Friday, April 10, 2009

Regarding Java Jazz '09 and 'Going Green'


Yeah, it was early last month when the event was held, and this little essay is perhaps a bit way overdue, but I'll go on ahead anyways and start rambling about it.

I like the fact that they went through the pain of staging this thing called a website for their ticketing purposes, complete with a feature so commonly called 'payment by credit card'. In my mind's eye I was thinking printing ticket complete with barcodes a la's online boarding pass printing feature. This little wishful thinking, however, got dashed by the simple fact that they didn't (immediately) send confirmation e-mail after ticket purchase. I actually had to wait for about 2 weeks until my confirmation e-mail was sent to my inbox. A friend even had to call 'em up for this to be done. Which completely nullified the whole purpose of creating a website.

So much for boarding pas... I mean ticket printing feature.

What they did provide was a page where you could type in your confirmation code (you got this after the ticket purchase, a good thing I noted it down before I closed down my browser) and print a semi-boardi-, I mean a ticket pick-up note. This, along with your ID, were to be used to pick up the tickets at the Sultan Hotel (previously known as the Hilton Hotel) a few days before the event.

Which was where I found myself queueing up in a line which length you could not possibly believe possible on one floor of a hotel building a few days after I printed the damn thing. It took me 2 and a half hours to finally get myself in front of the ticketing booth and another 15 minutes waiting for them to look for where-the-hell-are-his tickets. The upper torso of the well-behaved-under-the-circumstances-ticketing-officers were covered in t-shirts that greeted me with a slogan of "Go Green". At that point it was a miracle I did not puke.

First thing, the act of printing countless numbers of pick-up notes was already an act that goes against that slogan (I could literally hear trees falling in distant Sumatra and Kalimantan that day). Second thing, the act of THEM printing tickets...need I say more? (the sound of more trees falling...). What they could've done was to at least note down any ID numbers during the online ticket purchase. These ID numbers would serve as both confirmation AND ticket during the event. All the attendees need to do would be to present their ID (and for added security, the credit card used to buy the tickets) during the start of the event, and the admittance counter need only check whether the ID exists in their database. No need at all to print boardi-, I mean, pick-up notes or tickets. This would have also helped a lot of attendees who were coming from abroad who could not provide a legitimate authorization letter during ticket pick up (which was necessary if they asked someone else to pick the tickets up for them).

But who am I to say, eh? I was not the one who held the event...

At this point, let's take a slight detour in this essay while our minds are still fresh on the whole "Go Green" thing. As some of you may noticed, this "Go Green" slogan has been the fad these days, especially with corporations. I had a discussion with a good friend (Mike, in case you're wondering, yes I'm talking bout you) late yesterday night regarding the matter. This is basically what he said to me: On the surface, you might be thinking: why the change of heart? Big Corps never give a damn about Mother Earth before. So why now? You must know that "Go Green" is an alias for an old Big Corp holy words: cost cutting. You would probably be asking again, why now? I could only suspect that scientists (and a whole lot of other people who bother with statistics) have come up with enough statistical evidence showing that "Going Green" is beneficial to cutting cost, thus rasing the bottomline. People who were inclined to think that such gesture was due to altruism would probably be disappointed. But let's face it, given the current situation of Mother Earth, anything that environmentalists could get their squeeky clean hands on to be used as a weapon to fight for the sake of our planet are welcomed. Even if these are not of purely altruistic manner. But it would be silly if "Go Green" becomes a metric in Big Corps KPI.

(for those of you not in the know out there, KPI stands for key performance index... before you ask further what it really is, it all boils down to whether or not you get your salary raise/bonus at the end of the year... directly or indirectly...

Yeah, it's a load of BS alright, both KPI and my explanation of it).

End of detour.

Now, back to Java Jazz '09, the event (not the pain-in-the-@$$ ticketing process, or the lack of it). I watched with dread as I queued up in one of the long lines of miserable attendees on the first day of the event. No, this time it was not about how ridiculously long the queue was (I had given up hope on a quick, clean and efficient queueing process here in Jakarta long even before the ticket pick up event). This time, it was about the content of the event itself. I was (sigh) expecting that at least they put up accoustically-sound, enclosed spaces for the performers. I mean, it's jazz mon! I would imagine that I wanna get personal when listening to it. Instead, they put 'em up on stages in one big room, sharing the same airspace, duking it out on who's louder (between performers and, sadly, with attendees as well). It was like watching museum exhibits where people move about freely, making unnecessary noises that drowns the music, while the performers were put on displays like some antiques from God-knows-where. It was not Java Jazz, mon, it was chaos. Or perhaps this is what Java Jazz is all about, which means perhaps that this is not my crowd, mon.

At least Jason Mraz did not disappoint (eventhough the guy had to put up with some cultural differences when it comes to live performances).

To be fair, I did not come to the second and third day of the event. It was probably better by then. But the first day did not show any promises, so why bother anyways? No more Java Jazz for me in the coming years, methinks. At least, not until I see them boarding passes.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama's Inauguration Address

Like millions of people in the US and around the world, me and my brother was waiting for Obama's inauguration speech on January 20th 2009. The timing falls smack dab in the middle of the night between January 20th 2009 and January 21st 2009, Jakarta time. It's the first time in the history of the world that an African American is inaugurated as president of the United States, and both of us felt that it was way more than worth it to watch the whole proceeding on TV. It was historic.

I still remember one particular day in '07 when I was staying in the US for business purposes. I was at a local bookstore near my apartment and I saw Obama's book. It just came to my attention then that he was running for president. I could only smile, remembering that racial issues run deep in any country, and I thought to myself it would still be awhile until an African American can be a president of the United States (much more so for a Chinese to be president in Indonesia...fat chance). Then my friend pointed out that Obama's stepfather was Indonesian. Interesting piece of fact, I said to myself. I smiled, and just said to my friend that indeed it would be really interesting if he gets elected (the Indonesian connection, dude! It sure will get people back home talking). But, I added, that the probability of such thing seemed to be rather small.

The bastard proved me wrong.
Which was a good thing.

Forward again to the present. 3 hours before the ceremony we were already glued to the TV screen. We tuned in to CNN and they were showing how crowded it was outside of Capitol Hill building. Sea of people came to watch the inauguration ceremony, and many more tuned in from around the US and around the world (including the both of us). Many among these people who came to Capitol Hill were African American, and I could understand why. Their dream has suddenly come true.

I've heard how Obama delivers speech, and I would like to hear what he has to say on his inauguration. From what I've read in many news and magazines, it seemed that he has been bracing for tough times ahead. He hit the ground running, even before he was inaugurated, choosing people for his administration and prepping them for a tough 4 years and working from a humble transition office. He scheduled a 5-hour meeting one day after he got elected. The man definitely don't want to waste time. I would like to see what he has in store for his inauguration.

He surely was prepared, and in control of himself. It was only a little tid bit, but during the swearing in I thought he stumbled and forgot his lines. But after the address was over a CNN commentator stated that it was not his forgetting his lines but it was the other person's fault. He actually remembered and was waiting for the other guy to correct his own mistakes. He was calm and collected during the entire ceremony.

And now about the address.

The address immediately took a sober tone right at the beginning, listing all major crisis the Americans are facing and the mistakes that the country as a whole have made. He calls for Americans to start getting up and start doing some real actions of wasting time in political debates. It was like saying "Ask not what your country can do for you" but in a "get up off your lazy bum and start getting it real" kind of tone. He also stated that America is willing to mend relations but is not hesitant to take a hard stand should some choose to resort to violent means.

The address was quite multidimensional, citing not only political and economical matters, but called forth the American heritage and the old values that still hold true up until today (old values that applies to everyone, not only Americans). It also reminded how far the Americans have gone since the time of the slavery and the segregation, reminded them not because of trying to open up old wound but to show what people could achieve if they have the courage to put body and soul into it.

