Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Real Weather Strikes Silicon Valley and the Bay Area

One thing I've always liked about the Bay Area during my quarter-century here is that we occasionally have real weather.

Not to diminish the tragedy that often comes with it, it's exciting to see Mother Nature's occasional wrath. It fills up our reservoirs and has a net positive effect on keeping the dreaded fires away, adding moisture to the grassy carpets that surround us even while nurturing the growth (and therefore fire potential) of them.

I took these shots along Highway 101 during my mercifully short 3-mile commute this morning. (Yes, I was snapping while driving, but not texting, talking, smoking, drinking, fornicating, or even listening to the radio.)

The good news is that the people of Northern California know how to drive in this weather, unlike say, in socal where the first drop of rain on the first windshield induces panic and 30-mile backups that can only properly be explained by wave theory.

Today's storm is the fourth of five that have been forecasted, and let's hope everyone stays safe, the hillsides don't collapse, and the sun returns by Friday!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Global Sourcing in the Philippines: Makati and Beyond

I posted my interview with Oscar Sanez (pictured), President and CEO of BPAP, the Business Processing Association of the Philippines ( Oscar runs marathons, and have I ever mentioned I think it's hot over there? I hope they start these races at around 3am.

He's taking the long-term view of business as well. A P&G exec for almost 30 years, located in all corners of the world, Oscar returned to the Philippines a few years back to apply the full force of his experience and personality to address the challenge of developing business in his native country.

The Metro Manila municipality of Makati City (left), where BPAP is located and where I met Oscar for our interview, is one of the showcase areas of the Philippines and of the global outsourcing industry. Its skyline, greenbelt area, hotels, restaurants, shopping, etc. put it on a par with great urban areas throughout the world, at prices that remain a tremendous bargain even to Americans arriving with their puny, infirm dollars.

Makati is routinely listed as one of the very top outsourcing (or global sourcing) locations in the world, alongside Indian giants such as Bangalore, Mumbai/Pune, and Hyderabad. I've been to all these places, and I can vouch that Makati's infrastructure is vastly superior to that of any Indian city. In fact, even standard-issue Manila infrastructure (a pic I took of jeeps in the Cubao area is below) is superior to anything I've seen in India.

The vibrant success of Makati over the past two decades or so has created a number of improvements in education and social services for its half a million residents--many of whom live the very difficult life common to so many millions in the Philippines and other countries throughout Southeast Asia.

These days, Oscar and many others in the Philippines are working to continue to attract new business to Makati, while also promoting numerous other locations, within and surrounding Manila, and out in the provinces as well.

Cebu City, the commercial hub of the country's central Visayan region, has already made the list of top sourcing destinations in the world--a number of people I've spoke to report a 30-percent discount across the board from prices in Manila.

Names such as Mandaluyong, Pasig City, and Quezon City (all in Metro Manila) will be heard more and more, as well regional names such as Bulacan, Pampanga, and Cavite, and provincial names such as Iloilo, Bocolod, and Davao.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Manila, Metro Manila, Mega Manila

For those of you not in the know, there are three stars on the flag of the Philippines: one for Luzon (dominated by the island of the same name and by Manila), one for the Visayas (which contains several major islands), and one for the southern Mindanao region.

This makes the regions equal in theory, but not in practice. By now, the island of Luzon contains almost 50 million of the nation's estimated population of 92 million. In contrast, there are 20 million-something in Mindandao and close to 20 million scattered throughout the Visayas.

Manila is the big megillah in this picture. Defining precisely what constitutes Manila can be a tiresome exercise, given that you have the City of Manila, the National Capital Region (less formally known as the Manila Metrpolitan Area or Metro Manila), Greater Manila, and the more-recent mega-definition, Mega Manila.

The City of Manila is like the City of London (a smallish place within a very large area that carries its name) and not like New York City, which is a collection of smaller boroughs.

Oh, wait. The City of Manila is not nearly as strange as the City of London, which has a resident population of 8,000 people and has existed since the time of the Romans--and what did the Romans ever do for England anyway?

The City of Manila contains the original city, almost 2 million people, and most of the cool old Spanish stuff, the big cathedral, and the country's presidential palace. It was named after a variety of mangrove tree. There are plenty of mangroves in the Philippines; it's hot there, you know.

Metro Manila is also quite precisely defined, and has an estimated population of about 11.5 million. So-called "Mega Manila" extends up, down, and out from the main metro area as much as 40 to 50 miles.

You can drive north, for example, through a corner of Bulacan province and into Pampanga province, through miles of flat rice fields, only to re-submerge into plenty of traffic and people once you reach the City of San Fernando and Angeles City. Another million or so people are found here, most of them doing hard, physical labor for a few dollars a day and/or waiting for remittances from relatives and friends.

Mega Manila might have 35 million people, in other words, roughly comparable to California in about one-eighth the space. Even so, having some fun with numbers, that equates to only 700 people per square kilometer. Compare this to almost 7,000 per square kilometer in San Francisco and other highly urbanized cities across the globe.

Even so, paraphrasing Wavy Gravy (and no, I wasn't at Woodstock and am not stuck in the 60s), "what Manila has in mind every morning is breakfast in bed for 35 million."

The Philippines and numerous other Asian countries have developed cultures that put much less of an emphasis on personal space than we twitchy Westerners. There is a concomitant much higher emphasis on group dynamics, eg, learning to blend into enormous clots of people and traffic, and not throwing a punch if someone sits on top of you in a jeepney.

Even so, there are severe logistical problems involved in housing, feeding, transporting--and finding work--for this many people in such a relatively small place.

Catching the Next Wave

The 10 Next Wave Cities identified last year by the Business Processing Association of the Philippines ( include six areas in the "Mega Manila" area, two in the Visayas, and two on the island of Mindanao.

