Archive for June, 2010



     

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.    

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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.

Consitution, Resolve and KL Envy


View from the room

 

Lida and I made another visa run this last weekend. This time we made sure everything was in order and went to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was a bit of a sad trip for me, as it will likely be the last “points” trip I take as Im down to about one or two nights in my Starwood account. It reminded me that at the end of the year I will effectively lose all my pride ellite status with United (1K Member), Starwood (Platinum), Hilton (Diamond) and Hertz (Presidents Club). Hertz already down graded me from Presidents Club status to the bourgeoisie 5-Star Club. Come on Hertz, dont hide behind your seemingly salutatory ranks, we all know that 5-Star Club really means, “Thanks for your money but you have to walk an extra 20 yards to get your car and sorry we were only able to upgrade you to an American luxury model, all the Mercedes, Audis and Infinities are rented out”. It was a great final trip though. 

Coincidentally the price of tea in China is directly related to the price of tea in KL

 

We stayed at the Westin Kuala Kumpur and got the obligatory room upgrade to the Executive Level with a perfect view of the Petronas Towers. Of course the kleptomania came pouring out, as it does with any girl that stays at a hotel (Rachael, you still have my coffee cup?). Every morning before leaving, the bathroom would look like a department store post-apocalypse with empty bath room amenities packaging littering the sink and floor, the complimentary water bottles all missing (“gee my backpack seems heavy today”) and a couple pair of slippers stuffed in my suitcase. At one point I think she asked “Can we take the cloths hangers?”. On the way down to the lobby one day I had to physically restrain Lida as the house-keeping lady went by with her cart. 

The first night we found out that KLs night scene is quite a bit more formal. No shorts, no flip-flops and no t-shirts. Of course The Dude here has nothing but, so we werent able to get into Qba, the hotel Cuban bar. We walked down the street until we came upon some kind of Middle East/Indian restaurant/bar. When we walked in there was a dance floor with about 6 Asian or Middle Eastern women dressed in formal Indian dresses taking turns dancing, by themselves, to extremely loud Indian music. Sitting around the dance floor was about 10-20, mostly Indian but looked like some Arabs as well, guys drooling and giving the girls money. So from what I gathered it was pretty much a PG strip club for conservative Easterners. Anyway, it was fun. There was actually a live band playing for a while. 

Chinise Clan Temple

 

The first day was spent in and around Chinatown and Masjid India. Chinatown is basically created for the western tourist and an outlet for all the worthless crap they make in China and cant sell to anyone else. Its an open air market with vendors selling knock off brands of everything imaginable and mostly for extortionary prices all with the intent to make you bargain. Every country and city Ive been to has this and they always claim that haggling is the accepted practice but Ive never seen it as openly accepted as KL. In Morocco it was almost a hostile practice, both Lida and I felt physically threatened at one point or another. Understanding that my resolve would lose me quite a bit of money, I let Lida do the bargaining and it was fun to watch. On average she could get them down 50% of their “final price” and she never wavered from her price no matter how much the vendor begged and pleaded. At the point in which I would have given in she refused to even budge 1 Rinngit (about $.33 USD). In the end most of the stuff we got was crap and Lidas bargaining skills got us everything at fair market value but the money spent was more about the experience than anything. 

Momma and baby just tryin' ta get a nut.

 

On the way back to the hotel that night we got a very nice Hindi cab driver named Samy. Lida, perhaps still high on her victories at Chinatown, talked him into taking us to a couple of spots just outside KL the next day for 200 Rinngit ($66 USD). The one nice thing about KL is the affluence of English speakers. While I blame only myself for the difficulty in communicating in and around Jakarta, its nice that so many people speak English there. They also seem to be, for the most part, very nice people. 

Bhagwan Vino in front of Murugan

 

In the morning we went to Batu Caves. Its a Hindi shrine built into the side of a large rock formation. You climb up 270 steps and into the cave and of course the best part is the monkeys that eagerly await the attention and food from the tourists. I think they were more of the attraction than the temple and shrine. We got there pretty early and beat the tourist buses that were arriving as we left. 

After that we went to Kuching Rainforest Waterfalls. There are about 8 separate levels of varying degree waterfalls. Really there are 5 actual waterfalls, the first is separated from the rest and the first 3 of the main section are fairly heavily populated as they have large pools at their base for swimming. We skipped those and climbed to the last level which was a beautiful isolated waterfall. Not large in flow but perfect to lounge on the rocks with a slight mist and just relax. It got a little awkward when 3 locals came up to take pictures of Lida in her bikini. At first she was ok but after 10 min it was just too obnoxious and she repelled them with her trademark stare. 

We got some great pics on the waterproof but I cant find the cable

 

That night we did some proper shopping. Again I sacrificed my basic morals and betrayed my constitution in buying a plan tshirt with a v-neck. Lida said I looked good, I thought I looked like “a gay”. We also went to an electronics mall and one aspect of this made me reevaluate my decision to live and work in Jakarta. KL has WiMAX

They serve Hefeweizen in the rainforest?! At the Rainforest Sports Bar they do.

 

Interlude: 

If you dont know what WiMAX is, dont worry, its been fairly low key in the states despite being production ready for nearly 10 years. My theory is that all the mobile operators and hardware vendors are still trying to eek out as much profit on their 802.11 (WiFi), 2G and 3G mobile systems and have made an industry pact to delay the release of consumer level technology for WiMAX as long as possible. I know this sounds like some alumnum-foil-hat-conspiracy but hear me out. 

