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"Looks like a yellow biscuit of a buttery cue ball moon rollin' maverick across an obsidian sky"

I’m writing this from the top bunk in the sleeping car of the Kiev-Kryvyi Rih (pronounced Kree-voy Rog, dont ask me how they ended up with that spelling) train, all my current possessions once again stuffed in a select few suitcases, Babulya (Lidas grandmother) and Lida sleeping below, rumbling through the Ukrainian nightscape while being lulled to sleep myself by the musty smell of a coal powered engine and an inconsistent yet comforting undulation of soviet era tracks. Many things have transpired over the last month, not all that I’m at liberty to divulge here, for reasons that were not fully explained to me but that I understand none-the-less.

Before my Indonesian experience I railed against social networking and blogs. It seems to have a way of sucking the organic element, and thus the excitement, from of our lives. While technology is the catalyst for my life, I also realize that its not the purpose. I had always drawn a line with this unfiltered access to my personal life with no reciprocation required. Reciprocation is, in my opinion, the definition of a healthy relationship.

I remember my friend blogging during the birth of one of his children. It was a real commitment by both mother and father (perhaps more the mother to tolerate husband with phone in hand while experiencing excruciating pain). It allowed everyone that desired to have a connection to that family a chance to share in a very pivotal moment. However not all of lives important moments can be so neatly translated into the cloud.

In 2008 after ending a dead end relationship, I started reconnecting with old friends that had subsequently been pushed out (Rachael, both Buffalo Jessicas, Iwan to name a few). On one such trip I visited my remaining Jessica in Buffalo along with her 8 year old daughter Sarah and husband Jeff. It was my second such trip and I enjoyed the comfort of a more tangible adult life that many of my still single or undetermined friends hadn’t the ability nor desire to create. Id always known I would some day have a family but that still didnt seem realistic to me, this gave me the opportunity to see how it might function when two people truly committed. It was also nice because there was no one in Buffalo that still remembered me, as it had been over 10 years since my last visit. While hanging out in a bar downtown off Elmwood with Jessica and some of her friends, a voice came from behind “Maaaaatt Nyyyye?!”. I turned to face a man that looked nothing like anyone I knew and yet he was convinced he knew me simply by the sound of my voice. Even after telling me specific instances of things we did together in high school I still couldn’t come up with a name. After one or two incorrect guesses, not 100% sure I had the right person, I ventured a guess “Jim Hickey??”.

Buffalo Reunion

Hidden behind hipster glasses and a well groomed Johnny-Depp-five-o’clock-shadow was my best friend from Junior and Senior year. The only person I’d ever met that was possibly as hyper as me. Somehow we had lost touch in the late 90s and never reconnected. Later I found out he is a total Facebook whore with over 800 friends. Had I been on Facebook we surely would have connected, shared some unenthusiastic stories and perhaps met for a drink some where down the road. Gone would have been a night of sheer elation at the coincidental meeting, of telling story after story of the past ten years and the resurrection of a small portion of my youth, however fleeting it was.

I say all this simply to illustrate the point that while I enjoy writing my blog entries and talking over IM with my friends the world across, its no substitute for the humility of a face-to-face interaction and the reaffirmation of kinship in a flesh and blood exchange. Ill continue these entries, even though the title of the blog is no longer relevant (perhaps I should change it to помочь я глупый [pomochʹ ya glupyĭ], doesnt quite roll off the touch does it), but please don’t confuse my ramblings here for a clear understanding of me or as a replacement for sitting in a bar in some shady eastern bloc country or on a snow-white beach in the south pacific talking about life, the future or my family.

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The Return


No Im not high, I just hadnt had a beer in 4 days...

Spent the last 3 weeks in the states gorging myself on BBQ and Mexican food. I forgot what real salsa tastes like. Dont ever take that for granted. Salty, the smells of cilantro, crunchy white onion pieces and gawd…. fresh tortia chips!!! The highlights in no particular order: 

  1. Umami Burger – Los Angeles, CA, Carnitas Burger with jalapeno sour cream, guacamole and Mexican Coke
  2. Cristos Cafe – Orlando, FL, Deep Fried French Toast (’nuff said)
  3. Malo – Silverlake, CA, Soft Tacos and 3 epic Spicy Cucumber Margaritas
  4. Some shitty sports bar in Lakeland, FL – Crappy bar food, Sierra on Tap and Hockey on TV
  5. Grandmas House – Lakeland, FL – Smoked Turkey and Fried Okra
  6. Wendys – Orlando airport – Spicy Chicken Sandwich
  7. St. Pete Times Forum – Tampa, FL – $5 plastic cheese nachos with $1 extra for jalapeno

Josh, his girlfriends sister and I went to the Tampa Bay Lighting vs. Boston Bruins game. Scored 3rd row seats on the corner. We were lucky enough to have some additional entertainment in the form of classic Floridian white trash. Some gold chain mafia guy and his girlfriend showed up cheering for Boston. Im guessing she had nothing to do with Boston besides the fact maybe her boyfriend went there once for a vacuum cleaner repairman convention. She had no grasp of the game or the rules but luckily for us that didnt hinder her from expressing her expert analysis in what was kind of a play-by-play with the vinacular of Sam Kinison and the depth Paris Hilton. She dropped the F bomb so many times that midway through the 2nd an usher had to come down and ask whoever was using the foul language to please stop. Thankfully the Bruins played their perennial-flop-of-a-goaltender Tukka Rask and Tampa rolled them 3-1. I got to watch the joy drain from her face like a child who just lost their toy down the sewer drain.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Mom continued her annual tradition of making up traditions that never existed before and spent most the time talking to inanimate objects around the house. I dont blame her, its just a natural response to 15 years of being alone with my dads stoicism. Grandma seems to be the most sane of any of us despite the fact that she likes to go on nighttime drives with vision that would make a possum look like a prime candidate for a military sniper. I continued my own personal tradition of doing a detox while there which just accentuated all the minor annoyances putting me in a real lovely mood. I cheated the last night which was when #4 above occurred.

Its so easy to improve on what the French do but this is the ultimate make over for french toast

Went on my shopping spree of food and tech gadgets. After 10 months of shopping in Indonesian computer stores with their Chinese knock offs at 25% mark up of the real deal, walking into Frys Electronics was like the first time I walked into a strip club. Justin had to force me to leave. I liked how they carried as many adult magazines as computer magazines, they know their audience. I got my stash of candy, sauce (Stubbs BBQ, Tapitio and A1), pecans and more candy.

Thankfully I was able to experience my last time flying where I belong, with the rich people in up front. Sat next to a nice old man that was living in Vietnam because his pension didnt cover the cost of living in the United States (yet he was flying Business Class) but just then turned out to be a dirty old man. He left his wife of 40 years to go live a 38 year old woman (he was about 70) in Hanoi. He had some interesting stories but the prospect of me being him in 40 years messed with my head the entire flight.

In Singapore I had a layover for 24 hours but my friend Dicky was also there on business so we hung out all day and did some more essential shopping (Media Center to play the 2TBs of movies on my TV that my friend had loaded in Orlando) and got some great ramen noodles. Oh and also got to have a $15 beer which was a real special treat since it tasted like Budweiser. Thats the problem with jumping around from country to country is you lose track of the currency exchange rate.


Leavin' Trawangan for the US

   

Spent last week back on Gili Trawangan getting my PADI Open Water certification. Saw white tip reef shark, cuttlefish, octopus, lion fish, scorpion fish, an tiny eel and a bunch of green sea turtles. We aced the written exam including 5 of 6 dive table questions which is similar to chinese algebra. On the last day I felt my first earthquake.  It was just a second or two and felt like someone dropped a 100 ton boulder in the middle of the island. Apparently there was a 5.2 in the Moluccas Islands that we must have gotten the residual from.  

