Friday, April 21, 2017

Kartini Day With The Piranhas

Kartini Day at the office has always been celebrated with the women wearing kebaya-kain combo and the men wearing batik. It sounds shallow, but it never cease to create a fun office atmosphere. Here are several photos of today's fun times.
 

The serious pose

The silly pose
The one with your color twin :D

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Let's Tackle Fake News, One News At A Time

After doing the previous post on Masjid Raya Daan Mogot, I remembered a Whatsapp chat with a journo friend several months ago about the rise of fake news. We realized that there had been a lot of fake news circulating in social media. 

Having worked for media for almost 10 years have made me questioning almost everything I read. I've become aware that media A was more into the X Party, while media was a staunch supporter of the Y Party. It's hard to find a neutral media channel. But the key to distinguish a fake news is critical thinking, which can be established through lots of practicing.

Here is a helpful infographic from IFLA on how to spot fake news:


IMHO, fake news happen for two reasons, either (a) attracting public attention, or (b) diverting public attention from a more serious issue. Either way, fake news aims to get clicks from the readers. More clicks means more money. 

Why do people even bother to read such news? I suppose those people have too much information from various sources, inability to prioritize and sort the news they need, and fear of missing out. And with the rising social media, it is very easy to spread such news just with the tip of your thumb.

There is a three-step guide on why you should spread news: (a) it's a good news, (b) it's the truth (and to check the truth, go through the steps in the infographic above, please), and (c) it's for the greater good or the information in useful for public. If a news does not pass one of these three requirements, then it's not worth to spread.

Be responsible netizens, people. Stop hate, start love.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Masjid Raya Daan Mogot And Elements of A Mosque

A few weeks before the Jakarta gubernatorial election, a series of photos on a newly built mosque on Jl. Daan Mogot, West Jakarta circulated in the social media. A group of Muslims (heretofore is the contra group) called the mosque had un-Islamic design. Since the incumbent governor is a non Muslim, rumors grew that he had purposefully designed the mosque to resemble a church.

Being an architecture graduate and a Muslim, the first thing that crossed my mind regarding the argument was: what are the design elements of a mosque? What makes a particular architectural work be called a mosque? 

Before we get to that, how about if we take a look at the controversial mosque? Brace yourself, people, it's going to be quite a long post.

Perspective 1

Perspective aerial view 2

One of the concerns from the contra group was about the floor plan. They said that it resembled a cross, just like the medieval church floor plan. But here, as you can see, it's a simple T-shaped building. And the shape was used due to an even simpler reason: the shape of the land.

Perspective aerial view 3

As you can see, the land is kite-shaped, with several nodes encircling it. The architect must have taken two axis from two strongest nodes, put the building regulation and open space requirement into mind as well as optimizing the facade designs.


Perspective aerial view 4

The mosque was designed by Adhi Moersid of Atelier Six, who had designed several mosques across Jakarta and one in Semarang, Central Java. All Atelier 6 designs have one strong concept: vernacular architecture. Wherever they build an architectural work, they will incorporate the local culture into the designs. And they apply it to this mosque too, because it has many Betawi elements. However, the contra group said that the ornaments were similar to the Star of David. Oh dear.

All 3D CAD pics are taken from Atelier 6 website. There are many photos on this particular mosque in the Internet, you can check them out by typing in the keywords: Masjid Raya Daan Mogot. 

Now about the elements of a mosque, what are the things that make an architectural work become a mosque? Islam is now found worldwide, so we can't really say that a mosque should have dome or specific architectural designs in order to be called a mosque. The way I see it, here are the things that you most likely would find in a mosque, regardless of the geography:

Facing Qiblat
All mosques face qiblat, this goes without question.

Shoe Shelves
All Islamic praying space should be clear from dirt and other things that are considered impure in Islamic teaching, and you will be required to leave your shoes prior to entering the main building area.

Ablution Area
After removing the shoes, you will have to clean with water: your hands, face, nostrils, top of head, ear lobes, and feet.

Prayer Hall
Now that you're clean, you are allowed to enter the prayer hall, an area where Muslims pray five times a day according to the solar schedule: dawn, midday, afternoon, dusk and night. 

