Tuesday, December 30, 2008

e-Government in action

(...or should that be inaction?) I thought maybe the government website might have information on what's needed to register a birth, so I searched their website. All I found was How do I register Small Vessels?

Well, he is small and he does have a Call Sign, but I'm not sure if this is how I want him to start off in life...

UPDATE: it actually takes nothing more than filling in a form, showing ID, and paying $5!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Mobile Broadband is here!

Following the recent launch of Digicel's EDGE service, I've been looking forward to trying out the service. Originally a PC card was how EDGE would be used on say a laptop, but they now supply the elegant Sony Ericsson Mobile Broadband modem.

Installation is really simple. The device is USB, and requires a SIM card (with of course a data subscription). The software does allow you to set up a forwarding phone number, otherwise a caller gets a busy tone if your using the SIM in your modem. Note that the software defaults to ask for your card's PIN number, which is a good security feature (but can be turned off).

Connecting is quick; you do of course have to specify connection details. Performance is dependent on coverage - if signal is poor you'll get dial-up type connectivity, but overall I had a good experience with it. It also supports various networks: HSDPA, EDGE, UMTS, GPRS.

What's great about the concept is that it offers you an extra level of connectivity on the road (or even at home). Sure there are often several wi-fi hot-spots you can tap into at an airport for example, but you also have to be mindful of security considerations. And there are still places DSL hasn't reached yet, and for those areas this option is ideal. Or if you simply want to ditch your Cable & Wireless land line & DSL.

It would also be especially useful when roaming overseas - you should for instance be able to buy a SIM card with mobile broadband from a provider such as 3 in the UK.

I also liked how the modem will work on a Mac as well as a PC, and that the device can also be used as a USB drive.

Marks out of 10: 8

Sony Ericsson Mobile Broadband USB modem MD300: EC$399 from Digicel Dominica.


Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc
I'm happy to announce the arrival of baby Liam at 9:57am on Boxing Day (St Stephen's Day!), a healthy 7lbs.Both he and Mum are doing fine.

Check out his photos on Flickr.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Season's Greetings!

Happy Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Customer Care

If an e-mail to Customer Care at LIME (cuscare@cwdom.dm) bounces back as 'account is full (quota exceeded)', what does this tell us???

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The black is back

Dominica beach
Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc
I was thrilled to find that the beautiful black-sand beach at Bout Sab near La Plaine is back. The last time I was there it was all pebbles and rocks. I guess we have Hurricane Omar to thank for this!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Getting the message out

Later this month, I'm going to want to broadcast a simple message to friends via all my social networking websites, and it's going to have to be from my phone to boot. So this is how it'll be done.

I'll MMS an e-mail from my phone to my account at HelloTxt.com. This site allows me to update multiple social network sites by sending just one message. I can either enter it on the site, or via an SMS or MMS message sent to the site.

So from one simple text message I can update my status on my Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Tumblr, Plurk pages (and to many others such as MySpace, Bebo, Hi5 if I used them too).

Monday, December 01, 2008

Dr. Who vs Sensey costume: what scared you as a child?

I was talking with a friend about being scared as a child - hiding-behind-the-sofa or under-the-bed scared. What did it for me was Dr Who - Daleks especially freaked me out (until someone pointed out you could easily escape them by going up stairs).

For my friend here in Dominica it was Mas costumes, and the way scary Sensey-costumed men would just appear in the village around Carnival time. The best - and even I agree it's is a bizarre and spine-chilling image - was 'The Man Who Wore a Termite Nest on his Head While Playing an Accordion'. Apparently, villagers would hear his eerie dirge long before they saw him, which only added to the fear factor.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

We're waiting, LIAT

No, not for luggage, but for them to reduce their fuel surcharge. Their Oct 15th announcement at http://www.liatairline.com/news/fuel_surcharge.html announces a $2.50 reduction, since fuel prices 'have stabilised at around US$100 a barrel'... Funny how slow people can be to change their price to the consumer in a downward direction (and I'm thinking of DOMLEC too).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Weather update

At 3:03PM on November 18 it's Sunny, 28.4°C, 40% humidity, and we've had 0mm of rain in the last 24h

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

$400 million lemon: LIME

'We asked you what you wanted...' said the press release from LIME, aka Cable & Wireless; I'm not sure how many people said 'spend $400 million rebranding'. Nevertheless, that's what we got, and the new company was launched here with a bizarre stage-show at Creole in the Park which many will remember simply for being badly lit. Oh, and for the free maracas given out (note to self, write a post soon about modern Cargo Cults).

Thing is, several years ago they rebranded to Telecommunications of Dominica (ToD), then had to un-rebranded after admitting none knew ToD and that C&W was a globally recognised brand. Well at least lots of people know what a lime is.

Already there are alternate meanings for LIME - Lousy Internet, Mediocre Everythingelse is one. But maybe LIMP is better:: Landline, Internet, Mobile, Profits

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Cultural Gala

Cultural Gala
Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc
Held in the Botanical Gardens again. More photos

Flying the flag

"Newham Council commemorated the national day of Dominica on Monday (November 3) by flying the countrys national flag.

Mayor Sir Robin Wales and Deputy Mayor Councillor Christine Bowden joined Agnes Adonis, the Dominica Acting High Commissioner, fellow councillors and residents on the steps of the Town Hall in East Ham to mark the 30th anniversary of the nations independence.

It is the fifth year that Newham Council has raised the flag of Dominica alongside the Union Flag and the borough flag. It was the first local authority to do so.

Sir Robin said: We are proud that in Newham we have so many communities that live, work and play together. Our Dominican residents are proud of their nation and their flag and we are proud of them and their contribution to life in the borough.

During the celebration Dominica flags were waved by children from St Antonys School in Forest Gate and the national anthem was played. There were refreshments served in the Town Hall."