All in all, the inauguration address was quite a wake-up call for Americans. And in my opinion it should also be a wake-up call to everyone in the world as citizen of the Earth. Obama certainly had no reservations on delivering such a hard, sober speech. Even I was cringing many times during the address. Those were not easy words.

The address was delivered without flaw. In this regard I'd like to say that Obama is indeed a charismatic orator. For a script of the address, please go to this link and for the video of the address go to this link.

It was indeed a historic moment. America is not my country, but it's hard not to share the excitement over this historic moment. I grew up in Indonesia, but along the way I come to appreciate the values that they uphold, values that we in Indonesia said to uphold as well but in reality almost do not exist. Even these days, I thought that these values have gone from the face of the Earth, that perhaps they only exist in fairy tales, but now the Americans have proved me wrong.

The road ahead for them is still unclear. Obama still has to put his words into actions. We shall see that in the next 4 years. But his inauguration is indeed an important milestone in the history of the world.

On November 4th 2008 and January 20th 2009, every Americans have every rights to be proud.

The Millionaire Slumdog

Movie Review
Slumdog Millionaire

Directed by: Danny Boyle

Co-directed by: Loveleen Tandan

There has been quite a lot of good words said about this movie. A friend who's a movie freak told me about it once, and the movie popped up in Time magazine just a tad later after hearing it from him. The movie then won the Golden Globe award for best picture, and it became a must-see in my list (actually, any movie mentioned by my movie-freak friend usually ends up in my must-see list).

After acquiring a copy of the movie (through a rather illegal yet generally acceptable means, if you catch my drift), I went straight ahead and saw it along with my brother in a crampy room we called home. The story is of a young Indian man who is arrested because he is under suspicion of cheating in a well-known TV game show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" (the Hindi version). As the interrogation comes along, he explains why he knows the answers to the questions asked during the show and revelations about his childhood unfolds. Ultimately, the true purpose of his participating in the show slowly unveils itself.

At first, the movie's cinematography, tone of colors, dark social themes, and acting reminded me of another great movie from a few years back. The movie in question was "City of God". For those have seen it will understand what I am referring to. The theme at first surrounds the harsh life of street children (albeit set in different places, times, and social settings) and gangster life. As the movie moves along, however, the story subtly transforms itself into a sort of gritty fairy tale love story. In this regard, the movie manages to beautifully blend the gritty aspects of life along with the sort of fairy tale-ness worthy of Hollywood fame.

There's a lot to love about the movie for everyone: excellent cinematography, great screenplay, wonderful acting (all of the cast are Hindis, many are unknown to me*), gritty-yet-beautiful backdrops and (there it is yet again) a great story. To sweeten the deal, the soundtrack accompanying the movie is also wonderful (it won the Golden Globe as well, apparently). They even threw in a bit of dancing at the end of the movie (during credit rolls) as a homage to Bollywood. This will definitely please fans of Hindi movies.

So, there you go. A movie that will be loved by men because of the (slightly) harsh theme but will also be loved by women for its fairy tale-ness. As always, do yourself a favor and watch this instant classic. It is destined to be one, afterall.

*note: most likely because I don't watch Hindi movies in general.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Good Bye, Manila.

It sort of sucks to realize that you really miss something after it's gone for 3 months.

It came unexpectedly. Was on a casual conversation with a colleague when he asked about my previous assignment. I started talking about how it was, and found myself uncomfortably silent after finishing my story. All the images of the places I've been to and the people I know rushed through my mind, and I felt a heavy weight over my heart.

For the next couple of days focusing on work was quite a feat. My mind would wander through the memories I have of the place I called home for 2 years. Tears came, and keeping them in check was not easy. I exchange messages to my driver in the Philippines, and pour my heart out to some close friends. I felt a sort of tugging in my chest and a bit of labored breathing, the kind that you feel when you're about to cry like a baby. But I could not let go. Not at work, at least.

What is it about the Philippines that I love? I remember having some reservations about the place the first time I got there. About how old and run-down the buildings looked, how empty and quiet the streets were on weekends. But over time, it grew on me. The deserted sidewalks (on weekends), the busy traffic (so unlike Jakarta's which lies on the extreme end of hectic), the malls just across the street from my apartment, the company of people I lived (and worked) with (amazing set of people), the sunny blue skies and the beautiful beaches (Batanes, oh Batanes...when will I see your rolling hills and your rocky seas again...).

I used to compare Manila to Jakarta and found that Jakarta's much more developed. The roads there were half the size of what you usually see here, the buildings were older than Jakarta's shiny new office buildings. But overtime I started appreciate the fact that even though the buildings were old they were well-maintained. The roads might have only half the size, but there were less cars which means less traffic jam and less stress. The drivers were not honkers, unlike Jakarta drivers who pretty much connect their honkers to the brake pedals.

And there were the blue skies and the white sandy beaches. I don't want to get started on these. Labored breathing and the tugging, I couldn't take it for the time being.

The place wouldn't mean much if not for the people there and the things that I learned and experienced. These people taught me a lot of things and played a big part in making my experience in the Philippines unforgettable. And if I didn't seem to elaborate more on this, it's just the fact that there's so much I could say that this one entry will become too long if I do so. These people were something (such an understatement...).

Last but not least, I had my own space, and people left me alone when I wanna be alone. A privilege I rarely acquired back in Jakarta.

As I was packing my stuff and getting ready to leave Singapore after staying there for an assignment for 2 weeks, a familiar feeling like a deep sadness came over me. The sight of an open luggage half-filled with clothes and toiletries reminded me of the sadness that usually came over me whenever it is time for me to leave a place that I've grown accustomed to. I felt it when I had to leave Manila for the US back in '07. I felt it again when I had to leave the US back to Manila. And I tried to suppress it (and still does up until now) when it was time for me to finally leave Manila for good (it had been 3 months since then...and yet it felt like yesterday). I will always dread the sight of that half-filled luggage for the rest of my life.

I guess I have been running away and trying to fool myself. Running away from saying good bye, and fooling myself by thinking that it's not over. Not yet.

Fortunately, I was not alone. Most of the people I knew who went to the Philippines during those time felt the same way. They missed the place, and would from time to time reminisce about our time there. The good ol' Manila days. At the very least I could take comfort from this and treasure the moments we shared together and the bond the we created during those time.

But, as a friend puts it, "It's never coming back. There will never be such time again. But boy was it good."

And so, it's over.

With a heavy heart, I must admit that it is time to say,

Good bye, Manila, and good bye Project Olympic.
You are one among my many memories that make me glad to be alive.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Turning 30

I felt like writing something about my turning 30 the other day (or was it earlier than that?). But along the way the urge just dissipated bit by bit. And now seems like I'm at the last few precious drops of that urge, and the rest has just gone down the drain. Since I have nothing to do at the moment (a nicer way of saying that I'm bumming around), I decided to make use of these last few drops and pour them down to writing an entry. This will be one of those entry where the structure is unclear and would seem like coming from a scatterbrained person (which is exactly who I really am). Whatever.

So, perhaps I could begin by pondering why the urge dissipated. For one, perhaps because my birthday has already passed by. It was only one day anyways and it happened a few days before. It is in the past. And maybe because I already had 29 of 'em before. 30 years. 30 times the Earth has rotated around the sun since I came out of that wet place. Depending on how you see it, it could be a big deal (wow, the Earth rotates around the sun! Marvelous scientific wonder!) or it could also be a meh thing (meh, so what if the Earth rotates around the sun...happens every year...). So yeah, there you go. Turning 30 just because of the fact that the Earth has rotated around the sun for 30 times since that 'fateful' day.

People would probably write up about their birthdays because of what they have achieved so far in life at that moment, and what they are planning to achieve even more in the future. What have I achieved? Depending on how you see it, it can be a lot, and it can be none at all. Einstein's theory keeps popping up here and there in this entry...

