Monday, January 31, 2005
  Love thy neighbour

Since December 26th, there has only been one TV station, out of 10, Metro TV, which has consistently highlighted the Aceh Tsunami tragedy. Its owner is Surya Paloh, an Acehnese whose first wife is/was a classmate of 'Er Indoors, although they have lost touch.

All I can find in the way of an online biography of this media baron is this: Surya Paloh, a poor farmer's son, started from humble origins in Aceh. He is now the owner of Media Group and the rector of the University of Indonesia Esa Unggul. He was also the founder of the Indonesian Association of Young Businessmen. Surya Paloh started his career in the media world by publishing the Prioritas Daily in 1986. He was often an outspoken critic of Suharto. The Prioritas Daily was censured and its license to publish revoked by the Suharto government. That did not stop him. His big break founding Metro TV only came about with the fall of Suharto. When B J Habibie became president he eased media restrictions and Surya Paloh's was one of the five TV stations granted licenses under Habibie's government.

There is an oil painting of him by Machyar Gleuenta, a fellow Acehnese, here.

No matter, the salience of this post portion is that today Metro TV is closing its Tsunami Appeal, will have the account audited by Ernst & Young and will then devote 100% of the donations to the rebuilding of Aceh, predominantly through providing housing.

And I'm sure they will continue to keep us informed, as will the Sumatra-based Electric Lamb Mission which has striven to provide "effective, holistic, capacity-building, culture-sensitive and community-empowering" aid to the tsunami victims of Aceh since Day One.

Their coalition of volunteers and sponsors is doing magnificent work and will still be in Sumatra long after international aid agencies have withdrawn. Please support them.

The navy ships and chopper support are focusing on Meulaboh but the reality is that there are thousands of people in smaller and more remote communities North and South who have not had any assistance since the quake.

The following was posted yesterday:

Until our arrival yesterday (Friday 28th January), this community had seen no aid at all, save for one insufficient food drop from a helicopter. We immediately brought them two small boats full of food, lamps (with kerosene), clothes, and hygiene supplies. They still have an urgent need for roofing iron, seeds, and more food, and we will continue to supply them in the future.

Those that have survived to this point are reasonably healthy, although there is one suspected case of malaria. But there are many flags visible along the beach, marking the gruesome remains of the many victims still not buried. We will return to the encampment today with body bags, gloves, boots and masks.

But despite what we give them, the community seems lost and hopeless without its women. To rebuild their community in a physical way seems feasible, but how can anyone measure the loss of all of their wives and children?



3:30 pm |
Sunday, January 30, 2005
  Sunday Supplement

Today, Jakartass has Home Thoughts From Abroad. Usually they are the other way around - Alien Thoughts From Home, home being wherever I lay my wife.

I think I'm allowed to indulge this craving once in a while so I hope some of my readers, who I have recently realised are nostalgic for Indonesia, will allow my little self-indulgence.

It is good for me and others up here in the UK to read your facts and your thoughts about issues 000's of kms away. It is important that the problems are not swept under the carpet of other less important, yet more up to date news items. Thanks for this extraordinary insight. My partner was born in Semarang, albeit living in Holland since 1956 and in England since 2000.

Actually, I don't claim "extraordinary insight". Perhaps 'perspective' would be a better word, but I'm happy to oblige.

Except for today ...

Brit bits of tsunami

Tsunami: the Day The Wave Struck relied on camcorder footage and interviews with survivors, mostly British tourists. Their stories were fascinating and touching, but for those of us who were in Sri Lanka on 26 December there is an abiding sense that this wasn't 'our' tragedy to hijack; it belongs to the people of Asia.

Equinox. We are all tsunami experts after the event, but there were still some fascinating facts here: the quake triggered a displacement of energy equivalent to 23,000 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs; a cubic metre of water weighs a ton; the earth has been shoved off its axis by 2.5cm; and our days have been shortened by three millionths of a second. Great. Like they were long enough already ...

The Piano Player looks over the balcony and sees the devastation below.
My God.
But luckily no one is dead here.
'Is there anything I can do?' he asks.
'Play the piano,' the manager suggests.

So he sits and plays gentle ballads.

Get a life

I'm Addickted to Charlton, so I wasn't too happy to be too knackered to stay awake for last night's webcast of the rip-roaring tie (which was) in the best traditions of the cup and ended with a standing ovation from both sets of supporters.

Oh, yes. Charlton, 7th in the Premiership, just managed to beat Yeovil who are a couple of divisions lower.
Inspector Sands, whose All Quiet was recently voted best Sports Blog, and these folk are also addickted.

Others are merely addicted to sushi, Viagra, texting and online dating. According to Zoe Lewis, the latter can be damaging for the soul, mate.

Nostalgia is what it used to be

All things nice
Hope and Greenwood opened in August last year, on an upwardly mobile street in East Dulwich in southeast London. It is no ordinary sweet shop. Every detail has been planned, from the glass sweetie jars to the old Ladybird books and the pair of shoes (Miss Hope's mother's wedding shoes from the Fifties) that accessorise the shop. ... They had to beg the two 70-year-olds who are the last people making sweet tobacco to add their shop to their orders.

Expats unable to get to East Dulwich for their sweet tobacco can get it, and Sherbet Fountain Dip and Flying Saucers and ABC Letters and ...




3:30 pm |
Saturday, January 29, 2005
  Today was a washout

Actually, it wasn't but we did get wet.

That's me, Our Kid and umpteen colleagues who had a staff outing to an objek wisata (tourist attraction) / fruit farm to the south of Jakarta. If my memory serves me well, this was set up by Tutut Suharto but I can't find anything about it online.

Whatever, we looked at rambutans, guavas, lots of different citrus fruit and something called dong-dong. We weren't allowed to pick any, so we looked. And then we had lunch. And then it rained. And then we played a silly game of football, or those of us silly enough not to mind playing in mud did and everybody laughed at our silliness so good bonding was had by all.

And then we came home and sat for too long in the traffic jam which was the result of the downpour.

And then I tried to think of something to blog about and remembered another example of financial rip-offs taking place in Aceh. Apparently some folk who were lucky enough to have somewhere to live in Banda Aceh now haven't. They've been evicted by greedy landlords who can charge $100 a day for a 4 bedroom house. (This is what I pay per month in Jakarta.)

