Friday, February 27, 2009
  The Girl On Another Bus

(If you're new to my roman á cleft palate Girl On A Bus please read Parts 1 and 2 first.)

Life is full of disappointments, and our meeting for yet another mikrolet journey was certainly one of those. There were to be no fond longings, let alone long fondlings. And it wasn't me who was upset at this turn of events, even though we did speak..

Just as on our second encounter, she sat down opposite me and continued chatting with her colleague. She was carrying a bag made out of cloth, a tapestry or curtain material, with a zip along the top.

This time I was squashed against a fat ibu, all dolled up in her going out clobber. She'd made a fuss manoeuvring her podgy thighs and buttocks aside so I could squeeze in next to her. I didn't really want to, but on the other side of the two lasses was a very noticeable young, well perhaps aged 30, man. It was difficult not to be aware of him because not only was he wearing a light puce-green light jacket, but he was also smoking one of those thin all-white cigarettes which I misogynously call ladies' fags.

I telepathed that it's illegal to smoke in public in Jakarta, but, to the matron's frown, I'd already opened the side window behind me so that the fug would have blown away anyway. Unfortunately the window behind the object of my day-dreaming desire was shut.

A stocky working type guy had crushed in to my left so I was all set for a ride of stoic solitude. Then it all went horribly wrong and became one of those events which she'll never forget, the ibu will continue to prattle on about and you're now reading about.

The young fag smoker leaned behind the acquaintance of yore and made to open the window, a matter of sliding it towards him, as if to chuck his tub into the street. This resulted in all of us having to squeeze together even more and it suddenly became a matter of consternation as he appeared to drop his cigarette on the bench seat behind her back. After the general alarm he got out the vehicle. He passed his Rp.2,000 through the kerbside window and strolled back down the one way street. A few seconds later, the guy beside me, whose face I hadn't seen, also descended and also went back down the road and we drove off.

And then came the "what the eff?" moment. He's taken my phone, she cried.

It was several seconds before the driver pulled over to see what was going on behind him. By this time it was impossible to catch the guy (or was it guys?) as there was no way to catch them on foot and no way for us to turn round and drive the wrong way back up the street.

I spotted the unfinished cigarette on the floor beneath her feet where he had presumably put it before launching into his kerfuffle.

Given his somewhat delayed exit, yet seemingly connected even though neither of the guys had appeared to know each other, I figured that the stocky fellow beside me had been involved. He may have even been the thief, taking good or, I suppose, bad advantage of the situation. After all, no-one was looking at him.

She sat there stunned and the matron beside began clucking loudly about how terrible things are now with street crime and isn't it a disgrace and such people should be hung, drawn and quartered and oh, dear, I'm all a-fluster.

I very politely told her to shut the ell up as she was only making things worse for the by now stunned and confused lass.

And I then, at long last, spoke my first words to her.

Was anything else taken?

No, she said, softly, my cards are still here.

What about the information, addresses and such like stored on the phone?

It's an office phone, she said, thus diminishing the importance of the loss.

The two lasses didn't get out at our usual dropping off point, so I gave a sympathetic half-smile and wended my way home.

I hope she feels better, a bit chattier, the next time we meet, and I hope ibu doesn't get on the mikrolet or our nerves ever again.



7:00 am |
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
  Let's Get Serious

It's said that as you get older you become more childlike. The first part is, for me, certainly true: I'm getting older. However, I don't think I am becoming more childlike, and, to use a word I've just met for the first time in print, I most certainly am not infantilising. I seriously hope that I've never lost that innate capacity to thrill to new experiences. I remain curious - although some may think that I am a mere curiosity.

I'm not referring again to the perils of social networking sites, unlike this article .

Lady Greenfield, professor of synaptic pharmacology at Lincoln college, Oxford, and director of the Royal Institution, says it better anyway.

She has told the House of Lords that children's experiences on social networking sites "are devoid of cohesive narrative and long-term significance. As a consequence, the mid-21st century mind might almost be infantilised, characterised by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathise and a shaky sense of identity".

She also warned against "a much more marked preference for the here-and-now, where the immediacy of an experience trumps any regard for the consequences. After all, whenever you play a computer game, you can always just play it again; everything you do is reversible. The emphasis is on the thrill of the moment, the buzz of rescuing the princess in the game. No care is given for the princess herself, for the content or for any long-term significance, because there is none. This type of activity, a disregard for consequence, can be compared with the thrill of compulsive gambling or compulsive eating."

Neither am I referring to the suggestion that Shakespeare has been dumped from the UK's national curriculum .

