Sunday, December 30, 2007

Best of 2007

Fave Film:

The Host. I saw it a few nights ago. Slapstick horror, you're never sure whether you should giggle or wince.





Fave Albums:

I love my dodgy RnB and I'm passionate about pop, Amy Winehouse's Back in Black is a record that doesn't make me feel all that embarrassed about that :)




I didn't think Pete Doherty had another good record in him, but Babyshambles' Shotter's Nation is a very good one. Surely his lawyers shouldn't have allowed him sing about the murder case he was involved in??




According to Last FM my most listened to album was Kings of Leon's Because of the Times, but that doesn't take into account what I was listening to on my iPod.

Because of the Times was a good album, but Willy Mason's If The Ocean Gets Rough is a really lovable record. I never really fell for Because of the Times.




Plan B's Paint It Blacker album, is the best rap album I've heard since JayZ's heyday, even if it has that chainsaw serial killer song on it, set to bloody Leonard Cohen. Fuck, that's a song you don't wanna walk down a dark street listening to - then again Plan B is a big fan of Necrophilia (the rapper).




Steve and CoconutTreez is excellent, Melly's Mind n Soul is hit and miss (but I love her to bits), Iwan Fals in Love is v dodgy in places (at times Iwan sounded like an early 90s Italian rock star mimicking acoustic Bon Jovi).




Dizzy Rascal's Maths and English is a stone cold classic.




My sis had been telling me about Jamie T for over a year (I always thought he was Jamie Theakston reincarnate -- like Marilyn Manson is the Milhouse guy from the Wonder Years) stupidly I only caught on when he sold lots of records.




If I have to choose a best album of the year its Plan B's Paint it Blacker! Or maybe, Willy Mason's If The Ocean Gets Rough - too close to call :)


Fave Song:

Jamie T & Lily Allen - Rawhide




[Notable mentions: Lily Allen & Common - Driven Me Wild; Dizzee Rascal & Lily Allen - Wanna Be; Amy Winehouse - Love Is a Loosing Game]


Fave Book:

Jung Chang's Wild Swans. As my Chinese pal Wu Fan told me, Wild Swans was written for Westerners; Mao The Untold Story was written for Chinese. Wild Swans is one of those books that brings you on an emotional roller coaster ride from the comfort of your own life.


Fave Piece of News:

Paris Hilton is losing her inheritance


Fave Blog:

Indcoup's. What the hell happened to it?? Looks like the bloggers left will have to try doubly hard to compensate :)


Fave Purchase:

My Nikon D40 + 18-200 Nikkor Lens. Thing is, I gotta practice more.


Fave Picture:




Fave Blog Post:

Summer of Love :)


Fave Place:

Semarang


Fave Bit of Work:

Independently figuring out that volatility smiles are bullshit :) [not bad for someone that hasn't studied too much finance (yet!)]


OK, that's it. I reckon if I made a record or a film, they'd be my faves too :):)

New Year's Resolution: listen to more DIFFERENT types of NEW music and less of the same old CRAP! Suggestions are welcome!! (especially new Indonesian stuff :))

Happy New Year!

Linux is Cute!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Hell

Malaysia Does it Again!

Malaysia has some balls, in an act of bravado that rivals a heist of Pink Panther proportions, they've claimed that the word Allah (R) is for Muslims only.

While Indonesians fumigate over the litany of cultural bits and bobs Malaysia has pickpocketed recently, non-Muslims in Malaysia have had the word Allah (R) filched from their throats!

Nice one Malaysia, yet again you've proved yourself to be the "dumbest country on the planet" (Trademark). The Homer Simpson of countries perhaps?

[Etymology of Allah (R) is here]

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Yearly Church Visit

I went to our church (well my parent's) on Christmas Eve. Midnight candlelit service. Beautiful old church that's right out of the DaVinci code.

Thing was, the sermon was about the Koran (!). It was great, all about how Islam respects Christianity and how Christians should also respect Islam.

Me, I'm an atheist, but I'm a fan of religion. For example, I prefer to go to mosques in Indonesia than pubs, prefer to go to Confuscian temples than malls.

That sermon was another example of why I am a fan of religion -- it's essentially such a /human/ thing, and at it's best it's so welcoming and inclusive.

Anyway that was a good start to my Christmas, happy Christmas everyone!! :)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

What is Indonesian?

A pal fumes over Malaysia stealing Indonesia's culture.

Here's a tough question though: tell me one thing that's 100% Indonesian?

Charles Munger on Economics

One to print out - insightful and enjoyable.

Indonesian Police are Most Corrupt

Transparency International Indonesia says the police force are the most corrupt institution in Indonesia.

No surprise. As the mantra goes: whatever happens don't call the cops!

What is a little surprising is that the Indonesian police are now hunting down Transparency International Indonesia after publishing the report.

Nice to know Indonesian cops are in no doubt who the bad guys are!! (themselves ;))

Bush Administration and Torture

Excellent op ed piece here.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Saudi Arabia is EVIL

It seems to me that Saudi Arabia now ranks among Apartheid South Africa, Mugabe Zimbabwe and North Korea.

Saudi Arabia is evil.

[Obviously I am referring to the "state" of Saudi Arabia, and not its people. I deeply pity its people, especially Saudi Arabian women]

Chinese Hangover (?)

You wake up one morning and you realise that you aren't half as wealthy as you thought you were (well in fact 40% less wealthy).

To me it kinda sounds like Indonesia 10 years ago...

RAME ING GAWE; SEPI ING PAMRIH

It's kind of edifying when you have some vague idea in your head and then someone comes along and articulates it very succinctly.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Birthday



Looooong week at work capped by meal with family at local Italian place. Just nice.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Christmas Present

Dear Lazyweb,

Is there any hassle free way to order and send a toy to a kid in and around Semerang? (without having to write a letter to Santa Claus :))

Specifically, I've been thinking about some Lego (perhaps the Airport which I had as a kid, or the Castle which I always longed for...).

Hope someone can help!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Flattened Forests

Disheartening video from Papua.

Paranoia Indonesia

On my last visit to Indonesia it suddenly dawned on me, Indonesians are a thoroughly paranoid bunch.

According to the Indonesians I've met, most of their fellow citizens are pickpockets, thugs (who, by the way, love to use public transport -- interestingly over here thugs love BMWs!) and policemen

For example, last summer I wanted to update my 5 year old brick-like-Nokia with an N95, but I was warned not to venture near Roxy cos it's a haunt for hypnotist pickpockets (Indonesia's answers to David Blaine). So I ended up not getting an N95 and keeping my Spectrum-esque phone.

[In fact during a dehydrated swoon at the Jakarta fair I was worried that I had encountered one of these pickpocket illusionists when a random guy shook my hand, but my wallet was left intact -- random friendliness, shock horror!]

I don't doubt that there are bad people in Indonesia, but whenever this pale skinny bespectacled guy gets lost on travels around Indonesia, people have gone out of their way to put me on the right track.

To a person the expats I've met haven't had much to say about their experiences of crime in Indonesia. The general opinion has been that crime is either lower or on a par with western countries. Indonesia isn't special, every country has it's own fair share of scheisters and lunatics.

My own theory for all this paranoia is that Indonesians aren't yet used to a press that isn't cowered into reporting good news all the time. Shit happens Indonesia, get used to it!! :):)

Visit Indonesia!



Via Ecky!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Desmond Tutu

Just heard a documentary with Desmond Tutu.

He's an astounding guy, wish there were more like him.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies

Yahoo pays up for sending Chinese dissidents to jail for 10 years.

Google and other search engines also "cooperate" with the Chinese government by (for example) self censoring their search results.

They say they are following Chinese law, but what they are really doing is making the twisted (and often quite evil) views of the Chinese government look internationally acceptable.

This is tantamount to internationally credible people twisting their views so that their view would be available in Nazi Germany, Apartheid South Africa or New Order Indonesia for example.

