Here within my lonely frame / My eyes just hurt my brain

These things are sent to sent to test us….

A cou­ple of days back we tried to buy some Shake­speare. We, nat­u­ral­ly, went to the only Eng­lish lan­guage book­store in Bali, Periplus. Periplus is a chain here in Indone­sia and has at least a dozen branch­es across the island. Its most gen­er­ous­ly described as a lit­tle sad, with lots of tourist aimed cof­fee table books, bad­ly print­ed, and odd cut-out biogra­phies and moti­va­tion tomes, but it’s all we have. We asked at the counter and the guy stud­ied the com­put­er for a few min­utes.

Yes we have Shake­speare – it’s in the Fic­tion sec­tion.

Oh, ok

I guess fic­tion works loose­ly although I’m think­ing that Richard III and Hen­ry V, amongst quite a few oth­er names sub­ject to the quill of who­ev­er Shake­speare may or not have been, actu­al­ly have exist­ed at one time. The very help­ful girl took us over and offered us this.

Uh, no, we want any of the works of William Shake­speare – our daugh­ter is study­ing him at school – it’s part of the nation­al cur­ricu­lum, both Eng­lish and Indone­sian. Oh, you’ve not heard of William Shake­speare? This is a book­shop?


An Eng­lish lan­guage one?


You’ve not heard of Shake­speare? Oh, only that book? But not William?

No, Pak…..

· I’ve had a series of emails from a com­pa­ny in Jakar­ta recent­ly. They’re one of the larg­er fab­ric retail­ers in the city, with a turnover, I’d guess, in the mil­lions. Their Sales Man­ag­er sends his emails to me as attach­ments. These attach­ments come as Microsoft Excel work­sheets. Each word takes up a sep­a­rate cell.

· Here’s a com­pa­ny who sent me an email in their massed mail-out. Their web­site is fair­ly well writ­ten and con­tains lots of infor­ma­tion, but after all, the effort to do that – their web­site is a blogspot – odd. I also received the email address of every one of their poten­tial cus­tomers in the address field, so I imag­ine I’m in for a raft of oth­er offers for things I don’t need (like the Ban­dung grain stor­age com­pa­ny who mail me dai­ly the same email offer­ing me grain hop­pers).

· PLN is the local pow­er com­pa­ny. One of the bizarre things about the elec­tric­i­ty sys­tem in Bali (aside from its expense and absolute unre­li­a­bil­i­ty) is the fact that they don’t tell you how much you owe. Else­where on the plan­et, in my expe­ri­ence at least, the util­i­ty com­pa­nies send you a nice let­ter at the end of a billing cycle, some­times even with a wee newslet­ter to read on the loo, and you pay it. In Indone­sia, or at least in Bali, it’s up to the con­sumer to active­ly seek out the amount due out and pay it before they cut you off. Sev­er­al years in, I’m still con­fused by this but I think one is oblig­ed to either stand in a queue at some office, or ring a num­ber, or…

In Indone­sia, or at least in Bali, it’s up to the con­sumer to active­ly seek out the amount due out and pay it before they cut you off. Sev­er­al years in, I’m still con­fused by this but one is oblig­ed to either stand in a queue at some office or ring a num­ber – it’s bizarre. So I was pleased when I found the PLN Bali web­site (this I won’t link to). You go into it, enter the num­ber of the account (which brings up the name of a per­son no-one I know has ever heard of and an address a lit­tle dif­fer­ent to ours – but that’s Bali – you sim­ply nev­er apply log­ic to any sit­u­a­tion) and up comes an amount which you can pay (a friend takes it to the office with hers). But now, we have a bit of an issue with the process: both IE7 and Fire­fox have detect­ed that the web design­er, who, I guess, is a con­tract­ed-in young-scal­ly­wag, has implant­ed a virus in the page’s code. A cou­ple of links on the page to get fur­ther infor­ma­tion on a cou­ple of things (like how to save mon­ey on your pow­er bill) trig­ger a virus down­load. An email to the com­pa­ny and the web­mas­ter has gar­nered no response.