My personal interest is in the two Visayan locations, as the Visayas is my favorite part of this country. But my plan is to visit all 10 in coming months, to give a fair-minded report on them, personal bias aside. For now, I've posted a picture of Bacolod City, one of the two Visayan locations identified by BPAP. It's actually only a 45-minute ferry ride from Iloilo City, the other Visayan Next-Wave City.

Bacolod is considered in some quarters as the greatest place to live in the Philippines, with a combination of low cost, decent infrastructure, and warm, Visayan culture. It has an energetic advocate and aspiring politician named Jocelle Bataga-Sigue, who's doing a lot of good work in trying to attract business to her city.

I've met her, spoken with her, and may get to interview her formally some day if she ever slows down a bit and lets me catch her!

It's NOW or Never

The word "now" defines something that both exists perpetually and doesn't exist at all. We live in the eternal present, with "now" as the cleaving point between past and present.

So if someone tells you to do something "now," well, you won't be able to get it done until a bit later (at the earliest), although when you are done you will be able to say it is finished "now."

Mathematicians invented the concept of a limit to get around a paradox: you can measure our approach to something in terms of a percentage (I'm halfway there), but in doing so you will never reach the goal (you can always measure halfway there, down to infinitesimal numbers). Thus, the limit was create (Eureka, I am there now!), so that Newton and Leibniz could get on with the business of creating the calculus.

A similar paradox exists with the concept of "now." You can always measure where you are at, or were at a few seconds, nanoseconds, or years ago, but you can't observe it anymore, because it's no longer now. This is more in line with Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, which observes that can measure or observe a particle if you want, but you can't do both accurately.

Most people, of course, don't waste their time thinking about "the paradox of now," but instead employ what I like to call "the power of now" to describe what's going on, whether in entertainment, business, sports, etc. ad infinitum.

So it's amusing to see, for example, that Fox News has been using NOW as part of its ongoing news coverage, and now (so to speak) as a blog:

Fox's Salt Lake City station has incorporated it into its URL:

As has Fox's station in Cape Coral, Florida

And ABC has been smitten by the power of NOW:

I'm sure there are, by now, many others.

If you want to be more salacious, visit some of the versions of NOW Magazine scattered throughout the world: (NSFW!)
(marginally SFW!)

Or how about this one? (I'm sure the Chinese government is thrilled with all the coverage of the Dalai Lama!)

Here's a NOW Magazine with a healthy-size URL from an oddly-named school in Texas.

Then there's the NOW Magazine I helped create when I worked for TIBCO. But it seems to have stopped printing this magazine, and its website hasn't been updated in two years hehe.

And wow, I notice I'm still listed there with that two-year-old copy, even though I haven't worked for TIBCO in months.

I'd fire off a cease-and-desist letter if I thought it hurt my image or was somehow competing with what I'm doing now :-)

But what I'm doing now is something far different. I'm not with TIBCO and generally don't write about the company. I do like to write about people throughout the world who are trying to create a better standard of living through job development and creation of a global services chain. You can scroll through my blog to find some of my more recent, interesting interviews.

Enjoy! That's all for NOW!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Green, Disgusting, or Just Confused?

Within seconds of my previous post I was lambasted by a loyal reader who says he's seen this sort of "cleaning optional" sign for years.

"It started with towels," he said (which I actually have seen many times), "the moved to bedsheets maybe 10 years ago."

Well, OK, but how about a place that doesn't clean your room...period...every day? No vacuum, not even a cursory look at the bathroom, nothing nada.

Nevertheless, in the spirit of I May Be a Doofus, let me give you a Top 10 List of Other New Stuff I've Seen Lately...

1. How about these so-called "smart phones"? Did you know you can get your email on them?

2. Wow, who knew you could find music and even movies online and download them?

3. Has anyone else noticed that big-city newspapers are getting smaller?

4. Does there seem to be too much useless entertainment gossip in our media, or is it just me?

5. Dylan went electric?

6. Reality TV doesn't seem so real to me, know what I mean?

7. I don't get why all these bloggers are so popular. Can't we trust our mainstream media to get things right anymore?

8. When did one of George Carlin's "seven words" become more common on radio and TV than the synonyms "mad" and "angry"?

9. I wish someone had told me sooner that I don't need to go to the box office to get tickets for the game. Would have saved me TONS of time.

10. Those grocery scanners at modern supermarkets, whew, are they cool or what?

New Hotel Policy: Green, or Disgusting?

Here's the little sign I found on my unchanged bed in my hotel room yesterday afternoon.

The pic is a little blurry. Here's what the sign says:

"Bedsheets that are washed daily in thousands of hotels around the world use millions of gallons of water and a lot of detergent.

"Please leave this card on the bed if you do not want your sheets changed.

"Thank-you for helping us conserve the Earth's vital resources."

The rhetoric here is certainly self-righteous and high-flown enough to qualify as a legitimate political point of view.

But isn't this just a dodge? Isn't this just a way to rationalize why the hotel doesn't want to pay to have its rooms cleaned every day?

Even worse, this hotel has a policy of sending its maids around every other day, so even if you want those sheets changed on, say, Sunday, there's a good chance they won't be changed until Monday.

The place does have a very low rate, so I'm sticking with it, as I'm on a tight budget while researching some stories. So I won't name names, because other than the gross-out factor associated with this sign and policy, I kinda like the place. I realize that not everyone will agree with me here.

Has anyone else encountered this policy?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Update on Datuk Ghazali at Malaysia's MSC

The second part of my interview with Datuk Ghazali, CEO of MdEC, which runs Malaysia's multimedia super corridor, is now posted!