Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The God Delusion – Book Review

The God Delusion
by Richard Dawkins

I don't usually read books centering on non-dinosaurian and non-English topics or subjects. Nevertheless, this book is one of the few which have managed to pass my bookish filter. I was in the midst of immersing myself in a great work by a Canadian dinosaur paleontologist whose initials are S.D.S. when this bestselling book on religion finally landed in my hands – after a couple of weeks of typical pesky waiting for an imported book. At first, I hesitated as to whether to finish the then-being-read book, or grab and devour the newly arrived one. The latter turned out to be the champion of this little battle of thoughts (now that I have completed reading the British author's, I am delightfully back from my short hiatus to the interrupted dinosaurian adventure). Please pardon my inexorably burning fanaticism about the iconic creatures of the past, and here is my take on The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins:

First of all, it is pretty obvious, from the title alone, that this book is concerned with atheism, i.e. the absence/lack of belief in God or deities. What you will encounter is the author's arguments for the godless outlook on life and thoughts that thoroughly explain his stance on religion. One might expect that the pages of this book are peppered with vulgar or foul language such as "fuck religion!" but, on the contrary, you will be surprised by the cordiality (and eloquence) of his writings. It is strongly recommended, especially if you are religious, to get rid of any prejudice towards the contents before you start reading; or otherwise you will fail to grasp what the writer genuinely intends to convey to the reader. As an evolutionary biologist, Dawkins possesses a very scientific framework of thinking: consequently, he examines and discusses the subject on the basis of his expertise. Through reading this book, which is made up of 10 chapters and richly loaded with information (including quotations) from a great many sources, I find it extremely easy to see that Dawkins is indeed a hardcore rationalist. Personally, I think The God Delusion is well worth reading for people of all sorts of (un)belief, who comprise, but are not limited to, theists, agnostics, and even atheists themselves, if they want to gain useful insights into this particular worldview.

Note: Due to some geographical reason, I cannot fully write my review and I'd be very glad to share more of my thoughts on the book when the circumstances make it possible to do so.

Have you read The God Delusion? What is your opinion of this book? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!
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Thursday, June 14, 2018

6 Tips for a Successful Vacation Trip

Everybody loves traveling. Who doesn't?

This is a train of thought that used to be in my brain until I found someone who isn't keen on it. However, I strongly believe that in general, people – wherever they come from – would feel excited about exploring different parts of the world – ones whose ground they've never stepped on."

Although not a travel maniac myself, I have visited, I think, quite a good number of domestic and international destinations. My Indonesian trips include those to the world-famous, culturally rich Bali (also known as the 'Island of Gods") and Bandung, which is the capital of West Java and where you can find the Museum of Geology, which houses a life-sized T. rex skeleton as one of its numerous exhibits. On the international side, Vietnam is the country that I have visited most frequently (I've landed at Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport four times), and the rest comprise Australia's external territory Christmas Island, the little red dot Singapore, the musang king durian producer Malaysia, as well as the Philippines, where you can relish various pork-based dishes and where the popular bakeshop Goldilocks hails from.

Me standing in awe at a T. rex skeleton on display at Bandung's Museum of Geology, Indonesia

Me in front of a heart mural on Bonifacio High Street, Taguig, Metro Manila, the Philippines
All of the experiences I've had (be they good or bad) have accumulated in such a way that I am compelled to share to you what I think travelers should keep in mind before they set out for their desired destinations. I truly hope this list of tips will help make a great escapade. Bon voyage!

1. Prepare plenty of money

If there's one thing that must be with you on any trip, that's our 'greeny' companion: money. You can forgivably forget some of your belongings, such as your shower gel or favorite shorts, because if you have enough money, in most cases you can buy new ones (at least basic needs) in your destination.

If you are going to travel abroad, make sure there is ample foreign currency in your pocket; banks and money changers are places to go in respect of this. It is also a wise idea to check the currently valid currency of your target country (when I was in the Philippines, I couldn't use my 1,000-peso bill since it belonged to the previous expired currency issue).

You might also want to find out whether you can use credit cards as a means of payment if you plan to make purchases in certain stores of the country you're going to visit. Carrying a credit card is definitely more convenient than cash, not to mention the promotions for which only credit card holders are eligible.

2. Get your passport and visa ready

This applies to foreign tourists. You cannot get out of your home country if you don't have a passport. According to AirAsia website, generally make sure your passport is "valid for at least six months after the date you enter a foreign country." Don't be too lazy to do some math – my brother once faced this kind of problem, when he was traveling to Cambodia if I'm not mistaken. If you happen to lose your passport (hopefully not) in your destination country and can't find it, you have to contact your country's embassy there. Remember that you can't leave a foreign country without a passport.

