Sunday, November 30, 2008
  You Reap What You Sow.

Three little girls in Sampangan district, Semarang, participate in a feast to celebrate the rice harvest season on Saturday. The feast is part of a traditional culture that is beginning to make its way back to the life of modern-day farmers in Semarang.

That's all it says on this page, and I presume there's a photo that goes with it which my dial up connection couldn't handle. But no matter: just read that last sentence again.

And maybe rejoice.

And this is a picture of SBY enjoying himself in July this year.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (center), First Lady Ani Yudhoyono (fourth from right) and Agriculture Minister Anton Apriantono (fourth from left) hold up stalks of rice as North Sumatra Governor Syamsul Arifin (third from left) waves his hand, in a ceremony on Saturday (19th July 2008) to mark the grand harvest in Nagori Panembean village in Simalungun, North Sumatra.

In a discussion with local farmers and officials, Yudhoyono called on the people to intensify agricultural activities to attain self-sufficiency in food supplies and help defuse the world food crisis.

He also said the government would continue increasing the fertilizer subsidy, expected to reach Rp 1.5 trillion next year, to improve farmers' social welfare and minimize the country's dependence on imported rice.

A year ago I published a series of articles about the inroads being made by various oligarchs, especially Tommy Winata*, Jusuf Kalla and Taufik Kiemas, to force farmers to plant hybrid seeds. SBY has been the happy figurehead in all this whilst the others have been making multi-million dollar deals with Chinese hybrid seed developers, and Bayer, a company also in league with the Burmese generals.

As befits the leader of Indonesia presiding in the shadows of Sukarno and Suharto, this month SBY has called for the country to become food self-sufficient. It's a national priority.

"Indonesia must struggle to reach food self-sufficiency, and learn not to rely on other countries because we have our own good resources with which to develop the agriculture sector," said Yudhoyono during a rice harvesting ceremony in Jeruk Nyelap village in Sukabumi, West Java, while accompanied by First Lady Any Yudhoyono.

"Fortunately, this year we have reached self-sufficiency in rice and corn. This year's increase in rice production is the greatest during the last 12 years."

He said the country's rice production was expected to reach 60 million tons this year, up 5.46 percent from 57 tons last year, as estimated by the Central Statistic Agency.

Rice harvested in paddies during the event were grown from Benih Prima and Benih Super strains; High-quality seeds produced by PT Sumber Alam Sutera*, an agriculture company owned by tycoon Tommy Winata.

Observers will be interested to learn whether the hybrid seeds generate productive yields in the second harvest, or perhaps they will only harvest empty husks.

The government came under fire from farmers two months ago when the government-endorsed Supertoy HL2 rice strain was tested on a number of plantations resulting in failed harvests. The Agriculture Ministry said the new variety had not been certified by the government.

Yudhoyono also said efforts to improve the agriculture sector should not be hampered by the spread of infrastructure development.

"We should ensure that land for paddy fields is always available," he said.

It's possible that he had in mind the rapid takeover of Bali by real estate developers who've seen a dramatic rise in income and profits from the construction and renting of villas and 'exclusive' resorts for hedonistic expatriates.

Yet I also pointed out that in India, and elsewhere, that the most productive yields of rice were those that took into account local conditions and farming practices, including planting those strains of rice which were best suited to those areas. My articles gave enough links to background information to demonstrate that agri-business practices may boost yields in the short term but eventually prove harmful in terms of the depletion of soil fertility and the run off of chemicla fertilisers into the water table.

Furthermore, I also espoused the system of rice intensification (SRI) which can increase yields by over 30% - four to five tonnes per hectare instead of three tonnes per hectare - while using 40% less water than conventional methods. This has been known for much longer than I originally thought, as this wiki page points out.

It is somewhat pleasing, therefore, to find that The Jakarta Post has rallied to the cause.

Yogyakarta's School of Agricultural Technology at Gadjah Mada University (FTP UGM), together with farm groups from across the province, have discovered a new rice planting system they call the System of Rice Intensification (SRI).

The conventional method is to plant 25-day-old seedlings at a depth of five centimeters, spaced 10 to 25 cm apart and with several seedlings in a single hole.

The SRI uses seedlings less than 15 days old, planted at a depth of between two and three cm, spaced at least 25 cm apart and a single seedling to a hole.

Researcher Sigit Supadmo, connected with the SRI planting system at the FTP UGM, said the method had been tested since 2005. It has been tested in Malang, East Java, besides across Yogyakarta. According to Sigit, it is a breakthrough in rice cultivation and done only by altering plant, water and nutrient management. This system also saves water, making it applicable in areas prone to water shortage.

"Yields will increase and food self-reliance can be achieved," Sigit said.

Nuryanto, a farmer in Kulonprogo, said he had been able to save up to 50 percent in production costs since he began using the SRI planting pattern. He uses a maximum of only 10 kilograms of seedlings per hectare, compared to between 30 and 50 kg when using the conventional planting method.

"I can save up to 50 percent in chemical fertilizers. I only need 25 kg to fertilize a 1,000 square meter plot now, compared to 50 kg earlier. However, each 1,000 m2 must be dispersed with 1,000 kg of urea which I can easily obtain from the cattle stall," he said.

"I also use 40 percent less water."

The SRI system also conserves water because irrigation is only required during planting and when the paddy is between 10 and 20 days old.

Another farmer in Sleman, Subadi, said the SRI system was beneficial for farmers because they could reap more yields. Besides lower production costs, harvests also increase. Yields increase because the 25 cm distance between each plant allows it to grow optimally and produce more stalks.

The conventional method only yields an average of 5.4 tons of dried unhusked rice per hectare, compared to the SRI system which can produce up to 11.5 tons per ha.

All we need now, is for SBY to read this post, or better still to study the results from FTM UGM, ponder the benefits, include costs savings, and compel local agri-business concerns to Think Indonesia rather than their corporate profits.

Tradition still has a key role to play, and it would be good if next harvest SBY joins those three girls in their harvest festival. Then we'd all have something to rejoice.


8:00 am |
Friday, November 28, 2008
Buy Nothing Day
29th November 2008

The Apocalyptic Version

Suddenly, we ran out of money and, to avoid collapse, we quickly pumped liquidity back into the system. But behind our financial crisis a much more ominous crisis looms: we are running out of nature… fish, forests, fresh water, minerals, soil. What are we going to do when supplies of these vital resources run low?

There’s only one way to avoid the collapse of this human experiment of ours on Planet Earth: we have to consume less.

It will take a massive mindshift. You can start the ball rolling by buying nothing on November 29th. Then celebrate Christmas differently this year, and make a New Year’s resolution to change your lifestyle in 2009.

It’s now or never!

The Indonesian Version

Let's go to the shopping mall today, as usual. It's nice and cool in there and we can have fun going up and down the escalators and lifts. We might even see something we'd like to buy, but know we can't afford.

We haven't got much money, and we'll probably lose our jobs soon as 'developed' countries have less need of our natural resources, our fish, forests, fresh water, minerals, and cheap labour.

There's not much we can do about it, although we can charge those expats who like drinking whisky and wine and eating non-foreign food loads more money so we can get by a bit easier, and they have to make do with tempeh like us.

