March 29, 2008


I had another run in with the MAPSA recently, completely unjustified and therefore undeserving of my attention. I would usually at the least discuss it with the officer, but I had little patience with this organization due to a bribery run-in (I sent him packing empty handed) and an incident that happened last September. Plus I was having a bad day. Fortunately I was driving a vehicle that is both impossible to tow and intimidating. Let me make some things explicitly clear (researched online):

1) Unless you plowed into a person or vehicle, disregarded previous ticketed violations, or are in fear of your life, you do NOT have to give your license to a MAPSA officer. Please do not make the regrettable mistake of confusing MAPSA (yellow) with Police (blue). The latter can take your license and will make your life miserable.

2) You can be fined for using your cell phone (non-hands free) while driving. Do not bother arguing this one.

3) MMDA officers cannot group together to apprehend you. As unlikely as it sounds, you can argue and win this claim.

4) There is apparently an auction every Monday of the month. This takes care of cars abandoned or left at the impound for more than 6 months. Of course these auctions (I have tried) are hard to find, poorly advertised, and almost devoid of all good cars. The Vehicle Auction is also known as the public officials S and R.. Only government ID's accepted.

5) Swerving is not a traffic violation so long as you do not make drastic cuts across two lanes or more. Sneaking briefly into the yellow line section will get you a ticket. Note, this law does not apply to reckless PUJ or Bus drivers.

6) Do not pay bribes, it reinforces poor values and makes you an embarrassment to your country.

This brings me to my MMDA story. I am including a letter I wrote last September, where I felt the officer was being unreasonable and deserving of correction. I would like to share it because it is still unresolved and illustrates what we drivers put up with on a daily basis. The charge: I parked my car on purpose beneath a street light for safety, it so happened that in doing so I straddled two white “parallel parking slots” which were invalid anyway as it was past 7pm. The officer towed me anyway with a parking charge at 7:30pm.

I would like to express my concern over a situation that has left me irate and disheartened about the MAPSA officers that operate within Makati. I feel that it is my responsibility to share my experience/opinion in the hope that it will contribute to better service from the Makati City organizations...Receiving an unwarranted fine is not as bit a concern as the fact that the person who was supposed to assist citizens to make us feel safer, to make sure that those who follow laws are not taken advantage of by those who do not-- was not at all interested in my situation. He had a ticket and he wanted to use it. I am a citizen of this country and a resident of Makati City. I use my company to employ Filipinos and to contribute to the economy. I strive to create and maintain a respectable, ethical and socially responsible international image for my country. I pay taxes, contribute my time to local community efforts, assist in government directives, and take pride in watching my country develop into the Philippines we all know it can be. It irritates me to be preyed upon by individuals that treat their organization as a means to generate revenue, where reasonable explanations and citizens who genuinely try to follow laws are overlooked. Where his time and effort as a public officer is more important than my time and effort as a Makati resident. I told this MAPSA official that I preferred to watch my vehicle be towed than to accept his ticket and pay a fine. This is about the principle and my distrust towards an organization that is designed to service and protect me...I hope that this letter can make a difference... I feel that overall MAPSA is doing a good job keeping order. It is unfortunate that one officer can taint an opinion so quickly.

I mailed this out to Mayor Binay and Director San Miguel, both of whom responded promptly by studying and supporting my complaint, reinstating my vehicle, and handing me a receipt to reimburse my ticket and towing expense (as is expected). It has now been 6 months since the incident and each time I send someone to collect the reimbursed cash, they are still “waiting for the officer to return to the station.” I suppose he is on sabbatical, or possibly traveling the world with my 1200 pesos. It is unfortunate and petty, as I would have had my confidence reinstated in the MAPSA had they done the correct thing. Again, we are facing an organization that is more talk then action. Herein lies the root problem of the Philippines, manifested in an overrated and redundant organization. For those of us that want change in the country, we will need to just hike up our skirts and do it ourselves.


This DJ Montano blog is still up and going strong. In a country with a clear dichotomy between the wealthy and the poor, it is proving to be the perfect medium of attack by a man who is justifiably angry and looking for some modicum of justice. However, I am perturbed by the fact that this blog is exacerbating an already tense rift between the upper and middle classes. At a time where we have little faith in our government and US recession tremors are already being felt, this blog is not what I would call a “constructive preoccupation.”

