Sunday, November 29, 2009

Swiss Minarets


How well thought out this banishment is.

While we're at it, let's ban church spires, funny statues on top of Hindu temples and Chinese style rooves.

I now nominate Switzerland as the Malaysia of Europe (I previously said somewhere that Malaysia is the Homer Simpson of countries).

The Swiss are afraid of Muslims. Too often I encounter a similar sentiment here. It's utterly depressing.

Let me try to describe a scene that is ingrained in my mind since my last trip to Indonesia. Be warned it is very terrifying.

I found myself in a small village / community in part of Jakarta where the original Jakartans live - the Betawi.

The fun fair is in full swing. It's a very small amateurish affair that's pitched on a small communal patch of land, nevertheless the local village kids are having a great time playing the quaint games.

The smallest kids are learning how to 'fish' at a tiny blow up rubber pool. Using magnetic hooks to fish the small colourful plastic toy fish up. A parent or two is on hand to help them out if they need help but soon they're merrily fishing away.

Shivering in your boots?

The Swiss tell us more about the Swiss than anyone else after this ban on minarets. Shameful.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The KPK Camp

Simon Pitchforth's night out at the KPK.

Blog Post Drought - Or - Miscellanea - Or - It Never Rains but it Pours

One of the first rules I had when I started blogging was not to write about blogging.

Nevertheless I have been on a posting hiatus of sorts, so I thought I'd jot down some things that have been swirling around my mind recently.

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I joined a gym recently. First time ever. It's a bizarre place - very little interaction between members. I also realised how unfit I am (I hadn't exercised since I came to New York).

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In a previous post I linked to Project Euler - a site which has maths problems which you try to solve with the aid of your computer and some cunning.

The way I tried solving the few problems I have tackled successfully was to write down the problem in Erlang (my programming language of choice) and go from there.

That only gets you so far, to solve any of the later problems you really need to know about what makes numbers tick (the problems are number theory flavoured).

Working on these problems is a bit like going to the gym for the first time in a long time - I am sure I can improve if I just devote a little more time and energy to it.

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I heard on the Beeb today that an Indonesian minister says that TV's immorality is the root cause of Indonesia's recent spate of natural disasters. It was at the end of the bulletin - sounded like it was in there just to lighten things up a little.

As Ms. Delvi Wahyuni pointed out to me when we hung out a few weeks ago, morality /is/ the root cause of the misery inflicted on people in earthquakes or tsunamis or whatnot. It's the bloody immoral politicians that pocket the aid and took bribes to allow multi-story tall buildings to be built in Padang.

Are these politicians cynical or just completely and utterly idiotic to blame tsunamis on women wearing trousers while they're directly involved in leeching the resources from society that would deal with these catastrophes?

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I was listening to a documentary about employee owned companies last night.

It's a very interesting way of running a company. Management science does what it always does and argues for the general status quo - i.e. that companies owned by a very small cabal will be more efficient operations.

I am not so sure. Sure the management need to be highly incentivised, as they have the most direct control over the company - but I think underlings have been underestimated.

I would love to read some studies on these companies.

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Ireland got knocked out of the World Cup by France a week or two ago. The winning goal was set up by a blatant hand ball.

Cheating has become such an integral part of football nowadays - and yet because it's been slowly seeping into the game everyone seems to accept it nowadays. It reminds me of the widespread use of steroids in American sport - everyone knows it's happening but mostly people turn a blind eye.

In the same week, police uncovered a massive match fixing scandal across Europe.

Video technology would take away a lot of the ambiguity surrounding match turning events. It's inevitable - the game's only getting faster and harder for refs to keep up with.

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Indonesia has had its own Watergate unfold over the last few months (that is if Watergate involved hundreds of millions of dollars of fraud, blow jobs, assassinations, geckos and crocodiles - I hope we get to see the movie soon!!).

I remember in my first few days in Indonesia, when I tried to comprehend the depth of Indonesian corruption, I was saying to myself - "so what does it mean when literally every policeman, judge, official and politician can be bribed?" - and then having a fleeting feeling of looking into an abyss.

Everyone knows that the justice system ( the "strongest pillar of government" as they say in the US) is completely and utterly broken.

The surprise was seeing the corruption commission fighting to rescue several of its leaders from being framed and inevitable jail time - they somehow managed to record 4 hours of conspiratorial meetings between higher ups in the attorney general's office, the police and several others.

All in all one of the most positive episodes in recent Indonesian current affairs. Civil society in Indonesia is finding its voice.

Now if we could only have a few more of these scandals - this time having president SBY front and centre maybe? Hint hint nudge nudge.

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I've earned almost 100% returns on my investments this year - mainly from emerging markets.

The iShares emerging markets index dropped by 4% since Thursday though, because Dubai looks like it might go under.

I don't see Dubai's demise pulling Brazil, Russia, China or Korea down with it. Although stranger things have happened I suppose - like er the credit crunch ; )

Is it just me, or do I sense a little schadenfreude in Dubai's recent unease?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Terrorist and Psychotic?

Fox News' big issue tonight was that Obama wouldn't call the Fort Hood massacre an act of Islamic terrorism.

I think they are trying to stir things up again - and hopefully not too many bite on the bait.

In any case, there's an interesting question embedded in there - where do you draw the line between psycho and terrorist?