Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I have been knocked down with a cold / flu virus for the past few days (what's the difference between a cold and the flu actually?).

Two things struck me.

It's been about 3 years since the last time I have been sick, you kinda forget how crappy being sick is.  I have been way too blithe when pals have told me they came down with typhus, dengue, measles or whatnot (really bad stuff).

Viruses are pretty smart.  Cold viruses are all about mind control.  They cause you to sneeze somehow and then find new hosts.  Ingenious.  I wonder how they do that?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Defending Indonesia's Corruption Record

A while back, I was lying in a hotel room in Bandung. BBC World business report was on in the background, when on came an Indonesian government representative.

Immediately I sat up. I am like that, being an Indonesia geek.

This Indonesian guy was promoting business in Indonesia.

Niceties over, the interviewer clobbered the Indonesian guy, with something like,

"Indonesia recently scored near bottom of transparency international's corruption index. That won't give international firms confidence in investing in Indonesia, will it?"

The guy floundered.

"We're improving yada yada yada"

"Doesn't look that way to me"

Needless to say it did not sound at all convincing.

Not that I like defending Indonesia's transparency international corruption ranking, but you could go about it as follows.

Transparency International reports on people's perceptions of corruption. Is it any wonder that Indonesians are more keenly aware of wrongs when they are reported on everyday in a mostly free manner. Indonesia has a problem, but at least its people are keenly aware of it, unlike many other places with lobotomised media (Singapore's Straits Times, anyone?).

It's a bit like Alcoholics Anonymous, you gotta be aware your problem before you can overcome it.

Countries with freer media will ironically tend to have worse Transparency International Corruption ranks.

Through a Glass Darkly

Over and over, pals tell me how Suharto era Indonesia was a safer Indonesia than present day.

Obviously you have to ignore the goings on in Timor Leste, Aceh and Papua during Suharto's reign.

You would have to forget how Suharto got going - by killing a cool half a million people or more. And how he went out, by sending thugs to rape and murder Chinese Indonesians.

Also, you would have to turn a blind eye to the Suharto incorporated mafia monopoly. He gave the license to one man, a thug called Yapto. Needless to say, Yapto is kinda like the Voldemort "he who shall not be named" of Indonesia today.

I have little idea whether the Indonesian archipelago is safer than it was 15 or 20 years ago. It's difficult or impossible for me to call. But I suspect it is difficult for most Indonesians to make judgements that go much further than personal anecdotes either.

Indonesia's press was locked down back then. Now, for better or worse, Indonesia has the freest press in South East Asia.

Perceptions count for a lot.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


I have heard that Israel's bombing of Gaza is partly due to the Israeli government wanting to show a hardline in the run up to elections.

But could Obama taking over in the US also be a factor? Would not be surprised.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Every year I seem to get sucked into year end nostalgia. Here's this year's dose.

Best song. Hold on to Yourself, by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. From the Dig Lazarus Dig!!! album. Just found out it's about escapologists (messrs. Lazarus and Houdini) based in New York. How fitting.

Best buy of the year. A pair of JVC marshmallow ear-plug-like earphones. They cost about 15 quid. Bought them in Dublin airport before heading off to the R of I on January 1st.

99% of background noise vanishes. I never walk on a plane without 'em now.

Best football match. Persija (Jakarta's biggest football team) v Persipura (from Papua, i.e. straight outta the jungle! ; )). The Persipura 11 were awesome. Eighty odd thousand Jakmania in Gelora Bung Karno were equally awesome though. Indonesian football is a relfection of the place. Once done right, I am sure Indonesian football will be huge! Thing is, it's pretty messed up at the moment. Thanks to the Jakarta Casual for getting me tickets.

I have read a few great books this year, less so now I am in New York and not commuting (I work and live on the same street). Things the Grandchildren Should Know is a book about Mark Everitt, the Eels frontman. I've never been a huge Eels fan, but it doesn't matter, it's mostly about his messed up life, family and how he loved them.

More to come!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Worrying about Genetalia

Pope Benedict is God's representative on earth.

He doesn't like gay people.

This guy loves to think himself as an intelectual. So obviously there's a totally rational reason for his homophobia.

It's genius, we never heard of this before, don't panic, but it's er... **HUMAN EXTINCTION**.

Shite!! It's the big one.

If only we had some totally non camp James Bond to save us from our gays. I.e. more Timothy Dalton than Roger Moore.

So there you have it, the world is turning gay, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mixing and Mashing

I think the Forum from the BBC World Service is now my favourite program on my favourite radio station.

It can be hit and miss but it's mostly pretty interesting.

By the way, anyone heard the recent interview by Alan Johnson with Ingrid Betancourt? I think it is the best interview I have heard in a long long time.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Birthday Present

I bought myself a D700 with a 24-70 lens last weekend.

I haven't had the chance to use it yet, but reckon it will be a phenomenal camera.

This was one of my first pictures with it (with minimal light BTW!!).

Thursday, December 04, 2008

I'm so tired Lyrics

I'm so tired... I'm so tired... I'll give you everything I've got for a little piece of mind!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Counting Yogi

Yoga has been banned by Muslims for Muslims in Malaysia.

I for one agree that Yoga should be banned, it's a corrupting influence on Islam from an alien civilisation.

Now that Malaysian Muslims have banned so much fun (and corrupting) stuff let's get past the frivolous things.

Let's ban Hindu numbers [the numerical system we use today]. This is an old chestnut, the numbers we use today were adopted by Caliph al-Mansur (i.e. well after the Koran was written).

It's a no brainer, the Koran doesn't say they are Halal, so let's play it safe, let's ban them and go back to something really old and safe, Roman numerals (taqlid is so hip nowadays and ijtihad has been out of vogue since about the 12th century).

"Roman" [papist] numerals not too good either, eh?

OK, let's scrap numbers altogether. They only distract us from praising God, counting with our fingers should suffice (unless your local Shariah court decides to chop some off that is).

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I celebrated my first Thanksgiving today with my flatmate's family.

I am really clueless when it comes to America, so lots was new to me.

Before dinner every around the table said why they were thankful.  What shot through my mind is how grateful I am for hospitality from people, many near strangers.

Wherever I find myself in the world I seem to fall on my feet.

Very grateful and repeatedly astounded.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Canon 5D Mark II

It's now shipping. Will it be another 50D? -- an autistic exercise, focusing solely on figures.

My dad (a Canon user) has already dismissed it as the old 5D body with a larger (and noisier chip squeezed in) not sure where he got that from, but also not sure how it can boast higher ISO quality than the 1DS MK III at the same resolution.

Where do the compromises crop up? Surely Canon won't cannibalise 1DS Mark III sales.

Pornography vs Paedophilia

Julia Suryakusuma writes some good stuff (well also a lot of drivel).  But this article is a good un.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I am becoming more and more of a curmudgeon.

More and more set in my ways.

For example, Linux, open source etc.  Linux was such a breath of fresh air to me coming from Windows back in the day.  I went from Microsoft spoonfeeding me a web browser, a chat client, a media player an effing operating system - to Linux - totally open, totally free, no horizons.

Whatever Microsoft dished out I had to take (I knew no better, I was content) coming to Linux was an epiphany (even thought it took a month to get sound up and running -- Luckily my W Virginian pal sent me Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson CDs to get me through, whenever I hear those songs i sill think of KDE2).

So has does this relate to my curmudgeonliness?  Apple.  Over the years I came to view closed source as something to shy away from whenever necessary.  Closed source just wasn't for me.  But I feel I kinda got lost in some internal anti-closed-source dogma.

I bought an iMac a few weeks ago.  It's OK.  In some ways it's better than Linux, and other not.  Thing is I have some kinda internal cognitive dissonance in my head about using OSX.  OSX is tempting for people like me, cos the internals are Unix and instantly convenient to Linuxers.  Plus you have things like Lightroom.  Still I feel uncomfortable...

Then you have the iPhone.  It's not all that expensive.  But I don't like the feeling of sinking so much cash into a phone that's locked down by Apple.  It seems like slipping back into the Windows bad old days, you accept because you don't know any better (or are locked into a 2 year contract).

So while I have an open mind about Apple (and even Windows) I love the open horizons of open source, the no strings attached do whatever the hell you want style of freedom that Linux gives you.  The Linux community is also awesome.

