Monday, July 14, 2014

Prabowo a No-No

My recent posts have been, (mostly), about my adventures in my latest country of residence, Indonesia. I have had some wild and crazy experiences so far but nothing as unexpected and completely out of character for me as my inexplicable interest in politics. I can only guess that it may have something to do with my disenchantment with politics in my own country, which is absolute. Well maybe not absolute. I am a bit interested to see whether Harper will be able to sell all our fresh water to France before it gets contaminated by fracking and/or oil and bitumen spills. Harper is a sell-out but I am not convinced we'd be in better shape with any other of the corporate sycophants that people the political landscape of Canada. I think it was Bernie Sanders, (who just might be a good president some day, (me and Phil Donahue both like him)), who said recently that no governmental decisions can be made in the U.S. without corporate approval. Same in Canada.

It's an interesting situation. This article is a pretty concise explanation. This whole mess that America is in started with the 14th amendment to the American Constitution. Not even! Just a note written by a court reporter, a former corporate leader, (railroad president), who took it upon himself to write an addendum to a case that was being tried to decide on proper taxation of the Southern Pacific Railroad. He wrote that the court had decided that corporations are people under the 14th amendment. In actuality the supreme court had ruled only that the state that charters a corporation has the right to tax it. They didn't actually make a ruling on the peoplehood prefix at all. So it did not constitute a law, but it became a matter of legal record and was subsequently used as precedence. The 14th amendment was mostly to ensure that recently freed, (by the 13th amendment), slaves would have the same rights as eveyone else in America. The corporations have fiendishly used it to usurp undeserved rights and freedoms that have significantly added to their power. That's how the American people got, ahem, railroaded into the state of corporate oligarchy that exists now.

I guess I'm interested to see if politics in Indonesia are as much a case of Mammon worship as in North America or not. As the man says, "May you live in interesting times." Things are getting quite interesting. Here in Indonesia it's a two horse race between Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo, nicknamed Jokowi. Election day came and went and as near as anyone can tell right now the election was a tie. Early indications show that Jokowi was the winner, but anything can happen. In North America we all know that the person who loses the election, or is found to have cheated can still be the leader of a country. We all know what happened with Bush but a lot of people don't know about Harper's election shenanigans in Canada. He cheated in 2006 to first become PM. He spent more than allowed on advertising. Not such a bad sin but still against the rules. But then in 2011 he won with 39% of the vote. That's right 61% of Canadians had had enough of him by then. But there's more. There were these mysterious automated phone calls that directed voters to the wrong polling stations. This lead to an investigation into Canadian voting procedures and the conclusion that there were rampant procedural errors made by polling officials. The election is still disputed but we kept Harper anyway. So what do you do if you're Harper? A couple years later you cut the election watchdog's budget by 8% to make sure that this MAY happen again. That's the office whose job it is to straighten out rampant procedural errors. Sounds a lot like the rampant procedural errors in Florida, (governed by Jeb Bush), during the 2000 election in the States doesn't it?

Right now it looks very much as though something like this could happen here in Indonesia. Here is quite a scary article that shows quite clearly what I'm talking about. Quick counts after the July 9th election all favour Jokowi. All the legitimate ones that is. But according to the article there are some quick count agencies, known for innaccuracies in the past, who have claimed Prabowo won the narrowest of victories.

Now watch this: where a BBC reporter reads the stats to Prabowo and he says, "No no no no. It is completely the other way around." He says the sources cited are partisan in favour of Jokowi and not to be trusted. Part of a "grand design to manipulate perception." And then the statement that gave me a chill, "Let us rely on the legal institutions of Indonesia." This looks a lot like the tried and tested political manouvre, (or manure however you spell that word...), that I like to call the "I know you are but what am I" ploy. Recognize that you suck, pinpoint your shortcomings, then accuse the opposition of exactly those problems. What I'm saying, and what the previous article is saying, is that perhaps Prabowo, not Jokowi, is guilty of grand designs to manipulate perception in Indonesia. Probowo calls Jokowi a "product of a PR campaign" and a "tool of the oligarchs." I have a feeling I know which candidate is the bigger TOOL here. As for the PR campaign I read an article written by an Indonesian who can understand the speeches he gives in Indonesian and that writer characterized them as hyper-patriotic, jingoistic rabble rousing in which he has made flamboyant entrances on horseback and spectacular exits via the stage dive. He also says that the Jokowi supporters are the violent ones and HE, the former Lieutenant General in the military, is preaching peace. And I just LOVED his response when asked what he will do if he loses. "WHAT?" He has been quoted as saying, "Losing is not an option." That worries me. And in a more famous quote from 1998, the year of Suharto's fall, when the riots were happening and he allegedly ordered kidnapping and torture, he said he was willing "to drive all the Chinese out of the country even if that sets the economy back twenty or thirty years." Maybe this is what he means when he says in the interview that he is fighting for a "clean" Indonesia.

In evasive answer to the reporter's question about allegations of human rights violations he committed in 1998 during the Suharto regime in Indonesia, he states that he leads a coalition that is comprised of two thirds of the voters in Indonesia. How could they be so stupid to support me? Not even a minute later he mentions that Indonesians have been considered a stupid, lazy people. Then he evades the second request for him to unequivocally comment on human rights violations he has been accused of and he uses another political tactic. I HAVE! Many, many, many, many times. Check the record. This means I may or may not have actually answered this question in the past, but I'm not going to answer this question NOW. The statement about relying on the legal institutions of Indonesia is chilling because I have been here only a few months and have already had plenty of first hand experience with what the whole world knows about Indonesia's legal institutions: they are corrupt. A long lasting remnant of the Suharto government to which Prabowo has strong ties.

He was a high ranking, very important military officer in Suharto's Indonesia. He actually married Suharto's daughter though they are now divorced. I recently read a rumour that Titiek Suharto will get back together with him if he wins the election because a traditional muslim country prefers a married president. But apparently this was just a rumour. Couldn't have hurt him in the minds of the incredulously fond reminiscers of the Suharto era. Who vote, by the way. Just read the article. An estimated 73 billion bucks of Indonesia's money passed through the Suharto family's hands. Suharto killed an estimated half million rivals to his "presidency." Who knows how many he imprisoned? Prabowo and Titiek are still incredibly wealthy today because of the Suharto years of violence and corruption. Yet still today there are many who speak of Suharto in almost god-like terms.

After Suharto stepped down, Prabowo demanded that his successor, Habibie, put him in charge of the army. Instead, Habibie demoted him. Furious, Probowo stormed into the Presidential Palace with a sidearm and some military trucks. He was blocked, but it's no secret what he was about to do. When he says in this article that his family has always "served the country, served the people, served the society" it is mind blowing that any of the country, people, society of Indonesia can take that seriously let alone a MAJORITY of them! Read the article, please. The death of two of his uncles on the same day in '46 during the war of independance against the Dutch inspired Prabowo's military career. Sounds more inspiring before you figure that this was 5 years before he was born. He never knew those uncles. Racial slurs endured as the only Asian in class while studying in Switzerland, the U.K. and Hong Kong? First of all, boo hoo. Studying in Switzerland, U.K. and Hong Kong. Poor fella. Secondly the Swiss and the English are not the first nationalities that would come to mind if I were pondering anti-Asian sentiment by country. And thirdly, I doubt very much he was the only Asian in a class in Hong Kong or he was subjected to racial slurs there for being Asian. Here's a theory and there's really no way of knowing, but maybe, just maybe he was a child of privelege with a PERSONALITY that people didn't like, not a race. He has a notorious temper and as the article says he thought of his teachers as stupid.

Here we are back at that word again: stupid. Prabowo is fond of furthering the myth that people think Indonesians are stupid monkeys. Where did he get this from? One of my fellow expats here posted this article on facebook today. As you read that article did you think for an instant, "Okay, a power tripping soldier uses his uniform and position to extort less than five bucks from a guy who is parking at the prime cultural site in all of Jakarta ostensibly to absorb some culture. The guy won't pay so the soldier goes through the unthinkable process of dousing him with gasoline, (for all we know more than 5 bucks worth), lights the guy on fire and for doing so COULD serve jail time! That must be a perfect example of how all 237 million Indonesians think. They are all stupid monkeys." I hope you didn't. Because THAT would be stupid.

But Probowo seems to think that there is a perception of Indonesians as stupid, lazy monkeys. Another theory here: given the life this guy has lived, the corruption he has benefitted from, the harm he has already brought to Indonesia, and the fact that he fully expects to win this election, this may be another one of those "I know you are but what am I" situations. Not that HE is a stupid, lazy monkey, but that he may be the one who views Indonesians in this way. In fact he may be depending upon it.