We'd sooner go to a park and breath some fresh air, but we've been told by successive Jakarta Governors that we like to go to malls for recreation.

So I suppose we do.

I missed last year's Buy Nothing Day (but wrote about it here) and maybe most of us will miss this year's. That could be because the local website, linked to from the very dynamic UK site, only has info about last year's day.

Which I missed.

Ho hum.
A Tragic Footnote

Friday, not Saturday, was the Buy Nothing Day in the USA. It is set then to 'celebrate' the traditional 'Black Friday' sale.

comes of a Wal-Mart worker trampled to death after a 2,000-strong sale crowd forced the store doors open too early.



5:30 pm |
Thursday, November 27, 2008
  Updates and Footnotes

1. Following worldwide derision, the Malaysian fatwa has been dropped. I have no news as yet about decisions here in Indonesia, except I expect the ulemas will say something profound to the effect that the practice of yoga is acceptable as long as there is no chanting. Strangely enough, one of the pleasures of the yoga courses I took in London were that they were generally held in a quiet contemplative environment. We were all looking inwards rather than appealing to our gods way out yonder.....

But then, a recent survey suggests that Islamic teachers are not interested in pluralism, considering it and inter-religious tolerance to be “minor subjects”.

2. Further to his false promises to the Pesta Blogger folk that no bloggers will be arrested in Indonesia during the current term of the Minister of Communication and Information, comes the news that his directorate is attempting to track down someone who used the WordPress hosting service to post a comic of Prophet Muhammed.

The blog has since gone off line, but what seems strange is that there isn't anyone in the Indonesian blogosphere who claims to have seen it. So what's the fuss about?

This article has some good comments.

Never let anyone stop anyone from saying, writing, listening to or reading whatever they like. Protect children from pornography and from violence, by all means. Protect people from the incitement of rabble rousers, yes. Don't allow fraudulent use of other people's words. But that is the absolute limit of restriction. People will always be offended. That is the price of discourse and it is what makes us human. Only bullies are afraid of criticism.

The state and its minions hiding under the cloak of Islam are becoming bloated self-righteous bullies representing only the bigotted and powerful and not the people they are supposed to serve. Time and again they are vomiting laws crushing the peaceful aspirations of every one of us.

Unspun, a key organiser of Pesta Blogger, has a 'retrospective' here.

I was intrigued by the following comment:

The way I see it, the speech from our ministry were looking blogger as a tool and not partner. The way they say “that blogger must”, and not “we need help” is rather hurting me. I meant whose side being helped here. It is not blogger that requires the minister to come, it’s the other way around.

That neatly encapsulates the pre-Pesta concerns of a number of us who chose to be non-attendees. We prefer to keep our independence and freedom to write about societal concerns without undue interference and/or control.

That is our constitutional and human right.

3. Shortly after Erick Jazier Adriansjah of PT Bahana Securities was declared a suspect for defamation and spreading false information about the dodginess of five banks, one of them, Bank Century (formerly Bank CIC) was placed by the central bank, Bank Indonesia, under the control of the state-owned Deposit Insurance Corporation (LPS), thereby preventing systemic risks to the whole banking industry. It was the first bank to 'fail' since 1998.

Lack of transparency regarding the real condition of our banks could spread more rumors and various other forms of speculation about the condition of our financial institutions. When rumors spread two weeks ago about Bank Century's severe liquidity problems, the same rumors classified several other small banks as being in similar financial distress.

Now that the government's takeover of Bank Century has validated the rumor, Bank Indonesia has to do a lot of explaining about the condition of those banks named by the rumor mill, or the public will draw its own conclusions.

It really is an uphill task for Bank Indonesia, which is in charge of supervising nearly 130 city-based banks and hundreds of secondary banks, against the backdrop of a wildly volatile global financial situation.

But whither Erick?

4. Imported food and drinks are important for the tourism industry. But spirits are low because of a reputed 400% (that's four hundred percent) tax on imported foodstuffs. Another version has it that these are foodstuffs which have not been approved of by Indonesian regulators, even though they've been imported for donkey's years. Presumably these are the same regulators who've recently discovered formaldehyde being used to 'preserve' tofu and chickens, and which allowed the import of melamine-tainted dairy products from China.

Another, more credible, suggestion is that this is a pre-Xmas scam for some extra-curriculkar income.

I've been told that many restaurants have closed in the Kemang enclave of expats as they don't have supplies. I can only feel a limited sympathy about this, but particularly for those who are now facing unemployment, because I very rarely eat food that hasn't been produced here. Marmite and duty-free allowances brought in by visitors are enough for me.


12:30 pm |
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
  Much ado, aduh.
Sub title - The Games People Play

When I arrived in Indonesia some twenty years ago I walked with the aid of a walking stick, not because of my decrepitude but because I was recovering from a slipped disc. Apart from swimming (and sex), the best cure I found was a regular session of yoga, exercises which are an aid to wholeness in that you need a clear mind to focus on what your body is doing. (Which is where it can differ from sex.)

That the 'clear minds' of the majority of its practioners may be, or more rightly may have been, Hindu is, to my mind, irrelevant. Purity of mind and body is something to seek, especially when faced with the many serious issues facing humankind. I'm not referring to the matter of money, which has transformed itself back into the fairy dust it has always been. Nope, we're seeing a continuing population explosion along with the disappearance of water, food, icecaps, forests, species and, perhaps above all, common sense.

Why else should Malaysian Muslims issue a fatwa against the practice of yoga?* The problem is that the Indian physical exercise contains spiritual elements including chanting and Hindu worship practices that could corrupt Muslims. (I won't profane this post by listing the Islamic chants which are all pervasive in most neighbourhoods in Indonesia.)

But hey, I hear you cry, why should what happens in Malaysia bother you in Indonesia?

Quite simply, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) is telling Indonesian Muslims to stop practicing yoga while the council investigates the practice after public concern rose when a Malaysian top Muslim body banned the practice.

Put simply, the Indonesian Ulema Council are meek followers of whichever force threatens to lead where they should. They'd sooner allow polygamy and underage marriages in the name of their religion, than to allow the good and pure elements of other religions 'pollute' their blinkered minds.

It is in the spirit of bigotry, rather than the notion of pluralism enshrined in the nation's constitution, that I offer the following. It is a game designed to "pierce the pretensions of extremist religious zealotry with humor."

You get to choose which religion you want to bash. This week, it seems that Hindus are in the sights of zealots.

Playing Gods : The Board Game of Divine Domination bills itself as "the world's first satirical board game of religious warfare."

Three-inch plastic figurines include Jesus bashing people with a cross, Moses slugging away with the tablets of the Ten Commandments, the Buddha with a machine gun, and a turbaned fellow with a bomb and a dagger vaguely hinting at Mohammed, all to be set loose to "force the people of the world to worship you."

Ben Radford, 38, of Rio Rancho, N.M., managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, says "much of the world's violence is rooted in religion," so he thought directly mocking various images of God and religious followers would "make more social commentary" and "pierce the pretensions of extremist religious zealotry with humor."

Says Radford, "I didn't want to leave out a Muslim figure just because it might be offensive. The game is satire. But I went out of my way to be innocuous. The figure is not named. It could be any Muslim leader.

