Not sure I enjoy being a student again

I’ve had to pull back on my blogging this year due to my increased workload. In addition to working full time and managing a life outside of work, I spend many of my evenings and weekends completing coursework. Fortunately, this hellish workload should be finished by May and I can resume photography and blogging at my usual pace. In the meantime, I’ll continue positing as I can; I’ve managed to keep this thing alive for 8 1/2 years and am not about to stop.

The good news is I aced my most recent case study (which consumed my Christmas holiday entirely).

Earthquake in Manila

At about 1:30pm as I was sitting at my desk, the chair and table started swaying. Even after 8 months of living in Manila, I’m still not used to these earthquakes (I didn’t grow up with earthquakes). I work in Fort Bonifacio which actually lies right next to a huge fault line that runs up C-5; a bit frightening in some ways.

Within seconds the confirmations of a quake came in not from the news but via Twitter:

I was at work this time, only on the 2nd level of a building – yet at home I would have been 500 feet up in our highrise – that’s where it gets freaky.

The USGS puts this one at 6.1.

Massive fire north of Makati, Manila – November 16, 2009

I looked out my living room window to see this massive blaze north of Makati, Manila. I searched the news and Twitter but didn’t see any reports at all.

I took photos and video with the Canon 5D mk II and a 70-200mm + 1.4x teleconverter

Massive fire in Manila, November 16, 2009 (by javajive)

Massive fire in Manila, November 16, 2009 (by javajive)

Massive fire in Manila, November 16, 2009 (by javajive)

*Update* – I found the following news article this morning:

MANILA – A fire hit a slum area in Mandaluyong City Monday evening and burned an estimated 1,000 homes affecting about 5,000 families.

The Mandaluyong City Central Fire Station said many of the the houses at the Welfareville Compound in Barangay Addition Hills were razed.

The fire reportedly started about 7 p.m.

The Bureau of Fire Protection raised the fire alarm to Task Force India which meant that all firefighters and volunteers in the National Capital Region were asked to respond.

Fire investigators have yet to say the cause of the blaze which late evening was declared already under control.

Investigators said that the fire quickly spread since most of the houses were made of light materials.

An estimated 5,000 families were left homeless.

City officials arrived and announced to affected residents that they will be temporarily relocated to a nearby school. The school will reportedly have to suspend classes Tuesday since the affected residents were expected to still use its facilities.

Massive explosion and fire in Plumpang near my home in North Jakarta / followed by flooding

At about 9:20pm, Sunday January 19 a massive explosion occurred at the Pertamina fuel depot behind my housing complex. I was speaking with Novita when the shockwave rocked my home, with a sound as if a linebacker had put his shoulder into my door.

My first thought was of thunder or an earthquake. But then I realized it was an explosion. Walking out onto my balcony confirmed that thought – the sky was pulsating with a deep crimson. Huge flames were soon licking the sky, belching black sooty smoke skyward.

Without a second thought, I told Novita to get in the car. She thought I was overreacting and felt we should remain home until we knew more details. I knew that the fuel depot was quite large with many storage units – if one had blown it would be possible that a domino effect could occur – and with the depot only a few hundred meters from our home, I wasn’t taking ANY chances.

My neighbors were calm – just stepping out of their homes, some asking where we were going, but no one appeared to be leaving. We drove about a kilometer away to my workplace, where we waited for about half an hour. The sky was pulsing with more intensity and Novita finally convinced me to return to our home briefly to pick up the vital necessities. (yes, I did grab my camera gear – I’m a fanatic)

When we prepared to leave the second time, the scene in my neighborhood was much different – a bit of paranoia had set in and people were scrambling to get out.

There was no news covering the explosion, and the only source of communication that I found useful was Twitter. I attempted to keep people up to date since there was no news from major media.

We were offered a chance to stay with friends nearby and welcomed their invitation. Once things were secure and safe, we were able to gain full perspective of what had happened. The TV stations were already at the scene by this time, allowing Jakartans a better view of what was happening.

The Jakarta Globe used Twitter to ask for permission to call and interview me. The results of which may be read via this link and this link.

My friend took his motorcycle out to get a better look, and from near the scene, was able to get some amazing footage from his video camera. Later in the evening CNN called and he provided them with the video from the explosion.

I considered going back to take photos from a higher vantage point, but as I was preparing to leave, a torrential downpour began, changing my plans.

The rains brought bad flooding in Kelapa Gading, which have trapped us all day at our friend’s home. The only vehicles making it through the roads were trucks and SUVs. We’ve arranged for transportation to get home for the evening, but will leave our car here for now.

The cause of the explosion is still unknown, as quoted from The Jakarta Post:

“Jakarta Police promised to investigate the cause of the blaze but could not say if the fire was caused by an accident or by sabotage.

Police last year uncovered a plot to blow up the Plumpang depot, and detained five men who they said were members of regional militant group Jemaah Islamiyah.”

Never a dull moment in Indonesia.


BBC video showing the fire

The Twitter Post

A phenomenon has swept across the internet. Twitter.

