The Tyranny of Buns, and Living Good.

It’s a Friday, and I have an appointment that was at 5 pm that will be at 2:30 pm, so I gave myself a break from the novel – also known as procrastination – and headed out to get more ground beef, because as you know, hamburger buns cannot sit idle and I have 4 left.

I hate throwing food away, and the most sensible thing to use hamburger buns for is hamburgers. This is where that article on bias came from, as I was making patties yesterday.

Of course, this requires a stop at the coffee shop. I don’t use my name in public places for a variety of reasons, first and most importantly because hearing my name mispronounced even in a eager laborious way is painful. In certain circles, I am ‘Steve’ mainly because it’s really hard to screw that up and it happens to come out as one syllable.

The young women at the coffee shop, as you can see, enjoy writing things on my cups. I treat them like human beings, something known in Trinidad and Tobago as ‘living good with people‘. I’ve stood up for them against some haughty and nasty customers, saying what they could not, and discussing things when idle time presents itself – most lately which type of cassava makes the best pone.

It’s nice to be liked somewhere. From the cup, I present evidence that I am liked, and without pretense.

There are many in the Northwest of Trinidad who seem to be above common courtesy and ‘living good with people’. Other parts of Trinidad are better, but increasingly imperfect in this regard. I have found it enriching, despite the fact that in general I don’t like people. They’re peopley, and I’m an introvert that appreciates silences.

It’s pretty clear if you read about what I wrote regarding Trinidad and Tobago and AI that I have a low opinion of the government, but to be fair I have a low opinion of every government. Government in a democracy is at best a measure of a nation’s mediocrity, and in Trinidad and Tobago the aspiration toward mediocrity is estranged from reality in ways that could fill volumes. The people are generally good people, particularly if you live good with them.

I played with the WordPress app for Android while sipping my lovingly made coffee, and I was quickly annoyed with the inability to align my images, as well as the annoying thing about JetPack splitting off for statistics and notifications. My experimentation had me wrestling an octopus when all I wanted to do was write. Technology can help us, but it takes business to really muck things up. Muck rhymes with something, which is why I use it.

Since I’m experimenting with the desktop app at home now, I figured I would just do it when I got home, as I am doing now, and finding the annoyances with it – for example, not being able to run the WordPress reader in one tab as I write, since there are other blogs I want to refer to. The promise of, “One App To Rule It All”, has become a flurry of angry octopuses all demanding attention. This will not do.

I got to the grocery and snagged the hamburger meat and a few other items and headed to the line. I was in luck, it seemed, as one line had only on elderly woman, a pensioner, ahead of me with two cupcakes and 2 other pastries. She was laughing and smiling as she fought with her coin purse for that last 30 cents, and the cashier and bagger both assisted and laughed with her. Living good with people. Behind me, though, catastrophe almost struck as another pensioner almost lost a cake to gravity.

She caught it, and I pushed my stuff forward to give her space to put it down. She studied me, “I already paid for this at the bakery, don’t worry”. The bag revealed ‘’ at the end of the writing on her cake. It was someone’s birthday.

I told her that her cake was important and she would not drop it if it were there. She smiled, placed her cake down carefully, and looked to her other things in preparation even while the 30 cents was being counted.

Next up, the young ladies got to me, we cashed out and they remarked on the ground beef. I explained that I had too many buns left, and they laughed and nodded. I left with a nod to the smiling lady behind me as she began her time at the checkout. So often these lines are filled with people in a rush, intent on their own lives and not observing those around them. Today is a good day.

Upon getting home, I saw one of my favorite people on the property, the guy who cuts the grass with the help of his autistic son. I stopped, and he handed me a calabash bowl.

It’s rare to get one of these things, and it was a rare gift that comes from living good with people. I have no idea what I will use it for, but I’m sure there’s something I will put in it.

His son, a high functioning autistic, is winning swimming events – not surprising, since he has a tall frame and is always working outdoors with his father. We talked about that a bit, and came home to ponder what I could use this bowl for. No ideas yet. If you have ideas, let me know in the comments.

I passed the office, stuck my head in and urgently stated I had nothing to complain about and that I wanted to complain about that. Our administrator laughed, I wished her a pleasant weekend, and came back to the writing cave.

As Renard wrote, our blog posts are little pieces of us. They’re also little parts of our world and the people around us. We’re more than the medium or the message in that regard.

