Archive for July, 2004

Petitenget : Temple of the “Secret Box”

In Bali near Seminyak and located almost right on the beach is the temple of Petitenget or Temple of the “Secret Box”. Legend has it that a holy man from Java came to Bali to teach. He had brought a box with him. When he returned to Java, he left his box behind. The balinese people, in awe of the holy man and out of respect for his belongings, dared not touch nor open the box and built this temple around it.

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The Beauty of Balinese Dance

I will not write too much here because I’m know next to nothing about this but I did have the good fortune to assist to a traditional Balinese Dance spectacle and it was very beautiful. The dances are very graceful and in sync with the complex rythms of traditional indonesian music. The costumes are spectacular. And the whole show is multigenerational with children and adults playing equal parts. These are very sophisticated dances so I guess the children must start very young. Here are some pictures to give and idea.

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The Bali Oberoi Hotel

Talk about the perfect holiday resort ! The Bali Oberoi has it all : a great setting in a beautiful tropical garden, a beach with spectacular waves and sunsets, very friendly service, good food and nice rooms. The value for money at this hotel is probably the best I’ve ever had. They say a picture is worth a thousand words so here are some pictures ;-)

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Nikon D70 is Awesome !!!

D70.jpgI bought a Nikon D70 in Tokyo and (compared to Europe) at a good price: 1150 € for the camera, a Nikon G 28-80 zoom, a Nikon G 75-300 zoom, 256 Mb Compact Flash card and a tripod. I have started using this camera and I have to say it’s simply awesome. A true digital SLR… It’s fast, it has instant on, the battery lasts forever and of course and most importantly the pictures are great. It’s one of those instances where you take the thing out of the box, start using it, and for a brief moment, feel like a pro ;-)

For those of you out there who want all the tech details check out this great review .

A few more points, don’t buy the camera like I did, but get the Nikon Kit camera + Nikon DX AF-S 18-70mm ED lens. This lens is much better than the G series lenses and you get about 50% discount on the lens if you buy it with the camera. I ended up buying it separate which lost me the benefit of my Tokyo price. Last, if you do travel around, the cheapest place to get this camera that I’ve seen is Singapore (995 € for camera + good lens + 256 Mb Card).

Still in love song

Still in Love Song. It’s a great new rock tune by a band, The Stills, that I first saw on MTV2. The song comes from their debut album Logic Will Break Your Heart (pretty good but this song is by far the best of the CD, get it on ITMS). And like any good rock song, it grows on you the more you listen to it ;-)

Saving Grace in Singapore

singagarden.jpgPrecedent post, harsh words, upset travelers… But on this Sunday with it’s forced stay here in Singapore not all was bad. We shopped which is quite obvious in this asian haven of consumption. And then we visited the chinese garden. A very quiet and relaxing garden which even under the broiling heat did a great deal to calm our stressed out nerves. Japanese and chinese gardens each in their own way are like health food for the soul. When in Asia, I always seek them out (though Portland, Oregon has one of each and they’re both absolutely extraordinary).

Visas and Idiocy

I don’t usually rant in this space but for once I will. I’m writing these lines stuck in a hotel in Singapore. I should be at the Oberoi in Bali but instead I’m stuck at the Royal Plaza on Scotts :-(

How did this come to be ? I left Paris with Airfrance on Friday night destination Bali via Singapore. Upon arrival in Singapore we were refused embarkation to Bali because we didn’t have a Visa for Indonesia. Visa that nobody told us we needed beforehand, Visa that was so-called obtainable upon arrival. The error stems from the fact that I reserved my trip in France whilst speaking french so everyone simply thought I was french. It so happens that the french do not need a visa but belgians and dutch do. Even this last point is only recent though (feb 2004), our guidebook which Guy (the belgian friend I’m traveling with) bought one month ago still says that for Dutch and Belgian citizens no visa is necessary.

I would just like to say bravo Indonesia for being such a logical and modern country and for having changed it’s laws in such a welcoming way for Belgians and Dutch (Indonesia used to be a Dutch colony….), bravo Airfrance for automatically thinking that if you speak french you must be french, bravo Oberoi for not mentioning once that visas are required even though they wanted our passport numbers for the reservation.