Then again, when you do the math: (1 gram of cocaine = 1 good night = $125) x (3 nights a week on average) x (4 weeks in month) = $1500 a month. Decent companies have a starting salary of roughly $500 a month. You know, perhaps this blog is exactly what Philippines society needs.

I work hard (247) for what I earn and I will still balk at spending 130 pesos for a movie ticket (I remember 25 at greenbelt 1). You read this blog and you realize that there are people who can party several nights a week, not hold a steady job, and still spend an average persons salary. There is definitely something off with this situation!

March 23, 2008


My Starbucks Idea: A new social networking site that allows consumers to post ideas online. Similarly the Seatte based company will be able to inform consumers via their Ideas in Action blog. It is nice to see my favorite coffee company taking steps to improve their dismal performance through web 2.0, regardless how boring this whole plan of their sounds. I personally do not see why I would want to read the Starbucks blog, nor can I think of anything to post on the social networking site other than: 1) Lower your prices 2) Give me free internet 3) Pad your chairs. Maybe if I enter these comments a few hundred times it will hit home.

Recently Starbucks has been making some international changes. I have noticed in Shanghai that they are upgrading their coffee machines to one that will deliver a more uniformed taste. Of course, until this change is completed and the Baristas are trained, I am forced to keep bringing back my watered down latte for an extra shot of espresso (free of charge). I have also just read that Starbucks will go back to grinding coffee in their stores as it improves the aroma.

Well, being proactive is certainly better than sitting around and watching your share price drop.


Richard Brodsky has proposed a bill that makes it illegal to trace and categorize information on internet users for advertising purposes without consent. I am not well versed on current US laws, but I would expect that this will soon enter the mobile field. What exactly defines the "user information" in this bill and what are the parameters on consent? This will have a large impact on both web 2.0 and mobile 1.0 as both rely heavily on user profiles to generate accurate advertising demographics. Which pay the bills! As a digital medium, the sharing of information across many platforms is exactly what makes these industries interesting to brands and advertisers. The world is changing, information is out there and becoming more and more accessible. I do not believe that user consent is enough to protect the consumers information. Lawmakers will need to devise creative bills to address the varied and flexible nature of these industries.

One thing is for certain, this is just the beginning. In many countries, laws governing the new services and applications of the web and your mobile phone have not been created yet. With developers rapidly firing out new software, this is going to be a sensitive topic for the next year or two.


The WSJ reports: "AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless, dominated the bidding at the government's recent auction of radio spectrum. Putting them in a commanding position to roll out advanced wireless internet services to consumers in coming years." Verizon took 109 licenses, with 227 for ATT. This spectrum is free and clear for all entrants, and with both companies eating up roughly 80% of the total $ made by the government on this bid, we can expect high speed internet applications to hit American shores 2009 and up. This will make mobile TV a viable possibility, as there will be enough bandwidth to handle the size requirements.

Where was Google in all of this? I would not be surprised to hear that they have already crafted some sort of a partnership with these telco companies. With their upcoming android and the huge online possibilities that are brought forth by the results of this bid, Google has a lot to gain.


I am enjoying a pleasant Easter Sunday draft beer, to celebrate my abstaining from asbstinance (it is justified somehow). I decided not to stray too far from Makati this break and instead, explore the possible sites for the future CBD of the Philippines. Both Pampanga and Canlubang have gotten an economic jump-start, so I am keen on investing further in these areas.