For me, I think it’s time to get back to the fictional universes in my head before my appointment.

Remember, everyone – Live Good With People. It’s its own reward.

From the Islands.

It’s not often I switch my focus to Trinidad and Tobago, though I live here. In the minutiae, it’s always very busy with cars going to and fro in a rush to go stand in some form of line somewhere, or to drop children off to a school, or to go to the nearest KFC so they can get to the front of the line and then decide what they want to get.

There is a charm to it, the lilting accent Trinis are famous for a form of spoken poetry, an evolving pidgin that has all but lost some of it’s French Creole roots. When I grew up here, ‘oui!‘ was still but rarely used to end sentences, now replaced with the English, ‘yes!’. Language changes. The lilt does not.

This was a lyrical land, though it’s hard to see it now. Waves of subversive lyrics would cast spells over the populace, not direct enough to be offensive to those in authority, but understood well enough that they became popular, were sung, and parts of the lyrics often injected in conversation as a subversive poke at whatever needed to be poked at. There was always plenty.

Nowadays, it’s difficult to find that in lyrics. I won’t say it’s impossible, I simply haven’t heard much of it other than David Rudder, perhaps the last popular spokesperson of that world. Now it’s clamoring bass with witty lyrics like, “Wave your hand in the air!”. Such originality lost in paradise.

As a teenager, I saw promise in the magazines I impatiently waited for. I would wait for my Uncle’s subscriptions to Time Magazine and National Geographic to go visit him, as I could, and I would read hungrily these missives from the rest of the world about the dawn of an Information Age. There was promise, there was a future. Oddly, at the dawn of the Information Age, in a tropical nation, those who were in authority were afraid of sunlight. They still are. Transparency, making decisions based on data, seems like a version of magic considered evil by some.

On returning to Trinidad and Tobago again and again over the decades, I saw what could only be described as arrested development. I saw it as a tidal pool, something I wrote about. I still do. And looking at Trinidad and Tobago through the lens of the future of artificial intelligence, I see a self-inflicted artificial extinction as more people from Trinidad and Tobago will go abroad to join the global economy.

The wheels of government, when they move in the right direction, move too slow and for political reasons. The impatient world will not stop or turn around for Trinidad and Tobago, it will press forward even as I imagine political parties will try to leverage ChatGPT to stay in power – because that seems all they wish to do. Education isn’t what it used to be while crime has people huddled on WhatsApp chats sharing video of shootings, attempted home invasions and standard political nonsense.

All this nation knows is self-congratulating bureaucracy in most regards. Perhaps the red on the flag has come to symbolize the red tape.

Yet there is hope. I’m not sure where it comes from, but that’s the spirit of hope. It’s peculiar to see a nation I grew up in so hopeless, but when I grew up was imperfect too – and maybe because dinosaurs will not die the future will not come. Generations of promises broken have taught the younger generations distrust, generations of not opening the economy beyond distinct special interests has left an economy closed to all but those who pay the tolls through political donation.

But it is not that different from the rest of the world. Not the world piped into flat screens by Hollywood, or the BBC, which even ring hollow in parts of their nations.

What is different is the capacity to change things.


They swarmed quietly, connecting with each other’s tentacles to communicate, sharing information between individuals and across individuals. They were discussing their latest discovery, something that had come to visit. Some things, really, since there were more than one.

“You touched it?”


“You shouldn’t be going around touching things we don’t know about, youngling”

“I wanted to see what it tasted like and if it could communicate.”

“How many appendages did it have?”

“Only 5.”

“Oh! One of those. You shouldn’t trust those.”

“Why not?”

“They eat us sometimes we have heard. Describe what you saw.”

“It had 5 appendages, all of them seemed very stiff and they could only move at certain points. They used only two for touching, two for moving, and the last one had a tentacle going into it with OtherWorld stuff floating out to the OtherWorld. It was the same color the whole time.”

“It did not change colors? Clearly not intelligent life!”

“It didn’t seem very smart. It appeared from Otherworld and went back to Otherworld pretty fast. I tried communicating with it but all it did was stay very still. I think it was playing dead but it wasn’t very good at it.”

“We are hearing that they are coming more often. We should be careful.”

Society’s Canvas

“Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?”

Charles Bukowski, Charles Bukowski: A Little Book of Essential Quotes on Life, Art, and Love, 2019

The world makes us into things. Some become twisted, some not, but we all become what the world demands of us – or we are made to believe we are broken, and maybe we are. Maybe we’re not.

