The Reading Problem.

Reading enlightensWe’ve all encountered it. We post an article on some social network and someone comments without reading the article, or not reading it properly.

As someone who writes, I went through the stages of grief about it. I can apathetically report that I don’t care as much as I used to about it. Many people tend to skim headlines, sharing them without thought, and then blaming the Russians or whoever the headline targets for everything.

As someone who reads, I’m confounded by it. When I read that skim reading is the new reading, some of it began to make sense:

…As work in neurosciences indicates, the acquisition of literacy necessitated a new circuit in our species’ brain more than 6,000 years ago. That circuit evolved from a very simple mechanism for decoding basic information, like the number of goats in one’s herd, to the present, highly elaborated reading brain. My research depicts how the present reading brain enables the development of some of our most important intellectual and affective processes: internalized knowledge, analogical reasoning, and inference; perspective-taking and empathy; critical analysis and the generation of insight. Research surfacing in many parts of the world now cautions that each of these essential “deep reading” processes may be under threat as we move into digital-based modes of reading… — 

The bad news is that anyone who read that didn’t skim it, and therefore doesn’t need to understand it on a personal level. The good news is that there are people thinking about it.

But there are other things, things that also need to be addressed. Some people don’t even skim articles, they skim headlines – and in a rush, for whatever reason, they share it. Before you know it, things with no actual truth to them, or just enough to be shared, inundate the entire web.

Issues, too, of framing with technology come into context.

And what it really boils down to is that, aside from how much we might like to think people who are demonstrably susceptible to all of this are ignorant, as a society we generate a lot of things to read. Publishers understand the need for sticky headlines and ‘cover art’, and are good at it.

People don’t have enough time to deep read things, and they don’t want to be left out of an accelerating world – but are proud of themselves when they can type out the 4 letters, ‘TLDR’.

People who figured all of this out long ago have capitalized on it. Fake News, coupled with Big Data analysis of what people are interested in, allows some impressive amount of sharing of information that should probably be tossed in a pyre of literacy.

So, what to do as a writer? Well, the answer to that is simple: Keep writing.

And, as a global citizen on the Internet? Deep read. Don’t skim. Encourage others to do it.

 

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Let It Marinate.

downside www

One of the things that makes the rounds in the blogosphere as a ‘truth’ is that you have to blog every day.

In a niche, if you follow another ‘truth’.

This leads to all kinds of crap content. Really. People reblog other people’s blogs, trying to capitalize on something someone else wrote in the hope that they can write it in a more popular way so that their blog can get traffic so that…

Take a breath.

That’s the newspaper business model. That’s the 24 hour news business model. It’s driven by advertising, as many blogs are, and that incentive can actually cause a decrease in quality.

An example: I picked on sex toys in Trinidad and Tobago recently. The story the newspapers carried was rushed, was not well researched, and of course provocative. When Finance Minister Colm Imbert called it fake news the next week, I laughed – because, of course, he pointed out that there’s no definition of what a sex toy actually is. In the video interview, it was even said that a woman had her edible underwear seized by Trinidad and Tobago Customs. The joke from the peanut gallery was that it was a snack. My joke would have been that Customs didn’t know how to use edible underwear- you don’t seize it. 

As it turns out, a company named Websource had simply sent out a circular stating that imported sex toys could be confiscated, and were not permitted through their service. The government’s alleged ban was hearsay. Hearsay is heresy in factual reporting.

Waiting, sometimes, is the best thing to do. You don’t have to be the first to publish. You can simply aspire to getting it right before you publish.

So it is with any kind of writing, any kind of social media posting, any kind of sharing of information – even in person. You don’t have to fill what you perceive as voids with inaccurate or incomplete information.

You can wait.

More often than not, you should.

Write frequently, write well, and don’t focus on being first.

Focus on getting it right.

About What I Write (2018)

Taran Rampersad
Taran Rampersad, photo by Mark Lyndersay (2018).

This will be a long post, so come back with coffee, tea, something else, or not at all. It’s meant to be linked from the ‘About‘ page.

I’ve been going back and engaging some of Renard Moreau’s ongoing conversations – it’s a nice blog Renard has – and it’s healthy to pause for a bit and think about what, how and why I write what I write.

Would that more people did.

I started off as a technologist. In fact, if you can find bits of my writing over the last decades, you’ll find a definite technology bias.

