December 20, 2007


This cigar has an admittedly lighter draw than I am accustomed to, making the first few minutes of the smoke a bit strained. It’s amusing because I make the same comment each and every time I light one up! Once you get a feel for the cigar, it’s a pleasant afternoon smoke, mild and light—with a slightly bitter aftertaste. The wrapper burns evenly and you can spend minutes lining up your cigar ash so it resembles a full cigar (amusing). The Petite Corona is a small cigar, which lasts about 30-40 minutes depending on the smoker. It is your classic non-grand cru series Davidoff: predictable, pleasant, slightly too expensive, nice for a quiet afternoon with a book and good shot of espresso.


Took a new trail through San Mateo last weekend. We started off at batohan all the way to kavergel area. At the junction of halo halo we took a left and went towards the landfill in pintong bukawe. We headed towards electronics, passed close to susong dalaga and into pinahan ni Roxas—popping out in crasher conrock (sitio patiis). We ended by heading towards paraiso the funeral garden and out in Banaba San Mateo. Overall it was a fun trail—not exactly technical, though there were a few run-ins with mud patches and cliffs. It was a gorgeous day, with Philippines weather at its very best. The falls was a good breather and would have made a nice place to sit and have lunch.

I am not sure how long this trail will exist—it was newly bulldozed when we passed, so give it a few weeks and the bumps and grooves are sure to settle. I suggest hitting this trail as soon as you can!


The official stats of the 2009 ZR1 (Nicknamed Blue Ray) are out and to say they are staggering is an understatement. An all new small block LS9 engine at 6.2 liters cranks out 620 HP and 595 pounds per feet of torque. It has an intercooled supercharger from Eaton matched to a close-ratio six speed manual with dual- disc clutch. What does this mean in layman’s terms: Faster short time speed early in the track (small block) with a gargantuan engine that is also supercharged (no explanation necessary), maximized by a gearbox that keeps at the power-band by using a different combination of gears (close ratio six speed manual) and a clutch that is designed to be abused (dual –disc clutch). All of this result in a car that has a better power-to-weight ratio than the Murcielago, and can reach the 200 mph mark which few cars are designed to do (think: Bentley Continental GT Speed and Bugatti Veyron).

It’s designed to look and act like a street bully at a price ($100,000) that is still quite affordable when compared to the exotic cars it will eat for breakfast. Sadly, since this is a Chevy you can count on a low rent interior and handling that leans more towards American muscle than Italian exotic. However, this is what makes it a corvette; the meanest and fastest corvette ever produced! The Blue Ray will probably be built in low numbers, so get your name on the list as early as possible.

December 19, 2007

798 BETWEEN 11 AND 4

Art is a tricky subject. All of us have different views that I’m certain we will defend to the end. 798 is not about the art you enjoy (though you might just find that one great piece) or those “cocktail party whisper” pieces that you just have to see; it’s a place where the young artists of northern china can display their work, discuss their thoughts, and relax in the company of other artists. Note that while this may be commonplace in Europe or the United States, we are talking about China and the city from which “beats the heart of the Chinese people.” Up until the mid eighties, the Chinese were very much still in the Cultural Revolution. The society of artists and art aficionados really only started to develop in the nineties.

For visitors to 798, the “rough around the edges” feeling is prevalent, despite the well furnished/funded galleries, coffee houses, and forced graffiti. This was an old factory of some kind, which explains the wide buildings, perfectly angled streets, pipes, stacks, and valves that give this area its charm. There are rusted generators painted in bright colors that compliment the graffiti strewn across long, red brick walls. Randomly themed sculptures can be found at every corner and the galleries, are first rate—designed to the standards of New York and Milan. The development of this area is still in progress—there are no good restaurants, and a lot of space between galleries. The signs and maps are improving, but as a whole I suggest just mowing up and down the area, like you would a grocery store, to get the best experience. Smaller side streets often have small workshops. The people are quite friendly, so do not be shy when poking your nose into little courtyards or shacks. It can be cold in the winter, so I suggest that people traveling during this period dress warmly (Excessively would be best) and the artists do not usually get up till around 1030am, so plan for a mid day visit- which gets you out before the rush hour traffic at 5pm.

