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).