A year of blogging every day-April 8, 2021

As of yesterday, I’d posted a blog for 365 consecutive days; today makes 366. I don’t think WordPress give prizes for that.

The COVID pandemic has been a topic itself and great background to many other topics.

Lessons I’ve learned include what topics really interested many people. My views and visitors were highest for my posts about the US presidential elections. But both have been high since the start of the pandemic. But, there’s no shortage of workable topics.

I’ve understood how images and videos use up a massive amount of storage space on my hosting site. That made me experiment with using embedded tweets instead. They offered visual and textual content without much storage space usage. They were better as sources.

Very short posts with embedded tweets are more in my repertoire, now 🙂

What next? I think I’ll be doing more podcasts, using blogs, but to do that I need to not include embedded tweets, as these don’t convert well as text to voice.

As I See It: Facebook Live Chats taking shape

I’ve become quite the video blog maven. Hurricane Matthew gave opportunities to do more frequent chats and updating on a regular basis proved useful and comforting for family and friends near and far. But, daily ‘shows’ isn’t my plan, for the moment, so I’m getting back to my schedule of three times a week. My latest today is here:

But, my social media branding guru friend tells me to tighten up my act. 😊👍🏾 

So, now I have a thematic name for the Facebook page, ‘As I See It’, and I’ll tweak that as time goes. So, check the latest video and previous ones. 

No chalk, good talk, and much innovation in education: UNICEF Activate Talk, Kingston

The Jamaica office of UNICEF held its version of ‘Activate’ talks, last night, at the UWI Law Faculty. As the UNICEF website states, these talks ‘bring together innovators, experts and thought-leaders to showcase the latest innovations that can deliver progress on the major issues confronting the most vulnerable and marginalized children in each country’. The Jamaican offering was “Far from Chalk and Talk: Learning from Innovative Approaches in Education.” My fellow blogger, Emma Lewis, has written a very good piece on this already and I will not even attempt to do better, so read her post in the Gleaner’s Social Impact blog.

I ended up at the talk in interesting circumstances, as a special guest, having responding to a promotional challenge for ideas of innovate ways to educate. I offered them my ‘magical’ approach to teaching some very young children the rudiments of football.

Children learn readily through play. Games are often an easy way to try to give new information. A child’s imagination is usually fertile ground. Even when children cannot count, read or write, their ability to relate physically goes far.

For example, I was coaching 2-3 year olds soccer. They cannot understand the mechanics of kicking or throwing. Some can barely run without stumbling. They do not have good control over their legs and arms, or heads. But, they know stories.

So, to get them doing exercises, we ‘played in the woods’. We walked like bears: our arms bent high at our shoulders. We writhed like snakes, arms together, in front, making weaving motions. We froze: keeping our balance and being attentive to any noises in the woods. We picked up sticks, bending down to reach for imaginary pieces in front of each foot. Then we threw them to the sky, raising our arms high above our heads.

After 10 minutes, we are all loose, sweating, and laughing. We could now start to do some faster running, to the fairy house behind the bush.

I believe in fairies, so do children. Do you?

They believe in fairies!

After I coached this group of kids yesterday, several of them offered their principal a piece of ‘cake’ that we had baked with ‘raisins’ and ‘strawberries’, in an ‘oven’ under a noni tree. She graciously took ‘slices’ with her as she headed off to teach at another school. Some of the children could not contain themselves when their parents arrived for pick-up, and had to show off their best ‘lion’ roars, which I’d just asked them to do as it’s a good way to get them to take deep breaths. 🙂

Yours, truly, with Allison Hickling, Communications Specialist, UNICEF
Yours, truly, with Allison Hickling, Communications Specialist, UNICEF

As is very common in Jamaica, and many small countries, the audience was full of people already known, or with whom one is already connected.

Allison Hickling turns out to be a family friend whom I had never met before. Some UNICEF and UN staff I knew from my time as a resident representative in Guinea, and they had since been transferred to Jamaica.

I have had nice connections with Jason Henzell, Chair of the BREDS Treasure Beach Foundation, and work with one of his former football coaches, now that I am coaching at schools in Kingston. Interestingly, the video that Jason showed last night had ‘games’ that I have used a lot in the past, including ‘trust’ games (such as encouraging people to fall with their eyes closed, assured that they will be caught) for team-building. As you can see, above, I also like to let kids’ imagination do the work. Adults are often uptight about ‘feeling goofy’.

Deika Morrison and I had never met before, but we spend a lot of time having interchanges on Twitter, and I love what she’s doing with Crayons Count, the benefits of which I have also seen first hand at the school my daughter attends.