798 is a place any art lover NEEDS to visit. Fortunately it will only improve as time passes, so regular visits are recommended. If you absolutely need to buy a piece, I suggest you do your research first. There are a lot of overpriced artists and imitators in this area. Look first then go home and get on the internet. All prices are heavily negotiable.


Tata Motors is a strong contender for Jaguar and Landrover. There is a rich irony in this that I am sure is rippling through the British car manufacturing community-- then again, after selling out to the Americans (Jaguar and Landrover) and Germans (Rolls Royce, Bentley), the initial shock has probably long since passed.

I have met with the Tata Group and I have to say that I found them to be highly driven professionals. The cars that they produce, while not impressive on an international standard, fit and serve the Indian market well. They recently announced that they would be producing a $2500 car (a car which is basically glued together!! Literally!) which would make the modern Model T. While as a group they certainly have the funding to purchase the ailing Jaguar and Landrover from Ford- I wonder if they have the technical expertise to manage such different lines of production?

The car aficionado that I am cries sacrilege at the thought of the "poetic justice" will be served to the Indians if they purchase these symbols of British Civilization (aptly worded by Todd Lassa). However, as a champion for the underdog- I hope they buy it and run it better than the original owners. Anyway, Ford has more than enough problems on its plate, a bit of infused cash would not hurt.


Interesting news from the aviation industry-- Mobile Phones and WiFi computers may soon be allowed on airplanes. I just recently read in the Economist that JetBlue has launched a limited Wi-Fi data service on one of its A320 planes in partnership with Yahoo and RIM. AirFrance is testing voice calling/text on an A318. Quantas, AeroMobile and other carriers have also been exploring different possibilities that allow passengers more connectivity while in the air.

The Federal Communications Comission (FCC) has long stood by its ban on cellular phones using the 800 MHz frequency and other wirless devices on airborne aircraft due to the potential interference to wireless networks on the ground. However, in the last few years they have been slowly allowing changes to these regulations, as more and more providers of in-flight wireless broadband and other communication services are using frequencies that do not interfere with ground communications. This is all happening in the wake of a study done by researchers from Carnagie Mellon came out with a study a year or so ago that stated that no matter what frequencies are used, when you put a large number of active mobile phones, computers, etc. in a small enclosed space like an airplane, there will inevitably be a "clear and present danger (yes, they actually used that term)." Whether there is any substantial proof in their study-- it does sound fairly compelling when you envision 300 + individuals yakking on their phones inside an airplane. Similar to how you really cannot prove that using a cell phone continuously gives you brain cancer, the Carnagie Mellon conclusion just sounds likely.

I suppose as a frequent flier I would be more concerned about the disruption it would cause me. Yes, I would be able to get a lot of work done if I could connect online while flying. However, the thought of clicking keyboards and loud conversations echoing through the claustrophobic airplane cabin does make one stop and think about whether this direction is really the best way to go. There is also that additional security risk in having Hijacker 1 converse with Hijacker 2 via SMS, which in many countries will prove to be a rather hefty variable to consider.

Presently, I am content writing emails and saving them in the outbox. The few quiet hours in the air (Unless you are flying Cebu Pacific) can be spent reflecting and planning, something that one does not always have when running about a busy day to day schedule.

December 14, 2007


A deal was made between MySpace and Sprint to release the social network on the carriers lines sometime early 2008. It will be interesting to see how well they manage to integrate the system and when we will have something similar running in the Philippines. These days with mobile phones that connect through WiFi, the need for “deals” of this sort are become scarce. The IPhone browses Facebook and Friendster so easily, nowhere as tedious and tiring a process as it was with the E61i. I can imagine how much easier it will get as technology improves and WiFi spots become more prevalent.