I left Friday at 9am (GMT +8) morning flew back to Jakarta and was there just long enough to buy some wood carvings and other gifts for friends, pick up my bags and catch my 8pm (GMT +7) flight to Singapore. 6 hour layover in Singapore which I spent at a hotel.  The cab driver on the way back was an old Chinese guy. Upon hearing I was American, he went off into what I imagine was his standard mantra for Amercans about how they saved them from the Japanese, who, in his opinion, are brutal and horrible people.  He went into morbid detail about the Japanese occupation of Singapore and said how the “Japanese would ki-ew us a’wa, wike chickens. just cut off you head”.  Each morbid description was followed closely by a Dr. Evil-esk laughter.  Quite strange for a 4am cab ride.   

Singapore Immigration Officers are the only immigration officials that are more miserable than U.S. immigration officers. Passing through this country is always a depressing experience. Next stop was Hong Kong, arriving at 10:30am (GMT +8) Saturday, then an 11 hour flight to San Fransisco arriving 8:20am (GMT -8) Saturday morning. Didnt get upgraded on either flight, despite still having my 1K status with United so I came off the airplane smelling like failure and meritocracy. A particularly saucy Chinaman (purposely trying to sound like a bigot) freaked out when i put my bag in the overhead on top of his wind breaker. Watching him was entertaining and he actually called me an ” assho’ ” which sent me into a giggling spell, conjuring up images of Russell Peters standup. This didnt help to calm him down so I asked him to get down off the seat he was standing on (no joke) and moved my bag off his wind breaker. But all stress was alleviated as I got my first taste of Mexican food and a Sierra Nevada once in San Fransisco. After a miserable 4 hour layover there I caught my flight to LA at 1:05 (GMT -8) finally arriving at my destination 42 hours later at 2:45pm.   

Trying to get my Blackberry hooked up on a pay-as-go service plan reminded me how much I absolutely HATE U.S. cell phone companies.  The only one that offers non-contract SIM cards with data services is T-Mobile. The cheapest plan is $60 for 500 minutes and one month of data. Found out later that night that the guy had sold me the wrong one and it didnt work with Blackberry Services . Of course there would be no way to refund my money, so I had to buy a brand new SIM card for an additional $70.    

Now its off to Dallas for a night and then Orlando. Talked to my mom this morning on the way to the airport in LA. She spent about 30 minutes explaining in detail the cloths she recently bought and the reason for the color selections. Its gunna be a long week at The Colonnades (retirement community) combined with the Rod Stewart cover band we are going to see at the Lakeland Civic Center.  I think I will take up working out twice a day at the community center. Maybe make a shuffle board friend.

Lida In Real Life


Slackin’ on the posts. WordPress erased a really long post a few weeks ago. To sum up:

  • went to gilis
  • went scuba diving for first time
  • almost freaked out because of claustrophobia
  • got over it,  loved it went again
  • Lida attacked by Titan Trigger Fish
  • New York City leg of my US trip cancelled
  • Dallas Leg added

That about gets you up to speed. We are going back to Gili Trawangan next week when another one of her friends is coming to visit and while are there we will be getting our Open Water certification. Then I leave there and go directly to the US.

So Lida has finally been able to find work here. Despite her best efforts not to, she is now doing a lot of modeling. While its not the best paying job, it does give her something to do as well as a social life. Her first photo shoot was a 6 page Halloween spread (Moonlight Saga) in Hers Magazine. Ill post the link when I get my computer back online.

We met an Uzbek girl at Boxmart (like Circle K) named Sabina, who is here modeling. As usual, her modeling agency is basically practicing indentured servitude. They take 40% off the top of all contracts, minus expenses which include rent, food, transportation, visa services and on and on. All of which she is charged about 200-300% of actual cost. So she moved out of her room at the agency which she was being charged 3 million Rupiah ($340 USD) for and into our upstairs room. Lida and her go to casting calls or photo shoots during the week and watch movies while I work. I love hearing them converse in Russian and I find myself repeating words and phrases I have no idea the meaning of (shtotiko, nez nieu, ).

We dressed up for Halloween, first time in 15-20 years for me, as Madonna and Micheal Jackson. I went with White-T-Shirt-and-Wrist-Bandage complete with the hat and wig and she was Whos-That-Girl era. I thought it was pretty accurate.

Work is still pretty busy for me. I’ve got a great opportunity to partner Westwind with a US based Microsoft partner in the new year which I will hopefully be solidifying and be able to talk more about after my trip to the States.

Right now though having a bit of a computer crisis as my laptop won’t charge. I’m at the Lenovo service center with my baby sitting in front of me in 20 pieces. Hopefully the guy can fix it cause he doesn’t have replacement parts and it will take 7 days to order them. Makes me realize I’ve got to have a backup system.

UPDATE: They fixed it!!! Not only did he fix the problem with the charger he also tighted up my hinges and cleaned the keyboard and screen.  All while I sat there and watched in under and hour. If you’re in Jakarta and need a good computer repair shop, forget going to Ratu Plaza (IT Mall), they all just send it here and charge you extra. They didn’t even want to charge me, he said “What ever you want to pay”, so I gave the guy 100,000 Rupiah ($11 USD), their hourly service fee.

IT Service Center
Pt. Information Technology Service Centre
Jalan Balikpapan No. 11C-11D
Jakarta Pasat 10160
(021) 3850 200


I promised in a previous post about extending a Visa on Arrival that I would detail the process of getting a social/cultural visa. Based on the random hits I got from that post I think this might be useful.

A social/cultural visa will allow a foreigner to stay in indonesia for 2 months and then extend that visa every month for 4 additional months. Also, if you’re living in Jakarta it means you can do the extension in the Jakarta Pusat (Central) office and not the Jakarta Utara (North) office, which is a nightmare.

First off, you will need a sponsor. Your sponsor will need to sign a letter with a Matarai stating they are sponsoring you. They will need to submit a photocopy of their national ID card and provide bank records showing their account balance. I’m not sure what the requirement is however.

You will need to give them a copy of your passport as well. The process will cost 450000 IDR for expedited next day service of 250000 IDR for 4 day service. Im not sure these are published rates as I didnt see a fee listing or if they are just what the guy felt his time was worth.  You will also have to pay an additional 250000 IRD at the issuing consulate.

You will have to tell them in advance what consulate you will be taking it to. Note, you cannot get this done in Indonesia.

You will then receive a notarized paper with your name, your sponsors name and the city you will be applying in.

Supposedly you must surrender your passport to the consulate noted for 2 business days, however, keep in mind Indonesian consulates observe many holidays. I believe there are about 30 – 60 national holidays including the ones celebrated by the host country, so that 2 days could easily turn into a week if you catch it on the wrong day.

Also, of the 3 cities Lida and I dealt with none of them handled this the same. In Singapore they wanted the 2 days. However when I went to Kuching, Malaysia, they took only 4 hours and I received it the same day. When Lida went to the embassy in Moscow, they refused to give it to her because she couldn’t produce documentation of a return ticket or a bank account with $2000 USD. This was something that was never requested of me any where nor stated by the Immigration Office in Jakarta.  I have a feeling that it was a Russian policy.

If you have the option I strongly suggest choosing a consulate in a small city as they seem they work the fastest.