This game is certain to offend those who enjoy finding reasons to be offended, but isn't this a better way to play out one's pretensions to following the One True Path? Let your anger out on three-inch plastic figures rather than in terrorist outrages, mob rule and war.


5:30 pm |
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
  New Kids On The Blog

I missed Pesta Blogger at the weekend, not out of rancour like last year, but due to flu, fugue and fatigue. I'm also not a great one for social networking; my blogging is between me and my computer - oh, and you, my valued readers. Putting my face out there wouldn't validate what I articulate. Oh, and apologies to those who've recently invited me to join Plurk, StumbledUpon and Zurnia - but which 'John' invited me? I won't Twitter, put my Face in the Book, or Flikrin the social gloaming either.

I'm not that bored with my life.

But I would like to have caught the sessions on building society, in the hopes that there would be political action. That several 'communities' have sprung up based around the geographical closeness of bloggers, notably in Yogyakarta where in the wake of the wake of the 2006 earthquake charitable wprks continue, is positive news. For far too long groups in this have organised around charismatic (wealthy) religious and political leaders. The organic growth of Indonesia's blogosphere, currently estimated at 300,000 strong, although I have no figures on those which are regularly updated, is exponentially significant.

However, I would be interested to know something about the educational background and employment status of Indonesian bloggers. There will be few outside universities or offices, because few have access to the internet.

We are given to understand that the Indonesian government, through the Ministry of Communication and information is fully supportive, and the Minister Muhammed Nuh has promised that no blogger would be arrested during his tenure. Ah, but that was last year, and now we're seeing writers of letters published in the mass media facing criminal charges for having the audacity to write about how he, and many other tenants in Mangga Dua were allegedly duped by the real estate company, and, as I've already reported, a blogger has been charged for "allegedly maligning a lawmaker".

Oh, and apparently, another one is being sought having mocked the prophet Muhammed.

I would have been interested to know more about how Indonesian bloggers intend to use their constitutional right to free expression. What political actions could be taken? Perhaps there should be campaigns in support of whistleblowers, or martyrs to the hypocritical.

Anyway, as I couldn't make it, do allow me to publish an email I received from a correspondent.

The Indonesian Deputy Director for Promotion in Electronic Media, Ministry of Culture & Tourism, Republic of Indonesia

Uses a gmail e-mail address.



And the new kids?

They're Om'Bak -
1. From the Indonesian word 'ombak', meaning 'wave' (a wave of change)
2. Om: a meditation intonation transcending language; a symbol used to realize the unknown; the truth; unity
3. Mbak, the Javanese word for 'sister', 'young woman'.

They seem to be a self-contained community, with at least six writers listed, although Prodita, who wrote about the Blogger Gathering isn't amongst those listed. One of them says she's got no friends but says that Jakartass is a regular read, so s/he can count me in as one.

Then there's a very nice three-part ABC of Jakarta , which says almost as much as the book I keep plugging.

There's a vibrancy about their writing which augurs well; there's no room for complacency in this blog.


5:30 am |
Sunday, November 23, 2008
  A Sad Addickshun

I've been a fan of Charlton Athletic since I went to Charlton Manor Junior & Mixed Infants all those years ago. I actually went to my first match the year after I left, mainly because my parents thought I was finally big enough to get to The Valley on my own.

This I did every other Saturday when they played at home and on occasion I even went to watch them at various away games, mainly in the London area. But, hey, I've rabbitted on about ' my' club often enough before. So why now?

It may be that the (chicken)pox has got me down, but I've always muttered stuff like "mind over matter" when things don't go right, and tried to overcome situations by sleeping on them on the basis that they'd look trivial in the morning or by finding alternative paths. However, in recent weeks, I haven't felt comfortable in my support of my childhood home team.

We're not a glamour club, we're a family club and once, during our glory days of mid-table averageness in the English Premier League, we were dubbed everybody's favourite second team. That was when players seemed proud to wear the colours, as were the fans. The results recently haven't 'gone our way', but then it seems that their have been few players on the field prepared to give their all for the cause.

Since relegation a couple of seasons ago, a restructuring of the squad has had to be made, mainly to trim the EPL wage bill. This should have been the time for players from the Youth Academy to step up and make their mark. Some have, but then been loaned out to other clubs in lower divisions "to get experience". Perversely, players have come in on loan, generally to get match fit. Somehow this seems to have knocked the heart out of the club.

If local lads aren't allowed to perform in front of local fans, then the community base is of little value. Charlton is not a ManYoo or Chelsea, with untold millions to spend on salaries and ground improvements and theme-bars in foreign cities, even though, like ManYoo, Charlton has now launched it's own TV station. Unfortunately, with a dial-up connection, there's no way I'm going to sign up for match 'highlights'. Then again, recent results are so depressing that a regular in a forum (invitee only) connected with Dr. Kish's Clinic, which offers "online therapy for the hopelessly Addickted", has suggested that he'd be happy enough if we dropped down another level into Tier 3.

And I think it was that comment, along with my recent computer malfunction, which lead to me to switch off. If the players and committed fans 'back home' couldn't be bothered to strive for better things, then why should I half a world away? I stopped archiving match previews and reports. I didn't want to read the manager suggesting that if the players showed the guts they'd shown for five minutes in the first half and eradicated those schoolboy mistakes they were prone to in the other eighty-five minutes, then things would be OK.

Well, maybe they are. Alan Pardew, who's presided over the nigh on two year slump has now left - "by mutual consent", but after a 2-5 home drubbing.

I'm still slowly recovering from the pox. I hope Charlton get on the mend a bit quicker.

It might, too, because there's another highly rated football manager who also once played for Charlton and, like Pardew, went on to manage West Ham. Alan Curbishley was probably the most successful manager Charlton ever had, and few had the send off he had back in 2006. Can he restore our faith and renew our partisanship once again?

Will I again want to stay up on a Saturday night to watch the live teletext of events on the pitch? Or will I, like last night, mutter ho hum and wander off to get my beauty sleep.

Who cares, eh?


12:30 pm |
Saturday, November 22, 2008
  Not Worth A Tinker's Damn

The drive for pre-packaged, pre-digested items with built in obsolescence for consumption by the masses in 'developed' countries has seen the passing of tinkers, those "itinerant person(s) who make minor repairs (originally pots and pans) and are jack-of-all-trades." The notion is of an amateur, as in my father who's always enjoyed tinkering with his car.

Thankfully, here in Indonesia there is still a class of underemployed who advertise their respective skills with their street cries: the shoe repairman, the disposable lighter refill man, the watch repairer, the patching tailor with his pedal operated sewing machine on a becak (pedicab), and the pairs of blacksmiths with their cylinder of oxy-acetylene.

According to my Websters, a tinker can also be a "bungler" and "to tinker" can mean "to fuss or putter aimlessly or uselessly", and these are the connotations I am referring to in this post, rather than the itinerants who I have nothing but the utmost respect for.

Every resident in Jakarta knows who Fuddy Bozo is because several of those monstrous 15-storey high advertising hoardings aligning main thoroughfares are adorned with his likeness exhorting us to pay our taxes, presumably so we can help him add to his art collection.

He apparently has a Deputy Governor to assist him, but until he decides he ought to do something, few know who he is, or can remember his name in the interim. Yesterday, however, he poked his head above the parapets of City Hall.

