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    Tuesday, August 30, 2005

    Washington DC - Day 12 (June 4, 2005)

    Today Salman and I drove to Baltimore (or close to it). We were to meet with Salman's friend, Feysal and several of his friends, for lunch and stuff. The place where we all met up was Jillian's, at the Arundel Mills. Jillian is a combination of restaurant, bowling, billiards, bar, arcade, and some other stuff. It's very much like Dave & Buster, which Salman and I also visited the night before for a birthday invitation, but twice or thrice larger. So the familiarity with the scene was still lingering.

    There were eventually six of us that afternoon, and after finished with the lunch we all headed to the pool room. The six of us split into two tables, playing a simple 3x3 (where you claim your number range, and try shooting the other 2 people's balls). The last time I played pool before was with Christa in late February, when I was visiting Bloomington. I didn't play pool often and I'm not good anyway, I'm just barely average. So yeah, I lost, comin in the 3rd and 2nd for the second table.

    Then, we hang around Arundel Mills, a large complex of shopping center much like St. Louis Mills. You can only find structures like these in the States due to its vast amount of empty lands and extensive highway systems.

    Later that night, Feysal invited us to have dinner at his place with his wife. After dinner, the four of us played Spades. This was my first time playing this game. It wasn't hard, but the rule was confusing at first. It involves bidding and coordination with your partner. There're multiple strategies you can use of course, but trying to get used to the game kinda slowed me down in that department. I lost again, for the second time that day. But it was fun, and the second time I played it again later that month, I won it!

    Monday, August 29, 2005

    Washington DC - Day 11 (June 3, 2005)

    Fari and I planned to meet up again for Friday prayer at the Embassy. Unfortunately, both of us miscoordinated the plan so we got there late, but we arrived nonetheless. I had an appointment with Mas Irawan so we got to be there anyway. Mas Irawan was the person who interviewed me back in Fall 2003 on behalf of Voice of America. Indiana University held the 2003 conference for Association of Muslim Social Scientist and I happened to be one of the volunteers. So that's how Mas Irawan and I met.

    Afterward, Fari and I had lunch at the Union Station food court. DC Union Station is just like an airport. It's huge for a train station, and there're plethora of shops and eateries as well. High-rise ceiling and European-style architecture made it an attractive tourist destination of its own, aside from being a transportation center. Unfortunately, the basement (where the food court is located) was still under renovation so it was a bit ugly when we were there.

    Since Fari had another plan, we split up after lunch. I went to the National Geographic Museum. Initially, I just went to see what's inside and probably picked a job application as well. They didn't have big exhibition other than photography display of Darfur at the time. I roamed to a small room and found another display of children's paintings to promote peace. I read the tags and the children were students from George Washington School in Charleston, West Virginia, Salman's high school. Small world, eh?

    Sunday, August 28, 2005

    Washington DC - Day 62 (July 24, 2005)

    We went out for lunch today. The three of us (me, Salman, and Mariam who just came two days ago for a visit) picked an Ethiopian restaurant, Meskerem, for our afternoon consumption. Meskerem is located in the Adams Morgan area, which I think probably the most unique but undercovered DC neighborhood. It's so ethnic, cool, urban, and organic that I didn't feel like I'm in DC the whole time. Weird, huh? You just have to visit this area whenever you come to DC, it's not a hugely popular tourist destination so it'll be like the beaten path for your itinerary.

    Meskerem is authentically Africa. Indoor settings (except for the basement) and furnitures were different from most ethnic restaurant I've been in. The table is the most striking. It's actually a basket, standing low at knee-level, where we eventually shared the food together. I ordered Yebeg Fitfit, a lamb-based dish, and Tej for beverage. While all of us ordered different things, we ended up sharing due to the large portions and serving style (remember the basket?) We ate with bare hands, scooping up the dish with our injera, a spongy pancake-like staple bread (similar to Indonesian kue apem but without the sweets). The food was so good that I even raided Salman and Mariam's injera after they were too full to continue ^.^

    We were just enjoying ourselves that day, I think taking more than 2 hours in that restaurant alone. Good experience, I highly recommend Meskerem.

    Friday, August 26, 2005

    Washington DC - Day 94

    This morning I attended a workshop seminar where Macromedia showed their latest installment, Studio 8. I received the e-mail invitation earlier this week from my boss, Graham, and decided to register and attend it. The room was packed, there were probably more than 200 people attended the event. Most of them were government and NGO employees, no doubt working with internet technologies and web implementations for their respective institutions.

    Studio 8 hasn't been released yet, so the people attending were among the first to see Studio 8's capabilities. It is a powerful software, and even though it doesn't include Freehand (I never use it anyway), it includes Dreamweaver, Fireworks, and Flash Paper among others. During half of the seminar, they demonstrated the new Flash improvements. It didn't really apply to me since I don't use Flash (no animation talent), so it was kinda boring. However, once the seminar resumed after a snack break, things were getting really interesting.

    The chief software development showed us new features of Dreamweaver. It was great. The new Dreamweaver would provide more advanced support for CSS such as the ability to turn CSS on-and-off in mid-development, color each CSS box automatically, zoom in-and-out for more precise positioning, collapse codes for more portability, convert to XSLT for better RSS integration, and many more! It would've made my internship a lot easier. They also showed a new product called Flash Paper which would bring web multimedia to the masses. It's capable of converting almost any type of file into Flash SWF so developer can show documents directly on a given web page.