Maybe I am not a curmudgeon, I just value open source software and its community.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Camera Gear is so Heavy!

I am half thinking of buying some new camera gear, namely a decent lens (Nikkor 24-70) and perhaps a decent camera (Nikon D700).

Thing is that combination would be twice as heavy as what I have currently, my Nikon D40 and 18-200 lens add up to 1kg, the other combination would add up to 2kg. The D40 and 18-200 don't take the best pictures, but you can be assured of getting passable results in pretty much every situation. The 24-70's focal length would be limited.

Apart from the cost of the D700 + 24-70, I reckon there's a lot to be said for light equipment, then again at one stage the thought of lugging any type of SLR seemed like too much hassle to me.

Then again the end quality of pictures might be worth it, then again how can I justify something like this when it's just a hobby (I don't even take my camera out most weeks). Then again my money is only earning 0.1% in the bank over here at the mo.

There's also the AF-s 50 1.4, and the AF-s 105 2.8 macro out there, they would be even more limited than the 24-70, but I am sure they would be awesome lenses.

Decisions decisions...

I need to stop thinking about buying stuff, and get out there and take more pictures of this wonderful city!

[I suppose there'd be less need for carrying a flash around with me with the D700, the flash is 0.3KG+]

Pluralism and Bunkum

There is a fine line between pluralism and the approval of bunkum, and only a brave and foolish individual is always sure what lies on one side rather than the other. Pluralism is the mark of intellectual seriousness: recognition of the force of a wide range of arguments with which one does not agree. This intellectual tolerance is a rarer commodity than it should be. Both campuses and trading floors contain high concentrations of people with common values and views. The internet and the polarisation of the media have made it easier to confine your sources of information to what you already know, and the opinions you hear to those you already hold.

Artificial Holy People

Don’t hang on exclusively to any particular creed so that you disbelieve the rest, or you will disregard much that is good and miss the real Truth. Allah is omnipotent and omnipresent and is not contained by any one religion, for he says in the Qur’an “Wherever you turn, there is the face of Allah”

Ibn Arabi

[from Tere]

The Islam Card

It has happened in Ireland and it looks like it's the same in Indonesia. As long as you are seen as a "true" believer, people are afraid to touch you.

So recently in Indonesia, you've had the paedophile imam openly marrying a 12 year old. I saw a picture of him sitting beside his 12 year old wife, made my stomach churn.

Then you had public sorrow over the Bali bombers being executed, and proclomations of martyrdom.

Idiocy. Pure idiocy.

(HT to Triesti.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Indonesian Passport

I bought my Indonesian passport in January for 7m rups. It was either that or a Nintendo Wii, and well I thought I could by a Wii any time, but how often would I get a chance to buy a real Indo passport?

V handy, I use it as ID here in NYC instead of my Irish passport all the time.

Here's Dilligaf's / Jakarta Post's take on the Passport Office.

Monday, November 10, 2008

My Radio Station

In the past weeks I've just realised how cool is.

Check out my radio station, all the tunes I've listened to over the last 3 or 4 years are played on there, and they rock!! (for the most part ; ))


Street kid buskers in Jakarta. They're everywhere, and most are not that good, but as this video attests, there are some good un's out there.

Didn't a busker win Indonesian Idol recently?

Hat tip to Marisa.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Wrong Trousers

What's happening with Bumi Resources?

Here is what I've patched together. Anyone with any clarifications etc. please let me know! Hard for me to keep up.

So, Wednesday Mulyani gave the order to lift the suspension of the Bumi Resources stock. Then SBY overruled her.

Mulyani went ape shit, threatened to resign. The suspension was lifted Thursday. The stock dropped 10%, it was atomatically suspended again. Looks like they dropped another 10% on Friday.

So Mulyani got her way it seems. How interesting, look who is wearing to trousers in the cabinet now! Kalla and SBY must be quaking in their boots as Bakrie is their biggest electoral backer, but without Mulyani the Rupiah and IDX would tank leading up to the election.

Bakrie might have slunk around Sidoarjo intact, but he may well come off second best against Mulyani. A return to Suharto style crony capitalism will only hinder Indonesia would eventually dump the country into another Krismon; let's hope Mulyani gets her way!!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

African American?

Obama is as much white Kansan as African American.

Post election that's all I hear, the first African American President.

Big deal, get with the program, we have a white Kansan / African American president now, stop guffawing.

Obama is American pure and simple, in fact he sums up American aspirations like few others.

How effective a president will he be? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Pregnant and Single in Yogya

Interesting account of a single mother's pregnancy in Yogya.

Yogya, it's a university town, but pretty conservative (at least that's what I thought that the one and only time I ventured).

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The 'Hood

I never lived in a neighbourhood with so many TV camera crews, photographers etc. before.

Anyways, here is a rather wry picture taken around the corner from me : ) [by some AFP guy, not mine, too busy talking people down from ledges...]

Brings down the tone of the place, eh?

JCI Spreadbetting

Anyone know of a spread betting site that lists the Jakarta Composite Index?

MyIndo Meets Peter Fennema

One of the things you I love when I visit Indonesia is the pop music. All around the archipelago from Manado to Medan to Makassar you hear some great tunes (and some extremely dodgy ones -- like karaoke on the ferry from Banda Aceh to Pulau Sabang for example).

Fairy [ones of my fave bloggers] of MyIndo fame interviews Peter Fennema, who takes these songs and records his own versions of them -- which are bloody fantastic btw!!

Here Peter's a tribute to Chriseye:

Poverty in Bali

I don't know much about Bali, somehow I thought Bali was much wealthier than the rest of Indonesia. I suppose it could be a lot wealthier and nevetheless have child labour, which is kind of shocking.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Buying a Mac

Macs are pretty good value. Official Apple upgrades cost a bomb though.

I upgraded the RAM from 1GB to 4GB. 4GB cost me about $90. An extra 3GB upgrade from Apple would've cost $300. It was Corsair RAM (you don't get a better brand for RAM) and saved a cool $200+.

You could do the same trick with your hard disk or processor even. For example 1TB hard disks costs just over $100 nowadays, whereas Apple will charge you at least $250.


I got an iMac recently. And shock horror, I think I got some kinda virus!!

(maybe I still have it, but I seemed to have cured the symptoms for now...)

What it did was was change the DNS settings, which meant evertime i tried to login to gmail or Google it would redirect me to a site called wsearch.

Nice... Really nice....

I fixed it by manually setting up my network settings - deleting the automatically inserted dns entries and lookup domains, and entering sane ones.

I gotta switch back to Linux soon!! : )

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Spurs are Back!

"I thought I was David Pleat running up the touchline when Lennon scored," smiled Redknapp. "I don't usually do that. Mind you, I don't have a suit or shoes that colour. I just worked on the players' confidence."


Zero sum games occur when one person's gain is another's loss.

Certain pundits believe that harrowing losses in the finance industry mean that their ilk (socialist ideologues) and the poor (cos we all love the poor) will somehow gain.

This is wide of the mark.

Banks going under will directly hurt employees trying to support their families, and as a knock on effect, will probably reach into places like Indonesia and hurt the poor quite acutely.

Look at Indonesia's last monetary crisis in the 90s. Suharto's cronies were mainly hit in their pockets, while Indonesia's middle classes had to pull their kids out of college and its poor were left starving, many having to give their kids up for adoption, not a few dying in misery.

Few benefit from times like these, life will get very tough for many honest hard working people whether on Wall street or in the local kampung.

While some wring their hands in delight at the possibility of hand wavy new world orders, others are trying to put food on the tables for their families. Get real.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I haven't been following Indonesia much lately. But it i interesting to read in the Jakarta post that SBY is top of the polls again.

Interesting how a guy who hiked fuel prices is now back on top, huh? Not 100% sure what has happened in the intervening period, but the guy has guts. Think how powerful Suharto was for example. Hiking fuel prices were never a plausible option for him, cos he was scared shitless of the popular reaction (with good reason).

The Malaysian PM had a similar problem this year. SBY genuinely has a popular mandate however, and he's got real power - and now he's popular again too!


Fascinating article via Dilligaf.


After reading the latest of Brandon's musings on immigrating, I thought I'd jot down some of my own experiences and thoughts.

I've moved countries three times.

First time was ten years ago. After school I went to college in Germany. It was probably the best decision I have made. Ever.