Dr. Renee Rattray and Marvin Hall are both people I want to meet again, not least because they have amazing energy and ideas for working with ‘less-advantaged’ children, which is an area to which I am drifting with some other activities.

Open the vent: air quality in Jamaica

I’ve not mastered the art of the ultimate pull when it comes to titles, but I think I have a knack of finding catchy lines.

Jamaica can be an exasperating country, and this week (and maybe a bit longer), my exasper has been much rated. I’ve gotten a little tired of what passes for opinion in many quarters. I could put that down to old age, and that as a budding codger I have reached the end of my tether. So, I just find that my brain latches onto incomplete ideas or bias masquerading as something else.

I listened to RJR News the other evening, as I was driving back to Kingston along the St. Mary road via Junction. My father had taken ill again, and I needed to get home fast. He hails from St. Mary, near Richmond/Highgate, and it seemed right to take that road and think of him as I enjoyed the drive. He’s had a good week and all of my thoughts were with him.

Anyway, I heard the news reporter talking about this or that topic being ‘ventilated’. It seemed an amusing term, and certainly one she liked. I can’t recall ever using it myself regarding opinions or events (if that is not a pun). As the week wore on, it seemed a very good word. Jamaicans really do vent and also need to be vented. We are full of lots of cobwebs in the upper floors of our bodies. Well, I did my venting, and I feel really cleansed. Was I vented enough? I’m not sure.

It may seem pompous, but I like to think that I can learn from anyone and anything. If I feel threatened by someone, I will fight or flee. The armed guard at the patty shop yesterday did not frighten me: I was not about to commit any crime. So, I held the door open for him and said a few words. “Always be vigilant.” My daughter held my hand and shook: “Guns! Scary!” I am glad she had that reaction. I assured her that usually the guns are not aimed or fired at people like us. ‘Bullets’, in other forms, may come our way. She seemed assured and we headed to her piano class.

I have no problem embracing a person or their ideas. I do not own the world’s opinion. Everyone has something to teach me. Sometimes, I learn well; at other times, I am slow on the uptake. I also have no problem rejecting ideas, but still embracing a person. Some of my closest friends are people whose ideas often get my goat. We know our differences and spar over them constantly. I’m trying to get my daughter to understand how some adults can be this way and not actually fight.

But, I’m leery of false friends. Those pool who always “must have me round for dinner”, and years later are still growing the fresh vegetables to go with the meal. Society has many of these, and they are ready to come eat from our table and not give back as they should. Offensive as some may think it, some religious groups are this way. They latch on to some wrongs and seem out to lunch on others. Tired of it! I am not a Bible belter, but their cherry-picking is galling.

One problem I’m wrestling with is which ‘platforms’ support opinions better. A great thing about social media is that traditional media cannot control its voices. A newspaper may have a stated circulation but it may really be limited relative to a blog, online newsletter, Facebook page. Persons using such media don’t have to await the Editor’s approval. That can be powerful. I know people are realizing that more and will watch how use of such spaces develop in coming months.

But, time to rest my brain, at least for a few hours. North coast-bound again, and on Knutsford Express. Mary J Bligh is playing. Lay back. Relax. “Saturday….”

Truthfully: expressing opinions

The Internet allows many viewpoints to find a place, and I was happy to try to join the many voices that try to express themselves and hope to raise consciousness among Jamaican and Caribbean nationals about the issues that we care about in a new venture, Daily Veritas, offered by an acquaintance. I’ve written an op-ed piece, entitled Jamaican politicians-Always wanting, on poor performance of our politicians and corruption in government. I would be happy to receive comments here or on the Veritas site.harvardveritas

Stick a pin

I need to put up some mental place holders for topics, ahead of a long road trip.

I don’t write according to requests, but someone suggested that I write about Jamaican sports organization. I don’t kno enough about the whole set up to just dive in, so will do a little exploration first. However, in the meantime, I’ll just lay down the marker that I think we’ve devoted too much time and resources to sports like cricket, which do not have the same international appeal as sports such as football, but which have easily transferable skills to sports such as baseball, that offer wide educational and business opportunities.

My other little hobby horse is about the judicial system in Jamaica. I am no lawyer, though I went to law school for one day. I’ve been following the fallout from the Cuban light bulb no-case decision. I have noticed a certain rallying around the senior magistrate by the judicial hierarchy against the views expressed by the DPP. I’m thinking about expression in a democracy. We have the four estates: legislature, judiciary, executive, and press. Each should be able to express views freely about the rest. But, is that really the case? Does the judiciary, in this case, want to insulate itself from criticism by other branches of society? Is there a broader issue about the administration of justice and whether the branches see eye to eye, and if the population sees eye to eye with the judiciary?

Time to hit the road.