And by the way, Singapore is not even worth mentioning here…

Audible, the Memory of Running and the Song of Ice and Fire

I live about an hours drive from work so I spend at least two hours a day in my car. I own a 20 Gb iPod (one of the best gadgets ever…). And I have found a way to make those tedious drives something to look forward to every day. I love reading but end up having little time for it so now I listen to books. I download them via Audible.com where I have subscribed to the premium listener program which gives me two books a month for 19.95 $. This might not seem like much but a 1000 page book translates into over 40 hours of listening so it’s quite sufficient for the amount of time I have. The book choice is very large and they’re usually read by actors though sometimes they’re read by the author’s themselves (Hillary Clinton reading her own autobiography gives quite an added dimension to the experience). It all makes for very good entertainment. I’ve been a member for some years now but two recent books really stand out : The Memory of Running by Ron Mclarty and the three books that to date comprise The Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin.

Let’s start with The Memory of Running. This book is an audiobook only. That is, it has never existed as a book. It’s read by the author who is an actor. It tells the story of a fat average american who loses his parents and sister in a very short interval and goes on something of a quest to retrieve himself whilst cycling across America. Nothing of his quest is intended. Everything sorts of happens to him but ends being at times funny, poignant, often touching, and we learn to love him, his sister and parents while he finds himself and love across America. America itself is portrayed both beautiful and harsh, warm and cruel, full of paradoxes. It’s a great story, heartwarming and fantastically told. The movie rights have apparently been sold and I really hope to see it one day as a movie.

Next, The Song of Ice and Fire by George R;R. Martin. To date three books have been published in this series: A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords. It’s a great fantasy epic telling of the battles and politics in a medieval kingdom split by civil war. I have read many such fantasy series (Tolkien, Robert Jordan, Anne McKinley etc…) but this one really stands out. Each chapter tells the story from a characters point of view and over a dozen characters give us the whole picture. From book to book we follow these characters (with some dying and new ones appearing) through the politics, the battles, the travels, their loves and hates and we experience this civil war from many angles preventing us from taking sides but not from caring. The actor who reads here, Roy Dotrice, adopts a different accent and voice for each character and really brings everything to life. After somewhere near 160 hours in the company of these characters and nearing the end, I acn honestly say that I will miss them and that I greatly look forward to the next installment in the series.

Dashboard vs. Konfabulator continued…

A very detailed analysis (which also pointedly ridicules my precedent article leaving me a little abashed) of this controversy has been posted at the following URL:

http://daringfireball.net/2004/06/dashboard_vs_konfabulator

My point of view has definitely changed since reading it though I still think that Apple could have avoided the negative PR by speaking to the Konfabulator people and buying them out (probably less expensive than the negative PR amongst developers…). Hard to say though… Meanwhile, I will continue using Konfabulator whilst eagerly anticipating the release of Tiger ;-)

Dashboard – Konfabulator Controversy

I will add my two cents to the Dashboard – Konfabulator controversy.

First, let’s set the stage. Steve Jobs announced and previewed the next major release of Mac OS X codenamed http://www.apple.com/macosx/tiger/ last week at the Apple Developers Conference. A typical Steve Jobs keynote where this consumate salesman wowed the audience with all kinds of nifty new technology. This new OS was of course compared to the upcoming Longhorn, long overdue, from Microsoft and, in the traditional Mac – Windows rivalry spirit, banners were hung proclaiming « Redmond, start your photocopiers ».

A controversy quickly arose though. One element he presented was Dashboard , a java runtime environment for tiny applications named widgets that run embedded in or floating over the desktop (examples : a clock, a battery meter, airport signal strength, weather reports, stock quotes etc…). The problem : this concept already exists as a freeware named Konfabulator and Apple apparently simply went out and copied it. Apple has already done this several times in the past and the result has often been for the better because Apple has more muscle to develop and promote technology. There has never really been any controversy about this because Apple usually bought the technology or the company that created it. This time they didn’t…

My opinion is that Apple can’t claim some kind of moral high ground versus Microsoft if they do the same to their own developers. Apple should in fact treat these people with great care and empathy as they have so little marketshare that it’s usually a labor of love more than common sense to develop software for the Mac platform. Apple has a huge pile of cash stashed away and should use it in this type of circumstances.

So please, Apple, even if you did develop this stuff internally, it looks too much like Konfabulator for you not to compensate them…. It’s only fair. It lets you keep face. It gives an incentive to all the other developers out there to come out with new and great ideas for the Mac.

Lastly, lest you wonder if all of this is worth the time you spent reading this article, let me just say that I love Konfabulator and that I highly recommend it ;-)