49 Days in the Wilderness


Finally Lida is coming home tonight. After waiting an entire month for a new passport and then changing her flight to later in order to get an Indonesian social/cultural visa (which she didn’t get because, no matter what country you live in, Gov’t workers sole purpose in life is to make your life miserable), Lida will be back tonight.

I’m goin’ all out with the flowers, bottle o’ bubbly, bath stuff (for the bath tub we now have which is a luxury in Jakarta) and even bought a collared shirt that isn’t “business class” with an undershirt that’s not black or brown and have cotton worm holes in it.

Also I told her I wasn’t able to get the money in time to move into the new townhouse I was trying to get so she thinks we are staying in a Kost (kinda like an Indonesian B&B) when infact I moved in today!

It will be so nice to have my normal life back. Fall asleep with her, in a real bed, with AC, oh and a swimming pool out the back door! Two guest rooms btw (hint hint).

Comin’ to America


Ok, its official, Ill be in the states from Nov. 13th to Dec. 1st.  Ill be making 3 stops on my 2010 North American Tour if you would like a rare opportunity to bask in the light of my presence:

  1. LA until the 16th or so
  2. New York City until 18th or 19th
  3. Orlando until 28th or so
  4. Back to LA to fly home

That pretty much covers all my friends location except for Northwest but flights are cheap from Portand to LA (Joni).  Ive already decided Im using my entire baggage allowance for bringing back food. Stubbs BBQ Sauce, A1, runts, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and maybe some mexican seasonings.  Anyway, if youre in any of those areas when Im back drop me a line.

This is the Sound Awesome


Its hard for me to describe to you how happy the following videos make me feel.  Dennis Leary said it best, “happiness comes in small doses, its a cigarette or a chocolate chip cookie or a 5 second orgasm”.  Id like to add one more item to that list. Belgian New Beat.  I have to thank Austin for this one, cause apparently he gets paid to hang out and watch funny YouTube videos and he sent me the first selection which lead to a YouTube Hole and now Im hooked.  I cant start my day without watching at least one of these videos.

  • I know they look gay but you know these guys were total players
  • I wonder how long they practice these moves
  • Is that Shawn Hatosy
  • That is Steve Marshall from Christian Central Academy in Buffalo, hes even got the crazy hand gestures down
  • The more I watch this the more sexy the girls get and I dont know why
  • At :19 the director says to the girl “Unt der vill be no shmiling in dis video!!!”
  • Anyone that wants to get me a present can get me those sunglasses, I must have them
  • Girl on the far right is my dream girl ….. in 1991. Pretty sure she speaks with a lisp.
  • The fog machine makes the foot work so much better
  • At 1:46 its Beth Grant!!!!
  • They have 2 others that are just as epic, if not blatantly racist
  • Its Harry, Ron and Harmonie!!!
  • Played by the Kids in the Hall?
  • Overdose on the lip gloss Ron
  • Actually I do kinda want to suck your *******

Bako National Park, Borneo, Malaysia


Bako National Park

Well I went to Bako National Park on Tuesday. With 3 types of monkeys, bearded pigs, monitors and more, it was sure to be a cool experience. I caught the local bus by the waterfront to the boat docks near Bako for 3RM ($1 USD). Had to pay a 10RM entry fee and share a boat with 4 Europeans which we paid a total of 50RM one way and arranged for him to pick us up at 4pm. 

Those damn Europeans, with their fancy cameras and “official guide books” and “park passes”, such snobs. But they didn’t get to experience the real Bako like I did. Such as finding out that while the Proboscis Monkey may have a face that looks like an inside out vagina, he actually doesn’t like you to treat it as such. And that even though the Bearded Pig may sound dangerous and threatening, they actually are not but the pit viper is the opposite and doesn’t live up to its seemingly gentle and sweet exterior, and btw theyre really good at Duck-Duck-Goose. 

Anyone reading this for info on the park, note that most tour packages sell for about 300RM. I have no idea why they think its worth it as you can hire a personal guide for 80RM a day. By my count, with the bus, boat, guide and a meal or two that’s not gunna cost you more than 150RM. Most tours will only take you to the closest beach, Telok Paku, which is only .8km of the over 30km of trails in Bako.

smoke

 

Because Im a professional jungle trekker I opted not to get a guide (read: there were none available and I was sure I was going to die). The boat dropped us on the beach in front of the park HQ where there are chalets and cabins for rent if you want to stay the night. I bought a map for 1.50RM and made my way to the trail head. The following is my log through out the day: 

8:35am Majority of the morning trekkers are more thrilled by the monkeys hanging around the canteen than the prospects of whats in the park. (little did I know this would be the only monkeys I would see all day) 

8:53am Made it to the top of the first 200 meters, took about 30 minutes. This trail would give Indian Jones and Laura Croft a heart attack. 45 degree muddy incline and rocks covered with moss and vines that Im fairly certain are alive cause they keep reaching out and tripping me. Love the Smoking Area at the very top. At least they know their audience (no, I didnt, in case you were wondering). 

tidak cukup kecil

 

9:05am First contact. Lots of tree branches rustling and monkey noises. Apparently crashing through the jungle toward the sound doesnt encourage social behavior. 

9:15am Heard a growl and some loud crashing noises about 10-20 meters off to my left. Think its the dick-nose monkey. Throwing rocks in that direction quickly shut him up. Total dick-nose. 

9:48am Officially lost at 1.2km marker. 

10:13am Arrived at Telok Pandan Kecil beach or at least 100 meters above it. No chance in hell Im climbing down there. 

11:02am Really starting to rethink the whole Extreme Jungle Trekker career change at marker 2.7km of the Tajor Trail, although Im getting great tracers off the moss.

Frenchies be damned, this was the best part of the hike

11:15am Amazing, I have cell phone service on top of one of the ridges. Googling what to do when stranded during cardiac arrest. 

11:43am Made it to the Tajor waterfall. The pool above the falls is perfectly ringed by mangroves and palm trees, fairly certain this is where they filmed “Bear Necessities” part of tthe Jungle Book. Water is brown, dick-nose probably uses it as a toilet. Fish bit my nipple, kinda turned me on. Damn French couple showed up and ruined it with their awkward look-Im-in-the-jungle-photo-shoot-but-Im-too-European-to-show-any-signs-that-I-might-be-having-fun.   

12:24pm Think I just hallucinated Baloo singing a refrain of “The Bear Necessities”.   

12:35pm Finally made it to Telok Paku trail. This is obviously the tour package trail, just had to wait for 20 Germans coughing and wheezing to come down a ladder.

Telok Paku, Bako National Park

12:42pm You have no idea how long .8km can be. Why am I going up and away from the ocean when Im trying to get to the beach!?   

12:53pm Ahhh Paradise ….. ok, its not Puerto Chino, but after 5 hours of brutal terrain its my dream come true.   

2:30pm Swam, slept, ate corn-lemon crackers (the only nourishment a true professional jungle explorer needs), swam, now back to the lodge.   

3:13pm Ahhh, Tiger beer. Something about buying beer from a 9 year old girl that speaks 3 languages really makes you feel like a genuinely bad person.   

3:35pm Nothing more satisfying than watching a macaques monkey (bastard monkeys of the jungle) jumping on a table and steel an entire box of cookies from a Dutch girl. Theres a metaphor there Im just not quite catching it.


100% Indonesian, except for the whole thing about Batavia being the name given Jakarta by its colonial era oppressors and the fact that they use the Dutch national colors as their corporate brand. But other than that they are Indonesian all the way.