I think if he somehow becomes president it will almost certainly be through unscrupulous means. I wonder if his tactics will resemble the North American election thefts or if he'll just storm the Presidential Palace again. I doubt he'll reunite with his ex wife but there is a real danger in Indonesia that the Suharto regime will be renewed along with the corruption, government enrichment and citizen impoverishment characteristic of it. I don't know much about Jokowi but it seems to me there's nowhere to go but up from here.

Am I wrong?

Addendum: Today is July 23. The official count is in and it's Jokowi with 53% of the votes so the reputable quick count agencies were, once again, right on the money. Prabowo is, of course, challenging the voting process as "unfair" as he said he wouldn't in the BBC interview. I suppose the very fair process of demanding a political position and if refused assassinating the refuser, (like Prabowo attempted to do with Habibie) is preferable. Incidentally, the link I used with the quick count stats showed up on my compose blog screen properly but on the blog site when I clicked on the link it went to the wrong page. I just changed it and hope it works so you can see the accuracy of the quick count agencies Prabowo said were partisan and tools of the oligarchs. The agency that had him with 60% of the vote is now being violently silenced by members of the Jokowi camp I guess. Indonesia dodged a bullet here. I have little doubt that Prabowo would have been a terrible president. It will be interesting to see how long it takes Jokowi to be corrupted. I'm a complete cynic when it comes to politics. Oscar Wylde said about cynics, "A cynic knows the price of everything but the value of nothing." I can't find much, if any, value in politicians but I DO see the price the whole world has paid for this elitist sport. I'll probably go back now to pretending I'm ignoring it.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Ahn of Green Gables

Check this out. If not, check THIS
out.

Do you recognize her? She used to be a 17-year-old fan of the Belgian soccer squad until the above photo was taken at this year's World Cup. Now she has a modeling contract with L'Oreal.

Anybody know this cutie?
Why that's Canada's own Pamela Anderson! Many nips, tucks and implants ago, but that's her. She was cheering on the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League when her picture was broadcast on the big screen above center field at B.C. Place. Labatt's, a beer company in Canada, noticed the ovation that rocked the stadium when she was on the screen and decided, and rightly so, that, hey, people might drink more of our beer if she tells them to.

I mean

don't ya just wanna

slap on some make-up and drink some Labatt's Blue? Be right back, I gotta get a beer. (not kidding)

How about this:


Do you know who she is? She's young, blonde, gorgeous, and like the other two, will be highly sought after to use her youth and beauty to convince the public that, I dunno, the catgut in Wilson tennis rackets is superior to the cheap doggut Slazenger uses. Geez, I'm probably decades off with THAT example. Do they even USE catgut anymore? Okay the polypralene used in Penn Tennis Balls has been scientifically proven to give a truer bounce than other brands. How bout that? Because if there are two things we, the public believe, it's science and sex.

This is Eugenie Bouchard. She's Canadian like Pam and like both of the other girls she was discovered at a sporting event. One difference though, she wasn't just watching. She has recently risen to prominence in the tennis world not just because of her looks, a la the mediocre Anna Kournikova:

(nothing mediocre about her appearance though), but Eugenie has played some great tennis. She made it to the recent Wimbledon finals. Didn't win but still impressive. USA Today is calling her tennis' next "golden girl" and warning of a bombardment of Eugenie in the media that rivals the bombardment of spam ads you get after a few seconds on the USA Today sports page. And as you can imagine it's not just tennis questions she'll be answering when the media bombards her. During Wimbledon it was revealed that she was named after Prince Andrew's daughter. She was also asked such complicated tennis strategy questions as, "If you could date anyone in the world, who would it be?" Her answer reminded everyone that she is only 20. Justin Bieber. Like Kournikova who could get a bigger rise out of the crowd with a flip of a pony tail than a spectacular crosscourt winner, Eugenie had the media falling all over themselves to hear how she thought Bieber should be allowed to sit in the royal box to watch her play. Or at least Oprah. Then she dazzled them some more fielding questions about marriage proposals and even a question about sports: whether she liked hockey or not. Then finally some tennis talk! The media mentioned her famous fan, Jim Parsons, (Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory), and said that it's appropriate given the "big bang" she is making in tennis. She scolded them for the corny joke. I mean who is acting like the young kids here, Eugenie or the media? She was mature and professional but I wonder how long it'll be before she gets tired of her non-athletic celebrity and tells the reporters to stick to tennis in their interviews. One thing is for sure, like the independantly wealthy Kournikova who made less than 4 million bucks in pro tennis, never won or made it to the final of any tourney let alone a grand slam event like Wimbledon, win or lose she will be able to make a bazillion bucks as the face, body and personality of anything from tennis shoes to sports drinks to strawberries and cream. I'd be very surprised if the bloodsuckers are not knocking down her door already.

Now I'll give you a thousand won if you can tell me who this is:

This is Korean athlete Ahn Sun Ju. No she's not blonde, she's 27, she's not hot, so why would anyone pay attention to her? Because

she

WINS!

She's playing on the Japanese ladies tour and has 16 wins in 4 years. She has three already this year: one in April, one in May and one in June. As I write this she is 2 under par, in fourth place, only 3 shots off the lead at the Ricoh Women's British Open with the weekend still to play. She is SMOKING HOT! Just not in the way we've been talking about. HERE is a recent article I read about why she, a Korean, is golfing in Japan. And is number one there. She is sponsored in Japan by 6 Japanese companies, (Yonex is one), but Korean sponsors thought she wasn't very marketable. They told her to get plastic surgery, which she refused. She even has the nickname, "Big Mama." I prefer "Ahn of Green Gables" myself.

I am going to start paying more attention to golf because of this chick! I am not kidding! If her choice to refuse plastic surgery is any indication of her character, she IS someone who I think could be a good athlete/slash role model for an awful lot of kids, AND a lot of adults out there. She's not going to get the chance unless the messed up values toward women in sports change. But I'll be rooting for her.

As for the erstwhile Eugenie Bouchard I have some advice. Go on a pasta and beer diet. Put on some poundage. While you're at it get a bit of plastic surgery. A couple facial warts, maybe a nose crookeding. Not a hump or hunch but a little scoliosis would go a long way. THEN if you can win I'll root for you all the way. I just don't want to be accused of band wagon jumping or cheering for you because you're a babe. Sorry. Good luck anyway though.

Who am I kidding? I'll still vote for Eugenie. Despite her appearance. Sigh. And to be honest, I will still watch women's golf AND tennis and enjoy the young and attractive girls as a bonus added to the sport action. But I'm not going to root for them or buy the products they flog because they're hot. Ahn Sun Ju? Yes. She keeps winning! I think maybe I'll look into some Yonex shafts for my clubs. When they get here.

SO THERE! We obey young attractive blondes when it comes to what beer to drink or sports equipment to use. It must be the truth. These ad execs do their homework. Surely they arent' throwing away their billions blindly. Then there's this gal:

Young, (23), hot, blonde Kaitlin Pearson is a special ed. teacher in Fitchburg, Mass. Right now she is under investigation by the school board because they found some sexy pics of her. Not nude, just sexy. The school board is evaluating whether her side jobs as a sexy model and spokesperson are in conflict with her job as a special ed teacher.

Oh the trials and tribulations of being a hot, young, blonde babe! I have seen much sexier pics of Kournikova than Pearson. But I am sure she remains a role model and spokesperson for young tennis hopefuls all over the world. She is looked up to. But Pearson is looked down upon. Where is the consistency? Can Eugenie ever know for sure whether people are throwing flowers or stuffed animals to her, or proposing marriage because of her looks or her talent? Can poor Kaitlin ever know for sure whether this student with his hand up wants her help because he respects her knowledge and opinions on the subject matter she is teaching, or because he wants to look down her shirt when she leans over at his desk to help him? Did Tommy Lee REALLY "fuckin' love" Pamela Anderson? They may never know...

And how are you supposed to know how the rest of the world, (that'd be us ugly people), wants you to behave? It's good, I suppose, for hot, young blondes to participate in sports. That's one inalienable truth we can gain from all of this, isn't it? Well, not if the sport happens to be hunting. Remember that first pic? The Belgian gal? I think her name is Axelle. Well she tweeted a pic of her posing with a dead antelope or gazelle or impala in Africa just before the U.S. vs. Belgium game and commented that she was going hunting Americans. L'Oreal, who are strict about animal rights and not testing on animals, promptly gave Axelle the boot. Easy come, easy go. I'm sure she'll land on her feet.

