Christmas in Manila

We’ve decided to hang out in Manila for at least part of the 24 day break I’m currently enjoying. We debated heading to the island of Palawan but considering we were just in Jakarta and Bali last month, sticking around home sounds appealing. We may head down to the island south of Luzon, to Puerto Galera, but I was also just there two weeks ago so not sure if that’s a go. In all of Asia, I’d wager that the Philippines is the most active in terms of Christmas celebrations. There’s a definite energy and excitement flowing throughout the city. Sure I’d love to be chilling on an exotic beach, but it’s not so bad hanging around home for once.

Getting back into mountain biking

One of my first obsessions on the internet was pouring over websites and forums in the wee hours of the morning in search of the best mountain bike for my budget. While my massive roommates spent hours surfing pRon, I was bleary eyed from comparing the latest Gary Fishers and Voodoo. This was late 90’s, when I first got into mountain biking. I was midway through university and found biking to be amongst the best of stress relievers. There was something medicinal about getting out on a trail all alone after a day spent in lecture halls. It cleared my mind like nothing else.

Then I moved to Indonesia. I left my beloved Voodoo hardtail with my ex-girlfriend, and decided to share the roads with 18 million people.

Once in Jakarta I had a tough time finding any decent bikes (or bike shops), so giving up, I picked up a sub $400 no-name hardtail with a strong but heavy steel frame. I found myself never venturing out on trails anymore (it was Jakarta after all), and it became my usual mode of transportation to and from work while I gave the sleek little Honda to Novita to use during the day. Without clean trails and blue sky, my interest in biking tapered off and it simply became my daily driver without a spark of enthusiasm.

Fast forward 8 years. We moved to Manila. For the past 20 months I’ve simply been too busy to do much of anything fun, but the other day while walking past a local bike shop I felt a yearning that’s been absent since the early Naughties. I want a bike. Badly. I’m talking a 10-year-old boy’s, “you’ll-shoot-your-eye-out-kid”, kind of ache. I want to get out there again. I want to crash into ravines and get so banged up that I forget florescent lights and grey carpet. I want to let the week’s stress drop off of me like the pounds that will melt as I get back into shape. I want to spend Saturdays lovingly wiping my gear down only to trash it again come Sunday.

Now comes the fun part: choosing. 

A lot has changed since I was last into biking. Disc brakes had just come out, full suspension was only for very specialized needs (and sky high price-wise), and 29″ was pretty much unheard of. Now it’s hydraulic discs, carbon fiber, full suspension, 29ers, and 30 speed? I’ve already started descending into the abyss that is obsessive research, but it’s the good kind of obsession (unless you ask Novita). It’s exactly the same way I get with camera gear.

It’s unfortunate my passions are so expensive, but then again there are far worse things to spend your money on: gambling, exotic cars, Russian mail-order brides, a meth problem.

Let the good times roll.


Jakarta 2010 recap

After only a week in Jakarta, we’ll head back to Manila tonight at 1AM.

It’s been a very different kind of holiday (well, compared to Boracay), but good nonetheless.

There’s definitely a different feeling to Jakarta when returning as a tourist. Most of my friends have moved on to other countries, and Novita’s family was quite busy to hang out much. I ended up spending a lot of time in Kelapa Gading simply because it’s the area I know best.

I didn’t have my car, so I was thrown into the heat head-on. I’m not sure if it’s the temperature difference or humidity, but this week I found Jakarta more uncomfortable than the current weather in Manila. Then again, Manila does get a bit cooler but also a bit warmer – we just happen to be coming out of the cooler season there. And by ‘cooler’ I mean like 3-5 degrees. But man, after 8 years of living on the equator, I’ve grown to appreciate those 5 precious degrees like you wouldn’t believe.

The gastronomical reacquaintance was another story. It was so nice to dig into some bebek monggo, sambal hijau, nasi merah, mie ayam, cumi bakar, etc. Oddly enough my stomach shrugged all the spices off with the confidence of a linebacker. As I write this, Novita is off hunting for spices to bring back to Manila. Hopefully the customs officers will be in a good mood at 5AM.

It’s always hard to please everyone on a week long trip – especially with friends in all ends of the city and in all walks of life. We weren’t able to juggle our time well enough to meet up with all our friends. But then again, we’ll always be returning periodically to Indonesia, so it’s not that big of a deal – hope we’re forgiven.

Sampai nanti.

Heading to Jakarta, Indonesia tonight

We’re leaving tonight for Jakarta. We’ll be there for a week visiting family and friends. Fortunately, one of my close friends will also be in Jakarta for a couple of days. When he first got to Indonesia, he actually lived with me for 5 months; haven’t seen him in 4 years.

