UK Overseas Territories - good reading

A little while back, Catch-A-Fire pointed out a site devoted to discussing the concerns of UK Overseas Territories, hosted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the UK.

I've just now gotten to read it and encourage any Bermudian who stumbles across here to give it a peek as well. There are posts that are quite relevant to Bermuda and it's interesting to see several parallels with the Cayman Islands, for example.

Improving cricket in Bermuda

We need to find a way to get Garry Sobers to Bermuda more often.

Despite every cricketer of significance saying that 'open' cricket is a better development tool for players than the wham-bam-slam 20/20 format currently popular, Bermuda seems to hem and haw at the concept, which is so simple, Geico's already running ads on it.

Seriously though, playing cricket over longer periods is a good thing, despite what many current local players seem to think. The BCB need to find some way to encourage participation in two- or three-day competition, even if it's added monetary awards for participation.

Hopefully the new executives there will heed the wise words of Sir Garfield and others - and if it's something that can also be included at the youth/school levels, then all the better.


Another view of the Bermuda blogosphere

Catch-A-Fire has taken my occasional musings of the local blogosphere to a new level, with a specific focus on political and social blogging (as would be expected, after all, the majority of well-known Bermuda blogs are political in nature; there aren't any sports blogs anymore, and personal blogs remain pretty much anonymous).

When the established online newspapers allowed commentary on articles, they became the de facto blog and forum alternatives for much of the online community - to the point that many people mis-label themselves as bloggers when they comment on article threads. That said, we still don't know if the collective posters represent Bermuda as a whole or a distinct subset (or as some suspect, paid operatives meant to skew discussion deliberately).

All in all, more is good, however. More voices means more ideas get thrown out there. Just have to know which voices are malicious and tune them out appropriately.


A calypso for November

I do wish I had the calypsonian skills of a Mighty Gabby, Red Plastic Bag or the like, to apply this in an actual melody:

Bermuda's politicians remain a big joke
Embarassment ever abounds
When you think they may do something right
They turn, and then let you down

They say they helping out storeowners
By tax relief and breaks
But the duty hike on returning passenger loads
Just exposes them as fakes

We say, where's the hope,
Where's the compassion,
Where's the unity
Where's the smarts,
Where's the logic,
Where's the honesty

The powers that be, using big words
To let us know it's okay
They're in control, all will be well,
Tomorrow will be a better day

Crime is up, employment down
Education in disarray
But the political people in charge of these
Point their fingers, shift the blame away

We say, where's the hope,
Where's the compassion,
Where's the unity
Where's the smarts,
Where's the logic,
Where's the accountability

If smart people point out issues
The messenger, instead, gets attacked
The issue at hand gets put aside
Politicians succeed, that's that

Do more with less, that's the common refrain
During this very trying time
Unless you are a paid MP
Recession proof! the bottom line

We say, where's the hope,
Where's the compassion,
Where's the unity
Where's the smarts,
Where's the logic,
Where's the damn honesty

[Repeat chorus]

Oh, and Happy Independence Day, Barbados. 45 and still going strong.


Buy Bermuda? No.

Here's the problem. Local businesses and Government want to beat us over the head with the fact that spending money overseas instead of locally will hurt Bermudians.

We get that. It's pretty obvious.

But here's the problem. When I read statements like "Concerned about creating good paying jobs in Bermuda? Buy Bermuda.", here's the thought that comes to my mind:

Why should I be responsible for subsidizing people who think working in a retail position entails sitting at their cash register all day, ignoring customers unless they're practically begging for assistance?

Customer service in many of the places here is a pure joke. I do not want to be subsidizing the salaries of people who think it's more important to chat with their buddies, worry about whatever Rick Dees has on the radio than to lower themselves to greet a prospective customer or ask if there's something they're looking for? And for the record, if Sports Locker goes out of business anytime soon, I sure won't lose any sleep over it.

Local businesses need to adapt - better customer service across the board, flexibility in opening hours (9-5 weekdays? WTH?), advertise via mediums like websites *with prices of items, please* (yep, it's the P-Tech blog post all over again).

Many of us would prefer to spend locally vs overseas, however neither local businesses nor government should be dictating to the public what to do with their hard-earned money.


Apathy to noise pollution

Great piece in the Gazette by Al Seymour (who often writes good pieces, by the way) the other day about noise pollution in Bermuda.

