30 June 2008

Marijuana -- Coffee Shops In Holland

You really have to give it up for the Dutch. The masters of the loophole but not the masters of the European Cup in 2008!

European Union law requires that member states put in place legislation that bans tobacco smoking in bars, pubs, and clubs, as well as restaurants. The Dutch have finally gotten around to this and as of 1 July 2008 they will become one of the last member states to put into effect this ban.

However, here is the loophole and the catch. The ban covers tobacco and not marijuana. Therefore, any coffee shop (aka marijuana-selling place) can continue to do what they have always done without breaking the law.

So, blogging colleagues, anyone wanting to make a trip to the Netherlands to explore this loophole, go for it and happy smoking to ya!

Aries -- My Horoscope for Today

Welcome back to the working week. Communications will be more emotive, so you should be very clear on how you express your thoughts and feelings to others. Ensure that you know exactly what you are about and if you are given instructions know exactly what you're supposed to do - don't leave anything to chance. You may find that you become concerned with about what's happening in other places of the world and you may travel more and process information in a different way than usual.

This is kind of close to what my day is going to be like. I have a serious email to send to my employers regarding my new work contract and whether I am going to accept the terms and conditions and stay or demand some changes. This is likely to be an emotive discussion.

But horoscopes are like statistics you can read anything that you want into them if you look hard enough!

Career Criminals In The Making

Here are some statistics that make you wonder about the parenting skills of some Australians. To be fair it might not be the parents per se, it might just be the case that these youngsters are beyond the control of parents who may feel like they have tried everything and still not managed to bring their children into some kind of respectable line.

NSW police are apprehending, on average, more than 50 children per week for sexual and other assaults, theft, armed robbery, drug dealing, and murder. What is even more scary in these statistics is that during the period from 1 January 2005 to 30 September 2007 some 7,724 offences were recorded by children under the age of 10. This is one of those moments where you close your eyes and go, "what?"

The statistics were obtained by News Ltd under a Freedom of Information request and show one murder by a 10-year-old, 1,109 assaults and 141 sexual assaults, including 31 by 8-year olds. At 8 years old I cannot even recall if I was thinking about girls let alone wanting to be involved in a sexual assault. I cannot even remembering wanting to assault anyone at that age. I mean the closest I might have come to an assault conviction could have been a punch up or two in high school. But most of the violence I was involved in was good wholesome fun on the rugby field and this was generally referred to as a crunching tackle.

Yet, the craziness continues as the statistics also highlight that there were 584 driving offences, of which 113 were by 8-year olds.

The question is what to do about this worsening juvenile crime wave as for those that are aged of 10 might get a Children's Court date which for first time offenders generally results in a slap on the wrist (this is the case for second and third time offenders as well depending on the offence).

However, for those under the age of 10 the current practice is to call in the parents, lecture the child on the evil of their ways and where this type of conduct will lead them and then release them back into the custody of their parents. Sometimes the Department of Community Services (DoCS) might become involved. Yet, DoCS are woefully under-funded and under-staffed as some of their more recent and public failings highlight.

Former Children's Court magistrate Barbara Holborow said, "I don't know whether it's because so many parents are working by necessity, loss of parents' rights, poor discipline at home or whatever, but something is wrong," ya think? no kidding!

A Model Life Ends In Tragedy

It is sad when people feel that there is no options left in life that they then decide to take their own. No matter what the circumstances, suicide is always a tragedy. Mostly for those left behind and scratching their heads and trying to work out why, or what the missed, or was there a tell tale sign that went unnoticed.

Yet, when the suicide is of a 20-year old model with the world seemingly at her feet it becomes particularly baffling. And this is the case with Ruslana Korshunova who is considered to be one of the supermodels and who has apparently jumped from the 9th floor window of her apartment in the financial district of New York City.

Hailing from Almaty in Kazakhstan she was a cover girl for vogue and one of the faces of 2005 (photo courtesy of AP).

It is a sad way to end a promising life.

29 June 2008

Anwar Ibrahim -- New Sodomy Claims

One wonders why people want to get into public life and public service in the first place, but to be subject to constant allegations of sexual misconduct and to be able to keep the course and stay focused and want to stay in public service takes a person with a special level of conviction and call to duty.

The de facto Malaysian oppostion leader, Anwar Ibrahim, has been accused of committing sodomy against his 'special assistant'. Anwar is de facto opposition leader because he is not a parliamentarian as his previous corruption conviction meant that he was not able to run for a seat at the last election. However, it was expected that a seat would have been made available and a by-election held. Nevertheless, the latest claims throw this immediate plan into some disarray.