Novita will have a chance to be with her family, friends, and her beloved spicy sambal, while I catch up with friends and visit my old stomping grounds. We may be able to organize some sort of tweetup as well for those that are keen.

Looking forward to going ‘home’.

Looking for a condo in Manila – Concrete + space vs green + proximity

As much as we love our glass palace in the sky, we’re considering moving.

It’s going to be tough giving up the space – 235 sq meters (2500 sq feet), 4 bedroom / 4 1/2 bath + maid’s quarters, the views from 500 feet up, the floor to ceiling windows…

Our new apartment - living room
Our new apartment - cafe corner

However, we’re willing to sacrifice space for greener living. We’re quite literally in the midst of a concrete jungle. Towering skyscrapers, bustling sidewalks, concerete everywhere – which is great if you’re into city living. I think I’ve adjusted well to living in these Asian metropolises – especially considering I was raised in a town of 10,000. But I’m feeling this nagging urge for more green and less driving.

Most of my coworkers are keen to live in houses, and there are some great options out there, (and they’re far far larger for the same price) but after 7 years of a house in Jakarta, we’re still content in the convenience of condos.

We’ll take a serious hit for space – lopping off 2 bedrooms and probably 100 sq meters. And here’s the crazy part – it actually will cost more. But, for this phase in our life this feels like a better fit.



We’ve viewed no less than 30 units throughout Makati and Fort Bonifacio in primarily Rockwell (bottom image) and Serendra (top image), in addition to a few homes. We’ve scoured the internet, and have an army of brokers dragging us around. At this point I think I could tell someone exactly which building, unit size, and amenities they could get for a particular budget – I’ve viewed that many.

I’m open to suggestions still (and available units), and if anyone would like to learn from my experiences feel free to ask. After this is said and done, I may be able to recommend some brokers and services. (but let’s see them come through for me first!)

We have yet to secure a condo, so I don’t want to jinx ourselves just yet, but I think (hope?) we’re on the right path to finding something more ideal. Here’s to happy hunting for condos in Manila.

Small world

Small world.

Saturday, I get a call from a friend, “Hey you know Racquel?”

Yeah, I do, but only on Twitter. She helped me with various questions regarding moving to Manila from Jakarta. She was a fantastic resource and very helpful.

“Well, she’s here hanging out if you wanna drop by.”

… huh … ?

Turns out Racquel’s fiance was in my friend’s wedding – as his best man. They were over at his place hanging out and apparently the discussion of an American photographer came up, hence the connection.

My friend doesn’t use Twitter and I know him and his wife only ‘offline’ (went with them to Batangas last month). Both are expats, whereas Racquel and her fiance are Filipino.

It’s exciting to see the power of connections and to get a glimpse, yet again, of how small this world really can be nowadays.

Careful out there, you may just know the stranger next to you.

Digital downloads vs physical media: How will developing countries keep up?

There was an article on today making note of EA – Electronic Arts CEO saying:

“When people think of games, they traditionally think, in the U.S., of what sells on the Xbox, the PlayStation, and the Wii, and they forget about all these online services that are out there… if you add all that stuff up, it’s almost half the industry now. It’s about 40 to 45 percent. Next year it’s likely to be the larger share of the total industry and it’ll be bigger than the console games all put together.”

Engadget went on to expand on the topic:

“Of course, he’s not just talking about XBLA and the App Store — this is an all-encompassing view of the digital market, including casual gaming, Facebook apps, and WoW transactions as well.”

This got me thinking about physical media (CDs, DVDs, Blue-Ray, etc) versus digital distribution.

Working in the technology field, I can see definite advantages to digital downloads for both sides – the company and the consumer. I think Apple’s App Store has been a tremendous push in the right direction for helping otherwise unknown developers reach a market they may never have been otherwise able to enter. And surely digital downloads can help stem the pirate market that’s so absurdly available in Asia. Side note – it’s actually easier for me to find pirated movies than real DVDs in both Jakarta and Manila.

When I’m lying on my couch with my iPhone and can purchase, download, and play a game without burning more than 10 calories or even breaking out my credit card, I smile in the knowledge that the future is washing over us like a warm wave of innovation. In the past few years, these type of digital delivery systems have become a welcome change for many people, and for those with fast internet access it encourages a new way of working and playing.