Heaven forfend that Harry Percy is replaced with Harry Potter. If the most important writer in the English language isn't a subject for consideration in his native land ......... words fail me.

Nor am I referring to the notion that training school pupils to get high scores in multi-choice tests, an annual chore which years 6, 9 and 12 are currently undergoing here in Indonesia and presumably in other countries which place regurgitation of irrelevant information above life skills is a mark of educational excellence. No, that I'm saving up for another post because it's worth considering that computerised tests don't cater for consideration.

I have given plugs before to the Fresh Air Fund based in New York whose Sara Wilson emails me in the hope that some of my American-based readers in suburbs and small town communities can play host to some of the nigh on 5,000 New York City children who get to breath fresh air, some for the first time in their lives. However, this brief mention of her annual appeal
has to serve as my commitment to her good cause for the moment. But do read my lengthier post from last year.

That's because, until alerted by Son.No.1, I was about to overlook, yet again, what I consider to be one of the most crucial and beneficial kids projects in Indonesia.

It's fun, creative, imaginative, exciting and .... well, positive in all kinds of ways in the impoverished lives of many Indonesian children, and it's the work of a very enthusiastic Red Nose Clown, Dan Roberts.

He is back for his second visit, organising workshops for kids from a variety of backgrounds, encouraging such skills as juggling, plate spinning, diabolo (and yo-yo?) tricks, acrobatic skills, and, perhaps the key to all this and more, trust.

Dan's blog is one of the most uplifting I've ever read - not a trace of cynicism, but a positive recognition that there can be good in all situations.

One thing that was a bit depressing and uplifting at the same time was when a few of the boys decided to practice in the rubble of one of our old classrooms. At first I saw them practice their juggling and spinning plates on top of a pile of rocks and my first instinct was to tell them to find a safer place to work. Then one of the kids told me that it was all right, they’d already removed all the glass and dangerous materials and they often played there, because it was on of the only dry open spaces in the village.

When I watched them playing in the destruction of their previous dwelling, I found it inspiring to watch them in their youth experiencing so much joy in a place where so much sadness had taken place.

If by now you're wondering what the connection is with my preamble, then note this excerpt which recognises that all of us have the capacity to develop and control ourselves. It takes effort, not instant gratification, but the rewards are commensurately longer lasting, and
with an enhanced the awareness of our identity our potential contribution to society is equally enhanced.

It used to be that if I asked a kid to do something difficult, most of them would try once or twice and if they didn’t get it and I wasn’t standing right in front of them, they would give up and move onto a different skill. They are starting to learn now that if they don’t get something right away, all they have to do is practice. And some things will take them several days or even weeks to learn.

'Er Indoors comments that when she was in school, girls were adept at juggling, keeping 3 or 4 balls bouncing off the wall. I recall the elementary playground acrobatics of leapfrog races, and the various 'crazes' of hula hoops, the diabolo and yo-yo. More recently we've had, and still have, the frisbee. We don't have to be contortionists to take simple pleasure in exploring our physical capabilities.

It's a sad commentary that so-called developed and developing nations have been unable to hang on to, let alone cater for, the pure innocence of childhood exploration.

All power to Dan and all those working to enable future generations to reach for self-fulfilment.



11:30 am |
Sunday, February 22, 2009
  I Am Lead To Believe

I've just learnt that Facebook members are urged to give 25 Random Facts or perhaps that should be 25 Random Facts That Might Not Be.

The following 'facts' are certainly random in that it's a diary of today's thoughts as they float across the blank screen of my mind..

1. Son No.1 tells me that in spite of my rant I do have a Facebook account.

2. I joined Friends Reunited several years ago. I haven't contacted anyone and no-one has contacted me.

3. I'd like to hear the world's first mobile phone orchestra. Perhaps someone can lend me an iPhone.

4. The local Carrefour hypermarket has little economic nous. Why else sell 6 disposable Gillette razors which have swivelling heads, soap strips, double blades - the complete works, at two-thirds of the price of a pack of five heads with the complete works?

5. Those who can - do.
---Those who can't - teach.
---Those who can't teach - manage schools.

6. Television is the opium of the masses.

7. Most folk can't see beyond their noses.

8. Pinochio was long-sighted.

9. The kids who are growing up surrounded by (cyber) technology will have better hand-eye co-ordination than their parents, but shorter attention spans. They will be better at holding many things in their heads at once, but worse at remembering them afterwards.
fr.Review of Cyburbia - The Dangerous Idea That's Changing How We Live And Who We Are
by James Harkin. pub. Little, Brown 2009.