Nuvali, Canlubang

We left via chopper from Rockwell at around 10am, stopping briefly for drinks at Calatagan and the new NYK-TDG University in Cavite. I was with the wizened old founder of the leading consulting firm in the country, two businessmen in Shipping and Manning (one of which owns the university we visited), and a Solar Power entrepreneur. This trip was both the chance to survey the area and kick back with mojitos and wine at Antonio's for Easter Break. I have to say that I was astonished at the size of the Nuvali development, its absolutely massive. Ayala Land pegs it as “a new satellite city south of Manila, twice the area of Makati City and seven times that of Bonifacio Global City. Located in the old sugar estates of the Yulo family in Canlubang, the project covers over 1,600 hectares and has a timetable expected to span the next 40 to 50 years. The new lifestyle being introduced here is evolving, or the integration of nature and man in a harmonious living environment. It will provide the much needed relief for the highly congested Metropolitan Manila with its 15 million inhabitants.” This project has been in the pipeline for many years and has finally started; I guess Ayala was able to smooth over differences between the selling parties. It is much like Sim City. Ayala Land develops from scratch, the city of the future… ah the raw creative power… The highway leading to this development and the surrounding areas exist and are being improved, there will also be the new extension road that should ease congestion towards the San Juan, Pagbilao area. There is plenty of room to grow as it is relatively close to Manila/Makati/Alabang. Granted, the Fort and its surrounding area has not come close to being saturated, so Ayala is wise and conservative to expect the time table to run 40-50 years. Beyond the Nuvali lands is the expanse of undeveloped property under the Benitizes, basically from the South Super Expressway to the coast. If there is any chance of developing a well thought out, beautiful Filipino City this is the place to start.

Our sightseeing trip was topped off by a wholesome Antonio’s lunch with good wine to boot. Jetsetting from location to location via chopper has a decadent almost excessive feel to it, however, when you consider that you can complete your business related work, squeeze in an excellent meal, drop into the crater of Taal, and still make it back by 2pm—one realizes that perhaps it is not so much about being excessive as it is about being efficient with one’s time. Anyway, why do we work so hard if not to enjoy life!


Shifting gears and directions, I took off early on Friday to visit the other end of Luzon. The new Subic-Clark-Tarlac highway and my very “expedient” vehicle made quick work of the trip. Starbucks Valero to Subic: 1 hour and 10 minutes FLAT. I think I could have done it faster had there not been so much traffic due to the holy week break. I’ll need to upgrade to a 911 Turbo or Z06 to thoroughly stomp that time (I am so looking forward to it!).

I have always felt that the Pampanga area has been vastly underestimated and in many ways mismanaged. The area between Subic and Angeles should be the city of the future. It has both excellent sea and air ports (both special economic zones), plenty of land to develop, existing economies to enhance, and still a reasonable distance from our current CBD. Entities like UPS, Fed-Ex, APL and… the Koreans (pioneering bunch!) have all moved towards this direction. It should be in this area that the country turns instead of Nuvali. The highway will change many things, but in the end, it will wholly depend on the government who unfortunately has had a poor track record to date. We will have to see how things are going to be handled by the next administration; I hope stability will be at the forefront of their policies. From a personal point of view, I would love to hold office so close to excellent diving, beaches, rock climbing (well, closer anyway) and spelunking. Clark at one time was also my skydiving drop zone when Omni aviation was open. There is so much to do in this area and so much potential.

This will certainly be a topic to revisit, for us young businessmen; these cities give us a chance to get in a little bit early. This development and progress of these locations will be an interesting chapter in Philippine business history in the decades to come.

March 18, 2008


One of my businesses is involved in the manufacturing of products in China, which supply a specific niche market primarily in the Philippines. The dramatic rise in prices for all the commodities used in my products as well as an increase in labor and operations costs has really sent my team into a spin. Prices have gone as high as 40% on certain goods, which is ridiculous. Material prices fluctuate daily and it is getting to the point where I feel we need to horde when we get a workable price.

Now, I understand I am on the front line for what will/has become a global concern. The 23% increase in food costs is what started this mess and unfortunately it will only get worse. I am in no ways an expert on the Chinese economic model, but there are several points have never really been addressed by Beijing, which undoubtedly will lead to a serious correction in the market.

China’s trade surplus and massive foreign direct investment has led to a massive amount of USD, which the government has handily been purchasing at a fixed exchange. Well, that’s about to backfire. Especially since it is the USD that the locals are using to fund the real estate boom (in for trouble) and the crazy stock market (still crazy). From a social level, the local Chinese have increased their wealth dramatically, which will inevitably lead to a backlash against their current living and political conditions (think Tiananmen Square). Anyone who has lived in China can see that the majority of the population still live the way they did during the communists, but its changing, and rapidly. It won’t be long before they start expecting the same rights as their foreign counterparts, the same freedom- let us see what Beijing does then. While not immediately felt, this growth in wealth will obviously shrink the cheap labor market, regardless if they are almost 2 billion strong. Then again, with the rapid rise of technology I wonder if this will even matter in the coming 20 years.

