W (now Lime) to intervene on my behalf.  I am tired.
And now today, Saturday…  I came home at 1pm after spending the morning at the Learning Center at my church helping out.  I collapsed into my bed and started watching re-runs of the Voice when the screen went blank.  Nothing.  Cable service once again interrupted.  It is now almost 9:30pm on Saturday night and I am forced to watch TVJ.  Hell all over again.  I was able to report the issue to the cable company before they closed for the weekend. Big deal.  Dunno if their cables have been stolen too.  Dunno when I’ll be able to watch some good TV again.  I am tired.
H says that the country is in decline…that what we are experiencing are the results of a society falling apart.  I can’t disagree with him.  Main thoroughfares have simply broken away: Mt. Ogle in Stony Hill, Dunrobin near Red Hills Road, Junction en route to St. Mary, Cassava Piece off Mannings Hill Road…a clear sign of neglect and decay.  
Bloomberg News says that Jamaica is perched on the edge of defaulting on our debt.  The few dollars that I have managed to save and invest in government paper are once again at risk.  The portfolio took a hit in the JDX scheme implemented a few years aback where we were asked to accept lower interest rates.  “Jamaica has been the poster boy for imminent default for years now, but they don’t default,” Segura said in a phone interview. “The country has a weak ability to pay but strong willingness to pay.” So how do I preserve the little that I have accumulated? Equities? Real estate? FX? I am tired. There are those who have worked hard, educated themselves and fine themselves under-employed or un-employed. I’m not going to go into the crime situation, the young and old begging at stop-lights, the steady decline of civility in terms of how we deal with each other in terms of tone and deed.  I am tired. 
Now I have to strategise if I am to continue to live up here: increase the capacity of the solar set-up, add at least another 1000 gal to the water in storage, investigate options for wireless Internet (and this is not as simple as it sounds as right now I can’t pick up Lime cellular signal at home) and just decide to read more and build a library of DVDs in lieu of watching cable TV.  I am tired.   
Perhaps when the weariness overtakes me I should simply transport myself in my mind to those perfect times when I am sitting on Negril’s white sand looking at the perfect sunset, perfect cocktail in hand.  Perhaps I should focus on the fact that my family is intact and in good health.  Perhaps I should focus on the fantastic Sunday dinners that we still have, and the love and laughter and music and banter that we still share.   

JPSCo: Customer service or mere PR stunt?

When JPSCo put full page advertisements in the press only a few weeks ago, I was puzzled as to the reason why.  Afterall, JPS is a monopoly so it’s not as if they are grappling for market share.  There were pictures of newly appointed parish representatives, but again, I was struck that there were no names and no contact information given.  Fast forward to the recent devastation wreaked by Hurricane Sandy.  Staring the sixth consecutive night of darkness in the face, I tried in vain to get contact information for my parish representative.  I called the 1 888 Customer Care number and was told that they could not provide the information.  To my distress, they could not give me any updates on my immediate predicament either.  They made a great show of recording my name and number and recording the fact that I had no service.  

I fully understand that we just came through a natural disaster that no one had any control over.  What disturbs me is the lack of credible information concerning when paying customers can expect resumption of service.  JPS has ramped up its’ on-line presence, sending out frequent tweets and updating its’ Facebook page regularly.  But the opportunities for actual dialogue are extremely limited.  

It is not enough for Customers to lodge their complaints into the void that is called Customer Care.  How do we know that our issues are understood?  Who can we speak with in order  to get clarity and understanding?  We don’t even hear Winsome Callum or Ruthlyn Johnson giving updates anymore.  Mrs. Tomblin herself is becoming the face of the company.  Even so, I don’t really care. All I want is the ability to speak with someone about my issues and to have reliable service.  It seems to me that JPS is confusing Public Relations with Customer Service.  What else would you call faces without the ability to contact?  What else would you call a 1 888 number that takes your details and never calls you back? 

I’d like to remind them that the best customer service is reliable and efficient delivery of the product/service.  PR stunts only serve to anger and frustrate.

Just be nice!

I wrote to the Gleaner Editor yesterday, and they published it as Letter of the Day today.  They edited out a suggestion I made in the original submission, so I will reproduce what they printed here and then add my suggestion after.