What the special assistant does will become clear over time I guess. However, I would not have thought that the 'special' part related to "special" services. Yet, who knows the truth? I do not, so I will be watching and reading with interest where this goes.

I guess, even though the original sodomy charges against Anwar back in 1998 were finally overturned by the Malaysian High Court in 2004. Anwar has consistently denied the original allegations and has denied these most recent ones. He contends it is an attempt to deflect attention away from claims Anwar was going to make against the national police chief and the attorney general for their alleged role in having him accused of corruption and sodomy in 1998.

Anwar has stated that he obtained evidence that implicates the Inspector General of Police, Musa Hassan, and the Attorney General, Gani Patail, of misconduct and fabricating evidence against him in 1998. This evidence is yet to be released but could be a bit of a bomb shell if it is.

This latest drama and series of allegations will continue the current turmoil in Malaysian politics. It is always interesting to see what lengths politicians will go to maintain their relevance and influence. This is particularly the case for the Barisan Nasional (National Front) which although retaining a simple majority were decimated at the last General Election.

I cannot help but wonder whether the special assistant is seeking to gain something and did not get it so a good old case of sodomy seems as good as anything else to run with as Anwar would seem to be an easy target on this front or is this a case of where there is smoke there is fire?

The Anwar saga takes another turn in an old direction and as I said I will be watching with interest as to how the story develops.

Mini Me -- Verne Troyer -- Little People Sex

In this era of political correctness do you call someone who is height challenged a "little person", a "midget", or a "dwarf". No matter.

Verne Troyer who played Mini Me in the Austen Powers series of spy spoofs made a 50 minute tape of himself having sex with his then girlfriend. Troyer alleges that the tape was stolen and the person most likely to be involved in the theft of that tape is Kevin Blatt. Now any regular viewers, collectors, or purveyors of celebrity sex tape news will immediately recognize Blatt's name as the distributor of another classic celebrity sex tape, "One Night in Paris".

The 39-year old actor who stands a mere 80 cm tall has filed a USD 20 million lawsuit for violation of his privacy rights, infringement on his copyright, and the misappropriation of his name and likeness. Additionally, Troyer is seeking an injunction prohibiting further dissemination of the video which was available on the TMZ website (although it has now been taken down...the attached photo is from the TMZ site). The 20 second clip shows the little man tongue-kissing a former "girlfriend".

The whole tape is supposedly way steamier than just a little French kissing in the USA.

Public Intoxication

Now here is a very disturbing story out of rural New South Wales.

A 9-year old boy and his two 14-year old friends were found roaming the streets of Albury (on the border between NSW and Victoria) at 01.00. The roaming the streets is not the disturbing part. The disturbing part is that they were blind drunk and the 9-year old was talking to Jesus on the porcelain telephone (Australian idiom for vomiting + there is a whole site devoted to the subject).

I am sure that there is more to the story than just the public intoxication and the puking of one's guts in the street. Yet, all the same, at 9 years old there is something definitely to be concerned with on this one.

The incident has been reported to the Department of Community Services.

What Tarot Are you?

This is something my better half sent me last week.

You are The High Priestess

Science, Wisdom, Knowledge, Education.

The High Priestess is the card of knowledge, instinctual, supernatural, secret knowledge. She holds scrolls of arcane information that she might, or might not reveal to you. The moon crown on her head as well as the crescent by her foot indicates her willingness to illuminate what you otherwise might not see, reveal the secrets you need to know. The High Priestess is also associated with the moon however and can also indicate change or fluxuation, particularily when it comes to your moods.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.


Apparently, Alaska has the highest percentage of people that walk to work.

My experience of Alaska is limited to the TV show "Northern Exposure". The photo is of Mt. McKinley and can be found here.

Having a look at some of the photos of Alaska has inspired me to want to save up and go see for myself first hand some of these places.

Burma -- Get Educated!

Being a regular viewer of You tube means that you come across lots of cool videos. Even so, you do not always see everything that is out there. This particular video I became aware of after dropping by the FriskoDude. CP has been out of blogging action for a while because of some hardware dramas but hopefully he is back in full swing now.

This video is part of the Burma: It Can't Wait campaign.

So, let's get educated. I wonder who Indonesia's equivalent of Tila Tequila is?

Schapelle Corby -- Guilty?

How things change over time. Based on a recent Taverner Research poll it is clear that the majority of residents surveyed feel that Corby is guilty of the crimes for which she is doing 20 years. The majority in this case is slim at only 53% however, there are only 15% of those surveyed who believed her to be innocent. The rest remained unconvinced either way on guilt or innocence (perhaps they just do not care one way or the other).

