Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Malaysia's Web

I am always curious about what is going on in the Malaysia Internet community, not just the blogosphere (from PPS), but perhaps trying to find out what is the coolest and latest useful web application launched for Malaysia, or by Malaysian. I am doing MMW Food, and I am sure there are a dozen of people or more out there are working on some other interesting idea or trying to solve some daily problems.

Firstly, I stumbled upon WebWatch Malaysia, which seems to have quite a number of information on Malaysian Web and Entrepreneur related stuff. It gets me started to a whole lot of interesting stuff, so kudos to Khailee.

From there, it links me to a very interesting company in Malaysia called MindValley. From the website, it looks like the ideal company where every programmer who dream of starting their own business should work at (it sounds like the utopia company for techie, or IT related personel) . I think they are an incubator for some interesting business idea (mostly web related), and maybe the people who get employed to work on the project get to be the stakeholder in the project? Or they try to encourage and couch their employees to be entrepreneur as well? Anyway, the website itself is already a very powerful marketing weapon, as it fires up my curiosity. I think I should really check this company out.

Then it brought me to a few other local business idea such as:
  • Bunch Out – Meet other groups of people through group listings
  • Tumpang - pooling your resources with other users to get the best deals. It’s really about getting a bulk discount.
  • A Digg Clone
  • PacMee – a Shoutouts so to call, but looks to me like a message board to post short messages and announcement. Do people really read the message posted? Anyway, it's a Twitter-Clone.
I wonder if Springwise feature a Malaysian start-up before.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Dream of Freedom

Don’t we ask ourselves this question this question in life so many times, “What do I want in life?” Tonight, at this moment in time, I had an answer for myself, FREEDOM.

It’s not just financial freedom, or democracy kind of freedom, but the freedom to live life as naturally as it can be, following my dream and instinct. When I look into a scene of a snow mountain, I feel like I wanna live there. It’s not just about the snow, or mountain, or even the nature. I think it is more than that. I think it’s the freedom to choose where I would like to stay, and how would I live my life.

It’s not so much that we don’t have freedom, but we do have a lot of responsibility in life. We need to take care of our family, need to pay for the car and house, and to support our lifestyle in the city. A lot of time, we end up doing a lot of thing that we didn’t really fancy, for the excuse to support our lifestyle. If we chase our dream, then there are sacrifices to be made. Between sacrificing our dream and sacrificing our money, which one do you think is worst?

I am moving towards realizing my dream: to get my freedom. Nothing come easy, and I shouldn't let that thought stop me; heck I it’s so easy, the dream would not be so precious. The Dream of Freedom; It doesn’t quite matter where I stay or what I own, is all in the mind. If I put my mind and heart to make, I really believe I could make it happen. I probably could read mind too, haha.

Let put the big picture aside and look into the smaller picture. Between Engineering and Computer Programming, I thought I would like to do programming more as it had more room for creation. Between R&D and Application Development, I thought I would like Application Development more because I like to build. Between Business Application and Social Application, I think I would like Social Application more as it is more fun and meaningful. Between Employment and Entrepreneurial, I would prefer Entrepreneurial anytime because I get to choose and decide. Between being alone and having a companion, I would prefer to have someone by my side. Whenever I found myself another option, I have to move into the correct direction and know myself a little bit better.

If we can just put money aside ( even for a short while) and give it some thought and try, I think we could probably find out what we want to do with our life. Is the price worth paying for? Is there anything worst than forgoing your dream?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gu Wen & Wynn Wedding Video

5th November 2007, Tan Khor Boon and Wynn Low tie the knot and live happily ever after :)



Video Links
Photo Links

Kit2 Birthday Video

Mei Ru's Nephew :)



Video Links

Cameron Highland Video (After Charlie XPDC)

A day tour around Cameron Highlands after XPDC Gunung Challi / Charlie, courtesy of Chim to provide the accommodation and act as the tour guide.



Video Links
Photo Links

Monday, November 19, 2007

Gunung Rajah Expedition 2 Video

This is my 2nd expedition to Gunung Rajah, with the first one in 2006 (which happens to be my 1st trekking with Siong Har and team, and there are quite some memory there). Gunung Rajah is a nice place and beautiful water stream, which take 5 hours to trek to the base camp, and perhaps another to reach the top.

Last I went there I saw some project going on to laid big pipe to tap into the water stream, and I just hope that the development would not spoil Rajah.



Video Links

Photo Links

Gu Wen & Wynn Wedding


5th November 2007, Gu Wen and Wynn finally tight the knot on a journey toward eternal happiness. But life is not all green and flowery, so sit tight and endure the rough ride together. Though I am not really an expert in this field, but I believe as long as we always have the best interest of others in our mind, then we should not screw up too much (as long as your assumption of what’s best for others is correct).


Sorry for not being a really impressive MC on your wedding night, as I was not really good with public speaking nor did I prepared enough to create something more fun and entertaining. Maybe I shall get better with a few more try and more experience, so you guys are the guinea pig lor.

As for your video, I shall dedicate today to complete it as a wedding present, and I shall need to work until midnight to make up for my lost of productivity as well. So, do think about “rewarding” when if you found the video to be good :)

Photo Links: Mei Ru's Multiply 1, 2

Review: Randy Pausch’s Last Lecturer

I try to make it a point not to blog during my “official working” hours, as I find it disruptive and I couldn’t finish my work. But sometimes I do browse around and find something really good (this time from Mei Ru), and couldn’t resist not to blog about it so that I would not forgot what I should have remembered.

Randy Pausch’s Last Lecturer. He was a Carnegie Mellon (once I wish I would get a chance to study there, thinking of the opportunity and possibility) professor who is dying of cancer. I didn’t know this great man prior to this, so I won’t pretend to introduce him properly. What I know is his last lecture, which is a 1:45 minutes of video and the time spent is definitely worth it.

I am not really good at writing a summary is nice English and story-telling kind of way, so I would utilize my usual efficient method of points form.

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“When you screw up really badly and no one tell you about it, it means no one really care about you anymore (they had given up on you)”, so be glad when someone bother to criticize you (in a constructive manner).

“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you want”. I found it to be very true, as we learn more while trying to get it right. It makes us wonder and try more, knowing that we would reach there somehow, sooner or later.