· Our emailed invoic­es from our sup­pli­ers in Indone­sia come in a vari­ety of shapes and sizes. Some come as 6mb bitmaps (per one page doc­u­ment), oth­ers are Excel spread­sheets with the print area set to 365 pages, and so on. This is very help­ful when one punch­es Ctl-P and wan­ders off to make cof­fee.

· We learned ear­ly on, but not ear­ly enough sad­ly that you don’t give your busi­ness card to Indone­sian trade organ­i­sa­tions. The end result of that fol­ly is end­less emails from com­pa­nies all over the world who’ve been sold the list. The ones from Indone­sia tend to be often inco­her­ent and like­ly link to a web­site which doesn’t exist. It seems that reg­is­ter­ing and set­ting up a web­site are less impor­tant to Indo busi­ness­es than – to indi­cate impor­tance – claim­ing to have one. Think of the mon­ey it saves on web design.

If on the off chance, it does link to some­thing there is a bet­ter-than-even chance that it will be either com­plete­ly non-nav­i­ga­ble, with mul­ti­ple dead links and/or crash­ing Flash 5; or has been authored with a huge vari­ety of fonts over a wall­pa­per back­ground of a sim­i­lar colour to the type, with a vari­ety­nag of spin­ning and flash­ing applets and ani­mat­ed gifs. It will also say ©2003 Opti­mised for Netscape Nav­i­ga­tor 2 And IE3. Email address­es on these sites are nev­er live or click­able and exist inside a graph­ic designed to defeat any use of Ctl-C. They are usu­al­ly far too long to remem­ber with­out writ­ing down and are Hot­mail despite the fact they have a domain. The police use Hot­mail. You will nev­er get a response from these emails, at least 50% of which bounce back, as these com­pa­nies like to change their email address­es every month or two to prove, once again, how mod­ern they are. You are bet­ter to fax through a request as fax­es are increas­ing­ly big news and look like­ly to sup­plant the type­writer and the dot-matrix print­er in a few years.

· Last year we bought a print­er – a mid-priced Broth­er mul­ti-func­tion thingy. It came with spare ink and we topped up ear­li­er this year in Malaysia where com­pat­i­ble ink sells for about $5 a car­tridge. But the black ran out last week and I’ve spent half the last week try­ing to find it with no luck. The place we bought the print­er from still sells the machines but the ink is One month from Sin­ga­pore! So we went to Car­refour, down there on JL. Sun­set. They have the ink list­ed on their wall dis­play but don’t actu­al­ly stock it. Thus we decid­ed a new print­er may be the only way, as there was some urgency and they’re not over­ly expen­sive. So we saw a new Canon – do you sell the ink for this? No? Which of the dozen or so print­ers you have for sale here, do you have ink for? None.

· In Indone­sia, bank web­sites gen­er­al­ly look like they’ve been authored cir­ca 1996, for Mosa­ic or the like. Parts of them may or may not load and they may have frames with­in frames. To get a sim­ple bal­ance on my bank, Per­ma­ta’s, site, I need to go through five lev­els of click­ing – any one of which may freeze the brows­er. Its inter­face was last updat­ed in 2003 and does not work in Fire­fox. Emails to these peo­ple are nev­er ever, ever respond­ed to. The online trans­fer bit has a very, very small space for the payee’s name – too small for most names. If the full name is not giv­en, or a com­ma or full stop is in the wrong place the receiv­ing bank, depend­ing on their mood, may reject it. Brigid can often hear me scream­ing at, and bash­ing the com­put­er, as I try to pay the phone bill online or note that the inter­net pay­ment, with all details cor­rect and mucho funds has been returned for the third time because its name is one let­ter too many for the Per­ma­ta site’s space. This is their cor­po­rate pro­file page.

· But for all that, my biggest frus­tra­tion right now has noth­ing to do with Indone­sia. It’s, again, DHL in New Zealand, who, after three years of doing it, for­got to send the mail from our mail­box up to us on the first of the month. They claimed that they had no record of hav­ing done so in the past, and it wasn’t “some­thing we do” said the help­ful per­son – as she copied the email to the Glob­al Mail For­ward­ing Man­ag­er. So all the things I men­tioned ear­li­er, fade a lit­tle – they’re just a result of edu­ca­tion and tech­nol­o­gy gaps. DHL’s error is just plain incom­pe­tence.

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