Friday, October 29, 2004

Parallel Dreams

Entry for my Rational Technology column for October 31, 2004.

While our local investment promotion groups have been busy pushing Dumaguete City as a site for call centers and other outsourced business, their counterparts in other cities are also doing the same with as much zeal. Case in point is Davao City, where I currently am for a one-week vacation. I met up with DTI directors to find out the extent of their outsourcing activity.

Population-wise, Davao City has a significant edge over Dumaguete. At a combined total of over 11,000 university graduates last year -- and growing -- the hiring pool of Davao is well within the sweet spot of call centers. On television, billboards, and radio are advertisements announcing for interviews for agents bound for Manila and Cebu.

Being the hub city in Mindanao, the infrastructure is also excellent. The Davao International Airport started operations last year, and the quality rivals that of Cebu. Davao is also home to starred hotels such as Marco Polo, Apo View, and Royal Mandaya. The major telecommunications firms are active in the city, and it's a cinch to get a DSL line for commercial and private use. All in all, these make Davao an attractive site.

The local services industry, while not exactly as large as Manila's or Cebu's, have banded together to form an association to establish the minimum standards for quality for such companies. The Association of Systems Integrators of Davao consists of companies involved in application development, graphics design, medical transcription, and some small business process outsourcing. Organized as they are, they are involved in major investment promotion activities and get first pick of contracts coming into the city.

Davao also has a very active ICT organizations. Davao plays a leading role in the Mindanao ICT Council. There is a specific function for ICT promotion within the Chamber of Commerce. The local universities also participate in the Philippine Council for IT Education.

Local efforts at bringing in the investors are bearing fruit. This November, Clark-based Cybercity will begin operating its satellite call center with 200 seats. Three other call centers have expressed interest in setting up shop in the city in the near future.

Davao, despite its size and more advanced state of organization, is still in ramp-up mode with regard to outsourcing investments. It's the same case with other cities outside of Manila and Cebu, which are, in effect, our national competitors. Heck, it's the same case with other cities outside of the Philippines who also have their eye on the golden apple of investments. Hence, it's good to look over our shoulders ever now and then.

So what does this mean for us in Dumaguete City? It simply means we have to try harder; we are at a size disadvantage, and it's important to admit that early on. It's a fact. But what we may not have in size, we should make up for in determination, ingenuity, organization, and most importantly, the quality of the output.

Ladies and gentlemen, the race is still very much on.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Red Priestess and Angel



Jac Lim posted a small vignette entitled Goodbye, Eden. I liked the fantasy setting and the imagery and decided to put together this little sketch. No turpentine, though, so I had to content myself with my dry smudge technique.

Terence



Home in Davao for a week on vacation. Good news: lots of time to draw, read, and do whatever I feel like. Bad news: no turpentine. Oh, well....

I sketched this puppy from our dog Terence. It's not an exact rendition, but I'm fairly happy with how it came out, despite the fact that it's only in pencils.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Fibre Channel Industry Association (FCIA)

The Fibre Channel overview provides the most comprehensive introduction to the topic that I've seen so far. Lots of breadth, and a little bit of depth, too.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Chopsticks



Sacha wrote a poignant vignette of a mother and daughter's last moments together. The complete story is in her site.

I was feeling a bit down today so I decided to paint this instead of playing badminton or working. Pretty much my standard: oil pastels washed over with turpentine. The yellow background was done with soft pastel. I was going to outline it with colored pencils, but I thought it looked okay already.

I'm feeling better now.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Bulacan Express

I paid my good friend D. a visit in Bulacan yesterday. It had been almost two months since I last saw him, and I was starting to feel guilty that I hadn't gone. D., you see, is in jail pending resolution of an illegal recruitment charge wrongfully filed against him.

Getting to Bulacan was easier than I previously thought. I took the MRT to Cubao and there were buses headed North, passing by various towns. Bus fare was P20 to get to Meycauayan, and the trip took a little over an hour. Traffic was pleasantly light, though the bus stopped several times to load up passengers.

When I got to Meycauayan, though, I learned I was in the wrong place. I was supposed to go to Malolos. Fortunately, I got dropped off right at the jeepney terminal where they had trips going to Malolos. Fare was P23, and I shared the ride with a big family and a couple of taho (bean curd) vendors.

The jeepney trip was pleasant enough: we cruised along the highway, wind blowing in our faces. We made several toll stops, though, and that was the annoying part of the journey.

I dropped off at the place they called Crossing, very close now to the Regional Penitentiary of Bulacan. I had a quick lunch at Max's Fried Chicken, and brought a take-out meal (no pun intended) to the jail.