Tucked in a small side street behind the China World Center this restaurant boasts, “Chinese home cooking,” which is no small proclamation in a country that practically invented “home cooking.” The quickest way to find the restaurant is to get on Guanghua Lu and stand at the corner opposite of the Kerry Center but facing the China World Center (Get this part right!). You will see a street leading from Guanghua Lu to the China World Center, find the street parallel and immediately to the right. Please be warned that while Xiao Wang Fu’s sign can’t be missed, there is a second, equally garish sign that invites you to eat at an excellent Hot Pot. Sadly this restaurant must be connected to a different set of water pipes or just have bad food Feng Shui, because its downright terrible.

Entering the deceptively large restaurant, you will see the small shed they use to roast the ducks (they look tastier hanging then on your plate) and a little water fountain. Tables are always full, but the wait will not be longer than 5-10 minutes.

It is the food and not the ambiance where this restaurant excels. I’ve eaten here numerous times over my many trips to Beijing and I do not think I have EVER ordered anything bad. In fact, I would go as far as saying that everything I have ordered was good to borderline addictive. The dishes are a mix from different regions of China, though the majority are northern dishes. You can get the staple Peking duck and bitter melon to terrific Mapu tofu and minced lamb. Undoubtedly they use MSG in their cooking, but it’s worth it. Now the highlight of any of my Xiao Wang Fu dinners is the Sichuan Spicy Chicken (Xiang La Ji Li). The boneless pieces come in a basket full of Chili’s, steaming hot, and fried till golden brown. They are a lot less spicy than they look, but have a distinct coriander flavor. It’s always a battle with the other dinner guests to pick away at the small pieces of chicken hiding within the peppers—you literally use your chopsticks to sweep the chili’s aside. Pair this dish with a cold Yanjing Draft and you are in for a real culinary delight.

The restaurant has grown in the last few years. Since my first meal I have seen a toilet system installed, a third floor with an adjoining balcony, a menu with pictures, and my favorites—more tables, more employees (that are always friendly), and less space between guests. They have even started a delivery service to buildings around the CBD area. It’s nice to see a hardworking restaurant find the success they deserve.

December 11, 2007


Sitting in Centro, an upscale Jazz Bar at the Kerry Center in Beijing, one quickly realizes that in a city with 20 million inhabitants and a quite a lot of good bars and clubs, there really is no other place that can best the ambiance and Jazz offered by this old Beijing stalwart. Dimly lit and tastefully appointed, the Jazz band and singers (often imported from the US) belt out Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole—the true classics in a world infatuated with Norah Jones, Kenny G, and Diana Krall. This is not to say that the latter three are not of noteworthy mention, it is just that the impact and emotions that are brought forth by the Jazz artists of the 50’s to 60’s seem to carry a much deeper tone. Pair this with a good cigar and Mojito (the best in Asia!) and you have yourself a perfectly rounded and soulful evening. This was in fact, what I was enjoying before the dulled cigar cutter chewed up my beautiful, aged and nicely prepared Montecristo. Staring in disbelief at the mangled end of the cigar, I did not know whether to cry or berate the waitress. Being older and more mature, I opted to steam quietly in my seat, puffing awkwardly in the yellow candle glow. For those looking for a good smoke, the Montecristo Edmundo is a spectacular cigar! It’s a medium to full-bodied blend of tobacco, with a rich draw and a nice feel to the fingers (it’s a big cigar, 52 ring gauge at 135mm). There is a lot of flavor, even from one of the newer years—with plenty of potential to improve as the years go by. I did find that it required a bit more attention than some other cigars and burned quite unevenly. This may have had something to do with the tattered end. An interesting side note, this cigar was named after Alexander Dumas’ “Count of Montecristo” protagonist, Edmund Dantes. Mixed with good bourbon and a bit of Louis, you really cannot beat the experience!

If you are out in Beijing, enjoy jazz and would like a place to kick back with the locals, I highly recommend Centro. Just make sure to bring your own cigar accessories.