Some locals are seeing the arrival of large-scale relief missions as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make big bucks. Aid dollars are starting to grease the wheels of a local economy derailed by the disaster - but with the threat of some negative consequences, including inflationary prices and a "brain drain" of local professionals opting to serve foreigners. Criticized in the past for such unintended impacts, UN representatives say they are taking some steps to mitigate the problem.

Today this city is in danger of being smothered by a surfeit of foreign attention and sympathy. One of the regions most ravaged by the tsunami, it has become the destination of choice for much of the world's humanitarian aid community.

The global market may have enabled the massive influx of funds and services to the tsunami-hit areas, but I can see no justification whatsoever for these market forces increasing the gap between the haves and have nots. Getting rich off others' misery or blindly paying over the odds with heartfelt donations you have access to is another form of corruption.

Still, as it was a good day overall, let's end on a positive note and hope that Yeovil provide worthwhile opposition to Charlton Athletic in their FA Cup tie later on.

But lose.



10:00 pm |
Friday, January 28, 2005

Although I have stated quite strongly that the tsunami was not 'an act of God' and do not espouse any one religion or faith above another, there are times when empathy is called for. Acehnese pilgrims returning from the haj in Mecca are only now discovering the extent of their losses.

Grief swept through the Banda Aceh airport overnight when hundreds of Acehnese Muslims returned from the annual Haj pilgrimage to learn they had lost children, parents and homes to the waves. Pilgrims cannot cut short the trip once they have left because the journey is seen as a symbol of submission and self-sacrifice to God. Therefore, even though they would have heard about the devastation and horrific loss of life, they had to stay.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he regretted the assault against antigraft activist Farid Faqih, who soldiers alleged had stolen relief aid in Aceh.

Lt. Col. Sazili, the air base commander, said, "The beating was unavoidable because the officers had been waiting to distribute the aid for two days."

The government admitted yesterday that the management of public donations for the tsunami survivors in Aceh and North Sumatra had been tainted by malfeasance.

The balance sheet reveals that the government has received Rp 914 billion from the public and has spent Rp 114 billion on relief operations in the tsunami-stricken areas.

That leaves at least Rp.800 billion up for grabs then.



4:30 pm |
Thursday, January 27, 2005
  The finality of venality?

1. This disaster, like others before it, has its long list of profiteers. Some are black market vendors making money off misery: pirated DVDs of the tsunami's real-life horror show are now on sale in Indonesia (as seen yesterday), Thailand and India. But there are also people and companies making legitimate profit from the business of disaster relief.

2. New Zealand said today it will ask Indonesia to investigate claims that its military officers have been accepting bribes to place wealthy people on refugee flights out of tsunami-ravaged Aceh. Apparently half the refugees who flew to Jakarta on a New Zealand air force Hercules flight this month were "well dressed people who paid up to 80 dollars to Indonesian military screeners to be allowed on to the plane."

3. According to reports, the leader of an anti-corruption watchdog devoted to exposing crimes by state officials has been arrested in Aceh province for improper handling of aid intended for tsunami victims.

Farid Faqih, chairman of Government Watch (GOWA), and three members of the radical Islamic Defenders' Front (FPI) were arrested on yesterday evening on suspicion of violating procedures in the storage and use of aid. The four were reportedly arrested by Air Force officers at the Sultan Iskandar Muda Airbase and handed over to police for further investigation.

4. It's probably true to say that the other pirates that Indonesia has been famous for, the seafaring variety, have been wiped out by the tsunami. This may just mean that they lost their boats rather than their lives so there's no need to feel too upset.

If you can't wait 'til then, you can generate your own error messages.
Thanks, again, to J-Walk Blog.



5:30 pm |
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
  Tsunami souvenirs

As the Jakarta Post says today, it has been exactly one month since the magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami devastated parts of Aceh and North Sumatra. Such time should be sufficient for us to assess and absorb the implications of this unprecedented calamity, not only for those directly in the path of the disaster, but also for the rest of the nation.

Coming home in the mobile market that is Jakarta's commuter train service, I was offered a VCD of the tsunami for Rp.5,000 (= UK 30p / US 60c). I didn't buy and I'm now wondering if I should have.

The dilemma is that in this televisual world I do feel it is important to have a record of what will probably be the most significant event in our lifetimes. Its Xmas timing, suddenness and ferocity and our seeming incapacity to have mitigated its effects through prediction, warnings and adequate coastal defences have caused much needed examination of how we function as the self-called 'higher species'.

Yet, who would benefit from the purchase? Apart from a small commission to the folk trying to earn their daily rice, the bulk of the price would only benefit, if that's the right word, a Mr. Big somewhere who has lifted images from TV and is not interested in the plight of those who have lost nigh on everything.

Now if, say, Metro TV were to produce a documentary from its archives and were to donate the profits to its Tsunami Aid fund, then I feel the purchase would have some value.

Agam and his Gecko are also fans of Metro TV reportage but I wonder if they have checked out Metro's website; it is hardly user friendly. In fact, it is of no use whatsoever, which I find surprising given Metro's position as the major TV news provider.

There are some good things to arise from the tsunami. Apart from the spontaneous and unprecedented collective outpouring of donations, there are signs emerging of a significant shift in perceptions concerning the role of civic communal action and a recognition of our place in the ecosphere.

The Electric Lamb Mission has now arrived in Meulaboh and is providing regular updates with pictures of its efforts to reach survivors who have not yet been helped on the west coast.

Already, the Sea Bridge is working! The mother ship enables large amounts of cargo to be moved amongst remote places.

On January 14th, Indonesia announced a massive replanting of mangroves.

The roots of the mangrove plants stabilize the sand and mud. In areas of the world where mangroves have been removed for development purposes, the coastline has been subject to rapid erosion. They also provide a habitat for wildlife and serve as a natural buffer to strong winds and waves ...

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has contributed to a report, available as a .pdf download, on the environmental impact of the tsunami in Aceh.

Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's Executive Director, said, "These latest findings from just one of the affected countries show that there have been significant consequences for the environment and for the livelihoods of local people as a result of the tsunami. They underline how the environment can be both a victim and both a buffer against vulnerability to natural and man-made disasters."

This issue, namely the central role of a healthy environment in long-term disaster risk reduction, had been taken on board by delegates at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction which closed last Friday (22nd) in the Japanese city of Kobe, he said.