The survey also found that people would be favourable to Corby serving out her sentence in Australia if and when a prisoner transfer agreement was reached. I have posted on this before and my view is that it will depend on the conditions of the agreement. If 20 years means 20 years in an Australian prison then perhaps Corby and her family would need to give some serious considerations to the generous remission provisions that prevail in Indonesia.

Public opinion would seem to be shifting on whether Corby is guilty or innocent.

Travel Horoscope -- What's Yours?

By way of Life In Mono.

Travel Horoscope for Aries
When you travel, you literally want to see a whole different world.
You want a vacation full of adventure, exotic sights, and tons of variety.

You should travel to:

New Zealand

28 June 2008


It seems that RyanAir is going to offer some interesting additional free services on its Trans-Atlantic flights for its business class customers.

These services are to include free oral sex!

The CEO of RyanAir certainly knows how to stir the pot and generate publicity and get a reaction. RyanAir has been in the news regularly for its creative marketing including the "Girls of RyanAir Calendar" which featured some of RyanAir's most attractive flight attendants in their underwear.

I am sure that there will be plenty of takers for this interesting offer.

More Street Art

Street Art


Always learning something every day.

Did you know that before mercury was used to fill thermometers that the thermometer filler of choice was brandy?

Well, if you did not know that, then I am glad to have been of assistance in providing access to a new factoid :D

Enjoy your Saturday evening and the rest of your weekend.

27 June 2008

Tea In Siberia

Just to keep you factually amused heading into the weekend...

Up until the 19th Century, solid blocks of tea were used as money in Siberia.

Simpler currency for simpler times.

Where Are They Now?

This is one of my favourite pictures. It is more than a couple of years old now. So, this kid is probably in his early teens by now.

I wonder has he gone on to be a soccer hooligan or is he still a soccer hooligan in waiting? Or has he become a model Feyenoord fan or has he changed allegiances to another team?

The questions keep coming.

A Bear In There

The question you must ask when you look at this picture is, "Is this intentional or someone with a warped sense of humor?"

I guess everyone needs somewhere to hang their hat or coat!

Eye Movement

Something that I learned today is that the eye makes movements 50 times per second.

This is another little fact that you can add to your trivia pile. Maybe I should offer to update trivial pursuit for the makers of the game!

You can find the picture here.

Skating Police

An article on the latest creative attempt by police to tame Jakarta's unruly traffic appeared in the Jakarta Post by way of the Associated Press last week that highlights the benefits of an innovative inline skating police force. This force is going to skate into heavily jammed areas and start directing traffic. It is expected that this will enable police to get to trouble spots quicker than they could if they were in vehicles or motor bikes.

For my mind mountain bikes might have been a wiser choice for this purpose. Any resident of Jakarta will readily and quickly tell you that the condition of roads leaves a lot to be desired and the footpaths are not any better. Most people can close their eyes and see the images now; police officers falling over all over the place, going feet first into uncovered storm water drains, and getting smashed by cars or buses running red lights. This just does not seem like that good idea on second thoughts!

The inline skating force will initially be 20 officers. These officers are undergoing specialized training and the police have hired a qualified and professional inline skating instructor to put the force through its paces. The force is expected to deploy on 1 July.

I am a bit of a skeptic on this one but would be happy to be proven wrong!

26 June 2008

Falling Asleep At The Wheel

This is for all of you who fly from here to there a lot!

An Air India flight that was headed to Mumbai from Dubai via Jaipur managed to overshoot Mumbai by a considerable distance and by all accounts was well on the way to Goa. So, what was the deal here? Apparently, after a successful take off, the pilots decided to engage the autopilot and then catch a few zzzzzzs. I am guessing that the intention was to wake up before it was time to start the descent.

However, it turns out that both pilots ended up grabbing a bit of shut eye at the same time. This ended up being a little bit confusing for the air traffic controllers on the ground in Mumbai who were attempting to guide the plane in for landing. Their instructions were receiving no response leading to fears that maybe the plane had been hijacked.

Finally, air traffic controllers were able to wake the pilots who then turned the plane around and headed back to Mumbai.

The flight included 100 passengers.

The investigations continue!

Absentee Ballots

Here is another little piece of trivial pursuit information that you may never need.

In 1997 the Texas legislature passed a bill that allows an absentee ballot to be cast from space.

Now how cool is that? Every vote counts and I guess this is what democracy is about. Simply. making sure that no matter where you are in the universe you can exercise your democratic right to vote for the candidate of your choice.

Light-Hearted Entertainment

In light of the heated exchanges on a couple of the earlier posts I made, I offer up this much more light-hearted moment.

Did you know that the Hawaiian alphabet only has 12 letters.

Well, if you didn't know this, I am happy to have been of service in increasing your knowledge of important things today!