“Captain Kirk is not really the smartest people on board on Enterprise; Spork was pretty smart, McCoy was the doctor and Scottie was the Engineer. What skill set does he have to sit on the no 1 seat in Enterprise? Leadership”. Sometimes it’s just more than technicality and raw knowledge.

“It’s cool to meet your childhood idol, but it’s even cooler to have him visit you and see what you had done in your lab”.

“Brick wall are there for a reason; they let us prove how badly we want something, and to keep ‘other people’ away”.

“Give people enough time, and they will be surprised and impressed with you”

If you found a student project which is the best that you had seen, what should you say to the creators? “Guys, what you have done are pretty good, and I know you guys could do better”. Why? You obviously don’t know where the bar would be, and you only would do them a disservice by putting it anywhere.

Project Alice, allow millions of kids to have fun while learning something very hard.

Andy van Dam, “It’s such a shame that people perceived you as so arrogant, because it’s going to limit what you’ll be able to accomplish.” What does it means? It means that you are a JERK.

“I don’t know about not to have fun. I am dying if I am not having fun. I am going to keep having fun everyday I have left, as there is no other way to life”. How many of us take it as it is we cannot have fun in out work, as it’s meant for survival and to support the family. Is there really no way to have fun in our work, and we didn’t try to make the necessary changes to make it happen?

“Never loose the child-like wonder”. Can you think of what childhood dream you used to have, and what had happened to it?

“Loyalty is a two-way street”.

“When you found a man who is romantically interested with you, just ignore everything he say and pay attention only to what they do”, Sharon Louis.

Would you put aside your wife’s birthday celebration to give the last lecture of your life? Randy would bring his wife along and celebrate it with his 500 audience.

How to get people to help you?
  • You can’t get there alone, and I believe in Karma.
  • Tell the truth
  • Be earnest
  • Apologize when you screw up
  • Focus on others, not yourself

Be prepared: “Luck” is where preparation meets opportunity

Head Fake: “When we sent our kid to learn football, they are not just learning football. They are actually learning teamwork, perseverance, etc”. It’s what you had learn when you didn’t realize that you are learning it.

Head Fake: “This lecture is not about how to achieve your dream, but how to live your life”. The dream is just an objective, is the journey that counts.

2nd Head Fake: “This lecture is not for you guys, it’s for my children”.

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I think Randy is a good person with wisdom of life. Sometimes that we are obsessed with our dream, and how to make money or to find our passion and true purpose in life. It’s all about how to live our life. When you are lost, look at your life and think how to make it better (if it’s already not a better life).

I think there is always something special about western university like Carnegie Mellon, it is not so much about the quality of their courses and lecturer; it's the freedom and opportunity and exposure presented. You get to do and create things, and you are encouraged and given the necessary platform and environment to do so. The freedom to express.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Alpha Review: The E-Myth Revisited

Accidentally found a good read "The E-Myth Revisited"at Borders while waiting for Mei Ru and gang for my “surprise” birthday celebration. Thanks Guys, appreciate the treat and effort to come :)

So, why would people like me would want to become a freelance, business owner or entrepreneur? Because we are the one who know how to do the work (and probably quite good at it), and we see the bosses and manager fail to do a good job, or screw up too much. So we decided that we don’t need these people who are not contributing, and we can handle the situation perfectly well. Walah! We quite our job and become our own boss? Sounds familiar?

That’s the exact thing which captures my attention, as it is so true. The problem is, we are the “Technician” who understands the technical work of a business, but we might not actually understand a business that does the technical work. Basically it means though we know how to do the work, we might not know how to run a business.

What is it like to be a business owner? It brought to light that we have 3 personalities within us, mainly The Entrepreneur, The Manager and The Technician.
  • The Entrepreneur – lives in the future, looks for control, the visionary and the finder
  • The Manager – lives in the past, looks for order, the planner and the minder
  • The Technician – lives in the present, look for work, the doer and the grinder.

So, I am truly a Technician, so this personality usually dominates. I can become a manager and keep order, especially for the past year. The trickiest part is Entrepreneur, as I set my own future and strategize. It’s tricky that I have no idea whether I am doing it right, as I have the least experience with this personality. Basically I should strengthen my Manager and Entrepreneur characteristics, and to gain more knowledge and experience in those area.

Since know I understand better who I am, now what? What should be done to increase my chances of success? Hmm, I haven’t reach that part yet. I wanted to buy the book, but I think I can finish it if I sit there for a whole day, and I plan to do so :)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Review: The Business of Software

This is an above average book about software business, which gives a pretty good insight into Service Company and Product Company, and also what to lookout for in running a software business. It’s not great, but nevertheless a good read as well.

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It seems like being a Service Company (customize solution and consultancy, think Formis) or Product Company (actual product, think UBS Accounting) have an equal chance of success. It is not so much of choosing between a Service or Product company, but how much to emphasize on them at different time. But what about those Social Networking or Online Advertising kind of business, it seems like a new hybrid of Service+Product (create a product to provide service, and you generate income not by selling your product, but selling your service, or popularity).


When we are small (which I am now), we should be more Product Centric, focusing on Best Product, Ease of Use, Elegant, Cheapest Pricing, Unique Functionality and etc. When we are big, we should focus be more Market Centric, focusing on Largest Install Base, Most 3rd Part Support, De Facto Standard, Lowest Cost on Ownership and Best Quality of Support.


Creditability is utmost important, defend it at all cost. If you loose your creditability, you loose your customer.


Eat your own dog food = User you won product.


Niche market and new platform are the best places to look for new software product and service opportunity.


The goal of every software company should be to establish large and growing revenue that are recurring through Service and Maintenance Contract, Upgrades and Complementary Product.


Software service company should always remain profitable if it manages head count and expenses carefully.


Some Rules
  • Assemble allies
  • Pre-empt competition, through rapid design cycles and penetration pricing
  • Manage customer expectation with aggressive marketing, public road map and easy product announcement
  • Don’t become complacent, continuous product improvement
  • If you are out of the Standard, try to compete on Price/Performance, Quality and Service

A Strong Startup (though I agree with the idea, but I am not sure how to achieve it)
  • Strong Management Team
  • Attractive Market
  • Compelling new product, service or hybrid solution
  • Strong evidence or customer interest
  • A plan to overcome creditability gap
  • A business model showing early growth and profit potential
  • Flexibility and strategy and product offering
  • The potential for a large payoff to investors

Review: Five Easy way to Fail

What could go wrong in a software project? I am sure everyone has their fair share of experience. I think based on some kind of statistic I read before, more than 50% of software project would eventually fail (or at least, the customer would not be happy). Based on the article from “How Hard Could It Be?: Five Easy Ways to Fail” by Joel Spolsky, here it goes:

Good People
It is said good programmer is 10 times more productive than bad ones, and 2.5 times as productive as the good one. Besides, there are certain “miracles” only the very best are capable of creating. But I still doubt the No. 1 cause of failure is because the development team sucks, or at least, I never been in a team which sucks so much (who gather this team anyway).