    After the seminar, I walked into Borders store on the opposite block waiting for lunch time. Surprisingly, Borders scheduled a tour appearance of Josh Kelly that afternoon for his new album, Almost Honest. It was my first tour sighting so gotta include this in the blog. Honestly, I never heard about the guy, but his songs were very good. They're on the same genre as Mraz, Johnson, Mayer (what do you call that genre? I always refer to it as folk music since Yahoo categorizes them that way, and there're a lot of "J"s singers too like Josh, Jason, Jack, and John, go figure).

    Wednesday, August 24, 2005

    Washington DC - Day 4 (May 27, 2005)

    I scheduled for an interview with Pat Taylor, a temp agency specializing in legal sector, this afternoon. I was referred to Pat Taylor by Salman, who had work for them since he came to DC in February. He got hired to a permanent position later in June by the client company.

    The interview went well, and there was no test whatsoever unlike the other temp agencies. The interviewer seemed pleased, and she said she would try to find a suitable position for me. Eventually, I got no assignment from them. My guess is because I am a bit too "technical" for their openings, or because I didn't follow-through aggresively, or because they simply didn't have anything suitable for me. At least, I know from our correspondence that they tried, but for some reasons, it just didn't work out.

    Later that afternoon though, I met up with Fari to pray together at the Indonesian Embassy (KBRI). I had forgotten how big the Embassy was. The Embassy building stands in stark contrast with the surrounding embassies. Not only it is large, but it has artistic Europen style, though the new extension is of modern design. The Minister of Forestry happened to be in DC, and he delivered the sermon that afternoon. I guess he was part of the President's entourage during the President's visit to the States that week.

    Fari and I then had lunch in Malaysia Kopitiam, a Malaysian restaurant in downtown DC. Our server was in fact, an Indonesian, go figure. The food were delicious and filling, and it was a bargain given the price. I got myself Nasi Lemak, and if only they weren't out of Cendol, it would've been perfect.

    We continued exploring DC and our destination was the National Air and Space Museum. I remembered visiting this place in '94 and I don't think it has changed a lot. Though, I have to admit that it seemed like an endless fun back then.

    Tuesday, August 23, 2005

    Washington DC - Day 2 (May 25, 2005)

    Crap. I just found out last night that my internship didn't go through. CAIR just e-mailed me that I wasn't selected for the summer internship. Well, now what? Now, the plan could either be saved or let it fell through. I've traveled this far (3 hrs. flight but still), so I won't let it fell through. Today I set plans in motion, which over the next 6 weeks or so, would bring me through numerous job applications, several interviews, and a hell of a ride in between.

    Still, the question beget, why Washington? After all, I could just stay in St. Louis and continued my job search there or at least until I got some sort of job offer before deciding to move out. Well, it didn't work. Externally, people would be unlikely to hire someone far away especially if it's just for entry-level positions. Internally, my motivation to keep this thing going was slowly dying out. There was nothing for me in St. Louis job-wise, so I better get back on track or it is time for me to go home.

    I know, it still doesn't answer the question, why Washington? Well, Washington was on top of my list for a potential relocation city. Even before I graduated, it had been among the top three. The non-profit is one of the industry sectors I want to get involved in, and Washington is like the mecca of non-profits. I also flirted with the idea of working for public administration, so Washington is the logical choice.

    I have visited Washington twice before, once in Summer 1994 and most recently on Summer 2002 (a road trip worthy of its own posting series). I like the city of Washington, DC. It's accessible and beautiful, it has good public transport system, and the city is moderately paced (not bustling like NYC, and not too laid-back like most cities I've been in). Boston and Chicago would probably the only other cities that rival Washington in that respect (I haven't been in Seattle so I don't know about it).

    Well, I hope that answers the question, more about my adventure coming up.

    Sunday, August 21, 2005

    Washington DC - Day 90

    It seemed like a movie-out weekend or something. We ended up watching another movie last night. This time, it was the movie that we had planned to watch two weeks earlier, if only Salman didn't get into a car accident (don't worry, it wasn't his fault, read my Day 76 posting for more details). Yes, the movie was Star Wars: Episode III. Finally, after it has gone from most theater, we watched it at Arlington Cinema 'N Drafthouse. It is a bar/drafthouse that shows "old" movies which have been phased out from mainstream theaters. The place is rather unique. I personally haven't watched movies in a restaurant-like setting where servers come and go while people are munching their buffalo wings. But I digress.

    The movie is by far, the best of the new trilogy (Episode 1-3). George Lucas finally got his act together. While the new trilogy won't be able to beat the old trilogy (Episode 4-6) in its masterpieceness, episode 3 ties all loose ends and provides good continuity with Episode 4. Maybe that's why it is better than the other two, because there are many more elements from the old trilogy in episode 3. It's a quite different type of movie I'd say, we knew what the end would be, but we didn't know how it got there. We knew that Anakin would become Darth Vader, we just didn't know how. Well, the movie answer this and then some.

