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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Free educational sources, online and real world

Here is a list of free courses and tutorials for anyone with an internet connection!

Here is a list of courses offered mainly in Europe that are taught in english and have little of no tuition fees!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Man has landed a craft on a comet

This is an amazing story. We have the know how, apparently. This is a serious milestone.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Harshest jail sentence ever?

California man sentenced to 14 years in jail after pointing laser at 2 helicopters

Thursday, November 6, 2014

GATE Contact info, problems (Ministry of Tertiary Education and Skills Training, TEST)

I recently witnessed the frustrating experience of having to resolve an issue with the Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE) Programme. A friend had her application cancelled because of an error on GATE's records. As of this year all applications are made electronically so a sensible person would expect that an appropriate amount of manpower was allocated to deal with this.

She made her application via the site on June 13th 2014 and she get an email saying there was an error on the application on 13th October 2014. That is 6 months later. Her profile now showed her as having a MBBS which she never did but the site wanted her to upload a scan and she could not continue applying for the current course. Repeated calls to 800-Gate (4283) went unanswered and when she did get to talk to someone on Oct 21st she was told the sole database administrator was out sick. This was amazing that the tens of thousands! of students in the country are processed by one person, and when they are not in the office, the world stops spinning. She was also told to call 663-0244 ext 5312010 instead (yes, 7 digits). The Oct 27th deadline had now passed and calls to the extension mentioned and the operator were once again not being answered, they just kept ringing, it did not drop after a set time like 3 minutes. On Oct 28th she got through to find out that the database administrator was now on leave for the week and that there was still no one else able to fix the issue.

Ever since the initial call she had given her contact info and explained the problem. They could have called at any point after that. More calls to GATE went unanswered for several more days. On Nov 5th she started trying different extensions to see if anyone else would answer. Miraculously the finance department answered one of them and incredibly was able to pass on the message to the relevant person. She got a call a few minutes later and started making some progress.

There is someone else with her name and birthday (same year too) so only the ID card number was different. There was an error in the database between the two. The other person had the MBBS and my friend was seeing the wrong profile. The database administrator was back to work and sorted out the issue. She now had to reapply for her course and was told she had to go on her own now to sort out what GATE owes her school. The person could not say if or how her payments would work for this semester or further on would be affected. This was the first time she would have mediate the two.

Lessons learnt:
GATE contact info: 663-0244 ext 5312010 to 5312015. Expect to spend a very, very long time waiting for someone. I am not sure if callers hear the phone ringing even when the GATE person is on the line. While I was hearing it ringing perhaps it was because they were helping someone else and not just ignoring me. If this is the case I hope they change this to be a message to explain this or music playing instead of having callers feel they are being ignored. I heard complaints on the radio months ago that other people had a similar experience and the frustration they felt. This situation is ongoing and sadly so typical of a government service.

There is only one person (database administrator) who can resolve issues and if they are not around you have to wait on them even if it forces you to miss a deadline. If this happens then it is up to you to fix the mess caused by not having a secondary administrator. One person she spoke to said it has been previously suggested that there be more than one administrator but management does not see it that way.

The GATE St. Augustine office on #16 Warner Street, St. Augustine Trinidad is open 8.00am to 4.00pm Monday to Friday but they do not accept people after 3.00pm so try to get there well before 3.00pm.

To make a complaint about GATE itself you can call the Ministry in POS at 623-9922 ext 302 and 303 to get the Minister's secretary. The Communications Unit is ext 207. You can also send complaints to

Cannot get through to call GATE
GATE office hours Trinidad
Cannot log in to GATE
Profile error GATE
GATE telephone numbers

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pollution in China

The cheap prices we pay for goods has an environmental cost to the country.

Great team work for Giants

These athletes are good on their own but wow what a great team. Things are serious when Bill Nye gives you feedback.