Well, yeah, I've been to and seen places I thought I'd see later on in my life, got a sum of money which number of zeros I thought I'd never see displayed in my bank account (and realized that it's never enough), met a lot of colorful people (literally and figuratively), discovered the joy of music and photography (remember what I said just now about how money will never be enough?) and pretty much created a mess here and there from time to time. But you don't need birthdays to commemorate these things, do you? Just stop once in awhile and you'll come to realize this. Just make sure you don't stop too long.

So, what's in a birthday anyways? Popular culture seems to have establish it as a big thing. Marketing goes into full throttle. Hallmark's got a lot of profit out of it (and a great number of restaurants and bakeries from all around the world). However, at least there's a reason to celebrate 'something'. Just like any other celebration. I didn't celebrate my recent one though. Just feeling kinda stingy (even with that some people have managed to 'persuade' me to buy them lunch).

Oh well. Let me end this nonsense quickly before I got to thinking too much.

Some people expect (or hope/wish or force themselves to) that along the passage of time they will become more adult and wiser. I hope I won't ever be. Adulthood is overrated. Its qualities are relative and vague, and, in my opinion, something that is forced upon men and women by feminists and pop-culture magazines (these two are actually one and the same thing), and wiseness seems to stem from being too tired to make more mistakes. And so, I would like to call upon one of that tradition of "make a wish before blowing your candle": I wish I will never be too adult or too wise. Let me be foolish and make more mistakes (hopefully not the same ones again, but if it needs be...), so that I will never stop learning.

So I will never stop living.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Where's Wall*E?

Movie Review
Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Voiced by: Brent Burtt, Elissa Knight

I'm kinda late when it comes to watching this movie. It went on showing in theaters about a few months ago and I didn't go and see it (a terrible sin for a Pixar fan), and I only managed to grab a DVD copy about a week ago. Still, it was better than nothing. Big screen or a laptop screen, these don't matter when it comes to realizing how wonderful this movie is. For those who've seen it, I think most of 'em would agree (those who got brains and hearts) that this movie is simply amazing.

Alright, to make this review more than just oh-my-f***in'-god-this-movie's-so-goddamn-awesome-go-and-see-it-now-before-the-end-of-the-world-comes *pause, take deep breath* kind of review, I'll just try to elaborate a bit (even though those words are actually quite enough). I guess there's no questioning Pixar when it comes to their technical capabilities. The movie you will see (or have seen) shows how far they have gone when it comes to 3D imagery. Everything looks so real. The gritty, modern, industrial (and dirty) look of the world Wall*E inhabits are portrayed in stunningly realistic 3D graphic. And that's just the beginning.

How about the animation? Again, there's no questioning Pixar when it comes to creating animations that can connect to audience's emotion. And what is even more outstanding is the fact that they did it with a very minimum amount of dialogue (if you could call robot-speak dialogues, that is). They have managed to use mostly gestures to convey emotion, and by god Wall*E's indeed a very expressive and adorable character, even if he's only a garbage compactor robot. Count me in when it comes to voting Wall*E as Pixar's mascott. They really nailed it when they came up with the character of Wall*E.

Adding to the above factors is the story. This time around, Pixar's managed to come out with a story that is both about love and a certain environmental theme. And this time, they have successfully tell it without being preachy. So, the story it is (a preview, for those who's unlucky enough not to have seen this movie).

It is Earth in the future, and mankind has abandoned Earth to life in space thanks to the monstrous amount of garbage people have accumulated over time. Wall*E is perhaps the only garbage compactor robot still functioning on Earth and everyday he starts his routine by first collecting the energy he needs for the day from the sun. (and for Apple computer fans everywhere, you'll be familiar with the sound Wall*E emits after his energy level is full). Well, this garbage compactor robot has a quirky personality (or a malfunctioning code in his programming perhaps) and he (it?) likes to collect stuff that he regards as interesting (I must say it's amusing when he throws away a diamond ring in favor of the box where the ring was found...take that, bitches!). But, most of all, Wall*E is lonely. He must be, especially when you only have a roach as a companion. One day, a robot called EVE came to Earth to investigate something (I won't say what it is) and it was love at first sight. At least, for Wall*E. To make it short, let's just say things get interesting from then.

All of these things have been perfectly blended by the wizards in Pixar and the result is one of the best animated movie I have seen in my life. Now, can I say it? Can I? Can I? Whatever. OH MY F***IN' GOD THIS MOVIE IS SO AWESOME GO AND SEE IT NOW BEFORE THE END OF THE WORLD COMES *pause, take deep breath*. There. I've said it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rewind and Rewind

Movie Review
Be Kind Rewind
Director: Michel Gondry
Starring: Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover

The movie started out a bit ho-hum when I watched it. A dying neighborhood; a pair of friends; an old VHS rental store owner, whose store is an old building where an old legendary Jazz player was born (a claim made by the store owner himself); and a plan to demolish and build new buildings. Put them together and you get yourself one of those we-have-to-do-something-to-save- movie. Pretty formulaic, isn't it?

However, things got interesting when Jerry (Jack Black) accidentally wiped out all the VHS in the rental store thanks to his body's magnetic field. If you really have to ask why, well, you have to see the movie yourself. Let's just say that it involves an electrical power plant and a sabotage plan gone wonderfully wrong. Mike (Mos Def), realizing that he has to help Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover) revive his dying business (and help correct things after Jerry's little accident), came up with a plan to re-record their own version of the movies. Jerry and Mike, armed with an old video recorder (VHS, mind you), set out to create their own home made videos. Little did they know that their 'sweded' version would garner a lot of followings (yeah, formulaic I know).

You gotta love the ideas they came up with! All the tools and special effects were home-made and a bit crappy, but you can't deny the charm they exude. And the 'sweded' version of Ghostbusters is simply adorable. Look out for the movie "Fats Waller" as well.

Great acting all around by Black, Mos Def, and Glover (special mention as well to Melonie Diaz who played Alma, a not-so-aspiring actress who got dragged into the whole mess). Black's charm is all over the place, and Mos Def's Mike perfectly complements the loud character of Black's Jerry. Ultimately, however, the movie's all about the joy of making movies. Once again, I could not say enough about the ideas they come up with while shooting the 'sweded' version. For people who appreciate and love the art of making movies, don't miss out on this one. And for those who love indie, don't hesitate to grab this one. It's got the feel of indie movie all over the place.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Spaces in Between... where I am right now. I remember the feeling well. I went through it last year, before I left Manila for the US. I was staying in an apartment that was assigned to my friend, and I was just waiting to leave. I felt I was not welcomed. I felt like I didn't belong anymore. I was not here and yet was not there either. It was time to move on, but not just yet.

In the US it didn't take long for me to feel that I belonged. By the time it came, however, it was time to come back to Manila. The feeling returned. The spaces in between began to fill in the gaps during the last week I was in Concord. I was not there and yet was not here either. It was time to go back, but not just yet. I was nowhere.

Now here I am going through the same thing again, temporarily living in an apartment that was assigned to a friend of mine (because I've been booted out of mine). My things are everywhere, and I lost my usual bit of habits and orderliness. I used to put my glasses there, my wallet over here, my handphone on that table, and I now that I moved room couldn't seem to find them anywhere.

I have one foot in the past, and the other about to cross that fine line between then and right now. The present. But it's not there yet. Not yet. I'm just in between the lines.

However, the spaces in between are still spaces. They are still places. And rather than letting it be a gap, I'm trying to fill it in with activities. There shall be more photos. There should be more posts. There should be just a few more good-byes to places that I like most. And there should be one more song to sing.

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end. But there will always be the spaces in between until then.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Signing Out of Olympic

2 years, 1 month and 8 days. That’s how long it’s been since I first set foot here in the Philippines. Time flies by, and before I know it, it’s time for me to leave. I could come up with a lot of cliches here, like “it’s been quite a journey", “what an experience!", “I have learned a lot!", “it’s been nice working with a team that has such and such kind of people with such and such kind of attitude.” etc. They will all be true. Yet they will never be enough to express what I truly feel and what I have truly learned from this period in my life.

