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.