But I’m more than that now, as people who follow can see. There’s a story there that, as much as I hate writing about myself, is a good story and one worth telling as I begin to connect different writing I have been doing in different ways.

Early Writing.

I had some poetry published while I was in my teenage years – nothing particularly great, I think. Writing was something I did every day – we all do, some more than others – but I was focused on the way out of my own prison, which at the time was computing. So I wrote logical code for systems that did exactly what I wanted.

As training goes, that’s pretty horrible training for a writer.

It did, however, get me out of Trinidad and Tobago and out of a house I wanted no part of. It got me to Irving, Texas, where… well, let’s say I enjoyed parts of the childhood I did not have while growing up. While paying my bills. While going to college. And then, while not going to college.

Then, as a sailor, I wrote logs where creativity was not considered… appropriate. No one found it funny when I logged in a Soviet Submarine into a lake at NTC Orlando, and they did not let that pass. They did, however, allow me to log rats in and off the compound without complaint.

Then, there were the SOAP notes in hospitals as a Corpsman – good training on observation, but again, creative writing was frowned upon.

It wasn’t until I got back into software that creative expression was allowed – not so much in the code (oh, the comments I left!), but in that new thing that they had come out with. Email. Not everyone enjoyed my emails, but those that didn’t were usually on the receiving end of some acerbicly made point.

Around this time, I restarted creative writing, largely as an attempt to reconnect with my late mother. We read our poetry at various places in St. Petersburg, Florida – I may even make it up there in 2019 for a CAMs reunion party. And there a conflict began within me – to pay the bills or keep writing. Pragmatically, I continued doing things to pay the bills.

Poetry was fun for a while. Then short essays. And so on.

Later in the 90s, I was able to do some creative and technical writing for a site called Brainbuzz.com, which later became Cramsession.com, and now I think it’s in the ether with study guides still floating around. And in those very late 90s, I began on a new platform.

I began blogging back in 1999. Almost 2 decades ago.

The Blogging Years – Present.

Writing at first in the medium, I was focusing on a lot of self promotion – as many bloggers do. However, I had a heavy distaste for self-promotion – I believed then, and still do now, that content should stand on it’s own. That it doesn’t is an entirely different topic.

Later, I would tire of that. At the request of my father, I returned to Trinidad and Tobago – and it was a time ripe with opportunity. Trinidad and Tobago was to be an Internet hub for South America and the Caribbean. Internet businesses had proven themselves, and my memories of Trinidad and Tobago were optimistic. Too optimistic. The infrastructure wasn’t there, the cost and quality of bandwidth at the time was below reproach, and people I thought I could count on were instead people who wouldn’t spit on me if I was dying of thirst.

So I did what I always did, what I still do with a more mature outlook: I tried to solve the problem. Call it an exercise of futility if you will, I call it an exercise of youth – much the same thing. And so I learned about why all the problems I did not think I should have were there, and tried to bypass them – to no avail. This took years. It introduced me to very quality people inside of Trinidad and Tobago and outside – as well as some people who only recently I found out were the people ripping off my ideas and selling them as their own. Mea culpa. The difference is that they were selling the golden eggs; I am the duck. 

I wasn’t making enough money to feed my reading habit. I read a lot of Gutenberg.org back then, and it broadened me some more. The humanities I had kept from myself came flowing in. The world as I saw it shifted into something broader, with more meaning than silicon.

Before I knew it, I was being invited to conferences on culture and ICT – which I honestly thought I had no business going to, but even when I said as much, they still paid for me to go. With their confidence in me, I dedicated myself to what we discussed, and ended up broadening myself further and further – enough so that even years later, I still get messages asking me what I think about things.

WorldChanging/Alert Retrieval Cache.

I was writing for WorldChanging.com for a while.

Then the South East tsunami hit, and I had an idea, the Alert Retrieval Cache (ARC) – one guy, Dan Lane, fleshed it out in amazing ways. That idea later became more of a problem than a solution because of humans and distrust and reasons why humans should distrust.

It also made me leave WorldChanging.com – don’t let anyone fool you, that was a very odd place to communicate with people. There were disputes with the third party involved who also wrote for WorldChanging.com – I simply wanted it to work, he wanted to capitalize his ego with it. The powers that be were Canadian about it, wanting peace instead of progress. I left. Screw that Utne.