On the frontpage of the Jakarta Post is an article alerting parents to the latest wheeze from Deputy Governor Prijanto.

Schoolchildren may have to start their days earlier next year with the administration considering arranging school and office hours to reduce traffic congestion.

A new regulation could see schoolchildren commence classes at 6.30 am. Most schools in Jakarta start classes at 7am.

Under the scheme, private offices' working hours would be determined by zones. Offices located in North and Central Jakarta would start at 7.30am, those in West and East Jakarta at 8am, and those in South Jakarta at 9am.

Working hours for civil servants would remain unchanged at 7.30am.

Deputy Governor Prijanto said yesterday the proposed regulation was aimed at reducing traffic snarls, cutting fuel consumption and travel times and at the same time "improving life quality".

There is nothing in the article about improving public transport by, say, purchasing buses and opening the three unused Busway corridors, or about offices operating flexitime so that workers can adapt their hours to family needs. And there is nothing about removing those premen (street thugs) and traffic police who override traffic lights and cause immense snarl ups.

Above all, there is nothing about the potential risks of such a policy. Offhand, I've come up with the following.

Whilst most schoolchildren walk to their neighbourhood schools, that many would have to leave home before sun up and traverse ill-lit streets with no sidewalks, there is the increased danger of pedestrian wipeouts.

Teachers often live way across the city from the school they are appointed to serve in. Will public transport be available to meet their needs, bearing in mind that there are few wealthy teachers? If they do have transport of their own, it will invariably be a motorcycle. Thanks to the potholes in Jakarta's streets and the lack of discipline among seemingly all motorists, the death toll among motorcyclists, currently at an average of three per day, can be expected to increase if more are expected to drive at night.

Many parents drop their children off at school before making their way to their respective offices. Synchronisation is also needed for return journeys home. So, what will happen if children go to school in South Jakarta, where one parent is scheduled to start and finish work two and a half hours later than the children?

It's obvious that this is another bit of unenforceable wishful thinking. It's on a par with the notion that Deputy Governors are capable of doing something useful such as serving the public interest.

The current one isn't worth a damn.


12:30 pm |
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
  In Search Of The Globe

On Saturday, Our Kid and I went in search of reading material at the Jakarta Book Fair, an annual clearance sale by local bookstores. He wanted some Nancy Drew stories*, having enjoyed the complete series of CD-rom mysteries, but he was out of luck and will have to make do with a book of Limony Snicket puzzles and a Penguin Classic edition of Wind In The Willows, this year 'celebrating' the centenary of its publication.

I did a lot better with Tom Wolfe's From Bauhaus To Our House, J.G. Ballard's Rushing To Paradise, three Chaucer Tales of Love and Chivalry, Martin Amis' Einstein's Monsters, Spring Miscellany by Soseki Natsume, two train 'n' plane thrillers and the Regional Outlook 2006-7 from the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

And all the above cost a total of Rp.132,000, approx.$12, although the original cover prices shown totalled way over Rp.1 million. I do love bargains.

The venue, the Jakarta Convention Centre is at the midtown clover-leafed intersection of Semanggi, and on the way I'd noticed a massive banner on the frontage of Plaza Semanggi advertising the newly-launched English language daily, the Jakarta Globe.

I've been a subscriber to the Jakarta Post for twenty years or so, and stuck with it in spite of its inadequacies - it's not only been the best of the bunch, but also seen off all-comers such as the Indonesian Observer, launched by Suharto's favourite protege and his successor as President, B.J. Habibie, and The Point, which appeared, disappeared and then redisappeared, much like the housing lost in Sidoarjo through a similar lack of business acumen from the Bakrie Boys.

Unspun has kept us informed of the progress, and sometimes lack of, of this James Riady initiative. I was informed that the paper launched last Wednesday and as we were in the vicinity, I figured it would be a good idea to pass by the editorial offices and see if I could pick up a copy of the first issue. At Rp.8,550, it's Rp.3,000 more expensive that the Post, but, hey, I'm always a sucker for history in the making.

I also wanted to see about submitting articles, much as I have done on occasion for the Post. Simon P, of Metro Mad has transferred for a nice increase in his weekly fee. And if he can get away with debunking shibboleths, much as I have done with sects, such as the brand of prosperity theology practised by 'born again' James Riady, which puts profits before prophets, then gizza job, I can do that. Or take his column space at the Post.

I take no pleasure in shopping malls at the best of times, but when it's a round one, with taller anonymous blocks on two sides and the revolting smells of sweet carbohydrates assailing us from doughnut and bread emporia it seemed easy to get lost. Except I'm not sure that we were; perhaps there's a hidden door in the back of a wardrobe which we failed to find, an 'open sesame' that we were not privy to..

Whatever, we did talk to a security guy who knew about the new newspaper.

"There's a bloody great advertisement for it on a banner fluttering above your head."

"Jakarta Globe? Jakarta Globe? ..... Oh .... Jakarta Gloobe! It's on the 9th floor. The lifts are over there."

"There" is, of course, a generality.

It's everybody's name when you've forgotten theirs: "Hi there, howzya doin'?"

It's also an idea which doesn't actually exist. 'Here' is where we are, in a fixed position, but where is 'there'?

Having, he told me, learned from experience, Our Kid sensibly took us past the escalators to the lifts behind them. Strewth, were they slow and so quickly overloaded! And when they arrived, they only went to floor 5A, with access to the multi-storey car park.

We thought that maybe the offices might be in the taller block to the side which has at least nine storeys. The lifts here also went to floor 5A.

We went home, empty handed apart from the books.

Perhaps we should have played chicken in the car park because Unspun has seen the offices "located on the 7th (or is it 9th?) floor of the parking lot of Plaza Semanggi.

It’s quite an operation. The newsroom has space for about 120 people. The CPUs of the workstations are mini Macs and a “pod” where the editors sit and make decisions (as well as checking what Unspun’s written about them) sits smack at the center of the room."

Well, if they're now checking on what I've written about them, perhaps they'll courier a copy to Jakartass Towers so I can give the paper a completely unbiased opinion.

Incidentally, there is a website, but it's this one and not this one.
*If anyone in Jakarta has copies of Nancy Drew stories, please email me if you're prepared to pass them on to Our Kid, aged 12¼.


5:30 am |
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
  Pushing The Envelope

A story I missed from last Friday has parallels with Erick's case in that users of hyperspace, including and perhaps especially we bloggers, have just as much responsibility towards our readers as the mass media, and maybe more.

The mass media generally have built-in safeguards against the risk of defamation and libel because they are commercial enterprises beholden to their readers and advertisers, and most follow an editorial line which reflects the interests and biases of their owner investors. There are few publications in the world who have, or have ever had, the courage to stand alone: think Washington Post in the USA and Watergate, the Guardian in the UK and the BAE slush fund, and Tempo here on many issues.

I do not fit into criteria of the gutter press - tits make hits, nor of the crusading papers I've mentioned, other than in displaying my interests and biases. Where necessary, I offer links to news and information which support my theses. I do occasionally try to push the limits of what it is permissable to publish. I thought very long and hard about the article below. It is not one you'll see in print, but, hey, thuggery is a fact of life in Indonesia, which is why police are currently busy rounding up lower minions from the streets.

It appears from a short Jakarta Post article that a blogger has pushed the envelope too far.