While in some cases you are required to have a visa to enter a foreign country, you might be eligible to get into one without a visa. For example, as an ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) citizen, I was able to travel to Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines without having to apply for a visa, yet under a certain limit of days of travel (click here to know about the ASEAN visa-free policy). Some countries provide visas on arrival, which basically means you can get visas when you arrive at the airports of the foreign countries. Remember to check the visa requirements to avoid any immigration problems.

Note: To apply for a passport, go to the immigration office, whereas to apply for a visa, go the foreign country's embassy in your home country.

3. Create an itinerary

It might sound trite, but planning what to do, where to go, how to do it, and so on and so forth is essential. You wouldn't want to waste any time when you are on vacation, as any bit of it is precious. I used the service of Visit A City to make an itinerary for my Kuala Lumpur trip a few months ago and it went well. The website gives you a great deal of information about tourist attractions, such as opening hours and ticket prices, if any. To get a good idea of the place(s) you're thinking of visiting, you could also go to travel websites such as TripAdvisor or ask people who have had an experience of being there. The more research you do, the better itinerary you will come out with. Nevertheless, things do not always turn out well. It is highly recommended to work out backup plans and be flexible on your trip for the best experience possible. For instance, what will you do if the natural history museum you've always been wanting to visit is closed due to urgent repairs? Or where will you go if bad weather doesn't allow you to take pictures in your favorite park?

4. Be aware of time difference

Yes. And I was a victim of this natural phenomenon. As you might know, I live in Jakarta time zone (UTC+7). On February 25, 2016, when I was in transit at Changi Airport, Singapore (UTC+8) on my third trip to Vietnam, I got carried away by the beauty and grandeur of the world's best airport, taking photos and stuff. I didn't realize, at one moment, that it was time to go to the designated gate to board my flight to the rice-producing country since my reference was my phone, which was showing the wrong time – one hour late. As a result, I missed my flight and had to waste around 1 million IDR (71.7 USD) on a new flight scheduled for the next day (yes, I spent the night at the airport). The lesson that can be learned is that travelers should be aware of any temporal difference between geographical areas and adjust the time settings on their devices, including watches and phones, to avert such pesky incidents.

Click here to read a reflection article I wrote in relation to this matter.

5. Install important apps

Thanks to the jaw-dropping advancement of technology, traveling is now easier than ever before. A GPS app can help you navigate an unfamiliar area, such as a city, in a very convenient way (going astray is not as scary and nerve-wracking as it used to be). I'd recommend using MAPS.ME, which was extremely helpful during my international trips. What makes this app special is that you can still use it while offline.

Language can be a problem when traveling. If you don't understand the local language, a translator app such as Google Translate is just the ticket. Personally, I used it and/or the website when I was in Vietnam to communicate with local(s) as my Vietnamese proficiency was not good enough.

A private car or public transportation such as buses and trains might be your the primary choice for your excursions, but you may still need to install transportation service apps such as Grab and Uber for a smoother trip. My trips to Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines would probably have been much less pleasant if it hadn't been for these amazing apps.

Note: As many of these apps require an internet connection to run, make sure you can access the internet in your destination.

6. Learn local language and culture

In the previous point, I mentioned the ease that translator apps offer for a trip to a place where an unfamiliar language is used. Nevertheless, I still think that it is necessary for tourists to learn some local language, at least basic expressions such as those equivalent to "thank you" and "I'm sorry". This can break the ice and you will gain respect from the locals for showing effort to learn their language (this might also prevent you from being ripped off (too much)).

There is an Indonesian saying: lain padang lain belalang, lain lubuk lain ikannya. Translated into English, this expression would roughly be "different fields have different kinds of grasshoppers, different pools have different kinds of fish." The message, which you could have probably worked out, is that different areas, such as countries, hold their own customs, manners, etc. It points to the importance of learning about local culture: what is mandatory to do when you meet an elder, what is considered rude or inappropriate when talking, and that kind of thing. This will save face and help you stay away from awkward or embarrassing situations. I will never forget an occasion when I experienced a little culture shock in Vietnam: a woman flinched, probably feeling offended, when I was shaking her hand as part of my introduction. I reckoned this gesture was acceptable and regarded as polite in Vietnamese culture, but it turns out that it isn't customary for Vietnamese women to shake hands with men, as explained by one of my closest friends from the said country. Adjusting to the social mores of your destination is a must-do.
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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Quote #50

"If you want to retain your customers, the first thing you need to think about is how to retain your employees." - Klinsman Hinjaya
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Sunday, June 10, 2018

Quote #49

"It is utterly pathetic and heart-wrenching when, in a society or organization, deserved significant progress has to be hampered because a few capable ones have to give in to the benighted, and in some cases violent, majority." - Klinsman Hinjaya
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Friday, June 8, 2018

Quote #48

"There is a real potential fiasco when incompetent people happen to exert authority or control over those who are competent." - Klinsman Hinjaya
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