10. As a vegetarian I instinctively flinch when offered a meal with 'artificial' - looks like, tastes like - meat.

11. There's nowt wrong with alternative protein sources, such as tempeh, a miracle food.

12. You don't need to understand how a pencil is made in order to use it.

13. I wish I knew more about how to 'tweak' the template of this blog.

14. Most religions have tolerance at their core and are inherently good for us.

15. Most religions have hard-core followers who are inherently bad for us.

16. Hard-core followers are not radical, in the sense of seeking change. The word is an oxymoron and they are morons.

17. Keeping a diary makes you happier, it says here. I'm not sure about that, but putting Jakartass together is somewhat fulfilling.

18. The rain in Jakarta floods the plain.

19. I'm not so much put off cycling as I'm put off drivers.

20. Few films are as rewarding as the books on which they're based. Atonement is a notable exception . (Watch Vanessa Redgrave's face as she closes the account - an astonishing performance.)

21. Dolores Hart's claim to fame was that she gave Elvis Presley his first screen kiss. And then, on the brink of a dazzling film career, she gave it all up to become a Benedictine nun. She still prays for Elvis who's now living on the dark side of the moon..

22. Indonesia Journeys, a series of broadcasts about Democracy - Indonesian style on the BBC World Service starts this Wednesday (25th). They could be worth tuning in to. Check for times here - 10.00, 15.00 and 20.00 WIB, I think - and listen to a preview here. (Shouldn't that be 'Prelisten'?)

23. There are times when I can't think of anything to write. Hence no.23.

24. Like Our Kid does now, I didn't, and still don't, understand the mathematics I was taught. I've used very little of it since.

25. At least I can count from 1 - 25, so that's your lot.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
  Hillary Elated

Hillary Clinton's state visit to Indonesia has obviously been worthwhile as the following headline in today's Post indicates.

US, RI pledge closer, comprehensive ties
She said that her first trip abroad was meant to show support for the country's vibrant democracy and efforts to fight terrorism whilst respecting human rights.

Legislators expressed their full support.

Hillary turned down a request to sing, saying, “The problem is people will leave when I sing.”

Or fall asleep?
The above picture may not have any connection with my lead story. I was following up a comment from Ndin on Tuesday's post: Ha, reminds me of Mega dancing with the China PM.

I knew nothing of former President Megashopper's visit to China in 2006 so I googled for images and found that one, and the one to the left which shows her in younger svelt days dancing with her dad, Soekarno. If you do have a picture of her dancing in 2006, please keep it to yourself.


4:30 pm |
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
  Dumb and Dumber?

The Jakarta Globe reports that "in what many would say was a major security blunder, Jakarta Police on Monday gave away details of where US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be staying during her visit to Jakarta on Wednesday and Thursday."

Having levelled the criticism, the Globe then gives away the details.

Not that anyone would be able to capitalise. Well, I'd hope not anyway, not with 2,800 police deployed. As these include snipers and members of the élite Mobile Brigade, (Brimob), malcontents not convinced by the avowed intent of her visit, which is said to focus on climate change, energy and food security, rather than the 'divide and rule' of Muslims worldwide.

Presumably these demonstrators had obtained the necessary police permits for their demo.

One thing is clear, however: Central Jakarta will be even more difficult to get around for the next two days so it's probably best to watch it all on the telly or, and this is my preferred choice, watch American Idol instead.

But I do wonder if she'll be asked to sing a duet with SBY.
This post has been carefully screened to ensure that it complies with the controversial 2008 Electronic Information and Transactions Law (SARA), a major bloggers concern, it says here.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
  A Saturday Whizz-bang
A couple of clapped out buses whizzed us to Ratu Plaza and we wended our way over the eight lane road via the BusWay bridge. Now the Transjakarta Transportation system, aka Busway, has been hailed as a model for other major cities to emulate. This is some kind of joke according to Post readers.

And I must agree.

It's a potential death trap. The guy in the picture was using his handphone as he nonchalantly strolled across the gap. But not being a youngster, and scared of heights, albeit over six feet tall, I think this is scandalous. I watched as an ibu allowed her two toddlers to approach the gap in service and the impending doom of her inheritance, biologically speaking.

How the fuck can any public service allow such incompetence?

Let me rephrase that.

How on earth can the public allow such incompetence from City Hall?

Mike Co from the Clean Air Initiative (CAI) for Asian cities said Jakarta’s busway system could be a model for other cities in Asia.

“Jakarta is one of the pioneers for a bus rapid transit [BRT] in Asia,” Co said. “It has an opportunity to show how such a system can work. Transjakarta is actually a model for other cities to emulate.