Jakarta Police have named a blogger, Narliswandi Piliang, who is also a journalist at Tempo magazine, as a suspect for allegedly maligning a lawmaker in an article posted on an Internet Web log.

He had said that a lawmaker, Alvin Lie, a lawmaker from the National Mandate Party (PAN) had accepted a bribe in conjunction with an attempted cover-up of a House of Representatives probe.

The defamation case started when Narliswandi allegedly posted an article "Hoyak Tabuik dan Soekanto" (Hoyak Tabuik and Soekanto), on the Web site http://presstalk.info. In the story Narliswandi said Lie had accepted money from coal producer PT Adaro so the House would cancel a probe into questionable circumstances surrounding the company's initial public offering.

Narliswandi said he would cooperate with the police and their investigation. "I will come down to their offices if they need me. I won't avoid a police summons."

According to the law, Narliswandi could serve up to six years in prison or could be fined Rp.1 billion (US$100,000) if found guilty.

Given Tempo's fortitude in taking on the élite through the courts - they are newly the defendants in a defamation case being brought by the Minister for His Family's Welfare, Abdurizal Bakrie - it would seem that Narliswandi could not find the clinching, verifiable fact which would allow Tempo to publish the story themselves.

However, it is worth noting that whistleblowers in this country get no better treatment than elsewhere and it is in that light that I wish Narliswandi all the best in his coming legal fight. I do know that there are good, incorruptible lawyers in this country who would be prepared to be in his team.

Incidentally, Erick has been suspending from his position with Bahana Securities for a breach of the company's regulations on disbursing information. Bahana, controlled by the central bank, apparently only releases reports based on data and facts processed by its research division.

One may justifiably wonder about the transparency of such research given the firm's lack of independence.


6:00 pm |
  Rumours About Bank Rumours Are Bankable

Or maybe imprisonable offences.

I first read about this story in yesterday's Jakarta Post.

A stock market broker, Erick Jazier Adriansjah of PT Bahana Securities, has been declared a suspect for defamation and spreading false information which led to brief panic and put the country’s banking health into question, and was taken into custody on Sunday, said Sr. Comr. Petrus Golose, head of the National Police’s cyber crime unit.

The email was sent by Erick, 38, from a computer in his office last Thursday at 4:59 p.m. to his clients, eventually spread to local and overseas investors.

It read, “Market news stated that several Indo banks are having a liquidity problem and failed to complete interbank transactions. These banks include: Bank Panin, Bank Bukopin, Bank Artha Graha, Bank CIC, and Bank Victoria. We will keep you updated.”

The rumors came shortly after it was revealed that Bank Century had missed a deadline to settle an obligation of Rp.5 billion to the central bank’s clearing system, apparently a "technical problem".

I'm not a financier of any great skill, let alone renown, but I really don't understand how so many people can be conned into leaving their money in the grubby hands of certain oligarchs in this country. Goddammit, I've been heard to shout when the computer's down in my local branch, it's my money that helps pay your salary, so let me have some of it now.

Mind you, if it's army money, as seems quite probable in the case of Bank Artha Graha, then you've got to watch out for the bank's owner, Tommy Winata. He has a history of sending a few henchmen, presumably moonlighting or retired special forces personnel, to sort out those who've seemingly maligned him.

In 2003, it happened famously, in terms of the international condemnation, with the Tempo magazine, but a year earlier Arun Jain, the chairman and chief executive of India's Polaris Software Lab Ltd, and his vice president Rajiv Malhotrawas were detained on complaints of fraud by a client, Indonesia's Bank Artha Graha, a front organization for the army.

It was over a commercial dispute that can be considered a breach of contract between the bank and the software company. Its heavy-handed use of force in detaining and later placing the executives under lock and key proved to the public and the international community just how powerful a stranglehold this business entity has on the military and the police in Jakarta.

With this pedigree, is it any wonder that the gossip grapevine in financial circles, and now among the general populace, has it that Erick was initially 'escorted' to the police by a couple of Tommy's goons?

Of course, as with all rumours, this cannot, or will not, be substantiated, and I have no personal beef with Pak Tommy. After all, I'm a vegetarian. I'm also merely a humble chronicler of life in the Big Durian.

My only comment must be that folk believe what they want to believe, and if there really is no truth in the rumours about liquidity problems within the afore-mentioned banks, then perhaps their best course would be to immediately publish transparent accounts to allay the fears of investors and customers.

Going on the offensive over an email has a bearing on all of us, on what we write and to whom. If cyberspace is being policed, and rightly so in the matter of bomb making terrorists, then there must be clear rules and safeguards to protect one's right to free speech as enshrined in the constitution.. Presumably Erick assumed that he was performing a service to his clients among the financial fraternity, but is he guilty of a criminal act?

Many banks have crashed recently here in Indonesia, thus precipitating the financial crisis only now hitting other more 'developed' countries, because of skullduggery by owners and managers. It is surely only right and proper that those directly interested in their fate should be informed. If misinformed, so be it, but the right of reply to an email should not be the extra long arm and heavy hands of the law.

I now await the sound of jackboots arriving at Jakartass Towers, or better yet, swift apologies from all concerned to - ahem - all concerned.

I can then go back to musing about the horrific fate awaiting 'bules' in Tanzania.


5:30 am |
Monday, November 17, 2008
  Turning Gold Into Trash

An entrepreneur must turn trash into gold, something useless into something priceless. It can be done when someone possesses three characters of an entrepreneur: innovative, creative in searching and creating opportunities and skilful in calculated-risk taking.

Entrepreneurship education is a ‘weapon of mass-destruction’ for unemployment and poverty.

Well, that's what it says here.

My definition of an entrepreneur is someone who has an idea and puts it into practice, or enables others to do so. We've all heard the saw about giving a man a fish and he'll eat it that, but give him a net and he'll feed his family from then on. It's not about money per se, but about empowering folk to achieve their potential as members of a community.

Ron Rivera, who died on September 3rd from, perversely, malaria, was one such good person. A potter by trade, he took a pottery filter that removes bacteria and parasites from water, and devoted himself to refining its manufacture and teaching people in poor countries how to make it. The (30) factories he helped establish have to date made more than 300,000 filters. Tests by the Family Foundation of the Americas, a Guatamalan organisation, have found that the filters halve the incidence of diarrhoea in households that use them.

Pity that they don't seem to filter out malarial mozzies, one of which killed him.

Back in Jakarta, I received, by a circular route, a missive from the British Chamber of Commerce* appealing for financial support.

Sponsorship and other assistance sought for the ‘National Entrepreneurship Teaching Conference (excuse the boldness, but I'm quoting) which will be held on Thursday and Friday, November 20 – 21, at Hotel Ciputra Jakarta.

Ok, I thought, but why should a conference on Entrepreneurship be appealing for handouts? Shouldn't the conference organisers have sorted all this out ages ago, and not at the last minute?

Anyway, being a generous sort without a cynical bone in my body, I clicked on and encountered the following in a .pdf file:

Dear Sir/Madam

During November 17-23, 2008, 75 countries in the world simultaneously hold thousands of events as parts of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), the first global initiative to promote entrepreneurship around the world. Universitas Ciputra Entrepreneurship Center will participate in GEW by organizing a National Teaching Conference on Entrepreneurship education focusing on “The Distinctiveness and Superiority of K-12 Community Basis Entrepreneurship Education”.

