Social Eating in Ramadan: Pros and Cons

THE English and Korean may have been campaigning against loneliness, depression and unhappiness which have been too prevalent among them. Americans also complain about not eating together as often as they used to (read this).

Here in Indonesia, we have our best cure to the aforementioned global pandemics: having meals together on every occasion. Yes, indeed eating together has been proven as an effective method to get rid of a sense of being all alone and forlorn.

As Wikipedia says, social eating tradition has its root back in the Ancient Greek age. People cooked and enjoyed foods and drinks to join a commemoration of a special moment or day.

In Ramadan (the fasting month in Islamic calendar), social eating in iftar time has been also a norm. Even those who are not muslims join dinner and chat together as it is a perfect time to interact over good foods. That shows just how much people can mingle with each other irrespective of their faiths, races, tehnic groups, and other differences.

But things are not as ideal when we see it in reality. That includes the case of social eating. Here is why.

Pros

Social eating is certainly good when it comes to restrengthening social connections. Science proves it (read here). Conversations among individuals at dining tables can alleviate someone’s chronic stress. Talking about recent experience or life events is even more relieving with friends face-to-face, instead of telling them via chat applications or social media.

Maintaining social ties over foods at dining table also lowers down the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Being in the middle of family members, friends and neighbors can be intimidating for some introverted folks but it turns out that it helps people slow down the brain aging process as well.

Cons

We all have been familiar with the bright sides of social eating. So how about the dark, undiscussed side of it?

As pointed out here, social eating can be bad as it potentially unleashes most people’s unhealthy eating habits. People are encouraged to swallow more foods and drinks which later causes overeating. I have seen a coworker who was taken to a nearby hospital days after Idul Fitri just because he lost himself during the festivity season. He ate almost everything he saw on the table.

Overeating also means people tend to consume more and more calories, leading to accumulation of body fats. This is ironic because you have meal together after you refrain yourself from eating anything for 13-14 hours in daylight in Ramadan. In Idul Fitri, the tendency of overeating is even higher. Suddenly you can eat anytime you want again and that is not an opportunity to get wasted so people binge-eating and find themselves clogged inside after eating like the greedies pig ever born.

Science also proves that social influences on eating are powerful. Eating together can affect someone’s body weight. So if you have a weight-related health conditions, eating together very often especially with people who are more ‘promiscuous’ will definitely bring you more issues than benefits.

What to heed

Now, what should be paid attention to when you want to eat together without having to endure its negative effects? Remaining mindful throughout social eating rituals is needed so that you won’t get yourself stuffed with junk foods or overload the intestines with foods in enormous portions.

When you are mindful, chances are you will eat more controllably. You are aware of making choices, which food to pick and to avoid. And of course, trying to limit that comfort food as least as possible because you know once you chew it, you cannot stop.

On that note, also never forget the essence of social eating, i.e. uniting. Some people are trapped in making more enemies than refreshing their stale friendships or relationships here. They bully each other, show off their latest posessions, which is at the end totally against the aim of social eating itself.

And what matters most is that you know that social eating should not get in the way of observing your religious responsibilities (read: your essential daily rituals). For muslims especially, what is the point of eating out at malls if you miss your maghrib prayer? (*/)

My Experience of Using Merahputih.id

Indonesia free email service Merahputih.id is the one and only free service of its kind available so far to support Indonesians’ communication and productivity. [Photo credit: Merahputih.id]
CONSIDERING the creepy dominance of Gmail in Indonesian market, at the same time I too cannot deny my dependence on this webmail service. I have owned and actively used my Gmail account since 2009 and there must be countless data I have stored in it. The service has really made my digital life easier and more comfortable.

But far before using Gmail, I had used Plaza Mail [correct me if I am wrong] in my college days. And the experience was — as far as my memory served right — quite good, if not extraordinary. Somehow I no longer used my Plaza account, partly because I have forgotten the password and do not bother to try recovering it.

In short, I truly miss that sort of free email service built by fellow Indonesians or Indonesian company. Why? Because if your nation can build its own products, why do not you support it by using them? Using our own digital products also supports our digital industry growth. I have been so sick of seeing Indonesian treated as a mere market. With resources this big, I think we could have been bigger than what we are now. Also, using our own digital products save us from negative impacts of data misuse done by foreign parties. If anything bad happens, suing service providers in our own jurisdiction is more plausible than doing so to overseas service providers such as Facebook, Google, Yahoo, etc. Of course other reasons [like what is pointed out by Marsya Nabila of Dailysocial.id here] make sense as well but my own motive is mostly nationalism.

So when I discovered Merahputih.id on the 15th of April 2018 [amidst Facebook-Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal], I was so delighted I ‘jumped into the wagon’ right away.