“The city should not abandon the Transjakarta. The concept itself is not bad, but it is the way you implement it,” he said. “What the government can do is get behind the Transjakarta system and find ways to improve it.

Sorry, but clean air is the least of the problems. Surely public safety comes first?



6:00 am |
  Yesterday's Disaster In Waiting

It didn't happen, at least whilst we were there. Maybe later at night, when the non-lit access to the Busway was truly a death trap.

But we were trapped for a while once we entered Ratu Plaza. Although we were aiming for the third floor where the computer accessories and pirated DVDs could be had, we were nearly had before we'd even ascended from the ground floor via the escalators.

I was handed a nosegay, a hand-held bag of smelly stuff which, when I showed her later, 'Er Indoors thought was a teabag. I was also offered a choice of vouchers. I took the middle one of three. Whoopee, it was explained, as I pealed it open: I'd won an electric hob which supposedly 'only' used a maximum of 900 watts. Considering that that is more than the average Indonesia household has access to, it would prove uneconomical for most.

"Switch off the lights, darling, I'm boiling an egg."

Also, considering that its price as shown to us in a catalogue was a mere Rp.8.9 million ($750) our thoughts turned to its resale value.

Our Kid told me that he'd arranged all this as a birthday surprise. However, we soon realised that it was all a con.

"What's a con, Dad. Is it anything to do with condoms?"

I think he was joking.

A lot of fast talking, in Indonesian of course, with a phone call, which I let Our Kid take, and then came the clincher. Because my ATM card was issued in 2001, I was entitled to buy something in category A, the expensive stuff. The purchase of a vacuum cleaner which required water (eh?) was available for nigh on Rp.24 million, a mere $2,000 - WHAT? - would enable me to claim my 'free' electric hob.

"No, son," I said. "Con stands for confidence trick, a means of sucking nice commissions for sales folk from gullible people."

I tore up my voucher and we completed our planned purchases of pirated DVDs and other stuff on the third floor and wended our way, with a friendly wave to our erstwhile con merchants, via the death trap and onto the Busway.

At Ya-Udah the fish and chips are just as we Brits like them, with salt and vinegar.

And mayonnaise or sambal.



5:59 am |
Saturday, February 14, 2009
  Why I'm not a social networker

Well, of course I am, but in what passes for the 'real' world, the world I can see, albeit through a cataracted eye. I can smell it, taste it, touch it and generally experience life.

Vicarious knowledge of societal issues is acquired through my voracious reading. The lives of others offer lessons in one’s ever-evolving passage through the world, which is why I read well-written blogs which range over the gamut of human relationships, but not those with excruciatingly boring tittle-tattle gossip-laden details.

I really don't have the time, let alone the interest, to soak up the minutiae of the daily existence of folk I barely know personally
, if at all. And I’m not the only one prepared to say it: a minimal cull of newspapers produces gems such as this one.

Footballer Alessandro "Derek" Del Piero is threatening to sue Facebook over a fake page with his name on with links to a Nazi propaganda group. His representatives wish to make it clear Del Piero has never had a profile on Facebook, because he has proper friends and a life.

Georgina Hobbs-Meyer has a cautionary tale. Mind you, if her husband had exercised precautions, such as using passwords and not leaving his Facebook page open, they might not be getting a divorce.

G.H-M has noted that "the monster of Facebook feeds off our ids with all the charm of an overbearing town crier on a caffeine overload."

And now Facebook intends to capitalise on the wealth of information it has about its users by offering its 150 million-strong customer base to corporations as a market research tool.

At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Mark Zuckerberg, the company's 24-year-old founder and chief executive, said 2009 will be Facebook's "intense" year as it tries to justify some of the mammoth valuations that have been placed upon it by making some serious revenues through advertising.

So, as G.H-M notes, not only is "the pursuit of letting endless idiots become (my) friends ... draining" but now these idiots are about to become the prey of corporate marketeers.

I have similarly ranted about handphones. I can see that whilst stuck in a traffic jam having one to let loved ones and business associates know that you’ve got the by now established excuse for non-appearance could be of value. I also recognise that wandering along mountain tracks and getting caught by bad weather or amateurish navigation, assuming that your battery is sufficiently charged, could be a life saver. I also know that being on the scene of a train wreck or terrorist outrage could be of value to those authorities charged with dealing with the situation.

Having a conversation, concert or meeting disrupted with poorly amplified pop songs, babies crying or chickens clucking is, I contend, the height of bad manners. Nothing important can be decided in a Stupid Message Sending, so why interrupt a personal encounter?

Bah, humbug!

