Motorola’s ROKR iTunes mobile phone

Filed in Technology

My wife and I looked at the new Motorola ROKR iTunes phone today here in Hong Kong. We weren't impressed. The plastic used to build the phone was... too plastic! I wondered if it would survive even a single drop to the ground.

My wife who has been using a Nokia 8310 since I can't remember when decided to buy the Sony Ericsson W800i instead. While almost twice the price of the ROKR, I don't think we made the wrong choice and I'm sure it'll work well for her for many years to come.

And it's fully supported by Mac OS X's iSync so what else can I say.


Filed in Indonesia (2005), TravelTags: , ,

(continued from "A starry journey")

I don't know what time it is. I've been asleep for a few hours since arriving here this morning but can't be sure exactly how many hours. There's the sound of activity outside the wall that separates me from the markets next door, and there's the sound of hushed conversation outside in the living area. The family's up.

I walk out into the living area. Isah's flat is small. There are two bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom and a living area all within approximately four hundred square feet. Under normal conditions, her mother sleeps in one room while Isah sleeps in the other. I'm not sure where her son sleeps.

In the living area, there's a blue fibrous carpet on the concrete floor. It's not attached to anything and can be rolled up anytime. To one side of the carpet, the concrete is bare, presenting a virtual corridor from the rarely-closed front door to the kitchen. There are shoes, sandals and thongs (known as flip flops in the U.S.A.) here and outside the door. In Indonesia, people take their shoes off when entering a house. I soon learnt that in this flat, shoes should be worn on the bare concrete and taken off and left behind before walking on the carpet or into the bedroom. The Indonesians have the wearing and removing of their thongs down to an art. For them, taking their thongs off is as easy as removing a hat. For me, it's a lot harder because it's not something I've had to do. Back at home in Hong Kong, I don't wear shoes of any kind whether in the house, out in the garden or walking around the neighbourhood.

The living area

Isah's living area. Sitting next to me is one of her nephews.

Shoes are not permitted on the carpet.

The rainbow coloured cakes; which tasted very good; on the plate in front of me were baked by one of Isah's sisters in preparation for the wedding celebration. The black fluid in the glass is Indonesian coffee. More about that later.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

There's a small worn wooden table in one corner of the living area and a similarly worn low coffee table beside it. The walls are whitish and a single light bulb hangs from the centre of the ceiling. There are two doors out of the flat, both from the living area. One opens to a passageway that runs from the main road to the markets next door, while the other opens onto a concrete porch that the family never uses. That door remained closed most of the time I was there.

The kitchen was interesting for me but embarrassing for Isah. At first, she didn't want me in the kitchen because she thought I'd be offended by it. On the contrary, I had hoped that I would be visiting an area of Indonesia that offered basic living facilities and this kitchen was a prime example of what I wanted to experience. Unfortunately, even up to the time I was preparing to leave, she would not allow me to photograph the kitchen so I can only describe it.

It was roughly square in shape, measuring six feet across. Half of the ceiling was missing allowing sight of the earthen roofing tiles above and it wasn't until later in my stay that I realised that this was intentional. It allowed the steam, oil and other elements produced by cooking to rise up and leave the kitchen. In one spot, there was a space in the tiles which coincidentally allowed the sun to shine through into the kitchen in the mornings, lighting the kitchen up and making it feel warmer. The space almost seemed planned.

On the far side of the kitchen, an unpainted wooden shelf ran across the wall approximately five feet up from the ground. Big aluminium pots were piled along this shelf. There were no more shelves below this one because the floor below it was used to wash food and dishes. The floor of the washing area was rough concrete with a small slant to persuade the water down to a drain hole in the left back corner. Small four-inch tall concrete walls surrounded the washing area on the left and front sides to keep the water from running out, while inside the washing area were two large blackened pots with slanted sides; similar to cooking woks. The left pot contained soapy water while the right pot contained clear water. I quickly understood that their practice was to wash the dishes with soap in the left pot before rinsing them with the clear water in the right pot. The washing water was rarely thrown away because there were no taps in the kitchen. Nor were there any taps in the bathroom or any other room of the flat. That was one of the aspects of this flat that made it special for me.

Alley to the markets

One of the alleys leading to the markets goes right by Isah's home. When people don't have anything to do, it's typical to see them outside their homes, sitting on benches, watching and chatting with people who pass by.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

On the right far side of the kitchen was another low bench with just enough room to place a kerosine cooker and one more large cooking pot. Below the bench close to the floor was a shelf to store more pots. On the right side of the kitchen was an aluminium and glass cupboard about waist high. The dishes and plates were all stored in this while cups and glasses were hung on slanting pegs attached to a vertical latice on the wall just above the cupboard.

In the middle of the crowded kitchen was a light blue cross-hatched plastic stool with yet another kerosine cooker on it. These were special times. With Isah getting married in a couple of days, many family members were gathering around and more food was necessary than usual, hence the need for the second kerosine cooker.

Just in front of the washing area was another pot which I had rarely seen before. It was a grinding pot made out of stone. The Indonesians use them to grind coffee, chile and other spices. Frankly, I believe that spices ground together in one of these pots would be far more delicious and flavourful than spices grinded in an electric grinder. There's something about the rough surface of the stone and the way the pedastle grinds the spices against the pot and each other than brings out the fullness of their flavour. Technology isn't always the best way to do things.

From time to time, I would stand next to the washing area out of the family's way and watch them cook. Although always busy and working hard, they were a happy family and I was glad to be there with them even if I wasn't allowed to help out most of the time.

(continued in "Indonesia 2005 Day 1")

The future of television

Filed in TechnologyTags:

Say goodbye to television as you know it.