Have a nice evening or day depending on where you are!

State Sanctioned Killing

Indonesia will execute two Nigerians later tonight. Although this is more likely to be in the wee hours of Friday morning as executions normally take place around 2am for some reason. This must be a reminder to all those contemplating smuggling drugs; it simply is not worth your life!

Maybe the Attorney General, Hendarman Supandji, has decided to execute a few people in the hope of taking the heat off of himself and an ongoing corruption scandal which is more than likely see him removed as the revelations of involvement keep moving on up the food chain at the Office of the Attorney General.

However, the reasons aside for the first executions of drug traffickers since 2004, it must not be forgotten that these two individuals smuggled drugs, were caught, tried and convicted in a court of law, and will soon pay the ultimate price for their stupidity.

The National Police Chief, General Sutanto, has also gone on the record to say that the executions should act as a deterrent. Nevertheless, they won't there is no sustainable evidence to suggest that the risk of death is a deterrent to the smuggling of drugs. Some people are just so desperate that no matter what the risk is they will still try and smuggle drugs.

Hansen Anthony Nwaolisa was caught trafficking 600g heroin in 43 capsules from Pakistan in January 2001. Samuel Iwachekawu Okoye was caught with 3.8kg of heroin in his luggage after arriving from India in January 2001.

Both men were sentenced to death in mid-2001 and their final appeals for clemency were rejected in July 2004. They are currently in special holding cells at the Nusakambangan Prison in Central Java.

According to Amnesty International, "Experts in international law, including the top UN officials, have confirmed that applying the death penalty for drug-related offences is a breach of international law".

The latest figures state that there are almost 60 people on death row in Indonesia for drug related offences and of these almost half are foreigners.

Polygamous Marriage in NSW

The New South Wales Premier, Morris Iemma, has unequivocally stated that polygamous marriage is not going to see any legislation that will recognize the practice. Simply, polygamy is illegal and will remain so.

There have been recent rumblings from within the Muslim community in NSW that recognition of polygamy is the right thing to do because some clerics in Australia and particularly NSW that are performing polygamous marriage ceremonies. The argument then goes, well seeing it is already happening then it is necessary to recognize that it happens in order to protect the rights of women in a polygamous marriage. This seems to be the introduction and recognition of a prohibited practice by default.

On the contrary, rather than recognize that polygamous marriages are being performed, the government must be proactive in ensuring that the community is aware that polygamy is prohibited and will not be recognized legally. In fact the government needs to make sure that liaison officers are in place in the community, if they are not already, to educate the community to the prevailing laws.

Perhaps rather than asking the government to recognize polygamous marriage by default perhaps a better line of attack is to look at whether or not the lack of recognition is a form of discrimination. The emphasis that modern politics puts on political correctness means that chances of success, although remote, might be better than just saying "make it so".

Then we must take this political correctness to the extreme and recognize polyandry as well. What is good for the gander must also be good for the goose as well.

Polygamy is not going to be recognized any time soon in Australia or in NSW more specifically and I am OK about that!

25 June 2008

Do Fish Cough?

This is one of these factoids that seems to have inspired some debate with the sides aligned against each other for those who believe and those who don't.

A search of the Internet suggests that fish do in fact cough.

So, fish do cough!

Mooning the Neighbours

Who needs friends or enemies when you can have neighbours like this fella?

Buyer Beware

I went shopping in the Sogo Food Hall at Plaza Indonesia (the photo is of the Plaza Senayan Sogo though) earlier this evening on my way home from a meeting in the Grand Hyatt. Shopping is usually me walking in with a shopping list and leaving via the check out with most of the stuff on the shopping list and a whole lot of stuff that was not!

Anyway, the caveat emptor or buyer beware angle is make sure you are paying attention at the check out when the goods are being scanned.

I picked up some tuna in a can (Greenseas) and some Schweppes Bitter Lemon. Now, I am pretty good at knowing when stuff is cheap or on special. My mum has taught me well. Once I had gone through the check out and paid using the trusty old credit card. I thought the bill seemed a little expensive but still around where I thought it might be. I checked the print out and the tuna was more than 7,000 rupes more than the tag on the shelf and the bitter lemon was more than 2,000 more expensive than the advertised price. By this stage I was already in the taxi and getting ready to make a b-line home.

The moral of this story -- stay aware!

24 June 2008


Ninjas, historically, didn't wear black. For nighttime operations, they wore dark blues, dark grays, and browns.

Although most people believe Napoleon was short, he was actually five feet six inches tall, an average height for a Frenchman in those days.

The idea that it is dangerous to wake a sleepwalker is a myth.

Non-alcoholic beer isn't. Most brands of non-alcoholic beer contain about 0.5% alcohol.