We invite you to participate in this seminar through your financial support for teachers through out Indonesia to attend the seminar. We hope teachers will learn as well as widen their perspective to the importance of entrepreneurship education to nurture the next Indonesian generation of creative and innovative job creators.

Thank you for your attention and your support. We hope you can join us the betterment of Indonesian future.

Sincerely yours,

Drs. Dwi Sunu Pebruanto, M.Ed
Chairman of National Teaching Conference

“The Distinctiveness and Superiority of K-12 Community Basis Entrepreneurship Education”


For the moment, let's ignore these facts: according to the National Teaching Conference site , qualified teachers total just 64.1% of junior high school teachers, and only 67.1% for senior high school teachers. Furthermore, it is well known that teachers generally moonlight as home tutors or even ojek (motorcycle taxis) drivers in order to make ends meet.

Unfortunately, I can't find any mention of the fee or the size of the expected donation but assuming some kind soul sponsors a teacher to go to this conference, can s/he be expected to understand what's going on if it takes a while to get past the title? Furthermore, is entrepreneurship part of a school's curriculum when each school competes to get the best 'results' in multi-choice tests which, in stultifying any notion of creativity from teachers and students alike, are the antithesis of entrepreneurship..

I'm all for "the betterment of Indonesian future" - and who isn't? - but if teachers' 'leaders' can't get their act together, then it's going to be a long while before our kids get a glimpse of a better life.
*I've been asked to point out that BritCham is not itself appealing for funds, but rather letting folk know about the appeal of the Teachers' Conference.

Sorry if I didn't make that clear, but I think I made it clear that no-one seems to be clear about what they're talking about.



5:30 am |
Saturday, November 15, 2008
  Girl On A Bus.

It was in a mikrolet, one of those Suzuki's designed to carry eight but in which eighteen can be crammed, that we first met. We had little choice in noticing each other as she was half perched in my lap, albeit side on. I looked at her profile. Smooth skin, a somewhat western nose and a whitish compexion. This may have been a reflection from her Victorian style blouse, white, buttoned up to her throat with long long sleeves accentuated by the embroidered ruffs which covered her wrists.

Being a gentleman, I looked to my right trying to peer at the road ahead whilst she stared at the collection of uniformed workers, schoolkids and the odd ibu perched to my left. Most seemed pre-occupied with their handphones, but she wasn't. When I glanced back, to ease my neck strain, she was gazing at me intently with no expression on her face or, it seemed, in her eyes.

She just looked, so I did too and it wasn't uncomfortable. I wondered what she saw in me.

We reached the toll gate where cross-city buses pick up and drop off, and I clambered out after her, sprinted slowly through the traffic and across the road, and paused. Was she following? I couldn't see her; perhaps she was headed for the nearby apartments.

Some time later my airconditioned bus arrived and, oh joy, with an empty seat in the backrow which I always seek out for the leg room. We waited awhile and then the seat just in front of me was taken by .. her. We looked at each other for longer than really necessary but again without expression, and she sat, again, almost in my lap.

Once we had set off, the peanut vendors and bottled water carriers having descended to base, we were left with our thoughts and a lone busker. He was, perhaps for a change, quite melodious and could play his guitar sufficiently well for me to forgive the intrusion. Perhaps he was singing romantic melodies but, as usual, the bus engine drowned out any subtleties of note.

So it was my turn to gaze, at the top of her head with its clean straight shoulder-length hair, her long slim bejeanned legs and her slender left arm. I wondered where she had learnt her style, from which magazine or era - mine? I couldn't overhear her phone conversation, and didn't want to, but her voice was young but knowing. I liked that.

Was she a student? If so, where were her books? She didn't seem to be going to or even from work. She wore her clothes well: they were smart, but certainly not expensive. She was also going a long way, reasonably comfortably in public transport terms, but not by the greatly more expensive taxi. I saw an educated confident young lady who knew where she was going.

For once I felt grateful to the musician. I took a Rp.1,000 note, a clean one, and carefully folded it in half, and again, again and again. Four times, but would five be enough? When slipping notes rather than coins into a pengaman's pouch it's usual to make small money very small.

Then she did the same, four folds or five? I watched as she tried both, and then, having settled on five as I had done, she donated to his trust fund. I felt really good as I did the same and wondered - wanted? - if she would be getting off with me.

It was time for the next unofficial stop en route, mine, but would it be hers? We slowed, I rose, she stayed - ho hum - and I thought of choice farewells.

Without a word, but a swift glance back for a mutual remembrance, I telepathed sampai jumpa - until next time.

Don't tell 'Er Indoors, but I know I have a date with destiny.


5:30 am |
Friday, November 14, 2008
  We Are What We Read

Losing access to my notes seemed, at first to be disastrous. It coincided with my annual ailment*, one that afflicts me and loads of other folk at the changing of the seasons, from dry to wet. My thoughts weren't flowing as per usual, and without access to pending posts, all stored, foolishly, on my desktop, I was stymied.

I wanted to bring you my carefully researched and linked article entitled Barack v Bakrie, the stories of one man who inspires awe because of his publically perceived integrity and of another who incites anger because of his publically perceived lack of it.

Then I was going to write about how, given that Indonesia has been in the grip of a major financial meltdown for the past ten years, it could benefit from the now level playing field, not least because the political parties are going to suffer a major shortfall in income and will have to learn from Barack and appeal directly to 'the people'. And that would be true reformasi.

And now that industries elsewhere don't need quite so much of Indonesia's natural resources, the time is ripe to buy them back and harvest them less rapaciously. The government should start with PT Bumi Resources, but put in professional, salaried, management beholden to taxpayers, rather than gambling investment funds with no stake in the well-being of Indonesia, its resources and environment.

I could have told you all about these issues, about I how I rank Obama's election up there with Kennedy's, about how it woiuld be nice to have had him continue to live in Indonesia in order to truly put in place Unity In Diversity, but I've had to leave that to Indonesia Anonymus.

I could have linked to stories of South-East Asian bloggers being jailed for twenty years or being released from jail, even though he's still being tried in a separate court on sedition charges for linking Mr Najib, who is going to be the next prime minister next March, to the gruesome murder of a Mongolian model. Altantuya Shaariibuu, the model was shot in the head twice and her body blown up with explosives in a jungle outside the Malaysian capital in October 2006.

I'd have then expressed the hope that the 1,000 Indonesians blogging for society at Pesta Blogger in a week or so agree to support their fellows who don't have similar opportunities to gather and win Nokia phones.

I could have blogged about many such things, but as I haven't been able to, you may like to know that I finished reading The Great Divide by Studs Terkel, his oral history written in the Reagan years about the rich getting richer and the poor getting screwed, on the day Studs died.

He once said,"My epitaph will be 'Curiosity did not kill this cat.'"

What a fine man.
*It turns out that I've got chicken pox (cacar air)


5:30 am |
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
  More - yawn - on the electric car

I've had this post pending a hiatus. I have it now, unfortunately, but this is also an opportune, even historic, time. Barack Obama is prioritising a Renewable Energy Plan, both as a means to reduce unemployment and as a precurser to a far-reaching Climate Change Bill. With General Motors and Ford facing bankruptcy, his government-in-waiting has plans to retool Detroit so that the Motor City can produce hybrid cars.

