27 Juni 2016



I almost cried seeing this scene last week. Or maybe I did. Richard Hendricks, after finally being the CEO of the company of his dream and launching a product that he was proud of, crouched on a not-so-clean bathtub, hiding from the fact that his platform was too advanced for average users. The sad thing is, this one was on him. You can blame almost everything that happened to him on someone else: Gavin Belson, Russ Hanneman, Action Jack Barker, even his accidentally talking to Code/Rag's CJ was partially Laurie Bream's fault. But he massaged his ego, failed to take into account Monica's input, and finally launched a platform that may or may not be Skynet, that was definitely on him.

Some people say that Silicon Valley is the nerdy version of Entourage, except that nothing's working out in Silicon Valley. That is probably 90% accurate. It seems like the creators (I'm using this term loosely) like to punish Richard—see above. But most of the time you can see it coming, not because it happens so many times, but because no actions without consequences in this show.

Post-Community, Silicon Valley is so far the only sitcom that meets my renewed standard. Not only it's funny but it is also—like Community—believable. Okay, there are some details that are not quite right for the sake of the story but overall I buy the idea. Or the characters, to be precise.

Richard is of course the key. You see him evolving from this nice guy ("Richard, if you're not an asshole, it creates this kind of asshole vacuum and that void is filled by other assholes"), to a guy who reluctantly took the left hand path, to post R.I.G.B.Y, and finally to a guy who messed up Hooli's system (or Gavin Belson's laptop). Richard is maybe this stereotypical geek who becomes highly inarticulate when he's nervous, but aren't we all (I know I do). He failed to score a girl not because he was incapable socially, but because he was a formatting Nazi about tab vs space that, as unbelievable as it may sound, does exist. The point is, Richard and all the characters are treated with respect, even when the characters are borderline caricatures like Erlich or Gavin. And that attitude, that respect, enables the geekiest d*ck joke of all time.

PS: My favorite character in Season 3 is Jared. Laurie is a close second. I hope she still makes appearances in Season 4.

05 Mei 2016


It's been three weeks since my PhD defence. I'm supposed to work on an article revision, but I'm still in vacation mode (I'm, afterall, on a rare three-months leave). So instead, I decide to upload the propositions that accompany my thesis.

I heard that in the old days, the propositions were the thesis and the book was the supplement. Anyway, they're a series of statement that we're supposed to offer based on our research or observations, and they're supposed to be challenging the generally accepted knowledge, refutable, and dependable. Inspired by this, I made a rather lengthy explanation of my propositions as an exercise for my defence. So here goes.

1. Rubber seed can provide for half of the required protein source for animal feed in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. (This thesis)

In 2014, there were 108,000 ruminants, 8.3 million chicken, and 183,500 pigs in Central Kalimantan (BPS Kalimantan Tengah 2014). This translates to 61,600 tonnes protein requirement. Rubber seed can potentially provide 32,000 tonnes protein, collected from 268,800 hectares of rubber plantations, and equals to 51% of the required protein source for animal feed in Central Kalimantan.

2. Selective hydrolysis of agro-industrial residues using proteases can produce hydrolysates with twice the concentration of hydrophobic amino acids as in the starting materials. (This thesis)

The complete discussion can be found in the article by Widyarani et al. (2016).

3. As the difference between Western and Asian cuisines can be broken down into flavour compounds (Ahn et al. 2011), gastronomy may also have a genetic basis.

I think we agree, even if only by hunch, that Western and Asian foods are different. Why a certain ingredient combination is favoured in one region and another combination is favoured in another maybe just a happenstance. However, Ahn et al. (2011) used a large recipe database and mapped the flavour compounds in the culinary ingredients to make networks of shared compounds, and they found that “Western cuisines show a tendency to use ingredient pairs that share many flavor compounds,” while “East Asian cuisines tend to avoid compound sharing ingredients.” So the proposition refers to the ingredient selection in Western and Asian cuisines. A chef preparing a Western cuisine would select, for instance two ingredients with a lot of molecule X. On the other hand, a chef preparing Asian cuisine would select one ingredient with a lot of X molecule and a second ingredient with a lot of Y molecule. This suggests that perceptions of these molecules may be different for Western and Asian people, at least once upon a time when we haven’t been exposed to globalisation. Several recent studies show that genetic may be responsible to reception of flavours and perception of odours (Eriksson et al. 2012;  Newcomb, Xia, and Reed 2012; Jaeger et al. 2013; Knaapila et al. 2012). This might explain for example why some people like cilantro while others dislike it. These findings may help us understanding the science of gastronomy and creating ‘better’ food—probably even tailor-made to genes. They may also add to the understanding of food allergy and why certain types prevail in one group of people but not in the other.

4. Including viruses in the phylogenetic tree of life (Nasir and Caetano-Anollés 2015) may not be scientifically correct, but could give a better understanding of their origin and evolution offering practical benefits in medicine and ecology.