    Graphics are cool as usual, it's rather given since it bears the Star Wars franchise. Storyline, though much improved, still lacks the originality and depth of the old trilogy in my opinion. Overall, I probably gonna give it a maximum of 4 stars out of 5.

    Saturday, August 20, 2005

    Washington DC - Day 88

    This is a fun day. After I got of from work, I came back home to meet with Salman and we decided to spend the night watching Charlie and The Chocolate Factory at AMC Hoffman 22. We have been planning to watch this movie for a long time. It's among the top 3 movies to watch on both our list.

    The movie is very entertaining. The graphics are as spectacular as expected. It's a far cry from the 1970's Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. Almost every aspect has been modernized, including the Oompa-Loompa's various songs. It's quite amazing to think that it has only been 35 years since the original was made. The core of the story remains the same, though some slight twists are added in Charlie and the ending is a major surprise. I won't spoil it for you but the ending is very different than the original, and there's also some scenes which are deleted from the theater release since I saw them on Yahoo's video clip before.

    Like most movies I watched, I haven't read the book (of the same title, authored by Roald Dahl) yet, but Salman told me that it was dark and creepy. This movie is darker than the previous installment, but I don't think it is as dark as what Salman told me about the book. Oh, and one more thing, even though Johnny Depp denies this but his character reminded us too much of Michael Jackson. I mean there's the skin, then the voice, then the gloves, and not mentioning the hair! Still, I think it's a very entertaining movie and should deserve 3.5 rating out of 5.

    Thursday, August 18, 2005

    Washington DC - Day 35 (June 27, 2005)

    Today was the moving day to the new apartment, for me. Salman would join me later on Thursday, the 30th. The reason I moved earlier than planned was because Salman cousin, Imran, came to DC this week. He would continue his internship from Pennsylvania for the remaining two weeks. It's quite a long story though, but he finally came so I had to move earlier to make room for him in Salman's old apartment.

    The tenant from the new apartment was still living there until July 1st. He was Salman's high school buddy, Chris. I met Chris several times before my move-in day, but we didn't really know each other aside from knowing Salman at some point, so it was quite awkward. But we managed.

    I didn't have a lot of stuff so it was pretty quick. I only need one trip. Let us review again: 2 luggages (big and heavy), 1 duffel bag, 1 folio bag, 1 messenger bag (yeah, an addition from the original trip), several loose items, pillow and blanket. I knew these would grow with the addition of Dita's stuff (another story for this), items I bought here or online (hey, you gotta read something?), and trinkets. I am not looking forward to my trip back to St. Louis carrying all these stuff, so I might send some of them earlier. We'll see.

    Wednesday, August 17, 2005

    [job-tip] Consider Relocation

    [I got this idea of sharing some of my experiences, good and bad, in my job-hunting so other people don't have to make the same mistakes as I did. I hope the information will be useful for you, and you can comment to share your own should you want to.]

    After I graduated last year, I got so confused between two geographical job-hunting strategies. One, I could relocate to a particular city and search for jobs there directly or - Two, I could search indirectly without relocating first. Obviously each has its own pros and cons. I chose the latter, and switched to the first only recently. I asked a lot of people for their opinion, and they almost evenly split in recommending one over the other to me. Since I did both, I knew which one is working and which one is not, at least in my case.

    With the second choice, I could save money since I lived in a small city and there was less pressure in my part because I could stretch my saving for a longer period. Searching indirectly is very much doable by using the Internet. This option is obvious if I didn't have any preference to a particular city. Even though I do have a preference (if it's not apparent to you yet, I'm writing from DC), there were several reasons which prevented me from opting with the first choice from the get-go. Everyone situation is unique, and I think in most cases, they would choose the second option.

    With the first choice, I hardly know anybody living in the new city at that time, and I was opening my option too wide by considering other places such as Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, and Seattle. Clearly, there would be much pressure in my part since I could only stretch my saving for much lesser period. Unless you already received a job offer while you are still in college, the first option is the way to go, in my opinion. Recent grads will be hard-pressed in finding a job with relocation benefit since most positions open for them are entry-level. Plus, relocating will open other channels which were not available previously such as networking, classified ads, and temping.

    In hindsight, I should have made the decision to relocate earlier. I realized that it'd be difficult to decide it immediately, but I should have given myself a timeframe which I had to adhere (say within three months or otherwise relocate after that period is reached). So, if you just graduate or will be graduating in the near future, consider relocation seriously and make necessary preparations so the decision can be made in a timely manner. The shorter you are out of job, the less psychological (and financial) pressure you will face.

    Tuesday, August 16, 2005

    Washington DC - Day 7 (May 30, 2005)

    Today I bought a travel guide for myself. It's called Not For Tourists Guide - Washington DC edition (official website available here). Apparently they are also making other editions including Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Unlike mainstream guide, this one is created for newcomers to the city, those intending to live for extended period. Therefore not only you can find the usual recreational destinations such as the Smithsonian complexes, the Zoo, and historical sites in DC, but also the more mundane but essential spots for residents such as post offices, banks, pharmacies, and grocery stores.

    The book's content is dedicated in the most part to providing readers with series of maps, 46 to be exact, and several sub-maps. So, instead of telling stories behind such-and-such place, the book will show you the map of the place so you can figure out yourself how to get there and what stuff is available in the surrounding neighborhood. The maps are very reader-friendly and interconnected with one another. So, instead of carrying a huge map everywhere (and being obviously tourist-acting), I just need to carry the book and stroll along.