Obama wants the ailing auto sector to make plug-in hybrid cars and more models that run on ethanol. He proposes a tougher fuel-economy mandate. He plans $4 billion in tax help to retool factories to make advanced cars on top of $25 billion in loans that have been enacted for that purpose. Consumers would get a $7,000 tax credit for purchases of advanced cars.
Comments from last time included the following:

Oigal: Yawn.. not that hoary old "they killed the electric car" chestnut.

The bloody thing had a range of 78km when batteries were new. It died like every other sub standard product. No range, no performance, look like crap, handled like a mangy dog on heat. In short - no one wanted it!

I replied: That range of 78 km is a lot more than the average commute to work and back, or on a school run, or to the local shops ~ except for backwards - oops, sorry, I mean backwoods, folk such as your good self.

My purpose in posting about an emerging technology, one that General Motors foolishly, given their current financial malaise, killed off, was to highlight choices we have in personal transport technology, and have to make as finite fuel resources run out. Mind you, given the contribution fossil fuels are making to climate change, I firmly believe that it's good that this technology will perforce, and soon in the timescale of homo sapiens, be superceded.

Fuel cell technology

Ah, um, you see .... electricity is taken from the grid or whatever personal renewable sources there may be to hand, such as solar, wind, hydro or biogas, in order to recharge batteries. Current battery technology is lithium-ion based, as in personal laptop computers and cell phones.

Ian Clifford, the chief executive of Zenn Motors planning to launch an 80mph model with a 250-mile range, is worried that the obvious choice to power it is going to be in short supply.

"If you look at the increase in lithium prices over the past seven to 10 years, it's been dramatic," says Clifford. "There are very limited global reserves of lithium, and they're in potentially very unstable parts of the world."

So other technologies are being researched and developed. For example, Tata Motors, the Indian carmaker, has the rights to build cars based on a compressed air design.

Then there are ultracapacitors, which are storage devices traditionally used for delivering large kicks of power, but which could store as much energy as a lithium battery at less than half the weight - and with a charging time of under 10 minutes. (Lockheed Martin has already signed an exclusive licence to use it in military applications.)

Or, how about producing oil from algae?

Sapphire Energy uses single-celled organisms such as algae to produce a chemical mixture from which it is possible to extract fuels for cars or airplanes. When it is burned, the fuel only releases into the air the carbon dioxide absorbed by the algae during its growth, making the whole process carbon neutral.

Algae are the world's most abundant form of plant life and, via photosynthesis, are extremely efficient at using sunlight and carbon dioxide from the air to make organic material such as sugars, proteins and, under the right conditions, oils.

Yusuf Chisti at Massey University in New Zealand estimates that algae could produce almost 100,000 litres of biodiesel a year per hectare of land, compared to 6,000 litres a hectare for oil palm, currently the most productive biofuel.

So, although fossil fuel cars will be with us for a while, other, cleaner, technologies should have supplanted them by the time oil has run out.

Hemat Biaya

As the cost of private transport increases out of the reach of many family wallets, and the capacity of the road system is proportionately reduced, there should be major shifts in lifestyles. The suburbs will no longer be so attractive unless business districts decentralise. National and local governments will, perforce, find it necessary to develop efficient and comfortable public transport systems in order to control inflation and boost economic competitiveness.

Shared transport, be it by a car pool scheme or company bus, rather than being an isolating cocoon as in individual travel mode, could well boost courtesy and communal ties. For example, there's a commuter train from Serpong, some 40 kms outside Jakarta, offering mini-classes and home cooked packed lunches. Such relief from the stress of road rage should surely boost productivity and creativity.

Miko asked: Where will the electricity come from to power the car? Presumably from the big oil fired, CO2 emitting power stations. So what's the benefit?

I replied: Ah, the presumptive Miko.

Here are a few 'ifs' for you to ponder:

A 2006 presidential decree stipulates Indonesia to use, out of its total energy consumption, 5 percent biofuel, 5 percent geothermal, 5 percent biomass, nuclear, hydro, solar and wind, and 2 percent coal liquefaction by 2025.

That still includes the most expensive option, nuclear, but at least the current government is aware of alternative, sustainable energy sources.

17% is not much and still includes nuclear power, yet there is a belated recognition amongst politicos that there are alternatives to fossil fuel for electricity generation. Although if the plunderers of resources which should be spared for future generations remain in the ascendancy, Indonesia has an abundance of natural gas, admittedly a 'clean' fuel. Apparently, the total (proven and possible) reserve in Indonesia is around 182 TSCF (eh?).

Starts have been made on developing these alternative technolgies. For example, Bali will be the first province in the country to produce electricity using organic garbage, aiming to produce 9.6 megawatts by 2010. Incidentally, it's a British project.

Also state construction company PT Wijaya Karya (WIKA) has just started building the first of nine steam power generating plants with a combined capacity of 4,806 MW.

Or how about kites? After all, they're very popular in Indonesia, so why not combine work and play, eh?

A traditional childhood pastime could provide a breakthrough in renewable energy, after successful experiments in flying a giant kite at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, one of Europe's top research centres.

Scientists harnessed energy from the wind by flying a 10-sq metre kite tethered to a generator, producing 10 kilowatts of power.

The experiment generated enough electricity to power 10 family homes, and the researchers have plans to test a 50kW version of their invention, called Laddermill, eventually building up to a proposed version with multiple kites that they claim could generate 100 megawatts, enough for 100,000 homes.

Hemat Energi

Earlier this year Jakarta residents were warned to expect rolling power cuts as a gas supply line to local power stations was being serviced. These power cuts did not happen, for one simple reason: consumers cut down on their power consumption. Air conditioners were set at a reasonable 26º instead of the Arctic 16º preferred by many hot-bloodied, but frigid, Asians and mall operators. Street lights were switched off, although illuminated hoardings were left on, presumably because someone in City Hall collects 'fees'.

There was also a new government regulation aimed at spreading the load of electricity consumption, whereby industries should operate their factories at weekends. This would also have seen banks opening on Saturdays. Neither of these proposals seem to have been followed through.

Indonesia is the earliest rising nation in the world - and I still hate getting up at 5am! However, this should mean that folk go to bed earlier.

It should mean that but with some 40% of the population able to nap in daylight hours because they haven't got full-time employment, they're going to be transfixed by late night TV, all soap operas, dangdut performances and 'reality' shows.

What a yawn.


6:00 am |
Monday, November 10, 2008
  Darn It

The non-identifiable 'they' say, "garbage in, garbage out."

Unfortunately much of what I entrusted to Bill Gates has gone I know not where and I've finally come to realise that in order to not lose more pearls, there are steps that I should take. It's best to keep things simple and, preferably, recyclable.

As my ailing computer has demonstrated, the more there is, the more can go wrong. And always assume that anything that can go wrong may go wrong, even when you won't actually know what has gone wrong.

I've written before about how ridiculous it is that you can't repair a tap here, or how asinine it is that essential tools now have essential gizmos and gadgets. A phone is no longer just a phone. Why, there are even ear muffs for its headphones. The internet fridge was universally, and quite rightly, scorned. Or there's the Italian cooker hood which incorporates internet and multimedia. But who dares watch TV whilst slaving over a hot stove, eh?