We have to deal with traffic noise (which is amplified by the over-loud stereos in some cars - we get it, you're compensating for something), someone digging up the road to lay something (and a month later, digging it up again to lay something else), and the occasional construction job.

Some of it is supposedly illegal (namely the vehicle engine noise and loud music), but nobody in a position of authority can be bothered to do anything about it.

And unfortunately, with apologies - the pun is already known - this article is doomed to go in one ear and out the other.


If you could pick your 36 MPs

This past weekend the idea came to mind, what would my 'dream' set of MPs be, would there be an interesting ratio of PLP/UBP/OBA/Other members in it, how would I assign Ministries, et al.

So today I took the existing 36, drew up a new table and tried to see how many of the current set I would like to have in the new structure.

After changing my parameters to "those who I think have potential and or can tolerate", I got stuck on 16.

And before anyone says, "typical anti-PLPer", I actually had more PLP reps in my 16 than OBA/UBPers.

That may not be a problem in and of itself; if the remaining 20 were a combination of former PLP and UBP MPs as well as Independents (and new blood), it would almost certainly lead to a less caustic, rabble-rousing House of Assembly floor in the first place. For starters, I'd have at least three well-known political bloggers in there (you could guess who'd they be) because of their combination of smarts, analysis and ability to generate ideas without being an ass about it. Then I'd include the last Independent MP elected as such - this time, it's a case of bringing experience and someone known for promoting sustainable development.

Okay, I made it up to 20 people. Where can I get 16 more? Best place to look may be at candidates who lost seats in the last election. I can immeditely think of two such persons - although in the case of one of them, he'll need to stop the foot-in-mouth crap first.

There's going to be new blood from the OBA and at least a couple new players from the PLP in the election mix, I could see a senator or two (or three if you count former senators) from the OBA as well as a young senator or two from the PLP who should get an opportunity to contribute to the dialogue without things going downhill. Assuming the best, now 9 seats remain up for grabs.

Inspiration hits me and I nominate a former young PLP Senator now overseas studying - it seemed a real pity that she was kind of 'cast aside', when she clearly represented a well-knowledged new breed of future politicians. At this point I'm really more about finding people with common sense on issues,... and you know what they say about common sense, it's not that common. I get torn deciding if to include some newspaper columists of note - commenting on political issues for a newspaper is one thing, taking it to the actual House is another animal, although one would argue that these may be the voices of reason when critical issues become hotly debated. So let's add two popular Bermuda Sun columnists, and we've finally hit 30.

For 31 I go with another current senator - youth and business acumen are the main selling points, although at this rate my Senate becomes closer to being totally unoccupied. Now I go back to former Senators and figure out that we could use two former UBP Senators in there, I'm not sure if they're still affiliated with a political party, but frankly at the point, I want to get two more women in there, and two women who aren't known to be feather-rufflers. Clearly by now you've realized there's no way that a current woman feather-ruffler is going to be in my Ideal 36.

Down to three slots to fill and my brain is falling over to come up with other options. I could be tempted to go old-school and bring back a couple of 'retired' politicians, but I want to keep up the forwad-thinking notions of my original scheme... although when I look at my chart I have one or two folks on this list who may be retiring sooner than I think. The easy way out is to choose the current Independent senators, but then my Senate is in a real hole. So, I open the floor up. Which three other people on this island would make a worthy Parliamentarian? For purposes of this argument, no currently sitting MP is eligible. Neither is any former Premier. Maybe a good night's sleep will bring inspiration.


Bermuda Government is a big joke, yet again

Read the Gazette articles on the Premier's mindless decisions on implementing customs duty increases - first the initial crazy decision, then the "delay" announcement.

There is not a facepalm photo big enough to represent the frustration at these spur-of-moment hairbrained schemes that Government has tried to roll out in recent times. Seriously. A 12-year old could have figured out that you can't implement a change in customs duty across the board in a matter of a day, regardless if the policy is right or wrong.

What is wrong with our MPs?


Lazy email scam

I think the scammers are getting lazier these days. Content from one email received this morning:

"You Have Won £1,000,000 (Open The Attachment)"

with a nice 291K Word doc that they want me to open.

Of course, there are a bunch of people out there who still feel that easy money awaits them from random emails, so heck. Carry on.