I should say though that I don’t know what everyone was taking about when they told me they are a terrible airline. Yes, both flights were delayed in Indonesia but that no different than every other flight. The flight crew was far nicer than Air Asia, you can check a bag for free and not only can you choose your seat at check in, they gave me exit row both times for FREE! Imagine that! Its like Skinners Walden 2 in the sky!

So I spent the night in Pontianak  at a very nice western style hotel called The Mercure. It was reminiscent of Starwoods aLoft properties but with Indo style. The food there is great and one of the few hotel breakfasts worth paying for.

I had wanted to check out the equatorial monument 3km outside of town but wanted to get to the airport early as I overstayed my visa by a day. As it turns out the airport is so small I think the immigration officers just wanted to process the 20 people on my flight and get back to smoking cigarettes and sleeping, so they didnt catch or chose not to give me a hard time about it.

Kuching once again made me extremely jealous.  The airport was clean, with modern technology and air conditioning.  The city also is clean, little traffic and everyone speaks english.  Tomorrow Im going on a jungle trek in the Bako National Park in the Sarawak region of Borneo tomorrow morning. Will post pics later.

Indonesian Airport Fail


I’m going to Kuching, Malasyia today for a little vacation and to get my social cultural visa. First I fly to Pontianak in West Kalimantan. Kalimantan is the Indonesian portion of Borneo. I’m really excited about flying out of Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. Mostly because every flight I’ve ever taken from here has been delayed (and as of 5 minutes ago that streak is officially continied). But also because it is a state of the art facility.

Last week the main radar system went down. The air traffic controller had to boot the system to manual, memorize several dozen flights and their flight paths before shutting the system down again to try to bring it back online.

A few months ago the entire airport lost power for 7 seconds resulting in many airlines ticketing and flight management system being unable to recover for hours.

Today I went through 5 securiity checkpoints all with xray machines. It wasn’t until the 5th time that someone saw the large pair of scissors in my backpack.

Finally, I’m flying Batavia Air. I’ve not flown them before but I’ve heard many thrilling stories about them and their flight record. The fact that I’m flying a low volume route makes me think they probably aren’t devoting their best resources, either personnel or equipment.

So with that, I’d just like everyone to know that I am happy with the way I lived my life and have no regrets, except maybe buying a ticket on Batavia Air but really it will be over so fast my brain probably won’t have time to register the feeling of regret, it will just be like “ummm are the wings supposed to fold up like tha” CRASH!

Oh How the Techno-Righteous Have Fallen


Son of....I cant watch the announcement I have Artic Lemming!!!

I started off my life as a techie nerd in Apple products working in PageMaker (yeah I was in the Year Book club, you wanna go?), HyperCard programming, Photoshop and Mark of Unicorn/Performer software.  This was partly because Mac was the leading platform in the recording industry and partly because of their monopoly in the education sector. I barely knew my way around a PC when I got to college in 1996. That was the last time I touched a Mac except to play the dinosaur game on my moms when I was stuck there for the holidays.

I came of age in my career as a Microsoft DBA and Database Developer which transitioned into a C# .Net development position (Microsofts Object Oriented Programming language) and while I dabbled in JAVA, I am and have always been a Microsoftie. Not by choice but merely by circumstance really. Its always been my contention that a Tool-is-a-Tool and if a tool is using a tool then of course it will suck. Yes, when benchmarking Oracle RDBMS against Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle processes more transactions or has better throughput.  Then again these tests are done with millions of transactions per second. Off hand I can think of 2 companies in the world this kind of data processing is relevent to (I would relate this to the Worlds Strongest Man competition, how many times does someone walk up to one of those guys and say “Hey can you pull this tracker trailer to the next block for me? Thanks buddy”).  In short, the technology is only as good as the user. And yes, Internet Explorer is more prone to virus attacks than Apples Safari, but then what decent virus coder is going to target 3.5% of the market.  Microsoft has also been slandered for the secrecy of their code with Open Source supporters saying they stole UNIX code. For years Ive heard the self righteous drone on and on about the evils of Microsoft but this year the playing field is being leveled. Evil is afoot at your local ISP. We are finally seeing that all major technology companies are code-hoarding, ego-maniacal, money whores trying the honey pot approach of “free” licences while others use divide and conquer and still some just go for the Jonestown Massacre approach.

 

Oralce

Sun Microsystems was recently purchased by Oracle.  This is no surprise as Sun was struggling financially and Oracle has aligned their platform with JAVA for years. Prior to this though, Sun declared JAVA Open Source. Of coarse, if you are a commercial company that wants to utilize the code you have to pay licensing fee, which in turn means you dont have to share your code modifications with anyone, thus creating an alternate JAVA universe where only the über rich corporations are allowed to venture and consequently, mature. So what does this tell us about our white hat Open Source friends?  Much like 1919 Chicago White Socks, JAVAs open source has a price to make it magically turn into a proprietary platform.

Google

Google has had a great year in taking over the Evil Empire, starting off with Androids “Open Source” framework which, according to Oracle, infringes on their copyright and patent by using JAVA apps in its framework and Google hasnt paid the toll (see above). Oracle is looking to recoup what they amount to “lost revenue” but what I think should be more accurately characterized as a forced loss of market share for Googles mobile aspirations.  Its hard to decide who is being more evil here.  In 2007, prior to the release of Android, Google formed the Open Handset Alliance, which seemed really kumbya-ish then, with people talking about how Google was creating a mobile platform that would enable us all to have free mobile service.  Yes and immediately following that we would all go out for ice cream and talk about our feelings.  Now, with the lawsuit looming, this seems like a shrewd way to defend themselves in court.  Its much more difficult to prove Google violated copyright and patent laws when T-Mobile, Sprint, Nextel, Vodafone, HTC, LG, Motorola, Samsung AND Google all developed the platform. By the time the court system figures this one out we’ll all be using nano computers running on corn syrup.

Not to let the skeptics sit and wonder who is more evil, Google has tried to solidify their place with their about face on Net Neutrality. Personally, I think the concept alone is delusional. You want to take the largest commercial market place in the world and try to get fiercely competitive companies to agree not too compete?  The Cincinnati Shuffle Google played on the FCC and the industry is one for the play books. “Yes we are all about internet access for all parties regardless of size, oooh one second Ive got a call I have to take……Yeah, Verizon, ok cool, we will wire that over to your account in the morning.”  Personally I have nothing against the move.  I think it was inevitable that this would happen, Google just preempted everyone else.  Now every content provider is scrambling to make a similar deal with any wireless provider that will talk to them.  The real depressing part is the previously incorrigible, if not technologically stifling wireless providers now have more power and money than ever before. Forget about choosing which provider has the latest and greatest phone you want.  You now have to decide which one will deliver ICanHasCheezBurger pics the fastest.

Apple

Now my favorite to slander. Its not so much the company that bothers me, its the users. Always talking about how superior it is, no virus, so easy to use, never crashes, they dont control the platform like Microsoft and on and on like its some wonderkin. This year Apple steps out from behind the curtain.

While nothing is new in this revelation, as its been a fact since the first iPhone in 2007, Flash is not supported on any of the Apple touch screen products (iPad, iTouch and iPhone).  Recently Steve Jobs sited (amoung other reasons) that it was nothing personal, its just they feel Flash was developed for the mouse and keyboard world which will be obsolete with the next generation handheld products and Apple didnt want to dilute their brand.  Oh right, you mean like developing a YouTube app to watch 15 second grainy videos of a 4 year old kicking his dad in the balls? Yeah, cause that really showcases the next generation of handheld gadgets.  There had been much speculation in 2007 and 2008 that Apple would buy Adobe. Perhaps its just conspiracy theory on my part, but I cant help but wonder if a deal was in the works and fell through, creating animosity for Jobs, who has a reputation for a short temper in business dealings. Either way, Apple is showing the same attributes of control and diseminate that has been attributed souly to Micrsoft over the past 2 decades.

