Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Open Road

Every now and then you just have to escape the daily chaos that is Kuta and get out on the road. I can't think of a better way to to do this than hopping on my bike and heading into the hills. Imagine, only 50 km from my front door you can sit by the lake and contemplate the effects of mass tourism on Bali. Welcome to Puraluhur Beratan, in Bedugul!

Its nice and cool here.

There is even a beringan (banyan) tree to sit under. This tree has to be the mother of all beringan. According to the temple guards it is about 150 years old. I'm sure there are lots here that are older but this one was easiest to get a photo of. These trees are huge!

You can get boat rides on the lake but this runs a bit on the pricey side - the outriggers look OK but the powerboats look a little dodgy to me. The restaurant was another shock. 24,000 Rp for the warmest orange juice in Bali. Glad I didn't try the food. There are plenty of restaurants on the way back to Kuta that offer good food at much more reasonable prices. Most come with rice terrace views.

A roadside warung just past Mengwi. Lunch here will run you 3000-5000 Rp.

After a few hours driving here I needed a break.
Finally just a note on driving here. The idea of defensive driving has yet to be fully embraced by the Balinese. Expect to be cut off, to see oncoming traffic in your lane, to see vehicles without brake lights, to see vehicles turning without signalling, to see vehicles entering the carriageway without checking for traffic, and so on. Use of the Bali Brake (the horn) is mandatory at intersections, approaching traffic, and passing. This can be stressful at first, but you will either to learn to live with it or stay off the roads. I try to take my time and usually try to stay either well ahead or well behind other vehicles. Night driving should be avoided as much as possible. If you have the patience for it, driving yourself is a much easier and cheaper way to see this island.
Hope you enjoyed the tour.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Anyone know anything about Ghana?

Looks like the Ghana contract is starting to materialize. I will be off to Ghana as soon as I can process the Visa. The Visa is proving to be a challenge as there is no Ghana High Commission here in Indo. There is in Australia but they don't do Indo. The next one is in KL. The problem with KL is that the High Commission there doesn't have a website so I had to phone them to inquire as to what the requirements were. They were more than happy to send me documents but not by email - they have to be faxed? wtf?? Who thinks up these byzantine rules? So now I am scrambling for a fax machine and a land line. I just hope I can DHL the application - I won't be happy sitting in KL for a week.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Mbaaak? What are you doing to my coffee?

I like my coffee simple.

Hot and strong in the morning, maybe a touch of mocha in the afternoon. None of this half-caf, double cream orange french vanilla mocha latte for me please. So I was a little bit shocked the other day at the Dunkin Donuts in Juanda to find jelly in my ice coffee. Apparently they just added it without asking. Some sort of new promotion I suppose.

What were they thinking?

Imagine if you will an old donut chain with a 70's type interior. You need something new. Despite coffee taking off as a beverage in the last 10 years or so you haven't significantly tapped into the market and your coffee sucks. What to do?

I know. Here's an idea. Just take the jelly out of the donut in put it in the coffee. Yeah Baby!

Just pump a big blob of jelly in the bottom of an ice coffee and you too can enjoy the delicious melange of caramel jelly and coffee at the same time.


People will come for miles for the novelty. What could go wrong? Other than the fact that coffee and jelly are a mutually exclusive pair. Oh and did I mention that there is almost no way to get that jelly up a straw. You need one of those big ass straws and even then that jelly clogs the straw like a grim prophecy of what my arteries will be like in another 20 years or so of high cholesterol consumption. And the taste? Well actually there was no additional taste. Maybe because the jelly is probably just a cheap mixture of pectin and sugar and they forgot to add the artificial flavoring. I can only surmise that the whole purpose of this jelly coffee exercise is for the visceral sensation of swishing cold snot around in you mouth before swallowing. Maybe this something that the marketing people over at Dunkin do? For me its reminds of the time that I had a very bad pneumonia and was forever coughing my lungs out.

Here's a suggestion for free. Just make good coffee using premium beans and consistent practices. How hard can it be?

Tolong Mbak, Kopi aja kepan-kepan ya! (please miss, just coffee next time)

*mbak - An Indonesian honorific for a young woman...thank you carla to correct my poor spelling

*Juanda - The recently renovated airport in surabaya

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Lost Sons Of Martha

You are responsible for your work until five years after you're dead.
Professor George Ford to his students*

When I started work in Canada as an Engineer I was was required to take an Obligation before I was admitted into the profession. Basically there was a short ceremony, you take the Obligation and get your Iron Ring. As far as know the ritual is unique to Canada. The Obligation itself was written for the Canadian Engineering Institute in 1922 by the poet Rudyard Kipling(of Jungle Book fame). Mr. Kipling had earlier composed a poem entitled "The Sons Of Martha" which expresses the sentiment of the Obligation in a much more eloquent fashion.