In 2003 I first started reading about it and came up with a brain child for potential non-sequatar use of the technology. Some of you may remember the concept of using it to create digital radio broadcasting, develop hand-held receiver units , control advertisement revenue, then perhaps expand into paid service to allow customization of radio stations and even broadcast your own music. I met a guy in Denver in 2005 that was working for Motorola developing devices to operate on 802.16 technology, he said it wouldnt be consumer ready until 2010. Several cities are using WiMAX to deliver connections to local area networks, but you cant really define as consumer level since the consumer is still connecting via 802.11. 

The most basic functionality of WiMAX however is to deliver broadband internet access wirelessly. It touts the ability to deliver 10 T1 connections in a 30 mile radius for each WiMAX tower. This is equivalent to 100 broadband users. Not sure if this is still the cost but in 2005 equipment for 1 tower (not including the physical tower itself) was about $15-$20K. So you can see the overhead is miniscule compared to Satellite, Cellular or fiber-optic networks. This is great in locales that either have sparse populations that cant justify the capital expense to run lines or, if using the 802.16e variant, deliver a mobile connection. You can start to understand then why its a threat to the mobile service providers investments. With WiMAX, all of the sudden there is no need for the multi-billion dollar satellite infrastructure currently in place, all the cellular towers have to be upgraded and the iPhone (arguably the only thing keep AT&T Wireless in the black) is now just a bigger, slower, more expensive iTouch since you could get the same thing on iTouch by installing Skype and a $40-a-month WiMAX service. Then youre getting all the calls you want, even internationally, for a fraction of the cost and no lame 2 year contracts. 

Yeah, thats right. It says Titi. My name is Matthew and I hale from Lake Titikaka.

 

At any rate, KL has it. $40-a-month, you get a mobile router that you can turn on anywhere in the city and get broadband access. That combined with the excellent transportation system (Monorail and drivers that actually obey traffic signs), friendly people, clean streets and great attractions 10 minutes outside of the city, just made me wonder if I should relocate to KL. Just a thought thought. Its basically what my dream for Jakarta is, but doing it in a metropolitan city of 25 million (Jakarta) is quite differnt than doing it in one of 8 million. 

Ill post again about the Elephant Sanctuary on the 3rd day, which was one of the coolest things on the trip. Ive got tons of great pics from it but this post is running long and I gotta get back to work.  

She was so gentle and sweet.


Hi, Im a Grade A Douche, but not as much as the Marketing Department at NBCSports.com

 I am a huge hockey fan. Maybe it was spending my childhood in cold weather climates (Flagstaff and Buffalo), maybe its the speed of the game, maybe its the almost uniform humility of hockey players (save for a few douche bags) or maybe its because I have a tendency toward physical violence (which I believe is my dads theory).  Either way, I have doggedly supported and followed hockey on a whole for the better part of 10 years.

In 2003 I was a season ticket holder for the Nashville Predators.  During the lock-out I satisfied my desire with AHL, IIHC and the Frozen Four. In 2005 when I became a full-time traveling consultant I bought a Slingbox and subscribed to NHL Center Ice.  When I officially became homeless in 2007 I shared the cost of a fiber internet connection, NHL Center Ice and NHL Network with a friend so I didnt have to compete with the avid professional horseshoe fans at bars when I wanted to watch hockey (they would always win).  In 2008 I traveled to Stockholm to watch the Pittsburg Penguins play the Ottawa Senators and wasnt deterred even after a snub by Crosby and goons at the hotel bar when I wished them “good luck tomorrow”.  And when they introduced the online NHL GameCenter Live subscription service that allows you to watch non-blacked-out games (thats key here cause coverage was spotty at best) I shelled out the $180 and didnt complain when I moved to Indonesia and couldnt use the service because of licencing regulations. For the past 5 years Ive had an ongoing Fantasy Hockey League with friends a former colleagues.

So here I am in Indonesia, constantly battling at the bars over the Australian rules football, futbol, Formula 1 racing, cricket and even profession drifting, to see Stanley Cup playoff games!!!!! I avoid news services all day so I can enjoy my hockey with beer and spring rolls at night, sometimes with friends but mostly by myself.

For the most part my teams never make it out of the first round (Buffalo Sabers and Nashville Predators). So I always adopt a team. This year the Philadelphia Fliers were my team and what a great run (I lived there for a year so thats my excuse). Great drama, excellent games, epic finishes

So here I am tonight with Philly facing elimination is game 6 of the best of 7.  Hoping for just one more game if Philly wins.  At the end of the 1st period its tied up and Philly is looking good, not great but they had a solid finish to the period and Im feeling optimistic.

INTERLUDE:

Ive always loved the NBC coverage of the NHL. After the lockout ESPN dropped NHL coverage, which just exacerbated the above mentioned efforts to see a game in a public place or hotel. The announcers are more educated, the coverage and audio is far better than Verses (i guess if they cant have a camera on a moped they dont know what to do)  and their pre and post game coverage is far more extensive.

At the end of the 1st I get an email. The subject is “Shop Blackhawks Championship….”.  WTF!!!!!!!!!! I have unsubscribed to their useless dribble so many times and yet they constantly send me their crap time after time.  I would love to send an email telling them exactly what I think of them but I know the only emails that get their attention are probably fans of professional lawn bowling and womens volleyball fans.

I just wanted to say thank you NBCSports.com for ruining the Stanley Cup playoffs for me. I hope your website gets attacked by Chinese hackers that replace your home page with pictures of Marv Albert having sex with a donkey.

UPDATE:

It turned out to be a great game.  Midway through the 3rd period my friend called and said “Sorry about overtime”, so I guess I was just destined to have the game ruined for me.  I still hate NBCSports.com and but I forgive you Robert, you were just a part of a greater destiny I guess. I have to say, even though I was depressed about the outcome, I still cant help but smile watching Gary Bettman get booed when handing out the Conn Smyth and the Stanley Cup as well as seeing some of the old-timers finally get to hoist the Cup. Cant wait for next season.