I must have said this before, but with sincere apologies to all who have invited me to be their 'friends' on Mugshots, Dribblings, Matey, Lewd Loves and other similar online networks, anyone wishing to leave a comment if they fit within the remits of my various blogs wherein I express my concerns. These are where I pass on titbits of my personal life and interests for those who think they ‘need’ to know me. Better yet, take the time to write me an email in plain language and, computer technology and bandwidth permitting, you’ll get a carefully composed reply.


No offence is intended, but I do value my privacy. And yours.

That’s enough twittering from me. I’m off to ‘celebrate’ my birthday with family and a few friends in convivial surroundings where we can look each other in the eye and have no need to …... hang on ….. I’ve got to answer the phone.


1:00 pm |
Thursday, February 12, 2009
  Jazz fans ahoy

Riza Arshad, keyboard extraordinaire and leader of simak Dialog, featuring guitarist Tohpati and Sundanese percussion, has emailed to say that they are playing at the newish Teater Salihara this Saturday, Valentine's Day, at 8pm. Unfortunately, I won't make it, but if the air conditioning is set at a more comfortable temperature than at the gig I went to you'll be in for a treat.

Riza tells me that the programme will be similar, with their new album Demi Masa being the main music. Their album will certainly be available; this has been reordered trackwise for its international release on MoonJune Records. Its proprietor, Leonardo Pavkovic, tells me that he is arranging a series of gigs for them, including a festival in Peru in August.

Now that would be worth going to. Meantimes, get yourselves down to Pasar Minggu.

Telephone (62-21) 7891202 for more details.


5:00 pm |
  At 5.30am yesterday ...

I was awake. Yes, at what folk throughout the world, apart from here in the world's most populous Muslim country and a few others similarly inclined, would call an ungodly hour, I was awaiting my ride. No, not a taxi this time, but a Suzuki Carry with driver.

I was ready and apparently so was he. Except that the major roads into town from East and South, and from east and south of, were totally snarled up. I needed to go against the flow out of town, but he had to come with it to fetch me.

I wondered if this was a result of the ill-thought out change of school hours, with parents motoring in to drop their offspring off at school gates before 6.30.

I also wonder if the just ended visit by the British Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell was affected. He might have viewed his visit as an opportunity to build further the strong relationship between the UK and Indonesia, but maybe he and his entourage actually caused a traffic jam or two. Nonentities like yours truly are regularly held up whilst roads are blocked so that the higher ups get an uninterrupted ride.

Not that Bill was here to have a natter about infrastructure. Nope, he had more important things on his agenda such as counter terrorism, co-operation, climate change and regional issues such as Burma. He also delivered a keynote speech on the UK's Foreign Policy in the Middle East at the Centre for Dialogue and Co-operation amongst Civilisations (CDCC) in Jakarta, an organisation I'd never heard of. (Just what is a civilisation, eh?)

As well as meeting members of the Indonesian government, including Foreign Minister Dr Hassan Wirajuda, he met representatives from civil society, opinion formers and political commentators to discuss a wide range of issues.

Jakartass wasn't invited.

Neither do I expect to be invited to meet the wife of another Bill when she drops by next week.

Yep, the new US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, is arriving on Sunday, when the traffic is lightest.

According to Hassan Wirajuda, "the United States mention the importance of Indonesia as the world's biggest Muslim-majority country, one that upholds the values of democracy, human rights and pluralism."

I must say that it's good that Indonesia can project such a positive image given the widespread cynicism that seemingly pervades the populace.

Of course, their number excludes me.

However, Jakartans may be interested in a rather shallow interview in the newly launched English-language daily, the Jakarta Globe,.of ex-Jakarta Governor Sooty who served two unelected terms, latterly with current Governor Fuzzy Bodoh as his deputy.

What issues do you feel were not taken care of during that time?

The two main issues are transportation and flooding. Many people are not aware that there are problems in the capital that the city can’t solve on its own, because so many parties involved in the debate are dependent on each other. Take transportation, for example. Why do we still have problems with gridlock? Apart from the fact that there are far too many cars in Jakarta, 650,000 people commute into the capital every day from other cities. We need to build a large-scale public transportation system that can help people get into the city from outlying areas.

He also says, alluding to his campaign to be Indonesia's next president, "If you want to learn to lead the country, you have to learn to lead the capital."

So, that's one candidate who's ruled himself out.

Thomas Belfield has written an update of last year's post in Thoughts Outside The Indonesian Box about what he'd do if he were Jakarta Governor. I'm going to send copies to Sooty and Fuzzy.
And vote for TB.

However, what I'd really like to know is, will Hilary meet old friend James Riady whilst she's here?