To tell the truth, at this point in my writing, the above paragraph seems to be enough. Yet, for entertainment sake (and trying to avoid getting a tell off from CS from writing such a short entry), I’ll try to elaborate further.

September 3, 2006. My flight landed in Manila at about 6 PM. It was a fine Sunday evening. Unsure where I had to go and what I had to do to get myself safely in my apartment, I called Fanny up and ask for directions. Thank God they speak English. Soon enough I got myself on an airport cab and went on my way towards Somerset Olympia. My first apartment. Ever. And the company paid for it. Even though I would find out later that there were better apartments, I was already impressed with the fact that I got my own bedroom, my own living room, my own kitchen, my own walk-in closet (I didn’t even know they call it that until Dide told me about it), my own bathroom, and I didn’t even have to share it with anyone! (a luxury that I didn’t have in my own house). In retrospect, writing this made me realize that I should count my blessings.

The first 2 people that I saw was Fanny and Angel. They were getting ready to go to Fanny’s apartment in Fraser to cook dinner (It didn’t take that long for me to realize that there were better apartments). After that I saw Serene and CS. I still remember seeing CS when he came to Jakarta one early morning and ask me whether or not I could find him a meeting room. He talked so fast I was having a hard time understanding him. The man I saw that night looked slightly different (maybe it was the hair gel), but as soon as he spoke I knew it was the same person. Hendra, Adulwit and Justinus were there as well in Fraser when we had dinner.

Monday, September 4, 2006 came by. Fon and Pao was the first people I saw in the morning (I didn’t know their names and didn’t realize that they were in the same project until I got to the office). What follows after that is a flurry of activities and introductions that went by in a blinding speed of light. New building. New office cube. New office mates (have I mentioned that thank God they speak English?). A global team to boot. And most of all, a new set of work that I didn’t know anything about. I remember Arvin having a hard time trying to explain stuff to me. Thank God he speaks English.

In the coming months I get to know more about my project mates, about the nature of my work, about what typhoon level 3 means (a lot of broken-down billboards, apparently…and a lot of broken glasses, one in Fraser in particular, and the best thing was a day off from the office), about the fact that riding on horseback going up to Taal volcano wasn’t exactly a joy-ride, about Dampa (the old one, where they made me eat crab eggs and sing after a meal) and about a lot of other stuff that If I mention all of them here CS would have thrown up his hands in the air saying “I give up dude, I should have let you write a short one instead.”

I’m one a roll here, might as well get on with it!

Early 2007 was quite a tumultuous period for me. Work started to pile up, and the arrival of a person who…wait…should I even go there? Better not. But I suspect everyone knows who/what I’m talking about here. Skip. Sorry guys, if it weren’t for the fact that this entry is going to be a public consumption I would’ve gone and elaborate just for *beep* sake. Booooooo….Aaaaaaanyways…

I was (and hopefully still) a simple boy who grew up watching Hollywood movies one too many and had a dream of going to the US. Just because it’s the US (you know, like, you know, like, it’s the US…duh). And just because of one too many Hollywood movie. I pretty much thought my life’s dream impossible to attain ever since the economic meltdown and terrorism became a new trend. US Visa was not an easy thing to secure, and saying that terrorism didn’t help matters at all is quite an understatement.

That was why I was excited and pessimistic at the same time when I heard that they’re sending me to the US. Will I even get the Visa to begin with? It took awhile indeed, but thanks to some reference letters and the help of PH’s RMS, I finally got it! I can’t believe that I’m going to the US so early in my life. I really, really never thought my life’s dream would come true so fast *reminiscing now, with glassy eyes…*.

May, 2007. US was not what I think it was at first. When I woke up on the plane when it was about to land, I thought that it was morning. The sun was still high in the sky. When I realized that it was actually 7 PM, I knew then and there that I was truly in foreign land. Perhaps it was just the city where I was placed in ("Pleasant Hill"…when some of my friends heard the name they said that it sounded like one of those small cities you see in horror movies), but I felt so lonely and out of place. That feeling was exacerbated by the fact that during that time I…nah, won’t go there. San Francisco, now that’s a totally different story. I didn’t like the city at first. However, thanks to Angel and Jingson I saw the true beauty that is SF. I unashamedly admit that I have fallen in love with that city. She has soul. After 2 weeks or a bit more, I got used to the US and thanks to some friends who took me around, I got to see the better part of it.

One and a half month I spent my life in the US. Seemed so long, yet it ended too soon. I got one of my life’s dream came true so early, and there was this feeling of “is there anything more next in line for me?” Knowing life, sure there was. There were many more.

In the first year that I spent here in this project, I was not letting myself get used to the comfort of living here in Makati. I always thought that anytime soon this whole thing will end and I will have to go back to Jakarta. It would be wise not to let myself build any emotional ties with this place and the people. Alas, the project is not to end for another year and I’m only human and soon enough the inevitable happened. I got comfortable…

…which is something that, looking back, I should have done earlier. To make up for the loss of time I started traveling around the Philippines. Batanes was a wonderful place. I was totally blown away by how beautiful it was. It also marked the first time I went down financial hell thanks to an expensive hobby that I got myself into. Pinatubo was an exciting trip as well. Bohol-Cebu was a pleasant surprise. Those were the highlights, among other equally interesting places that I visited. I learned that I have to seize the opportunity to travel and get myself acquainted with a place every chance I have and appreciate the good points of the places I visited. I saw my mom going to places that in my opinion is not worth going, but she is always happy because it’s a place that she’s never been to. She’s right. We all live only once, and that’s saying a lot.

Emotional ties be damned, the human heart is resilient. We’ll get back on our feet somehow.

What about the project? Sure enough, I have learned a lot. Once again, I could come up with a lot of corporate cliches. But I’d like to save my breath on that one. The managers could come up with better words than I could ever come up with. And I would agree to most (if not all) of them. Serene has also pretty much sum it up nicely when it comes to the general strong points of each countries’ members/community (see below entry titled “My Final Entry"). But no matter how diverse people could be, I found out that in the end they’re still people. There are some basic things that you just couldn’t change. That no matter the skin color, the language, the traditions, they’re people, they’re human and they’re basically the same. I need not elaborate further. Oh yeah, thank God that most of them speak English.

In the end, I am grateful.
Grateful of the new friends I met here.
Grateful of the old friends who still stick around even though I’m away.
Grateful of the new lessons I learned.
Grateful of the old lessons that I need to learn again.
Grateful of a lot of things that will make this list unbearable to human eyes.

Ah…there’s just so many things I could talk about here and so many more names that I should mention…but any more than this the entry will be too long and lose it’s true meaning (moreover, it might make the reader fall asleep before they even reach the last sentence). The first impression always lingers the most, and that I have taken care of. For everything else that went after, let there be gaps. Fill it in yourself with rumors, gossips, old news, new news, myths, legends, or what have you. Some things are better left unsaid. And some things are better said in a different blog entry.

Time to move along. Even though I’m going back to Jakarta, the Jakarta I knew 2 years ago was a different creature than what it is right now. It’s exciting to know that there will always be something new just around the corner. You could never know what kind of chocolate you’re getting until you open up the box. Just open up your wings and let the winds of life carry you away to unknown places. We all live only once.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Just a lazy, unproductive week...

Bowel movement. I hate it when I had to wake up from a perfectly nice sleep just because my stomach was begging to be emptied. Not doing so, however, could produce catastrophic result so there I was forcing myself to wake up. Most of my body would still like to sleep, but my dear tummy said that it misses the white throne.

I like it when it didn't have to take that long.

A streak of sunlight passed through small openings in the drapes and the window cover in my bedroom. I did not want to know what time it was. It was morning, and I would have to go to the office. That was all I needed to know. But I took my time. I still would like to be covered by the bed covers. Office could wait, it was the end of the world. It was not the end of the world as well.

