My Island Paradise, part 2

posted 09 January 2005

Today's installment of photos are from "down the islands". Already small Trinidad has a tiny archipelago of even smaller islands of its north-west tip. These are a popular spot for holiday homes -- even when you already live away from most of it, there's still a temptation to get away from it all.

I spent a lot of my childhood down the islands, in an ancient colonial house with no running water and only a patchy supply of electricity. Since then electricity supplies have improved and mains water is even available on some of the islands, but the majority are still largely untouched.

Our vehicle for the day was my dad's boat Sweet Lime, a power boat with an outboard motor and a distinctive Trinidadian flag. As you can see, the islands have a distinctive profile which you're going to see over and over. The island in the picture is Monos, where my parents share a house. Apart from the holiday homes at the waterline it is completely uninhabited. Monos and its sister islands Huevos and Platos have the distinction of having been named by Christopher Columbus himself as he passed through here in 1498, on his third voyage to the New World.

The holiday homes themselves are generally ridiculously pretty architectural confections in pseudo-colonial style. These days they usually come with central airconditioning and satellite television too, however, leading one to speculate as to what exactly it is people get away from.

We now head further out from the mainland, to the final gap between Trinidad and Venezuela known as the "gran boca", or big mouth -- another one of Columbus' less-than-original names. These islands are very dry and desertlike, in contrast to the vegetation nearly everywhere else in Trinidad.

This is off the same point, angled a bit better. The big blue landmass is Venezuela, and still the closest I've ever gotten to the South American continent.

The island we stopped at has the delightful name of Chacachacare (cha-ka-cha-KAR-ee), which is an Amerindian name. There aren't a lot of places known by their original names in Trinidad because the colonists were, in general, arrogant bastards who preferred to call things Plymouth and Speyside and California rather than come up with new names.

Chacachacare was until the 1970s a colony for people with Hansen's disease, formerly known as leprosy. It was run by nuns who lived on one side of the bay, and the patients who lived on the other, a very similar arrangement to the leper's clinic in The Motorcycle Diaries if you've seen that. These three buildings were the main part of the convent, now almost completely swallowed by forest.

This is the surviving jetty for the convent. It would originally have been a bit higher out of the water, but sea levels have risen since the 1950s (when it would have been built) thanks to global warming. There are signs of rising sea levels all over the islands in the form of rapid erosion.

A distance shot of the engulfed convent buildings. Not a great shot.

The bay where we stopped to swim. This is the colour of the water in Trinidad: instead of the aquamarine blue of the other islands, a ridiculously vivid green. Colour levels were not altered at all in this photo: it really is that garishly green.

Round the back of the islands are some really spectacular shale cliffs, rising several hundred feet into the air from deep water. However, cliffs are apparently difficult photographic subjects from small boats at their bases, so this is the best of the ones I took. They're really awe-inspiring in person though.

This is another bay we visted, known as Scotland bay. It's very quiet and favoured as a place to moor and sleep by visiting yachties, i.e. middle-class foreigners who travel the world in small sailing boats like this one, which would have crossed the Atlantic by itself.

I was paying attention to all you people who told me to frame my shots better and choose a subject.

Is this any better?

Eventually I gave up because the vegetation was just too pretty. Feel free to tune out.

Trying to be a little bit arty.

More pretty green stuff. Maybe you had to be there?

Basically, these places are really peaceful and beautiful and -- usually -- drenched in bright sunshine. Today was rather overcast, although it did make for better photos.

I did also take pictures of people, but I decided to exclude them for privacy and, anyway, you don't know them -- they're just my family.

But there's some more pretty island paradise for you.

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Planet Seldo

posted 09 January 2005

Inconvenienced by the continued absence of Planet Afterlife? Then I invite you to peruse Planet Seldo. It uses the same software to do exactly the same thing. The name is temporary in case Wabson would prefer that I didn't usurp his copyright. Otherwise, if he would be so good as to send me the copy of planet.css he was using, I can make it look exactly like the old Planet Afterlife and change the name. In the meantime, hope you find this useful!