Estimation
I do agree it is always hard to make estimation based on a few pages of documents. The devil is in the detail, and we don’t have the detail in hand (the detail only comes on after we dig it during the requirement gathering and system analysis stage, if we do get the project) when we are required to do the estimation (to determine the man days and pricing). With little information in hand, I always mark-up the effort by 50%. One more thing, programmer could be quite optimistic in estimation, so beware!

Deadline
Customer always wants the product to be delivered yesterday, and the developer is always behind schedule and rushing. “Add more people to it”, they say. “Pregnancy take 9 months, no matter how many women you add to it”, says The Mythical Man Month. Something just cannot be rush, or at least it get worse when rushed. You want something lousy (or don’t work) and fast, or something good but being delivered slower? If the product is your baby, I am sure you know the answer. So don’t set unreasonable deadline just for the fun of it, unless it’s absolutely necessary (which is not necessary 90% of the time).

You Don’t Assign Task Equally
This is very true. Everyone work at different speed with different kind of productivity, and they are good at different things. Don’t divide the work into 5 equal pieces and give to 5 developers, as the slow eater will slow down the progress while the fast eater is wasting time on popurls.com.

Work till midnight
I am not an advocate on programmer should always work late. When this always happen, there must be something gone wrong somewhere. Either someone screw up the schedule estimation, or give in to customer’s unreasonable deadline, or project management fucked up, or the programmer just suck big time. Working over 9:00 PM every night is really like a “Death March”, where the morale is dip lower and people are going to leave the job very soon. Occasional project dash is alright, but it is not supposed to be a habit or culture.

What else?
Of cause there are other issues which come to mind, such as
  • No proper tools and libraries to fasten development. No existing framework or architecture as foundation to built upon. No standard practices within the organisation to ensure consistency for maintenance sake.
  • Fail to understand the requirement of the Customer. Some people just don’t have good listening skill.
  • Specification changes rapidly as the project goes. This is not unusual, and the situation is very delicate. This arrangement basically screws up all your estimation, budget and task allocation. Why do we agree to it in the first place? Because we need to deliver yesterday? Deliver what yesterday? Don’t ever agree to this, because it is a death trap. Unless the customer is really paying a lot of money for this, perhaps 500% more than your initial vague estimation.
  • Don’t keep changing people or switching task when the project is running at full steam. You are basically slicing your own productivity and risking your schedule.
  • Manage your Change Request professional and skillfully. Everything must be documented, and indicate whether this change shall have impact on the timeline and cost.
I never quite participated in a very successful project (which I feel like bragging about), unless it’s my freelance project. What does this mean? Maybe I am at the wrong place all these while.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Malaysian Blogger turns PRO

I regard Kenny Sia as a professional blogger, because he blogs for the reader’s amusement, or maybe he is an entertainer. Basically he don’t do mindless rant (or writing personal diary), he put a lot of effort to make it funny or controversial, or anything to keep the readers happy and keep rolling in. Then I found Nicolekiss link from his blog, and they share almost the same style, and they are promoting for the hugo fragrance as well.

This came as triple shocks. Why?
  1. More and more people are becoming entertainment blogger like Kenny Sia
  2. Online advertisement had gone from Google Adsense > Pay to Blog > Nuffnang > Indirectly blogging about the advertiser’s theme and give out free gifts
  3. And they are doing combo blog advertisement – link to each other and talking about similar topic. This is a well planned blog advertising campaign.

So blogging could end up as a popular profession very soon (or already is), just like Cyber Athletes.

What do I know about Software Business?

What do I know? Come to think of it seriously, I started to doubt what I really know, after so many years being a software developer, freelancer and also trying a startup. What is the typical software startup in Malaysia? I guess you get a few people who share the same interest and to work very hard doing software service (customization), and hopefully be able to develop a software product one day. I think this is the typical thinking of a programmer, rather than a businessman.

I think most startup in this country got started in 2 ways. One is those who got funded, so that they could pay reasonably good money to talented people to provide software service or developing software product; to get up to speed fast. The other group started the company by leeching on the talents and customer base of their ex-company; so they have both manpower and business on the first day. My conclusion is a typical Malaysia software business does not start from group up and not fueled by passion and dream, or at least I think very few started this way.

Maybe I am being a programmer influenced by all some old time Silicon Valley stories (usually started in the garage), but even most of them got funded eventually, maybe not in the beginning. I still like the idea of dream and passion, though they might not business-wise feasible. Perhaps I find it very difficult to motivate myself to work or to do a good job, if there isn’t any passion in it. I find it difficult just to do something just for the sake of making money. Having said that, I am definitely so programmer like rather than businessman like. Am I doomed in software business?

Take Malaysia Most Wanted for example, I do it because I am passionate about it, though it is not so economically feasible. It’s difficult to get funding for it, because it is nothing too unique in the business mind. VC treats it as a portal, and VC don’t fund portal nowadays. Maybe I should term it as Social Network, since Facebook, Friendster, MySpace and all that it gaining so much popularity. Besides passion, I feel there is a need for MMW: because I need it to help me to find a nice place to dine, to find new property, or to find a nice place to travel to or to buy something from somewhere. I think there is nothing unique about it, but there is no service out there providing what I want as well. Very contradicting and disturbing, isn’t it. I think the devil is in the detail, and so is the angel. I am developing something which I can use, or I would like to use. Besides eating my own dog food, I am creating something to solve a problem, at least my problem. I wonder if I am the majority.