You know who's got it made? Ahn of Green Gables. She KNOWS she's respected for her skills! She KNOWS her sponsors are legit! And when I email her a marriage proposal she will KNOW I am in love with her for her character! And when she sees me she'll KNOW she has to love me for the same reason. True, she is a bit young for me and the cultural divide is vast, but with our love for golf and each other we will overcome. Life is too complicated when you're gorgeous. Be thankful, most of us, that we're ugly!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

I finally go swimming in Indonesia

Yesterday was Monday. I had a craving for two things: Mcdonalds and stirfry. The kitchen at my kost, (place where I live), is not so great. We have no rice maker and only a small wok for stirfying so Mcdonalds came first. I went to Ratu Plaza. I decided that I'd have a Big Mac for lunch and then go to Lotte Mart to get the fixins for the stirfry. Lotte Mart and Mcdonalds are both right beside Ratu Plaza and it's very close to my kost so in the cab I got. It was a 30 or 35000 Rp. taxi trip there. A bit of traffic but that's to be expected. Took about 15 minutes.

I ordered a Double Big Mac meal. The girl looked confused. "Double cheese?" she asked. I looked at the menu and although there ARE Mcdonalds' in Jakarta that HAVE the double Big Mac, (one at Plaza Festival and one on Fatmawati), this location didn't offer it. So I said, "Okay just a single Big Mac meal. Number one. Satu." The Big Mac meal is number one, (satu is number one in Indonesian), on the menu. Then they asked if I wanted it big sized. Here's where they get me. The Big Mac singular is not enough for the upsizing of drink and fries whereas the double Mac is usually worth it. But here in Jakarta they have two choices on the Mcdonalds menu: one is the set and I forget the way they describe it. I think it may be in Indonesian. The other is "a la carte." Now this is an accurate way to describe ordering just the burger without the fries and drink but it's so much more ambiguous than ordering just a Big Mac, McChicken, Filet of Fish or whatever. They have no Quarter Pounder here. Since they use the French phrase "a la carte" I wonder if they'd call the Quarter Pounder a "Royale" here if they had it. Maybe someday we'll find out. At any rate, when I get asked if I want the big size I usually think they are referring to the entire meal with fries and drink. So I usually end up getting extra fries and drink when I don't really want them. Oh it's not a problem to finish them, I just don't need them is all.

So my order comes in pieces. First the big drink. Next the big fries. Finally a double cheeseburger. So that's fine. I needed extra burger for the extra fries anyways. So I order a Big Mac. "A la carte?" she asked. I said, "Yes. No fries, no drink please." While I was eating the double cheeseburger she brought me my Big Mac. This is why I wanted a double Big Mac. I think the Big Mac patty has gone the way of the Wagon Wheel. Remember Wagon Wheels when they were big? I am pretty sure they're half the size now and double the price. But maybe they just seemed bigger when I was a kid because I was smaller. I dunno. Don't think so though. Anyways, the patties on the Big Mac have shrunk. I'm sure of this. And most places the amount of lettuce you get on your Mac would almost qualify it as a beef salad. The bun is like croutons, the pickles are cucumbers, onions are onions, cheese is cheese, and the special sauce is Thousand Island dressing. This Big Mac had a garden of gnarly lettuce hanging out of it everywhere! The lettuce cutter got a bit lazy. There were long hunks of lettuce in the box, outside the box everywhere. It needed a shave before eating. I could just barely taste the meat. But it was good anyway. Never go shopping hungry they say.

I got to Lotte Mart and decided that since Tuesday I would officially get another client for 6 extra hours a week, I could buy a couple things I needed for my room. I went to appliances first and put an electric kettle and an iron in my buggy. Now I can have tea without running upstairs to get a pot from the kitchen, running back downstairs to put clean water into it, then running back upstairs to the kitchen to boil it, and finally returning downstairs to my room to drink it. I've already had a couple cups of tea and I am happy with my purchase. The iron I haven't used yet. I'm waiting until it dries out.

You see, after getting all the fixins for my stirfry along with a couple cups, tea, creamer, crackers you know just in case I invite someone over for tea, I go up the escalator with my five bags of groceries and it is raining cats and cats. I have seen a few more dogs here but still not enough to warrant the "cats and dogs" idiom in this country. There were several people at the doorway staying dry while waiting for husbands, wives, friends or drivers to come pick them up. There were a couple of enterprising gents sopping wet with umbrellas. They were collecting tips from people to walk them to their cars and cover them with their umbrellas. They asked me if I wanted their assistance but I needed a taxi. I asked them, "Taxi?" and they shook their heads. Most malls have areas, usually sheltered areas for use in the rain, where you can form a taxi line-up and there are workers who flag taxis and sometimes even record where it is you are going. Not Ratu Plaza. No problem, I have the number for Bluebird Taxi. I have called it several times. I know it works. So I take out my not so trusty, yellow Nokia and call up Bluebird. I get the musical recording that says, "The number you have dialled can not be reached." Or something like that. I dialled several more times and got the same recording. Did they change their number? Was this another misleading message and really the line was just busy? Or was this just another way the taxi system grinds to a halt in the rain? Do they actually shut their phones off in the rain? I may never know but today I called Bluebird and it rang. I hung up before anyone answered but, hey it serves them right.

The main entrance to Ratu Plaza was just across from the Lotte Mart entrance to I took my 5 bags of groceries out of the buggy and carried them over to the entrance where I'd ask the two security guards how to get a taxi. The second my foot hit pavement it was under a flow of water up to my ankles. It was really coming down hard! Even though the area between Lotte Mart and the Ratu Plaza entrance was covered, there was water getting through and I got a lot of it on my head, shirt, and, of course, glasses. So I get to the security guards with wet feet and damp upper body and ask about a taxi. They refer me to the umbrella dudes who have already shaken me off. The security guards seemed like they were arguing a bit with the umbrella dudes but finally one of them agreed to show me to a taxi. We got out into the pouring rain. My head was covered by the umbrella but rain was soaking my groceries. We walked all the way down to the main road. This is the main road in Jakarta! I think it may be called Jalan Sudirman. Sudirman the main downtown area I think. We couldn't just flag down a taxi there. Nope. We walked through some construction, through some fast running, clay coloured water and to the walkover bridge. This is the overpass that you take to catch a busway bus in the middle of the road. The one place I had taken my disastrous, and only, busway trip. The overpass provided decent shelter from the rain so I stood there with about 50 other people while the umbrella dude tried to flag me down a cab.

There were people waiting out the rain, people selling food, people on motorbikes who didn't want to ride them in the downpour, ojek, motorbike taxi drivers and people going to and coming from the busway. And there was me. I was still holding all five bags of groceries because there was no good place to put them down. I think the other people had found the best spots because everywhere I seemed to stand was underneath a stream of water. I was getting wet even under the bridge. There was a fast running stream of dirty water that was about an entire lane closest to the curb where I was standing. Some ojek drivers were sitting on their bikes in the current but it was otherwise unused by traffic. So it would have been very easy for a cab to pull over and put me and my groceries into it. But, as I have experienced before on rainy days, cabs just ignored my umbrella bearing flagger. And it wasn't like traffic was flying by either. Several of the taxis slowly crawled past right in front of me so that I could see clearly that their lights were on and they were empty. Curiously all of them were Bluebird. I have been told that Bluebird is the best but almost all the trouble I have had with taxis here in Jakarta has been with Bluebird.

Finally an Express cab was seen in the distance with its light on. The umbrella boy asked me in facial/body language if it would be acceptable and I nodded my approval. The Express taxi pulled over for me! The umbrella guy opened the door for me and waited with the umbrella. Between me and the taxi was a fast flowing stream of brown water about 10 yards wide. My feet were already soaked anyway. While stepping off the curb, I began to say to my helper and the cabbie that I wanted to have the trunk opened. Never did finish that sentence. You know how it is when you think the ground is closer than it actually IS? I think there must have been a sewage drain right where I stepped. No way to see that because the water was the same level as the ankle deep water around it. But whatever I stepped into it was knee deep. I didn't get a second step and with the five bags of groceries it was all I could do to stop my fall with the knuckles of my left hand still clinging to three bags of groceries. But the knuckles didn't take much of the fall. Mostly my chest. Yup, it was an epic faceplant. Like the reverse Nestea plunge. Somehow my face didn't hit the pavement although my whole head felt like it was completely submerged. Lucky I guess.

So there I was scrambling to retrieve vegetables, cups, jars and meat packages from the fast flowing water and put them back into the now VERY heavy grocery bags half full of rainwater. One of the bystanders, a young man, helped me. I was too embarrassed to do anything more than say, "Thank you." to which he replied, "That's okay." In English. What a nice kid! I did the usual glance back at the place where I fell. You know to check whether there were inconsistencies in the walking surface or whether it was just klutziness. But I didn't have the ability to look at the crowd. I wouldn't blame them at all if they were laughing their asses off. I mean that must have looked hilarious! With some Howard Cosell comentary in the background, even funnier. "Down goes the bule! Down goes the bule!" Bule with an accente gu on the e so it's pronounced bool eh, is the slang word for foreigner here.