The whole week went by quietly. There were some pleasant moments to be remembered, but these were not during office hours. Office was like a blur, like seeing outside the window of a fast-moving car. I did not even try to open the window and feel the rushing wind caressing my hair. I just wanted to get there. Everyday. Just there. But not here.

Damn, I'm out of practice with this thing.

I know that I got a lot of homework. Batanes (the Asian place that is not so Asian, geographically-speaking), Vietnam (the land of Honda motorcycles), Bohol and Cebu (where tourism is governed and administered almost as if it's a communist country and where the fish are friendly), and other stuff as well. I guess it'll be awhile until I get myself up and running with this.

All I want, right now, is to just lie down, sleep, wake up and realize that I would like to go to sleep again, wake up and eat if necessary, and go back to sleep. All of those without even feeling the slightest guilt. Gah.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Bad Apartment Mojo

I guess it's a well known 'urban legend' that my apartment in Makati, Manila, is a bit on the haunted side of things. There were many tiny spooky details such as seeing shadows from the corners of my eyes, radio turning on by itself at certain hours, friends (who claimed to be able to see the unseen) saying that there was a lady in red standing just near where my work desk is in the apartment. I guess the killer tale would be that there was a time when my room mate was away and our driver was sleeping on his bed when he was suddenly awaken by a violent shaking in the middle of the night.

The bed was moving left and right.
By itself.

There was another tiny spooky detail that me and my room mate experienced just recently. Yesterday night, after we had dinner, me and my roomie went back to the apartment. We had a little chat in the living room and he said that he's been waking up around the same time, which was 3:30 AM, for 2 nights in a row. Before he woke up, he experienced what many Indonesians would call 'ketindihan'. It's like you're awake and fully aware, but you can't open your eyes, you can't move your hands, your feet, your whole body. It's as if something has taken over it. After struggling, you would finally be awake but your heart would be beating real hard. Told him that maybe 'something' was trying to make fun of him.

Last night, I slept in the same room with him. However, even though I did not experience 'ketindihan', I did wake up at 3:30 AM.
The room was bone-chilling cold, and the hair in the back of my neck stood up. I felt something standing next to my side of the bed (but I couldn't, or maybe didn't, want to 'see' it). Afraid that I might eventually see it, I covered my face inside my blanket and tried to sleep again. Not easy, since I felt the onset of 'ketindihan' soon after that, but finally managed to fall asleep again.

Ya know, maybe this has some logical, scientifical explanation. That maybe my roomie has been very tired these past couple of days and that 'ketindihan' was just a side effect of being really tired. But we both knew that he hadn't been coming home late from work these days, and that he hadn't been that tired compared to a couple of weeks before. As for my waking up at 3:30 sharp, that could be explained by the fact that maybe I was sort of anticipating it to happen after hearing my roomie's story. Kind of an interesting coincidence that I managed to wake up at 3:30 sharp if that was the case. Then again, waking up at 3:30 sharp happened to me a lot, even when I was still in Jakarta. Internal body clock, perhaps? But why 3:30?

Well, logical or not, it made for some interesting story.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Take Control

Movie Review
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Starring: James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie

Went to watch this movie with no high expectations. Only remembered some parts of the trailer, the most memorable one being where the main character shot a bullet that curved around Angelina Jolie's face and hit the bull's eye right behind her back. Thought it was going to be just another cheap Hollywood movie that's cashing in on the whole bullet-time effect made famous ever since the first Matrix movie. With a few twist, of course (pun intended).

Story's bout one Wesley Gibson (McAvoy), a loser in every possible way. Bullied by his boss, scolded by his cheating girlfriend (who's cheating with his best friend, to add insult to injury), he's leading the mundane life of a, well, loser. And, yes one could see it coming a mile away, things change and he suddenly realizes (forcefully brought to that realization, to be exact) that he has a great legacy and a talent that will lead him to a different path in life. With the help of Sloan (Freeman) and Fox (Jolie), he learns to make full use of the unique talent he has.

There's nothing much in terms of acting, and I don't really know how faithful this adaptation is to it's original graphic novel material. This movie is, after all, an action movie. At the very least in this aspect the movie delivers. Unrealistic is an understatement when it comes to the physics of the action (curving bullet? C'mon...), but then again it would not be much fun if there's no twist in it (pun intended, again). More than adequate special effect, intense shoot-out scenes, and an over-the-top car chase scene deliver the action aspect of the movie very well.

Another aspect of the movie that I'm quite taken by is the story and the plot. I am not familiar with the source material, but I have to say that the producers did a good job of putting the story together. Narration by the main character works well to deliver continuity and sense. And I have to say that I'm impressed that the people who came up with the story manage to deliver a very powerful yet subtle message regarding life, fate, destiny, religion and free will.

In the end, I would like to quote what the main character Wesley Gibson say: "Six weeks ago I was ordinary and pathetic, just like you. Who am I now? Account manager? Assassin? Just another tool who was mind fucked into killing his father. I am all of these. I am none of these. Who am I now? This is not me fulfilling my destiny. This not me following in my fathers footsteps. This is definitely not me saving the world. This *is* me taking control, from Sloan, from the fraternity, from Janis, billing reports, ergonomic keyboards, from cheating girlfriends and sack of shit best friends. This is me taking back control of my life. What the fuck have you done lately?"

He's DA Man.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The One Where I Yet Again Did Not Get Proper Sleep for More Than 12 Hours Straight

The one thing I like about hangin' out with professional (or pro-wannabes) photographers is that I get to go to all kinds of interesting places. Even though they're packing heavy-duty SLRs and all I have is a lousy second-rate point-and-shoot, but the adventure more than makes up for the lack of first-rate photos I bring home (Mind you, they're not first rate because of picture "technical" quality, but at least I can say I have a decent composition skill hehehe). The only thing I DON'T like about hangin' out with pros is that one of them has been telling/taunting/suggesting/persuading/begging me to buy an SLR. An expensive one, to boot. I'm still reluctant at throwing away my money for a ****ing expensive hobby like I'll try to ignore him.

For now.

Anyways, I decided to come along for a trek to mount Pinatubo here in the Philippines on Feb 9th 2008. It was quite a daunting prospect: the photographers wanted to capture the sunrise at the crater. This translated to us having to leave early, like, midnight early on Saturday. Which meant that we gotta leave early from the office on Friday evening to get ourselves some rest before the journey began. I kept dinner to a minimum (it's not funny when you need to 'empty' your stomach and no decent restroom could be found anywhere) and unfortunately only managed to get an hour of sleep before leaving for the trip.

We gathered in front of our office in Makati first (most of them works in the same project as mine) and started rolling at around 12:45 midnight. First part of the journey was getting to the town nearest to Pinatubo. At one of the gas station there we met up with the 4x4 offroad cars that will take us through the off road part of the journey. That happened at around 3 o'clock in the morning. We first rode together, the off road cars and our regular minivans. Took us about half an hour until we get to the point that we had to transfer to the offroad cars because the road started to become too rough for regular cars.

My memory's kinda fuzzy on this part because it was around 4 o'clock in the morning, but I remembered that we took a wrong turn once and that cost us about half an hour. The last part of the journey was the hardest, where we had to travel on foot to the crater. We had to walk on this wide, dusty pathway that was located between two stone walls. It was dark, wet, and quite dusty, and we had to whip out our flash lights, but light was coming fast and mid journey the flashlights were useless. After about 40 minutes of jumping from rock to rock accross small creeks and a light uphill trek, we arrived at the crater...

...too late for the sunrise.

Thanks to the slight detour during the off-road part of the journey and also the underestimated travel time for the part where we had to travel on foot, by the time we got to the crater the sun was already quite high. That didn't stop us from packing out our gear and started shooting, though (*cough* as for me, all I needed to do was pull out my point-and-shoot out of my pocket). For the results, click this link!

40 minutes my ass...