Google says that Chinese citizens are better off with their service than without. I suspect China would actually be better of without another internationally credible organisation parroting the Chinese government - there are more than enough of those already.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Economist's Oath (II)

In the first part of this blog post I implied that economists make 99% of their money out of one simple idea.

This isn't as fantastical as it sounds - but economists rarely let the cat out of the bag without forcing you to buy their latest book or signing you up for an undergraduate degree in economics (and even then most undergrads don't "get" it - economists are a stingy bunch).

---------------------

The one useful idea in economics is this:

"People can cooperate very successfully together, but sometimes they don't and need to be coordinated."

The "sometimes" is the contentious part. Libertarians/capitalists would tend to say that individuals cooperate well most of the time without out any outside interference and socialists would say that people mostly need to be coordinated by government.

Most economists naturally tend to fall on one or other side of the cooperation vs coordination divide without being extremists - economics is a science after all, not a dogma - so each case should be examined on its own merits regardless of one's natural inclinations.

One of the major success stories of cooperation over coordination is China since it began free market reforms in the late 1970s. The Chinese were highly coordinated beforehand, being told by a central authority where to work; how much to produce; what to buy etc. (needless to say, coordinating billions of people in such small detail can be quite tricky!). Under Deng Xiaoping they were allowed to cooperate more, each Chinese citizen was given more economic freedom.


China's free market reforms are probably the greatest single achievement of economic theory.

A looming cooperative disaster however is global warming. People don't cooperate well together when it comes to global warming because the price I pay for fuel for my car reflects the costs of production - ignoring the costs inflicted on the environment (e.g. the cost to the tourist industry in Manado because of the coral bleaching caused by global warming).

The usual coordination solution is quite simple: tax fuel so that the price reflects the estimated cost to the environment.

A slightly deeper cooperative solution may be to allow freedom of movement across all borders, i.e. remove government's "coordination" of movement.

---------------------

Now that you have a grasp of cooperation vs. coordination, there's no need to waste your money on Freakonomics II or sign up for that economics undergrad course, you're probably better off studying something more intellectually stimulating like statistics.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Evening with Milton Friedman

This interview (via Greg Mankiw) is well worth a listen.

Wasting Energy

I used to live in East Germany, quite close to the iron curtain.

What struck me most of all about the Berlin wall, the Stasi etc. was that on a very simplistic level, undemocratic countries waste so much time, people, energy and money on things which retrospectively are incredibly stupid.

For example Singaporean censorship, China with their spying programs on Chinese students abroad (I kid you not) and Malaysian tear gassing of peaceful protesters.




Sunday, October 28, 2007

Alan Johnston's Story

A really amazing report from the man himself, well worth a listen.

Fair Trade Tirades

Yesterday I was in a café, which (among other coffees) sold fair trade coffee from Indonesia. The problem was, it /only/ sold fair trade coffee.

I never buy fair trade products. Why?

Fair trade implies that other types of trade are /not/ fair. In fact, trade is a wholly voluntary activity, by definition it only takes place when both buyer and seller are satisfied with the deal.

Fair trade gives consumers and producers wrong minded incentives.

Western consumers believe that buying non-fair trade products from developing countries is detrimental to those countries - which is clearly not the case.

Producers are lured into participating in markets (like the volatile coffee market) with the /hope/ of better long term prices, rather than diversifying into other more stable markets. The costs of employment increases which increases unemployment in societies where underemployment is endemic.

Compared to buying fair trade, donating to charity is a less destructive way of helping people out, it may take a bit more of an effort, but at the end of the day your Euro will be more effective.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Pro Evo 2008 on the Wii

Had a glance at the newly released Pro Evos on Xbox and PS3 on Friday - looked like the same as Pro Evo 6 with new licks of paint - definitely not worth €500+.

Saw this by chance, and was blown away...


Football & Globalisation

Economist Dani Rodrik asking some interesting questions about football and globalisation.

My take: globalisation pushes up the standards of football played and makes competitions more competitive and entertaining, which can only be a good thing!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Me and Jay

Me and JayZ have been through some tough times together; back in the day while I was struggling through college his lyrics would punch me straight in the stomach and goad me back on my feet. At his best he's like a lyrical fight club.

[Marilyn Manson's Holy Wood was also an often needed brutal shot of adrenaline back then too]

Jay's last album was dodgy (who said rapping is a young person's game again?!) but with songs like Oh My God on his new record there's always that hope that he'll get back on track.

[Btw, JayZ/DangerMouse's Grey Album is THE best album of all time - bar none]

Saturday, October 20, 2007

WPA with RT2500 on Ubuntu Gutsy

I've just upgraded to Ubuntu Gutsy, had a bit of a problem with WPA this time round too, but fixed it by removing the "network-manager" package. So if you include that step for in my Feisty howto it should you should get WPA to work on both Feisty and Gutsy.

[BTW, that howto is by far the most popular posting on this site - even though I am certain my regular readers wouldn't know a Kernel module from a Beowulf cluster :)]

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Blogger Come Good

Jakarta Casual has landed himself a regular column at ESPN Star!

I suspect it's in an effort to keep him quiet about ESPN blatantly plagiarizing the punditry on his blog.

Congratulations in any case!! :)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Funny

I thought the Israeli Jewish neo-Nazis were hilarious, but this takes the biscuit.

Indonesia's supreme arbiter of right and wrong has ordered that $106m be paid by Time for defaming Suharto! HAHAHAHAHA

Time claimed that the Suharto family stole $73bn, the Indonesian supreme court commented:
"...the article has damaged the reputation and honour of the grand general of the Indonesian armed forces and former president of Indonesia"
HAHAHAHA

I love those supreme court fuckers.

So is it a question of a figure? Would $40bn, $30bn, $20bn be more accurate non-defamatory figures?

(I wish I could come up with something more intelligent, but that judgment and article is satire enough.)

I wonder will Time now leave Indonesia? I wonder is this going to be the new face of repression - the ever-so-legalistic-Singapore-way - sue the hell out of those who raise their heads above the parapet. It's even better in Indonesia, cos the Supreme court will pretty much write a blank check - the court will cut themselves a fat commission in any case.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Kubuntu Freezes

[***This fix is much better -- i.e. it actually works!! :);)***]

Twice over the last few months my Kubuntu started to freeze - another symptom was that I couldn't use hibernate.

I figured out the problem was that the swap partition was not being picked up (text on the bottom right of ksysguard will say that swap is unavailable, and the swap graph should be empty).


Luckily the solution is easy!

In the system settings, go to advanced settings and then click on "Disk and File Systems".

Log into administrator mode, and modify the partition which has no mount point, type, device and is deactivated.

Modify the partition, by ensuring that it's Swap and that the option below is "auto" - not "noauto"!

Now you should be ready to go!

[Edit: the swap partition line in /etc/fstab will look something like this:

UUID=22f029fb-e472-43d4-8e64-a49358a9f890 swap auto 0 0

but should look something like this:

UUID=22f029fb-e472-43d4-8e64-a49358a9f890 none swap auto 0 0

hibernating messes around my swap for some reason, which is kinda crap, will have to look into this further...]

Monday, September 03, 2007

Christine

Debs night. Apparently the Make Up artist that did her make up did Iggy Pop's the weekend before! Good practice :) :P

Before The Bean's Debs

Ricky and Christine

Breaking the Law

Elvira Arellano (an illegal immigrant) took refuge in a Chicago church for a year, before venturing out and being deported by police - leaving her son (a US citizen) in the States under the guardianship of the church.

A network of teachers and families in France hide and protect immigrants and their kids from deportation.

Somehow sounds like the plot of a Heroes episode - or even echoes of occupied Europe.

In both these cases, I don't think you can say that the Church or the network of families and teachers are morally wrong when breaking the law (what does that tell you about immigration laws?). In fact, I know of no reasonable moral code which judges rights and wrongs based on where one chooses the live.