I think I managed to get everything and with myself and my groceries DRIPPING with muddy water I loaded up the cab and got in. They never did open the trunk. I gave umbrella boy 5 thou for his trouble. I think that was too little but he wasn't complaining and I just wanted to get out of there.

So I am in the back seat of the cab with an inch or two of water already on the back seat car mats going through my groceries to see that everything is okay and bleeding from some road rash on my knee. And we start our journey back to my place. It's a little after 4 PM. The driver was very nice. He gave me his tissues and I cleaned my knee wound with one and my glasses with another. To tell you the truth I was just laughing about it with him. And it was kind of refreshing on a hot day. Plus being wet the air conditioning is like doubly effective. But traffic, because of the rain, was MURDER!

This is not the rainy season. I'm told it rains almost every day during the rainy season. So why aren't the drivers of Jakarta a little better at driving in the rain? It's a mystery to me. It took more than two hours to make the 15 minute trip. Instead of 30 or 35000 Rp. it was 100,000! And we couldn't make it to my door. I had to grab my 5 bags of groceries and cross two local streets that are usually not busy at all but now were jam packed with stationary motorists blowing horns and inching closer to the cars in front of them. It was only raining a little now so I didn't get too wet walking back to the kost.

There wasn't as much damage to my groceries as I expected. I had 10 eggs and none were broken. The boxes the iron and kettle were in were completely soaked through so I shot them out. I saved the English instructions for the iron. While checking to see if they had included English instructions the phrase I read was, "Do not submerge iron in water." So what would that be called, brace yourselves, IRONy? heh heh. Thank you very much.

I made the stirfry and it was DEEElicious! I ate the whole thing too. Probably shouldn't have but I needed my broccoli fix. I watched the Cloud Atlas while eating. Pretty good movie I thought.

All in all I can't even say I'm not GLAD that happened to me! What would I have blogged about otherwise? And as previously promised, I will continue to blog about other such occurences that are sure to occur during my Jakartian initiation. It's a steep learning curve and if you know me, I only learn the hard way, so this is probably going to be entertaining.

Stay tuned.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Nokia Narcolepsy


Yesterday, Thursday, was the first real totally down day I've had in this month that, I fear, is going to be full of them. Especially if the pattern of technological difficulties persists. What am I talking about? Let me splain.

I got up and went to meet Mr. Lee for conversation this morning, (Friday). It was 7:30 and I was already at his office waiting for him. I went early because yesterday, (Thursday), there was no wifi at the kost where I'm living. It is supposed to be fixed today but it's noon and still no wifi. So I figured I'd go early, check my emails and such at Mr. Lee's office because I know he has dependable wifi there. I got onto my email to find a message from 15 hours earlier that was from Matthew, the guy I'm going to be working with full time as soon as we can fill up my schedule. The message read, “I tried to call you all day today.” I checked my phone. No messages, no missed calls. On Wednesday the internet was shakey at my kost and for some reason my telephone automatically went into the thoroughly useless mode that is euphemistically labelled “emergency calls only” mode. Mr. Lee had had that happen to him before as well so he showed me how to remove the flashy yellow protective cover from my trusty Nokia, then remove the battery, wait a few minutes and put it back in. Voila! The phone worked again.

The emergency calls only mode disables everything. I mean ERRRverything! No calls in or out, no texts in or out and no record of any missed calls or messages. And there is no beep, buzz, song or vibration to let you know the phone has slipped into this mode and become an expensive paperweight, it just happens because some numbskull wanted to add another feature for the sake of adding another feature. The way you find out this has happened is you try to send a text message or make a phone call and get the thoroughly inaccurate message, “Emergency calls only.” This feature has helped exactly NObody but it has pissed off thousands. Dare I say millions? This is what happens when people who have no idea about people, and what we do, design electronics.

So I try to make a phone call and sure enough, “Emergency calls only.” So I dismantle my not as trusty as I thought Nokia, take out the battery, wait a few minutes, then put it back in. Voila, it works again. So I call up Bluebird, the taxi company, because I'm going to need a taxi after I finish chatting with Mr. Lee at about 9:10. It works. I get Bluebird. While I am dialling and waiting I try to bring up on my laptop the file in which I have stored the address of Mr. Lee's office so as to tell the cab company where to come and get me. I put all this stuff on my computer for those times when my phone doesn't work, or is stolen. But it won't come up. I clicked on it about 20 times and got nothing. So I'm struggling to explain, in English, to the dispatch at Bluebird where to come and when and suddenly I hear a beep. “Hello? Hello? Hello? Bluebird?” Either they hung up on me or the call was dropped by my decreasingly trusty Nokia.

I send an email message to Matthew telling him that there was no wifi at my place yesterday and so my email wasn't available and my phone was in yellow brick mode. Then Mr. Lee comes and I go to his office. He is pretty sure the same thing has happened to him a few times. But we're both perplexed about why the lack of wifi would knock out a phone. Thing is when I was staying at Matthew and Abbey's place, (different Matthew), there was no wifi there either and my Samsung Galaxy switched into the exact same mode. I got the “emergency calls only message” from that phone a few times. Why the frig would wifi have anything to do with phones? Matthew sends me a reply saying pretty much exactly that. There should be no connection, (phrasing), and it makes no sense at all. I agree that it makes no sense but am at a loss as to what I can do short of building my own repeater tower near every place I live. While I was at Matt and Abbey's I missed out on a client and almost missed out on Mr. Lee. I was hoping this didn't happen again.

I got a call from Matthew at the very beginning of the chat with Mr. Lee so he made it quick and just told me that another appointment I had planned on had cancelled. But after I said goodbye to Mr. Lee I called Matthew back and my worst fears were confirmed. There was a soldier looking for some English instruction. This would have been I think 6 hours a week for me. A HUGE chunk of full time hours! Not to mention a tidy chunk of money every week. Matthew could not reach me so he gave the contract to another teacher.

So I go home, change clothes and get the phone number of the kost where I'm staying. I find an internet cafe, (because, as yet there is no wifi at my place), and email the number of the kost to Matthew for a situation in the future when my phone automatically goes into a technological coma again. I then do a search on the glacially slow internet at the cafe to see if I am the only person in existence having this problem. It turns out that there are pages and pages of conversation threads about the same thing. I find lots and lots of fixes for the problem, (i.e. Take the battery out and put it back in again), but not a single piece of advice on how to disable whatever setting there may be that leads to this Nokia narcolepsy. I STILL don't know what to do about that. If anyone who is reading this has the solution, PLEASE let me in on it. I have looked at every single setting I can find and nothing looks like it would do anything to help. Of course it might be the same as the volume. When I first got this phone I made a call or two and could not hear the person on the other end. Jakarta is a cacophony of motors, horns, voices, and such at the best of times. Even when you go inside it can still be noisy. So I found a couple of settings on the phone. One was loudness. I put a check mark beside that. The other I found by accident by pushing the hang-up button once too often a volume meter comes up so I maxed it. The next call I got was no different in voice volume but the ring was deafeningly loud! I did the google thing again and found that if you press the utility button to the right DURING A CALL the volume will go up. Left for down. Again, who the hell designs these things? It's a PHONE. Hearing is half the reason you bought it! Why oh WHY make the customer hire a private investigator to find out how to get that function? Stop the insanity!!!

So here I sit with less than half the weekly hours I would have had if EITHER internet or phone had been working yesterday. And still no dependable strategy for keeping the exact same thing from happening tomorrow. This is Jakarta so far for me. I'm in technological Hell but these ARE some pretty entertaining blog posts I guess. If I could ever get to my blog.

Oh now THERE'S another story. It was the internet here. You see before it went completely out it showed up on my computer, (again with the mislabelling) as “limited.” While the wifi is “limited” I get NOTHING. Absolutely nothing. But I go to sites and get the “unable to access this site” or whatever it is. Then my browser memory remembers that and goes straight to that even if the wifi is on again. So I have to clean my cache and retype all my websites and passwords every time I want to check if the internet is fixed.

Now here's the weird part: Before the internet went completely out I could do anything except view my blog. I could go to the dashboard, write, edit, post, update, I just could not SEE the actual site. I went to Mr. Lee's office and viewed it fine. I went to Wall Street and viewed it fine from another computer. I thought it was my computer or the website but it was neither. It was just a weak internet signal. So I guess that's the first thing to go. My blog. So when, (if), the wifi gets fixed today, there's no guarantee I'll be able to post this. I might have to wait till I go to a place with good wifi.

Still having fun here though. Sigh...