"First and foremost we must continue to respond to the terrible human tragedy and humanitarian relief effort in Indonesia, and other countries affected by the tsunami," added Mr. Toepfer. "But, it is clear that the recovery and reconstruction process underway must also invest in the environmental capital of natural resources, the forests, mangroves, and coral reefs that are nature's buffer to such disasters and their consequences," he said.

Among critical coastal habitats in Aceh and North Sumatra, 25,000 hectares (ha) of mangroves, 30 % of 97,250 ha of previously existing coral reefs, and 20 % of 600 ha of seegrass beds have been damaged according to the new report. The economic loss is valued at $118.2 million, $332.4 million, and $2.3 million respectively.

Elsewhere, the Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli of the World Tourism Organization (WTO) in emergency session, stressed that "the future of tourism in the impacted region highly depends on a normal tourism process in destinations so popular among thousands of tourists, seeking relaxation in unspoilt nature among friendly hosts."

So they won't be going in droves to Aceh then.



5:30 pm |
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
  How come?
My computer went into a let's-fart-around mode this afternoon and the only way I've managed to get it stabilised is by re-installing Windows. Has anyone else noticed how difficult it is afterwards to reset the appearance back to the familiar visual comfort zone?

How kind.
Other folk trying to reset their image include former dictator Suharto and three of his children.
Accused of embezzling billions of dollars,
(they) demonstrated their generosity by donating five cattle to Aceh's main mosque on the occasion of Idul Adha, the Islamic holy feast of sacrifice last week. Apparently, Suharto also donated two cattle to East Jakarta's Cipinang jail, where prayers were led by radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Baasyir, who is on trial for terrorism.

How thoughtful. And quick off the mark.
From elsewhere, I've received a copy of the Travel Impact Newswire which reports on a press conference held by the Tourist Authority of Thailand on January 4th 2005 and the efforts being made to restore the tsunami-damaged travel industry in Thailand.

What's important now (Jan 4th) is for TAT to resume marketing in the main markets of Asia, Europe and the US. For Europe, the governor (of TAT) plans to go to Sweden herself because so many Swedish tourists lost their lives. She will express her sympathies and condolences to the Swedish people and families and request them to not abandon Thailand as their destination of choice.

How wise. After the event.
Former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, who lost office only three months ago, says the high number of casualties from last month's earthquake and tsunami in northern Sumatra was partly due to the government's failure to warn the public of the dangers of natural disasters.

At least SBY isn't spending his political capital in shopping malls like she did.



6:00 pm |
Monday, January 24, 2005
  Photos never lie

The bride's gown was worth more than most American homes. Knauss, 34, posed for a traditional pre-wedding portrait in the gown and her $1.5 million engagement ring and untraditionally shared it with the world on the cover of Vogue magazine. The Christian Dior original, which reportedly cost $200,000, has 300 feet of satin and a 13-foot train that took 550 hours to embroider. It weighs 50 pounds -- so much that the bride will slip into a lighter Vera Wang dress after the couple's first dance.

On Indonesia's Sumatra island, which saw the worst damage in the tsunami disaster a month ago, aid workers are taking photographs of children found on their own, hoping that may help reunite at least some with relatives. The tsunami's toll on the younger generation is staggering: They account for about a third of all deaths - a toll across 11 countries estimated at between 157,000 and 220,000. Among children who survived, the new realities include shock, hunger, homelessness, fear and loneliness.



6:15 pm |
Sunday, January 23, 2005
  Fair Drinkum

With the Asian tsunami testing conventional faiths, here is a Taoist take on the disaster.

No conclusions can possibly be drawn about the ineffable, no matter your belief structure. The divine realm is unfathomable. We can touch it by meditation or prayer, or at moments of spontaneous grace, having just done someone a good turn or vice versa, perhaps, or during rare moments of sharing love with another without clinging, jealousy or possessiveness present. But we can't presume to explain it or discern what its motives might be, if indeed it has motives at all.

And we shouldn't presume to put words into 'God's' mouth. My post on Friday has got all sorts writing to me to prove by quotation from their Holy Books (which were compiled by fallible people, mostly men) that they have the true "Word of God". Quite frankly, I don't care. I respect the right of all to practice their religion of choice, but I am not a seeker of someone else's 'truth'.

What I consistently state is that everyone should be treated equally within a social framework. Is it so bad to oppose exploitation and victimization? Tragedies will continue to occur. Humankind can and should work together to prevent those caused by greed and a 'holier-than-thou' attitude.

Agam and his Gecko write at length about the current floods in Indonesia. Thankfully, they have subsided here in Jakarta, but I do have one question. How come Agam (and his gecko), living in Bangkok, get better reception of Indonesian TV than I do?

And if I am allowed a supplementary question, why are so many folk buying TVs at the moment? For the past few days, our local Carrefour has been displaying on its racks of demonstration TVs being swarmed over by eager shoppers notices to the effect that "this model is out of stock".

There is the bad news that the tsunami cost Aceh a generation and $4.4bn. The biggest story of the disaster ... is not the damage to the national economy, which was substantial, but the suffering of hundreds of thousands of individuals who have lost everything: members of their families, their homes, and any hope of making a living.

And the good news is that non-governmental organizations will ... be invited to join the supervisory bodies, which will start working once the government's blueprint for reconstruction and rehabilitation of Aceh is completed and that the government's aim is to empower the Acehnese in this process.

More good news announced on Friday, is that coffee from the devastated Indonesian province of Aceh is to go on sale in Britain's only Fairtrade café chain.

Jakarta residents can get to drink it at home. Ask the folk who run Merdeka Coffee, although their website doesn't yet offer online ordering.

Here at Jakartass Towers, our brew of choice is from Sidikalang. That's because 'Er Indoors is from Medan where all the best food comes from.

She says.



3:00 pm |
Saturday, January 22, 2005
  More advice for a wannabe blogger - Part 2

There are few bloggers in Indonesia writing about issues and events that impact on life in general. The majority are 'vanity' sites and of little interest beyond immediate family and friends. Although Jakartass welcomes these efforts as they can increase fluency and writing skills, I would like to read more from concerned residents about the major issues here. This is the era of reformasi but it takes courage to overcome the reticence, if not downright paranoia, which lingers nigh on eight years after the abdication of the control freak President Suharto.

There is a demand from Asia observers for more voices from this country. Keep up the good work and keep trying to get more bloggers in Indonesia posting on the country. I've also complained about this before ... Something just isn't right.