Full article

The George W Bush Presidential Library

As his time comes (too slowly) to an end, we are pleased to reveal the new George W Bush Presidential Library building. He said "it's great, it'll hold all my comics"...
Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bouncing back

Getting back to normal
Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc
It's been only a weekend since Hurricane Omar side-swiped us, but some of the most badly affected places are already bouncing back.

The road from Soufriere to Scott's head was so damaged it was impassable, but by yesterday it was open again. Better still for the people of Scott's Head, electricity was also restored!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lenny vs Omar

Two views of the road south to Scott's Head. Left - post Hurricane Lenny, 1999. Right, during Hurricane Omar 2008 (thanks Neg!).

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hurricane Omar passes

Roseau Bayfront looking south
Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc
Catching many by surprise, Hurricane Omar passed by, and like Lenny in 1999, side-swiped our west coast.

More photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dominica_steve/sets/72157608099422817/

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Omar and Lenny

Hurricen Omar's west to east track reminds me of Hurricane Lenny in 1999 - the first to travel in that direction within the Caribbean. This view is of the main Scott's Head to Soufriere road just after Lenny.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 01, 2008

Welcome to the first week of September

The peak of the Hurricane Season is the last week in August and the first week of September. A quick look at today's NHC Atlantic overview shows Gustav, Hanna (who can neither make up her mind what she is or where she's going), newly formed Ike (head north young man!) and 99L which may yet turn into Josephine...

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Rivers

The River
Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc
It's the rivers that set Dominica apart. When I fly over somewhere like Antigua I feel rather sorry for them: all those beaches but no cool mountain rivers to plunge into when things get too hot.

There are parts of Dominica I define by a relative lack of rivers - like that 'barren' drive between Loubiere and Soufriere. Even the drish West Coast around Salisbury - so often left black by bush fires in the dry season - is punctuated by some delicious rivers like the Macoucherie.

So when the weather is hot like now I can just look at a photo like this one and feel cooler.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Dealing with traffic police, Dominica-style

I walked past a group of police officers stopping every other vehicle near the Mahaut bus stop this morning. Many of course were bus drivers, who didn't take kindly to being stopped. The prize however went to HA107. When asked to pull over, he gesticulated. When the policewoman stood in front of his bus he slowed, but gesticulated more and waved his driving license. When she stood back, he drove off. She seemed nonplussed.

I must try that.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

RIP Cluedo

RIP Cluedo: Hasbro have given it a makeover.

"Clue(do) now takes place in a mansion with a spa and a home theater where the rich and famous have gathered for some sort of in-crowd shindig. Military man Colonel Mustard is now Jack Mustard, a former footballer. The studious Professor Victor Plum is now a video game designer and dot.com millionaire. And the cook, Mrs. White, has departed in favor of child star Diana White.

Plus, the lead pipe has disappeared, replaced by a trophy. And the revolver is now a pistol."


Friday, August 08, 2008

Favourite Fruit #1: Pawpaw

Papaya gets my vote as the King of Fruits. Not only is it delicious when ripe, but it's got to be one of the easiest seeds to grow.  The only drawback is that your pawpaw tree might be male, in which case it flowers but doesn't bear fruit. (Editor's note: wouldn't that make it the Queen of Fruits?)

And did you know 100g gives you 103% of your recommended Vitamin C requirement?

More on papaya on Wikipedia.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Pesky wabbits

This weekend saw the annual Rabbit Festival in Cochrane. One of the highlights are the Rabbit Races. I was hoping to get some good odds on a rank outsider but alas, there was only one race and I missed it.

It wasn't, apparently, a race in the normal sense. It seems rabbits are not racing animals (no? ah, that's the hare), so the 'race' involved the rabbit jockey holding his animal and moving according to squares drawn out of a hat (no reports of a rabbit appearing out of the hat).

Anyway, it was still a fine afternoon (if you weren't stuck in the traffic jam). And rabbits make better dishes than dashers...

Photo: top - winner. Bottom - loser.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Four Seasons

The four seasons of Dominica are:

Hurricane Season
Wet Season
Dry Season
Mango Season

Friday, August 01, 2008

Little disturbance, big storm

I had been thinking of blogging about the singular lack of any electric storms this year so far. Until yesterday. A night of distant thunder turned into a morning of violent thunder and lightning, and some really heavy rain. One strike hit close and left the village without power for 15 hours. And it wasn't even a tropical disturbance!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

'Don't panic, it's a Pandemic!'

Seen in a Roseau (Chinese) store - the Pandemic Water Heater.

Comes with Legionnaires Disease pre-installed?

Photo to follow ;)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

DiveFest canoe race

DiveFest canoe race day.
Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc
Another fun DiveFest Carib Canoe Race.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Evening Market

I always thought going to the Roseau market was about getting up at an ungodly hour, on a day (Saturday) that one should be getting up at a definitely godly hour.

But recently I've discovered that, on Friday at least, the Roseau Market never sleeps. If you go around 8pm or later you'll find people have already set up their stalls, breadfruit are a-roasting, vegetable are fresh, and that staple of any visit to the market (whatever the time), the jelly coconut, is readily available.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Here's some weather!


This actually turned into Tropical Storm Dolly on the 20th July!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dominica gets greener!

Last week's Budget had great news for those interested in alternative energy:

"Consistent with Government’s commitment to encouraging the use of alternative forms of energy, with immediate effect all duties on equipment to be used in the self-generation of energy from renewable sources will be removed."

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sepp Blatter is a w**ker

The more I think about Sepp Blatter's comments that Ronaldo is an example of 'modern slavery', the angrier I get. Since when does a slave earn 100,000 quid a week? And have his own agent?

Lets not forget the extensive allegations of corruption against Mr. Blatter. The only thing medaeval about the whole affair is Mr Blatter himself. Tell him directly via the FIFA website.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Gearing up for Dive Fest

This Friday sees the launch of the 2008 DiveFest. You can find out more here or check the official DiveFest blog here. The big question is: will I be in a Canoe Race team? Tis too soon to say!