[And I know for a fact that there is very little (if any) economics based reasoning for restrictions of movement]

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Economist's Oath (I)

The Economist's Oath (though it may vary, 'The Oath' takes the following, or similar form):
"As an economist I promise never to reveal the secret of The Illusion to a non-economist, unless that one swears to uphold the Economist's Oath in turn. I promise never to perform The Illusion for any non-economists without first practicing the effect until I can perform it well enough to maintain The Illusion of Economics."
Upon getting their PhD, economists must repeat the secret oath above. It's similar to the Hippocratic Oath which medical doctors have to abide by, but (1) economists need this oath to stay employed, and (2) they must also must learn a silly handshake.

Why? Because (1) there's only a single simple concept underlying all of economics that keeps economists from becoming milkmen or sociologists, and (2) Adam Smith (the founder of modern economics) was a genius at making up silly handshakes (he couldn't earn much from inventing new handshakes, so he started modern economics instead).

Of course this won't come as a surprise to those non-economists who keep tabs on the field, as economists have an illustrious history of intentionally plunging economies into disaster so they can be assured of research grants for years to come.

For example the boys at the IMF and World Bank are lauded by economists the world over for their work during the Asian financial crisis, whereas the old heads at LTCM made a complete cock-up trying to sink the world economy. Economists rarely even speak to the LTCM guys at conferences now, and there was even talk of stripping them of their Nobel Laureates, but the consensus was, however reckless, they were really ballsy.

Obviously, it's quite a dangerous undertaking revealing a secret theory of this magnitude (FYI the boys at the IMF make the Opus Dei look like a bunch of Mother Theresas [or a Bunch of Michael E. Porters if you prefer]). Rumour has it that they tried to do Milton Friedman in on numerous occasions, because he was fed up with the lies and wanted to become a tax accountant instead.

So what is the secret theory which underlies all of the relevant parts of economics? Tune in for part two!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Old Lady


Village near Semerang. Taken at Agus and Dian's house - thanks to Andy for bringing me along!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Closet Atheist?

Mother Theresa, a closet atheist?

Doesn't sound too far off how I feel, except, I accept how I feel and reckon atheism is quite a positive outlook on life!

Cigarettes, Alcohol and Jesus

A Malaysian news paper was shut down for printing a cartoon which showed Jesus smoking and drinking beer.

As ever, the Malaysian establishment just makes itself look silly. Christians weren't actually responsible for getting the paper shutdown, a Tamil political party was -- cos it had been on the receiving end of a lot of flack from the paper.

Interestingly the bible has this to say about the matter,

Philippians 1:18. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice.

I reckon Jesus wouldn't have taken himself too seriously, and would have enjoyed a cigarette and a pint of beer now and again.

A Christian, or other admirer of Jesus, who concluded that He DID drink beer honors His essential humanity, and the theological truth that He was like us in every way except for our sinfulness.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Australian Immigration

Australia is hoping to attract British people to migrate there.

At least once a year Australia organises a huge exhibition in Dublin to attract more people to go over there. They also offer working visas to Irish youngsters for a year or two.

Question: do they go to the same lengths to attract Indonesian people to work in Australia? if not, why not?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Islamic Summer of Love

100,000 have met in Jakarta to discuss the creation of an Islamic caliphate - an international state based on Muslim-on-Muslim love. By all accounts, it was the Naughties answer to Woodstock and the Summer of Love.

Ignoring all the "liberal" reasons why Sharia states aren't good ideas, let's focus on some rather more obvious impracticalities.

Muslims are human (obvious I know, but too often it can be forgotten!).

How long did it take for the Acehnese to get some TLC from their *Muslim* bosom buddies in Sumatra, Sulawesi and Java? Where was all the passion for Indonesian on Malay action in the '60s? Where are the saucy Shia-Kurd-Sunni orgies of love? Oh that's right, that sauce isn't even of the ketchup type!

100,000 in the Bung Karno Stadium? Islamic Summer of Love? Pass me an E.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Smoking CSR

PR people are fiendishly clever. Most of what they do is now called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). It's a fluffier, friendlier type of PR. People are mostly cynical about PR, but are at worst confused when confronted with CSR (sukses!).

Generally I don't care for motives when individuals, countries or companies do genuine good. If a company gets some good PR through helping a community out everyone wins.

What I do care about, is when a company like Sampoerna (large Indonesian cigarette maker) spends millions on high profile CSR on the one hand, but on the other, is the biggest killer of Indonesians bar none.

Does Sampoerna support lung cancer research or cigarette education? Of course not, it wants to bury its wrongs and its victims in glitzy PR.

I wonder how much it would cost to hire a PR firm on a retainer basis to make the victims of Sampoerna higher profile? What a worthwhile pro bono CSR project that would be! What about it chaps? Use your skillz to help the little guys!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

My Fantasy Football Team

Ronaldo's captain (even though he one of my least favourite players of all time!) but who'd bet against him this season after last?

Q: Why Am I A Feminist?

A: Let me show you what I woke up to today (and it's a pretty typical day).

Firstly there's a story about maid abuse, then there's an undercover exposé of prostitution in SE Asia.

Oh and this is another story I read a while back.

(I gotta write up some of my thoughts on prostitution itself one of these days...)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

3 Girls

Rush Hour 3

I loved Rush Hour 1 & 2. In fact Rush Hour 2 is probably my favourite movie of all time.

However I've been watching some trailers of Rush Hour 3 on YouTube. They are terrible!!

Movie studios may have own the rights to these movies, and obviously they want to maximise their profits -- but in the process they are sucking the life out of my favourite characters.

Ditto Spiderman 3, Pirates of the Caribbean 2 & 3.

TV series are no different -- I loved Desperate Housewives series 1, the following series are just turning it into a fantastically twee soap.

Lost series 1 was brilliant too - but it's turning into the X Files, there's no beginning, middle and end!! The mysteries will just go on and on and on, leaving me feeling unsatisfied and cheated. That's in contrast to something like Neon Genesis Evangelion, which had a proper ending after 24(?) episodes!!

I love Heroes series 1 - and I just hope beyond hope that series 2 won't sour my affection for all the characters - fat chance I reckon...

The sad part is, that I'll probably go along to Rush Hour 3, and sit through it. It will most likely ruin my love of Chief Inspector Lee and Detective James Carter... But however forlorn my hope is, I can't give up on them just yet.

It's the hope that is killing me!

Friday, June 22, 2007

My Brother's Blog

Seeing as I'm off on hols tomorrow and probably won't be updating this blog so much, you could always kill some time by checking out my brother's blog.

He's got some really funny posts in there.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Fantastic New Blog

Indonesia Prattler covers Jakartan high society. Very informative!

Strawberries and Slavery

It's almost Wimbledon time again - strawberries and cream are in the air - delicious!

Throughout the last week there's been many stories about slavery in China, for example here, here and here (I seriously doubt that such large scale slavery would be possible in Indonesia, unless Kalla gets in and goes the way of China).

As I have noted before, there is a big difference between desperate people working of their own free will in harsh working conditions, and people being violently forced to work.

It's one of my pet hates when I read stories where journalists confuse the two.

Working in poor nations is often very harsh, because life for many in those nations is /extremely/ tough. I wish it was different, but boycotting dirt cheap imports from China is counterproductive (link -- in German).

Meanwhile British strawberries are withering on the vine, because not enough immigrant workers are being allowed in to pick them. I am sure unskilled workers from Indonesia and China could earn at least the equivalent of their usual monthly wage /every/ day if they were allowed to pick strawberries in Britain.

It looks like strawberries will have to be imported en masse to make up for the shortfall - thank God for Mexican immigrants working on American strawberry farms!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Indonesians Don't Pay Tax

What complete and utter bullshit!

What about the millions paid in bribes to government employees?

Indonesians (rich and poor) are forced to pay more bullshit "taxes" than most other places around the globe. These government officials have some chutzpah.

Makes me want to puke!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

I Heart Jusuf Kalla

Kalla, the vice president of Indonesia, is the tops.

He's innovative - how to boost Indonesia's tourism industry? Last year he suggested that Indonesian women prostitute themselves to Arab tourists. Sex sells, so why not use it to sell Indonesia! Genius!!

That's old news.

Last week he was in China, waxing lyrical about his Chinese host's lack of democracy, and complaining about how every Indonesian has rights now.