Jakartass would like to make it right. As a start, I am offering the following correspondence with a valued friend and ex-colleague in the hope that he and others will be encouraged to join the Indonesian blogosphere.

I would like to blog for several reasons:
1. I think I have something to say that might be useful and interesting to others.
2. I want to improve my writing. I would learn to write better by writing ... for real readers (if any come along).
3. I want to introduce my students to blogs and use blogs for teaching writing skills in English.

But ...
1. It takes time and money.
2. It takes time.
3. Time!
How do you handle it?

Money? I grin and pay it - the phone bill that is. Oh, and the crappy ISP. Everything else is free, apart from the occasional upgrading of computer software and hardware.

When, as often happens, I can't access Indosat, I log on to Telkom and activate the downloaded PostCast Server which is a free server program that enables you to send messages directly from your computer. This program is used for sending newsletters, distributing messages to different mailing lists, sending notifications to your customers, as well as for sending individual messages. You can use it instead of the SMTP server of your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

As for time, I make it.
For example, this posting has been written over the course of several days. I keep a Pending sub-folder for notes, drafts, lists of interesting URLs etc. I did have a couple of articles ready for the Xmas period but the tsunami intervened and I doubt, due to their subject matter and to their then topicality that I will publish them.

I had a couple of reasons for starting Jakartass.
I first encountered blogging because I support Charlton Athletic as does Inspector Sands. He mainly writes about living in S.E. London where I lived until I went to university, so there was an immediate communality of interest.

The other reason was that I was, as you know, chronically under-employed and occupied much of my time writing. Having failed to get a few vignettes published in magazines here, and with experience of community publishing in the UK through the 70s and 80s, I realized that blogging offered an outlet and also an opportunity to improve my writing. You'll have noted that I try to post every day; this takes self-discipline but I do feel that it's worthwhile.

N. in Oman has recently sent me an email. "I commented previously that your writing is lucid and easy to read, but more importantly it's worth reading - trenchant, sometimes sardonic and leavened with humour - and you certainly have developed your own 'voice'.
Kind words, N. ~ meet you in Jaksa next time you're here? ~ and much appreciated as not only does it confirm that I have a readership, but also something to say.

I wouldn't want to just write about anything. I think it would be better to choose a focus - living and working in Indonesia, teaching and learning English, language learning in general. That is still quite a big bite to chew on.

Your reasons for blogging are all valid. I try and focus on being a Brit abroad ~ Home Thoughts from Abroad and Alien Thoughts from Home as I put it. Living in Indonesia with its manifold problems gives plenty of scope. Being an American, you will, no doubt, have a somewhat different perspective. (We Brits tend to be better liked and, therefore, less paranoid.)

I would suggest that if you don't want to make personal observations about how events here impact on your life, then focus on a specific issue. The paucity of quality education in this country, even in the so-called National Plus schools, would be a good issue, assuming that you don't criticise your employers! Get in touch with the good folk who run Full Proof; you may find that they can host your blog.

(Part 1 can be found here.)



1:00 pm |
Friday, January 21, 2005
  Silencing of the lambs (or goats or cows)

Today is Idul Adha, the Day of Sacrifice.

For Muslims it represents two monumental events: the culmination of the Haj, the holy pilgrimage to Mecca, and the slaying of sacrificial animals, usually a goat or cow, whose meat is then donated to the needy.

According to Islamic (and Christian) scripture, Idul Adha commemorates the Prophet Abraham's obedience to God, who substituted a ram as a last minute dispensation from the intended sacrifice of Abraham's son.

People around the country, regardless of their religion, rejoice at the coming of such religious commemorations mainly because it means an extra day off work. Let us turn Idul Adha and other religious events - whether Islamic, Christian, Hindu or Buddhist - as moments to knit together the many ethnicities and faiths to make Indonesia a more compassionate nation.

Jakartass Towers has been my residence for all the 17+ years that I've lived in Indonesia. Apart from its convenient location in respect to the routes in and out of town, I don't want to move because we don't live next door to a mosque.

At jam maghrib, sunset and the time for evening prayers, I settle on my terrace with a good book and take in the peace of, at that particular time, a quiet street with the accompanying sounds of the Koran being broadcast from the umpteen mosques in nearby streets. It's quite pleasant ambient music to my ears; the volume is sufficiently discreet.

At other quiet times we can also hear the dulcet chimes of distant church bells which, for me, seem almost nostalgic.

Indonesia is the world's most Muslim country in terms of the number of adherents. By and large, here it is a moderate religion, and an accepting country yet folk are defined by a religious label. 'Er Indoors is a Batak, from North Sumatra. When I mention this to other Bataks they ask me what marga (clan) she is; when I reply I get told that she must be a Muslim. On paper she is and, due to marital rules, so must I be.

When I am asked what my religion is, I reply that "it's a secret". After all, too much strife is the result of belief differences ~ from American fundamentalists targeting abortion clinics to shit stirrers in the Moluccas and Central Sulawesi here in Indonesia, the list is endless.

Religion has become a major topic in the local blogosphere. Divine intervention has been blamed for much of the loss of life from the tsunami, albeit without always noting the ecumenical nature of the retribution. Read Dogfight At Bankstown for an in-depth look at proselytising in Aceh where there have been the evangelists proposing to place Acehnese orphans in Christian environments and our local Muslim thugs 'volunteering' their J.I. services. To be fair, FPI, the group that trashed drinking haunts during Ramadan, are currently searching for bodies.

The Brit in Malaysia
, like me 'An Average Londoner Trying To Make Some Sense Of The World'. ponders Muslim fundamentalism and through The Swanker, I discovered that Jodi at Asia Pages seems to have caused quite a kerfuffle with her recent comments about the modus operandi of Christian missionaries in South Korea. so much so she's had to post a rebuttal.

I'm quite sympathetic to her frustration. Not only is it unusual in many parts of Asia to admit that one does not believe in a god, it may even be seen as an insult or a deficiency in one's character (in Indonesia in the Suharto era, you could have been labelled a 'communist' and shunned).

I don't like labels, but I was interested to know where I stand in relation to others' perceptions of God (and me?) and, thanks to the inestimable J-Walk Blog I have found the perfect tool.