At 18 I picked up so many experiences that I otherwise would never have done. Living in communist era dorms. Meeting up with people from all around the world.

A guy telling me about stories from his home Sierra Leone and his family in Freetown while rebels where at the gates. Spine chilling stuff.

Partying with Bulgarians all decked out with Matrix style sun glasses. Listening to old Russian folk songs played on guitar. Cooking up fake Indonesian dishes with cat food and passing them off as authentic at faculty culturual gatherings (there were v few Indoensians in my faculty, so we could get away with it :)).

Indonesian, Ethiopian, Indian, Ukrainian and Chinese pals sharing food with me. I'll be forever grateful for those meals and their friendship (not that I didn't cook myself) but sharing food is a deep thing. Maybe we fell out in the years since, and one or two in particular have good reason for falling out with me. But I will always be grateful for their kindness and their friendship especially in those early years in Germany.

Towards the end of college, I found myself getting bored of Germany. Nothing new. I was slightly bored, but also slightly worried. I would need to find a job. I taught English through that latter years of college. It paid well, I loved my colleagues (as I end up doing in all my jobs it seems) and things were comfortable. But I had no interest in pursuing teaching English long term.

I decided to leave Germany in 2005, and come back to a booming vibrant Ireland - a stark contrast to the situation in Germany. I found myself an OK job. Thing was I left my girlfriend behind. I met Tika on my second or third day in Germany all those years ago. We were great friends for years and later went out and lived together.

Well I never settled in Ireland. My girlfriend, my friends were all back in Germany. Soon Tika and I would break up acrimoniously, as sometimes these things work out. I never gave Ireland much of a chance. Things were tough. I was looking for a way out.

I had this idea that moving away from Ireland would change "stuff". It's weird. Cos when you think about it, moving geographically shouldn't really have an impact psychologically, but humans are weird things, and traveling to a new place can throw new challenges at you. Breaks you out of your fenced in thinking.

So one year, I told my boss I wanted to leave and work for a charity in Jakarta. He gave me a raise and I stayed. Next year I said I was leaving to work for some micro-finance research group in Jakarta. He offered me the possibility of a more interesting job and a move to New York.

And here I am. 10 years after my move to Germany. Living just off Wall Street. My colleagues and my two flatmates, other than that i know no one here.

First move was a good one. Second move at least in the short term may well have been a mistake. Third move, who knows, early days.

Just like my thoughts before the first move, I feel I have little to lose now - and who knows what I have to gain from my time in New York. I'll just have to wait and see I suppose. And if things don't work out here - despite my best intentions - maybe I'll get to live in Indonesia sometime soon.

Krismon II

Krismon II?

I reckon Indonesia is better placed than most to deal with this. It's learnt lessons from recent history -- which the US and Europe have yet to learn.

Mulia's Home

Mulia has been blogging on her travels, but now she's back it will be doubly interesting to hear how she copes in the Big Durian : )

Best of luck Mulia!! : )

Friday, October 17, 2008

New York 2

So last time people were astonished that I am in New York now. None more so than myself.

What am I doing? Working a hell of a lot. I am a financial risk analyst, so business is very good at the moment.

I am also eating too much take away food, in the office.... Not soul food, definitely not good for the soul...

Plus I am in the enviable position of having an apartment on 5th Avenue (soon to be given up, it's a corporate place) and a place off Wall Street at the moment. Still find it weird to be here...

I know so little about New York and the US in general, lots to learn and figure out!!

Hopefully I'll post up some pictures of last wknd's trip to San Francisco soon also, keep your eyes peeled! : )

Sunday, September 28, 2008

New York

Been in New York almost a week.

It's a much more laid back and friendlier city then I thought it would be.

Things are also smaller than I imagined. More bitesize than I imagined. I like it.

Just hope I get my own flat soon!! : )

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Girl in a Jilbab

A while back I admitted to dreaming about dating a "Jilbab girl".

Well, lo and behold, not long after posting, a girl asked me whether I'd like to go out with her!! : )

Her name is Tata, she's very sharp and not a little pretty.

We actually went on two dates while I was in Indonesia. Firstly to a discussion on homosexuality and spirituality which was organised by the Jakarta Q! festival at the Goethe institute in Menteng.

The people there were really friendly and welcoming. Only difficulty was that I am a straight atheist whose Indonesian wasn't up to scratch. But I got some good vibes from the whole meet up, and reckon that those events really help the participants that struggle with these issues.

Next date we tried to go bowling, but all the lanes were booked out. We ended up having a bite to eat, a juice and a Guinness (it's weird, but I think I'm starting to prefer Indonesian over Irish Guinness ; )).

I gotta say, apart from being excellent company, good fun and forthright; I was grateful that Tata took the time to talk a little about the whole Jilbab culture, what's expected of Jilbab wearers and why. It's certainly not always easy, but I suppose that's the point - if it was easy to wear and give that much commitment, there'd be little point to it.

Avoiding Crises

Last week the US government brought 50 percent of the US mortgage market under its wing by taking control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In effect the US government is to spend billions of dollars on propping up the US real estate market and US financial firms which are tanking.

This is a colossal disaster which US tax payers will pay for for generations to come.

Could this have been foreseen, and if so, could something have been done to head of such a huge disaster?

Probably not.

Too many people were earning too much money from the profligacy and many /very/ smart people were backing them up saying that their business models were mathematically water tight. It reminds me of the emperor's new clothes story.

Hiroshima was another case. Air forces flattened many cities before Hiroshima, thing was it was only sometime after Hiroshima that people fully realised that the whole earth could be wiped out by a handful of these nuclear bombs.

Could 9/11 have been stopped due to some far sighted official looking for more stringent passenger checks on airlines, and foreseeing the possibility of a "plane bomb" scenario?

Many people did actually foresee such crises, but groups of people are slow to change, more often than not reacting after the horse has bolted.

Pearl Harbour, Hiroshima, krismon, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina; all completely preventable and yet pretty much inevitable due to people's mindsets.

The next 9/11 or krismon will also be preventable but it will be almost certainly something very different from what went before, and will slip through the cracks, nothing will be done until it's too late.

We learn history so we do not make the same mistakes made in the past, however often it is learnt too well.

Why Do I Like Living In Indonesia?

Well I never lived there, but Ausdag does, and his post hits on some of the vague but strong feelings of affinity I have with the place.

Green activists 'are keeping Africa poor'

An interesting read.

When it comes to food there's often a science-cynical attitude, e.g. GM, artificial fertilisers, preservatives etc. Sometimes this attitude is deserved, often I suspect it is not.

Indonesia's green revolution in the 70s was acclaimed for providing cheap food to the masses, nowadays it's often seen as a chemically fueled binge.

There's a balance to be struck, but many people can't afford to be overly conservative when it comes to adopting new food technologies - especially when it comes to filling empty stomachs.

Saturday, September 06, 2008


I receive quite a few comments about this blog via email, cos quite a few of my pals are kinda paranoid when it comes to the internet and having their opinions online.

Maybe I'm too naive, but so far, having a little bit of myself up on the net has led to me meeting up with so many great people, so far blogging has only been good to me.
Main Bank of China Is in Need of Capital.

Wowzers! Who saw that coming!

If you are shocked by that, find some comfort in Indonesia's central bank frittering away its money sending people to do the Haj.

I don't think anyone would care too much, if Indonesia's department for religion wasn't one of the most corrupt corners of government.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A Case for Luddism

Visit Indonesia, and there's one thing that pops out at you. People, lots and lots of people.

Buy a plane ticket for example. One person books the flight, one person swipes the credit card and one person painstakingly writes the details of your ticket onto the actual ticket. Oh and one or two other people sit in the background chatting or whatnot. Fascinating. In Ireland one person could do the whole lot in about the same time or less.

Let's take the "human printer" though. She spends her day carefully jotting down details into a ticket. It begs the question, wouldn't it be better for an employer to buy a cheapo Lexmark printer and do away with her services?

Probably not. Indonesians are pretty cheap to hire, and try asking a Lexmark printer (in painstakingly polite machine code) to fill in as a Visa card swiper!

Many wealthy Indonesian families have maids, drivers, gardeners, nannies etc. etc. Actually on the grand scale of things you don't have to be too wealthy - as servant wages are less than €50 a month (probably significantly less).