Mihrab
Mihrab is a part of the prayer hall, where the imam, leader of praying activity, stands. It is usually ornately decorated according with calligraphy.

Mimbar
If the mosque has enough space, usually there is a mimbar, a raised platform where clerics give sermons/speeches.

Minaret (Tower)
To perform call for prayer.

As you can see, none of the elements has something to do with the shape of the architectural work or the ornaments. It can be rectangular, triangular, or even circular, but the most important thing is this architectural work houses...(drum rolls)...

Praying activity
Of course, it is a mosque. There must be a praying activity held in the building.

Just to give an idea what a mosque floor plan looks like, here are six mosque floor plans from early Ottoman period.

As you can see from the pic above, there have been mosques using T-shaped floor plans. So what's the big deal about Masjid Raya Daan Mogot?

I don't really understand what the argument was about. If the contra group dislikes the incumbent, can't they just not vote for him in the election? No need to spread fake news. For me, a mosque is a place to pray. But of course, Allah has created this Earth as a place to pray. So you can pray anywhere (except graveyard and toilet).

Congratulations, you made it to the end of this post. I hope I don't bore you on the minutiae.

PS. I've made several posts on the mosques in the past. You can check them here, here, here, and here.
PPS. Have you checked an Instagram account called @placesyoullpray ? Go and have a look. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Things On Basic Education I Learn From The Current Project

Currently I am working for a development project that aims to improve quality of basic education. Therefore I get a lot of insights on that issue. It had been a wonderful experience to visit the project's partner schools and see how much they had developed and improved. 

One of the news clipping on the project. And yes, the girl in yellow headscarf holding the camera is me, doing the translation work for the American guy (This post is a shameless self promotion in disguise, after all. Hahaha).
  
Here are some of the things I learn from the current workplace:

Learning should be active, creative, effective and joyful

Of course there had been policies of active learning back in the 1990s, but it was all just jargon and slogans. In the end, the teachers gave boring monotonous lectures.

So how did the project change all that? Well, the project gave the teachers a series of trainings and mentoring sessions, which had 

One of the keys to successful active learning is most likely for the teachers to be guiding observer and let the students find the solution to the problems. To find answers to the problems posed by the teacher, the students sometimes go to library, check Internet (under the teacher's supervision, of course), interview local people (sometimes their classmate's parent) or go to the school yard for direct observation. Anything the students find with their own brain will definitely stick longer than what the teachers shove into their heads. 

Letting the students to experiment, make mistake and learn from the mistake will eventually make students to learn more than just a subject. They will learn to be independent and confident people. Those are traits that will be useful for their life, taught within the 45-minute of a class session.

Another thing I like, the project tries to make the school subject learning process as close as possible to the students' daily life. For example, a mathematical problem would ask: if the price of wood is Rp x per square meter, how much money needed to build a cupboard?

The students not only learn how to do Mathematics, but they know why they learn: to be able to survive the big world out there.

Students (and teachers) should read non-textbook books

Textbooks are good for learning the school subjects, but non-textbook books (or reading books) are important to broaden the students' horizon, nurture their imagination and improve the reading habit. 

Many of the partner schools have implemented the 15-30 minutes of reading before the learning session long before former Minister of Education and Culture Anies Baswedan issued a ministerial decree on reading habit and character building. 

The project not only encourages students to have a special reading time during school hour, but also motivates the teachers to do so. After all, the students learn from the teachers. And what kind of student do you expect to come out if the teachers don't read anything?

Tangent: When I was in high school, I would lend and borrow comic books with my classmate. But one day, there was a random raid, with the target to find and confiscate things that students should not bring to school. One of such things are non-textbook books. Long story short: the teachers found the comic books,  and they made me feel like a criminal for reading non-textbook books.

Education takes a village

To educate a child is not equal to simply enrolling the said child into an educational institution. School principal, teachers and parents should unite to find the best way to educate the children. Money is the first thing that comes in mind, but there are many ways to help. Parents can help with trees/flowers for the school yard, which can be a source for learning Biology, or they can be a sourceperson and tell the class about the work they do. 