I always joke about that time I once traveled to this tiny little fishing village town in the Zhejiang region of China back in 2004. Small and completely backwards—it was the pearl growing center of the country. In this small and backwards town, I think every OTHER car had to have been an S600, A8 W12, or a 760. I have never seen so many $100,000 sedans in such a concentrated location. They did not have proper streets, but they were driving the best. Incredible.

Global commodity prices are also on a rise. For a country that is gobbling up massive quantities of oil, steel, wheat, etc. You can expect that this will continue to clobber the economy and help cool what has been a tremendous 10 years of growth for the Chinese. It would be nice however if someone could explain exactly why these material prices fluctuate sporadically? I cannot even use international trading prices as a guide?

How does this affect all of us? Well, I can tell you that for the short term it is really going to hurt. These price fluctuations caught a lot of companies by surprise, its going to take some time for us to correct our prices. For companies with large quantities of stock, they will be able to undercut the rest of us—but again, just for the short term.

The Chinese have always found the greatest competition comes from other Chinese. It will be interesting to see how the factories will react to these new market challenges. Will they bind together or will they undercut and make deals with foreign companies (every man for themselves)? For smaller Asian countries, it gives local manufacturers a chance to breathe. I doubt that prices will drop enough to revive local industries beaten down by china, but it certainly makes those who are still operating, a little more competitive. Wen Jiabao proclaimed that "The current price hikes and increasing inflationary pressures are the biggest concern of the people.” Well, let us wait and see how he does in the coming months.” Who wants to bet it will be more of the same: “Tighter monetary policies.”

Do not be too concerned, Chinese goods will still be dirt cheap, just not at dirt cheap as before.

March 17, 2008

QUICK NEWS (Mobility and The Industry- News and Interests) 03/17/08

Solar Paint
Scientists work to develop photo-voltaic paint. This in effect is a type of solar cell paint, which would complement and in many ways, revolutionize our current concept of solar power generation- namely, big, expensive panels! (Link: Interesting direction to take as I assume it requires a smaller up front investment and holds a greater possibility of being used mainstream in developing countries, where political will may not be particularly strong. Just how much energy can be stored in this manner remains to be seen, but like the saying goes: every little bit helps.

Interestingly enough, I just read in the latest Technology Review that scientists are working on a more advanced version. This dye-sensitized cells are a light-absorbing dye. Unlike the "paint application" abovem, these dyes can be absorbed into just about anything. Clothing, windows, tents, etc. The production of these dyes would also be cheap. Much cheaper than photo-voltaic applications.

Not too bright for Beijing Olympics
"Whether intentionally or unintentionally, some kind of cultural genocide is taking place." broadcast by the Dalai Lama from his home in India. There is an non-confirmed number of 80 people dead floating in the air. The situation is being handled in a strongly Chinese fashion, aka: fly swatting. Beijing has a long history of tolerance with dissidents...(Taiwan, Tiananmen) and this controversy is fueling unrest with the Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China. I would say that things are looking more and more prickly for Beijing.

$1,500,000,000 Digital Advertising Boost
GM is planning on spending half of its 3 billion budget into digital marketing. This basically means online, mobile and gaming advertisements. Interesting to watch more and more companies head in this direction. GM is an industry giant and one whose actions are closely monitored by plenty of American companies. We can expect more of this sort in the coming months.


Tesla roadsters go into production
Mar 17th and the Tesla roadster goes on for regular production. They estimate a product run of around 600 roadsters for 2008, with an estimated production capacity of around 100 roadsters a month. great for the environment. I still think they are ugly.

BMW expands during a recession

BMW plans to invest $750,000,000 in its Spartanburg, USA plant. This focuses on the X3, X5, and X6 models. I wonder if this is really a good move by the Bavarian giant, especially when Toyota is limiting its US production, Chrysler is downsizing plants, and GM... well, they have been slicing away for years. There is a recession coming. Americans are losing their homes and in some cases (Bear) their savings, is it really wise to expand now?