The Editor, Sir:
It seems that we have started to devalue the small gestures and acts of kindness that separate us from the animals. I was at the cashier in a major supermarket in Kingston last week Saturday. I noticed that the cashier made an error while ringing me up. She cashed three of an item when I had only one of that item.
I calmly questioned it. She did her due diligence, discovered the error and merely corrected it with nary an apology or a simple acknowledgement of her mistake.
We see regular displays of boorish behaviour in parking lots, where drivers deliberately swoop down on just-vacated parking spaces despite seeing a fellow motorist waiting for the same space. Think about your experiences in school parking lots. Parents stop where it is convenient for them to drop off and pick up despite the pleas of school administrations to adhere to strict zoning in this regard in order to preserve order, maintain a smooth flow of traffic and to ensure the safety off all using the space.
erosion of simple courtesies
Gone are the days when we would step into a waiting room and acknowledge those already there with a greeting. Why is it so hard to say ‘thank you’ to the security guard handing you a parking pass? Why do customer-service personnel feel that a smile while serving should never be part of the deal? The erosion of these simple courtesies is akin to running a motor vehicle without oil. The noise of metal against metal and the eventual decimation of the engine are inevitable results.
I personally resolve to be polite to those I come in contact with throughout the day and encourage everyone to do the same. We can do it. How wonderful it would be if Jamaica became known as ‘that island with the really courteous people!’

Furthermore, I would like to propose a national campaign, similar to ones of yesteryear such as “Don’t harrass the tourist”, “Kingston…Clean as a Whistle” and “Two is Better than Too Many”.  This campaign could be sponsored by the private sector, complete with billboards, print and electronic media presence and of course, social media.  Picture it: “JUST BE NICE”.  We can do this.

about (some) doctors and health care in Jamaica

Today I read an absolutely sad story in the Sunday Observer.  Essentially, a woman of Jamaican origins, residing in the UK, was in Jamaica in April of this year with her family.  She became ill and was rushed to  a  health care facility in Linstead.  She was diagnosed with pneumonia, and some amount of respiratory distress was evident.  The doctor on duty advised the family that there was not much more that could be done for the woman due to the lack of appropriate equipment at that facility.  That in and of itself is sad and scary: do not get into respiratory distress in Linstead!  But what happened next is what angered and upset me.  The woman’s family panicked and became (understandably) emotional.  They immediately wanted to transfer the woman to UHWI in Kingston, but that became a journey through beaurocracy and regulations and a negotiation with the doctor on duty.  Read the entire sad and depressing story here if you will, http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Coma-calamity_12407307
The end result is that after a protracted period of time (while the woman was fighting for oxygen!) during which the doctor on duty locked himself in his office, choosing not to engage the family and calm them down and reassure them, leaving them to wonder and to plot their next move in fear and uncertainty, the woman was eventually transferred to UHWI and several months later, several millions of dollars later, she remains in a coma here in Jamaica, with the lack of oxygen being thought to be the main contributor to her present condition.
Here’s my beef: how dare the doctor on duty lock himself away?  How dare the doctor not make himself available to the family?  I know that he couldn’t pull a respirator out of his back pocket.  I know he couldn’t magically produce a well equipped treatment room.  But what he could do, he simply did not: that is to be present to reassure and to guide the family.  Yes, yes , yes…there are two sides to every story, and we did not hear the doctor’s side, but I have had several experiences of my own, which lead me to give the benefit of the doubt to the patient and her family.