One thing became clear: I wasn’t just a technologist anymore. I had been given the opportunity to see the world in more ways. It was very exciting, and I ended up traveling in Latin America and the Caribbean afterwards – not the tourist stops, but in the homes of people who lived there who showed me not what their tourism boards wanted me to see, but what people there wanted me to see. I had traveled a lot before, but every place I stayed gave me new insights into a world that so many of us take for granted.

Another thing had become clear: I had unrealistic expectations of people. They weren’t motivated by the same things as I was, and my world unraveled before my eyes. I put it back together again, every international disaster another stitch in that fabric as people asked me – pleaded with me – on setting up that ARC. There was anger. There was distrust in humans.

And I wrote. Mostly unpublished, in journals on a shelf not far from where I sit. My distrust in humans became more of an acceptance, and I became better at dealing with people and their quirks – their motivations. I grew. The alternative was simply not worthwhile.

The Land Period.

When my father died, I returned to Trinidad and Tobago to settle his estate. That took years. And then I tried to do things with some land I had inherited which required me to deal with people on it. This was another growth experience; even more writing on a shelf – and it was enough to get by, what I did, but it was not enough to get ahead.

I tried my hand at agriculture, which I wasn’t terribly bad at, but it just wasn’t enough.

The Return to the U.S.

I returned to the United States with the idea that I could make enough money to get back to that land and do something of worth with it. In the downturned economy, with the shifts in technology, I made ends meet. I saw very clean parallels between, as an example, Beloit, Wisconsin, and the Caribbean as far as not advancing and why.

I learned a lot more about the world, but in the end I broke even. I was getting to that age where people weren’t sure whether they wanted to hire me, I was at that age where I wasn’t sure I wanted to be hired by them.

Long gone were the days of the code monkey for me, but everyone wanted a code monkey so that they could play their silicon organ. Attempts I made to get past that failed. Honestly, I could probably be doing code for some company in the U.S. right now if I really wanted to, but I don’t – I turned down one huge company twice, and a slightly smaller company twice. They’re names you know, but they’re not names that will make a difference here. They’re not important to me, and that’s the point I’m getting at.

There was more to technology. I’d already been reading everything all this time. It was all beginning to make sense, and I read then – as I do now – to get the language to communicate things. To make simple what seems so complex at first. To see things work.

I made my way through jobs – even getting to work at a company that did Emergency Communications, learned more about telephony than a sane person should, and left.

To return to Trinidad and Tobago, to finish some things with the land, and ultimately, to write full time.

And Back To Trinidad.

Agriculture again, and dealing with land issues – pushing hard, harder than others. Adjoining landowners were useless despite being related. So I changed the paradigm.

And now I’m back to writing – connecting things beyond just technology, looking at things and seeing what needs to be fixed. I write about it. And also, I’m writing other things, unpublished…

Global Audiences, Global Publishing

Cloudy Earth

I wrote ‘Local Context In All Context In A Networked World‘ a few weeks before I wrote ‘Writers Without Borders‘.

That there’s a common theme is not a mistake. On a planet where we now can know almost instantaneously know what is happening on other parts of the planet, we as a whole aren’t really that good at communicating across the very same planet. Beyond the obvious, where lack of internet connection is a problem, we face other human challenges.

Language remains a barrier. There have been strides in automatic translation, but it’s still far from perfect and may always be. Our language evolves, enough such that ‘figuratively’ and ‘literally’ mean the same in our newest dictionaries – both figuratively and literally. Colloquialisms defy translation because they are so easily misinterpreted in other parts of the world.

‘Paw paw’, using Google Translate today, translates to the Spanish ‘garra’ – which translates back to ‘Claw’. In Trinidad and Tobago, ‘paw paw’ is a colloquialism for ‘papaya’. A green paw paw is not a green claw, at least in Trinidad and Tobago.

Babel. It’s all meaningless babel. And in a world that makes more and more use of Natural Language Processing, such that large amounts of information are analyzed and presented to a human without human interaction, there could be a human at the other end of that software wondering why people in Trinidad and Tobago eat claws.

Then we get into different acronyms – there are so many acronyms around the world.

Now, one can argue that other people need to learn everything. One can spend a lot of time doing that, and being insulted by people who don’t understand what you’re trying to communicate – or worse, insulting people who don’t understand what you’re trying to communicate. Is the goal to fight over these things or is it to be misunderstood?