Monday, June 30, 2008

"Orange, Julia?"

"Orange, Julia?"
Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc
I've seen this butterfly before, but this time I made a concerted effort to find out what it was. One useful site as a last resort is WhatsThatBug.com

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Best Firefox add-ons

My favourite Firefox 3 add-ons:

1. dragdropupload
No more browsing for files such as attachments - just drag into the form!

2. FoxyTunes
Control your music software (like iTunes) from Firefox. Cool 'Now Playing' Signatures feature too.

3. Web Developer
A must for a Webbie.

4. Back to Top
A Top (or Bottom) of page button for Firefox.

5. ColourfulTabs
Enhance your tabbed browsing with cute colours.

6. AdBlock Plus
Ditch the tired 'You are the 1,000,000,000 visitor' banner ads.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Good luck getting Firefox 3 today!

Firefox made today a 'everyone download Firefox 3 and help us set a new world record in downloads'. So it was no surprise that their website was so overloaded with traffic it crashed. I'm glad I got did my download a couple of days ago!

Friday, June 13, 2008

More on the whaling issue

"Every year the Japanese hunt and kill 1,200 whales and it defends its position at the IWC. With an increasing number of countries, including many in Latin America, Asia and Africa, opposing the unjustified killing of whales, Japan is outnumbered. So, it set out to recruit small countries to join the IWC as supporters in exchange for giving them fisheries facilities.

Over time, these mostly refrigerated storage units, have become white elephants. They sit on the shores underutilised, and not serving the fishing community which lacks the capacity to catch the amount of fish necessary to fill them. They may have served a purpose at the time of their establishment when the governments of these small states pointed to them as indicators of investment in their small and less well-off fishing communities. Today, it is clear the fishing communities would have done better if investment had been made in improving their capacity to fish with bigger boats and more modern technology by giving grants or very low interest loans.

Many of the countries that Japan recruited to bolster its position in the IWC cannot afford to join other international organisations that are of importance to them or send delegations to meetings. Yet, they have somehow managed both to meet the cost of membership of the IWC and to send vociferous delegations to its meetings."


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Help Fix Facebook

Remember the old days of the Net when Dominica wasn't listed in many drop-down country lists? I had to send many irate emails to webmasters.

In using Facebook for our Dominica page, about the only City/Town allowed is Roseau. This of course is simply Not Good Enough. For example, I'm trying to add event info for the Cochrane (Pesky) Wabbit Festival. But no, it's not being held in Cockrane, Alabama.

So I urge everyone to go to http://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=region_request to request Facebook add our major towns and villages!

So far, I've added:

Scott's Head

A define 'No' to commercial whaling

A couple of days I blogged that Dominica will be abstaining at the forthcoming IWC vote - a major shift in position after years of supporting Japan. A quote from Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, is even more emphatic:

“In common with most of our Caribbean neighbors, Dominica remains strongly in favor of the sustainable use of marine resources,” said Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of Dominica. “Our stringent environmental practices and philosophies have earned us the label, ‘The Nature Island’ and, upon careful review and deliberation of the issue, it has been determined that voting for an overturn of the existing worldwide ban on commercial whaling would be inconsistent with the standards and principles of sustainability that we so fervently advocate.”

Listening to: XTC - Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her, Kiss Her
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Deadly fat

I was shocked to read just how deadly hydrogenated vegetable oil (also known as trans-fat) is. No more for me!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Dominica says a definite 'maybe not!' to whaling!

Great news: our Prime Minister today announced that Dominica will abstain at the annual IWC vote on the resumption of commercial whaling.

This follows 10 years of siding with the Japanese on the issue. Many people have questioned the official Government position that Dominica has for so long taken on whaling; our whale watching industry has a huge potential with one of the best success rates in the region, and it's also been hard to square the whaling stance with our desire to be seen as a leading eco-tourism destination.

It'd be nicer to have a more definite 'no' on the issue but for now abstaining is a huge step in the right direction.

castle bruce beach

castle bruce beach
Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc
And they say we don't have any beaches...!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Sensible Units!

Here's a relatively useful but fun site: http://www.sensibleunits.com/

It takes a quantity with a scientific unit and turns it into several quantities with sensible units, like elephants, buses and Great Walls of China.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Scam alert: Forum on Human & Community Development

I received another scam/spam for a dubious conference:
International NGOs’ Forum on Human and Community Development Financing.
August 4-9, 2008: Seattle, Washington, United States.
August 11-16, 2008: Birmingham, United Kingdom.
How do I know? Tracing the send of the e-mail, it was sent from Togo, West Africa! It appears to be sent from the fully legit cantercorporation.com

Monday, May 26, 2008

Flickr tip

Here's a tip for Flickr users: adding date-taken-calendar/ to the end of your photostream shows a cool month calendar of photos taken that month! Try this...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Banana fights

There's been lots in the news recently about the ongoing spat between various banana organisations here. It seems that the long-standing official body the D/a Banana Producers (DPBL) and the Fair Trade farmers organisation have been at loggerheads for ages.

Thing is, Fair Trade would seem to be the way to go, more even than organic. (In fact, this article debunks the myth that organic is good for you, and for the environment.) UK Fair Trade bananas have gone from sales of £7.8 million in 2000 to £150 million in 2007; we have to embrace it and stop the infighting.

And as a footnote, this article highlights another 'banana war' going on - between UK supermarkets.

See also fairtrade.org.uk

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fighting spam... again

Recently I discovered to my horror that tons of spam had been sent 'from' my address. I knew this because my in-box had 1,500 bounced back messages. The trouble with this kind of spam is that it's impossible to report since bounce backs don't have the headers of the original spam. I did trace the hosting company of the link seen in the SPAM e-mail, and that after I sent off an irate e-mail to the China-based hosting complaint the spam did slow down. More to do with the 'natural' cycle of spam than my e-mail I think.