And what oleh-oleh (souvenirs) should she take home for Barack Obama?



7:00 am |
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  A Girl On A Bus - The Journey Continues

She got in the mikrolet with her friend, sat opposite and ignored me. Ho hum, I thought, perhaps the connection I thought we had she hadn't.

They discussed kindergarten stuff. I assumed they were colleagues.

Her friend got out early with a sampai besok - see you tomorrow - and we journeyed on to where we both got out.

The only empty seats on the cross-city bus were at the back - I like the legroom - and she squeezed in beside me into the window seat.

Ah, together at last.

She had a Rp.5,000 note, the correct fare, ready for the fares collector and I had a Rp.20,000 note. I wanted small change. He signalled with two fingers and raised eyebrows - was I paying for her as well?

I liked the assumption but didn't want to presume.

"Sorry," I told her.

She smiled at me.

For the rest of the journey speeding down the jalan tol, she gazed out at the traffic backed up on the parallel side road.

I gazed inward and wondered whether I should have - I certainly could have - paid. After all, kindergarten teachers have low salaries. And if I had, that could have been the start of a beautiful conversation.

We could still talk, I pondered silently.

We said nothing except in our thoughts. Hers didn't reach me.

My getting off exit arrived.

"Next time, I'll pay your fare. Gladly," is what I could have - should have? - said.


9:00 pm |
Sunday, February 08, 2009

Serendipity strikes again. Having tried to go across town in Monday's torrential downpour. I was thinking of establishing a league table of taxi companies in Jakarta. Then I received a couple of missives on the topic so the issue has become almost crucial.

Last Monday in the early morning during the near daily downpour*, the taxi was parked at a bus shelter - which, of course, meant that potential bus passengers would get soaked trying to board and those getting off would similarly have to wade through several inches of water which wasn't going to drain away any time soon.

In the mornings, not wanting to risk public buses which are generally cramped, dirty and unreliable in terms of getting anywhere within a rushed schedule, I take whatever taxi will stop for me. Except for Family Indah whose drivers have by my reckoning only given me fifty percent satisfaction. Still, facing potential floods and a slower than usual journey, I figured that beggars can't be choosers and I got in dripping over the back seat.

As we pulled away from the kerb the driver asked me Mau kemana, Mister? I told him and he told me that he didn't want to go there. I told him to eff off as I stepped out into the rain, not now having the benefit of the bus shelter.

The thing is, of course, I'm a tight wad. There are two classes of taxis in town - Blue Bird and all the others which have significantly lower meter tariffs - tarif bawah is pasted on their windscreens. I don't generally have a problem now with taxi companies, apart from Prestasi which used to be the clapped out non-meter using President taxis of yore. They now look just like the generally well-respected Bluebirds which, in spite of the drastically reduced fuel prices insist on keeping to (their) higher tariff. However, they do have GPS.

The British Foreign Office has got a bit paranoid too about the safety of their staff in Jakarta's taxis and have updated their Travel Advisory for Indonesia as follows:

British Embassy, Jakarta, staff are advised to use only taxis from the Bluebird and Silverbird group. These are widely available at hotels and shopping malls in central Jakarta and at Sukarno-International Airport. Care should be take to distinguish Bluebird and Silverbird vehicles from "look-alike competitors". For further details see the Bluebird website.

In the same download of emails I received the following from Daniel, a newbie in town.

One thing I would like to say is that from my experience, Blue Bird taxis are no better, and possibly far worse, than your average Jakarta cab. I've only been here six weeks or so but, despite their friendliness, the drivers have rarely had any idea of how to get to pretty basic places.

Example 1 - At Ancol I ask for a ride to Fatahillah Sq, Kota. We end up at Gambir.
Example 2 - At Kelapa Gading I ask for us to naughtily stop off at McDonalds 24hrs on the way to Cempaka Putih. The incompetent driver has no idea and heads to Cempaka Mas, grinning. Just two of many recent 'anecdotes'.

When the fare starts higher and all the travel guides give a firm thumbs-up, the drivers ought to at least know the basics. But I'd say that from recent experience you'd be better off in pretty much any other cab, as long as it is metered and you can get a 'yes, mister' that vaguely means 'yes I know where you want to go'. With Bluebird it's too often a random drive around a few blocks and a higher fare at the end of it.

Yep, that's been my experience too, so I have decided that an unscientific poll of Jakartass readers is in order. I did think of putting in one of those polls but figure that the following question will do.

Which Jakarta taxi companies have NEVER given you a stressful ride?

Please leave a comment.

My choices would be Gamya, which I rarely see, and Putra, with Express and Koperasi close seconds.