This Obligation and its accompanying poem came to mind when I learned of the recent disaster at Situ Gintung. This is quite obviously a man made disaster and eventually someone needs to be found culpable. But Situ Gintung also reminds me of all the anonymous people whose job it it to keep the dams maintained, the power plants running, the roads resurfaced and so on. These people have a duty of care to the public which is only recognised when there is a failure. These sons of Martha were either alseep or ignored at Situ Gintung and as a result 100 people died in their beds. Unforgivable in my opinion.
Anyways here is "the Sons of Martha" Hope You enjoy it.

The sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part;
But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and the troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once, and because she was rude to the Lord her Guest,
Her Sons must wait upon Mary's Sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest.

It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and cushion the shock.
It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that the switches lock.
It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care to embark and entrain,Tally, transport, and deliver duly,
the Sons of Mary by land and main.

They say to mountains, "Be ye removed." They say to the lesser floods, "Be dry.
"Under their rods are the rocks reproved- they are not afraid of that which is high.
Then do the hill-tops shake to the summit-then is the bed of the deep laid bare,
That the Sons of Mary may overcome it, pleasantly sleeping and unaware.
They finger death at their gloves' end where they piece and repiece the living wires.
He rears against the gates they tend: they feed him hungry behind their fires.
Early at dawn, ere men see clear, they stumble into his terrible stall,
And hale him forth a haltered steer, and goad and turn him till evenfall.

To these from birth is Belief forbidden;from these till death is Relief afar.
They are concerned with matters hidden - under the earthline their altars are-
The secret fountains to follow up, waters withdrawn to restore to the mouth,
And gather the floods as in a cup, and pour them again at a city's drouth.
They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose.
They do not teach that His Pity allows them to drop their job when they dam'-well choose.
As in the thronged and the lighted ways, so in the dark and the desert they stand,
Wary and watchful all their days that their brethren's day may be long in the land.

Raise ye the stone or cleave the wood to make a path more fair or flat -
Lo, it is black already with blood some Son of Martha spilled for that!
Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven, not as a witness to any creed,
But simple service simply given to his own kind in their common need.

And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessed they know the Angels are on their side.
They know in them is the Grace confessed,and for them are the Mercies multiplied.
They sit at the Feet - they hear the Word - they see how truly the Promise runs.
They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and - the Lord He lays it on Martha's Sons!

Rudyard Kipling 1907

*Dr George Ford was the former Dean Of Engineering at my Alma Mater. You can read his obit here.
Photo from the bbc

The House That Joko Built (an update)

The day hums sweetly when you have enough bees working for you - Baron Vladimir Harkonnen

Last February, the groundwork for a new villa across from my place was just getting underway. A fair bit of progress has occurred since then and it now seems like a good time to update.

Now we are getting somewhere. The foundation has been filled in and the walls are up. The beginnings of the swimming pool can be seen on the left. The Villa will three bedrooms along with a living area and kitchen. The pool is planned to be one of the overflow types with a waterfall - that should look nice.

Today's usual peace and quiet was broken by the noise of a cement mixer starting up and lots of shouting of instructions in Indonesian. Today was the day for pouring cement into the forms that would soon become the main support pillars for the house. A few extra helpers were called in especially for the occasion.

The bucket brigade is at the ready.

The bucket brigade in action. The whole time there were pouring cement they were singing a song - I suppose it makes the work go by more pleasantly. Their singing is what got me out of my house to see what was going on.

The best job of the day - mixing cement! I once watched a crew build a three story hotel using one tiny cement mixer along with a block and tackle to get the cement where it needed to go. Amazing!

Someone was planning ahead or maybe he just got lucky. The gravel arrived just-in-time to go into the mixer. Who says Indonesians are not abreast with the latest critical path management techniques?
The cement will take a few days to set and then the forms can be removed and the next stage of building started. Some of the workers have taken advantage of the lull to go home for a family visit.
It will still be some time before this house gets done so I may be able to milk 1 or 2 more postings from it.

btw Just a little something on this whole villa thing.
Although there have been several villas going up in my neighborhood lately, there is still no sign of anything resembling infrastructure from the government. The access road is in terrible shape and some some of the residents of this street still prefer to dump their trash roadside as opposed to having it picked up(for a very reasonable fee). Electricity is at a minimum and the waiting list for power is at least a year (unless you want to pay extra and even that's no guarantee). Anyone thinking of buying a villa here should really apprise themselves of what they are getting. Prices are not cheap and the quality can be frighteningly poor. Caveat Emptor.