Normally any spam I get I report: I view the message source, copy, and paste into my Spamcop.net account. I knew there must be a plug-in to automate this, and there was. I started with the Habu add-on, but have since gone with the KnujOn.com plug-in from secondwheel.

In fact, the easiest way to report spam to Spamcop is simply to forward the mail to the unique e-mail you get when you sign up!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

fantasy league champ

fantasy league champ
Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc

After a grueling 9-month campaign, I win Channel 4 Fantasy Football League.... again!

Final stats:

Overall points total
Steve 501
Simon 496
Liz 478
Wendy 466
Harry 445
RJ 390
Andrew 312
Dan 307
Tony 296

Best 3 months
Steve 214
Wendy 213
Simon 204
Liz 195
Harry 190

Months Won
2 Steve, Simon, Liz
1 Harry, Wendy, RJ

Monday, April 28, 2008

Getting scrappy

Finally, Dominica has begun to do something with old computer parts (besides dumping them in the landfill). I dropped off several years worth of old PCs at the 'Scrap Metal Only' yard in Canefield. Along with old aluminium cans they are shipped off to Canada where they are recycled.

Next - let's find a good way to dispose of used engine oil.

The scrap metal initiative is by Ivan Smith (767 276 6434) in conjunction with Lifeline Ministries (767 449 8593).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

rebuilding the bike

the bike
Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc
I'm in the process of rebuilding part of the bike, and found BicycleTutor.com, which is fast becoming invaluable. Mind you, I wish I hadn't found out WD40 was the worse possible lubricant to use on one's chain...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Otter with big eyes

The LIAT Twin Otter flight from Canefield, Dominica, is how flying should be - fun, lots to see (especially with the large windows), a little 'edge of the seat' at times, and short. En route to Antigua, the stop over is about 15 minutes at Guadeloupe, when one usually sits in the plane and awaits any passengers going on to Antigua.

Until now. Because of a 'new law', as the <racial stereotype> sulky but stylish French female</racial stereotype> ground staff told us, we had to get off the plane, follow her around into the airport, up several flights of stairs, through a security check again, and back down and out to the plane.

Still, one gets to see another airport, and one could even buy a copy of Le Monde before it goes bankrupt (it lost US$31m last year). Except that Le Monde journalists are on strike... Which got me thinking, when French air traffic controllers take their annual strike action, does that mess LIAT flights up? I'd rather not know...

Getting the bird

Parrot by ImagesDominica.com
A recent newspaper article voiced concerns by farmers in Dominica that wildlife - especially parrots - had made such a comeback that their numbers were impacting on farmers' crops. Apparently they're very partial to grapefruits.

Rather than shoot them (as had been done), the farmers ought to see this as a golden opportunity. People will pay good money to see these magnificent birds, which are only found here. Remember, there were only sixty or so Sisserous (Amazona imperialis) after Hurricane David. Now there are about 300. I did wonder how Hurricane Dean last year impacted on birdlife, and events such as that serve to show that we still need to protect our own endangered species.

(Photo by Izzy)

PS The newspaper also said one farmer was considering court action. The defendant may only be referred to as Jack O...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

April sunset

sunset 12 Apr
Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc
The days are getting longer, and as you can see from the photo, the sun's setting further north.

Monday, April 07, 2008

A Place of Safety

The UK’s largest children’s charity is raising funds to open and operate a Dominica 'Place of Safety'. The Place of Safety will be the first ever 24 hour residential home for abused and abandoned children in Dominica.

The home will be able to look after approximately 100 children per year, giving them a secure and loving place of refuge. The Place of Safety will also function as a child development centre, providing respite care and other services to the wider child population, including Carib ‘Kalinago’ children. They are seeking to raise £300,000 to complete and equip the project by October 2008.

NCH staff in Dominica are currently in contact with abandoned and abused children who are in need of dedicated care and protection, while efforts are made to find loving homes. For example, one child is currently living in a hospital because she has nowhere else to go.

NCH needs help right now to meet this commitment and protect children from abuse, neglect, and homelessness. Read more at http://www.placeofsafety.blogspot.com/

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Low blow

Dominica boxer Lennon Bannis was denied a chance to qualify for the Bejing Olympics at the recent qualifications in Trinidad when his opponent delivered a low blow that was missed by the referee, who then stopped the fight and awarded the bout to the opponent.

What was also sad was that the chance for an appeal was missed for lack of funds... why it costs to lodge an appeal I don't know!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Barbados 1 Dominica 0

"Now I know what it's like to be a travelling England fan".

For a long time we had hope - the first half ended 0-0 and though chances were few, we knew a goal was possible.

But then it all went pear-shaped in the 59th minute: a straight red card for our captain (at least one of their players was sent off for a second yellow at the same time). Without him - arguably our next best player after the awesome goalie - we were prone to the increasingly confident Bajan attacks... Then in the 75th minute their number 14, Standford, who came on a as sub in the 62nd minute, got the goal that put us out, and set Barbados up with a June meeting with Team USA.

But well done our boys! And the highlight of the game - the announcement over the PA asking for a Richard X, whose girlfriend had just gone into labour at the main gate... What's the betting the baby will be called Stanford?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

'A place called Massacre'

More footballing news, and another astute 'signing' of a UK-based player into the Dominica team ahead of The Big Game: Ross Jeremy, from Massacre, who said "It was 30 degrees every day and the ball bounced twice as high as I'm used to," he said. "I expect it will be pretty warm in Barbados as well."

Full article...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Countdown to the big game

10 days till the big game - the second leg of the 2010 World Cup football qualifying game v. Barbados on the 26th. I had a chance to speak with the manager, Erickson Christopher, recently, who was upbeat about our chances. He and the team fly out on the 22nd, and are joined by the English players a couple of days later.

