28 October 2007

Biofuel, a solution or a new problem?

Recently I’ve read an article in National Geographic and it was about developing and using biofuel to replace the fossil fuel. It is actually quite interesting knowing that instead of using gasoline we can use ethanol to power automobiles. In Brazil for example car manufacturers install a flex machine where a same car can use either regular gasoline or ethanol. Not to mention that ethanol produces less pollution than gasoline, so it’s a cleaner and more efficient fuel.

Of course biofules also come with their own problems, one of the major one is that crops that would be better use to fight world’s hunger should not be used to create fuel. Since what is the point if in one country people use an efficient fuel while in another people are dying of hunger. Other problem is that the way biofuel is produced now is still not very efficient.

If we take a look back in history it is not the first time ethanol is used to fuel a car. Many car engine creators actually used ethanol to fuel the engine at the first place, however since fossil fuel was simply cheaper to use they all turn to it. I remember when I was still a kid seeing a news on TV where a car in Germany was using cooking oil to power the engine, back then it seemed very impressive to me. So why didn’t we switch to biofuels earlier?

It’s simple at the end of the day the rule of basic economics prevails, a simple law of supply and demand. So as long as the biofuel prices are higher than fossil fuel nobody would buy it. That’s the reason scientists are trying hard to create more efficient process in making biofuel so the prices can be more competitive.

All of this is interesting and looks promising, with cleaner and more efficient fuel we can also reduce pollution that is one the causes of global warming. However somehow I have a feeling that this solution is in fact coming from focusing on the problem.

Why do I think so? Well we are trying to find another substance that we can ‘burn’ in our engines instead of thinking on how to develop an engine that runs on another source of energy, for example electricity.

I’m no expert and I don’t know what kind of problems does electrical engine face. I do know that one of the problems is the power storage and the time it takes to recharge the batteries. But look around us there are so many inexpensive ways to harvest electricity from the resources we have an abundance and are free. There is wind, sun, rivers, tides you name it.

Imagine if every house hold or small community would produce their own electricity for home use and to power their vehicles we would not even need to depend on the power plants any more. Of course we would have to invest in the equipment to generate power but think that after that we would not have to pay for the electricity and also reduce the fuel cost that we spend now. At the same time also cutting down on pollution.

So if you ask me, instead focusing on how to develop a more efficient way to produce biofuels we should focus on developing a better electrical engine. What do you think?

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11 August 2007

Lesson from Iraqi Champions

Less than a month ago the Iraqi football (soccer) team became the Champions of Asia Football Championship (AFC) which was held in South East Asia this time. In the grand final Iraqis defeated Arab Saudi by 1:0. Perhaps this alone does not tell the whole story so let’s take a look what we can learn from Iraqi experience.

The lesson lies in the facts on how a team of players who previously would not even train together because they come from different ethnic or religious background. A team from a country torn by conflict and suffering. A team who could not train in their own country because of the death threats. A team who could not train together because players were forbidden to do so by their clubs. A team that had to go to the neighboring country to do the training. A team who had to wait for hours because their hotel rooms were not ready during the exhausting championship. A team who was barely able to come with financial funding to go the AFC 2007. A team which didn’t even have new uniforms

Yet in the end after all the hardship, they are the AFC 2007 champions. How is that possible? It happened, it is there, it is true. All this is possible when a team unites under single purpose, single goal, single dream … to excel, to be number one, for the pride of the nation.

Now what we hope or at least I hope is that the glory of the Iraqi champions will spread and reach their home land. That it will become a cooling breeze in the heat of the conflict. That will unite all Iraqi people and they will stand together, put aside their difference and start to rebuild the glory or their country. Standing proud as Iraqi people under single banner, the Iraqi banner.

How about us? How come that our team that did not have to go through all that hardship did not prevail? We should be grateful that we can live in peace. But living in peace does not mean we can just sit back, relax and only ‘think’ that we can be champions of anything. Anything at all.

Becoming champions takes hard work, commitment, the power of will, belief, dream. Only those who can believe, who can dream of becoming champions and are willing to put the effort in fulfilling that dream have the chance to become champions and masters of their destiny.