The trip back was even easier. Apparently, several passenger vans ply the Malolos-Cubao route, and catching one of them was no difficult feat. Fare this time was an even P40, and the trip took an hour and a half. It was slow going at first because the driver wanted to pick up several passengers, but it was a smooth drive once we got out of the town proper.

Hard Luck Life

It's very easy to get someone into jail, if you have the money and the right connections. You set up a dummy company in that person's name, forge a couple of documents here and there, get some witnesses to file a complaint, and wait for the wheels of justice (appropriately sped up with grease money) to do their magic. That's D.'s story.

When I visited D., he was in fairly good spirits. He was billeted in the juvenile cell, where they place all the privileged prisoners. He had lost some weight, but that was actually a good thing because he's now back to his ideal body-mass index. No bug bites, fortunately, as was the case of his stay in the previous prison.

We chatted about sundry matters. His family is now able to call him daily, and the case is progressing well in his favor. I hope he'll be out soon.

In a way, D.'s stay there is doing some good. He's managed to get the other prisoners to speak up to their lawyers to speed up resolution of their cases. One fellow was released just the other day, D. claims, because of some assistance from his lawyer.

Amusingly enough, he has also gotten one of his other cellmates hooked on Frank Herbert's Dune. Well, that's certainly one form of escape even the wardens can't stop.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Sound of Silence

When I moved into my Ortigas apartment last year, cable TV was one of the amenities that came along with the place. Cheapskate that I am, I opted to have it disconnected so I wouldn't have to pay the P450 monthly fee.

After a week, the service was still on so I called up the cable company to ask if they had received my letter of termination. They said they had, that I was not to worry, and that my subscription would be cut soon enough; in the meantime, I could enjoy the programs in the time that remained.

A month ago, my cable TV signal finally went dead. No more Cartoon Network. No more Disney Channel. No more Nickelodeon. No more Discovery Channel. No more CNN. No more Solar. Only static. The jig was up. They finally caught on to me. But not after giving me free cable for over a year.

Withdrawal symptoms manifested themselves not long after. For more than a year, cable TV was my friend and companion. It was the first thing I turned on when I woke up and it followed me throughout my morning preparations until I left for the office. The soothingly familiar inanity greeted me when I came back from work, keeping me company until bedtime. All of a sudden, my room seemed too quiet.

Withdrawal is not easy to deal with. It's like an itch that you just can't scratch. Frustration mounts, restlessness reigns supreme. I twiddled with my TV's rabbit antenna, struggling to catch the pathetic signal of free TV but the results were less than stellar. I could just as easily have placed a call to the cable company and begged them to reconnect me, but my miserly nature won the day.

It's been over a month now and I've gotten used to life without the background noise of cable TV. I'm finding that I have more time on my hands, time that I'm using to read, write, and draw. I'm finding that I get my tasks done faster and I'm sleeping earlier. I'm finding that my thoughts are much clearer and my concentration is sharper.

I'm finding out, to my shame and dismay, that I was a cable TV addict.

It is said that nature abhors a vacuum, and the same must be true of our minds: it demands feeding. Unfortunately for me, television was the past of least resistance, easily accessible and not too demanding. But it was the equivalent of junk food: tasty, filling, but not very nutritious. Now that the noise is off, I'm forced to think of more creative ways to fill my recreational time, and now I am more critical of my entertainment.

Try to examine your television viewing patterns: is your TV on most of the time that you are home? Is it the first thing you see in the morning? Does it accompany you through lunch or dinner? Is it the last thing you see in the evening?

If, after this self-examination, you start to feel a little concerned, press the most important button on your remote -- the "off" button.

Then, enjoy the sound of silence.

Friday, October 15, 2004

New to Linux on Power Architecture

Ordinarily, company collateral tends to be self-serving hype (even my own, sadly) but this feature article is a pretty good summary of Linux on PowerPC.

Linux on PowerPC

It's Friday, the end of a tough week, and the load today is surprisingly light. Finally, some time to breath and do some research.

Apparently, I'm giving Yet Another Linux Talk next week in time for the OpenPower launch here in Manila. Normally I shy away from things like this because it tends to be the same thing over and over again. This time, though, I have the chance to introduce something new, so I'm accepting it.

First stop for any Linux on PowerPC discussion should always be
penguinppc.org, a site dedicated to all things Linux and PowerPC. Still doing some preliminary exploration, but all in all, it looks quite promising.