Just as PodCasts are allowing absolutely everybody to make and distribute their own radio shows, VideoCasts are also allowing the ordinary people to make and distribute videos. No longer will what we can see on TV be controlled by the rich television companies. No longer will we be forced to watch the Olympic Games because every single available channel is showing them.

In the beginning, PodCasts were made by everyday people, but they became so successful that even big corporations like ABC and NBC decided to get involved and make their own productions. They were rightfully concerned about getting left behind. The same thing is going to happen with video and I don't think the television companies are ready for it.

Of course, video is a completely different animal to audio. Significantly more money and resources, and many more people are usually necessary to produce a good video series, so you won't see shows like Stargate or C.S.I. get released in VideoCast format any time soon.

But one day, VideoCasts will be just as professional and complex as today's television, and we'll be able to watch anything we want, when we want (at least until companies like Google in collusion with governments filter everything 'distasteful' from our search results).

VideoCasts will be the true IPTV that everyone is talking about. I can't wait!

A starry journey

Filed in Indonesia (2005), Travel

今日來太平道買狗糧,順便來Black Sugar飲靚的手沖咖啡。今日飲的是來自剛國,在台灣炒的。好飲


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A starry journey

Filed in Indonesia (2005), Travel

(continued from "Imprisoned")

My plane arrived at Bali at around nine pm. Once through customs, I exited the airport terminal looking for any sign of Isah, our helper. She was going to meet me there. It didn't take long to find her. She was standing at the end of the lines of hotel people holding up signs advertising the names of the guests they were there to pick up.

It was great to see her and she looked as healthy and vibrant as ever, if only not as slim as she was when she worked for us. I guess walking ten dogs four times a day really keeps the weight off.

Isah wasn't alone. Accompanying her on the seven-hour "kijang" minibus journey from her home to the airport were her husband-to-be, her twelve-year-old son and one of her nieces; a really nice bunch of people.

Isah and I chatted as we walked over to the public toilets in the airport car park before getting in the minibus for our return trip. It was going to be a long ride home but we didn't care. Isah was the only one I could talk to. Nobody else in the group spoke English or Cantonese and I didn't speak any Indonesian or Java so communication was practically impossible. It didn't matter though. We still felt comfortable together.

Travelling was slow. For one thing, people don't drive nearly as fast in Indonesia as they do in Hong Kong or Australia. I guess we were averaging forty to fifty km per hour, even though the roads were almost empty. However, making our progress even slower, the driver had to stop the minibus every twenty minutes or so to refill the radiator which had apparently developed a leak during their trip that morning. Every time he opened the radiator, steam gurgled and poured out. We could see it even from inside the minibus, even against the dark night sky. Again, it didn't worry us. We knew we'd make it home and it just added something special to the trip, something to make it more memorable.

Two hours later, we stopped at a restaurant; my first exposure to Indonesian food and the Indonesian language. The walls and ceilings were painted white but old and dirty. Windows were large and usually open because the weather was warm. Geckos climbed around the ceilings looking for insects to eat.

People ate differently. They were eating with their right hands, using their fingers to pick up the rice and pick the meat out of the chicken wings. We drank Indonesian tea with huge chunks of white ice in it. And we rested for a bit. On the TV, several people were singing old English songs in silky Dean Martin style while many other people danced romantically in pairs on the floor in front of them. This was a TV show but it looked like a livecam coming from a dance club somewhere. I could now be absolutely sure that I was no longer in Hong Kong.

Leaving the Bali ferry port on our way to Java

We left the minibus downstairs and walked up to the deck to enjoy the cool breeze as the ferry left the Bali port on its way to the Java island.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

A couple of hours later, we drove onto a large ferry with several other buses, trucks and cars and took the ferry over the channel to Java on the other side. The ferry trip took around thirty minutes and while looking up at the clear starry sky; something we never see in Hong Kong because we have too many street lights; I suddenly noticed Mars shining down on us, shimmering brightly and slightly red. I had read about Mars' approach in an email sent to me a few weeks ago. The last time Mars was this close to Earth was apparently about seven thousand years ago. The next time it will be this close won't be for another fifty thousand years so I considered myself lucky to see it there so clearly and brilliantly in the Indonesian sky.

Several hours later, we finally arrived at Isah's home, way up in Java territory. It was around four am and there were still a few people on the streets. I soon learned that those people were not staying up late but rather were up early, getting ready for the day's work ahead of them; at four in the morning!

(continued in "Home")


Filed in Indonesia (2005), Travel

(the first of a series of articles related to my trip to Java and Bali in Indonesia)

There are shops all around me but I have nothing to buy.

There is food and restaurants all around but I had lunch only two hours ago, and I'm supposed to be watching my weight so eating just for the sake of eating is out of the question.

There's a movie theatre but I've already seen one movie today and I'll already spend much more time sitting down today than is healthy.

I'm being barraged from all sides by music that I don't want to hear.

I'm surrounded by people I don't know.

I'll be here for another two hours and I'm not allowed out.

I'm in prison. I'm in the Singapore Changi International Airport.

(Next article in this series: "A starry journey")

Healing Hands III Discussion

Filed in TVB (H.K.) 香港無線電視, WorkTags:

Some readers saw my performance on tonight's episode of Healing Hands III (strangely enough almost exactly the same time in both Australia and Hong Kong) and requested that I open a discussion 'forum', so here it is. Feel free to chat away.

Please remember that I'll be away from Hong Kong for several days beginning Sunday. Consequently, there may be fewer updates to the blog until I get back.

It’s official. Hong Kong’s a part of China.

Filed in Hong Kong, Photo of the Day



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