All in all, it was quite an exciting journey (and a rather sleepy and tiring one as well, considering the time that we had to start traveling and the time we finally got there). Sleepy and exhausted, we went back to where the off-roaders were parked and headed back to our cars. Stopped several times along the way for some photo ops. Now that the sun was up, we only realized then how barren and dusty the off-road track was. After getting back to our cars, we drove off and had lunch in a mall in a nearby town, and headed off to an aeronautic festival (within the same town) with the intention of catching the hot air balloon show and snap some pics. No such luck. It was a windy day and it was deemed rather risky to fly the hot air balloons.

It's not hard to imagine what I did when I got back to my apartment (hint: the sound effect should sound like "zzzzzzzz").

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Longest Weekend

Finally, after 2 testing cycles (read: trial and error/hit-or-miss), after loading close to 1 million records in total, after arduous validation and reconciliation process (read: counting other people's money and making sure I didn't lose/misplace/overlook/forget even one cent), after so many defect resolutions (read: cleaning up a lot of mess) after so many e-mails sent, finally...'s show time.

Midnight on Friday/early Saturday was the time, and show's going to be over only after a predicted run time of 35 hours. My attempt at leaving early to get some much needed rest on that Friday afternoon was thwarted by a fire drill that interrupted my effort in solving an issue, which ultimately led to my being able to leave the office premises only slightly after 5 PM. Boss said that I need to be back at the office at around 12 midnight, which leaves me only 7 hours to rest and be get myself ready for what might be the longest weekend of my life.

Getting some rest turned out to be a slightly complicated matter. The combination of restlessness, eagerness (and a slight reluctance, to tell the truth) created a level of anxiety that prevented me from getting a proper sleep. After trying for about one and a half hour with no success (the best I got was half hour of restless sleep), I got up and took a shower. Went out and about to find dinner, and was thinking bout whether or not I should pick up some DVDs to watch during that long weekend (there will be a period of time where I'd be doing nothing except stare at the PC screen nursing a program, and to have a more entertaining distraction during that time would be a really good thing) but thought that maybe I'd be too nerve-wrecked to really pay attention to such entertainment. So, scratch that.

Had a long conversation with Ma back home through the telephone. Was telling that I might be pulling an MIA on her during the weekend (in other words, I might not be returning her messages). After talking bout lots of stuff with her, I got myself ready to go to the office. Brought a pack of Nescafe Ice coz I know I'd be needing 'em, along with my med bag just in case the whole validation/reconciliation process would be giving me headaches or other medical maladies.

Show started at 12 midnight on that Friday night/Saturday morning. The early data prep and early reconciliation/validation took me about 6 hours to complete. After testing, identifying potential issues, and sending the necessary e-mails I went back to the apartment to get some needed sleep. The best I got was 2 hours. Woke up feeling slightly refreshed (better than nothing, right?) I went back to the office at around 12 noon on that Saturday. While waiting for the other team to clean up their mess, I decided that picking up DVDs might not be such a bad idea after all. Went out the the nearby mall and got myself an original season 1 of the HEROES series. It was worth it.

It took quite awhile for the other team to finish up cleaning their mess, and the next part of my show could only start just around 9 pm and we were already behind schedule. What followed was a hectic period of data transformation, validation, and load preparation that got me working non-stop for almost 12 hours until Sunday morning. Good thing I got some nap in the clinic while waiting for the other team to finish. Since we felt that it was not necessary for us to baby-sit the loading program, me and my boss went back to the apartment to get some more nap. This time I got close to 4 hours.

When we went back to the office after the 4-hour nap, we realized how much of a bad idea it was not to baby sit the loading program. Some smart @$$ decided to update the authorization, and the list of users did not include the user ID I used to load my data. Suffice to say that the whole fiasco translated to my waiting for the program to re-load and waiting for my counterpart in the US to say that everything was okay, that everything was loaded correctly. I ended up going home 3 AM Monday morning.

Definitely the longest weekend I've ever had...
Sounds like torture, right? Well, it was not completely without fun. Far from it. Aside from the work-related element, the mission control people had thought of other stuff as well. Well, they set up a projector connected to the Wii in the pantry. Wild, excited yelling and screaming could be heard during Saturday midnight (Wii Boxing was the culprit) and on Sunday afternoon there was a karaoke session in the mission control, courtesy of one of the project member (she has this magic mic thing that was the rage in the Philippines, just plug the microphone to a TV and you're all set: the songs are all recorded within the microphone).

And then there were the Heroes DVDs and my MacBook...Not bad after all...

I didn't go to the office on Monday. Like, hell, no way...But I must say aside from the long hours, I must admit that I did enjoy myself. But I didn't expect the whole "not-getting-proper-sleep-for-more-than-12-hours" business would repeat itself in the next weekend, though this time it was of a more enjoyable nature.

More on that later.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

"Not a Good Bye Letter," They'd Say...

A beginning has to have an end, isn't it? It gives a chance for another new beginning to start.

It has indeed been awhile since that post about a weekend sleep over. A lot has indeed happened to our family (I'll be calling it 'outfit' or 'group' in this post from time to time) since that time. Dodski has rolled off the project, as well as El Pipil (though their spirit and legacy are still with us until this very day...
...Dodski's PS2 memory card and some of El Pipil's socks and shirts, to name a few...). And then there has been additional members and as we go along our group has become one big family. Let us now take a look at the original participants along with many of the new ones...

Mul is still the straight guy, though he's learned to deliver a punch line here and there (he needs more practice though, something that is getting a bit rare since El Pipil hasn't been around), he even managed to make fun of me once in awhile. A good effort indeed. (Mul, I'm gonna get back at you, mark my words). True to his name as well (that is, the 'straight' guy), he works STRAIGHT into the night. There were many times when I only see him in the morning and not before I go to bed. Many times, me and El as room mate worried about his well-being, but as long as we're still seeing that big ear-to-ear smile on his face (complete with a perfect set of white teeth and sprinkles of pimples here and there), I guess he's fine. Special note for Mul: his Microsoft Access skills has helped me come out of tough spots every now and then. Thanks again, Mul! You're such a great help!

When it comes to going home late, I guess I speak for everyone when I say that Fan2 is the reigning champion (although I suspect that Mul is about to take over that title from her anytime soon). Customer master team would be completely debilitated if she was not around and one would often find her still sitting in her cube in the office, back straight, staring into the monitor until late at night. Everyday. Well, almost. She even went as far as decorating her cubicle with her favourite stuffed animals and a lot of Powerpuff Girls figurines. The reason? Because she wants to feel at home in the office. A claim that, aside from being rather contradictory in nature(they call it 'home' or 'office' for an apparent reason) has, in some way, disturbed many of us here in the project (me included). She also could not be relied upon to arrive on time at parties held on normal working days. Regardless, this woman of slightly petite stature and whose sitting posture is probably the best I've seen so far, has experienced her share of entertainment as well. Many of us here would probably remember the period when a rumor was circling around about her presumed romantic involvement with El Pipil. That was one of the more interesting times in the project.

Fan2's room mate, Ro, was once earlier in the project's been given the title of being my ex-wife. Long story. Anyways, she's well known to have a lot of luck when it comes to lucky draws. A very calculating person, you can consider yourself lucky if you have her around to help you haggle with the local pearl hawkers in places like Market Market! or Greenhill (the same goes for any other business deal that involves money). I'm willing to bet that having her around can net you a better deal than going to any discount shops (either that or she can at least point you to the best discount shop around). Aside from her prowess in getting the better deal around (a skill that is seconded by the ninja of the group, more on that later), she also shows a knack in cooking more-than-decent meals and has of late shown a considerable interest in the field of photography.