Other than banking on the Internet or Passion, a more typical and secure path would be software service, meaning customizing software for clients. That depends mainly on my contacts, my creditability, my craftsmanship, my pricing, my service, my direction and my luck. I definitely know how to develop software (Technical Skill) for people (Communication Skill), but the question is how to turn this into a sustainable business. I would need to find ways to get more projects (Sales, Marketing and PR Skills kick in here), and perhaps to find a few partners or employees (People, Management, Leadership Skill) to work together, and to generate a sustainable income stream (Business Skill) through the code base (faster development time) and maintenance contract, and to come out with some kind of product as well. So, how to find more projects and what kind a product to develop at a later stage.

Some say if we walk the typical path, we would end up being average as well.

What do I know? So much, yet so little. I think I need more thinking and help.

Gunung Buah Bunga

It had been quite a while since the Gunung Buah Bunga trip, near Genting Sempah. Now trying to utilize the free times to patch back blogging time, haha.

Group Photo, as usual

I think it’s a Merdeka weekend holiday trip. Usually Buah Bunga is a day trip, but we just wanna make it more fun by camping on top. We start our journey from the vegetable farm behind Gohtong Jaya’s shop, where the entire journey is between 3-4 hours. One part of the road (I was told this is part of the old Genting Road, now filled with bushes) is filled with leeches, so walk quickly and stop yelling.


Quickie (Photo Taken will the camera is hanging from the Iron tower)

We are not gonna steal your food, Miss Guinea Pig

Stop Laughing, hahaha

There is nothing too exciting about this mountain, just some good exercise and get away to city headache. We have a stretch of TAR road (infested with some leeches, not as bad as some other legendary leech mountain), some small hills and a last water point an hour before hitting the peak. There is a mini iron tower at the top, with a nice view overlooking some mountains and town. Mountain is definitely a good place to leave the “city” reality temporary behind me while I think of how the hell am I going to reach the top (or go back down in time to have lunch).

Beware of Leeches

I got stung by a bee, just because the little bugger got trapped in my shirt (then you have to die, and I have to suffer). One of Mei Ru’s friend make it to the top and fall asleep upon the first chance she got, while the other have to go down on the same day with others because she is feeling sick. And also, I lost my sleeping bag at the LRT a day earlier, and luckily Kelly manage to lend me hers one.

Photo Links: Mei Ru's Multiply 1, 2 and 3

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Breakup Plan

In life we always have numerous plan, I want to do this, I want to do that, but we end up didn’t quite do it. So here is another futile attempt to plan my future, but why bother? Because failure to plan guarantee my failure? Haha.

Since I exited the business, I would need to rethink carefully on what I should embark on next. It’s exciting; it’s refreshing and scary at the same time. I would count that this is my 4th attempt to survive under self employment. I like the idea, and I felt that I am drifting away from climbing the corporate ladder. If I choose the path of employment again, I might choose Singapore, just to try out some new environment and challenges. Before that, I would try my best to stand on my own feet.

What option do I have?
  • I could proceed with more freelance software developments, which had been brining in small income all these years. I am weak in my business connections and sales, so I would have to figure that out.
  • I could develop a product, but I still need the sales channel to make the effort worth while.
  • I could continue with my Pet Project Malaysia Most Wanted, which I am very passionate about, and to make it more commercially viable.
  • I could help my cousin more often at The Skill Academy, but teaching is not really my real passion.
Now I think of it, I still remember of my New Year resolution of RM 100K of business income per year, which had not been achieved for consecutive god knows how many years. I think I am still a relaxed person (or lazy) which haven’t gone through much hardship in life. If someone can be the successful CEO of Exabytes and become a millionaire by the age of 25, that prove age is not really a barrier. If I put my heart and mind to do it, nothing is impossible right? Right, I believe that. It’s how to convince myself on how to put 100% of my heart and mind to it. How to stop myself from slacking and giving excuses.

How is this time going to be different from the last time? How do I change my attitude and mindset? How do I brainwash myself and perform some neural programming.

There need to be Change. The plan is important, so is the execution, but the mindset and attitude is even more important. Though it is more easily said than done, but it could no longer be used as an excuse. It needs to be done through the good old fashion way, hard work.

The basic plan is freelancing to keep myself afloat (need to engage some help on this matter) and to do Malaysia Most Wanted until nothing more can be done. No regret. No excuse. To do until there is nothing left to do.

Broken Business Partnership

Another year had passed, another broken partnership, perhaps it’s time to rethink what I should do next. Before that, let’s have a postmortem on why the partnership failed.

Why did I exit? Not really about money, since we haven’t made much yet. It’s more on ideal on how I think the company should be run. We have 4 partners, 2 person works in the company, another 2 works outside the company. At first I am okay with the arrangement, since I am occupied with some problems to solve and to restructure the company and to keep it away from chaos. Besides, the 2 partners working outside would not bleed the company, and perhaps would add value and resources, or even help to bring in more business.

As time goes by, the company got more stable and we manage to employ some people, and the projects in hand might be overloading us as well. Since it’s hard to employ some good programmers, and they doesn’t come cheap as well, perhaps it’s time to bring all the partners under the same umbrella (or the same boat) and work together as a team in a more closely manner. I feel that we also need the synergy, as I felt apart from them and we aren’t really “working together” full heartedly in a “fulltime” manner to grow the company. I felt if you treat the company like a part-time affair, it shall remain a part-time business. I felt everyone should start bearing some risk, get out of their comfort zone, sit on the same boat and be responsible for the company, do or break kind of style. At least, it would force us to work together better and everyone would give all they have to make this work. When you burnt bridges, that’s where the real actions begin. If you still have your income coming from somewhere else, if you still feel too comfortable, if you still don’t need to take responsibility together, if this business is still a part-time affair (you didn’t spent most of your time working in the business, didn’t you, although you though that you might have gave priority to the business), I don’t see the company would have any future in it.

I have a heated argument with the partners, and they disagree with my view (they would not want to come in to work in the company). They have their reasons and arguments, and I have my ideals. After some thought, I decided to exit the partnership, since I don’t believe I could work under such arrangement for long term (basically I don't believe in the idea of going through the partnership in this manner). On the following week (after I state my decision to exit), they told me that they would leave their current company and bring some of their existing staff to work here. WTF! My first impression was that I was so screwed. I realize that they are not willing to leave their comfort zone until I force them to do so. As long as I am still there to guard the base, they could continue to remain in their comfort zone. So, it’s a loose-loose situation for me. It is ironic that I have to leave the company in order to have my ideal achieved. I was a money making machine for them, and they didn’t have my interest in their mind. I guess at the end, everyone is for themselves. I understand it’s just business, but I thought there is more meaning for the word “partnership” where we wouldn’t utilize others for our own comfort. I guess I was too ideal again, haha.