The society we live in demands of us as we demand of it. It writes upon us as we write upon it, though as individuals we do not have as much opportunity to affect society as we would like to think. We face the inertia of tradition, the peer pressure of those dead, combined with the inertia of those that are comfortable with the way things are or believe they are.

We tend to not apply our own knowledge to ourselves frequently, but we are in our own way a medium of society as much as society is our medium. In that regard, we’re also a message, but one of many and easily lost in the shuffle of chasing red dots – because society demands a toll, and this is the toll that has been negotiated in our interconnected world, even at the cost of broken time. We should decorate time.

This is a sort of problem. Inundated with interruptions parading as reminders, our lives are a pattern of hopeful decisions in a world we didn’t define, and the only way to change it is to define our world.

That means defining our inputs – what we take in and how we take it in, questioning what comes our way and interrogating it with rubber hoses and bright lights if necessary. It means defining our outputs, what we put out to the world.

And at the core, it means redefining ourselves.

Having lived a while, I don’t think that’s going to happen. But there is hope between the syclla and charybdis.

Memorial Day.

In the United States, Memorial Day is a public holiday, and a disturbing amount of people mix up Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is about those who served and never returned.

I’ve spent a few Memorial Days in the U.S. visiting the vast military graveyards, knowing that for many whose bodies are interred had painful last moments. We who have served sign up for this, though it’s not in the brochure and it’s not something spoken or written of as often as it happens.

To make matters worse, “supporting the troops” has become a football for some politically loud sections of the United States, thinking those that do not support the decisions of the government to send people to war cannot support the troops – but then, is supporting the loss of life and quality of life for reasons that are questionable ‘supporting the troops’, or is it ‘throwing the lives of troops away’?

Take a look at what Russia has been doing with it’s troops. Forced conscriptions sent into a meat grinder for… what? Trying to reclaim territory of an entity that no longer exists (USSR)? We look at that and many of us draw in a breath and shake our heads, even as we cheer for Ukraine’s drawn out victory with their forced conscriptions, all men, with women volunteering. To what end?

For Ukraine, it’s a battle of defense – a battle of autonomy, a battle of identity, a battle of their way of life. This is something that is easily relatable to. Russia’s offensive reeks of a failed painter with a very small mustache: Conquest with 19th century tactics and 20th century weapons in a 21st century world.

In Sudan, the same thing is happening, though the lines are not as clear though the blood is just as red, and the scale is smaller from what we see reported, but it’s still happening.

This all came to mind as I was watching Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant, which is based on real events but is not a true story.

It’s a story we want to see and hear because we want the good guys to live happily ever after. Not everyone does, and in the movie only one from the team makes it back – the premise for the whole story. Those that did not make it back, though, died in support of their orders which is what Memorial Day is about – based on the idea that the government knows what is best to defend the ideals expressed over hot dogs and hamburgers on Memorial Day.

Where I have lived, where I do live, Memorial Day isn’t a holiday. Where I live presently, in Trinidad and Tobago, there’s not even an equivalent, and seeing fellow veterans is a rare thing.

Yet I remember what it’s about. There are no hamburgers or hot dogs this long weekend, a break in the death march of work we subject ourselves to. We lose people in uniform, we lose people, and we hope that we did for good reasons and better judgement when that’s not always the case.

Saying, “Happy Memorial Day” seems peculiar to me. Memorial Day is a day of reflection for me, as you can probably tell, and for it to be happy… well, I don’t think it would exist.

Memorial Day is the reminder of the price paid by others and their families and friends. In this way, I hope Memorial Day carries just a small amount of the weight we balance any victory or loss against so that we do remember – and do not lose meaningful lives over meaningless things.


This morning I was thinking about the medium and the message and it’s semantic intentionality about discussing the same things. Then I realized it’s Sunday, and I can take a break from that and think on other things.

The beach is always a bad idea for me on the weekends. The North Coast Road on the weekend is too annoying and peopley on the weekends, which means loud annoying music when I just want to hear the wind and surf.

On the weekends, the beach is a petri dish for all that annoys me, on Monday, it’s still being cleaned from their physical pollution. Local government efficiency in Trinidad and Tobago is about the same as that of the Russian war machine – nothing maintained, everything falling apart except the will to try to do something.