"In the past seven years, we have been busy with so many problems, large debts, rallies, arson, problems related to democracy, disasters... And we've never thought of development leaps."


(Don't get me started his predecessor's "leaps" into the aircraft and automobile industries)

What are his specific examples of problems with democracy?

Citing the East Canal Flood project, he said most people would not sell their land at fair prices once they knew that infrastructure projects were planned for the area.


Personally I find that encouraging.

Disputes such as Meruya Selatan, Pasuruan etc. have /grown/ from an era where if you did have to get rid of a handful of villagers to enforce your "rights" over their property, you could with little or no problem - I wonder how many such disputes were widely publicised in Sukarno and Suharto's time?

Obviously we don't hear about all the minutiae of bad governance in Indonesia, but in China we have to wait for whole towns to riot, or reams of villagers killed by local police in order to get a blip of acknowledgment in state run media.

Indonesian politicians have never had it worse, little by little they and their cronies are becoming accountable. Finally there is a chink of light for the people in small communities across the archipelago.

Kalla is complaining about hard work - good! Now let's hope he doesn't try to make his job a lot easier if he wins the next presidential election.

And as anyone with a smidgen of economics knowledge knows, secure property rights are perhaps the most important determinant of economic well being. Something which the Chinese themselves are increasingly having to come to terms with.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Heroes

Ever see Taxi Driver?

Classic movie.

The "hero" of the film is a psychotic taxi driver. At the climax, by some fluke (if I remember correctly) he is deflected from assassinating a presidential candidate. His raison d'etre now evaporated, he goes on a suicide mission to save a young girl caught up in a brothel.

There's a huge shoot out and he almost dies. But in the end he saves the girl and is proclaimed a hero.

A friend of a friend of a friend just murdered another friend of a friend of a friend. Even though some believe that the murdered wasn't necessarily the better guy; posterity will probably remember him better than the killer.

How shocking and how fickle fate is.

As Philip Zimbardo says, heroism and villainy are banal.

Everyone is capable of both; and yet often so sickeningly self-righteous.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

RT2500 WPA Ubuntu Feisty & Gutsy Howto

I spent most of the weekend configuring my wireless card to use WPA wireless lan encryption.

Why? Because WEP encryption takes less than 2 minutes to crack. It's like leaving all your personal documents lying out on the side of the road for passersby to peak at.

Hopefully this saves someone's weekend :)

[Update: after upgrading to Gutsy I realised I forgot to mention that you should also remove the "network-manager" package - hopefully that'll help most to get things up and running.]

1) The "/etc/network/interfaces" file should look like this:
iface lo inet loopback
address 127.0.0.1
netmask 255.0.0.0

auto ra0
iface ra0 inet dhcp

auto lo
2)

[Update2: I have the "rt2500-source" package installed, suspect it may provide this file that some people said they were missing -- I haven't compiled the rt2500 module from source in about a year, so the stock Ubuntu module should work, there should be no need to compile it by hand]

The "/etc/Wireless/RT2500STA/RT2500STA.dat" file should like like this:
CountryRegion=0
WirelessMode=0
TXBurst=0
TurboRate=0
BGProtection=0
ShortSlot=0
TxRate=0
PSMode=CAM
SSID=ITypedMyASCIISSIDNameOutHereLikeThis
NetworkType=Infra
Channel=1
AuthMode=WPAPSK
EncrypType=TKIP
WPAPSK=ITypedMyASCIIPasswordOutHereLikeThis
3) Reload your network:
/etc/init.d/networking restart
You may have to reboot to reload the RT2500 module - not quite sure about that point...

The full documentation for the "/etc/Wireless/RT2500STA/RT2500STA.dat" file is below. I found the documentation in the README file of the original RT2500 driver source code bundle.
Syntax is 'Param'='Value' and described below.

1. CountryRegion=value
value
0: for use channel 1-11
1: for use channel 1-11
2: for use channel 1-13
3: for use channel 10-11
4: for use channel 10-13
5: for use channel 14
6: for use channel 1-14
7: for use channel 3-9
2. WirelessMode=value
value
0: 802.11 B/G mixed
1: 802.11 B only
3. SSID=value
value
1~32 ascii characters.
4. NetworkType=Infra
value
Infra : infrastructure mode
Adhoc : adhoc mode
5. Channel=value
value
1~14 depends on CountryRegion
6. AuthMode=value
value
OPEN For Open System
SHARED For Shared key system
AUTO
WPANONE For pre-shared key in adhoc mode
WPAPSK For pre-shared key in infrastructure mode
7. EncrypType=value
value
NONE :For AuthMode=OPEN
WEP :For AuthMode=OPEN or AuthMode=SHARED
TKIP :For AuthMode=WPAPSK or AuthMode=WPANONE
AES :For AuthMode=WPAPSK or AuthMode=WPANONE
8. DefaultKeyID=value
value
1 ~ 4
9. Key1=value
value
10 or 26 hexadecimal characters eg: 012345678
5 or 13 ascii characters eg: passd
10. Key2=value
value
10 or 26 hexadecimal characters eg: 012345678
5 or 13 ascii characters eg: passd
11. Key3=value
value
10 or 26 hexadecimal characters eg: 012345678
5 or 13 ascii characters eg: passd
12. Key4=value
value
10 or 26 hexadecimal characters eg: 012345678
5 or 13 ascii characters eg: passd
13. WPANONE=value - use for adhoc mode
value
8 ~ 63 characters
or
64 hexadecimal characters
13. WPAPSK=value - use for infrastructure mode
value
8 ~ 63 characters
or
64 hexadecimal characters
14. TxBurst=value
value
0: Disable
1: Enable
15. TurboRate=value
value
0: Disable
1: Enable
16. BGProtection=value
value
0: Auto
1: Always On
2: Always Off
17. ShortSlot=value
value
0: Disable
1: Enable
18. TxPreamble=value
value
0: Long
1: Short
2: Auto
19. TxRate=value
value
0: Auto
1: 1 Mbps
2: 2 Mbps
3: 5.5 Mbps
4: 11 Mbps
5: 6 Mbps //WirelessMode must be 0
6: 9 Mbps //WirelessMode must be 0
7: 12 Mbps //WirelessMode must be 0
8: 18 Mbps //WirelessMode must be 0
9: 24 Mbps //WirelessMode must be 0
10: 36 Mbps //WirelessMode must be 0
11: 48 Mbps //WirelessMode must be 0
12: 54 Mbps //WirelessMode must be 0
20. RTSThreshold=value
value
1 ~ 2312
21. FragThreshold=value
value
256 ~ 2312
22. PSMode=value
value
MAX_PSP Power Saving Mode

23. AdhocOfdm=value
value
0: Tx MAX rate will be 11Mbps in Adhoc mode.
1: Tx MAX rate will be 54Mbps in Adhoc mode.

24. StaWithEtherBridge=value
value
0: Disable sta with ethernet to wireless bridge.
1: Enable sta with ethernet to wireless bridge.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Gandhi on Jews & Middle-East

Link

Lazy Thinking

During the week one of my favourite bloggers referred to one of my posts about the Middle East.

[I have to admit I was quite proud, cos she is quite a sharp writer.]

However another blogger (DVP) having read her post, wrote up a rather biased, partly anti Jewish, partly anti-Israeli / anti-Zionist take on the modern history of Jewish peoples in the Middle East.

In my opinion, it dehumanised Jews and demonised Zionists. As my original post linked to an article which evenly humanised both Jews and Arabs, I thought DVP's work was particularly twisted and conniving.

This caught me off guard and has shown up my hitherto lazy thinking on the conflict. Apart from his simply racist remarks, he quoted histories which blamed Zionists for the repression of Jews that remained in their ancestral homes in the Middle East (i.e. Iraq, Egypt etc.).

My view had been that the creation of Israel was of course a factor of this repression and ensuing violence, that cannot be denied. You cannot displace peoples that lived on land for centuries and expect to live happily ever after. However the key point is, that Arabs had NO moral justification for treating Jewish people that lived in the wider Middle East so badly - no matter what was going on in Palestine.

