Saturday, August 01, 2009

And I've been putting out the fire with gasoline....

Swine Flu mania seems to continue unabated with the unavoidable conclusion that it's just, uhhhhh, the flu or a variation thereof, and the millions expected to die are still just getting a sniffle and then mostly coming right, while Tamiflu is doing rather well indeed, being conveniently overlooked in the rush to panic, panic, panic. I suspect we are all going to look back on this with some bemusement in a few years.

Here in Indonesia the paranoia took a while to hit, mostly because a) nobody was really getting sick aside from a few tourists, and b) they have rather more pressing health issues to deal with, not least of which is the gross over population of parts of Java, mostly the more poverty stricken parts of the nation, (although any attempt to deal with this huge issue has to work against the protestations of the religious braindead who see birth control as a western conspiracy...western nations like China I guess..and are, along with the dominance of the self serving power elite, Indonesia's number one barrier to the a better future).

But the panic's here now...

So, coming into Denpasar last week, through, what is charitably described as an airport, we were all handed a yellow form to fill out. We'd missed out on the plane because they'd run out (or at least, one air-person said that, another admitted they'd lost them ....dontcha love Jetstar) and we had to grab a couple to fill out on the way in, and were witness to an incredible scene.

The two folks who charged with collecting said yellow forms were gathering these and tossing into a pile on a trestle table, with at least 50% missing the pile and simply falling on the floor. The hundreds of arrrivees, about three plane-loads I'd guess, simply pushed these form collectors out of the way and trampled the remaining pile of forms across the floor of the immigration hall. A couple of official looking people half-heartedly whimpered 'no, no' before being pushed aside. There were two temperature detection machines on was not being operated by anyone but looked to be plugged in. The other seemed not to be even plugged in, and the guy in charge of it seemed to care little, his eyes were closed, as the herd swarmed over the area, tipping over the trestle table and all on it.

It was a rather funny exercise in utter disorganization and complete chaos, a little like the roads that awaited the visitors outside the door.

If I thought there was any reason to panic, I would.

But I don't....

All you gotta do is win

This is kinda interesting but less than surprising is you've read Lawrence Wright

Former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds dropped a bombshell on the Mike Malloy radio show, guest-hosted by Brad Friedman (audio, partial transcript).

In the interview, Sibel says that the US maintained 'intimate relations' with Bin Laden, and the Taliban, "all the way until that day of September 11."

These 'intimate relations' included using Bin Laden for 'operations' in Central Asia, including Xinjiang, China. These 'operations' involved using al Qaeda and the Taliban in the same manner "as we did during the Afghan and Soviet conflict," that is, fighting 'enemies' via proxies.

[From Daily Kos: State of the Nation]

Of course, if true, the very uncomfortable part is that this implicates both Bush / Cheney and Clinton. Not that that is such a surprise as it was mostly under Clinton's watch that half a million Iraqi kids were sanctioned, with Saddam taking a fairly hefty portion of the blame too, to an early grave.

And they think that they have got the battle won / I say forgive them Lord, they know not what they've done

Madness, just complete madness...and the Islamic nutters are worse how?

And then the harder they come the harder they'll fall, one and all

Fascinating piece on the decline of the monolith from Redmond:

Today that is simply no longer the case. Microsoft has lost all but a sliver of this entire market. People who love computers overwhelmingly prefer to use a Mac today. Microsoft’s core problem is that they have lost the hearts of computer enthusiasts. Regular people don’t think about their choice of computer platform in detail and with passion like nerds do because, duh, they are not nerds. But nerds are leading indicators.

[From Daring Fireball: Microsoft's Long, Slow Decline]

Can Windows 7 halt the decline, does anyone care about Office 2010? The answer to both those questions seems to be s fairly strong no (and I'm writing this on a Mac, but think the iPhone is a pretty toy when put next to a Blackberry or a Pre so I'm no iDisciple).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I'm going to ask you if you want to be a chorus boy / You can mime the tragedy while we all sing along

A month and bit away, you forget....

  • at the office today the power on the second floor, which just happens to be my one, all went down
  • even when it's on it's such a low wattage that we continually blow it all the time by just plugging in something like a fan
  • we paid some guy US$800 as an unofficial 'fee' in May to upgrade it in 'a few days'. He now won't take our calls but the guys who work for him said, when they turned up to repair it, some six hours after they said they'd arrive, that it was now 'sata minggu saja sampai listrik siap' (one more week). Sure.
  • then the internet, which was running on go slow, which is saying something where 50kbs is 'broadband', simply stopped. The ever reliable internet company (as in ever reliably, unreliable) sent someone who said that it was because we had turned the router off. We had not and it magically began to work without his assistance although we had to sign a bit of paper to say it was our doing. As soon as he left it died again. I rang the company, whose help desk seems vaguely literate, and they said it was a repeater issue all along, down the road. That I'd signed a bit of paper taking full responsibility seemed to be neither here nor there. Whatever. It came back on shortly after but was even slower.
  • the power guys fixed the power on my floor and said it was a dodgy thingy in the power box and it would be fine now. Ten minutes after they left it blew again. I gave up and decide to read the Jakarta Post online, using an extension lead up the the stairs. The story that most intrigued me was the one about the new tax guy in Indonesia, who seems, sadly, to be as tainted as the rest of them. I guess after winning the election, albeit with some controversy , SBY has taken the firm decision to take a breather in the fight against the corruption that eats Indonesia alive, and it's business as usual for the boys.
  • then I came home and saw that the cellphone bill was $30 this was so high this month as we'd used roaming extensively.

