Monday, April 30, 2007

Thanks a lot, Hatta Rajasa!

I received an email earlier today from WorldPerks:

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has advised that the country of Indonesia does not comply with international safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Therefore, effective immediately, Northwest Airlines® has temporarily suspended its WorldPerks®, passenger and cargo agreements with Garuda Indonesia Airlines. For more information, please contact Northwest Reservations at (021) 522-0512.

[Name withheld]
Pacific Marketing & Distribution Planning
Northwest Airlines

I'm ticked off, but not surprised. Unless you've been living under a rock, no Indonesian should be surprised by the international implication of this. Here is a pretty harsh but frank article on the severe lack of concern from the Indonesian government towards public safety:

Indonesia - Natural Disasters or Mass Murder? (Andre Vltchek)
"The Indonesian airline industry has one of the worst safety records in the world. Since 1997, at least 666 people have died in eight separate airplane crashes in the country. Some of the pilots are so badly trained that planes sometimes skip off the runway, or miss it altogether. Maintenance is another issue: flaps often don't function properly; wheels cannot retract properly after take-off; and seldom-changed tires have a tendency to blow out upon touchdown. It is a mystery as to how some airplanes — particularly old Boeing 737s flown by almost all Indonesian airlines — make it through the inspections."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Not satisfied with Jajah

Here is my harsh email to Jajah:

I have given up trying to use Jajah for my international calls. Since I managed to upload funds to my account on 11 April, I have tried numerous times making calls from Indonesia to Singapore and Australia with Jajah. Jajah has never once able to make that connection. My phone never rang. Never. Even after my account was charged for the attempted calls.
And to think of all the inconveniences I had to go through to set up my account. Jajah would not accept credit card payment from me (the option was grayed out in the web page) and my only option was bank transfer. But Jajah does not have a bank account in my country (Indonesia) so I had to make an overseas transfer. This cost me US $10 of bank fees -- money that I hoped I could get back in terms of cost savings. Well, the web site says that Jajah has saved me USD 3.87 so far, but this is a lie. Jajah has saved me nothing and instead took money from my account for calls that were never connected.
I am very disappointed.

Jajah responded by crediting my account, but they didn't give any explanation why the technical problem occurred. I assume their servers were overloaded and couldn't make the connection in an acceptable time. I wonder if this problem happens in other parts of the world -- I'm sure Indonesia is not their primary target market.

I am now using Telkom's prefix 01017 to call Mina in Singapore. The promotion rate is Rp. 990 per minute (about US$ 0.10) to selected countries, including Singapore. I believe the rate is valid until end of May 2007. After that I may go back to Skype Out. I just hope Skype improves the drop call rate -- I usually need to call Mina 2 or 3 times to complete a 10-minute conversation.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

More Thoughts on Virginia Tech Tragedy

we_are_virginia_tech The Final Emotion (Will Stewart):

"As I searched for meaning in what happened, I finally found it. I found it in the incredible poise, control, and togetherness shown by the Virginia Tech family. The true character of a person, group, or institution shows itself under pressure, and what the Virginia Tech community has shown us is grace, cohesion, intelligence, and compassion." is the best site covering Virginia Tech athletics and I've been a frequent visitor since it was first founded with the name Hokie Central. Will Stewart founded this site more than 10 years ago and although Will writes almost exclusively about Virginia Tech, his writing is always top notch. His words flow beautifully -- whether to analyze statistics of a football game or to describe the emotion of players and fans. I always enjoy his columns and this latest piece from him is another example of his excellent writing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Sad Day to be a Hokie

My thoughts and prayers go to the students and extended family of Virginia Tech.
Not in My Alma Mater:

"The school always meant something really warm and fuzzy to me. Today, I have a horribly sad feeling.

But I’m really hopeful because out of the worst tragedy, you watch people rise up. And it will happen on the campus of Virginia Tech.

Those students will rise up. I’ll bet on that."

-- Hoda Koth, Dateline NBC correspondent and Virginia Tech graduate

Sobering Dose of Reality:

"... Wait, what's that they're saying now? ... The deadliest shooting rampage of any kind in American history?

At Virginia Tech????

You say to yourself: This simply can't be."

-- Stewart Mandel, Sports Illustrated columnist

Monday, April 16, 2007

Jakarta airport new security regulation on liquids

The Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta airport has recently imposed a new security measure to ban all liquid materials inside airplanes on all international flights. I traveled recently and, while waiting at the airport scanner, the person in front of me had four boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts carry-on. The donuts passed without any curiosity from the officers. But this got me thinking. What if, instead of jelly, the donuts were filled with liquid explosives? Can you imagine how messy the explosion would be?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I've just become a customer of Audible

First of all, I love e-books and I wish all printed books have their e-book equivalents. I love the instant gratification that comes with purchasing an e-book: Being able to read it seconds after deciding which one to buy. Anybody in Indonesia who has done an online purchase can testify that it's a risky business dealing with the Indonesian postal service. You can only hope that on the day your stuff is supposed to be delivered, the mail man does not decide to keep it for himself. But to me the best thing about an e-book is the fact that I can always have it with me and that it's always available for me to read (I keep my e-books in my smartphone that I carry with me all the time).

Earlier today a friend recommended a book called "Zen and the Art of Making a Living" by Laurence G. Boldt. Rushing to I discovered that no e-book version is available. Fortunately an audio version is available through

I actually liked audiobooks. Before the age of internet and e-books, I had a number of audiobooks in my library. I found that audiobooks were easier on my ears than printed books on my eyes. Since I didn't have much choice on this book that my friend recommended and since I really wanted to read it, I decided to give Audible a try and signed up.

I think the first time I visited was many months ago, when Ricky Gervais decided to move his podcast show there. I remember I wasn't too impressed by Audible then. However I think they've done a good job with their web site and offerings and it's much more attractive now. If you're mainly interested in the mainstream bestseller books (e.g. NY Times' or Business Week's list), Audible's selection is also better than the e-books offered by or I signed up for their Gold Monthly membership. It's $7.49/month for the first three months ($14.95/month afterwards) and you get a free audiobook every month plus 30% discounts on other books. On a technical note, my Indonesian credit card was accepted without problem. Instructions for software download and all other technical matters are presented in idiot-proof.