Similarly, after 9/11 white western bigots have no justification for racist acts and taunts against Muslims in America, Australia and elsewhere.

-------------

Although I am angry at DVP's article, it has cleared my thinking on the issue. For that I am grateful.

It's a platitude, but as the old cliché goes; two wrongs don't make a right.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Trip to Indonesia

Last week I booked tickets to Indonesia!

So, I again join the stream of Bule looking for cheap hookers, pirate DVDs, crass Balinese tourist rituals, ego boosting cheers from kids and condescending mock empathy for really poor people. Let's face it, it's fucking great to be white in Indonesia!

Not that I am against this modern Meneer mentality, their cash goes a long way.

Well anywayz, in an effort to be 4 real this time round; back up my big mouth when it comes to all things RI; and rediscover my Madurese roots, I am going to learn learn Indonesian in Jakarta for a week (Madurese is way too tough for mere mortals like me!).

I still have to find a teacher, the less English the better.

For the other week, the plan is to go up to Medan and seek out THE best bika Ambon in existence. The stress on my heart from all that Bika Ambon will make other stresses (traffic, chatting up pretty warias and bird flu) pale into insignificance. That's the plan anyways.

Will probably end up in Kuta, learning Aussie, drinking Bali Hai. God I hate Kuta, it's like some kind of East West purgatory.

If anyone wants to meet up - drop me a line!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Gift And The Curse

I just read this post. I love Mr. Aroengbinang's pictures of everyday Indonesia.

I don't agree with the chief point though:

We just need to open our eyes to look around to see how lucky we are, and find more ways to help those fellow poor citizens of a rich country named Indonesia.


I reckon that many Indonesians live on under $2 a day /because/ of Indonesia's great natural wealth, NOT in spite of it!

Citizens of naturally wealthy countries are almost always worse off than those with few natural resources. Indonesia, Nigeria, DR Congo, Zimbabwe, Russia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia [The Happy Kingdom (c)] have phenomenal natural wealth, yet many of their citizens are relatively poor. [Of course there are outliers, like Norway and North Korea]

Why?

Number one, whoever controls the copper mines, oil wells etc. has enough cash to buy heaps more weapons than the opposition.

Number two, it's not in the interests of government to develop the nation's citizens. Why waste money on education, when all you need is miners and soldiers? Education is real a hindrance in both professions.

Indonesia's natural wealth is a curse.

I propose selling as much as possible of Indonesia's natural wealth to Singapore.

Those smug smartasses won't know what they're letting themselves in for. Indonesia's politicians, meanwhile, won't be tempted to ingeniously scam Pertamina etc., giving them more time to worry about Indonesia's human capital.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

SeXXX Laws

Last week this made me stop to think.

Your young daughters are raped, so then you force the /rapists/ to marry your daughters. Because your daughters are "soiled" and otherwise unmarriable.

This begs the question: what happens if a father rapes his own daughters!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

...

That reminds me of a case in Aceh where some police officer was caught in a "passionate embrace" with a lover.

Aceh has quite strict Sharia laws - the officer was desperate to get off without a bloody caning etc - so he claimed that this lover was a cousin.

Is it better to make love with cousins than unrelated people in Aceh? What about closer relatives? -- surely that'd be even /more/ legal?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

'We'll Bankrupt You'

Up to 6 Premiership clubs are threatening to bankrupt West Ham Utd, because they have illegally fielded 2 players this season.

One of them, Carlos Tevez, is in the process of singlehandedly securing West Ham's survival from relegation (worth a cool $120m).

The Premier league fined West Ham $10m dollars last week, but didn't deduct any points (which would almost certainly relegate West Ham).

The six clubs are looking to bankrupt West Ham by sinking them in millions of dollars of legal fees.

These sort of tactics are common in business all over. Businesses may not be able to out compete another, but they may have enough cash to bankrupt a competitor with legal fees.

Oh, and bankruptcy comes with a mandatory 10 point deduction in the English leagues.

Maybe clubs will increasingly look to win off the pitch, rather than on the pitch.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

All Consuming Charity

Charity these days is branded, prepared and packaged for the ultimate convenience.

Just as we buy convenience microwavable food, we can now buy that charitable feeling.

Years ago you had to have some personal contact with the needy in order get that selfless fillip to your ego. Now you can keep the needy at arms length - at the other end of a long, long supply chain of professional charity workers.

Fair trade is just the natural conclusion of charity in consumerist societies.

No need to worry about being near smelly bums at StarBucks. Just flirt with the pretty waitress, surf on wifi, drink coffee and save the world.

I for one, love it!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Poor Genii

Apparently a UK charity recently lost £16m (~$32m) in an entrepreneurial misadventure.

Obviously not all charity workers are conmen, some like Age Concern are just incompetent; fact is, it's very hard to know whether charities are run efficiently.

The Charity Navigator site does go some way to alleviating this problem, by analysing financial data and ranking according to the proportion of total donations which go directly toward helping the poor.

Unfortunately analysing costs does not help one understand how much benefit is generated through a charity's work -- it may have high admin costs, but it may also be more savvy at allocating funds to those who really need it.

Even if a charity is very efficient, it may in fact do as much harm as good.

Charities can attract those borderline needy, who might actually be able to support themselves with a bit of hard work and diligence. Therefore they may suck people into dependency and out of self sufficiency. Charities can also do untold damage to well functioning markets, for example crowding out existing for-profit businesses which supply a portion of the needy with goods and services.

Such crowding out is less likely in developed countries, because the needy are generally those who find it difficult to function in society (e.g. the mentally ill) and therefore rarely participate in markets anyway. In the developing world, crowding out can have a bigger effect, because the needy are nevertheless often fully involved in society or at least fully capable of involvement.

Mr. Yunus has gone some way to circumvent these problems.

Mr. Yunus founded the Grameen Bank which focuses on lending money to poor people. It is a for-profit, self sustaining organisation. Micro-finance is a great innovation in itself, but the real slam-dunk idea is much simpler.

The Grameen Bank pulls the poor out of the cracks between the meshes of markets which sustain us all, by supplying them a product. It welcomes the poor back into into a respectable, self-sustainable life.

[But, why stop at microfinance? The single biggest market for all sorts of goods and services in Indonesia (the poor, 40 million people and rising) is still largely untapped.]

Social capitalism may be the way to improve the lot of the tired, hungry and wretched, because it helps unlock the genius of the poor themselves.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Charitable Black Holes

Charitable organisations (charities, governments) help those that fall down through the cracks found between the meshes of markets which sustain most of us in our daily lives.

The problem found when charitable organisations work in these cracks is that there is a strict dichotomy between those with the needs (the poor) and those with the means of need fulfillment (the donors).

Normally those with needs also possess means of fulfillment. For example, if I feel in need of a holiday, I can fulfill that need by booking a ticket to Manado; if I feel hungry I will order a Chinese or Italian meal, and so on. If a poor housewife in Jakarta needs to pay hospital fees she may not have the wherewithal to fulfill that need.

I, as a well-off person (by some standards) could fulfill her need, but have no idea of the desperation she may be in. Even if she stopped me, explained her situation and asked me to help; I wouldn't really know whether she is for real or whether she is just a good con-artist with a villa up in Punjak Pass.

Charities may have a better idea, but they are merely middlemen. The donors are still separated by a firewall from the needy. I may donate money to a charity, but I have no idea what good my donation is doing. Generally, all I have to go on is a hailstorm of marketing which the best charities diligently provide and indulge their most important donors with (maybe the charity's directors are just suited con-artists with a good taste in BMWs and villas in Punjak pass). Contrast that to when I invest in a company, I need only to glance at how much the stock price has gained or lost since I purchased.

The needy live in the economics version of a black hole.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Meta Evolution

For quite a while I have been wondering whether evolution itself evolves, and how it might evolve.

Evolution is a way for lineages of organisms to adapt to their environments and search for better solutions to the problems which they encounter.

