Life Codecs @

Ruminations. Reflections. Refractions. Code.

Jan 12, 2009 - general gripe

My Change Please, Yes All of It

So, the Jakarta Post doesn’t seem to like my letters (or me) very much, after my last unaccepted letter, I sent this little gem:

  • * *Dear Editor(s),

I’ve noticed a trend here. I visited a couple of large and famous cafe chains (names coming up) in our many malls. I purchase some food and drink and I pay cash, and they don’t always have small change available. In some instances the cashiers have half-heartedly, very quickly apologised while handing me back partial change. It is clear that they’re not really sorry, and would not have made any effort to get all my change. In other instances, they just give me back partial change! No fake apologies, no effort to explain, nothing, as if they committed no mistake – to quote the Brits, “How Rude!”.

It is small change, I’m talking usually between Rp. 100 to Rp. 500 or so, so my gripe is not so much the money as it is the principle. I can tolerate this behavior if I were buying nasi pecel from a warteg in the streets, heck I would even consider it charity. But from multinational and large joints like Dunkin Donuts and Cafe Oh La La (ooh la la, names!), er no way! I wonder, if I went to Dunkin Donuts, where a donut costs about Rp. 6000, and I had Rp. 5900, would they allow me to have the donut if I apologised for my lack of cash? Or perhaps I had an Rp. 25 candy to supplement my insufficient cash, would Oh La La give me my hot chocolate? Or perhaps, even better, were I to hand in insufficient cash and glibly walk away with my donuts, would they let me? Or would donut guards be called in? Oh, does this also mean that if all the small change adds up, they make hidden profits? Perhaps something the tax department might want to look into, heh.

I want my change, yes, all of it.

Oh well, their loss, they just ignored a very valid opinion, and some A-Class gripe material. For foreign readers, warteg or Warung Tegal is a street side food tent, and nasi pecel is a delicacy: rice and vegetables (optionally with catfish – pecel lele), spicy peanut sauce and sambal (== chilli sauce), yum yum.

— Kamal

Dec 27, 2008 - arts personal

Enya, “On My Way Home”

It’s hard to see how I forgot this one till I was reminded by my friend a couple of weeks ago. I spent many-an-evenings in the lab listening to this prior to going home back when I was at uni in Jakarta! Very uplifting song, definitely one of my all-time favourite, and very personal too. Anyway, as usual, video and wonderful lyrics! Be carried away!

— Kamal

PS. Actually most things Enya make it to my all-time favourites list easily, but this one tops it :-).

Dec 26, 2008 - philosophy


It seems to me that it is important to have more than one passion in life, at least two, but not too many either for that would be way too time consuming, and probably dilute other passions to the point that they’re no longer passions hah. Back to my topic, having a single passion is a little dangerous, especially when that passion is also your full-time job – sometimes, heck it’s almost a certainty, we can burn out. Then what do you turn to? Do you just chill out and get bored? That’ll work for a while. Having completely unrelated passions also allows you to focus different parts of yourself to the activity at hand. For example, I love to code, however when I am depressed or too bored, then working alone on something even if it is very cool software still seems a bit too lonely. I know this firsthand. So my other passion is martial arts. Where in computing I am pretty much just using my mind (except for the occasional epiphanies where I walk around the room and make funny gestures :P), in martial arts I use both my mind and my body. And they’re so different (physically anyway, quite aware of the level of concentration needed for both), that I always have one or the other (or both under normal circumstances) to turn to.

Considering things further, it’s even better if the passions are both individual and allow group participation, this allows you to have some semblance of a social life while providing you with your own space. Ah well, just some thoughts post Christmas. The holiday feels lonelier than usual, alas.

— Kamal

Dec 22, 2008 - philosophy

Ordinary Miracles

As a kid, and even now, I have often wondered how cool it would be to have various abilities (think the TV series Heroes) – to be able to fly, to move things with your mind, to possess telepathy, run like the flash, and so on. Having a martial arts background, I have constantly been fascinated at some of the amazing feats people have performed demonstrating speed, strength, and dedication. Mas Oyama, founder of Kyokushinkai Karate, was able to knock a bull dead with one punch if I recall correctly. A chief instructor in my organisation was able to thrust his fingers through the skull of a goat.

As time progresses, however, and life experiences accumulate, one begins to see the true value of different abilities. My grandmaster has often said if you had the power to knock someone dead with one blow, and that person died.. well so what? Big deal. Are you proud that you caused a death? Admittedly, many years back I thought such an ability was cool… of course I did not think very far on what it meant – a life taken, the guilt weighing on one’s conscience, etc. I am not downplaying the dedication needed to get that ability – all I am saying is that while within itself, it is amazing, in the long run, it does not matter. To further illustrate, there’s a story of Gautama Buddha meeting an ascetic who proudly proclaimed that after 6 or 7 years of asceticism he was able to walk on water and cross the river. The Buddha said that he wasted 6 to 7 years of his life when he could have paid the boatman a tiny amount to get him across whenever he fancied it. That 6 or 7 years had he strived for enlightenment, the ultimate goal, instead, he would’ve gained something far more valuable.

So, what is a truly valuable ability? The Javanese ask for something from the Divine, they often term it “Ilmu Slamet”, ilmu means knowledge, but also an ability, and slamet means safety. Safety here is all-encompassing: safety in all activities in life, to be spared dangerous situations, to be granted the wisdom to make the right choices, etc. In other words, they ask for a prosperous, blessed life. Another Indonesian term I love is “mulia”, which is also harder to define, it means various things such as glory, stateliness, divine, noble, etc. “Hidup yang mulia” – a divine/glorious/noble life (hidup == alive/life). Truly, that is an ability, a knowledge worth having, the wisdom and the capacity to ride life’s sometimes tumultous waves, to escape problems unscathed, or at least, to heal as soon as possible, to make wise decisions, to have a pure heart and mind, to be compassionate. Given all that, what need do we have for super powers… when ordinary miracles happen everyday once one follows principles that lead to such a life. Heck, the term ‘ordinary miracle’ sounds like an oxymoron once you consider it, for there’s nothing ordinary – natural perhaps – but certainly not ordinary.

Anyhow, I am far from perfect, nor do I think it is easy to achieve a noble life, but it is something that I have begun to understand, something I thought was worth sharing. I still think various powers are uber-cool however. I suspect also however, that certain cool powers will be a byproduct of a nobler life, much like how many saints and sages had various abilities that came post-enlightenment.

— Kamal

Dec 22, 2008 - poetry


The Night progresses

The World hushes

A moment of time

We move through



— Kamal

PS. I was in a trivia channel, and people started heading out as the night came… these words (further refined) came through.