The interface is clean and smooth and minimalist. There is much to complain about. [Photo credit: My own screengrab]
Having used the service for roughly a month, I can tell you it is AWESOME as the substitute of Gmail. At first I thought I can totally migrate to my Merahputih.id and close my Gmail account but then I decided to still let it active for a while to allow people who know nothing about my shift reach me through my Gmail. Now I have been less and less on my Gmail, which is good.

The bright side of this service is that it offers you 50 GB inbox capacity [compared to Gmail’s 15 GB]. As generous as it can be, it is also secure. IP Network Solusindo [the company offering this email service] claims it has applied the latest encryption algorithms. And what I like best is that all of its servers and tier-3 data centers are located in Indonesia.

One of points of improvement that I have in mind is that the service should also try to allow users to see the inbox or currently opened or read email when they are typing a new email or reply. Just like Gmail does. What I see now is the service leads you to a separate webpage dedicated solely to typing a new email and attaching files. This way, it is impossible to take a glance at a previous email you want to use as a reference. You may open it on another tab but that would be impractical.

As for mobile use, I found no difficulty in setting up my Merahputih.id email account in my iPhone. It is seamless to say the least.

Aside from MP [Merah Putih]  Mail, the company also offers MP Boks which I assume functions as your Dropbox. It allows you to automatically upload images from gadgets, automatically back up your contact, and enjoy free 2 GB storage. But too bad it is only available for Android-powered gadgets. As an iPhone user, I have no option other than wait for the launch on Apple Store.

In the near future, the company plans to  enrich their service portfolio by launching a group chat service, social media/ forum, news portal, IPTV, marketplace, to collaboration messenger.  So it could be like what is Kakaotalk to Koreans or WeChat to Chinese.

I myself have huge expectation that this service will proliferate anytime soon so this nation is no longer overly dependent on foreign services. (*/)

 

In Indonesia, Terrorism Has Never Been This Close and Alarming

Prevention of terrorism attacks are never too late. Start from now before it is too late for Indonesia to become as wretched as Middle East. [Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons]
WE had this conversation over a dinner with some really good topics. As much as I hate the traffic, I also respected the person who invited me to the dinner (or ifthar). I am by no means a huge fan of bukber at a shopping center or any place where crowd gathers and people kill time by avoiding maddening traffic jams.

We had this conversations about yoga and pleasant themes but it suddenly took an unexpected turn.

I had nothing to comment about the recent terrorism attacks in Surabaya. Of course I curse and never ever condone such inhumane acts. That is perhaps because I find it hard to relate to terrorism. I kept thinking that it would never happen around me, or it would happen but I don’t think it will happen to me or my immediate family or in my neighborhood.

But one of my friends at the dining table there had opened my mind that there is always possibility that terrorism has appeared and given – even the slightest- signals around us but we choose to ignore these until it is too late to prevent them from claiming casualties around us.

We are awaken that terrorism has reached a new level. Now children have also been sacrificed to reach the so-called holy goal of realizing fully sharia nation and government, which we never knew they would do.

“Also in our WhatsApp groups of family and friends, we all have those people with fundamentalist way of thinking. And we cannot help it. They are around us,” he said.

I totally can relate to his anxiety. All of us, I guess.

Some of us have courage to fight against this by plunging into the ocean of debate and endless argument and some others just watch and sit and wait. Nothing real is done.

I used to be silent and give no comments on this issue but this time I cannot hold myself back.

WE HAVE TO FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM.

But at the same time we should bear in mind that we should not fight against terrorists.

Why?

Because these people are actually parts of us. They can be your acquaintances, your neighbors, your coworkers, your mates, fellows, parents, siblings, and spouses who buy into the belief spread by irresponsible parties claiming that muslims in Indonesia are under attack, treated unfairly by the current government, marginalized in some way, and so forth.

If we take time to let them know and comprehend what is better for us together and let them know that the dogma and doctrines they have in mind are unfeasible in this diverse world, there must be some improvement in terrorism prevention measures.

How?

Leave screens and start building interactions. I mean real interactions with human beings in person. Because that way, we can really understand how they think and set aside bias in our own mind and theirs. It is less about finding who wins or loses but more about compromising. We can work it out. (*/)

Every time you think terrorism has a justifiable reason, see these deprived homeless young children. That is what can happen to our future generation in the country. [Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons]

Two New Online Tools You Must Use to Combat Hoax

THERE is nothing I hate most nowadays but hoax. Fake news is so prevalent on social media that I recently deleted my Facebook personal account [though I am occasionally still on it for the sake of this blog’s presence].  I swear I never consume content through social media ever again. At least until the political situation is cooling down, which means after the next year’s Indonesian presidential election is over.

Good news is here now!