The new Hummer HX is out and I love it! I enjoy offroading, especially in a country with as diverse a terrain as the Philippines. The original H1 was a bit too heavy and too large to really use for the trails offered in the country. Its designed perfectly for the deserts of Iraq but with tight ravines, rivers, and boulder-ridden volcanoes, the H1 is not the best companion. This new hummer however looks great! Short overhang, good clearance (as with any hummer-- due to transmission casing) and surely a powerful engine. The only problem will be the parts... in Landcruiser country, when stuck up some mountain; GM parts are hard to come by. What a great looking design. Young. Agile. Competent. Lets see if the guys at GM put this into production. There are significantly less individuals willing to take their hummer off road then to the local Wallmart.

December 10, 2007


We should all learn from this


Over a cold San Miguel, an idea was proposed to me that involved a sort of revolving wallpaper advertisement on your phone. Much like the cheesy wallpaper images that come with your new Nokia, “Ad-Paper” would do something similar with advertising images—in a dynamic and creative manner. Its interesting, something for the near future. There are of course a number of technological barriers, which a certain MIT grad/McKinsey slugger is deftly solving, along with some friends of mine in HK. It may not be a dramatically revolutionary idea, but certainly one that if paired correctly, can be a potent form of direct advertisement.

As we are clearly seeing, the better-suited fighters in this mobile advertising 1.0 war will be the companies with the most dynamic offerings. A one-stop solution at this point in time, may be premature in a fledgling industry that has yet to be formed. There is very minimal structure and hardly any set barriers; it can go in many different directions. Lets see which group Ad-Paper can tie with.


First day of snow in Beijing, which for some, means it’s the perfect time to take your Porsche out for a spin or better, a swirl! Enjoying a reckless afternoon in the CBD with a like-minded entrepreneur can be the just the stress outlet you need to clear your mind and prepare for the brainwork needed for the rest of the week. What is nice about birds of the same feather is that you never really need to explain yourself to them. No matter how stupid a life you lead, what half-witted idea you may come up with or what potentially life threatening situation you may find yourself in—friends of these sort always understand. They never judge and often times will join you in whatever stupidity you may get into.

Each person has his or her sort of “release.” Some find it in sports and travel others in drugs—whatever it may be, we are all looking for those few minutes where your soul is light and your mind is clear. In these few moments—the best and most creative of ideas come.


A boy was born to a forty year old farmer in the Tianjin countryside. He named his baby “Gouzi” (Baby dog) for the sake of protecting his young infants life (I suppose babies are not given to forty year old men?). Gouzi went to Tianjin to study when he was 14, apprenticing in a steamed food shop. As a young boy he was hard working and showed much talent—though didn’t much like working for others. He ventured on his own and ran a stall of “Bouzi” (Steamed stuffed bun). He concocted a half-leaven, water filled dough that was soft and fragrant, looking much like a white chrysanthemum. People came from many places to eat his special Baozi. So much so that people in his neighborhood would say, “Gouzi isn’t talking when he is selling his Bouzi!” Before long, people started to call him “Gou Buli” (By “buli” meaning—he who does not pay attention to people), hence the nickname. Through the years Gou Buli Bouzi has attracted a number of famous patrons, from the Empress Dowager Cixi, to Mao, to your very own Jolly Jetsetter.

So the legend goes, for the most famous dumplings in Northern China. Now as an adventurer, I usually prefer to chase mountain peaks, rich cigars, the finest malts… even skirt, but this dumpling, this juicy, succulent, herb filled dumpling, was worth the frigid cold and shit filled alleyways. My date in tow, we ascended the very same stairs that Mao and George Bush Senior, to sit and enjoy our five different dumpling varieties: shrimp, Pork, Beef, Lamb, and Vegetables (bleh). They were a ludicrously expensive $1.5 each (55 pesos per dumpling) but well worth the expense. Paired with an oily plate of string beans and a cold Tsingdao beer, the dumpling experience is one that I would recommend to any traveler through Tianjin. Just watch how you bite into them, as they have a nasty habit of bursting, sending the soupy liquid dribbling down your chin and onto your clean, pressed collar. Fortunately there are napkins that you can buy for an additional $0.4.

When it comes to an adventure, one is never quite sure if it was the end that made the trip worthwhile or the chase. For these rare dumplings I would say that the cold, dirt, distance, and difficulty were very much a part of the herbs and spices used to make such a memorable dish.