The super secret announcements Apple makes on a quarterly basis are very reminiscent of a Jonestown cult type leadership.  Yesterdays event being limited to Apple OS running Safari is so brazenly egotistical and all just to announce a revamped iTouch and another version of a previously failed product? It seems that technology companies excluding users that dont strictly conform to their corporate policies and roadmap is now the norm instead of the exception.   

Regardless of your alliances, I am reveling in the fact that the market it so muddled with companies that cant decide whether to champion the purity of an open market place or get a leg up, that we cant even tell friends from foe. Maybe its time to go back to the wilderness and send each other smoke signals.  At least there is no debate about platform and methodology,  light a fire and get a blanket. Whats the battery life on that you think?


Ok, I know I havent posted in almost a month but its for good reason.  Business has been exploding, Lida left for Russia and I moved out of the apartment.

im still juggling work in the States, working on Eastern Standard Time and developing the business here. I swear the security guards at my office probably think Im a vampire as I get to work around 6 or 7pm and leave before 6am. I dont know what happened but about 3 weeks ago things exploded.  Someone contacted me via our website to help them bring their business up-to-date, I have a proposal into one company to do their website and a small CRM, I met with a guy that pitched a great idea about developing VPN access clients for South East Asia (which Im keeping quite until we close the deal) and I met the Indonesian equivalents of Larry Page and Sergey Brin. They have about 5 different ventures including payment gateway (ala Paypal) for online gaming in Indonesia (soon to release for hotels and airlines), Golf course reservation system targeting the foreign market and they own their own submarine fiber optic line from Singapore which they use for their businesses as well as lease to hotels in Jakarta. Their CTO is no more than 25 and was offered a job with Yahoo Indonesia at twice the salary.  He turned them down because he was given stock at the current company. The main investor went to Loyola Marymount and speaks a minimum of 4 languages (Bahasa Indonesian, English, Mandarin and Japanese). They wanted to talk to me about the VPN concept as well as developing an ERP system for the largest palm oil plantation in the country (yes, all my activist friends would be proud of me, what? Ive got atleast one).

These guys were amazing and they helped me realize something about my own business model. Ive been trying to find Indonesian talent at a cheap price, banking on them growing and my experience to create a solid brand, but thats not going to fly.  Ive got to get my self a partner that is as technologically gifted as I am experienced and driven.  I need to pay a premium price for that individual and offer them a share in future profits. I may have that person, I will start working with him later this week on one of the projects. Hopefully it will all work out.

Lida is in the Ukraine right now at her families farm house. Apparently there is much contention in the house, not helped by me sending a text to grandmas phone that said “You should donate your body to science.  Im Science”, I thought Lida had the phone.  Apparently her uncle was nice enough to translate it for grandma.  I was talking to her the other day on the phone as she was pushing the trash cart down the road (love that mental image).  I could hear all the babushkas coming out and talking to her, apparently asking her to take their trash as well.  The stereotypical old Ukrainian woman blared through on the phone and made me miss her and being there even more.  Shes been gone 3 weeks and she wont be back for a little more than 3 weeks.  One thing is glaringly obvious now, I didnt come here for the business. It was a good disguise but the prospect of her not coming back made me think I didnt want to be here.  But luckily she will be back and their are some good leads on a job for her, including teaching art classes at an international school.

So I moved out of our apartment after Lida left. I want to get a house with some outdoor space but even though cost of living is cheap in Jakarta, in a city of 25 million, space comes at a premium.  In order to stay within an hours drive from the main business area (The Golden Triangle) and be in a house its looking like US prices ($1000 a month give or take).  To make matters worse, all landlords expect 1 year + 1 month security deposit.  You really dont realize how much you pay for rent every year until you have to pay it all at once. I found the perfect place, including my dream, a Koi fish pound.  They want $1300 a month, Im gunna try to talk them down to $1100 or $1200.  Its in an area called Kebayoran Baru.  Theres a great warung that serves Turkey shanks and a traditional butcher shop that even sells pork!  On a good day its 15 min taxi ride from The Golden Triangle, on a bad day 45 min.

So in the mean time Im staying with my friend Robert in his maid quarters. The shower is a bucket shower, which is surprisingly refreshing if not colder than a well diggers ass. Miu Miu was kind enough to pee on my mattress and blanket the first night so now the room smells like cat piss.  Yea for me.

So I think that gets everyone up to date. Just sittin at a coffee shop about to give a presentation on Business Intelligence to a group of developers at a large magazine publisher.  Its my first one since January so hopefully I can get back into the swing of things. Ill try get back into posting more often.

A Week In Review


  1. Got food poisoning (ironically from McDonalds and not street food) on Tuesday, spent all day wednesday violently throwing up and crapping on myself
  2. Home internet dead
  3. My current client emailed account manager and said I was “unprofessional” and “unfocused” (if I lose this contract staying here is in jeopardy)
  4. Lida goes back to Russia for a month and half to get a new passport on Monday and I barely saw her because of work schedule
  5. Got high and watched Zach Galifianakis  stand-up with robert at 5am on Saturday after work
  6. Saturday night date night at Lowey

Atleast its ending right.

Shermans Mistake


Ok, so I know what the general reaction is going to be to this post, so let me just say, Ive had a long standing grudge with the city even before the bitterness of a nasty breakup, Ive just recently found a good outlet for my angst.  The following is my submission to Cathrine Prices website devoted to her book 101 Places Not to See Before You Die

Can the keyboardist get some oxygen cause the keyboardist cant breathe no mo'

 

Ahhh Savannah, the proverbial Southern city with its classic charm (read: the last bastion of Southern White privilege). With its 24 squares, spanish moss and riverside dining who could ask for more. Well, me for starters and probably Lorraine Bulloch niece. Behind its romantic facade, Savannah has as dark an underbelly as its sordid past in the Atlantic slave trade

For starters, on the lighter side of things, is its sad attempt to create a tourist industry. Granted it is thriving, whether or not its sustaining is in question but unique it certainly is not. Expounding on the ever so original concept of ghost tours (note the sarcasm here), Savannah streets are dotted with campy hearse carting the elderly and over weight revelers lead by high school dropout guides doing their best impressions of Elvira and Uncle Herman. 

The St. Patrick’s Day parade is the 3rd largest in the country, although Im not sure how they measured this, whether by actual length, by amount of people or by the number of college frat boys throwing up in the street. Its a good time to be had by all unless you have prefer not to be spit on, beat up or pay $500 a night for a room at the Hampton Inn.  Savannah has also incorporated another aspect of a top notch mediocre tourist destination, a culinary scene highlighted by average food, poor customer service and inflated prices. You can sit on the patio and watch the freight ships come in the Port of Savannah at Hueys if you wait 2 hours. Youll then be able to pay $35 for a steak that tastes like horse meat and the waiter will come back only after you chase them down out back. 

With the loss of its cheap labor at the beginning of the 20th Century Savannahs economy has suffered. The minimum wages of the tourism industry provides just enough to keep some residents above the poverty line but not enough to afford them career or financial advancement. Few other options for sustainable income exist, aside from the paper plant and the port, as a result the city of 130,000 has seen violent crime and murder rates 3 times the national average over the last 2 decades. 