Remember in UK-based Richard Pacquette we have a guy who's scored against mighty European Champions Liverpool, and given his impressive goal against Barbados in the first leg, must be the biggest threat. Heartening new is that in recent friendly games Barbados have struggled to score.

The prize of course is the USA in the next game. What a way to showcase out new stadium!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Grinding greenery

Flower in Dominica
A recent article talked about Dominica's 'grinding poverty'. Like another from someone else who'd done cursory research on the web (but never been anywhere near here), it emphasied how poor we are.

Before I go on, let's quickly look at the UN's Human Poverty Index. Dominica ranks 71st, the top of the Medium Human Development group of nations, above many of our Caribbean nations (inc. St Lucia, Grenada, St Vincent). And even above our new partners, China and Venezuela! And above another 84 countries in the same group. Below that are the Low Human Development group of another 20-odd nations.

But along with the other indices that rate us highly in quality of life (4th happiest in the world, no less!), they are ignored in favour of a sweeping generalisation. Certainly, if the author of the article were to visit, for every ramshackle home they'd pass, they'd also be passed by a SUV. Yes there's poverty, but it's not 'grinding'. The author is probably closer to it than we are.

What we do have is a grinding greenery. A lushness that hits you in the face hard every day. An almost depressing natural beauty that berates you constantly ('look at me, climb, explore, take photos, dive, stop working!'). And as the rain continues to fall outside, a grinding rainforest. I know where'd I rather be.

Listening to: Tears For Fears - Everybody Wants to Rule the World
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Word of the week: Dreadhawk

Dreadhawk [dred-hawk] [] noun -
  1. a hairstyle consisting of dreadlocks shaped into a mohawk.

Taken from http://www.fauxlogism.com/,
Fauxlogism is "an ongoing project to document false words. It appears to be heading mostly in the direction of portmanteaus, but all fraudulent or phony words are acceptable.

Why is any given new word a fauxlogism and not a neologism, you might ask? There’s no good answer to that question so let’s just shuffle our feet a little, tug at our collars, and move on...."

Friday, February 29, 2008

Let there be light

As I sat in the dark, lit only by a flickering candle, listening to our PMs 'state of the nation' speech, two things came to mind. One that I was so badly wrong that the power cut would be over in time for the start of the speech. No way, I thought, that the power company would deprive us of seeing our PM on TV! Wrong.

More importantly though I heard the PM talk briefly of how the oil refinery was on hold (not cancelled, note). But he continued on the theme of 'energy security' by talking extensively of the forthcoming and exciting plans for geo-thermal electricity - exploring the potential for cheap power that could also be exported to the neighbouring islands. And contrasting the two options, it really is a no-brainer.

The plans by the way are for a soon-to-start French-funded exploration into the potential, centred in nearby Wotton Waven. Given previous studies have shown there is potential, let's get going!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ideal pies

After Spider Pies, my fave type of pie is the website traffic 'referring sites' pie(chart), and over on the Delphis blog I provide some fascinating (!) insights into this non-edible pie...

Monday, February 25, 2008

Kayaking in Dominica

Here's a good blog about some kayakers who decide Dominica's a good place for their sport!

Friday, February 22, 2008


Outside, it's 20.5C. That's 68.9F. Now that might sound toasty to some, but it's not for late-February in Dominica. We're tropical, not temperate.

And it's not even raining. Someone turn the heat up please.

Listening to: Jeff Wayne - War Of The Worlds - Part 01
via FoxyTunes

Friday, February 15, 2008

Back it up!

In which the Delphis Ltd blog suggests a good way to make sure your data is safe when the next natural disaster hits! Read more...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Oil refinery on hold

Good news: the Prime Minister today announced the proposed oil refinery was on hold. This is a major change to the 'oil refinery goes ahead after the EIA' stance. He said a wider view of overall economic benefits should be taken, along with full consultation with all stakeholders, before any decision is made.

The Dominica Hotel & Tourism Association recently released a press release on the refinery issue, and it's worth repeating here:

"The Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association is alarmed at the prospect of the building of an oil refinery in Dominica and the negative impact this will have on the thousands of jobs created through tourism. The tourism sector presently employs thousands of people and according to the latest IMF report, tourism contributed an estimated $186 million to the economy, creating huge foreign exchange. This growth can be multiplied substantially every year if Government demonstrates its commitment to the tourism sector and helps it move forward for the benefit of the entire country, from farmers and fishermen, vendors and tour operators, tour guides and artistes, the construction industry and to all other sectors which benefit directly and indirectly from the tourism industry.

Dominica's entire tourism industry has been developed and marketed on its rich and pristine natural rain forest and marine environment. Locals and foreigners alike have invested millions in developing a product which is unique and which has been recognized internationally as one of the most sustainable tourism destinations in the world. Establishing an oil refinery on the nature island, regardless of its location, would destroy that image and severely curtail any serious tourism investment on the island.

Dominica has an abundance of potential alternative renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass which can be explored to provide us with options that pose less threat to our environment and could create investment and jobs in cutting edge technology.

While we recognise and appreciate the assistance from friendly governments that has improved the lives of our people, we believe that an oil refinery will severely curtail one of the most promising sectors in the economy. While tourism has consistently shown incremental growth over the years, the constraints on the industry have held it back from delivering on its promise. With improved air access and commitment to marketing, it has been stated over and over again that the tourism industry would become the “driver of the economy” that the policy makers have hoped for.

The DHTA therefore wishes to reiterate its firm opposition to any oil refinery in Dominica. As the voice of the tourism sector and partners in development with the Discover Dominica Authority, we owe it to all stakeholders in the industry, and to all Dominicans, to safeguard our natural resources and the opportunities and jobs that lie within a healthy tourism industry.

We look forward to a more open consultative process that will bring all voices together to consider the effects on all segments of society. Development of the country must be planned for the long term benefit of all."