Bermudians Against the Draft - losing their way

Reason #14 why the group Bermudians Against the Draft are losing their way despite me being in agreement that the current policy of recruitment into the Regiment is wrong:

"BAD plan an election boycott"

Right off the bat, the lead paragraph indicates the campaign is targeting young black men to not vote. What the hell? If their cause is so just, why just 'young black men'?

Second paragraph: they appear to say that since neither of the two big political parties appear to support their cause, they want to demonstrate by abstaining from the polls. What the hell? When you have options of backing a third party or set of independent candidates? Hell, declare that you're spoiling ballots en masse or trying a write-in candidate instead is a far better move.

It's the easiest, and weakest, option by far. Mind you, it may all come to nothing since this group has pigeon-holed itself into the whole "serving is slavery" singular objection instead of the more encompassing (and probably more appealing to outsiders) attributes such as random lottery, gender discrimination, military not needed, etc.

This group has marginalized itself, contrary to their belief that it's the political parties that have done so.


Ferry price hike delayed?

Seems like there must have been a boo-boo within Min.Trans, as they've delayed their Pink Route price increase without giving reason.

I'm guessing there was a delay in printing off those stupid duplicate tickets and passes. Whatever. The public benefits for a little while longer, perhaps...


Public transport > CITV

I liked Vexed's post regarding the usefulness (or lack thereof) of the Government's cable TV station. Seriously, they spent a heap of money on a project that could have been achieved far more cheaply, and in doing so, neglected many of the potential benefits that it may at least have delivered (such as live Parliamentary discussion.

Meanwhile Government tinkers (seemingly by using a dartboard instead of common sense and logic) with how to cut public transportation service to the island's residents and visitors. The latest is some hare-brained scheme where they're going to print off a new set of tickets, passes and the likes ($$$ spent, not saved!) solely so they can double the cost for someone who wishes to take the reduced-schedule ferry Pink route.

Why, Government, why?


Local retailer websites

On a hunch, I went online to see what local kids' stores may be offering, if they had specials, that kind of thing.

What a waste of time that was. The local sites that I visited, were nothing more than splash pages of brand name logos and random photos of clothes and stuff. Zero information on prices, specials. It's a common refrain on my part, and with the apparent exception of Gibbons Co. (AS Coopers seems to have limited online shopping, so it counts for something I guess), the norm for retailers.

Meanwhile, retailers complain that people are spending less and less. I'm not saying that local retailers need to become as web-ready as a Target or Walmart, but if they want to hopefully get the word out that they may have deals for potential customers, putting more information, let's say once a week, on the web, of whatever product they want to promote (with the *price*), is a good way.

Mind you, the conspiracy theorist in me is also thinking that if they actually did put their prices up online, people would be turned away instead of being drawn inwards.

The same goes for TV spots. Maybe showing pictures of "glamourous" stuff and saying a company motto is good enough for most ads on the island (especially with the expensive tastes of some folk), but if you say "this week, X products are on sale at Y price" it may make more people take notice. I may slam the Marketplace for a bunch of things, but I at least appreciate their committment to telling the customer what they're selling and for what price.


Not much to see here

Updated the Road Hog URL just now, the Wookie has updated the design as well. Also, got back on a volleyball court for the first time in about 10 months. Fun, but I still need to get on the yoga/pilates/P90X/whatever they say gets the fitness thing going. I'm not in my late teens anymore and definitely do *not* have my sand legs.

In other news, Min of Ed is slicing the number of teachers, after all the talk about making education about 'teaching and learning'. No corresponding slicing of the Ministerial bloat. Ah, let the beurarcracy live on, I suppose.

Serious road traffic collisions appear to be on a slight rise of late, but judging on the comments on Bernews and the Gazette, any suggestion that driver fault could be at least partially to blame gets shot down... it's the road, or the car.

And in politics, PLP members are floating Independence yet again as a cure for certain social ills, the 'new' OBA is,... I don't know where they are, and the UBP leader saunters on vigorously despite his list of Parliamentary allies shrinking to 1.


Bus ticket kiosks, please

So today I'm at the bus terminal. Need to buy some tickets, and the 5pm bus is about to leave. I go to the ticket booth, nobody's there. Odd, I think. So I find the supervisor there and ask if there's someone manning the ticket booth. She points at a woman who is chatting with some people in one of the shelters. Ok.

I walk up to her, give a customary (and genuine) 'Good afternoon' and ask her if she's manning the ticket booth. I KID YOU NOT, the woman turns around, grins broadly, and says, "When I am ready.".

When I am ready.