Planet Seldo updates every 20 minutes. If there are any feeds you'd like to see added let me know.

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Mini meta-blog: on blogging frequency

posted 09 January 2005

So apparently, blogging every day is making it easier to think of stuff worth blogging about. My current working theory for this phenomenon is statistical. I nearly did actual graphs for this, but decided it would be too much trouble.

Let's assume that the only time you blog is when you have something interesting to blog about. Specifically, and this is important, it's something relatively interesting, in the literal sense that it needs to be interesting relative to everything else that's gone on in the period.

If you drew a graph of "interestingness of events" over time for a period, you'd have a line with a bunch of spikes. Everybody's life, no matter how dull or interesting it is, tends to have a sort of "average interest level". For a very long period, the graph would look almost like a flat line around this average: nothing would be relatively interesting, so it would be hard to think of anything to blog about.

On the other hand, if you blogged every day, your sample size is tiny, so the chance of there being one or two events much more interesting than any other events in the period is, counter-intuitively, much higher. This is because the interest levels are relative, not absolute.

So, the way to think of stuff to blog about is to blog every day. This is my insight for today, which is why immediately after posting this I will probably be blogging again, making it the third time today (unless it takes a long time).

Who knew blogging engendered more blogging? It probably won't last once I get back from holiday and have, you know, stuff to do. But in the meantime, bring on the verbose blog-fest!

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On geekiness being hereditary

posted 09 January 2005

It's established knowledge that genes for geekiness are hereditary. In fact, so much so that the high concentration of geeks marrying other geeks in Silicon Valley is leading to an epidemic of autism and Asperger's syndrome in their children, as double-geek genes magnify to produce children who are too smart to interact with the ordinary world.

So, did I inherit my own geekiness from my mom or my dad? I always assumed, in a rather sexist way, that if I got it from anyone it would be from my dad. After all, he's the chemical engineer with the gadgets and the workshop, right?

But on closer examination of their professions and their careers, perhaps not. Mom has a degree in education -- specifically, physical education. Dad on the other hand has a degree in chemical engineering, clearly the geekier of the two disciplines. But after university, their careers took different tracks. My dad became engineer, certainly -- but only initially. Soon he became a manager, then a director, then a chairman of first one, then many boards. My dad knows how to get people to agree with him, how to motivate them. He's really good at that stuff. But those are people skills, not geek talents.

Mom, on the other hand, became a teacher -- but O-level chemistry and biology instead of P.E.. Teaching is a pretty geeky profession, and being a science teacher even more so. My mother is also not what you'd call a natural people person. She's hardly antisocial, and by no means a party pooper (stories of her wild youth surface more and more often the older I get). But she doesn't have the abiding love of people for their own sake that so characterizes my father.

There are physical signs, too. While I certainly got my high forehead and big lips from my dad (sigh), my fingers are -- relative to his, at any rate -- long and slim, quite unlike his stubby digits. And while it may have come to her late in life, my mom has certainly got the geek's love of new gadgets. She started off slow -- a cordless phone, a digital dishwasher, my second-hand computer -- but soon moved on to better things: a fax machine, a photocopier, a printer, a scanner. And then she hopped onto the upgrade path and began to accelerate: her fax machine, photocopier and scanner have all gone through two iterations, she's got a brand new printer and a dedicated photo-printer.

And yesterday, as I sat in the study fiddling with blogs, she sat in the comfy chair playing with her new Palm Pilot Tungsten E, a gorgeous little toy in brushed aluminium with a colour screen and decent sound that can store photos and contacts and a calendar and her notes as well as have any custom software she can find and download (so far: Bridge). When she finds a cute new feature, she giggles in a way that is estremely familiar to me.

Gosh. I got my geekiness from my mom. Who knew?

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