Nasir and Caetano-Anollés (2015) analysed and classified viruses and single cell organisms based on protein structures called “folds”. These structures are conserved in cells and viruses, enable investigation of their evolutionary histories. Viruses are often classified as non-living things because they cannot reproduce independently but require assistance from “living” hosts. However, viruses have genetic materials (and do replicate, albeit with help) and can evolve as more complex organisms do. This comparison enables the mapping of viruses into what the authors proposed as the universal tree of life, consequently also classified viruses as living things. Whether this is appropriate is more of a philosophical debate than a “hard” scientific one. However, the understanding of virus’ evolution will give new insights into the role of viruses in different aspect of life, the benefit outweighs the glitch of classification inconsistency.

5. The definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting it to come out different does not apply to working with biomass.

One of the main principles of scientific methods is reproducibility. Reproducible experiment or study means that if said experiment/study is repeated in the exact manner as the previous—whether by the same researcher or someone else—it will yield the same result. ‘Doing the same thing over and over and expecting it to come out different’ is exactly the opposite of reproducibility. As a scientist, whenever I repeat an experiment, I want exactly the same result as my previous experiment to have a solid data. Unfortunately with biomass—be it microorganisms or plant or animal parts—this is often not the case. Cells might respond differently to even slight changes in the environment. Plant and animal parts are not homogenous, no matter how careful your sample pre-treatment was. In general, 10% standard deviation will make me happy.

By the way, the original phrasing of this proposition was:
Whoever agrees that ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting it to come out different’ clearly has never worked with biomass.
The phrase ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting it to come out different’ is often attributed to Albert Einstein, but almost definitely not his. But still it’s being used over and over because Einstein is famous for his wittiness on the internet *chuckle*

6. Science-fiction overestimated our progress in space travel and the quest for unlimited energy, but underestimated our progress in information technology.

21 October 2015 was the day Doc Brown and Marty McFly was supposed to arrive on their journey to the future. Jimmy Kimmel even invited Doc and Marty to his show.

On that day, we were supposed to have hoverboards and flying cars that use banana peels as fuel. If Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick were to be referred, we should already had a habitat on the Moon. Neither of these had come to fruition, and energy crisis is not something that we can remove from our dictionary anytime soon. We, however, do have phones that enable us to watch TV shows in toilets and enable astrophysicists to triangulate complex equations, although the former use is more to be expected. Our achievements in information (Montuschi et al. 2014) are something that even Clarke or Kubrick or Douglas Adams had not had imagined.

Marieke asked two questions about this proposition. I of course mentioned 2001, which I think is an important milestone (That was the word I was looking for. Milestone! Aaaarggghhh!). I totally forgot about The Martian, which was a perfect example of biorefinery (comapred to Back to the Future 2 which I proposed). All in all we spent about five minutes discussing books and movies and I think that was really cool.

7. Due to the liberal sugar packaging, drinking tea or coffee in the Netherlands is an energy-wasting activity.

On average, Dutch people consume 6.7 kg of coffee and 0.98 kg of tea per person per year on a dry weight basis. Assuming one cup requires 7 g of roasted coffee, the daily consumption was 2.6 cups per person in 2013 (2.4 cups per person in 2014 according to Washington Post), making the Dutch one of the heaviest coffee drinkers in the world—number 1 or number 3 depending on the metric used. Tea consumption is much lower, less than one cup daily (based on 3 g of black tea per cup), only number 35 worldwide. However, I have seen my colleagues drink more than four cups during office hours alone. 

Whether in restaurants/cafes or in offices, tea and coffee are often served with sugar in either ‘small’ packets or as sugar cubes. A typical sugar packet is 3-5 g, while sugar cubes have three different sizes: standard (4.4 gram), medium (3.9 gram) and small (3.1 gram). I sometimes put sugar in my drink, but 3 gram is at least twice as the amount that I use. I’m sure a lot of people feel the same. So here’s the flowchart of most possibilities of what you can do in this situation. 

PS: On my flight back I just realised that a sugar packet onboard Garuda Indonesia contained 6 g of sugar. So maybe sugar packaging in the Netherlands isn't that liberal afterall :(

15 Maret 2016


Siapa bilang urang Sunda nggak bisa bilang 'F'? Itu mah pitnah!
-mangga di-google sendiri sumbernya

Saya teh gak ngerasa sunda-sunda amat sebenarnya. Dulu waktu SD di Bandung, bahasa Sunda saya paling berantakan dibanding teman-teman yang bahasa ibunya di rumah bahasa Sunda. Tapi beberapa waktu yang lalu saya menemukan bahwa di saat panik dan pikiran kacau, saya justru meracau dalam bahasa Sunda campur Inggris. Gak tau juga kenapa.

Tidak seperti mitos tentang orang Sunda, dalam keadaan normal saya bisa mengucapkan p, f, v, dan ph (bahasa Inggris) dengan baik, pun bisa membedakannya dalam menulis. Tapi hidup kan gak rame kalo datar-datar aja. Entah kenapa di Belanda saya malah sering ketuker antar p dan f/v. Biasanya kalo lagi kangen rumah. Dan kondisi ini gak menjadi lebih mudah ketika saya masuk grup Valorization of Plant Production Chains yang disingkat... VPP :(

Jadi saya berkeyakinan pabeulit p, f, v ini sebenarnya bukan karena gak bisa, tapi lebih subtil dan di bawah sadar. Contohnya ini:

Udah ada contohnya aja masih salah

Salah satu huruf, itungan bubar

I'm Vorrest... Vorrest Gumf

Bahkan ketika nulis tangan sekalipun
Ya udah sik mau gimana lagi. Untung kalo ngisi formulir, P untuk perempuan sama artinya dengan F untuk female. Aman.