It’s not too different anywhere, really. The bus of government goes nowhere. The weight of the wheels defies the torque of the will of the people through government, regardless of the size of the engine.

Meanwhile, people on the bus fight for seats while the driver keeps asking for help on a broken radio as the engine idles, poisoning the world around it and the people on the bus – the windows are down, the air conditioner broken.

Something has to change. I’m not sure what it is. While not as prosey as above, part of this is what we discussed at the barber shop, openly between equals regardless of social standing. There are people thinking about these things, all with a hand on a piece of the machine and wondering what the hell it’s actually supposed to be doing.

By process of elimination, we find out what it’s not doing.

I’d rather have spent my life on the beach, a castaway, full of wonder at what could be out there but with no way of going beyond. To dream of something better, imagining a world as one would want it.

Such occasion would be nice.

Hair, Card, Math.

Days pass. Writing, long pauses of thought, rewriting, writing, long pauses of thought. I love this.

There is a comfort here, with social media turned off and the occasional glances at the real world that penetrate maybe too deeply for most people to be comfortable with.

The Hair.

Having seen the state of my hair in the mirror this morning, I realized that the errant grey hair were demanding an appointment with sharp objects. If you have not discovered the joys of grey, they are individuals sticking out in the sea of hair. There are not yet enough of them to agree on anything on my head, which makes this more of a problem.

It’s not that I care too much what I look like, but I generally like to be taken seriously when I deal with other people. A recent experiment, with growing the goatee out, has impacted how people deal with me. The grey, I suppose, makes me look wise, like I know things.

After a few days, I decided something should be done and I had the misfortune of having to break my revery to do it.

I went to a new place to get my haircut today since the traffic from some government work made the usual spot untenable. It had been a while since I enjoyed a good barber shop, we men talking about the world.

We spoke of crime in Trinidad and Tobago, the socioeconomics from perspectives, and much more. It was a good chat with others, a true episode of a barber shop. From there, I wandered to a pharmacy.

The Card.

Maybe it was the haircut or the goatee or the grey in them, but I was suddenly asked whether I was married. It was an odd question, so I followed through. It ended up he was trying to get a card for a couple who had been together 25 years and he, and these two younger women helping him, had no clue. None.

The only thing that could make sense to me would be a single card to “the couple”. I would never have thought to buy cards separately. I still don’t understand how that’s an option, and for those who don’t understand – I saw 3 today – it’s amazingly simple. Nobody splits cards received as part of divorce settlements. If you’re wishing the couple the best, the couple is singular.

He went off for a second opinion. I laughed. I don’t care.

The Math

I glance at a newspaper and see “TSTT CEO: Retrenchment of 468 Saves 12m a Month“. It caught my attention.

The math seemed off, and Newsday is pretty good at reporting what was said, so I will bet that she actually did say that. The math comes down to each of those employees that were sent home saving the company about $25k each per month. That’s big money.

If that is what TSTT is paying, Lisa Agard could probably afford to lay herself off.

This is why I don’t read newspapers, generally. People believe this stuff, and then we wonder why people have trouble with math.

The Return.

Back home, I boggled at why I had went outside in the first place. Maybe my hair can look weirder. I’m not sure going outside is worth the disturbance of the revery.


Broken down, we’re just algorithms, we humans. Complex algorithms, algorithms so complex that we’re still only scraping the surface.

‘The wall between machines and humans, between computer science and biology, is collapsing and I think the next century and probably the future of life itself will be shaped by this algorithmic view of the world.’

Historian: When Computers and Biology Converge, Organisms Become Algorithms“,Yuval Noah Harari, quoted by Daniel A. Bell, May 18, 2016.

Harari said that 7 years ago, and it doesn’t appear wrong – not just from the artificial intelligence side, but from biotechnology, genetics, psychology, medicine…

We’ve mapped the human genome, starting in 1990 and ending in 2003. And what is DNA? It’s pretty much an algorithm that gets replicated with some alterations as they get passed down. We haven’t figured it all out, but it’s a matter of time. That’s just the biological side.

Language, religion, culture, family – these instill frameworks for the algorithms to work within. Parameters which get bent more than we like, if we’re honest. “Be nice to other people” doesn’t seem to fit the way we really do things, but still, we stay within the framework even where we bend it – aside from those who just don’t care. Those who just don’t care generally end up in a jail of some sort or in charge of a sovereign nation, and every step in between.