    In the following month during my stay, the book would provide tremendous help in getting me up to speed with DC's public transportation routes, key neighborhoods, street names, and essential venues (banks, post offices, etc). The book is still useful every now and then, even when I already familiarized yourself with key areas important to me.

    I highly recommend this book for those of you who will move to DC or just recently moved here. I haven't read editions for the other cities, but assuming that they will all be similar, then you can get yourself a copy depending your destination cities.

    Sunday, August 14, 2005

    Washington DC - Day 82

    I was reunited with a very good friend from college, Melissa. She has planned to visit DC today from Charlottesville, Virginia. It had been almost a year since the last time I saw her, so we were excited to catch up with each other.

    I wasn't sure earlier that the plan is still on. We relied too much on Friendster for communication, and true enough, it was down this morning! So, I crossed my finger and hopped the Orange Line to Vienna, hoping that somehow I could find Melissa there. She drove for about two hours and parked her car in Vienna station, at least that was the original plan. Lo and behold, the Orange Line was down as well! Vienna station was closed and people had to ride a shuttle to the next station. At about 11:30 AM, my train stopped at West Falls Church station. Passengers had to come down and transfer to Vienna via free shuttle. And just when I was about to exit, I saw a tall figure wearing hijab. Melissa!

    Gosh, we arrived at the station at exactly the same time! We were cheering, laughing, and catching up with each other immediately and non-stop until we arrived at McPherson station for breakfast. We ate at Au Bon Pain and continued out conversation. Among other things, she told me that she has been engaged! I am so happy for her! And we kept chatting like teenage girls on a reunion. She told me that his name is Jahangir, and immediately I thought of the character from the Taqwacores, and she said there's a lot of similarities between the two.

    After breakfast, we went window-shopping at the Fashion Center at Pentagon City. We didn't really shop (though she bought a couple items), we just a need an indoor place where we can talk and walk. At lunch time, we went to Old Town Alexandria and Salman joined us. We went back to the apartment afterward for pray and further discussion. We discussed a lot of things ranging from nostalgic moments in the MSU (the three of us served at the same year) to the philosophy of reincarnation. When we were in college, we had this type of discussion frequently, but it's more of a rarity nowadays. I'm gonna miss those moments...

    Jahangir called and said that he could come by for dinner. He has been driving from Princeton, New Jersey to Virginia to visit Melissa. It turned out that he could come, and they would driving back tonight. We decided to pick him up from I-495 after we waited for three hours. There has been road constructions that just halt inbound traffic so we decided to "rescue" him from this traffic. Surprise, surprise, he actually had cooked Biryani rice so we all went back to the apartment to enjoy his cooking. It was delicious! Melissa has chose wisely indeed.

    At about 10 PM, Melissa and Jahangir left to continue their journey. Thanks for visiting, guys! I hope I can see you again before I left, if not, well I'm just gonna wait for invitation in the mail. ^_^

    Saturday, August 13, 2005

    Washington DC - Day 81

    Today I met with Fari for lunch. Up until a month ago, this was almost like a scheduled appointment. We meet at the Indonesian Embassy, pray Jum'ah together, have lunch, and then explore DC. Before today, I tried setting up a similar meeting again in mid-July and it didn't work out very good. I ended up coming late for the prayer, scrambling for a fast-food lunch, and rushing to get back to work, all in the middle of an afternoon rain.

    So, I tried something new today. I scheduled to meet up with Fari for lunch in Georgetown. He happened to plan on visiting Banana Republic. Since the store is just 2 blocks away from where I work, I can easily meet up for lunch. And instead of doing the prayer at the Indonesian Embassy, I did it at the basement of the Presbyterian Church near George Washington University (intersection 24th and G). Turns out that the MSA of GW has organized it regularly for the whole summer. I don't know if they always had it there or is it just for the summer. Regardless, I could come in just 30 minutes from my workplace, instead of almost an hour trying to get to the Embassy.

    I found the khutba (sermon) here to be intellectually stimulating. The speakers talk about contemporary and philosophical issues instead of repetitive ideologies and dogmas. So, I found it very refreshing and engaging to listen to what the speakers had to say. It's been awhile since I listen to khutbas of this type. I am not sure if it's indicative of DC sermons in general, or if it's an isolated case. Consider this speech from last khutba, "...Islam has lost its heart, its conscience, its morality... why is it that when people face crises, they turn to the trivialities of religion such as hudud laws..." Hmmm...

    Anyway, the lunch went through albeit a slight hitch (Fari took the wrong bus in the opposite direction, but he made it nonetheless).

    Thursday, August 11, 2005

    Washington DC - Day 45 (July 7, 2005)

    Today, I had the opportunity to tour the World Bank. The tour is organized once every month, the first Thursday of the month. My friend from St. Louis, Fari Nasution, and I met up at the IMF Center for the tour. Fari had also moved to DC from St. Louis, exactly one week earlier than I did. We regularly schedule to do Friday prayer together at the Indonesian Embassy [though it would prove to be difficult once I got a job in Georgetown since the Embassy was located in Dupont Circle and I was only allowed 1.5-hour lunch break].

