Archive for March, 2010



Me. For some reason the “‘When I die, I want my ashes to be spread on Gili Trawangan,’ Matt says.” sees extremely dark as the opening line for a human interest piece but whatever.  They cut out the funny stuff about Ducks in Chinatown and Fireworks on Chinese New Year. This is my second brush with fame.  The first was about 11 years ago. I think Im gunna stick with IT services.

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My First Google Visualization


Ok, so I promise I wont make this into a work blog but I do want to share something that Ive started working on.

I gave up application programming in 2005 in favor of focusing on Business Intelligence and Analytics implementations. I spent 7 years trying to create websites and Business Intelligence applications from scratch and found it highly unsatisfying.  Mostly because of my lack of talent.  I would spend months working on a component or website tool and upon completing a mediocre version of whatever it was that I was working on  I would typically find some free version or example of what I did that was far-and-away better than what I had created. I found using the tools that others had created to customize or enhance its usage was much more effective and satisfying.

One of the things that has worried me about selling Business Intelligence solutions in a 3rd world country has been software licensing cost. Indonesia is still an industrialized nation and many companies havent realized the value in large investments in technology.  Trying to sell the average company millions of dollars in hardware and software is a daunting task.  Those companies that are willing to invest that money are typically government-owned, which are the most corrupt sector of the market,  not to mention, require an extensive vetting process for any potential vendor.

With this I am testing out a new tool set released by Google called Google Visualization API which makes use of the Google Chart Tools. The API is based on JavaScript.  You can build great looking charts from line, bar, gauge and motion charts. Additionally, you can manually build your data in JavaScrirpt, link to Google Documents or write your own data source connections to live databases.  The API is simple to start but has the depth to be a very robust tool and Im really excited about code-diving with it.

So here is my Developing Asia Google Visualization, the data is from the International Monetary Fund, it took about 4 hours of reading and practice to create this but now that Ive got it down, as long as I have the data in the appropriate format I can turn these out in a matter of minutes. Click around and change the options, its quite amazing how interactive this tool is. Im going to continue working with this and Ill post some other examples I come up with in the future.


Went to my friend Mels birthday party last night. It was set up in the back of a comic book convention. Met a bunch of Australians and a couple of Dutch guys. One of the Dutch guys is an avid basketball player and said hed call next time they were playing.  The last two times I played basketball were fairly painful and humiliating. Last time was in Denmark 2 years ago when I got beat in a 1-on-1 with a Dane who was smoking while playing, granted we’d been drinking all night but none-the-less.  The time before that I sprained my ankle so badly I couldnt walk on it for over a month and it still feels weak.  So yeah, should be a good time.

 

Anyway, stumbled on to a really cool art installation by Good Guys Never Win Toy Company, all the dolls are custom-made from resin.  He also had some spooky coffins set up with what looked like clones or something.  Anyway, super interesting and a suprising find.

The party decided to move to Kemang, a popular trendy bar and restaurant spot (for those that remember I tried to open a restaurant with Iwan a year ago this is where it was going to be).  We were headed for one of Mels friends house but some how the 5 people that didnt know where it was (Myself and Lida included) got stuck in a cab together and the Mels phone was dead.  The street numbering in Jakarta are about as logical as using a broom to sweep the streets, one house will be 10 and the next will be 3119. Eventually we gave up trying to find the house and just went to the nearest bar.

Of coarse the one person in the bar that spoke Russian picked out Lida in a second. What was supposed to be 1 drink and them home turned into a 6 beer night and a drunken ride home on Ojek.


For the first time since the end of January I put on my business cloths and went into an office. Lida and I had diner with the Indian guy we made friends with a while back at his place.  He invited us to come down to his office so Lida could meet the team, he said he might be able to get her a job there.

When we got there he asked me to give an impromptu talk with his team about team dynamics and efficiency.  Some how he got the impression that this was my specialty or he was just testing my ability to think on the fly. Either way it was definitely nice to get back into the office and do something other than brainstorm or come up with marketing material.