This is a part of the market I've missed because I've travelled far too long in Intel country. New territory always looks exciting.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Muse Reading II



Second rendition of a reading muse. This was done in oil pastel over Oslo paper. I learned that the pastel doesn't smudge quite as easily over Oslo paper as it does on regular photocopy paper, so I've had to revert to turpentine. I still need some work on my shadows, but overall, I'm quite happy with the result.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Bob Burkhardt

Bob Burkhardt does landscapes in oil pastels, and I have a greater affinity for his work than I do Ingrid's. His site is very basic, and ranges back to 1995. Still, the paintings are pretty good. I really like his blending.

Ingrid Torjesen

Yet another oil pastel artist: Ingrid Torjesen. Her work tends towards seascapes from Montauk, NY. She also does oils.

Unfortunately, I'm not really much for landscapes, but I'm filing this anyway, because I'm sure my tastes will evolve.

Pets in Pastel

If I thought I was getting any good, I take it back. Another search of oil pastels yielded Pets in Pastel, and by golly! Sarah Theophilus is go-ooooooooood!

No, better than good! She's great!

I have so much more to go before I get to her caliber. I am awed. I am inspired.

Lady in Red



More experiments with oil pastels, this time augmented by colored pencils. I like the way this came out: a little anime-ish, relatively clean, and good color blending. I'm improving!

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Mother's Grief



Ah, the good we fail to do. The other day, I came out from midday Mass, and I saw this woman crying on the church steps, her innocent, dusty children standing there not knowing what to do. I could have approached her to ask her what the matter was, but all I did was stand there dumbly.

Resolution: not to let the chance to do a good thing pass me by.

Valley Girl



My first attempt at colored pencils. Well, after a long while, at least: it's been years since I've used colored pencils (in this case, watercolor pencils). I love the control it affords me. I'm looking forward to trying this out with the oil pastels.

Idyll



I'm pretty pleased with this attempt. Not much detail, because I've learned that for small drawings it doesn't really help to go into that with oil pastels. Instead, I just went for the general outlines and color blends.

This was done on oslo paper. I blended the colors with cotton buds.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Working with oil pastels

Wowzers! On a lark, I googled for oil pastels and landed on this pretty neat tutorial by May-Lin Demetriou. I'll certainly have to try out the techniques here later tonight.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Warrior Princess



Another attempt with oil pastels, this time as a portrait. This one came out relatively better, though I still clearly need greater mastery of the medium.

Flying Warrior



Yet more experiments with oil pastels. I was at a small get-together organized by Marcelle and we were playing Magic, Legend of the Five Rings, and Highlander. Caught up in the mood of things, I put together this sketch. However, it just goes to show: I really need to buy colored pencils to do the detail work.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Outsourcing 101: Selling Dumaguete

Outsourcing firms, at the end of the day, offer a service to other companies with the promise that they can do it better, cheaper, more efficiently, and more reliably than anyone else can. As with all merchandise in this world, these outsourced services have to be packaged, marketed, and sold.

Thus, despite the fact that their day-to-day operations are hidden from view of the end-user, outsourcing firms like to project a modern and efficient front. Executives of companies considering the services of an outsourcing firms still do take time to visit the premises to see if the people and the facilities are up to par.

Like everything else that needs to be sold, outsourcing firms also have a sales force that go out to meet with these customers to present their capabilities. Membership in accredited organizations helps considerably. When you get down to it, there's nothing like putting a face to your company, pressing the flesh, and making that personal contact; one cannot sell effectively sitting behind a desk in a comfortable office and waiting for the orders to come.

Much in the same way, Dumaguete also has to sell itself to outsourcing firms as a viable location for setting up shop. Over the course of this extended series, we've focused on our capabilities and the potential to develop more: the bandwidth, the location, the cost, the quality of education, the available manpower pool. But if we don't trumpet these capabilities, no one will know; no one will come; and we would just remain a tragic oddity.

Remember: we are not alone in this race. Metro Manila remains the primary destination, followed by Cebu; awareness of tertiary locations, us included, remains low. And even among these tertiary locations, there's a lot of growing competition: Davao is a strong candidate because of its critical mass of manpower; Cagayan de Oro is setting up its own cyberpark property development project; and nearby Bacolod has its own designs.

We have to sell ourselves the way outsourcing firms sell themselves. This means going out of our comfortable niche in the city to look for these customers. This means a sales team who can put a face to the city, who can press the flesh with customers, and who can make that personal contact with outsourcing firm executives.

To a large extent, we have been quite fortunate to have that sales team doing that work for the city. Messrs. Dean Sinco, Javier Fortunato, and Veneeth Iyengar, with the able guidance of Mr. Fred Dael, have been making the rounds of the call center circuit over the past year. Their work is starting to bear fruit, and there's the promise of more to come.

The race is on, and we are running. Hats off to you, gentlemen.