But never fear, the artist will save you. Enter Savannah College of Art and Design, because if a good college can turn a small rural mid-western town into the hottest, hippest town in hectares (isnt that how they measure distances in the country?), like Austin, Texas and Louisville, Kentucky, it surely could do the same with a stubborn, culturally frozen southern town right? Opps guess what, apparently being the leading school offering undergraduate and graduate courses in several arts and entertainment fields doesnt preclude students from actually contributing to the local economy or culture. Maybe its because of the course load or maybe theyre just all stoners but SCAD students live in a bubble between Forsyth and the River only crossing MLK Drive if they are unfortunate enough to be stuck in the converted Howard Johnston overflow dormitory. At the annual SCAD alumni commencement concert the depth and poignancy from even the brightest of the cities former residents is shown in sending off their doe-eyed graduates by saying “Hey, heres some music that was popular when we were in college… you know, before the internet”, such as G. Love & Special Sauce (No really they booked them in 1998, they were just busy until 2010), George Clinton (not that its bad but its such a safety choice, hes like the liberals James Taylor) and the barely breathing Godfather of Soul, James Brown in 2005. 

Clubs are left empty or the few that are turning out a crowd are doing so with “gangsta’s” and service men on furlough who are always in the mood for a fight . Yes, nothing says “Savannah” like a drive by shooting, an accidental baby stabbing or a night club knife fight. Favored music at the clubs of choice will most likely include at least 5 Lil’ Jon tracks. No, instead of having impromptu DJ sets, jam sessions or art openings from former graduates now internationally recognized (India.Arie, Circle Takes the Square, etc) returning to do business in the city that created their career, youre more likely to catch a sparsely populated goth night that was probably started when all the ghost tours guides got off work and went to the same bar. 

To cap off your visit to the Ole South be sure to swing by a tea shop that will take you back in time to the first half of the 20th century, particularly if you aren’t white. The Savannah Tea Room is run by a brood of old women that would make the Witches of Eastwick look like Mary Poppins. No reservation required but approval is. Yes, Savannah really is a magical place filled with nostalgia for a time long since forgotten, filled with people that have an innate ability to replicate it to sub-par standards. While it was spared on Sherman’s march south, a weekend getaway will leave the astute traveler wondering, “Why?”.


Ok, so I’m posting this more for my own sake than anything else as a result of the poor information I’ve found on the internet, perhaps this will help others.

Just a bit of background in case anyone hasn’t been keeping up. I came to Indonesia in February under the premise that I’d be getting a KITAS visa through the company which I had set up prior to arriving. This would allow me to stay and work in Indonesia without having to go to the dreaded Kantor Imigrasi for an entire year. Upon getting here I decided I wanted to save my money until I actual had work in Indonesia, since the process was going to cost about 30 juta rupiah ($2500 USD). Visa On Arrival costs 250,000 rupiah ($30 USD) and a one time 30 day extension costs the same. So every 2 months I’ve had to leave the country for a day and then return. Even with an average cost of $300 USD per trip(round trip flights to Singapore or KL are rarely more than $100 USD) at 5 trips per year its still cheaper than the KITAS, however after experiencing Kantor Imigrasi twice (5 hours of going from station to station to get one stamp) I understood the real value of the KITAS.

Iwan and I had set up a local PT which is the equivalent of a limited liability company in the States. When I sat down with the lawyer to talk about getting my KITAS I was informed that it is almost impossible for a local PT to sponsor a KITAS as the Department of Manpower wants to only given them out to PMAs which are foreign investment companies and, as they see it, the only companies that would need foreign workers. In order to create a PMA it will take 50 juta rupiah ($5500 USD) plus the KITAS fee and will take about 3 to 6 months. So in short, I get to do the following process at least 2 more times until our PMA is completed.

The following details the process to extend a Visa On Arrival for 30 days at the Central Jakarta Immigration Office.

First off, finding the address for this was a massive pain. Keep in mind that there is only ONE office you can do this at.  You cant do it at the main office and you cant do it at the airport. There are locations in Sumatra and Bali I believe but Ive never done it. All the government sites that I visited listed the main office in Jakarta Pusat (Central Jakarta). Even doing a google search for Kantor Imigrasi and the street that I was fairly certain it was on (Julan Merpati) didn’t return any results. I finally googled Kantor Imigrasi Jakarta Selatan (South Jakarta) and it got me what I was looking for oldly enough. Even though the office I wanted is technically Jakarta Pusat it must be on the very boarder of North and West Jakarta as its a good 30 min ojek ride:

Kantor Imigrasi Klas – Jakart Pusat
Jl. Merpati Blok B12 No. 3
In the Kemoryan district

The office opens at 8am and I strongly suggest getting there as early as possible. By 10am everything is in full swing and you can expect it to take upwards of 4 hours, especially given the lunch break that EVERYONE takes at noon (they had a French efficiency consultant structure their work days apparently).

Once you walk in the building you want to go to the 3rd floor. Just take the stairs to the right of the main entrance to the very top. You will need a few things:

  1. Passport (duh)
  2. Sponsor letter signed by your sponsor with a Materai
  3. Photocopy of your sponsors Indonesian ID
  4. Extension packet with the form signed by your sponsor. You get this from the photocopy window which is the first one when you get to the top of the stairs for 6000 rupiah ($0.75 USD)
  5. Photocopy of the information and photo page of your passport, which you can get at the same window for 500 rupiah ($.04 USD)

Once you have all this in your red folder, go to the window in the waiting room on the left between the two sets of chairs. Now is when the fun begins. Depending on the mood and what futbol team won last night the Imigrasi Officer will ask you to do a number of useless tasks. They could include but are not limited to:

  1. Photocopying your passport photos again in a different size and or shade
  2. Having the typist next to the photocopy room type the salutation ABOVE the date instead of just after it where you, apparently ignorantly, placed it
  3. Use their formatted sponsor letter and then sign your name under your sponsors name
  4. Do the hookie-pookie and turn your self around

Once you are done with the first check point you now have no fewer than 5 more check points. There is:

  1. The basement dweller with his Zuma playing assistant who relishes your attention and will do anything to extend your visit with him
  2. Both windows back up on the 3rd floor across from the first window
  3. The cashier down on the 1st floor
  4. Finally the photocopy window one last time and if they are really slow, the 3rd floor copy window closes at 3:30pm so you’ll have to go to the first floor copy room
  5. Then back to the first window

Keep in mind that the cashier closes at 3:30pm also even though the office closes at 5pm. If you start the process on your last day and don’t finish you should be ok, at worst you will have to pay 200,000 rupiah ($25 USD) per day that you stay over on your visa, but again, the intrinsic cost is far more by having to go to the Kantor Imigrasi two days in a row.

Later I will post the details of getting a Social/Cultural visa which is really the way to go. This allows you a two month stay, then every month you can get a 30 day extension but you don’t have to leave the country for 6 months.

If you speak Bahasa (obviously) it will probably get you through faster. My friend came in the same day as me 3 hours later and had an extra step to go through and yet he got his finished at the same time as me by standing next to them joking around.

Final note, if you want to skip all this you can hire an agent. It will run you 1 juta ($110 USD) but you’ll save years on your life for the lack of stress.