Ro's good companion, a lady by the name of Diang, was originally a breakfast buddy/dinner buddy/whenever-I-feel-like-snacking buddy for me early in the project. She's also quite a good cook, though she would put cheese in some meals that don't commonly include cheese. But they turned out to be quite good. That or maybe I was just so hungry at the time. Many people got caught unaware by her seemingly well-mannered exterior. Inside lies a girl full of mischief and many fell victim to her comic acts (this is very true to the group's ninja, Mul, and also Ro). Due to work-related matter, I must say that I rarely see her joining us during weekend outings. She'd often opt instead to stay in her apartment and get lots of rest. And, maybe, finish one of her many jigsaw puzzles that she collects here. This is probably trivial, but she shares the same funny laughing sound as her older brother, who I got acquainted with during my college days. I suspect that her brother also shares many of her comic antiques.

Awing's still the ninja of the group, disappearing at times when least expected. However, since his techniques are getting more familiar now that we've been together for quite a long time, it's not hard to notice the signs (restlessness, unfocused eyes, etc.) that usually show up before the disappearance. This time he just might need that smoke bomb. His storm-bringer jujitsu technique, however, is still as potent as ever. The ninja, moreover, has unleashed/acquired several new useful skills such as: the womanizer skill (still in development, but I suspect that he's getting there), currency exchange tricks skill, getting-cheap-airfare-and-accommodation-price-for-all-our-FTA-needs skill, and many more useful ones. Thanks to him, we're going to HK late Feb and our FTA's been maximized to the fullest.

The ninja, however, has recruited an apprentice. Pet2, another addition to our outfit (if memory serves me right, he came during my 'disappearance' into the US), has been spending a lot of time together with the ninja-extraordinaire (they went to church together many times, seen walking together many times, etc.). However, in my opinion, Pet2 has more of a flair that makes him more suited to be a samurai warrior. He always make sure that his arrival is noted, has a loud voice, and at least I know when he's not in the room anymore (without looking) because the room would suddenly become quiet. He shows all the enthusiasm of a samurai warrior facing a duel to the death (lots of screaming and yelling), and though it is irritating at times, one just can't not appreciate the pure and innocent eagerness he so often displayed.

Put2, the princess among the prince, the sugar cube in a glass of bitter coffee, the sweet among the sour and so on and so forth (at least, she originally was...hint: more sugar cubes have been mixed into the bitter coffee, yada yada bla bla bla), is, at the moment of this writing, about to roll-off the project. On top of that, she's also rolling off the company, a fact that's taken us quite aback. However, one faces choices in life, and she's made hers. We can only wish her luck in whatever endeavor she chooses, and hope that life treats her well. Along the way, we also found out that the supposedly straight girl (straight, like, in the comedy sense of things of course) can deliver some entertaining punch lines as well. This is especially true when Merce or Mul is around. Behind the calm exterior lies a girl with quite an attitude that is in dire need to be unleashed from time to time (I appreciate the sucker punch you gave me about my needing to have more self-worth, know what I'm talking about). Oh, and an excellent taste in music as well. This is just my way of saying that if you, that is YOU, Put, has some new interesting songs like that 'Drop The Phone' by 'Shy Child' you gotta let me know.

Talking about rolling off, this is probably old news, but Dodski rolled off when I was in the US and soon after he had a baby. His first. So, congratulations to Dodski for his birth into fatherhood. I'd like to repeat what a billboard ad here in the Philippines says: that when a baby is born, two parents are born. Aside from the definite increase in expenses, I can safely say that this brings him an infinite sense of joy. So, again, congratulations to Dodski and wife Iwed. I am happy for the both of you. And yes, your PS2 memory card is coming your way, rest assured. Are you already bored with your kid, dude?

There was this time when I had to leave for the US (Dodski rolled off during this time), living there for a month and a half (an outstanding experience there, a lot of feelings were involved, but this has made a different man out of me, a better one I sincerely hope) and there were probably a thing or two that I missed during that absence, aside from Dodski rolling off (Dince, Adoy, and I think Nova, came to the outfit during this time, among others...). But their spirits were always with me when I was there, just contained in a different time zone. Which means that I usually stayed up late just to be able to chat with some of my friends back home. Anyways, this material is for a different post.

Moving on...

Yeah, after that one and half month, I finally returned to Manila and was assigned to a corner cubicle with a fine view of the city of Makati and beyond (and a huge amount of people traffic going into and out of the pantry, something that I rather disliked unless the person walking by happened to be a human of the opposite sex with a certain adequate amount of appeal). One of these traffic culprit turned out to be a new addition to the outfit, a person by the name of Dince. I didn't notice it at first, but after a day or two of my return to Manila I started hearing a person walking by uttering the word 'Arsoy!' every now and then. This happened to be a nick name that she unceremoniously gave me, a nick that for no apparent reason I didn't like at all at first. But you know how it is, sooner or later you'll just give it up and accept it. Turned out I was not the only victim, so I guess I'm cool with that (Believe me when I say that Dince has butchered a lot of decent, good-sounding names).

This new sugar cube addition to our bitter coffee garnered a huge amount of following in the coming months, due to said appeal level shooting off the roof. If a certain project member that I knew more than well enough were still present, a celebrity war would have probably ensued (and I would probably be unwillingly caught in the middle). In any case, gossips were passed around, jokes were made, and many more wink wink hint hint. A person by the initial of JM and HR (among others) came into the picture and the whole thing became more and more saucier by the day. She was not almost famous. She WAS famous (Din, if you're reading this, try not to let your head hit the ceiling, unless right now you're having one of those blonde moments).

Another sugar cube, Merce, also came into the outfit. This one is really an interesting creature. Her reasonings might not be sound oftentimes, and she has shown a lot of signs and behaviors that point to the possibility that she might be suffering from a mild case of OCD (Merce, have you look OCD up in the dictionary?). Putting her together along with the other two sugar cubes can create a cacophony of strange sounds and a whole lot of entertainment in its own way. Let's just say that it's always a riot seeing them together. On top of that, they put them in the same apartment unit. All I can say for the rest is that it's up to your imagination.

Dince became one of my on-and-off lunch mate (she's available when she's not being dragged away by one of her avid fans), and so was Adoy. He was also one of Dince's victim of unceremonious nickname-giving whose nick happens to rhyme with mine. Another interesting member of the outfit who has a penchant of being 'cunihin' (a word in Indonesian which means...well, let's just say that he has some 'funny' ideas inside his head and is not afraid to say it out loud), Adoy certainly contribute a certain element of much-needed wackiness into the outfit. A good lunch mate as well, who likes to award himself with a collection of Tintin comic books and an electric guitar. Let us see whether he'll be fretting that guitar often.

Supernova (I am SO giving him too much credit by calling him this name) is another addition to the outfit that I, ashamed to admit, could not write too much about. This is due to the fact that he often locked himself up in his apartment room and could only be coaxed to go out by his mate Adoy. I've also heard that he flirted with a couple of high-profile persons of the opposite sex. I was myself a witness of one such occasion, when he was seen walking along with a lady by the initial of MDG. I am sure that there were many other occasions, but I myself could not glimpse more that one such occasion (described above) since another office relocation ensued and I found myself (and many of my team members) moved from our perfectly fine office (and in my case, a great corner cubicle with an excellent view of the city) in RCBC building to a building named 6750. Well, it seems that I do know a thing or two about Supe. Oh yeah, he bought a bass guitar as well to complement Adoy's electric guitar. True mate. I'm pretty sure there will be more about him that I can write about in the future. Probably more things involving Adoy and some high-profile ladies.