    The walking tour covers three organizations: the IMF (International Monetary Fund), the OAS (Organisation of American States), and the World Bank. The tour began at the IMF Center and would last for 4 hours (from 10am to 2pm). It was a very informative experience. Until then, I only learned about IMF and World Bank either from a factbook perspective, or from a leftist literature. So, this was the opportunity to listen from their point of view.

    I thought the IMF part was the best since the speaker, though an economist, was able to explain the function of IMF in a very comprehensible way and that was a good thing since most of the tour participants were not economist themselves. In contrast, the World Bank speaker lost us through economic jargons and statistical mumbo-jumbo. It felt like a performance report rather than conversational lectures of the IMF and the OAS. Plus, the World Bank had this complicated security checkpoint compared to the other two organizations. OAS in the other hand, didn't fit in the whole scheme, in my opinion. It's more like a regional organization rather than economic ones, so when they claim to be a sister organization to World Bank and the IMF, I still don't see it. Truthfully, OAS is a more fitting sister to ASEAN, EU, or even Mercosur.

    Oh, and the buildings where these institutions are housed were quite a spectacle in their own right. Though the IMF building doesn't stand out and probably looked the most normal (just like another office building), there is a Garuda statue in its lobby, a gift from the government of Indonesia. The OAS building is the oldest, and has a very ethnic architecture which strikes a huge contrast with the modern World Bank building predominated with glass and steel.

    For more information of the tour, you can view them here.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2005

    Washington DC - Day 6 (May 29, 2005)

    I wasn't planning to spend most of the day watching TV, but it turned out just that. Salman went home for the weekend so I planned to explore more of this city, just as I had been doing for the past week and would continue to do so for the next month. So, I turned on the TV just to see what's on, and to keep me company while I cooked and ate my lunch (you know, sometimes it's just feel weird without at least some noise in the background).

    So as I flipped through the channels, Bravo ( came up, with its show "Project Runway". The show was a competition/reality-based series involving a group of aspiring fashion designers. So, initially there were 12 amateur designers, who later got eliminated one-by-one throughout the series. The winner would supposedly received marketing exposure to the industry and $100k to fund his/her own product line. Sounds exciting, right? well, not in the beginning. I thought it would be just another reality show. But man, the competition itself was something! I mean, they were only given a short amount of time not only to design, but make the clothes for whatever the challenge was for that week. That mean, they had to pick the material, measure them, sew the material, choose the model, etc, etc for less than a day most of the time. So, I got hooked for more than 6 hours watching the series marathon (they were re-runs, after all).

    Like most reality TVs, lots of drama were involved, but mostly I liked to watch the finished products, the designs themselves (some were good, others were just outrageous). Even when the winner was announced, I thought it was a fair judgment, compared to some other reality series. Overall, I think Project Runway is watchable and you might learn a thing or two about the fashion design industry. See it for yourself at to learn more about the show, and maybe catch the next re-runs.

    Monday, August 08, 2005

    Washington DC - Day 76

    Yesterday was positively my weirdest night in DC yet. It all began with the plan to watch Star Wars movie with my roommate, Salman. At around 9pm, Salman called me to let me know that he was ready to pick me up from my work and watch Star Wars in a theater near Friendship Heights. Around 15 minutes later, I got another call from him letting me know that his car had got rear-ended near McDonalds in Alexandria. He was okay, but the police wouldn't arrive to the scene until an hour later, after I gave him a direct number to the Alexandria PD.

    At about 10:30pm, he continued driving to Dupont Circle to pick me up. I received a call from him about 45 minutes later saying that his exhaust system had dangerously dragging from his car, so he was forced to stop his car in downtown DC (I think it was near intersection 14th and L Street). I came down via Metro and met him up to wait for the AAA tow truck. We got ourselves Blimpie's subs for dinner and beverages from a nearby CVS store. We saw several prostitutes walking by the area and a pimp (I don't know if it's a real pimp or just an act, but he certainly dressed the part!).

    An hour passed, and no tow truck in sight. AAA gave us new ETA (estimated time of arrival) to be 2am! So Salman got fed up and tried to fix the car himself. It was driveable alright... for another 3 blocks. So we decided to wait for the truck after all and sit on the bench near a bus stop. Let me remind you that we were stuck in downtown DC, just the two of us, not knowing the area (even though it was relatively safe, but still), with limited access to phone (batteries were about to be out) and transportation (Metro stops operating at 2pm on weekend), and we would be waiting for more than 2 hours surrounded by homeless people sleeping or walking nearby.

    It was 2am, and Salman kept calling AAA every 20 minutes since they kept delaying ETA up to 4am! For about an hour between 3:30am - 4:30am, we were walking around, trying to find a payphone since both our cellphones had died on us. We saw several more homeless people and several drunken passersby from closing bars. We were confused and undecided whether to wait for the truck or try to get help somehow. By this time, I started feeling delirious and the need to rest my eye (ie., sleeping?). At about 4:45am, it came down upon Salman to use his shoelaces to tie the exhaust system, at least preventing it from dragging on the road, making it possible to drive home safely, albeit slowly.