In the Ireland we don't do servants, we do microwavable meals, robotic lawn mowers, internet connected fridges, webcams in nurseries and auto-piloted BMWs. In other words we come up with ever more ingenious ways to make our busy lives more convenient -- as long as the batteries don't run out and the operating system doesn't crash.

People in Ireland (and most Western countries for that matter) are missing something -- your brand new coffee maker isn't going to make you freshly squeezed orange juice on a hot summer's day. And you feel like waffles? Well your gonna have to ditch your George Foreman - cos your house is probably already full of these bloody high tech gadgets!!

I'm a geek, the best technology to me is indiscernible from magic. That's why I love coding up small bits and bobs. However, a cook will serve infinitely more delicious meals than a microwave, and a maid will do a much more thorough job at ironing and folding shirts than any number of neural network controlled robots you care to throw at the problem!

I reckon Indonesian servants could earn at the very least 10 times their salary in Europe than at home, it's a such no brainer. Unfortunately Europeans are slightly dim when it comes to thinking outside the box and outside of Europe.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Liverpool FC

1) Rafa Benitez is the new Gerard Houllier

2) Liverpool is a player graveyard. Most talented players that go there, go on to do nothing much really

3) Robbie Keane is the new Dirk Kuyt

Just spotted this story from the Guardian too.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Got my US work visa yesterday.

Everything was a breeze. My interview, docs submissions at the embassy took 10 minutes all in all. Then it took a day for them to return my passport.

Ultra efficient.


Started crossing roads here Indonesian style.

Just start walking into the road, arm up. And... am still alive!!! It's good to keep the Indo-road-crossing-skillz up, but probably not good for my long term health ; )


If my last trip to Indo was being adapted for a movie, the theme would b cynicism. Indonesian's are soooooooooo cynical toward each other (or maybe it's just my pals(?)). It's a pity, cos, to be honest in all my times going to Indo, I never had any problems...

Maybe it's like all the people who loudly thanked god for so generously saving them from the Titanic; but of course most passengers died grim deaths. The corpses, unfortunately, couldn't enjoin god's praises.

Nevertheless such high levels of cynicism in any society are very unhealthy, no more trust means no more society, community etc.


Therry has an excellent post up! The best I've read so far from her!

Lalita - Beautiful Converging Paths: Accident, Hospital and The News .. in Indonesian way

Lalita - Beautiful Converging Paths: Accident, Hospital and The News .. in Indonesian way

/Shiver/! So now I shouldn't trust Indonesian Docs OR the Jakarta Post!?? What is the world coming to...

McDonald's Burbur Ayam

It don't exist. Everyone knows that!!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Aceh Post

Am whiling away time b4 going to Bandung... Zippo inspiration for a blog post, but not much else to do at the mo...

Just got back from Banda Aceh. As I said previously it's expensive. There's more jilbabs around than other places in Indo, less beer, funny names for stuff (lili is angkot for example) but at least it's superficially similar to other parts of Indo...

Went to the Raya mosque, and a gay guy asked for my number -- surprising in the Sharia part of Indo eh?

Asked a waitress to recommend a drink (all non-alcoholic on the menus up there) and she suggested Bintang (nice!).

All the Independence day paraphernalia was out in force. They held their parade on Wednesday instead of Sunday though (why??).

Quite a few backpackers about. All looking quite nervous and smelly with their greasy and or dreadlocked hair. Not a fan of the backpackers.

I went to Sabang island. It's a vv beautiful place! I took an executive VIP boat over, the girl sold it to me by saying that there was karaoke, tidur and snack on board. Think was the comfy seats were also next to the megawatt karaoke machine.

Once I got to Sabang I realised however that there were no boats back for the rest of the day. Got a real bad sinking feeling, cos my flight back to the big durian was the next morning. So I raced over to the other side of an island and rented a fisherman's boat for the 3 hour trip back to Banda Aceh.

The views from from that little 5 or 6m boat which circumnavigating Sabang islands were truly phenomenal. I was nervous as hell, not knowing what the waters might be like, and never having had much to do with the sea -- I can't even swim!! The captain / fisherman just puffed away on cigarette after cigarette hand on the rudder. Probably a veteran arms smuggler or drugs trafficker for GAM I thought.

When it got dark, I could see lighting storms on the left and right of us. The milky way was clear up above. Got an odd splash of water. The trickiest part was finding the right part of the harbour to anchor off. Banda Aceh harbour is segmented into 4 or 5 parts. We went into one segment after an other, not sure how the fisherman knew which was the correct one, but eventually he sai "Allah, Allah [something soemthing]" and I knew we'd hit on the right part.

Luckily a becak was close by and I got back to my hotel wedged in next to another passenger. Drank a really nice can of Bintang beer and probably the best Satay I've ever eaten back at the hotel.

I should've taken pictures, but I don't think they'd have done Sabang justice. It's a must see place! Just take care of the bloody ferry schedules!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Just arrived in Aceh. First thing that strikes you is that it's a couple of times more expensive than anywhere in RI.

Answers on a postcard pls!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Seks Gratis

Free sex, free sex, free sex. I hear it again and again in Indonesia.

It's interesting, cos although it sounds like an English phrase, but I don't think I've ever actually heard it spoken in Ireland.

So I hereby request all Indonesians, to say something like "seks gratis" instead - my Indonesian is awful, so feel free to suggest a better phrase : ) Seks gratis is an Indonesian hang-up not a Western one, so stop using English to describe it!! : )

Paid-for-sex is actually the more important issue here (because of rather than in spite of this seks gratis taboo). Theoretically I have few problems with prostitution, what I do have a problem with is all the heinous trappings that often come with it. Yet free sex hogs the mind share. Bonkers. Talk about not seeing the elephant in the room.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Discriminative State and the Compulsory Faith

When it comes to religion I'm highly sceptical. Very fscking highly sceptical in fact!

But it's still interesting, cos so many ppl are wrapped up in the large knot of beliefs which some people call religion and others call insanity.

Anyway, this is an excellent article about Islam, by an Islamic scholar who (to my mind) seems to know his stuff.

No More Foreigners in malaysian Football

Jakarta Casual has the deets.

Another example of Malaysian officialdom's wrong-mindedness. I'll bet anyone €50 that the ban lasts no longer than one season.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Papua Compo

Great post about Papua. Kinda Coasian (if I remember my economics correctly...).

Dumbing Down Doha

World trade talks have failed.

Basically lotsa countries get together and "try" to strike a deal which frees up free trade.

Thing is, getting so many countries to agree on such a deal is nigh on impossible -- especially when countries like France and Italy start meddling.

Multilateral trade agreements end up being one of two things, a stalemate where nothing is actually agreed, or a watered down waste of everyone's time. And they're done this way on purpose so the EU and the US can say they're open to free trade and inclusion on the one hand, but knowing that things will be too tough to disentangle.

Bilateral agreements are the way to go -- such as the one recently struck between Chile and Indonesia.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Jilbab Thing

OK, big confession here. I always wanted to date a girl that wears a Jilbab!!

Dunno why. Unfortunately they're real thin on the ground over here, other than some nerdy malay students that is...

Monday, July 21, 2008

White Wedding

Marriage is like starting a hard drug habit.

A friend of mine was bemoaning her marriage the other day. She said she didn't marry her "true love" cos of religion, now it sounds like she's in a loveless marriage. Maybe it'll get better, maybe worse, who knows. End of the day, I feel real sorry for her.

In the UK 40%+ of marriages end in divorce. What a number eh? Now some of you may say, that the UK is a real liberal country and that maybe people divorce too easy; but then I may say that there are still loadsa couples that stay in unhappy marriages cos of their kids etc etc. So I suspect 40% of unhappy marriages hits the mark just about right.

Somehow I don't think the unhappy marriage ratio in Indo would differ too much from the UK, it's just harder to measure cos I suspect divorce is kinda taboo.

Starting out, most of those 40% of couples probably feel they have a good a chance as any, relationships are complicated things, NO couple knows whether they'll be one of the 40% or not; and whether they'll open themselves up to some of the most harrowing experiences people can subject themselves to.

It's like trying hard drugs for the first time. Maybe you want to experiment just once (or twice) yada yada yada, but that's how terminal addicts started off too. I wonder what percentage of experimenters ruin their lives through drug use? 5%? 10%? 20%?