The most important thing to increase community/public participation is to create trust, and this can only be established through transparency. Most partner schools put up the school budget in the wall, so people can see where the budget goes.

Literacy creates a life  of dignity

Reading skill is the most important aspect in education, because if you can not read well, you will not be able to comprehend what the problem means. You can not find the information needed to answer the problem too.

One of the students in the project's partner schools even taught her mother on how to read. I should write about this amazing student, and some other students too, in a separate post.

Anyway, the project will soon come to a close, and I will leave the office in 1.5 months. It's been a wonderful project, as well as a unique workplace and colleagues. I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of the team.

Monday, April 10, 2017

All Hells Broke Loose When M&D Have New Mobilephone

I have a friend who always ask how my folks are doing, another who always laughs to hear their day-to-day bantering and some other who like hearing their latest update. It's either M&D are ghetto fabulous-local rockstars or I'm getting too good at telling stories. But here they are, the latest episode on M&D getting a new mobilephone...

And Whose Mobile Is That?
Situation: both M&D have their own phones. M's mobile number has been around since 1999, and it's already known in the circles of families and friends. But only D has the Android smartphone. To make everything simple, I installed Whatsapp in D's mobilephone but typed in M's mobile number in the apps.
M: (busy reading Whatsapp messages from her highschool, junior high school and elementary groups, ignoring me and D)
D: I will sell that phone.
M: Oh come on, you'd use my mobile to send SMS to your friends, and now I can't borrow yours?
Me: OK, calm down, kids. I need to take a sleep.

Something Is Wrong With The Phone #1
Situation: breakfast time has become a time when they come and consult me about their new phone. This was just one of those moments...
M: Something is wrong with the phone
Me: Let me have a look (Trying to unlock the screen, then realized that the phone's screen is black). It is still off or what?
M: That is the problem. We try to set it on, but to no avail
Me: Have you charged it?
M: We have.
Me: Oh look, it's charging!
M: Or perhaps we thought we have...

Something Is Wrong With The Phone #2
Situation: I arrived home at around 10 p.m., was in the middle of locking the front gate when M opened the door and said...
M: Something happened!
Me: Is it emergency? (I was thinking that I had to run to the nearest ER to deliver D)
M: Not really. Why don't you finish locking the gate and come in.
Me: OK, what happened?
M: So here's the story. D bought credit for the phone, and then he told me to check on Whatsapp, and then the credit slumped to almost zero.
Me: That's weird. I've turned off the data on the phone setting.
M: Hmm...about that...I think D asked the guy from the phone counter to set it to on.
Me: Oh OK. I set it to off for a reason, you know. So have you learned your lessons?
M: Yes...but can we get back the credit?
Me: Of course not.
(Note from the editor-who is me, of course-: I gave them a wifi gadget and told them to check their Whatsapp messages or do browsing before 8 a.m/before I leave for work. Am I not a strict parent or what?)

Something Is Wrong With The Phone #3
Situation: everytime the phone emits a sound (a notification), here's what M would say..
M: What is it? (panic)
Me: Just a notification. Perhaps it's a Whatsapp message.
M: That's not it. What is it?
Me: (Since the question would pop up almost everytime, I have three types of answers, depending on how tired I am at the moment) (a) I don't know, M. I don't have the answer to everything, (b) Chill, M. It's just a mobilephone. If it's broken, we can buy a new one, (c) Let me have a look.

What Is Facebook?
Situation: M's highschool friend asked M if she had a Facebook account...
M: What is Facebook?
Me: Oh it's nothing important, you don't need that.
M: But my friend told me to create an account there.
Me: How many of your friends have Facebook account?
M: Well...
Me: I think Whatsapp is good enough for both of you at the moment. More apps means more memory used. The apps slows down the phone and it will cost more data to access (OMG, did I just sound like M when she told the 5-year-old me that I couldn't eat more chocolate bars?).

Monday, April 3, 2017

Bekasi Residents The Victim Of Commuter Line's Ever Changing Route Policy?