Even if YOU don't know what faith you are, Belief-O-Matic does. Answer 20 questions about your concept of God, the afterlife, human nature, and more, and Belief-O-Matic will tell you what religion (if any) you practice ... or ought to consider practicing.

So this is the Jakartass Religious Profile.

1. Liberal Quakers (100%)
Secular Humanism (100%)
Unitarian Universalism (95%)
Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (85%)
Neo-Pagan (76%)
Theravada Buddhism (74%)
Orthodox Quaker (73%)
Taoism (71%)
Mahayana Buddhism (67%)
New Age (65%)
Nontheist (64%)
Bahá'í Faith (61%)
Jainism (56%)
Reform Judaism (53%)
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (43%)
Sikhism (41%)
Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (40%)
Hinduism (40%)
Seventh Day Adventist (39%)
New Thought (39%)
Scientology (38%)
Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (32%)
Jehovah's Witness (28%)
Eastern Orthodox (23%)
Islam (23%)
Orthodox Judaism (23%)
Roman Catholic (23%)

I'm disappointed that Animism isn't listed. This most ancient of beliefs is of concern to Christians, an influence on Islam - read the book by Samuel M. Zwemer, F.R.G.S., the subject of debate, both ancient and modern, and a nice little earner for David Huckleberry.

And Jakartass is an ecumenical non-meat eater who believes that some religious folk are bird-brained.



9:00 am |
Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Jakartass Towers is conveniently situated; all parts of the city are accessible. Except today.

One side of the area we live in is bordered by the River Ciliwung and today, following incessant rain for the past two days both here and in Bogor upstream, it is even higher than it was 2 years ago when I took this photo with my instamatic.

Whilst TV crews hover overhead getting visuals to accompany today's BIG NEWS, and I, having got up at 5am, fail to reach today's place of work, residents of local kampungs relive their annual nightmares. Furniture and clothing is sodden, cooking is impossible and, for safety reasons, electricity is cut off.

Our side of the river bank is lined with local tourists and our kitchen is a place of refuge for some of our less fortunate and wetter neighbours.

Our residence is also very wet, but that's due to inaccessible roof leaks. However, if this blog isn't updated for a few days, it will be because our area is disconnected from the mains. 2 years ago we lived by candlelight for nigh on a week.

Of course, it's not just Jakarta which experiences floods.

Rain is proving a bigger problem than security
with floods ... blocking truck convoys from getting relief supplies into the tsunami-hit city of Banda Aceh.

Flooding in Lampung and South Sumatra provinces
in the past week has claimed at least three lives, cut traffic and washed away thousands hectares of rice fields in the area, which would likely lead to a serious rice shortfall in the region.

There is no way to prevent seasonal deluges but Jakarta's flooding problems are man-made.

In 2002, Paulus Agus Winarso of the Geophysical and Meteorological Agency (BMG) said, "Floods in Jakarta have become a serious problem since the 1990s as its development activities have not been in line with its master plan ... and (are) worsening due to continuing violations of the Jakarta Master Plan, which had resulted in a decrease in the number of water catchment areas."

Before that, in 2000, Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso gave a different reason. "The capital will never be free from floods unless it has a drainage canal at the city's east and west border areas to facilitate drainage to the sea. Actually, we have had the master plan of the canals since 1975, but due to budget problems (corruption?) we could not build them.

"The only other option to escape being annually inundated during the rainy season is to move the city from the current location," the governor said. He also said that floods were unavoidable because 40 percent of the city is located in the lowlands and he also blamed Mother Nature and squatters living along the riverbanks.

Any old tired excuse, Sooty? But back in 2000 he also said that he would discuss with the central government about the continuation of the East Flood Canal project.

The idea to build the East Flood Canal was not new. The design was first produced in 1973, but had been on and off since then. The East Canal, along with the West Canal which was built by the Dutch colonial government, is intended to drain all of the city's 13 rivers.

Although details of specific projects have yet to be announced, it is to be hoped that the Jakarta Infrastructure Summit held over Monday and Tuesday this week will have attracted investors. An improvement in the infrastructure will bring optimism and hope for the country's future, something that is badly needed in Indonesia at this time.

A bit of a Catch 22 situation that. Can we be optimistic that the central government will streamline the bureaucracy, relax investment regulations and offer sufficient legal safeguards and incentives? The right noises are being made but ...



10:00 am |
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Urgently Needed

The Electric Lamb Mission: The Bridge of Boats to Aceh is currently loading the Batavia for its first mission.

If you can donate any aid material to be loaded in Jakarta today or Padang before 21st January, please click here for a complete list.

If you would like to volunteer, please fill in this form.

If you would like to donate money to this Mission, please click here for donation information




2:51 pm |
Monday, January 17, 2005
  It's all too much for some
Human ingenuity and skill have been poured into developing an extraordinary technological capacity to deliver information with speed and in volume, but our capacity to act on that information painfully lags behind. The tsunami showed all too starkly how we could hear of the plight of villagers long before the aid could reach them. That lag between information and action is sometimes only a few days, more often years. A flick of a switch accesses the former; the latter requires the infinitely complex task of developing forms of human cooperation between individuals and nations. Our technological ingenuity has far outstripped our skills for social organisation.

Is this true? I trust Jakartass readers will bear with me if I continue to signpost networks of social organisation and to point to those issues, particularly Indonesian, which concern us all. One look, preferably in Firefox, at my links should demonstrate my unashamed optimism that with compassion and commonsense the human spirit can overcome seemingly overwhelming traumas.

The World is changing. It can change for the better. I believe that John Aglionby feels the same way.

'I dream another wave is coming'
"I want to be a pilot. It would be a great way to see the world."
Rahmatun's ambition and self-confidence are unusual in this largely conservative society, but they are extraordinary given that she became an orphan and lost two siblings on Boxing Day when the Indian Ocean tsunami wiped her village, Bubun, off the map.

And, thanks to the rainy season, Aceh is flooded again.

Jakarta Post - Andi Hajramurni

And there are always geo-political shenanigans to bugger things up for the rest of us.



6:00 pm |
Sunday, January 16, 2005
  Your Sunday Paper

It was a hoax
Those of you worried about the safety of Jakartass following the bomb scare at the British and Thai embassies on Friday can rest easy.

Jakarta Police spokesman Tjiptono on Saturday said that Zulfah (22) had sent the threat in the hope that it would force her boyfriend Agung, a guard at the Thai Embassy, to stay on duty and cancel his planned visit to his hometown of Ngawi in East Java province. "She tried to prevent him from leaving because he would not take her with him."