Even though you might think so, America is not the world's top producer of feature films. That honor goes to India.

The "v" in the name of a court case does not stand for "versus," but for "and" (in civil proceedings) or "against" (in criminal proceedings).

White paws on cats are commonly called "boots" when, in fact, they are actually referred to as "gloves."

Chastity belts were not originally imposed to keep people from having sex. They were intended to keep youngsters, of both sexes, from masturbating.

Contrary to popular belief, gladiators were lousy fighters in real combat. They were trained solely for arena fighting. On the actual battlefield, their skills were mediocre.

Potatoes weren't originally grown as food. They were grown for use as ornamental decorations.

Shoemakers are commonly called "cobblers," but correctly speaking, a cobbler is a shoe repairman. A shoemaker is a "cordwainer."

Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders didn't ride, ever, during the Spanish-American War. In fact, they weren't Teddy's. He was second in command.

Despite what you might think, just 20% of the Sahara is covered with sand. The rest is rocky.

The nose isn't the only thing that the Sphinx is missing. It once had a royal beard, a cobra emblem, and other pieces of masonry. Bits of what is left of the beard are in the British Museum.

Ducks are never male. The males of the species are called drakes.

The first umbrellas weren't intended to protect people from the rain. They were invented by the ancient Egyptians to shield them from the sun.

The list can be found here.

The Hunt For Osama Bin Laden

It is nice to know that the experts all agree that Osama bin Laden is either Dead or Alive!

Fortune Cookies

Fortune cookies with attitude!
Imaging getting one of these after having enjoyed a nice Chinese meal...
My personal favourite is the first one. I know a lot of people who tell me that they have hidden talents!
Have a nice day!

Trivial Trivia and Other Useful Information

Fleas have caused more human deaths than all wars put together.

In Aussie slang, the term for underwear is "grundies."

A recent study showed that as many as 16 million people alive today, about .5% of the population of Earth, are descendants of Genghis Khan.

"Sphenopalatineganglioneuralgia" is a medical term for ailment known as "brain freeze."

Viagra was invented in the town of Merthyr Tydfil, Wales.

President Lyndon Johnson had two beagles named Him and Her.

In December 1993, there were just 623 sites on the Internet.

A male ballet dancer is a "ballerino."

According to researchers, over a 60-plus-year period, the groundhog has accurately predicted the coming of spring only 28 percent of the time.

Chartreuse (yellow-green) is the most visible color to the human eye.

Mr. Clean has a first name. It's Veritably.

Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis once took a break from acting to study shoemaking.

About five percent of the U.S. potato crop goes to make McDonald's French fries.

The first disposable diaper was called a "Boater."

A blink lasts approximately 0.3 seconds.

In Thailand, it's illegal to leave your home if you're not wearing underwear.

The shotput used by male athletes weighs 16 pounds.

The proper name for a crash test dummy is "Anthropomorphic Test Device."

Hemingway once wrote a story in just six words. The entire story was, "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." He considered it his best work.

The average person receives eight birthday cards annually.

The above list was borrowed from here.

Mongol -- Film Review

This seems like it is a film that I would enjoy watching based on this review. It is a foreign language film and was nominated for an Oscar this past year in the Best Foreign Language film category. I do not know why, but I have been watching foreign language films since I was a kid. Generally, I watch films in languages that I do not speak but that seems to be no hindrance to my enjoyment of the spectacle of film.

It might also be the reason that I have an affinity for languages and pick them up so easily. I am very lucky that way. I once enrolled to learn Vietnamese at the Bankstown Community College and after a couple of classes the teacher wanted to move me to the intermediate class because he did not believe me that I had not studied the language before. Unfortunately, I have forgotten most of the language for the purposes of being able to use it in an immediate setting. However, I do find that after only a couple of hours listening to it, it starts to come back...

Back to the film.

The film is a work of fiction but apparently draws on a number of sources including the epic poem, The Secret History Of The Moguls, which was written about Genghis Khan shortly after his death in 1227. The film was shot on the steppes of China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan. This along with the fact that the cast resembles in physical appearance the people of whom the story is about should give it a great deal of authenticity.

I do not know if the film will get into theatres in Jakarta, but with a bit of luck I might be able to pick it up of DVD.

Here's looking forward to a good flick!

Circumcision and STDs

A recent study is one of good and bad news with respect to circumcision. A study conducted in Africa by the US National Institutes of Health evidenced that the rates of HIV / AIDS infection in circumcised men fell by 50% compared to their non-circumcised colleagues. However, another study shows that circumcision does not seem to protect men from other more common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). These are part of a number of studies that have examined this issue.