I’m becoming more skeptical that this business is going fly. The prospect of that doesn’t bother me so much per-say. I’ve grown accustomed to failure by now. After so many you learn to parlay your failures into credentials on your resume. It’s the prospect of going back to an office job and not being able to sleep in until 1pm.

I just need to make about $2000 a month to live very comfortably here. Its time to defy define mediocrity.

Ojek for Bules in Jakarta


 
Pickup Truck Fail

Ok, so I think Ive become fairly versed in the Ojek trade so Id like to share (Lida read: show off) what I think I know. No mater what, as a westerner, youll always be charged the Bule tax but there are a few things you can do to make sure you dont get completely ripped off and enjoy the ride.

The Business:

  1. Always have correct change for the agreed upon price, they will never have change and any additional time will result in them asking for more money. Tips arent necessary theyre kinda built-in (see Bule tax above).
  2. When bargaining, much like buying a car the walk-away  method always works but make sure youre ok with walking away. Ojek drivers are notoriously lazy and depending on the day may prefer that you walk away. But dont worry, there are about as many Ojek stands as there are Mosques.
  3. If you are skittish about riding with a helmet make sure you ask as this isnt standard equipment. Of coarse, if you are skittish at all, Ojek may not be the best mode of transportation for you.
     
  4. If you are traveling with a partner and arrange a price, the phrase “untuk ber dua”, for both, will be very useful. Once you get to your destination, regardless of your hand gestures during the bargaining process, they will suddenly speak perfect english and insist that the price was per person.
  5. If you are riding by yourself it will definitely be cheaper than a taxi. With two riders you may be breaking even or perhaps paying a bit more but the real value is time. With traffic in Jakarta you can easily take 1-2 hours to got 2 or 3 kilometers, with the Ojek drivers lack of discipline or care for common street rules he can get you there in 1/10th of the time.
  6. Less populated the area the more friendly they tend to be I think but thats not a rule. Inevitably youll end up with the SE Asian equivalent of Evil Kanevil.  Dont worry youll get there safe and if you dont, it will be over so fast you wont feel a thing.

 

The Ride:

  1. Sunglasses might be a good idea.  Most of the helmets are skullcaps so no visor.
  2. Pants or shorts with buttons on them would be best. Wallets tend to slip. Otherwise but everything in your front pockets.
  3. Some drivers are more patient than others, some want to get the white devil off their ride ASAP. With the latter, common riding rules will help you not soil your paints such as lean away from the turns and dont stare straight ahead, lest you get a bug in a oraphis.
  4. If youre paranoid about the pollution, besides being in the wrong city, you may want to get a mask, you can buy them for 1000 rupiah ($.10) .             
  5. Get fresh with your driver if need be. Grab on to his shoulders or waist, with all the starting and stopping youll be glad for it.  If you prefer your personal space or for the homophobic guys you can grab on to the oh-shit-bar at the back, however some of the newer bikes make this a bit more complicated with extra fat bars.
  6. If starring straight ahead while your driver is going the wrong way down a one way at 50 kph  makes you a bit nervous, try looking to the left or right. After all, when one of the food vendors pushes their cart in front of your driver at the last second, sending you flying into the air in route to striking any number of deadly inanimate objects or under a bus, theres really nothing thats going to help you, just let it go.

Personally I love Ojek. Its fun, fast and helps me practice what little Bahasa I know.


Spent 4 hours at the immigration office today.  Heres how it went:

  • 12:30pm – Arrive, entire staff is on lunch break until 1
  • 1:10pm – Staff comes back and takes our forms (read:looks up from their paper where theyd been sitting the whole time)
  • 1:30pm – Woman reviews packet again and tells us to go make photo copies of our passports
  • 2pm – Woman reviews packet again and tells us to take packet to office across the hall
  • 2:10pm – Woman reviews packet and tells us to take packet to Mr. Daniel on the ground floor
  • 2:30pm – Mr. Daniel reviews packet and tells us to take packet to Mr. Uzu on the 3rd floor (Mr. Daniel’s counter part was playing Zuma while his office was literally stacked 2 meters high with red immigration packets and the next room looked like the scene at the end of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc except with red packets)
  • 3pm – Mr. Uzu reviews packet and tells us to go to next window
  • 3:30pm – Man reviews packet and tells us to go down to cashier on the ground floor.
  • 3:35pm – Cashier says they are closed come back tomorrow, even though there are 5 people behind the desk and they obviously arent closed. Dirty German hippie that had followed the same steps behind us all day yells at them and got them to let us pay anyway.
  • 3:55pm – Cashier sends us back up to the first window on the 3rd floor.
  • 4:15pm – Original woman reviews packet, tells us to photocopy our passports again.  3rd floor copier is closed, sends us down to copier on 1st floor.
  • 4:30pm – Receive passport with one simple stamp and a signature.

 4 hours, 9 people, 7 stations…..taaaaaddaaaaaaaaa

Beer Me


Beautiful day today. Did a little work on the company profile. Design will be the death of me. Spent two days on the cover slide. Finally asked Lida to help and she created an awesome layout in about an hour while I slept (“yeah that’s right woman, and then iron my cloths”).

Did 5km on the treadmill and a weights routine. Gone almost 3 week without missing a workout (save for a 4 day stretch last weekend). Now I realize why rich people always look cut and are so incredibly stupid. When you have nothing to do but work out and wax intellectual without doing anything tangible your body gets hard and your mind gets soft.

Spent a perfect hour or two with my girl by the pool followed by kabab wraps and Bintang. So much for the work out. Screw it, you can’t buy happiness but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come at a price (read:big fat hairy belly). Lida is taking the lead on learning and teaching me Bahasa. Saya Matt, diri America. Give me a break I’m a slow learner.


When I was living in Buffalo and hanging out with Iwan every time we went to his house, instead of hot chocolate or chicken noodle soup his mother would make us Mie Goreng.  Mie Goreng means “fried noodles” in Bahasa.  Not to be confused with Nasi Goreng (fried rice), which looks and tastes much like if you ate habachi and threw up on a plate. Mie Goreng is basically ramen noodles except they dont suck.  I always thought this was the real Mie Goreng until I came to Indonesia.  But I still love the packaged kind every once in a while. Instead of one crappy packet of powder that smells like fish, Mie Goreng has 5 pouches of yummy nirvana goodness in every package.  While this sets Mie Goreng apart, it also presents a major problem.

The five pouches are contained in (2)segmented packets, one for liquid and one for powder. The 1st pouch in the liquid packet is an oil-base with heavenly spices.  Once youve drained the oil, the spices tend to not want to come out of the packet. The 2nd pouch is basic chili sauce which doesnt present a problem in-and-of-itself, until you add in the 3rd pouch.  This final pouch really throws a wrench into the whole deal. Its Soya Sauce, not to be confused with your traditional Japanese Soy Sauce, Kecap is far more syrupy than its Japanese cousin. While trying to eject this sticky substance, I typically end up with half of all the sauces on my hands, leading me to juggle the noodles and/or putting the plastic packet in the noodles just to transfer as much of the liquid perfection as I can, which, if not painful, looks very strange to any observers.

Fear not though, this morning I solved the conundrum. You will need the following implements:

  1. Large chefs knife
  2. Cutting board with no grooves on the sides

Steps:

  1. Begin boiling noodles.  This should take 2-3 minutes depending on your preference
  2. Place the seasoning-from-the-gods liquid packet on the cutting board
  3. Cut across the top, making an opening for all 3 pouches
  4. Flip the knife over to the dull edge and squeeze all the contents on to the cutting board.
  5. Drain your noodles and place them in a bowl
  6. Using the sharp edge of the knife scrape the contents on the package into the bowl.  The majority of it will be sticking to the knife so just use the edge of the bowl, which now will be hot, to transfer said content from knife to bowl
  7. Mix noodles, add dry seasoning packet
  8. Eat manna noodles from yahweh

Discover confusion


So Iwan showed me this great site for stock photos and was searching for images for my presentation template (im sure everyone else has known about this since the late 90s, but like I said Im late to every trend). 