Tibetan culture is about as Chinese as the French are punctual; Jinky Pacquiao is tasteful; Paris Hilton is classy… you get the picture. You need to land at the Lhasa airport to understand just how different the two cultures are. The food, language, art, religion and people are uniquely Tibetan, with moderate to minimal influence from the outside world (China excluded). Not entirely difficult to believe considering that they are flanked by treacherous mountains and live basically in the clouds. Of course I am coming from the perspective of a Filipino, where everyone tracks and proclaims Spanish/Chinese descendants, whether real or imagined. In most cases, Filipinos just need to look in the mirror to definitively disprove any relation to some grand Spanish duke or prince. Like most countries that have descended from other civilizations, Filipinos carry traits, mannerisms, words in their language—maybe a bit of art, or facial features from their original bloodline. In the case of Tibet, I would say that these similarities are hardly visible in just about every quality that makes them the people that they are. Which is why they are a fascinating race and why I find the Chinese position: That Tibet was under china much longer than they were independent, an accurate but weak basis for their occupation.

Beijing’s tactful mayor stated in a press conference: “We didn’t enforce martial law there and the situation in Tibet as a whole is good at present.” Yes, absolutely, especially since most Tibetans live OUTSIDE Tibet and assuming that he did not include the recent deaths and burning city as part of the “present.” This situation is very different from Taiwan and the slowly brewing Spratly Islands. I do not agree with the Chinese enforcing control over this swath of barren and inhospitable land. Time should not be considered a factor in this debate.

I have to say that for Tibet, this is excellent timing. Close enough to the Olympics to make Beijing sweat out a solution, while achieving a resurgence of international recognition right when people are starting to look East. Of course, without international support, these rebellions will be ground to the bone, like salted chicken feet in a Cantonese restaurant. The question really is whether the world is willing to incur the wrath of China, the largest producing nation, soon to be the greatest military and economic power of our century. My guess is not.

March 12, 2008


Nielsen will be conducting research examining "the correlation between bloggers and the boxoffice."

Its about time that we had some numbers verifying the impact of bloggers, soon I would like to see the same research applied on many of Web 2.0 regular players. This will make it significantly more interesting for advertisers and VAS providers alike.

QUICK NEWS 03/11/08

Rise Up, Resist, Return
March 10, 2008 was Tibetan Uprising Day which is nicely represented by their call to arms of "Rise Up, Resist, Return." As I am sure there are plenty of sites which you can read which outline the Tibetan plight, I am more interested (concerned) with how the Chinese Government will be dealing with these protesters, especially with the world's eye on Beijing due to the upcoming olympics. Tibet has had a long and unfortunate history with China. Traveling through Lhasa and the surrounding areas back in 2007, I noticed that the Tibetan presence in Tibet is represented by a very small majority of the population. the Chinese have been extremely successful with indoctrinating young Tibetans. Putting them through Chinese education, into the Chinese military, and surrounding them with Chinese influences. The present tibetan culture is one that has been diluted by years of oppression and quite frankly, brainwashing.

With the railway linking Tibet with the largest Chinese cities, we can all but expect the culture and civilization that has richly contributed to the human civilization, to dissapear. I am heartened by watching Tibetans take up the call to defend what is rightfully theirs, but also saddened by the realization that these protests are filled with the youth. There are not many Tibetans left that clearly remember the period before the 1950's. It really boils down to numbers, they just live too geographically close to the largest population in the world. In Beijing I find that Tibetans have migrated and taken to the Chinese way of life, while in Lhasa the Chinese are setting up shop and capitalizing on the Tibetan tourist drive. Chinese stores and restaurants sprout like weeds while the old temples and houses remnants from years of migration and theft, remain empty. The largest protest in occupied Tibet happened on the 10th. There will be more.

Nighthawks Retire

I was tracking the market on Bloomberg and I kept seeing a caption on the Stealth fighters last flight. It seems that the US Air force is retiring the F-117 and replacing it with the F-22 Raptor. I can only imagine what missions these planes took that fell under the "need to know, and we don't need to know" basis. These nighthawks were excellent fighters. The first stealth planes of its kind, developed at Lockheeds famed "Skunkworks." If we use this fighter as an example (flown 1981 but publicly released in 1987...I think), I can only imagine what planes are currently flying that we are unaware off!