[Plants have found the golden ratio for example, which mathematically maximises the amount of sunlight they are exposed to. And needless to say most animals are mathematical and engineering feats of excellence in their own rights]

I also wonder whether organisms search for these solutions differently, and whether slowly but surely their evolutionary searches improve.

I read recently (Climbing Mount Improbable, Richard Dawkins) that there are areas of evolutionary search which are restricted by organisms. I.e. parts of search space are excluded a priori by the organism, because those parts would probably lead to unfruitful findings. E.g. mammals more often than not, do not evolve asymmetrical features, rather they evolve in a symmetrical fashion.

That idea is fascinating. Organisms contain information which tells them where it's best not to bother looking for good solutions to their problems, thereby focusing on areas where more fruitful solutions can be found.

I wonder how these evolution restrictions are found? And whether there is any fundamental rhyme or reason behind them?

Blossom

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Meritocracy in Economics

In general social sciences have less of a tendency to show characteristics of a meritocracy than the natural sciences. When a physicist puts up a great explanatory experiment or a new formula it may take some time until it is finally accepted in he research community but in the end it will be very difficult for anyone to refuse the new wisdom. Economics knowledge on the other is much more of a social product, which is born out of the interaction and consensus building of the top economists who happen to have their hands or their friends hands on what gets published and therefore on how scientific carreers become possible and what areas of research are important. Indeed in the field of economics it is much more important to be socially exposed to the consensus building (and at times consensus destroying) community of top researchers than in other disciplines.
I think that it is difficult to find another profession where the ratio of professors teaching at the top 20 research universities, who have also earned their PhD exactly from one of these top 20 research universities is as high as in economics. Not necessarily a sign of meritocracy in action.... But after all yes with hard work one can achieve everything, probably even in economics...


By this guy posted here.

The Largest Muslim Nation

I read it again and again.

Let me make this clear! Indonesia is NOT a Muslim country! And for good reason.

If Indonesia was a Muslim country, it wouldn't be Indonesia anymore, rather it would be called Sumava or Javatra (yeh, I know it's not quite as simple as that, but you get the point).

The founding fathers were a lot of things, but they were NOT stupid.

If Indonesia ever became a "Muslim" country it would cease to exist, evaporating almost instantaneously.

[What is a "Muslim" country anyway? Cak Nur famously said that the *USA* was closer to being an ideal Muslim society than most (every?) society which is known as Muslim. Something to ponder for all those who get worked up about Bintang Zero (0% alcohol) and Playboy Indonesia (0% flesh).]

Truly Inspiring

BHAKTI LUHUR

Disabled people are not sick.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

"When you think other people are stupid"

"When you think other people are stupid it is not a good quality"

-- Jose Mourinho on Sir Alex Ferguson

“Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.”

“Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.”

-- Barack Obama

Unfortunately later his spokesman had to backtrack (due to the US media outrage) [link].

How could any sane person disagree with that quote??

Agreeing on shared principles is a way to end the problems in conflicts.

There isn't a hope in hell of resolution when you cannot say something so obvious, true and simple.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Poisoning Google

Having a high ranking on Google can get your website lots of visitors and most importantly, make millions dollars.

People use Google because distills the best of the web for any topic you pick out of your head. When I first used Google I experienced one of those spine tingling moments where technology comes closest to pure magic - the best of the Internet was /finally/ at my finger tips!

Google's search results have degraded somewhat from the early days. Search engine optimisers (SEOs) have started to work out what makes Google tick and have crafted webs of websites within the web, designed make their websites /look/ plastic-surgery-super-model-attractive to the Google's search spiders, unfortunately they read like super-high-dumb-bimbos.

This upshot is that Google finds it difficult to differentiate between those websites which users will genuinely find interesting and those which it's search engine believes is useful for the user.

This, as you can imagine is a major headache for Google, the whole point of Google is that it filters out the spam, marketing, ad driven websites and only leaves the truly useful ones for you to browse through. In fact if Google couldn't filter out the dross from the genuine article it would lose most of its competitive advantage.

Google of course has been taking evasive action and has been stamping out on such "black hat" (from their view) SEO operations. They even have a blog up and run conferences specifically aiming to coax SEOs into more cooperative behaviour; they would like to convince SEOs that it's impossible to use covert methods to boost your ranking, and that user focused websites are are the only way to go.

Fundamentally Google is wrong (however they obviously have enough cash to make it complicated (and expensive) to use covert methods successfully).

Google are continually trying to refine a mechanism which will rank websites higher if (and only if) webmasters create better content for Internet users; i.e. there's no point trying to trick the search engine into it giving higher rankings, it will spot your tricks, and maybe even knock you off the ranking completely.

Economists have long known that it is always possible to manipulate all but the most simple mechanisms. I.e. it will always be possible for webmasters to undermine Google's endeavors to make sense of the web.

Does that mean you should sell or even short your Google stock anytime soon?

Probably not. Google has a lot of cash, and has been sinking wads of it into refining results in order to make successful hoodwinks very difficult (and expensive).

The problem for Google is: the better the quality of its results, the more users trust it; which drives up the value of those top ranked search positions, making it more temping for smart people to enter the SEO industry and create search engine optimisation algorithms which can systematically outfox Google and stay one step ahead.

[This article was part of my inspiration for this post]

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

North Korean Diplomat's Kids

North Korean diplomat's aren't sending their kids back home, going against orders from their supreme leader.

Apparently, only the most loyal to Kim get to be foreign diplomats, but even they seem to treasure their families' new found freedom over possibly terrible retribution if they ever get home.

North Korea is by all accounts a truly hellish regime; how long would it last if the freedom of movement was commonly recognised?

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Back to the Future

I saw the Sophie Scholl movie last night.

It's about young students in the German resistance movement during the second world war.

Obviously the film was written in the modern Germany I know and love. But in it Sophie Scholl and her brother crystalise the fundamental ideas and thinking that Germany is now built upon.

I know little about the Scholls, however they appear to have been way ahead of their time, and maybe one could say that they were founding members of the Federal Republic of Germany that we have nowadays.

--------------------

Suppose you could categorise good and bad people into those which are ahead and behind of their times.

The visionaries such as Martin Luther King, the Scholls, Gandhi, Wilberforce, Deng Xiaoping et al are like citizens of the future. They instinctively see the path to an enlightened, better future, and most importantly they realise it's a future worth struggling for.

The bad or evil like Hitler, Stalin, Soeharto, Soekarno, Mao et al are ensconced with past logic, ideals and morals, their dreams are basically old and antiquated.

Then there are the crazy which fall in between. Those that have dreams of futures now which us lesser mortals can't quite grasp.

I suppose the idea presupposes that the future is enlightened and the past is a more brutal, unjust place.

(Perhaps it's a typical white European view, I wonder would many Africans share my view for example?)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Uebergeek

I loved this first time I saw it a few years ago.

Sex and Short-Termism

I just read Miund's post which prompted me to write up an idea I've had for a while.

People are often (mostly?) attracted to someone by a first impression, a skin deep attraction, it could take many forms, but basically it's the person's "sexiness" (either just pure looks, some quick one liners or how he walks) that counts.

Being attracted to someone because they are sexy is the ultimate in short-termism. They may have a great complexion, but it might be a lot more trouble than it's worth getting involved with someone who will turn out to be a complete psycho.

And yet we all have this short-termist outlook built into us.

Superficiality is in business in spades. Sexy, short term, quick fixes are very often favoured over better thought out projects with larger longer term gains. Hence, people complain that businesses are too short-termist in outlook, and are blamed for ruining the environment (and everything else besides).

I ran across a nice model a while back that explained short-termism in business (can't remember exact reference). Quick fixes can be a lot less risky than longer term ones. Over a long time horizon all possible variables can change, therefore investing over the long term is very risky indeed.

(Obviously, if a CEO's average tenure is 5-10 years, they will also look to focus on getting results while they are still in office.)