Many years ago Miss World was about four years old and she started vomiting with severe stomach cramps.  It was a long weekend…I believe Easter, and the best option we thought was to take her to the public Children’s Hospital. We three bundled into their ER and eventually saw a doctor who gave her a well known analgesic/anti-spasmodic, antibiotics and rehydration salts.  Great, we took her home hoping that all would be well.  Twenty four hours we three were back in the ER.  This time we saw and African doctor who insisted that he had the magic cure as he dramatically pronounced that the said same anti-spasmodic would fix her once and for all!  I grabbed her chart out of his hands and hissed as I waved it around: “Did you not just review her chart?  Can you not read? She TOOK your wonder drug 24 hours ago and we’re back!”  That prompted a review and revision of her prescribed therapy, and in another 24 hours she was ok.  Man alive!  Suppose I did not know what questions to ask?  Suppose I was not assertive in the face of these people who qualify as doctors and feel that they are God?  Can you imagine Jamaicans who are not so educated doing business with this bunch?
On another occasion a few years later, Miss World again had a bad attack of gastro.  This time we took her to a private hospital, having to make a deposit of JD70,000.00 because she wasn’t on our health insurance.  Even in that private set up I had to point out to a very bored looking, sullen reluctant nurse that I had a concern that her IV drip was draining just a bit to quickly in my estimation.  Without even looking, she tried to fob me off.  But I was in no mood to be put off by someone that I was in effect paying, especially when the well-being of my offspring was at stake.  Was she for real?  When she inspected the set up she had the good grace to gasp and say: “Oh no!”  I wanted to choke her.  Seriously. 
Miss World was discharged and before we reached home she was writhing in pain and I did an about turn and headed straight up to the public UHWI.  At my request, her private paediatrician met us there to help expedite the process.  Again, this was at my hysterical insistence on the phone as I drove like a mad woman up to UHWI.  By this time I was panicked, hysterical and angry.  I handled the young doctor assigned to our case like a stuffed toy quizzing him in a very hostile, angry manner, even daring to question his competence.  To his credit, he did not respond like the Linstead doctor per the Observer account today.  He remained present, answered my every question and reassured me of the diagnosis and therapy.  I sincerely hope that the years have not jaded him and changed him.  Well that incident ended with me storming out of UHWI with Miss World in my arms cussing every doctor in sight because it was unbelievable to me that in the 21stcentury, a stomach ache which did not warrant surgery could not be cured! 
Doctors must remain accessible and communicative, even in the face of obstreperous patients and their families.  Remember that the only difference between doctors and us is that they chose to study medicine.  Big deal.  How impressive.  I studied botany.  He studied engineering.  She studied law.  We all have our function.  Being a doctor does not make you God.  Get over it and remember the oath  you took.  Remember too that when you are a private practitioner, we are your customers.  We pay you.  How dare you take appointments for dozens of us at the same time and then you waltz in up to an hour and half later?  I suppose to your mind, you are important enough for us to spend half a day waiting to be seen by you for 10 minutes max.  I have had doctors write me a prescription without even telling me what is on the said prescription and how it works.  Once I had the temerity to ask the doctor how a particular drug worked.  He replied that I could not possibly understand and that I was just to use it as per his directions.  Needless to say I gave him a lecture and explained that I had a science background and that even if I did not, his job was to break it down for me to understand.  I walked out and never went back to him.  He is still a prominent dermatologist in Jamaica.
I resent doctors who do not communicate with me.  I resent doctors who keep me waiting.  I resent doctors who make assumptions about me and my health without asking questions. But most of all, I am sorry for and scared for my fellow Jamaicans who don’t know how to ask and what to ask and who fear these people that we call doctors in Jamaica.  