Orphans For Sale?
See inside

British aristocrat with Indonesian business faces extradition
Giles Carlyle-Clarke is facing deportation within days to the United States for drugs offences alleged to have taken place two decades ago. Carlyle-Clarke believes his extradition could be part of the deal that led to the release of British detainees held in Guantanamo.

He says he still finds it extraordinary that it took so long to apply for his extradition as his British address has been the same since his childhood and had been held by the American judicial system since he signed the affidavit in 1989. Although he has spent much of his time in Indonesia since he set up a business importing reproduction furniture in 1990, he claims it would be nonsense to describe him as a fugitive. He has always conducted his business under his real name and even visited the United States in 1992.

Arts Supplement

Performance Art
McCarthy has removed the tights and is walking back up the road when the first police car shrieks up. It's one of six, including Southwark's designated bomb patrol. He explains to them that it was a piece of street theatre. (He tells me afterwards that he said this because people have too many preconceptions about performance art.) He is gently admonished for wasting police time. "In the present circumstances, sir, you will understand that people are likely to react badly to anyone who looks a bit... unusual."

It is interesting, I conclude, that tights-over-face had different resonances for McCarthy than they did for the police and the general public.

Stockhausen, he tells me, is interesting because he's broken down the old order. He puts on Unsichtbare Chore reverently. This is what I've been waiting for - a new beginning. He's as excited as I am. I give him the thumbs up. He gives me a Masonic nod. It's ghastly. Truly bloody awful. Rats scurrying across a blackboard, a washing machine turning somersaults, a car horn hooting in temper. And when it's not quite so ghastly, it turns into a Monty Python sketch - a choir of cheeks being pulled at speed. The blow-job sonata perhaps? He laughs.

Icelandic Saga
Erik Njofi, son of Frothgar, leaves his home to seek Hangar the EIder at the home of Thorvald Nlodvisson, the son of Gudleif, half brother of Thorgier, the priest of Ljosa water, who took to wife Thurunn, the mother of Thorkel Braggart, the slayer of Cudround the powerful, who knew Howal, son of Geernon, son of Erik from Valdalesc, son of Arval Gristlebeard, son of Harken, who killed Bjortguaard in Sochnadale in Norway over Cudreed, daughter of Thorkel Long, the son of Kettle-Trout, the half son of Harviyoun Half-troll, father of Ingbare the Brave, who with Isenbert of Gottenberg the daughter of Hangbard the Fierce ...


He developed a sculptural vocabulary of highly polished forms, a squidgy shape, say, squashed between two hard shapes, between, as it were, hammer and anvil, or squashing out fit to bust from between concrete blocks, as in his highly effective, if curiously
(and long!) named, Public Sculpture at the Eastern Counties Newspapers building in Norwich.

The Insider

High Living
Jakartass has a new colleague, N., also from London, who is a Chelsea supporter. I won't hold that against him nor the fact that he's a Tory and subscribes to the Daily Telegraph; just don't expect me to provide hyperlinks. I mention these facts, however, because N. gives me access to gossip from those parts of Jakarta nightlife I can't reach, afford, or aspire to.

On New Year's Eve at Aphrodites there was a spontaneous collection for victims of the Aceh tsunami which raised just over $1000. The owner/manager then introduced a gentleman who was purportedly from the infamous tax office and claimed that donations are subject to a 10% levy. However, as the said gentleman did not understand English and, presumably, hadn't received this message, the evening's punters were invited to tell him what they thought.

He was offed and outed.



3:30 pm |
Saturday, January 15, 2005
  See C Writer

Regular correspondent C in Australia writes: The good suggestion about world music was passed onto the local ABC office, and I could try Triple J as well. A big gig is coming up in Sydney, a benefit.

Great news, C, but please enlighten this pom. What is an "ABC office" and "Triple J"?

She writes further: It will be hoped that the latest threats to Jakarta are another false alarm, why the Brits? At this time?

Why the Brits and, incidentally, the Thais ?

Presumably because they've got intelligence, the kind that I lack. But, yes, both bomb scares proved to be false alarms.

There is an Islamic insurgency in Thailand which may well involve groups and individuals, such as "notorious bombers Azahari Husin and Noordin Mohammad Top" being pursued by the security forces everywhere for their suspected involvement in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings, the 2003 blast at Jakarta's JW Marriott Hotel and the September 2004 bombing at the Australian Embassy.

Incidentally, Jakartass is a voluntary warden for the British embassy here, charged wiith assisting local Brits in emergency situations. I have heard nothing from the embassy, other than invitations to posh events such as celebrating the Queen's official birthday and singing Christmas carols with Our Man in Jakarta.

My Dad 'back home' is really proud and has framed the various embossed invitations so he can demonstrate his son's perceived patriotism.

Talking of intelligence, I love the irony of the following story. It says more about Indonesia than anything we bloggers could.

Police have detained seven members of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) on suspicion of involvement in a counterfeiting operation, an official said Friday. One of the suspects is Police Brigadier General Jaeri, an executive of the Coordinating Board for the Eradication of Banknote Forgery (Botasupal).

Botasupal, in association with the State Intelligence Coordination Body (BAKIN), provides operational licenses for the printing of money, passports, postage stamps, duty stamps and Bank Indonesia negotiable papers.

Go figure.



2:00 pm |
  Sea Bridge to Aceh

The world is helping Banda Aceh city but the reality is that more people have been killed and displaced on the West Coast of Aceh than in the capital city.

A thriving community of 15,000 has been very nearly erased. More than 6,000 are confirmed dead, over 4,000 are missing, 2,000 are living under tarps and and several thousand are camped in the hills terrified to return to ground zero.

Food is desperately short, people are drinking river water and disease has depleted the meagre stock of drugs that have been air-dropped to the 20 or so overworked medics and aid workers in the area.

The port infrastructure has vanished.
The navy ships and chopper support are focusing on Meulaboh but the reality is that there are thousands of people in smaller and more remote communities North and South who have not had any assistance since the quake.

Our mission is to build a Sea Bridge to Aceh, to reach the thousands who are homeless, hurt, hungry and traumatized.

Original Sea Bridges website
Electric Lamb website
Please freely distribute information on and about this website.