A study out of South Africa showed even more promising figures where circumcision was shown to reduce HIV infection by 60%. For African countries that are in the midst of a HIV / AIDS pandemic these are encouraging figures.

Nevertheless, a New Zealand study has shown that circumcision does not protect men from other common STDs like herpes, chlamydia, and genital warts.

The results and discussions of the studies can be found in the International Journal of Epidemiology (online) and the Journal of Pediatrics, 152: 383-387, 2008.

Beer and Alzheimer's

Moderate beer drinking might prevent Alzheimer's disease. It is reported in Food Chemical Toxicology, 46: 49-56, 2008, that Spanish researchers have identified that the silicone contained in beer might bind to the aluminium in your body and prevent the uptake of the aluminium by the brain. Most researchers believe that the cause of Alzheimer's is an accumulation of aluminium in the brain.

Aside from the benefits that might be derived with relation to Alzheimer's, it is also noted that drinking two beers a day reduces the risk of stroke, heart attack, and blood vessel disease. Another bonus of beer is that it serves to increase levels of HDL which is the good cholesterol. The good news just keeps on coming because the two beers that you get to drink also include polyphenols which are the antioxidants that prevent the free radicals from doing their damage. However, to get the same amount of polyphenols of a glass of red wine you would need to drink a pint of beer. The moral of this story would be to alternate your beer and wine days. After all variety is the spice of life!

Yet, we all know that excesses of anything have their down sides. In this case too much beer will lead to health issues such as obesity becoming more prevalent. However, it is the other effects of alcohol such as violence, bad behaviour, stupidity, accidents, and the like which demand that moderation be the key to your drinking.

Time for a beer!

Testosterone and Depression

An Australian study has highlighted that low levels of free testosterone are linked to increases in the likelihood of depression, heart disease, type-2 diabetes, muscle and bone loss, and decreased sexual performance. Those most at risk are older men, those who are obese, smokers, and anyone in poor health.

In fact the study showed that those with low naturally occurring levels of free testosterone were 271 percent more likely to show signs of depression.

For me this is the perfect example of a loophole in the laws against steroid use. Doctors can prescribe testosterone products to those with a medical need. Therefore, anyone looking to get a happy boost might want to pay a trip to their local doctor.

The report can be found in Archive General Psychiatry, 65: 283-289, 2008.

Terrorism Threat in Bali

The Gubernatorial Election in Bali is getting into full swing. One of the candidates, I Made Mangku Pastika, is a name that is familiar to many Australians touched by or interested in the Bali Bombings of 2002 and their direct aftermath. Pastika was the point man in many ways on the investigation that eventually resulted in the capture of the perpetrators of that evil.

Interestingly, Pastika has gone on the record to say that not enough has been done in the interim to secure Bali from future terrorist attacks. The increasing of this security is going to be one of the themes of his campaign it seems. Simply, Pastika's argument is that the level and quality of security on Bali does not meet international standards. The interesting part is that the US has recently withdrawn its travel warnings which suggests that the US, at least, considers Indonesia to be relatively safe for tourist travel.

Australia has so far been reluctant to lift its travel warning. The Australian government continues to cite reports of possible terrorist activity. If anything Pastika's statements will provide a little bit of breathing room to keep the travel warning in place. My take on travel warnings and in particular the Australian Travel Warning for Indonesia was that it was a legal document that the government would trot out to say, "we told you so", we will help repatriate you but you will have to pay all costs associated with that repatriation because we warned you and you ignored us.

Nevertheless, Pastika goes on to say that although he respects the Australian government's right to warn and protect its citizens, he feels that if tourists stay away from Bali then the terrorists have won. Only by continuing to come to Bali and to come in numbers, can we say to the terrorists, you lose! This has always been my position, to fold in the face of terrorism means that the terrorists win an undeserved victory over those of us who value freedom and tolerance.

Travel warning or not Bali remains a wonderful place to visit (Photo)!

Devo -- Whip it!

Devo are back and playing in the Horden Pavillion in Sydney on 1 August.

I am not going to say that Devo was one of my favourite bands at the time. But I do have to say that I remember 'Whip It" and still remember some of the lyrics. Is being able to remember the lyrics after some 20 years a sign of a good song or the bizarre workings of my mind?

I am sure that I probably new more about Devo at the time. I remember being at boarding school in Glenfield (this will tell you the school if you're interested) and weekend mornings were normally watching Rage (which I still watch albeit for a much shorter time on the Australia Network here in Jakarta) and grooving to the beats.

One of the founders of Devo, Mark Mothersbaugh, who I might add is legally blind and who is perhaps one of the original coke glasses boys (those thicker than the bottom of a coke bottle glasses that some school kids had to wear), has put together a group called Devo 2.0. The band is a group of kids that cover Devo songs. How cool is that?