Curse of the black plastic bag

We bag everything here. Stores must spend a small fortune on black plastic shopping bags (Dominica imported US$1.3 million of plastic products last year). Even the smallest item goes into one, sometimes two. Recent reports of a huge garbage vortex in the middle of the Pacific is probably matched by one in the middle of the Caribbean. I hate them, and take a small pleasure from the looks of horror I get in stores when I refuse them. Ban them I say.

Fortunately, there's now the re-usable Green Dominica grocery bag. All is not lost.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Web Pages That Suck

In which over on the Delphis Ltd blog we have a chuckle at a site that extols good design but fails in one key area... Read more.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Dominica team celebrate

Dominica team celebrate
Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc
It was great while it lasted! Like in the cricket yesterday, we took an early lead in this World Cup Qualifier, only to see Barbados come back. This time they didn't beat us, just equalised, so we go into the second leg needing to win. The prize is playing the USA!

Read more on the game here.

A little shake

Another little earth tremor this afternoon - 5.0, 80 miles east of us, 21 miles down. If it had happened yesterday no-one would have noticed!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Carnival Monday

Carnival parade
Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc
Today's Carnival Monday. Though it got off to a late start, it was the usual vibrant parade. See more pics here.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

No prizes for diplomacy

Caribbean Man talks about the growing crisis we face here, and I couldn't agree more. Just the handling of the 'proposed' oil refinery has made me cringe. Surely there's someone in Govt. who thought of saying 'Look, this is a contentious issue and though we ourselves know it's going ahead regardless, we can get lots of Brownie points if we handle this well. Let's be seen to be proactive - meet with stakeholders, do the consultation we promised, maybe even throw the tourism industry a bone or two...'

Instead, there's been one press 'conference' (more of a press speaking-to in fact), one press release, one meeting with select stakeholders.

Can you, for instance imagine Govt. saying 'We understand your concerns about the possible effect on tourism. So we'll double the budget for tourism marketing!"

No, I can't either. Instead, the industry is dismissed as worthless, and critics are dismissed as 'evil'.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Laptop security

You've a good strong password to access your laptop, you might even have a BIOS-based password too. But what can you do if your laptop is stolen?

The Laptop Lock is a site that allows you to register your laptop, and if it's stolen you can flag it as such. The site will connect with your laptop (you install a little piece of software) and you have access to a number of options the first time your laptop connects to the Web - including the ability to encrypt specify folders.

One interesting option is to be able to geographically track where the laptop is accessing the Net from once stolen... that is, if the thief's managed to by-pass your passwords!

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Next Big Scam

The Nigerian Scam gets even better. I received an invitation to attend the "2nd International NGO/CBO Workshop". Sounded great, all expenses paid trip to New York for up to 4 members of my organisation. Funded by the real Jacobson Foundation, and in part by the Bill Gates Foundation, and the invite was a 'glossy' PDF brochure. Only catch was, to attend you had to Western Union $300 per person to a post office in West Africa....

If they'd have had you wire the money to the US it would have been perfect. I know of a case locally where a whole group were invited to West Africa only to get there to find it was a scam. Our Government even contributed air fares. At least the group got to see Africa.

But like I did with this scam, Google the event. If there's not a whiff of the event, take a closer look. Especially given it was supposed to be the 2nd of its kind, why nothing online about the 1st?!

ALERT: watch out also for the 'Forum on Human and Community Development Financing'!

'The Perfect Yorker'

That was the ball from Dominica's Matthew that bowled-out Jeffers of the BVI in last night's 20/20 cricket match, one of the first in the competition presently being held in Antigua. It was a great game - especially to see our team do so well - and the Dominicans in the crowd thoroughly enjoyed it too!

Next game - Barbados on Feb 5, which is the day before our football team play Barbados in the World Cup qualifier!

(a Yorker by the way is a ball pitched right at a batsman's feet. Click here for my old 'Cricket for Beginners page').

Friday, January 25, 2008

Value of Tourism, part 2

Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc
I spoke about the typical contribution of tourism to Dominica's economy. That's in a typical year.

The filming of Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3 in Dominica in 2005 (yes, that's me in the rigging!) brough in around EC$47 million. Then last year we had PirateMaster. OK, so it flopped, but they still filmed here, and again, based on our pristine environment. As one of the producers said:

"We selected Dominica for its lush, pristine landscape with rugged mountain peaks, deep river gorges, towering waterfalls and accessible coastline - the ideal setting for a pirate adventure..."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The geo-politics behind the oil refinery?

An interesting article on the possible regional politics behind the proposed oil refinery. Read in full...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Value of Dominica's Tourism: US$69 million/year

I was just looking at the latest IMF report on Dominica. Tourism brought in EC$184.6 million dollars (US$69 million) in the last year. And yet there are some who say tourism does nothing for us...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

XO potential for Dominica

I've been testing out one of the XO laptops - part of the One Laptop Per Child project. First thing you need to bear in mind is that it's not any kind of 'ultra portable' PC, it's an educational computer for children. Which is why it's pitched at $200.

But what's great about it is it's mobility - both in size but more in its connectivity. Though I've yet to get it working on a fixed-IP wireless network, it does connect well to DHCP wifi networks, and even more importantly to other XOs via their 'mesh network'. If one on the mesh can connect to the Net, they all can. A basic PC with the 'XS school sever' software on it then connects all to the Net. And to other meshes of XO elsewhere in the world.

And therein lies the potential for somewhere like Dominica. I imagine a network of children in a small village like mine, connected to each other, and via a XS to the net. Bill Gates, you want to send a dozen XOs so I can set up the Caribbean's first XO mesh?!

In fact, there presently is a scheme to collect donations for an OLPC in Dominica here.
Update: XO laptops in Dominica!