Maybe relationships are similar? I see a girl, she looks attractive and I don't notice her saying anything too objectionable, in fact she seems a kind of nice sociable person. My mind (or heart) is working in the same way as a CEO would appraise a project. I'm not a psychiatrist, I won't be able to pick up signs of long terms problems. I'm not a geneticist, I won't be able to take a DNA test and see any future genetic diseases etc. It would be very costly (and booooring) to ensure a good long term decision - plus while I'm meticulously figuring stuff out another guy could win my potential long-term sweetheart ;). Moreover, most relationships last a few years tops and don't end up in marriage and kids etc.

So I make my decision on the skin deep stuff I can see instantly. Its' sexiness and superficiality that seals the deal.

Superficiality works also with interviews, because interviewers are only willing to expend an an hour or so each on probing the interviewee.

[Interestingly the same process seems to work when meeting people who've gone to ivy league schools, in my experience they'll let you know about their college within the first meeting. Nevertheless I have no real idea how smart they are -- they could've had a rich parent or a sports scholarship, or have taken home economics courses in order to get their degree.]

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sexual Apartheid

Maryam Namazie writes that veils are a form of sexual apartheid and abuse to women.

Yes some are forced to wear the veil, but many I am sure, do it genuinely voluntarily out of religious devotion.

I do believe that religion / traditional culture can often be more trouble than it's worth, but how would you separate a person from her upbringing and culture? How would you convince her that her deeply held beliefs are wrong?

Legislate for it? -- then you are going down the same road as Maoist China and other dogmatic states such as Saudi Arabia.

People should have the freedom to wear (and do) whatever they want, as long as they are not endangering others.

The fact that some are /forced/ and threatened into wearing the veil is a real problem, let's focus on finding solutions to that problem rather than getting sidetracked on anti-religious broadsides.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Democracy and Well Being

Rizal Shidiq wrote this the other day in the Jakarta Post.

Although it mentioned endogenous growth (don't ask) it brought up an important issue - what role does democracy have to play in economic growth?

Rizal referenced research which shows that democracy doesn't necessarily have much to do with economic growth.

However at their core both freedoms help people to cooperate together. Economic freedom minimises the costs that people have to endure to make a living for themselves and their families. Similarly, with democratic freedom, societies can cooperate together in order to set generally accepted rules of fair play, reducing the friction of individual's interactions (economic or otherwise).

According to Rizal, the links between economic growth and democracy are hard to identify; I suggest, that's because both freedoms fundamentally do the same thing, i.e. improve cooperation.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Probably the Best Programming Language in the World

I want to learn Erlang next.

Erlang is kinda cool, because it's functional and concurrent.

Functional programming takes up about 1/7th the number of lines as imperative (eg. Java, C etc.). That means more elegant programming and less numbers of lines for bugs to occur in.

Concurrent programming splits your program into threads. That means that one part of your program won't hold up everything else. Concurrency is normally quite difficult to do with traditional programming languages, which is why many programs still don't take advantage of machines with multiple processors (Core Duo etc.) or run one program on multiple machines over a network. Erlang (apparently) makes concurrency real easy.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

18 Songs


I'll send these songs (either by email or by post on CD) to anyone who cares to ask for 'em.

They sum up where I'm coming from (although not where I'm going to!).

Life and Fate's Whims

Sunday morning. I accidentally stumbled upon this elegy for Morgan Mellish, an Australian journalist based in Indonesia.

Morgan was flying from Jakarta to Jogjakarta. He was booked on Indonesia's most accident prone airline (Adam Air) but generously, Australian embassy officials offered him a ticket on Indonesia's safest carrier, Garuda. The Garuda plane crashed on landing and Morgan died in the crash.

Condolences to those that loved Morgan. He sounds like a truly inspiring, vibrant person.

-----------

This weekend I have been pondering quietly to myself about my own life. There has been nothing whimsical about my current thinking, it has to be calculated, I can't make a mistake.

But a nerve was hit when I read about Morgan Mellish.

How awe-full, complex, subtle and intricate causation can be.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Like Frogs Trapped in a Coconut Shell

So how does one sell freedom of movement?

Freedom of movement would, in my opinion decimate much of the poverty in the world. However free movement would also slash western living standards in the short term as the poor compete with westerners for jobs. Despite their rhetoric, western governments therefore have little or no incentive to open up their job markets and really help the needy.

Tossing this conundrum back and forth in my head, led to a rather dangerous idea (coincidentally a few days later I read this illuminating article).

Could Western governments open up particular industries to foreigners, while ensuring that new influxes wouldn't adversely affect the indiginous workforce?

For example, Ireland has little or no textile industry, it evaporated years ago due to expensive labour costs in comparison to the Far East. Ireland could import Indonesian or Chinese workers to help resuscitate the Irish textile industry.

The "imported" workers would receive much higher wages and working conditions than they could ever dream of at home (but still a fraction of Irish wages). Ireland would have a new textile industry which would employ locals in IT, finance, management etc. The Irish government would pick up 12.5% tax on all profits made (China's tax rate is 25%).

Overnight a re-emergent Irish textile industry could then compete somewhat with the Far East. Supply lines to markets in Europe would be much shorter, meaning quicker turnaround times and lower transportation costs. There'd be fewer communication and cultural barriers and most importantly /rock/ /solid/ legal certainty for investors.

There are many other advantages and possible beneficial side effects of such a partial freeing of movement.

I can't see any downsides (although am sure there are some). Can anyone point out major holes in the idea?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

'Smart' Rebels

American Generals admit that Afghani and Iraqi rebels are causing more problems than expected (surprise, surprise).

The rebels don't have very sophisticated weaponry and their numbers are only in the tens of thousands (there are about 140,000 American soldiers on the ground in Iraq alone for example).

But,

1) the rebels have a flat hierarchy, small groups aren't directed centrally, therefore the Americans can't knockout one central command

2) the rebels learn from each other /fast/

For example, if one group figures out how destroy American tanks or aircraft, they tape a "howto" and post it up on the Internet. Also, American soldiers have rules on when they can and can't shoot (rules of engagement) rebels learn these rules and keep each other up-to-date on changes, giving them a good idea on how their enemy will act in any situation.

The rebel's tactics evolve quicker than the American's, and in a meritocratic culture (what works best is used) similar to how open source software evolves.

America has more or less lost the military battle in Iraq (and possibly Southern Afghanistan) and I don't think they have the cultural nous to socially undermine the rebels and regain an advantage.

Although I have no affinity with President Bush et al, America losing Iraq and Afghanistan will mean a very bleak foreseeable future for both countries.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Ba’asyir on "Modern" Punishment

Abu Bakar Ba’asyir explains how cheap Sharia amputations are compared to imprisoning people, and that Sharia punishment is the way of the future.

As the spiritual head of JI (Indonesian al-Qaeda group) involved in the Bali bombings, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir was jailed for 2.5 years, but exonerated of involvement last year.

Ironically though, if Indonesia did apply Sharia, I doubt Mr. Ba’asyir would have been released at all, he'd probably be 6 feet under.

Pig Racing Protest Against Mosque

After reading repeatedly how Islamic radicals in Indonesia are endeavouring to take religious bigotry to new levels, it's refreshing to know that Texan Christian bigots are rising to the heights set by their Muslim brothers by creative means.

Locals of Katy, Texas are protesting the building of a new mosque by racing pigs around the proposed site.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Economising Freedom

Apart from the obvious good of emancipating people from evils and injustices; what have been the repercussions of emancipations?

Slavery in all its forms has had a certain evil logic which has locked in its victims and masters. No emancipation has come without a struggle.

The slave trade was abolished 200 years ago by Britain.

Through blood sweat and tears, slaves provided plentiful cheap labour in the capital rich colonies in the Americas, Africa and Asia; vertiginously growing enlightenment Europe's opulence and wealth.

What then was the logic behind the abolition of slavery? We would love to think that morality was a driving force, but in fact economics and power may have had a bigger influence. The British feared increasing slave revolts, which could have weakened its hold on its colonies altogether.

I don't have any idea on whether the abolition of slavery had any lasting adverse economic effects on British colonies, but tellingly, slavery (under different terms) lived on in other European colonies into the 20 century.