Devo sort of disappeared although Mothersbaugh continued to work in advertising putting together jingles for some big brands. Now, this is something I did not know about Mothersbaugh and it shows a bloke with either a really wicked sense of humour or someone who is just plain scary. During this advertising career he was forever inserting subliminal messages into the advertisements he was making. I am guessing without the knowledge of the client.

One instance was putting a subliminal message into an advertisement about candy that said, "sugar is bad for you". Other subliminal messages included phrases like "question authority" and "toil is stupid".

According to Mothersbaugh the reason for the Devo reunion is, "I live in a country that should be ashamed of itself. I'm really angry at our current president. Humans are a toxic presence and we've overrun the planet. I think at our best, Devo's message was anti-stupidity, pro-ideas and pro-information." This, I am lead to believe, makes the Devo message as current today as it was way back when.

Then again, maybe the idea of seeing other bands from the 70's and 80's still being on tour or re-forming for a reunion tour and pulling in the crowds might have been a consideration as well.

23 June 2008

Throwing It All Away -- Amy Winehouse

This is truly sad. It is sad to watch someone self-destruct and throw away an incredible talent. Yet, it must also be a warning to others that no matter how good you think you might be and how strong you think you are, ultimately drugs control you. Do not kid yourself that you can control the drugs.

Amy Winehouse is a perfect example of this. She is a prodigious talent and has been recognized as such with numerous awards for her singing and song writing. Yet, at 24 years of age she has emphysema. Emphysema is an incurable disease and Winehouse has allegedly developed it as a direct result of her well-known and widely publicised crack cocaine habit. This is kind of like the double whammy in the sense that probably the worst way to dabble in cocaine is to smoke it!

Her doctors have told her that "if she goes back to smoking drugs it won't just ruin her voice, it will kill her," according to her father as quoted in the Sunday Mirror. Apparently, her fainting spell and her inability to breathe properly might just have saved her from more serious damage. Not that emphysema is not serious enough, but if she is able to change her habits then doctors have offered a much more positive picture. The question is can she change her self-destructive habits. If a person ever needed a serious wake-up call then this would be it!

Winehouse is scheduled to play and Glastonbury next week and there is also a singing date for Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday. I actually like her music and listen to her often. So, for selfish reasons I would like to see her beat her addictions so that she can make a few more albums and I can enjoy her soulful tunes for a little while longer.

Here's to a speedy recovery! The picture is from Getty Images.

The 6 Most Annoying Coworkers: Are You One?

1. The Naysayer. This office dweller delights in shooting down ideas. Even during "blue sky" brainstorming sessions, where all suggestions are to be contemplated with an open mind, the Naysayer immediately pooh-poohs any proposal that challenges the status quo.

The right approach: Because great solutions often rise from diverse opinions, withhold comment -- and judgment -- until the appropriate time. Moreover, be tactful and constructive when delivering criticism or alternative viewpoints.

2. The Spotlight Stealer. There is definitely an "I" in "team" according to this glory seeker, who tries to take full credit for collaborative efforts and impress higher-ups. This overly ambitious corporate climber never heard a good idea he wouldn't pass off as his own.

The right approach: Win over the boss and colleagues by being a team player. When receiving kudos, for instance, publicly thank everyone who helped you. "I couldn't have done it without ..." is a savvy phrase to remember.

3. The Buzzwordsmith. Whether speaking or writing, the Buzzwordsmith sacrifices clarity in favor of showcasing an expansive vocabulary of cliched business terms. This ineffective communicator loves to "utilize" -- never just "use" -- industry-specific jargon and obscure acronyms that muddle messages. Favorite buzzwords include "synergistic," "actionable," "monetize," and "paradigm shift."

The right approach: Be succinct. Focus on clarity and minimize misunderstandings by favoring direct, concrete statements. If you're unsure whether the person you are communicating with will understand your message, rephrase it, using "plain English."

4. The Inconsiderate Emailer. Addicted to the "reply all" function, this "cc" supporter clogs colleagues' already-overflowing inboxes with unnecessary messages. This person also marks less-than-critical emails as "high priority" and sends enormous attachments that crash unwitting recipients' computers.

The right approach: Break the habit of using email as your default mode of communication, as many conversations are better suited for quick phone calls or in-person discussions. The benefit? The less email you send, the less you're likely to receive.

5. The Interrupter. The Interrupter has little regard for others' peace, quiet or concentration. When this person is not entering your work area to request immediate help, the Interrupter is in meetings loudly tapping on a laptop, fielding calls on a cell phone, or initiating off-topic side conversations.