Usain St. Leo Bolt, SUPERSTAR!

Here’s an open letter to Mr. Bolt:

Dear Usain:
I just wanted to go on record at this time with my real feelings about you.  I am puzzled at your own reticence in styling yourself a living legend…and as for Mr.  Rogge’s insistence that you are a mere icon and not a legend…Ha!  He is simply in awe of your natural talent and is fearful that you could smother it with youthful vanity (remember his issues with your chest thumping in Beijing?) and he needs you to continue your legendary performances which are the main attraction at this year’s Games.  He really needs you to fill stadia in the next Games.
Listen, Usain: you became a legend in my eyes when you smashed the WR in both the 100 and the 200m.  And it is not just the fact that you did it, but it is how you do what you do!  I am ashamed to admit that I had to ask who came third in the recent 1,2,3 Men’s 200m sweep in London 2012.  You see, my eyes were on you and you alone from the beginning of the race to the end.  That’s how it always is, Sir.  I think I literally stop breathing every single time I see you run a corner.  It starts with you slowly uncurling your totally unsuitable sprinting frame (yeah right!) in such an ungainly manner from the blocks, so infuriatingly slowly and then…you become like this massive anti-gravity Transformer who just defies the laws of inertia on the turn and then you simply expand into an even more massive unbeatable machine for the last 40 or so meters of your race.  Such power, such long strides and such speed! 
Yes, Asafa Powell started this whole sub 10 attack on the 100m.  But I don’t watch the races because of Asafa.  I don’t dream about what he will do next.  You see, for me, I have to insist that it is not just about the speed.  Again, it is how you do it that sets you far apart from men who you beat by mere seconds.  Your antics before and after your race speak to a facet of your own personality that I find absolutely charming.  You are a fun-loving person!  And since one of my own personal mantras is: “I eschew unhappiness and unhappy people”, I am totally charmed by your joie de vivre.   It’s natural, it’s infectious and it reminds us that it is possible to achieve fantastic outcomes without looking like or behaving like the destiny of the universe rests on what I am about to do here and now.  
Don’t think I don’t see you acknowledging the young people who are tasked with carting your basket of gear off the track before the race starts.  Nobody taught you to do that!  Don’t think I’ve forgotten how you prodded Asafa to certain victory in that 4 x100m relay.  Don’t think we don’t realize how you’ve deliberately and genuinely motivated young Blake and Weir.  You whispered something to Weir at the start of the now historic Mens 200m in London 2012, didn’t you, when you saw this awesome young man buckling at bit before the start of the race.  He ended up with a bronze medal from an awesome field of runners…  It is not lost on me, Usain how you have the press eating out of hands.  You actually stop and talk to them and you recently took away a camera and literally turned the tables on them.  Did somebody suggest to you that this would be a charming gesture, sure to endear you more to the press and your adoring public?  Methinks NOT.  You see, Usain St. Leo Bolt…you are a Natural.  My children are sick of me saying: “Bolt is such a Superstar.”  It’s how you do what you do.  You win races in outstanding fashion, you frustrate top athletes who run out their heart strings to beat you only to be relegated to 3rd and 5th and 6thwith tears in the eyes and a mixture of despondency and awe in their hearts.  You charm children and princes.  You quietly help people…I recall your donations to the earthquake stricken people of China and your quiet donation to Sam Albert  to help her finance her own Olympic journey.  
And I think it is because your success has not been handed to you on platter, that I am in even more awe of you.  I love Glen Mills for taking you and working with you when you just did not know how to deal with your twisted spine and resultant repeated hamstring injuries.  Without that early intervention, there would be no Usain Bolt, Superstar.  You accepted the guidance and the rest, as they say, is history. 
I love it that you train right here on the rock.
I love it that you make no secret of the fact that winning is what you do.  You are competitive in a manner not seen in many athletes. 
I love it that you live your own life.
I love it that you have made and will make so much money. 
Yes, when Blake beat you at the National trials some weeks ago, I was worried.  I really was.  I wanted to see more of your utterly disrespectful victories!  It wasn’t until I saw you in the 100m semis in London that I truly relaxed and hugged my family and shouted: “HE’S BACK!  HE’S GOT THIS!!!!!!”
I’m going to share my personal fantasy where you are concerned: (hushed tones) I get goose bumps when I think about you running the 400m flats. Usain!  You and the 400m…picture it…feel it….see it!  My other country man, Kirani James (I’m Grenadian too you know) is a formidable athlete too, but there’s enough room for both of you.  Yes, yes, yes…I know training for what I consider to be the Ultimate Sprint is horribly hard and I know you would rather party.  But here’s the thing: I am hoping that you will soon, naturally, temper your partying and just decide to mash down the 400m.  Note I did not say “stop your partying”.  
Juliet Cuthbert recently made the point that many athletes go the college route and we college grads all know what it means to put the P in Party.  You opted not to go the college route, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t get to place the P, now does it!  All I ask is that you remember MODERATION.   Take care of yourself.  Protect your body, Usain.  Asafa seems to be a better motor car driver than you.  Let him do the driving.  Hahahaha!  Hold your family close.  Our families have the knack of keeping us grounded.  Guard your mind and heart and keep moving forward.
Good luck to you and the team in the relay finals later today.  I feel that something great is afoot. I’ll be going with my daughter to Half Way Tree to watch the race with the thousands of others that will bring traffic to a standstill this afternoon. 
Oh!  We will both celebrate birthdays on August 21 week after next.  Happy Birthday when it comes!  I expect to be living it up with my family and Mickey Mouse.
With a full and grateful heart , I remain one of your millions of fans across the globe.
Rock on,

“Happy Anniversary!”