< sarcasm>Using the amazingly original and creative motto of Westwind Indonesia, Discover. Define. Deliver. </sarcasm>,  I was searching for images to use and came across this gem for “Discover”.  I was particularly confused by the keywords associated to it:

  • adventure
  • destination
  • fun
  • vacation

Some keywords Id like to associate to it:

  • trapped
  • neglect 
  • push
  • WTF

Dog Lovers Pizza


I got it in my head that I needed pizza.  After trying 2 dominos and 3 pizza huts with a combination of wrong numbers, disconnected numbers and no delivery (one wasnt even a pizza place) I finally found a one.  I tried to keep it simple but even that went wrong (this could be a metaphor for my life but lets not get too deep here). I ordered 1 large spicy salami with hot peppers and an order of fries. 45 mins later I received 5 medium mystery meat and ricotta pizzas. Apparently she thought I said “five pizzas” instead of “french fries”.

Good times.


For instance, Slavic people don’t like to smile in photos:

Belarus Winter Olympians – Maybe 4 but 3 of those aren’t so much a smile as it is a stretching of the mouth and at least 3 of the guys look like they killed the photographer right afterwards

UkrainianWinter Olympians – 5 and that’s being generous (Lada looks like she twitched before her picture)

Kazakhstan Winter Olympians – Wow, that’s a grand total of 0

Georgian Winter Olympians – I’ll give it 1 cause Nina really gave it the old Georgian try.

But I feel like the only reason Stefan is any good at Alpine Skiing is because he was one of the guys chasing James Bond down the mountain with a rifle at the beginning of The Spy Who Loved Me

Interlude:

James Bond movies always baffled me. This scene in particular:

  1. Why is the worlds greatest agent wearing a yellow ski suit with orange boots? Isnt that counter productive for an undercover spy?
  2. Why do the Russian agents speak with an English accent, did they go to Oxford?
  3. Whats up with the one moron with a pistol? When he was preparing for this ill-conceived ambush and he had his choice of the KGB arsenal did he think that a snub-nosed pistol would be the most effective?  I mean really, youre skiing 3 meters behind him. Shotgun would be much more productive
  4. The rifles sure do make a lot of noise for having a silencer on them

Ok and now for the Slavics cheery counterparts.  Im gunna skip showing the Americans because its obvious we are always happy.  I mean we invented drive-through/fast food restaurant, the nuclear bomb and modernized porn.  Whats there not to be happy about?  So let’s go with some less obviously happy nations, like…..

Norwiegen Winter Olympians – Ive been there, theres no reason for them to be happy unless you like your food over-salted and pickled fish.

Italian Winter Olympians – Ive always said that Italy would be great if there werent any Italians but this group looks a lot more cheery than the “WOPs” I dealt with.

Canadian Winter Olympians – Canadas happiness can be gauged by their success in hockey.  While two Olympic gold medals in the past decade is all fine and good, Lord Stanley’s cup has been absent for the past 2 decades (0k 17 years to be exact), along with the loss of an NHL team in Quebec City, Winnipeg and Hamilton. Theres really no reason for them to be happy.


So the internet went down 2 days ago. Still can’t get it working. Tech has been here 2 hours and still no progress. Looks like I’m going to switch service this weekend. Besides a massive loss of productivity (that’s a joke) I’m pretty sure my fantasy hockey team is taking a nose dive at the most critical point of the season.

Described Business Intelligence to a mechanical engineer last night and he still didn’t get it. Looks like I’m going to have to write Business Intelligence for Dummys to convey basic business concepts. Only problem is I’m having no good or original ideas.

The Fear has set in and I’m starting to have anxiety attacks and asking myself the proverbial “what the hell am I doing?” questions. Even though I prepared myself and told everyone that I didn’t anticipate making any money for 6 months, the reality of it is much more difficult to handle.

Survival Bahasa


I’m trying to learn Bahasa but its going very slowly. So far I’ve got I, Thank You, Here, 1-5 and Good Night but really I’ve decided there really only three words and one phrase that’s necessary to survive in Jakarta.