Iraqi champions proved to us that they can do it and I believe that we the people of Indonesia do not have any excuse why we can not achieve the same and more. Will there be a day in history when we can look up at the banner of red and white with pride and honour? I believe so and if you believe the same, share your believes with everyone you know because only than it can happen.

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28 July 2007

The Fear of Independent Candidate

Last week after Supreme Judicial Court of Indonesia ruled out that it is possible for independent candidate to run for government office, things became pretty interesting. For independents that was a fresh and cooling breeze while political parties do not seem very happy about the ruling. How about general population, what do they think about independent candidate being able to run for office?

Ok let's take a look and maybe just maybe we can see if this is good news of bad news. Not so long ago Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam people have elected their first governor after the end of prolonged conflict in the province. Perhaps not many people in Indonesia realize that it was for the first time also that a province allowed independent candidates to run for office and as we can see it went well in the end the most popular candidate was elected. So if you ask me the people have spoken their mind.

Now why should it be different anywhere else in Indonesia? Well in my opinion it's quite simple the main opposition to the idea of independent candidate are in fact political parities, perhaps they fear that they would loose grip on who gets to run for the government office and who does not. Government office in question being a regent (bupati), governor and ultimately the president.

We can see that many of political parties do not have their own candidate who are credible enough to run for office and as such they open doors to any candidate to that wants to be sponsored by the party. However that comes with a price but of course, some candidates stated that they were required to pay large sums of money to the party to be sponsored. All political parties of course deny this kind of allegation. Besides that if elected these candidates would also have to deliver party's agenda instead of their own. Problem was if one didn't have party backing he or she could not run for the office.

Now this changes with independent candidate being able to run for the office and that's perhaps what bothers the parties the most. As for the people it should be good because ever since the 'New Order' regime was deposed and the reformation kicked in we haven't seen any drastic changes towards improving life of common people in Indonesia. Ironically corruption has became even worse because many of who came to power in years of reformation wanted to become rich fast.

So if there is an independent candidate running for office with a clear agenda and has a wide support of the grass root that should be a good thing right? Well at least that's how I see it. This nation has many competent and able individuals out there with clear reputation and known credibility.

One thing is sure if there was such an independent candidate with agenda to make Indonesia a better place I would vote for this person. How about you?

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31 May 2007

Focus on Solution

This might sound just like another slogan but what does it really mean? Sometimes the easiest way to explain something is through an example, illustration or a story. So let me share some stories that I’ve read sometimes ago, the stories might not be exact however it’s the point that matters.

The story goes that NASA’s astronauts discovered that a ballpoint pen does not work in space. So after conducting a prolonged research that cost several million dollars NASA was able to invent a pen that could not only function in space but also in water. Amazing isn’t it?

Now what did the Russian Cosmonauts do to overcome the same problem?

Simple, they use pencils instead of pens.

Another story goes about a soap factory in Japan, which got alarmed after a supermarket reported that they discovered an empty soap box in their inventory. Immediately they set up a task force of engineers to figure out what went wrong and as a result they installed some sort of X-ray device that would scan every soap box on the conveyer belt before being shipped out.

When they asked one of the factory supervisor what he would do to overcome the same problem, he simply placed a fan next to conveyer belt. The fan blew any empty soap box that was passing through.

The morale is, don’t focus on the problem rather focus on the solution. In every day life we face problems on daily basis, now imagine if we focus on all the problems instead of focusing on solutions. Of course it is not easy to suddenly change the way of thinking, but once we understand the value of ‘focusing on solution’ we can accomplish more things in less time and with better results. Focusing on solutions makes a person innovative and creative.

So then let’s focus on solution!

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22 April 2007

IPDN, campus of corruptors?

This latest sad and very ironic reality or the dark side about Indonesian bureaucracy. After so many deaths over more than a decade, early this month it had to take yet another life of North Sulawesi cadet Clif Muntu before everything become publicly exposed.