15 Januari 2016


Dear Eyang,

death and old age become your consolation. Forgive us for our ignorance :(

12 Januari 2016


Rest in peace, Marja

06 Desember 2015


The dragons rebelled against their masters. The New King had announced a total war, despite the fact that the dragons and the Vikings had lived side by side for Thor-knows-how-long. Facing the dragons' enormous force, The New King seeked for the Dragon's Jewel, the only thing that would enable him to dominate the dragons and become The True King of Wilderwest.

Someone at goodreads said that How to Train Your Dragon series* should be named How to Become a Hero the Hard Way. This is catchy, of course, but also true for tons of other books out there for a simple reason: books about How to Become a Hero the Easy Way would be sooo boring. Boy has superpower. Boy meets The Enemy. Boy uses his power to save the day. The End. *yawn*

So of course Hiccup Horrendeus Haddock III is your typical zero-to-hero guy. Yes he was the Hope and the Heir of the Hairy Hooligan Tribe, the only son of Chief Stoick the Vast, O Hear His Name and Tremble, Ugh Ugh. But at the start of the series he was so un-Viking-y. He was small, couldn't frighten even a rabbit, and his dragon was not only half the size of the other boys' dragon but also toothless (hence the name Toothless). But here's the catch. The Vikings were living in a tumultuous time when things were changing fast and their barbaric lifestyles soon would become obsolete. And Hiccup, happened to be smarter than everybody else, was the kind of hero that The Vikings would eventually need.

In the early books of the series, I got the feeling that Cressida Cowell didn't think things through and was sort of happy with a book with a superfun story. Two books, three at most. Just see the names she gave to Hiccup's archenemy (Alvin) and Hiccup's other bestfriend (Camicazi—seriously!). But after a few books maybe she started thinking for the long haul and putting things together. So we now have a series of twelve awesome books about becoming a hero the hard, twisting, heart-breaking, heart-warming way; the number 9 I accidentally bought hoping to read a regular-loose book and instead the stories in number 9 through 11 were apparently so packed and ended with cliffhangers so I had to continue reading :(

I really root for Hiccup. I get his dreams, his fears, his frustrations. Whenever he was faced with difficult choices, I screamed for which one he should take. But of course he always chose the other one. The one that a Leader—a certain kind of leader that Hiccup would eventually become—would choose. And this is why the series are worth reading.
* I'm talking about the books, not the movies. Just to be clear, the movies are good. I agree with Neil deGrasse Tyson that people who read the book first are the worst person to watch movies with, but I actually love the movies because they are different from the books. But if I had a gun pointed at my head and I had to choose between the movies or the books (and believe me that there were times when I'd choose the movies), for How to Train Your Dragon I'd choose the books any day of the week.

Fan-art by lostdesertfan

19 September 2015


Mumun asked me the other day what my hobby was, and it got me thinking. Let see. It usually came to these three.

Reading. Still do. In a way getting more intense with kindle, even. It's just when it comes to fiction, I just read the same books over and over again. And once I had a kindle, I became reluctant to read on paper again because kindle is sooo much more convenient but there are books that don't have electronic versions and it's really annoying and... yeah, I will just leave it like that. Reading. Still a hobby of mine.

Writing. It's kind of a job now. And blog is not a thing anymore. And people now writing in max. 140 characters, including numbers. And scribbling your novel on a napkin in a cafe is also not a thing anymore. So, yeah.

Movies. Not really. Certainly not like during LFM days or when I sneaked into Opera Jawa screening, or even when I went to IFFR-on-budget. I struggle watching movies on DVDs now. Still love watching in theatre though, it's my sanctuary.
Can't watch movies on DVD but I sure can binge-watch TV-series. Particularly, sitcoms. So Mumun and I agreed that that's my hobby now. I mean I'm not just watching, I'm obsessed. I read reviews, discussions, Dan Harmon's twitter. Listen to Dan Harmon's podcasts, Childish Gambino. I'm the kind of viewer who knows that Oscar-winning Jim Rash, who we absolutely love as Dean Craig Pelton, was the passenger who sat next to Rachel on her flight to Paris and was the air crew who flirted with Will when Grace tried to see Leo. I'm the kind of viewer who Dan Harmon/Joel McHale once talked about. "We are going to talk about a television show. You've chosen to listen to us talk over an episode. That means you're our favorite kind of fan, one who is out-of-their-mind obsessed with the show." Owh yeah, Community's the worst. It really ruined my standard for other sitcoms. It even ruined standard for their own season 5 and 6.

And... just think of this as another
pipe dream. But who knows?

PS: I got Ted Mosby stuck in my head, so maybe if you read this post with his voice, it'd make more sense.