Bule = whitey or cracker
Satu Lagi = One More
Tolong = Help
Tolol = Stupid

Armed with these simple phases and the international word OK you can survive even the most difficult situations in Jakarta:

If someone asks what time it is you just yell “TOLONG TOLOL!!!” the person will be so confused they’ll walk away.

If you need another beer, “Satu Lagi Bintang”

If someone asks anything you don’t understand, “Tolol Bule”.

Welcome to Jakarta.

Indonesian Stats


jakarta
  • Indonesia is the 4th largest country by population (240 million) in the world behind China, India and the US
  • Indonesia has 13,000,000 internet users or 5% of the nation (by comparison the is US 208 million or 70%)
  • Indonesia has the largest population of Muslims in the world at 200 million (about 88% of total population)
  • Indonesia is the only Muslim country that is democratic
  • Indonesia about 40% of the country’s population (100 million) live on Java island which is roughly the size of Louisiana, by comparison, has a population of 4 million
  • Jakarta demographics fluctuate from 14 million to 25 million metropolitan population (from 10th to 2nd largest in the world),  depending on the study, and its relatively the same size as San Fransisco which is about 3 million

Gloduk on Chinese New Year

 

So Ive been in Jakarta now for 3 weeks. Heres a  summation: 

  • Stayed with Iwan for 4 days until we found an apartment, conveniently in the same building as him
  • 2 Bedroom/1 Bath, fully furnished in Jakarta Pusat (central) on the 30th floor of an apartment high-rise for $450/month
  • Chinese New Year (Gong Xi Fa Chai sounds like a Starbucks drink) 12 year olds setting off professional grade  fireworks in the parking lot below my balcony. Watching 20 of them gather around while one would light it and then scatter like rats from water was pretty entertaining

Chinese New Year Parade at a local Meda-Mall

 

  • Ate street food on the second week.  Iwan said we couldnt do it until we had our own bathroom
  • Took my first Ojek ride, taken for a metaphorical ride and double charged me
  • Traffic is unreal, plan to get one or two things done a day if I go out
  • 60 minute full body massage $7.50 (no, not the “happy ending” kind), gotta love 3rd world labor expense
  • Laptop computers are over priced and I cant find any used but you can buy $25,000 SQL Server 2008 Enterprise software for $5 at the mall

Ooooh-bama

 

  • Malls are like little cities unto them selves. Grand Indonesia has 9 floors and an East and West wing
  • Im being so frugal I make my coffee in a sauce pan and my toast in a frying pan. Resisted the urge to buy a 5 dollar bottle of A1 sauce last night
  • Released Westwind website (and yes I called up 1998 and borrowed his menu bar)
  • Made my first business connection by pimping out my girlfriend at the pool
  • Internet connection is slower than a 1 legged retard in a potato sack race

Jakarta Garbage Barge


I have few morals left in my life. I recently started using a blackberry, im dating a girl thats 10 years younger than me  and I have poor personal hygiene.  The morals I do have are mostly in place to help me satisfy or justify some selfish tendency. Im much like a grown up baby except i manage to poop and pee in a toilet instead of my pants (except for that one time on a flight from Frankfurt to Orlando but thats a completely different story).

And so it comes to this. My first blog. While I am extraordinarily late to just about every trend Ive participated in, I do like to be educated if not cutting edge and so I did a little research on the history of blogging that Id like to share with you:

40,000 BC: First blogger Thumbs4Ever creates first post on cave wall, friend exclaims “Blaaaaaaaaaaaaaag!”

30 AD: Jesus posts “Really looking forward to diner tonight with the guys, totally gunna get hammered”

1138 AD: Merlin posts code snippet for an invisibility spell entitled “Sorcery Monkey Tricks”

1815: The first flame, blogger Wellingtons1337 to VivaLaEmperor “Blew Buonaparte a part, owned!”

1935: First flog created called “Mien Komputer Isht Pure”

So now its my turn to act like I have something interesting to say. I would bet this is the first blog to ever have Hitler, Jesus, Merlin and Napoleon all in the tags though. Feel free to comment of cross-blog or whatever.