March 09, 2008


"Nothing is ever free in life." A maxim that my mother dutifully drilled into my head as I was growing up. Yet, from the perspective of companies like Toyota and Doritos, free online advertising is what they have been benefiting (or in the case of toyota, will benefit) from.

Doritos has a clever little campaign which touts a tag line of: "You make it, we play it." Creative consumers can turn in their Doritos advertisement, the web public will vote, and the winner will be broadcast for all to see. Similarly, Toyota is running an interactive project for its Corolla where one of its attributes will be sketchies: short and funny videos that will be posted on YouTube.

For both these brands,they actively engage artists and fame seekers alike to develop entertaining content that can be used to promote their products. It can be argued that the 4 million Toyota is paying to promote this online campaign, as well as the prize money given by Doritos does not make this a "freebie." However, I would like to point out that they not paying for the content and accessing the web through free sites, so they are not really paying for the platform ether. Resulting in a pittance of a total expense for the coverage garnered. In television terms this would mean you are not paying for both the production costs and broadcasting costs.

Nothing lasts forever, sites like Facebook and YouTube are quickly looking for ways to capitalize on these projects. We can all agree that they will be massive $$$ generators! Companies like M:Metrics in the UK are starting to show that campaigns of this sort are rapidly gaining ground on Online Adspend. For companies that are not currently engaged in similar online campaigns, now would be an excellent time to start exploring. Web 2.0 is all about creativity, flexibility, and the willingness to try new things.

March 05, 2008

QUICK NEWS (Mobility and The Industry- News and Interests) 03/06/08

Mobile Over Fixed
Wired News reports that for the first time Americans say they would have more trouble giving up their mobile phones than a traditional phone. On a typical day, 31% of mobile phone owners use text messaging and 15% use the devices camera features. More Americans are are also experiencing an increased dependency on their blackberry devices. While this may not come as such a big surprise for Filipinos, who's demographic landscape and weak fixed line services have long made the mobile phone the staple for communications. It does outline the growing change in developed countries, who have benefited from a vast expanse of wires and cables that give them connectivity through fixed lines and fast broadband connection. I am quite pleased at this short report, it clearly outlines what I believe is happening in the industry. That the present mobile phone population estimates are vastly understated. As the mobile phone becomes the communications tool of preference, we will see a surge in usage from consumers who will no longer be using their fixed lines and consumers that prefer to do the majority of their emails and web applications "on the go." Your mobile phone is the convergence of all these devices, making it a massive growth industry for advertisers and VAS companies alike.

More reason to worry about the environment
BY 2030 "Ozone pollution alone is likely to cause four times mre premature deaths per head of population than in 2000.(OECD)" And this is WITH current policies (which have undergone serious changes in the last 2 years). Maybe that Bio-Fuel deal they just signed in Washington for the Philippines will help (Hah!)

Girls are smarter than boys...
I just read an interesting article in science daily that reports that girls may yet again, be smarter than boys. Studying the different brain functions for language comprehension and fluency. There is now hard data through fMRI studies that support that girls "still showed significantly greater activation in language areas of the brain than boys." Girls it seems can process more abstract information (hence the loosely used term: smarter) than boys, who, in the scientists words may "have some kind of bottleneck in their sensory processes that can hold up visual or auditory information and keep it from being fed into the language areas of the brain."

Hmmmm. Interesting. If I cannot learn a language well through reading or hearing... osmosis? You know, not to rekindle my youth, I but I do remember kids in our class who could not retain information during classes. They were often segregated into small groups which met after school and wore finely pointed "dunce caps."

Who am I to argue with scientists (fluent in 3 languages, basic in 2). At least they were nice enough to give men some bit of saving grace, by throwing us the evolutionary card: We have evolved in this manner to allow us to "quickly recognize danger associated sights and sounds." So, I may not be able to absorb vast swaths of information, but if I see a T Rex barreling down on me, my ever evolved brain rings "DANGER!" Fabulous.