10:30 am |
Friday, January 14, 2005
  Thanks, but no thanks

RI denies Israel allowed to send aid for Aceh
Jakarta, Jan 14 (ANTARA) - The Foreign Affairs Ministry has denied that the Indonesian government had allowed the Israeli government to send relief supplies to Indonesia including those for tsunami victims in Aceh and North Sumatra. "The ministry has never allowed air-flight clearance for humanitarian aid from the Israeli government," the ministry's spokesman, Marty Natalegawa, said here Friday.

Agency Blocked from Settling Muslim Orphans in Christian Orphanage
A Christian missionary group, based in the United States, says it has airlifted 300 children orphaned by the tsunami from Banda Aceh to Jakarta, where it says they will be brought up in a Christian children's home.

The group, World Help, has been seeking funds for its efforts, proclaiming on its website (which I can't find) that it's working with Indonesian Christians "to plant Christian principles as early as possible" in the 300 children. But since the media began making enquiries, the group has removed the appeal from its website.

A battle for the allegiance of the living
By Bill Guerin: As the United States rides its sudden wave of popularity in the world's most populous Muslim country, Indonesia, the secular government there has been handed a very hot political potato. The government itself, Americans, radical and mainstream Muslim groups, the Indonesian military, and separatist rebels are all engaged in a struggle to sway the allegiance of the living in the staunchly Islamic province of Aceh.

Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI)
In Bahasa Indonesia

Kangaroo scrotum pouches are unusual sentimental little gifts.
Due to its uniqueness they are remembered for a long time.
Click here for more options on Large scrotums

(The first story is from the Antara News Agency, formerly used by Suharto to control the news flow. It has absolutely no connection with this site - I feel we are all walking a squiggly path in life. Meandering along a thin chalk line that reminds us about how fragile we can be. As we take care of ourselves we have a responsibility to take care of our, "family", community, our cities and towns, our states, our nation, our world - carefully.)



7:00 pm |
Thursday, January 13, 2005
  Mixed Messages

1. Government restricts foreigners in Aceh
Indonesia yesterday began restricting the movements of the 2,000 foreigners helping the tsunami relief operation in Aceh, ordering aid groups and journalists to register, seek permission before leaving the province's two main towns, and only travel with a military escort.

2. The move was announced on Tuesday by Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto, who said security forces could not guarantee the safety of foreign aid workers from separatist rebels in the province.

However, aid agencies downplay TNI restrictions.
"The cooperation with the government of Indonesia remains, I think, excellent," said Kevin Kennedy from the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. "In no way has it impacted or diminished our ability to move about or to access populations."

3. These restrictions were put in place because of a shooting outside the UN complex in Banda Aceh on Sunday. Military and police officials had claimed the outlawed Free Aceh Movement (GAM) was responsible for the shots fired early Sunday near the United Nations relief compound in the provincial capital Banda Aceh.

But Alwi Shihab, Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare, said a distressed Indonesian soldier fired the shots and had subsequently been detained. "I have a report from the military that a soldier was in a stressful condition and opened fire. GAM was not involved in this."

4. PKS Wants Foreign Troops Removed
The Islam-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) has demonstrated the extent of its compassion for the suffering survivors of the Aceh tsunamis by demanding that foreign military personnel assisting with relief operations leave the province within a month.

5. Xenophobia thicker than humanity?
A major radio station in Jakarta invited its listeners to comment on the Indonesian Military's (TNI) decision The answers given by the listeners have likely upset the government, especially the TNI's top brass, because most listeners were not only opposed to the TNI's decision, but also questioned the real motives of the TNI. Such a reaction reflects the high suspicion that remains toward the military, who for decades were a tool of oppression.

6. Military Expels Some Mujahidin From Aceh
The radical Indonesian Mujahidin Council (MMI) says 19 of its 206 members conducting "relief work" and giving "spiritual guidance" in Aceh have been expelled by the Indonesian Air Force.
The Air Force are generally recognized to be the least repressive branch of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI).

7. Aceh rebels call for ceasefire talks with Indonesia
Rebels fighting for independence in the tsunami-hit Indonesian province of Aceh have called for ceasefire talks with the government to ensure the safety of disaster-relief workers.

"We are prepared to meet with (Indonesia) to agree the optimum modalities (eh?) to ensure the success of the ceasefire and thereby minimise the suffering of the Acehnese people," the rebels' prime minister in exile Malik Mahmud said in the statement.

8. Good prospect of reconciliation with Aceh rebels.
Prospects of reconciliation between the Indonesian government and separatist rebels in tsunami-hit Aceh province are good, Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said in an interview in Le Figaro published today.

"We are searching for a political settlement, contact has been established with their commanders and a 'gentlemen's agreement' has been reached after the catastrophe to improve security conditions in the province."

9. Aceh Governor Abdullah Puteh's corruption trial to continue
Puteh is accused of taking Rp9.1 billion from state budget funds allocated to Aceh's 13 regional and municipal administrations to pay for the chopper. He also allegedly embezzled Rp35 billion from routine expenditure and transferred Rp4 billion of Aceh's provincial budget to his personal bank account.

Puteh's lawyer Juan Felix Tampubolon said he would appeal the (court's) ruling to continue the trial.

What most Indonesians believe is that the TNI are in favour of a continued 'war' with the "separatist rebels" because with a ceasefire they will lose their lucrative protection rackets. With a civilian population having a greater control over their own affairs and a major clampdown on corruption and gangsterism in the province, then there may be light at the end of the tsunami tunnel.

Oh, and Juan Felix Tampubolon is also the Suharto clan's leading lawyer.

I was quite disheartened to see last night (Jan 4th) on the CBC TV's main news show, The National, a report from Indonesia showing the army there is feeding itself very well from the food being donated to the survivors of the tsunami. Camera shots showed it being stockpiled and withheld while people - people who were in a civil war zone involving the same soldiers before the flood - sat and looked at it. The reporter said just off camera soldiers were helping themselves. I have not seen this story covered anywhere on the web.

Tsunami Blogs I Should Have Listed
Wide perspective from Australia
An American Expat in S.E. Asia
Scroll down and check archives


6:00 pm |
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
  I have mail ... so I reply

Hi Tim,
You wrote:
I have subscribed to your blog.
Presumably it's been added to Bookmarks (in Firefox) or favorites in I.E.