The right approach: Don't let competing demands and tight deadlines trump basic common courtesy. Simply put, mind your manners to build healthy relationships at work.

6. The Stick in the Mud. This person is all business all of the time. Disapproving of any attempt at levity, the constant killjoy doesn't have fun at work and doesn't think anyone else should either.

The right approach: Have a sense of humor and don't be afraid to laugh at yourself once in awhile. A good laugh can help you build rapport, boost morale, and deflate tension when working under stressful situations.

The question is now that you have read the six options: are you one?

Or, are you someone that falls into the pleasure to work with category. I have not found that list yet but I am guessing the "right approach" tips are pointers to the pleasure to work with category.

This was taken from here.

Pele -- Robbed At Gunpoint

Being arguably one of the world's greatest ever football players and declared a national treasure by your government does not make you immune from crime. It is probably a bit of an understatement to say that there is a crime problem in Brazil but maybe this robbery of Pele might inspire the government to do something about the crime rate. Then again probably not!

The reports are that the crime occurred on 13 June in Santos in the south of Sao Paulo State. In the robbery Pele was robbed of a gold necklace, a watch, and a mobile phone, and presumably any cash that he was carrying.

Now, if the reports are true the man has some serious testicular fortitude. It is reported that Pele was sitting in the front passenger seat of the car when it was stopped by 10 or so youths armed with guns and knives. The report goes on to say that Pele rolled down the window and identified himself but was robbed anyways. I would reckon the last thing that most people would be doing in their panic is rolling down the window.

The reports are not saying why it has taken so long for this to become public. However, it seems that perhaps Pele himself did not bother to report the crime.

Well, I guess that is life in Brazil.

Childcare in Indonesia

Save the Children has released a report titled, "Someone that Matters: The quality of care in childcare institutions in Indonesia", the report is jointly published by the Department of Social Affairs and UNICEF.

It is estimated that up to 500,000 children live in institutions in Indonesia. This equates to almost 0.6% of the estimated 85 million children living in Indonesia. The report looked at only 37 of the estimated 5,000-8,000 childcare institutions that are believed to be operating throughout Indonesia. Most of these institutions are privately run and most are faith-based. The 37 institutions were related in just 6 of Indonesia's provinces. So, in many ways this is nothing more than a snapshot of the very much larger whole childcare industry.

The report looks at the legal and policy framework that regulates childcare institutions. What is truly interesting in this report is the link between the number of children in institutions and poverty. The report states that a mere 6% of the institutional population are orphans. More than 90% of those in these institutions are there because their parents cannot afford to give them the opportunities they deserve. Most parents believe that putting their children in an institution is more likely to ensure that they get an education (or at least a part of an education) and that they get fed.

This parental dream might just be that, as the report is fairly explicit that in a lot of case rules and procedures were not followed and children received minimal if any care. The report concludes by stating what seems to be the obvious and that is that there is a need to limit unnecessary institutionalization and to increase the quality of the services provided to children in care.


The Dictator

The Opposition Leader

The Economy

I am not a person that has an in-depth knowledge of Africa or the African Continent and perhaps I am batting out of my league with this post. However, that is not the point as I am not intending to provide any analysis of the situation per se but rather pose a question or two.

The economy in Zimbabwe is spiralling out of control with inflation running at more than 1000% and this is forcing the government to print money (above picture) and this then puts even more pressure on the economy. It is sad that the Zimbabweans have gone from being the bread basket of Africa to being its biggest basket case.

The current leader is proud of being compared to Hitler and has gone on the record as saying he would like to be Hitler ten-fold. He is running an election campaign that is relying on violence to get the desired outcome. This has surprisingly brought out a little spine in the British government, the former colonial masters, who have publicly named the individuals that they believe are orchestrating the campaign violence.

The opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has pulled out of the run-off poll. This means a default win for Mugabe. Yet, Tsvangirai has a point in that the risks to people to come out and vote are high, particularly when one considers that Mugabe appears intent on keeping power by any means necessary. Reports of intensifying violence are increasing.

It seems abundantly clear to me that Mugabe is a tyrant and a dictator determined to do whatever it takes to cling to power. This includes not only running the Zimbabwean economy into the ground but also arbitrarily arrest, torture, and kill his own people if necessary in order to cling to power. The only difference that I see between Mugabe and Saddam Hussein is that there is no false claims about Mugabe having weapons of mass destruction and Zimbabwe has no oil.

So, here is my question:

Why is it that the US felt the need to go into Iraq to remove a nasty dictator and then call on the rest of the world to come into a coalition and support them, but they do not seem to feel there is any need to do the same thing with an increasingly violent dictator in Zimbabwe?

Call me a cynic but is it because there is no oil?