Ok, sorry Ive neglected the blog for the past week or two.  Ive submerged myself 100% into the East Coast work schedule and its reeking havoc on my personal life. I recently leased a serviced office in a tower close to my apartment.  Its basically a closet but its cheap, about $350 a month and most importantly, I finally get the internet connection I need to be productive. I typically get to work around 7pm and get home around 5am. I then sit and watch a movie on TV.  Always an interesting mix, recently its been Cool Hand Luke, Taken (dont be fooled by the trailer, this is a great Liam Neeson movie) and Another You (“I hear they’re putting Basil on everything now. I really think Basil is coming into its own as an herb. Im so happy for basil.”).  I then typically go to sleep between 8 and 10am. Depending on the day I may sleep until 3pm or sometimes times 6pm. Wake up rinse and repeat, well, not always rinse.

Last week I made a slight deviation from the plan. Iwan and I signed up for a beer pong tournament. Id played once before in my life and so had Iwan so I figured Id be a nice one night activity. The format is 32 teams, 5 rounds, one week between each round.  Each round has a time limit (I think 10 min). Its a best-of-3 series to move on to the next round. You can call for a re-rack of your cups 3 times a game and if you bounce a ball into a cup the opposing team has to drink 2.

The first game went as I expected. We went down on time, 4 glasses to 2, but it was never close. The second game I hit 5 of 6 and we closed them out 0 glasses to 4.  The third game was an epic back and forth until the very end. Iwan ended the game by closing them out while we still had 2 cups on the table. We had to register and pick a name so I polled some people for suggestions.  Some of the entries were:

  • The Faggots
  • Butterflies
  • Sparkle Nation (theres a pattern here)
  • The Wife Stoners
  • Mecca Lecca High Mecca Highney Hoe
  • Brew-hammad Ali’s

We decided to go with a hybrid of the last, Brew-hammad the Beer Prophets. Its playful enough but with a slight twinge of sacrilege.  Tonight is the second round and once again I dont give us much of a chance, but insha’allah, Ale willing, we will emerge victorious.

UPDATE:

Well as fast as it started its over. We were destroyed by one of those obnoxiously enthusiastic boyfriend-girlfriend teams. The girl couldnt wait to dispense of us so she could get back to texting on her Blackberry and it didnt take long.  We went down 0 to 4 in the first set and o to 3 in the second.

The Last Betrail


So Ive given up on so many of my morals since Ive been here, whether by my own choice or forcibly. The latest episode was the latter.

Bulgarian friends from CouchSurfing in Amsterdam

Some of you remember I did couchsurfing for a while in 2007 and 2008.  I became a bit jaded about the whole thing in mid-2008, mostly because I started hanging out at local CS events in Portland and didnt get the same sense of excitement and adventure with the locals as I did travel and hosting foreigners(read: they viewed it as another way to get laid).

We decided to open up our second room to potential CS’ers a month ago and accepted our first request, a backpacker from Chicago. Justin is an American Jew studying city planning  in developing nations in the Middle East and did his thesis on “Developing a Palestinian State”.  Yeah, his parents are really proud of him. For me, it was the perfect re-introduction to CS. He was extremely adventurous, preferred street food to a walk-in restaurant and never shied away from interaction with the locals. We even con’ed our way on to the helipad of the Bakrie Tower, Jakarta’s newest skrise.

Given my schedule of working east coast time lately, I wasnt able to join him one morning to the Indonesian National Gallery (on par with a nice Thomas Kinkade strip mall gallery), so Lida tagged along. Later he affirmed my opinion that gallery hopping with Lida is far more interesting than by yourself as she acts as a personal tour guide. Half way through the gallery (keep in mind its inside), a small kitten skimpered up to Lida.

INTERLUDE:

Anyone that knows me understands that Im allergic to cats.  In the classic form of our relationship, Lida loves cats and I love dogs.  Its not that I hate cats, I just dont like them. I think Ralphie May summed it up best when he said “What the f*** are you doing hanging out with a cat. Cats are vile creatures….If you own a cat it f***ing hates you. All youre there to do is feed it, scratch that place where its tail meets its ass and clean out its shit box”.

Lida and Justin walked around talking to the employees at the gallery to find out where its mother was but no one knew and dismissed it with a laugh and something in Indonesian, probably along the lines of “Its mother is being server as Bakso (meatballs) at the warung outside”.  So of course, with the fact that the kitten was found in a gallery, it meant it was destiny.

Tapeworms, trash for dinner and no place to sleep all of the sudden didnt look so bad to Lidas new found friend

So I am now the proud owner of a ferial stump-tailed Indonesian cat.  At least its not a curly tailed Indonesian cat cause theres no way Id let that thing in my house. After about 5 min of being in the house I think the kitten was having second thoughts about choosing Lida once she was being held under a full stream of water and scrubbed with soap.

I have to admit though, shes pretty damn cute. I stopped taking my allergy pills after the first day and I havent had a reaction yet.  It may be because shes a kitten and the older she gets my allergies may become worse, but for now we’re pretty good buddies. She sits on my lap or shoulder while I work or shits in my lap while I work, depends on her mood I guess and I enjoy squeezing her face so she looks like Chinese, its a give and take relationship. We talk for hours about philosophy, religion, current events, even sports.  She seems to be pretty one sided though as all she ever says is “miu, miu, miu”.

Took her to the vet and got blood work, worm medicine, syringes to feed her and found out she was 3 weeks old! The total bill was just over $12 USD, makes it much less painful. We didnt have a name for her when we took her in so Lida told the vet her name was my imitation for the sounds she was making, “Ms. Miu Miu” is on her official license.

Little Ms. Miu Miu

So Ms. Miu Miu is some what of a permanent resident I guess. We’re getting a new apartment in a month and it won’t be in a skyrise. Miu Miu will have to be an outdoor cat. Until then I will have to learn to appreciate her feline qualities but Im still trying to teach her the whole fetch-me-a-beer-from-the-fridge thing that I always dreamed my dog would do.


     

Two Indonesian girls search how-to-start-a-trash-fire at an Internet shop in Jakarta

 

When I decided to move to Indo (the Coco, the No-No), I had a number of explanations that made it seem like I was making a logical decision based on a professional diagnosis of market, among them were:   

  • Indonesia is a developing country with an untapped technology market
  • South East Asia will be the gateway into the Chinese market place which will have global dominance in the 21st century
  • Low overhead for business startups
  • Less competition
  • I like  beaches
  • I like Lida

2 of those were somewhat unfounded, but I thought it made me sound logical and less like I was just ditching out on my responsibilities. I came across a few articles that help support that and generally validate my decision, since as stated before, I have a very weak constitution and am constantly searching for validation.    

The first is about Googles intentions in Indonesia. Personally I think the “40 million internet users” is a bit misleading.  I believe they are including mobile web-user which really should be a completely different segment since delivery, product and demographics are vastly different. Data services for your web enabled cell phone here are about $15 USD/month where as a decent internet connection is gunna run you about $100 USD/month.  Since the average monthly Indonesian income is $100/month, you have to assume that the broadband user is far more affluent. The 40 million number indicates that 15% of the country are internet users.  I believe the actual PC (dont get offended Mac/-nix users, its the royal “PC”)  user base is more like 5-10 million and Id venture a guess that a good portion of those dont actually own a PC or have internet access at home, they just go to internet cafes. I think before the real internet boom can happen in Indonesia two things have to happen:    

  1. Im no network technician but there is an inherent problem with bandwidth in Indonesia.  I cant find a good resource but from what I have read and heard there is really only one exchange point in Indonesia through which all ISPs connect too.  This governs the traffic inside and outside of Indonesia (read: hops from your access point to your destination).  Because of this there, is a limit to the speed (through-put is probably the more accurate term). There has to be a more concerted effort to provide multiple exchange points beyond the current infrastructure, which Ive been told, is via a Singapore backbone. With a redundant network not only will the bandwidth increase but reliability (less packet drops) will occur, allowing us to download unlicensed music and movies quicker.
  2. Cost prohibitive taxation on luxury items not built in Indonesia (sometimes upwards 0f 300%) makes technology purchases for the middle to lower class Indonesians unrealistic and will keep the market stunted. While the cost of living in Indonesia is exponentially lower than many other countries, this model is not reflected when purchasing electronics.  Used PC and laptops sell for the same price as new models and the new models are unknown and unreliable brands with warranties that are unproven.