IPDN, the Institut Pemerintahan Dalam Negeri or in English Institute of Domestic Governing, it has been a public secret for years about the brutality that has been practiced among the cadets there. Meaning that seniors could at will beat juniors, while the juniors would just have to endure it and remain silent fearing even more severe punishment. Public has know that for years, but the institute would always deny such allegations while none of the cadets would dare to step forward and tell the truth.

In 2003 similar case happened when cadet named Wahyu Hidayat died with similar circumstances. Then 10 of his seniors were convicted to prison, but as it just came to light instead serving their sentence they were in fact working within the government of Jawa Barat (West Java) and some of them holding important positions. Only because of the recent event were they finally arrested in put in prison. How ironic. Because of what happened in 2003 the then called Sekolah Tinggi Pemerintahan Dalam Negeri (STPDN) was reorganized, merged with Insitut Ilmu Pemerintahan (IIP) and renamed by the government into IPDN. While STPDN was the result of merging and centralizing several Akademi Pemerintah Dalam Negeri (APDN) previously spread through out Indonesia.

As in the past IPDN did try to cover up Clif Muntu's death by issuing a statement that he died because of lever illness. Cadets even tried to prevent the police to see the body while at the same time trying to swiftly send it to the departed family back in North Sulawesi. There was also a statement that the family did not agree on autopsy, statement which was never issued by the family. The autopsy later revealed many terifying facts on how Clif died. Some experts suspect that there is clear indication that IPDN seems to have a 'systematic procedure' on how to 'handle' cases like this.

This case would probably just pass by like many before if it was not for the public pressure, especially after people with information stepped forward. One of them, Inu Kencana a docent on the campus has revealed many disturbing facts ongoing within the campus. He stated that according to his data there have been over 30 violence related deaths since early 90s.

Mr.Inu also stated that he has information regarding extortion practices (security money), widespread drug use, free sex practices between cadets (campus has male and females cadets in separate dormitories) and abortion cases. Not to mention that what is suppose to be fully government funded education, meaning that cades don't have to pay for anything and receive allowance each month but in reality the cadets how to pay for uniforms, books, etc. Also according to Mr.Inu some cadets have told him that they have paid a lot of money so they could be accepted into IPDN.

What an irony, while the government is trying to step up the fight against corruption at the same time in its own back yard it's breeding the future corruptors funded with tax payers money. Imagine the cadets who spend four years on the campus are beyond class rooms taught to abuse the power in their hand and use it for their personal interest and pleasure. What will they become once they start as public servants? In the end it's the underprivileged people who will have to pay the price.

Because of the public pressure, the president him self had to step in and issue several direct orders among them freezing any kind of activities outside the class room, suspending IPDN from receiving any new cadets for a year, removing the IPDN Rector Prof.Dr.I Nyoman Sumaryadi from his position and reformation of education system within the campus. Several provinces are threatening that they will not send new cadets before fundamental reformation is performed in IPDN. The government has also formed an evaluation team headed by Mr.Riyas Rasyid the former rector of IIP before it was merged into IPDN. The team is working on location and has already revealed more facts.

Even with the current exposure none of the cadets dare to step forward to tell what is happening in their campus, we can guess that is because of fear of the terror that they may receive if they do so. So we can imagine what kind of influence the senior cadets have on junior cadets, the absolute power. The ones who are stepping forward are the former cadets who mainly quit from IPDN, some even escaped because they could not endure the physical abuse, and one by one they are now revealing what they went through in their time. One of them even had to undergo a therapy because of the trauma.

The STPDN/IPDN alumni state that only handful of irresponsible cadets are responsible for the abuse. This has been rejected by the public and experts believe that physical abuse has become part of the culture within the campus, because the level of violence has increased over the years. The public sentiment that IPDN should be shut down and the tax payers money used for better purpose is also increasing.

As the days are passing more and more gruesome facts are being revealed surrounding the IPDN, more parents of cadets who died in the past are stepping forward demanding the truth. Will this be the end of IPDN? At the time this article was written it was not yet clear what will the government do with IPDN, but whatever will the outcome be I hope it will be in the best interest of the people of our beautiful country, the people who have to work hard to pay their taxes.