Addendum: Wifi is working at my kost again. So I posted and then went to view this post. BZZZZZZT! Still got half assed wifi. The main reason I MOVED here was the wifi. Again, sigh...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Teacher

The teacher stayed up most of the night finding funny pictures of interesting occupations on the internet and choosing a size so that four could fit on one printed page, yet they were large enough so they could be easily seen by students sitting at the same table. He included some good ones like fisherman, chef farmer, truck driver, pilot, mechanic, some great ones like movie director, rapper, gamer, stuntman, politician, used car salesman, and some show stoppers like Mother, spy, and stripper. The chef was Chef from Southpark and the stripper was the animated Pamela Anderson character named Stripperella. These were things he always tried to include in lessons to keep himself, or any other teacher using the lesson, amused. Like the humour in Disney movies for adults. It's even funnier when the kids don't know why you're laughing.

The next morning he went into the institute early to use the copier and laminating machine. He printed out three full sets of 24 occupation cards in full colour. He then had the tedius task of cutting them out individually, gluesticking them onto the thickest, most opaque flashcards he could buy and laminating them four at a time. He then cut the laminated cards out making sure to round all four sharp plastic corners the lamination machine left. If he held them up to the light he could just barely make out the pictures but he would tell the students not to do that. That should work.

He had just enough time to get to class with the still warm game cards and the rest of his lesson plan and back-up plan. This SHOULD last the entire 50 minutes but just in case a good teacher always needs a back-up plan.

He started his lesson by asking the students what the first thing you say when you meet someone at a party might be. "No, not 'What's your name?' We say that to kids or animals. But you might introduce yourself. What else?" He called on individual students to break the silence. "Where are you from?" "Are you Korean?" "How are you?" "What's up?" "How about the weather?" FINALLY someone suggested, "What's your job?" "Okay, and another way to say that is..." he ended the silence with, "What do you do?" and wrote it on the whiteboard. "This is the second most asked question in the English language next to, 'How are you?'" The student who had earlier suggested this answer pumped a fist and said, "Asah!"

"I am going to give you all a job. Then you are going to practice asking present tense "DO" questions to your partners. I have made up a list of possible questions." He had tried allowing past students to think of their own DO questions about jobs but found that it was too time consuming so he made a list with good ones like "Do I... work inside/outside; have a hard/easy job; wear a uniform; wear special clothes; wear formal/casual clothes; make lots of money; help people; work with children/animals; have a dirty/dangerous job; have a boring/exciting job; travel a lot; need a university degree; do physical work; need to be smart; need to be good-looking; and so on. This list was copied out in advance and given to each table. The students had already arranged themselves 5 to a table. There were 30 of them. PERFECT! Half a set of cards for each table.

"While you are asking questions the other people at your table can say one of four things: YES, NO, MAYBE, or SOMETIMES. He wrote them on the board in large, bold letters. That is all! If the question can not be answered with one of the four then it should not be asked. For example do NOT ask," and in his best dumb guy voice he continuted, "What is my job?" The students chuckled. He did not chuckle because almost every time he had done this exercise in the past he had heard at least one person actually ask this question!

He then said, "ONE person at the table will pick up a card. Do not look at this card! Do not look at this card! Do not look! No peeking! No looking! Don't look! BOGO DEJIMAH!" The last, you may have guessed, means "don't look" in Korean. Most of the students got some strange expressions on their faces after about the third time he said it, but he said it a few more times and then told the class, "I have now told you not to look ten times. SOMEBODY is going to LOOK! Trust me, it will happen." It always had. MANY times. Not just this game. Every game. Every test, every quiz, every exercise. Cheating is a time saver when you have about a 13-hour day as most of these overworked and underplayed high school kids had. He had grown to accept it.

If a person asks five questions and still does not know his/her job, you may give SMALL hints. He wrote on the board, "After 5 questions SMALL hints." If the person is a bus driver don't say, (dumb guy voice again), "You drive a bus!" That is a BIG hint. Give SMALL hints. Everybody understand?" There were a few replies. "Everybody understand?" The class said, "Yes," in unisen. "Okay, I'm going to give you an example." He picked a random card, licked it and stuck it to his forehead. One student said, "Oh, teacher, dirty!" Another student said, "You PC games!" The teacher, and some of the students, groaned in disgust. Dumb guy voice once more, "Am I a gamer?" The students laughed and two students in the vicinity hit the boy who had given the massive hint.

"Thank you Joo Il for showing us what NOT to do!" He chose another card and stuck it to his forehead. "Do I work outside?" Almost every student said, "YES!" "Do I have a dirty job?" This time every student said, "YES!" "Do I make a lot of money?" "NO!" "Do I have a boring job?" "YES!" "Do I need a university degree?" "NO!" "Okay, five questions, now you can give SMALL," looking directly at Joo Il, "hints!" One students said, "You in water." "Ah, I work in water. Am I the captain of a ship?" "NO!" Another student said, "You likes fish." It was Hyo Eun, whose pronunciation was about the worst in class. He took advantage of this. "PC? Gamer? Again?" "No teacher! Fish, no PC!" said Hyo Eun. The difference between the two words as she said them was negligible. This drew a great roar of laughter from the students and some of them repeated the two words as much in practice as in mocking. Hyo Eun was also the prettiest girl in class so she was only embarrassed for a short time.

"OH, FISH!" he enunciated. Am I a FISHerman?" The students all said, "YES!" and there was some applause. He then put a stack of 12 cards at each table making sure to remember which tables had the two deck halves so they could switch after they finished. At the first table every person took a card and one of them LOOKED at the card. "AH HAH!" The student was teribly embarrassed. It was just a natural reaction to look when you drew a card. The students were so merciless in their chiding of the guilty student that the teacher felt that nothing further needed to be said about that. He switched her card for another. He then, at the second table, demonstrated how only one person should take a card at a time. Then only after that person finished should the next person draw a card and ask some questions. He knew that would only last a short time at most.

While wandering around the classroom the teacher saw a few students surreptitiously peeking under their cards or holding them up to the lights a little too long on the way to their foreheads. He heard, "Am I work outside?" He corrected, "Where do you see AM? DOOOO I work outside!" He heard, "Do I have a hard/easy job?" "Easy!" He corrected, "YES, NO, MAYBE, SOMETIMES" He heard "Do I work outside?" "No." "Do I work inside?" "Yes." "Do I have a hard job?" "Yes." "Do I have a easy job?" "No." "Do I wear a uniform?" "Yes." These, he was certain, being the first five questions on the list, would be the only five questions asked by a good portion of the students. But at least they would have repeated the DO question pattern five times. Small victories...

The teacher's mind wandered to when he was working back in Canada. He recalled an exercise from his creative writing class in which he would walk into the class and without even greeting the students say something like, "The other day I was walking down the... the... uh... the..." and a student would offer, "Street?" "Yes," he would say, "The street! Thank you. I was walking down the street wearing my... my... ummmm...." Another student might suggest, "Shoes?" "Yes, thank you, Alex, I don't know what's wrong with me today. I was wearing my shoes. Suddenly out jumped a..." and this time more students would make suggestions. He heard "grasshopper", "gorilla", "order of french fries", and he laughed. "What? Who said, 'order of french fries?' because that's exactly what jumped out! Out jumped an order of french fries." Well then it was on and the students were in virtual competition to see who could suggest the most off-the-wall, outrageous, crazy, CREATIVE answer. The craziest story ever told would usually end after he allowed several silly students to make their contributions and the room was in an uproar with others shouting out in hopes of adding their wackiness to the tale, when the teacher would exclaim, "Hey, hey, HEY, HEY, HEY!!! Who's telling this story anyway?" It was a can't miss strategy to establish trust, creativity, sometimes linguistic borders in the classroom and usually coolness. The job was easier in Canada if the students thought you were cool.

He had tried that in Korea once. Just once.

"Teacher finishi!" It hadn't even been five minutes! "How did you finish so fast?" "Smart." "Okay, are you guys finished yet?" the teacher asked the table with the other half of the finished group's cards. They were not finished so he picked up the used cards, gave them to the students at the finished table and added the 12 cards from the finished table to the unfinished students' stack. He then watched the finished table's technique. Sure enough they were doing the exercise wrong and giving hints, BIG hints, before five questions had been asked. But there wasn't time to correct. Other tables were hurriedly finishing not wanting to be too far behind the table in the lead. He was busy exchanging cards between tables and all but one table had been given some new cards. It was Min Jae, Hyun Ah, Min Ha, Bo Mi and surprisingly Joo Il. Min Jae and Hyun Ah were best friends. They consistently received the highest marks in English and in most other subjects. Min Jae was Olive Oyl thin with big, unflattering glasses and braces. Hyun Ah was the biggest, and toughest, girl in class. But she was one of the smartest too. Min Jae had given her school uniform nametag to the teacher earlier in the school year. She and Hyun Ah asked a lot of difficult and sometimes unnecessary questions. It was good that they had each other because they might not have had any friends otherwise. The teacher encouraged both to sit at the front of the class because occasionally they, and only they, would understand one of his otherwise flat as a pancake jokes.