Too stumped to get angry or react in any other fashion, all I do is stand and wait and eventually the woman ducks into the area for the ticket booth. I purchase said tickets and board the bus in time.

I'm still stunned at this turn of events, but it gives me impetus to once again claim that PTB ought to replace the current setup with actual kiosks, which have the benefit of being available outside of 'working hours' (9-5:30 weekdays and Saturday I think), plus, should free up the ticket booth staff to either do other tasks or simply be cut. I dunno. A real irritant to what was otherwise a pleasant afternoon. Yes, small budget, but maybe cutting salary would be a good long term benefit.


Getting out of the web design business

I had a regrettable experience late last year with a proposed website design for a local group, the type that made me aware of the pitfalls that I could end up with.

Things like agreeing to contracts before doing any work, even at a "1 week to mock a couple of layouts" level. Getting no direction from the prospective client. Getting caught up in mixing business with personal favours.

Yeah, I think my career path going forward (independent of full time work in whatever capacity I'm called in) must be to go far away from design elements and stick with either pure content/data retrieval, or nothing at all.

Subjective stuff is fickle. Hard data, and manipulating it, you can't argue with the end product. And besides, then you can get someone else with the design desire/aptitude to do that stuff in the end.


Remedial Driving, Make Mandatory

We have a lot of drivers driving badly here. It's common practice for the driving public to speed, disobey traffic signs and signals, park where they shouldn't, engage in reckless behaviour and willingly break the traffic laws.

In recent years, Bermuda adopted a points demerit system which when added to the system of fines, was supposed to encourage Bermuda's roads to be safer for all. I'm not sensing much change at all in our road habits and there doesn't seem to be any further motive to arrest this trend.

Perhaps Government feels that it has done all that it can, and Police, cash-strapped and resource-thin, aren't in the best position to encourage safer driving on the roads. We have littering laws that aren't enforced, a joke of a tinted window ban that most drivers bypass, a cell phone usage law which Police can't implement and a public that know that most days they can do whatever they want without fear of getting penalised.

And no, the fear of 'getting into an accident' is a non-starter, because bike riders feel that car drivers will do anything to avoid getting dinged, so they meander in and out of traffic without fear, while car drivers are too quick to blame everybody else for their bad driving habits while they're forgetting to indicate or repair their brake lights.

The next stage must be this: mandatory rehab. Anybody who has accumulated enough demerit points to become disqualified from driving, should have to go through a series of remedial driving classes, both theory and practical, before their licence is restored. It's not drummed into their heads enough, particularly the aspects of speeding and "due care", on how we should expect our drivers to act.

Our vehicles are larger and more powerful, while our roadways have not widened or been strenghtened. It ought to be imperative for drivers to recognize this, but too few do. Hence the myriad of busted fenders, broken side-mirrors and insurance claims.

I'll admit such a proposal in this economy may be far-fetched (although it should merit discussion at least once before the next budget cycle). But it seems too much of a good common-sense approach to just wave away as a pie-in-sky dream.


State of the Blogosphere

I guess the state is good, in a sense. The chief political blogs, politics.bm, Vexed, and Catch a Fire remain active and continue to post interesting commentary on things in Bermuda (mostly political, one or two not). 21 Square is also active and always makes for good, informed reading.

On the other side, it's unfortunate that New Onion, Wishful Thinking, Bermuda Fables, Jewel and Devil Island have been relatively quiet of late, then again you could say the same for my own piece of the Bermuda blogosphere. Can't speak for others, but where I'm concerned it's probably a good combination of apathy to Bermuda's goings-on and my own personal frustrations (some of which I attribute to Bermuda's leadership, unfairly or not).

BIAW I suppose, remains steady in its own role, a smallish online mini-community, that continues to share comments. I don't know if the readership has grown or diminished over the last few months, but the number of contributors appears to be the same as previous.

With the advent of Facebook groups and the presence of Bernews as a quick go-to for virtually anybody with a computerized device to browse and comment, you wouldn't dare say that the online community has faded by any stretch. I think it's grown in quantity although there's still little cohesion or organisation of thoughts and ideas into anything of substance, yet.

One could conceivably ask now, is the blogosphere relevant in terms of Bermuda discussion points? I would say yes, but clearly I'm coming from a position of bias. So too, may any comment from a known blogger. The politicians likely would tend to hope for these mediums to fade away - commentary from people you can't control is a threat, presumably. But hey, we're all voters too... and there are more of us than they think there are.