We certainly don't need more bullies and corruptors as government officials, we need people who know how to govern with sense of humanity, fair judgment and in best interest of people. After all this people are suppose to be public servants, serving the people and not the other way around.

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31 March 2007

Howard to save Indonesia's forests?

Last night I heard an amusing news on Metro TV. Mr.Howard, Prime Minister of Australia stated his government is setting up a fund of US$160 millions for the purpose of saving Indonesian forests. I thought I heard wrong but the news report repeated it several times so it's confirmed.

So what's with Mr.Howard's sudden interest towards Indonesia's forest? It's true there is much to be done to save the forests in Indonesia before it's total obliterated by irresponsible and corrupted hands. If you have read my previous post Deforestation, Indonesia's latest record? that should be all clear, actions to save the forest are needed and needed quickly before it's too late.

However Mr.Howard interest in the issue comes from a different angle. Up until recently Mr.Howard didn't care much regarding environmental issues including the main one which is the global warming. That is proven in the past by the fact that Australia along with USA refuse to sign the Kyoto Protocol, regarding reducing carbon dioxide emission. Mr.Bush says that “our economy is more important (than the rest of the planet)” and I guess Mr.Howard must share the same vision.

For anyone who would like to know and understand more regarding global warming, you really need to see the former US vice president Al Gore's documentary movie “An Inconvenient Truth”. The movie which won an Oscar in 2006 for the best documentary movie explains everything about global warming and what needs to be done to stop it. Hopefully Mr.Gore will run again for the president of United States, win and actually do something about the issue.

Back to Mr.Howard, few years back I had a nice chat with an Australian man. I forgot his name but he mentioned that he was a journalist and a really nice person. Anyway the conversation come to the environment issue and he asked me if I knew which country was the highest per capita producer of carbon dioxide? I replied “US”, but he said I was wrong and that the correct answer was in fact Australia. Repeating his word “we are the ones ...” filled with irony. I was surprised to learn that, so no wonder why Australia doesn't want to sign Kyoto Protocol.

So Mr.Howard's interest in saving Indonesia's forest are no other than political. He doesn't really care about the issue, however the recent polling in Australia showed that majority of population (or should I say voters) regard global warming as an important issue, while of course elections are just around the corner. So this is just another effort to get reelected.

What I found really strange is instead of doing something about the global warming issue within Australia, like say issuing new laws to reduce the carbon dioxide emission or measurements to prevent forest fires that now also happen in Australia. No he prefers to save the forests in Indonesia, hey why not in case it doesn't work he can always blame Indonesian government and if that's the price to get reelected definitely.

Saving forests throughout the world including Indonesia is important, stopping the further global warming even more. If we don't start doing something soon than in 50 or so years this planet may not be suitable anymore for any living creature including ourselves. Is that the legacy that we want to leave behind?

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20 March 2007

Gaim now in Bahasa Indonesia !

I'm sure that many of you who have are into Open Source and or GNU/Linux had the opportunity to use Gaim Instant Messenger. An Open Source multi protocol and multi platform instant messenger. Gaim is not the only multi protocol instant messenger out there, there is for example Trillian for Windows users or Kopete for Linux users and perhaps many others.

What is multi protocol anyway ? Multi protocol means that Gaim supports a wide range of popular protocols like ICQ, AIM, Yahoo, MSN, Google Talk and many others. You can use all this protocols at the same time instead of having to run each individual application which makes your desktop a very crammed place. Imagine running let's say three different protocols and at the same time talking to three people on each protocol, that would be like nine chat windows blinking at the same time. Worse case scenario, you type a wrong message in the wrong window ... brrr.

On the other hand Gaim uses tabbed chat window, so instead of having nine chat windows open in Gaim you just have one chat window with nine tabs. It's kind of similar to tabbed browsing in FireFox, in Gaim it's tabbed chatting. This way it's much more practical and organized than multiple chat windows.

Another Gaim plus is that is supports multi platforms, meaning it runs not only in GNU/Linux but also on other Open Source platforms like the BSD family and of course on MS Windows platform. So for those who have to frequently switch between platforms, work wise or else Gaim is just great because you can use it regardless of the platform instead of switching from one instant messenger to another. Of course Gaim has much more features to offer, however that is more users specific. I've been a happy Gaim user for years now.