Two online weapons are already invented to eradicate fake news on the web.  By means of these tools, everyone can discover who initially spread the fake news in their circles. That way, we will easily find out who must be held responsible for any misinformation and later on blacklist these allegedly reckless and irresponsible accounts. So let’s check them out.

Once you enter the Twitter handle in the box at Hoaxy, you can see the analysis of a Twitter account [to find out if it’s a bot or not], its followers, and friends.

HOAXY

To find any culprits of fake news on Twitterverse, you can rely on Hoaxy. The open source tool presents you visualization of how online content gets spread and trackskinks published by two types of websites; i.e. low-credibility news outlets and independent fact-checking organizations. It can also detect bots or automated accounts. Hoaxy welcomes any feedbacks to improve their accuracy.

You can see the result of my own Twitter account in the above screen capture. And interestingly I can also detect all of my followers to know whether they are inclined to be bots or real accounts. Real accounts have lower scores [lower or around 1]; whereas, bots or automated accounts have higher scores [apporachig 5]. Twitter accounts with scores between 1-4 are allegedly using automation tools in some various extents regardless of the possibility if they are real people or bots.

Botometer is qite tricky to use if you are an occasional internet user because it is more technical and the interface is a bit more dull and rigid.

BOTOMETER

The next is Botometer. It assesses the degree of likelihood that an account on Twitter is in fact a bot. The higher the score gets, the higher as well the likelihood of being a bot is. To find bots around us is important because it helps to detect hoax. Hoax or fake news is usually spread by bots or automated accounts to give an impression that it is widely talked about by many people while in fact it is not at all. Botometer also serves us visualizations of scores.

Takeaway:

I definitely recommend using these online tools to stay sane in the Twitterverse amid these political events. But I do hope in the near future it is possible to use the tools  on Facebook and any other social media sites. For the time being, both have shown quite satisfactory  and reliable performance actually. (*/)

From “Global Sprint 2018” at Mozilla Indonesia

“Global sprint” may sound too foreign to most people. It in fact refers to a global online event run in many countries by Mozilla. In Indonesia, Mozilla Community held it today (May 10, 2018). It aims to spur people’s contribution to many Mozilla’s nonprofit beneficial projects.

One of its open source and nonprofit projects is Common Voice, whose goal is to teach machines how humans speak. Another product that may share similar functions is Google Voice. But Common Voice is different in that the data gathered here is NOT intended for commercial, forprofit purpose.

Here we contributed by collecting a huge amount of written texts in a certain language. In my case, my team was working on Common Voice in Bahasa Indonesia [Bahasais the improper way to refer to the language, for your information] or Indonesian.

Why does our contribution matter?

Because we all know that Internet is dominated by English-speaking, Anglosaxon-cultured audience. How about other Internet users who don’t speak or write the language? Did we notice that English content on the web is so easily found but in Indonesian less content can be found?

Mozilla is focusing on how to include these marginalized people while still giving control of their data. And because it is nonprofit by nature, they rely on volunteers.

Speaking of Indonesian representation in Common Voice, there is hardly data stored there. To fix the situation, Mozilla allows anyone to contribute by donating their sentences to the database.

“Wait, why should I do this?” you may ask yourself.

So here is the advantage. You may not help yourself directly but if you contribute, the database may help those who plan to do research on a limited budget for educational, nonprofit purposes (such as for their academic final project, thesis or dissertation research) to make their dream come true.

We read some texts and later our voice can be changed into texts by means of STT (speech to text) feature. The more sources provide texts and feedbacks, machines would distiguish voices better and more accurately. If there is any error, it is correctable.

In this Global Sprint 2018, contributors present in Jakarta’s Mozilla Community Space were sitting together to store as many sentences as possible on the database of Common Voice to improve the machines’ performance in recognizing various human voices.

Below are important and informative links you can click in case you need more resources on this Global Sprint:

  • about Mozilla Global Sprint: https://mzl.la/global-sprint
  • about Mozilla Common Voice Project: https://voice.mozilla.org/id
  • about Mozilla Community Voice Sprint: https://voice-sprint.mozilla.community/contributing/
  • Where to upload your sentences: https://voice-sprint.mozilla.community/upload/

Perjuangan yang Padam

Cita-citaku bukan menjadi sopir sebenarnya. Aku mau menjadi sutradara panggung seperti ketoprak, wayang orang, ludruk dan sejenisnya. Sayangnya kuliahku di Institut Kesenian Jakarta (IKJ) putus di tengah jalan setelah aku menghamili anak gadis orang.