*Elyani has posted some more nice photos of happy waders here.



7:00 am |
Friday, February 06, 2009
  Why Indonesia must NOT go nuclear

An atomic power station barely 50 miles from the centre of London ... leaked radioactive material for 14 years.

Mike Weightman, chief inspector at the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, said it was not possible to "inspect or check every feature of a complex plant".

Bradwell ... ceased producing electricity in 2002 and is being dismantled by a US company, EnergySolutions. The power station is said by the Environment Agency to be responsible for allowing liquids to seep into the ground from 1990 to 2004.

The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate failed, note, because they said that their job - to ensure the safety of nuclear power plants - is impossible.

Any chance that Indonesia - which can't keep a road surfaced for more than one dry season - would do better?

Incidentally, I can't even get my leaky roof fixed!


6:00 am |
Thursday, February 05, 2009
  A Peal

I love wordplay, as my regular literate readers should have noticed by now. They (you) should also have spotted that I also spread the words of contributors and those who think that I can help their causes. Usually, being a modest but vain soul, I respond to requests when they are expressed as follows:

The reason I reached out to you specifically is not because you are based in Jakarta, but because you are an influential blogger with an international medium to instantly spread this message.

Assuming you read yesterday's post, you will realise that the above sentence didn't come from TED. In fact it was sent to me last year by Sara Wilson of the Fresh Air Fund in New York and I wrote about her work here.

In brief, the Fresh Air Fund, an independent, not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer vacations to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877.

Last year they were looking for host families, and Sara is looking again. However, her latest email is mainly appealing for counselors for this coming summer of '09. We hire staff members with a wide range in some pretty amazing fields. We are really looking for college-aged men and women who love to work with children.

She has put together this news release which explains it all.

I believe that this is important work. The vast majority of city kids, worldwide, are deprived of fresh air and, perhaps more importantly, the opportunity to experience 'nature', the governing influence on all our lives - wherever we live.

If you do contact Sara, please tell her that Jakartass sent you.
Yesterday I also said that I'd publish an email that would be good for my wallet.

This is it.


We are interested in purchasing a text-link advertisement on your website.

Our offer is $120 for a 6-month placement on your homepage. Please let me know if you accept our offer.

The text-link placed on your website would be for our gambling site.


Aleks Godera

This is a nice polite email. The notion of being paid a 'rental' for an ad does appeal to me because I'd then be free to select those which I feel fit within the Jakartass remit and my interests.

As I've said before, the ads I do have - see the right column - are directly related to friends and family and local enterprises I can personally vouch for. Such as mine.

As gambling would not be kind to your wallet, I won't be accepting the $120.

However, I remain open to offers. After all, it is thought that I have influence.


4:00 pm |
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
  I'm Appealing

Judging from the emails I received this morning, there are some who feel that Jakartass has a reach and clout which surpasses the influence I really don't think I have.

Today I'm giving the gist of the lengthiest email, one which I hurriedly skimmed so obviously misconstrued.

I'm contacting you with news of a major new initiative of ours announced today: the TED Fellows program.

Each Fellow will attend the prestigious TED Conference in Long Beach or Oxford, where they will have the opportunity to speak before or during TED and spread their ideas online through TED.com. They will also receive exclusive communications training, a private social network and the opportunity to tell their ongoing stories on the new TED Fellows blog.

Wow, I thought, Jakartass is really being honoured, although for what I had no idea. I did note that the fellows listed include citizen journalists - a category I vaguely fit in, professors, and others working on environmental justice, children's education, design conferences for social change, mobile technology for social good - all interests of mine.

The opportunity to attend "the ultimate brain spa" and meet folk with names such as the speakers, who have included Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Frank Gehry, Paul Simon, Sir Richard Branson, Philippe Starck and Bono seemed to good to be true.

Which of course it is.

I'm not being invited. I suppose the only reason I received the email is because I gave TED a plug last year so I they want me to give them some more publicity.

And this I have now done.

Ho hum.
Tomorrow I'll post another appeal, a worthy cause, and an offer to take a paid advertisement which, against the wishes of my wallet, I'm refusing.


2:00 pm |
Monday, February 02, 2009
  Who's Responsible?

I only ask because it seems so easy here to just shrug rather than saying mea culpa.

For example, City Hall says that Jakarta's floods are apparently caused by folk dumping their rubbish in the drains and rivers. You don't read about plans to educate and encourage the public to recycle and to use less packaging. Nor are facilities to do that provided. And it's only taken 50?, 80? 100? years to actually build so-called flood canals.