I like the simplicity of the humble pencil with its wood wrapping. It comes in different grades, such as HB for general scribblings, 2B for filling in computer forms, and various degrees of H and B for various forms of drawing, annotating, calculating, listing and writing. Simple and useful, but you do need a pencil sharpener handy. As you use it, the pencil gets shorter. The only disadvantage I've ever found is that if you drop a pencil, the lead inside may be dislocated, thus rendering the sharperner quite useless. The main advantage of old-fashioned pencils is that, being made from sustainable, quick growing trees, their manufacture isn't that harmful to the environment and they're bio-degradable.

They're also a lot cheaper than mechanical pencils, whose many parts are made of non-recyclable plastic and metal. The leads are boxed in plastic, and I cannot draw with them anywhere near as comfortably as with a wooden one. And Our Kid keeps losing his!

Now comes news of pencils which aren't wrapped in wood but in recycled paper! Wowee, you think, until you ask what paper is made of. Their blurb says No Trees, Protect wildlife, Save our oxigen (sic). No Trees? Really? Their site is, of course, all Flash and little substance.

Market forces with their drive for ' growth' have pushed us to create all these non-essentials. The collapse of these forces is, therefore, a grand opportunity to get back to basics.

Do we have to shop? Katherine Flett acknowledges that shopping can be an addiction, which is why she is "vowing to stop wanting shit I don't need and can't afford in order to make myself feel... what, precisely? Happier?"

That's the key question.

And that's a reason that it's taking a while for me to to get back on stream - I'm carefully considering my needs rather than my options. Darn it, I really don't want to start again anew and think (and hope) that I can make do and mend.

For that at least, you can give me credit.


5:30 am |
Friday, November 07, 2008
  Almost Static

That's me and my computer.

Me, I've got swollen glands in places which I would have thought were gland-free. A colleague suggested it could be mumps; however, I had them as a pre-teen and have proved my virility since. Of course, if I've got them now, this could lead to stress-free philandering ....

As for my computer ~ oh, that's a long story far from over, and I may tell you what I didn't do later so you won't make the same mistakes.

Meanwhile, having finally accessed loads of emails, I think it's only fair to share a few with you.

First up, I had an invite to meet Bonnie Prince Charlie on Monday, I had to refuse it thanks to a hectic schedule, a perception that getting through central Jakarta in rush hour would be nigh on impossible ~ and even worse in the anticipated afternoon thunderstorm.

Although I think I am still on good terms with folk at the Embassy, I almost panicked when I read the following:

We will be closing the retired persons of independent means route from 27 November 2008.

This change was announced on 14 July 2008 following public consultation. A formal statement announcing these changes was made by the Borders and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas on 4 November.For further information on these changes please refer to the following UK Border Agency webpage and the Question and Answer document.

Fortunately, it's aimed at those Indonesians wishing to retire to their London pad, much as the recent Thai Prime minister has, rather than those Brits who've got Bali in their sights. The Bakrie Brothers had better get their application in sharpish.

Of course, I've lost all those wonderful snippets, quotes and links I was storing for later posts, and I'm not up to doing much intelligent composition at the moment, so I'll stick to saying that I feel reinvigorated at Obama's victory, which is a victory for all who worked and prayed for a different mindset among politicians. It's not just a victory of those Black Americans with a white mother: this is truly a people's victory, won from the streets rather than the corridors of corporate power.

Unfortunately, Ralph Nader continues to snipe from the sidelines.

Thinking of mindsets, and American Presidential Elections, the Indonesian who illegally contributed to Bill Clinton's campaign asnd more recent born-again Christian, "Dr."James Riady is giving a talk today (Saturday 8th) on the "Global Crisis Mindset". It'll cost you Rp.2 million to listen to his crap, but you can get in free if you're thinking of buying of a property in St. Moritz.

If you're interested in going, you won't have to book a flight, because St. Moritiz is near the Virgin Islands, Sevilla, Costa Rica and the romantically named Frankfurt, which are they're all in or near BSD, west of Jakarta, which appears to have been designed by a bunch of kids playing Sims. Certainly the advertising bumph gives that impression.

"Beyond green for a better living"
This must be what is meant by the phrase 'purple prose'.

"Let's get mad about Forest every Friday."
I've absolutely no idea about this one.

And there's a hospital which offer to "serve you for your better convenience". Die with a smile on your face?

Meanwhile, I've ordered an ambulance to cart off my computer to my local clinic where I really do hope it will receive service for my (and your) better convenience.
BTW. Don't think I only have a go at non-native English speakers.

When officials asked for the Welsh translation of a road sign, they thought the reply was what they needed. Unfortunately, the e-mail response to Swansea council said in Welsh: "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated".

So that was what went up under the English version which barred lorries from a road near a supermarket.


6:00 pm |
Monday, November 03, 2008
  Mutha *****Bored

I'm still offline and, in spite of the generous help of The Rev, it looks as if I'll be offline for another week because I don't have the time to chase around town to get my machine serviced.

Apologies to everyone I owe an email to, because apart from this snatched borrowing of someone else's computer, I won't have access until I get mine back to normal.

Meantimes, why don't you explore my blogroll?

Or go and play in a park?

I wish I could.

Ho hum.




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  • Indonesian Blogs in English
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  • Muli's Commune - defunct but good links
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  • Rasyad A. Parinduri - ekonomi
  • Tasa Nugraza Barley - returned from the USA
  • Indonesia Anonymus - infrequent but always good

  • Indonesian Expats
  • Naz - a "12.5% Indonesian" in Norway
  • Bleu - in Malaysia
  • Anita - in Scotland
  • Maya - in Antibes
  • The Writer - in Denmark
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  • Jennie Bev - in SF
  • Rima Fauzi - in Belgium
  • Nadia Febina - in Angola
  • Society of Spectacle - in Berlin
  • Overseas Think Tank - for Indonesia
  • Indonesians Living Abroad Forum - as it says in the title

  • Expat Bloggers in Indonesia
  • PJ Bali - oil worker
  • Mat Solo - Malaysian oil worker
  • Jenny Q - an expat wife
  • Dr Bruce - retired teacher in Bali
  • Spruiked - Brett's take on things
  • Indoprism - an expat family
  • Java Jive - original photoblog (now in the Phillipines)
  • Amor Fati - good links
  • Metro Mad - Jakarta Globe columnist
  • Rob Baiton - back in Oz
  • Jakarta Kid - about street kids
  • Green Stump - in Kalimantan
  • Most Curious - née Betty Loves Blogging
  • The Mad Rotter - Henk loves Indonesian music
  • Duncan Graham - journo archives
  • Hardship Posting - more wtf
  • Indonesia Matters - loads of stuff
  • The Opinionated Diner - and NZ music
  • Patrick Guntensperger - has opinions on current issues

  • Selected Aseanist Blogs
  • SARAwho? - Southeast Asia Aggregator
  • Pelf-ism is Contagious
  • Brommel - usually in Indonesia
  • Friskodude - SF travel writer
  • Klong Walking - an Addick in Bangkok
  • Agam's Gecko - musings from Thailand

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  • Charlton
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