Disaster! Within another five minutes every table was finished or at least said that they were. Every table but Min Jae and Hyun Ah's table. They were still working on their first 12 cards and they were easily the rowdiest table in the classroom. The teacher allowed them to finish their twelve cards. It would have been a shame not to. And as punishment he just made the rest of the class wait. When they finished there were still 20 minutes of class time left so the teacher explained the second exercise.

"Okay, you are an employment counsellor. You will talk to your client and try to find out his/her personality and give him/her the job that best suits his/her personality. You will find that your list of questions for the game will work well for this role play. You could ask questions like, "Do you like working outside?" "Do you want to make a lot of money?" "Do you want to help people?" and so on. Ask some questions to your partner. At least FIVE questions. Then choose what you think would be the perfect job for your partner. When you are finished, change roles and repeat. Everybody understand?" The entire class said, "YES!" so he let them go.

As he circulated he heard, "Do you wat to work outside?" "No." "Do you want to work inside?" "Yes." and sighed. He even heard, more than once, "What do you want job?" or "What is your dream job?" or "What job you like?" Answer: "Pilot." "Okay, as your employment counsellor I choose for you the job of pilot. Teacher finishi!"

A lot of the groups had finished the exercise within 5 minutes. The teacher was not about to rack his brain to give them any more busy work. He watched the table at the front as they performed the role play to perfection. He didn't even notice the principal, Mr. Ahn walk into the class until the class got absolutely silent and every student was sitting up straight in his or her desk looking at him. Mr. Ahn walked up to one of the groups he had noticed to be finished. He asked in English, "Did you finish your exercise?" One of the group puffed out his chest and answered, "Yes, Mr. Ahn." "Good boy!" was Ahn's reply. "And how long ago did you finish?" The teacher interjected, "They were finished about 5 minutes ago." "And did you give them anything else to do while they were sitting idle in class?" "No, Mr. Ahn, I was waiting for the others to finish." "Did you finish?" he asked Min Jae. "No, Mr. Ahn." she said looking at the floor. "And why did you not finish?" "I don't know." was all Min Jae could manage as a reply. "When I walked into this classroom some of the students," a piercing glare toward Min Jae, "were quite noisy and out of their seats, while others were sitting quietly, but idle in their desks." Mr. Ahn addressed the entire class in Korean that the teacher could not understand. The students at several points during the address said in perfect unisen, "Neh!" which means yes. Mr. Ahn bid the teacher good bye and returned to his office almost exactly at the end of class. The students were dismissed.

The teacher was called to Mr. Ahn's office after the class to be subjected to a lecture on the evils of idle students in the classroom. He summoned all the courage he could muster and thanked Mr. Ahn for the pedagogical wisdom. The teacher then slouched toward the institute minivan to be driven home. As the minivan pulled away Mr. Lee, the institute owner, informed him in broken English, "Ahn teacher say class noise." "I know, Mr. Lee." "And student nussing do." "I know Mr. Lee. He told me." "Ah. Okay?" Mr. Lee gave a thumbs up to the teacher. "Okay." he said and returned the thumbs up.

As the minivan pulled away from Yong Dong High School Min Jae and Hyun Ah ran beside it waving goodbye with the exhuberence reserved for a pop singer. The teacher sat up straighter in the back seat. It was 8 PM. "You go out tonight?" Mr. Lee always tried to keep track of the teacher's hours and sound as though he was being sociable. "A little dinner, a few hours of lesson prep. and back at it again early tomorrow morning." said the teacher. "Ah goood." Mr. Lee gave another thumbs up to the teacher but the teacher did not see.



Monday, June 30, 2014

Thinkin'

I've got an excess of downtime. Since coming back from my visa run and getting set up at my new place, the main appointments I have had have been going away parties, meetings with co-workers and such. I've had to set up the new computer so that I can download materials for future jobs, (not to mention movies for watching right now), and I've had to go a few places to get items for my room, meet people, tie up loose ends at Wall Street, etc. Don't underestimate the complications that can arise every time a person has to go somewhere in Jakarta. I went to pick up my final paycheck the other day. It took two hours to get to Wall Street by cab and two hours to get home. Missed a student's birthday party because of it. Not to mention I was paid by check. I can't cash a check without a bank account. I can't get a bank account without a proper work visa, (KITAS), I can't get a KITAS from Wall Street. So luckily Tegu, the money man at WSE Pondok Indah, cashed my check for me.

But I have had more than the usual amount of time to myself so I have started catching up on movies I missed. Downloaded the Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club, American Hustle and a few episodes of a few TV shows. It's nice to have a small computer so I can just watch while I'm in my bed.

Also, as planned, I have been able to study the language here in my downtime. My goal is to use this time MOSTly for that. But it hasn't materialized yet, though I have done some studying. If I had classes I think I'd be better off. Same thing with exercise. I planned to work out more and that hasn't happened yet either. Both require money and since it would not be wise to count my chickens here I am reluctant to spend money on those things. I looked into the gym nearby and it's 75 bucks a month. That I don't think I'd pay even in Canada unless it was a really good gym where I could just work out and GET out. It's tough to find a no nonsense gym here. All I seem to find are the "Hey everybody, look at me work out!" type of gym where you can bring your laptop and show everyone how important you are by multitasking and skyping with a client while you drink your protein shake listen to Spinal Tap volume gag-reflex testing dance tunes and carbo load with a power bar pre-training. All in the brightly coloured, predominantly glass fishbowls that allow passers-by to admire your physicl dedication. PPpppppbbbbtttthhhhhbbbbtttt! Give me a sweaty, honest, stinky gym to work out in total anonymity and I'll pay the 75 bucks. As for the Indonesian classes, I haven't even found a good book let alone a good class. I've been using my dictionary believe it or not. That and trying to pick up words from TV I watch. But I've been watching no TV lately so there ya go.

What I HAVE been doing is thinking. And because of some friends' blog and facebook posts I've been thinking a lot about one of my favourite topics: where everything came from. Some people like to think about women. I prefer the cosmos and all things in existence because I think there is a better shot of someday figuring it out. Though I seriously doubt man will ever attain the knowledge to decipher either it is really interesting to me to look into new ideas and arguments. I like to debate and discuss objectively with friends to exchange reading lists and maybe pool resources and facts to gain greater understanding, but, unfortunately, this is a topic about which I have found very few people able to have objective discourse. Everyone seems to have strong opinions even though there can be no absolute certainty in any view or opinion. So undoubtedly if I type on about some new genetic information that brings us closer to an understanding of intelligent creation, I will have detractors. And if I get into a long blog post about how I have found some new information that clarifies the theory of macro-evolution, I will also have detractors. So why do it at all? Because I have the time. Blame the Indonesian government.

Have you ever noticed that when you look at the estimated ages of various things it seems that, almost without exception, the more complex things are the younger things. For example, the Earth is believed to have originated about 5 billion years ago. Bacteria and algae - 3 billion years ago. Filamentous algae, (whatever that is) - 2 billion years ago. Marine invertebrates - 600 million years ago. Fish and land plants - 400 million. Amphibians - 300 million. Dinosaurs - 200 million. Mammals - 150 million. Primates - 20 million. I got this list from an MIT webpost so I'm hoping it is as reputable as the college. At least.

This fits the explanation of macro-evolution that has everything, presumably from the massively non-complex amoeba on up to the most complex creature, developing in order of increasing complexity. That is, the more highly complex life forms would tend to be the younger. And to throw in a complete non-sequitur this is why Eve came after Adam. Woman is to man as watch is to pebble as our friend William Paley would have said. He's the guy who, in the 1700's, gave us the watchmaker analogy in which he posited that something highly complex suggests an intelligent creator. The key part of his theory, to me, was when he said that even the simplest of natural living things are unimaginably far beyong a watch in complexity. Remember this was years before Dalton's atomic theory and QUITE a while before SUBatomic theory. As science progressed, Paley's statement just got righter and righter. Things are highly complex! And it would seem that the theory of macro-evolution, that is the idea that everything came into being by evolving through variations or "mutations," makes sense since it is theorized to have happened in order of increasing complexity.

However, the mutation, the very engine of evolution, is itself a process of DE-complexity. There have been some studies that have shown what appeared to be new genetic information being created through mutations but what was actually happening could be more accurately explained as unscrambling pre-existing information, decompressing packed information, turning on and off certain genes, or even destroying genes such as prohibitor genes so that some pre-existing material, not new material, is no longer prohibited. The vast majority, (if not all), of genetic mutations lead to a loss of genetic material, and all those that would appear to have lead to the creation of new genetic material, whether they did or did not, are not consistent with evolutionary theory. Evolutionary theorists admit this.

This could lead the reasonable thinking person to beieve that if the theory of evolution is true, and if genetic mutation is its core scientific causation, there must have been a pattern of decreasing complexity. The original being, or anti-amoeba, must have been extremely complex and through billions of years, or maybe more, of genetic mutational simplification, or loss of genetic material, we arrived at the youngest, less complex species known today. But that is the exact opposite of what the theory of evolution suggests.