Chinese Telecommunications companies, much like any of the larger businesses on the mainland have a barrier of the “old guard,” which makes doing business in China a rather tedious and foreign process for most Westerners. The center of this “Old Guard” are the government ministers, governors, and party members that are tied to the business practices of the past (though they are getting fewer). The middle circle consists of the industry leaders/billionaires whose decisions affect the country much like the government. The outer circle or front line, are the many smaller industry players. Whose sum is greater than the individuals that make up the parts. It is this front line that most westerners need to seduce or compete against, in order to break into the Chinese market. They are a clever and self-protective group of individuals; who’s suspicious and competitive nature against foreign companies is equaled by their suspicious and competitive nature against each other. I guess in many ways the biggest enemy of the Chinese are the Chinese.

One of the companies I am involved with has been working closely with a local partner to handle China Mobile and China Unicom. They chose this partner based of a strategic importance when we started in china almost 2 years ago, since which many things have changed. By a rather interesting twist of fate, there was a bit of shake up in the partnership, which has led our company towards a path that has a much brighter outcome. To simplify a rather complex deal- what originally started as a partnership with a 60/40 profit split between the Chinese partners and our company (respectively), suddenly became a 65/35 profit split + PRC expenses paid + $2.5 million entry to China cost PER telecommunication subscriber. While the sums involved would not necessarily be unreasonable if you consider the Chinese market, our basic metrics proved that paying large sums upfront, plus an immediate application of the 65/35 profit split in the first year would make this business structure a rather infeasible and largely one sided deal. For any startup, risks need to be taken by each side—you cannot have your cake and eat it too!

This is an example of a rather frequent occurrence in China, where this front line of Chinese businesses are so terrified of being cut out (because they know professionally, pound for pound, they cannot compare) or just used to large foreign businesses throwing money their way, that they forget about the rest of the players who have excellent ideas, models and companies, but are presently not at the scale of a Wallmart or Toyota. Many of these business owners would rather have quick cash now, then more of it later. In a way, perhaps they are right. With heavy competition in and out of the country, the corruption police right around the corner (read last post), and an influx of foreign companies that may or may not be good for the long term, sometimes you wonder if they are right. Better to rest on tens of millions now, then hundreds of millions of promises tomorrow. It just makes it difficult for those of us that genuinely want to do business and succeed in the mainland.

Sitting with glass of bourbon and a nice cigar, I find that while irritating, this sudden shift in the playing field has brought a new perspective and opportunity for business in China. I am just grateful that this partnership friction happened now and not closer to the signing of any deal. After all, if things come too easily it wouldn’t be fun.

December 09, 2007


Doing business in China is always a new and novel experience. With our start up in the mobile advertising industry, each day is a wonderful day to fend off greedy local businessmen, short minded upper management, and stubborn government officials. A few of my favorite expenses that some of our local partners are “attempting” to bill us for (English translation lifted from expense sheet):

1) Invited the government superior leader having diner in Beijing Hotel, in order to get some help from the project: 15700 RMB/$2121

2) Sending a Dunhill bag to the leader of company in order to get some information. 8645 RMB/$1168

3) Meeting with the general manager, send him a jade carving that commemorates for Olympic. 86000 RMB/$11621

4) Sending a Patek Philippe watch to the government superior leader 130,000 RMB/$17,560

5) Spending lots of money on bad taste : Priceless

A jade carving for $11,621??! I can understand a Dunhill bag, or a Patek Philippe (Couldn't you use a Casio?), but a bloody ugly green, carved jade statue? Fountain? Olympic rings? Couldn’t they have just bought a slightly cheaper, $10,000 golden cat, with a right paw that moves up and down…...

December 06, 2007


The Central Intelligence Agency destroyed at least two video tapes documenting the interrogation of two Al Queda operatives and that the decision to destroy the tapes was made "within the C.I.A itself." This of course was to protect the safety of their undercover officers...