No, it’s not new, in fact it was developed in March 2006 according to Wikipedia. I personally started using it in March of 2007, after reading Kottke proclaim:

“Twitter is the first thing on the web that I’ve been excited about in ages. Like years. The last thing was probably Flickr.”

I used it consistently since first joining, updating at a steady rate of about 1 ‘tweet’ per day. I approached it with the parallel mindset of posting a blog entry or a photo to Flickr. All was well in my slow and steady Twitter world, until the end of September 2008. My Twitter updates skyrocketed, and my network expanded. View the graph below. (only goes back one year)

Twitter posts by month:

This is due to two primary factors: my iPhone 3G and the discovery of ‘jtug’ – Jakarta Twitter Users Group. This has radically changed my Twitter experience, and completely enhanced the usage of Twitter for me. The iPhone enables me to use Twitter anywhere, and the Twitterific application is generally a pleasure to use, both on the iPhone and the desktop based version.

The Jakarta Twitter Users Group is a congregation of primarily Indonesian users based mostly in Jakarta. They’re a wonderful, vibrant, and positive conglomeration of Twitter users from diverse backgrounds, who often post in English (but the Bahasa Indonesia usage is helping me to learn more!). As an expat living in Jakarta, I find it refreshing to meet many new Indonesians that I most likely would not have had the chance to get to know. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet up with many of them in ‘real life’ offline as well, opening up a new world of friendships that otherwise would never have sprouted.

I pulled some data from TweetStats to view a breakdown of my own Twitter usage.

Here are the visual results.

By hour of the day:

As you can see, generally I peak first thing in the morning, usually in reply to the messages sent overnight, or to those people I follow in the States, Europe, etc.

Around 3-4pm it picks up again, as I’m leaving work or arriving at home.

And finally around 9pm is the third peak of the day, generally after the gym and dinner in the couple of hours before I sleep.

Conversations trends:

  • The first conversations of the day tend to be more tech based, news related, tips for working, and replies to overnight tweets.
  • The afternoon conversations are often more casual, unwinding, reflections on the day, social tweets.
  • The evening conversations seem to snowball; sometimes totally quiet, but other times, this is when some of the Jakarta users go crazy and begin Twittering like crazy. Some of the oddest and most entertaining chats happen in the evening.

By day of the week:

Having spent so much time online during the week, I tend to break away from the internet on weekends. Monday through Wednesday, as with many online services (and hits to my blog), tend to be higher on these days than later in the week.

And finally, what Twitter client I prefer to use:

The client I’ve traditionally used is Twitterific, on both the Mac as well as the iPhone. Twitterific remains one of my favorite clients for its simplicity and small size. However, I’ve dabbled with a few others, and most recently found TweetDeck to be a nice option if you’re using a second monitor, or have a large screen. On a laptop I think it requires too much screen space. However, when using a second monitor, it’s great for organizing contacts by group, replies, and direct messages.

Some of you are thinking, “How do you find the time?”. Well, first off, I work in front of a computer most of the day. Secondly, I actually have quite a few professional contacts and coworkers that use Twitter to bounce ideas, share links, and communicate quickly with. I often work with many applications open at once, and can quickly glance over at Twitter without losing focus on my current task.

Ironically, very few of my family members are on Twitter (but Novita is!), and somehow it seems odd to know what my contacts are eating, reading, watching but yet, have no idea what my own family is ___, ___, ___,. Is this wrong? Well, perhaps not, as email is still my preferred way to keep in touch with them as it allows for more introspection than 140 characters provides (Twitter’s maximum message length). But it would be great to see more of my friends/family/Flickr/Facebook contacts join Twitter. If you wish to follow me, my username is (surprisingly) ‘javajive‘.

Many people recommend following each and every person that follows you. I do not share this opinion. I’d much rather follow 100 witty, intellectual, interesting people that I can keep track of, than hundreds of people that simply fill my account with static.

If you’re just getting started, it may help to have a purpose, to have an idea of why you’re going to create this network, and what kind of contacts you’d like to follow. A great site that offers many interesting articles, tips, and resources regarding Twitter is TwiTip. Here’s an article in Wired about its exploding popularity. Monitter is an awesome site for real-time keyword searches (just try it!) and gives an example of the potential for future news and information in streaming real-time.

What does the future hold for Twitter? Is this a fad that will die out? Will it morph over time? Will it become a Friendster-ish decay?

Surely Twitter will change dramatically for better or worse. But more importantly it represents the power of simplicity. People have video chat, podcasts, instant messengers, tumblr, blogs, facebook, myspace, flickr, etc, etc, etc. And yet, with the advent of services like Twitter, or another example, the mini-games that you can pick up and play on the iPhone/Touch, or the approach to blogging as Posterous presents (just need to know how to use email), the people have spoken. They appreciate quick, direct, and simple tools in this perpetually advancing landscape of technology and complexity.

Photo Friday noteworthy

Picked up another ‘PhotoFriday’ noteworthy win with the photo, “Chimera” for the interpretation of “The Extraordinary”.

Haven’t been posting much lately since my sister has been in town this week on her way from Australia to the States. She’s leaving today, and will be in the States for a month before heading back to the land Down Under.

By the way, this is not why I was so ecstatic the other day. More news about that coming on Monday.