At the very least it seems almost inevitable that more complex structures exist in the genome of species than the ones proposed by Darwin. https://fbcdn-sphotos-a-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xfp1/v/t1.0-9/p320x320/10300799_866302033390809_5444026252074926043_n.jpg?oh=c26afe611a863432517a41874db1be38&oe=541EEE44&__gda__=1410825588_d8d15ae7d6c99168c3cdf4ce36384c0aThis necessitates the idea of more and more purposeful, and less and less random genetic mutations that helped evolution along. And we're back to one of the main problems I've always had with evolutionary theory. Call it purposeful, or natural selection but when you tell me that nature is an unintelligent, non-sentient, force my mind rebels at the idea of nature making selections or having purposes or goals. Mutation rates just don't correspond to evolution rates. The scientific records show that there were bursts of evolutionary mutations the rates of which defy what we have learned through scientific research of both ideas. Giving more credence to the concept that genes perform their duties with a will, not "as if they had a will," as Richard Dawkins suggested. How selfish can that gene be observed to behave before ACTUAL selfishness is attributed to it?

It is a personal theory of mine that as science progresses and we see, (or at least see the palpable plausibility of), sub-sub-sub, (and so on), atomic particles, all the while discovering, (or at least discovering evidence that would lead to a very strong belief in the theory of), ever expansive universes, one day, most likely when I am dead, science and spirituality will end their rivalry and come to the theory, (not the certainty but the theory), that infinity both directions and higher and higher complexity doesn't just suggest but it indicates and all but proves the presence of intelligence in the coming into being of all that exists. At the very least it removes all distinctions between believers in God and believers in God particles. The more science I am exposed to, the easier it becomes to think this way.

But perhaps I'm easily convinced. Perhaps it's easier for me to see that the belief in a scientific theory and a spiritual theory are, in essence, the same. Hearing old Leon Ledderman talk about aliens and soccer balls in his analogy of the theoretical sciences sounds to me remarkably similar to a poet like Sapho seeing the handiwork of God in the beauty of nature.

Now listen, I think it's wrong to believe either way without doing some research. In fact I think a person should do research in both areas. It is also wrong, in my opinion, to believe in something based on the weaknesses in the arguments for the opposition. Investigate both sides thoroughly before forming an opinion. That's what I always thought was the best way to do things. And it is how I have formed this opinion. Only it seems this opinion is getting less and less popular while I think it should be trending in the opposite direction. That to me is weird enough to blog about.

Leastaways, that's what I reckon.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Singapore, Sarina, Nokia

So I wake up at 3:30 a.m. after working till 9 the day before and not doing anything to celebrate my last day at WallStreet. I got to sleep at about midnight so really it was a nap. The gate to my street was still down so the Bluebird taxi I had arranged for 4:30 couldn't get to my place. I just walked around the corner and met him. Not many taxis on the road at 4:30. Not many anythings. So we drive to the airport and get there at about 5:15 for my 7:05flight to Singapore. Plenty of time to spare. I KNOW myself!

The driver says to me, "Terminal mister?" So I sez, "Interrrnational," rolling the r in an exaggerated attempt to feign some unearned Bahasa ability. He responds in the affirmative giving me the impression that my ersatz Indonesian has done the trick and foolishly assuming that if you are flying internationally you fly out of the international terminal. He drops me off at a dark, lifeless, decidedly unbustling wing of the Jakarta airport. It definitely says "International" on the building but it gave me an Indonesian vibe. I dunno, it might have been that only one of every ten people I saw there was upright and awake. There was one guy smoking, as there always is, one guy walking around and about thirty people of varying ages, bed clothing and sleeping positions trying their best to get their 8 hours.

My driver was the third. He was working the old familiar no change gag on me. We had taken the toll road to the airport and he had instantly produced the 12,500 Rupiah or whatever it was to pay the toll. I suppose that was the last small change he had in the world because now with a bill of 119,000 Rupiah, after receiving from me three 50,000 Rp. bills he was doing the no change facial screws and gesticulations the cabbies in Jakarta probably study harder than their city maps. I, with my persisting newby thinking, stood there calculating that 150 thou is about 15 bucks and he had probably paid a buck fifty for the toll road so really he is conning me out of a buck and change here. So I gave him the three blues, (50,000 Rp notes are blue), thereby enabling the no small change ploy and increasing my, and everybody else's odds of encountering it again. Sorry all you expats in Indo.

I get into this building literally stepping over blankets, prayer rugs, tooth brushes and alarm clocks and walk the entire length of this apparently neglected Soekarno-Hatta International Airport offshoot to be met by the guy I assume to have been the lookout. If not him then the smoker. He walks the length of the hall, that's really all the place was, pointing to the ceiling saying, "Upstairs!" It takes a few minutes but I eventually realize that I have to go outside to take the elevator that leads to the outside of the inside of the upstairs where I think I might want to be. When I get there I find two pastry/coffee shops and an A&W just opening up. There were some signs for other Asian airways and a departure gate with a few security guards taking tickets and checking passports. I show him my passport and ticket printout only to be told something I had had Boston strong suspicions of already, "Terminal three," he gruffly announced to me. I do the blank stare and arms out shoulder shrug, a move that has served me well on my international travels, and it produces again. "Outside. Shuttlebus."

I go outside to get a shuttlebus and see a security guard sitting on the last, (or first), cart in the train of luggage carts having a smoke. I ask him how to get to terminal three and he says, "There. Yellow shuttlebus." See? Security guards... So I wait and wait. Still not panicky because I have given myself enough time to deal with this sort of eventuality eventuating. The shuttlebus comes and I get on. It stops at terminal "tiga" and I get off. No problem there. I know "tiga" means "three." I found an Air Asia check-in area and asked what to do. The attendant showed me that I needed to input my flight code and wait. I do so and nothing happens. Everyone is confused. Then they realize I hadn't booked a seat. If you don't book a seat you have to get your boarding pass INSIDE. Whatever! I got inside to find some lengthy line-ups. It's now getting close to boarding time. About half way through the line a lady who has an Air Asia uniform on and has been flashing me glances from time to time comes up to me and says, "Only one luggage?" I said yes. So she directs me to the very same machine I had tried before. When it doesn't work she gets confused. I tell her that I have not reserved a seat yet. She then reserves me a seat and voila the machine works. Next time I'll know.

The flight went well. I originally thought, by looking at the times on the tickets, that I'd have about 5 hours to kill in Singapore so I was planning to go to one of the really great gardens they have there. But when I got to the airport, saw the line-ups for immigration that would easily shave half an hour off my time, realized that Singapore was an hour different from Jakarta, I decided that with a max of 3 1/2 hours it wouldn't be worth it to go sightseeing. And besides, what an awesome airport to wander around in! So that's what I did. I bought a few things too. Spent a total of 50 Singaporian bucks and got a litre of gin, two decks of "I Heart Singapore" cards, a meal at Burger King and a mini Bahasa-English, (and vice versa), dictionary. All about half the price I would have paid in Jakarta. I love the Singapore airport! So clean and easy to find your way around! And so much great stuff! Some is pricey but you can find some good deals.

I then sat in a chair and watched a repeat showing of the Costa Rica/Italy game from the night before. Costa Rica is kicking ass! They were one of my randomly picked teams in the Jakarta Gentleman's Club pool and weren't supposed to do much. Beat Italy and Uruguay already. Not too shabby! I was starting to fade in and out while I watched though. Still not much of a soccer fan and it really was an early morning at 3:30. So killed some more time walking around trying to stay awake. What I should have been doing was going through customs, then coming back in. I ended up doing that at the last minute but still made the flight.

I got back to Jakarta at around 3ish in the afternoon I think. The last time I went through customs there I had an entry card but no pen. Had to ask the security guard. This time there were no pens and no CARDS! A far cry from Singapore! So again I asked the security guard. He looked around and found nothing. Then he just stopped looking. I found one that was partially filled out and just scratched out the info that had been filled in by a Mr. Leong. Not sure that would work though. Then got in a massive line-up. After about 30 minutes I was at the front. The lady in front of me was next and we were rolling our eyes at the two people in front of us. Both had not gotten their VOA from the window before standing in line. That's visa on arrival. I was pretty sure my visa was good for a year but the lady in front of me assured me I needed to get a VOA. So I got out of line and went back to get one. I asked the girl in the VOA office if I needed one and after looking at my previous visa, she assured me that I did. I paid 300,000 Rp. for it. That's about 30 bucks. Then got back in the half an hour line-up. I was the VERY last person to go through customs! The agent looked at my passport and my newly purchased visa and said, "You don't need this." He said I had a choice to use the new two-month visa or just continue using the one-year visa. So I said I wanted to keep using the one year visa. He ripped up the other one. I asked if maybe I could get my money back for it and he said, "Not now, I just ripped it up." I don't know if I could have gotten my money back anyway but, what a dick!