    We arrived home about an hour later. Apparently, several calls had been waiting for Salman once he plugged his cellphone. And for me... well, I was too dazed to keep my eyes open for much longer and fell asleep on my bed for the next 10 hours or so.

    Saturday, August 06, 2005

    Washington DC - Day 42 (July 4, 2005)

    It was the Independence Day! (America's, for that matter). Though it was supposed to be a federal holiday, I got a phone call from Salman that morning (he was coming home that weekend to Charleston, West Virginia) telling me that the cable guy would be coming soon. I thought it was a bit odd for them to come during a holiday to install cable connection, but apparently July 4th doesn't bring the same "red-date" status as December 25th.

    Whatever, I guessed we could use the cable for internet and TVs after being bored for... seven days? True enough, we got broadband internet and cable channels an hour later. Salman's cousin, Imran, who stayed with us for the moment, had left to downtown with his friends and I was still hooked to the computer. The DVR (digital video recorder for the cable) hadn't got into me just yet. I was still going through my addiction to Civilization 3, and in about two weeks it would change.

    You'd think that DC would be the place to see some July 4th fireworks, right? Well, I got to the downtown too late and I missed them! Boo hoo hoo hoo... I got glued to Civilization 3 and didn't plan for enough time to get to downtown. Oh well, the more reason to come back here in the future...

    Friday, August 05, 2005

    Washington DC - Day 1 (May 24, 2005)

    So, how did I end up here in Washington DC exactly? Well, to answer that question, let's travel back in time to Day 1 which is May 24, 2005.

    The day had finally arrived. I woke up early morning and made final preparation for my departure to Washington DC later that afternoon. My roommate, Ading, would accompany me to Lambert Airport. It so happened (as I planned) that my flight would be scheduled at the same day as Ading's mother. She would fly back to Jakarta after spending about a month in St. Louis. I bought my ticket to coincide with her flight so Ading would be able to take time off from his job on that day only. I brought with me two big luggages, one duffel bag, and one folio bag. Ading's mother had boarded the plane two hours before I would board mine. I was anxious, I didn't know what to expect when I'd arrived to DC. My internship hadn't been confirmed yet, and I hadn't secure a place to stay on a more permanent basis. My stomach felt twenty pounds lighter everytime I thought about it.

    The flight number was Northwest Airline (NWA) 1589 with a transfer in Memphis to NWA 0955. I boarded at half-hour to noon and arrived seven hours later at DC's Ronald Reagan Airport. Weather wasn't helping, it was drizzling and I wasn't familiar with the Airport's layout. My friend from college, Salman, had kindly enough offered his place for me to stay temporarily. But first, I had to find a way to the Metro (subway) station where he had waited for me. My bags weren't helping either.

    It was probably because I was tired from hauling the bags from terminal B to terminal A, it didn't occur to me at that time to transport them via elevator from terminal A's 2nd floor to its 1st. Instead, I used the escalator, and one of them fell grinding through! I was flabbergasted and couldn't bring myself to yell a warning to the person down the escalator. Thank God he was alert and hurried down to avoid his impending doom. He stepped aside from the escalator and my luggage just slide through before it stopped seven feet away from him. Thanks to his quick reaction, a disaster had been avoided. I apologized to him, and shortly after, a police on a bicycle arrived. He understood the situation immediately after seeing me with three other bags coming down from the escalator. I took my bag and continued walking to the Metro station amid surprised looks from passersby and passengers eating at the restaurant opposite to the escalator. Man, I was so embarrased.

    I finally met Salman and we rode the Metro to his place.

    Wednesday, August 03, 2005

    Washington DC - Day 71

    Today I watched a documentary segment on AMC entitled Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey. I think the show was great and highly informative. I didn't know that the segment was made in 1994 until I visited AMC website ( It seems that I am not the only one who enjoyed it. The segment gains high rating from its viewers. As I watched it, I remember again about the movie I saw during my middle school, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, which dramatized some aspects of his life. Though Dragon built my interest, it wasn't until Journey that I gained further understanding on Bruce's life and his philosophy.

    To be honest, it wasn't the martial arts that interest me. Though the action in all of his movies are superb, I don't quite connect with the intricacies of fighting choreography in general. However, I didn't realize that he was attempting to communicate his martial arts philosophy and his philosophy of life through those movies, until Linda Lee (his widow), explained it in Journey. In fact, she said that he entered the acting world solely because he wanted to reach wider audiences on a different level. After all, he could just teach them in his school.

    In the interview, Linda also remembered how Bruce had rejected offers from Hollywood despite his financial difficulties, because they want him to play stereotypical Asian which he considered derogatory. He had a difficult time back then because he was racially marginalized. This situation was also portrayed in Dragon. Ultimately, he rose above the challenges, and regarded people of other races as his equal. He took in and taught non-Chinese students in his school, something that people apparently didn't practice at the time. It seems that from my observations and personal experiences, minority status (based on almost anything), can bring the worst of hate or the best of tolerance in people. For Bruce case, it was the latter.

    I think Bruce gained an understanding of life from his martial arts. His iconoclastic view and his philosophy of adaptability and individuality is surprisingly poignant. I know he could "kick ass", but he was also extremely bright individual. After seeing this documentary, I gained greater understanding and respect for this guy.