Happy Anniversary!
Today the land of my birth marks 50 years of independence from Great Britain.  Fifty years ago we sang our own national anthem and raised our own flag.   I went to primary, secondary and tertiary school right here.  I got married to a Jamaican in Jamaica.  My two children were born here and they go to school here.  I work for a Jamaican company here in Jamaica. However, I had to think long and hard before I started this blog post.  I am probably one of a handful of persons who has not bought a Jamaica flag to put on my car and I don’t own a Jamaica t-shirt.  Here’s the thing: anniversaries of any nature present an opportunity for introspection. “Looks like we’ve made it, look how far we’ve come…” And herein lies the rub.
There are two Jamaicas: one where the schools are clean and quiet and teachers speak respectfully to students.  And there is one where children crowd into noisy, hot classrooms and are expected to learn.  There’s one Jamaica where you get “justice” if you have the money to pay for it.  There’s another Jamaica where you are tossed roughly from side to side inside the bowels of the justice system and hope for the best.  You often don’t get it…  There’s a Jamaica that’s filled with boat rides to Lime Cay and outings to the movies and another Jamaica where you hang out on the corner to grab a little cool air.  There’s  one Jamaica that moves about in high off-the-ground air conditioned vehicles and another Jamaica that moves around in tightly packed public buses,  fighting to keep your soul sane on your way to work and school and where you long to get home in the evening just to do it all over again in the morning.  There’s the Jamaica where you dare not get ill on a Saturday evening or public holiday….  There’s one Jamaica where we lock up tightly in gated communities or behind high walls, where security codes are a way of life and King Alarm is on speed dial.  There’s the other Jamaica where  4 year olds instinctively roll under the bed at the sound of a gun-shot ( and they know the difference between gun shot and clappers!) and their mother prays that Babylon don’t kick in the door tonight and search up her teenage son and cart his ass off to only God knows where.
Even in the midst of enjoying the things that make this island uniquely Jamaican: hot beef patties from Tastee, ice cold red-stripe beer after work, sipping rum on the 7 mile beach in Negril, jamming to rockers at a party, cheering like crazy woman at Boys and Girls Champs at the National Stadium, watching on in amusement in a line somewhere as someone “kick-off” and start cuss how dem a tek too damn long fi do whe dem haffi do, I cannot ignore the two Jamaicas.
So many of our people have migrated in search of better…even now you see them on Facebook and Twitter seeking to get their “warm and fuzzy” on as they live vicariously through the feats of Jamaican athletes, seeking re-connection in Caribbean festivals in the White Man’s Land where they’ve opted to make life and living for the next reggae concert in their area.  They haunt local Farmers Markets for mango and pear and ackee in an effort to re-create Yard a yard. Who can really blame them though?   Talk shows and Gleaner articles are dedicated to instructing us though the immigration maze to a Brighter and Better Future.  The desperation in the voices that call in and the hope and anticipation coming out in the letters speak volumes about where we think our futures and those of our children lie.
And yet… and yet… I am absolutely a product of this island Jamaica.  My heart swells with pride when I travel and everyone knows Bob Marley.  I sense the envy of other nations when they remark: “Oh!  You’re Jamaican!”  I am well aware of the mystique associated with this Brand Jamaica: cool, tough, fearless, hip, creators of awesome food and music, the land of the fastest athletes on earth…This little impoverished, corrupt, beautiful, diverse, creative, colourful, famous, infamous dot of a place in the Caribbean.  And I am Jamaican.  Let me try to explain what this 50th anniversary feels like to me…
You get married full of love and hope.  The years go by.  There are ups and downs.  Times of prosperity and lean times.  Children come.  Challenges come.  You wonder if this is worth it…you say to yourself “I didn’t sign up for this!” You wonder if this is as good as it gets.  Unmet expectations and unsaid yearnings fill up your insides.  And then up rolls another anniversary.  You and your partner look at each other and without saying a word some memory of what brought you together prompts a smile.  You look at your happy well adjusted children, and forget the school fees  looming.  You squeeze each others’ hand and remember the hope that you started this journey with and you whisper: “ Happy Anniversary.  We’re still standing.”  You mark the anniversary, not because all is well, but because in spite of all that is not well, you remember why you are together and you hold on to the hope that things can and will get better.
Happy Anniversary, Jamaica…Land of My Birth.  There is still so much I love about you, and things can get better.

10 more Olympic questions…

1.  Why do so many Asian athletes change their hair colour?  Methinks brown and shades thereof sell hard over there.
2.  Does anybody else get confused over the many countries that have Chinese or China in their names?
3.  Has anybody else lost count of how many countries were formed from what we used to call Russia?
4.  Does anybody else fret for the Russian and Chinese athletes when they don’t win gold?  They look so unhappy and frightened!  Dem must know why…
5.  The women tennis players make quite a bit of noise when playing.  Does anyone else find this quite entertaining?
6.  How do you decide to when to say Team UK or Team GB?
7.  All these countries that end in “stan”…does anyone else shudder with a bit of trepidation when they hear those names?
8.  Have you ever seen anybody black in the rowing events?
9.  Let’s name ‘em: what Olympic sports will you never see a black person in?
10. Let’s settle this once and for all: are we all agreed that Semanya is a woman?