Is my decision correct? Like I always said, there is not so much of right or wrong, just what I believed and to stick with it. No turning back, no regrets. It’s time to think of survival and future plan from now onwards. I might have made some bad decisions here and there, but I don’t really know, do I? I know from the beginning business partnership is difficult, and I decide to give it a chance. Perhaps now I understand the formula for a successful business partnership slightly better (do I?). I still have a lot to learn, and to try, until I succeed someday.

After learning from some mistakes, what I should do next is the more important question.

Malaysia Software Business and IT Talent

I had not write for quite a while, not because nothing special is happening around me, but it’s just too much of them until I’m not quite sure what to talk about. Perhaps it’s a bad idea to jumble everything out in one post, as it would be too lengthy and might be lost at times. So, I’ll try my best to keep it lean and mean. BTW, my loyal readers (haha) ask me why I haven’t blog for quite a while, so here it is.

I said quite a while ago that business partnership is light marriage, and I think it is still true. And I just exited a marriage, haha. The good thing is, I am pretty open minded about it, though I had been married for a year by now. Isn’t all the time and effort wasted, I ask myself? Somehow I don’t think so, as I did learn something from it, and it sort of give me a better and fresher perspective, or at least a slight better idea on how to survive in the software business world. Life is not all about winning and success, although it would be ideal. A loser once said, failing is the mother of all success, so I kind agree with the loser.

I think the software business world is transforming quite rapidly in Malaysia for the past few years, and the barrier of entry for self-funded small startup had been raised. Why is it so? It’s because of the MSC is screwing our homegrown IT industry and giving funds and opportunities for MNC to suck our local resources dry. I was told MSC initial strategy is to help the local players, but they are too small and grow too slowly, thus it doesn’t look good on MSC's book. Then they decide to do some creative accounting and invite some global players, not only giving them tax break but to give them money as well so that they could suck on our local talents. Suddenly the industry had exponential growth, everyone is working in MNC using our own tax dollar and everyone is happy, except local ICT players. It had been harder to get local talents to fuel the business, and the cost of employment had gone up rapidly which the quality goes the other way.

I think more local talents are working for MNC nowadays, which could be a good thing due to the expected “Knowledge Transfer” effect which don’t usually happens very often. But I am worry for some fresh graduates who went to some initial high pay but dead end job, such as call centre and product support. Yes, you get RM 3000 or more as starting salary, which is absolutely very tempting. After a few years, you try to look for other job which pay higher than RM 3000, then you would found yourself in a dead end. You have no experience (taking call for years is not an experience to brag about), and taking another call centre job won’t get you higher salary or a better career. If you do product support, your career and experience restarted to ground zero when the product dies (or dying), which happens very often. Each product had an average life span of 5 years, and it’s a universal law each product will go down one day and being replaced by something else. If you choose a career such as a programmer (or Network Engineer or System Analyst), you might get paid a lesser starting salary, but at least you have a future as you gain skill and experience. You would be building upon a good foundation block, and could continue building upon it to get a better future.

My advice for the fellow fresh IT graduates of Malaysia out there:
  • Programming is the most secure IT job out there in the market at the moment. Demand is always high, and supply is always low. It’s not an easy job, that’s why so many people choose not to do it. It requires passion, skill, patient and quite a lot of hard time.
  • Don’t choose a job which could be outsourced to other country, such as a call centre job. Read the book “The World is Flat”. Someone is willing to take a quarter of your salary and work twice as long.
  • Don’t depends your career on a product, or at least make sure the product had future (which I think is risky as well). Remember: when the product dies (either RIP or sales slowdown), you go down with it together.
  • MNC could be quite merciless during cut cost exercise and retrenchment, so don’t ever feel too comfortable. Company loyalty (both way) is a thing of the past. Learning opportunity is always there, but be prepared for some surprises as well.
  • Don’t be too specialized. Learn a few more skills, including soft skills. Even though you are a technical person, do learn a little bit about sales, marketing, business, management, communication and etc. Even though you are a Java master, do know a bit about .NET, PHP or C++.
  • When you are a rookie, be patient and learn, think about money later (which will eventually come when you are really good). Humility is very important, and you could only afford to be arrogant when you are damn good. Don't be demanding or arrogant without something to support that.
Time had changed. I felt old now. God bless everything.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Work and Passion, how to do it?

I think once in a while, we would want to reflect on our life, especially about our job and what we would like to do. Then we try to think of our passion, about how we can chase our passion and whether we could afford to leave the things we are doing now. It’s a complicated thing, with a lot of concerns and uncertainty.

Today, I got a more systematic view about things and some small answers. Yes, we must chase our passion and do the things we like. Yes, money is important and we need it to support many things. So, we need the money before we can chase the passion. Unless we can turn our passion into money, else we will have to make enough money to support our passion.

So, how do we make the money? We can work very hard to make more money, but it shall consume all our time and energy. So, can we make money without working very hard? There is an idea of passive income, where it is the ability to generate income without actually working or physically attending the business all the time. What is the example of passive income? Perhaps rental gained from property investment, perhaps a website which automatically generates income with little supervision or perhaps a business which is run by a proper manager. Passive income means a mechanism which shall continue to generate income though we are sleeping at home and not going to work. Passive income does not means we don't have to work at all, but to work hard initially to create a system which can generate income without much participation from us at a later age. It's like a Money Making Machine. We create a Money Making Machine, and we don't become the machine itself.

So, why do we need to generate passive income? Can’t we work very hard to make the money instead? Yes, you could. The reason is to achieve financial independence. What is financial independence? It’s the day where we do not work for survival. As quoted by Robert Kiyosaki (famous for Rich Dad Poor Dad), it’s the number of days you can survived without working, and the number of days should be forever (at least until you die). So, how do I calculate that? The rough formula is your Net Worth (all your money and liquid able asset) divide by your comfortable daily expenses minus your passive income. So, the quickest way to achieve financial independence is to increase your net worth, reduce your actual expenses and increase you passive income. You could be super rich, or you could spend very little. Or, you could create a passive income which could actually match your expenses, and then you would have achieved FREEDOM.