The second article is a bit old but I think brings up an interesting scenario.  Yahoo recently purchased Koprol.  In addition they have announced plans to open an office in Indonesia, although they have delayed the opening and havent announced a time line. I cant help but wonder if Google and Yahoo truly feel there is an immediate potential or if they are just hedging their bets and waiting to see what the market bares.    

Finally, the Chinese connection (requires WSJ login) seems to be materializing much quicker than I expected.  In this opinion article by one of the sons of the Jakartan business tycoon Aburizal Bakrie (Bakrie is feard if not respected, by everyone in government and private industry across Indonesia), there are some interesting suggestions (read: warnings) to western government that Indonesia shouldnt be discounted if there is to be an emerging relationship.     

Perhaps a third point to bring up about the internet boom in Indonesia is that there must be standardization and regulatory infrastructure to support the kind of growth seen in the Dot-Com era of the late 90’s/early 00’s or perhaps more relevent to Indonesia, as seen in the Industrial Revolution. Without this we will see a monopolistic private industry where government regulation is directly tied to private industries desires. A worrying trend seen with Mr. Aburizal Bakrie position as the chairman of Golkar party, as well as previous posts including Chief Economic Minister of Indonesia, Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare and chairmanship of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.  Not to say that this is specific to Indonesia, we’ve seen this cross-over in the U.S. as well (read:Haliburton and the Bush Empire), however, Im not confident there are checks and balances in Indonesia as we have in the states (however this could just be my own ignornace).    

 Selections from the articles above:    

Google eyes Indonesia for expansion

Google is collaborating with a local wireless broadband Internet company Bakrie Connectivity, whose new modem will come with Google Chrome web browser as a standard feature.    

Paging for Mr. Obama in Indonesia

The longer the United States waits to demonstrate its interest in renewing ties in its backyard, the easier it will be for China to fill in the gaps. Beijing has already inked a free-trade agreement with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Chinese investment capital is pouring into Indonesia to build much-needed infrastructure. For example, China’s state-owned energy and investment firms are reportedly looking at Indonesia for takeover targets and joint venture partners. Beijing has been a strong proponent of giving Jakarta, already a member of the Group of 20, a stronger voice in international economic fora.    


NOTE:You can see all these pics in full res here. There were just so many good ones it was hard to choose a couple to post here.

Ummm yes, hello, i believe you have potato please, excuse me, pardon me, potato? excuse me, hello, someone said you had potato? excuse me...

So the last full day of our Kuala Lumpur trip we decided to go to the Elephant Sanctuary on our own (sans tour bus). We got up early and hired another taxi driver ($130 for the entire day) to take us to the Elephant Sanctuary in Kuala Gandah which is about a 1.5 hour drive (however on the way back expect 2-3 because youll be hitting rush hour traffic). They take in orphaned and injured Asian Elephants from Malaysia, India, Myanmar, Thailand and other ASEAN countries to rehabilitate them, train them to work as a pack and release them into the Krau Game Reserve and other reserves throughout South East Asia. Those that cant be rehabilitated, such as two young elephants who each lost part of a leg, one to a tiger attack and one to a poachers trap, which I decided should be named Stumpy and Eileen, stay in the park for their entire life. Im not certain but I get the feeling these are the elephants the public gets to see and interact with.

This is a very popular tourist attraction in KL. Almost every hotel, taxi driver and tour agency offers this. They charge about $100 USD per person, which is interesting (read: immoral and a rip off) since entry into the sanctuary is donation only and I read several places that the tour agencies give very little if any of that money to the sanctuary. They dont have a very good website set up and I had difficulty planning it (we got there 4 hours early because of lack of info) so Im posting the official brochure we got there that has times and information.

Lida arguing that the greatest literary accomplishment of Dostoyevsky was in fact not Crime and Punishment but The Idiot, ironically lost on this doe who just wanted a green pea

As I said, we got there early and the sanctuary is on the outskirts of the Krau Game Reserve so theres not much else to do except what amounts to a sad little petting zoo. Although I have to admit it was kinda fun but if you find this kind of thing, well, immoral and a rip off, then skip it. The deer were funny, they had obviously learned how to get attention and when they wanted more potatoes or beans they would pull on your shirt. Lida had on a perfect shirt which helped to highlight the 2 dozen places where the deer were nipping. The older males sat off in the corner of the park looking at the rest with what I interpreted as disapproving looks.

They had some interesting birds (African Greys, 4 or 5 species of Conures), Lida got to hold a Ball Python, but for sure the highlight and they knew it cause it was the last attraction, was the Sun Bear. I take it he got this name because hes lazy and just sits around sun bathing all day. Either that or the golden markings on his chest and snout. I think my first assumption is the more scientific one. Anyway, this is whats great about countries that have no OSHA counter part or silly regulations that say “the general public cannot get in a cage with a bear”. Or if they do have those regulations it doesnt say “the general public can be in a cage with a bear but it cant pet the bear”. Or if they do have that regulation they dont say “the general public can be in a cage with a bear and they can pet it but you cant feed the bear condensed milk out of your hand” cause that would just be dangerous. Well, if youre going to support the exploitation of animals you might as well get a picture of it right?

Meanwhile back at the elephant ranch, there are 2 activities that may seem unnatural, Im not going to vouch for it or decry it but they do allow for elephant rides. 4 of the larger elephants take 125 people at most per day once around a 10 meter circle. Again, 125 people at most are allowed to get on the elephant and ride with her into the stream where you then get to bathe the elephants. Note, this activity is bareback, no saddles or harness. It really lets you feel the power of this animal as you can feel the skin and muscle shift against your legs.

Of course the bathing was the best part. Its actually more playing than anything else. The babies love the attention, people standing around them splashing them, they would roll on to their sides spaying people with there trunks. I have to say that they seemed extremely happy. Its in no way a zoo. The elephants are only exposed to people for 2 hours a day from 2pm to 4pm. They only bring out 6 of the 20+ elephants, all of which seem very calm. Again, Im not going to speak to the morals of it but it did seem far more humane than anything Id seen at zoos in the states.

At any rate, feeding them was really fun. Before the rides and bathing we feed them peanuts and we brought some bananas. Other people had sugar cane which seemed very popular. After a while the babies got tired of taking the peanuts and fruit with their trunks and when someone would hold out some they would just open their mouth wide so they could deposit the offering directly into their “peanut hole”. After the rides and bathing they lined up the big girls (17 of the 20+ are female and I got the feeling they didnt bring the males out) and feed them a proper diner which consisted of a couple hundred pounds of bamboo, which they would step on to break into peices and then take the yummier slices and whack them on the ground to soften them up and desert was a few hundred pounds of some tropical fruit that looked like starfruit.

It was actually a really cool visit. Note that you will smell like Elephant crap for a minimum of 3 days despite taking multiple showers and baths, but it is well worth it. If you do go Id say be generous with your donation. They are trying to prove the effectiveness of their process to the government to get more funding but to do so they need to be able to radio tag the elephants they release to prove that the pack training is actually working. Either way, its a good bit of eco-tourism that I thoroughly enjoyed.