For me, it’s to be misunderstood. For corporations, it’s about being understood. For governments… well, maybe not, but at least some of us think that the goal of governments should be to be understood.

Think Global, Act Local‘ doesn’t make as much sense on a planet where we actually do act globally by sharing information.

We need to think global and act global – and still act local.

This is a hard thing to think about. It’s alien. Our societies evolved as much through distance from other societies as other things – in fact, the distance was a large part of helping define a society. Immigration departments have taken over that job, and while they do serve a purpose, I have yet to hear someone happy about immigration. In fact, if they were happy, immigration would probably detain them.

But… Writing?

But what does that mean for writing in particular? Honestly, not as much as one would think if writers adhere to some good practice developed over the course of the 10,000 year history of writing. Things like, when using a potentially unknown acronym, expanding it the first time. With technology that is now a few decades old, we can link to a reference.

We can give appropriate context. We can tag our content, and for the sake of the space-time continuum, we should have dates and times instead of simply, “yesterday” or “Tomorrow” or… These have been standard communication guidelines for centuries, if not millennia.

This is not hard.

Writers Without Borders.

Chimpanzee playing with a laptopWhen Renard Moreau wrote about the six things that baffled him, I had to respond – and I did. Yet there is more I’d like to say on the topic of, “Where are the bloggers from Trinidad and Tobago?”.

There was a time when I was considered to be a blogger from Trinidad and Tobago. Geographically, right now, I would have to agree to the fact that I’m blogging from Trinidad and Tobago. And I’d also have to agree that I’ve been writing a few posts lately that are about Trinidad and Tobago, because I happen to be here and I happen to notice things.

GlobalVoices once thought I was a blogger from Trinidad and Tobago, but then they realized I lived in South Trinidad and that I didn’t write incessantly about Trinidad and Tobago.

I lost clique status, quietly, and my feelings were not hurt. That’s just not what I write. And I also don’t write about places where unicorns dance around rainbows with leprechauns, for that matter, and much of what is written about Trinidad and Tobago seems to be that. Just like everywhere else I’ve lived or experienced. That’s just not what I see.

I believe writers are witnesses of a sort. What we witness defines what we write, be it science fiction, be it fiction, or be it obituaries.

I see dead people”, said the obituary writer.

There are more places to list than a single nation, and to define me by one nation is a little insulting.

The truth is that there are two things that legitimize a writer: Actually writing and not being horrible at it, and being read. My dues in that department are so old that the receipts add up to broken links.

But back to these borders, these boundaries that people want to neatly place other people in when their sock drawer is likely in need of more attention instead. I write. Others write. And when people write, certainly they color their writing with what has made them… them. Yet, unless they marched around under a specific nation’s flag all the time, it’s hard for me to imagine a writer to be from anywhere.

What writers write, though – that’s something completely different. If you write solely about Trinidad and Tobago, I’d say you’re a Trinidad and Tobago writer (small market). If you write solely about the United States, I’d say you’re an American writer (big market). If you write solely about Jamaica, someone’s going to annoy you with a poorly done Jamaican accent and tell you they love Bob Marley.

It’s the way of it.

So, while there are boundaries in this world, writers that I read are not limited by those boundaries.

Stories practically write themselves everywhere. Recently in South Oropouche, a man was dismayed to walk into his own wake – and I know the fellow. The sex toy ban has everyone murmuring with friends, laughing and joking, but the ineptitude related to that government and media conversation is something out of a Pink Panther graphic novel.

But that’s not what defines me as a writer. That I am a writer has taken over a decade for me to admit, even after having published through O’Reilly publishing, writing numerous articles, and so on. But I’m a writer.

And that’s enough, really. I’m not out there flying a flag for a nation. I’m writing what’s on my mind. Nobody’s paying me at this time – feel free to send me money – but don’t expect me to change what I’m writing.

It’s my thing. It’s what I do. And I’d like to think that writers themselves are larger than the borders they live within.

The Failure To Communicate. [Updated 22 Aug 2018]

Giant cucumbers from Doug and Ariana.
Cucumbers, which are not sex toys, provided here as a neutral image for this article. Use through a Creative Commons License which can be found by clicking the image.