Then you could work up in the morning; choose not to go to work, and start thinking of what you would rather be doing for the day. The idea is the easy part; the execution of the plan is the essence.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Bukit Wangsa Cheras a.k.a Ah Pak San (阿伯山)

This City Mountain is somewhere near Cheras, about 2 hours plus of trekking (5 stations) and you could choose to descent to a nice little waterfall. Though small, but it is still nice and cooling.

Direction: Along Jalan Loke Yew until you pass by Leisure Mall, look for a "Pasukan Pergerakan Am" sign or army base on your left (before the Toll). Turn left and go along until you reach a T-junction, then turn right and go along until you see some shop on you left. Turn left before the shops until you reached a new residential area named "Sunway Cheras". Bukit Wangsa Cheras is somewhere beyond "Sunway Cheras". There is an empty field there, followed a row of shops and followed by residential area. There shall be a lot of cars there during the weekend.

The steps are quite steep and challenging at some point, and should take around 2 hours to reach the top (station 5). There is not much of a view there, so your best reward is the waterfall. The descent to the waterfall is quite steep at some point, and the entire journey shouldn't take more than 3 hours (not counting the time you spent at the waterfall). There is a nice hut there build by the local community, and the place is just nice for 20 people or less.







Photo Links: Mei Ru's Multiply, Ah Bug's Multiply

Mount Bromo

The last day of the adventure revolve around Mount Bromo, which is relaxing yet interesting. We bunk at Lave View Resort, which looks like a resort in no mans land. We have to take a 4WD to go through some bumpy road which looks like Savannah, followed by ocean of dessert sands after it. It feels like we are being kidnapped and they try to hide us in some deserted place.

The resort is not bad, except for the hot water not working very well for the room upstairs. The food is decent. Anyway, it’s nice to be in a resort after battling Mount Semeru. We had a good night sleep, and the sleep is never enough.

We have to wake up early again to catch the sunrise at Mount Panajakan (I think) which oversee Mount Bromo. Bromo is a short little volcanic mountain, and the sunrise is on the far left of Bromo. The morning is still very cold, where we are in full winter suite and catch some local breakfast to keep us warm. The view point is pretty crowded with people with all sorts of camera, and the view is indeed worth it. Volcanic area in Surabaya usually seems dry and vast, and there is a kind of beauty attached to it.

Sunrise at Panajakan View Point

Out next stop is Mount Bromo itself, where we get to ride horse for around 10 plus minutes for RP 50,000 (about RM 20). Somehow, it seems fun and worth it, and there are a lot of horses running around. The ground is another piece of dusty dessert land, where we ride uphill and end up walking a couple hundreds of stair steps before reaching the top of Bromo. The smell of sulfur is obvious, and constant smoke comes out from the crater (not as magnificent as Mount Semeru). The view down is great, with mountains and vastness of dessert land. I saw a familiar scene of a walled structure in the middle of dessert, probably from those forwarded emails (or movie).


Bromo is behind us

Good Horsie

There seems to be a narrow path for you to walk around the mouth of Bromo, where a young European couple seems to be the only one talking the path. Too bad we are running out of time, and the path looks dangerous as well (Danger? Isn’t Semeru more dangerous?).

Some Hill around Bromo

Yeah!

Sandy Sand

The Adventure Team (us) split with the Reunion Team again after Bromo, where we proceed to water rafting. We had our photo session and all that. Again, the mountain area and its agriculture look beautiful and soothing to the eye. Sometimes, I do hope to live in the mountains, just that I am not sure what am I suppose to do there.

The water rafting is about 2 hour’s journey from Bromo, and it’s just Grade 3 (where Padas in Kota Kinabalu is Grade 4). Once you ride some big horses, small donkey is no fun at all. The experience is just so so, but since we already paid for it, why not. The local lunch is good, which some special jagung rice and small little salted fish (I probably eaten at least 20 of them, muahaha).


The journey ends with another 2 hours of travel and to rush for our flight. Air Asia didn’t come late this time, and we reach the air port 30 minutes before departure time. Alvin the Tiger book some front seat for us, and everyone is happy and tired. Mount Semeru is definitely memorable, and I am glad that we make it to the top. It is difficult, and perhaps it’s the difficulty which makes it worth it.

Photo Links: Mei Ru's Multiply, Wynn's Multiply, Michelle's Multiply, Tang's Multiply

Gua Tempurung

Chim organized an event to Gua Tempurung, where we spent a night at Ah Fong’s place in Tapah. I have to go through a meeting on Saturday which lasted from 10AM to 4PM, sacrificing my lunch and opportunities to visit the Property Fair for MMW. Mei Ru and I meet-up with Chim and company around 6PM at Siong Har’s place. His leg injury still looks serious to me (still bloated up), but friends and family claims it is getting better and he can start driving next week after 4 weeks of resting and treatment. On the same day, Christ and Wan Kam brought our Tai Kor for a weekend makan trip.

The journey is quite pleasant, where we had nice dinner at Tapah for RM 70++ for 5 persons, with pork, eel, fish, bean curd and “paku” vegetables (it’s a very good deal for me). Ah Fong’s hometown house is an old style wooden house which is super spacious. I saw a post-Atari era gaming console which uses tape cartridges, which is famous for games like Battle City and Galaxian. It was my first gaming console (when I was a kid) and I had so much fun with it, until my neighbor’s Sega and Super Famicon machine invaded the living room. Mei Ru had such a machine at home when she was young as well, thus she is quite addicted to it as well. Mei Ru and I had a few round before all of us hit the bed.

Grandfather Clock and Ah Fong, at her hometown's home

Breakfast at Kampar market, I think

Gua Tempurung is a HUGE cave, and it’s pretty hard to estimate the size of the hole from the outside. Entry is RM22 per person for the grand tour, which involved 3 hours plus of walking and include every corner of the cave allowed. There are cheaper and easier packages, but we are all hardcore mountain climbers with a reputation to keep, so we cannot take wimpy packages, muahaha.

Map of Gua Tempurung

The beginning involves some well paved track and quite some stairs. Our Guide, Mr “Andy Lau” (who happens to be a Malay named Mamat) show us some stones and stalagmite formations which shape like cat, tiger, dinosaur, Mona Lisa, Osama Bin Laden and etc. Some car drawings and wording on the walls by the Communist people, and the rest are just vandalism. The light is quite dim, so my video camera is pretty useless there, and my head lamp is not bright enough for it. Digital camera is still feasible, using the slow shutter, flash and keep the objects nearer.