I am toying around with starting one myself. I am worried about the time committment and the quality of my own writing. Do you have any advice for me?
Essential Reading: Simon's Everything You Wanted To Know About Blogging But Were Afraid To Ask

I have some comments on your blog.
Go ahead. I can take it.

I would use smaller font. I think it would be easier to read and wouldn't take up so much space.
You know I'm blind as a whatever, minus 12 with astigmatism. Actually, the font size is set as 'Normal' in my Blogger editing console. Just change the settings in View in your browser.

Your prose is sometimes difficult to read. It's your style so you can't do much about it I suppose but watch out with longer sentences.
I don't think my readers are tabloid-orientated and you know I'm fascinated with the power and pleasure of language. If there is the occasional need to use a dictionary to interpret my musings, then, hopefully, there is an educational function to my blog. I'm not trying to preach. Rather, I feel that an expat's perspective has some value in this benighted country you and I love.

Don't change your name. It's a good one already. The others that you listed are all obscure - they don't mean anything to the average reader - Jakartass says something.
Actually, I never intended to. Those names didn't mean anything to me either until I looked them up in the page I linked to. Why not choose one of them as the name for your own blog? Let me know when it's up and running and I'll give you a link immediately. There are far too few of us here in Indonesia.

And thanks for saying that "Jakartass says something". I do like appreciative readers.

PS. The following blogs all say something about the effects of the tsunami locally.
Agam's Gecko
Comments on the news
Alia's Realm
Jeff Ooi
Malaysian blog
Brit in Malaysia
Wider perspective
Simon's World
Lots of Asian links
And, of course,
Solid information about the what, where and how of relief work in Aceh



5:00 pm |
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
  If music be the food of love etc.

Here's a nice idea: Wouldn't it be powerful if we can show the world not just the horror and devastation facing these countries, but their enduring musical and cultural heritage as well? So here's my idea: let's call upon the world music community - record labels, websites, mp3 bloggers, radio stations, non-profits - to devote their websites and airtime to the traditional music of these nations.

Let's do it in as unified a way as we can. For example, let's feature the music of northern Sumatra in our blogs and on radio. Let's have the record labels that promote world music do special promotion of performers from Sri Lanka or south India. Beyond that, let's provide ready means for those who visit the sites or listen to the music to donate to the organizations on the frontline of the fight against this disaster.

My googling for music*Aceh only produced one track on a compilation, the hypnotic acappella dance Bungung Jeumpa.

I have bought dozens of locally produced cassettes on my travels, but never having ventured further north than Medan on my travels, my knowledge of Acehnese culture is rather limited. For ethno-musically inclined readers, you may be interested in this page.

Man-made Tsunami
The former Python Terry Jones asks, "Are deaths caused by bombs and gunfire less worthy of our pity than deaths caused by a giant wave? Or are Iraqi lives less worth counting than Indonesian, Thai, Indian and Swedish?"

Well, Tel, the same question could be asked about the victims of the just-ended civil war in the Sudan and other wars, about the Bhopal victims, the millions of children doomed to shortened life spans because of inadequate water supplies, lack of health care or trafficking, those killed in floods caused by deforestation and urban sprawl, those who die in road accidents or at the hands of others. The list of casualties is endless, but the answer remains the same - these are man-made disasters and, with compassion and foresight, preventable.

The tsunami was foreseeable after the earthquake, but neither could have been prevented. It is our feeling of inadequacy in the face of natural disasters which touches our basic instincts and our feelings of compassion.

We are helpless so we try to compensate. We are not helpless in a democracy, merely useless at using our votes wisely.



5:00 pm |
Monday, January 10, 2005
  Whys after the event

Q. Why isn't there a genuine ceasefire between the Indonesian army and GAM, the Aceh separatist group? Why have at least seven men been shot by the Indonesian army?

Q. Why are different ethnic groups stirring up differences?

a. EastSouthWestNorth has translated an article in Hong Kong's Daily Apple (keeps the doctor away?).

The article states that many Chinese residents are fleeing with their belongings. As of now, there are more than 4,000 Chinese people have reached Medan from Aceh. On the road, the future is grim. But the Chinese refugees are also being robbed. A Chinese named Zhang who just arrived at Medan .. said that many Chinese share his predicament - his home was destroyed and then looted clean afterwards. He may never be able to go back home in Aceh province, because he does not have a home anymore.

This was a natural disaster compounded by manmade misdeeds, for which the Indonesian Chinese must feel very sad. Out of the total of 210 million Indonesians, the Chinese account for only 4 percent. But they hold the lifeblood of the national economy in Indonesian. Whenever Indonesia becomes politically unstable, the Chinese are the scapegoats, time and again.

ESWN also quotes from an article in the Jakarta Post.
An appeal should be made to Chinese-Indonesians to again show their solidarity with other nationals. They are very much a part of Indonesian society and many have done well economically. Initial aid must be followed by more costly, long-term rehabilitation efforts and the reconstruction of the region. Here big businesses and medium-sized ones, particularly those owned by Chinese-Indonesians, can play a significant role.

I wonder what Zhang would say about that.

b. Why has the Joshua Project got detailed statistics on every ethnic group in Indonesia and their religion?

A. Because JP, from Colorado Springs, USA, is an evangelical proselytising organisation.
As on-site realities are understood, barriers of acceptance may be found in many of the larger people groups that will require multiple distinct church planting efforts.

So, you'll be interested to know, there are 3,543,2000 Acehnese, religion Islam, categorized as 'least reached'. There are apparently 6,680 British, a famous Indonesian tribe, ranked 4.1 on the 'Progress Scale' and 1,796 'Unclassified/Other Individuals'.

What worries me more is that 40% of the c.50,000 Mentawai group of Siberut Island, West Sumatra, with deep-rooted animist values (and possibly the most cordial and welcoming people I've been privileged to meet), are supposedly evangelical. In this case, I think, and hope, the missionary scammers are being scammed.

Q. Why isn't the WorldChanging?
We had imagined that, at the end of 2004, we would undertake a semi-elaborate set of posts looking back at the year gone by and forward towards the future. We were talking scenarios, elaborate summaries of ideas, maybe even a bit of podcasting. The December 26 tsunami and the resulting days of reportage, discussion and analysis tossed all of that out the window, of course, and for the better: the insight, openness and collaborative spirit demonstrated by the team in its efforts to bring meaning from tragedy were the best possible example of what WorldChanging seeks to accomplish.

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