This is but one example, but I am provoked into this post by what I feel is an act of madness, or which would be if City Hall had actually acted as concerned citizens have aright to expect them to.

Abdul Malik, head of the Central Jakarta chapter of the Environmental Management Board (BPLHD), is quoted in the Post as saying that "thirty gas stations across Central Jakarta have failed to meet environmental standards in that they have not completed the required environmental impact assessment. Owners are required "to assure the safety of their gas station and to check the quality of its ground water."

Fine words which beg the question of who is responsible for enforcement of what appears to be an eminently sensible requirement. If there really are 32 gas stations - 30 owned by the state oil company, Pertamina, and one each by Petronas of Malaysia and Shell - which have failed to comply, then which bureaucrats should be fired?

However, my main and somewhat personal beef, is that Tebet Hospital (where Our Kid was born) on Jl. MT Haryono - admittedly in South, rather than Central Jakarta- has sold a plot of land which previously functioned as a car park. Under construction is yet another gas station. It will be in competition with a Shell station about 200 metres away which opened a couple of months ago.

That's not my worry.

What I'd like to know is twofold: doesn't Jakarta's spatial plan prohibit the siting of volatile facilities next to public buildings such as schools and hospitals?

Secondly, who is responsible for drawing up evacuation plans for the hospital in the event of a fire?


6:00 am |
Sunday, February 01, 2009
  January Warmed Up Leftovers

1. Ya-Udah returns to Central Jakarta

Habituees of Jalan Jaksa who enjoyed the ambiance of Ya Udah Bistro, with its excellent westernised food at reasonable prices and cold Bintangs at just above supermarket cost, mourned its closure last year. All kinds of scurrilous gossip about ex-Governor Sooty landgrabbing so that the giant hypermarket Carrefour could be plonked on the empty site proved wrong. Thankfully.

Pedro, the master chef-entrepreneur, opened up a branch on the floodplain of Kelapa Gading, an inconvenience to we regulars. And the previous location remains forlornly for rent or sale.

I am therefore more than pleased to report that a new Ya-Udah opened on Saturday a short walk from the bottom end of Jaksa. Following a Dave Jardine social quiz on Sunday at the pleasant Jaksa watering hole of Cocktails and Friends, which, incidentally, has a jazzy choice of sounds, we adjourned to Jalan Johar No.15, Gondangdia Menteng, Central Jakarta (tel: (+62 21) 390 9010 & 314 0343 - SMS: 0811982587).

Whilst the traffic noise is more intrusive than before and one cannot observe passing backpackers, I am pleased to report that our meals - buffalo wings, weiner schnitzel and your correspondent's spaghetti carbonera - were as good as ever.

I look forward to Our Kid and I resuming our regular monthly repasts.

2. I subscribe to the Wild Asia monthly newsletter, which goes out to over 18,000 people worldwide. Keeping you connected to help promote the conservation of wild places in Asia - for people, nature and the environment.

Based in Kuala Lumpur, the group's advocacy of environmental and social sustainability in tourism is mainly focussed on Malaysia. I don't know of a similar Indonesian NGO, but would be more than willing to give a permanent link to such a group.

3. I have given a permanent link to PJ Bali, an expat in the oil industry who is a frequent visitor to Jakartass. Much of what he writes is too technical for butterfingers like me, but it is another facet of expat life here.

4. Another fairly technical blog may be of more interest to readers. Houw Liong The has left a comment saying that his blog, Sanstecknologi - say it quickly and even if you only speak English you'll know what his blog is about - has long and short range Jakarta flood predictions.

I'm sure that HLT won't be surprised to know that most Jakartans can also predict floods. They occur when it rains and at high tides.

5. The Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival is being held on the 6th, 7th and 8th March at the Jakarta Convention Center.

This year, Java Festival Production plans to feature, among few, Jason Mraz, Brian McKnight, Swing Out Sister, New York Voices, Ivan Lins, Matt Bianco, Isao Suzuki, Mike Stern, Oleta Adams, Peabo Bryson, David Garfield, Chieli Minucci & the Special EFX and Ron King Big Band.

We've seen Mike Stern a few times over the years. I do wonder though why he always focusses on 'Er Indoors whilst playing.

Anyway, according to What's New Jakarta, "attending the Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival is a part of a lifestyle."

Lifestyles of the rich and vacuous no doubt.

6. Finally, may I offer a gentle reminder that I've reopened Thoughts Outside The Indonesian Box and invite all of you to contribute political manifestos before this year's elections.

This invitation is particularly extended to local politicos because you/they have significantly failed to offer any kind of vision. And if you/they can't, then let us say, yes we can.


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