OK, so the post title was probably a bit overly dramatic. But I have my own reasons.



As of April 1, 2017 (and no, it's not an April Fools joke), eight of the Commuter Line trains serving Bekasi-Kota route will use the Bekasi-Jatinegara-Pasar Senen-Kota track. They say (you can read the the news here) that the change of route was aimed to relieve crowding at Manggarai station.

The eight rerouted trains are the 5:38 a.m., 8:21 a.m., 12:48 p.m. and and 3:14 p.m. from Bekasi station and the 7:05 a.m., 10:06 a.m., 1:57 p.m. and 4:46 p.m. from Jakarta Kota station. The company said that in the future, they would reroute all Bekasi-Kota trains to the aforementioned track. But there is no mention of a solution to passengers who need to hop off along the Manggarai-Gambir-Jayakarta leg.

Bekasi-Kota trains can use two tracks: (1) Bekasi-Jatinegara-Manggarai-Gambir (not stopping though)-Kota, (2) Bekasi-Jatinegara-Pasar Senen-Kota. In the past (I'm talking about the train service in late 1990s and early 2000s here), there were CL trains for track no. 1, no. 2 (which is brought back to life this month) and...Bekasi-Tanah Abang (no longer exists). People working in Sudirman area could take the Bekasi-Tanah Abang without having to transfer in Manggarai station. Then, the train company decided to stop trains going on track no. 2 and the Bekasi-Tanah Abang. Now, the company decided to resuscitate track no. 2.

This is a lesson learned the hard way for the train company: don't stop/create a new track without holding a proper feasibility study. Otherwise, you'll end up with crowding issue.

Back to the crowding, here's the situation: Bekasi train track is also used by intercity trains (read: trains going to West Java, Central Java and East Java), and perhaps every 10 minutes, a Commuter Line train will have to wait for an intercity train zooming past the track in order to pass. 

Crowding? Oh yeah, be a Bekasi-based Commuter Line passenger, and you'll know what it feels to wait for intercity trains to pass. That's a real crowding issue along the track.

A construction work to build the double-double track between Manggarai and Cikarang is underway, but it's a long railway track, and the progress goes in a snail's pace. The double-double track construction not only builds the tracks, but also stations as some stations will have to be relocated to give way to the tracks.

To compensate the decision, the train company has provided the Jatinegara-Duri-Jatinegara trains and the Manggarai-Duri feeder trains, which picks up passengers in Manggarai station every 30-45 minutes. It is not frequent enough. But it is still much better than being squeezed in Bogor-Tanah Abang or Jatinegara-Duri-Jatinegara trains. Bekasi residents working in Sudirman area or those wanting to go to Tanah Abang didn't have any choice but to accept the decision.

If all Bekasi-Kota trains are rerouted to track no. 2, then Bekasi people working in Sudirman area (people like me) have to transfer in Jatinegara and use Jatinegara-Duri-Jatinegara train, which will reach Sudirman in one hour, or hop off at Pasar Senen station and continue with TransJakarta bus, which will be caught in the jam, that's for sure.

Another issue is Bekasi-bound trains are still a rarity, perhaps only one train consisting of 8-12 cars coming  every 20 minutes or so, unlike Bogor-bound trains that usually have 10-12 cars coming every 5-10 minutes.

Check the pic above. Notice that there are two lines going through Bogor station, four through Depok station, while there is only one line from Bekasi station? Who's causing the crowd? Bogor and Depok. And who's paying the price? Bekasi. Hmphh.

In terms of number of passengers, Bogor-based passengers are definitely a bigger crowd than Bekasi-based passengers, but the train company shouldn't play favorites. Bekasi residents are also part of the devoted members of Commuter Line congregation. We are of small number, but this small number taking the Commuter Line has reduced the road traffic. Or perhaps the train company wishes Bekasi people to take up a stand, buy private cars and fill up the roads to Jakarta?

Dear train company, stop messing with our train schedules. Instead of rerouting the existing trains, why don't you allocate more trains for Bekasi-based passengers?

PS. My previous post on the struggle to reach office is here.