Now being a long time user I though it would be great if Gaim was available in Bahasa Indonesia. Why ? Well Indonesia has over 220 million people so we are a big country and not everyone speaks English. In last couple years Internet is becoming more accessible to many. With the current government commitment in developing the infrastructure to provide more affordable Internet and preventing software piracy by spreading usage of Free and Open Source Software than it only makes sense that Gaim will be even more popular in Indonesia.

Adding the fact that you can use it in your native language should further spread the use of Gaim. So after a week of translating several thousand of lines and another week of waiting for translation to be officially accepted to the Gaim project, it's finally done. Gaim is now available in Bahasa Indonesia. :)
Actually Gaim is not the only instant messenger that's available in Bahasa Indonesia, for those who only use single protocol like MSN Messenger there is an Open Source clone named aMSN that is also multi platform capable.

I just hope that there will be more Indonesian people who will get involved in Open Source projects either as coder, developer or simple as translator. Everybody is welcome, so let's do a little something to help spread the knowledge and educate our nation, Indonesia.

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17 March 2007

Deforestation, Indonesia's latest record?

Hmm, yet another fact that makes me wander about Indonesia's future along with the future of our beloved planet. Anyway as reported on the news, Indonesian Greenpeace claims that Indonesia is destroying it's forests with the highest rate in the world. For the same reason they are suggesting that Indonesia should be in the Guinness Book of Records. A kind of record nobody should ever be proud of.

So what's the damage? The answer is 51 km2 (square kilometers) of forest per day!! With that kind of rate of destruction soon there will be no forest left, along with it all the biodiversity will be gone too and not to mention earth's lungs. Combine that with green house effect it will further speed up the global warming and we all know where that ends.

Now where is the problem? It's easy to point fingers on who is to blame, anyone can do that because nowadays everyone is an expert on criticizing. Unfortunately seldom do these critics also provide solutions. In Indonesia everyone blames the government, the corruption, the ignorance, etc. Now instead of doing that we need to think what needs to be done to prevent the further damage.

If we take a look in the history we can learn that deforestation is not a new thing, some of the western countries have already been through that long before developing countries like Indonesia. So let's take a look what is the problem here before jumping to any conclusions.

Like any other developing country Indonesia is still battling poverty and corruption is still a big problem. At the moment I would say these are the main factors causing the deforestation at the current rate. Of course talking about poverty many of disadvantaged people are exploiting the forest simply to get by, to survive. However the amount of damage they do although it is not right, it is nothing compared to the damage inflicted by the logging companies and illegal logging which brings us to corruption factor where greed plays it's role.

So in brief yes the government needs to step in and re-examine all the permits given to the logging companies, close down the bad ones and punish anyone who has violated the forest. In addition new laws and more severe penalty for anyone involved in illegal logging should be introduced to prevent it happen in the future. However there is more that needs to be done to ensure that forests will be there for generations to come.

People need to be educated of importance of forests and why we need to leave them intact. Such education has to be introduced through public schools and be given since early age. Ignorance is after all as dangerous as the corrupted mind.

I remember when several years ago my parents bought a house in the area where we still live today. Not long after we planted trees in front of the house, sprouts maybe 20-30 cm in height. At the time a friend of mine who came for a visit told me that it would take ages for those sprouts to grow into a tree. My dad offered a neighbor to plant the same sprouts but he refused saying that there is no place in front of his house.

Only in two years our sprouts grow into trees several meters high and provide a nice shade to our house. It was only after that some of our neighbors decided to follow our steps, of course they still have to wait for their trees to grow but in a year or two our street will have a nice tree line and shade in hot days. Bottom line people follow only after they see the benefit.

We need to make people understand that preventing deforestation is in the end for our own good. This planet could survive without us humans, but not the other way around. That's why we need to preserve the forest, preserve the nature, make this planet a better place to live for many generations to come.

I find it quite amazing in observing plants growing, from seeds, to sprouts ... How about you?

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