"China's military buildup has been characterized by the inability of people in the region and around the world to really know what ties together the capabilities that China's acquiring with the intentions it has." -David Sedney (deputy assistant defense secretary for East Asia).

Are any of us really surprised by this military buildup? In the last few months we have witnessed the incarceration of chinese spies, felt Beijing slowly tighten its noose around Taiwan, and watched as the strong man of Asia has used its influence on countries like North Korea and in many ways the USA. The Chinese coffers are brimming. With past decisions to support lofty (possibly unecessary?) projects like their space program or that ridiculous Three Gorges Dam, it was only a matter of time before their military budget got a more publicized hike. In many ways a strong military presence is the perfect cherry to add to "the Chinese century." The century where Beijing shows the world that the Chinese deserve the respect that they so desperately crave.

The US claims they are significantly understating their actual spending- OBVIOUSLY. Its inherent in their culture to never show their hand till the fight has been won. Which is why a public declaration of this sort is a welcomed change, at least it has the semblance of a country willing to listen and adapt to world opinions. I wonder if they will set up a text hotline next to their new Beijing-Washington military hotline? I would love to chikka my two cents in...

Though this may not be the slow beginning of another cold war, It is the start of China's emergence as the military power that can balance the USA. However, with defense spending in the US at roughly 500 billion (don't quote me on this), the Chinese will need to sell a whole lot more of those DVD players to catch up.

March 02, 2008


Motorbikes with adjacent sidecars fill my mind with the glorious images of two generations; the British open-road sidecars in the 1920’s and the feared WWII German army sidecars. While their reasons for existence may be leagues apart, we live in a world filled with vans and buses, which makes the allure of crossing countries with remnants of our past all the more seductive. Of course, this is not an entirely accurate statement, sidecars are very much alive today Usually as extremely expensive variants, rich with leather and wood, or as cheap commuters put together in developing countries as a mode of transporting goods. Sidecars have always remained a niche interest in our history of transportation, too hefty to compete with motorbikes and outperformed when pitted against cars.

My first trip to Beijing many years ago, I was instantly struck by the crude yet beautiful Beijing Bike (as they are called). Leftover from the mass-produced PLA models of the 1960’s, the horizontal engines have remained unchanged, as have the looks of the bikes: squat like a bulldog, brimming with handles, rivets, and add-ons. Customizing your bike is almost a given, and there are plenty of bags, stow boxes, fuel canisters, spare tires, winches and machine gun variations to choose from. 750 cc engines drearily propel these heavy bikes—probably a good thing as they are quite unstable and require a good deal of reigning in to keep the bike traveling in the direction you intend. The endemic problem that these original engines have is that they do not reliably start and require a good deal of tuning from the driver. Of course, as is the case with many of the army surplus engines, they just lack a good hammering from your wrench. I guess in a world of Toyotas that start on cue, we forget that heavy-duty machinery, while fickle and temperamental, really does last forever. These engines will be wrench beaten and inefficient but running exactly as it does today in 2030 (can you say the same thing about your Matrix?).

The trunk of the bike can easily carry enough gear for a week’s trip or better, a huge cooler of beer and vodka. For the passenger, the sidecar is surprisingly comfortable and with a nice blanket or pillow, can easily weather the elements. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the driver, who is constantly pounded by the heft and rigidity of the frame. Nevertheless, as I traveled the outskirts of Beijing over the weekend, I found myself drunk on the experience. Wind in your face, curious glances and a strangely heavy yet solid driving feel. It was a short trip to test the bike I am now shipping to the Philippines, but as our group of 8 people and 4 bikes, carved through the countryside of Beijing, you remember that it is not the destination that makes it worthwhile, but the journey.

Bikes run from $2000 to $5000 and you will still need to pay for shipping (1.5 cbm) and taxes. The fun is in customizing the bike to suit your preference, so I suggest looking through your history books for the sort of machinery you want attached. For collectors looking for something with a bit more value, you can request for authentic (though most probably in battered condition) PLA bikes. These do have intrinsic value, though it does not yet have a significant buyers market. For my next trip ill be convincing some friends to fly into Ulaan Bator, cruise through the Mongolian deserts in our bikes, then fly back to Beijing (the bikes can be shipped back). Similar trips can be run into Tibet or China.