Detailed review of the XO.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Dominica's government recently embarked on a 'Residence Tourism Policy', and here's an excerpt, which speaks volumes to the total reversal to declared policy that an oil refinery would be :


5. In Dominica’s context the island would likely be of interest to certain segments of the retiree market because Dominica is viewed as an unspoilt destination with a relatively good record for security and safety and for friendly people with a relatively good living standard. Dominica is noted for its pristine natural environment and opportunities for healthy lifestyle, research in environmental and related disciplines and wellness tourism.

6. These attributes, by themselves, will not translate into investment in residence tourism on a significant scale unless a deliberate policy to promote the destination to this segment is adopted. Dominica also has other inherent constraints such as the absence of state-of-the- art medical facilities and evacuation procedures.

Dominica should seek to capitalize on this vibrant and growing industry."

Listening to: The Police - Deathwish
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, January 20, 2008

My EIA, Part 2: Jobs

Jobs don't really come under the 'environment' part of an EIA but do come under the 'impact' part. The claim is, the jobs created by a refinery would be of critical importance. Big project, lots of jobs building it. Then a few running it. But given it's claimed will be state of the art, you know it would be very automated. I suspect in both areas, they'll be more Venezuelans benefitting than Dominicans.

But you have to look it's the impact on tourism. It's the fastest growing sector for employment and the income from tourism outstrips any other sector. The Visit-Dominica.com database has 135 accommodations, 50 tour ops, 10 dive ops, 32+ restaurants, 15 car hire companies. Let's say 250+ businesses directly involved in tourism. Now for each one of those, you've got several supporting employees. Then for every person staying, you've got to feed and water them. That's employment for farmers, fishermen, and sales for the Kubuli factory. And as you wave each tourist off, we take their departure tax, and remit all the sales tax/VAT. And you also have to include all the people employed in constructing the many projects still underway.

So in short, one tourist visit employs dozens of people directly but possibly twice as many indirectly. I don't see a refinery drinking Kubuli and eat local food.

And building a refinery would without a doubt impact on tourism. We market ourselves as an eco-tourism destination. As I speak of here, our tourism product has an inbuilt wow factor that generates untold publicity for us. Replace that wow factor with a 'what a shame' factor and we're just another Caribbean island that's harder than the rest to get to. And that will impact on jobs.

Next: the environment

Friday, January 18, 2008

My EIA, Pt 1: Location

Given that the public haven't been given the first EIA (was it critical?), I'm doing my own EIA for the proposed oil refinery. Part 1 will look at possible locations.

Too close to people, especially the good people of Belfast. Can you imagine them looking north to the smoke stacks of the refinery?

It's got the water you'd need, and therein lies the problem - there are also millions of tons more held back by the natural but flimsy dam of Miracle Lake. Plus the issues of flooding from the Layou.

Pointe Ronde
Flat for sure, but dry, so not much water. And isn't it earmarked for a golf course? Still, you'd have a great view of a refinery there from the entire Portsmouth area. Including Ross School of Medicine, the Cabrits, and the soon-to-be under-development Cabrits marina. Mmmmm.

Dominica in general
Volcanoes & earthquakes. And hurricanes.

Best location: Venezuela

Next: Jobs

Listening to: Soul II Soul - Mood
via FoxyTunes

EIAs R Us!

Just as we love outside consultants (because we don't pay for them), we love Environmental Impact Assessments (because we don't follow them).

Every project has one. We do them, but rarely are they made public, and as far as I know, a project has never had a critical EIA. That's as much because we just churn them out - people actually make a living from writing them, not because of their environmental background and knowledge, but because they'll say the right thing.

Recent pronouncements from official sources in Dominica even talk of doing the EIA for the refinery, then going right ahead with it!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Blowing in the wind

Being a small nation, we tend to take what's given. However much it contradicts what we may have been given just a short while ago.

So one day, we take what Taiwan offer, then the next we take what China offers and sing the One China Policy song as if we have all our lives.

Personally, if I was the European Union I'd say 'Are you taking the mickey? We give you millions of Euros to develop your eco-tourism product, then you turn around and want to build an oil refinery???'

OLPC laptop

OLPC laptop
Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc
I'm a proud owner of a OLPC laptop, and doesn't it match the greenery well?! Review to follow.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

On oil and energy

As our Government takes a step closer to turning Dominica into an oil refinery for Hugo Chavez, it's worth remembering what they said in 2006. I will start with the closing paragraph first:

"The pursuit of cleaner and environmentally friendly sources of energy is in keeping with Government’s aim of lessening the island’s dependence on fossil fuel while at the same time maintaining Dominica’s reputation as the Nature Island of the World. "

Now here's the full press release:

"Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Housing, Lands, Telecommunications, Energy and Ports, Dr. Colmore Christian has outlined the strategy being employed by the Government of Dominica to harness Dominica’s renewable energy resources, mainly geothermal and wind in response to the escalating price of oil on the world market and the need to pursue reliable and affordable sources of energy.

Dr. Christian was at the time addressing an Alternative Energy Symposium, organized by the Environmental Coordinating Unit (ECU) in partnership with the Global Environment Facility Small Grant Project (GEF-SGP) and the Florida Association of Voluntary Agencies for the Caribbean Action (FAVACA), USA.

Speaking at the symposium on Thursday, Dr Christian noted: “ The increase in world prices for oil have had and continues to have devastating effects on small developing economies and economies in transition.

“These international developments have forced countries and development strategists to explore options for sustainable renewable sources of energy. Surely, the current high price of oil on the international market and the call for a reduction in the use of ozone depleting substances globally have made some non-oil based sources of energy much more economically attractive and environmentally desirable….”

The Government of Dominica, through the Ministry of Housing, Lands, Telecommunications, Energy and Ports has embarked on a multi-pronged approach, the primary elements of which include:

· Development of Hydro: Presently Hydro makes up 40% of Dominica’s energy production. Although there are no plans to expand that percentage in the short term, the goal is to at least maintain and consolidate that level of hydro energy production into the future.