    [For those who want to learn more about Bruce's story, I found an entry in Wikipedia,]

    Tuesday, August 02, 2005

    Washington DC - Day 70

    Oookay, it's the 70th day of my summer stay in Washington DC. Where're the other 69? well, I just decided to actually write them today, so some (but not all) of them will be written soon, including future days. Anyway, I wrote this from my roommate's computer, so I still haven't got access to my own computer. I'm waiting for my wireless access point which was sent from St. Louis several days ago.

    Alright, enough rambling. I admit that I haven't kept any of my blogs updated up to this point. So, this will be the first entry after roughly 2-3 months hiatus. I've been quite busy with my jobs for the past month. Yup, you heard it right, I am gainfully employed again. Details will follow.

    My stay in Washington DC has been a blast. Well, technically I work in DC but I'm not actually staying there. I share a 1-bedroom apartment with my friend from college, Salman Malik, in Alexandria, Virginia. It's across the Potomac river, and about 10 miles away from downtown DC. Salman and I just moved to this apartment about a month ago, after sharing a studio in West Falls Church. We didn't initially got the idea, but since we got along pretty well, we decided to be roommates.

    Hmm.. I guess that was enough writing for today. I will continue again tomorrow.

    Sunday, May 22, 2005

    Star Wars vs. Star Trek - Part 3

    Star Wars episode 3 has been out for four days now... and I still haven't watched it.

    I know that the first week release would generate a tremendous amount of excitement and would result in extremely long lines. I didn't even bother to try watching it in the first week. Perhaps, after Memorial Day?

    Oh, and did you know that wrote an article with the same title, "Star Wars vs. Star Trek"? Talk about coincidence...

    Yeah, you can read the article at

    Monday, May 09, 2005

    Star Wars vs. Star Trek - Part 2

    Star Wars episode 3 is looming on the horizon...

    From what I have seen at its website ( and the trailer, I think this one could be a lot better than the previous two episodes. The original trilogy is still the best, and since episode one flopped big time, the second trilogy wouldn't live up to its original standard (story-telling wise).

    Special effects has always been a treat for Star Wars. There's just plenty of it! even in comparison with Star Trek. Action are more hands-on thanks to the light-saber and lightning fast thanks to smaller and nimbler ships. Wired magazine rated the light-saber as the second-coolest sword in the motion picture history (the first being Hattori Hanzo sword used by Uma Thurman character in Kill Bill). Ships in Star Wars galaxy are extremely fast and maneuverable, which of course result in plentiful action.

    Compared this to Star Trek. Ships in the Trek universe are big and slow. Plus, the action is brief and simplistic (fire a phaser and you're done). However, the appeal of Star Trek is different than Star Wars. Ships in the Trek universe have high consistency (aesthetically and technically). Technologies are advanced, and yield a high degree of possibility, even the transporter. Star Trek production really make use of its consultants, so a lot of the technologies used in the series can be explained by real-life science. (Even the modern cell-phone is said to have similarities with Capt. Kirk's communicator used in Star Trek series in the 1960s).

    As for the action, Star Trek has been catching up in the Dominion War storyline, but I think it really is not the main attraction.

    Tuesday, April 26, 2005

    Creative Commons License

    I found this neat copyright service from the Internet named "Creative Commons". What is neat about it is that the CC-copyright can easily be understandable since it uses plain English. What's more, I can also choose the jurisdiction where the copyright law will be accorded to. Anyway, I will start tagging CC button on most of my works online from now on (I already put one for this blog, more will come). It's easy, it's convenient, it's affordable, it's lawful.

    Thursday, February 24, 2005

    [break] Star Wars vs. Star Trek - Part 1

    [Since what is left from Astocenter can span for another 10 parts or more, I am taking a prolonged break until further notice.]

    I've been watching several science fiction series and films recently, namely Star Trek Voyager and the Star Wars trilogy, and have been thinking of my renewed interest and about what I like from both. It's quite rare, even for science fiction afficionados, to develop an equal interest to these two alternate universes of franchise. In most cases, people tend to favor one over the other, and I am no exception.

    I think Star Wars archetype stories are more universal and the adventure has more action in it. It probably because there's only 5 movies about it (will become 6 soon), although novels regarding backstories and alternate characters are enough to make Star Wars universe as expansive, if not more, than Tolkien's LOTR. It actually resembles LOTR in many ways by replacing characters and universe to be somewhere far, far, away, distant from our reality, perhaps purely imaginative (who knows, there might be a wookie somewhere there). Star Wars (like LOTR) universe is too distant from us that we realize immediately of its fantasy. Most of the main characters are humanoid and human-like, but we know that they are not us, nor can we ever become them, even in hundred years. They are alien, and it is clear that they never have contact with Earth and probably never will. But, that's where the appeal lies. We can indulge in our imagination completely and be them imaginatively. Star Trek limits us in that department.