I found yesterday (21 Aug 2018) that I had made an error in this; the Customs Act does in fact have something on obscene materials. The mistake I made was in assuming that they had searchable text. They do not have searchable text in the PDFs they have online, something worthy of note – but not an excuse. Lesson learned. 

When the Great Ban on Sex Toys in Trinidad and Tobago was announced, I was both slightly amused and curious. It’s not that I write about such topics, it’s that I’m human and that Trinidad and Tobago in it’s entirety doesn’t cease to surprise me when it comes to odd things.

You see, there were articles written as if it weren’t a developing story – there was no notation, as an example, that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago’s Customs and Excise Division website did not make mention of ‘sex toys’. Of course, maybe it just wasn’t updated, but a search of the Trinidad and Tobago Gazette didn’t reveal any new changes either. That took me less than 30 minutes to go through as an uninterested person, not a journalist. And I’m not a lawyer. So it seems to be a spurious claim, one that doesn’t jive. Update: Section 45 l of the Customs Act does mention things that can be related to ‘sex toys’, but not directly. 

The law being quoted is Section 46(g) of the Criminal Offences Act which says: “Any person who offers for sale or distribution or who exhibits to public view any profane, indecent, or obscene, paper, print, drawing, painting or representation may be deemed a rogue and a vagabond and if found liable, to imprisonment for two years.” Update: They were quoting the wrong law in the article. The Customs Act was the appropriate Act to quote, which would have been 45 L. 

It says nothing about importation. Granted, the last group of people I’d want to know what I do with myself would be the government and it’s employees, but the published Acts and Amendments related to Customs and Excise says nothing about sex toys, or anything profane, indecent, or obscene…

So I’m writing this, despite my misgivings about the topic, because to me the topic at issue is not sex toys, but instead appropriate research for an article that is supposed to inform the public. There is a big question here that, sure, Ministers should be able to answer – but they’re ducking it.

Selling the items is one thing. Importing for personal use seems to be quite another.

And while I wouldn’t want to know what the government would tax on sex toys, given how much I paid on a simple book recently, I don’t know that anyone would think it worthwhile – but articles that are about an alleged ban of importation of sex toys doesn’t make sense to anyone who bothers with a short amount of research.

And can someone, please, give a legal definition of a sex toy that isn’t subjective?

This is a failure of the media, in my eyes, though my eyes see the world differently than others. I view the media’s job to inform and question appropriately. The very first article should have been able to say that no one has mentioned the laws related to customs and excise, that the law quoted was about the sale of the items.

This has blaring questions attached that are so apparent that they might as well be painted bright neon pink.

And made to vibrate.

Now, if they start dealing with Internet Enabled… devices… and privacy issues, such as this data breach, I’ll write more about it. But to me, this is all about improper communication from the people we depend on to communicate.  

The Reading Tax: Trinidad and Tobago.

The last copy I'm buying. Too many given away or stolen.While we live in an era where digital books are prevalent, and I have many of them, there are certain books that I like to have physically. And I like to have them in hardcover because, if a book is worth having physically, it’s worth having the hardcover.

So I ordered the book on the right through Amazon.com- the Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. It’s somewhat rare as seen, so it ended up costing me $58 U.S. from a third party vendor through Amazon.com. I got it today, after Aeropost covered customs for me – which cost an additional $24.39 US (or $164.35 TT).

All in all, this specific book cost me $82.39 US, or $555.18 TT. It’s something I’m willing to pay for; it’s an important book for me.

Still, that is a little pricey, isn’t it? If it wasn’t important to me, I wouldn’t bother.

I recalled that Nigel Khan’s bookstore used to do special orders years ago, and I thought maybe it would be worth exploring – they do, after all, import books. So I wandered into Southpark and asked the lady about it, and she said ‘yes’. I provided her a few titles I wanted in hardcover, English translations… and started off with ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ (Paulo Freire).

She dutifully tapped away at her keyboard, then asked me to come around and choose which edition I wanted. When I wandered around, my mind’s internal jaw dropped.

I was staring at Amazon.com’s page search for ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’.

Still, this was an experiment and I wanted to see where this would go. Maybe they had a better deal for me. Maybe it would be something worthwhile, maybe there would be some value added to me somehow. So I chose the 50th year anniversary hardcover of ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’, which I saw was clearly was $64.47 US.