So then I go outside to the taxi ambush. "Mister, taxi? Taxi, mister?" All the taxi companies I've been told to avoid because they may not take you where you're going. I went to the area where we are supposed to get Bluebird taxis. Right next to the Express taxi area. Those are the two good ones I've been told. Both have a sort of ticket collector. He gives you a number and you get a taxi like you get served at the bank. I waited 20 minutes before I realized that, then waited 20 minutes AFTER I got the number but got into the taxi. Things were going fine until it started thundering, lightninging and raining. Rain has an almost miraculous effect on traffic here in Jakarta. Impossible to get a taxi too. Strange... So for no apparent reason traffic came to a grinding halt just a few minutes from my place. It was dark and the raindrops were pelting out a soft and soothing beat on the roof of the taxi and I did something you are NEVER supposed to do: I fell asleep. About 20 times. All with little mini-dreams ranging from 30 seconds to about 5 minutes. I was exhausted! It was now around supper time and I was getting a bit hungry too. I just wanted to get home, eat something and crash out for about 20 hours. And we were not moving. At ALL! One of my dreams was abruptly ended by another car "rubbing" the side of my taxi too. Scccrrrrccchhhh! Driver didn't even react. Not so uncommon here. It's already the second time for me. We finally started inching along and by about the 2 hour point of the journey I had made it back home! Success! I'm good for another two months. Hopefully by then I'll be working and able to get my KITAS, (proper visa). I called Matthew, my new boss, from the airport to confirm that renewing my original business visa instead of getting the new one was the thing to do and he verified it. He also invited me out for dinner and to meet his wife, Ati the next night. That night he was going out and he invited me but I had to give that one a miss because I was already turning into a pumpkin. Good thing. I probably wouldn't have made it with that brutal traffic.

So the next day I got up determined to shop for a laptop. I'll need it for the new job. I went to Ratu Plaza, which is a good place to look for electronics. I found a pretty good deal on an HP laptop for about 500 bucks and it comes with Windows 8 and a free printer. I was on my way to the cash machine to get the money to buy it and thought I should text Matthew and ask when he wanted to meet up for dinner. He sends a text back something like, "On the way now. Please meet us and don't be late." I had no idea where they were going so I called him. He told me where they'd be and said he'd text the location and I could just show that to the taxi driver. Then Ati mentioned that it was Jakarta's birthday and between the area where I was and the area where they were there would be a big parade so roads would be shut down completely. To add to the usual brutal traffic in Sudirman, (the name of the area). So I looked outside and sure enough - gridlock! Nothing moving. Matthew suggested I take a busway to Sarina Mall then get out there and show the text message with the directions to a taxi driver. That oughta work. So I went to the busway area. Busways are buses that can use the busway lane in the downtown area. When you are in a cab inching along and see the busway go whizzing by sometimes you wish you were on it. This would be my first try. I waited for a few buses before I was able to ruck my way onto one. I'm not exaggerating! People were actually putting their arms around each other, BINDING ON, and rucking into the door of the bus so that their momentum would allow them to cram in. Needless to say these buses were jammed to the nuts! I managed to get a spot underneath an air con vent so I had that going for me. I had a lot of money in my wallet for the computer so I had my thumb in my wallet pocket but had to hang on to the bars above with my other hand. The hand that could have been blocking my cellphone pocket.

At Sarina Mall, the stop Matthew had instructed me to get off at, I moshed my way off the bus and checked all my pockets. Keys, check, wallet, check, paper pocket, check, cellphone pocket, empty. The bus was long gone. With my phone and the directions to dinner on it. Not to mention all the numbers of everybody I know here. So I did the only thing I could. I walked out to the street and watched some of the parade. People were all dressed in traditional garments, playing traditional music, smiling, I could have taken some lovely pictures... if I'd had my phone. I decided to look for a taxi as Matthew had suggested, but not to the restaurant, to my place. There were no taxis whatsoever. Even if my phone hadn't been pickpocketed there would have been no way to take a cab to the restaurant to meet Matthew and Ati. I walked sort of aimlessly just to get out of the blocked off area. I walked and walked and sweated and sweated. Luckily I was wearing my runners and wouldn't get my feet all blistery. Or so I thought. I kept walking, not knowing if I was going in the right direction or not. I had moved into my new place less than a week before so really hadn't yet learned the way home. And certainly not from where I was. It took me about three hours to get home. I was very tired and I DID have blisters on my feet! But I had to let Matthew and Ati know what had happened. So I did the only thing I could think of: I went to the pub. Surely someone there would have a phone I could use to get in touch with them!

So I sat at the pub rehydrating after a long, sweaty walk and resting my barking dogs. I found a friend there, Darren, (also known as the Cripple in Jakarta Gentlemen's Club), and he let me get the message out that my phone was lost. Well, you see, they have about 20 different prefixes to telephone numbers here in Jakarta. And none of the numbers I've been getting told verbally or texted over the phone work. Either the person telling me is assuming I'll know the long list of possible ways to try to dial the number or by some ridiculous coincidence I've copied down and/or received about a dozen numbers wrong. The numbers for my boss and his wife I was given did not work when I dialled them the way they were given. So I waited until they called me and on my telephone screen up popped the identical phone numbers with different starting numbers. So I saved those numbers in my phone. They were working for a while but suddenly they no longer worked! I can't believe anybody would have knowingly changed from 062 to just 62 or whatever. So I called the numbers I had for Matthew and Ati, both of which had worked before, and got messages that said they were no longer in service, busy, can't be completed as dialled or something like that when all along the REAL message should have been, "We're sorry but Jakarta is still in the dark ages of cell phone service. Please re-dial with some randomly selected numbers before the actual number. You should be able to connect to the party you wish to reach in several thousand attempts. Telima Kasih!"

Telima kasih means thank you. So I didn't get ahold of anybody but I stayed up till 5 or 6 in the morning watching Korea get smoked by Algeria in World Cup action. I had a meeting the next day with a fellow employee named Dennis. He said we should get together for a coffee and a chat at 12:30 at the Circle K around the corner from where I live. So I went the the Circle K around the corner from where I live. Waited for half an hour and Dennis didn't show. Of course I have no phone to send any messages or give him a call and see what happened. Or receive a call from him explaining what had happened... I had to get a phone. I heard you can get a cheapo Nokia here, like all the other S.E. Asian countries, and it'll be like 50 bucks. I have a Nokia for Thailand and one for the Philippines. SOOOOOOOOOO much better than any other phone! Including the Samsung Galaxy and I would be willing to wager, the stupid I phone. Simple is better for me. More technology = more problems. So I went to Pondok Indah Mall because I KNOW I had seen a Nokia place there in my travels. That's where I have been working for the past two months. I couldn't find it. My feet were still blistery and I had to wear my sandals for that reason. I wasn't about to comb the entirity of Pondok Indah Mall! So I settled for a local product. It was something like 18 bucks! I couldn't beieve it! Then I went to the phone store to get a sim card for it. The sim card worked until I got out of the store. I went back and she changed it to the second sim card slot. It worked fine. Until I got to Wall Street. I was telling a few people my new number and the card wasn't being read. So I just took the thing back. They said they couldn't give me my money back. So I just explained what had happened about a dozen times before they gave me back my money. Then, pain be damned, I combed the outer reaches of Pondok Indah Mall looking for the Nokia store. It was, OF COURSE, in the very last wing, walkway, skywalk or whatever that I checked. But now it was a mission. I looked at the cheapo phones on display and picked one out. The girl says, "Out of stock." So I went up in price until I got one they HAD in stock. Only one colour though. Shockingly bright yellow! Don't care. Mission! "I'll take it!" I said and slammed a sweaty handful of Rupiah down on the counter. The gesture lost some of its finality when the girl motioned me over to another dude in the other corner who was the one taking the money.

So now I have a cheapo phone and today I spent the day getting myself a cheapo laptop. That's what I'm typing on now. It's working okay but unfortunately I will have to tweak the settings. Every third word I type is being underlined by spellcheck because I think it's an Indonesian spellcheck. So I've just disabled spellcheck. Along with the annoying mousepad. I got me a real wireless mouse because I hate typing and accidentally touching the mousepad and having your curser jump half way up the page.

The moral of the story is traffic is brutal in this country. So are cell phone service and internet. Having a smartphone or a really powerful computer here is like having a Ferrari. They're more likely to be stolen than used the way they were meant to be used. I'm a low tech. redneck. NObody wants my cheapo yellow phone or my tiny laptop. But they both seem to be working just fine for me! So far...