The rise of internet capable TVs, mobile internet access, media centers (Apple TV, etc), and services like Netflix have allowed us to watch what we want, when we want, and often where we want. In some ways perhaps it slightly diminishes pollution by reducing the need to drop by a physical store, reduces the plastic waste of DVDs, CDs, and games, and maybe even gives us more quality time with family. (ok, I’m reaching – as we’re also spending less time socializing if we’re glued to these easily accessible movies and games it seems)

But are we ready for all this?

Consider, for example, the fact that the vast majority of the world does not have access to fast internet (or any personal internet at all). Whereas these populations can currently enjoy CDs, DVDs, and games without the need for internet access, what happens when companies begin the shift to all digital distribution? Is the digital divide once again widened, and the rift harder to cross?

What happens to the second-hand market for games and movies? (I’m not talking about pirated media) Part of what I enjoy about books and movies is being able to loan out a favorite to a friend so that they may also derive similar pleasure. Is that destined to be a nostalgic memory of the past?

Also consider this: as HDTV sales explode and people are striving to fill these higher resolution screens with HD media and Blue-Ray movies, and PS3 games begin to head toward 40+GB of data, are we ready for downloads of this size? Perhaps in South Korea, Japan, parts of Europe, and the States this is currently possible, but it would take me literally days – even a week to download a file of that size – and I’m at the “top of the line” internet package in my area of Manila.

Physical media, basically etched plastic, are just modern phonographs. They scratch, break, scuff, get lost, and are generally easy to pirate. They’re limited by size (which is feeling increasingly tiny – 700mb CDs vs 32GB USBs?), they require moving parts to operate, the list goes on and on. CDs have been around since the early 80’s, DVDs for over a decade, and in many ways Blue-Ray feels like a last attempt to stave off the future. There are all kinds of reasons to move towards digital distribution. As cloud computing becomes the norm, and hard drives fade into history, the idea that we actually own copies of media and cart them around with us will feel as archaic as the notion of jogging with a 2lb CD walkman and a bag of discs banging our hips.

I support the idea of moving towards digital distribution and always-available media – it’s an exciting and inevitable part of the future, especially with the increasingly mobile lifestyle; it’s the infrastructure I don’t think is ready, nor will be any time soon. I also throw caution at fact that many, many people may be left behind. Having spent the better part of a decade living in developing nations, my perspective is quite different than it would be in the States. I’ve experienced, first hand, internet speeds that make a grown man weep, entire malls devoted to pirated media, and I own no less than 10 different devices that play CDs/DVDs/ or Blue-Ray. (no counting the solid state devices). Would I like to see some sort of simplification, convergence, and a more standardized method for media distribution? Bet your ___ I would.

What I don’t want to see is these developing nations left in the dust. If the world is indeed flat, and we raise the requirements of accessibility, are we doing more harm than good? If you’re reading this on your 50MBPS internet line, 3.5G mobile network, or happen to live in Tokyo, I’m guessing this isn’t much of a concern. But will a high school student in Java, Indonesia seeking documentaries be cut off from the opportunity to learn if physical media is no longer an option? I’m not saying we shouldn’t move forward – just that we should create accommodations for those less fortunate.

What’s the answer? How will we bridge that gap amongst countries? How should companies address developing nations as they move toward this model of distribution? When do you predict we’ll see the majority of our media consumption come from digital distribution?

7 years of blogging: The Java Jive turns 7.

This month marks the seventh year of this blog.

A tremendous amount has changed in these seven years, and through it all, I’ve kept this old thing running – something I never envisioned in 2002 as a naive, fresh-off-the-plane expat. In many ways I supposed I’ve “grown up” in front of anyone who has followed this blog; writing styles have changed, perspectives altered, and life experiences have dramatically morphed my views of the world.

The archives aren’t functioning ideally at the moment (only displaying about two years worth of posts), so you’re better off doing a search if there’s something you’re looking for.

Taking a look back, there have been some vibrant times. Through the good and the bad, here are a few interesting posts I dug up:

The beginning of Novita and I.

Earning supplemental income: How to make money in your spare time?

Earning supplemental income: Part 2 – Ideas and brainstorming

Quarter Life Crisis: Part One (Life as an Expat)

Western Men, Indonesian Women.

Earthquake and Devastation (Asian Tsunami 2004)

Jakarta Floods 2007

Floods in Jakarta

Solar eclipse as seen from Jakarta

Expat experiences: making new friends, approaching foreigners

When friends leave

Muara Karang – A Glimpse of the Past

Bule Behavior Defined.

You Can’t Title a Post Like This

Instructions for the Tourist

What is your best photo of 2008?

Multiple exposures – the best of both worlds

Moving to Manila, Philippines