Marriage or experimenting with drugs is basically the same problem, you may have the best of intentions, but so did all those miserable couples and all those wretched junkies on the streets.

All I can say (as a hedge fund risk analyst) is bon chance!

Remixing Culture, Design & Technology

Interesting job for someone in Indonesia!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Australia's Role in Indonesia's Independence

[David's published this on his blog, go over there and check it out!]

[I'm republishing a blogging pal's post. Not sure why you deleted it D, but I read it, and thought it should be out there.

By the way, although some ppl probably find it uncomfortable, as far as I am aware it was the US who was THE big backer of Indonesian independence. Without the US things could've go on longer and been much bloodier -- having said that I am no expert.]


Back in 1999 at the height of the troubles in East Timor over its vote for independence, I posted a request on an Indonesian Studies mailing list for information about Australia's role in Indonesia's struggle for independence. I received the following reply from one Waruno Mahdi who was five years old at the time and communicated some of his memories -

there was both an official and an inofficial role of Australia, but I unfortunately do not have the literature sources, mostly fragmentary memmories....

Official: On July 39 1947, Australia and India brought the question of the situation in Indonesia before the UN Security Council. The Australian representative stated, that his country considered that "the hostilities in progress in Java and Sumatra constituted a breach of the peace under Article 39 of the Charter..." and proposed that "the Security Council should call upon the Governments of the Netherlands and the Republic of Indonesia to cease hostilities and to settle their dispute by arbitration in accordance with the Linggadjati Agreement" (UN Department of Public Information Research Section Background Paper No. 58 [ST/DPI/SER.A/58], Lake Success, New York; see there pp. 2-3).

Considering that hostilities had resumed as result of a renewed Dutch "police action", the Australian and Indian initiative in the UN had the effect of profiting the Indonesian side.

I have no concrete knowledge of Australian territory being directly used as base for outward communication from Yogya (provisional capital of the Republic), but seem to vaguely recall having heard something about a Catalina (an amphibean airplane) flying to-and-fro to Darwin (breaking the Dutch blockade). What I do know for sure is only that we had Dakotas (DC-2 cargo-and-passenger planes) flying likewise through the blockade to Manila over an eastern route, and to Bangkok in roundabout route over the Indian Ocean with stop-over in Medan in Sumatra. The pilots of the Dakotas were American volunteers. Those that got shot down (most were shot down, typically over Sumatra, where they were easy prey for Dutch Spitfires based in Palembang) contributed their lives for the cause of Indonesian independence. Who flew the Catalina, and what happenned with him I don't know.

Inofficial: Australian dockers (particularly, if I remember correctly, in Melbourne) boycotted Dutch ships. This must have been around 1948. I remember my father taking me on his lap - I was 5 years old then - and showing me a newspaper with a large photo of a freighter at a pier and telling me that people in many countries were helping us in our fight for independence. Later when I was older I saw that picture again in some publication, and it was a Dutch ship at an Australian pier, being boycotted - at 5 years my grasp of geography had been somewhat hazy...... (hence, when Aussy dockers boycotted Indonesian ships in solidarity with East Timor recently, that was in faithful continuation of a long and laudable tradition).

I gather, however, that your present interest is motivated by recent anti-Australian remonstrations in Jakarta in connection with developments in TimTim. That's very good of course, I mean both in being concerned about sustainment of Indonesian-Australian good relations, and in contributing to enlightening the remonstrators....., but essentially one needn't be too upset or worried about them.

The Army is kicking a tantrum for having been rapped on the knuckles, and in a frantic all-out campaign to save face, it is mobilising every trick it has up its sleeves. This includes spreading disinformation about Australia to impressible youth gangs, and particularly hiring demonstrators for money. But the period of Soeharto-style total censorship is thank goodness behind us for good. Indonesians are now exposed to a free press, and military propaganda lies sooner or later get exposed for what they are.

Indonesian relations to Australia have a much too deep footing, to be so easily disrupted. For people of my father's generation, who experienced World War 2 and took active part in the Perjuangan, our fight for independence, Australia is our back country, the last retreat. Even today still, my mother cannot listen to "Waltzing Matilda" without flutters in the heart. That had been the signal tune of Radio Australia during the period of Japanese occupation, when just listening to it could earn one the death sentence if one were caught.

To be frank, it very much hurt my feelings of propriety, when official Australia solidarised with Soeharto Indonesia's occupation of East Timor. So, you can imagine that I feel particularly gratified by your present engagement in helping keep the peace there. It's indeed more than just keeping the peace in East Timor, it's also contributing to the re-establishment of democracy in Indonesia itself. So we owe you our thanks for that.....

Monday, July 14, 2008

How to Look Good Naked

For all those average Indonesian women out there with low self esteem may I suggest checking out this show: How to Look Good Naked!

Weird show, I thought there was enough naked women with low self esteem on Playboy channel etc.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

So Special

Indonesians think they're so special.

I suppose it's like lots of countries (it really irks me when an Irish starts say "we are a blah blah ppl" - gaaaahhhhhhh!) but Indonesians are really really good at thinking they're special.

Indonesians think Indonesians are real unfaithful - Indonesian guys and girls, man have I heard some stories!!

Indonesians, think Indonesia is reeeeeeeeal dangerous. Visit mean parts of any major European city (esp if you're not the right colour).

And what about food?? Let's face it, everyone that wasn't brainwashed by Masakan Padang from a young age, prefers Thai! :P And Rendang is MALAY! I have 5 bottles of Sharwoods MALAY Rendang sauce in my kitchen.

And onto Indonesian women again, why do Indonesian women seem to rate themselves so highly? They're average.

Also, what about the spooks? Indonesia is a special place that has all sorts of magic and spirits. But step off the plane and onto European soil and 99% of them vanish into thin air!

Oh yeh, and to all the hardcore Muslims and Christians out there, your religion is about as special as scientology or zoroastrianism take ur pick.

What about Pribumi? Many Pribumi think that they have God written deeds to the seas and lands of Indonesia. Well dudes, interestingly enough the term pribumi was first coined by the Dutch ( Your whole concept of fucking specialness was given to you by Belanda! Hahahahaha. How ironic is that!

You think you're so corrupt and dishonest. I've been lucky enough to have been put up by many Indonesian families, many I didn't know that well, all shown exceptional hospitality. I have buy stuff of street hawkers and get /exact/ change back, even when it's only a couple of hundred rups.

There's good and bad everywhere. Indonesia ain't so special. Gotta say I love the smell of kretek tho.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Transferring Money to Indonesia

How is it done, when transferring from Europe?

My bank needs IBAN and BIC of receiving bank -- but Indoensia only has Swifts.

Anyone have any ideas? (would love to avoid Western Union if poss!)


Church is the most segregated part of American life. Martin Luther King.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Maid Men

Aren't maids in Indo allowed boyfriends??

I've heard a few times now about altercations involving maids having boyfriends...

What a joke. Sounds like 19th century fsking Ireland!

Also, I remember when the Clinton administration left the white house, they removed ll the W keys from the keyboards. Hilarious :)

But that's sort like the average maid in the average expat's house I reckon. You are not providing steady employment, expats are here today and gone tomorrow like the drop of a hat.

Mayb making it clear that u'll go to some lengths to recommend and place employees with good families in the future might help all parties involved...

Ok, I have no experience with servants, but I thought I'd give my two rups FWIW, cos I see the same bloody things happening over and over...

Saturday, June 28, 2008


I hate Cds.

They take up way too much space.

They're garish 80s throw backs.

Audiophiles hoard 'em. They say they love the artwork. Hello?!? The "artwork" is postcard sized. And most sane ppl only look at the artwork when u buy the thing anyways.

When you got a lot of CDs it's often quicker to download a particular song than searching through your CDs.

They're expensive!

A lot of albums got a lot of fillah, which puts you off listening to the whole album.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Dilligaf has a good summary of this weeks scams in Jakarta.

