Do you have anything in first class?

During our brief chat this morning, my brother told me of a recent trip he and a co-worker took from one Indonesian city to another. Half-way through the 12-hour train ride, the lights went out. The crowded car was pitch black. A trip to the toilet involved trying not to step on the people who were sleeping in the aisle (or the rats and cockroaches).

On the return trip, they opted for the bus. There’s the regular bus which allows you to bring small farm animals aboard… and the “Executive” bus which does not. They chose the latter.

The most exciting part of the trip never happened. As they sat on the train, waiting for it to leave the station, two men got on, stowed their luggage, and then got off. My brother and his companion agreed they would get off the train if the men were not back on by the time it departed.

This is NOT the bus but the image his story brought to mind. He took some video and –bandwidth permitting– I’ll share it here.

Texting around the world

Okay, I’m still in the ooh and aah stage with the iPhone. And I’m playing with texting as alternative to email and voice calls. My brother and his family are back home in Bandar Lampung, Indonesia, and it turns out we can text back and forth.

Yeah, I know I’ll probably get some huge-ass bill at the end of the month but if this is part of my 200 text messages, it’s pretty cool. A great way to stay closer.

Early Christmas gift

Just back from an all-too-short visit with my brother and his family. In a few days the family –all but new college freshman Ryan– heads home to Indonesia. Probably won’t see my brother again for almost four years.

We exchanged gifts and I maintained my position as the goofy uncle who comes through with cool gifts (or cash). My sister-in-law Tonya gave me this framed photo (of my brother and me). I don’t remember her taking the photo (during a visit this summer), but I love it.

blane_steveIt reminds me that money cannot purchase the best gifts. They require time and effort and love.

Lord knows there are no shortage of photos of I’ve taken lots myself. But the the ones I like most have always been taken by someone else. And almost always without my knowledge.

Perhaps what I like about these images is they capture the me that isn’t “on,” mugging for the camera. Posing. No way to take such an honest photo of yourself.

Thank you, Tonya. I will treasure this gift.

Tulsa Bound

Off the grid for a few days starting Friday. Heading down to Tulsa for family time with Brother Blane. My nephew Ryan will be home from Union University (Jackson, TN) where he’s a freshman. Ryan and his brother and sister grew up in Indonesia and were home schooled. I’m eager to hear his thoughts on college life. If his Facebook page is any indication, he’s having a great time.

I’m not taking the MacBook on this trip so the blog will be dark for a few days (unless Ryan takes pity on me).

Third-world Crime and Punishment

From the monthly newsletter written by my brother and his wife:

“During Medieval times when there was a theft in a village, the people set up a “Hue and Cry”.  This meant yelling, “Thief!” at the top of one’s lungs so that the other villagers would be alerted and the thief would be caught.  The system worked so well that often the hue and cry would be heard several miles away from the scene of the actual theft.

Here in Indonesia, a third-world country, there is also a system of “Hue and Cry”.  Only, the word thief is changed to the Indonesian word for thief, “Maling”.  As we and I sat down to lunch today, we heard the local “hue and cry” of “Maling!  Maling!” and we ran outside to see who the thief was.  He was a cowardly one; that was evident by the way he yanked the necklace off my next door neighbor’s neck and continued on his way ON HIS MOTORCYCLE!

This is a frequent occurrence in this country and if/when the thief is caught, he is usually beaten by the crowd while waiting for the police to show up.  He then may or may not receive a fair trial, depending on how much money the family can put up for his bail.”

ABC News forming one-man bureaus

“Taking the one-man band news crews a step further, ABC News President David Westin announced today that they will open seven new bureaus around the world with only one person per bureau. According to TVWeek, the reporters will write, shoot, edit and feed their material digitally from DV cameras and laptops wherever they are in the field. Assignments so far put people in South Korea; Jakarta, Indonesia; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Nairobi, Kenya; Mumbai, India; New Delhi, India; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.” — Lost Remote

Sorry, I’m a radio reporter. I do interviews, cut up the sound, write the wrap and anchor a three minute newscast. You’re just gonna have to hire some more people do to that other stuff.

Big undersea quake hits Indonesia

Reuters: A powerful undersea earthquake has hit Indonesia’s West Java island. No tsunami warning (yet) and no immediate reports of damage or casualties. There has been some panic (no shit). The Indonesian quake watchers measured 7.0, while the U.S. geological survey said 7.4.


The quake struck 46 miles northwest of Indramayu and could be felt by residents in the capital Jakarta, as well as in the nearby city of Bandung (X marks the spot), which is where brother Blane & Family live. Still waiting to hear.

Update: Better map.

Update: 10:23 p.m. Just got email from Blane. "What earthquake?" That’s my baby brother.

Long Distance

Had a nice, leisurely chat with my brother tonight. We talked about 45 minutes. Regular readers know my brother lives on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia so we’ve always tried to keep our phone calls brief. Thanks to the miracle of Skype, we were able to really get caught up this evening (morning for him).

He recently got some kind of point-to-point, microwave Internet access. Not sure if it qualifies as “high speed,” but it’s a big improvement on the dial-up they’ve lived with since moving to Indonesia.

Audio quality was pretty good. Waaay better than regular long distance connection. If he can boost his speed a little bit, we’re gonna try video. Stay tuned. And thank you, Skype.

23+ hours in the air

It took me 5-6 hours to drive from Jefferson City to Nashville and less than 4 hours from Nashville to Knoxville [blue line]. I was feeling noble for making the drive to see my brother…until he related his flight.

Bandar Lampung (Indonesia) to Jakarta – 30 min
Jakarta to Singapore – 90 min
Singapore to Tokyo – 7 hours
Tokyo to Detroit – 11 hours
Detroit to Knoxville – 1 hour and change [larger image]

He’s been doing this for years and usually with three kids in tow. He’s a hard guy to rattle. And if you need to know how to bribe a corrupt third-world customs official, he’s your guy. I’m just hoping I can find my way back to Jefferson City.

How I spent my summer

Received this email from my brother: “I have been in Yogyakarta, Central Java (Indonesia), doing earthquake relief. Just got to an internet cafe tonight. Over 100,000 homeless after the quake here. Not as many deaths as Aceh (7,500), but lots of homes destroyed. Crazy what is happening here. Volcano active as well (Mount Merapi).”

And I’m in charge of all things trivial and meaningless.