The relocation to 6750 has really brought some significant changes. But one of the things that I missed dearly about the old office (aside from that nice corner cubicle) is our much looked-forward-to (for me, at least) late afternoon coffee/smoking session. This usually took place on an open-air section of the 4th floor located on an area between the two towers in the RCBC building complex. The regulars were usually me, Dodski, El Pipil (these two smoke like trains), Johnny (an avid fan of Starbucks), Put2, and sometimes Mul (this didn't happen often, though). Good memories, here. I also remembered one memorable time when I misplaced my ID card (that thing costs a fortune) here in this place. I searched as far as the restaurant across the street where I had lunch that day, but finally found it there because we went there straight after lunch.
An obvious advantage in relocating to 6750 was its strategic location. There's a bigger variety of restaurant to choose from during lunch hour because 6750 is located just across the street from a big shopping mall called Glorietta. Before El rolled off I didn't usually go to lunch there, but opted instead to go back to the apartment to enjoy his trademark home-cooked anchovies with nuts ('teri kacang' we call it in Indonesian) made by his mom back in Indonesia. But there was only so much anchovies. Somewhere along the way Dince, Adoy, Harry became my regular lunch buddies. Since mall crawling is sort of my thing, after lunch I usually ended up walking around Glorietta - Greenbelt with Dince (and sometimes with the other guys as well, when they didn't feel like going back to the office at 1 o'clock sharp), the resident celebrity extraordinaire. I would offer my advice on things she should choose to buy, while enjoying the companionship because mall crawling on your own is just not fun. So, I have Dince to thank for a lot of after-lunch mall-crawling sessions.

El Pipil has contributed a lot as the mastermind of many of our events. His rolling off the project at the end of December 2007 made me feel that I am losing a worthy comrade and a pretty good entertainer (a sentiment that I'm pretty sure I share with many others involved in the project...and also my driver). The project video, to name a few, has a lot of his fingerprints all over it. Another event that is worthy of mention was the Release 1 Go-Live celebration where all of the Indonesians (except for me, who was in Bangkok at the time) presented a collaboration of Indonesian dance and music. The performance was critically acclaimed (always wanted to say these words), and it made us proud of being Indonesians. Thanks to Dince for her contributions in the dance lessons, and also Johnny for the music-related elements needed in the preparation of the event (Adoy finally had the chance to fret his guitar and actually doing it in front of an audience in this event) and El Pipil who has contributed in providing batik pants.

Like a good family, or any kind of outfit anywhere, we were lucky to have good folks to look over us. Our Indonesian managers and senior managers have been great 'parents' and friends for us all. They have taken good care of us, being parents when we need 'em to be, and be our friends when we need 'em to be. And, boy, when they get down, they REALLY get down. A quick roll call...

Indra's like the calm, serious father to us all. Maybe because he's the eldest among us. He's also fun to joke around as well, although people who don't know him better might be a bit reluctant to do so. Though he might seem serious most of the time (first time I saw him long ago before this project he was reading a book about Malcolm X) I think he's got his fun side with him as well (during cut-over weekend I saw him popping in Led Zeppelin's 'Mothership' into his laptop and started jamming). Riny would have probably looked like the right mother figure if not for her oft-occurring wackiness and clueless-ness. Let's just say that it's easy to lead her astray with incorrect information ('gampang dibohongin', even Dodski managed to fool her). But that's what makes her adorable. Johnny's fun to be with, and when he's passionate about something, he'd show it. He's got a tremendous talent in music, and (like many people in this project, including me) has great love for gadgets (and other things that boys much younger than his age shows much interest in). We suspect that he's currently undergoing his second puberty.

And then we have Harry. Harry's just...indescribable. You just have to be here to experience the Harry-ness. This guy's like wacky, silly, serious, I don't know how to explain it. He's just something. A real piece of work. And that's saying A Lot (yes, with capitals, they are not typos). Anthony's the perennial bullying big brother. He's got this I-don't-give-a-**** attitude about him that, well, sort of makes him who he is. He and Harry trade jokes and rebukes at each other oftentimes. But they were all good-spirited. Well, Bob (Anthony's well-known nickname from the olden days) certainly has his own distinct appeal. Jevros, who happens to be my new career counselor (he replaced miss Young), has his own way of being wacky and he definitely has a lot of confidence when it comes to his looks and body frame (an often misplaced confidence) but I guess that's what makes him...Jevros. Looks like being his counselee will be quite an interesting thing indeed. Just a bit of a worthy sidenote: his wife happens to be going to the same faculty as I did during college. We never said a word to each other back then but we met again in Manila, out of all places. Small world indeed. Finally, there's the newly appointed manager Justinus. The guy can be too serious at times...but he's been giving in to the craziness around him, which is a good thing. I mean, you can't survive this world without being a little bit crazy.

While these might not be from Jakarta office, but they are Indonesians and they have certainly become some sort of permanent guest stars in our family/outfit. Thus, they deserve to be mentioned. There's Pinky, one of the highest-ups in the project. This guy has a penchant for visiting Japan and buying a whole collection of various gadgets. Though he looks business-like most of the time, don't be fooled! Aside from a boat-load of gadgets, this guy has an always-up-to-date catalog containing the latest project-members-related gossips, gossips that some people might have yet to hear. It's just amazing. Well, maybe it's part of his informal 'job description' as project manager. Don't be fooled by Hendra Lauw's small frame. This little guy packs a whole lot of punch. And a trunk full of photography equipments. The guy's good at this, and you can witness it at his website. And considering how crazy most of us are whenever there's a photographer around ('banci foto'), he definitely got his work cut out for him whenever most of us are around. Last but not least there was Luis Kristianto, a guy who's not shy when it comes to spending his money. One only has to look at the clothes he wears, the watch on his wrist, the shoes he's put on, and you know this guy has style (and a s***load of money). But we love him (not because of his money) because he's such a cool, easygoing guy, and the guy's so proud of being Indonesian. He's also the guy who was responsible for my 'accidental' gig during one Christmas party in 2006. After that I kept hearing the word "artist!" being thrown around by him whenever I walked passed him. He is missed after he rolled off.

Last but not least, let's not forget the wonderful spouses and children. Many of us Indonesians here bring their family members along for the ride. So we also have the wives and kids in our big and loving family. They've spent a lot of time together with us on project or non-project-related events. And the children are just wonderful (like all children are wonderful): the shy and careful Nina; the curious and rather flirty Ai Ai; the noisy, racuous, slightly hyperactive Joel and Hanif, the rather strong-willed Mutia; and sweet Nila. They've added a different and pleasant color to the whole group, and has gathered for themselves many ad-hoc, unpaid, baby sitters (when the baby sitters were not baby-sitting any SAP program, that is).

All right... Have I got everyone in?

Oh well, many good memories abound, but before this post gets too long let me just go back to the initial opening. Like I've said before, a beginning has to have an end, because another new beginning needs to start.

To celebrate the end of Dince and Put2's involvement in the project, we held a small get together in Fraser on the night of January 31st 2008 (their last day in the project). The whole thing was arranged by Johnny, and was supposed to be some sort of a surprise party (which in the end come as no surprise to the two ladies). Even though the surprise element didn't exactly work out the way it was intended to be (the blame is partly on me as well), but we all did get together and had ourselves a lot of fun. The real kicker was probably when Johnny asked us all to go to the swimming pool for a bit of a photo shoot session. As to be expected, the supposedly photo shoot session turned out to be a push-people-to-the-pool session where almost everyone got wet in many ways (pool-water-wet, coca-cola-wet, mango-cake-wet, bottled-water wet, egg-wet, you know, the routine). It was a memorable celebration, and it showed how much of a family we've become and how our rolling-off (and rolled-off) members will be (and are already) missed.

By the time this entry reach this point, the plane's taken off, and another milestone in our project has been reached (more on that later). I'm sitting here in my apartment on a fine Tuesday morning (contemplating whether or not I should go to work after almost 48 hours of non-stop data loading during the weekend) thinking about how interesting it's been for all of us for the last 1 year and 5 months (interval varies between individuals, this one's mine).

Well, life goes on, I guess. And I'm sure that there will be more interesting times ahead.

So, I dedicate this post to those who are about to roll off/have just rolled off the project (Put2 and Dince), who's about to start a completely new endeavor (good luck, Put2), those who have already rolled off the project for some time (Dodski, El Pipil, and Kris), and finally, to more interesting times ahead of all of us. Thanks for the memories, and good luck in the future. We shall meet again.

Yes, Dodski, your memory card is coming (if not already).
Pil, do you still want your socks?

(Picture gallery can be found by clicking this link)