And we worked through the other book – Musashi’s, “Book of Five Rings”.

Then, she whipped out her calculator – because no one uses the calculator on the computer they access the Internet on (there’s money down the tubes) – and she started working out the pricing.

Now, I paid about 30% markup on the Douglas Adams book myself, which is pretty steep for any book – but let’s work with a 30% markup. So, at $64.47 US, I should be looking at about $84 US to bring the book in. That’s about $566-570 TT.  In my head, I averaged roughly $575 TT, which wasn’t too far off as I write this.

That solar powered calculator had other numbers in mind.

It spoke with the woman’s voice and told me $1200 TT/$180 US.

For a $65 US book. For something I could bring in myself for roughly $84 US.

What?! For one book? That’s effectively buying the same book almost 3 times and getting only one copy. I buy the government a copy they don’t get, I buy the bookstore a copy they don’t get, and I get one.

I’ll bring it in myself when I’m ready. Or, at those prices, maybe I should fly to the U.S. and bring in a suitcase of books.

Everybody knows it.

But people in Trinidad and Tobago, largely, know this. And this is one aspect of living in small economy with little purchasing power, subject to pricing necessary to maintain a business presence in Trinidad and Tobago based on importation. I can get screwed by the government alone by bringing it in myself, or I can get screwed by the government who subsequently screws a business that’s screwing me.

Yet not everyone can order the books off of Amazon – foreign exchange is a commodity unto itself in Trinidad and Tobago. So if you want a book and you can’t get the foreign exchange together, which is just about everybody these days, you get charged about 3 times the book price for a special order.

And can everyone afford that? No.

Reading in Trinidad and Tobago seems to have become a luxury. We live in a global information economy, and these prices for books in the Trinidad and Tobago Information Fiefdom do not bode well for the future.

Filling Voids

VoidI’m paying much more attention to my writing these days and, stepping back for a moment last night, I realized that some of the things I’ve been writing are to fill voids.

There’s the issue of purchasing land in Trinidad and Tobago, which isn’t actually hard, but it is something a significant amount of people I have encountered in the world and social media have not gotten right. When so many people are screwing something up, one has to wonder why that is. It’s easily dismissed as people being stupid, but it’s improperly dismissed that way. People simply don’t know. Despite writing that article, there’s a demographic that will still screw it up – but I’ve done my part.

That lead me to wonder why local media hasn’t successfully addressed the problem, if at all. Of course, they may have covered it – I spend less and less time reading local media – but the problem persists. So if that article helps one person, it will have done it’s job. If it helps 100, it’s a success. If it influences 1,000 people to do things properly, it will be slightly awesome. It will have served a purpose.

There are things people need to know. In the world, information like that is guarded for no real reason, and it keeps people back.

In a world of information, we have information fiefdoms guarded by gatekeepers. There’s no reason for any of this to be hard or difficult other than the highest priority of a gatekeeper seems to be self-preservation.

The truth is, I like the voids. As a software engineer, I fell in love with the problems no one else could solve, even with the advent of the Internet and search engines – the bleeding edge.

There’s plenty of bleeding edge outside of technology, too – we tend to think of things on the horizon when that bleeding edge is instead getting people to tie their shoes so that they don’t trip on the way there.

Having tripped on my shoelaces so often while staring into a void, I do not find it amusing to see other people do it.

Writing Bios.

P1000895We live in a world where there’s video, where there’s audio… and there’s the writing.

Many people write every day. Some, not at all. Writing, like everything else, takes practice.

I got a message today from a close friend:

How do you write so seemingly effortlessly? I’ve been trying to write a simple staff bio for a website for the past 8 hours and I have one sentence. 😥

Years ago, I would have looked at this and been astonished that anyone thought that of me – that I could write ‘seemingly effortlessly’. Nowadays, I’ll take what I get. So I responded to her, told her to just write and write and write about anything – leave, then look at what you wrote. It’s called ‘free writing’…

Sadly, I don’t think my advice helped that much. Her response was that she was going to mow the lawn.

I’ve been there. I think any writer has been there.

And I think anyone who has had to write an awful bio about themselves most certainly has been there. The Geneva Convention should have something to say about that.

Bios are horrible. How do you want to be seen? Who will be reading it? What will they think of me? What’s the line between pretentious and confident? And what do they mean 3 paragraphs? Or just one?