Entrance

The Cave

Soon we leave the track and venture into the water streams, into total darkness with no more dim light but our head lamp. The water is not too cold, but refreshing. The tracks could get quite slippery and strenuous at some point, but it adds to the adventure. I won’t say that the cave has fantastic view, but it sure is huge and long (and probably easy to get lost as well). Certain part of the cave is extremely narrow and low, meaning that you have to crawl very low to go through it. If the place is slightly flooded, then you would have to hold your breath for a short distance (which seems very dangerous to me). Long pant and head lamp is definitely recommended, and make sure your car keys, wallet and electronic gadgets are water proof. Anyway, I think the most fun come out from the crawling in the water at the last part. I make a lot of effort to keep myself dry along the way, but all the effort is wasted in the end.

Tricky Rocks, crawl people crawl

There is one part where we need to slide down through some rocks, which are a few meters high. There aren’t any proper steps, so we need to slide gently. Chim is the first one to go (after the guide), and the whole cave is echoing when he stomp on the ground. There rest made it easily, as there is someone down there to hold their feet.

Man Hole

At the end of the journey, we get to enjoy some water Jacuzzi in the cave, which is a first time for me. The water is cool, and the ceiling view is one of a kind, and it’s not hot. The rock is smooth but not too slippery, and we could sleep on it and let the water flow across our body. It is nice, relaxing and enjoyable.

One of a kind, Cave Jacuzzi

The entire journey is nice and not too strenuous for us, so it’s quite a fun and relaxing trip. We meet up with Xiong Har and gang at Ipoh for lunch, where we eat at the famous Ipoh White Coffee Nam Heong shop. The food is good, and we try to get as much of Ipoh famous dish such as White Coffee, Dessert, Tauge Chicken, Salted Chicken, Soy Bean and etc.

Ipoh food, 2 thumbs UP!

The day ended safe and well, and thank you Chim for organizing and Ah Fong for the friendly hospitality.

PS: While Blogging about Semeru haven’t completed, Gua Tempurung had passed by. It takes a lot of time and effort to be able to keep track of everything.

Photo Links: Mei Ru's Multiply, Ah Bug's Multiply

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Battling Mount Semeru Part 2

It is pitching black, it cold, it has sandy wind; I am tired, I’m hungry and I need a rest. I sit on a rock to catch my breath, to have a rest and to enjoy the night view. The lights shining from behind had lessen, either more people had given up or they are taking a rest as well. It’s kinda quiet and peaceful up here as well, though it seems kinda dangerous as well (as I am sitting on a steep slope of a sandy mountain). It seems less scary this time, as I was more afraid when climbing Mount Kinabalu. The stars are shining bright, and I can see some of the surrounding mountains. Again, I wonder why I was here again. Why do I choose to do such scary and difficult shit?

Looking Up

I continue climbing with Mei Ru in front of me. I feel better with her in front, so I can see her and make sure she is still there. Besides, I can catch some rest while she is climbing. Our progress is very slow, and making a lot of stop. I am feeling cold and tired, and worst of all, hungry.

Looking Down

Ocean of Clouds

One of the best parts of a climb is to reach the top in time for the sunrise. But I can see the sun is coming out at this very moment, and I still have a long way to go. Nevertheless, the morning sun is encouraging, and seems to be the source of energy (in some ways). It’s indeed beautiful, with a good mixture of gold and red colour, combined with ocean of clouds and surrounding green mountains. Mount Semeru does have a beautiful view, and you could only enjoy this kind of view up in the mountains. Though it’s a bit dry and dull up Mount Semeru, but the view is smooth and nice. So, as I was saying, we have to enjoy the morning sunrise while resting at the mid of the journey.

The Morning Sun

The day is getting brighter, but it’s still as cold. I am getting extremely hungry, and the growling stomach isn’t helping. I can hardly make 5-6 steps before catching my breath for at least 10 times. I guess I am exhausted, and the thin atmosphere isn’t helping as well. It’s now a game of consistency and repetition. I must take the same number of steps every time, and catch the same number of breath, and repeat this until I reach the top. Sadly, I end up catching more breath, taking fewer steps and sit more often on whichever rock I can find.

The Dragons of Mountains

The peak is not that far away, as I could see it. It’s just that my progress is way too slow. Mei Ru is getting further away from me, and the rest of the team eventually walk pass me. I am the last one. I know I am very slow, but I know I can make it (hopefully not too slow).

The sunshine is getting stronger, and people started to descent. I continue my slow journey, and each people pass by give me a few word of encouragement. The best is from Ah Seong, where he gave me a piece of cake. Haha, I am so hungry, it’s like the gift from heaven. I keep the cake for re-energized when I reach the top. I was almost there, just 20 more steps and Mei Ru is 5 meters in front of me. I still need to catch my breath and take the steps slowly. The only guide left up there to wait for me seems slightly impatient of my slowness, where he came down and gives me a hand to pull me up. I walk at the speed of light at the brief moment, haha.

The Champion

I eventually reach a large piece of flat land at the top, the peak, Mahameru. The first thing I do is to sleep on the ground. My batteries are totally flat; I can longer take an extra step. I slowly enjoy my cake, and I ask if the guide if he had any breakfast with him; he offered me an apple juice. Sugar drink, yeah! I take my 5 minutes break while Mei Ru wonder around to take photos and videos, and I am too tired to do those.

Double Champion

The peak is really much large than I had imagined, and I am too tired to explore every corner of it. I went for the volcano, but I was slightly disappointed as there was no lava in the crater (too much movies I guess). There are a lot of black soils, and it burst out an atomic ash clouds, which turns out to be very beautiful and scary at the same time. I felt that the ash clouds are gigantic and blowing towards us, but luckily the wind carry it away. The oceans of clouds and dragons of surrounding mountains are breathtaking nevertheless. Finally I made it, and I am not a quitter, haha. I feel great to be up there, for one reason or another. It’s not as if I had conquered the world or Mount Semeru, but I had conquered myself.

Atomic Ash Cloud

The journey down is a painful one. We have to do around an hour of sand gliding before reaching the jungle. I legs are weak, thus I keep falling down. Coming down is much easier as we don’t have to walk much, and it consumes a lot of strength on the feet as well, and it’s painful. I am all dusty, and I am in pain. After another hour of painful trekking through the jungle, Eddie came to congratulate us. Some people had already left the camp site around 8, where most left around 9. We reach around 10 plus, and luckily they still save us our breakfast, sandy noodle.