[Of course slavery survives today. Similarly, slaves are transported from capital poor countries to capital rich countries; but ironically because economic migration is illegal, desperate migrants voluntarily risk getting involved with trafficking gangs, and risk being caught up in sex slavery and other highly nefarious industries.]

Colonial independence movements, women's suffrage and African-American equality are all freedoms that had to be struggled for. Societies never grant rights and freedoms to oppressed people easily, because the oppression usually serves a important economic, political or social role within a society.

Freedom always comes with a cost.

Movement

I have one nascent, quixotic mission.

I own one belief, out of all the beliefs beings hawked around by snake oil merchants of various creeds and colours.

I believe that the freedom of movement should be a human right.

A human should be allowed to work or live wherever she chooses. Working and living peacefully should never be seen as wrong or illegal in any context.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Real China

2 in 3 Chinese graduates that have studied abroad never return.

That simple statistic tells you a lot about China.

How interesting it would be to collate and compare the same statistic across democratic and non-democratic countries (adjusting for GDP).

Lent

I am not eating meat for Lent.

Almost one week down, and five to go (no one told me that Lent lasts for 6 whole weeks, next year I'll do Ramadan instead, reckon it's shorter!).

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Crippled Capital and Crocodile Tears

Bob Geldof once said that extreme poverty in a world so affluent is an intellectual absurdity. He is completely correct. But why does extreme poverty exist?

I read recently that the 3 wealthiest people in the world are wealthier than the 48 poorest nations with combined populations of 600m.

Shocking, eh?

Another shocking example is Uncle Scrooge McDuck (Disney Duck Tales) a millionaire with *obscene* wealth -- his vault is a huge swimming pool of gold coins if I remember rightly.

Now, ask yourself what those 3 wealthiest people do with /their/ fortunes?

Most probably they invest 99% of their wealth in companies far and wide. Even if they save part of their fortune, a large proportion of their savings (as with all savings) will be recycled and invested into ventures by their savings bank.

So on the face of it these three /are/ obscenely rich, but they don't jealously hoard their wealth like Scrooge McDuck, it's put it to work and it in turn helps employ, educate and put meals on the table for tens of thousands (maybe a magnitude or so higher!) of people.

Obviously not much of this investment capital ever reaches those 48 poorest countries on earth. Why?

Contrary to common consensus, economics is an optimistic science. One of economics' main tenets is that the ratio of investment capital to labour should tend to even out across the globe over time. This is due to simple supply and demand.

Let's assume two broad production input categories. The first is investment capital, i.e. cash. The second is labour. Both are needed in varying quantities to produce output. The output is sold and the owners of capital and labour receive compensation for their efforts.

The returns to capital should be lower in areas with an abundance of capital, due to investors having to compete harder for investment opportunities. The same is true for labour, increasing labour supply drives wages lower, as there is less capital spread among more workers.

This gives investors an incentive to go to countries with an abundance of labour and workers to go where there are high levels of capital investment. This is precisely what we see in practice, for example, corporations look to invest in China which has a very low capital per person ratio, and Chinese citizens look to emigrate to Western countries with a high ratio.

The problem is that these flows of capital and people are being suppressed, resulting in boils and lesions of inequality and poverty.

Developed countries are mainly democracies, and the electorate want to stay affluent. To that end, they don't want too many immigrants competing with them for jobs, and they definitely don't want foreigners flooding their social welfare systems. On the other side they want to avoid capital going abroad, therefore they ensure that capital stays in their country by erecting barriers to trade -- i.e. a company can't expect to produce elsewhere and sell back in the home country without punitive tariffs.

Developing countries are beset with corrupt bureaucracies and dictators. In many cases this corruption is a form of legalised thievery due to corrupt legal systems. The risk is that high proportions of investment in corrupt countries are arbitrarily stolen from the investor. Moreover, capitalists within the developing country (who often have considerable influence and ties to government) may prefer not to have an influx of foreign capital in their country and look to create barriers to investment. These countries often subtly restrict emigration, or in extreme cases not so subtly, e.g. North Korea and Maoist China.

Most economists argue that freedom of trade will bring about a more affluent, more equal world. Freeing capital flows is only one part of the story however. I believe that the importance of the other half, that of freedom of movement has been woefully underestimated.

The kernel of the problem is that the "enlightened" plebs in developed democracies and the capitalist oligarchs of the developing world have forged an air tight cartel of wealth and power, which will lock out most of today's poor from peaceful, respectable lives for the foreseeable future.

Poverty /is/ intellectually absurd, but /our/ selfishness locks us and the poor into this status quo. The challenge is to find the courage and vision which can knock us out of this horrific equilibrium.

Labour Monopsony

[A "monopoly" of supply is called a monopsony.]

This article argues that labour market deregulation is bad for workers. Many unions (the world over) also make similar points.

When listening to these arguments one point should be kept in mind. There is a dichotomy between a nation's workers and its total workforce. In Indonesia just over half the workforce is unemployed or underemployed.

A more deregulated, properly working labour market would give a majority of the Indonesian workforce the opportunity to work hard and earn a decent living for their families.

One of the salient obstacles is that labour unions (who represent those in steady jobs) are better organised and have louder voices than the less fortunate majority.

The labour union's stance is perfectly understandable as their members are the ones with steady jobs, however their points are often disingenuous and one should keep in mind the broader picture.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Monopoly of Violence

All nation states are founded upon one core idea: the monopoly of violence.

The state strives to monoplise the use of violence within its jurisdiction.

Problems arise when a state loses that monopoly.

Examples of oligopolies of violence:

Iraq
Aceh
Bosnia
.
.
.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Honesty is Stupidity

Rarely do you hear the positive sides of corruption, you only hear the negative.

Corruption is merely a market for power. Some have power, for example traffic police have the power to punish speeding drivers (supply). Some need power, i.e. one can purchase a traffic cop's discretion when caught (demand) in effect he has purchased some of the cop's power. The bribe is the price of power.

Of course when you purchase or sell something, you should keep in mind the net profit of the transaction. The purveyor of power could factor in the cost of the sale, e.g. will he be punished by superiors? Could he lose his job? The buyer also has to think about laws on bribery and perhaps his own job would be on the line if his bribe was made public.

So as with any market, corruption only occurs when the transaction gives a net benefit to both parties.

If I get caught speeding in Mumbai I would be a fool /not/ to pay a reasonable amount to the traffic cop.

If I get caught in an embrace with an illicit lover in a Sharia jurisdiction, I and my lover would be idiots /not/ to buy our way out of some sort of corporal punishment.

If I get caught by police on Bali with a funky weed, I would be on a par with any Catholic or Muslim martyr if my principles didn't allow me to stump up some cash to the arresting cop.

In these situations being honest is clearly irrational. Honesty only becomes rational when trying to bribe an official will land you in deeper waters - otherwise be corrupt and be proud.

There are more subtle forms of everyday corruption. For example:

If I see pirated PlayStation2 games in Jakarta being sold at 100th the price they are sold in Ireland I would be completely bonkers to /not/ buy them.

If my sister sees a cute fake (but great quality) designer watch in some shopping mall in Jakarta, she'd be mad /not/ to snap it up.

If someone offers me some cheap cocaine in a club or a pimp offers me the chance to sleep with some hookers, and I (uncharacteristically) think I might give it a try -- why on earth shouldn't I? -- no one's ever going to know the better anyway! -- the chances of getting caught are minimal!!

Again, all these products and services are supplied and demanded. These markets are supplied by huge organised (criminal) industries, which drive corruption (and selected other vices). The industries in these supply chains are not any more moral or immoral than those who demand their produce, they are /completely/ rational in the societies we all belong to.

Complete honesty is irrational or just plain stupid. Moreover, in societies which are largely corrupt, even being a little more honest than average is irrational. E.g. being a bit more honest than your corrupt bosses will ensure you won't be promoted too often.

The rational response to corruption in corrupt societies is more corruption. What is needed above of all in those societies is bloody-minded irrationality.