Masa kecilku bahagia. Aku menikmati banyak hiburan dari televisi. Saat aku kecil sudah ada sebagian orang yang memiliki pesawat televisi hitam putih. Setelah aki habis, kami mesti sabar menunggu tiga hari lagi. Kami mesti mengisi daya lagi peswat televisi itu di tempat khusus yang jarang dimiliki orang. Paling satu atau dua tempat pengisi daya ini bisa ditemukan di sebuah kecamatan. Cuma mandor atau orang-orang berada yang memiliki pesawat televisi mahal itu.

Acara-acara TVRI menjadi kesukaan kami. Misalnya Ria Jenaka. Selain itu, kami juga banyak menyaksikan acara-acara serial televisi Barat yang berkualitas. Sebelum aki habis, biasanya gambar televisi menjadi bergoyang tanpa peringatan sebelumnya. Hal ini membuatku jengkel karena kadang membuat kami ketinggalan jalam cerita.

Begini -begini saya bangga menjadi salah satu saksi sejarah reformasi tahun 1998. Saat tanggal 12-13 Mei saya turut turun ke sumber kerusuhan. Kami para aktivis mahasiswa dibidik menjadi sasaran empuk para penembak jitu (snipers) yang sudah bersiap siaga di jembatan Semanggi. Aku ikut berkonvoi bersama ribuan orang mahasiswa lainnya.

Kami pikir penembak jitu itu hanya memakai peluru karet yang tidak akan membuat kami sekarat atau terluka. Nyatanya, kami ditembaki dengan peluru tajam seperti hewan buruan di hutan-hutan pedalaman Kalimantan. Beberapa teman kami terluka dan bahkan tewas. Kalian tentu tahu nama Elang yang legendaris itu. Ia salah satu korbannya.

Mulanya kampus kami itu damai. Kampus yang bernuansa seni kental tidak perlu memusingkan pergolakan politik dan pergantian tampuk pemerintahan di luar sana. Begitu keyakinan kami para calon seniman andal negeri ini. Sebagai calon pemimpin negeri ini, kami memang buta politik. Kami tidak pernah diberikan pendidikan politik yang memadai. Murni seni. Hanya seni yang kami yakini dengan sepenuh hati.

Tanpa diduga, kami dikirimi oleh Himpunan Mahasiswa Jakatrta dan Himpunan Mahasiswa Indonesia bra dan celana dalam wanita. Kami mendapatinya dalam paket yang dikirim dalam sebuah paket yang tertuju pada sebuah kantor BEM dan kami buka ramai-ramai. Kami dikatai banci, itu pesan yang kami tangkap dari paket itu. Kami pun terpaksa turun ke jalan dan menganggapnya sebagai perjuangan.

Setelah pak Harto lengser justru muncul pro kontra di kalangan mahasiswa sendiri. Mereka menanyakan pada diri sendiri:”Mengapa yang kita perjuangkan ini malah menceraiberaikan Indonesia?”. Di sini, para mahasiswa mulai pecah dan ditunggangi.

Aku sendiri ikut berunjuk rasa turun ke jalan karena aku anak kos yang semata-mata tergiur oleh suplai makanan gratis. Pasokan makanan seolah tanpa henti dan menjadi bagian dari sponsor. Merek-merek makanan berbau Barat mendominasi pasokan makanan kami yang turun ke jalan-jalan di Jakarta dan membanjiri gedung MPR/ DPR di Senayan. Mereka seperti diperintahkan untuk memberikan kami ‘bahan bakar’ agar terus bisa berunjuk rasa mengkudeta status quo. Siang datang ambil makanan lalu ikut demontrasi ala kadarnya dan malamnya berpesta pora. Sayangnya pesta pora ini tak sampai berlangsung tujuh hari tujuh malam. Kami hanya bisa mengecap makanan enak saat tanggal 12-13 Mei 1998 saja. Setelah tuntutan kami dipenuhi agar Soeharto lengser, kami pun tidak lagi mendapati makanan gratis yang menerbitkan air liur itu.

Amien Rais bukan orang yang ditakdirkan menjadi presiden. Terbukti seberapa kerasnya ia berjuang menjadi orang nomor satu di negeri ini, kursi presiden itu tidak kunjung bisa ia duduki. Berkali-kali mencalonkan diri dalam pemilihan presiden di Indonesia membuatnya sadar bahwa ia tidak memiliki takdir sebagai pemimpin nomor wahid Indonesia. Bahkan ia mendirikan Partai Amanat Nasional (PAN) sebagai partai yang dipenuhi orang-orang cerdik cendekia sepertinya. Tetap saja ia tidak terpilih kan? Akhirnya ia menyerah dan memilih untuk duduk di belakang saja.

Gus Dur membuktikan kehebatannya dengan bisa merangsek ke jajaran elit dan bisa menunjukkan bahwa dirinya tetap bisa memerintah walaupun secara fisik ia tidak bisa dikatakan bugar atau sehat.