I never believe that u could be hypnotically pick pocketed BTW... Maybe craftily pickpocketed, but not hypnotised just like that out on the street.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Coldplay's New Album

I've just started listening to it. It's vv promising!

death and taxes

i just looked at this month's payslip today...

this month, income tax + social insurance = is about 30% of my wage...

so that means i get 70% of what my company pays me...

then pretty much everything i buy in ireland has 21% VAT on it...

that means at the end i have about 0.7*(1-0.21) = 55%

so 45% of my worktime is spent working to pay for lazy civil servants, and other assorted bumbs.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Gang Warfare at Citos

All of the above aside, one item which worried me was the fact that one of Jakarta’s busiest Malls was the site of a gangland turf war with members of “Basri” and a rival gang “Milton” hammering it out with each other in Cilandak Town Square, otherwise known a CITOS.

Samurai Swords, Cleavers and other assorted weaponry were used as what was termed a gathering at the Brew & Co Cafe to celebrate their peace agreement erupted into a scene from Apocalypse Now.


Indonesian Zurich

The Big Durian is bottom of the league in terms of standard of living. No surprise there.

I wonder though which city in Indonesia has the best standard of living? I reckon Jakarta would be near bottom of the league in Indonesia too.


Probably cos I'm a clueless, well off Westerner, but one of the reasons I love Indonesia is that it makes me feel more alive.

There's more pain there, but also a lot of happiness. It seems that there's more life.

This post reminded me of that.

Clear Problems

A rather pessimistic but good general article on Indonesia's current affairs by Duncan Graham.

Genesis of Violence

This is /the/ most insightful article I've read about Indonesia in a long long time.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Firefox Download Day

Sign up here to be reminded when the latest Firefox 3 is ready for download!!

Come on Indonesia!! Malaysia is leading you 4300 to 3900 people in pledges to download!!

(Update: a great short video about Firefox 3!)

30% Wage Increase

Labour unions demand that Indonesian workers get a 30% wage increase.

Remember that labour unions generally only look after their own workers. Union workers work in well regulated industries, I suspect most Indonesians don't work in industries where minimum wages are enforced.

When the unions talk about workers they're talking about the lucky few that have relatively good jobs. Hiking minimum wages by 30% may help the lucky few who work in more formal sectors but will leave the rest out in the cold.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Nikon D400 FX

Nikon's answer to the 5D?

Now that'd be VERY interesting!!

The only thing is, how expensive will it be... It's gotta be more expensive than the D300 and less expensive than the D3. So somewhere between $2,000 and $5,000.

$3,500 maybe? That's a little over €2,000 or 30m Rp. A spicy meatball!

Friday, May 30, 2008


It's easy to be nice when things are good. Being nice in difficult times is much harder.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Have been catching up on a huge backlog of blog posts which i should read, but can't find the time.

May '98 has been the prominent theme. Ahmadiyah also. It's like a backlog of pogroms.

That's another thing, why Tragedy '98? A tragedy to me is accidental, random. May '98 seemed to happen like a fucking Swiss clock. This is a good post.

Following on from that there's an anti-multicultural post. I dunno, what all the fussing is for. You break the law you get punished, real simple .

Monday, May 12, 2008

Imaginary Wealth

Over the last few weeks I've had this idea for a trading strategy. Basically a set of rules which describe when to buy or sell currencies. I input those rules into my PC which makes decisions for me really quickly.

The difference with programming a trading strategy and a potentially marketable piece of software, is that you know that you can get instant gratification once you have a trading algorithm. You don't need to market or distribute a trading algorithm or have a fancy front end, iron out the bugs and it's (hopefully) making you money from the word go!

Well that's the theory, I can always hope, eh?

Amazing how my psychology changed once I could see theoretical profits being computed in front of my eyes (based on data since 1999). The morning after, I went to work, and I was convinced I had this trading business licked. I was think about setting up my own hedge fund, living by a beach in Manado, maybe doing one or two trades a day and then devoting the rest of my time to teaching programming to kids in the local pesentren (for me programming is like mental kung fu, a bit like the kung fu in Shaolin Soccer).

Talk about getting carried away! Once I got home, I spotted two serious mistakes. I would now have made large losses over the last 9 years with the strategy. I could see my decades stuck in offices in front of me. Drudgery! But then I tweaked the strategy a little and was back into dreamland! :)

Everyday has been like that, I just hope on the final day of tweaking and poking, I'll have a strategy that'll reap me large returns on paper as well as in reality.

At the moment, I need new market data and have to nix a particularly dodgy assumption I made on price movements. But until I do that, the strategy is showing profits of around €200k with €1k initial investment over around 9 years.

I think I'll choose to live in ignorance a while longer, feels good to be imaginary rich :)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

7,000 Rp Coin

Yesterday I spotted a 50c (7,000Rp) coin on Grafton Street in Dublin (one of Dublin's main shopping streets).

As an amateur economist, I thought I shouldn't bother picking it up, as if it was real wouldn't someone have picked it up already?

In the end I did pick it up, and I think I will incorporate the coin in my new EUR USD FX trading strategy.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Next he'll be wearing gaudy Batik shirts -- why don't Europeans understand Batik??

Monday, May 05, 2008

Down in Smoke

The Indonesian government will get rid of its oil subsidy.

I don't have current figures to hand, but that would mean 10-20% of the budget won't go up in smoke, but could be invested for the future, e.g. education and healthcare.

This is a really positive move. Now if it turned to opening up rice imports (and exports) that would be really positive!!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Blogbrary 2008

Ppl are looking for book donations for kid's libraries in Jakarta.

I remember going to the libraries with my dad when I was a kid. The idea of getting an Asterix comic for *free* or a book about ancient Egypt or Rome was amazing...

Actually when I first went to Jakarta I asked about whether there were any public libraries, and ppl looked at me as if I had two heads... :/ Man I was so sick of going around malls after that trip... Aksara was the only relief I got, and that's damn expensive!!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

A Photographer's PC

My dad's a photographer in need of a new PC. So this afternoon we sat down and ordered one.

The main goal of this PC is to process raw files into jpegs quickly.

Raw files are analogous to digital negatives, they contain *all* the information the sensor sucks in once a picture is taken, unlike jpegs which remove non-discernible information to keep files sizes small. Raws can be very handy once you are editing your pictures, raws give photographers way more room to manoeuvre when editing, e.g. tweaking a picture's exposure or recovering a picture from under or overexposure.

First thing to choose was between Apple, Windows or Linux.

I use Linux so I'm biased toward it (check it out here!) but unfortunately you can't get any pro quality raw processing software for it. Bumber!

So, it's that old chestnut again, Apple vs. Windows!!

I loathe Windows. I work on XP everyday, this OS is 7 fscking years old already (my Linux OS gets refreshed every 6 months, it's beautiful software btw...) and from all accounts Vista is like XP ME. Yuck!

I haven't used OSX all that much, but it's lovable! :)

So why then did I choose Windows over Apple? Well before I answer that, let's deal with another choice, dual core vs quad core processors.

A key ingredient necessary for quick raw file processing is cores, lots and lots of cores. Dual cores are great for everyday use, they're really snappy for users who do at most two heavy load tasks at a time, basically 95% of users.

Raw file processing is different though. My dad could have 20 files upwards being processed at one time! 5 files per processor will be gobbled up much more quickly than 10 files per processor, even if the individual gigahertz per processor is slower.

The problem with Macs is that however sweet they are, their quad core Mac Pros have a starting price of €2,000. iMacs are great machines, but are limited to dual cores.

So Windows it is. Did I mention how much I hate Windows?

Dell, Acer, Lenovo, HP all make good quality machines. Problem is, they never give you exactly what you want, and if you want something (like extra RAM or hard disk) you'll have to pay through the nose for it.

That's why I build my own PCs. Building your own PC is really simple, and pretty interesting. What you end up with is a tailor made PC for less than you would pay for an off-the-rails Dell model.

I used this guide to get an idea about what components to look out for at the moment and tweaked from there. Vital statistics:

Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 2.50GHz 6M. Pretty much 2 iMac or MacBook Pro processors in one machine, sweet!! :) Interestingly Dell are still selling the older model to unsuspecting customers!

4GB Corsair RAM for €80. RAM from Apple or Dell is expensive - e.g. a 3GB RAM upgrade for a Mac costs €240, that's 4x more expensive!

1TB hard disk. Only an option on top end iMacs which start at around €1,900. And then the upgrade from 500GB costs €200. This Samsung 1TB hard disk cost a meagre €130 on the other hand! Lots of big image files means lots of storage is a must.

150GB 10,000 RPM hard disk. This baby isn't even an option with Dell or Apple as far as I could see. We'll install Vista on this disk as it runs 33% quicker than 99% of hard disks out there, giving Vista and all the other programs running off this disk a boost.

ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT graphics with 256MB memory. This is the graphics card in the €2,500 Mac Pro. Graphics cards aren't a huge deal for raw processing, this will more than suffice, and it only costs €75, yikes!

With the other bits and pieces we kept to top quality brand name components - another advantage over Dells or Macs -- you know you're buying good components from the ground up, not just shiny cases!

Everything including Windows Vista 64bit cost €1050 (from Dabs) beating similar systems from Apple and Dell on price /and/ on specs - my dad is getting /exactly/ what he needs to do his job as efficiently and cost effectively as possible.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Born to be Catholic

Reslian has an excellent post on inheriting religion.

In fact, I should be a Catholic, in mixed marriages Catholics have to sign a contract so that they'll bring up their kids Catholic. It's like signing a prenup with God.

99% of people don't choose the religion they practice. I remember some Indonesian pals of mine told me that Muslim converts are highly revered. It sounds like a good idea.

I'm an atheist. I used to be Church of Ireland (Protestant) and before that I was half Catholic half Church of Ireland. I went to a Catholic primary school, and when everyone else was doing bits and pieces for their confirmation (ceremony to become a gold card toting member of the Catholic church) I went through a hard time.

But I was only 12 and my parents thought it better that I was older to choose between those two great dialects of Christianity.

In the end I plumped for the Church of Ireland two years later. Two of my best pals were Church of Ireland back then, and time is money as they say (big religious rites of passage are accompanied by relatives giving kids lots of cold hard cash).

Thing was, two years later, I was asking much smarter questions at the pre confirmation bible classes. Which was good.

I'm an atheist now. I think I was an atheist for a long time, but for whatever reason, avoided calling a spade a spade. I'm glad I chose what I believe. I'm also open to new beliefs, maybe some day I'll be a Muslim, Daoist, agnostic or otherwise. Main thing is that if something intrigues me enough I'll investigate further and kick the tyres so to speak.

Actually here's an interesting documentary "Could I Stop Being a Muslim".

Freedom to choose religion is important, I suspect it will make for stronger self confident communities.

Formal vs Informal

Formal vs Informal, Indonesia vs Malaysia.

The Indonesia I've known always seemed to have had broadly sensible ideas on its law books, whereas Malaysia had bizarro whacky racist laws on its books.

Indonesia discriminated against minorities on an informal basis, Malaysia on a formal one.

I preferred the idea of Indonesia, because its aspirations seemed to be broadly sane, and well er aspirational.

Now? From all accounts Indonesia's prez is about to ban an Islamic sect that has 200k members and has been in Indonesia before Indonesia itself even existed.

Reading about Mosques being burnt in Sukabumi sounds like European Crusaders ransacking the Middle East. Mobs chanting kill, kill, kill and burn, burn, burn sounds like the KKK in the deep South. MUI members looking to reeducate Ahmadi followers sounds like Dutch Christian missionaries during colonial times. Most worryingly of all, banning a religion sounds like Wilders' legalistic racism.

To imagine, I almost went to Sukabumi on a couple of occasions while visiting Indonesia, a pal's cousin was studying at a pesentren there. Now? I wouldn't set foot in the place.

On the other hand I've heard a NU leader said that those attacking Ahmadis in Cirebon would have to go through him and his followers first. Indonesia needs more courageous people like him, but what good will his efforts be if SBY signs off on that law? Does he place himself and his followers between the Ahmadis and the police?

What happens if the Ahmadis refuse to apologise for their deeply held beliefs? Will SBY jail all 200k?

I love Indonesia. Part of the fascination is that Indonesia at times resembles a car wreck which I can't take my eyes from, I have to admit it's a morbid fascination, but now I feel I've almost had enough.

Another Great Post

About a war veteran.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Best blog posts in the blogosphere last week (by a country mile).

1, 2, 3

Along those lines, you know what the most environmentally helpful thing you can possibly do? Not have kids!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Megapixels II

Most people buy cameras based on megapixels. The idea is, the more megapixels you have, the more detailed and better quality your pictures will be.

In fact that's not always the case, having more megapixels can actually /reduce/ the quality of your pictures!

I noticed this with my second camera. My first camera was a Canon Powershot, the second was a Fuji E900. The E900 had a 9MP sensor, the Powershot 3MP and 2 or 3 years older. The Fuji's images were consistently fuzzier and lower quality than the Canon's. It SUCKED! And that 9MP camera was pretty damn pricey back in 2006 :/

Interestingly, it turns you just can't have a 9MP sensor in a compact camera without getting fuzzy pictures. Cramming too many Megapixels into a small space makes for low quality pictures. This site even recommends buying 6MP compact cameras tops!!

When you try to fit too many megapixels onto a chip the sensor's pixels start interfering with each other in lower light conditions (i.e. when you are asking more from the sensor, and using higher ISOs).

Of course you /may/ be able to get a good quality picture, but you better be sure that you are outside on a clear day with your subject as still as possible (i.e. limiting yourself to low ISOs). Basically you better be damn sure you know what you're doing!

All things being equal, lower megapixels will give you great pictures with less futz.

Ask yourself why Canon's 10MP 40D is a cut above its 12MP 450D on the food chain? 10MP will let the 40D take better quality pictures in a wider variety of circumstances than the 450D. The 450D is aimed at people who don't know much about photography and use megapixels as a guide to camera quality, the 40D is aimed at those who know more about photography (ht).

Why do some people use megapixels as a guide to camera quality?

1) because megapixels are easy to understand, it's much more difficult to get your head around other things that count, like ISOs, noise, lenses, RAW files, CMOS sensor sizes etc.

2) megapixels /were/ a good guide to camera quality when digital cameras had only 1 or 2 megapixel sensors and took pretty poor quality pictures.

Things have changed, megapixels are more likely to get in your way and make it harder to take good pictures.

Of course there are situations where megapixels can be handy but, as I explained here, unless you need to print large high quality prints and unless you know exactly what you're doing, you're better off not spending your money on more megapixels.

[Update! Wow, read this (the Canon G9 is THE upmarket compact camera):

It's the biggest irony of the compact digital camera market: since the cameras all use very similar sensors (often the exact same sensor) and many even share the same lens assembly, the price difference between the entry-level models and range-toppers such as the G9 simply isn't reflected in a commensurate difference in output quality. And it doesn't matter how much you are prepared to spend; you can't buy your way out of the 'compact camera problem' - a small, noisy sensor is a small noisy sensor no matter what kind of tank you build around it or how many 'professional' features you build into the body.

And this is from a review of a cheapo /6MP/ Fuji F31fd:

It is the perfect illustration of the oft made point that more pixels do not mean better quality; we've compared the F31fd to a whole range of much more expensive compacts going right up to 10MP, and - aside from a little extra resolution at base ISO - it puts most of them to shame. Once you get to ISO 400 there simply isn't a compact on the market that can hold a flame to it.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Innocent photographer or terrorist?

"Misplaced fears about terror, privacy and child protection are preventing amateur photographers from enjoying their hobby, say campaigners."
I am pretty self conscious about taking pictures in public, way too self conscious, I definitely need to loosen up! But hearing stories like these make me think twice again :/:/ OTOH, I think Ireland and Indonesia are probably more relaxed than the UK.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pullitzer Prize Winner

Pictures here. Story behind his time in Rangoon here.

I wonder what his second lens was?


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Mosque Internet

Just as mosques all over Indonesia get 224Mbps ultra fast internet connections for dirt cheap, porn websites are gonna be blocked in Indonesia.

I bet Imams all over Indonesia are fuming! At least it looks like they'll still be able to watch Youtube :)

Hugging Jews

Interesting article here.

Interesting thing that people forget is that historical Jew / Muslim enmity isn't really historical. Baghdad had the largest Jewish population of any city in the world at one stage (if I'm not mistaken) and Jews were considered as Arabs too; I suspect middle Eastern Jews were treated much better by their country folk than in Europe.

In any case, my own great great grandfather was a Yemeni Jew who married my Maduran great great grandmother and lived in Surabaya.

Indonesia - An explanation


Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sunday Morning Trail of Thought

"My family and others were forced out of the house at gunpoint and we walked and walked under the hot and burning sun (100F) for miles and miles with no food or water. Along the road leading us to hell on earth, I saw thousands of decomposed bodies, particularly a very young child trying to get milk from his mother but she died already and he was crying and crying of hunger."