We have an education system which provides a further framework, and so on. We’re not all good algorithms, and we’re all certainly not good at everything, but together we tend to survive. Maybe it’s just a game of numbers. Maybe someone is rolling dice. If there ever was a Plan A, I’m certain we’re out of alphabet by now.

Where this gets interesting is that if we consider the bonsai I wrote about yesterday, we can see how we alter our own algorithms… and most importantly, how education is a small part of being human.

I’m not exactly sure where I’m going with this in entirety, but this is where I went.

Bonsai and Education: Human and AI.

Bonsai is a fascinating art form of living sculptures of carefully pruned, shaped and dwarfed trees. It is a hobby of mine and I’m not all that great at it. It requires time, patience, commitment, and not getting lost in your head and forgetting to water or deal with them on a daily basis.

A good bonsai captures the eye and evokes emotion. Each bonsai is it’s own little functional growing sculpture. Prune a branch here, trim the roots, and patience – I believe that to do this properly you have to have a picture in your mind of how the final work will look. There’s a plan.

Education systems aren’t very different. They cultivate minds, but largely to the same specifications. A little stream of bonsai trees come out of them looking remarkably similar yet all individual at some level.

How artificial intelligences learn, too, is also not very different when algorithms are designed to learn through a specific dataset.

The commonality of how we educate humans and artificial intelligences is, at least in concept, the same, but the results are not really the same. It’s peculiar that artificial intelligences are given large datasets to be trained on even as humans don’t have the same availability. In some ways, maybe we have it backwards, but time will tell.

We prune the knowledge we give to students and machine learning, or deep learning.

We provide students with knowledge based on accidents of geography. Every individual’s world is subject to geography, the geopolitics of the area, the socioeconomics of the area, culture, religion, language, etc. Some get transplanted and get exposed to differences (third culture kids), some don’t.

What languages a child can communicate dictate what information they have access to. A religion can forbid some knowledge, or even young women from having an education at all – which is an introduction into how gender can impact the available experience. A poor child is less likely to have opportunities than a child born more wealthy, and even then with how we address things, a poor child who is of one ‘race’ may not have financial help because they happen to be the wrong color.

The list goes on even before we touch the education systems themselves. It’s impressively and annoyingly complex. Then the education systems run by different governments – or not – have curriculum designed, increasingly for getting jobs rather than learning. These curriculum are focused on things that some groups think are important for the future, but to stay in business they have to make money so they attenuate things toward that end. Some books get banned in some geography, some due to content publishing/licensing are simply not available. Paywalls hold things at bay, too.

Memorization and regurgitating facts are rewarded. Understanding is hoped for, but not necessary to run the education gauntlet. Imprisoned by what the cage of what has been taught, few go further than their cages and simply rest in place when they’re done, breathing a sigh of relief and happy they made it through. They were told this was a necessary part of Life.

At the end of years of the education system, we kick students out of the nest and are expected to be something an employer wants to hire.

Artificial intelligences, on the other hand, have a different path. A group of people spend a lot of money on computer hardware and software, they find content that they want to train the artificial intelligence on. We’re not even sure what they are because that’s not made public. Neural networks crawl through the data, training predictive analytics, building natural language processing and recommender systems, and it gets released, imprisoned by the human knowledge it was fed. Garbage in, garbage out.

The concepts are the same between educating the artificial intelligences and humans. The artificial intelligences are given the best opportunities to learn as judged and afforded by those who train them, as our human education systems. The difference is that there are significantly less artificial intelligence systems, and human education has become a manufacturing process that produces plants in pots that at a certain angle might look like a bonsai.

Here’s the thing: In my life, I have not many of either I would call a bonsai.

Have you? Shouldn’t that be our goal?

The Veil

I have managed to get the 2nd chapter done, but I’m revisiting it today because of distractions. If it wasn’t the phone ringing, it was my stomach growling, or a water interruption to monitor, or…

You get the idea. A symphony of distraction. Granted, I will sit in concentration for long periods of time, but the distractions are easy without subscribing to cable, or checking social media, or anything else.

I call it a symphony because there’s always someone running through with a cowbell and using cymbals for dramatic effect.

So, today, the phone is on silent, the stomach sated just enough, and a general ignorance of the world drops like a veil as the only sound is that of muted music in the background and the rhythmic pulses of keys leaving a trail of letters on a screen…