We quickly have our meal and change our cloth. We decide to pay the porter to carry our bag, as we are too beat up. It takes an hour plus to reach Ranu Kombolo, the lake. We walk with Eddie at a very relaxing pace, and had a few chit chat. Eddie is a Muslim who started his travel business after working in the hotel industry for 13 years. One thing we seem to agree on: after a while, we no longer work just for money, but to find a career we have passion for and are happy with it. But idea is one thing, how we carry it out is another. Eddie seems like a good person, guided by his principle and religion. After having our lunch at Kombolo, we still have to trek for about 3 hours to reach the village. My legs are numb when I finally walk on the tar road, and that could be one of the most beautiful journeys of my life, haha. Walking past the vegetable farm at noon in the mountains, while holding hands with my beloved one.

After talking a quick bowl of local mee, we take a 4WD to our next destination, the Lava View Lodge, to have a good dinner and nice rest.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Battling Mount Semeru

The highlight of the entire Subaraya Adventure is probably Mount Semeru, the highest volcanic mountain in Java Island. It takes 6 hours of trekking from the nearest mountain village to reach the base camp, Kalimati. The base camp is dry and windy, and we stay in camps.

Mount Semeru's Wrath

After taking our much needed rest around 5 PM, we keep ourselves cozy and away from the sandy wind inside the camp, covered by warm clothing and sleeping bag. The sound of the strong wind seems quite merciless, but it isn’t that bad out there.

Dinner is ready around 8 PM, where we leave our warm camp and venture into the colder ness to have our rice with some vegetable soup. They offer their usual local Jasmine Tea as well. Surprisingly to find out that the porters doesn’t have camps, where they sleep in the open with their “Sarong”, around the warm fire. Luckily it doesn’t rain; else it would be quite disastrous for them. Good2 pass some vodka around, and it really helps to keep us warm for a while.

Dinner

We try to get some sleep again after dinner, and I could probably find an hour of it. It reminds me of Mount Kinabalu, but this time I am better prepared with more warm clothing. We wake up around 1 AM for our tea and ready to move up. It’s a pretty that no food is prepared for us, and I didn’t prepare any food supply of my own. About 8 of us decide not to climb the mountain for various reasons, as the environment looks pretty hostile and this might not be an easy climb.

Mount Semeru came as a surprise to me, as I never quite though it would be much harder than Mount Kinabalu due to the sand and hostile environment. I was not quite prepared for it both physically and mentally. I didn’t have the desired level of fitness (perhaps I never had), and one of my biggest mistake is not enough food supply (totally none). It takes an hour plus to track through the jungle (that’s the easy part), until we reach the sandy area. We are no longer protected by the trees, thus it’s cold and extremely windy. It could see the stars in the sky clearly, and it is pitch dark all around me, and I hope my head lamp does not run out of battery (I didn’t change it for the past few trips). It’s much more difficult to walk on sand than rock (I though Mount Semeru would be rock) as the sands will sank, and the wind blows with the sand. I didn’t bring along any goggles or shades, thus I have to struggle to keep my eye open. Luckily I have the ski mask, which comes in handy for the second time.

It's dark out there, and lonely

I walk slowly at my own pace, as the slope is quite steep. I started to see a lot of lights in front and above of me, as people stop and rest. There are even more lights behind me, as people try to climb up. Suddenly a more Veteran climber in front of me and Mei Ru told us he is going to give up, as it’s dangerous and he thinks the journey still have a long way to go. He is right at one thing: there is still a long way to go. I know it is difficult, and I shall be slow and beaten up at the end. I also know somehow or rather, I can make it and it’s possible. It might be very difficult, and I might be very slow and feel like wanted to give up a thousand times, but I know, I can make it. It would be a pity for me to travel a few thousand miles and give up here, where I know I could make it. I know that it’s unlikely that I will visit Mount Semeru again, so it’s now or never.

More ashes, continuous during the climb

I don’t feel like wanting to give up. I know that my stamina and determination sucks, but I also know it is possible for me to make on to the top. I believe I can make it, thus I decide to go on; though I know it would be difficult and torturing myself. It’s just not worth it to give up.

What's Next?

Photo Links: Mei Ru's Multiply, Michelle's Multiply

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Surabaya Tour of Adventure (Ranu Pane, Ranu Kombolo and Kalimati)

Ranu Pane is a mountain village very near to Mount Semeru (the volcanic mountain), and its cold, slight dusty and scenic (full with agriculture on mountain area). We can only reach there by 4WD (probably a few hours). The view is more amazing, with some lava formed mountain and a sneak preview of Mount Semeru. We stay at a basic home stay with no hot waters and extremely cold. We get to eat some local junk food and beer, and the ground nuts are tiny but nice. The sky is clear with lots of star, quite a serene place.

Home stay Kitchen

The Village

We reach Ranu Kombolo (lake) after 4 hours of trekking from the village. The trek is not too difficult, and the view at the lake is pretty refreshing. It is pretty nice, surrounded by small rolling hills. Too bad no boating is available there, thus we just lie on the grass to have some rest.

Resting Near the Lake

Ranu Kombolo

The Lake

Mount Semeru Erupting

It took another 2 more hours to reach Kalimati (the base camp of Mount Semeru). We have to pass through a small hill, go through some “dessert” land, and walk into some very dry jungle and hills before reaching the windy campsite. The campsite have strong winds and very cold, with sands blowing everywhere. We setup the camp quickly and hide in our shelter, until dinner time. Everyone is in full winter suite, and hide in the cosy sleeping bag. Places around Mount Semeru are very dry and windy, with sands and black soil all around. We had our dinner around the camp fire, having vodka to warm ourselves up, before trying to sleep until 1 AM where we were ready to climb Mount Semeru. Semeru is one tough volcanic mountain, which is sandy, windy, cold and steep. The environment is 2 times as hostile as Mount Kinabalu, and the experience is death-defying, no-second-try and priceless, muahahaha.

Nasty Semeru

Barren land near the campsite

Campsite

PS: Somehow, the volcanic area of Indonesia have some very un-auspicious name such as Malang (bad luck) and Kalimati (this time die).

Photo Links: Mei Ru's Multiply, Mich's Multiply