· Dominica’s geographic location presents opportunities for harnessing the abundant supply of available solar energy. The State has invested in a totally solar-powered facility at the Morne Diablotin National Park at Syndicate.

· Wind Energy Research has confirmed the potential for wind energy generation in some parts (Woodford Hill and Delices) of the island.

· Geothermal Initiative- Phase I of the GEF-funded and OAS coordinated sub-regional initiative, involving Dominica, St. Lucia and St.Kitts/Nevis.

A funding proposal for Phase II of this initiative is presently before the GEF for consideration. Further investigations to be undertaken and the possibility of developing a pilot project in Dominica has been proposed under this second phase.

· Collaboration with the French (funded under Intereg)

· Government is actively pursing the development and commissioning of a 5-megawatt geothermal plant by December 2008.

Also addressing the symposium was FAVACA’s Chief Engineer, Dr. Bill Young., also from the Florida Solar Energy Centre. Dr. Young delivered a presentation on photovoltaic/ wind energy.

On the invitation of the Environmental Coordinating Unit, Dr. Young was on island from April 17-21, 2006 to undertake an assessment of Dominica’s potential in regard to the generation of solar/wind energy. While in Dominica, Dr. Young also made site visits to a number of communities including Penville.

The pursuit of cleaner and environmentally friendly sources of energy is in keeping with Government’s aim of lessening the island’s dependence on fossil fuel while at the same time maintaining Dominica’s reputation as the Nature Island of the World. "

Sunday, January 13, 2008

In which I (tenuously) 'share' a stage with Johnny Depp

Click for photo
Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc
I finally got to step-through the frames of the (unforgettable) Shipwreck Island scene of Pirates of the Caribbean 3. And there, 1 hour 25 minutes and 25 seconds into the film, am I!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Naps inprove memory & learning!

sunset 10-Jan
Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc
" A new study shows that a midday nap can help you retain information, as well as learn new skills:"

That's it, I'm off!

Even the FBI has to pay its phone bill

Just read an article about the FBI and how their wiretaps got cut off because they didn't pay their phone bills. Would that happen here, I thought?

I recently attended a 'workshop' on the forthcoming legislation on 'The Interception of Communications Act'. (I did ask about existing wiretaps, and was told there aren't any since without this legislation they'd be illegal. Yeah, yeah). (Note to the presenters: read this on Powerpoint presentations!)

Anyway, the article made me wonder how it'd work here in Dominica. Little people get cut off after 7 days of an unpaid bill; Govt. gets to run up huge bills, years in arrears, so I guess their wiretaps won't get that annoying automated Cable & Wireless messages about 'Your service has been disconnected'.

Mind you, I do pity the poor guy who has to intercept e-mails. But I also think he enjoys our vibrant (and a little subversive) Message Board!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

World Cup qualifier

Just found out that Dominica's world cup qualifying game against Barbados is on (or around) February 6th. I hope it's at the new stadium!

And reading this article about the sorry state of Bejan football gives me hope. Because the winner plays the US!

Going ultra mobile

2008 is, I have declared, the year of the UMPC: the Ultra Mobile PC. I get my hands on the OLPC laptop very soon, but am also excited by the Eee PC by Asus.

These type of pcs are also known as 'mobile internet devices', and it's the light-weight, rugged mobility that's particularly appealing to me.

And being ultra mobile doesn't have to be ultra expensive. While the Sony Vaio UMPC is around $2k, the Eee PC is just $400.

Asus Eee

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Great Reunion Arch Cock-up

Reunion arch
Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc

The Roseau Bayfront and roads leading off are 'spanned' by several of these arches, built for this our 30th Reunion year. The problem is: all of them are around 6 feet too narrow - far too narrow even for two cars to pass.

Nevertheless, they remain steadfastly in place, almost a week after being put up. And in place despite the fact they restrict traffic on several key roads in Roseau. And held in place only by plywood bases.

So OK, someone screwed up, maybe reading the internal width as the total width. But still, to leave them in place - on one of the busiest roads in town? A case of the the Bumbling Arch Constructors meets the Unable to Admit You've Screwed-up Event Organisers....

Watermarking Flickr pics

Sunset 5-Jan
Originally uploaded by Steve_Mc
There's a cool website that makes it easy to add a 'watermark' to your Flicker photos. http://picmarkr.com/ interfaces with your Flickr account so you can add watermarks to your existing images.

Mind you, it somewhat spoils a photo to have 'copyright 2008' etc over it. I'm happy to put them up, then, if they are stolen, I'll take matters into my own hands...

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Watch that bulb

I love low-energy light bulbs, and they've certainly taken off more here then the UK. But seems you have to be careful disposing of them.

"Environmental scientist Dr David Spurgeon said: "Because these light bulbs contain small amounts of mercury they could cause a problem if they are disposed of in a normal waste-bin.

"It is possible that the mercury they contain could be released either into the air or from land-fill when they are released into the wider environment.

"That's a concern, because mercury is a well known toxic substance."

Official advice from the Department of the Environment states that if a low-energy bulb is smashed, the room needs to be vacated for at least 15 minutes.

A vacuum cleaner should not be used to clear up the debris, and care should be taken not to inhale the dust.

Instead, rubber gloves should be used, and the broken bulb put into a sealed plastic bag - which should be taken to the local council for disposal."

I guess the TV act that ate broken light-bulbs is with us no more!

New Year, new Persona...

If you're a fan of Firefox like me, it's the add-ons that set it apart. The latest is a simple theme-changer. No more browse-install-restart nonsense. Personas are easily changed and easy to use. Now, let me get to work on a Dominica persona ;)

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2008 the international year of the frog

And Dominica's endangered Crapaud - 'mountain chicken' - takes centre stage. Read more...