    I consider myself to be a Trekkie, so I identify more with the Star Trek universe. Star Trek has the advantage of having continuous TV series (well, it actually started from TV before expanding to the silver screen), so it has more developed characters that more people recognize (admit it, it's far easier and memorable to watch something than to read it, or maybe that's just me). Though, novel-wise, the Trek franchise has published as many novels if not more than Star Wars'. Yes, people can devise backstories and alternate characters for Star Trek - in effect, expanding its universe - but the TV series become its undoing since they can't deviate too far from what is presented on TV (it is, the de facto"reality", if you may say so, of the Star Trek universe). The stories should have been more closely identifiable, because Star Trek reality can very well be an actuality someday. Characters are born on Earth, not pseudo-human born in other galaxy or other Earth. Perhaps, maybe because it is somewhat too "real" that it does not have quite the mass appeal that Star Wars (and LOTR) enjoys.

    Tuesday, February 22, 2005

    Astrocenter Report - Part 9

    Instinctive Motivations:
    Restraint, control, discipline, excellence.
    Assimilation; sense of association and cooperation.

    Primary Psychological Functions:
    Perceiving, identifying, establishing, justifying.
    Communicating, discussing, uniting, reconciling.

    Career Activities and Resources:
    Controlling, counting, filing, analyzing, measuring, refining, grasping, checking, regulating, fabricating, providing care.
    Balancing, reconciling, respecting, harmonizing, refining, embellishing.

    Symbolic Tools and Elements:
    Health, animals, small objects, manufactured goods.
    Luxuries, amusements, recreational objects; the good and the beautiful.

    [I don't quite understand how to integrate all the above to the larger assessment. However, several items strike me as quite accurate.

    Sense of association is indeed one of my primary characteristics for having an ideal career.

    I don't know what the psychological function is suppose to mean, but discussion is one item from those listed that I revel on.

    Career activities are pretty much on the "mundane" (or "conventional" as Merkler would have categorize it) with the exception of analyzing and checking (of course, depends on the scope).

    I don't know what symbolic tool meant either, but it may explain why I love electrical gadgets alot (small objects and manufactured goods?). Well, talking about manufactured goods, turns out that food is also one of them. For the amusement and recreational object, I like movies and books (particularly comic books and magazines).]

    ~ to be continued ~

    Saturday, February 19, 2005

    Astrocenter Report - Part 8

    Career Keywords:
    Endowed with an analytical mind, a sense of logic, and great powers of concentration, YOGA has the ability to learn a specialty and assimilate all sorts of techniques easily. He is also an extremely conscientious and hard worker, with a sense of integrity and a fondness for a job well done. His inferiority complex and a certain reluctance to communicate, as well as an occasional lack of determination and a tendency to obey orders unquestioningly could nevertheless be obstacles to his success.

    The desire for power and greatness is a strong motivation for YOGA. He is fairly self-confident and may sometimes tend to be domineering. The need for recognition and admiration is one of YOGA's primary motivations. He is gratified by honors and respect, and aims for personal prestige.

    [The first paragraph is quite boastful, but I would have to say that there's a lot of truth there. My Friendster testimonials can attend to that. Though it contradicts the second paragraph at the same time.

    So, in bits and pieces: the introvert characteristic of the first paragraph is mostly true as well as the inherent quest for personal satisfaction in the second paragraph. Money is not my primary motivations, though it's more like sense of belonging or affiliation rather than need for recognition and admiration.]

    ~ to be continued ~

    Thursday, January 20, 2005

    Astrocenter Report - Part 7

    The words that are his keys to success:
    Honesty - Care - Modesty - To serve - To toil - To count.

    YOGA feels capable of achieving his goals alone, because he is the only vehicle for them.

    YOGA's perfectionism and scrupulousness sometimes hobble him with short-sightedness and inhibition in his search for a way to fit into society. His
    striving for discipline and order may cramp his expansion and keep him from obtaining mastery over a material world in which he is too closely engaged. He is so meticulous about the details of his job that he sometimes fails to see the whole picture. It is hard for him to stand back and assess all his resources and possibilities, so he is sometimes forced to toil away at correcting the little mistakes he encounters on a day-to-day basis. Nevertheless, his manual and intellectual talents and his logical and analytical mind are the key to a number of career possibilities: teaching technical or hard science, medicine, etc.

    For YOGA,
    the work world must arouse his sustained interest. He has a need to commit himself to it personally, and everything he accomplishes has to bear the seal of his personality. His ideals are fairly high, and he is liable to experience some frustration when they are not completely fulfilled. He has certain artistic leanings, and although he may not commit himself to an artistic career, the work he does produce will certainly display his sense of harmony, composition, and good taste.

    [Some parts of my ideal career is correctly described here. That it has to be stimulating enough for me so I can commit myself fully to it.

    I admit that I often set high expectations, and sometimes get frustrated by not achieving them, though this doesn't happen often since I'm also realistic about my own ability. The liabilities that I may experience from being meticulous and orderly is well noted, though I haven't personally see them affecting me in significant ways.

    The artsy part. Yes, this is true. My teammates in college can attest to this trait since I was often the designated designer for papers, presentations, and advertisement samples. It probably won't win any awards from the art school, but it was enough to give our materials the professional look they need.]

    ~ to be continued ~

    Wednesday, January 05, 2005

    [break] Back into Action

    Sorry for the long hibernation. As you may know from my website, I moved to St. Louis, MO almost 2 months ago. I didn't bring my computer with me, so I couldn't update the blog until now. I brought my computer about 2 weeks ago after I visited Bloomington, IN. Soon, I will finished the Astrocenter Report and then move on to new topics.