How can you possibly boil yourself down into one paragraph? Or three? I think that most autobiographies started off as bios where writers didn’t stop.

But a bio is not too hard, really. Clearly you can’t show people the entirety of you in one paragraph – there’d have to be a very unimpressive you. So stop thinking about who you want to be seen as.

Instead, ask yourself, “Who would these people want to know?”

That’s the secret. Generally, people want to feel confident about the person that they’re trusting with… something. So, if you’re writing a bio related to baking, you might want to write how long you’ve been doing it, what sort of baking you’ve done, and where you’ve done it.

That’s not too hard. Done right, that’s one sentence. You have a few more sentences to go. What else about you would they want to know? Well, people want to know that you’re passionate about something (hopefully baking).  And what else? What makes you a human being? What makes you human like the rest of us?

Don’t say, for example, that you collect frogs. I did that once and it went sideways. I had a few plagues of frog related things from people for about a decade. Maybe you like photography. Maybe you read. Maybe you write. Maybe you spend time with your kids, or your nephews and nieces, or maybe you like to simply sit down and read a book.

So, here’s your bio so far:

[Insert name here] has been with the company for [?] years, and has been baking for [?] years. She spends her time reading Baking Technology websites and playing with her dog, Mr. Cupcake, who also requires gluten free pastries.

There. You have a basic bio. You could add some edge to it, depending on the company or organization, but edgy cuts both ways.

It’s not hard to flesh that out from there if they want a longer bio. Play with those two parts, stretch them, and then see what is worth keeping.

And don’t be too hard on yourself. That someone wants you to write a bio typically means that they think you should have one – so do your best.

See An Attorney: Purchasing Land in T&T

Survey PointThere’s always a deal too good to be true anywhere, but in Trinidad and Tobago it seems those that are easily swindled are found all over – I’ve met more than a few.

This post on Facebook about an allegedly dishonest real estate agent is what prompted this post. I’ve seen it too many times, partly because I own property.

It’s easy for anyone to say derogatory things about people who fall for land related fraud. I see it as an issue of a lack of education, of desperation, and the promise of something too good to be true. And on the flip side, there are enough people out there with property that don’t understand the process themselves and dig their own holes.

And, to be clear, I am not an attorney. I just know one thing that should be the mantra of anyone who is going to purchase property: Consult an attorney with land conveyance experience.

What I share beyond that is subject to about 20 years of indirect experience and 13 years of direct experience of dealing with property sales in Trinidad and Tobago.

The First Steps

The first step is, so that everyone knows, not to build a house and hope that the owner never shows up. It’s actually to have a conversation with the landowner – and from there, the following should be done if a sale is agreed upon:

(1) A deed search: Don’t buy property without a deed because then… you’re not really buying property. You may be buying rights, and I’ve seen instances where the rights are dubious.

Any attorney can do a deed search. It verifies that the deed is legitimate. However, it doesn’t verify that the deed being shown represents the land that is being sold. See part II.

If someone is selling rights, that’s a legal process as well which involves notifying the landowner. 

(2) A survey: You can’t buy or sell anything without defining what it is.

Get a survey.  That survey will also verify that the deed shown in step 1 is the same one being dealt with.

Purchase agreements can be done without surveys, but without very specific circumstances the best bet is to have a survey – and I think it’s in the purchaser’s interests to have their surveyor do it.

(3) Purchase Agreement: Once everyone agrees to a price for the property being sold – conveyed –  everyone goes to an attorney to do the purchase agreement. The purchaser can select their own attorney (I encourage it).

It usually means putting 10% down, as well as other things that the attorney will advise you on –  such things can change, so I won’t get into that. Attorneys get paid to stay on top of that. See one.

Do not simply hand money over to someone without a signed agreement.

(4) At the end of the purchase agreement period, pay off what is owed. You pay the lawyer for services, as well as deed registration, and so on.

You’ll need an assessment number as well – the attorney should already have that from the people selling – and you’ll go get your own assessment number, which is it’s own process.

And that’s basically how you purchase land/property. And even with this simple thing, you’ll note you always start at an attorney to verify that the deed is legitimate, and you should get your advice about everything else right then and there. I don’t expect the overall process to change, but your attorney will advise you.

Do it right or don’t do it at all. Don’t cry fraud if you never went to see an attorney, you just look silly.