While I am surprised that this is making national headlines (someone didn't cap this leak), I am more amused that people are actually gobbling this up. With everything that is going on in Russia, Pakistan, Iraq, hell even Mindanao, I would have thought we would expect and desensitize ourselves from such events. I do not encourage such methods but I do think that they have an important role to play, whether in our war for the betterment of the human race or for some crazy revolutionary's quest for freedom. Just don't get caught.

December 05, 2007


An estimated $30 CPM to advertise on in-game advertising is being offered by Sony. This means that you can find company brands on the digital buildings, taxis, t-shirts and billboards of the new PS3 games. Just how effective and up to date will this advertising be? I would say that it has the potential of being very up to date. Most of the newer game consoles are designed to access the web for games, updates, and uploads. Nielsen is being contracted to track the data on advertisements and estimated (hits). The world of gaming is being treated much like television, through an easily administered, CPM basis. There is no escape from the world’s brands. From the growth in online advertising, mobile advertising, game advertising… expect to see companies like Mc Donalds, Toyota and Diesel Jeans plastered on everything you see, play and hear.

Interesting side news:

Nokia just released an interesting study that predicts that peer groups not just traditional media, will be creating and editing 25% of all entertainment by 2012.

The Zenith Optimedia report on Ad spending predicts that internet advertising will overtake radio advertising in 2008 and magazine advertising by 2010, amounting to 11.5% of total ad spend—putting it right behind television and newspapers.

This makes for an interesting playing field for the mobile advertising contenders.


Rupert Murdoch’s news Corp will acquire Beliefnet the largest (so they claim) spiritual website. It seems that big American business— one of the few top wolves of big American Business— has decided to develop a whole new demographic for media and advertising, the “multi-faith” communities. Murdoch has not exactly been praised for his objective journalism, as seen through his acquisition in London and the chaffing that has occurred in New York with the WSJ. Just think of the wonderful opportunity he has to skew information in the world of religious faith! Perhaps I am being cynical. Maybe he intends to help bridge the religious/cultural differences in our world. To put an end to the wars that are ravaging countries like Iraq and Lebanon. I wonder if he will bring his four horsemen?

December 01, 2007


More accurately: Shanghai, White wine, Champagne, Red Wine, Whiskey more Champagne and Models, in that order. I must say that I was rather impressed with the two Chinese models that were on the calendar this year, absolutely gorgeous. They more then held their own with their foreign counterparts. Aside from beautiful women, powerful socialites and strong government connections, Pirelli claims to have over 90% of the Chinese passenger car market. I find it dubious, but ill buy their statement just to be polite. The way these Chinese drive, I doubt they can tell the difference between a Pirelli tire and your run of the mill, Double Coin. I swear these drivers are more at home behind a tractor then they are their Audi A8’s—it just goes to show how quickly the wealth and prosperity spreads in the main cities.


Cometh the Challenger
Come December 3, orders for Chrysler 2008 “Dodge Challenger” can be made—the new rendition paying adequate homage to Kowalski’s 1970 Challenger. From the high beltline and muscular haunches, to the aggressively serene snout—this new challenger is a beauty. I think this sits a notch above the new Camaro on my “to buy” list, unless of course I come across a 70’s Challenger R/T somewhere in the Philippines…. One can only hope.

Evil Kneivel dies
. All of us adrenaline junkies have lost a hero. Instead of moping around, let me just show you a few of the things he did (Note that these crash scenes may bring grown men to tears):

Dubai purchases hybrids ( Probably a massive marketing gimmick but one with good intentions nonetheless. Despite my passion for large, gas guzzling engines, I am actually quite concerned and active about the preservation of our environment. Hybrid technology has gotten to the point where it is a realistic alternative to the common, gas combustion engine. Toyota and GM have made tremendous advances in this field and while the costs are still slightly subsidized by the automotive companies, they are starting to be come affordable for most mid to high income consumers. Unfortunately I doubt these hybrids will be commonplace in the Philippines anytime in the next 5 to 10 years, but it would be nice to see a trickling of them on the streets. For the time being, let us focus on getting rid of the jeeps and tricycles, and replacing them with the slightly less polluting and more efficient—bus.