How do you do....

Big hat tip to Stuart Page, Johnny (who knew him well), does Elvis:

And Elvis does Johnny:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Give your soul to somebody soon........

Brigid says that arriving at Auckland's airport always feels like arriving at the farm after any time spent overseas. Of course that's rather unfair but it did make me laugh at the time, and mostly it's defined by the cheery folks from MAF, in their overtight walkshorts, or the Waikato families waiting for cousin Reena or Aunt Mini.

And to be clear this ain't a criticism or a snide way of saying that New Zealanders are not sophisticated or are overly parochial. It would be both untrue, and for reasons of personal safety, very unwise to suggest such a thing. But it would also be absolutely untrue to suggest that you can't spot a New Zealander in crowd without hearing a word or an accent, regardless of how sophisticated they may or may not see themselves to be.

A few weeks back I received, via an email link, a promotional video for Auckland. It was, I'm told, made for other New Zealanders to see, to entice them to come to the big smoke, and wasn't aimed at we expats at all, but despite that, and having not been told that, I was sent the link by an expat site that added me (without asking me, mind) to their mailing list.

I liked it, and said quite nice things about the way it made me feel. It warmed me, made me feel a bit fuzzy and, yes, homesick. Not because it was particularly good or great, although it was pretty well executed, but mainly because it looked like nowhere else on the planet. I've mentioned that to a few folks in NZ and mostly they're bemused. One friend said something to the effect that 'but Auckland has grown up a lot in the past few years', which was pretty much what people said to me when I came back in to NZ in the 1980s after a few years away.

We're a defensive bunch, are we not?

You get the same sort of reaction when you dare to opine that, an hour or so a day, and only if you are on the wrong bit of road, Auckland doesn't really have any major traffic issues. In fact, when put next to just about any city in Asia, the roads are pretty much empty day or night. But instead of being rather glad about that, such an observation is usually met with a rather clear 'but you don't drive over the bridge or to Manukau'.ak01.jpg

Well yes, but I have many times and I'm still of the opinion that it's rather light. And, just to cap the offense off, you're all, with the odd exception, rather polite and generous drivers. I like driving in Auckland, although the roads outside the city are another matter altogether and I found my trip a couple of weeks back to middle of the North Island a bit harrowing.

I'm rather unsure what people mean by 'growing up'? Are we talking about the much touted Gucci store in Queen Street. If so, I gotta say I don't think that hi-end Postie Plus, as found in every two bit suburban mall in Asia really counts as 'growing up'. Maybe it's the food..yep, big range, wonderful wine at incredible prices, and lotsa places to eat, some very adventurous, but Auckland has been punching high in an epicurean sense for years, once you leave the fine dining end which is mostly dull, as sadly are the high end attempts at Asian (like the awful Soto's sad overpriced Japanese...yes I know it wins awards). But other cities the world over also have great things to eat (and I write this having just arrived from Singapore, one the great places to indulge in most things).

The thing is, I don't want Auckland city to grow up, or feel the need to grown up, whatever that is. I just want it to be Auckland. It's wonderful: wonderful people live there, you hear wonderful things everywhere, smell wonderful smells and roll over wonderful lush hills to wonderful and quite extraordinarily vistas, wonderful things happen there every bloody minute of every day and I rather like it as it is, even with it's shitty architecture and rather clumsy attempts at being Sydney or LA, and it's garish try-hard moneyed set. And it has the most beautiful harbour in the world....EOS.

I love Auckland and I love the way that I could look at that three minute promo thing and ten seconds in, know I was looking at no other city in the world.

And it's not always particularly sophisticated, although it's easily the most urban precinct in NZ and our only real city, or quite as cosmopolitan as it's inhabitants may think but neither is it the rustic backwater that Australians, for example, or many New Zealanders offshore like to imply. It sits quite comfortably in a vague space between the two descriptions.

I guess I'm homesick.

Monday, July 27, 2009

And I Want You To Be Happy But I'd Rather You Were Mine.....*

Going thru old cuttings I found this (abridged) review of the Screaming Blamatics Roadshow written by a Tim Brown for Salient:

salient letter

When one considers that he was writing about Blam Blam Blam, The Newmatics, and The Screaming Meemees at their prime, and the songs he was dismissing include such iconic titles as There Is No Depression In NZ, Marsha, See Me Go and Riot Squad, one wonders if Mr. Brown has yet crawled out from under the rock marked embarrassing cultural missteps.

Revenge is a dish best served etc......

*yes I know I've misquoted