These stories never stop flowing, just as the blood and tears don't dry up.

Indonesia has had it's own massacres of communists, Chinese, Timorese, Acehnese etc.


I remember visiting small churches in and around poor areas in Jakarta just after reading about FPI attacks on such churches. The thing you don't realise is, these "churches" are literally people's homes, they give most of their small homes over to worshippers in their community.

It was a humbling experience.


When I visit Indonesia, I know I can always leave. Most expats keep their foreign passports no matter how long they live in Indonesia, as is their right. But solidarity means little when it's not credible.

I have heard about only a handful of mostly religious men who have given up their western citizenships to become Indonesian. Whenever I read about these westerners I am inspired by their story.

They are the Jedi Knights of Indonesia fans (Indophiles, are India lovers, what's the word for Indonesia lovers?) which mere beginner enthusiasts like me can only ever look up to in awe.


Freedom of movement is important. It is something I believe in deeply.

Perhaps the best way to credibly make that point is by giving that freedom up some day.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Unity in Diversity

What does it really mean?

The motto is used widely in India, and is the official motto of the EU, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and South Africa.

I have noticed that /often/ the understanding in both Indonesia and the EU is that the motto only applies to Indonesian and European citizens respectively (moreover, in the case of Indonesia it has sometimes been applied only to ethnic Indonesians).

How about jumping out of the nationalist, post colonial mindsets and understanding unity in diversity in a /global/ sense?

Wilders vs. Abu Ba'ashir

Sounds kinda like a "The Penguin vs The Green Goblin" comic book, doesn't it?

Wilders is a Dutch politician who fears that the West will be overrun by conservative Muslims. Abu Ba'ashir is an Indonesian cleric who fears that Indonesia will be overrun by bikini wearing, beer swilling Westerners.

Wilders says that new Muslim immigrants should be banned from the Netherlands (how about evangelical Americans too then?) and Ba'ashir says that Westerners in Indonesia should be beaten up (if not blown up).

At the core, their stance has nothing to do with East vs. West, it's a lot simpler than that, they are both racists.

I am still uncertain about where to draw the line of freedom of speech - obviously freedom of speech can be used to victimise others for example - but there's an important debate to be had and won. The debate is really about openness to ideas and peoples. Compare North to South Korea, Cuba to Brazil, The Soviet Union to the USA, Saudi Arabia to Dubai. Openness trumps closedness everytime.

It's a pity that political leaders in the Netherlands and Indonesia don't enjoin the debate, and face down these racist views head on.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Batak Mythology

I know lots of Batak people (why do I know so many Batak people, I wonder).

This is a nice article on Batak mythology.

It also reminds us that we really do originally come from the stars (a scientific fact).

Think about that, every /one/ of us came from the stars.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

The best Thing Since MP3

Few of my pals use RSS, even though RSS is the best thing since MP3!

Basically you can read stories from your favourite websites like you read email. All the stories get sent to you automagically.

My RSS reader of choice is Google Reader.

Usually all you need to do to get updates from a site is to input its URL, like so:

Or you can enter an RSS link to subscribe to a website of your choice.

It's changed the way I surf the internet. Give it a shot, you might end up liking it!


This lent I have given up:

- shaving, had a weird scraggily beard, how do ppl grow cool beards i wonder?
- meat, I'm not a huge meat fan, and am more and more conscious of sitting down in the office for hours on end
- biting my nails, disgusting habit, hopefully I've more or less kicked it this time round!

I did pretty well on all three counts, am happy about that. I like Lent.

Friday, March 21, 2008

No Compromises

I admire people that don't compromise on what they believe. Even if it may be detrimental to them individually, in the long run I reckon it's better for us as a whole.

Arab Lady has some new posts up. She's one of my favourite bloggers.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Ben "1929" Bernanke

With any luck Ben Bernanke will help me get a nice place in Manhattan on the cheap. Keep up the good work Ben!

Monday, March 10, 2008

They Criticized Vista. And They Should Know.

Here’s one story of a Vista upgrade early last year that did not go well. Jon, let’s call him, (bear with me — I’ll reveal his full identity later) upgrades two XP machines to Vista. Then he discovers that his printer, regular scanner and film scanner lack Vista drivers. He has to stick with XP on one machine just so he can continue to use the peripherals.

Did Jon simply have bad luck? Apparently not. When another person, Steven, hears about Jon’s woes, he says drivers are missing in every category — “this is the same across the whole ecosystem.”

Then there’s Mike, who buys a laptop that has a reassuring “Windows Vista Capable” logo affixed. He thinks that he will be able to run Vista in all of its glory, as well as favorite Microsoft programs like Movie Maker. His report: “I personally got burned.” His new laptop — logo or no logo — lacks the necessary graphics chip and can run neither his favorite video-editing software nor anything but a hobbled version of Vista. “I now have a $2,100 e-mail machine,” he says.

It turns out that Mike is clearly not a naïf. He’s Mike Nash, a Microsoft vice president who oversees Windows product management. And Jon, who is dismayed to learn that the drivers he needs don’t exist? That’s Jon A. Shirley, a Microsoft board member and former president and chief operating officer. And Steven, who reports that missing drivers are anything but exceptional, is in a good position to know: he’s Steven Sinofsky, the company’s senior vice president responsible for Windows.

Mac OSX is the only way to go these days (or Ubuntu if you are feeling adventurous!).

Sunday, March 09, 2008


Things are looking up for Malaysia and Pakistan. Hopefully there are solid grounds for hope this time!.

I am reading Jung Chang's Mao: The Unknown Story at the moment. It's a very tough read, Jung Chang's writing style is easy going, but reading about a character who has few morals and no redeeming features is hard going. This article however is a nice one about selflessness, humanity and hope in a country which had so little at that time.

There is a big campaign against cocaine at the moment in Dublin. Posters everywhere telling us how bad coke is for your health. Strange how hard drugs and hard drinking is still so popular in a puritanically health conscious society.

However as ever, the point is missed. Illegal drugs fuel slavery just as exotic good fueled it in the 18th century.
... the impact on Africa of Europe's cocaine habit an echo of that of slavery. 'In the 19th century, Europe's hunger for slaves devastated West Africa. Two hundred years later, its growing appetite for cocaine could do the same.'
Reminds me of another public campaign here last year. The equality authority had slick posters up everywhere "marketing" equality in the workplace. The fact is religion, skin colour, sex, language and culture pale into insignificance compared to place of birth.

Where you are born is the biggest determinant of whether you will live a decent life or not. The Irish government will treat you like filth if you arrive in Ireland without the right papers, and it will feel very good when it disposes of you back into poverty in Africa, Asia or where ever.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Thinking Outside the Box: A Citizen Subsidy

About 40m* people in Indonesia are poor by the lowest possible standards, each of them lives on less than the /absolute/ minimum needed for a healthy life.

Based on purchasing power parity (PPP) the minimum necessary to live decently in Indonesia is approximately $175 (USD) per person per year.

A people subsidy would cost the Indonesian government about $41bn (at $175 x 235m** Indonesians). That's about 50% of the government's total revenue and less than 4 times the government's expenditure on corrupt subsidy programs.

Cash in the pockets of Indonesian mothers and fathers will work harder for Indonesia's children than in the pockets of Pertamina, Bulog officials and other bureaucrats.

Bowls full of food at a family dinner is a loftier aspiration than having large cars filled with low cost fuel.

*All figures taken from The World Factbook. If anyone has /poverty/ PPP rates for Indonesia please share. All calculations are of the back-of-the-envelope type, correction suggestions are welcome!

**235m people is used, because making all Indonesians eligible makes more sense economically (it doesn't distort people's incentives)

New York!

I'm heading to New York this Summer! A big thanks to my boss for agreeing to the transfer.

IFS StateStreet is a great company to work for. My colleagues are professional but easy to get on with. I really appreciate that, especially when I hear about the experiences of some of my pals at their companies / universities.

I just hope they have decent Indonesian food over there. Anyone know of any good Indonesian restaurants in NYC? There's gotta be at least one Warteg in New York, right?

Also, I reckon it'll take about same time for me to fly from New York to Indonesia, as it does from Dublin (fewer connections).