More pedestrian crossing follies

Not too long ago, the powers that be constructed a pedestrian crossing in Paget near the Treetops nursery school. Awesome, huh?

Wait, two problems.

First, there appears to have been zero signage erected notifying drivers of the approaching caution. Oversight, perhaps? Or no budget for new signs?

Secondly, they placed the crossing in a place where one of the bus stop poles is directly perpendicular to. Didn't they learn their lessons from the craziness of pedestrians trying to cross the street behind (or in front of) a stopped bus? Couldn't they have built the crossing 20 yards further?

Where's the common sense with the powers that be?


Quick thoughts on the OBA, UBP, PLP

  1. The BDA got impatient. Forgot that they were supposed to be a movement, gain steam. Decided they wanted to be #2, and wanted to be #2 right now.

  2. For things to have gotten to the point of legal injunctions and the like, it doesn't reflect well on any of the current or former UBP MPs.

  3. The OBA appears, right now, to lack any of the thrill or anticipation that the BDA did, on its launch. That may have been expected, but I don't think it bodes well in any event.

  4. Since technically, the UBP remains in some capacity, you'd think it puts paid any notion of "NewBP" - but nothing's further from the truth. Still no sign of former PLP supporters being involved.

  5. The PLP have plenty of time to get their machine up and running to sweep to another big election victory down the road. Say what you will about the group, there's been zero soap opera moments with them of late. Solid as a rock, indeed.

  6. I have no idea what the average swing voter may be thinking or leaning towards doing next election cycle. Hopefully it won't turn out to be a "vote for the least sucky candidate" thing.


Gang Territory

Kind of disappointed in the ol' "Ord Road Crew"... today I noticed they laid some graffiti in the bus shelters on either side of Middle Road between Keith Hall Road and Belmont golf course. Firstly, didn't know their 'territory' had expanded.

Secondly, why paint up a bus shelter when they had the majestic (sarcasm) and wide (vast) Great Wall of Warwick to work with, not far away? Now *THAT* would send some statements to the public (and the powers that be).

Chalk that up to missed opportunity.


Guess another bus strike is looming

PTB apparently has a new updated schedule for buses for the summer season to take into account the cruise ships, however the drivers and the BIU doesn't appear happy. Here we go again.

Why can't all parties get together to organise something and have it be finalised instead of this silly to-and-fro where management does stuff and the employees get no input?


Shut up, BIU

Here we freaking go again. The union isn't happy about an employer's actions, so instead of going through the proper legal actions, which include giving notice to strike, they say, screw y'all, we're downing tools immediately.

Who suffers most? Joe Public, of course. And Government needs to step in and impose penalties on the union for their behaviour in this matter. Which means that it probably won't happen.

You see, the public will get over this in a week or less. The union and their political influence, appeasing them is more critical.

It's just irresponsible all around.

Would you believe that the missus called the Public Transport Board this morning to find out if buses would run today? The answer was "nope, not until further notice," and in the background you could hear people laughing and chattering away.

How can one have sympathy for a group that revels in their actions that inconvenience the public in such a manner? Selfish bastards, the lot of them.


They need to update the gov.bm Bus fees page

Here's the page.

Up to date as of 1994. Nineteen ninety four.

Seriously. Government employs 80% of the island's workforce (my exaggeration) yet they can't keep certain web pages up-to-date? WTF?

Who knows what else is outdated on that behemoth of a Goverment website?


PLP thrashes opposition in poll

Kind of fascinating... indeed.

68% of those polled are not happy with how things are going in the country.
63% think the economy is going in the wrong direction.
8% think the economic conditions here are 'good'.

However, 49% of those polled will vote for the incumbent leadership if a General Election happens tomorrow, compared to a combined 17% for the two opposition parties.

I suppose you could infer several things from the results of the polls (aside from the usual statistical questions):
  • The opposition parties are just not viable enough or recognizable enough (the party leaders got 21 and 50% "not sure" favor-ability rating, compared to 7% for the PLP leader)
  • The public believes that things like the economic conditions, are not the fault of the ruling party or that the ruling party is better equipped to deal with them than the others
  • Allegiances to party remain strong as ever in this divided community
Personally, I'd like to meet the 20% of people who think things are great in Bermuda and the economy is moving in the right direction. Because unless they're auto repair folks, I'd like to know how they're faring.